Tag Archives: dedicant path

Revisiting the Home Shrine Essay

One of the cool things about the Dedicant Path, it that because it is a Path, you can always walk it. I recently decided to revisit the Home Shrine essay, especially since we moved earlier this year, and it gave me a chance to really re-evaluate what components of my altar I feel are most essential. These were the last things I packed up, and the first things I got out. I’ve since settled, and have my altar completely set up again, in the heart of our home. Below is a recent picture of my altar, and my revisited essay:

Home Shrine
My home shrine seems to always have minor changes happening, based partly on the seasons, and partly on whatever work I’m currently doing (since I tend more towards working altar than shrine). Since we moved this year, I had the benefit of getting to completely reset it up. In our new house it is set into the kitchen wall, where the microwave is expected to go. I like it there a lot, since it’s in a prominent place in our home, where I have easy access to it every day. It is also nice that it is at just the right height for me, and because of the counter-top, my daughter can sit there when she joins me for prayers.

The things that stay consistently on my shrine are a small Hestia statue and her flame, a Poseidon statue, an Artemis plate that catches the ash from the burning incense, an offering bowl, and my Well and Tree/omphalos representations. Other things that rotate in and out of my shrine are a water scrying dish, my Greek Alphabet Oracle set, a lantern to house Hestia’s flame, a live plant, an antler and feathers, Crane representations, various candles, written prayers, and a request for healing list. Additionally, my stole and my initiate cords are always within easily reach of my altar.

I do have various nooks around the house that have small shrines set up, but aren’t part of my primary altar. One of these that is fairly permanent is an Ancestor shrine (this includes the Grove’s Ancestor Box when I’m tending it). I would like to eventually get the shelves in my bedroom back up, which would allow me to move my altar there. Though honestly, at this point, I’m not certain I will. I like having it in the middle of the house where my family can join me easily.

Advertisements

Personal Religion and Hearth Culture

A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures. (600 word min)

Inadequate Adequate Excellent
·      Word length under
·      Uninvolved, lack of practical application
·      Lack of spirituality or spiritual growth
·      Word length adequate
·      Research and practice with one or more hearth cultures
·      Observable spiritual growth over the course of the training period
·      Publishable quality reviews
·      Deep/unique insight
·      Development of a working personal spiritual system with a particular hearth culture

When I finally joined ADF and Three Cranes Grove it was after much deliberation.  I’d been attending rites for almost 5 years, but had been putting off joining mostly out of fear that I’d become attached to the people and then have to move.  That is what has happened.  I was only in Columbus for about another year, but my time spent in close vicinity to my Grove allowed me to form bonds that I have maintained even after moving. 

After moving, I realized that I being with Three Cranes built a very strong foundation for me, and that now being away from them I was/am able to branch out.  My solitary practice has blossomed over the past year.  I still connect with my Grove, and my Delos (the Hellenic group I work with), but it is the foundation that they helped to build that has proved most beneficial.  Even now, working within the structure of ADF, most of my full core order of rituals happen on the High Days and Druid Moons with the Grove.  In the beginning, I needed the guidance of my Grove and my Grove mates to feel comfortable in this format. It was helpful to experience ritual with them leading and guiding the rest of us. Slowly I was assigned more and more involved parts, moving from Earth Mother, to the Kindreds, to Outdwellers, and up into Two Powers and Attunement, Re-Creating the Cosmos, and Opening the Gates. For our public rituals I started out writing my parts before hand and reading them from that script in ritual. Now I’ve grown into still writing before hand, but I rarely use it during ritual. It’s just my back up piece in case I freeze up. Our Grove also does monthly Druid Moons, and during these we are rarely assigned parts before we get there. We are able to just get together and perform a ritual in the common framework that ADF gives us. I really like this, though it was nerve wrecking at first, because there is so much less pressure, and you really can just speak from the heart.

I do a kind of modified core order for most of my full on rituals at home, though more often than not I’m doing more devotional type works at home rather than full rituals. When I’m working at home, I almost never acknowledge the Outdwellers except in the sense of calming myself and entering a state in my own mind that is free from things that would distract me during the ritual. I honor the Three Kindreds, as well as specific deities and patrons. Most of my work at home takes the form of devotionals for an individual God or Goddess, or for a pair or set of related Gods or Goddesses.

The hearth culture I work in is Hellenic.  I’ve learned a great deal about the Greek Gods and Hellenic religion by studying and researching ways to fit Hellenic Reconstruction and ADF methodology together.  Working with the Delos I co-founded with Irisa has been instrumental in my understanding of my chosen hearth culture. We’re all working together to learn more about our Deities and the customs and rituals that were traditionally done to honor them. Most of the Delos members are also ADF members, so we all have a general sense of how ADF ritual works, and are learning how Hellenic Reconstructionists perform rituals. A lot of what we’ve done has been a sort of mix between the two. We incorporate some of the parts of ADF ritual that we really connect to, and then leave out other bits that don’t make as much sense for rituals. For instance, when we recreate the cosmos, we will often just place the omphalos as the center of the world and then use our sacred fire for offerings. We also always honor Hestia first and last, whereas in ADF core order, the Earth Mother is honored first and last. We try to get together as least once a month, where we celebrate Noumenia, a festival that honors the agricultural aspect of Zeus. It is a time for fellowship, honoring the gods, and blessing our homes.

