We look to the fires that are burning in the Western part of the United States with alarm and with concern. These fires are causing great damage to both the Earth and to the families and beings that inhabit that same Earth. People have lost lives and possessions, families have been disrupted, and so much damage has been done to the Earth. We send our prayers to those who have been harmed and displaced by the fires and open our hearts and our lives in the ways in which we are able.If you are in the affected areas, please let us know that you are safe. If we can help, please reach out to us.I would like to ask that we use some of the funds from ADF Cares to send to the appropriate agencies that can help those most in need. I have contributed to ADF Cares for this and am asking those who are able to do so as well, either via ADF Cares or in their own ways.I have written this prayer with these things in mind.Fire Relief Prayer We call to the Kindreds,Those Keepers of Fire,And ask for your help:Please stop the advance of the fires;Please quiet the winds that blow;Please keep all the spirits, both human and spirits of nature,Out of harm’s way. We call to the skies,Where rains from above do fall,Please release your waters,Please let them fall,Please send relief,To put out the fires,To cleanse what was harmed,To bring new growthWhere the old growth is now gone. We call to the Earth Mother,Bring forth your Bounty,Now in this time of great need. May it be so.
Building a Devotional Practice with the Nature Spirits[caption id="attachment_3317" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Image by Hans Linde via Pixabay, Public Domain Image.[/caption]As Pagans, we can merely observe the eight High Days and then move on with our lives. As Devoted Pagans, we can develop a practice that we undertake daily that helps us to build better relationships with the entities, spirits, and allies in our lives.This is the fifth in a series of “Building a Devotional Practice with” presentations. The first three dealt with the Land, the Sea, and the Sky. In this offering, we continue our discussion of building devotional practices with the Kindreds. The first of our Kindreds discussions was about building a practice with the Ancestors. This presentation will deal with the Nature Spirits.Three Groups of Nature SpiritsI divide the Nature Spirits in to three groups. The first is the spirits of nature that represents creatures that we recognize in this middle world: creatures of the realms, land, sea, and sky. This would include mammals, inspects, fish, birds, etc. These entities have names that everyone understands.These creatures have correspondences that most people are aware of. Sharks are aggressive, foxes are wily, doves are peaceful, and cats are inscrutable. Some of these animals may be allies of ours. If they are allies, they may exhibit the kind of attributes we come to expect. By the same token, they may also exhibit qualities that are particular to our relationship with them.The second group of Nature Spirits are the spirits of place. These are not creatures, but elements in nature that have special or perhaps magical qualities that one would NOT necessarily associate with them. For example, some rivers in the ancient world were revered as sacred, like the Danube or the Seine. One may also discover places in nature that feel differently that others, that feel sacred, or holy, or even alive and sentient.Think about some of the rivers that you are familiar with: do they feel magical or are they just rivers? Think of other bodies of water that have caused a feel of awe or “presence” in you: these are the spirits in nature that I am talking about, all contained in the category of Nature Spirits. This kind of feel may include glades or canyons or long stretches of sky. If it feels holy or sentient or special, I would trust your intuition.Imaginary CreaturesThe final group of nature spirits are imaginary creatures. These are gnomes or sylphs or dryads or yeti, creatures that you have a connection to but are not generally acknowledged as existing in the real world. In the work that you do, these creatures may call to you and if they do, I would respond to them. Just because a unicorn may not exist in the real world, they may very well exist in your magical or vital worldThe Cycles in Our LivesWhat can the Nature Spirits bring to our lives and our practice? I believe that the one thing that the Nature Spirits can help us with is to give us an understanding of the cycles in the world and in our lives. The Nature Spirits, like us, live within the solar and lunar cycles that affect this world, our planet. While we as humans and many of these creatures live longer that a single solar cycle, we all take part in the cycles of renewal: birth and rebirth, emergence from our slumber, growth, flourish, harvest, decline, death and decay.Some of the cycles do not mean actual events: death and decay may just refer to times where our lives slow down to reflect the natural world around us. Emergence may describe the seed emerging from the earth, but it may also refer to a time in our lives when we break through the situations we have found ourselves in for some time. For spirits of place, they teach us of the specialness of those places and what those locations mean in our lives. For imaginary creatures, they have lessons to teach us as well. After all, an imaginary creature can be a liminal entity as well.Building Relationships, Building AltarsHow do we build a relationship with the Nature Spirits? In addition, where do we build a relationship with them? I think the best place for any kind of devotional is at an altar or shrine. For the Nature Spirits, this altar is best found in nature.One must be careful to not be too literal. If one wishes to build an altar to wolves, one does not have to build one in a wolves’ den. The idea is to build an altar or shrine to the wolves not among the wolves. While many of us would consider that nature is outside, it is not exclusively outside.Incidental AltarsFor altars in nature, I think that it is best to build incidental altars, or altars that are not permanent. These are called incidental because they are often made with items found on hand, at or around the location where they are built.I often look for three things in an incidental altar: a tree, especially one that has an indentation in it which can act as a well, and a fire analog. What exactly is a fire analog? This is something that represents a fire without being an open flame. My favourite choice of items for this is a red stone, like red jasper. Red jasper is red, like the sun, like the fire. Given a tree, an indentation as the well, and a red jasper, the hallows are all present.For the pantheists in the crowd, everywhere and anywhere is the altar or sacred place.What if the recognition you wish to bestow doesn’t require the presence of hallows? You may have a tree, a field of flowers, a stump, a rabbit warren, or any of several things which you feel are holy or sacred. I would recommend making offerings to that item and make an offering that is of value to that location. Yet what offerings should one make?What Offerings?Water is the perfect offering in nature. If any of the objects of your devotion are living creatures, they will appreciate and benefit from water. Should the object of the devotion is water or lives in water, I would recommend an offering that is left at the side of a waterway or body of water. If the entity to which you wish to leave an offering is imaginary, use the imagination to find a perfect offering. In fact, ask the entity what offering it would prefer.How does one do this? Sit, stand, or lay next to the place where you choose to make an offering. Listen to the world around you. Be still and listen. Close your eyes. After some time, you will feel a rhythm around you, the sounds of the place. Open yourself up as your immerse yourself into the sound and see what impressions come your way. Some may be subtle; some may be very direct and clear. Trust your intuition; trust yourself.You may find that a good offering is a poem or a prayer. It may be a song or a drawing. It may be something drawn in the dirt. Open your senses so that you can receive impressions from the world around you. Listen and learn. As you spend more time in your sacred place, with your sacred allies, you will come to a greater understanding of them. They will better understand you.Here In the Middle RealmBuilding a Devotional Practice with the Nature Spirits helps us to understand and cherish those who share this middle realm with us. These spirits share the cycles of the year and the dance of the seasons with us, yet sometimes, our cycles may be much longer than the usual annual cycles in our world.We see the tree, most often, as the symbol of the Nature Spirits. It spans the worlds, with roots that sink deep into the earth, past the Ancestors to the dark waters below, and branches which reach up to the heavens, into the Sky, to touch the Shining Ones. Between the world of the Ancestors below and the realm of the sky and the Shining Ones above, we, in the middle realm, give offerings and thanks.From Patheos Pagan - From A Common Well
Sol sistere,The Sun stands still.It pauses before moving on again.Face to the Sun,We call to the realms,Land, sea, and sky,Ever around us.We reach for the hallows,Well, tree, and fire,Ever around us.We offer to the Kindreds,Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Shining Ones,Ever around us.With the breath of Inspiration,We reach for the Earth Mother,Ever beneath us,As we pause,With the Sun,Sol sistere.Solstice Blessings to all, whereever they may be.
The Unexpected Value of DevotionI had an unexpected insight while celebrating the Winter Solstice with one of my friends and fellow Druids. We talked about devotionals practices – one of the topics closest to my heart and closest to my practices - and I became aware of a couple of things that had happened over time.Let me start at the beginning.Need, typically personal need, is the beginning of prayer. We typically ask for those things that we can not easily acquire for ourselves. Some are found in the material world: money, a job, a new car. Others are more ephemeral: health, love, balance. Some of these things come to us externally, such as money, a job, and a new car. When we accumulate enough means to acquire a material object, it will be so. For things such as health or love, we can heal ourselves or be healed by others and we can pray to the Gods to help restore our health or the health of someone we love. For love, we can ask for love, but we can only give of our love, all the rest must also come from an external source. Balance, however, is a different thing.Balance arises out of imbalance and while imbalance may have taken some time to arise, the return of balance will also take effort. This effort will most likely be much quicker and longer lasting if one is to actively seek it as opposed to awaiting its arrival.Of course, the most practical way of making changes in our lives is to work on making them happen. Yet, it surely cannot hurt to engage the help of the kindreds in such an endeavor. Let us continue with the example of balance. Here is a small prayer that can be a part of one’s daily devotionals: “I ask for balance in my life. “Where none is found, “Help me to find it; “When things are askew, “Help me right the Way. “I ask for balance in my life.”If the need for balance in one’s life is the most important of one’s needs, I would say this small prayer daily and first thing. As I have mentioned previously in my discussions of daily devotionals, I believe that one must enter into the devotional practice read and cleansed. Therefore, wash your hands before any working. This has the practical value of willfully deciding to do the working by washing one’s hands first – perhaps a Pavlovian preparation – and that one is cleansed and ready to go.I believe that within a devotional practice it is also important to “do” something as well as “say” something. We already know what we are going to say. Let us develop what we are going to do to exhibit and strengthen our working in this manner.I like the idea of incidental altars through one’s home and workplace. They can be stealth altars that are relatively unnoticeable as altars or they can be full-blown devotional area where the idea IS for things to be seen. In either scenario – or in points in-between – let us divine a working.If we are working for balance, let us put something in balance in our working. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It need not be expensive either. It is the work that is important and not necessarily the materials.For this exercise, I will offer two scenarios. Both will use household items and will attract relatively little attention. For the first, one will need three shot glasses and two chop sticks. For the second, one will need a citrus fruit and a toothpick.Exercise #1: a) Say the devotional prayer. You may address it to a particular Kindred or just offer it to the universe: I ask for balance in my life. Where none is found, Help me to find it; When things are askew, Help me right the Way. I ask for balance in my life. b) Place two of the shot glasses upside down on a flat surface. Let the distance between them be less than the length of the chop sticks c) Place the two chops sticks on top of both glasses, so that they are parallel to each other which the ends sticking out from the rims of the shot glasses. d) Place the third shot glass atop the chop sticks, thus achieving balance e) For the adventurous or devout, place a small amount of water in the upright shot glass. f) Finish by saying “May I find the balance in my life.” g) If you have cats, they may want to contribute to you devotional work in a non-balanced way. Exercise #2: a) Say the devotional prayer. You may address it to a particular Kindred or just offer it to the universe: I ask for balance in my life. Where none is found, Help me to find it; When things are askew, Help me right the Way. I ask for balance in my life.” b) Place the citrus fruit on a flat surface. c) Place the toothpick on the top of the citrus fruit, thus achieving balance d) For the adventurous or devout, place another toothpick across the first one in the form of an equal-armed cross. e) Finish by saying “May I find the balance in my life.” f) If you have cats, they may want to contribute to you devotional work in a non-balanced way.I believe that by doing the work that the work will one day become you or become a part of you. By doing balancing work on a daily basis – intentionally and regularly – I feel that balance will slowly become a part of the way that you do things. It is very subtle. As a person focuses on the practice, the pursuit of that practice may very well incorporate itself into one’s life. i found this to be the case during my own Winter Solstice ritual workings and discussions with a good friend. It dawned on my that the desire I had been working towards had not only become a part of my practice, but a part of my life. It was the best Solstice gift of the season.The unexpected value of devotion is therefore two-fold. It allows us to exercise our virtues, especially those of perseverance and fertility. Perseverance arises by sticking to the practice, by do so because it is something you desire. Fertility arises because of the life we bring to the work that we do. By combining these two, we establish a practice and reap the unexpected rewards of the devotion we undertake.From "Journeys" by WitchesandPagans
365 Days of Discovery, Part 1As a follow-up to my blog “A Call to Miach“, I offer the following two-part dramatic piece that I wrote giving an alternate view on the death of Miach, as interpreted from the lore.Diancecht: “Be gone!”Miach falls dead under his father’s fatal blow to the headAirmid: “I bury you, brother. You, who were the greatest healer; sadly, there is no one to heal you. Is there anyone to mourn? Who will ever know? Our father, great but cruel; proud, but jealous, could not tolerate the thought that not only were you his equal, but you were his better as well.”Airmid: “Into my arms, brother. No cure can heal you now. I will carry you to the edge of the world which is where you will be safe. There you will be free; free from a father’s jealousy; free from a father’s threat; free from a wound thrice inflicted and twice recovered. I know that while you will be gone from this mortal plane, you are a God after all and will continue to help heal from the land of the Ancestors and from the land of the Shining Ones, though those here among the living and vital nature spirits will need you most and will call to you today, yea, and call to you tomorrow, yea, and call to you every day until Lir reclaims the land and submerges all in his primordial and infinite waters. Waters that flow on the land and you will be there; water that flows underground, and you will be there, water that flows into the stars at night and you will go there.”Airmid: “For surgery was your strength, my brother, and none could surpass you, not even our father. At the end, you healed yourself, not once, but twice, until his wretched sword did cut short a life that should still be here and vital. But how can it be that a God can die? Do we attain, sustain, and ordain ourselves to a world fraught with material pitfalls and fatality than even we Gods cannot escape? We live forever; it is true, but perhaps not in this form and not in this place. How can this be? Will all our powers, great and true, how is it that this has come to pass? That father strike son, three times wrong, and thus change vitality to mortality and then to leave his torn and lifeless body like a husk upon the ground? Does thus the healer fail in their appointed task and cause more pain in stark reversal of one’s calling and creed? The world changes too much on this day.”Airmid: “I walk, wearily, almost lifelessly, holding my brother, my mentor, my friend, he in my arms, light, lifeless, broken into halves where a whole once lived and breathed and flourished. I hold him up to you, Belenos Bright, and I ask that you warm what remains of his mortal shell and he diffuses into the three realms and surrounds us all who care to feel, to call, and to recollect. Grant, O the Many Gods, that from this senseless death that some good may arrive, arise, and sustain for all the great works that he did. Let spring forth from this tragedy some semblance of gift or miracle that some balance may be restored. To one who healed all give the rest of us something with which to heal ourselves at his physical absence.”Airmid: “Here, here beside the ocean where all life began, I put you to rest my brother. Let this red cloth hold your body and let me wrap it tight so that it may hold your body together as one. Red, like the blood of the Mother; red, like the blood of your patients; and finally, red, like your own blood. I bind you in the cloth of this world as we prepare you, in essence, for our appreciation of you in the next world.”Airmid places stones around the place where Miach is laid to restAirmid: “Now, brother, I surround your body with these stones, selected by my hand, to encircle you, to protect you, to mark you off. Lir will watch over you for all time to come. I will cover you with my cloak so that you will be warm, though I doubt that warmth preoccupies you in any way now. Yet, to ease my soul, I will cover your body with this cloak. It is a magical cloak, and may it bring blessings your way.”Airmid places the cloak over the bodyA breeze arises from the Ocean and whirls around the grave of Miach. From this breeze, Miach’s voice is heardMiach: “Worry not, my sister, my Healing Goddess, for while I cannot stand next to you in the flesh, I can still be next to you – always – in the spirit. What does location matter if one can be anywhere? We are fooled as Gods sometimes, fooled into thinking that we have powers and abilities in the corporeal world when in fact we have powers in whatever world we find ourselves. Do not grieve for me because I have greater things to bring into being and I also will continue my work, whether I am on this plane of existence or not. I am not so easily dismissed or destroyed.”Airmid: “I have heard your words and I will look for those greater things that you have promised. I will hold vigil over your resting place this night and will keep you company, although as I see now, it is my company that you have kept. I will light a bright fire under the fires of the skies, bright lights that punctuate the sky and give us pause to think and dream and wonder. Countless are the Shining Ones that watch us from above and guide us in our days.”Airmid: “The fire now lit; the flames cast long shadows against the stones of Miach’s grave. As I watch the movement, I recall so many scenes, acted out by shadow and light against the backdrop of this place, this grave, this time. It is one of the ironies, one of the mysteries of life that we Gods may come to some end, some finality, and some cessation on this plane. I do believe Miach when he says that he will continue his work, wherever he may be. One does not need to see a God to pray to him, for it is rarely so that people see the very divinities to which they address their needs.”Airmid: “Flicker, flicker, flame; what is the nature of the Gods in this world, in any world? One day we are and then we will be, never thinking of an end, never thinking that an end is even in the remotest of possibilities. How odd is it for a God to die? How impossible is it for a deity to come to some death? I cannot understand it in the depths of my being. Yet these battles we have seen of late, in an around Mag Tuired, have bent the fabric of the very reality that we have come to understand and enjoy. How can one explain that Gods are falling in battle by the hand of their enemies? How can one explain that Gods are falling to the sword by the hand of their own family? How has it come to be that we are so inured in this world that we can be injured at all even fatally? This I cannot comprehend.”A raven lands on one of the stones of the cairnRaven: “I thought it might be time for my appearance, as with a passage so recently noted. While it is my usual practice, or so it is said, to come to claim the dead and to clean their bones, this one is different. This one did not live or die in the usual manner of mortals and his job is far from over. My appearance is not as premature as it is unexpected. I come not for your brother, my dear, as much as I come to you. I can see that these events weigh heavily upon you and that you have many questions which remain unanswered, unsettled, and unspoken. They are powerful questions precisely because they have no answers, no place in this world.”Airmid: “Morrigu, Mother, you come to me, dark as night, when I am feeling dark as the night that surrounds me, dark as they night that engulfs Miach, dark as the night that I cannot see past. I know that we live in many dimensions and on many planes, but I always thought that we would continue here on this plane. Yet now I see it is not so and that this continuity is somehow twisted or flawed and I cannot comprehend that my brother – a God – could be here, vital one moment and bereft of life, cold, still, unmoving, the next. I know he exists in other planes – he has visited me here, speaking from the wind blowing from the west across Lir, the great ocean. So, I know that it is not merely voices that I hear, it is HIS voice. He is there, yet I cannot extricate myself from here.”Next: 365 Days of Discovery, Part 2
