Tag Archives: Druid

semi-daily devotionals

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Here lately, I’ve felt the need to revamp my daily spiritual practices. For a long time, I was only doing an adapted version of Sigrdrifa’s prayer at my bedroom window upon rising every morning. But you’ve got to change things up now and then, and I wanted to start using my den altar space more often. So I came up with a simple devotional that has a light touch of ADF structure. My aim was to do this once a week, but I’ve made it simple enough that I often do it several times a week, thus the title “semi-daily”.

I actually have started using a Gatekeeper in my personal practice (something I only did for group rituals or dedicant rites before), and I call upon Raven for this. I think of the spirit Raven as one of Odin’s birds, but I like the idea that ravens are sacred birds of many other deities from other cultures also. My hearth culture is mainly Norse/Anglo-Saxon but I call upon Celtic deities sometimes as well. So calling upon Raven as my personal Gatekeeper seems right and fitting and has a timeless feel. For offerings I usually use incense, and blessed or herb-infused water.

I Beginning
Fire Hallowing (I only do this periodically, the effect is very long lasting.)

•“Water, make me pure, that I may reach the infinite.” (Forehead anointed with water.)

•“I’m here to honor the Kindreds. Earth, Holy Mother, may you receive my offering of love and bless my time with the Spirits.” (Bend to touch the earth and send love.)

II Cosmos
Tree of Life Three Realms Meditation
“I am at the center of the worlds, and I light a sacred flame.” Light central candle, and from this, a stick of incense.

•Gatekeeper “Raven, you who fly between worlds, messenger of gods, wise and clever bird, I offer you my friendship and love.” (Anoint bird figurine with blessed water. Circle incense around it three times.)
“May you share your magic with me, guide and ward me as I open the ways.”

“Kindreds, I open the Fire Gate of my mind that I may know you.” (Hands at temples.)
“I open the Well Gate of my heart that I may feel you.” (Hands over heart.)
“I open the Tree Gate of my body and soul that I may experience you.” (Arms outstretched.)

III Worship
•Kindred Invocation: Sing “Prayer for your Druid Beads“, circling appropriate altar figures with incense for each verse. (I’ve changed some of the wording for my personal tastes, but use the same tune.)

•Personal prayers; this is my general formula for any personal prayer–
“Beloved Kindreds of my heart, (name personal deities/spirits)
I thank you for all you have given, (name examples)
May you continue to bless and guide me and mine.”

IV Blessing
•Omen of the day: draw a tarot card or rune, first asking the Kindreds what they wish for me to know today.

V Conclusion
•“My love and thanks to all beings.
As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be.
With the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.”

semi-daily devotionals

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an ADF dedicant oath

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It’s been over a year since I completed the dedicant program of ADF, and I recently realized that I haven’t published all of my work on it to this blog. It took me a long time to finish the dedicant program; mostly because I kept starting and stopping. I first joined ADF in 2001, but let my membership expire the following year, mostly because there were no groves nor even other members near me. I also wanted to explore Celtic Reconstructionism at the time and wanted to start with much simpler rituals.

I joined again in I think it was 2009 because there was a local grove and I was fed up the eclectic Pagan group I had been involved in. I soon left ADF again mainly because I hadn’t come to terms with the organization being pan Indo European instead of just Celtic.

Time went by and in 2011, I came to Heathenry. After much thought, I decided not to become an official member of my local Ásatrú group because I foresaw trouble with certain issues down the road. So in 2012, I started an ADF group and I’ve stayed an ADF member since. I had some materials left over from starting the dedicant program those other two times, but most of it was unusable because the requirements had changed and my hearth culture had also changed from Celtic to Anglo-Saxon. From the time I restarted (for the third time), it took me about two years to complete the dedicant program.

So here is the script of my dedicant oath. I hope it can be an inspiration to those looking for something simple.

I Beginning
Outsiders, those who would oppose my rite, take this and turn away. (Offering given.)

Water, make me pure, that I may reach the infinite. (Forehead anointed with water.)

I’m here to honor the Kindreds. Earth, Holy Mother, accept my offering and bless this rite. (Offering given.)

II Cosmos
(Silent Two Powers/Three Realms centering.)

I am at the Center of the Worlds.
At the Center is a Fire. (Candles anointed with oil and lit.)
At the Center is a Tree. (Minerals given to the Tree.)
At the Center is a Well. (Silver given to the Well.)

Hama, Gatekeeper, accept my offering and open the Hallows to the realms of the Kindreds. (Offering given.)