A Year’s Worth of High Day Write-ups

A brief account of each High Day ritual attended or performed by the Dedicant in a twelve month period. High Days attended/performed might be celebrated with a local grove, privately, or with another Neo-pagan group. At least 4 of the rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style. (100 word min each)

Inadequate Adequate Excellent
  • •Word length under

  • •Less than four ADF-style rites
  • •Descriptions do not demostrate that rites are ADF-style
  • •Reaction without substantive explanation of rites; lack of reaction
  • •Not all eight ADF high days included
  • •Word length adequate
  • •Minimum of ADF-style rites
  • •Objective description of ritual attended
  • •Reaction and/or analysis to the ritual experience
  • •Publishable quality reviews
  • •Deep/unique insight
  • •Insightful critiques useful to continual development of litugy
  • •Learning and incorporating ideas from various sources
  • June 21 – Summer Solstice

    I celebrated Summer Solstice with Three Cranes Grove on June 20th, 2010.  This rite worked with the Vedic Pantheon, specifically with Savitar, the deity of Solar Light and often of Healing.  The ritual itself was particularly interesting because rather than having a Fire, Well, and Tree we instead had three fires; the hearth fire, the sacrificial fire, and the fire of Agniras (the priest for the gods).  I took the role of aspersing for this rite, cleansing the folk as the entered the sacred space. Some of the main forms of offering for this ritual were oil and ghee.  I brought summer tea and spices to offer to the Kindreds.  I don’t feel any specific connection to many Vedic deities, and so I wasn’t sure how I would feel during the ritual, but there was some connection.  It was much more like a first introduction to someone you’ve never met, rather than a meeting between old friends, and this makes sense as I’ve had little connection to Vedic gods before.

    Our omens for this rite were taken via fire scrying, which our grove has not attempted before.  MJD did a wonderful and poetic job.  A flame of green accepted our offerings as “songs of praise are heard as our words transcend the boundaries.”  The Kindreds offered the grove joy and dance in return as the flames spun in circles, danced and leaped, flew apart only to touch and dance again.  The Kindreds require offerings and sacrifices of us, forever and always.  The fire is ever hungry “seeking out with nine tongues silvered and buttered with ghee.”  I like the way our grove has taken to infusing the Waters with the blessings of the Kindreds using either toning, chanting, or song.  We used the “Power of the Spirit” chant to bless the Waters.

    During the working portion of the ritual, we honored the fathers, in part because the rite happened on Father’s Day.  This was especially moving for me.  Missy started out by praising an honoring the father’s of modern paganism, and of our druidry, our past and present leaders in ADF, the clergy of ADF, and then her own personal father figures.  We then went around the circle of folk and each person was given a chance to offer praise for their father figure.  Hearing of others connections and struggles was emotional and unifying.

    August 1 – Cross-Quarter (Lughnasa)

    Three Cranes Grove did our Lughnassadh ritual at the Dublin Irish Festival this year. It was a huge honor, and a very different experience from most of our other rites. I didn’t like it nearly as much as our smaller rites. To me, it felt more like being at a Christian church, because we were set up in rows due to space constraints. There were more than 300 people that we had to get to fit in our allotted space. It was set up so that just a few members of the Grove were standing up on the stage and doing the ritual as the rest of us watched. There wasn’t nearly as much connection for me, being in the audience. Usually in our rites we’re all standing in a big circle and surrounding the altar, or having the altar as part of the circle. This set-up just wasn’t ideal for me. There were also time constraints. In our usual rites there is a big praise offering section where people can come up and make their offerings both to the Kindreds and to the Deity of the Occasion. In this ritual though due to time the Grove priests made offerings on behalf of the folk. The whole ritual had a very different feel to it. Not as much music, not as much participation, no procession in. We didn’t drink the waters of life, but rather were aspirdged with them. So, while I’m very pleased that we were welcomed to offer a ceremony alongside the various Christian ceremonies, there is still a lot of adjustments that I think can made to this ritual for next year to make it feel more like one of our normal Druid rites, and less like a Druid rite stuffed into the clothes of a Christian ceremony.

    September 21 – Autumn Equinox

    The big happening about our Grove’s Autumn Equinox rite is that it is our anniversary rite. We have Grove poem that we add a verse to each year, describing the big events that have happened through out the past year. It tells the story of our Grove and its history. The whole poem is read aloud during this rite when we honor the Grove’s patrons: Garanus Crane as our namesake and Gatekeeper and Teutates as the Guardian of the Tribe.

    I was on Timmy patrol for this rite, which meant that I wasn’t as involved with what was actually going on, but was instead supervising the children during the rite, specifically Timmy (Missy’s autistic son) so that others could more fully participate in the rite without having to worry about their children running off. I still came up to give my offerings, escorting the few children who had brought their own special things to give the Kindreds. It is very moving all on its own to experience a rite with the children; going up to the fire with them to give their offerings.

    November 1 – Cross Quarter (Samhain)

    On the 5th day of the month of Boedromion, Genesios is celebrated. It is a feast to honor the dead, the ancestors. Originally the plan was to celebrate this feast with the Delos, but since moving it’s been difficult to drive up to Columbus as often as I’d like. So Thom and I decided to celebrate here at home. He’s been a real sport with the Hellenic rites, since I know he doesn’t feel much from the Olympian Gods; he’s much more in tune with the Tuatha Dé Danann.

    Tonight Thom and I did our first Core Order of Ritual by ourselves. It was very brief in and of itself. I asked Hermes to be the gate keeper since he can function as the guide of souls. I don’t usually work with him, though I have felt a relationship just beginning to bud recently. The omens I took asked for advice from the Ancestors. I pulled Xi, Khi, and Iota. I interpreted it to mean that the Ancestors were reminding us that in order to succeed we must put in the work. We need to plan and labor, but we will have great success if we do. One of the reasons our rite itself was so short was because in feasting with our Ancestors, we wanted to go back downstairs, so we breezed through the main part of the rite. I think my phrasing was something like “Ancestors, we’re here to honor you tonight, to socialize and tell stories, and to introduce you to another member of the family, however, we don’t want to burn the house down, so we’re gonna tie up this portion of the ritual and we’ll meet you downstairs for food and alcohol.” It was kind of silly feeling, but also seemed like the smart thing to do, and the family didn’t seem to mind.

    The plan that Thom and I had was to each pick an ancestor and tell a story about them, and then introduce them to the other. We ended up telling stories for nearly an hour and sharing in the memories and good company. It was a lot more emotional that I was expecting, though I think I should have expected it. I offered ice cream to my grandpa, and Thom offered beer to his. We each met some of the other side of our new family, and learned some things about one another that we didn’t know before.

