I light this flame for you,
The first flame of the day,
The light my hearth.
May it join
The million of flames,
Around the world,
That honour you this day.,
I honour and I thank you, Hestia
May it be so.
I light this flame for you,
The first flame of the day,
The light my hearth.
May it join
The million of flames,
Around the world,
That honour you this day.,
I honour and I thank you, Hestia
May it be so.
Solstice – this brings to mind two things: planting the seeds and preparing to harvest. One is impossible without the other. While one hemisphere is thinking about the lengthening days, the other is preparing to gather in the fruit of their efforts in the shortening days. Due to the fact that we have members in both hemispheres of the globe, I find it more holistic – if I may – to speak about the two halves as one, of the two events as one since they happen at the same time. It is relativity in motion.
Many years ago, I had an idea of trying to talk to our friends in other Druid communities and to seek the commonality in our ways, the likeness in our practice. It was a seed that I planted and a notion I kept watering over the years. Beginning at Pantheacon this year with some conversations with Kristoffer Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order, and continuing with some conversations with Philip Carr-Gomm of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, I decided to approach them both to see if we could begin to describe ourselves as more generally “Druid” while celebrating our own individual paths. After all, there is strength in numbers.
This is not an attempt to convince the Anglesey Druids to become ADF members or to convert the collection of Bards, Ovates, and Druids into ADF Druids. It is a wish to explore how we are alike while celebrating that we are different. Whether we are Revival Druids, Reconstruction Druids, or Isaac’s Vision Druids, we are Druids.
When I think about what I DO as a Druid, I think about my ADF practice and how it defines how I worship, how I relate to the Earth Mother, and how I offer and acknowledge the Kindreds. After spending time with Kristoffer and reflecting on my ritual experience with OBOD at Glastonbury Tor, I realise that we are all Druids first and foremost.
There is something to be learned each step along the way. While I have been an ADF Druid for 33 years, I felt that it was important to continue my education along the way. I consumed RDNA information a number of years ago and that experience has enhanced my Druid practice, my ADF practice. My OBOD training, from Bard to Ovate to Druid was equally enlightening. For one thing, OBOD training is beautiful – it is a work of Bardic Art and it is pleasing to the eyes and the soul as well. Each lesson was beautifully written and I anxiously awaited the arrival of each new installment. There were delays but I completed my Druid Grade training in OBOD a number of years ago and I was impressed that I received a letter from Philip Carr-Gomm when I finished.
At the time, I was the Vice Archdruid of ADF. I knew from my own studies that all Druids shared some fundamental views. Let’s face it, without the revival, modern Druidry may have never existed. I wrote to Philip Carr-Gomm at the time and said “Let’s explore our commonalities.” Philip graciously invited me to OBOD’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Glastonbury and I planned on attending until my traveling companions could not make it that year.
Being a determined person, I did not give up and continued the communication with Philip and upon becoming Archdruid, I contacted him and said “Let’s explore our commonalities.” Philip once again graciously extended an invitation and again I had to wait. Earlier this year, one of our European Clergy students completed their studies and asked to be ordained. I was thrilled, of course, and when she said that she wanted to be ordained on 10 June, one week after the OBOD Summer Gathering, I knew that things were falling into place.
In ADF, Hospitality is one of our virtues and -in my opinion – the greatest of our virtues because it requires at least one other person to make it complete: we cannot be hospitable unto ourselves. From the moment I arrived at the train station and met Philip Carr-Gomm until the time we parted three days later, I was amazed and awed by this kind, hospitable, wise and gentle man. I was treated with the greatest of hospitality and warmness and am still reflecting back on my encounter with Philip, his lovely wife, and the many stories and situations we shared on the journey to Glastonbury. Is this not what pilgrimage is made of, the sharing of stories, experiences, and lives while moving rapidly (or not-so-rapidly in a traffic sense) towards our destination?
I was made most welcome by the OBOD folks. I was invited to supper by Damh the Bard and this was like a fan moment. Damh’s music is legendary and he is an amazing performer and a more amazing individual. He was so very kind to this traveler throughout the weekend. If you haven’t heard Damh the Bard or the Druidcast program, please do – you owe it to yourself to hear this great podcast and this great performer. He is a Bard and a Gentleman. I am an even bigger fan than ever.
The purpose of my meeting with Philip was to explore our commonalities. He is the Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I am the Archdruid of ADF and a Druid Grade member of OBOD as well. Philip introduced me to the Gathering as the Archdruid of ADF and I was warmly welcomed and fielded a number of questions from interested people. The morning was opened by a wonderful ceremony around the altar in the center of the room and after opening comments by Philip, we broke into groups by Grade, and I found myself in session with the Druid Grade people. I have to admit to being a little intimidated – this being my first OBOD Gathering – but I was made to feel at home and joined right in with the meditations and work at hand. Each Grade was tasked with presenting a piece of the ritual later in the day around the theme of water.. The group I was with went right to work and it was a pleasure to see an entire room full of diverse people working together towards one end. The final result of the morning’s work was a stunning piece of ritual work that came together very beautifully and was accomplished with grace and professionalism. I was proud to be a part of this work.