A Call to Miach, Part 1In my daily devotionals, I call to four healing Gods and Goddesses: Diancecht, Miach, Airmid, and Brighid. I do my broader healing work under the auspices of Diancecht, healer of the Tuatha de Danann, and his children Miach and Airmid. Miach was the God of Surgery and Leechcraft; Airmid was the Goddess of Healing and Herb craft.What do we know of Miach? Miach was the son of Diancecht, fabled healer of the Tuatha de Danann.From the Second Battle of Mag Tuired:33. Now Nuadu was being treated, and Dian Cecht put a silver hand on him which had the movement of any other hand. But his son Miach did not like that. He went to the hand and said “joint to joint of it, and sinew to sinew”; and he healed it in nine days and nights. The first three days he carried it against his side, and it became covered with skin. The second three days he carried it against his chest. The third three days he would cast white wisps of black bulrushes after they had been blackened in a fire.34. Dian Cecht did not like that cure. He hurled a sword at the crown of his son’s head and cut his skin to the flesh. The young man healed it by means of his skill. He struck him again and cut his flesh until he reached the bone. The young man healed it by the same means. He struck the third blow and reached the membrane of his brain. The young man healed this too by the same means. Then he struck the fourth blow and cut out the brain, so that Miach died; and Dian Cecht said that no physician could heal him of that blow.35. After that, Miach was buried by Dian Cecht, and three hundred and sixty-five herbs grew through the grave, corresponding to the number of his joints and sinews. Then Airmed spread her cloak and uprooted those herbs according to their properties. Dian Cecht came to her and mixed the herbs, so that no one knows their proper healing qualities unless the Holy Spirit taught them afterwards. And Dian Cecht said, “Though Miach no longer lives, Airmed shall remain.” (Gray)So how can this be?How can a god be killed?If we look a little further in the text, we find this verse:123. Now this is what used to kindle the warriors who were wounded there so that they were more fiery the next day: Dian Cecht, his two sons Octriuil and Miach, and his daughter Airmed were chanting spells over the well named Slaine. They would cast their mortally wounded men into it as they were struck down; and they were alive when they came out. Their mortally-wounded were healed through the power of the incantation made by the four physicians who were around the well. (Gray)So, here we have a contradiction. Earlier in the text, Miach is killed by his father – also a healer. Later, Miach is helping his father to heal the wounded along with his sister. The conclusion that I have come to is that the story of Miach’s death is an addition that was added b y the scribes who transcribed the stories. Do I have evidence of this? No. Is this my intuition? Yes, it is.Pre-surgery practicesWhen I or other friends and family members are going in for surgery, I ask them to inscribe Miach’s name, in ogham, on the side of their body on which the surgery is to be done. I, and others, have had good success with this approach. I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to have a on-body talisman for healing.A Recent Experience with MiachOn Tuesday past, I found myself seated in a dentist’s chair for a root canal. This was my second root canal and after my first experience, I was deeply dreading the events to come. My current dentist assured me that he would do whatever he could to make me comfortable and so we began.The dentist was right, the procedure was relatively pain-free. However, since the process took a certain amount of time, I was feeling very overwhelmed by it all: the sounds, the feeling, the understanding of what was being done. I was dosed with several different pain killers and nitrous oxide as well and at one point I decide to call out to the healer who I thought could help the most, Miach, God of Surgery and Leechcraft. While I wasn’t being leeched, I was having dental surgery.I feel Miach’s name right in the center of my body, right about the area of my heart chakra, and I just spoke into that place. The more I spoke into that area, the stronger the feeling grew until the point where it seemed as though I would burst. I released all of that feeling and it pulsed outwards from me out into the universe.PresenceIn what seemed like seconds, I felt the presence of Miach. I have never seen Miach, but I have an idea what he kooks like. A person of slight build, medium height, dark hair, and a face with no features was there, reaching out to me. I could feel his presence surround me and I became oblivious to the drilling and other work that was going on around me. As long as I kept up the internal chant of “Miach”, I felt him right there with me.As the procedure lessened in intensity, I let up on my call to Miach and I slowly felt his presence withdraw and I felt myself return to the present. When the procedure came to an end, I felt a relief of having the process completed, but I was also thankful that I had a few moments together with Miach.More Than Just with DentistryDo I think that this process only works for dental work? Not at all, I call to Miach for a number of healing-related modalities. For example, when I am having surgery, I inscribe Miach’s name on my body when I go in for the operation. I try to put his name – in ogham – on the same side of the body on which I am having said surgery. If I am doing healing work for others, I ask them to do the same: write Miach’s name on their body, on the same side that the surgery will be performed. Should the surgery is one the midline, I am them to do the inscription on the midline of their body somewhere.If doing such artistry is not possible, I ask people the exact time of their surgery and envision the name of Miach in ogham inscribed above them and energized – with their permission, of course.General Requests for Well-BeingWhat about for general, everyday requests for well-being? I think this methodology does work. Let me give the bullet points:Begin1) Feel the healing god’s name right in the center of my body, right about the area of my heart chakra. Speak their name into that place.2) Continue speaking their name into that area. The more one speaks into that area, the stronger the feeling will grow.3) When one feels that the crescendo of calling and filling has reached a peak, release that pent-up energy and feeling out into the universe.4) Once the energy has been released, open yourself for the return of the energy or for the presence of the healing deity. This is especially enhanced, I believe, if one has built a relationship with that deity previously.5) Once you feel them present, continue to call their name into that center place. Feel the name resonate through you as you feel their presence around you.End6) When the time for your procedure or working is complete, begin to lessen the calling of the name, until it is a whisper.7) As you speak the name a final time, feel them linger for a moment before they depart.8) Once they have departed, wait a few minutes to return to center in your regular place in the world.9) Thank the deity for their presence and their help.Miach did not die at the Second Battle of Mag Tuired. Somewhere, somehow, the story was twisted and changed, yet the mistake can be corrected. Miach is there for you for any healing that you may need. If you need Miach – or any healer – call out to him, make an offering to him, and afterwards, make sure to thank him.Parts two and parts three of this post will be a short play that I wrote about Diancecht, Miach, and Airmid. I hope it meets with your approval.Works CitedGray, Elizabeth (translated by). “Cath Maige Tuired.” n.d. www.sacred-texts.com. Web. 05 03 2020
Times of UncertaintyWe find ourselves today in times of uncertainty as the Covid-19 pandemic reaches out to touch all our lives. We call to the Kindreds to protect us in these times.There are certain, practical things that we can do to protect ourselves: limit our exposure to others, washing our hands, being aware of the potential for contamination in the world around us. Practical hygiene will go a long way in protecting us in an immediate sense.As people with relationships to the spirits and Kindreds, this is an excellent time to call to them daily to ask for their help and protection and to thank them for the blessings we already have. I truly believe that they listen and even an offering of “thank you” is an offering, nonetheless.As a leader and as a priest, if I can be of any assistance, please feel free to reach out to myself or any of the Mother Grove and / or Clergy Council for assistance. If we cannot help you directly, we will find someone who can.Blessings,Rev. Jean (Drum) PaganoArchdruid, ADF
Building a Devotional Practice with the Ancestors
As Pagans, we can merely observe the eight High Days and then move on with our lives. As Devoted Pagans, we can develop a daily practice that helps us to build better relationships with the entities, spirits, and allies in our lives.
This is the fourth in a series of “Building a Devotional Practice with” presentations. The first three dealt with the Land, the Sea, and the Sky. In this offering, we begin our discussion of building devotional practices with the Kindreds. The first of our Kindreds are the Ancestors.
I divide the category of Ancestors into three groups. The first are Ancestors of the Blood. These are the people that are responsible for us being here in this world. They have provided the DNA for our bodies and provide a lineage, the accumulation of which is who we are today. Regardless of whether we know who our parents are, it is our blood relations which are in our blood.
If we were fortunate enough to know and grow up with our direct ancestors, then we are all the richer, because they then not only offered their genetics to ourselves, but also their presence in our lives. While we can make many choices in our lives, the determination of our ancestry is beyond our immediate control.
The second group of Ancestors are Ancestors of the Heart or Hearth. In ADF, we have Hearth Cultures, such as Irish, or Hittite, Nordic, Baltic, etc. Ancestors of the Hearth are those people or entities that come from those hearth cultures and we feel an affinity towards them.
For example, Cuchulain, the hero of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, may be an Ancestor for some people. Vercingetorix is an Ancestor for some. He was the king and chieftain of the Averni tribe, who led the Gauls against Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars.
Ancestors of the Heart are Ancestors that we admire, like Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, who led a failed revolt against the Roman occupation of England. Albert Einstein is another potential Ancestor of the Heart, as someone we admire. Ancestors of the Heart are typically not related to us by blood but are those whose spirits resonate with us.
The third group of Ancestors are Ancestors of the Bone. These individuals are buried beneath our feet, here under the ground on which we stand. These are those who have gone before and are related to us only by location. They may have been buried beneath our feet a hundred years ago or a thousand years ago. They are Ancestors of Place. The Ancestors of of Place understand this land because they lived on this land before we did.
What can the Ancestors bring to our lives and our practice? I believe that the one thing that the Ancestors can help us with is to give us guidance. They have experienced many of the same things that we do: pain, loss, sadness, uncertainty, depression, job loss, economic concerns, droughts, famine, and other challenges. They also have experienced the opposite side of those emotion: joy, satisfaction, pleasure, fulfillment, bounty, and good harvests.
How do we build a relationship with the Ancestors? In addition, where do we build a relationship with them? I think the best place for any kind of devotional is at an altar or shrine. Where would you usually interact with your Ancestors? This would probably be a good place to start. For myself and my family, the kitchen or dining room was where people gathered to meet and share time together.
The kitchen table was the center of the family life. It is the center of the hearth, and the heart of family life. The living room was basically unused; the family room was for passive interacting, such as watching television or reading a book. The kitchen table, however, is where matters of the heart and hearth were discussed. Life percolated around the table and there was always another chair available for those who came later.
Now that some of my family has passed onto being Ancestors, I have placed my Ancestor Shrine/Altar in the kitchen. It is the first thing one sees when they walk in the door. The Ancestors are the last ones that see you as you walk out the door. I take comfort in the fact that they are watching my back.
Are pets Ancestors? I think so. They are more than passing entities in our lives: they are family members that inhabit the home with us. I think that pets really participate in two Kindreds: Ancestors (once they pass on) and Nature Spirits. Can pets bring us the same guidance that our human Ancestors do? I do feel that they lend their presence to our environs, regardless of where we may be.
What does one put on their Ancestor altar? I think images of our Ancestors are a good thing: photographs, drawings, articles, any thing that invokes their memories for those that visit this altar. Dog tags, cat toys, stone resemblances, even a dog treat or a small bit of catnip. I also like to place my offerings amongst the items on the altar.
What can one use as offerings? I like to offer things that the Ancestors can consume, like water, or alcohol spirits, ideally 100 proof or above. Spirits for spirits, I like to call these kinds of offerings. The beauty of water and distilled spirits is that they will evaporated, according to the laws of nature. The magic of water and spirits as offerings is that they will diminish as the Ancestors consume them. When they are gone, one need only to fill them up again, and the cycle of giving and receiving begins again. In the case of alcohol spirits, one may find it necessary to clean the glass or vessel once the spirits have disappeared.
I try to make sure that the offerings do not run dry. I like to feel that the continuity of offerings and the continuity of building a relationship with the Ancestors and myself can continue unabated if the offerings are there for them. In all reality, if the offerings run dry for a day or two, the nature of the relationship with the Ancestors will not suffer. Other acceptable offerings are flowers, either fresh or dried. Fresh flowers bring life to the altar; dried flowers or plants brings a longer offering, which are Ancestor-like in their own plant way.
Outdoor altars and shrines are also a wonderful way to commemorate the Ancestors in a natural setting. I have seen stone cairns erected at memorial services and I believe that such cairns can also be constructed in places that are meaningful for ourselves and perhaps for the Ancestors. One such example would be to add a stone for each person or being that passes away. One may write their name on the stone, or one may just keep a silent and invisible recollection of those who have passed. An offering of beautiful stones or a bowl of water will act as a ongoing offering for those commemorated in this setting.
One thing I do during my daily devotionals is to say the names of my Ancestors, human and non-human alike, aloud. I say their names: I let them know that they are not only remembered, but that I call out to them daily, to keep the link going between myself and them. This lets them know that I remember them and by committing it to memory, it keeps them vital and active every day. I also write them down, if one day my memory fails me, and I need to remember their names, or maybe those that come after me will do the same. Maybe they will add my name to the list.
There are those, however, that have troubled relationships with their Ancestors. I know that some people take issue with their Ancestors being slave owners, criminals, or generally bad people; for these people, perhaps it is best if we can find it within ourselves to forgive them. They cannot change the past and neither can we, but at least we can leave the past with a semblance of peace as opposed to the stain of turmoil. Hopefully, we can find someone in our ancestral line that we can reach out to for guidance, inspiration, and whatever interaction with this world we envision they can do.
Another nice touch for an altar is light. I always have a lamp that I keep lit for the Ancestors. I use a low-watt LED light bulb that uses very little power and does not heat up the area. A candle is also a nice touch, but since I have cats, unsupervised open flame is not a good idea. A good source of light are LED candles or anything that generates or reflects light.
One interesting thing that a mirror brings to an Ancestor altar is that it allows one to see change over time. The Ancestors looking back at them from the Ancestor altar never age at all. The altar we build today will perhaps welcome us someday.
Building a Devotional Practice with the Ancestors helps us to remember and cherish those who have gone before. We do this in our lives, in our hearts and hearths, and on the land on which we live and worship. The placement of a vessel and liquid is a beautiful way to commemorate and connect our worship and our practice since it reminds us of a well. . Our offerings go to the Ancestors through this vessel and their blessings return to us in the same way.
Building a Devotional Practice with the Sky
Working with High Days is a wonderful thing, but High Days come and go eight times a year. What can someone do if they want to develop a monthly, weekly, or daily practice? This discussion will investigate building a devotional practice with the Three Realms, namely, Land, Sea, and Sky.
In coming to the sky as the object of devotional practice, it is a canvas upon which things are painted. The sky presents many different images, constantly changing and therefore offering many opportunities for devotion. There is dawn, dusk, sunrise, sunset, morning, afternoon, evening. If we separate the day in quarters, there is sunrise, noon, sunset, and what may be called “stars”, which is midnight. Not only is the time of day significant, but the events that present themselves in the sky are also significant. Just as water flows in a stream, the sky presents movement and change. There are many opportunities for devotion.
Just as the ocean seems endless in span and in depth, the sky is very much like that, but in an opposite direction. Where there may be a bottom of the ocean, there is no limit to the sky: it goes on forever and onwards. Our opportunities for devotion are not with the sky itself, but for what presents itself in the sky. This may include daytime observances such as sunrise, noon, and sunset. It may offer awe and devotion to the liminal times of dawn and dusk. It may observe instances such as the movement of clouds, and the failing of rain or snow, or the presence of storms, both great and small.
Sunrise and Sunset
Perhaps the most obvious object to see in the sky during the waking day in the Sun. There are many opportunities for devotion depending upon the position of the sun. Since in my daily travels I often see the sun come up and the sun set, I find this to be a perfect time to offer a devotional. As I see the sun break over the horizon, I say the following devotional prayer:
Red in the morning sky,
Nothing escapes your view;
I see your face at dawn.
Conversely, when the sun begins to sink beneath the horizon, I offer this devotional to act as a bookend to the one from dawn:
Red in the evening sky,
Nothing escaped your view;
I see your face at dusk.
For me, this is a way to bring a devotional working full-cycle. There is a lot of day between sunrise and sunset, but I like to acknowledge that the sun, overhead, sees all. It is a reminder of one of the cycles in our lives.
It is possible, depending upon where I am, that the only offering I have to Dawn and Dusk is the devotion itself. I rejoice in the opportunity to witness this event. If one has a fire nearby, an offering of sweet-smelling herbs is quickly consumed, and the resulting scent is a gift.
What to offer the Sky?
In making offerings to the sky or to solar events, one of the things one must determine is what kind of offering does one make? While water may be the ideal offering on land, it is rather difficult to offer it up to the sky. Since we often consider the sky to be the realm of the Shining Ones, then we can also make offerings of things that can burn, if a fire is present, or something reflective, whether it be mirror or crystal. In the most minimalist sense, the words that we speak and the act of devotion itself can provide the offering for the moment. When we consider devotional practices relating to the sky, especially lunar practices, we will devotionally empower water that we may use to offer to the sea.
A Diverse Offering
Since the sky is in some ways a screen upon which events occur, the offerings that one makes may act as an accompaniment to the event that are unfolding. To make a devotion to a storm, percussive sounds, such as the beating together of sticks may be employed. If one is honouring a rain event, be it gentle or strong, the collection of the water that results from the rain becomes an offering one receives during the devotional. When the wind is the object of devotion, then one may either listen meditatively to the sound of the wind or make sympathetic sounds like the wind while the wind blows.
Light and sound are gifts from the sky that often are products of the weather around us. I like to use sympathetic methods for making and accepting offerings when such things occur. If light is the result of the action at hand, then attracting or reflecting the light seems and acceptable method of acknowledging the moment during the devotional. If sound is produced, then likewise I think a good methodology is to make sound along with the event.
The sound of the wind or the sound of the wind moving through other things like trees and plants and grasses are gifts that we receive just by being there at the time it happens. It is a gift of the moment and is a great way to anchor our experiences in the natural world. Therefore, in some ways, offerings may be made for that which has already been received, such as these wind-driven sounds.
Entity or Event?
A few years ago, at Midnight Flame Festival, we began doing Dawn Devotionals around the fire. Each person would say a few words and make an offering to the fire. The subject of the devotionals were typically Gods or Goddesses: Ushas, Eos, or others. I find this to be a beautiful way to honour these Beings. It occurred to me at a later point, that one could also honour to event of the dawn as opposed to the dawn itself. This is in no way a diminishing of the importance of these Gods and Goddesses but is a way of devoting to the happening as opposed to the personification. These liminal beings are powerful and worthy of honour, but I also feel that the events are given to us as gifts as well. Perhaps it would be best to honour them both or to do so on alternate days.
What Kind of Offering?
I like to use the materials at hand when doing ritual and/or devotional work. When making a sky-based offering, I believe that reflective or absorptive materials are best. A mirror with a bowl of water on it and a stone or perhaps a crystal in it is a way to offer water and stone, the two other pieces of the realms, to the third realm, the sky. If one were to place such a mirror and bowl somewhere, it could be a static place to do the daily devotional. As with other realms, the evaporation of the water represents the consumption of the offering. If rain is one of the events to be observed, the collection of water then presents itself as an opportunity for offerings in other places.
