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Trillium 2015 Review

Trillium was, once again, a wonderful festival.  The weather was fantastic (and unexpected) and the fellowship was delightful.  I went to Trillium the first time a few years ago, and had a really good time, and so was very happy to have been able to make it back this year.  I drove with MJD, and let me tell you, there is nothing like being in a car with someone for 10-12 hours to really allow for deep and engaging conversation.  Bonnie and Luke also deserve a special shout out for their exemplary hospitality.  They welcomed me to their camp to stay with them all weekend.  There were many workshops throughout the weekend, though I only made it to a couple.

One of the workshops I attended was Monika’s on “Differentiating Between Mental Illness and Spiritual Experience.”  I was fantastic, despite some technical issues, and I really want the extended version to get into some real discussion about it.  It is extremely useful information, especially for those in leadership roles.  Michael and I were talking about bringing her to Columbus to do a long workshop, possibly at a Leadership based Pagan Fire Seminar.

The other workshop I attended was Kirk’s on “Sacred Gifts.” A lot of the information he presented was stuff that I was already familiar with, but I really enjoyed the discussion that grew out of it. One of the folks there brought up Animism, which is not something that I typically think about, but it was interesting to consider how your relationship with spirits may change if you broaden the definition of what you consider a spirit and who you might give offerings to.  I also really like discussing the nature of sacrifice in general.  I know Kirk has a new book coming out soon about it, and I will definitely be adding it to my library.

I attended 4 rituals over the course of the festival: Opening and Closing, as well as the Main Ritual where we honored the Earth and planted a tree, and a memorial for Bess.

Photo by Rev. Crystal Groves

Photo by Rev. Crystal Groves

The main ritual was done by the clergy of ADF, and it was somewhat surreal to be included in that group.  I called forth Inspiration, and also took Bonnie’s Dedicant Oath Renewal alongside Carrion.

Photo by Jane Wayson

Photo by Jane Wayson

That was a powerful experience.  Bonnie had asked me if I could bring the Grove’s sickle with me so that she could maintain that tie to our Grove as one of her formative experiences as a Dedicant.  Like a true Crane, she took her oath with the sickle at her neck 😉 and her hands held Carrion’s Oath Ring.  I tapped into the Current while she was oathing, and connected her and her words to the sickle and to the Grove.

Photo by Rev. Crystal Groves

Photo by Rev. Crystal Groves

The memorial for Bess was also very moving.  Nancy led it down by the Ve.  We called to Bess’s patron’s and passed a horn, speaking words to honor her memory and share her stories.  Then we sang.  Luke, Bonnie, Emerald, Sara, and I had spent a good chunk of the day learning a song that Bess wrote: “A Kindred Prayer.”  It has a simple and catchy melody that has been stuck in my head for days now, and as the song progresses it adds in harmonies and countermelodies.  We intend on singing it again as a group at Wellspring.  Bardry is one of the ways that immortality can be pursued.

Photo by Rev. Jan Avende

Photo by Rev. Jan Avende

One of the interesting things that I noticed (an yes, found annoying as often as I found it pious) was that I continue to wake up about 15 min before Dawn, even without an alarm clock.  Dawn in Cross Junction, VA is about 30 minutes earlier than it is in Columbus, OH, but that didn’t even phase my body.  I still got up to greet Her and do my morning devotional.  I noticed it when I went to go visit Thom in Colorado as well, and that is a 2 hour time difference, and in the other direction.  But even there, I still got up and was able to greet and honor Ushas.  I even tried to give myself a few days off this weekend, a few days to sleep in.  It just didn’t happen, despite haven’t stayed up way later than I should have.

I aso had the chance to have some in depth conversation with many of the folks that I don’t get to see nearly as often as I’d like.  Nick and I chatted at length about secret squirrel IP stuff, which was awesome.  We’re trying to get a meeting together at Wellspring so we can sit down with other initiates and talk thorough some housekeeping stuff, as well as actually do some work.  I chatted with Carrion about ADF coursework and the various ways we do magic, which was pretty awesome.  I think we perform magic in similar ways, at least to a point.  There was also some (slightly) tongue in cheek discussion on creating a “piss bucket servitor” so that you didn’t have to stop socializing to go pee. Heh.  Additionally, I think Bonnie and I are running about even on lives right now 😉

The Bardic Circle was wonderful, as always.  I think Trillium and Summerland have the best Bardic Circles of the festivals I attend.  They’re very relaxed, and anyone who wants to can perform.  It is great for building confidence, and we get to see the crazy amount of talent that our ADF Bards bring to the table.  I am honored to count myself among them. I once again stood entranced by Wayne’s poetry.  Bravo, sir!

On the way home, Michael and I stopped at Sideling Hill to stretch our legs for a bit and take in some of the sites.

Photo by Rev. Michael J Dangler

Photo by Rev. Michael J Dangler

It was gorgeous.  I love looking out over the mountains and seeing the way the peaks and hills seem to be shrouded in a blue film the further away they are, and the way you can see the mists rising and floating in the valleys.

Photo by Rev. Michael J Dangler

Photo by Rev. Michael J Dangler

Photo by Rev. Michael J Dangler

Photo by Rev. Michael J Dangler

All in all, it was a wonderful, and extremely rewarding and fulfilling trip for me.  I hope to be able to make it back again next year to enjoy the first festival of the season.

Photo by Rev. Michael J Dangler

Photo by Rev. Michael J Dangler

DP Bibliography

Colonna, Francesco. “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.” Rare Book Room. Web. 8 Sept. 2010.<http://www.rarebookroom.org/Control/colhyp/index.html>. see spread #88

Dictionary.com. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://dictionary.reference.com/>.