Morning grew into afternoon and I decided to walk to Glastonbury Tor, robe in hand, to get ready for ritual. All pilgrimage requires journey, and this was no exception. There are two paths to the Tor: one steep, and one gradual. I, unknowing, face to the wind on the Celtic journey of discovery, chose the former. It was a less-than-gradual uphill, through a few turnstiles, finally to the road that led to the base of the Tor. The day was cool and breezy. At the entrance to the Tor was a small truck selling Sno-Cones – it surely was a commentary on the weather,
As I walked up to the path to the top of the Tor, I was amazed at how steep the pathway was, but, the determined pilgrim, I put on my robe and began the ascent. As I moved around the side of the Tor, I was impressed by the view: clouds stretched across the sky, but the land stretched into small hills or mountains in the distance, remnants, perhaps, of the old straight tracks of which I had read. When I finally reached the top and Saint Michael’s Tower, I knew that I had made it to a special place. Druids and interested people were milling about and the wind was blowing. A light rain was falling and the air was full of anticipation.
Suddenly, from across the way, I heard “Drum! Ca va?”. Paul, one of our ADF members from Wales just happened to be on hand. In a sea of new people, it was unexpected to see a familiar face. It made me think that perhaps there were more general commonalities than I expected.
The ritual was a beautiful OBOD rite, and while the weather was cool and rainy, the work that had been done by each of the grades was really appropriate to what was to be done. A raven kept circle clockwise around the tower, riding the updrafts. I took this as a favourable sign. The rite was a success and the walk down the Tor ( a much easier route ) was not a chore, but a joy.
The evening was filled with food, fun, and entertainment, with bardic performances and offerings by a number of members. At the end of this long day, I was very tired and sleep did not take long to find and embrace me. The Inn where I stayed was called The Apple Tree. What a perfect name for an Bed and Breakfast in Avalon. I slept the sleep of sweetness and delight.
The next day was to be a busy day: Philip would give his view of the next 30 years, I would be invited to speak about ADF, and then Philip and I would speak together and field questions and discuss our commonalities. I was very excited for the day, yet rueful of the thought that this glorious gathering would come to an end.
The next day, we gathered again and listened to Damh the Bard – which is exquisite in person, I must say. Philip spoke about the progress that OBOD has made in the last thirty years and talked about his vision of the future. I was then given the opportunity to speak about ADF and I talked about some of the things that I feel define ADF: our polytheism, Isaac’s vision, the Core Order of Ritual, and our focus on hospitality and making offerings. I talked about how we honour the Kindreds: the Ancestors, the Spirits of Nature and the Shining Ones. I also spoke about how I felt that we share a common link – our Druidry and our love for nature. While our rituals may be different, we still gather and worship on the High Days like all Druids do. There is a fire in our rituals and fire is honoured in theirs as well. We call to the Land, the Sea, and the Sky, and, in their own way, they do as well.
Philip and I shared a microphone and a common cable that attached us both for our question and answer session. . This was a practical electronic requirement but it was also a symbol of how we used a common link to bring us together: our Druidry. We talked about our similarities and our differences: ADF has a clergy whereas OBOD does not; ADF is neopagan and OBOD is not. We could dwell on the differences, but the similarities are much more interesting.
As the gathering ended, I was left with a profound sadness at seeing the many kind people leave for their own lives, and I for mine. Philip was kind enough to drive me to London for my rendezvous the next day with the continent. On the way to London, we drove by Stonehenge and I felt that my trip was complete. As I stood on the curb and watched Stephanie and Philip drive away, I began to miss Glastonbury and the beauty of my pilgrimage. I was already thinking about how I could return again, and hopefully soon.
After all, we are all Druids.
When something really special happens, I usually make offerings. I wouldn’t call it superstition, I would call it thankfulness. To some people, ADF is a North American phenomenon, an American phenomenon. It really is much more. The desire and ability to reach out to our members wherever they may be has been a foundation of my practice as Archdruid.
Part of Isaac’s Vision is to have indoor temples/sacred groves throughout North America and Europe. I saw in Australia two years ago and in Brazil last year that ADF has not only members, but places of worship in more than just those two continents. In fact, ADF has members on six continents, with Groves and Protogroves on four of those six continents. We are not just an American phenomenon.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to Ordain our first Canadian priest coming out of our new Clergy Training Program. Our Clergy once again extended past the boundaries of the United States and we Ordained a remarkable priest by the name of Rev. Lisa Wasilkowsky Malik. This Training Program is also a part of Isaac’s Vison, namely to create a professional clergy training program equal in difficulty and superior in results to anything done by the world’s other religions. We like to believe that the program is demanding and more importantly, that it is verifiable.
