Week 17 – DPWotY

So I’m finally, finally, finally typing up the week for the blog on time, meaning I have caught up on the blog entries. It is kind of scary because this the third High Day done and dusted, week 17 is pretty much the one third mark for doing the DP, well I say that but I honestly think that even once all the requirements have been met from the point of view of attending rituals, meditating, maintaining nature awareness, etc. there will still be a lot of work to do. The essays will need to be written properly, the journals polished and the book reviews tightened up into a coherently explanatory essay.

That being said it is kind of exciting, Beltane is seven months away and that was my goal, to be ready to submit the DP course work at Beltane. I think I’m in equal parts terror and excitement at this stage, a deer in the headlights possibly.

So anyway. The recap.

This was Lughnassa for us here in the SH and on Sunday 5th it was a warm (32 degrees celsius) muggy day (78% humidity) with large storms threatening (they held off until we were driving home), I was there in plenty of time since I had dance rehersals with my Morris Side before hand in the same park that the ritual was to take place in.

It was a decent turnout of people at the ritual, having been well advertised, there were a large number of non-ADF members there but it was still very exciting. I lost track but I’m pretty sure by the time ritual started there were sixteen of us there, seventeen if you count the doggo that was there. 🙂

So being run by an ADF grove it ran following the core order of ritual, celebrating Celtic pantheon. This ritual ran very smoothly, possibly the smoothest one I’ve been to since I was a member of ADF, and despite the large number of non-members at the ritual. There was the usual fumbled line here and there but it really was the only thing that went wrong. There were no interuptions, no panicked people needing to leave, the tree didn’t shed parts this time and even the fire lit smoothly. Now that I’m feeling more relaxed with the grove I didn’t fumble a single thing, which was really pleasing.

Lugh was the diety of the occassion for this ritual, which is fitting really and Mannan mac Lir was once again the Gatekeeper for the ritual.

The grove likes to share skills for this ritual so we had a variety of ‘offerings’, one person gave a piece of obsidian to the grove treasures and an athame hand crafted out of birch wood, another gave everyone home made frankincense pouches, another offered some mugwort from thier garden to the flames, a farrier of the group offered up a horseshoe to the grove treasures, someone offered up chocolates, one of the members offered up a herbal smudge they had made to the flames, there was a zucchini slice offered made from produce that came from their property, a tale of Lugh by the senior druid, a poem by another and I offered up herbs and rhubarb from my garden.

The omen was once again drawn from Ogham Oracle cards, this time we drew Alder which was pronounced to mean shield, guidance and protection. This was decided that it meant that we were being guided and protected and was thus a postive omen and was accepted.

Once again I could feel the Nature Spirits during the ritual but I also felt like I could sense Lugh there, I like to think he was pleased by the groves tradition of sharing our skills with each other and the kindreds.

I really loved the skill sharing part of offerings that the grove does for Lughnassa, it really added to the feeling of community that the grove has and was a marvellous idea. It took me weeks to decide what I was going to do for my skill share and I think it is a great way to get people to think about what skills the posses and what they have to offer to their community.

With that I think I have reached the end of the recap.

Week 16 – DPWotY

Wow we are upto the third High Day preparation, sadly I was so behind on my blog that I hadn’t done this entry before I went to the High Day on Sunday, I’d only made some notes on it and what it means from a Heathen perspective. So for me here in the Southern Hemisphere we were celebrating Lughnassa/Lughnadsa/Lammas/Loaf-fest/Frayfaxi or whatever other name you want to give it. I have a friend who refers to this as ‘the bread one’, I guess the name isn’t that important so much as that we celebrate it.

This High Day is a harvest festival/celebration, the crops are being harvested and bread and ale are being made for the first time since the stores ran out. Offerings are made in the fields and waterways to appease the Spirits and to the Kindreds too, to celebrate the successful harvest and ward off damaging storms, blight and vermin from damaging the next one.

There are some sources that say in Heathen culture this day was celebrated with horse sports and could be better attributed to Freyr, Thor and Sif. The wights are also important in this celebration.