Hesiod, and Apostolos N. Athanassakis. Theogony ; Works and Days ; Shield. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2004. Print

Jones, Prudence, and Nigel Pennick. A History of Pagan Europe. London: Routledge, 1997. Print.

McColman, Carl. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Paganism. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha, 2002. Print.

Orsini, Jessica. “Anthesteria.” Temenos. Ed. Melissa Gold. Web. 6 July 2011. <http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/anthesteria>.

“Panathenaia.” Temenos. Web. 6 July 2011. <http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/panathenaia-ta-mikra>.

“Prometheia.” PROMETHEIA 2011. Web. 06 July 2011. <http://prometheia.wordpress.com/>.

RavenDreamer. “The Ladybug.” Spira. Alberta Community Church of Spira. Web. 10 Aug. 2010. <http://www.spiracanada.com/ravendreamer/totems/ladybug.htm>.

Schulz, Cara, and Melissa Gold. “Noumenia.” Temenos. Hellenion, 5 Feb. 2011. Web. 12 May 2011. <http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/noumenia>.

The Quote Garden. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://www.quotegarden.com/>.

ThinkExist Quotations. Web. 16 May 2011. <http://thinkexist.com/>.

Winter, Sarah Kate Istra. “Ancient Athenian Festival Calendar.” Winterscapes. Web. 06 July 2011. <http://www.winterscapes.com/kharis/calendar.htm>.

Witcomb, Chris. “Earth Mysteries: Morris Dancing.” Britannia: British History and Travel. Web. 06 July 2011. <http://www.britannia.com/wonder/modance.html>.

Dedicant Oath Rite & Reflection

I took my oath on July 16th, the night following the full moon.  I stood before my altar, which is pared down and simplified because we are in the process of moving, and I began ritual in the way I have become accustomed to using for important rites of passage that I want to have a Hellenic bent.  Throughout the opening of the ritual, I didn’t feel any different really than I do when I do morning devotionals.  The sense is “yes, I’m being listened to, but just in a kind of cursor sense.”  It was when I called out first to my patrons, and then to the Oath Keeping Gods to witness my oath that I felt a sudden, strong connection . It was almost like, “Oh, this is a really important occurance… perhaps we should pay close attention.”  I could tell the Muses were flowing through me.  I didn’t pre-write any of the invocations to my patrons, but I felt my words sweetened by the Muses as I spoke.  I didn’t stumble or trip over any of my words throughout the whole.

Calling out to Helios and to Zeus was really the moment I realized this was it, this was the oath I was taking and calling on two of the most powerful Gods of Oath-Keeping to witness it.  I asked them to see through me and into the truth in my heart, and that if I spoke falsely, or failed in my oath, that they should condemn me to the Erinyes.  Here is what I swore:

I come forth now, a Child of the Earth, to profess my love for the Old Ways.  I come forth now to commit to following my heart along this path, and that I shall strive to continue learning.  I have sought knowledge and inspiration, and now that I have taken the first steps, I pledge myself to this path.  Shining Ones, Nature Spritis, Ancestors, All, hear me now, as I offer up these sacrifices and swear:

I will uphold the Old Ways and live by the virtues given by tradition.  I will strive to keep the feasts and to learn about culturally specific holidays.  I will continue to study the lore so that I may learn the ways of the Ancients.

 

My Patrons, hear me now as I offer up these sacrifices and swear to you:

Artemis, I will stay wild and free in my heart.  I will strive to protect the environment and all growing things.  I will stand up for those who lack the means to do so for themselves.  Hold me to this oath.

Apollo, I will strive to keep the Delphic Maxims, and to continue my learning of omens and healing.  Hold me to this oath.

Dionysos, I will live, truly live, every day.  I will strive to seek transformation for the better.  Hold me to this oath.

Poseidon, I will ride out the storm and I will continue my journey along this path.  Grant me safe voyage as I swear to seek truth and right.  I will strive to control my temper when I need to, but also to lash out when the situation warrants.  I will seek help when I need it.  Hold me to this oath.

 

Thundering Zeus, Keeper of Oaths,

Helios, Bright Beacon of Truth,

Moirai, Mighty Spinners of Fate and Destiny,

Hold me to the oaths I have spoken this day.

Should I fail to adhere to what I have sworn

Send me to the Erinyes so that they may exact their vengeance.

  • I used the Greek Alphabet Oracle for the omen-taking.  I’ve learned to voice record my omens if I want to even come close to remembering them, so I’ve basically transcribed what I said.  The first of the questions I asked was “What should I continue to think on?”  I drew Kappa – To fight the waves is difficult; endure, friend.  I need to learn when to fight and when to endure.
  • “What work is still ahead of me?” I drew Mu – It is necessary to labor, but the change will be admirable.  I have a lot more work ahead of me.  It’s going to hard.  It’s going to be difficult.  And it’s going to be very, very worthwhile.  This is the first step on this path, and there are so many more to come on the journey.
  • “What messages from Artemis?” I drew Tau – You will have a parting from the companions now around you. We’ve had our parting, and we are meeting again on the new path.  And my work may take me places where others can’t follow me.
  • “What messages from Apollo?” I drew Alpha – The God Apollo says you will do everything successully. Thanks for the vote of confidence!
  • “What messages from Dionysus?” I drew Rho – You will go more easily if you wait a short time. Transformation is difficult, and sometimes you must wait until you are ready for it to begin the journey.
  • “What messages from Poseidon?” I drew Khi – Succeeding, friend, you will fulfill a golden oracle.  I have a destiny.  I have something that I’m working towards, and though I may not know it yet, I will get there.
  • I felt power vibrating in this ritual.  I got very shaky there when I was actually speaking my oath, and speaking of what would happen if I were to speak falsely or break the oath.  I’m also always amazed by how nervous I feel when I think about taking omens, but then how easily the words and meanings flow when I’m actually drawing them.  The pictures just appear in my head and the Muses and Apollo flow through me and set those pictures to words and help me to describe them.

