Sorry about this being so late, had a lot of writing to catch up on and this just got lost in the shuffle.

Several things are on my mind today. Its a bit of jumble still. I have to do a presentation on ADF Druidry in a few days and I was doing research which had me thinking deeply about a lot of really basic concepts surrounding my path and Druidy in general and ADF in specific.

When I visualize the deities, which doesn’t happen easily for me, usually I hear their voices and have vague impressions of who they are. What doesn’t often come to mind is what they look like or wear.

We have some descriptions of the lore but if they are living breathing entities than does that mean that they have grown into a more modern image of themselves? Or do they remain static, wearing the clothing and cosmetics of some bygone era?

As ADF Druids one of our tenants is that we bring the best of what the ancients believed into the modern era. So, does this extend to the more aesthetic aspects?

I personally think that it should, I mean the clothing and styles of the past are interesting but are they really practical or even relevant to the modern age?

I think about the practicality of it a lot because one of my main patron deities is Brigid. I describe her as an agony aunt, who gives practical advice and that makes it difficult to picture her in clothing that really just…isn’t.

She isn’t the only Goddess on my altar that brings it to mind either. The Morrigan in my mind is a Goddess of war and a long flowing dress just doesn’t fit into that image and I don’t think she would stand for being impractical just for looks either. I kind of see her as a Black Widow kind of character, changing to fit the situation and willing to sacrifice for the desired end.

Bleudewedd is another that I can’t see as being caught up in her skirts waiting for a man to rescue her. She has been on the run and has learned to adapt. She sounds to me like a woman who would be comfortable anywhere, having planned ahead a way to get what she wants, with a plan B in case everything goes pearshaped.

I can see Cerridwen getting away with a long gown, she will look statuesque no matter the situation. She is tall and has broad shoulders, her head held high. She knows what she wants, grieves for what she has lost but moves with grace through the muck and mire in her path. She isn’t afraid to get dirt and wears herself with pride.

All the Deities on my Altar have earned the right to be there, giving me advice when I needed it and protecting me when I couldn’t do it myself. I also have this image of them wearing sturdy boots.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Falling Off the Wagon

Its been two weeks since my last post, I would like to say I have been busy and that was the reason for not posting but then I would be lying.

I have been pretty lethargic for the last couple weeks in every way, I just haven’t wanted to do anything, even leaving the house is a struggle when I have to go to work in the morning.

I know I shouldn’t beat myself up for it but I can’t help but feel bad. This week I am getting back into the swing of things though. I am planning on doing my weekly devotions again starting Sunday and want to start my nature awareness walks again, I meant to do it weekly but its kind of fallen by the wayside with most everything else.

There is a nice trail near where I live that follows a river, I have taken quite a few pictures there both digital and film. The reception is horrible but I love going there just to get away and visit the trees. There has always been a special place in my heart for them. I remember that my mother used to say the trees swaying in the wind were dancing and that during the winter they were naked without their leaves. It makes me giggle to think that during the winter they are dancing naked but I digress.

I grew up with the idea that the trees were alive and that they were always whispering to each other about what was going on.

The walking trail can get crowded during summer but most of the year it is pretty empty, and I can just walk there for hours, listening and looking at nature around me.

The trail is by a small river, which I dip my feet into when I am there, which is especially nice during the summer when it’s hot. The river sings to me sometimes or its just laughs as I nearly fall in.

After the rains this year many of the trees lining the river fell, causing a great mess, it’s kind of melancholy to look at all those great trees fallen down and slowly decaying. A certain part of the path is especially so, for me at least. It’s a little more shaded than the rest and there are a few redwoods scattered amongst the birch and Oak. I have always had a great respect for redwoods, having grown up around them all my life.

I like to talk about the future, making plans gets me excited when I am particularly depressed but following through with plans made has always been a hurdle for me. Part of that seems to stem from the fear of failure but also ridicule. I am not a neurotypical person and the reasons behind a lot of what I do confuse me at times. It’s taken a long time for me to actually work out even the basics, like the fact that I am not neurotypical. It’s also taken me a long time to reframe my thinking away from that being a bad thing. I have always had this terrible idea that since I don’t conform to the usual that there is something wrong with me.

Everything moves in cycles, and it’s taken me a long time to really sit down and look at what that means, both externally and internally.

All beings are living out our lives as spirals within spirals, creating the thread that weaves itself together to create the universe.

I honestly believe that all beings have autonomy and that there is no higher power or pattern that all beings ascribe to, which is both terrifying and wonderful.  It comforts me because it also means that whatever I do, fail or succeed at there isn’t being judged by any standard except my own.  This freedom makes it both easier and harder to accept things or events as they happen.