    I definitely want to keep doing rites at home with Thom. Though we occasionally frustrate each other in these situations, it is also very bonding and healing. I think I would like having some time set aside for us where we can continue to visit with our Ancestors, and begin the process of introductions and co-mingling. All in all, the rite went well, and I’d do it again.

    December 21 – Winter Solstice

    I was the Druid in Charge for Three Cranes Grove Winter Solstice celebration this year. My team and I decided to do Heliogenna, a Hellenic rite honoring Helios and the return of the Sun. It is a time of rebirth and renewal, and getting rid of the things from the past year that are no longer needed, or that were negative and detrimental. Some of the notable parts of the ritual were an inclusion of Hestia, the hearth Goddess of the Greeks. In Hellenic ritual she is always honored first an last, so we put her in the line-up on the “outer parentheses.” She was honored both before and after the Earth Mother (who we addressed as Gaia). We also placed the omphalos as part of the recreation of the cosmos. Emerald was visiting from Sassafras and did a wonderful job with that. She also did the omen with the Greek Alphabet Oracle. Some of the other little things we did to add a Greek flavor to rite were to use Greek names for the Kindreds. The Shining Ones were Theoi, the Nature Spirits included nymphs, dryads, oceaneads, etc, and the Ancestors we made sure to include the Hereos.

    One of the things that struck me the most about this ritual is how little I remember of it. I was told by friends and members who were there that it was brilliant, and it was as though the Gods were speaking through me and the others who had speaking parts. For me, it was as though I was merely a vessel for the Gods to send their words down. I remember nothing of what I said. I had written out my own speaking parts, as a I usually do, but even though I have these I normally just stick them in my back pocket in case I completely blank on what to say. I had absolutely no need for my back up writing this time. The muses were flowing through me and I just spoke from the heart. I did the invocation to Helios, and during the working section, a chant just popped into my head. The folk picked it up almost immediately and the chant raised power as it continued throughout the working section. It is a type purifying working. The plan for before the rite began we had slips of paper that pre-ritual folks were instructed to write down what they wanted to get rid off, what they wanted Helios to burn away, for the coming year. When the working portion of the ritual came around, Missy would carry a basket around and collect the slips of paper and we would burn them. Missy did a wonderful job. It was a very strong energy working, and she was carrying around everyone’s negative energy in a basket and held strong.

    February 1 – Cross-Quarter (Imbolc)

    Imbolc is one of the rites that our Grove has a tradition of doing with Brigid every year. The ritual keeps most of the same things from year to year, with minor adaptations and new people taking the parts each year. This year I took the role of acknowledging the Outdwellers. My biggest impression regarding that was that it was cold. The rite was inside, and I actually went outside to acknowledge them and to offer them beer as a peace-gift.

    The other parts of the rite that we’ve done for the past several years are the lighting of 20 candles for Brigid (the last candle is the same as the first), the communion with the Brigid doll and basket, and the annual offering of the well’s contents. I really like the way we’ve done the candle lighting and calling out to Brigid. The poem that is read, which talks about different things relating to Brigid, is cut into strips. Each pair of people is given a strip and then during the working they are read to Brigid by one person of the pair while the other lights the candle with the flame of Kildare. I like it because it allows a whole bunch of people to be involved in the rite, leading to a feeling of more connection with the gods. The bit that we do with the basket and doll is to have whatever children are at the rite carry the Brigid basket around. In the basket is a doll made to represent Brigid and as it’s taken around each person gets to spend a moment alone with Brigid.

    The annual offering of the well contents is where we’ve taken all the offerings from the past year and cemented them into a jar. We then sink the jar into the pond that is outside the shelter where the ritual is at (we use the same shelter every year for Imbolc). Sometimes it’s really funny because the pond is almost always frozen over so we have to chip out a hole in the ice to sink the jar. In past years that jar has shattered on the pond, but this year it actually sank.

    The working this year was different than in past years because the Grove made a healing quilt this year. Last year pieces of cloth were passed around during the working to be blessed for the making of the quilt. I was involved in the actual sewing of the Brigid Blanket or Crane Quilt. It was finishe by Imbolc this year and so it was passed around for each person at the rite to help charge with their energy to aid in the healing of others who request it from the Grove.

    March 21 – Spring Equinox

    I always tend to like our Spring Equinox rites because it is often the first one that we can do outside after the winter. This year was no exception. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining and everything was bright. One of the interesting things about this rite was that everyone who had a drum was encouraged to bring it. There was drumming through the entire rite. It never stopped. It got quieter for the speaking parts and grew and strengthened during the offerings and the working. The whole energy feel to it was really amazing; it was a constant pulse of energy that kept building and building through the rite.

    My part in the rite was to call to Eostre, the Norse Goddess of the Springtime. I tried to do a lot of research before hadn to help me rite my invocation, but there was almost nothing I could find on her that was even remotely scholarly. So I ended up taking what little bit I could find, mixing it with some of the popular neo-pagan beliefs based on what I felt resonate with her when I was in the process of writing the invocation. Anna Gail asked me to leave my hair down and loose for the invocation (which I did) because Eostre is a maiden who’s desribed as having long, flowing hair.

    I tend to the like the way the omens were done for this rite. Instead of asking the three questions from all the Kindreds (Were our offereings accepted? What gifts do the Kindreds offer in return? What more do the Kindreds require of us?) instead one rune was pulled for each Kindred. The Ancestors offered us algiz for protection and guidance. The Nature Spirits offered us isa, contemplation and rest after a hard winter. The Shining Ones offered us Sowilo, the sun, success.