 

Following is the full script for my Oath Rite:

 

 

  1. Pre-Ritual Purification
    1. Bathe, dress in clean, ritual clothes. Enter ritual space.
  2. Procession
  • Purification of the Sacred Space (Khernips)
    1. Wash face and hands in fresh, clean water outside of ritual space.
    2. Incense may also be included in the purification.
  1. Ritual Lighting of Sacred Fire
    1. Light the Sacred fire with the flame of Hestia.
  2. Tossing of Barley (kanoun)
    1. Barley is thrown into the fire, and scattered all about the ritual space for further purification of the space.
  3. Statement of Intent

I come to this sacred space today to declare myself a pagan and to dedicate myself to this path I choose.

 

  • Call to the Muses (“To the Muses” by Underflow):

http://underflow.livejournal.com/20975.html

 

Clio, mistress of history, holder of tales

old and new, you know of truths long lost to time.

In days of old lay wisdom, goddess, in the experience

of our elders lie lessons more precious than gold.

Through you do we gain understanding, through you

do we discover the legacy of the past.

Clio, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

Euterpe, giver of delight, words of the heart

are yours, sonnets and ballads and poems of love.

Goddess, we see your hand in the songs of Sappho,

we hear you in the interplay of metre and rhyme.

By your art we hold open our souls to the world;

your touch gives voice to the truth within us.

Euterpe, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

Thalia, joyous goddess, ivy-wreathed goddess,

in your works we find laughter, an excellent gift.

In wit there is wisdom, good cheer builds good will,

and a merry heart lightens the weight of the world.

O goddess of comedy, what in life surpasses

the delight we know in your mirth and merriment?

Thalia, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

Melpomene, you sing of our sorrows, of hardship

and struggle, of perfect despair and savage fate.

So strange it is, that tales of melancholy

and ordeal should bring us pleasure, and yet it is so.

You teach us, muse, that each step and misstep we take,

unknown and unthought, directs our luck and our lot.

Melpomene, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

Terpsichore, graceful one, in dance you take delight,

in swaying form and nimble step, in the heartbeat

of the drum. In the practiced pace of the rhythmic waltz,

in the wild, whirling joy of the maenad, we know you.

As the heart speaks, the body moves; as the body moves,

the mind transcends all and pauses in awe and reverence.

Terpsichore, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

Erato, honey-tongued goddess, persuasive one,

beloved of lovers, wrapt in myrtle and roses,

companion of Eros, you know of longing

and devotion, of the flame that burns within us.

Yours are the words that warm our hearts and our loins,

that stir our desires, that turn us from thought to action.

Erato, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

Polyhymnia, goddess who grants to the poet

the shining spark of divine inspiration,

whose gift guides us to speak of the mighty ones

with love and with reverence. With prayerful lips

we approach the gods, with words of praise and devotion

given us by you, O ever-mindful one.

Polyhymnia, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

Urania, celestial goddess, reflective one,

cloaked in the shimmering stars, eyes cast toward the night sky,

yours are the seekers of reason and truth, yours are

those who struggle and strive for understanding,

who conceive the unseen, who argue the unknown;

your gift, a level head and a wandering mind.

Urania, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

Calliope, elder muse, wise-hearted sister,

mother of silken-voiced Orpheus, friend of Homer

whose gift of mighty words for noble deeds inspired

verse enduring, tales undying, fame everlasting.

Granter of fine voice and fair speech, of a swift wit

and a ready tongue, of the skill to shape legends.

Calliope, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

 

  • Honoring Hestia

For Hestia, I pour these first libations,

First-Born, and Last-Born,

Keeper of the Sacred Flame,

Tender of the Hearth and Guardian of the Home.

I sing your praises.

 

  1. Centering with the Land, Sea, and Sky
    1. Land  (Gaea)

Gaea, Mother Earth, ground me in your soil.

Hold me in your arms, let my roots sink down

And be nourished by you.

 

  1. Sea  (Okeanos)

Okeanos, Mighty Ocean, flood around me

As I feel the ebb and flow of your waves.

Pull me to the watery depths, let me bob on the surface and

Let the tide lap around me as I come ashore.

 

  1. Sky (Ouranos)

Ouranos, Brilliant Sky, encircle me in your great dome

Let your breezes whisk by me, and as I breathe in

Fill me with endless infinity.

 

  1. Placing the Omphalos at Sacred Center & Creation of Sacred Space

 

*place omphalos and anoint with oil*

I place this omphalos at the center of worlds, just as it marked the center of the ancient world.  My hands, like two eagles, flying to meet in the middle and establish this as the sacred center of worlds.

 

*sprinkle water around the boundary*

Now let this area around me be purified sacred space where I go to meet the gods, and the gods descend down to meet with me.

 

*waft incense smoke around those gathered, or pour oil on fire*

Let the smoke from my sacred fire carry my voice to the heavens and be heard by the gods. 

 

  1. Orphic Hymn Honoring the Gods
    1. “Friend, Use it to Prosper” by RC Hogart (pg 40) with small adaptations by J. Krueger.