Just this month, ADF passed a milestone: we approved our first European priest, Rev. Elizabeth (Ellie) Schibli-Lazzaro, our European Regional Druid and the leader of one of our German Protogroves, Adrana ProtoHain. Ellie has worked hard on a program that is not in her native language and has done exceptionally well. She has helped to translate a number of ADF documents and pages into German. This is not an insignificant event.
Our founder, Isaac Bonewits, had envisioned the global reach of ADF. The ordination at Three Rivers festival in Canada last year and this ordination in Germany demonstrates that ADF has an appeal abroad. It shows that our belief in reciprocity and our virtues strike a chord with people everywhere.
It is one thing to start a Grove or a Protogrove in ADF. People who run these organizations spend a lot of time in planning, reporting, and executing the necessary functions of these groups. Ritual planning is not trivial, getting the word out to nearby individuals is not always easy, and introducing a concept like ADF to individuals in a different country or another continent takes a certain amount of vision, which just happens to be one of our virtues.
As part of their ordination package, we require applicants to send us a video of them doing a full Core Order of Ritual rite, which is the standard presentation for ADF Druids, especially for High Days. For all of our previous ordination candidates, the rituals were presented to us in English. Since Ellie is German, I asked her to present her ordination video in German, because I wanted us to see exactly what her protogrove members see when she does ritual. Ellie presented us a video in German, with an accompanying translation so that we could follow along. It was a powerful experience to see the Core Order of Ritual expertly performed in a foreign language. I have been fortunate enough to have had this experience in Brazil last year, but in this way, all of the Clergy Council officers were able to see this event for themselves. It really brought home the understanding that we have moved far from our own borders and boundaries into a new world, an expansion of the vision that we all follow.
I will be ordaining Ellie in June in Germany. I look forward to this opportunity to expand our clergy onto a new continent and I am hopeful that this will encourage others, not only In North America and Europe to seek the Clergy, but also in Australia, South America, Africa, and Asia to expand the vision even further. Assuredly, people do not need to be priests to expand the vision of international practice, but in order to fulfill the “create a professional clergy training program equal in difficulty and superior in results to anything done by the world’s other religions”, they do.
I am proud of all of our priests and for the work that they have done and continue to do, but I am especially proud of our newest priest for expanding our practice across an ocean, across a linguistic divide, and into a new paradigm and understanding. I am proud of Ellie for being such a pioneer.
ADF gained a new priest just now, but, in another way, we grew up a little today, and it feels like a new day. To all of those, human, Ancestor, Spirit of Nature, Shining Ones, and Earth Mother, for this blessing, Accept Our Offering.
A Question of Balance
It is not hard to sense a lack of balance in the world around us from time to time. Even close to home, balance may seem illusive and it appears, at times, as though there is an effort to unbalance things in general from the world without.
It is in time like these that we look to ourselves for balance. It is when one looks within to ground and center and attempt to rediscover or to rekindle that balance. Winter and summer are an example of that balance. In one hemisphere we have the longest day or the year; in another we have the shortest day of the year. Somewhere, in some barrow or mound, the rays of light are finding their way down some long-ago constructed passage way to show the treasures and wisdom found therein.
Now that our inner chambers have been enlightened, it is time to DO something as opposed to just finding our center and holding it. While one may assuredly do a Core Order of Ritual to celebrate the High Day, what about the other 55 days in between? I have a suggestion which might help and may be easier that a Core-Order-Ritual-a-Day: how about devotionals?
Devotionals are really all about balance. We make offerings to an entity because we are a) devoted to that entity, and b) devoted to our practice. An entity, to define my terms, may be an Ancestor, a Nature Spirit, or a Shining One. The divisions thereunder are many and varied.
Devotionals are meant, in my opinion, to be daily events. By building a daily practice, we get better acquainted with the spirits that we work with. Household spirits are a good place to start, in my opinion, because we share a space with them on a daily basis. I consider them to be spirits of nature and certainly spirits of the place.
At the end of this post, you will find a devotional addressed to Manannan mac Lir. This is something I use of a daily basis and I wanted to present it as an example that everyone can do, solitary or non-solitary alike. I feel devotionals such as this may help keep a member’s interest and practice piqued between High Days. I know that many of our Solitary members feel isolated or alone out there. The use of devotionals, especially as summer and winter bring long days and / or long nights, is a great way of developing relationships and keeping the ADF work alive in our lives, today and everyday.
I hope this devotional brings you closer to Manannan Mac Lir and the to balance we all seek.
A Manannan mac Lir Devotional
Hail to you, Manannan mac Lir,
God of the Irish Sea,
Lord of the Isle of Mann,
He who walks upon the waves.
There are rocks that jut from the water, my Lord,
Please protect me from them;
There are eddies that form along the shore, my Lord,
Please protect me from them;
There are pitfalls and traps along the Way, my Lord,
Please protect me from them.
As I begin my journey this day,
Please stand with me, my Lord;
As I continue my journey this day,
Please walk with me, my Lord;
As I near my destination,
Please consul me as to the path ahead, my Lord.