When to make the offering?
If the time of the devotional arises during a weather incident, do the devotion while the event is unfolding. The prayer, blessing, or offering will be consumed when it is transmuted by the fire or carried away by the winds. The fire and the winds will find their way into the sky. What remains is the memory of what was done and the knowledge that it is now on it way.
The sky is accessible to most of us every day. Either by starlight or by sunlight, we can experience and make devotionals to the sky every day. It is nice to have a photograph of the sky on a sky altar. If we find ourselves at a desk for our work, a picture of the sky will allow us a way to connect with the sky even if we cannot be outside at that moment.
For those incidental moments when we are called to devotion, and offering of herbs to a fire, smoke to the sky, or herbs to the wind provide a way to make a devotion when the time is just right. Keeping herbs as offerings for such purposes can be done without taking up a lot of space.
I call out to the sky:
That which stretches forever
Upwards and onwards.
I offer you water you incense
And sweet-smelling scents,
That as they move upwards
They mingle with your breezes
And your currents
That move through the places in my life.
There is no life,
And I honour the life in us both.
I will make these offerings
To you with regularity
Into the skies,
Like clouds rising from the land.
Thank you for the blessings
That you bring to my life.
So be it!
Urban Earth Mother
I discovered the Urban Earth Mother. She wasn't hiding. Heraclitus said "Nature loves to hide." I agree. I never thought I would see her with my own eyes, but she was there. Yet, I have. Somewhere between Texas Imbolc and Pantheacon, I found myself with long layovers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and that is when I found her.
I love to travel, and I love to fly. I think it is important as the Archdruid of ADF that I get out and talk to people face-to-face. As we all know, a lot is missed with virtual communication. I believe people want to see their leaders, not just hear about them. I was doing just this when I discovered the Urban Earth Mother.
It is inevitable, especially with the uncertainty of air travel, that one gets delayed. This seems to happen more and more these days and it happened to me at ORD. As opposed to sitting in a crowded area with lots of talking and announcement, I went in search of some peace and solace. I found it!
She is here!
My search brought me to a small rotunda between several concourses. At the end of Concourse G in Terminal 3, there is a small rotunda and I decided to go up the stairs to see what I could find. As I reached the top of the stairs, I passed a USO club, a Mother’s Room, and then an indoor garden and its accompanying spirit that I call the Urban Earth Mother.
The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) has been busy working on Sustainability. As part of this sustainability, the CDA has installed vegetated roofs, 232,534 square feet of them to be exact, at both Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports. Vegetated roofs help reduce the heat island effect, lower operating costs, double the life cycle of roofs, increase storm water retention, reduce air emission impacts, and reduce noise.
In 2013, the CDA installed an apiary at ORD with a total of 33 beehives. These beehives house approximately 1.3 million bees and is the largest apiary at any airport in the world. I can only imagine that Hannahannas, Earth Mother of the Hittites who has a bee as a messenger, would be impressed.
An Urban Garden
When I walked up the stairs, I was impressed to see something I have never seen before: an Urban Tower Garden. This is where I found this Urban Earth Mother living today. Growl lights illuminate the garden. Nearby windows are very large and stretch about 10 meters in height and 40 meters in breadth.
There are 24 columns that are located below the grow lights and they have multiple, alternating opening in which plants are growing. These plants include Swiss chard, sweet basil, scallions, cabbage, and sage, to name a few. These columns have hose links for watering purposes and the plants do reach skywards towards the (grow) light. With all the noise that one may find at an airport, it is relatively serene around this garden.
Near the back of the garden, close to the windows, new plants are growing. They begin their lives here, in these trays. This is their nursery, where they grow from seedling to plant. Therefore, once they reach a certain height, they are placed into the pillars. These plants get a combination of grow lights and of natural light from the large windows. They reach upwards towards the grow lights, perhaps because that bright light is more intense than the light from outside. It is the presence of life in an environment where typically it would not be possible.
A Different Earth Mother
I experienced a different kind of Earth Mother. In this instance, it is human and nature working together to make an oasis in this urban environment. Through the combination of the two, a place to honour the Earth Mother emerges. It is not the classic temple: there is no open sky over head, nor are there trees nearby. It is not a forest, nor a glen, nor valley. Here technology and green combine into a new matrix. I call this the Urban Earth Mother.
O Earth Mother!
The Urban Earth Mother lives in a different environment. While this indoor place lacks the usual aesthetic that one gets with an outdoor vista, I can feel Her here. I felt serene in the presence of the hanging plants, reaching upwards to the light. I leaned upon the rail and sang the Earth Mother song:
O Earth Mother
We praise thee:
For the seed that springeth,
For the flower that openeth,
For the grass that waveth;
We praise thee:
For the wind that whispereth,
Through the graceful elm,
Through the shapely maple,
Through the lively pine,
Through the shining birch,
Through the mighty oak;
We praise thee:
For all things,
O Earth Mother,
Who giveth life!
I closed my eyes, and I felt her around me, serene in the silence of this urban temple.
I am saddened to announce the passing of long-time member Robin (Beket) Arnhold. Beket, from Eau Claire, Wisconsin,. Beket was a life member of ADF, who joined ADF in early 1989. She was an important figure in the neo-pagan community and Circle Sanctuary described her as “a Pagan Elder, writer, editor, networker, merchant, astrologer, and Weather Witch”. She was closely aligned to the God Lugh and the Goddess Brighid.
She is memorialized in posts from Circle Sanctuary https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/in-memoriam/in-memoriam-robin-beket-arnhold-d-2019, The Wild Hunt https://wildhunt.org/2019/02/pagan-community-news-more-concerns-over-stonehenge-hindu-temple-vandalized-and-more.html#beket, and the Pederson-Volker Funeral Chapel https://www.pedersonvolker.com/notices/Robin-Arnhold.
We wish her blessings on her journey.
Building a Devotional Practice with the Sea
High Days come and go eight times a year. Devotional practices can happened much more regularly, even on a daily basis. What can someone do if they want to develop a monthly, weekly, or daily practice? This series of articles will investigate building a devotional practice with the Three Realms, namely, Land, Sea, and Sky. We will look at Lunar-based devotional practices when we discuss the Sky realm. This is part of our continuing focus on devotional practice.
In coming to the sea as the object of devotional practice, it is hard to speak of the sea without speaking of the motion of the sea. It is also important to determine the scope of the practice towards bodies of water. One may choose between ocean, sea, bay, lake, river, stream, or any of the different ways in which we may experience and devote ourselves to the bodies of water in our lives.
Our bodies are made up of water. The earth on which we live is made up predominantly of water as well, so the sea or body of water as an object of devotion does not seem at all odd or unusual. By honouring the water in our world, as personified by the sea, we honour the water that covers so much of our planet and which comprises so much of ourselves.
There are several Gods that represented the all-surrounding sea, such as Lir or Okeanos. This devotion is not directed towards them individually, but towards water in general, in its various forms.
In making offerings to the sea and/or other body of water, one of the things one must determine is what kind of offering does one make to the sea? While water may be the ideal offering on land, it does seem a bit odd to be offering water to a body of water. Additionally, if one were to use tap water, the offering that is introduced into the sea is one which also has fluorine and chlorine and other compounds and chemicals which may harm that body of water. This may be a less-than-perfect offering.
When we consider devotional practices relating to the sky, especially lunar practices, we will devotionally empower water that we may use to offer to the sea.
A Reverse Offering
If one must, distilled water might be a good offering to use as it should theoretically be neutral. Another excellent offering is really a reverse offering, one in which the devotee takes something away. Litter clean up from bodies of water are the *perfect* offering. This takes away that which is unnecessary from the bodies of water and leaves them cleaner and freer from the clutter of trash. As one removes the trash, one brings about a cleaner area. One’s devotion may then be focused on a gradual and broader cleanup. This provides an interesting change of perspective with offering-of-service as opposed to offering-of-physical-item. In this way, it is not what we give, but what we do which defines the offering. It is through service that we make this important offering.
The sound of the sea and the sound of water rushing or running through a stream are gifts that we receive just by being near a body of water. Therefore, in some ways, offerings may be made for that which has already been received, such as these gentle sounds.
Water to Water
Shining Lakes Grove discovered their River Goddess, Ana, when working with the Huron River. They did this through the application of meditation, trance, and introspection. Over time and through familiarity, the name and character of the river came to be known. Now, it is an essential part of their practice. By working with a waterway or a body of water, a similar understanding may be discovered. Over time, working with the Sea will become more than just interacting with water or a waterway, but will potentially allow the devotee to come to a broader understanding of the interaction of devotion and recognition.
I undertook a similar exercise with a creek that flowed next to one of the apartments in which I lived. The creek is “Silver Creek”, but over time, through interaction, devotion, and familiarity, I came to know that creek as “Ara”, which brought the devotion to another level, one of recognition and mutual benefit. I kept the stream bed clean; the stream provided me with sounds that soothed my soul. I felt that we developed an important understand between the two of us. I no longer live next to Ara, but I still feel that I am in touch with the spirit that lived there.
Living next to a body of water that experiences tidal movements provides a unique opportunity to make offerings. If we recall from the ritual fire that is present in every rite, one of the purposes of the fire is to transmute the offerings presented into smoke that rises to the Shining Ones above us.
What Kind of Offering?
I like to use the materials at hand when doing ritual and/or devotional work. When making a tidal-based offering, wait for the tide to recede from the shore, and one may make an offering on the space that was recently under water. One may use a stick to carve a prayer, a blessing, an offering, or a kind thought to the body of water. Excellent offerings include sea shells, stones, or any natural material found on the shore. It is important that these items will not pollute the sea and which will not harm the surrounding environment
Do the devotion while the tide is moving out. The prayer, blessing, offering, kind thought will be consumed when the tide comes back in. What better way to know that what you have offered has been accepted then by seeing it carried away by the waves. The waves will slowly take the offering out to sea. What remains is the memory of what was done and the knowledge that it is now on it way.
One may not have the ability to visit their body of water every day. One could to take a photograph or make a drawing of the spirit and then one would have the ability to perform the devotion every day. If a photo or a drawing is not possible, then the memory of that spirit will be enough to remind us of the relationship between us. A material link like a stone, a shell, or a piece of driftwood would be a beautiful adornment to any altar or shrine.
I call out to the great sea
You who surround the entirety of our world;
That which is not land, is water.
I offer you clean water to add to
The volumes of water which exist
I will offer this to you with regularity
For the movement of your waters,
Reflect the movement of the waters,
In my life.
Our bodies are made up of water,
And I honour this in you:
We are one in each other.
Thank you for the bounty
That you bring to my life
Working with High Days is a wonderful thing, but High Days come and go eight times a year. What can someone do if they want to develop a monthly, weekly, or daily practice? This series of articles will investigate building a devotional practice with the Three Realms, namely, Land, Sea, and Sky. Lunar-based devotional practices will also be discussed as part of the Sky realm.
In approaching the land as the object of a devotional practice, one should not focus on the creatures living on the land, but the land itself. While all the earth is “land”, each locale has variations and differences that make it unique. One can approach this devotional in one of two ways: a) acknowledging and working with the local variations of the land to anchor one’s practice in context with the local surroundings; or b) working with the land as an entity. This option is not the same as working with the Earth Mother.
In working with the land and devotionals, one should always have an offering in mind. The perfect gift for land-based entities is water. Water will most always be absorbed into the land and will therefore be an offering that will immediately be consumed. I believe that offerings which are immediately consumed are immediately accepted. The land may be found in the soil in a potted plant in your home. It may be found in your garden outside. It may exist in a nearby park. It may be found in a painting or a photograph of a landscape. It is where you find it.
Why establish a devotion to the land, outside of a relationship to the Earth Mother? Let’s use the garden as an example. While I feel that the Earth Mother is at work most directly with the garden, the plants that inhabit your garden are alive and they require your help and your interaction. When I place the plants or seeds in the garden, I am ever-mindful that through the interaction of light, heat, soil, and water – along with some degree of spirit – these plants will either produce fruit, vegetable, flower, or some other bounty that will benefit, feed, beautify, or otherwise enrich my life. Once the plant is first put in the ground or the seed is sown, I say a prayer for the well-being of the seed/plant. I offer my work in planting to a deity, be it Goddess or God, and ask for their blessing while it grows.
As it grows, I remain ever-mindful of the work that must be done between seeding and producing, and I treat the plants as living, beneficial entities. Once the seed is planted and the head breaks through the surface of the soil, there develops a relationship between plant and caretaker. In an area like mine, where rain has become less frequent than before, the plant cannot flourish without my help. This is where devotion arises: in the relationship between need and provision. I provide water so that the plant may grow Water is the offering in and of itself and it is also exactly what the plant needs. A relationship develops between plant and provider that should last all the season long.
Speak in Devotion
As part of the devotional, I think it makes sense to talk to the plants in question, just like you would talk to a deity in one’s devotional practice. My neighbours got over the fact that I was talking to my garden rather quickly and it is just another voice in the wind to them. Another part of this devotional practice, whether it is garden or tree or plant in the window is care of the soil, care for the Earth. We must remove weeds and maintain the general care of the plant. Pruning of branches and care for roots can also be important for trees and saplings.
Land devotionals can extend beyond the garden to roses, trees, lawns, patches of weeds, even potted plants in the house. It really is anything that grows on the earth or in earth. The possibilities are endless.
When it is time to harvest the bounty of the plants, for every fruit, flower, vegetable, herb, etc. that I gather, I always say “Thank you for your bounty”. My offering to these plants, to these residents of the land while they are growing? Water and love. Even after they have ceased producing, I continue to water them and rejoice in the fact that they are alive and sharing this place, this space, with me. The relationship that develops between plant and person is unique – the plant is alive, and I am alive and we both share the need for companionship and nourishment. The devotional we establish becomes a devotion to life, to one of the Spirits of Nature.
The Spirits of Nature teach us of the cycles in our world: birth, growth, flourishing, maturity, decline, and death. By establishing a devotional with the Land, we see, upfront and personal how these cycles work, and we see ourselves, in a small way, in this annual cycle.
We are all used to seeing our lives unfold in a linear fashion. Time moves forward in a straight line and we just add a day every day from the day we are born to the day we pass into the next world. I prefer to look at time in a cyclical manner, where our lives pass in cycles that return, as opposed to a straight line that just keeps going. For me, the hands of the clock measure our lives whether we live one year or 95 years: the clock doesn’t fill out until the end of our days. The hour hand measures our years; the second hand measures our progress through a given solar year. In this way, we are much like our plants, living a yearly cycle.
With a garden, our plants live for a year and then they are no more. With perennials, these plants return every year and we may continue our devotionals with the same plants, our same objects of devotion. For plants that drop seeds, we can then establish devotions with the heirs of last year’s plants. In longer lived plants, like tree, we may find that they outlive us in the grand scheme of things. In this case, if the Gods provide, someone will take our place in the grander cycles of devotion.
When we come to the end of our days, we return to the Earth Mother. Our bodies or our ashes will return to the land and will become a devotional in and of themselves. We will then become a part of the grander cycle of life and return, just like the Land to which we devoted ourselves.
Here is my devotional for the Land:
I call out to the land;;
I offer you water to nurture
Those plants and animals that live
I will water you with regularity
From the living,
To the living,
For the life that arises.
Thank you for the bounty
That you bring to my life.
I wanted to give you the details of some of the items in front of the Mother Grove recently. A select committee of Mother Grove members is working through the SWOT Analysis that was completed earlier this year. We are currently working through that work and will report our findings as they become available.
We are reviewing the appointment process and hope to have a finalized policy available soon.
The Mother Grove is looking at various items on the website that may be outdated and/or have wrong addresses for the ADF Office. There have been some very preliminary discussions about establishing a permanent office location. Currently, the office address changes whenever the office manager changes. This was a non-issue for many years during the tenure of the late Hugh Hampton, but the address has changed twice since then and it might be best to find a way to allow it to remain stable indefinitely.
We are looking for updates on the new ADF Public website and aer hopeful to see its launch very soon. We will soon be putting out a call for a Project Manager to manage the new ADF Public and Member website initiatives and look forward to posting that position in the next few days. After the project manager is selected, we will begin identifying the critical components of the existing website and planning for their migration to a new website.
The ADF Mother Grove Annual Retreat will once again be help in Toledo, Ohio on the first full weekend of December. Our next Mother Grove meeting will be held on Wednesday 12 September at 8PM.
Remember that there are two ADF Festivals this month: Midnight Flame Festival in Bellaire, Michigan and the Rocky Mountain Retreat near Denver, Colorado. If you can attend, please do so.
Jean (Drum) Pagano
News from the Archdruid – Mid Vernal/Autumnal Equinox Season 2018
To begin, please let me cite our ADF Constitution to emphasize how we feel on matters of discrimination:
Article 5: Discrimination
4.Proven communication or behavior that discriminates against any person based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, ethnicity, disability, or any otherwise virulently offensive language shall be grounds for expulsion from ADF. This does not include strong verbal statements about the theology, history, or psychological characteristics of other religions.
There have been a number of issues in front of the Mother Grove and I would like to discuss them here. First and foremost, ADF Elections have just completed and we wish to thank all the individuals that participated as candidates, and also to those who participated in the vote. The newly elected positions are:
Rev. Sean Harbaugh – Vice Archdruid
Desiree Cook – Member’s Advocate
Jenn Hatter – Non-Officer Director
Rev. Lauren Mart – Non-Officer Director
Shaz Cairns – Asia-Pacific Regional Druid
Rev. Amber Doty – Central Regional Druid
Rev. Nancy McAndrew – Southeast Regional Druid
I would like to congratulate each and every one of these individuals and I look forward to working with them in the very near future.
To the following outgoing Mother Grove members, I thank you for your service to both the Mother Grove and to ADF:
Rev. Carrion Mann – Vice Archdruid
Selene Tawny – Non-Officer Director
Electronic Oak Leaves – as of this morning, the dream of an electronic version of our exceptional Oak Leaves publication has become a reality. The Mother Grove has voted to make Oak Leaves available at a reduced cost for our membership. Details will be forthcoming.
ADF Store to be an on-line only store – the Mother Grove has voted to make the ADF Store an on-line only store. It will continue to be available via the website and offer the products it is known for.