III Worship & Oath
Beloved Kindreds, hear my call-
Ancestors who came before, those who love me and watch over me,
accept my offerings and good will. (Offering given.)
Nature Spirits here now, those who animate the wild world,
accept my offerings and good will. (Offering given.)
Gods and Goddesses of where I’m going, the Powers that uphold all the Worlds,
accept my offerings and good will. (Offering given.)
Woden, beloved Allfather, Frige, Great Mother,
accept my offerings and good will. (Offering given.)
Beloved Patrons, I worship you with love and ask for your guidance and blessing.

With all the Kindreds here, I make my oath–
I oath myself to the service of the Three Kindreds.
May they bless and guide me on this day and forever.
May my mind hold the Fire of their wisdom. May my heart be a Well for their love.
May my body be a vessel for their life. I declare myself a follower of Druidry
and the old ways.

IV Blessing
Omen: What is the Kindreds’ reply? I got Kenaz from the Ancestors; a relationship, exchange. I got Sowilo from the Nature Spirits; energy success. I got Mannaz from the Deities; divine union, manifestation. Good omens indeed!

Blessing Cup: May the Kindreds fill my cup with blessing.
I receive them with a grateful heart.

V Conclusion
Now with offering given, and blessing received, I give my thanks before I go.
Mother Frige, Father Woden, I thank you.
Gods, Nature Spirits, and Ancestors, I thank you.
Hama, Gatekeeper, I thank you,
and may the Gates be closed.
Earth Mother, I give you my final thanks.
The ritual is at a close.
an ADF dedicant oath

The Nature and Character of Lugh

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It seems like every year around this time, I’m fighting misinformation on the god Lúgh. Everywhere one looks on the internet, people are perpetuating the same outdated stuff; that Lúgh is a sun god, and/or a god of the grain. The origin of such notions is from new age books that never bothered to research beyond outdated Victorian-era anthropology.

I mean, you only have look it up on wikipedia to know that his name doesn’t link him to the sun: “The exact etymology of Lugus is unknown and contested. The Proto-Celtic root of the name, *lug-, is generally believed to have been derived from one of several different Proto-Indo-European roots, such as *leug- “black”, *leuǵ- “to break”, and *leugʰ- “to swear an oath”. It was once thought that the root may be derived from Proto-Indo-European *leuk- “to shine”, but there are difficulties with this etymology and few modern scholars accept it as being possible (notably because Proto-Indo-European *-k- never produced Proto-Celtic *-g-).”

Some of the later new age publications actually acknowledge that modern scholars say Lúgh isn’t a sun god, but word it so as to not step on the toes of the die-hard sun theorists. The main passage that comes to mind is one published in Lammas: Celebrating the Fruits of First Harvest by Anna Franklin & Paul Mason, and has been copied onto Lúgh articles all over the internet. It states: “While some writers state, without hesitation, that Lugh was a sun god, others, with equal force, argue that he was neither a god of the sun nor harvest.” What the author seems to be doing here, is giving both ideas equal merit. However, they don’t have equal merit. The actual historical record speaks for itself.

There is no record of Lúgh being worshiped as a sun god, but ample evidence that both his name meaning and his roles in Celtic religion were something else entirely.

“…helped along by Victorian scholars’ obsession with “solar myths”, it was taken for granted that Lúgh was a solar god… However, traditional, ritual-associated ideas about Lúgh show no trace of this… Lugus has his domain in storm rather than in sunlight, and that if his name has any relation to “light” it more properly means “lightning-flash”… This is the principal function of his invincible spear…”Lugus: The Many-Gifted Lord by Alexei Kondratiev

Why does it irk me so that the misinformation persists? Because people who think Lúgh is a sun god are getting the story wrong. Because if you’re getting the story wrong, then you’re also misunderstanding the meaning of an entire holiday; Lughnasadh. Because if you think Lúgh is a sun god, you do not know the real Lúgh. The real Lúgh is much more interesting and complex.

So that is why I’m writing this. It’s time to go beyond calling out the sun myth debacle, and move on to telling folks about his true character.

Excuse me, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and hero, Lúgh?

He was known by the continental Celts as Lugus, by the Welsh as Lleu, and by the Irish as Lúgh. We must look to all these cultures to get a complete picture of who Lúgh is. When Romans encountered Lugus, they equated him with their god Mercury, patron of travelers, commerce, trickery, and eloquence.

Relief of Mercury and Rosmerta from Eisenberg in present day Rhineland-Palatinate.

Relief of Mercury and Rosmerta from Eisenberg in present day Rhineland-Palatinate.

