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Ever have a hurdle in your spiritual progress and need to take some time off from it to regroup and make some sense of it? That is what I have been doing since a challenging experience with some druidic study. Two groups I have studied with have led to more challenges (and thankfully, some personal growth), so I am now onto a third, more personal course of study about druidry.
There is not a single approach to spirituality or practice, so learn what we can and move on if faced with something that does not fit. We do not need to justify it to anybody else but ourselves, though we have to do what feels right to us. Otherwise, we are wasting out time and potentially setting ourselves back.
With this said, Onward and Upward! More about my study with my new teacher and facilitator, Cat Treadwell, in my next post. Who better with to study than one who serves with and support The Druid Network!
Continuing my Black Mountain Druid Order (BMDO) Dedicant Path (DP), I am still looking at Awen, specifically the Celebration of Awen here in my second week.
While I am not going to do an intense study of the Wheel of the Year right now, I have been thinking more about the change in seasons and how the circularity of it repeats each year while we in turn get older and benefit from more experiences. The regular 12-month calendar that we follow does not seem to account for the change in seasons and as such somehow separates us from our natural world. Those of us living in an urban environment are already somewhat distanced, so following the druid (pagan) wheel of the year provides an opportunity to be present to the changes that happen in the natural world, along with traditional human and agrarian activities that follow it.
The part of the year that most resonates with me is Yule, due in part no doubt to how much Christmas is hyped and celebrated in our culture. The light in the darkness and turning point in the seasonal weather follows a tradition familiar since child, and perhaps that is a useful way to adopt and adapt to what may appear new to many of us.
That the darkness is met with trees that are still green and fragrant, along with a fire that has a feel of safety and new life, makes the period of Yule even more significant. As I recounted how I celebrated Yule a few weeks ago, it is still alive within me, something that helps me to get through what otherwise could be a dark and difficult time of the year.
As I am starting to consider Awen while pursuing the Black Mountain Druid Order (BMDO) Dedicant Path (DP), I have been considering the Meaning of Awen here in my first week.
Awen is a concept often represented as /|\ and loosely means divine inspiration or that which takes one’s breath away. I like to think about it as similar to The Force in Star Wars or Eywa in Avatar, something that is akin to inspiration or energy associated with an Aha! moment (cf. the resolution of a liminal period). Likewise, the life-force of awen can even be considered as a point of balance, something not always common in my life, or a sense of harmony in life and in the natural world.
Considering the questions to ponder for this first week:
1. What places in nature inspire you?
2. Do you have a favorite outdoor place? Why?
3. How does nature inspire you??
There are two places in nature that particularly inspire me. The first is a certain area of vines / trees that I regularly pass here in Manhattan that shelter a group of small birds. Walking by these early in the morning or just before sunset in the evening, the birds chatter away, coexisting with us humans while living their lives singing for joy. It always reminds me of the nature-oriented poetry of Walt Whitman, especially some of the lines in his Calamus poems where he vibrantly links humanity and nature into a seemless continuity. The other location that inspires me is a lines of giant pine trees in an upstate community I often visit, and this pine row offers a shelter along one side where the branches are high enough that one can walk 100 feet or so under them. This reminds me of a natural cloister walk, one that is living and breathing.
Hmm, come to think about it, both of these locations involve shelter or safety and trees. I never made that connection before . . . .
Nature inspires me with an energy; the birds that sing out and the trees that grow, all doing what they have always done with or without human meddling in nature (while we are still very part of nature itself, something to never forget). Nature always finds a way to continue, and I am inspired, as with awen, by the complexities of nature and how it is so very beyond me.
While seemingly beyond me, I am always linked with nature, never too far away . . . even when I am not paying attention to it.
The BMDO is an interesting new path for me to follow, and while I will not make any assumptions or projections for where it will lead, journeys begin with but a single step.
As I want to focus a bit more on my druid studies than I did in 2012, I decided to join the Black Mountain Druid Order (BMDO). As an independent druid organization physically based in South Carolina, it has a vibrant and growing online community that has attracted me in its focus on discussion around druidry with a practical application to life. In my limited experience, it has a distinctly American air about it in that it focuses on druidry in life and environmental / social concerns without constant references to ancient Celtic reconstructionist stories. I like the Celts, but their lives and stories lost in myth do not exactly speak to my experiences living in New York City.