The Clergy Council currently does a healing working around the last quarter of the Moon each month. We put together a list of individuals who have agreed to be on the list, and we do a collective working around a certain time. Would there be interest among the Folk for doing the same kind of activity monthly? If so, please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps we can set this up through the Healer’s Guild.
I hope that everyone’s Spring/Autumn is going well, and if you have any comments and/or suggestions, please feel free to send them along.
Vernal and Autumnal Blessings,
Rev. Jean (Drum) Pagano
This has been a busy Imbolc season for ADF. First and foremost, we had forty members of Leadership take Cherry Hill Seminary's Consent Culture course, beginning in late January 2018. Cherry Hill kindly extended us a generous discount for signing up so many members - Thank you, Cherry Hill! - and one former and one current Archdruid donated 25% each towards the total cost of the course.
This was not an easy undertaking for the Leadership group. We really didn't know what to expect from the course since we had roughly one week to sign up and begin the course. This was also a very challenging course for a number of leaders who were themselves victims of sexual abuse. Revisiting difficult and painful topics such as sexual abuse - especially when one was victimized - made for some difficult times for some leaders. In my eyes, I want to thank all the leaders that did take the course. I wanted our leaders to be exposed and made aware of the topics of what exactly a Consent Culture is, what it entails, and how to make ADF - especially ADF groups - safe for our members. Those who completed the course were awarded course credit in Cherry Hill seminary.
The Mother Grove recently brought on a new Public Relations Director. Richelle Stephens came to us through a request for applications from the membership. We are very fortunate to have her on board. ADF Elections are now under way. Our Election Officer, Bonnie Landry, also came to us through an application request from the membership. The election began on March 15th and continues through April 15th.
The Mother Grove is currently reviewing applications for Office Manager. The Office Manager position was vacated last year with the untimely death of Hugh Hampton, long-time ADF Office Manager and friend. Selene has been acting as Interim Office Manager until a new Office Manager is selected. The vision of an Electronic Oak Leaves is becoming a reality. The Mother Grove just passed a motion to make the option of electronic Oak Leaves available to members, so members can choose electronic, hard-copy, or both. Details will be made available in the coming weeks.
A Blessed end to the Imbolc/Lughnasadh season for our members all across the globe and may there be balance as the Equinox comes to our world very soon.
The Earth Mother knows all souls,
The deep waters that flow within her
Are the rivers of our lives,
Flowing and rippling
Until they find their way to the sea.
The waters evaporate into the sky,
They fall as rain,
Until we come again.
-Drum, late Imbolc 2018
News from the Archdruid
Early Imbolc 2018
Greetings! I just returned from Texas Imbolc in Texas and I must admit it is an excellent ADF festival, full of excellent workshops, rituals, and wonderful fellowship. Held at the beautiful U-Bar-U Ranch, it is a great way to begin the festival season. As I mentioned last month, I would like to begin each ADF festival with the first workshop addressing Consent and I am very pleased to announce that the first workshop at this festival was an airing of the “Consent Tea” video followed by a discussion with the attendees.
The Mother Grove voted today 8 for and one abstain to appoint Richelle Stephens as our new PR Director. Richelle’s application came to us via our solicitation for applications. We are very excited to have her join our PR and Social Media team – welcome, Richelle!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mother Grove Approves New Public Relations Manager
Members of the Mother Grove have voted to approve Richelle Stephens (ADF member #11904) for the position of Public Relations Manager.
Stephens is a solitary practitioner in southern Colorado, and joined ADF in 2017. She currently works as a producer in the television news industry, and has experience with video/audio/graphics editing, marketing, and producing content for Web and social media. Stephens’ academic research into reporting on issues of diversity and culture was presented at the First Conference on Louisiana Studies in 2009. She is also developing a blog on full-time RV living.
“I am excited to have someone of Richelle’s caliber help us with our Public Relations work and with our social media presentation,” said Rev. Jean “Drum” Pagano, ADF’s current Archdruid.
Richelle Stephens, PR Manager
New Protogroves announced so far this year:
Winter's Gift Protogrove, January 5, 2018
Protogrove of the Singing Oaks Springs, February 5, 2018
Protogrove of the Three Gorges, February 5, 2018
Pantheacon – San Jose, California (Pan Pagan) 2/15 – 2/19
ConVocation – Dearborn, Michigan (Pan Pagan) 2/22 – 2/25
*Ghosti-Con – Albany, New York (ADF Festival) 3/22 – 3/25
Imbolc and Lughnasadh blessings to People all across the world! The seasons and their cross-quarters dance hand in hand across the hemispheres. The increasing light of Imbolc and the great fires of Lughnasadh give us cause to celebrate!
Imbolc and Lughnasadh blessings to People all across the world! The seasons and their cross-quarters dance hand in hand across the hemispheres. The increasing light of Imbolc and the great fires of Lughnasadh give us cause to celebrate!
A Call to the Nature Spirits
It is cold this winter. Too cold. I feed a couple of outdoor cats and I stopped seeing one of them in mid-December. It is now the end of January and I fear the worst for her, although I remain always optimistic for her return. The life of an outdoor creature is a difficult one anytime of the year. It is especially difficult now.
Everyday, I put food out for my outdoor cats. Every evening I do the same. My other outdoor cat, Ghost or *Ghosti or Ghost-y, comes everyday, often twice, and dines on the offerings I put outside. After the first cold snap in Dec ember, I became worried for these gentle creatures.
When I have a concern, especially beyond the ability I have to care, I turn to the Earth Mother or the Kindreds for help. I thought that if anyone would understand the plight of outdoor animals, it would be the spirits of nature themselves.
I believe that the spirits of nature are instrumental in teaching us about the cyclical nature of reality in our world. They are born, they grow, the flourish, they diminish, and they pass away. Like us. Some of them go through these cycles on an annual basis; others go through it over the course of time. Like us.
While I put out food and shelter for the animals in my world, I begin to think of the other kindred spirits who are struggling with this weather like my friends do. What can I do to help on a grander scale than my offerings of food and shelter on the front porch? I know that my animal friends are not alone in this harsh season. I know there are others, just like mine. I act locally by the things I do here, but I truly feel that by calling upon the ubiquity of the Nature Spirits, that I can help not only my own friends, but all of the other creatures that may need.
Will my offerings be enough to change the reality for millions upon millions of outdoor animals? Probably not. I may help one. I may help a few. I may help an ever-increasing number. Yet, through my practice, I can only do so much. Therefore, I put together a prayer that I say during my daily devotionals (they keep growing!) and I wanted to share that prayer with you.
Here it is:
Hail, Nature Spirits!
I call out to you today,
In this time of cold
And harsh weather.
Please, watch over
Those Nature Spirits who are
Least able to fend for themselves:
Give them food,
Give the shelter,
Protect them from harm,
I pray you, Nature Spirits
Accept these offerings from my hands,
Into the places where they will do the most good.
The offerings I made were ones of food and shelter. I felt that these were offerings of immediacy and speak to the matter at hand. In my prayer, I ask for the Nature Spirits to protect the at-risk animals from harm – this is where the magical protection comes into play.
What exactly can the Nature Spirits do? Will they keep all animals safe from harm? I think probably not. But I do believe, in my small corner of the world, that perhaps the animals at risk will find a place where they can stay out of the elements, either those that I have created, or those small, out of the way places where animals may find shelter.
I believe that offerings and prayers are the things we can do to nudge the universe. I believe that the magic that the Nature Spirits can do is to nudge the physical universe in small ways as to make passage ways open, to make safety and shelter available, where it was seemingly not available before. This is my belief.
It is not difficult for us to relate to the Ancestors – we all have someone that has passed from this world into the next. We can still remember them, we can still recall our interactions, we can still feel their presence in our world. They were there, and now they are not.
It is not difficult for us to conceptualize of the Gods and Goddesses, the Shining Ones. When we first experienced need, or wonder, or piety, we put a face, a feeling, a sense to those entities that we call the Gods. We may not be able to picture them in our minds, but we have a sense for who they are.
It is difficult, I believe, for us to conceptualize of the Nature Spirits. They are the entities closest at hand to us. They are here, living with us in this middle realm, our Earth. The Earth of the Nature Spirits and the Earth of we humans is here together, yet we may never see them. We may find that the unseen among the Nature Spirits are hard to fathom, are just beyond our understanding. Yet, I feel that they are there, waiting. By offering them the hospitality of your home or your environs, you acknowledge them and allow for a deeper relationship to blossom and develop.
The Nature Spirits, in my mind, know those secret and hidden places that our animals friends can use to survive in this harsh time. The Nature Spirits cannot help alter the weather, but I truly believe that they can help other animals endure the weather and flourish. I will make my offering and my prayers. I remain optimistic.
I am writing you today to inform you that Rev. Carrion Mann has resigned as ADF Preceptor effective 31 October 2017. Carrion first took over the job of ADF Preceptor in November of 2014 and was instrumental in implementing some needed changes in the office and the Council of Lore. I want to thank her for her hard work and dedication. Carrion will remain as a resource during the transition to the new ADF Preceptor.
I have asked Rev. Rowen Grove to take over the job of ADF Preceptor and she has accepted. Rowen has been an ADF member since 2010. She finished her DP in 2012, became an Initiate in 2014, completed the Seers Guild Study Program also in 2014, and was Ordained as an ADF priest in 2016. She is a co-founder and Senior Druid of Chokecherry Grove in Denver, Colorado. She is currently working on the Generalist Study Program and the 2nd Circle of the Clergy Training Program.
Please join me in welcoming Rowen as ADF Preceptor.
We send out our hearts and prayers to the victims and families of those killed or injured in Las Vegas. It is impossible to understand the wanton disregard for life in such events but we pray for healing and peace. To this end, we make offerings in memory and hope.
A Setting Sun
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I watched the sun setting tonight, deep and red, a sign of things passing and the long quiet road to the West. We look to the Sun as a guidepost: the morning Sun is new and hopeful; the evening Sun is mournful and passing. I felt that passing tonight.
As I looked to the West, I recalled that my path tomorrow is to the East and Pittsburgh for the memorial service for a man I called a friend and a teacher, Earrach of Pittsburgh. Earrach passed into the realm of the Ancestors on the 31 of August. He was 63.
Earrach was one of what I called ADF Legacy Priests. He was Ordained, along with five other priests, in 2002. In the early days when there was a dearth of priests in ADF, Earrach took up the mantle and wore it like dignity. It always fit him perfectly in my eyes. I found Earrach to be an amazing priest full of wisdom and patience and most of all grace. I think that Earrach was sometimes uncomfortable with his mantle of priest, but he was a damn good priest. I listened to Earrach talk about the Sun, a lot – it was a topic that he was passionate about. Really, without the Sun, where would we be?
Like the rest of us, Earrach had good times and bad. The good times are easy. He was awarded recognition at Wellspring when I was Vice Arch Druid for Excellence in Blogging. His blogging was insightful and he had a large body of work to his credit: the Book of Sassafras is a masterwork, almost a Druidic Proustian offering. It is a collection of Earrach through and through. His marriage to Diana Paar was also what I consider good time. He also had loss and you can often judge a person by how they deal with loss. When Earrach experienced loss, he persevered. I was always amazed at his poise . Regardless of the situation, Earrach kept to the plan. He continued to do the work as though it was the first day of that work and the end of that work was never the issue. He had a keen and Capricornian understanding and appreciation of duty and that-which-must-be-done.
I sat with him as he discussed his “Heresies”, his Druidic ideas that weren’t necessarily orthodox, but which were nevertheless representative of his belief and his practice. He thought about things, he wrote about things, and he did those things. Earrach did not pose or pretend; he was the real deal. When he read an invocation to the Earth Mother, he wasn’t performing a part, he was expressing a prayer, a belief, an understanding. If Earrach said it, he meant it and he believed it. I honour the genuine nature of his presentation and his soul.
I spent a weekend with Earrach helping him with some study matters. It was an interesting combination of learning and detailed discussion around certain topics, mixed with feline matters and numerous trips to his library. He was a man in motion. He looked to the stars and taught others about the wonders of the heavens. He touched a lot of people. He touched my life.
When I was told that he had passed, I could only think of a photo I had seen of him looking up at the eclipse. I wrote this poem for him:
Oh the Journeys through Space!
Not that long ago,
You looked up at the Sun
And the Moon,
As they neared
The vibrant glow of the Sun
Visible to all
As the Moon absorbed all of the light.
Oh the journeys in space!
How much time did you spend
And speaking about the stars?
And the heavens?
And the Shining Ones above?
You used Sun
To make fire
From the heavens
Descend to the Earth.
Oh the journeys through space!
And now, unfettered,
You are free to soar
Among the cosmos,
Between the stars,
Behind the moon on any given night.
Where you once looked up from this little place
Wondering what the heavens did hold,
You now have a panoply of worlds
As you look down onto this little place.
Share them with us now,
As an Ancestor and a friend.
Oh the journeys through space!
Tomorrow, my friend, we honour your work, your person, and most of all your legacy at your memorial service. It will be a time of celebration, recollection, and most of all remembrance with an eye to the most important thing of all right now: the Work Continues. A life is a collection of events that stretch from birth to death and all points in between. A legacy, a living legacy, is that work continuing through others, like a planted field full of wonder and hope. We will bring water to nourish that field; we will bring blessings to praise that memory; we will bring our desire to continue that dream.
Earrach, my friend, the Work Continues. Let’s do it together.
My goodness, how times flies. Some things diminish with the passage of time, others, blessed with a Proustian resilience, stay fresh and vibrant for long after the fact. I recently travelled to Germany to ordain our first European Priest, Rev. Elen Schibli-Lazzaro, and this is one of those events that is indelibly etched in my memory.
We are an offering religion, offerings based on the concept of *ghosti, or hospitality. I am always touched when I find myself in a new or unusual situation and am met by spontaneous hospitality. It renews my faith in humanity and also in my religion.
I recently traveled to Europe to meet with Druids and to ordain our first European priest, Rev. Elen Schibli-Lazzaro. What I found as I hopped from Luxembourg City to Frankfort and then to Padenborn was a different country and a different people. From the air, I saw wind turbines everywhere I looked and interesting stone formations every here and there. I was impressed with what I saw from the air. I was met at the airport and while I had spoken to Elen on Facebook, email, and the telephone, I did not know what to expect when I arrived. What I was soon to learn about my hosts was their kindness and hospitality. I found this to not only be the case with my hosts, but with every person who passed through their door.
Over the next few days, I was made to feel very welcome. On the day of arrival, we did some sightseeing and saw some amazing sights. We went to the Externsteine, which is a sandstone formation in the Teutoburg Forest. There were carvings and grottos, altars and enclosures, things of great beauty and age.
The topmost photograph was a small carved-out area that has an altar-like area within it and I was drawn to the circular opening in the rock on a location known as the Höhenkammer, or High Chamber. I have to wonder what that looks like with the Moon shining through, perhaps even on some solstice or equinox. The bottom photograph is known as the Sargstein or tomb stone. This type of structure is called an Arcosolium and I must say that laying in it was a moving experience. The cool temperature of the stone and the depth of the carving generated a very calming and grounding feeling. The vault overhead echoed when sound was made and I would think that this would be a powerful place for a funeral or initiation. It would make for a profound all-night vigil with the stone overhead, the mountain and grottos behind, and the water very near to the side. The length of the enclosure is approximately 2 meters.
One of the other features of this place is a medieval carving known as the Kreuzabnamerelief or Christ’s descent from the cross. It is an image of some complexity, but there is a component on the sculpting which suggests the Irminsul of the Saxons, although there is no archeological evidence to indicate this site’s use during that period. In this image, Nicodemus is standing on the bent-over Irminsul, although his legs have been missing since the 17th century.
Our next excursion was to the Doernberg area. The Doernberg is an elevation of 396 meters upon which were reputedly found the remains of a ring wall site from La Tène times. A Celtic fort was to have been located on the highest point of this area. It is an area of stunning views and a great place for quiet reflection. I felt that the wind that has blowing here had many stories to tell. There was a stone formation upon which one could recline and it gave me a feeling of deep peace and grounded-ness. I could feel the Earth Mother’s presence everywhere around this location.
There was also a small labyrinth located on the site which we walked and given the location, the subtle wind blowing, and the general feeling of peace that surrounded the entire area, I found the walk to me quite moving.
Being treated to such interesting and historical sites was a wonderful gift from my hosts. There were many more instances of hospitality for me to experience. On the day of the Ordination, people from different parts of Germany arrived. They were so very different and such good guests (from the guest perspective that I enjoyed). They weren’t here to celebrate ADF per se, but the ordination of one of their own, a new German and European priest. People spoke German, French, English, and probably a few other languages. People wore different attire, clothing which represented their traditions, their philosophies, and perhaps even their locations. Many people stopped to speak with me and I was very pleased to speak with people who spoke English so well. I had a fascinating discussion with a philosophy student concerning his views, especially some interesting thoughts about gift economies. The concept of a gift economy is especially interesting to people who follow a path of hospitality.
As a participant in the ordination rite, I was honoured to be a part of this historic occasion and pleased to see the progress that this priest had made. I am very encouraged by our European presence and especially excited about the first of what I believe will be more priests. As an observer in the ordination rite, I loved to see the various people and their presentations, both is clothing and in attitude. Everyone made me feel welcome and I felt a kinship to these wonderful people. I felt like a novelty at this event, but these people, these kind people, made me feel like one of them for an afternoon.
As the ceremony ended and the celebrations began, many people stopped by to say “hello”, paused to talk, and openly shared their thoughts and joys at the days events. I was like a sponge, absorbing the wonders of the days, and holding on to this feeling with a great desire to make it last, in my recollection, and in the workings of the future, both in Europe and around the world.
I had a dream of seeing ADF grow in Europe and that dream was solidified by this ordination event, this priestly and personal success for Elen, and this gathering of peoples to see her become an ADF priest. Our ritual was celebrated in the shadow of a medieval fort, high on a hill. It was like the past was looking down on us in silence and in a gentle, reverent observation. Our many robes of many colours were like flowers in a garden that was blossoming in the late spring. Each observer, each participant was seed, carried to the winds with their departure. This garden became their garden became a patchwork of hopes and good works.
The hospitality I experienced from my hosts is difficult to express because of the breadth of caring and sharing that came to pass on those few days in the green fields of this green land. As I walked into the airport and then flew high over the land, I saw the many windmills that stretch across Germany and I thought about the seeds in the garden in Hessen planted by and planted in a group of people, scattered in the winds by the windmills that dot the landscape, borne about by the sunshine of hope and beauty that community bring. We are so much greater when we link hearts and hands in the work of the future.