Early depictions of Lugus show him with a Tree of Life, twin serpents, dogs or wolves, birds (especially two ravens), horses, and mistletoe. He has similarities with Cernunnos, as they are both threshold gods, psychopomps, have a triple form, and a magical bag.

He has much in common with, and may actually be the prototype for- Odin. Like Odin, he wields a spear and is associated with two ravens. They are both psychopomp deities (again, like Cernunnos and Mercury). Both are travelers and magicians. Odin is god of wisdom, Lúgh of intellect and of every skill. Odin is one-eyed. Lúgh closes one eye to do magic on the battlefield. Odin was hung on a tree, pierced by his own spear, died and was reborn. So was Lleu. There are a few similarities with Loki as well, as they are both tricksters and associated with the mistletoe, however Lúgh is seen in a much more positive light than Loki. (For more of such comparisons, read The Birth of Lugh – Óðinn and Loki among the Celts by Thor Ewing, and Of Norse Loki and the Celtic Lugh.)

Lugus

Archaeological Museum of Dijon

So if you know a little about Norse mythology, you may be starting to form a picture in your mind of some of the aspects of Lúgh’s character; imagine a younger, smaller, Celtic Odin (especially in his traveler guise), with a fair bit of the trickiness of Loki. Now imagine that like Thor, he can also wield lightning. He shares some strikingly similar characteristics and powers with these gods.

I think of all the modern day depictions of Lúgh in art, the Magician in Lo Scarabeo’s Celtic Tarot captures his spirit the best; the slender wiry god sits perched in his sacred oak (a tree sacred to several Indo-European thunder gods), a floppy red Odin-eske hat covering one eye, and his magic bag slung over his shoulder. The torc around his neck is huge (or is it the god that’s small?). He is surrounded by some of his symbolic animals (serpent, horse…). Torcs and rings of gold hang from the trees. A fidchell board (Celtic chess- his invention) lies at his knee.

Lugus The Magician from Lo Scarabeo’s Celtic Tarot

Lugus The Magician from Lo Scarabeo’s Celtic Tarot

In Irish lore, Lúgh was born of a Fomorian mother (Ethniu), and a Tuatha Dé Danann father (Cian). The Fomorians were an earlier race of beings that inhabited Ireland, sometimes depicted as monstrous giants, sometimes from under the sea. They represent wild chaotic nature. The Tuatha Dé were the race of divine beings that would later become the Sídhe, and were often represented as the gods of humanity and civilization.

Lúgh was born of both races, and so has a mastery of both nature and civilization, of the below and the above, of humankind and the divine. It is no wonder then, that his traditional places of worship are high hills with a nearby water source.

In the Battle of Mag Tured, Lúgh goes up against his own grandfather, the evil Fomorian king Balor. With his swift sling (or in folk tradition, his spear), he pierces Balor through his fiery poisonous eye (which represents the harsh summer sun). In winning this battle, he gains control of the land for the Tuatha Dé (and metaphorically saves the crops from scorching in the fields from Balor’s evil sun-eye).

He was fostered by Manannán mac Lir, the sea god and gatekeeper to the Otherworld, and so has many water associations and inherited much of Manannán’s magic. He was also fostered by Tailtiu, a Fir Bolg queen who died clearing land for agriculture. And it was in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu that Lúgh instituted the first Lughnasadh festival and funeral games.

I have just hit a very few of the highlights here, describing some of the points in the mythology that tie in with the season of Lughnasadh, and describing some of Lúgh’s traits that I find especially interesting. I know I have left out a lot of important parts of his lore. Find more of the story of Lugh in Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), and The Second Battle of Mag Tured (Moytura). Read about Lleu in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion.

He is god of Land, Sky, and Sea. God to kings, warriors, and farmers. He is the quintessential underdog, surviving and winning despite the odds and with intellect and magic rather than brute force only. He is both hero and trickster and sovereign protector of the land. He is patron of travelers, for he travels with the lightning, small and swift, many places at once. He traverses worlds.

As Alexei said, “His many gifts remain at the disposal of those who trouble to seek him out.” Indeed, I hope you do.

The Nature and Character of Lugh | Ozark Pagan Mamma

offerings

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In ADF Druidry, giving offering is a big component of our rituals. In this very tangible way we establish and maintain a give and take relationship with the Three Kindreds (collectively; the deities, ancestors and nature spirits). It is spiritual hospitality. It is ghosti, the Proto-Indo-European word from which we get the English words guest and host.

offerings of oats, cornmeal, and seeds

In our protogrove, we like to include a time for “group offerings” in every ritual. This is a time for folks (anyone who wants to, that is), to come up the the altar, one at a time, and place their own offerings into the offering bowl (or fire, if we’re outside). They can say something if they like, but that’s optional. They can use the basic offerings we provide (which is usually oats, cornmeal, and birdseed), or bring their own biodegradable/burnable offering.

