Awen #13: The Final Rite

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I’ve wanted to sit awhile with the ripples from the final piece of the Cauldron Born ritual before blogging about it. And honestly, I’m not going to say all that much as I think most folks will get more out of doing it for themselves than reading about my experience on the internet.

I will say this: Awen did not descend on me in a blinding flash as I sucked the burning drops from my thumb. In fact, I was afraid I had performed the ritual incorrectly. Instead, pieces have been slowly knitting together, seams vanishing and scars strengthening. I’m now certain that I received a gift from the cauldron, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be: wholeness.

Since I first wandered out of the forests of eclectic Neo-Paganism, witchcraft and magick took a back seat to the Serious Study of Druidry.  I had quite the case of “Druids don’t do that” syndrome.  My first exposure to Druidry was through ADF, which at the time very much frowned on magickal work (at least this was the case in my interactions with the local grove and email list–magick was considered impious); devotion at the expense of magick was further reinforced by my forays into Heathenry/Asatru.

As some of you have noted, I’ve been posting more about kitchen witchery lately.  Those little spells and charms have always been a part of my practice, but it’s something that I felt I couldn’t publicly acknowledge since I was a Druid not a witch or Wiccan.  More than one scholar has established a (false) dichotomy between Druidry and more outwardly magickal traditions like Wicca. I had ended up internalizing that polarity, buying into the false assumption that if I did magick and if I were a Druid, then that necessitated some sort of dual trad practice.  I knew I was a Druid, but what was that missing piece?

As it turns out, nothing.

Walking with Cerridwen for the past year, meeting her challenges…it’s given me renewed confidence to forge my own path as a Druid who also practices spaecraft, hedgecraft, the cunning arts. OBOD leaves room for just about anything you’d want to do, and it remains my home, a cozy hearth in a woodland glade. As it turns out, there also happens to be a root cellar and a bone pit in the back yard. I just hadn’t built them yet.

Now another set of spirits joins the Order’s guardians, beings whom I call upon when it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get dirty. Spirits of my land: the turkey, the toad, the coyote, the skunk, the blue jay. Spirits of garden and hedge: datura, tobacco, mugwort, comfrey, agrimony, mullein, lavender.  Spirits of the deep wood: hawthorn, oak, white pine, paper birch, beech, chestnut, maple, hemlock, sassafrass.  The Twelve Winds of Eire. Sometimes the kitchen smell of lavender scones and lemon verbena tea; sometimes it smells of decaying flesh and newly macerated bones. This is my path, in darkness and in light, crepuscular to the core.

Cerridwen gifted me with wholeness. My robes, though those of a Druid, have never been brilliant, shining white. They’re just too hard to keep clean.

Brown doesn’t show the dirt. Doesn’t scare the deer either.

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Meditation Mondays

7294830668_6ac2134bab_kApparently this is evolving into a biweekly feature, whether I want it to or not!

First, some stats for the past couple of weeks. Things are definitely more consistent than the last time I took stock of my daily practice.  I’ve only missed two days in the last ten, and the week of 10/6 had over 60 minutes of time logged, while this past week was a whopping 80 minutes. October is shaping up quite nicely overall.

Looking at the long term, Fridays are still the day that I have the most trouble being consistent. The percentage of days where I have at least one session is now down to 46%, but hopefully that will improve with time. The total time spent in meditation is 12 hours, 21 minutes, with an average session time of 9.8 minutes.

Goals for the next time I post include achieving another 10 days in a row, raising my average session time to a full 10 minutes, and get my percentage of days closer to 50%.

Now that the quantitative stuff is out of the way, from a qualitative perspective the mind monkeys have been rough this past fortnight. I made at least three journal entries where I mentioned them.  The other prominent feature was meditating on Cerridwen and the cauldron, which makes perfect sense considering that I’ll be completing the Cauldron Born ritual in a few weeks time. And of course, in the interest of full disclosure, there were the two or three times that I completely dozed off while “meditating.” Sometimes these gave the gift of lucid dreams, sometimes not, but the fact that I made the time to sit and try meditating is more important to me at this point than worrying about keeping my eyes open!

