Tags: nature awareness

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Directions and Gaulish Cosmology

Lately, I've been thinking about the directions and how I use them (or don't) in my rituals and magick.

As a young witchling, I learned the "four elements plus Spirit" model with Earth in the North, Air in the East, Fire in the South, Water in the West and Spirit in the Centre. I still have quite a fondness for that system, which was only heightened by Starhawk's wonderful book The Fifth Sacred Thing

ADF members will know that our form of Druidry does not use that model, though, and as a Gallo-Brittonic polytheist, I'm conscious that the directions would not historically have had elemental associations. We don't actually know if they had any associations at all, but if they did, they might have been more like the Irish mode, which was based on the Provinces of Ireland - East/Prosperity, South/Poetry and Song, West/Wisdom, North/Battle, Centre/Sovereignty. People in ADF who follow an Irish hearth culture do sometimes use those correspondences.

In Britain and Gaul the specifics would have been different, though. We have no way of recovering those, but I've had some thoughts about how we might create new ones that make sense in a (Gallo-)Brittonic context, and how I might add in the elements and the seasons for the witchcraft elements of my practice (not for public ADF ritual):

North: Magic (because of the Irish myth that the Tuatha De Danaan came from the North, and Ptolemy placing Hyperborea in the North Sea); Air; Winter

East: Potential (because of the dawn); Fire; Spring

South: Prosperity (because most trade to Britain would have come from the Continent to the south); Earth; Summer

West: Wisdom (because of the traditional association with the Ancestors and the Otherworld); Water; Autumn

Centre: Sovereignty (the same as the Irish model, because it just seems so intuitive and makes for good metaphors about self-sovereignty); Spirit

When I first jotted these down, I found it a bit jarring to end up with Earth in the South, but it's grown on me - Earth fits with prosperity, and the European Continent is after all a large landmass that from London (where I am) is basically reached by going South. Otherwise the elemental assignments all fit either the usual Wiccan arrangement, or the variation I became familiar with while I was studying with the Glastonbury Goddess Temple, and it all integrates quite nicely with the seasons. I am going to experiment with it some more, and have made a start by adding markers for each direction to my main home shrine.

I'd love to hear from other people who have created their own correspondences for the directions!
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A chestnut tree spoke to me

And here, as promised/threatened in the previous post, is the poem I wrote in Glastonbury. Every stanza is based on a real experience: the chestnut tree is in Abbey Park, the kestrel on Wearyall Hill, the mushroom on the Tor, and the holly back home in Epping Forest.

A chestnut tree spoke to me

A chestnut tree spoke to me of strength.
"Strength," she said, "is not about muscle,
But about deep roots, and leaves that spread to catch the sun."
A chestnut tree spoke to me of love.

A kestrel spoke to me of success.
"Success," she said, is not about ambition,
But about longing, and seeing, and knowing the right time to strike."
A kestrel spoke to me of love.

A mushroom spoke to me of laughter.
"Laughter", she said, "is not about mocking,
But about joy, and lightness, and delight in surprises."
A mushroom spoke to me of love.

A holly tree spoke to me of dancing.
"Dancing," she said, "is not about looking good,
But about feeling, and listening, and letting your body speak."
A holly tree spoke to me of love.

Creative Commons Licence
A chestnut tree spoke to me by Eilidh nic Sidheag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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A productive day!

I took the day off today because of the High Day, expecting only to have time for my solitary ritual, a nature awareness walk to our local bluebell woods, and the school run. In fact, I've also:

* Written and submitted the last two homework assignments for the first semester of the Sosyete du Marche Vodou study program. My favourite assignments were the hands-on ones; we made altars and conducted services for our ancestors and for Legba and learned how to plan a service for the Rada lwa. I don't feel called to be initiated (kanzo), but I'll definitely be continuing to the next class and joining the book club that's being set up in the meantime.

* Finished and submitted my first course for ADF's preliminary clergy training program, excitingly entitled "ADF Structure, Customs and Policy". If you want to read it, it's on Scribd.

