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Airmid, sweet Goddess of green herbs
Lady of tireless patience and healing,
I call to you now to join us
And celebrate this festival.
Oh sister of Miach
The herbs have been counted
And they have been named
Come to our Grove this evening
We ask your presence to unlock
These gates between the worlds and watch them
And once more
We honor the ways of our following

Midsummer

Jun. 26th, 2006 05:18 pm
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Midsummer, as all other rituals, has its claims to uniqueness. It started out just after Beltane with Deirdre and a few others gathering to write a Fool’s Rite. Last year, we performed the Chocolate Ritual. This year they were going to write the Cheese Ritual, honoring Roman deities. (Somehow it was concluded that pagans have a particular fondness for cheese.) This plan went on for a few weeks until one lore meeting where Will questioned the arrangement, citing sources that indicate that cheese was considered to be a welfare food during Roman times, and was that really an appropriate way to honor their deities? Alternatives were suggested- for instance changing the pantheon to Greek. After two lore meetings of discussing this, everything was up in the air, and the Cheese Ritual was abandoned. Abandoned in favor of what? )
badstar: (various gods)
was an exerience different form any other Grove High Day ritual I've attended. Despite their unique differences, each ritual so far has had two important things in common: first, an outdor setting in the Grove sanctuary and second, calling on a completely different and separate deity for each part in the ritual.

Imbolc was held inside the Grove- it was not by choice, but by extreme necessity given the weather that day...that is to say, we were in a state of torrential downpour. It started in the morning and just kept going. The Sanctuary was under at least an inch, probably more of water. We were forced inside. I wasn't sure how this would happen, but I was not surprised to walk into the Grove and find most of the chairs arranged in rowsin the front section of the room with the sofa under the front window and the central area cleared except for a few chairs around the perimeter wall. People arrived, chairs were shifted, cushions thrown down. More ame and we packed them in. To say it was cozy would be putting it lightly.

When we were all setted in and seated, we began. The second major difference for this High Day was that we were calling soley on aspects of Brigid, instead of different deities for the god and goddess, Earth Mother, Gatekeeper etc. The triple aspects of Brigid of the Cauldron, Forge and of Inspiration were our primary deities, the Gaulish-Celtic Brigantia was our Earth Mother, Brigid the Bard our Gatekeeper. We were praying for growth through Brigid's Fire and Water. Water was truly present in abundance, and someone remakred that it was like a birth and the water had broken, No one argued that.

The ritual proceeded and I was a bit distracted- I had planned to spin fire during the offering time. I hadn't spun for ritual since Midsummer, and I hadnt spun at all since New Year's Eve. Not the proper mental focus during ritual, but there I was, at least to begin with. But during the gate opening, I was t make offerings to the fire, the well and the tree as Caryn, Crystal and Stephanie sang the Portal Song.

Since I couldn't spin, during offerings, I lit a candle and put it on the altar to the Shining Ones, and the mood was lightned a bit by someone suggesting that I twirl around with it..this would have put out the flame, and the room was in no state to have someone spinning around with a candle, but I did wave my hand holding the candle around a bit- slowly so it would stay lit.

Later, Caryn, Jackie and I would read the oracle...again, this was different from other rituals. Usually one person reads from one oracle..a tarot deck, runes, whatever they prefer. Caryn, Jackie and I each chose a different oracle...Jackie the Rider-Waite tarot, Caryn the Celtic Animal Oracle and I...well, I had intended to use my Haindl tarot which is the deck that I know best, I have been using it for several years. It was a fortunate thing that I had recently turned more attention to my runes because I discovered too late that I had left the deck at home. There is a copy of the Haindl deck at the Grove, but my runes were in my backpack, so I elected to use them instead. I don't remmber what Caryn and Jackie pulled, but I do remember puling the rune Mannaz, a rune signifying himankind, community, support...all of the things that we would hope for in a period of great change which our Grove has been experiencing...two members expexting babies, three of us (including me) working for the same company and losing our jobs, teenagers moving out of a house, an engagement, at least seven of us working on the Dedicant's program...

Before the ritual ended, a Bannock bread was passed around. Instead of throwing the last bite over our shoulders as is traditional, a bowl was passed around and everyone put the last bite into that bowl to scatter outside in offering later.