While I am a solitary druid practitioner, I like ongoing, current, and frequent discussions about druidry. Much of this need is met from my involvement in The Druid Network, though I find an American perspective a nice balance to what I have been experiencing recently. To this point, BMDO is still relatively new for me, so I have decided to begin their Dedicant Path.
I am starting these studies with The Meaning of Awen . . . .
While I talked about what I did the evening of Yule, I have not yet mentioned what I did specifically for Yule itself.
As it was a rainy and stormy morning, I could not go outside to commune with nature as I wanted lest I become too distracted with the weather, so instead I celebrated in my apartment, standing in front of an antique French wooden table with a 3-wicked candle burning on top of it. I was home alone and engaged in a combination of 2 rituals — the first one arranged by Teo Bishop at the Solitary Druid Fellowship and the second one an internally created ritual shared among a small group of OBOD folk who are experimenting with creating a new grove in Manhattan. Doing more with druidry from a distance on discussion boards than in ritual, I decided to do them both.
I will start with the OBOD one first, as I have had several years interaction with OBOD. While I never seem to be able to make it to the East Coast Gathering, I am familiar with OBOD rituals and sensibilities. I breathed deeply, saluted the four quarters, and with words of stag and hawk and fire and water, I performed the rather simple ritual, made even more that way as it was not initially intended for individual use, but with a small community. I did minor adaptations, and it still felt strangely familiar though I spoke all the parts. As I celebrate all of the druid festivals as a solitary druid, this is what I expected–do it as written insofar as it feels comfortable, and leave the rest. I like that sensibility. However, their rituals and such are rather flexible, so I adapted as I went along to feel comfortable with the words and focus on why I was saying them.
I then performed the Solitary Druid Fellowship one, a newly written ritual written by Teo (who I fondly admire for his energy and intentions) with its stated purpose of using this individually, all while knowing others, elsewhere, are doing the same thing. As the website declares, The Solitary Druid Fellowship is an experiment in Pagan liturgy, and an exercise of congregation in solitude. The notion of a shared liturgy is developed a bit, though this is rather based on the Outline of Worship of ADF, Our Own Druidry. That was probably my biggest challenge, in that ADF is a druid group that has formalized rituals and beliefs, very much like a druid church, and while adaptation is encouraged a bit, it had a feeling of Catholic Druidry to me. While this is certainly related to my baggage with Catholicism, I found the stylized ritual similar enough to mass (which is mainly how I defined the term liturgy for many years) that by the time I got to the Opening the Gates and Seeking the Omen, it stopped feeling of peaceful ritual and started feeling of an odd assembly of . . . formalized oddness. Granted, this was probably due to my baggage coming up, but it had too much of a sense of calling a deity (choose whichever one you want) and then casting some divination to try to determine how the offering was received and what to do next. Again, with my personal baggage, this seemed the same as a Catholic mass, though with switching out the names of deities and bringing in some divination (again, not much different). While I read the ritual a few times before I did it, it still felt . . . odd to me. TO switch one god for several and then to do what in many ways was the same thing just did not feel well for me. Again, my baggage, but that is what I am trying to process by sharing it here.
As all of this was a bit much for a non-ADF member, I just felt . . . odd. It did not speak to me, and while I was fortunate that the end of the ritual happened at the time when I had to move on to leaving for the office, it left me a bit introspective as to what it all means for me and what I should do with it moving forward. I am eagerly reading what others thought about the Solitary Druid Yule Ritual, as when I am uncomfortable, sometimes that means there is the most room for growth.
While I am not interested in joining or otherwise following ADF druidry, and after this reflection on it I may not be welcomed to engage in it anyway, it was a useful experience that, in the process of making me uncomfortable, demonstrates how much growth I need to let go of my baggage. The OBOD one felt a bit more like me, though again it was tailored for a group and I am an individual working alone, something that the Solitary Druid Fellowship focuses on exclusively.
On to Imbolc!