Help me to walk with wisdom today,
And every day,
Let me walk the Narrow Way,
The Watercourse Way,
And set me true to my course.
Accept this offering my Lord:
I honor and I thank you,
Manannan mac Lir.
I have often talked about the importance of daily devotionals. We, as ADF Druids, often state that by making offerings one builds relationships between the Kindreds, the Earth Mother, and almost any deity or spirit one may think of. We feel that this is the case; we believe that this is the case. It is fundamental to how we worship: we give so that the Kindreds/Earth Mother/deities/and spirits may give back in return. “May” is the functional word in this statement. I believe that the powers-that-be may chose to or not to return the blessings to us.
I discovered sometime ago that one may find unusual results when devotional practices are combined with everyday, practical undertakings. When I was taking one of the courses in the Brewers’ Guild Study Program, one was asked to make up a prayer – or a devotional – when making one’s brew/mead/wine. I wrote a separate song for each batch and I asked the Dagda to not only bless what I was making, but to help make it a successful undertaking. I not only prayed to the Dagda in song, I devoted the fruit of my work to Him.
The various wines/mead/metheglen that I made turned out well, and I felt, in my own mind, that the Dagda had blessed my work. The metheglen that I made even won 2nd place in a people’s choice award at an ADF Festival. I felt that the work that I did was blessed and was also an offering so that whenever someone drank one of my creations, they were also honouring the Dagda by drinking what had been offered to Him.
When I was running in races – a few years ago – I used to always begin the race with a prayer. I would ask for strength, stamina, speed, and endurance. For each mile that I ran, I would repeat that same prayer. While I never did finish in first place, I felt that the prayer and the rhythm of the prayer were instrumental in my doing as well as I did. Since I ran races every week, this was an activity that was carried out repeatedly with what I considered to be positive results.
In this case, the practical value of devotion was that it became internalized as a part of my running regimen. It wasn’t separate in the least. Running and the prayer that accompanied it were integrally intertwined. The devotion and the activity became one, naturally and organically.
I have been gardening for years. I find it healthy and therapeutic. My father has been growing tomatoes from seed for years, so every year, he would plant his tomatoes seeds in February, on the first quarter or sixth night of the moon, and then he would nurture those seeds until they became seedlings and then he would give me a lot of them. My father’s tomatoes have flown on airplanes with me and have been grown in many states. They are fabulous tomatoes. I consider them not only a gift, but a legacy.
My father turned 95 this year and this was the first year in my memory that he did not grow his tomatoes. I did what he used to do last year, which was to keep the seeds, label them, and get them ready to be planted in February, on the sixth night of the moon.
When I plant seeds, or when I plant seedlings, I say a prayer to the Earth Mother for each one. I thank her for the gift of potential and say that I plant this plant in Her name, and that the bounty will be in her honour. I then place the plant in the ground, arrange the soil nicely around each one, and then wait. As time passes and as the seeds and seedlings grown into hearty plants, I am always amazed at the transformation. The prayer that launched the plants is repeated again when the vegetables and fruits are harvested. For each tomato, for each leaf of basil, for every gift of the Earth Mother, I thank her for her bounty. When we plant something, we expect it to grow. Water, fertilize, care and more water, and we expect results. It is perhaps the expectation of agriculture. Yet, for a person who reveres the Earth Mother and the Spirits of Nature, this is an example of the laws of hospitality. We make offerings, in the form of seeds and/or seedlings and prayers. We continue to make offering through out the growing season. As the season matures, as the plants mature, they produce food for us and also exhibit the miracle of growth. When the fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest, we gather these gifts that have been given to us from the Earth Mother herself and the Spirits of Nature and we give thanks for that which has been given.
In a way, the waters that we give as offerings provide a tremendous gift in return. To the unknowing or to the unaware, this is merely the planting of seeds, the watering of the garden, and the picking of fruits and vegetables. Yet, to a child of the Earth Mother, it is really so very much more. It is an observance of a cycle that is as old as the world itself, that demonstrates the bounty of nature and the miracle of growth and harvest, and the exchange that happens right in our very own garden. We offer water as a practical gift of devotion, of the work that is to be done, and we gather the great gifts from the Earth Mother Herself. It is the practical side of devotion that finds the mundane, transforms it through offering and practice, into something sacred, through our belief, through our practice, through the harvest of the work that we have done. How fitting that we touch the earth when we gather the harvest: one hand on the plant, one hand on the Earth Mother, and the cycle is complete.
I was looking at the ADF website the other day, and a few things stuck out for me. I would like to share them with you.
From the ADF By Laws: We are dedicated to the preservation of our Holy Mother Earth, the full achievement of human potential, the revival of the worship of the Old Gods in a modern context, and the creation of a world of peace, love, freedom, health, and prosperity for all intelligent beings.
Our vision is that the Gods and Spirits are served in the modern world through:
A few things out of this collection of three stood out to me: while these things apply to everyone collectively or individually, I wanted to focus for this moment on the ones that speak to individuals, the individuals that make up ADF.