During the ritual, the air warmed and the rain became a thunderstorm. I spent some time out on the front porch talking to another Grove member, Matt about the idea of absolute truth..how that came about, I couldn't say.
badstar: (various gods)
It seems that for every High Day accounted for so far I have reason to say that it's been different from each previous one, and legitemately so each time. It is no different for this Beltane, for a couple of reasons.

To begin with, it started out differently. For prior high Day rituals, the Grove has begun planning often three to four weeks in advance, sometimes less. In a way, it began even before Ostara. A few weeks after Imbolc, one of our members came in on a Sunday and said that Epona had "kicked him in the head", and made clear to him that after all the focus that we'd placed on Brigid for Imbolc, She wanted some of our time. He suggested that we consider honoring Her for Ostara, however we were already well into planning our teling of the Descent Of Inanna, so that was out.

Ostara came and went, and the day after during Rites Of Caffeina, we were sitting out in the Sanctuary when another member of the Grove announced that he thought that we should start planning for Beltane immediately because it was almost the end of March, and Beltane is the first of May...and April was going to be a busy and Chaotic month for many Grove members. So it ended up that a small group of us stayed there for three hours batting ideas around...who to honor, what our purpose would be. As we did this, I recalled Rorik's suggestion of Epona. None of us had any idea why she had shown up (Further speaking to Rorik only revealed that he felt that she had indicated that she wanted some of our time and had not given any particular purpose or desire). Wel, we decided to honor Epona...but was that going to be Epona the Gaulish-Celtic horse goddess? Or Epona Regina the goddess revered by Roman military and cavalrymen? (It is interesting to note that of the Celtic deities that the Romans assimilated, only the name of Epona remained unchanged saved for appending of the title Regina- "Queen"
After another Sunday or two of discussing and hammering it out, we settled on the Gaulish Epona and along with Her, we would honor Belenus- also known as Bel, for whom the day Beltane is named, when cattle was driven between two balefires for purification and fertility. We could not find a Gaulish gatekeeper or crossroads deity, so Elyn of the Ways, a Welsh goddess was added. Our next objective was to find a connection between Epona and Belenus..a myth, a legend, a fragment of something but after several weeks, none who tried were successful.

A few weeks before the High Day, the ritual team was set. One of our members, who is rarely able to come to the Grove, was asked to was asked to make the trip down from Pennsylvania to call in Epona- Devon and her husband Drey have a small horse farm and Epona is naturaly a patron of theirs. Caryn would call for Elyn and for my affinity to fire, I was asked to invite Belenus. It's not the first- and won't be the last time I've said it..I am not a Celtic pagan. Feet planeted firmly in the Helenic camp, I am not the ideal choice to invoke an Irish-Celtic god...and I knew even less about the Gaulish deities. However, I had read in a few places that Belenus was likened to the Roman Apollo (even called Belenus Apollo sometimes), and the Hellenic Apollo is a patron of mine...and Belenus is a fire god so I could work something out. As this was a decided, someone asked if I would spin my firestaff in praise offering? Of course I would. Then someone else...either Caryn or Will I think asked if I could do the invocation while spinning...I can spin and talk at the same time, I would just need to make sure that I spoke loud enough. And could I do it *inside the circle*? That I couldn't say for sure...I had only spun in the empty area outside the circe in the past. I thought I could but would not say for sure without trying in an empty sanctuary.

In the weeks before Beltane, I was very close to losing my job- the contract for the company I was doing tech support had been cancelled and business was dwindling to nothing as the last days were coming. I had the internet at my disposal and plenty of time to do research, learn about Belenus and try to find a common thread to Epona. One day abut a week and a half before, Beltane, I had taken my copy of the Encyclopedia of Gods to wrk with me and was lounging my my desk, reading its (very short) articles on Epona and Belenus. I noticed that both articles mentioned worship as healing deities at a sanctuary of Saint Sabine in what is now the Cote d'Or...so I started googling. Several search strings later, I had found a few websites with citations of small horse statues being consecrated and buried in honor of both Epona and Belenus Apollo. I had found the elusive connection that we were looking for! After that, writing my invocation was a breeze- the words seemed to fall from my pen to the paper.