It’s complicated and simple all at once.

Explaining how that works is almost impossible, especially when I have had too much caffeine. I am quite sensitive so, I try to avoid it. It gives me the jitters both mentally and physically, so I apologize if this is sounding a little disjointed.

All I am trying to say is this, to quote the bard:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ”
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

 

 

 

 

 

Cycles Part II

Being able to look back has always been a quality of mine that has been both a frustration and a savior, sometimes all at once.  I am a worrier, my mind is never happy with just letting a thought be by itself for long. I am the type of person that keeps old letters or assignments long after their due date or even past the ability of the paper its printed on to stay together. I over think things until they are falling apart in my hands and I weep over the ashes. What I am writing now is the product of such. I don’t set my thoughts down lightly, its been one of my key characteristics, I always wait till the last minute not just because I am a procrastinator but also because it takes time for my thoughts to marshal themselves into some kind of order.

I think deeply about things that most would just gloss over and I am learning to be okay with that, in moderation. Always in moderation.
Looking back over my last post, I had the niggling thought that I had, in fact, lied to you all and myself. Not about something groundbreaking but important enough that it behooves me to correct myself.

I did, in fact, look back after starting this path. Several times even, its kind of what I do. One big thing I would always fret over was the concept of hell. I was terrified of the fact that I was going to hell for most of my childhood and early adulthood and that ingrained fear wasn’t going to be assuaged by me finding a place where I was comfortable in my own skin, it couldn’t be that easy. Just to be clear, even while I was a born again Christian I was always unsure of the destination of my soul, hours after I had been ‘saved’ I would sit and wonder if I had to do it again the next day or if that was it, one payment and I was covered for life.

When I first became a pagan, I flirted with idea that I was hedging my bets, I wanted my soul to be saved but I just didn’t agree with some of the doctrines of the church, my soul was safe, right? I agonized about this question for years and some days I still do. How do you deal with that nagging doubt?

The easy answer to that is that I take it day by day.

To put it in perspective, I have an anxiety disorder that I have to deal with or work around daily and the status of my immortal soul, I think, is just a manifestation of that. Its never going to go away and I will never be done with it but as time goes by I get less and less concerned by the question itself.

The first thing I had to master is the idea, belief, that everything builds on one another but not in a tower-like structure that will fall if the foundation is faulty. I personally have had to do away with the building analogy completely, because the foundation of my life is constantly being changed which honestly, doesn’t really make sense for any building that wants to remain in constant use.

The best analogy I can come up with, and I will be tinkering with it for awhile, is the idea that your beliefs and what defines you are like a garden. In each season of life, it can change and expand, as you need new things to be added or removed you have to go back without too much trouble. Even now I can go off on a large tangent really easily but I digress.

If you look at your life as a series of blocks stacked on top of each other, you are laboring under the impression the ones you place first hold the rest up and that also causes some unnecessary anxiety, at least for me.  The other way of looking at it, the garden, is less about getting the foundations right the first time and more about the big picture or learn as you go, which make more sense to me.

I also like to think you my writing this way, I am constantly pruning and adding things in until I finally have to put it out there for others to see but even then I am still tinkering away. Everything I do is a work in progress and that takes away some of the anxiety.

Another feature of my garden, the analogy that I am playing with right now,  is that there are no walls, nothing to protect me from the elements. The walls of the home or any building are there to keep the environment within stable and safe. The boundaries of my garden are more influx, some seasons the the flowers are blooming in carpets of color and others have the bare necessities with little thought given to aesthetics.

It just depends on what is needed or wanted, and this way of think is not just limited to the plants.

The center of my garden is an altar, one that I have made myself out of materials that are both sturdy enough for travel but also pliable and moldable.

I am a knitter and the idea of a portable altar made of cloth I have knitted for myself appeals, I am actually making one physically as well.

The idea of flexibility and portability really appeal to me on a visceral level, I want to be able to take it with me everywhere, its a part of me that I don’t just get out on special occasions or when I am comforatble. I take it everywhere I go.

It’s also something that I can change or remake with little trouble, which kind of the point.

while we are living we are forever changing and even death brings its own set of changes and transformations.

That is a truth that is at the core of us, and one that as humans we can struggle to really accept and be comfortable with.

Change is one of the scariest aspects of this life and our mortal beings rail against even as they embrace it at our deepest levels.

It’s a paradox but so are many of the best parts of life.