We make offereings from our crops as thanks, and grains, breads and ales are also a good choice at this time, especially if you make your own. At home I made offerings from my tomatoes which I have just been able to start harvesting from my garden, along with a wreath of herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and mint)

This is definitely an agrarian holdiay, supposedly the away season had ended and the Vikings that had gone of raiding were back to help harvest the crops that had been growing in thier absence.

I love this holiday because it means the worst of summer is over and we can look forward to cooling nights, enjoying our crops that we harvest from the garden, cooking with produce we grew ourselves and storms to see in the close of summer. Despite having been baked for months by the harsh Australian sun the garden looks vibrant, many plants are flowering or just finishing and from now on we begin to prune in the garden.

The grove I attend tends to follow a Celtic path, so this time of year they celebrate Lugh and his getting into Tara. They have a tradition of skill sharing, whether it is reading a poem you have read, reciting a favourite part of a myth or tale, singing, dancing, cooking or other skills. I feed and watered my herbs and rhubarb profusely for weeks in preparation of this celebration as the skill I wanted to share was gardening. I took offerings of fresh herbs and rhubarb to the  ritual, I had meant to take some seedlings too but forgot.

I think this season is growing in favor with me and now is up there with Yule for me as a favourite seasonal celebration/high day.

Anyway that is it for now, I’ll be writing about how the celebration went soon enough. 🙂

Week 10 – DPWotY

Week ten is the post ritual wrap-up for the second High Day in the DP, having either performed a ritual, or as is the case here attended one and participated I am now to reflect on how the ritual went, what happened, what did I learn, what was the format, who were the patron dieties, how did it feel, how did the blessing go, etc.

So once again I set out in 41 degree celsius heat for a two hour drive to the nemeton of the closest grove to me, grooving to Damh the Bard, as only an overly enthusiastic pagan can. We took a cake, oat biscuits and banana bread with us to share at the post ritual picnic, all things we thought could survive the heat once we arrived.

We arrived with little time to spare, eight minutes before starting time, however due to problems with public transport some of the others were running late and had messaged ahead to let the Senior Druid know. We all waited patiently in the shade of the gum trees using the ritual handouts as fans for the stragglers and chatting about our lives.

As the last of the people our Senior Druid was certain was coming arrived we worked out roles for our very small gathering, my drink bottle unfortunately has leaked a little on my notes so the number of attendees I am having to put down by recollection as being only 6 people.

How did the ritual go in terms of structure?
The ritual followed the ADF core order since it was held by a ADF Grove.

What things went wrong?
Nothing went overly wrong with the ritual, there were a few fumbled lines (including one of mine) and one of the people doing offerings to the Kindred’s almost forgot to give one but nothing big, cetainly nothing the detracted from the ritual or ruined it in any way.

Who were the patrons of the ritual and who was the Gatekeeper?
The patron of the ritual was the Dagda and the Gatekeeper was Mannan mac Lir

Did you have trouble saying the words? Did everything come out smoothly?
No and no. I didn’t have trouble saying the words for the parts I spoke or sung in, I never have because I wouldn’t participate in something that I wasn’t comfortable with. Did everything come out smoothly, also no, I honestly don’t think the answer will ever be yes unless I have memorized my lines by rote, my mild dyslexia is always going to trip me up, the good thing about it though is the grove are understanding and I’m not the only one that has this issue.

If you were with a group what part did you play?
I was with a grove and I played the part of the Nature Spirits, as well as participating in the songs and parts where everyone speaks. I really like welcoming them in as part of the Kindreds, like I’m greeting friends.

What did you feel during the ritual?
So Rev Dangler does elaborate on this question more in the booklet but I like the smaller headings so I’m going to phrase the question simply and cover a few things.

As for feelings of confidence or anxiety, I would say I had mixed feelings, I had some anxiety at the pre-ritual briefing that carried into the ritual, right up to the point where I started my part of welcoming in the nature spirits, it was like I kicked over into teacher mode where there was no space for anxiety. I spoke clearly and projected my voice so all could hear me and after I started I was filled with a feeling of confidence, it was like I was among friends and there was no need to be worried, given I have crippling anxiety this was such a liberating feeling.