The Saturday before Beltane, Jack Will and I ventured up to Devon and Drey's farm to meet their horses and learn more about Epona from their experience. We helped to feed the horses and groom them a bit, and Devon told us about her working with Epona, some of her experiences and what she'd learned. She suggested that we think of Epona as the Lead Mare for our herd. She also taught us a bit about horses in general- breeds, care, riding. We left armed with more infomation and a bit more ready to honor Epona in our ritual.

The next day, I took my firestaff and some lamp oil to the Grove for a test run in the sanctuary. The space was more than enough, even so I erred on the side of caution and asked that during my invocation, everyone present stand just outside the outer circe of stones until my wicks were out. (The sanctuary has two concentric circles of flagstones to mark it.) Given the situation and purpose, I felt that it would be extremely inappropriate to extinguish them and would continue until they went out on their own. Once I finished speaking, because my wicks would burn longer than my invocation would last, Stephanie would then lead the Grove in a chant.

The next Saturday rolled around, Stephanie and Jesse picked me up on their way to the Grove to get ready. We got there before anyone else, and none of us had eaten, so we went out for lunch. When we got back, more people had arrived and we all worked on preparing the space. A fire was built- we had been afraid that a burn ban might keep us from having the fire, but it rained a lot the week or so before, so the ban was lifted.

People gathered and we processed into the circle, called on the Earth Mother and Kindreds, and sang the Portal Song as a small group of us circled the Well. the Fire and the Tree during its respective verse. Caryn caled Elyn to open the Gates, Devon delivered a beautiful invocation to Epona, inviting her into our Grove sanctuary, which for the occasion had been decorated with dozens of horse statues in every crevice and corner we could get them. I was wrapped in a fire-rinted skirt, bedecked with bells around my ankles, got up and called on Belenus Apollo- I chose that incarnation of the god because He was most familiar to me, and because He was most connected to Epona. I actually forgot the last two lines of the invocation that I had written, but I think the only one who realized this was Stephanie because I had read it to her beforehand so she would know when I was finished speaking to start the chant. When she realized, after nly a short moment that I was not going to continue, she picked up and the Grove chanted to the god while I continued to spin- the wicks burned for about twice as long as they should have lasted and the second wick just would not burn out, so when it was down to a barely visible flame, I took staff in both hands, held the flame outwards and turned it in a circle around me, projecting the fire outwards to all present. Instead of a beverage as a welcoming offering, I poured what remaind of the oil in the cup that I had used for soaking my wicks. Up til now, we had kept the fire smaller than normal due to my spinning and the group circling the gates. The entire ritual went smoothly, perhaps a bit quicker than most. I spun once again during the praise offering segment- as I said at the time, I could not entice a fire god into our celebration and not offer Him a bit of performance for his pains, now could I?

After the ritua closed, and the last guest went home from revels, a few of us stayed for the night to keep the fire going- we would let it burn out in the morning, We sat up talking about the evening and various non-related things and somewhere in the middle of all that, it occurred to me that I had gained a good bit in the past few weeks- of more knowledge and understanding of the feast of Beltane, a new interest in the Gaulish-Celtic mythology, and a more thorough understanding of the virtue of fertility- an idea which I had previously mostly tried to avoid (but I've covered that in my virute essay, so I'll avoid redundancy here), and as some other things came up which I have not discussed and are not related to the topic of Beltane, a much clearer idea of where I am going spiritually.

As I said at the beginning, I've said that every ritual has been different from the others. I have put more time and effort into Beltane than previous High Days, but with the possible exception of Mabon, I have gotten more in return than any of the others.
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Yule


Yule...the celebration of the Winter Solstice..I have mixed feelings about this day.

On one hand, it is the shortest day of the year. I cannot say that I am affected enough by lack of daylight to claim seasonal depression, but I do feel a marked difference in myself in the shorter days. On the other hand...once the solstice is past, the days become longer. At the same time, I am a night person...and the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year.

Events such as a joyous Grove ritual do much to take my mind off of the dichotmy.

Our Grove Yule ritual was a first for me in that it is the first ritual that I have attended with Norse deities. I am by now familiar with ritual involving Irish-Celtic, and Greek deities, but Norse was a new one to me thought I didn't think it would be much different. i was mostly curious to see what would happen since two of the deities in question- Freya and Heimdall had recently begun to make minor appearances on my radar.