When creating a personalized offering, there are so many options. There are several things you will want to keep in mind, however. First of all, your offering needs to be of natural materials that will degrade and not pollute the environment. How will you deliver (disperse) your offering? Fresh green offerings such as herbs and flowers will degrade quickly, but other food offerings may need to be finely crumbled. If an offering can’t be crumbled into tiny pieces, it will need to be either buried or burned. If your ritual is taking place on your own land, it may not be so important to you that the offering return quickly to the natural elements. However, it has been my experience that burning is preferable as a quick and satisfying mode of delivery in a ritual setting. The following are a few ideas are for burnable offerings…

offering cakes
An offering cake can be made of any kind of of bread or biscuit dough, or even salt dough. (Although salt dough is not edible, the salt in it is an excellent offering, and salt dough can be a bit easier to shape into creative forms than other doughs, making it an offering of art rather than food.)

spiced salt dough offering cakes
To personalize an offering cake, mix items into the batter before baking (or in the case of salt dough, drying), such as herbs, flavorings or spices associated with the holiday you are celebrating or spirit/deity you are honoring. A biscuit shaped circle is a classic shape for an offering cake, but you can make them in any shape. Try using cookie cutters, molds, stamps, or shaping with your hands. You can shape the cakes into a symbol associated with the deity/spirit/occasion you are honoring. The tops can be decorated with diluted food coloring or garnished with herbs or flowers.

offering bundles
One way to make several small offerings at once is to use an offering bundle. Place items inside a scrap of natural fabric (a seven inch square seems to work well). Gather up the edges, and tie off the end with a string or cord. You could also use a large pliable leaf or piece of brown paper and fold your bundle. Some ideas for items to place in the bundle are: a written prayer or devotional poem, herbs, flowers, dried fruit/nuts, grains, and loose incense.

offering bundle

Another option for an offering bundle is to skip the container and just tie items on a stick (this will however limit what can be used to what will stay tied on) . You may even want to carve runes or symbols onto the stick itself, and anoint the entire bundle with an appropriate tincture or oil.

offering stick

early group struggles and finding self confidence

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A few years ago I started an ADF study and discussion group. We were just three ADF members getting together in a coffee shop. Membership and attendance remained small, but we kept on meeting, taking a small break in the winter for bad weather. After a while we became a Protogrove, and I volunteered to be the Grove Organizer because no one else was volunteering for the position. There was one other member farther along in the study programs than me, and who took a leadership role in meetings, but due to a chronic illness, he would not take the position. So I became the organizer, but all of us really looked to him as our leader. We carried on as we were for a while, having coffee shop meetings, and a few others joining us as time went by. Sometimes we’d talk about having a ritual for this or that High Day, but it would always get canceled a few days before the date due to fore mentioned person’s illness. We were essentially a discussion group, and I was fine with that.

Then suddenly, this person I mentioned stopped showing up. I was a nervous wreck. I am a lifelong shy introvert and suddenly it was all on me. Attendance dropped down to just three; myself and a married couple I’ll call Sue and Sam. Sue and Sam were not ADF members and seemed not too interested in ADF. I believe they attended because they couldn’t find an open Wiccan group. Sue was a real talker. So there were no awkward silences. There was also no structure to the conversations. Sometimes I would try to interject something Druid-y into the random conversation, but most of the time I would get interrupted so many times that I would forget what I was going to say. Since there was consistently only three of us at these meetings for months, and I was the only ADF member there, I became very discouraged. Sometimes a new person would come to a meeting, not say much, and then not come back. At the time I wished that I had that option, but I knew that my role was all too official for me to give up, and I couldn’t think of a way out of it.

Then a new person came to a meeting. I’ll call him Andy. Andy was already a member, and committed to ADF. He told us all about himself, was witty and interesting, and became a regular attendee and member of the Protogrove. I tell you, he was the Protogrove’s saving grace. So then it was four of us; me, Andy, and Sue & Sam. For some reason, Sue didn’t seem to like Andy all that much, and when we started talking about having one of our twice monthly meetings in a neighboring town, Sue and Sam left the group. That’s when more members gradually started trickling in. Before I knew it, we had seven active members, and several non-member attendees. We outgrew our location and starting meeting at a park and having rituals there too. Conversations at meetings were not difficult anymore. I didn’t need to steer the conversation toward Druidism because, with that many ADF members, it naturally went in that direction.