So, in conclusion, I just want to say that if you don’t have everything figured out or if your house on a hill is leaning a little too much to the side, that’s okay leave it, for now, it will be there when you get back. Come and sit with me awhile in my garden and maybe when you go you will have something to start your own.

 

 

 

Cycles Part I

The spiral is a pretty big, important image in my view of the world but it didn’t come naturally to me. It had to be beaten into my head over YEARS before I finally got the inkling that maybe my literal view of the world was a bit flawed and needed tweaking. For the sake of my sanity.

What I mean is that when I was younger I grabbed onto the idea that time is linear and like a tower what we do in the past projects or effects the future. It seems like logical thinking. What we learn or do yesterday effects what we do today. That pattern continues until the foundations we built way back in childhood affect how we exist in our adult lives. This idea also fits quite neatly into the idea that all of the events in our lives are connected and are part of a grand master plan.

If it stays a vague concept it can work and does work for a lot of people, giving them comfort when things are hard. Looking at life this way gives hardship a reason, its just there to prepare us for the future, it isn’t personal but its part of God’s plan for our own good and future betterment.

Looking at it with a more critical eye though, I personally see some really major flaws in this kind of reasoning. One is the idea that we are given free will. If everything we do is according to some grand plan, doesn’t that mean we truly don’t have free will?
The two ideas don’t gel very well for me and I always wrestled with it. Lots of times I was told that I just needed to have faith and that I wasn’t supposed to understand because I was a flawed human being.  These responses didn’t help, I just kept poking at the hole in my faith.

The hole grew bigger, I had no satisfactory answer for why the world was so cruel to people indiscriminately. This was attributed to God allowing us to have free will but then you get back to the same questions from before.

It just doesn’t make sense. I was confused and none of the people who were supposed to know the answer had one that satisfied. I was at a loss.

Then I had the epiphany that many other pagans have.  If this way of life isn’t making me happy or even helping me live my life in a meaningful way, why am I here?

It took several decades living in misery for me to reach the point where I started to look outside the Christian church but once I got there I was very cautious.  I first had to define exactly what I found wrong with Christianity and then define my needs.

I needed was a community that valued asking questions and finding answers that made sense. I also wanted a relationship with deities that didn’t impede on my free will but had plans that I could help or be a part of and understand.  The people in this community had to be supportive of me as a whole and not wholly focuses on the spirit while demonizing the flesh.

There were other requirements that came later but these were the ones I started with.  I knew straight off that I really didn’t want another flavor of the same god, so most Abrahamic religions were out. Buddhism demonized the flesh and the world around me too much and was too philosophical for me to really sink my teeth into. Wicca was frustrating with its trying to fit everything into one and it just looked like Christianity with a goddess in the place of the god. I know it’s not true of all forms of Wicca but the ones I ran into at the beginning very much were goddess-centered and I just couldn’t get into that so close to leaving Christianity.

I was also wary of religious organizations that taught that they had unbroken lineages, I am a bit of a history geek so I knew that couldn’t be true. Honesty was key, if you couldn’t be honest about where you came from then I wanted no part of it.

It was about three years into my search that I discovered OBOD. I loved the idea of learning from them but the price tag was a little more than I could afford at the time and there were no local groups in my area. I didn’t want just another online group that I could forget about, I wanted actual people that I could get together with, especially at the beginning when I was so lonely after leaving the church that had practically raised me.

So, for about six months I lurked in Yahoo groups, looking for my people. One day as I was randomly searching I saw an announcement that some ADF druids were coming down to my city to have a mini-retreat and that anyone interested should come on down. An address was listed and while I was leery of going to strangers home, I rallied my courage and RSVPed.

I also made something to bring, to kind of grease the wheels if you will. I had no concept of Hospitality but I had the idea that I should bring something as a kind of payment for them putting this on.

So, that’s kind of how my easter eggs got started but that’s another story for another day. I got there and I was nervous, I waited a while to get my nerves under control before knocking on the door.

In the end, I knew I had found my people, I joined ADF that same day and I have never looked back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death and Dying in a Pagan world

Recently I went to visit my grandparents with my father. My grandfather has the early stages of dementia. My grandmother is the older of the pair and we always thought she would be the one to decline first but life decided to surprise us, as it will.  Seeing them together after so long put their decline into sharp relief and brought home the fact that within the decade both of them will likely be gone.

This is not the first time that death has poked her head into my families business, we lost my mother and my maternal grandmother less than 5 years ago and my great grandmother passed when I was in High school.

On the long drive home, I had a discussion about what happens after death with my father. Candidly we compared notes, me with my views on the otherworld and his views of oblivion. We didn’t try to convince each other but just discussed how death had affected our lives. It was an enlightening conversation on many levels.