    May 1 – Cross Quarter (Beltane)

    I was on the ritual team for Beltane this year, and we did a rite to Aphrodite and Pan. It was during the Many Ways Spirit Gathering, so a lot of audience was pagan, but not necessarily familiar with ADF rites. One of the things that helped worked well in this scenario was the Irisa and I (the two key members of the ritual team) held a workshop shortly before the ritual where we basically introduced the Greek Pantheon to the people at the mini-festival, and then explained how things fit into the Core Order of Ritual. We both had people tell us after the ritual that the workshop before hand really helped them, and made it easier for them to feel connected to the gods during the rite itself. Its something we feel made such a difference that we’d like to try it for before every ritual from now on. We’d like to add it into our Grove’s social hour prior to the ritual. I know I’ve often had feelings of unconnectedness when I’m unfamiliar with the pantheon that we’re working with in a rite.

    Something that was new for me in this right was that I was representing Aphrodite. I had never channeled a Deity that wasn’t a patron before. It was a very strange experience, and not one that I’m entirely sure I want to repeat. I have a hard time grounding, so that combined with the feeling of having a goddess be a backseat driver was very strange.

    In the Beltane rite I was in charge of doing the Omen and raising energy for the working by leading the dancing of the May Pole. I used my Greek Alphabet Oracle for the Omen, and the disks I drew were amazingly fitting for the rite we were doing. When I asked for what gifts the Gods were blessing us with I drew Epsilon, which means “The gods desire to see the offspring of righteous marriages.” The folk ended up laughing hysterically, and the three clarifying disks I drew following that (tau, xi, iota) explained that it would take hard work, but that what we were working towards would be accomplished. The gods still require us to trust them when times are difficult and for us to know that they are guiding us on the right path. For the working we were raising energy to send to Japan for recovery from the earthquake. Nick pulled omens for the working and they all said that the act was an overflow of great generosity.

    Nature Awareness

    An account of the Dedicant’s efforts to work with nature, honor the Earth, and understand the impacts and effects of the Dedicant’s lifestyle choices on the environment and/or the local ecosystem and how she or he could make a difference to the environment on a local level. (500 word min.)

    Inadequate Adequate Excellent
    • •Word length under

    • •Lacking spiritual connection
    • •Lacking practical application of spiritual connection
    • •Lack of respect for Earth and/or environmental concerns
  • •Word length adequate
  • •Develop a spiritual connection with nature
  • •Demonstrate environmentally sound habits in daily life
  • •Ties spiritual connection with lifestyle choices
  • •Publishable quality reviews
  • •Deep/unique insight
  • •Activism
  • •Community outreach or education to inspire others
  • “I like to have some nature in my nature religion.” This is a saying that’s often heard, sometimes jokingly and sometimes not, around my Grove when the weather starts getting nice enough that we can comfortably spend extended period of time outside. I think it’s a very important part of Druidry, the experience of being out in nature, which is sometimes taken so much for granted that it is overlooked. We spend a lot of time discussing liturgy and scholarly articles that sometimes we forget that this is a nature religion and we should be more in tune with and aware of the world around us.

    One of the things I do with my Delos, and on my own, is keep the lunar cycles as the ancient Greeks did. There is a three-day set of festivities we refer to as Noumenia that take place around the new moon of each month. During this time we honor the agricultural aspect of Zeus as well as recognize the changing cycles of the moon (Schulz). Something as simple as following the lunar cycle keeps me in tune with the earth around me. I also like to, on clear nights, go for walks after dark or lay outside and watch the stars. They change with the season, and yet rotate with the hours. It’s fascinating, and it helps that the most common names for the constellations are Greco-Roman, and thus I can directly connect the myths of my hearth culture to the stars in the sky, tying my worship directly into nature itself.

    On a more practical level, I try to impact the environment in a negative way as little as possible. Still living in an apartment my resources are somewhat limited by space and what my landlord allows, but I do grow my own herbs in pots. My fiancé and I are planning on, when we get a house with some land, starting to grow some of our own food and raising livestock. By connecting as many aspects of my life as I can to the earth I connect myself ever deeper to the Earth. For now, we buy local as often as possible to cut down on the pollution that occurs with the transport of goods across the country or even between countries. We also do our best to recycle, dropping off recyclables near our respective workplaces. We also buy reusable whenever possible. I’ve switched from buying hundreds of disposable water bottles a year to having 3 or 4 plastic and steel water bottles that I can fill, wash, and refill. When we have children, we’re planning on trying to do cloth diapering to cut down on how much we’re adding to landfills.

    So, I think I have put some nature back into my nature religion. I take my shoes off now and again and walk barefoot on the earth. I honor the Earth Mother, and do my best to protect and care for her. I care for the nature spirits local to me in a somewhat direct matter, and by being eco-conscious I also care for the nature spirits in a broader and more general sense. It’s all about being aware, and beginning to notice how small actions can make a huge difference in the world around me, and leaving it up to me whether I push for those differences to be positive or negative.

    Mental Discipline

    An essay or journal covering the Dedicant’s personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five-month period. (800 word min.)

    Inadequate Adequate Excellent
    • •Word length under

    • •Period of time under
    • •Lack of real effort
    • •Unwillingness to try something new
    • •Lack of any reflection whatsoever
  • •Word length adequate
  • •Time period adequate
  • •Willingness to TRY
  • •Includes either journal entries OR detailed essay
  • •Publishable quality reviews
  • •Deep/unique insights
  • •Observable progression and spiritual growth
  • •Excellent reflection and analysis of process
  • For almost the past year now, I’ve been working on finding a way to do some form of meditation or devotional in a way that both fits into my schedule without me forgetting about it, and that still carries some form of meaning. At the end of this essay I’ve included the outline of the different types of things I’ve tried over the past year, separated out by months.

    When I started out trying to get a hang of the whole mental discipline “thing” I leaned toward what I think of traditional meditation and the techniques I learned in dialectical behavior therapy. That (DBT), at least, is something that I’ve had to practice and get fairly good at. I’m diagnosed bi-polar, and one of the stabilizing therapies that is used is DBT. It is like a skill set that we’re taught that helps to manage day-to-day life on a more stable and consistent basis. So, since it already had some elements of meditation it was a good starting point for me, and has remained a skill that use at least in part everyday. Breath-counting as a way to get in a calm mindset, as well as mind emptying techniques. The one that has worked best for me is to try to sit with a quiet mind. It’s like my mind is a clear blue sky, and I picture every thought that pops into my head as a cloud. I acknowledge the thought-cloud and I let it blow away in the breeze. It is a way to begin entering a calm, empty mind state without getting fixated on any one thought that will pop into your head, because, let’s face it, it is nearly impossible to think of literally nothing. So this mind emptying as a sort of starting point has worked well for me. It serves as a base for nearly every other form of mental discipline that I’ve tried.

