Tags: neopaganism

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CTP journals, week 11

Liturgy

I kept up my morning, pre-exercise and pre-work devotionals as well as grace before meals. I am also considering incorporating the Gorsedd Prayer into my personal practice. It is more associated with Revival Druidry than with Neopagan Druidry, but it is much-loved amongst British Druids and a good prayer to know when attending British Druid gatherings, since it is widely used across different Druid organisations. I would use it with the "Spirit" variation.

Trance

I finished reading Sweat Your Prayers, but decided not to do any more of the exercises. The archetypes Roth uses did not really resonate with me, and only two of the five rhythms really made sense to me (Flow and Staccato).

Instead, I experimented with two new things. First, I tried out the relaxation activity on my Fitbit. As a quick way of centering myself at work, it was quite effective, but no more than mindful breathing on its own would have been, I think. I found the graphic more distracting than useful, and certainly don't think I could get into a trance state using it.

Secondly, I tried meditating with the Awen symbol. I placed a print of the symbol on the wall opposite my bed so that I could meditate while sitting with my cup of tea in the morning. I thought this might make it easier to reconcile my spiritual practice with my needs as a person with ME/CFS. I tried this a couple of times this week, and it did seem to work quite well. I will probably give up the idea of combining it with a tea meditation, though, as I found myself getting pulled back and forth between focusing on the symbol and on the cup.
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Week 51: A Plan for Living Your Druidry

The homework this week is another set of questions for reflection after the Dedicant Oath:

Looking at all the things you've done, what was the hardest requirement to you? Was it one you expected? Do you feel that you fully understand the requirement, or is there room for improvement?

The virtues essays were much harder for me than I expected, especially the first four or five. After that, I started to get the hang of it. I think it was just an odd blend of personal and academic compared to the types of writing I’d done before. I can do personal, and I can do academic, but combining the two feels weird. The content itself was not a problem. I’m sure there’s always room for growth in our understanding of the virtues and ethics in general, but I think I have a good enough grasp of them for the moment. Collapse )
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Week 49: Final High Day essay

February Cross-Quarter - Decanoxtes Granni

This cross-quarter is most often celebrated in Neopagan circles as Imbolc, dedicated to Brigid (Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2009, p.14). The original purpose may have been to mark the beginning of the farming year (Celtoipedia, 2012). It closely coincides with the Christian feasts of St. Brigid and Candlemas, which are often thought to incorporate pagan traditions (Hutton, 1996, pp.134-142).

Another tradition with possible pagan roots, “fete des brandons” (the feast of torches) or “fete des Gaules” (feast of the Gauls), takes place in the Auvergne on the first two Sundays in Lent. Villagers with torches process through fields and orchards, chanting “Granno, my friend/Granno, my father/Granno, my mother” and “Torch, torch, each branch a basketful” to ensure fertility in the coming year, before returning home to eat pancakes, donuts or bouillie (grain porridge). The ashes are scattered on the fields or placed in birds’ nests to ensure a good supply of eggs (Pommerol, 1901, pp.427-429; Alain-Michel, 2012; Travel France Online, 2013).

The beginning of this festival can fall between February 8 and March 14, so any underlying pagan tradition could be associated with either the cross-quarter or the Spring Equinox. The use of torches and the fact that in other parts of France, pancakes are traditionally eaten on Candlemas suggest that it is most likely an alternative form of Candlemas or cross-quarter celebration. Condēuios, 2012b (pp.10-11), who knows of the custom but not its traditional date, suggests that it may be a survival of the Decanoxtes Granni festival (“ten nights of Grannus”) mentioned in an inscription found in Limoges; Pommerol (1901, pp.428-9) also thinks it honours this god. Grannus was a god of healing often mentioned with Tsirona. The name may be related to the sun or heat, which could explain the use of torches (Ellis, 2002, p.134).

I have decided to celebrate Decanoxtes Granni from 1 to 10 February, with a ritual honouring Grannus and Tsirona on the first day and meditations on the Nine Virtues of ADF on the subsequent days, focusing on how the Virtues enhance my work. This seems like a good way of honouring the festival’s association with work in a modern context.