Hear this song.

Know a scared way.

 

Thundering Zeus,

Father of Gods,

Mother Earth, shining sun,

Splendid moon and starry night,

 

Poseidon, king of the poignant sea,

Shadow haired Earth belter;

Demeter of the grain harvest,

Delicate Kore, Dawn in dark,

We honor you.

 

Arrow pouring Artemis;

Blazing Apollo, sun beam archer

Whose joy sings songs of prophecy at Delphi;

Intoxicating Dionysos,

We honor you.

 

Impulsive Ares,

Quick to spill blood;

Hephaistos, lord of artistic fire;

Great Aphrodite, risen from foam to light

And dark Hades, lord of shadows,

We honor you.

 

Hebe, giver of youth;

Virile Herakles, master of work;

Artemis protector of birth,

Opened of the gates to Earth,

We honor you.

 

Dike, mother of justice,

The noble God Piety,

Brilliant Nymphs,

And musical Pan, lord of all,

We honor you.

 

Sacred Hera, queen of Gods,

Beautiful Memory and pure Muses,

Golden Leto, gentle Dione of Dodona,

Clanging Kouretes, domestic Korybantes

And all children of Zeus,

We honor you.

 

Idaean Gods, the sky angel,

Hermes, runner on winds,

Agathodaimon, poppy in hand,

Gentle spirit of good luck;

Themis of the prophetic eyes;

Primordial Day and Night.

Faith and Fortune forever entwined,

We honor you.

 

Kronos, eater of children;

Motherly Rhea; Thetis veiled

Deep blue,

We honor you.

 

Okeanos, nymphs of the brine,

Steady Atlas, shining Eternity

And endless Time, we honor you.

 

Splendid lake at the shore of death,

The Gods who rest beside it,

Spirits good and bad,

Irresistible Fate, we honor you.

 

Spirits of light and of fire,

Of water, earth and shadow,

We honor you.

 

Leukothea, bright Dawn at sea,

Amorous Semele,

Mothers of great Dionysos,

We honor you.

 

Honey tongued Nike, drunk with success;

Asklepios, skillful hunter who raised the dead;

Dread Athene, master of war

Who leaped full grown and armored

From the head of father Zeus,

We honor you.

 

Thunders and winds caged in mighty columns,

Roaring in furious fight for release.

Attis, father of spring and immortal Adonis,

Beginning and End, we honor you.

 

We honor you all

And invite you

To a feast of love.

 

  1. Offerings to the Theoi as a whole

I pour these libations now for all the Greek Gods,

Those dwelling on Mt. Olympus,

Those dwelling in the world of Men,

And those dwelling in the deep Underworld.

I sing your praises.

 

  1. Offerings to Patron Gods
    1. Artemis
    2. Apollo
  • Dionysus
  1. Poseidon

 

  • Calling on the Witnesses to the Oath

For the gods who witness the lives of men,

And for the gods who witness oaths

I pour out the next shares,

For it is under your auspices I come.

 

  1. The Moirai

For the Moirai, I pour this libation.

Mighty spinners of Fate and Destiny,

Binding the world together with fragile strands.

You work adamantine shuttles, weaving human threads

Artfully blending lives together. 

I sing your praises.

Of Klotho, she who spins, drew forth my thread on my birth.

Of Lakhesis, she who measures, follows my steps and directs the consequences of my actions with the counsel of the Gods.

Of Atropos, she who cannot be turned, will be waiting at the end to cut my thread.

I sing your praises.

 

  1. Helios

For Helios, I pour this libation.

Great, all seeing father of Supreme Justice,

You who witness the oaths and promises made by all man-kind.

Faithful defender, and the eye of right

You who are ancient, wise, and strong.

Let your brightness pierce my soul

And see in me what is true.

Hears my words and my thoughts,

And know that I speak honestly this day.

Helios, I sing your praises.

 

  1. Zeus

For Zeus, I pour this libation.

Father of Justice and Keeper of Oaths,

I call out to you to hear me this day

And to witness this Oath I take.

Let your thunder wash over me,

And the sky flash with your arrival.

Blind me and bind me in truths spoken.

Thundering Zeus, Oath-Keeper

I sing your praises.

 

 

  • Working: Oath

I come forth now, a Child of the Earth, to profess my love for the Old Ways.  I come forth now to commit to following my heart along this path, and that I shall strive to continue learning.  I have sought knowledge and inspiration, and now that I have taken the first steps, I pledge myself to this path.  Shining Ones, Nature Spritis, Ancestors, All, hear me now, as I offer up these sacrifices and swear:

I will uphold the Old Ways and live by the virtues given by tradition.  I will strive to keep the feasts and to learn about culturally specific holidays.  I will continue to study the lore so that I may learn the ways of the Ancients. 

 

My Patrons, hear me now as I offer up these sacrifices and swear to you:

Artemis, I will stay wild and free in my heart.  I will strive to protect the environment and all growing things.  I will stand up for those who lack the means to do so for themselves.  Hold me to this oath.

Apollo, I will strive to keep the Delphic Maxims, and to continue my learning of omens and healing.  Hold me to this oath.

Dionysos, I will live, truly live, every day.  I will strive to seek transformation for the better.  Hold me to this oath.

Poseidon, I will ride out the storm and I will continue my journey along this path.  Grant me safe voyage as I swear to seek truth and right.  I will strive to control my temper when I need to, but also to lash out when the situation warrants.  I will seek help when I need it.  Hold me to this oath.

