Adoration Calendar

ad·o·ra·tion (d-rshn): n. 1. The act of worship.

2. Profound love or regard.

While I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, I’ve also been having a difficult time figuring out what to call this part of my practice. I’ve also been worried about offending people with my opinions about worship;  but taking Gordon’s only blogging tip to heart (“only ever post something that gives you trepidation…. [o]therwise you’ve probably just pitched shit at everyone”), I’m writing about it anyway. Here we go.

For the record, I’m violently allergic to the pseudo-Christian way in which many devotional polytheists interact with their gods.* In an effort to distance myself from that mode of thinking, for quite a while I’ve been defining my practice as not involving gods. However, that’s not entirely true. I do have relationships with several “large” beings—what Waincraft would call “Powers”**—but devotion doesn’t describe my practice.

Thus, I’ve been looking for term other than “devotion” for a while now, and yet again I have discovered how the thesaurus is my friend. Devotion, with its current connotations (at least in the Pagan blogosphere) of servitude/slavery and low self-esteem, is  something of which I wish to avoid. But adoration, that’s another story. I do adore my gods. I love them, I’m inspired by them, I share food and drink with them as I would my mother and father. I do not worship them for why would one worship one’s own family?

Bearing the aforementioned information in mind, the following is a rough outline of my calendar of adoration, presented using the Waincraft titles for the Powers as those resonate most strongly for me.

The Star Mother/The Holy Earth—Beltaine/Samhain axis. The outermost circle of the wheel, the beings who encompass the whole of my practice. These two ladies are the balance between the supporting ground and the inspiring skies.

The Lord of the Green/The Lord of the Hunt—Alban Eilir/Alban Elfed axis. The second circle of the wheel, the god who guides me through the wood, and the god who guides me through the otherworlds. They are the balance between growth and decay, tutor and psychopomp.

The Red Lady/The Witcher—Imbolc/Lughnasadh axis. The third circle is the goddesses who bring magic into my life, though passion and patience, sex and death.

The Long Flame***/The Maker—Alban Arthan/Albin Hefin axis. This is the innermost circle, the creative dance that fuels my reason for being. These gods embody the Divine Twins, the Fire and the Smith.

First draft of my adoration calendar. The order of the wheels are reverse here, with the Star Mother/Holy Earth on the inside and the Long Flame/Maker on the outer ring. I tweaked the design between taking the picture and writing the post, what can I say?

My celebrations now span three days (with the exception of Alban Arthan, which lasts twelve). On the eve of a high day, I acknowledge the fading of one influence; on the day of, I celebrate the zenith of a second; and on the day after, I welcome the beginning of a third and new presence in my life. I began working this model at Imbolc this year, and I’m looking forward to see how well it suits me in the year to come.

The other tweak I’ve made to my celebration schedule is to try to observe the cross-quarter days at 15 degrees of the fixed signs (Aquarius, Taurus, Leo, and Scorpio). In many ways, this works very well for solo practice as it is much less likely to conflict with other Pagan groups who follow the calendrical cross-quarter model.

There you have it! A work in progress for one Druid’s personal practice.

*I’m also violently allergic to the rampant improper capitalization of pronouns and common nouns, but that’s a rant for another time.
**This is a collective noun, whose capitalization does not irritate me for some reason. Go figure.
***Long Flame is my personal epithet for the Lord of the Winds, for those following along in the Waincraft lingo.

Wyrd Night

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As the last few hours of 2012 come to a close (by Western reckoning, in any case), the time comes to examine the fabric of our fates, or wyrd. The weft is made up of threads of Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit, and the manner of their weaving is left largely up to the individual. The warp is the wyrd background against which we all create our patterns. Unlike a loom’s warp, wyrd isn’t quite fixed, as it changes in response to the choices and actions present in the weft; but it is largely beyond our conscious control when compared to the threads of the elements and nwyvre.

One way to try to read the influences of wyrd, of fate, can be through divination. Tarot, runes, ogham (the bane of my existence!), astrology, scrying, are all viable tools for sussing out the flows of the Weird Sisters’ Well. Seeing possibilities in the pattern can help to guide one’s choices, but we must remember that we are all ultimately masters and mistresses of our own fates. To believe unerringly in any reading is to doom oneself to being a victim of whatever the seer proposes.

In preparation for the oracular work of this night, I like to take this day to clean house, both literally and metaphorically. With the end of the gifting season, there will be many things in our homes which are no longer needed. Drop items in local clothing or book boxes, or find families in your neighborhood who might appreciate hand-me-downs. Go through your ritual tool kit. What do you use regularly? What can you give away? Tidy your shrines and altars—house wights like nothing better than this, and it will solidify your relationship to them for the coming year. Take out the trash and recyclables.

Then when your home is in order, consult your preferred method of divination for the coming year. I find a monthly pull to be most useful, though there are many spreads available which can provide various levels of detailed information. Write down the results, stick them on your refrigerator or calendar. Then, once a month refer to this reading. Use it as a guide for aspects of your life on which to focus, or as warning of areas that may be troublesome in the coming month.

And if you don’t like what you see, for gods’ sakes, CHANGE IT.

Warmth under a shining sky,

A.V.

High Summer

Lichen, peeling from drought.

Thinking about the Imbolc–Lughnasadh axis of my year’s Wheel, I realize that I’m struck with more than a little melancholy during each of these seasons. I have always had trouble getting into the celebratory groove, because for me, these holidays are more famine than feast. For me, they mark extremes of lack: Imbolc of food, and Lughnasadh of water.