The preservation of the Earth Mother and a revival of the worship of the Old Gods in a modern context is really what drew me to ADF in the first place and perhaps many others as well. The practitioners of an Earth-friendly religion would probably find the preservation of the Earth, our Earth Mother, as something desirable. Bring back the Old Gods? I think every one of us is called to this vision and the reality of making-it-so. In fact, this is something each and every one of us can do. I also see it akin to the “A spiritual relationship with the Earth” provision of our vision and the “Honoring the Earth Mother” part of our values.
Our values go on to mention the “commonality of ritual practice” and “reciprocity with the Gods and Spirits”, which are the hallmarks of what we do – that is our practice as is reflected in the use of the Core Order of Ritual and the practice of *ghosti, or reciprocity through offerings with the Gods and Spirits.
We also talk about “Accessible religious training for all”. This typically means the Dedicant Program and the various other study programs that stream from that first effort. Yet, here is an interesting idea and pathway that extends from this collection of three: you don’t need to be an ADF Dedicant to find the commonality of ritual practice and reciprocity with the Gods and Spirits. Folks that have or haven’t completed the Dedicant Program can be equally capable ADF Druids in practice and in relationship to the Kindred(s) that we honour.
Yes, yes, we would like for people to do the Dedicant Program and the other study programs that we offer free of charge. By doing so, one will experience the Eight High Days that we acknowledge. One will learn of the virtues and read some books that encourage scholarship, and make your altar, and do all the things that a Dedicant can do – but you may not desire to do so now – or ever. So how can we offer this “accessible religious training for all”?
For those people who are members of or attend worship services and/or other activities with Groves or Protogroves or Worship Groups, one may easily watch and learn at each of the public High Day observances. They are open to the public and I will guess that a good explanation of what is about to happen and why will precede each ritual. By doing so, one can take that ritual work that is observed and put it into practice for one’s self, whenever the need arises or the desire to reach out and make offerings to the Kindred(s) is felt.
Yet, not everyone has access to or membership in Groves, Protogroves, and Worship Groups – what then? Well, that is where some of the rest of us can help. This will take a little bit of searching, but not too much. First, consult the Liturgist Guild Yearbooks, in the member’s section of the ADF website at https://www.adf.org/members/guilds/liturgists/yearbooks/index.html. This has a list of ritual, prayers, and devotionals that were submitted to the Guild over a number of years. Many of the full rituals are in Core Order of Ritual (COoR) format and would be a good way to learn one’s way around the Core Order. If the rituals aren’t help enough, reach out to a priest – they are well versed in ritual and I predict will be very happy to help with ritual form. We have 33 priests currently – along with two more priests that are retired – and they would be glad to help with your ritual or offerings questions. I am one of those priests, so please feel free to reach out to me as well. Here is a link, under “Clergy”: https://www.adf.org/about/leaders/index.html
I would expect that while people may find a diversity of expression within a ritual context from our priests, one should also find a commonality of practice as far as the Core Order of Ritual goes. There are a number of articles on the ADF website about the Core Order, but why consult an article when you can talk to a priest instead.
As a priest, I have an understanding and am experienced with the practice of the Core Order of Ritual. Yet, as an ADF Druid, I can also make offerings to the Kindreds on a daily basis and help build my relationship with them every time I do so, Core Order or not. The building of relationships is what drives me onwards as an ADF Druid because I believe that it works. I feel the Kindred(s) in my life, sometimes forcefully, sometimes, quietly, but by doing, I feel more attached to my practice and also to that of ADF and its members as well.
I want everyone to be able to build relationships with their Kindred(s). In doing so, I believe that folks will feel their presence in their life and that the experience will enrich their lives. I hope, by the same building of relationships, that our members, and especially our solitary members, are able to build this relationship with the Kindreds and also with the organization that represents the work that we do. There is a beauty in practice. There is a beauty in practice with a group of other people. Yet, even if I am by myself, there is a beauty and value in practice that I can take with me wherever I go. One need only to step out doors or look out the window to see and/or feel the Earth Mother. One need only know that each and every ADF Druid, regardless of where they are, stand on that same Earth Mother and find themselves equally supported by her – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This, at the most fundamental level, we have in common: however, with practice and through practice, we have so much more.
What to do about our Solitary Members?
When I first joined ADF in 1984, I was solitary for the better part of my first twenty years. I relied heavily, in the pre-internet days, on Druid’s Progress (the magazine) and News from the Mother Grove (the newsletter). In the rare instances that I would run into folks from ADF, I would try to glean as much information from them as I could: who, what, where, etc.
Once the internet became a major force, it was easier to find out things because of chat rooms or email lists. It was the next step in the process of getting information but one thing did not change: I was alone.