To these people – I will call them friends – I look back and pledge never to forget and I pray that I may return again, like the Nature Spirits remind me each year. I take those seeds and I plant them as words in this story. Please, give them water and sunshine and treat them like a cherished guest, as I was.
The ADF AED makes its first appearance at Summerlands 2017.
The ADF AED
The AED came to us as a suggestion from Bonnie Lyn Landry. We liked the idea and acted upon it. It will go to every ADF festival that requests it. Thank you to Bonnie and the Mother Grove for making it happen!
Recent events have brought the blight of racism back into the forefront of our lives once again. Sadly, racism still exists throughout the world and we as a people and a church look forward to the day when it is no longer a threat to people anywhere and everywhere.
Racism has no place in ADF and no place in our world. Let us continue to live by our virtues and follow our vision for a better world, today and tomorrow.
Let us ask the Ancestors for the Wisdom to learn from the mistakes of the Past; the Nature Spirits for the strength of Perseverance in the Present, and the Shining Ones for the Vision to carry forward into the Future.
Solstice – this brings to mind two things: planting the seeds and preparing to harvest. One is impossible without the other. While one hemisphere is thinking about the lengthening days, the other is preparing to gather in the fruit of their efforts in the shortening days. Due to the fact that we have members in both hemispheres of the globe, I find it more holistic – if I may – to speak about the two halves as one, of the two events as one since they happen at the same time. It is relativity in motion.
Many years ago, I had an idea of trying to talk to our friends in other Druid communities and to seek the commonality in our ways, the likeness in our practice. It was a seed that I planted and a notion I kept watering over the years. Beginning at Pantheacon this year with some conversations with Kristoffer Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order, and continuing with some conversations with Philip Carr-Gomm of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, I decided to approach them both to see if we could begin to describe ourselves as more generally “Druid” while celebrating our own individual paths. After all, there is strength in numbers.
This is not an attempt to convince the Anglesey Druids to become ADF members or to convert the collection of Bards, Ovates, and Druids into ADF Druids. It is a wish to explore how we are alike while celebrating that we are different. Whether we are Revival Druids, Reconstruction Druids, or Isaac’s Vision Druids, we are Druids.
When I think about what I DO as a Druid, I think about my ADF practice and how it defines how I worship, how I relate to the Earth Mother, and how I offer and acknowledge the Kindreds. After spending time with Kristoffer and reflecting on my ritual experience with OBOD at Glastonbury Tor, I realise that we are all Druids first and foremost.
There is something to be learned each step along the way. While I have been an ADF Druid for 33 years, I felt that it was important to continue my education along the way. I consumed RDNA information a number of years ago and that experience has enhanced my Druid practice, my ADF practice. My OBOD training, from Bard to Ovate to Druid was equally enlightening. For one thing, OBOD training is beautiful – it is a work of Bardic Art and it is pleasing to the eyes and the soul as well. Each lesson was beautifully written and I anxiously awaited the arrival of each new installment. There were delays but I completed my Druid Grade training in OBOD a number of years ago and I was impressed that I received a letter from Philip Carr-Gomm when I finished.
At the time, I was the Vice Archdruid of ADF. I knew from my own studies that all Druids shared some fundamental views. Let’s face it, without the revival, modern Druidry may have never existed. I wrote to Philip Carr-Gomm at the time and said “Let’s explore our commonalities.” Philip graciously invited me to OBOD’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Glastonbury and I planned on attending until my traveling companions could not make it that year.
Being a determined person, I did not give up and continued the communication with Philip and upon becoming Archdruid, I contacted him and said “Let’s explore our commonalities.” Philip once again graciously extended an invitation and again I had to wait. Earlier this year, one of our European Clergy students completed their studies and asked to be ordained. I was thrilled, of course, and when she said that she wanted to be ordained on 10 June, one week after the OBOD Summer Gathering, I knew that things were falling into place.
In ADF, Hospitality is one of our virtues and -in my opinion – the greatest of our virtues because it requires at least one other person to make it complete: we cannot be hospitable unto ourselves. From the moment I arrived at the train station and met Philip Carr-Gomm until the time we parted three days later, I was amazed and awed by this kind, hospitable, wise and gentle man. I was treated with the greatest of hospitality and warmness and am still reflecting back on my encounter with Philip, his lovely wife, and the many stories and situations we shared on the journey to Glastonbury. Is this not what pilgrimage is made of, the sharing of stories, experiences, and lives while moving rapidly (or not-so-rapidly in a traffic sense) towards our destination?
I was made most welcome by the OBOD folks. I was invited to supper by Damh the Bard and this was like a fan moment. Damh’s music is legendary and he is an amazing performer and a more amazing individual. He was so very kind to this traveler throughout the weekend. If you haven’t heard Damh the Bard or the Druidcast program, please do – you owe it to yourself to hear this great podcast and this great performer. He is a Bard and a Gentleman. I am an even bigger fan than ever.
The purpose of my meeting with Philip was to explore our commonalities. He is the Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I am the Archdruid of ADF and a Druid Grade member of OBOD as well. Philip introduced me to the Gathering as the Archdruid of ADF and I was warmly welcomed and fielded a number of questions from interested people. The morning was opened by a wonderful ceremony around the altar in the center of the room and after opening comments by Philip, we broke into groups by Grade, and I found myself in session with the Druid Grade people. I have to admit to being a little intimidated – this being my first OBOD Gathering – but I was made to feel at home and joined right in with the meditations and work at hand. Each Grade was tasked with presenting a piece of the ritual later in the day around the theme of water.. The group I was with went right to work and it was a pleasure to see an entire room full of diverse people working together towards one end. The final result of the morning’s work was a stunning piece of ritual work that came together very beautifully and was accomplished with grace and professionalism. I was proud to be a part of this work.
Morning grew into afternoon and I decided to walk to Glastonbury Tor, robe in hand, to get ready for ritual. All pilgrimage requires journey, and this was no exception. There are two paths to the Tor: one steep, and one gradual. I, unknowing, face to the wind on the Celtic journey of discovery, chose the former. It was a less-than-gradual uphill, through a few turnstiles, finally to the road that led to the base of the Tor. The day was cool and breezy. At the entrance to the Tor was a small truck selling Sno-Cones – it surely was a commentary on the weather,
As I walked up to the path to the top of the Tor, I was amazed at how steep the pathway was, but, the determined pilgrim, I put on my robe and began the ascent. As I moved around the side of the Tor, I was impressed by the view: clouds stretched across the sky, but the land stretched into small hills or mountains in the distance, remnants, perhaps, of the old straight tracks of which I had read. When I finally reached the top and Saint Michael’s Tower, I knew that I had made it to a special place. Druids and interested people were milling about and the wind was blowing. A light rain was falling and the air was full of anticipation.
Suddenly, from across the way, I heard “Drum! Ca va?”. Paul, one of our ADF members from Wales just happened to be on hand. In a sea of new people, it was unexpected to see a familiar face. It made me think that perhaps there were more general commonalities than I expected.
The ritual was a beautiful OBOD rite, and while the weather was cool and rainy, the work that had been done by each of the grades was really appropriate to what was to be done. A raven kept circle clockwise around the tower, riding the updrafts. I took this as a favourable sign. The rite was a success and the walk down the Tor ( a much easier route ) was not a chore, but a joy.
The evening was filled with food, fun, and entertainment, with bardic performances and offerings by a number of members. At the end of this long day, I was very tired and sleep did not take long to find and embrace me. The Inn where I stayed was called The Apple Tree. What a perfect name for an Bed and Breakfast in Avalon. I slept the sleep of sweetness and delight.
The next day was to be a busy day: Philip would give his view of the next 30 years, I would be invited to speak about ADF, and then Philip and I would speak together and field questions and discuss our commonalities. I was very excited for the day, yet rueful of the thought that this glorious gathering would come to an end.
The next day, we gathered again and listened to Damh the Bard – which is exquisite in person, I must say. Philip spoke about the progress that OBOD has made in the last thirty years and talked about his vision of the future. I was then given the opportunity to speak about ADF and I talked about some of the things that I feel define ADF: our polytheism, Isaac’s vision, the Core Order of Ritual, and our focus on hospitality and making offerings. I talked about how we honour the Kindreds: the Ancestors, the Spirits of Nature and the Shining Ones. I also spoke about how I felt that we share a common link – our Druidry and our love for nature. While our rituals may be different, we still gather and worship on the High Days like all Druids do. There is a fire in our rituals and fire is honoured in theirs as well. We call to the Land, the Sea, and the Sky, and, in their own way, they do as well.
Philip and I shared a microphone and a common cable that attached us both for our question and answer session. . This was a practical electronic requirement but it was also a symbol of how we used a common link to bring us together: our Druidry. We talked about our similarities and our differences: ADF has a clergy whereas OBOD does not; ADF is neopagan and OBOD is not. We could dwell on the differences, but the similarities are much more interesting.
As the gathering ended, I was left with a profound sadness at seeing the many kind people leave for their own lives, and I for mine. Philip was kind enough to drive me to London for my rendezvous the next day with the continent. On the way to London, we drove by Stonehenge and I felt that my trip was complete. As I stood on the curb and watched Stephanie and Philip drive away, I began to miss Glastonbury and the beauty of my pilgrimage. I was already thinking about how I could return again, and hopefully soon.
After all, we are all Druids.
Hello, Fellow Druids!
Our ADF General Elections have just come to a close and I want to thank each and every one of our members who voted for taking part in the process of building ADF. Each vote matters and some races were very close.
With this election, we will see some new faces in some positions and some familiar faces in others. We thank the people who put themselves out in the election as candidates. While not everyone was a winner, each candidate received the votes and approval of a number of members.
On the Mother Grove, we will have a number of people remaining and we will have one person leaving and another joining. For Rev. Caryn MacLuan, I want to thank you for your wisdom and service in your time on the Mother Grove. I have grown to admire you even more and I appreciate the help you have given to the Mother Grove, to ADF, and to myself. For Julie Desrosiers, our incoming Non-Officer Director, we will once again have an International member of the Mother Grove from Canada and we look forward to your place among us.
Service is a gift we give others and I want to thank all of the people in all of the positions, old and new, for continuing their service to not only ADF, but to the Earth Mother, the Kindreds, and Isaac’s Vision as we move into the future, fast as a speeding oak.
Rev. Jean (Drum) Pagano
When something really special happens, I usually make offerings. I wouldn't call it superstition, I would call it thankfulness. To some people, ADF is a North American phenomenon, an American phenomenon. It really is much more. The desire and ability to reach out to our members wherever they may be has been a foundation of my practice as Archdruid.
Part of Isaac's Vision is to have indoor temples/sacred groves throughout North America and Europe. I saw in Australia two years ago and in Brazil last year that ADF has not only members, but places of worship in more than just those two continents. In fact, ADF has members on six continents, with Groves and Protogroves on four of those six continents. We are not just an American phenomenon.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to Ordain our first Canadian priest coming out of our new Clergy Training Program. Our Clergy once again extended past the boundaries of the United States and we Ordained a remarkable priest by the name of Rev. Lisa Wasilkowsky Malik. This Training Program is also a part of Isaac's Vison, namely to create a professional clergy training program equal in difficulty and superior in results to anything done by the world's other religions. We like to believe that the program is demanding and more importantly, that it is verifiable.
Just this month, ADF passed a milestone: we approved our first European priest, Rev. Elizabeth (Ellie) Schibli-Lazzaro, our European Regional Druid and the leader of one of our German Protogroves, Adrana ProtoHain. Ellie has worked hard on a program that is not in her native language and has done exceptionally well. She has helped to translate a number of ADF documents and pages into German. This is not an insignificant event.
Our founder, Isaac Bonewits, had envisioned the global reach of ADF. The ordination at Three Rivers festival in Canada last year and this ordination in Germany demonstrates that ADF has an appeal abroad. It shows that our belief in reciprocity and our virtues strike a chord with people everywhere.
It is one thing to start a Grove or a Protogrove in ADF. People who run these organizations spend a lot of time in planning, reporting, and executing the necessary functions of these groups. Ritual planning is not trivial, getting the word out to nearby individuals is not always easy, and introducing a concept like ADF to individuals in a different country or another continent takes a certain amount of vision, which just happens to be one of our virtues.
As part of their ordination package, we require applicants to send us a video of them doing a full Core Order of Ritual rite, which is the standard presentation for ADF Druids, especially for High Days. For all of our previous ordination candidates, the rituals were presented to us in English. Since Ellie is German, I asked her to present her ordination video in German, because I wanted us to see exactly what her protogrove members see when she does ritual. Ellie presented us a video in German, with an accompanying translation so that we could follow along. It was a powerful experience to see the Core Order of Ritual expertly performed in a foreign language. I have been fortunate enough to have had this experience in Brazil last year, but in this way, all of the Clergy Council officers were able to see this event for themselves. It really brought home the understanding that we have moved far from our own borders and boundaries into a new world, an expansion of the vision that we all follow.
I will be ordaining Ellie in June in Germany. I look forward to this opportunity to expand our clergy onto a new continent and I am hopeful that this will encourage others, not only In North America and Europe to seek the Clergy, but also in Australia, South America, Africa, and Asia to expand the vision even further. Assuredly, people do not need to be priests to expand the vision of international practice, but in order to fulfill the "create a professional clergy training program equal in difficulty and superior in results to anything done by the world's other religions", they do.
I am proud of all of our priests and for the work that they have done and continue to do, but I am especially proud of our newest priest for expanding our practice across an ocean, across a linguistic divide, and into a new paradigm and understanding. I am proud of Ellie for being such a pioneer.
ADF gained a new priest just now, but, in another way, we grew up a little today, and it feels like a new day. To all of those, human, Ancestor, Spirit of Nature, Shining Ones, and Earth Mother, for this blessing, Accept Our Offering.
There is an ogham called "Tinne" that is associated with the Holly tree in the Colin Murray system. This ogham is located right in the middle of the fifteen ogham consonants: B-L-F-S-N-H-D-T-C-Q-M-G-nG-Z-R. For this reason, I always tend to associate Tinne with a balance point, a place right in the middle, a location in between.
The equinoxes are a "Tinne" type of event for me. The days and nights are balance across the equator, and I like to believe that there is this fine line, this separate moment at which point all is in balance and then the world either moves towards longer days or longer nights. Wait! It happens at the same time! In addition, as one side moves to greater light and one side moves to greater night, it is done so in balance.
The concept of the Wheel of the Year, while valid for a given location doesn't really seem valid on a global sense. We see the world through a very local lens, but, as modern pagans, we must be cognizant of a more global view. We may have our local Earth Mothers - as our ancestors did - but the Earth Mother extends everywhere. The famous image of the view of the Earth from the Moon really drove this point home. Our Earth is a world in motion.
Since the world is in motion, I do not believe that a two-dimensional wheel properly describes the scenario of the seasons. It isn't just the calendar dates that move; the winds move over the surface of our world; the seasons express themselves in varying and different ways through the crust of the Earth; the waters that travel the surface of our world are always in motion, such as rivers and streams and ocean currents; the still waters, be they lake or pond or bog are also in flux due to evaporation. The waters deep in the Earth, the underground waters that flow as the lifeblood of the Earth Mother, past the Ancestors, through the caverns deep in the Earth, are constantly in motion. The molten core of the Earth is also in motion and moves to points of expression throughout the surface of our world.
I am not sure how one would describe this kind of motion, but it isn't a simple spin of a wheel. It is more like perpetual motion with intent and spirit behind it. It is motion that expresses itself in many ways and in many directions yet, when matched against the calendar, this constancy of motion does move in a linear path through the year with opposite events set apart across the equator. As the days get longer, the nights get equally longer on the other side of the equator until the Sun seems to stop on the Solstices and the motion turns around. The days and nights then move towards a balance which is achieved at the equinoxes and then the cycles continue. Here we have the movement of the various streams over, on, and under the Earth set upon a backdrop of the Earth's own movement through the solar system.
Tinne is the balance point. I like to think that for one brief and fleeting moment, all of the Earth and the seasons are balanced like a cosmic dance which never ends, is always in motion, and pauses just ever so slightly, when music and motion and constancy stop only to enter into motion once again.
My festival season is most of the year. I attend festivals representing ADF from February through November and it is a task I gladly undertake and enjoy. This year, I looked forward to attending, once again, Hearthstone Grove's Texas Imbolc Retreat, held at the U-Bar-U Ranch in the Texas Hill Country near Kerrville.
I flew into San Antonio because it is the closest airport to Texas Imbolc and it is a smaller, cozier airport. I landed, picked up a rental car, and headed out on the road. I arrived at the turnoff a little over an hour later and the journey began.
The road to the U-Bar-U is very, very hilly and some parts must be taken with caution. Going down these roads too quickly would cause a person to bottom out and to most likely incur some damages along the way. I took my time, I watched the scenery, and I slowly started to relax into the serenity of the land.
This view outside of my window was dry and arid, with many rocks and goats and gnarled trees along the way. The spaces between places were wide and vast and almost empty. I followed the road until it ended and then took a left turn. I followed the slow, rocky path to the U-Bar-U ranch and my adventure began.
When I first attended this festival - five years ago, I believe - there was no bunkhouse. There were two large rooms with bunk beds in the lodge proper and everybody slept in one or the other. It was very "cozy", but not very private. Two years ago, a new bunkhouse opened that is just beautiful and that has modern facilities and fewer people per room than before. The design of the bunkhouses is such that it blends fairly well with the local scenery and is in no way an eyesore.
The first thing I always notice upon arrive is the stillness of the land. There is often a breeze that blows, but it is more like a whisper than a shout. There is a beautiful stone fire pit and there was already a fire burning when I arrived. I was greeted warmly upon arrival - as always and as everyone is.
I saw many familiar faces: the Hearthstone Grove, the Nine Waves Grove, and the Blackland Prairie Protogrove, even the faces of the U-Bar-U staff were familiar. I saw John Beckett, ADF members, mystic Old Testament Christians, Wiccans, heathens, and a wonderful cross-section of folks and friends. While this is distinctly an ADF festival, it really is a lot broader than just that. Or perhaps ADF is broader than just that.