Most often, Lughnasadh is celebrated as the first harvest, a time of plenty. But it’s origins lie in the death of a goddess. Growing up just south of New York City, Lughnasadh was the time of drought. Thus far, this is also proving to be true in New England. The brook that lies to the west of my home, deep in conversation land, has dwindled to a muddy trickle. The latest batch of tadpoles struggle in ever smaller pools of water. Even the lichen in the forest browns and curls up from lack of rain.

Humans are not immune to this—if anything we’ve exacerbated the problem with our golf courses and aerial sprinklers. The neighboring town is already on a level IV drought alert, having started out at level I in late April. Too many people use too much water and the aquifers and reservoirs just can’t keep up. It’s frustrating, and something that my own community tries to mitigate though rain barrels, water-saving faucets, and soaker hoses. But we, too, despite our best efforts are far from living lightly on the land.

There seems to be a perpetual pagan Pollyanna attitude around the holidays, the feeling that we should be celebrating, dammit.  I’m thinking that a better attitude is one of observance. Not every holiday is joyous. Some are somber. And that’s ok. We can’t and shouldn’t be expected to be happy all the time, especially in matters of spirituality. As pagans, realizing that pluralism should extend not just to interfaith efforts, but to our own beliefs will give us a richness of meaning to holy days that often feel one-dimensional at best, forced at worst.

—A.V.

Words of Wisdom

This whole piece is very satisfying, but the following really hit home:

System Hubris.

SO fucking tired about hearing about how X is the real deal because it is 1) written in a renaissance grimoire 2) an African Diasporic Tradition  3) uses proper herbs and ingredients 4) doesnt use any herbs or ingredients 5) makes the best use of energetics 6) has no use for “energy” in magic … You get the idea. Pick one or make your own.

Basically if you can do something really fucking amazing repeatedly, please teleport your wizardly ass over here and shit your alchemical gold brick on my coffee table. I will accept that you really have done something well beyond what other systems are doing. Until then, I dont want to hear about how Crowley and GD are lame and get no results, but you do.

If you have to piss in someone else’s cup to make me think your water is sweet, I am not even gonna taste it.

—Jason Miller, “Things We Need to Escape the Gravity of

[NYNY] Glamour

potraitpetals by anitapatterson

I’m going to have a chance to do some map/territory work this weekend, so in the meantime, I thought I’d post a bit about glamour and how I’m finally learning to love it.

This prompt dovetails nicely with my current FlyLady training. One of the first habits to develop is to get dressed all the way to your shoes and take care with your hair/make-up. To this end:

*De-cluttered all old cosmetics, including Halloween/stage make-ups.

*Bought 4 new, high-quality ones for my everyday “look.”

*Did research on how to properly apply said cosmetics, which has left me feeling a whole lot more confident.

*Pampering by freshening-up mid-morning and afternoon, and by putting on some olfactory-indulgent lotion when I wash my hands—nice little boosts to my daily routines.

Having said and done these things, though, I’d still like to point folks to this rather clever little piece of satire for the latest in beauty products, Fotoshop by Adobé. It illustrates one of the dangers of glamour, I think, which is to become so absorbed by an image that one harms oneself mentally and physically, trying to attain an unrealistic expectation of beauty.

Now that I’ve gotten my obligatory raaarrrr-woman rant out of the way, I also have to admit that I’ve been held back by that same feminist propaganda, using it as an excuse to ignore certain tools, namely those of fashion and cosmetics, because “real women” don’t need to bother with such things. (My favorite was my well-meaning parents saying that it didn’t matter what I looked like, because whoever fell in love with me was going to do so for my mind, not my appearance—yeah, that one did a number on me for years.) What this view ignores is that a self-care regimen (which can include *gasp* make-up) is an important piece of building a healthy attitude towards physical health and appearance. So if you want to wear purple eyeshadow and FM-red lipstick, go for it—not to either spite the feminists or support the establishment, but because it makes you feel beautiful, graceful, sexy, and all those other wonderful things that being embodied encompasses.

Which brings me to another mini-rant: the “meat-suit.” Since renewing pride in myself and my physical form, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the Zoroastrian dichotomy of matter versus spirit that seems to sneak into every discussion of magical work at some point. Here is where I find an Eastern perspective can be of use (see, I’m still a dirt syncretist!).

Often students in the West can’t wait to get to the spooky qi/energy work that accompanies many marital arts systems. “Why can’t I begin qigong? Why do I have to do all these push-ups?” It’s really pretty simple: the seemingly mystical “qi” needs to flow through a physical form, and that form shapes its nature. If the body is a garden, then the chi is the irrigation system. Qigong, then, is like turning up the water pressure, increasing the flow of energy. But if your garden is full of weeds, more water will only make the weeds grow higher—it’s not going to bring you an abundant harvest. Likewise if you are lazy and of poor character, an increase of qi is not going to fix this—if anything it will amplify these qualities. Physical conditioning and hard work (literally kung-fu) is what builds and maintains your body-garden, planting veggies and pulling the weeds so that when qi flows freely, it will nourish a healthy, whole person.

So yes, we’re more than what we see with our eyes or touch with our hands, but it is our bodies that make us who we are—we’re born into them and our experience here, with each other, with this world, ends when we leave. Being incarnate is something significant, not something to escape. I am of this world, and I love it. Without my experiences in this life, in this form, I would not be who I am when I choose to shed my meat-suit and travel beyond the horizon. My spirit is secured my body; ignoring one at the expense of the other is always to the detriment of both.

Please take care of your gorgeous, amazing meat-suit. It’s still made of star-dust after all.