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
Leave a reply
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.