Memento Mori

This time of year always brings up memories of my mother, she died on the 4th of February 2014, and that always makes this time of year hard. Spring is about new beginnings and Life but Death is always with us even when celebrating her sister. I was born on the 8th of February so, it always seems appropriate to start new resolutions around this time rather than at the beginning of January.

Its been 4 years now since I got the call from my dad, my mum had died of heart failure an had a no resuscitation order in her medical files. We had been on our way to visit when my dad got the call, he was commuting from San Jose to Indio every week leaving my mum in the care of a live-in nurse during the week while he worked. It was a stressful time for all of us, my mum had been in and out of hospitals for most of my remembered life but this visit seemed different, worse. We all knew that the end would happen but you never expect it when it finally comes.

In some ways, it was a relief to have the rollercoaster ride finally stop but it was still acutely painful.

I still tear up thinking about it now.

My mother was a force to be reckoned with, she wasn’t someone you could ignore. when she was gone it left a gaping hole, a place for the cold wind to get in.

Memento Mori is about remembering your own mortality. Remembering that you have little time to accomplish what needs doing on this plane of existence.

Events in our life, like a death, bring our own mortality and the fragility of life into focus. It’s a difficult thing to look at but it needs to be done occasionally.

My mother’s life is a prime example of a list of lost opportunities. She was never a happy woman and I think part of that stemmed from the fact that her life did not turn out the way she wanted. people in her life had let her down and she held onto that resentment until it killed her.

I am not saying that none of her resentment was justified, the stories I know make me angry on her behalf sometimes. The idea here is that life is fleeting and people are fallible.

We make mistakes, things happen and we live on or we don’t.

There is no grand scheme, things just happen.

The Gods have their ideas and itineraries that do not always keep our safety or happiness in mind,  Sometimes we are just collateral damage.

The Gods are not all seeing all powerful beings, they are powerful and see a lot more than us sometimes but they still have their limitations.

I find that the idea that we are not always the center of the universe to be comforting. We have power over our own decisions, actions, and beliefs but so does everything else in this world.

We as humans just don’t have that much power, and mostly I think that is a good thing.

It’s our relationships with the other beings that inhabit this world that make things happen, us on our own is not enough.

We can send out prayers and supplications but if nothing is willing to listen than what have we really accomplished?

If we do not foster hospitality, relationships with others we can do very little good in this world.

If we work as a community, us alongside our kindred, we can do so much more than any individual.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Nature Spirits

When I first think about Nature Spirits, what comes to mind is the beings that inhabit the world around me.  First, though we must define what we mean by both nature and spirits, there are quite a few. Nature is a kind of abstract concept that has many connotations that ask many questions of us.

Nature, as defined, is the material world, especially as it exists without human beings or civilization.

 Nature is what humankind has no part in, meaning that cities and other place humans have lived are not a part of Nature but might be something else. These places have their own spirits and should not be lumped in with the ones of nature for expediencies sake.
  Spirit is defined as a conscious incorporeal being, especially one inhabiting a place, object, etc.
So, my definition of a Nature Spirit is a supernatural, incorporeal being that inhabits the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization.
According to that definition, the oak forests and groves that were not planted by man are part of nature while the suburban lawn and backyard garden is not. These human spaces have their own spirits, so don’t think I am just saying that all human existence creates a vacuum of spiritual power. If you have ever been to an old Cathedral you know there is power there, you know it is a sacred place. The spirits of that place are still around and letting us know they are there.
Another example of a human-inhabited place that has attracted its own spirit, the Doubletree hotel in San Jose California where Pantheacon is held every year. Apparently, it is a Jotun Child who likes candy. Who knew, right?
It’s just not a place that a Nature spirit might make its home.
Places that humans have flocked to, natural sites that just promote a feeling of awe. The Grand Canyon comes to mind, especially the caves that are throughout where there is little foot traffic. The Muir woods here in California. Parts of Yosemite park, some parts attract more of the nature spirits than others.
Nature spirits are the beings of the wilder places, the places that are like poking your head into a place that is a different time. You know when you are in one of these sites, it’s like taking a step out of sync with the rest of the world but at the same time feeling the rhythm of the earth around you to your bones.
There is a place that I like to go when I need to feel alone, to disconnect from the modern world and just be. It’s at the beginnings of a trail, a tiny nook by a stream. For long stretches, all you can hear is the water, your breath and the natural world around you.  I am always startled when someone comes through the bushes, and I think they are too.
I found this place by accident, and that is truly how you first find places of Nature among the Urban Landscape.
These places may be stewarded by humans but they were not cultivated in the way that most parks and ‘green places’ in cities are. They are places where Nature is allowed free reign with little disturbance.
Having a garden or potted plants can be a wonderful way to connect with spirits and I would encourage anyone to do it if they can but to also search and find one of those lost places among the urban sprawl that you live in. You will know it when you find it.