Works Cited

Alain Michel, Fête des "Brandons" en Auvergne. Regards et Vie d’Auvergne [blog] 1 March. Available at:
Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2009. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin
and the Druid Path. Tucson, AZ: ADF Publishing. Available at: http://www.adf.org/members/publications/ [Accessed 21 March 2013]
Celtoipedia, 2012. Das Fest der Brigid. [online] Available at: http://www.celtoi.net/celtoipedia/index.php5?title=Das_Fest_der_Brigid [Accessed 16 January 2014]
Condēuios, 2012b. Timekeeping and Festivals in Gaul. [online] (20 February 2012) Previously available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/82189724/Timekeeping-and-Festivals-in-Gaul [Accessed 15 July 2013]
Ellis, Peter Berresford, 2002. A Brief History of the Druids. Stroud: Tempus.
Pommerol, Dr., 1901. La fête des brandons et le dieu gaulois Grannus. Bulletins de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris. [online] Available at: http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/bmsap_0301-8644_1901_num_2_1_5992?_Prescripts_Search_tabs1=standard& [Accessed 16 January 2014]
Travel France Online, 2013. Candlemas Day - Chandeleur - Pancake Day. [online] Available at: http://www.travelfranceonline.com/candlemas-day-chandeleur-pancake-day/
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Book review: Ronald Hutton, Blood & Mistletoe

This is a really useful cultural history of the Druids, focusing less on the Druids of (pre)history and more on how they have been perceived and how their image has been used from the Roman Empire to the present day. It does a great job of placing the Druid Revival in its social and political context. The style is very readable, and Hutton deals with even the most difficult characters in his story with characteristic empathy and good will. The scope of the book is limited to England, Scotland and Wales, so there is nothing in here about Irish or modern American Druidry, and indeed Neopagan Druidry in general is largely omitted in favour of the fraternal Druid Orders; but it isn't really possible to understand Neopagan Druidry without knowing something of its fraternal predecessors, so I would highly recommend this to fellow ADFers and other Neopagan Druids.
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Druid 2013

Yesterday I attended Druid 2013, a conference organised by Geoff Boswell on behalf of The Druid Forum on the theme of "Druidry for the Third Millennium".

This was my first Druid (as opposed to Pagan) event, but Druids are a friendly bunch and soon made me welcome (Marg, Brian, Quill and Steve: thank you!) It was also a real pleasure to finally meet Naomi in person and chat about our plans and hopes for ADF in London, now that there are at least two of us there.

Despite the welcome, I did at times feel a little like a visiting alien (albeit one received with great hospitality.) Collapse )

Overall verdict: I enjoyed the day and would definitely attend again if this becomes a more regular event; the dominant form of Druidry represented was not my Druidry, but we do share a common inspiration, and that is worth celebrating.

ETA: Naomi has also reviewed the day here. She has a rather different take on it, which is cool - I like a bit of healthy disagreement ;-)
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Week 26: Modern Paganism book review

Chas S. Clifton (2006) Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Lanham: AltaMira.

This is a history of Neopaganism in the US, albeit heavily focused on Wicca. Clifton sets out to fill a perceived gap in the existing histories focused either on British Neopaganism (Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon) or on feminist witchcraft, which Clifton describes as the “second (or third) generation of American Paganism” (p.xi); his aim is to preserve the history of the first generation of US NeoPagans while also covering developments since the publication of Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon in 1979. Since ADF grew out of the Reformed Druids of North America (Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2013) and is therefore a part of North American Neopagan culture, this is useful history for Dedicants to know even if, like me, they are based outside the US. Although Druidry gets only a brief mention in the book, what is said is positive; Isaac Bonewits’ Real Magic is described as “a milestone” in writing about Neopaganism (p.155).

Clifton also uses the book to explore how religious ideas pass from person to person and what Neopagans mean when they describe their practice as a “nature religion” (p.xi). Different chapters examine how Wicca reached America from its British origins; different kinds of “nature religion”; the terminology used by Wiccans to describe themselves; the interaction between Wicca and popular culture; different forms of Wicca as they have developed in the US; and non-Wiccan forms of NeoPaganism in the US. A useful timeline and glossary are also provided.

