Practicing Together #15

Lughnasa 2013

Northern Water Snake

Seed thought taken from Leaning into Mystery’s “Practicing Together” weekly series.

I noticed a slew of harvest signs: a snake getting ready to shed her skin, a spider laying in wait by the water, the honking of geese as they passed overhead. I also noticed that three druids and a toddler can pull of a pretty damn fine ritual. And boar sausage is wicked tasty!

This week, I invite in family. Family by blood, family by law, family by circumstance. I love you all and I want to make sure you know it.

Ways this could happen: Making tasty food, phone calls, emails, tea, and booze are all possibilities. 🙂

Lughnasa 2013

Fishing Spider

What went well: I did a lot of ruminating and soul searching last week. I’m learning to make friends with anger, to use it as an indicator of when things aren’t going right, but not letting it control my reactions. Sometimes I’m better at this than others, but again, “what you practice is what you have.”

Updates: I’m feeling stronger, more confident. It’s been a long time since that’s been the case, and it’s damned refreshing. I’ve pretty much always been confident in my spirituality, but now I’m becoming so in my parenting and professional life as well. I’m ready for the change.

Honeysuckle

Playing catchup for week 17 of PBP.

Honeysuckles are cleansing, consuming and digesting, and therefore no way fit for inflammations. Take a leaf and chew it in your mouth and you will quickly find it likelier to cause a sore mouth and throat than cure it. If it be not good for this, what is it good for? It is good for something, for God and nature made nothing in vain.  —Culpepper quoted in Grieve 1931.

So many of the plants that I’m talking about in this series were significant in my childhood. I’m beginning to feel a bit repetitive when I find myself writing “When I was a kid…” over and over again. But it seems that many of the relationships I have with plants were begun when I was young, and many of my memories and experiences date back to that time. Honeysuckle is another one of those plants. He was one of the first (along with wild blackberries) that I learned to identify as safe to eat (the nectar, NOT the berries!), and I remember going outside nearly daily to bury my nose in his fragrant flowers. The variety that grew in our back yard had a mix of white and creamy yellow flowers, and I found the scent both calming and uplifting.

There are hundreds of species of honeysuckle (Lonicera), most being native to Europe and Asia, several of which become invasive when introduced outside their native ranges. Much like clematis, is likes to have cool feet and a sunny top—that is, roots in the shade and sun on the leaves—and can be found on the edge of the woods. It blooms prolifically in the summer, and seeds itself with just as much gusto.

There is quite a bit of magical lore surrounding Honeysuckle. Grieve says Culpepper associates him with Mercury,  Cancer, and Leo, which makes him a good ally for negating problems caused by Jupiter (at least in regard to physical health problems). Meanwhile, Cunningham associates him with Jupiter and Earth, for magical purposes, making him a good addition to money spells as well as being protective and an aid in perceiving non-physical realities (2003, 140); Hopman concurs about his ability to increase both money and psychic ability (1995, 50), though like Culpepper she prefers the associate of Mercury to Jupiter (124). Personally, I associate Honeysuckle with Mercury and Air, which results in dealing with money problems by negating any negative influences from Jupiter, rather than drawing on Jupiter’s money-making qualities directly. Cunningham doesn’t draw any connections  to specific deities, but Beyerl states that Honeysuckle may be used to pass through the mysteries of Cerridwen’s cauldron (1984, 225) and that the dried bark and wood make an excellent autumn incense when ground (333); Beyerl also says that honeysuckle flowers should grace the ritual circle at the Vernal Equinox (329), but this is a hard thing to achieve as the plant doesn’t usually bloom until June!

A useful meditation to connect more deeply with the Honeysuckle spirit can be begun by sitting either at the base of a physical plant, or by anointing yourself with honeysuckle essential oil or hold a branch or flower of the plant to anchor yourself to his energies. As you breath slowly in and out, inhaling the fragrance of the flowers or oil, let the plant wrap around and enfold you in his twining vines. Rather than being consumed or smothered, I usually find that Honeysuckle will begin lifting you upwards, carrying you on his branches until you’re cradled in nothing but vines and sky. What do you notice from this new perspective? Just rest and let your thoughts move in and out with your breath, and the breath of the Honeysuckle. When you’re ready to come down, ask him to lower you gently back into your body. Feel yourself on firm ground, anchored and secure in your physical body. Ask Honeysuckle if there is anything you can do in return and wait for his answer. Thank the plant for helping you connect with the larger spirit, and ground out any excess energy.

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.

An Imbolc Story

Rorschach Brighid, reposted with permission from S. McNeill Spuhler

 

This story is adapted from a ritual that I wrote for our Grove’s Imbolc celebration.

When the time came for Brighid to take her place amongst the gods, she went to her father, the Dagda, to see what skills were needed in the world. After looking at his daughter and considering for a long moment, he said, “I think you would do well in the realm of poets. Go visit the Hawk of the East, who trained your brother Ogma in the way of words. Seek what learning you may from him.”