 

Thundering Zeus, Keeper of Oaths,

Helios, Bright Beacon of Truth,

Moirai, Mighty Spinners of Fate and Destiny,

Hold me to the oaths I have spoken this day.

Should I fail to adhere to what I have sworn

Send me to the Erinyes so that they may exact their vengeance.

 

  • Omen

What should I continue to think on?

 

 

What work is still ahead of me?

 

 

Any special messages from my Patrons?

 

 

  1. Thanking the Witnesses of the Oath

 

  1. The Moirai

Klotho, Lakhesis, and  Atropos,

Mighty Weavers of Fate and Destiny.

Thank you for joining me today

And witnessing this oath.

 

  1. Helios

Helios, Bright and Shining Truth Seer.

Thank you for joining me today

And witnessing this oath.

 

  1. Zeus

Father Zeus, Keeper of Oaths.

Thank you for joining me today

And witnessing this oath.

 

  1. Patrons
    1. Artemis
    2. Apollo
  • Dionysus
  1. Poseidon

 

  • Return to the Ordinary

For all the Theoi I pour these final libations.

Mighty deities, we offer you many thanks for joining us today.

May the door always remain open,

The fire always burn,

And our voices always sing in harmony.

 

Removing the omphalos


For Hestia, I pour these last libations,

First-Born, and Last-Born,

Keeper of the Sacred Flame,

Tender of the Hearth and Guardian of the Home.

May you always keep my hearth-fire burning bright.

 

The Three Kindreds

When working within a ritual space I’ve called out the Three Kindreds in two different ways.  Each ways has its place depending on what the focus for the rite is, and depending also on what pantheon I’m working with.  The first way I call out to them, and the way I tend to do more often and feel more comfortable with, if by calling out first to the Ancestors, and feeling the power of them raising up from the ground and soaking up through the Well.  I associate the Ancestors with the Well.  I then call to the Nature Spirits all around me, within this world and realm.  I associate the Nature Spirits with the Tree.  Then reaching up to the sky, I call out to the Shining Ones, and feel their warmth wash around me.  I associate the Shining Ones with the Fire. As I’ve deepened my work however, I’ve begun to question whether or not this way of calling to them is always the best way.  After all, are there not Deities who reside below me, and Spirits of Nature in mythical forms that aren’t of this realm, and the Mighty Dead, the Heroes, who may drift up from the Underworld, who’ve been made constellations, or even those more modern heroes whose accomplishes still influence the world today?  So if I’m always calling to them in a way that partitions them into the Three Realms, am I then, in essence, unintentionally skipping some of the Kindreds?

The result of this argument in myself was to begin changing the way I call to the Kindreds as the circumstances necessitate.  So now, the other way that I call out to them is by first calling to the numinous beings of the chthonic realm.  The Ancestors who dwell there, the Spirits of Nature who dwell there, and the Shining Ones who dwell there.  I then call out to the numinous beings of this realm, the beings in the world around us.  The Ancestors who dwell there, the Spirits of Nature who dwell there, and the Shining Ones who dwell there.   And then finally I call out to all the numinous beings of the Upper Realm, those in the heavens, on Mt. Olympus, or in Asgard.  The Ancestors who dwell there, the Spirits of Nature who dwell there, and the Shining Ones who dwell there.

With this broadening understanding of where each of the Three Kindreds dwell, my understanding of each of them has also broadened.  The Ancestors are the Mighty Dead; the Ancient Wise who have gone before, and as such they have knowledge beyond my comprehension that can help me on my path, my journey.  There are three ways that I connect to the Ancestors.  There are ancestors of my blood, ancestors of my country/culture, and ancestors of my hearth.  My immediate thought has always gone to blood-kin first, and I at first believed that was the only way to approach the Ancestors.  So, that caused major problems for me because I’m adopted.  Trying to forge a connection the ancestors over bloodlines and ties hasn’t worked at all for me.  I think I probably have a bit of mental block against connecting that way.  I’ve tried to do some family history work to trace back my adoptive family, but even that only goes back four generations or so.  My family isn’t very talkative, and doesn’t seem to have any desire to talk about stories from their past, and there are no tales about the “Old Country.”  I’ve only got a couple of names and a few stories to connect me back, and it’s not a connection I feel particularly strong about to begin with.

I’ve had more luck connecting to the cultural ancestors.  The me these are all the people who have helped to shape our world and culture, and made it what it is today.  For me, this means important figures in science (Galileo, Copernicus), philosophy (Socrates, Plato), literature (Shakespeare, Homer), history (Caesar, Queen Elizabeth, Washington), and human rights (Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa), etc.  By honoring the cultural ancestors I connect both to the culture of humanity as a whole, as well as to sub-cultures of people and professions that have shaped out society.  For instance, in healing I may honor or Brighde as well as someone like Alexander Fleming.

The third way I make connections with the Ancestors is through the myths of the heroes.  This goes back so far as to include people like Herakles, Daedalus, and Theseus, but I also see it including folk heroes such as Paul Revere, Paul Bunyan, and the Chocolate Pilot.  They are the people who’ve experienced the world, strove to make it a better place, and because of that have had their stories told to millions.

I see the Nature Spirits in two broad categories.  Those beings of nature that we can see, and those we can’t.  The first type of Nature Spirit is the more obvious.  They are the creatures that inhabit our world: the birds, fish, insects, reptiles and mammals, but they are also the trees, rivers, rocks, plants, dirt, and oceans.  They are all part of the ecosystem that makes our world work together and function, and that is a large part of why they deserve honor.  Of the Three Kindreds, the Nature Spirits are the ones I connect the most to.  I can see them everywhere, and interact on them in a physical sense everyday.  I can go out to my garden and I can honor and worship the Nature Spirits in a way that I can see results.