* Changed my name on the ADF website and two other sites to reflect my new deed poll! Long story short, I decided to change my legal name to match my religious one, in the interests of avoiding confusion with a rather better-known Druid in the UK who shares my former legal name. So I'm now officially Eilidh Elizabeth nic Sidheag, which increasingly feels more like me anyway. It'll take a while before the change is reflected everywhere, especially since I have some pre-booked travel that needs to happen before I can change my passport and bank details, but I'm working on it. If you've always known me as Eilidh, this won't make much difference to you. I prefer Eilidh in Pagan contexts, but other than that, if you're used to calling me Liz, you're welcome to continue; that's why I've kept Elizabeth as a middle name. I'll answer to either.

Pictures from the ritual will probably follow on Facebook shortly...
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Retreat Days

This weekend I'll be beginning the Clergy Training Program requirement to keep a retreat day each lunar month. Which specific day is up to the individual; ideally I think I'd do it from Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset on the first weekend after the first quarter, but in the interests of practicality it will actually be from Saturday evening meal to Sunday evening meal on whichever weekend is least horrible for my schedule ;-)

The required content varies from stage to stage, but essentially involves devotionals, rituals and divination. What you do with the rest of the day is up to you, but for me will include meditation, trancework and other things that are difficult to fit into the normal working week, and a nature awareness walk in my Forest. I probably won't post about it much here, since I'm intending to do some quite personal work, but I wanted to mention it, because I think it's an important aspect of the program. I'm looking forward to getting that focused time.
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Week 50, part 2: Dedicant Oath write-up

On Sunday, I took my Dedicant Oath, the last step required to complete my Dedicant Program in ADF. Now all I have to do is read over my work one more time, and then I'll be ready to submit! I made some changes to the wording I posted here previously, mainly to add some more hearth-specific references. This was the final version:

Ancestors, Senistres, I ask you to bear witness to my words.
Spirits of this place, Cucullati, I ask you to bear witness to my words.
Shining Ones, Devi, I ask you to bear witness to my words and receive my oath.

I, Eilidh Nic Sidheag, declared a year ago before you that I am a Pagan, a seeker of the Old Ways, a child of the Elder Gods and Goddesses. Today I come before you, my Patrons and all the Kindreds, to confirm my dedication to the Druid’s path, and to offer my oath as a sacrifice in your honour.

I vow that throughout my life, I will strive always to do right by my kin, my friends and my communities, and the stranger at the gate, cultivating the Nine Virtues to the best of my ability and working for a community of justice and freedom.

I vow that throughout my life, I will give ear to the Gods, Goddesses and spirits that call to me through my ancestors, my family and the land around me, seeking to honour them in my rites and respond in gratitude to their blessings, and always keeping a place in my heart and on my shrine for my patrons Lugos and Bodua, for my ancestors, for the Forest, and for the Mothers of the Trinovantes and Catavellauni, tribes of this place.

I vow that throughout my life, I will seek to deepen my understanding of the Druid Ways through study, music and other arts, filling my mind with the truths of the Ancient Paths and developing my skills that I may better serve my Patrons and all my Kindred.

These things I swear to the Shining Ones, and especially to my Patrons, with my ancestors and the spirits of this land as my witnesses. May my oath be known throughout the Three Worlds, and may I keep faith unless the sky fall and crush me, the earth open and swallow me, or the sea rise and overwhelm me. So may it be.


I won't post the rest of the rite, since it largely followed the text suggested in the Dedicant Manual.

We're also required to write an evaluation of how we conducted the rite. Mine is below the cut: Collapse )
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Week 39: Nature Awareness Essay

As part of my Dedicant Path, I made a commitment to walk in Epping Forest for at least an hour each week, except when prevented by travel or illness; usually, I walked for more like 3-4 hours. I felt this was a good choice for me because pilgrimage and walking have been the keystone of my spiritual practice for several years. I previously saw it primarily as a form of self-exploration, but when I began looking for a way to connect spiritually to the landscape, it had obvious potential. Collapse )
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Week 31: Questions about Nature Spirits

Think about how you work with Nature Spirits: do you work with specific spirits?

