I had other plans for a post today but between feeling a bit crummy and out of sorts and getting ready for a job interview tomorrow (finally!) I’ve run out of writerly steam. Expect book reviews and more Dedicant Path stuff later! Instead of anything requiring too much thought and planning, today I’ll post my ongoing Meditation Log for ADF’s Dedicant Path. I need 5 months of recorded meditative practice to meet the DP requirements. Here are my notes since keeping my log since August 11.
In ADF Druidry, we strive to live in right relationship with each of the Three Kindreds: our gods and goddesses, the Shining Ones; the nature spirits, the Noble Ones; and our Ancestors, the Mighty Ones. Out of these three equally important groups, I have the hardest time connecting to my Ancestors, whether they be my two late grandfathers on either side of the family, or the first trueborn member of the species H. sapiens. Perhaps some of it is a holdover from my Baptist days which taught me to balk at the idea of ever elevating a human to the status of God. There was a clear dichotomy between the sacred and the profane, the divine and the human, and the only one who was really allowed to bridge that gap was Jesus. (Really though, Jesus’ humanity always seemed a technicality more than a reality in the church I grew up in – but I digress.) I just got the hang of believing in and worshiping gods again, and now I have to talk to a bunch of dead guys in ritual?
I believe the Three Kindreds operate as equals and peers, each of them necessary to the maintenance of a healthy spiritual ecosystem. There’s no hierarchy of groups, no demand to sacrifice more of one’s time or energies to one Kindred than the other. Ultimately, one would hope, you’re spending your time equally with all Three. I also believe that if we imagine the Kindreds forming a triplicate Venn Diagram of sorts – which hey, ends up forming a triquetra in the middle, isn’t that cool! – humans are planted squarely in the middle. We are animals and of the earth, and therefore we are among the nature spirits; we all return to the earth one day, and therefore will be among our Ancestors; and I don’t actually have anything for how we’re like the Shining Ones yet, except possibly being made in Their image, but give it time.
I bet y’all are tired of me talking about Lughnasadh at this point, huh? 🙂
I’m preparing for my Better Know a Celt series tomorrow by writing on Lugh, and I discovered that I never posted my Dedicant Path essay for Lughnasadh. The DP requires short (min. 125 words) essays on each of the eight High Days we celebrate, with the intention it takes a full turn of the Wheel to finish this first course of study. Expect a longer, proper post tomorrow.
Lughnasadh 2012 Essay
This Lughnasadh I celebrated by baking cinnamon bread. Though the bread was far from perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed the process and received great satisfaction from nourishing my family with a delicious recipe.
A few days later I celebrated with an ADF-style ritual proper, once again using a Gaelic Hearth. My script was partially my own creation and partially cobbled together from other rituals found on ADF’s webpage, which led to a lengthy, well-structured ritual. I’m still having problems understanding some nuances of the COoR, but with time and practice I’m sure I’ll iron it out.
The patrons of my rite were Lugh, who received a shot of whiskey, and his foster mother Tailtiu, who received a small bowl of cornmeal. I found myself getting emotional when I talked to Tailtiu and thanked her for her sacrifice, which allowed myself and others to thrive off the bounty of the earth.
Danu again was my Earth Mother and I continue to work with the Morrígan, Brighid, and Manannán as deities who represent the powers of Land, Sky, and Sea, respectively.
Today’s post is short – and, if it’s a bit rambly, I apologize. I started playing Skyrim this week. I think that’s all I need to say about that.
Part of my Dedicant Path homework this week has been studying and meditating upon the twin energies known as the Two Powers. A Two Powers meditation can look awfully similar to the ubiquitous generi-Pagan tree meditation – you know, the one where you visualize yourself as a tree, with roots curling deep into the dark earth and branches stretching high above toward the bright sky? The eponymous Powers are dual streams of natural energy and magic which help practitioners bring themselves into alignment with their place in the universe. The first is the Earth Power, the darkness, growth, and mystery of the earth (and waters) beneath our feet. The second is the Sky Power, the shining and just light of the Heavens above us.
In ADF, our rituals center us along two axes. The vertical axis places us in the Midrealm, with the Upperworld above us and the Underworld below. The Midrealm is where humanity resides with nature spirits and deities of the earth and land; the Upperworld, the home of the gods and goddesses; the Underworld, the home of our Ancestors and deities of death. Along a horizontal axis, the Midrealm is divided into Land (surrounding you), Sea (below you) and Sky (above you) with yourself firmly in the Center. Knowing my place is very important in my ADF worship, not just to properly serve the Three Kindreds but also to understand just how vital my presence is to the entire spiritual ecosystem. We humans are in a unique position to interact with a variety of spirits and affect the world around us, both magical and mundane. Without our continued attention and service, I believe (and I don’t think this is ADF doctrine, so it’s all on me) that said spiritual ecosystem would collapse, radically alter itself, or at least go dormant until the next sapient species comes along.