When I moved to Michigan, I hooked up with Shining Lakes Grove of which I am still a member. It was really a change of life for me. There are some solitary members who are solitary because they want to be, but, the great majority of solitary practitioners are solitary out of circumstance. Roughly 55% of the ADF population is solitary and I feel there is a need to find a way to make solitaries feel that they are part of the greater family of Druids. How does one do that?
I have often written to members when they joined to welcome them to ADF and let them know that we do not take their membership for granted. I am not sure that this practice was overly effective, but it was an attempt. Yet, that takes care of one day in the ADF life of a member and that is just not enough. So the question remains: what is to be done.
I have a couple of ideas.
I travel a great deal for ADF, mostly to see various groups or collections of people and I am often fortunate to see whatever solitary folks are able to make it to festivals, gatherings, or Pagan Pride days along the way. I have an idea to do a little bit more. I would like to propose that once a month, myself and someone else from leadership or clergy venture to a different state and try to find a central location where solitary folks might be able to gather and get to talk to some folks from a representative group from ADF. This might be something like a meet and greet followed by a ritual. Why a ritual some may ask? One of our ADF brands is our Core Order of Ritual which defines whether a ritual is an ADF ritual or not. It is one thing to read about it, it is another to see a ritual on You Tube, but it is entirely different to see it in person and to be a part of that experience. I guess this would be an ADF Road Show in a way. An activity like this would be fairly effective in smaller states, like Delaware and Rhode Island and probably a lot more challenging in larger states like Florida, Texas, New York, and California to name a few. I am sure the methodology would have to be developed and refined, but it would be a good way to meet the people who have either been members for a short amount of time or a long period of time and have rarely seen anyone from the organization.
I have also spoken to some folks in the gaming industry that have some definite ideas about creating an online experience that might be interactive, vital, and allow folks to share time and experiences together. This will take some time to develop and to recruit talent to help with the process, but the internet is the one place that we can come together and meet with relative ease. We have found success with chats, Google Hangouts, and other meet-up methodologies, especially when they are targeted to certain interest groups.
I would also like to invite and engage our clergy to get involved with offering ritual services online, so that if folks want to ask questions about ritual practice or actually try out some ritual practices with someone else, folks will be available to look, listen, and learn. Clergy is just a starting point – we have many Senior Druids or Grove Organizers who are talented with ritual and ritual construction. I would like to see online locales set up as test beds where people can try things out and get some gentle and guiding feedback from the folks mentioned above.
Finally, I would like to see our regional leadership, like Regional Druids and their deputies to contribute their experiences as well. Our regional folks are out there meeting people all the time and they may have found approaches that are vital as well.
There is nothing like the immediacy of being with and interacting with people in person. I am hoping that by trying these ideas and also reaching out with monthly gatherings that we can not only let solitary practitioners know that they are not alone, but also help them feel more connected to the whole.
I have been blessed.
In October, I was fortunate enough to visit the Southern Ocean, that vast expanse of water between Australia and Antarctica. I had wanted to visit that ocean ever since I heard of Adelaide and South Australia. While it was a dream of mine to see, that dream became a reality with my attendance at the Mount Franklin (Beltaine) Festival in October. The Mount Franklin Festival, nestled in an extinct volcano, was an opportunity to spend five days in the bosom of the Earth Mother. My journey to the Southern Ocean was an opportunity to experience the power and majesty of the Southern Ocean, as personified by Lir, the God of the Surrounding Sea.
As I stood by the ocean, I was amazed by the great sound and the powerful wind that came from that endless body of water. I carved a number of names and blessings in ogham on the beach, looking for the incoming tide to come and carry my blessings away, to activate them. The wind blew my hair back, thundered in my ears, and was an insistent and constant voice which shouted, sang, and defined that liminal world between water and shore. I walked up to what I considered a “safe zone” on the shore, where I was convinced I would not get my shoes wet. This “safe zone” was invaded immediately by an ocean with intent and with purpose. The ocean, the vast ocean, the ever-encircling ocean, is king here and it presence, both visually and audibly, was elemental and stunning. At one point, I took my shoes and socks off and stood in the waters, so that I could participate in the experience, directly, of that great ocean. It was cold; it was loud; it was forceful, all at once. My feet in the sand, the water touching my legs, and the sound of the surf anchored me in that moment. The water rushed in; the water rushed out, and the moment, THAT particular moment, was gone.
In November, I came to California and the Pacific Ocean to visit with friends and to attend a work conference. Once again, I was able to visit the ocean, this time, the Pacific Ocean at Santa Cruz. This was a much different ocean experience. The Southern Ocean was just coastline and ocean and really nothing in the way. The Pacific Ocean, on the other hand, was a shoreline, but a beach with piers and somewhat inland. The waves kept rolling in, but it seemed much more serene, much more pacified. Perhaps, that is why it is called the Pacific. I took off my shoes and socks and went once again into the water. I closed my eyes and listened. It was that same feel; it was that same sound; it was that same vibration. Gone was the thundering surf, because at this place, it was more serene. Gone was the wind blowing through my hair like a gale. Gone was the wind the blows from the bottom of the world.
