New Year’s 2017 Ogham Divinations

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Following the deer trail deep into the woods.

New Year’s ended up being a fabulous women’s retreat at a dear friend’s home in Maine.  There was as much laughter, tears, and divine ridiculousness as five women could possibly summon!

We kept with our Grove’s New Year’s tradition of a divination extravaganza after the stroke of midnight, January 1st.  W. did wonderful tarot spreads for all us ladies, but I also kept with my yearly drawing of the ogham for a month-by-month forecast of 2017.  Being a Druid, I use a tree ogham, but of course there are color, bird, and even word oghams that could be substituted.

Since there weren’t any ogham sets handy, I instead cut 25 slips of paper and used those for the fews. (This is one of the nice things about both runes and ogham as divinatory systems: they can be constructed on the fly with whatever materials are at hand.)

January-ioho/yew
February-beith/birch
March-oir/spindle
April-saille/willow
May-ruis/elder
June-uilleand/gooseberry or honeysuckle
July-ur/heather
August-luis/rowan
September-fearn/alder
October-tinne/holly
November-quert/apple
December-ohn/furze or gorse

The lessons of Ioho are already apparent only a few days into the month of January.  One political regime is giving away to another in the U.S. and people are looking to their ancestors for wisdom and guidance in surviving whatever lies ahead.  This is the shaman’s tree, the axis mundi, evergreen and sometimes bleeding.  Sharing in its strength can only bolster us for what lies ahead.

12 Nights of Yule: Feast Night

7294830668_6ac2134bab_kYule’s emphasis (for me at any rate) is on family and community. The coming together, the sharing of food—it all strengthens the bonds between individuals as we move into the harsh winter months.

Gods know that 2016 has been harsh.  We need celebration and family (chosen or otherwise) desperately.

I have mixed feelings about gifts. By and large, I decided not to do gifts, and have been greatly enjoying the freedom from giving up the practice. The exception to this is my mother, whom I want to spoil just a bit this year. But releasing oneself from the obligation of hitting the mall in search of things that we don’t really need is tremendous.

Grandparents do, however, delight in giving things to the kids. I think they would be sad if they couldn’t express themselves that way. And my son, well, this is certainly a holiday for children, and he’ll doubtless be enjoying the spoils, as it were!

It’s been wonderful to see our family traditions change, making space for the things we like, weeding through the things we don’t. And it’s even more wonderful to realize that we can continue to evolve our practices as we grow. This is what tradition should be: repeated activities which strengthen and inspire the people who perpetuate them.

Merry Yule to all, and to all a good night!

12 Days of Yule: Lovers’ Night & Solstice

Two dot, a pair of eyes, a voice, a touch, complete surprise: two dot.
—”Growing Up” by Peter Gabriel

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Image c. Nevit Dilmen

Last night we told the story of One, that first being who birthed themself from Unbeing.  But it would not be much of a story if things simply stopped at One.

Fortunately for us, One eventually came to recognize themself.  Just how this happened no one can say for sure.  Some say they simply looked down at their hands and realized they had form as well as thought.  Some say One was lonely, and from that loneliness came an understanding of self.  Some say One looked in a mirror, and in that swirling pool of star-stuff they saw themselves reflected.

(“But where did they get a mirror?” asks the inquisitive child.  “Shhh, it’s a mystery,” replies the long-suffering parent.)

When the One recognizes itself, there are then two. The Second, by its nature, is now separated from the One; thus Two is the source of all further differentiation of the One.

As each studies the other they are drawn together. Gazing at one another, One cannot help but see something of themself in Two, and likewise, Two also sees something of themself in One. Two and One find they complement each other perfectly.  In each other, they find joy.

Light the second candle, celebrate the joy of unified opposites.

Happy is the moment, when we sit together,
With two forms, two faces, yet one soul,
you and I.

The flowers will bloom forever,
The birds will sing their eternal song,
The moment we enter the garden,
you and I.

The stars of heaven will come out to watch us,
And we will show them
the light of a full moon –
you and I.

No more thought of “you” and “I.”
Just the bliss of union –
Joyous, alive, free of care, you and I.

All the bright-winged birds of heaven
Will swoop down to drink of our sweet water –
The tears of our laughter, you and I.