The opening rite was a great way to start a festival. Nine Waves Grove gave us a ritual to remember: well executed, effective, and welcoming. I was very impressed. It was a good omen for the weekend to come.There was a really interesting and beautiful Slavic Ritual that wasn't ADF Core Order, but it was it was nice to see something quite different from what I have experienced before. At one point in the ritual, an apple was passed from person-to-person, touched to the next person's forehead, and then passed along. I thought that was a gentle way to share a sense of community.
This was the story of the weekend. An easy information flow from presenter to audience with a sincere desire to inform, to entertain, and to help. The food was good, the company was better, the weather was so pleasant, and people came together and shared. Isn't this what festival is about? The original festival movement in the latter part of the previous century was centered around the exchange of information and the joyful discovery that there were other people out there that not only had the same interests as other people, but a similarity of practice as well. This weekend was no exception.
One of the other benefits of the weekend was for people to meet face-to-face to talk. While this is not always possible, this is an ideal way to exchange thoughts and ideas that reduces the chance of misunderstanding and increases the possibilities of really communicating. It makes a difference when a person can see the other person and I hope that such encounters can continue at the U-Bar-U for years to come and that these events, more and more, can either be videotaped or broadcast live to people who did not have the ability to attend.
The Core Order of Ritual was the structure used for the opening, main, and closing rituals. As I have noticed time and time again, the Core Order is broad enough to allow people from different traditions to worship together while allowing room for individual expression and tailoring, especially in the personal offering and workings section of the ritual. The Pre-Ritual Briefing remains a powerful tool in helping people to know what to expect and to understand any local variations that might occur.
I want to thank everyone who attended for their attentiveness in the workshops, rituals, and general times of sharing. The weekend passed by all too quickly with a minimal amount of drama and a great deal of understanding and patience.
I spent a lot of times outdoors at this festival, relishing the beautiful weather and the land that made me feel timeless. The liminal times of the day were so still and so powerful, with that slight breeze blowing, the sound of wind through branches, and a brilliant dawn and dusk. The Full Moon was a beautiful gift to a peaceful sky, out amidst the stones and the trees. Venus shone like a bright beacon and it slid slowly towards the horizon as the night overtook the remnants of the day.
I stood outside and I listened. I closed my eyes and let the Sun dance on my face and the breeze tell me stories that it had told before, would tell again, and would re-tell, even if no one was there to hear. The Hill Country moved slowly through time, and I moved slowly through them both, as though my life was Tai Chi and my religion was that dance. I felt as though I could be a tree under that sky. I would open my soul and be like a rock or a goat or better yet, a tree. The wind from the West would tell tales. And I would listen.
The ADF Mother Grove is pleased to announce the establishment of a corporate sponsorship with American Forests. American Forests was established over 140 years ago, and they have planted over 150 million trees since 1990 alone. In fulfilling our values as an organization to honor the Earth Mother and be of service to the land, ADF will be able to make a positive impact on our environment through this partnership. To ensure the partnership is one ADF would like to continue in the long term, this trial sponsorship is entirely funded by members of the Mother Grove and will have no fiscal impact on the organization. In addition to this new sponsorship, ADF Archdruid Rev. Jean Pagan has pledged to plant a tree through American Forest for every NEW membership in 2017, starting on January 1st.
As Rev. Pagano states:
"The Mother Grove has decided to reach out and partner with the American Forests organization. We hope to preserve and protect the world in which we live by planting trees and supporting the Earth on which we live. American Forests believes that "together we can make a difference, one tree at a time, one acre at a time, and one forest at a time".
"This is a trial sponsorship funded entirely by contributions from the Mother Grove. This is a one year trial for us to work with an environmental group that has a Charity Navigator rating of 91 and is willing and happy to partner with Ar nDraiocht Fein, a neopagan, Druidic Church. We look forward to a productive year together."
For more information, please see www.americanforests.org <http://www.americanforests.org>
The Blessings of the Earth Mother to one and all!
I was fortunate again this year to be able to celebrate both Samhain and Beltaine within the same week. It is so very interesting how different the world is just across a single divide. Having travelled between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres for two years now, I have come to believe and understand that there just isn't Samhain and Beltaine, there is actually Samhain/Beltaine and the Earth Mother expresses herself as both seasons at the same time.
I still find myself looking out the window here, in North America, thinking about what I saw and experienced there, in South America. I surely will never forget the beauty of the incredible scenery, rich plant life, and beautiful ocean that was just within reach. The hospitality of my hosts, the members of Fine Na Dairbre Protogrove, was something I will cherish for a long, long time.
I vowed to visit members in Australia last year, which I did to coincide with the wonderful Mount Franklin Festival, and then this year to visit with our Brazilian members, at Fine Na Dairbre Protogrove. I wanted, first and foremost, to show people that ADF has many faces and that mine is one of them. I wanted people abroad to know that ADF is more than just the e-lists or the Facebook pages that bear the name "Ar nDraiocht Fein". I wanted members to understand that we truly are an international organization, an international Druid Fellowship, and most of all, an international church.
While I know that some people dread the thought of a long airplane flight (14 hours LAX to Melbourne or 10 hours DFW to Sao Paolo), I have grown to view it as a rebirth in a way, from my old life in some airport in the United States to a new destination in a foreign land. Not only am I reborn into a new place, but I am reborn into a new season, a total 180 degree turn from where I was. It is probably the closest I will ever come to a Tardis.
I arrived in Sao Paolo (and eventually in Curitiba - pronounced Curichiba) rather unprepared. While I had spent time studying syntax and the history of the Portuguese language, I was totally unprepared for any conversation in this language. I am fluent in French and can understand and do fairly well in Spanish), but Portuguese not only is a very different language, it sounds very different. I loved listening to the lyrical and musical quality of this beautiful language, but when I first arrived, I couldn't understand a word. I was lucky that my rather rusty Spanish was enough to get me to the right baggage area and then onto my next gate. This was all part of the rebirth-transition that was built into this trip. While I was never really able to hold a conversation in Portuguese, I did eventually arrive at the ability to understand parts of what people were saying.
After a long layover and a good amount of delicious coffee, I was on the flight to Curitiba and the welcome arms of my hosts, Marina, Alessio, and Erik. What better way to arrive any where than to find smiles, open arms, and warm hearts. I knew, upon arrival, that I was blessed. We drove back to Curitiba, rather speedily by my slower, North American standards, and I was feted with delicious food and intriguing conversations. Each of my hosts spoke English and I have vowed to learn Portuguese for my next trip back there. (Yes, I will go back; yes, I must go back).
Conversation quickly turn to ADF, not surprisingly, and I was asked what was next for ADF and I gave them a brief outline of my vision as an extension of Isaac's Vision. A rather long discussion ensued and after a while I decided to return the favour and ask them what they thought about ADF - a totally opened ended question. I was about to learn a few things.
I was told that since we tell people that we are an international organization that we should act like one. Wow. While many of our members are from North America, we are experiencing growth in countries outside of North America. It is easy to forget that life goes on outside of our national boundaries, but it does. There are certain words and concepts that we use over and over again and we assume that everyone knows what they mean - this is not the case. Here,in some of our posts, we discuss political issues and often refer to liberals and conservatives, or left and right wings. These mean different things in different places and we need to learn to use these terms more wisely. In Australia, the Liberal Party is really the more conservative of a number of political parties and it is the Labour Party which is really more what we would call "liberal". In Brazil, left-wing denotes communist or socialist and these terms may or may not be positive terms in the ears of the listeners. The concept of "Freedom of Speech" is not a universally observed. While we take it for granted and while people here often say whatever they may please because they feel they have the right to do so, this sometimes takes people abroad a little by surprise.
One suggestion that was made was to use ADF Discuss or the General Discussion ADF page to discuss general questions about ADF and not necessarily about politics or other issues that may not be of interest or germane to a foreign (or domestic) audience. While we may have pressing social issues here in America, those issues may be seen totally differently abroad or may be viewed in a broader manner such as poverty or environmental issues. I think it is important to remember context and immediacy. After all, 13% of our membership lives outside of the United States.
In speaking with one of the Protogrove members, I was surprised to discover that they had let their membership lapse.. When I questioned them about it, I was told that an ADF Priest had told them that if they didn't believe in a particular way (and this was not about religion), that they shouldn't renew their membership. To say that I was flabbergasted is an understatement. I explained to this newly-renewed member that just because this person is a priest, does not indicate that they speak for the membership or leadership of ADF. No one in leadership should ever tell another member not to renew because of a difference of opinion: we are orthopraxic and not orthodoxic - we won't tell you what to believe. And, more importantly, we will never tell you not to renew. I would not consider that telling a person not to renew is a leadership statement from a priest. In fact, it is quite the opposite. As Archdruid and as a member of the Mother Grove, I apologized to them all for this particular incident.
Finally, I was told that the Dedicant Manual needs a definite revision and I tend to agree. I am going to run this proposal past the Mother Grove and the ADF Preceptor for comment. I have often told people that the Dedicant program is a series of 11 assignments packaged into one large submission. I think perhaps a review of the presentation and some of the verbiage might be in order.
Next in Part II: The Beltaine Rite
A Question of Balance
It is not hard to sense a lack of balance in the world around us from time to time. Even close to home, balance may seem illusive and it appears, at times, as though there is an effort to unbalance things in general from the world without.
It is in time like these that we look to ourselves for balance. It is when one looks within to ground and center and attempt to rediscover or to rekindle that balance. Winter and summer are an example of that balance. In one hemisphere we have the longest day or the year; in another we have the shortest day of the year. Somewhere, in some barrow or mound, the rays of light are finding their way down some long-ago constructed passage way to show the treasures and wisdom found therein.
Now that our inner chambers have been enlightened, it is time to DO something as opposed to just finding our center and holding it. While one may assuredly do a Core Order of Ritual to celebrate the High Day, what about the other 55 days in between? I have a suggestion which might help and may be easier that a Core-Order-Ritual-a-Day: how about devotionals?
Devotionals are really all about balance. We make offerings to an entity because we are a) devoted to that entity, and b) devoted to our practice. An entity, to define my terms, may be an Ancestor, a Nature Spirit, or a Shining One. The divisions thereunder are many and varied.
Devotionals are meant, in my opinion, to be daily events. By building a daily practice, we get better acquainted with the spirits that we work with. Household spirits are a good place to start, in my opinion, because we share a space with them on a daily basis. I consider them to be spirits of nature and certainly spirits of the place.
At the end of this post, you will find a devotional addressed to Manannan mac Lir. This is something I use of a daily basis and I wanted to present it as an example that everyone can do, solitary or non-solitary alike. I feel devotionals such as this may help keep a member’s interest and practice piqued between High Days. I know that many of our Solitary members feel isolated or alone out there. The use of devotionals, especially as summer and winter bring long days and / or long nights, is a great way of developing relationships and keeping the ADF work alive in our lives, today and everyday.
I hope this devotional brings you closer to Manannan Mac Lir and the to balance we all seek.
A Manannan mac Lir Devotional
Hail to you, Manannan mac Lir,
God of the Irish Sea,
Lord of the Isle of Mann,
He who walks upon the waves.
There are rocks that jut from the water, my Lord,
Please protect me from them;
There are eddies that form along the shore, my Lord,
Please protect me from them;
There are pitfalls and traps along the Way, my Lord,
Please protect me from them.
As I begin my journey this day,
Please stand with me, my Lord;
As I continue my journey this day,
Please walk with me, my Lord;
As I near my destination,
Please consul me as to the path ahead, my Lord.
Help me to walk with wisdom today,
And every day,
Let me walk the Narrow Way,
The Watercourse Way,
And set me true to my course.
Accept this offering my Lord:
I honor and I thank you,
Manannan mac Lir.
As issued by the ADF Mother Grove
We call out to those in need and voice our support and solidarity with the
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe:
We ask that the remains of ancestors be respected and not be destroyed,
damaged, or moved without exercising the greatest of care and understanding
in relocating remains, if such an activity is called for. If at all
possible, we would like ancestors left when ancestors have been laid to
rest. We hold our ancestors sacred and hold the ancestors of the indigenous
people of this continent sacred as Ancestors of the Bone, namely those
ancestors that lived on the land before us;
We ask that sacred sites be left alone and not turned under by plough, by
bulldozer, or by excavation equipment when other alternatives present
themselves. Holy sites retain the blessings of the Nature Spirits that have
communed, convened, and celebrated on those spots. When at all possible, we
ask that these sites be left in the way that they were found: still
accessible to those who practice their ways there and safe from unnecessary
We honor those who wish to preserve, protect, and revere the sacred
life-giving waters that are a gift to all from the Mother Earth, or Earth
Mother, to the people who live and worship on the land. We recognize that
the Earth Mother is not the same for all people, but bends, shapes, and
adapts Herself to the locations on which she extends and flourishes. We
honor the Earth Mother in our ways, and we honor the Earth Mother in the
ways of those who live in this place.
We call out to those in need and voice our support and solidarity with the
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and give blessings for peace and success.
To Those of Open Minds and Open Hearts, we at ADF reaffirm that which we hold important:
“Membership and rank in ADF, attendance at public or semipublic ADF activities, and participation in any Druidic Study Program, shall not be denied to any person on the basis of race, ancestry, color, physical disability (except as mentioned elsewhere in this article), age, gender, or affectional orientation, but may be denied to individuals practicing creeds inimical to Neopagan Druidism.”
“Proven communication or behavior of a virulently racist, sexist, homophobic, heterophobic, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted manner, shall be grounds for expulsion from ADF.” (ADF Constitution, Article 5, Discrimination) Many ADF members follow the Northern Gods and they, along with all of our members and people of like practice, honor these words, these ideals, and this Way.
Rev. Jean (Drum) Pagano Archdruid ADF
The Practical Value of Devotion
I have often talked about the importance of daily devotionals. We, as ADF Druids, often state that by making offerings one builds relationships between the Kindreds, the Earth Mother, and almost any deity or spirit one may think of. We feel that this is the case; we believe that this is the case. It is fundamental to how we worship: we give so that the Kindreds/Earth Mother/deities/and spirits may give back in return. “May” is the functional word in this statement. I believe that the powers-that-be may chose to or not to return the blessings to us.
I discovered sometime ago that one may find unusual results when devotional practices are combined with everyday, practical undertakings. When I was taking one of the courses in the Brewers’ Guild Study Program, one was asked to make up a prayer – or a devotional – when making one’s brew/mead/wine. I wrote a separate song for each batch and I asked the Dagda to not only bless what I was making, but to help make it a successful undertaking. I not only prayed to the Dagda in song, I devoted the fruit of my work to Him.
The various wines/mead/metheglen that I made turned out well, and I felt, in my own mind, that the Dagda had blessed my work. The metheglen that I made even won 2nd place in a people’s choice award at an ADF Festival. I felt that the work that I did was blessed and was also an offering so that whenever someone drank one of my creations, they were also honouring the Dagda by drinking what had been offered to Him.
When I was running in races – a few years ago – I used to always begin the race with a prayer. I would ask for strength, stamina, speed, and endurance. For each mile that I ran, I would repeat that same prayer. While I never did finish in first place, I felt that the prayer and the rhythm of the prayer were instrumental in my doing as well as I did. Since I ran races every week, this was an activity that was carried out repeatedly with what I considered to be positive results.
In this case, the practical value of devotion was that it became internalized as a part of my running regimen. It wasn’t separate in the least. Running and the prayer that accompanied it were integrally intertwined. The devotion and the activity became one, naturally and organically.
I have been gardening for years. I find it healthy and therapeutic. My father has been growing tomatoes from seed for years, so every year, he would plant his tomatoes seeds in February, on the first quarter or sixth night of the moon, and then he would nurture those seeds until they became seedlings and then he would give me a lot of them. My father’s tomatoes have flown on airplanes with me and have been grown in many states. They are fabulous tomatoes. I consider them not only a gift, but a legacy.
My father turned 95 this year and this was the first year in my memory that he did not grow his tomatoes. I did what he used to do last year, which was to keep the seeds, label them, and get them ready to be planted in February, on the sixth night of the moon.
When I plant seeds, or when I plant seedlings, I say a prayer to the Earth Mother for each one. I thank her for the gift of potential and say that I plant this plant in Her name, and that the bounty will be in her honour. I then place the plant in the ground, arrange the soil nicely around each one, and then wait. As time passes and as the seeds and seedlings grown into hearty plants, I am always amazed at the transformation. The prayer that launched the plants is repeated again when the vegetables and fruits are harvested. For each tomato, for each leaf of basil, for every gift of the Earth Mother, I thank her for her bounty. When we plant something, we expect it to grow. Water, fertilize, care and more water, and we expect results. It is perhaps the expectation of agriculture. Yet, for a person who reveres the Earth Mother and the Spirits of Nature, this is an example of the laws of hospitality. We make offerings, in the form of seeds and/or seedlings and prayers. We continue to make offering through out the growing season. As the season matures, as the plants mature, they produce food for us and also exhibit the miracle of growth. When the fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest, we gather these gifts that have been given to us from the Earth Mother herself and the Spirits of Nature and we give thanks for that which has been given.
In a way, the waters that we give as offerings provide a tremendous gift in return. To the unknowing or to the unaware, this is merely the planting of seeds, the watering of the garden, and the picking of fruits and vegetables. Yet, to a child of the Earth Mother, it is really so very much more. It is an observance of a cycle that is as old as the world itself, that demonstrates the bounty of nature and the miracle of growth and harvest, and the exchange that happens right in our very own garden. We offer water as a practical gift of devotion, of the work that is to be done, and we gather the great gifts from the Earth Mother Herself. It is the practical side of devotion that finds the mundane, transforms it through offering and practice, into something sacred, through our belief, through our practice, through the harvest of the work that we have done. How fitting that we touch the earth when we gather the harvest: one hand on the plant, one hand on the Earth Mother, and the cycle is complete.
This Collection of Three
I was looking at the ADF website the other day, and a few things stuck out for me. I would like to share them with you.
From the ADF By Laws: We are dedicated to the preservation of our Holy Mother Earth, the full achievement of human potential, the revival of the worship of the Old Gods in a modern context, and the creation of a world of peace, love, freedom, health, and prosperity for all intelligent beings.
Our vision is that the Gods and Spirits are served in the modern world through:
Public temple worship with a skilled priesthood
Accessible religious training for all
A spiritual relationship with the Earth
Sustainable Pagan institutions
A flourishing family and community Pagan culture
Commonality of ritual practice
Honoring the Earth Mother
Scholarship and research
Reciprocity with the Gods and Spirits
Respect for others through living our virtues
Service to the community, land, and the Gods and Spirits
A few things out of this collection of three stood out to me: while these things apply to everyone collectively or individually, I wanted to focus for this moment on the ones that speak to individuals, the individuals that make up ADF.