But that’s just me. And as me, I like using the Two Powers meditation to remind myself of just how important I am in my corner of the world. Every change and every being is important; every entity has the ability to access the Sky and the Earth Energy, and thus be connected to the greater web of existence. So everything is important, because everything – if added, or subtracted – changed the mosaic. A tiny change, maybe, but every facet counts. This is an incredible truth to wake up to, and with it comes an equally incredible responsibility. In my own way, small as it may be, I am just as important for the maintenance of the web/wheel/mosaic/[insert appropriate metaphor here] of life as the greatest god, oldest Ancestor, or wildest spirit. All of us, together, call this reality home.
One of the ongoing requirements for ADF’s Dedicant Path is a 5-month practice of meditation or mental training techniques, involving at least one session a week (though of course, more is preferable). I have been an on-and-off meditator since before my Pagan conversion and have tried everything from guided meditation to zazen with a local Zen Buddhist group to using a secondhand New Age book to pray to my guardian angels. (It’s been an interesting 6-7 years since leaving Christianity.) My regular practice, which never did extend past the ephemeral two-week mark, would occasionally provide me with insights and understanding, but more often left me frustrated, bored, and with a backache.
Perhaps the very first lesson I learned and relearned when pursuing meditation is that the concept of the “monkey mind” is very real, very present, and very persistent. The monkey mind is that aspect of our conscious thought that seeks to know everything. It is a constant chatter of questioning, organization, and judgment. Think of a monkey with a pickle jar. He wants a pickle so he reaches in and grabs it, then tries to pull it out horizontally so it’s too wide to fit through the head of the jar. If the monkey would just let go of the pickle, he wouldn’t be trapped and would be free to go about his day. The mind is like this too – just replace “pickle” with any thought, emotion, or sensation that drives the mind to fixation.
One of the most important concepts in ADF’s ritual theology is that of reciprocation, hospitality, and gift-giving. The Core Order of Ritual splits nicely down the middle so the first half is all about our hospitality – making the space pure and sanctified, honoring the Kindreds, calling forth the Gatekeeper to make ritual possible, and finally giving to the assembled Beings our food, drink, love, attention, and time – while the second is all about Theirs – a return flow of energy, blessings, and the ritual participants partaking of the Waters of Life to accept this cherished energy.
The linchpin between these absolutely vital parts of ADF ritual is the Omen. For me, the Omen is an opportunity for further energy exchange between myself and the Kindreds. I always ask at least two question: How were my offerings received? and What blessings may I expect in return? I find this to be a natural bridge between the two halves of ritual and allow for more flexible divination responses, rather than a simple yes-or-no question. My deck of choice at the moment is the Wildwood Tarot, which is a beautiful re-imagining of the traditional tarot system within the context of Celtic mysticism. I use it because I connect with it quite strongly and I find it to be adaptive and intuitive to use in a way that other decks haven’t always been.
But what did I pull for Lughnasadh this year? Read on to find out.
[This is the first in a short series of essays about my Lughnasadh celebration this year. You can read my unedited ritual outline here.]
Following in the grand tradition of me celebrating the High Days nearly a week after the actual date in question, this past Tuesday I finally sat down and observed the August Feast. In Gaelic circles this is known as Lughnasadh; those who have passing knowledge of Wiccan-related paths may also recognize this date as Lammas (Loaf-mass). Wikipedia has some things to say about the holiday, as does ADF, the Druidry group with whom I’m completing my Dedicant Path. And, if you’d like a whole slew of Lugh articles I’ve been collecting over the past few weeks, you can trot on down to my wiki and click to your heart’s content.
What really got to me, though, was the reason Lugh established this holiday to begin with. Lughnasadh, a celebration of first fruits, the grain harvest, and a time of athletic competitions (hi, Olympics!), was founded to be a festival in honor of Tailtiu, Lugh’s foster mother. Fostering is a very important concept in Celtic mythology; oftentimes, the foster parents are more important in the child’s upbringing than the biological ones. Lugh’s foster father is perhaps the most famous foster parent of all: Manannán mac Lir. Tailtiu, on the other hand, has mostly been lost to the mists of time – or to the mists of my shoddy research skills; I could only dig up so much information on Her. She is Lugh’s foster mother; She is married to the last Fir Bolg king; She is a goddess of the land, fertility, and agriculture; She transformed the soil of Ireland so that humans could farm it and live off the land. This transformation took so much out of Herself that upon completion, She died from exhaustion, having given Her life to the Irish peoples. In honor of this sacrifice Her foster son proclaimed a feast day of competitions, boastings, and harvest celebrations at the time when the first wheats and fruits in the field were ready for consumption.