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 email@example.com. 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