    With the base of just trying to quiet my mind and enter a state where I could try to focus my mediation to be more grounded in spirituality and religion I began trying some different things on top of that quiet mind. I was gifted a set of Hellenic prayer beads by Emerald. There are thirteen beads in all, one for each Olympian and one for Hestia. Included with the beads is a short litany with praise for Hestia (both first and last) and for each Olympian. It began as a good way to make connections with each of the Olympians and slowly developed into nighttime devotional (and for a few weeks both morning and night) that I would either do alone or with Thom (my fiancé). As Thom began getting more involved with these nighttime devotionals I toyed with idea of creating our own set of family prayer beads that honor our patrons, meaning it would be a mix of Hellenic and Celtic deities with the spice of a few other cultures thrown in. It’s not something I have done yet, but I still would like to, especially as we approach the child-rearing time in our lives and I would like to have family traditions that were can raise them in and pass on to them.

    Near the beginning of this, while still learning about different techniques for meditation, mental discipline, and energy work I attended a few meditation classes that Irisa and Paul, from my Grove, were hosting. The things I really needed (and still need) work on that these classes started with were shielding and grounding. And while maybe these aren’t exactly meditation, like the quiet mind exercises, they form a good base for being able to move in to different forms of meditation. I enjoyed the classes, but after moving, both because they were during the week and due to gas prices, I was no longer able to make it up for the classes.

    A big change for me this year is that it my first year of teaching and I’m working with high school students. Once school starting is was like a shock to system and to my sleep schedule. I had wanted to try morning devotionals, but always feeling rushed in the morning I didn’t think it was ever going to happen. I tried really hard those first few weeks to do a quick meditation to start each day, thinking it would help to ground me out and center me at the start of the day. Most of the time it just stressed me out because I felt like I was running late all the time. I couldn’t quiet my mind to even start since I was so worried about making sure my lunch was packed, I’d remembered to brush my hair and teeth, and that my lessons plans were in order for the day. There have been a great number of changes to this as the year has gone on to make some sort of morning devotional work with my schedule and still be meaningful.

    I tried pulling an Oracle every morning. I found my quiet mind, prayed to Apollo, and then pulled a disk. I would write it down, interpret it as best I could, and then use it message to guide my day. This worked really well at first because I was just starting to work with the Greek Alphabet Oracle, and so it both helped me begin learning them and gave my day a thought to focus it. However, with this method, I still ran into the time crunch issue. I slowly moved away from doing this in the morning because I was just pulling a disk, writing down the name, but then having to run out the door and I wouldn’t get around to interpreting it. I moved it to the evening, but by that time, the purpose I’d had for pulling it (as daily guidance) wasn’t as meaningful, because the day was already mostly over. So this attempt at a daily devotion phased out.

    As we had recently moved, right around when school was starting was when we began unpacking boxes in earnest. I began slowly building my altar downstairs in the living room. It had always been in my bedroom before. Moving it into the living room helped with the brief morning meditation a little bit. Because I was already downstairs getting ready for school, I was able to actually spend a few moments at my altar each morning before leaving. This is something that, at least in part, has continued to be a part of my morning routine. I greet the Gods in the morning, sometimes lighting a candle (I stopped doing this because I would forget to blow it out), and making a small morning offering. It is brief enough, and takes place where I already am, that I have been able to keep up with my “morning greeting.”

    The other form of morning greeting that I got in the habit of doing around November is what I like to call “car devotionals.” I have a 30-minute drive to work directly east that is almost always completely uneventful. The reason I began this type of morning prayer was because at that time of the year I got to see the sunrise every morning, driving directly into it. I was inspired to just speak directly from the heart about what I feeling and seeing. Bright and Beautiful Eos, Goddess of the Dawn, is who I most often call on those morning drives, but there have been many gods who have given me words for them. These car devotionals have been absolutely constant. Even now when I no longer see the sunrise every morning, I’m in the habit of delivering some words every morning to the gods, and so I’ve been able to keep up with it. That 30-minute drive, without the radio, is my time in the morning to calm, center, find guidance for the day, and offer praise to the deities of my heart.

    The deep of winter is actually when I had the most trouble with mental discipline. The obstacles I struggled with the most were not being home/travelling, and an overwhelming depression simply from the cold and the dark. The prayer beads helped with the being away from home factor, as I was able to take them with very easily. The depression was a lot harder to deal with. I didn’t want to do anything, not eat, not go to work, not go to activities or hang out with friends. The thought of sinking further into my own head when meditating scared me, quite frankly. This is when I began experimenting with active meditation. The idea of being able to keep my body busy so that my mind could free up a little bit. Over the winter I had good success with needlepoint and sewing in general. Cross-stitching was what I tried first, but that didn’t work very well because it required too much concentration or I would lose count of my stitches. However, when I started working on backing and quilting a quilt I was working on, that’s when I found I was able to actively meditate. My hands were busy, so my mind was free to wander. Because my body was occupied doing something I wasn’t scared of losing myself in my head.

    As spring finally began rolling around the winter depression and general down feelings ebbed, but I continued with the active meditation, but now taking a more, well, active form. I do karate and so I began trying active meditation with my kata (forms) and while working out. I was very helpful, very freeing. This occupied my body even more fully and so I was able to let my mind explore even more. As the weather gets even warmer, I’ve found that gardening also functions as a very good active meditation for me.

    So, over the past year I’ve developed a good base for meditation and mental discipline through the quiet mind exercises. I would still like to work more on the grounding and shielding so that I can perhaps step up the meditation to some trance work. But until I’m comfortable with letting my mind escape and until I ground properly, I won’t be trying that on my own. I plan to continue trying different things. I have a few methods, such as the car devotionals and active meditation, that have remained constantly useful during this time, and plan to continue using them until they no longer seem to work.