Ancestors

Generally speaking, when ancestor worship is brought up, the ancestors we talk about are the ones way back in history and not the ones we may have known in life. I know this is not the case all the time but I see a lot of it in my own community.

Just as important, maybe even more so in some ways, are the relatives or ancestors that we have met or just shared the earth with. I was lucky enough to know both sets of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers throughout most of my childhood and my nieces were able to know at least one of their great Grandmothers for some of theirs. My family tends to be a long-lived lot with most of them living well into their eighties or nineties with no major health problems till near the end. My Grandfathers were a little more elusive, I knew vaguely my father’s father and my Papa but no one else.

I remember my Nana, my Great Grandmother on my mother’s side, as a grumpy woman who liked her televangelists a little too much. I know now it was because she didn’t like going to church anymore, most of her friends had died and she was reminded of that whenever she went. After she passed, about the time when I was in my junior year of HS, I remember being confused by a picture my sister found. It was my Nana and Papa smiling and laughing wearing large absurd sombreros in Mexico. I learned that in her later years she was embarrassed by the photo and hid it.

Its a joke in my family that while my Nana was still alive and Papa was in Heaven, he was living it up. Until Nana arrived wagging her finger and scolding him. Nana was always the one to hold him back when he got too wild.

That’s about as far back as my memory goes, two generations or so.

If I go back much further it just becomes muddled by conjecture and there really is no clear image of who those people were. I know they are family but not much else.

My father’s relatives are shrouded in more mystery. They tended to live long as well but were wilder than my mother’s side. This I get from stories told about them, the only relatives that I met from my father’s side was his mother, brother, and father. My grandmother, my father’s mother, was married several times but my father is the child of her first husband who left her when my father was growing up.

I met my fraternal grandfather a handful of times, and I can’t say much good about him. He was an intelligent man and a charmer like his father was, or so I am told.

The stories we tell about our ancestors keep them alive. The more we know about them the more we can see them as truly living people. A name isn’t much to flesh out a whole person, but pictures and family stories help us see the people who came before us.

we cling to labels but what do they really say about us if we don’t know the lives held under them? what does being of any ethnic background really mean if we don’t have any real connection to the people who really lived that life?

That’s not to say that you can’t identify with your heritage even if you don’t have people or stories to flesh out what that means. Personally, I am of Irish and Jewish descent but I know little to nothing about of the relatives that help me claim that.

All I am saying is that while it is important and wonderful to know where we come from there is a difference between knowing and knowing. That is why these stories are so important.

We need the stories to keep our ancestors from becoming just a vague concept we put into the search bar on Ancestry.com. If we keep them alive there is a greater chance our descendants will too. Maybe even adding our own stories to the collection.

 

 

 

Reminiscences

 

 

When I was younger, maybe in elementary school I don’t think I was capable of imagining all the things I have been through that led me to where I am and who I am today.

We were talking about living a virtuous life last time and how I define it. For most of my childhood and into my early adulthood I was living in constant fear and anxiety. most of the fear was driven by the rather vague idea of what salvation and the state of my soul.

Deep thoughts for a child right? Well, I was confused and worried constantly by the idea. Was I forgiven indefinitely or did I have to continually ask? How did you know? Was it a feeling you got? How did you know you were safe from eternal damnation in hell?