I was interested in the links Clifton makes between Neopaganism and the Second Great Awakening (p.12), as well as in his observations about the differences between US and UK Neopaganism, especially in the first few decades of the movement (e.g. pp.32, 41). His explanation of the so-called “Gardnerian magnet” is probably the clearest I have read (p.133). He also makes some interesting points about the extent to which Neopaganism is, in practice if not in theory, a text-based religion, including the difficulties which this may cause for people who do not write, read or type fluently (p.13) and what it implies for the discourse of secrecy that is prevalent in some forms of Wicca (p.124). That said, as an active member of the Solitary Druid Fellowship, I found Clifton’s attitude to the Internet a little offputting, particularly his dismissive reference to online forums for solitaries as “a simulacrum of community” (p.x).

There are also some unfortunate typos, particularly in one footnote where the substitution of “theology” for “thealogy” renders the whole note nonsensical (p.69), and an anecdote about the first Earth Day is repeated several times, suggesting that the editing was not as good as it could have been. However, in general the information is good, and the writing style is fairly easy to follow, so I would recommend the book to other Dedicants on that basis.


Works Cited

Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2013. Questions and Answers about ADF. [online] Available at: http://www.adf.org/about/basics/qa.html [Accessed 20 August 2013]
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Week 20: Vision essay

I think of vision as the ability to synthesise all the available data to gain a sense of the possible outcomes for a given situation, individual or group: positive outcomes to aspire to, or negative ones to act to avoid. Isaac Bonewits’ vision for ADF is a great example of an aspirational vision, synthesising his observations of the rise of Neopaganism with his experience of the scholarship, artistry, spirituality and dedication of ADF members to project a possible future in which ADF serves the laity of a new mass religion (Bonewits, undated). As with wisdom, this is a capacity that can be cultivated and that the potential to improve our lives, so I think it is right to consider it a virtue. Collapse )
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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 )
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Week 16: Third High Day Essay

Summer Solstice - Mediosamos

The solstices are solar festivals when the sun appears to stand still on the horizon for three days (Hutton, 1996, p.2). The summer solstice also marks the longest day of the year (National Weather Service, 2013). Astronomically, it can fall on any date between 20 and 22 June (Time and Date AS, 1995-2013), but for convenience, many Neopagans celebrate it each year on 21 June, which is also its official date within ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2013, Art.4).

Surviving Celtic calendars do not clearly record any Celtic festival falling at this time. However, proto-Celtic is believed to have had the word medrosaminos, meaning Midsummer (Ellison, 2005, p.177), and this gives rise to Mediosamos as the name for the feast in the Gaulish hearth-culture within ADF today (Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2009, p.64). There is evidence from early Christian observers that Gaulish pagans observed a festival at this time in which flaming wheels were rolled down a hill to a river, possibly to invoke the protection of Taranis for the crops by reenacting a myth in which he releases a river goddess from a monster (Condēuios, 2012, pp.1, 3-4). An appropriate Gaulish celebration of this festival might therefore include a reading or enactment of the reconstructed myth and/or prayers to Taranis and any local river deity to provide water to ensure the fertility of the crops, and this is the approach I have chosen to take.

In other hearth cultures within ADF, the summer solstice may be used to celebrate a wide range of beings or activities, including land spirits, the human community, the activities of work and play, fire or sun gods, or deities of fertility and harvest (Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2009, p.64-72). In wider Neopagan circles, the solstice may be associated with the defeat of the Oak King by the Holly King (Ellison, 2005, p.179).

Works cited

Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2009. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin
and the Druid Path
. Tucson, AZ: ADF Publishing. Available at: http://www.adf.org/members/publications/ [Accessed 21 March 2013]
Ár nDraíocht Féin, 2013. ADF Constitution. [online] Available at: http://www.adf.org/about/org/constitution.html [Accessed 16 June 2013]
Condēuios, 2012. Taranus and Midsummer. [online] (16 January 2012) Available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/78421011/taranus-and-midsummer.
Ellison, Robert Lee, 2005. The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit. New York: Citadel Press Publishing.
Hutton, Ronald, 1996. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
National Weather Service, 2013. The Summer Solstice. [online] (23 May 2013) Available at: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/abq/?n=clifeatures_summersolstice [Accessed 16 June 2013]
Time and Date AS, 1995-2013. The June Solstice. [online] Available at: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/june-solstice.html