As I was welcoming in the nature spirits I got a wonderful warm feeling, like I was with friends, it filled me with so much joy and happiness and it felt like I was really connected to the space, I felt hyper aware of the birds in the trees and the gently movement of the trees around us, the feeling of the dirt beneath our feet and the space we were standing in. Suddenly the gentle trickle of the creek seemed so much clearer, like the gently chiming of crystals on a chandelier as they clinked softly against each other in a wafting breeze. I like to think that this was the presence of the nature spirits responding to our call to join us in ritual.

What omens were drawn?
The seer drew the Vine which she said was about celebrating the bounty of the season, of fellowship and of connectedness. It was agreed that this was a positive omen and that our offerings had been accepted.

One other thing of note was that I got to take the well offerings down to the creek near the nemeton to make the secondary offering to our local waterway, casting the water and silver into the gently trickling stream that was much lower than normal and clear as glass.

With that I have finished recap number two of the High Days.

Week 9 – DPWotY

So here I am again furiously typing and writing trying to catch up on what has been going on , I have pages from books, corners from diaries and sticky notes forming all the notes I need to convert into blog posts before they become sensless gibberish.

Week nine has us looking at the second high day for the wheel, in my case in the Southern Hemisphere that is Summer Solstice or Midsummer.

Midsummer from a Heathen perspective can look at things like the tales of Baldr, who in a lot of modern resources is linked to Midsummer, a number of groups burn a model viking long ship with offerings inside linking to the Gylfaginning saga where Baldr is killed. Likening his life cycle and role in the destruction of the world at Ragnarok and participation in making a new one afterwards to the role of the sun in other IE traditions.

Midsummer for me means that it is a hot, dry time and that we are beginning the slow march to the wet cold months, it means weeks or months without any rain and the promise of glorious summer thunder storms. It is also a time of danger, of being alert, not only due to the increased snake activity but because it is the beginning of the peak fire danger period, where any day you could find a out of control bushfire threatining your home and community.

Midsummer isn’t really a time of year I look forward to normally, as I am not great with any heat over 22 degrees celsius as a general rule. However this time, I was really excited about Midsummer, it is the second High Day I’ve celebrated with an ADF grove since I became a member, and it is a part of my continuing learning.

By the time Midsummer rolls around the days have been getting longer and hotter, the air is drier and you can taste summer in the air, a dry dusty flavour tinged with woodsmoke and ozone. We’ve often had our first big storm for the season and everything has either turned golden and brown or is well on the way as heatwaves roll in.

The grove I have been attending always sees a drop in attendance for ritual at Midsummer, apparently it has been that way since the very beginning. They seem to treat it is a much more relaxed ritual, there is a sense of festivity in the air as everyone is getting ready to spend holiday time with their families. They still follow the usual format of pre-ritual breifing and assigning of roles, ritual and then post ritual picnic near the nemeton where everyone brings something to share and we eat, chat and enjoy each others company.

So now I have supposedly written my next High Day essay, in reality this is just the beginning I think but it is nice to have taken a look at the festival before hand and to have something to draw upon for the actual essay.

Week Four – DPWotY

So I attended my first High Day as a newly minted ADF member and Dedicant Path walker yesterday (30th of October). The sun was high and for the first time this year I felt like it was hot, a good day for Beltane celebrations. We made the two-hour trek with our contributions to the post ritual meal and socialization sitting carefully packed in the car. Unfortunately it didn’t save the carrot and walnut cake I’d baked from being assaulted by a box of books and made substantially thinner, which gave people a good chuckle when we arrived.

We arrived at the ritual area with ten minutes to spare and liberally applied bug repellent, which we ended up sharing around because there were large, hungry mosquitoes preying on the other druids. Apparently this is the first time they’ve ever had mosquitoes bother them at the site in ten years. The floods our state had experienced earlier this month apparently had left ideal conditions for them though.