I think I accepted Jesus into my heart at least a dozen time, each time I left the room crying and emotional but soon the fear returned, perhaps even stronger.

I couldn’t figure it out and no one I asked had a straight answer.

Later on, the question got more complicated.

I met other people who were also following the same god, good people according to what I had been taught.

Getting other people involved in any kind of activity makes it more complicated.

They were good people but I didn’t like how I felt when I was around them. They always seemed to be looking down there nose at me. I just didn’t seem to fit. Did that mean they were not good? Or was it me that was the problem?

I struggled with this all through my childhood and into high school. I was doing all the things I should be, hanging around all the people I should and yet I wasn’t truly happy. I was doing all I could and hoping for the best, with no real assurances or firm answers to my questions.

It came to a head really when my pastor, a man I had looked up to, did something that shocked me. We were getting ready for a Halloween event for the Youth Ministries. My pastor had sent out invitations and flyers but I was confused when they didn’t mention that it was a church function.

I asked why this important piece of information was left out.

He told me that he was willing to lie to get them in the door.

I was appalled but it wasn’t until later that I had the words to express what really bothered me.

Integrity is defined as being a consistent source of both strength and wisdom. It was the lack of Integrity of what he had done that threw me and if he had been anyone else I could have ignored it. The difference was that this was a man who had been my teacher, he was held to a higher standard than anyone else.

His actions made me really think about what I was doing. It forced me to take a long hard look at what I truly believed and what I needed out of a religion.

That moment is when I began to search for a better way.

I was still living with my parents so the move wasn’t physical, I still was going to church on Sunday but I wasn’t really there anymore.

It was around this time when I first discovered ADF.

The road to where I am now with ADF wasn’t without some road bumps, 2 of the 3 people who introduced me to this path no longer walk it with me. I miss what they represented to me more than the actual person. They were teachers and leaders who had my trust but broke it.

I was lucky enough to have others step into the void and I am grateful to them for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Furthur Defining

As a kind of follow up to the last post, I wanted to define what an ADF Druid is to me. This is by no means an exhaustive definition and can be taken with a grain of salt or any other seasoning if you like.

An ADF Druid is a practitioner of Druidry that subscribes to the theology laid out by ADF.

That’s the basic definition but if you want to get into details, here we go.

As a member of ADF, I practice my Druidry both publicly and privately. ADF makes it clear what is acceptable in public ritual but lets the members decide what their private practice looks like as long as it doesn’t spill out into the public theatre.  This is called Orthopraxy with its counterpart being Orthodoxy.

Orthopraxy is a system based on what is done or what is observed as being done.

Orthodoxy is a system based on what is believed.

 

I take this to mean that what we do or believe in our heart of hearts is our business and no one else. It’s between us and the kindreds.

The way we act and interact with other people and entities is when ADF has some restrictions.

The foundations of those restrictions are based partially on how the ancient Indo-Europeans behaved. It is then combined with what is acceptable or doable in a modern context.

We are a religion that takes what the ancients teach us and bring the best into a modern context. That is the foundation of what an ADF Druid does, they are constantly learning about what their ancestors did and finding where that fits in their modern life. It’s a constant learning process and it never ends.

We, ADF Druids, are never-ending students of Our Druidry. It is an ever-evolving and truly living religion.

Why not excellence is a phrase I hear a lot in the groups that I am a part of, this phrase is applied not only to our scholarship but to everything we do.

We have virtues that we try to live by, sometimes we fail but failure isn’t the end. We continue to strive for excellence.

We may describe them with many names, depending on your beliefs or hearth culture, but the core ones remain the same: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation and fertility

The key ones in my mind are Wisdom, Integrity, Hospitality, and Fertility.

Wisdom is taking the knowledge you have been given and putting it into practical use.

Integrity is being true to your word and being a dependable source of both strength and Wisdom.

Hospitality is the ability to be both a respectful host and guest.

Fertility is being or facilitating the safe place where things, people or ideas can grow.