Explaining something to someone else is probably the best way to discover what you truly know or believe. Conversations or the act of teaching forces you to examine what is in your mind in detail, finding all the fallacies and maybe gaining new perspective or depth.

Self-assurance, to me, has always been a kind of cloak that some people wear better than others. It can hide many insecurities.  I had always believed or just never really stopped to think about what would be hiding under my own father’s cloak. As his child, I always had him on a sort of pedestal. He hasn’t fallen exactly, my point of view has changed as I grew up and could stand on the same level with him.

He hasn’t changed but what he allows me to see has. It was a little disconcerting but also interesting to grasp that my father also had thoughts about death.

I am very sure that what we have in this world isn’t the end of it. In that way, I am more surefooted than he is about this particular topic. When my father spoke of what he expected after death, he made clear that his mind was at war with his gut instinct. He is a born-again Christian and so, intellectually, believes that when he passes from this world his soul will go beyond to his heavenly reward. On the other hand, his true instinctual belief is that there is nothing beyond what we can physically experience and that when we die we cease to exist completely.

To me, it is not a comforting thought that this is the only life we have and there is no real reason for us to be but if that is what he finds most logical than I cannot fault him for that. That would be highly hypocritical considering how accepting he has been of my own choices, religious and otherwise.

Death and dying are a part of life, we Americans kind of forget that because of the machine that is our medical system but our ignorance doesn’t make it any less true. It’s also a part of life that we as pagans, in particular, are somewhat unprepared for.  We may have the texts that give us hints about what happens after but what do we do when we or someone close to us is actually going through that transition?

When my mother died and I was still a baby pagan that hadn’t really considered what the shift my belief structures would eventually cause, I looked to friends and family for comfort. The Christian church held little comfort in their doctrines for me but the absence of built-in support within my new faith was jarring.

For a whole year, I was stuck in a sort of limbo, waiting for someone to tell me what I should be doing or to give me permission to feel.  My friends and grovemates were supportive, and I truly thank them for how they tried to bridge the gap. It was a difficult time and I don’t know if having scripture or just some words to hear would have made it easier but it could not have made it worse.

Knowing is better than wondering and worrying. IMHO.

Death cafes are a newer idea, a type of laid back and safe place to discuss death, that plays a role in normalizing death in the public sphere. Death Doulas or Death Midwives are also something that is growing in popularity. I find it very comforting that I will be able to have someone there while I am dying beyond the medical staff who are ill-equipped to deal with it on all levels.

Its heartbreaking to see the statistics of how many people die alone in a hospital but the future seems brighter. we are moving away from seeing death as a taboo topic for the living or the dying.

So, what can we do to help our communities better prepare for the inevitable?

One thing we can do right now is write down how you want your funeral to be carried out or at least give it some thought, maybe even begin discussing it with your partner.

Another idea is to do away with the platitudes. I cannot tell you how awful it was to hear a dozen people tell me that my mother was in a better place. It just made me angry and upset. I would have preferred someone that was willing to hold me as I wept or just a silent acknowledgment that what I was feeling was okay.

Words are hard in the best of times but when someone is experiencing a loss they can be impossible. When words are hard, my advice is to not force it. Holding space silently can be one of the most comforting and loving things you can do for someone who is grieving. It gives them space to feel and speak when they are ready.

I think the best thing we can do for our communities today is being open to conversations about death and accept that not everyone has the same views about the afterlife. Just being there can be a powerful, moving thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Soverignty

Last week I was talking about a new book about Blodeuwedd and the more I think about it the less I doubt that she is, in fact, a sovereignty goddess that has been trying to get my attention for a long time.

Looking back over the path I took to get where I am now, I had a lot of people telling me what to do or just pulling me along without asking and I went along with it with resentment silently stewing inside.

I really identify with Bloeuwedd as a woman who was not given any agency in her own life until she finally decided to take it, no matter the consequences.

I believe wholeheartedly that the deities that come into your life have a purpose even if you willfully or blithely ignore it.

Mother Bear came into my life when I needed someone to defend me when I had no way or knowledge of how to do it for myself. Brigid came over when I needed practical advice from a woman who has seen it all. The Morrigan barges in whenever a change is coming or I need a kick in the ass to get me moving.

Throughout all of that, I was struggling with knowing the right thing to do when there was no one to tell me the next step or when I needed to stand my ground.

The kind and generous person I am finds it hard to keep commitments, especially to myself.  I often find myself in the position where I have made plans with someone or myself but then have to abandon them because someone else’s plans change.