We had a chance to socialize for about twenty minutes prior to the ritual starting due to late runners. During which time the senior druid handed out the copies of the ritual for everyone so they could follow along, join in at the appropriate moments and in case they weren’t familiar with the songs to be sung.

The ritual went smoothly for the most part and the excitement and joviality was palpable in the air. (I’ll go into the actual ritual more below when I answer the questions required and the homework questions from Through the Wheel of the Year). Our blessing was accepted and a positive omen was received, everyone was thrilled. After the ritual finished we departed to the area where we were going to share our meal singing the recessional song.

We spent a good hour or so breaking bread and chatting happily in the sunshine before it was time to pack up and depart. It was a truly positive experience and I think a further step towards making good solid friendships, I intend to get to as many High Days with the Grove as possible and other events they run because they are such a wonderful community but they were very accepting of the distance and cost of travelling so far and that I wouldn’t be able to make them all.

Homework

How did the rite go in terms of structure?

The rite was written by senior druids of the grove and followed the the ADF Core Order of Ritual. So we had the following (I may have missed some of it and/or misunderstood where parts fit into the order but this is what I’ve interpreted as happening):
– Processional
– Establishment of Group Mind/Statement of Purpose
– Honoring the Earth Mother
– Centering/Grounding/Purification
– Establishing the Sacred Centre
– Opening the Gates
– Inviting the Kindreds (Placating the Outdwellers)
– Key Offerings
– Prayer of Sacrifice
– Seeking the Omen
– Calling for Blessings
– Hallowing the Blessing
– Affirmation of the Blessing
– Thanking the Beings
– Closing the Gates
– Closing the Rites
– Recessional

What things went wrong during the ritual? 

Nothing major went wrong with the ritual, there were a few lines that were stumbled on but corrected and one part the person doing the parts for the Nature Spirits needed prompting for one of his lines, the only other thing that happened which I don’t know if can be interpreted as going wrong or not was the tree that was used for building the cosmos shed a large amount of bark as we were closing the gates.

Who were the patrons of the rite, and who was the gatekeeper?

The gatekeeper was Manannan mac Lir for this ritual and the patron was Danu.

Did you have problems with saying the words without stumbling, or did everything come out smoothly? 

For the most part I went well with the parts I got to speak for although I did get tongue tied once or twice when we were singing songs during the rite.

Did you forget to bring a sacrifice? 

I didn’t forget to bring a sacrifice, I didn’t feel comfortable doing so and thankfully it was optional for individuals to make sacrifices as the Grove made a number as part of the ritual.

Were you alone, or with a group?

I was with an ADF Grove for this ritual, which made it feel even more special as my first ritual since joining ADF that I celebrated a High Day with a Grove.

If you were with a group, did you say anything or do anything?

I have to confess to being too shy to have a speaking role this time around, I was worried my mild dyslexia would flare up from nerves and that I’d mangle it, so I only spoke or sung during the parts of ritual where we were all meant to do so. The senior druid has encouraged me to accept a speaking role next time I attend a ritual with them though and I agreed.

Did you feel anything during the ritual?

I felt a lot of joy and love during the ritual, I honestly cannot say if it was from the working done by the grove or if it was just pure excitement at being there with the Grove participating in Beltane.

Did you experience doubt or confidence? 

I experienced some pre-ritual doubt, which caused me to decline a speaking role in the ritual. I kind of regret letting doubt get to me like that but I am not going to let it ruin the experience. As I already said earlier I have agreed to take a speaking role next time.

 

What omens were drawn (if any), and what did they tell you?

The senior druid played the part of the seer and using an ogham card deck drew the omen. We got Apple which was interpreted as a very good sign. They said it was the symbol new beginnings and growth and that the apple is often one of the first trees to flower. Apparently, other meanings that can be taken from the Apple are the pursuit of beautiful things, and the anticipation of reaping the beauty later that we sow today.

Could you feel the presence of any deities, spirits, or powers?

I didn’t feel the presence of any Shining Ones but I suspect that may be because I am not familiar with the Celtic pantheon and don’t work with them personally. I thought I could feel the presence of something during the parts where we were honoring the nature spirits though, like a warm, gentle presence.

