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.