Yet, believe it or not, this is the same interconnected body of water that I stepped in a world away, a continent away. This is the body of Lir and, while the lore may not support it, I am a firm believer in the all encircling ocean, be it Lir or be it Oceanos or be it Varuna. The Grand Ocean is really a different kind of being. The Earth Mother is beneath our feet on whatever continent we may stand. The Great Ocean, on the other hand, is always that interconnected body of water that surrounds each of the continents. Heraclitus stated “Panta rhei”, or all is in flux, which is often interpreted as “you never step into the same river twice”. Yet, when we walk into the ocean, it IS the same ocean, anywhere and everywhere. While the contents or flow of the waters may change from moment to moment, we step into the fundamentally same body of water, that living corpus of water that is Lir.
When we pollute the ocean, we pollute ALL of the ocean, because it is all one. When we allow plastics and trash to form huge proto-islands in the middle of the Pacific, we pollute ALL of the ocean, because it is all one. When we dump toxic waste into the ocean or when we overfish the ocean, we pollute or damage ALL of the ocean. Without the waters, we cannot survive, so while the Great Ocean, or Lir, may take a lot to seriously damage, it can be done. It is being done. There is a lot of water on this planet, nurturing the Earth Mother and nurturing ourselves. Yet, there is a limited amount of water and we know of the power of the ocean. If we take a telescope to Mars and see where a Great Ocean used to be, we know the damage that may be inflicted on a system as large as a planet by the evapouration of the ocean.
By stepping into that grand stream, into that living God, I became aware of one great truth and that is something I will never forget. Two oceans, three oceans, four oceans, more, regardless of the case, it is one living, expanding, extending, entity that I call Lir. He is old, he is all-surrounding, and he is still as vital as ever. Let us make sure to do our part to protect him by giving thanks, praise, and offerings, and by removing all the impurities that we can, whenever we can.
Please Plant This Dream
Richard Brautigan, one of my favourite authors from the 60s, once wrote the passage in his book “Please Plant This Book”:
“The only hope we have is our
“children and the seeds we give them
“and the gardens we plan together”
(http://pleaseplantthisbook.com – Lettuce packet)
Let me begin by saying that I am not a parent. I was never blessed with children and I celebrate each and every one of you who is thus blessed. Lately, as though the Gods wanted me to see another lotus petal unfolding, I have been around more and more younger children. I am amazed, of course, at what I see in their faces. I was at a park when a young man of about 7 months was first introduced to a tree. It was really amazing to watch him run his hands of the bark of the tree and to sense this vibrant, living creature interacting with another vibrant living creature. What I saw was a distinct sense of wonder.
Feeling a tree or feeling the earth or a plant or grass is a distinctly different sensation than feeling a plastic toy or a sewn doll or anything manufactured. If we expose our children to nature and the Earth Mother, they will feel comfortable with nature and the Earth Mother. Recently, I was with a toddler when he was sitting in a pool and he did something very natural for a young child: he slapped his hands into the water. In doing so, the water splashed up and totally soaked his face. I held my breath in anticipation of his sudden wetness and, to my sudden and ultimate surprise; he giggled and kept right on splashing. He celebrated the water and his getting wet. He marveled at the feel of the tree. He was mesmerized by the feel of the blades of grass. He sat and listened to the sound of the wind invigorating the leaves in the trees.
Nature is an active playground and the Earth Mother welcomes everyone to her verdant fields, hills, and forests; she welcomes everyone to the shores of waterways, brimming with sound; she welcomes everyone to watch out the ever-changing story that is told in the skies. Perhaps if children, or better yet, if people, are raised around nature, they will not feel so separated from nature. I, as a child of a gathering of years, still marvel and wonder at the clouds, stars, and other celestial wonders that flow by my window or over my head.
I have a friend who has a young daughter who prays with her for morning devotionals. Let me clarify this – she doesn’t accompany her mother for prayers, she participates with her mother in prayers. At two years old, how is this possible? Someone once told me that children learn by example. This is a situation where, on a daily basis, the mother gets up to honour Ushas, Vedic Goddess of the Dawn, and her daughter would accompany her. After a while, her daughter would pray with her and, should the mother tarry in getting to the altar, her daughter would reminder her by stating “Momma, pray?” Recently, this has expanded to “Momma, Ushas? Pray Ushas?”
I am awestruck by the power of these words. The recognition of prayer by a child is a powerful thing. The recognition of the deity to whom the prayer is focused is already another. Often I hear neo-pagans commenting on ways in which to introduce their children. Do they send them to Bible school to get that “other” religion and then let the child, saturated with years of alternate ethos, choose if a different system serves them better? Do they let the child find its own way, applying little or no moral training and hoping for the best, lest they become orphans of the storm? Do they try to teach them the myths of a culture that once served as a background to a people who had neither Internet nor iPhone and employ images that may not apply at that well in the current day?