    June


    • -breath meditation (counting breaths, controlled breathing)


    • -quieting the mind with DBT techniques


    July


    • -breath counting


    • -Hellenic prayer beads morning & night


    August


    • -breath counting


    • -envisioning light and color shielding


    • -experience with vicodin and being an amoeba


    • -Hellenic prayer beads morning and night


    • -Oracle pull a day


    September


    • -start of school, morning devotionals


    • -building altar downstairs


    • -Hellenic prayer beads night


    • -Oracle pull a day


    October


    • -morning devotionals turn into car devotionals


    • -Hestia flame in morning


    • -Hellenic prayer beads night, thinking of making new combined set to include Celtic/Norse for Thom

    November


    • -car devotionals


    • -Hellenic prayer beads night

    December


    • -car devotionals


    • -struggling with not being at home for devotionals


    • -mind quieting


    • -“active” meditation – sewing/needlepoint

    January


    • -car devotionals


    • -struggling with schedule & depression


    • -mind quieting & breathing


    • -more altar visits (unscheduled)

    February


    • -morning/car devotionals


    • -still struggling w/ schedule & winter darkness


    • -shower cleansing


    March


    • -car devotionals


    • -active meditation – kata

    April


    • -car devotionals


    • -active meditation – kata, gardening

    May


    • -car devotionals


    • -active meditation – kata, gardening

    Two Powers

    An essay focusing on the Dedicant’s understanding of the meaning of the “Two Powers” meditation or other form of “grounding and centering,” as used in meditation and ritual. This account should include impressions and insights that the Dedicant gained from practical experience. (300 word min.)

    Adequate Inadequate Excellent
    • •Word length under

    • •Misunderstanding of the concept of “two powers”
    • •Lacking in personal insight/opinions
    • •Unwillingness to work with the two powers/give it a try
  • •Word length OK
  • •Use of “script” (at least to begin)
  • •Basic understanding of the purpose of grounding and centering
  • •Publishable quality reviews
  • •Deep/unique insights
  • •Extension of concept beyond basics
  • •Innovation/creativity
  • Of all the kinds of grounding and centering I’ve tried, the two powers method is the one that I’ve experienced the most success with. At first I found it very difficult, especially depending on who led the meditation. It was hard for me if the guided portion didn’t go the same pace as what my mind was going. Normally things felt too slow for me. I’d be pulling the waters up and they’d reach all the way to my head before the speaker guiding the meditation would even have the waters reach our feet. I also had trouble with the guided two powers when the speaker would describe something differently than how I was seeing it. It was very jolting and would push me out of the meditation. I do really like the tree mentality though. It really helps me feel strong and firm. I’m able to pull energy up and center myself, but then also more able to ground it out after taking what I need.

    I had much more luck with the two powers meditation after I had done it by myself. When I did it myself for the first time I could go and my own speed and the way I described things was exactly how I saw them. I began really getting it, and was finally able to work in group two powers meditation after I’d had an experience doing it by myself outside. I sat at the base of an old oak tree on Ohio State University’s campus. I was able to use the quiet mind techniques I talk about in the Mental Discipline essay to enter a calm state, and then I reached my energy into the tree. I used a real tree’s root to help guide my energy formed roots deep into the earth and pull the dark chthonic waters up to nourish me. I used the trees own tree and leaves to help guide my energy formed leaves to open and welcome the sunlight coming down. By using the tree to guide me, I got a feel for doing the Two Powers meditation and from that point on, because I had experienced with a guide first, I was able to more easily connect during a guided meditation. The script I wrote, included below, reflects this experience. I lovingly call it my Dryad Meditation, because of how you become one with the tree.

    The Two Powers meditation I wrote for Three Cranes Grove’s Samhain 2010:

    “Children of Earth, take a moment to calm your mind and body. Breathe deep and close your eyes. Listen to the sound of your own breathing. Hear your heartbeat thrumming inside you. Pause for a second and just listen.

    ***Pause***

    See in your mind’s eye where you stand now, and picture yourself walking away from where you are. You’re walking towards a deep and old forest. Feel the cool, damp earth on your feet. As you enter the forest feel the cool autumn breeze brush your cheek.

    Notice the sounds around you. A gentle rustling of leaves, perhaps from the wind, perhaps made by a squirrel bounding by. Notice the sunlight dappling across your face. A last breath of summer caressing your face, heartening you for the colder days ahead.

    As you are walking deeper and deeper into the forest you suddenly come upon a clearing. There is a small pond in the middle of the glade surrounded by trees around the water’s edge. One of these trees calls to you and you glide over to it. Place you hands on the trunk and feel the rough bark against your palm. Feel the ancient wisdom emanating from it.
    Turn and place your back against the tree. Feel yourself sinking into it, becoming part of the tree. Feel your toes mix with the roots twinning down into the earth. Allow you mind to follow those roots and tendrils as they creep ever deeper, until suddenly they plunge into the cool deep waters far below the surface of the earth. Use the knowledge of the tree to pull those waters up through your roots. Feel them approaching you, up and up, until they reach your toes.

    Feel the waters pulsing up through your toes and heels, moving up your legs and pooling in your groin. Feel them surging up into your chest and down your arms. Feel your branches swelling and cool waters seeping into your fingers, your leaves. Feel the waters rush up and fountain out the crown of your head, your uppermost branches and leaves, and come cascading back down into the earth to soak back down cooling your roots again. Having taken your fill, feeling replenished, allow those cool, dark waters to bleed back down into the earth.

    Again feel the wind brush through your hair, your leaves. Feel as the sunlight shines down on you, brightening and invigorating you. Allow your leaves to take in that bright, golden light. Let it convert to pure energy and infuse your head and chest with light and energy. Let it saturate your branches and flow into your finger leaves. Feel as it washes down through your groin and flows down you legs and energizes you down to your roots. Having absorbed as much light as your body will hold, let the remainder reflect back off you, back into the sky.