Ritual took place in two parts, with Revels in between. We incorporated a somewhat improvised symbul into the ADF structure which involved passing a drinking horn around the circle three times. On the first pass, we made toasts to the Gods. I toasted to those called for the ritual, as well as my patrons. The second toast was to the ancestors. As I mentioned in my Samhain essay, I feel a strong sense of disconnect to my own ancestors. At Samhain, I tried to connect to my ancestors with no result. Still feeling somewhat rejected I found myself feeling that it was more apropriate for me to speak in acknowledgement of those who have been forgotten, whose names have been erased from history, and who have no one left to remember them. This I feel was much better recieved. The third round was oaths and boasts. Oaths that we are to keep for the upcoming year, boasts of accomplishments for the past year. My great boast was that I had passed the two-year mark at my job, longer than I had ever worked at a single job. I also made here what I consider to be my Dedicant's Oath. My statement of "Hey, I'm here and I dedicate myself to this path." a member of our Grove had made a Ring Of Troth for the evening which was passed around to further solemnify oaths as the speaker felt appropriate. It was emphasized that an oath on the Ring Of Troth was held to a much higher degree of gravity, and to choose one's words and promised actions carefuly. Understanding this, and understanding also that I will not know fully what I am getting into until I actually begin it, I felt compelled to take hold of the ring and make an oath to cntinue my work on the Dedicant's Program and afterwards to proceed to the clergy study program (though, I was mindfull to not specify a period of time or a deadline for myself and simply promised that I would do my best to work towards this ends)

After this third round, we adjourned to Revels, returning later to read the oracle, partake of the Waters Of Life and thank the deities for their blessings. Most people left after this, but some stayed the night, sitting outside around the fire, or staying inside the house, talking watching movies and generally spending time together as community. With the celebration of Yule, I felt like I had regained something I was missing at Samhain. Though I stil didn't feel an ancestral connection, I was no longer feeling cut off.
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Samhain

Its been more difficult writing about smahain than it has been about other High Days. How do you write about a fest to honor the ancestors when you feel no connection to the ancestors, and are not even close to your existing family?

Samhain has been a bit difficult for me. I am not very close to my family, and I know very little abut my ancestry other than names and where they came from. My family preserves no tradiations and little information about the past...in fact, there is a part of my mothers family where all information was cut off prior to one great-great-great grandmother due to a family scandal.

This particular Samhain was an especially difficult letdown, having followed such a powerful Mabon. I spent a great deal of the ritual feeling very empty and disconnected, and while I desperately wanted nothing more than to leave, I would not allow myself to do so.

Part of the ritual included a guided journey to the underworld to meet the ancestors and before we went, we were to call out the names of those we wished to meet on the other side. Since i have an interest in attempting to break the mystery of the family scandal and learn about those that came before this person, it seemed appropriate to call her name...Maria Caracappa. I did so, we began our descent...and I felt nothing. There was no leaving this place for me. Many others spoke so certainly of feeling the presence of their ancestors...i felt alone and abandoned.

For me, the strongest part of the evening...what stood out clearer than anyhitng was the part where Will read the omen. One of the runes puled was the blank rune. Will's interpretation of this was simply "The ancestors were never here." He did not mean this literally of course, but that's how it felt to me. Our purpose for the ritual was to seek guidance in whether we should be looking to old traditions for our learnings, creating our own traditions, or finding some blend of the two. Further interpreation of this rune was that it was not for the ancestors to say, but for us to discover.

Feeling cut off from the past presents a challenge when taking part in a religion that places such importance on ancestors. Even in knowing that we are talking about more than our literal direct ancestors, it is difficult t listen to people who can tell stories of great grandparents and generations-old family tradiations. On one hand I am not bound to any such obligation..on the other, I have no connection. How this will continue to color my work within ADF remains to be seen.
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Mabon/ Fall Equinox

Like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, the Autumn Equinox is a myth. That is...as people often think of the Autumn Equinox- a 24 hour time period where the time of daylight and time of dark are exactly equal.

Thus started the Cedarlight Mabon rite with these words spoke by Will Pearson, one of our Grove's founders. perhaps not the exact words, as I am writing this looking back 5 months, but very close. And definitely the exact idea.