These four things are what are the foundations of my Druidry. Others may have different definitions and I will respect that as long as they do the same.

When I first came to ADF it was in someone else’s home, I was surrounded by strangers but was made to feel welcome.

Through them, I discovered the kindred, beings that moved in many mysterious ways. I fostered a relationship with the kindred, which has become the foundation of my Druidry.

These same persons became people I could go to in times of trouble, people I look to now.  What keeps me whole is the continued strength of those relationships.

 

 

Definitions

I’ve not written anything in awhile but in light of what is going on in the ADF community and the wider pagan community right now, I think putting my thoughts down might be helpful for someone, even if that someone is myself.

Recently it came to light, through a newly published book, that a person who many in the community looked up to is not who we thought they were. I am being vague for a reason I promise, anyone who is aware of the situation knows what I am talking about and if you message me I can point you in the right direction.

In this post I wanted to kind of discuss definitions, those we are given and those we give. When we define something or someone we are putting them into a box, its something that we do when we want to be able to look back and have an inventory of what we are and how we are connected to another. It’s something we do when we are combating the unknown, which is scary. We make it known, we label it and it’s not something to be scared of but something we can hold as part of who we think we are.

It’s a safety feature that is hardwired into us as humans. Some of us are more reliant on labeling and defining things, such as people with Asperbergers or someone who is in a situation where there is a lot of unknowns constantly being thrown at them. When you are going to a new school, for example, you define the cliques or groups to find out where you belong and how you respond to others around you.

Having a place or a group to belong to is a comforting thing and defining who you are is the first step to finding that sense of belonging.

Those definitions can be molded by our perceptions of others and interactions with them. How you choose to define yourself is a personal quest that never ends but when a person or perception we have that is part of how we define ourselves is challenged, it can be jarring.

If we ourselves are the ones doing the challenging, like if we choose to do research and fin facts that challenge our perceptions, the change in definitions can come smoothly without much damage or trauma. I am not saying that there will not be any difficulty but it can be easier if we are open enough to the possibility that change can be less painful.

It’s like the difference in being forced to do something compared to choosing to do something. When you choose to make a change it will be hard but it is still your choice so, your sense of self and autonomy is unchallenged to a certain degree.

On the other hand, when you are backed into a corner and forced to change behavior or change perceptions, the road can be harder and more painful.

This is kind of where I am at right now, though I think that many people are having a harder time than I am just because I didn’t really know the person in question or form my sense of self around those perceptions.

My faith in my Druidry was shaken by the revelations but at the core, my beliefs are my own, formed around my own research and work with the kindreds. ADF is a community I feel safe in, and they are moving towards policies that will help cement that.

It hurts to see others in my community hurting and watch as others around me have their beliefs and definitions shaken or broken but I take comfort in my own relationship with the Kindreds. They are the bedrock on which I built how I define myself as an ADF Druid.

My renewal of my membership is coming up soon, somewhere in April I think, and I have little doubt that I will continue to renew.

My Druidry is not defined by one person or even a group of people, people are fallible. It’s even in ADF’s Bylaws: Article 5, Section 3, part 1, subpart 7.

The AD (Arch Druid) shall not be considered impeccable or infallible on any topic.

ADF as an organization is very aware of the fact that humans are fallible, flawed and capable of both great acts of compassion and cruelty.

So, I have not based myself or my Druidry on humans but on my relationship with the kindreds. Which is constantly changing but always available for me to lean on.

With strength and conviction on that bedrock foundation, I define myself as an ADF Druid.

 

Poetry Tuesday

A Charm of Skye

Anonymous 

(c2 century)  

The harp has three strings,

What a pleasant jewel it was.

A string of iron,

A string of bronze,

A string of pure silver.

The names of the strings were thus:

Suantorrgles; Geantorrgles the great;

Goitorrgles was the other string

Which could send all men a weeping.

If the pure Goitorrgles be played

For the hosts of the earth

They would all get laughter from it

From one day to the next.

If the free Suantorrgles were played

To the host of the wide universe-

Great the wonder-

All would fall asleep.