    Feel how the combination of the cool waters and the bright light mixes within your body. Feel how it mingles and brings a new awareness to every essence of yourself. Let your attention drift over yourself from your roots, to your trunk, and on up to your leaves.
    Let a breath of wind catch one of your leaves and watch as it drifts downward to land fall lightly into the pond. Watch as the water ripples outward from this light touch. Allow your awareness to follow this ripple outward and see as it collides with other, similar ripples. As you follow those to their source you see that they also come from fallen leaves.

    Now seeing all these leaves in the water creating ripples that touch and rebound off your own, you notice all the other trees surrounding the pond. Reach out your awareness and sense that these trees are all part of this grove. Reach out and feel that you are not alone in this glade, but rather you are surrounded by the warmth of your kin. You are all here together.
    Take a moment and allow this feeling of togetherness and oneness to soak into your mind, your heart, your bones and your soul. Listen to the breathing of those around you. Your hearts beat as one now.

    ***Pause***

    With this new realization that you are here among family, you begin to disconnect your self from the tree, just as all those around you do. Wiggle your toes and separate them from the roots. Wiggle your fingers and feel the leaves fall away. Roll you shoulders, allowing you to step out of the tree and once again become your own self.

    As you now look around you see that while before you came to this glade alone, you now are leaving among friends. It is time now to turn away from the glade and walk back out of the forest. Listen, as before to the sounds around you. You can now hear the laughter of friends, and you feel now not just the warmth of the sun, but the warmth of companionship. As you break out of the forest and head back towards you body here keep that feeling that you are now one with the people around you.

    Now, step back into your body and take deep breath to settle yourself back in. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Now begin moving your arms and legs just a little as you feel yourself come back to this place. Here, among kinfolk, we may now move on with the work we have for today.”

    The Nine Virtues

    Written discussion of the Dedicants understanding of each of the following virtues: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation, and fertility. The Dedicant may also include other virtues, if desired, and compare them to these nine (125 word min. each)

    Inadequate Adequate Excellent
    • •Does not include all nine

    • •Plagiarism/excessive quoting (dictionary definition does not go toward word count)
    • •Misunderstands meaning
    • •Word count under
  • •Includes all nine
  • •Word count OK
  • •Subjective combined with objective approach (ex: “This is what it means; this is what it means to me.”
  • •Includes nine or more
  • •Word count OK
  • •Creative approach
  • •Critique of why some virtues included, others not (“why” in addition to “what”)
  • •Three functional analysis
  • Wisdom
    Our Own Druidry: good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response.

    Noun: the quality or state of being wise;  knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.

    “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.”
     Confucius quotes

    Wait. There is much to be gained by taking your surroundings in. Watch. See the flowers bloom and the people rush by. Listen. The words spoken to you as a child and echoing in your head even now. Remember. Let your memories wash over you. Weigh. Every action will spark a reaction. Acceptance. Know that which is not your fault and take responsibility for what is. Wisdom. Taking what your know and have learned and applying it so that your every action results in the intended reactions. Knowing the difference between that which you can and cannot change and knowing the difference between what you sparked, and what you had no hand in. Initially innate, you must be patient, attentive, and willing to adapt in order to gain the knowledge of the truly wise, and in order to be truly wise, you must be able to take that knowledge and apply it to your actions.

    Piety

    Our Own Druidry: correct observance of ritual and social traditions; the maintenance of the agreements, both personal and societal, that we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.

    Noun: reverence for god(s) or devout fulfillment of religious obligations

    “It is rash to intrude upon the piety of others: both the depth and the grace of it elude the stranger.” ~ George Santayana

    Piety is a fire that never hungers and a well that echoes ever deep. It is a relationship built on *ghosti. Sometimes pious acts feel like just going through the motions, and often when the days are darkest, that’s all it is. But it is going through those motions, and experiencing the Gods in every aspect of your life, that will eventually lead to a relationship. Though you may observe every High Day, that is not piety. Neither is only going to your altar when you need something. Keeping the Old Ways everyday and walking the path everyday is piety.
    Yes, I must live my life with all the demands of living in this society. I need to have a job, I need to pay my bills, but I also need to live everyday honoring the Gods. If I consider the Gods in my everyday life, then I am living in a way that honors the old ways. To the ancient Greeks, religion was not just something that only happened at festivals, relegated to only certain days and times. It was steeped into everything they did, every moment of every day. It was an inextricable part of their life, and that is how I strive to live mine. When I drive into the sunrise every morning and praise Eos, when it storms and I give thanks to Zeus, when I see Kore in a flower, when I see Artemis in the wild animals… that is everyday piety.

    I grew up saying prayers every night before bed and now I have adjusted that idea to fit my concept of piety. I have a litany I repeat every night, as a reminder to myself and to the Gods that this is the path I walk, and while it is the words and actions I save especially for them that are the best offering and the deepest sacrifice, I see them, hear them, and honor them everyday.

    Vision

    Our Own Druidry: The ability to broaden one’s perspective to have a greater understanding of our place/role in the cosmos, relating to the past, present, and future.”

    Vision (noun): the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be: prophetic vision

    “Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” ~Joel Barker

    While Our Own Druidry relates Vision more to knowing your place in the cosmos I see it in a different light: Vision is having a purpose in life. Not just seeing where you stand, but having some idea of where you are going. It is a gift that allows a person to see clearly where they stand in relation to others. It allows them to take their knowledge of what has happened in the past and apply that knowledge to similar situations and circumstances to be able to predict what future outcomes may be. In Neo-Pagan circles, we refer to it as divination, but it doesn’t have to apply that way. After all, in school when we learn history, we’re not just doing it to memorize facts for a test, though it may seem that way. Learning about your past, your country’s past, your religion’s past, humanity’s past and synthesizing it is what allows us, as the current generation, to attempt to learn from and avoid the mistakes that our ancestors made. It helps us to avoid those same traps. So Vision is understanding where you came from sp you can find your place in the cosmos and develop a purpose for your life.