The second type of Nature Spirit, the kind you can’t see, are the mythical beasts.  This incorporates creatures that live hidden in our world, are described in myths, or take on roles beyond that of their mundane counterparts: the unicorn, phoenix, griffin, dryads, and nymphs, but also the creatures like the crane, wolf, falcon and owl, who have extended responsibilities and duties.  These nature spirits are those who are our spirit guides, our totems, or those to deliver omens.  I connect to these in many ways the same way I do to the visible Nature Spirits, especially in the plants and waters.  I feel extreme connection to the wide variety of nymphs (the dryads, naiads, okeanides, etc.) and see them in the world all around me.  I see this second group of Nature Spirits as the tenders of the first, and it is my job to aid the second group in their care for the first.  And because of this relationship between us, the way I worship the Nature Spirits best and the way I am the most fulfilled by it, is through my active work out in nature, experiencing the world around me.

The Shining Ones are grouped more based on their “job description.”  There are those who work in the Upper Realm, Gods of the sky, air, sun, wind, etc.  or those who are specifically said to dwell in the Upper Realm.  There are those who work in the mid-realm, like Gods of the forest, hearth, commerce, war, etc.  And then there are those who work in the Underworld, mainly the Gods of death.  When I work with the Theoi, I approach them first on a professional level.  When I’m learning about a deity and first begin my approach toward them based on what their “job” is.  I read the myths and occasionally ask others who work with the deity, but I approach them on that professional level.  It’s only after I’ve started to develop that base relationship where we can talk on a professional level that I can then begin to deepen my relationship with certain deities on a more friendly level.  So the Shining Ones are a great in power and in number.

I find myself most strongly drawn to the Gods of the Mid-Realm, and I think that is probably because I’m so strongly drawn to the Nature Spirits.  And just as the mythical beasts protect nature, the Gods of this realm protect and work with all beings of this realm.  That includes the plants, animals, minerals, and humans.  In the sense that it is easier to connect to the Gods of the Mid-Realm because they are more connected to and invested in the affairs of humans.

The Gods of the Upper Realm and the Underworld I generally have less connection to.  I still feel connected to the Upper Realm Gods who I can see and feel and interact with, like gods of the sun, wind, air, and rain.  Though they dwell above me, I directly feel their influence.  I think the reason I still feel only a slight connection the gods of the Underworld is because of my trouble connecting with the Ancestors.

In conclusion, all of the Three Kindreds are tied together.  Each of their relationship to each other affects how I, in turn, am able to relate to them.  Because of my comfort with the more tangible aspects of the Kindreds, it is those particular entities in each of the delineations of the Kindreds that I best relate to, and the more work I have to do to grow the relationship with the others.

 

 

The 8 Neo-Pagan High Days

November 1 – First Cross Quarter

The first cross quarter, often called Samhain, is a time of remembrance for the dead.  It is thought of as the time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, and thus it is a liminal time when we can more easily communicate with the Mighty Dead, the Ancient Wise.  It is the final of the harvest festivals, and is often celebrated with a great feast honoring those who have passed.

In our Grove we’ve celebrated Samhain by holding a “dumb supper.”  During this time we have a feast with the Grove members and create a plate of food specifically for the Ancestors.  Then one by one, while everyone is quiet, we go up the altar and tell a story or share a memory about our ancestors.  It is a time for community with each other and our ancestors.

In current culture it is linked to Halloween.  Children wear costumes (which stems from the folk wearing masks so the spirits wouldn’t recognize them) and candy and other treats are given out, hearkening back to a time of offering hospitality to travelers.

December 21 – Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice, often referred to as Yule, is the longest night of the year.  It is seen as a time of death and rebirth.  It is the darkest night, but from that point on the days will get longer each day, and so hope is renewed that the winter will not keep getting darker and it will end eventually.

Hellenic tradition celebrates Heliogenna at this time, as a rebirth of the Sun.  The honored deity is Helios, God of the Sun, and it is a time for the folk to reflect back on what they did the past year and to wipe their slate clean of that which they don’t want to take into the coming year.  This is similar to the practice in current culture of making New Year’s Resolutions.

February 1 – Second Cross Quarter

The second cross quarter, often called Imbolc, is the time of year when the sheep begin lactating again, signaling that the winter is coming to a close and spring is just around the corner.  Imbolc celebrates the fire that burns within, and the hearth.  This is likely because the family stays together more and remains around the hearth more in the wintertime.

In current culture, Groundhog’s Day is celebrated on February 2nd, and is a time when people look to a groundhog leaving his borrow to see how much longer the winter will be.  So, in the same sense, winter is coming to an end, it will last just a bit longer, and spring is just around the corner.

March 21 – Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox, often called Ostara, is the time of year when winter is finally letting go of the world and the day and night are the same length.  It is a time for fertility, new life, and new beginnings.  Farmers can begin planting, and new livestock are born to sustain the herds.

In Hellenic culture the festival of Anthesteria takes place around this time.  It is a three day “Festival of Flowers” that celebrates the coming of spring, new wine (honoring Dionysos here), and the ancestors.  The first day, the Opening of Jars (Pithoigia), is where the new wine was opened and libations to Dionysos were poured.  The folk prayed that wine drunk mixed with water as Dionysos taught would be good for them.  The second day, the Day of Cups (Khoes), was a time for revelry and merrymaking.  The third day, the Day of Pots (Khytrai), honored the ancestors by leaving out traditional food for the dead (Orsini).