It may have been 5 months ago that this ritual took place, but I remember it well. Perhaps better than others. it was the first to take place after I joined the Grove, and joined ADF. I signed the Book Of CedarLight. It was the first ritual to take place after I had come forth with my descision to complete the Dedicant's Program and then move onto the Clergy Study Program. It was also hot on the heels of a very upsetting instance where someone tried to tell me that I was working on a completely incorrect path and that I should not be part of ADF, suggesting that I look at two paths that I had already examined and rejected.

I also remember it well because this was a rather unusual ritual. It was completely unplanned. Up until the last minute, various people were talking about going to an Indian puja instead of holding a ritua at the Grove. A few days before, Will suggested on the forum in a most roundabout way that we not pre-write the ritual, we knew the structure well enough. We would be focusing on balance, change and how we reacted and moved with it.

So it was unscripted. It was unplanned. 20 minutes before we started, we had no idea who we were calling to. A small group of us huddled together and hashed it out in less than 5 minutes. We were praying for balance in our lives, our Lord and Lady would be Apollo and Artemis; Hecate would be our gatekeeper. Artemis and Apollo are my patrons, I would call them in.

We gathered the natives and assembled in our sanctuary...Will started out with his speech of myth...the myth of Santa Claus was then refuted by a guest in attendance: she had with her a business card from Santa Claus. It was passed around the circle and decided that if Santa Claus had a business card, he must be real. We left the silliness and continued with a comfortable conversation about seeking balance in our lives, many of us agreeing that balance is not a static thing to attain and hold onto, but a continous act or a target to pursue. A few members started drumming softy and we slipped into the rite, a blend of ritual and spontenaity, a sort of balance in and of itself. The Lord and Lady graced us with their presence, the Gatekeeper smoothed the ways. Darkness fell and we continued on in candle and fire light. It was unplanned and unrehearsed...it was honest and heartfelt.

From gathering in the circle to dismissal to Revels, we ran two hours, almost to the minute. Some argue that we took too long, there was too much speech or inappropriate offerings. Everyone has their own thoughts. Myself, I would not have changed a moment of the evening. Since finding the Grove, I have been sure that I've been moving in the right direction, and I have had some profound experiences. I have been certain from within- though not without my sources of contention to overcome- but it is a completely different thing to have that inner certainty affirmed from without.

Mabon is commonly thought of as a festival of harvest....for this year, we cast aside the tradition of harvest celebration for a meditation on the concept and seeking of balance in our lives. I found myself right where I needed to be at the time, in a safe place between worlds where I could see the long road that stretched out ahead of me, mental compass pointing straight ahead, the winds blowing lightly with me..

Imbolc

Feb. 5th, 2006 12:18 am
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Imbolc today...crazy! Tons of people *in* the Grove for a high rite due to the insane amounts of rain...whoa. The oracle reading was unique, Caryn and Jackie and I each read for one of three aspects of Brigid... I read for Brigid of the Bards, Jackie read for Brigid of the Forge, and Caryn for Brigid of the Cauldron. I used my runes...they're finaly making sense to me after having them for about a year and a half. Lots of good food, including an amazing shepheard's pie courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] pagandenma, black cheery pie, tiramisu, brownies, some potato thing that Caryn made that I can't spell...you get the idea. It's aways fun seeing everyone, and the thunderstorm tonight was wonderful. Matt and I hung out on the porch for about an hour and a half waxing philosophical about the idea of truth and the existance of the universe. He also helped to shed a little light on some thigns that have been going on for me lately. Jackie wandered in and out of the conversation, comically worried half the time, particuarly when Matt just stod out in the pouring rain. The look on her face when he came back on the porch and the rain amost stopped, and then went back out and yelled "Hail Thor"...and torrential downpours would start again within seconds...was just priceless. He did this several times.

Time to go to sleep so I can get up again in the morning, go to the Book Thing to see what books I can find, and then go to the Grove. Brigettte (new roommate) is going with me, and before she leaves to come back to the house and work on unpacking (Not staying all day like I am), we're going to take a run to a cat rescue shelter near the Grove to meet a cat that I might be interested in adopting. Yay, kitties! If that goes well, I may be bringing home a kitty next weekend. *happydance*

okay, I need to sleep...intended to sleep long ago...

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