Its almost as if my plans are tentative while anyone else’s are more concrete or just more important. I have gotten better about it but I still have a ways to go.

That is kind of where Bloeuwedd and personal sovereignty come in. It’s something that the Kindred know I have to work on so they keep sending beings to help me grow or to just look in on where I am at.

Part of the reason I left the Christian path was that there is so little autonomy allowed, especially for a woman.  I had whole congregations telling me what I should be doing and a god punishing me for when I strayed.  Having the structure was comforting in many ways but so chaffing in others, especially as I grew and started to question accepted doctrine that didn’t quite make sense to me.

I wasn’t a go-getter or a rebel in the traditional sense, I usually just wanted to hide in a corner and stay out of the way, but I did rebel in quiet ways. Even if I didn’t see it as rebellion at the time. Considering the loud obnoxiousness that was the rest of my family, being the only quiet one was terrifying in a way, I was so different from them that I was noticed when all I consciously wanted was to stay hidden.

I was the English nerd who loved puns stuck in a family with people who couldn’t care less about etymology. I was a bit of a daddies girl because we bonded over a shared love of the English Language from the very beginning.  To everyone else I was just the odd one out or the one who laughed at odd moments.

My mother, in particular, was a study in contradictions and extremes growing up, she refused to give up her autonomy but denied her children or husband any sense of their own. You can see that it was and is an uphill struggle for me to both define what personal autonomy or sovereignty is and how to go about asserting it in my own life.  My mother passed away 4 years ago and I still find myself struggling to do things I know will make me happy but would make her furious.

I don’t believe that the Gods or Kindred are there to do things for us, they are not the proverbial hotline to heaven or the Santa Claus in the sky. I think all of us have agency in our own lives, including the Kindred,  we just sometimes see each other along the way and think “what they are doing is in line with what I want” and reach out. Some are more ‘polite’ about it than others, on both sides.

Brigid is kind of like my agony aunt, the one I go to for practical advice. Mother Bear is always there to act as a comfort when times are hard but is willing to show her claws when necessary and teaches me to do the same.  The Morrigan kicks me in the ass when I am going in the wrong direction, I think she gets so frustrated with me sometimes, or when I am just going in the wrong direction in the labyrinth of life.

Blodeuwedd joins the throng of strong independent women and takes her place along side them, offering the wisdom of both the woman and the owl.  I think the main lesson I learn from all of these women is that while all actions have consequences and we should be careful and deliberate in our choices, inaction has its price too that we should be wary of paying.

 

 

 

Bloeuwedd

Just got in the book of devotions to Bloeuwedd that I have had on my wishlist for years. You may have heard of this particular welsh goddess or you may not have but I personally believe that she has been calling me to learn more about her for years if not decades. She has always been a  subtle presence in my life, my love of all things owl is well known among my family and friends.

I have even had an owl on my altar since my beginning pagan days, not really knowing consciously who they were or why they belonged on my altar at the time.  It should have been clear that I ha welshish leanings from the very beginning, one being my love of owls and another the fact that my first experience with paganism was through the music of Damh the Bard, particularly his version of the tale of Taliesin and Cerridwen.

The stories of the Y Mabinogi have always been some of my favorites, from the tales of Taliesin and Cerridwen to the hardships endured by Rhiannon and her son. I will never be a welsh scholar, I have enough trouble learning French and Irish but even the etymology of the names of people and places from welsh lore has always fascinated me.

What kind of put everything into perspective for me was a journey I took with the Sisters of Avalon during Pantheacon. We took the same path that Arthur and went down to the depths of Anwynn in 3 boats. I had sat down, quite randomly in the boat with the banner of the Owl flying above it and the journey itself featured images of flowers of many colors.

I got the hint this time I think, so I am beginning to study the goddess that has been trying to get my attention for so long, I am hoping my thickheadedness hasn’t deterred her.

One of the key features of the tale of Blodeuwedd, or Flower face as she is called in some versions, is Sovereignty or lack thereof. this is Especially true in relations to her husband Lleu Llaw Gyffes.

Soverenty is only given to kings by a goddess of the land at their discretion, it cannot be taken or bartered away without the woman’s approval and yet, that is exactly what happens in the case of Blodeuwed. She is created by math and Gwydion from the land itself for their own purpose but she is a goddess in her own right, with her own purposes and desires.

So, the story is more complicated than it seems and that’s is what I am interested in researching and gaining knowledge of, I want to know more.

I encourage anyone to read the tale of Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Blodewedd, its a wonderful tale without delving deeply but I find that going deeper makes it more fascinating.