I’ve been doing a decent job of taking thoughts and fragments of meditation (or dreams that I’ve remembered while meditating) and putting them to work in everyday life.  Probably the best example of this was a dream where I was going to play at a coronation and walking to the cathedral my violin case opened up and my favorite bow flew out into the middle of the street where it was promptly run over by a garbage truck. (Symbolism much?)  I’ve been trying to make the switch from classical violin to Irish fiddle, and it’s been going reasonably well, but one of the things that has been challenging is the more accented, rhythmic bowing patterns.  So, I took a cue from the dream and switched bows–from my lighter octagonal (which is wonderful for early period Baroque and such) to the heavier, louder semi-octagonal.  I’ve been very pleased with the quality change, and even more likely to practice because of it.

Yes, Virginia, meditation can improve your life in tangible ways. Just make sure you don’t get hit by the metaphorical garbage truck in the process.

Old Lessons Made New

I’m nearing the end of my work with Kris Hughes’s year-long Cauldron Born ritual.  This Working has been intense, powerful, transformational–everything you want from a ritual of this magnitude.  Though I thought I’d become accustomed to being surprised, this month was more than a little bit startling.

I’ve varied the ingredients for the ritual quite a bit, mainly because I want them to come from the land that I walk every day, not from some sterile mail order apothecary.  Originally, this month worked with acorn (which I have in spades) and rowan berry, or mountain ash, which seems to be non-existent on my land.  Naturally, I needed a substitute.  Much of the discourse surrounding Rowan in the recipe focused upon it as a witch’s herb, so I decided to explore that theme in my own backyard: what herbs were particularly witchy?

And then I ran across this strange thing growing in my manure pile:

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Despite my earlier work with Datura, I didn’t recognize her in her fruited state.  And I hadn’t picked up on her flowers for the simple reason that she was growing in a field full of morning glory and a casual glance enabled her to blend in.  At first I thought she might be horse nettle, which we have in abundance, but there were no thorns in the undersides of her leaves.  Fortunately a Google search for “thorny fruit” popped up a picture of exactly the regal Lady who was gracing the remains of my horse dung heap.

To be clear, I still do not advocate the ingestion or inhalation of entheogens.  Maybe part of that is because I’m so damned sensitive to these plants anyway–just pulling mugwort or (as it turns out) datura without gloves can be enough to rend the veil for me.  So I really see no need to go on a potentially days long, damnably dangerous trip.  These spirits are not for fun. They are not here for shits and giggles or for your amusement.  From all accounts, Datura in particular can be a very harsh mistress to those just seeking a high or shiny new experience.  You’d think the spike-riddled flesh of her seed pods would be a hint about her nature.

All that being said, finding this plant cemented my conviction that I was on the right path, both in my Druidry and in my personal life.  The last time Datura appeared in my life was a period of great strength.  As it turned out I would need that strength in spades.  Her presence in my garden signals my own readiness to enter another level of relationship with her–and no, I don’t mean ingestion.  While I don’t currently have room to give Datura her own shrine, I have one of her open seed pods on my working altar, and hope to craft her a reliquary in the near future. (Actually I have a bunch of reliquaries that I need to finish…hrmm, I feel a craft post coming on….)

The other ally simmering in my “cauldron” this full moon was flowering tobacco.  On a whim, I also decided to look up what type of Nicotiana I had planted around my squash.  As it turns out, he was a sort of Grandfather Tobacco, Nicotiana silvestris. This was one of the parent plants of modern smoking tobacco, though he has a much, much higher nicotine concentration (which ironically enough, is why people don’t smoke it–unless you’re looking for a pretty rough high, apparently).  Grandfather is now taller than I am, with some of the sweetest smelling flowers in my garden.  While not as outwardly witchy as Datura, this was certainly a plant sacred to the native peoples of this continent; he also provided a make balance to the overwhelmingly feminine energies of Datura.

One of the most powerful things about the Cauldron Born rite is that it has given me permission, as a Druid, to act like a Witch.  So often a false dichotomy is set up between the two paths, and it has been wonderful to nurture and develop the “Low” magick side of my practice.  It has been such an incredible exercise in embracing my own power and stepping through fear to come out the other side strong and certain in my own agency.

Hail the Vates, the Drian, the Swyngyfaredd!
Hail Quercus! Hail Datura! Hail Nicotiana!
Hail Cerridwen, Goddess of Witches!