The preservation of the Earth Mother and a revival of the worship of the Old Gods in a modern context is really what drew me to ADF in the first place and perhaps many others as well. The practitioners of an Earth-friendly religion would probably find the preservation of the Earth, our Earth Mother, as something desirable. Bring back the Old Gods? I think every one of us is called to this vision and the reality of making-it-so. In fact, this is something each and every one of us can do. I also see it akin to the “A spiritual relationship with the Earth” provision of our vision and the “Honoring the Earth Mother” part of our values.
Our values go on to mention the “commonality of ritual practice” and “reciprocity with the Gods and Spirits”, which are the hallmarks of what we do – that is our practice as is reflected in the use of the Core Order of Ritual and the practice of *ghosti, or reciprocity through offerings with the Gods and Spirits.
We also talk about “Accessible religious training for all”. This typically means the Dedicant Program and the various other study programs that stream from that first effort. Yet, here is an interesting idea and pathway that extends from this collection of three: you don’t need to be an ADF Dedicant to find the commonality of ritual practice and reciprocity with the Gods and Spirits. Folks that have or haven’t completed the Dedicant Program can be equally capable ADF Druids in practice and in relationship to the Kindred(s) that we honour.
Yes, yes, we would like for people to do the Dedicant Program and the other study programs that we offer free of charge. By doing so, one will experience the Eight High Days that we acknowledge. One will learn of the virtues and read some books that encourage scholarship, and make your altar, and do all the things that a Dedicant can do – but you may not desire to do so now – or ever. So how can we offer this “accessible religious training for all”?
For those people who are members of or attend worship services and/or other activities with Groves or Protogroves or Worship Groups, one may easily watch and learn at each of the public High Day observances. They are open to the public and I will guess that a good explanation of what is about to happen and why will precede each ritual. By doing so, one can take that ritual work that is observed and put it into practice for one’s self, whenever the need arises or the desire to reach out and make offerings to the Kindred(s) is felt.
Yet, not everyone has access to or membership in Groves, Protogroves, and Worship Groups – what then? Well, that is where some of the rest of us can help. This will take a little bit of searching, but not too much. First, consult the Liturgist Guild Yearbooks, in the member’s section of the ADF website at https://www.adf.org/members/guilds/liturgists/yearbooks/index.html. This has a list of ritual, prayers, and devotionals that were submitted to the Guild over a number of years. Many of the full rituals are in Core Order of Ritual (COoR) format and would be a good way to learn one’s way around the Core Order. If the rituals aren’t help enough, reach out to a priest – they are well versed in ritual and I predict will be very happy to help with ritual form. We have 33 priests currently – along with two more priests that are retired – and they would be glad to help with your ritual or offerings questions. I am one of those priests, so please feel free to reach out to me as well. Here is a link, under “Clergy”: https://www.adf.org/about/leaders/index.html
I would expect that while people may find a diversity of expression within a ritual context from our priests, one should also find a commonality of practice as far as the Core Order of Ritual goes. There are a number of articles on the ADF website about the Core Order, but why consult an article when you can talk to a priest instead.
As a priest, I have an understanding and am experienced with the practice of the Core Order of Ritual. Yet, as an ADF Druid, I can also make offerings to the Kindreds on a daily basis and help build my relationship with them every time I do so, Core Order or not. The building of relationships is what drives me onwards as an ADF Druid because I believe that it works. I feel the Kindred(s) in my life, sometimes forcefully, sometimes, quietly, but by doing, I feel more attached to my practice and also to that of ADF and its members as well.
I want everyone to be able to build relationships with their Kindred(s). In doing so, I believe that folks will feel their presence in their life and that the experience will enrich their lives. I hope, by the same building of relationships, that our members, and especially our solitary members, are able to build this relationship with the Kindreds and also with the organization that represents the work that we do. There is a beauty in practice. There is a beauty in practice with a group of other people. Yet, even if I am by myself, there is a beauty and value in practice that I can take with me wherever I go. One need only to step out doors or look out the window to see and/or feel the Earth Mother. One need only know that each and every ADF Druid, regardless of where they are, stand on that same Earth Mother and find themselves equally supported by her – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This, at the most fundamental level, we have in common: however, with practice and through practice, we have so much more.
Devotionals arise out of practice. Sometimes they arise out of careful planning; other times they are the result of an impression in the moment. I was at the shore of Lake Erie this morning, in some way my "sea". Looking out on the distant waters in contrast to the shore, I thought, as I often do, about Manannan mac Lir. This was composed and offered on the spot. I felt Manannan's presence and this is for him - and you.
To Manannan Mac Lir
O Manannan Mac Lir
I am but a tree along the shore,
Water from the sea
Nourishes my roots,
Wind from the earth,
Blows across my branches,
Sun from the sky,
Warm against my leaves.
The water makes such noise
As it clashes with the shore,
Rock, splash, reverberate
Such that my thoughts are
Drowned out by the clamour
Of the surf
I look beyond the ninth wave
And I know that you are there
Carry me out to that place
Where profundity meets purpose
Carry us out to where
The sea meets the sky
Gulls fly by,
Gentle on the wind,
Where silence and
The undulating sea
Speak lessons to the soul
The Blessings of the Earth Mother to us all! I was elected Archdruid after Rev. Kirk Thomas' decision not to run for a third term. May the Blessings of Health, Wealth, and Wisdom be with him always and may the Kindred always provide!
Activities performed in the previous quarter: I attended a number of festivals including Texas Imbolc, Pantheacon, ConVocation, and Ad Astra To The Stars. I communicated with many members during the recent election asking and answering questions. I wrote to people who were not renewing in hopes of learning why and was able to get a few people to reconsider and rejoin. I was interviewed for a number of blogs and publications and continued to talk to people about ADF and Isaac's vision whenever the opportunity presented itself. What we have here is very special - I want people to understand Isaac's Vision and Our Way of Worship.
The spiritual state of the organization, spiritual activities and growth in the previous quarter: The spiritual state of the organization is strong. I inherit a solid organization that is full of hard-working and devoted members who do their part to honour the Kindreds and worship in the ways of their hearths and their hearts. There is still work to do. We have been gaining members, ordaining and elevating priests, and talking to people. We want to know what people think and also want people to understand what we are doing with our church. In my travels and my correspondences with individuals, I am constantly awed by the depth of practice and sincerity in our members. While political challenges may arise from time to time, we are still walking the road that Isaac envisioned for us many years ago. We do not walk alone.
Where ADF is in terms of its long-term Vision: Our long-term vision continues, along the lines of Isaac's Vision. We have reached out to people across the world with rituals delivered along electronic pathways, reaching more and more people every day. We have members on six continents and Groves and Protogroves on four continents. We are growing - always as fast as a speeding oak - but the acorns fall farther and farther away from the central tree that finds itself in the United States. WE are ADF International and we are proud of our reach and outreach. We have more to do. The Mother Grove will be meeting this year for strategic planning and we will discuss Isaac's Vision at length along with leadership's thoughts on growth and planning as well as asking the membership for some input on certain topics. I think as we look around at ADF, what we see is good.
Planned activities for the next quarter: Festival season is upon us! Wellspring, Three Rivers, Eight Winds, Summerlands, Midnight Flame, and Harvest Nights beckons as welcome stops along the Way. ADF will be doing the main rites for Pan Pagan festivals such as Chrysalis Moon, Pan Pagan, and others. I will be speaking at a number of these venues. I will be reaching out to other Druid leaders and building on our commonalities. I look for ADF to become a place where everyone is welcome at our table and the Core Order of Ritual is broad enough for many, many people. I also want to mention that while I am a believer in the Dedicant Program and the Programs of Study of ADF, we have many devout and practicing members who have not done the Dedicant Program but who are still ADF Druids. We celebrate the great diversity of our practice while reveling in the commonalities of that same practice.
Other comments/information, personal summary of events, etc: I have completed some additional training and I encourage those people who have the time to look at our many programs. We have some GREAT Guilds, SIGs, Kins, and Orders. We continue to offer our great publication "Oak Leaves" and look forward to including more and varied works therein. We have a vast network of practice and learning and worship that spans the entire globe. We honour and support our members in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres and understand that the Wheels of the Year turn above and below the Equator equally. I have several blogs that I write each month and look to the Arch Druid's blog for occasional thoughts and insights. Solitary members - if you want someone from ADF to talk to you, to visit with you, to reach out to you, drop me a line and let us know. The Blessings of the Earth Mother to us all!
The blessings of the Earth Mother to you all!
Great power about us that brings us heat and thus life,
Moves from one place on the ecliptic to another.
Fire lit on every hilltop,
Often, in the distant past,
Now today, in Groves and homes that are aware
Hopefully to all hilltops in the future, again.
We celebrate this fire festival of life,
In its many phases.
We remember and speak to the ancestors who passed,
This past season,
And every season from here to the beginning,
We speak the ancestors of our hearth and heart,
We stand, in respect, on those ancestors who lived on this land,
We celebrate the day nestled in the spirits of nature,
Here is our home;
We are not cut away from them,
They are here with us;
We are not separate from them,
We live with them,
Even if we keep to separate spaces;
We look for rejoinder with them,
We celebrate the connection.
We bask in the light of the Shining Ones on this day,
As they shines their wonders and their magics upon us.
Let us work our magics as well this day!
We touch the Earth Mother and she is warm and welcoming,
Waking from a slumber wearing a mantle of green.
We call to her this day and every day in thanks.
In the perfect symmetry and beauty of the Earth Mother,
We celebrate with our friends in a different hemisphere,
Who gather to them all of the same things,
Yet see the Earth Mother as she rests.
What an amazing world we behold!
May the blessings of the Earth Mother and the Kindreds be yours this day,
Be it Beltaine or Samhain,
Be it Waking or resting,
Be it warming or cooling!
We gather together as one!
It’s that time of year again, when the champagne corks pop and the Times Square ball drops, and everyone shouts out, “Happy New Year!” It’s the time of the changing of the year, when Old Man 2015 gives way to the new baby 2016.
The year is changing. The change of the seasons at our High Days is something that we’re all used to and look forward to. We know that time is circular from the Wheel of the Year and that change is a normal and natural part of the year’s progression. But change is also a normal and natural part of living. We welcome in some changes and spurn others, but change will happen. Indeed, the only thing in life that any of us can truly count on is change.
Change can bring joy, but change can also bring grief. We go though many changes in our lives, and change can be scary. Even if our circumstances are not all that wonderful, at least we’re used to them and know how they work. Change means stepping into the unknown, and that can be frightening at even the best of times. But change also brings with it hope and new opportunities. Change simply is, and by maintaining a strong devotional practice while living in the moment we can navigate these uncharted waters, be they big or small.
ADF is strong, very strong. While once we depended on the fortunes of one man, we now rest on the firm foundation maintained by us all. We will change over time but we will survive and thrive.
It’s almost that time again for the annual ADF elections process to begin. Our bylaws say that the call for nominations should go out on or about December 10, and that’s next week.
In preparation for this, I need to announce that I will not be running for a third term as Archdruid this year. I’ve been mulling over this decision for months, and now is decision time.
I think that it’s been a good six years, and it has always been my intent to serve ADF well, but it’s time for me to move on. I shall, of course, remain highly involved in ADF, and perhaps even hold some minor leadership roles in the future, but I shall also be taking more time for myself.
Of course, may current term runs until the beginning of May, and I will also be at Wellspring to install the new Archdruid. I intend to continue to attend festivals and clergy retreats so you’ll still see plenty of me in the future.
In terms of nominations for Archdruid in the upcoming election cycle, the Bylaws are very clear. The candidate must be an active member of our Clergy and may be nominated by one of three groups (the MG, the Clergy Council, and/or the Council of Senior Druids) or by a petition signed by at least 50 voting members.
I want to thank everyone in ADF who has supported me in my journey as ADF Archdruid, and I know that ADF shall continue to grow and thrive in the future. May the Kindreds bless and keep us all!
Rev. Kirk Thomas
The ADF Constitution, and before that, the ADF Bylaws, have long prohibited discrimination against our LGBTI brothers and sisters. It has also prohibited discrimination against people on the 'basis of race, ancestry,' and 'color'. ADF Paganism has been available to anyone of good will since Isaac Bonewits' vision became a reality in the 1980's. And I'm very pleased to see the United States begin to catch up!
Today the US Supreme Court finally upheld the principle that our LGBTI members are full members of the community and no longer second class citizens. By upholding marriage equality they have held that anyone may marry anyone else, regardless of gender. Of course, the fight for true equality is not yet over. Opponents of equality will continue to mount rear-guard actions in an attempt to get around this decision, but I am confident that they will fail in the long run.
The whole controversy over the Confederate Battle Flag is also something to behold. Many Southern Americans see it as a symbol of their heritage and independence, while others see it as a symbol of racism. When the members of a prayer group in Charleston, SC were gunned down for purely racist reasons recently, it turned out that lots of folks were uncomfortable with what that flag could stand for, and even Southern politicians began to change their minds and remove it from their capitol grounds. Whether we believe that the flag is a racist symbol or not, the conversation that has been started about institutionalized racism in the USA can only be a good thing. It's been a long haul since the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution and the passage of the Civil Rights Act and I'm glad to see the conversation continuing. It's about time.
The Supreme Court also upheld the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) by a wide majority. While this act has lots of problems, and even though the atmosphere in the Congress is too toxic to actually fix any of those problems, the very principle that poor Americans should have access to health care has been upheld. I understand that some of us believe that the market could do a better job of achieving this, and others believe that the best route would be a single-payer system, like those that much of Europe have, but the important thing is that the principle of equal access still exists, even in a flawed form. To have thrown out Obamacare over some unfortunate wording would have sent the entire US health system into chaos, and that wouldn't have helped anyone.
So all in all it's been a good week for America. And a good week for American Pagans! I thank the Gods and Spirits for Their support and love, and may Their blessings continue to come to us all.
So be it!
Tough times come to us all.
It's a fact of life that our financial resources ebb and flow for many, many reasons, and it can be a terrible experience for our members to find themselves cut off from full participation in ADF. Of course, there is nothing to stop anyone with good will from attending grove rituals, or to pray daily at our own home shrines, but membership in ADF is required to participate in the various study programs and to be a member of our subgroups. This is why we have a Compassionate Membership (CM) program. And it's one that has existed for many years now.
It's true that sometimes a member has to be declared sacer and be cut off from the rest, usually due to bad behavior, but everyone else deserves a break. Compassionate memberships exist for new members, and for up to two more renewals (though we will usually ask such CM recipients to do some form of community service, in the spirit of *ghostis, in return for the help). But there is something about CM's that many people don't realize - they aren't free.
ADF needs its members to join and renew their memberships to keep the wheels turning, the website humming, and our services going. This isn't cheap. The CM Fund exists to pay for each compassionate membership the Mother Grove approves, so that ADF can award as many as needed without breaking the bank. But when the fund runs dry, the compassionate memberships stop.
The CM Fund is a donation fund. It only exists as long as people are willing to make donations to ADF to keep that fund afloat. And so I'm making an appeal to our membership to help out here. Reciprocity, the guiding ideal of our church, is not a quid pro quo - we give so that others may give back in return. Who knows if we will someday need to tap that fund ourselves? In the spirit of *ghostis it makes sense to donate for others, so that someday, should the need occur, they may donate to help us.
So I call on everyone to think hard and dig deep into their pockets and donate to this and all of our special funds. You can do so online at https://www.adf.org/donations, or you can mail a check to the ADF Office at:
ADF Donation Funds
PO Box 84
Wickliffe OH 44092-0084
Be sure to specify which fund you want your donation to go to.
Together, with common care and concern, we can help all our members of good will to join with us in community, to worship the Gods, our Ancestors, and the Spirits of the Midworld. So be it!
It is with great apprehension and concern that we in ADF have learned about a new exclusionary religious policy at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.
Apparently, the policy of allowing civilian minority faith leaders to lead services when no uniformed leaders are available has been discontinued. This has happened even though Navy regulations specifically allow for such activities. These civilian volunteers have been providing religious services for years and now they have come to an end, with only a small room for reflection and contemplation provided to the trainees instead.
We strongly support the US Constitution’s provisions for religious freedom and suspect that the current rule change is based upon an exclusive religious belief. We are concerned that this new interpretation of the regulations will not allow our service men and women to actively practice their faiths, with services now only available for the traditional Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
We call upon the Navy, the Commanding Officer, and the Chaplain at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station to reconsider their actions and allow civilian minority faith leaders to once again provide spiritual and religious support for all those who follow minority faiths.
I would like to comment on the massacre of satirical cartoonists and journalists at the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. My feelings are complicated.
We are all extremely appalled and horrified that anyone could believe that their interpretation of religion would justify the cold-blooded murder of 12 people. This was the apparent justification used by the murderers for the outrage we have just witnessed. While words (and cartoons) can truly hurt our feelings, they certainly can’t physically harm us. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, the magazine takes on all religions in the long-standing tradition of French anti-clerical feeling, and they have offended many believers in France over the years. But until this week, no one had retaliated in such a murderous manner.
Freedom of speech (not to mention religion) is the bulwark of a free, liberal democracy. Without it we must descend into tyranny and oppression. Without these freedoms we, as Pagans, would not be allowed to practice our religions in most of the world. Examples of the religious repression of minorities can be seen in the Middle East, Russia, China, and much of Africa. For us, these freedoms are essential to our very existence. Religious extremism is at the root of much terrorism and oppression. Its causes are many, and include actions by nations, individuals, corporations, and social prejudices. When a people feel powerless they will respond in whatever way they can.
Perhaps the answer here is one of mutual respect? Our freedom of speech in the western world is practically absolute and we must ensure that it remains so. There are religions that attempt to justify the subjugation and defilement of women, gays, minorities, and those who are not of that religion. We must be vigilant to oppose these discriminatory ideas held by our own religious extremists here at home as well as those abroad.
As Pagans, and in the spirit of reciprocity, can we show respect for the beliefs of others? Certainly, we Pagans have been at the receiving end of some pretty noxious comments and actions over the years. Does it really help us to respond in hateful or violent ways? Would it not be better to model who we are and what we believe in?
Respect is a two-way street. As we grow in our spiritual practices we should honor and respect those of others, and in return they may learn to honor and respect us. I offer my condolences to all those who have been affected by these terrible events, and I pray that we all may all grow together in understanding and mutual respect.