    Courage

    Our Own Druidry: the ability to act appropriately in the face of adversity.

    Noun: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.


    “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ~Ambrose Redmoon

    While the dictionary defines Courage as having no fear, I believe that Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is when you can laugh away fear in the face of danger. Your knocking knees and shaking hands covered by your display of confidence. The rush of adrenaline as you face head on that which scares you the most. You keep your head in the face of adversity. Like the stallion who charges the mountain lion to protect his mares and foals. Like the mother bird who feigns injury to lure away the predators. Like the African buffalo who charges forth to rescue a captured calf, even though it may mean death. Standing strong is not the only display of strength however. Fear does not overtake you or control your actions. You carry on, pick up the pieces, and try again in spite of the challenges and difficulties. Courage is the rising song in your heart that strengthens your resolve and buoys your confidence driving you and those around you to rally.

    Integrity

    Our Own Druidry: Honor; being true to one’s self and to others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, fairness, respect, and self-confidence.

    Noun:
    1.
    adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
    2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

    “If we are ever in doubt about what to do, it is a good rule to ask ourselves what we shall wish on the morrow that we had done.” ~John Lubbock

    I am only as good as my word, without that, I am nothing. This is something I have tried to hold myself to my whole life, and have also held others to. I’ve been told that I’m naïve and childish in this respect, as though my expecting people to be honest and true to what they say is a bad thing. Integrity is not just being honest with others and keeping your word though. That’s just the external part of it. Integrity is also being true to and honest with yourself. If you go against what is your true self for too long, then you will eventually break and lose yourself to whatever other forces you’re caving into. If you have integrity you will not compromise your beliefs, you will be self-confident in upholding your beliefs, you will be fair and honest to others and expect them act the same way towards you.

    Perseverance

    Our Own Druidry: Drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult.

    Perseverance (noun): steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

    “The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.” ~Buddhist proverb

    Perseverance is the flame that continues to burn inside you when the storm seems the worst.  Sometimes it burns bright and strong with no trouble, though this is often only when the winds are calm, and the Theoi are easily heard on the breeze.  When times become difficult, and the rain is pounding down, the flame flickers, just barely keeping alight.  The sound of the rumbling thunder seems to drown out the Gods, and the lightning blinds you from seeing them in your life.  It is then that the flame needs to be tended most, and cared for.  And just as it seems as though it may extinguish itself in the whipping wind you remember: The Gods are always present in your life, and will hold you close and keep you tending that small flickering light.  After all, even when the storm seems worst, it is still the mighty Zeus.

    Hospitality

    Our Own Druidry: Acting as both gracious host and appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honoring of a gift for a gift.

    Noun:
    1.
    the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.
    2.
    the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

    “If it were not for guests all houses would be graves.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

    Hospitality is an imperative quality to have. The Gods reward those who welcome guests into their home, as shown in the myths of the Greeks. When I was in college, and not yet a member of ADF or Three Cranes Grove, I was taking an ethnography class where our assignment was to learn about a subculture through observations and interviews. Already being a member of the school’s Pagan Student Association I was in contact with two members of 3CG and ADF: MJD and Anna Banana. They graciously allowed me to interview them for my project. I was nervous about having to record the interview, but the thing that struck me the most about both of them was the hospitality, the *ghosti that they both demonstrated. Anna welcomed me into her apartment and gave me a tour and offered me dinner she’d cooked before we even got started. Mike did the same. He drove me to and from campus, gave me a tour of his house and introduced me to his cats. I had brought spaghetti to make for dinner, which we did. After the preliminary welcoming they both spoke freely about their spiritual lives, showed me their altars, and generally made me feel welcome. Of all the information I took away from those interviews, the thing that struck me most deeply was how welcome they made me feel. I was a guest in their homes, and they welcomed me in friendship and freely shared all they could. When MJD and Anna welcomed me into their homes they were gracious hosts. When I thanked them profusely, shared in the making of dinner, and listened attentively to their stories I was an appreciative guest.

    Moderation

    Our Own Druidry: Cultivating one’s appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health (mental or physical) through excess or deficiency

    Noun: the quality of being moderate;  restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses; temperance.

    “Excess on occasion is exhilarating.  It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.”  ~W. Somerset Maugham

    Moderation seems great in theory. It makes sense that you should not completely deprive yourself of anything, nor should you overly indulge in anything. But to me this has always seemed to resonate with the concept that everything should be taken in bland amounts. This is where the joking phrase “Everything in moderation, even moderation,” comes in. If you are moderate in absolutely everything you do, then that can begin to deprive you of the exhilartion and wonder of life. So, while I think it is important to be careful that you don’t become addicted to anything, nor irrationally avoid anything, it is just as important to have sometimes splurge or have “cheat” days. If you were moderate all the time, you would not know where your limits were on either end of the spectrum, and you would not appreciate what gifts are given as much.

    Fertility

    Our Own Druidry: bounty of mind, body, and spirit involving creativity and industry, and appeciation of the physical and sensual, nurturing these qualities in others.

    Fertile: Noun:
    1. bearing, producing, or capable of producing vegetation, crops, etc., abundantly; prolific: fertile soil.
    2.
    bearing or capable of bearing offspring.
    3. abundantly productive: a fertile imagination.

    “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

    The very first impression I get when I hear the word “fertility” is the picture of field full of grain that will lead to a bountiful harvest. The difference between a fertile and fallow field can mean life or death. I think that if we take that metaphor of a field and apply it to ourselves the consequences can be just as dire. An active, or fertile, imagination is one of the main components for innovation and inspiration. Without inspiration we would be desperately trying to connect and praise the Kindred, but would be lacking the words and actions to do so. With fertility we can create greats works of art, we can speak eloquently, and we can encourage those around us to do the same. Fertility is having a great abundance of ideas that we have the ability to make reality in order to enrich our lives, the lives of those around us, and to honor the Kindreds.