What else about the rite struck you, or do you want to share?

I cannot think of anything else that I want to say about the ritual that I haven’t already.

Week Three – DPWotY

Ok, the last post for this week I promise!

So this week’s lesson is all about preparing for your first High Day, which as we established in the last post will be Beltane or  Walpurgisnacht. As promised by Rev Michael J Dangler it is a big week, there was a lot of reading to cover, which I suspect not all of sunk in yet. :/

So apparently all the questions for this week can be merged together into the first essay on the High Days. Seems simple enough on the surface, however it means carefully considering my answers as I go. Thankfully I can revise everything here as I assemble my final document to submit for consideration so if I gain greater insights I can incorporate them. It is kind of comforting knowing that I can come back to this with new eyes.

Are there any myths that are celebrated in connection with this feast?  If so, what are they, and how do they fit in? 

While I’m sure that there are myths connected to this feast I’ve not been able to find any that have any real merit (in other words they were not backed up with any kind of evidence, links to historical documents or passages in the Sagas and Eddas).

What does this holiday or time of year mean to you?

For me, this holiday means that the weather is finally going to turn better, that I can plant out seeds for plants that can’t tolerate frost because we should not be getting more frost. It also means an end to being trapped indoors day after day due to heavy rain, hail or snow and the freedom to get out into nature again, to see my favourite haunts in nature and that I get to attend Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering.

Do you look forward to it?

Yes. Always, I think this is easily one of my favourite times of the year. The energy of Beltane is always so joyful, I can’t help but look forward to it. I associate Beltane with the emotions joy and happiness and so it always feels like a celebration when this time of year comes around.

Are there secular aspects of the holiday that mean a lot to you, or perhaps holdovers or memories of your childhood that you cherish?

I suppose there are, I grew up on a cattle farm and we were always told to play outside during the day. We would leave the house after breakfast and only return to the house for lunch and again in the evening for dinner. This time of year was always great because frogs would be spawning in the dams and the creek, plants were budding and flowering and some animals were giving birth already. For us, as children, this was all magical and we loved exploring the countryside during this season, we’d spent all winter making games in barns or tree houses and now we were free.

How do you know when this day arrives?

The land starts to dry out, the rains ease off and the land begins to wake up. At home the fruit trees start to get new growth, the Hawthorn by the back gate likewise gets a flush of growth and usually has its first flush of flowers just in time for Beltane. Also, there is a lightness of the soul that I always feel at this time of year without fail.

Do you look at the calendar, or do you just know it has come?

Without looking at the calendar you know it has come, the signs are there, combined with a feeling. However the fact that the annual Beltane celebration I go to is marked on my calendar also provides a constant reminder and helps build the sense of excitement as the date gets closer and closer.

If you have children (or wish to have children), what key traditions do you wish to pass down to them?

I don’t have children and it doesn’t seem likely that they will be on the cards for me but if I did have children I would love to pass on to them the sense of celebration and joy this time of year brings, show them that the land is waking up, teach them to dance the Maypole and enjoy the magic happening around them.

What, if anything, is spiritual or religious to you about this High Day or time of year, and how do you show that?

For me the land around me waking up after a long cold winter is very spiritual, I show this by spending time outdoors, talking to trees, tending my garden and making sure it is well, going out into the forest and meditating, singing and dancing to share my joy with the nature spirits.

Are there any traditions that your Grove has for this High Day?

I don’t belong to a grove yet, I may not either, it will depend on how compatible we are as to whether I will consider myself to belong to my local grove. As for traditions it has? I will have to learn that, I suspect they will have them because they too seem to get a lot of joy out of this time of year.

Finally, is there anything else about this holiday that you would like to add?

It would seem that Freyja is one of the deities most commonly associated with Beltane for those of a Norse perspective, so it would do well to make sure that she is offered sacrifice. Although I already was aware that Beltane was a time of love, it would seem from my reading that it is also a time for healing and foretelling.