We in ADF have been watching the unfolding of events in the USA lately with sadness and distaste. Excesses abound in this country, from shootings and chokings of the members of racial minorities to calls from religious fundamentalists for the extermination of gay people.
Such behaviors are despicable in the extreme. Prejudices are a form of limitation, where people refuse to see that we’re all in this together and try to limit the humanity of others. And these limitations can be expressed through excesses of force and through extremism. The glorification of excess and extremism is not just an American failing, it exists all over the world. And ADF is unwilling to contribute to it.
Our Constitution (and before that our Bylaws) have always stressed that ADF Druidry is open to everyone. Our values emphasize balance. Balance through wisdom and moderation, through courage and perseverance, through integrity and hospitality.
These values may be expressed through reciprocity, which is more than just the Golden Rule. Reciprocity is the basis of relationships, without which we cannot exist as a society. We all uphold each other, and should these bonds loosen or break then we all will suffer. Only by strengthening these bonds, and by creating new bonds between people, can we ever hope to thrive. Only by finding balance through reciprocity can conditions improve for everyone.
Balance also implies restraint, on all sides. Ages-old prejudices are no excuse for any behavior, and must be examined. None of us are totally innocent, and none of us are totally guilty. We must all look deeply inside ourselves to root out prejudices we have been raised with that linger in the dark. Only then can injustice end. Only then may we all live in peace.
This is a short talk (they called it a sermon) that I gave on Monday night at the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service held at the United Methodist Church in White Salmon, WA as a fundraiser for the Mt. Adams Ministerial Association, of which I'm a member. ******************* We who live here in the Columbia Gorge and near the slopes of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are incredibly fortunate. Not only do we have the mighty Columbia rolling majestically past us, but water falls from the sky here and snows blanket the mountains, feeding the streams and rivers that flow down to the great river and out to the sea. Thanks to this plentiful rainfall, our Mother Earth is generous with her bounty. Orchards and vineyards fill our valleys and cover our hills. Organic dairies fill Trout Lake valley, and salmon and trout swim in our rivers and streams. Flowers bloom everywhere in the spring, and forests of pine, fir, cedar, and oak cover our hills and mountains, providing habitat for wild creatures and wood for our logging industries. It’s so beautiful here that I wonder if we all don’t take it a bit for granted. In Druidry we value reciprocity as a virtue. I give so that you may give. You give so that I may give. It’s a two-way street. And Mother Earth gives us so very much. She gives us the land where our plants may grow and our livestock may graze. She gives us the rain and the snow to water our land that all may thrive. She gives us the wood of the forest that we may build our houses. She gives us the fish of the streams that we may eat. She gives us the air that we may breathe. She gives and gives and gives. Tonight we are here to give thanks. This is the time of thanksgiving, after all. But since we receive so much, perhaps we need to give back more than just our heartfelt gratitude? Perhaps we should imbue our words with action? At the great macro-economic scale of things, we could give back by promoting renewable energy over coal, oil, and gas. We could reforest the Amazon Basin since trees take so much carbon out of the air. We could stop denying that Global Warming and Climate Change are real, and substantially caused by human activities. But these great issues are bigger than each of us. Short of some great political upheaval they are out of our hands. But what can we as individuals do to give back to Mother Earth? Many of us are already doing these things. We can compost our organic matter and spread it on the land to make it more fertile. We can continue to recycle as much as possible and cut down on the packaging we buy. Just taking our own shopping bags to the market instead of using their plastic bags means a lot. We can support homeless shelters and food banks for those less fortunate than ourselves that they, too, may partake of the earth’s bounty. In our every day decisions we can make a difference, and show our thanks to our Mother Earth. For Thanksgiving is not just about families and feelings. It is also about doings. I am very thankful to be able to live where I do, on an organic farm in Trout Lake. I am thankful for the Earth and Nature and all that They give to us. As we Druids say, the Earth is our Mother. She upholds us and supports us. For without the Earth we cannot live. I pray that we may protect Mother Earth from our own excesses. I pray that we may continue to be supported and upheld by Her. And I pray that She will still be the ‘warm, moist earth’ for our grandchildren that she has been for us. For no matter what happens in the future, She will thrive, even if we do not. So in the weeks and months and years to come, let us all give our thanks for our Mother Earth. So be it.
Margot Adler, 1946-2014
The world received very sad news this morning about the death of Margot Adler today, July 28, 2014. We are all in shock and mourning to hear of her passing.
Her seminal book, “Drawing Down the Moon,” arrived on the pagan scene back in the 1970’s, with updates made to it over the following decades. Her documentation of the early pagan scene is still a fascinating and amazingly useful book for anyone who wants to understand where we came from and how we got to be where we are today. It is still a primary resource for members of ADF who are pursuing the ADF Dedicant Path.
I only had the privilege of meeting Ms. Adler once, when we served together on a panel at the Sirius Rising Festival at Brushwood Folklore Center in New York State a couple of years ago. Her energy was enormous, as was her presence. She had the ability to see right to the core of an issue, and was obviously a prodigious intellect.
With her death, modern paganism has lost a strong, passionate, and intelligent advocate and chronicler. She will be greatly missed.
Rev. Kirk Thomas
The pagan community was shocked recently to learn about the recent arrest of Ken Klein for crimes against the most precious and innocent among us, our children.
Although Mr. Klein was not in any way affiliated with ADF, we wish to state that the safety and well being of all our members, children included, is one of our primary concerns.
ADF has a zero-tolerance in regards to sexual abuse of any kind. We perform background checks on our clergy and the members of our governing board. We also have developed policies on child abuse and sexual misconduct within our church.
We pray for all victims that the gods may heal them and keep them safe.
-The ADF Mother Grove
We have perpetual flames burning in ADF. They are kindled at the Spring Equinox (Autumn Equinox in the southern hemisphere) through friction, and after purification, rekindled at the same time the following year.
This is the Hearth of ADF. In ancient Rome, the perpetual fire of the goddess Vesta burned under the care of the Vestal Virgins, and was considered the Hearth and center of the city. All sacrificial fires were lit from Her flame. Priestesses of the Goddess Brigit (and later the nuns of the saint) maintained a perpetual fire in Ireland that was only extinguished by order of the Church in the Middle Ages.
Many cultures had rites where the Fire would be ritually extinguished once per year and then relit to give it new life. Depending on the culture, this could take place in November, Spring Equinox, or even the Summer Solstice.
ADF now has such a Flame. Several, in fact, kindled in Washington and Michigan and maintained there. Other flames have been taken from these initial flames, and the custom spreads. In March they will be extinguished, the hearths purified, and the flames rekindled through friction, as in ancient days. We call these flames the Hearth of ADF, and they are flames of the unity of our folk.
And as a form of Unity, we invite everyone to magically connect their ritual fires, be they candle flame or bonfire, to the Hearth of ADF, that we might all join together for all our rites.
And you can do this by chanting the following charm while lighting your fire:
Kindled from the Great Flame
Kept by prudent skill,
Join with our common Hearth
That these flames be one!
May the Kindreds bless us all as we grow together in unity as One Folk, striving to preserve our Mother the Earth and our relationships with all beings, mortal and divine.
Rev. Kirk Thomas
This year, ADF has something to celebrate!
At a Samhain rite at the Winterstar Symposium held in 1983, Isaac Bonewits, a scholar, visionary, and teacher, announced the formation of a new religion, Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF). Issac's idea for ADF was revolutionary for its time. His path-making vision was to see ADF certified clergy in every major city and be recognized as a true world religion. The letter that announced the forming of ADF and what it was all about was written it the first "Druids Progress." In it, he outlined his concept of ADF as a fluid and dynamic religion, evolving and adapting ancient Pagan faiths in a modern context for his generation and continuing to evolve with the ones to follow.
This Samhain marks our 30th Anniversary!
Today, ADF is thriving, as generations of members grow up in the path, and are passing it on to the next generation. From it's humble beginnings, there is now a solid core order of worship. There are currently 26 certified ordained clergy; 74 groves (congregations) in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Brazil with members on 6 continents; and numerous festivals held all around the United States and Canada every year.
Happy Anniversary, ADF!
We are now at the half-way point between the equinox and solstice, those places that the ancient Celts thought of as the hinges of the year. In the north, the dark increases as we celebrate the November Cross Quarter High Day (called Samhain by the Celts), while in the south, the light increases as we celebrate that same Cross-Quarter High day, but which is called Beltane by those self-same Celts.
Two strikingly different holidays, celebrated at the same time but in different hemispheres. How can we possibly feel like one folk, we ask, when our holidays don’t even match! How can some of us celebrate the return of summer and green and light while the rest of us celebrate our sacred dead while we look forward to the return of the sun in our darkening skies?
Not hard, as the Celts would say.
Time is cyclical, following the wheel of the year through the seasons. There is no beginning or end of time but rather continuing cycles – birth-death-rebirth, and spring-summer-autumn-winter-spring being the most obvious ones. And what things may these cycles hold in common?
Balance is one of these. And the entire cosmos seeks balance.
Life is balanced by death. Dark is balanced by light. Male is balanced by female. We all hold these opposites within ourselves, to varying degrees. And in our seasons, summer is balanced by winter, and autumn by spring. These things are all parts of a harmonious whole.
So when we have the beginning of winter in the north, we have the beginning of summer in the south. Without one we cannot have the other. Our members in the south help balance out our members in the north, so that we may all be part of a harmonious whole. And we, the folk of ADF, personify part of that harmonious whole.
As we stand between equinox and solstice, let us ask our Kindreds for Their blessings upon us all, that we, as one folk, may live well in balance and harmony with the Earth and each other. So be it!
The Waters support and surround us The Land extends about us The Sky stretches out above us At the Center burns a living flame -- Ceisiwr SerithWe in ADF have long venerated our Sacred Fire, that flame burning at the Center of the Worlds. The Fire transmutes and transforms our offerings, carrying them up to the Gods. It is the light of Heaven, the Hallow of the Sky, bringing order to chaos. And we love to gather around it within its light where we can feel its warmth.This year Archdruid Emeritus Rev. John Adelmann (better known as ‘Fox’) did extensive research on sacred fire, and one result of this was the creation of our own Sacred Flame. In ancient times this fire would be stolen from the Gods, as it were, and created through friction (and later, though use of flint and steel, or with mirrors). Each year at the same time it would be doused, purified, and re-lit using the same methods. And it would be maintained through the course of the year with careful tending, and not allowed to go out.On Spring Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere) Fox, in Michigan, and I, in Washington State, lit our Sacred Flames at the same time with friction using a bow drill, and these fires have been maintained ever since. We are able to travel with the flame if we are driving somewhere, and Fox brought it to Trillium and Wellspring, where it was used not only to ignite our campfires, but also for use in ritual.This is still early days for the concept of the Sacred Flame in ADF, and the whole idea is still somewhat experimental, but it is also a wonderful way we can harken back to ancient times. Maintaining a Sacred Flame requires a fireproof location, organization, and effort, and this work certainly isn’t for everyone. But we hope that we may be seeing the beginnings of a new tradition for ADF.
The Waters support and surround us
The Land extends about us
The Sky stretches out above us
At the Center burns a living flame
-- Ceisiwr Serith
We in ADF have long venerated our Sacred Fire, that flame burning at the Center of the Worlds. The Fire transmutes and transforms our offerings, carrying them up to the Gods. It is the light of Heaven, the Hallow of the Sky, bringing order to chaos. And we love to gather around it within its light where we can feel its warmth.
This year Archdruid Emeritus Rev. John Adelmann (better known as ‘Fox’) did extensive research on sacred fire, and one result of this was the creation of our own Sacred Flame. In ancient times this fire would be stolen from the Gods, as it were, and created through friction (and later, though use of flint and steel, or with mirrors). Each year at the same time it would be doused, purified, and re-lit using the same methods. And it would be maintained through the course of the year with careful tending, and not allowed to go out.
On Spring Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere) Fox, in Michigan, and I, in Washington State, lit our Sacred Flames at the same time with friction using a bow drill, and these fires have been maintained ever since. We are able to travel with the flame if we are driving somewhere, and Fox brought it to Trillium and Wellspring, where it was used not only to ignite our campfires, but also for use in ritual.
This is still early days for the concept of the Sacred Flame in ADF, and the whole idea is still somewhat experimental, but it is also a wonderful way we can harken back to ancient times. Maintaining a Sacred Flame requires a fireproof location, organization, and effort, and this work certainly isn’t for everyone. But we hope that we may be seeing the beginnings of a new tradition for ADF.
Spring is here, and festival season is in full swing! Something that occasionally takes place at an ADF festival is the ordination of a new priest, and these have taken place over the years at Trillium, Wellspring, Summerland, and Desert Magic, to name a few, for we in ADF have always performed our clergy ordinations in public.
Some of you may also have noticed that our ordination rites have changed a bit in the last few years, with the addition of a ‘charging the stole’ element after the new priest has spoken the oath.
What does this mean? Why is this important?
The stole is a symbol of the priest’s responsibility to the members of ADF, to their Patrons, and to themselves, all of who are present at the ordination. Someone carries the stole around the ritual space, holding it high for all to see. We ask the people in attendance to charge the stole and fill it with their blessings and good wishes, but more importantly, to fill it with the weight of the new priest’s responsibilities. We want our priests to be reminded of their oath to the Folk and to the Kindreds every time they place that stole upon their shoulders. It is a burden, not a sign of privilege. It marks out the priest as someone ‘different’ for the duration of a rite, someone performing public sacred duties, and also announces to the world that this person has had at least some verifiable training, just as Isaac always intended us to have.
Many of our priests who have undergone this part of the ordination rite report that after the charging, when the stole is finally placed upon their shoulders, they can actually feel its great weight, filled with responsibility, which is far greater than the weight of the cloth alone.
Spring is here, and festival season is in full swing! Something that occasionally takes place at an ADF festival is the ordination of a new priest, and these have taken place over the years at Trillium, Wellspring, Summerland, and Desert Magic, to name a few, for we in ADF have always performed our clergy ordinations in public.Some of you may also have noticed that our ordination rites have changed a bit in the last few years, with the addition of a ‘charging the stole’ element after the new priest has spoken the oath.What does this mean? Why is this important?The stole is a symbol of the priest’s responsibility to the members of ADF, to their Patrons, and to themselves, all of who are present at the ordination. Someone carries the stole around the ritual space, holding it high for all to see. We ask the people in attendance to charge the stole and fill it with their blessings and good wishes, but more importantly, to fill it with the weight of the new priest’s responsibilities. We want our priests to be reminded of their oath to the Folk and to the Kindreds every time they place that stole upon their shoulders. It is a burden, not a sign of privilege. It marks out the priest as someone ‘different’ for the duration of a rite, someone performing public sacred duties, and also announces to the world that this person has had at least some verifiable training, just as Isaac always intended us to have.Many of our priests who have undergone this part of the ordination rite report that after the charging, when the stole is finally placed upon their shoulders, they can actually feel its great weight, filled with responsibility, which is far greater than the weight of the cloth alone.
A few years ago, when Skip was Archdruid, the Mother Grove got an odd request from a legal firm to buy our Internet domain name, adf.org. It came as a surprise to us, and we wondered just who it might be who wanted to buy it. We went online and had a look. We were pretty sure it wasn't the Australian Defense Forces, and there was no reason why the American Dance Festival would insist on keeping their name secret from us, so the only likely candidate had to be the Alliance Defense Fund (who have since changed their name to Alliance Defending Freedom).
According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a non-profit group dedicated to keeping church and state separated in the USA, this other ADF is an Arizona-based right-wing organization promoting a Religious Right agenda which “attacks church-state separation, blasts gay rights, assails reproductive freedom and seeks to saturate the public schools with its narrow version of fundamentalism.” (Church and State, vol. 65, no. 9, October 2012)
My, my. It’s true that we occasionally get information requests that are obviously not meant for us, and even the occasional donation! We can use the money and I don’t feel any obligation to pass it on – the other ADF has revenue of $35,145,644, according to the IRS. It really must burn them that folks looking for them find, instead, a Pagan Druidic church.
In any case, we turned down their request by asking for a million dollars for the domain. When they again contacted us this year we just said no, and I very innocently suggested that they find a new name with different initials. Cheeky, I know.
Happily, however, the rest of the Pagan/Heathen/Polytheist world knows who the real and original ADF is. And we are they.
As we approach the Solstice, it feels as though the nights are closing in on us. As the ancients did, we lift our spirits with bright lights, decorations, and fellowship, enjoying ourselves as we wait for the return of the light.
But no amount of colored lights can compensate for the shock, sadness, and fear we all felt when we heard of the dreadful events in Connecticut, where 20 little children, with their lives fully ahead of them, were mowed down by a young man who, we assume, was mentally deranged. Who else could do such a thing, we ask?
Some folks see this event as the result of some prince of evil running amok in the world, but others, including us Pagans, have a different view. For Druids, there is no all-good god and all-evil god fighting over our souls. Rather both good and evil exist in us all, and in all of nature. What is 'good' for me may be 'bad' (or evil) for you. Life is like that - many shades of grey, and not black and white. And this means that we all have to take responsibility for our own lives, and support the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors.
The cult of individuality has taken strong root in the western world. In the United States, the lone stranger is an enduring motif - he may be the loner, the man who rides into town and saves the day. He is the Individual who attends to his own needs and cuts himself off from the community. In days gone by, folks didn't behave this way. Instead they all looked to help one another, concerned with promoting the health and safety of the group as well as the individual. And while these ideals still exist for many, the pressures of our busy and crowded lives tend to make us blind to what may be around us ("it's not my problem!").
Tragedies, such as the Connecticut school shooting, will not be prevented by banning guns, or by turning our schools and malls into fortresses. They can only be prevented by reaching out to each other, by paying attention to our friends and neighbors, our groves and solitaries, and by caring. This may be a time of looking for tolerance and acceptance of everyone, and of not isolating ourselves or others.
So as the sun begins Her return this Solstice, let Her arrival bring us new hope and new commitment to our communities. Let us all remember that none of us are in this life alone, that we are all in this together. And together we shall succeed.
May the healing blessings of the Kindreds enfold the survivors of life's tragedies, granting them peace and comfort. Our heartfelt condolences and blessings go out to all who were touched by this sadness. And may these blessings enfold us all, showing us how we may help ourselves by helping others.
Bright healing blessings,
Rev. Kirk Thomas