So Brighid traveled into the rising sun, climbing up and up rocky slopes showered with spring petals, until she reached the nest of the Hawk of the East. The Hawk was singing the Song of Dawn to her young, coaxing them to open their eyes and beaks to greet the day. With tears in her eyes, Brigid knelt and said, “Never have I heard such sweet music. Will you teach me your song?”

The Hawk trilled softly. “The Song is a gift to be given freely. But know this: once you know this Song and have sung it, you must be prepared to teach—for once you make its words, its rhythm your own, it is not something you will be able to hide away from the world. The brightness of this Song will radiate from you, and many will seek you for inspiration and guidance. Do you still wish to learn?”

“Yes. Teach me and I will become the patron of all poets and musicians, that this beautiful Song will never be forgotten in all the time of the world.”

Thus Brighid came to teach mankind the way of poetry and song. But one task was not enough for her. Soon her heart cried out that she could do more, be more. When summer came, she set off to the south, where she knew her brother Dian Cecht had gained great healing knowledge from the proud red Stag that dwelled in the tangled woods. Though he led her a merry chase, the young goddess was swift and fleet of foot.

After many miles, the Stag still was not able to outdistance her (though she was not able to catch him, either!) As the sun rose to its zenith, he bowed his great rack of horns to her, saying, “I know what it is that you would seek from me. And if you had given up the chase, I would not even consider teaching you the arts of the physician. You will need the same tenacity to battle illness as you would to war against the Fomorians.”

Out of breath, Brighid panted, “I have fire in my heart, in my limbs, and I will not falter in my care.”

“Then you shall be goddess of the healers, the physicians. Inspire their craft, remind them of the heart that resides at the core of their vocation. For without the human spirit, the healer can heal no one.”

Now Brighid tended both poet and doctor. Yet soon she was restless again. She wanted to learn more, her thirst for knowledge driven by the fires of her spirit. She decided to travel west to the Salmon, who Brighid knew had helped her mother Danu give birth to the Dagda’s numerous children. Perhaps there she could quench the fires that burned in her heart.

Brighid journeyed through the autumn woods, so intent on finding the Salmon’s pool that she was all but oblivious to the flaming beauty around her. Eventually she found the great hazel tree, and the spring that flowed up from beneath its roots. She looked into the waters, momentarily startled as a large fish broke through her reflection.

“Brighid, daughter of Dagda, what do you seek here in my pool? What has brought you so far from hearth and home to this wild place?”

Kneeling, Brighid replied, “Wise Salmon, I know not what I seek. But I do know that my heart is restless and discontent with the knowledge I have gained from Hawk and Stag. Is there something I might learn from you that will calm my soul?”

The fish waggled her head back and forth. “Child of Plenty, Daughter of the Deep Earth, all that I know will be but a drop in the great cauldron of your spirit. But I shall teach you. You will become the greatest of midwives, tending not only the children of man, but those of cow, horse, sheep, and all others who would seek your care. Your touch will sooth the labor pangs of the mothers, and your sigh will bring comfort to the fathers. But you will be unable to turn any away—your days and nights will no longer be your own, for new life waits for no one. Do you still wish to learn?”

Brighid exclaimed, “Oh yes, Salmon, please! I’m sure I will be so busy that my heart will be full at last!”

The Salmon looked shrewdly at the young goddess, but taught her all that she knew. Before Brighid departed, the old fish told her that if her heart still yearned come winter, to visit the Bear far to the north.

Brighid was actually content for a time—a whole year, in fact! But eventually, she became restless again. Her charges flourished—the poets sang like never before, doctors made new strides in medicine, and rarely did a creature perish under her hands. Yet the emptiness was growing again in Brighid’s heart. So remembering the Salmon’s words, and being a responsible goddess, she packed a satchel and asked her brothers Dian Cecht and Ogma to look after her duties until she returned.

Following the stars, Brighid traveled for many days until she came upon a great snow- crusted cave. Teeth chattering, she called, “Mighty Bear, guardian of the North Star, Salmon has sent me to you. My name is—”

“I know who you are, Brighid, daughter of Dagda, son of Elatha,” the Bear interrupted gruffly. “Salmon mentioned you might make your way to my home. Still not satisfied, eh?” Brighid stammered. “Ah…”

Bear snorted. “I should think not. You inspire others, heal others, deliver others’ children. But you don’t save anything for yourself. Come with me. I gave these secrets to Goibniu the Smith long ago, and he used them to wage war. I give them now to you. You may choose to use them as he did…or you may choose to make things of beauty and light. Or perhaps your tastes run more to the practical. Whatever. This is your choice, to be made out of joy and wonder and love, not duty.”

And so Brighid became the patron of smiths and craftsmen. In shaping the molten heart of the earth, she found her own core. Her time in the smithy filled her heart to bursting, and that pleasure spread throughout all of her other callings as well. And so her nature was complete, a guide and mentor to poets, healers, and artisans until the end of all things.