May 1 – Third Cross Quarter

The third cross quarter, often known as Beltane, is a time of revelry, and like Samhain, a time when the veil between the worlds is thin.  It is another liminal time, though in the case of pop culture associated more with fairies and magical beast than with the dead.  However, this is okay because it is seen as a time when the folk can communicate more easily with the Gods and with the Nature Spirits.

In our Grove we generally dance the Maypole, which is a derivative of Morris Dancing.  “Morris dancing, in fact, has been claimed to be a remnant of a pre-Christian Celtic, or Druidic, fertility dance” (Witcomb), though the historic evidence supporting this is questionable.  Despite this however, dancing the Maypole is an example of neo-pagan practices surround May Day, or Beltane.  It is considered a fertility dance that focuses on raising power.

June 21 – Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, is the longest day of the year.  It is a time to celebrate the glory and power of the sun, as well as the mighty Fire within.  During this celebration there often would have been many bonfires burning.

A modern Hellenic celebration is Prometheia, referencing Prometheus, the Greek Titan who gave fire as a gift to mankind.  It is a three day festival with the first day honoring the ancient philosophers and remembering the ancient Greek culture and traditions. On the second day the surviving parts of the Prometheia trilogy by Aeschylus are performed.  They relate the tragedy of Prometheus and how he was punished for giving fire to mankind.  The theater performance is followed by revelry late into the night.  On the third day purification, name giving, and marriage ceremonies take place (Prometheia).

August 1 – Fourth Cross Quarter

The fourth cross quarter, also known as Lughnassadh, is the first of the three harvest festivals.  The summer months where food is in short supply due to the heat are coming to an end and the bounty of the fall harvests is a time for celebration.  In Celtic tradition this festival honors Lugh and a variety of warrior games were held in honor of Lugh’s foster mother, Tailltiu.  In Hellenic tradition warrior games were also held at this time of year for several days following the main ritual.  During Panathenaia a 2-mile uphill torch race was held ending at the Acropolis.  “The first runner one to arrive with a torch still alight was the winner and his torch was used to light the fire to burn the sacrifices” (Panathenaia).

In addition to the competitions, Panathenaia was a celebration of Athena’s birthday, or the birthday of the city of Athens.   It is celebrated as a time when Gods and mortals feast together.  During the Greater Panathenaia the main workings for this festival were giving the statue of Athena a new peplos, or robe (Winter).

September 21 – Autumn Equinox

Autumn Equinox, or the neo-pagan festival of Mabon, is the second of the three harvest festivals.  It begins the dark half of the year, as it is the day when the day and night are the same length, but the nights will become longer from this day on.  It is a time for reflection on the joys of the summer months and the light half of the year, and a time for contemplation of the coming hardships of the dark half of the year.

In our grove we celebrate this festival as our Anniversary Rite, a time when our spiritual work really took off.  We have a Grove Poem that is read every year at this time, adding a new stanza each year.  The new stanza reflects our work from the past year, carrying on the theme of reflection and contemplation.

 

DP Book Reviews

Indo-European Title: A History of Pagan Europe

A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick is a reasonably well-written book, and a fairly good resource for Ár nDraíocht Féin’s Dedicant Path.  It works well as a source for studying the roots of Ár nDraíocht Féin because you can identify the common themes both in the rituals of Our Own Druidry as well as in the rituals of the ancients across the Indo-European cultures discussed in the book. The book is a very good resource if the reader already knows a decent amount about Ár nDraíocht Féin, because then he or she can then make connections between the ancient practices of various cultures and religions and what the current practice is in Our Own Druidry.

There are many references throughout that book that are helpful for understanding our religion, specifically in regards to our re-creation of the cosmos using the fire, well, and tree.  For instance, in talking about the Greeks and Hellenistic religions the book describes how “many sanctuaries in later Greek culture centred on a sacred tree” and did dances in order to establish a connection between the worlds (Jones 6).  There is evidence at La Tene II barrow at Normee of this dancing around a central point, demonstrating that this idea of a sacred tree standing at the center of worlds (82).   There were Jupiter pillars as well, that seem to have served the same purpose.  The Baltic tradition uses a “pole or tree as a symbol of the World Tree, the celestial axis of the Earth’s rotation” (174).  All of these things relate to our current concept of the sacred tree, or the world tree, in Ár nDraíocht Féin.

As far as the Well in Ár nDraíocht Féin goes, this book gives evidence for that as well.  The Celts had “shrines at springs, rivers, [and] lakes” where they kept holy wells that are still known today (Jones 81).  The wells were known for their healing waters.  The ‘sun springs’ that are referenced in regards to the Celts bear a certain resemblance to a version of our two powers meditation.  The idea the deep chthonic waters mix with the bright light of the heavens is a visualization that we in Ár nDraíocht Féin often use during an attunement (88). The waters for the Greeks were often the sites of Oracles and prophecy.  This can be interpreted as a connection between the Ancient Wise that dwell in the deep and the wisdom that the Greeks thought could be gained there.

The sacred fire is also mentioned throughout the discussion of different culture.  Hestia and Vesta served as the flame and hearth keepers in Greece and Rome, respectively.  The Celts, “in County Kildare Brighde had a shrine with a scared flame, which was tended by a college of women” (Jones 102). When other religions sough to stamp out the various brands of paganism, one of the first things they attacked was the sacred fire.  “Various Church councils held in Germany called for the suppression of heathen practices, including … the need-fire” (131).  In Rome, when Catholic Christianity was declared the only allowed faith, many Pagan shrines and ceremonies were to lose State funding, but “perhaps worst of all, the Vestals were to lose their privileges and immunities and their sacred fire was to be put out” (71).  Fire was also very important in sacrifice so that the offerings could be burned and the smoke sent up to the heavens.  The Celtic and Germanic peoples echoed this importance or fire in the burning of the dead.