What a miracle of fate, us sitting here.
Even at the opposite ends of the earth
We would still be together, you and I.

We have one form in this world,
another in the next.
To us belongs an eternal heaven,
the endless delight of you and I.
—”You and I, in the Palace” by Rumi

12 Days of Yule: First Night

One dot, that’s on or off, defines what is and what is not: one dot.
—”Growing Up” by Peter Gabriel

Tonight, the retelling of the story of the world begins. Tonight, celebrate the spark, the divine explosion, the first existence of the One.  One has not yet become Two—One is undifferentiated from Itself, yet has separated from the void of Unbeing.

Light the candle of potentiality. Stand on the threshold of wonder, the precipice of fragmentation, before the One explodes into infinite multitudes.

The kindling of flame
The kindling of the Wheel
The kindling of light and dark
The kindling of the Powers
May hope be kindled in the hearts of all
May your flame join the eternal Fire

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Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, Karl Stapelfeldt (GSFC), B. Stecklum & A. Choudhary

 

Here’s What They Don’t Tell You

IMG_0805My ex liked to move about every two years (just moved again, as a matter of fact)–probably one of the many reasons we’re no longer together.  If you’re always running, you never let yourself have the time to be affected by relationships, whether it’s with neighbors or the land itself.  I hated being rootless.

Listening to the land is what being a Druid is all about though.  If a single sacrament exists that unites all Druids, it would be to Know Thy Lands.  But what form does this take?  We are undeniably people of the Sun; her journey thought the sky dictates our celebrations.  By and large, our rituals are as open to outsiders as they are to the sky.  Knowing the land will bring health, wealth, prosperity. The overflowing arms of a fecund Mother, bucolic prancing lambs, and a piping Pan are among our most beloved images.   And that makes sense, after a fashion, even if it smothers the raw truth of what the land is in a gloss of anti-industrial Romantic bubble wrap.

Here’s what they don’t tell you.  Sometimes being tuned into the land isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Dreams of giant squash bugs, visions of creeping fungus and of garden beds crying out for blood.  Holding a dying mother turkey in your arms as her pullets cry out for her.  Maggots in the compost heap, rats’ nests in the hay.  Keeping a dead chicken in your fridge until the Ag Department can come to determine if it’s bird flu.  You can’t turn your back on the compost, shite and death. The Black Hen of Cerridwen, if you will, that’s one call you can’t ignore.

After five years of watching, writing, listening, tasting, I’m finally settling into the rhythms of being Wachusett’s long shadow.  Even as I know nature owes me nothing, I marvel in being able to eat from my garden and get eggs from our chickens.  And now, at the end of the season, I’ll revel in the catabolic processes that will work their magic in the fallow months to make the land fruitful again come spring.

No, they don’t tell you that before the wonder of Pryderi’s return comes a terrible claw seeking revenge. But now that you know the land, do they really need to?

Demarcations

Where is the line between prayer and poetry?  It’s blurred more often than not.  This is why I love Pinsky, Heaney, the Romantics. That very ambiguity is delicious.  I love how my pagan gods hide beneath the rhythms of secularism.

Today, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems by Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.  It’s a wheel poem, a harvest poem, and a musing on cycles, family, and ancestors.  Read it aloud, and taste the words, feast on sounds as they tumble and circle each other. Enjoy.

BIOGRAPHY
Robert Pinsky

Stone wheel that sharpens the blade that mows the grain,
Wheel of the sunflower turning, wheel that turns
The spiral press that squeezes the oil expressed
From shale or olives. Particles that turn to mud
On the potter’s wheel that spins to form the vessel
That holds the oil that drips to cool the blade.

My mother’s dreadful fall. Her mother’s dread
Of all things: death, life, birth. My brother’s birth
Just before the fall, his birth again in Jesus.
Wobble and blur of my soul, born only once,
That cleaves to circles. The moon, the eye, the year,
Circle of causes or chaos or turns of chance.

The line of a tune as it cycles back to the root,
Arc of the changes. The line from there to here
Of Ellen speaking, thread of my circle of friends,
The art of lines, chord of the circle of work.
Radius. Lives of children growing away,
The plant radiant in air, its root in dark.