So far, I have worked with the nature spirits as groups or categories rather than as individuals. I get regular signs of the presence of house spirits in my home and around my partner’s flat, as well as in a house in Scotland that we visit regularly. Often this is in the form of mischievous occurrences such as objects mysteriously disappearing and reappearing, keys suddenly failing to work, etc.

Do you have animal guides? Write down who they are and what they do for you, and then write down what you do for them. What sort of relationship is it?

I don’t have animal guides; I do identify closely with wolves, but that is more of an ancestral symbol for me than one connected with the land spirits.

How do you remember and honour these spirits? Do you leave them offerings, or do work that protects their homes and lives? Do you simply connect?

I leave regular offerings for the house spirits and the local land spirits, and try to connect with them on my nature awareness walks each weekend. I am trying to work to protect their homes through taking part in litter picking and becoming a member of the Friends of Wanstead Park, the part of Epping Forest where I do most of my walking. During my High Day rituals, I also draw one Tarot card for each of the Kindreds to ask what message they have for me, and I often find particularly strong and clear messages coming through in the Nature Spirit position.

What is the nature of your connection with these spirits?

It varies. I see the house spirits very much as allies and part of my household; the land spirits are sometimes allies, sometimes more distant hosts, depending on how wild the place is. I try simply to be open and respectful and see what comes of it, without trying to force all of these relationships into the same mould.
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Week 32 [1]: Mental Discipline Reflection and Essay

For the mental discipline requirement of the Dedicant Program, I meditated daily from 22 April to 22 September 2013 (and have continued to do so since). Before beginning the work for this requirement, I already had some experience of meditation. As a Wiccan, I had learned to meditate by focusing my awareness on a single point, as well as by using visualisation, and I regularly used the Tree visualisation (Starhawk, 1999, p.68) to ground and center myself. Later, as a Christopagan, I learned the Ignatian style of meditation, which is based on visualising oneself in the midst of a Biblical scene (see e.g. Manney, 2009). As part of my former yoga practice, I had also learned mantra meditation, and I had experimented a little with Buddhist mindfulness meditation and metta (compassion) meditation. Of all of these methods, mantra meditation and the Tree were the most successful for me. However, I was never able to find a pattern of regular meditation that I could sustain long-term, and this was one of the things I was keen to get from my new Druid practice. Collapse )
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Week 21: Nature Awareness 2

I'm getting ahead of schedule again, mainly because I was in the mood to do some DP writing over the weekend, but also because I'll be in Germany again for a few days later this week, and I want to leave myself plenty of time after that to do some High Day research before Lammas/Lughnasadh/Lugunussatis comes round. The assignment for Week 21 in the DP Wheel of the Year is to answer some questions about our locality, but they're quite similar to the ones from the Dedicant Manual that I already did in Week 6. Rather than repeat that exercise in a slightly different form, I was inspired by one of the questions ("Are there steps you can take to help reduce the amount of refuse you create?") to look more widely at what I could do to be more respectful of the environment. For a couple of years I made annual resolutions on this, but I fell out of the habit because new year's resolutions don't really work well for me, and so a review was probably overdue. To help with that, I looked back at the original resolutions posts and also googled for lists of ideas, of which this one was the most useful.

It was an interesting exercise. I hadn't realised how many good habits I'd quietly let slide, and I really want to try to re-establish them:

*Keeping a reusable bag in my pocket so I don’t use plastic bags from shops
*Looking on eBay etc for used items before buying new ones
*Using cloth handkerchiefs rather than tissues
*Using both sides of scrap paper
*Reusing waste water to water plants, soak dishes etc where possible
*Taking lunch to work as often as possible, in reusable containers

I also came up with a few new things I want to try:

*Keep a saucer by my chair to put teabags on when my herb tea finishes infusing (so I'm less tempted to throw them in the nearby bin rather than taking them to the compost caddy)
*Take my own mug to the work canteen when I buy tea there
*Cover pans while bringing them to the boil (I already do this for rice because the rice cooks better that way, but I never remember to do it for other pans.)
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Week 19: Dedicant Oath - First Thoughts

This week's assignment is to answer some questions that may be useful when we come to write our Dedicant Oaths later on in the program. Some of them cover points I've written about before, but I answered them again here anyway in order to have all the notes on this in one place. Collapse )