In focusing on how the fire, well, and tree were treated in pagan practices in Indo-European cultures, it is possible for the reader to understand how those ancient practices relate to our current practices within Ár nDraíocht Féin.  These connections, among many others, make A History of Pagan Europe a good study title for use in the Dedicant’s Training Program.

 

Cultural Title: Theogony and Works and Days

Hesiod wrote Theogony and Works and Days during the period in Greek history when oral tradition was finally being record due to the emergence of the Greek alphabet.  His work was, in many ways, overshadowed by Homer and his writing, but Hesiod’s works are still very useful in learning about the Gods themselves, as well as the people who worshiped them.  Theogony is verse that explains how the Gods came into begin, and how they family tree, or more accurately, the family thicket, plays out.  It is a good explanation of the creation myth of both the Gods and of Man, but is also not necessarily a good resource for beginners.  The text does not explain what each god has specific dominion over, and thus how he or she relates to the world, and to us.  He also uses multiple names of some gods, which I’ve never heard outside of this text.  So it may not be nearly as helpful to those new to the mythology.  One of the things I noticed in reading the long lists of names of gods, was that those who actually had every god in a group listed were the daughters of rivers and oceans.  In this relatively short text, the percentage of text that is devoted to the names of the water deities shows how important sacred water was to the Ancient Greeks.

In the notes and introduction before Works and Days Athanassakis notes how this text was likely written by Hesiod directly to his brother, so he could “speak to Perses the naked truth” (Hesiod 65).       It is a text that is about moral values and the proper time to do the proper thing.  I found this section both very boring and very interesting in sections.  Hesiod spent a lot of the text discussing how farmers and sailors should go about their jobs.  And while this is excellent anthropological information about the common man during that time period, it does not speak particularly well to me.  However, the portion that I found interesting was the section where Hesiod spoke regarding portents and the correct day and the correct month for certain tasks, saying “Zeus sends the days; observe them in good measure” (Hesiod 84).  This section provides knowledge for worshiping and living with the Hellenic religion as the people of Ancient Greece did.  Granted, some of it is outdated, and some may regard it as silly superstition, but that is that nature of faith and belief.  It is in the Works and Days that we are told which days are sacred to certain gods.  For instance, beginning at line 768, the sacred days are laid out:

Here are the days that come from Zeus the counselor,

If people judge their true nature and live by it:

The chief sacred days are the first, the fourth, and the seventh;

Leto bore Apollon of the golden sword on the seventh.

This part of the text is what specifically makes Works and Days a good book for the Dedicant learner.  It provides specific information about how the Ancient Greeks lived, and how they worshiped.

All in all, I would recommend this book, but encourage it to be read alongside a collection of Greek myths.  I think that the reader will get more out of Theogony and Works and Days if they have good background knowledge of the myths.  It is an excellent primary source that is beneficial to the Dedicant learner.

 

Modern Title: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Paganism

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Paganism by Carl McColman provides a broad overview of varying kinds of paganism.  It is a mixed bag of information with some glaring inaccuracies as well as some valuable tidbits that could contribute to a budding pagan’s new spiritual path.  The beginning of the book focuses on the general beliefs that all pagans have and some of the larger brands of paganism.

I had a difficult time with this first section because it tries to ascribe a set of beliefs to a huge group of people.  This not necessarily a fault of the author, but rather of the broad nature of the topic.  If one considers that the world could be divided into monotheists and polytheists, most people would agree that it seems mad to try saying “all monotheists think this way,” which in turn makes it rather insane to try coming up with a way to say “all polytheists believe this way.”  The other gripe I had with the majority of the book is how centered on Wicca it is.  Granted, Wicca and witchcraft is what gets the most press, and what will probably make the book sell, but for a book that is claiming to cover all aspects of paganism, many of the chapters and discussion within the book lean towards Goddess centered, Wiccan worship.  This, for the person who knows nothing of paganism, is likely to give a skewed picture of what types of paganism are out there.  The one other thing that made me question this book’s scholarly worth was the vast number of small, but easily noticeable and correctable, errors.  For instance when stating that Dianic Wicca is “named after the Greek Goddess of the hunt,” even though Diana is a Roman Goddess (McColman 54).  It is a small error, but one that is easily fixed.  These types of inaccuracies give the impression of little editing and research.

The last part of the book I think is where the most value comes for a new pagan.  The book offers sound advice on starting to explore through meditation your own beliefs and finding the path that’s right for you.  There is a section of how to set up and altar in your home, how to start learning about different deities, and how to go about finding groups of pagans if you don’t want to be solitary.  It even gives a list of questions that you should ask before joining any sort of pagan group, which I think is especially valuable.  I would take it further and say it’s an important set of questions to ask before joining any religious group, because they include things like “Is it okay for members to disagree with the leaders?” and “Do you feel comfortable with the members?” (McColman 308)  These are questions that can help to determine if a group has cult-like tendencies.

All in all, I would say this is a good book for the person who knows nothing about paganism and is trying to find their way spiritually.  It is a good exploratory book, and a good book for brand new pagans just beginning to develop their spirituality.  I would not recommend it to learners on the Dedicant Path if they have any sort of background knowledge on paganism, due to its heavy focus on Goddess worship and Wiccan paths.