An old friend of mine, Cecil, once said “kids may not listen to you, but they sure watch what you do.” In this spirit, perhaps the best thing to do is to include one’s children in one’s devotional practice. Let them SEE what you do; let them HEAR what you do, let them FEEL what they feel and see if it resonates with them. If you are a person of good moral character, which I assume is true, then your children will watch your approach to things and will subscribe to that same moral code, by osmosis that you do. Tell them, from time to time, why you are doing what you are doing.
While there is value in telling the old stories, perhaps there is better worth is showing our children our own practice, built upon the works of the past, tempered by time and practice, and made new and shiny and vital in our 2015 way.
“The only hope we have is our
“children and the seeds we give them
“and the gardens we plan together”
The seeds that we give them are our practice and our gardens are the works we do together. Plant a seed in the garden of the Earth Mother, add love and water, and she will return a bounty. And what a bounty that will come to be.
There is a stream very close to where I live. On the map, it is known as Silver Creek. To me, it is known as Ara. I did a long series of workings to get to know my stream and the name I discovered was Ara. Ara, like the constellation, the Altar. In some ways, I treat my stream as an altar, but as a unique and constantly moving altar that is not stagnant and that varies in flow, intensity, and intent. Oh the stories it could tell to the trees!
From a purely physical standpoint, it is a stream, a flowing body of water that stretches a number of miles and is part of the Huron River watershed. It is a small, quiet stream near where I live. I have watched it over the months from low stream in summer, to flowing stream in autumn, to frozen stream in winter, and so on. I have seen it grow way past its banks so that it extended past its boundaries, only to return to its embankments.
There is a tree near the bank and I can always get a gauge on the stream from that tree. Several times since spring, the tree, which normally sits contentedly near the bank, was totally encircled in water. This was typically after a series of strong storms or days of torrential rains. Most recently, because of the very hot and dry weather here, the stream was reduced to a very small flow.
I had noticed a while ago that there were no fish in my stream and I was a little surprised. I expected something to be living in my loving waters, but much as I looked, no fish could be found. I am surely not a biologist nor an environmentalist, but I figured that perhaps there was something in the stream that was not quite right. I felt that something had been introduced into the current which had tainted the waters to the point that fish, one of the local nature spirits, were not welcome or comfortable.
Over the last two weeks, a rather unsettling smell permeated the neighbourhood. I just couldn’t place it, but, it was always around. It was especially noticeable when the wind blew from the west, blowing from the area of the stream.
I went to visit my waters and I noticed that they were so very low, not quite a trickle, but a slow and not very healthy looking situation. The exposed stream bed had kind of a unhealthy look and I grew concerned. I thought of my stream daily when I did my invocations to the nature spirits, a part of my daily devotionals.
Over the last few days, the rains came once again; welcome to return now that August no longer held the rain clouds at bay. It rained and it rained hard and long. My tomatoes, parsley, and basil was ecstatic at the flow of true waters, purified waters from the sky, not the faucet. I noticed that that weird smell had dissipated as well and I decided to pay a visit to my stream.
The stream was moving, slowly, deliberately, but in a healthier manner than lately. Several families of ducks were swimming in the waters and they seemed almost joyous, at least to my biased eyes. I looked once again for fish, but didn’t see any, not yet at least, but the return of the flow, of the current, of good clean, purified waters from the skies seems to make all the difference.
This entire exercise reminded me of the other streams in my life and the ebbs and flows that I deal with on a daily basis. There is another stream, a stream of belief and practice, that flows through my life and perhaps through the life of those who practice as I do. The streams that are our altars and our practices sometimes get dusty or low in water. We can assuredly keep on top of the care and maintenance of our own altars, but what of the commonly shared altars and practices that we share with others?
Sometimes, we shake our heads that the flow of our collective practices, the flow of our collective streams, seems diverted, seems stunted, and seems to flow in an opposite direction. What can we do when we are faced with such deviations?
I think back to something Alan Watts said long ago about the Watercourse Way, and, of course, he was repeating things that he had heard and that had been passed along. The discussion of the Watercourse Way, the path of least resistance, is old, as old as storytelling perhaps. We can paddle upriver, against the flow, and we will assuredly not achieve the progress we desire. We can paddle quickly downriver to a new place, to a new river bank, but we may find that is it too different, or, conversely too similar to the place we once were. I think, upon reflection, that it is best to stick to the flow, to stick to the waters of our own stream for the time being and continue our practice, regardless of the height of the water, of the smell that emanates therefrom, and the flows, friendly or harmful, that may enter that stream. In time, the rains will come and purify the waters of our practice. If we open our arms, and minds, and hearts to the possibility of renewal of the stream, we may find our own family of ducks, swimming where they had not been seen before. The Gods work in mysterious ways and the ducks brought me their message today: the waters of renewal have come. I make an offering and I am thankful for the opportunity to wait, like the stream, to wait, like the river, to wait, like the ocean, for the waters to turn.
Yes, the river knows.