As for rituals, I was really nervous at first. Historically, when I have to speak in front of a group, I would get a feeling of dread for days, then when it came time to speak, my voice would shake. That’s how it was leading these rituals at first. Then people started volunteering to take on talking parts or even lead a ritual themselves. I grew really at ease with the group. We had great conversations. I stopped being nervous about meetings. Then, one day, I stopped being nervous about rituals as well. My voice evened out. The dread and worry disappeared. I started enjoying speaking in ritual, and if you know me in person, you know that’s really saying something.

So how did this change in confidence happen? I think a lot of it had to do with my getting to know the group through our discussion meetings. I gradually became at ease with talking to them. I also changed the conversation with myself in my head. The last time I got nervous before a ritual, I was able to stop feelings of nervousness and dread by reminding myself that they’re all my friends. I told myself “This is just like when we have discussion meetings. I’m talking with my friends in the park. Its going to be fun, as usual.” Those words were like magic, and have lasting power! (Also, it didn’t hurt that I asked Odin for good speech, and Thor for strength.)

So if you’re wanting to start an ADF or other Pagan group, and think you are too shy and/or introverted, think again. Finding self confidence is more about practicing social skills and getting comfortable with other people than about trying to impress. If you are struggling with a small group with poor dynamics, hang in there! Sometimes you have to face what you dread, and wait out the bad times, to get the community you want.

If you are thinking about attending a local Pagan group, but are having second thoughts or thinking that it wouldn’t matter if you show up or not– just show up! You might be some group’s saving grace, or at least play a very important part of the dynamic. Do not under-estimate the value of belonging to a spiritual community.

constructing an ADF ritual for your group

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In our group, we like to offer the opportunity to all members, the chance to write and host a High Day ritual. Many times, when a member agrees to do so for the first time, it may be overwhelming. It need not be so, if taken one step at a time…

STEP 1
Decide what the hearth culture will be, and the patrons of occasion. (Our group is Pan Indo European, so the first part of this step may not apply if your group has a specific hearth culture.) Try to choose hearth culture and patrons of the occasion that historically had something to do with the holiday or seasonal theme. Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh are Celtic in origin, though cultures close to them celebrated related holidays.

STEP 2
Jot down an outline. For an ADF High Day rite, it will need to follow the Core Order of Ritual, including the “musts” listed therein. Your group may have an outline they use often. Look at scripts from past rituals to get an idea.

STEP 3
Look over the abundant collection of liturgy in the rituals section of the ADF website. Pick your favorite wordage and adapt it, or write your own. Read what you’ve written aloud to see if it seems like something you’d say; notice if the words flow naturally from your lips. Re-write sections that don’t seem to have that flow. Be sure to include opportunities for group participation; times for individual prayers, invocations, and offerings. Also include a tradition to commemorate the holiday (for example, sharing fruit/bread for a harvest ritual, or blessing seeds for a Spring ritual).

STEP 4
Strategically place songs or chants at logical points in the ritual. You may want to pick some songs that your group has done before and you know they like. Notify the group of which songs will be in the ritual, so that they may listen to and practice them before the ritual.

STEP 5
When you are satisfied with the ritual you have written, share the script with the group using dropbox. It’s free, and I hear it works well with the screen readers used by sight-impaired participants.

STEP 6
Enlist help! Your load will be lighter with the help of a couple other officiants, plus people taking on smaller roles. You may want to use a system like the Hallow Keepers. Invite the group to help in decorating the ritual altar and setting up the site. Relax and let the Kindreds inspire you. You are among your grove, your friends.

constructing an ADF ritual

World Tree and Maypole

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“The single tree, fenced or walled off, with or without an altar beside it, is a universal feature of European sacred culture, and indeed it appears throughout Eurasia and Africa. In Minoan Crete the icons show people dancing in the walled-off area around a single fig or olive tree.”
–Prudence Jones & Nigel Pennick, A History of Pagan Europe

People danced around living trees in Spring rituals long before trees were felled for maypoles. In fact, attaching ribbons and weaving them around the pole did not come about until the Middle Ages. Contrary to popular belief, the custom of the maypole didn’t originate with Celtic peoples, but in German culture.

The most common explanation of the maypole is that it is a phallic symbol, and that symbolism does seem to befit the season; in the fertile onset of Summer, the Sky Father fertilizes the Earth Mother. However, the greater symbolism is that the maypole is representative of the axis mundi, the World Tree, Irminsul, Yggdrasil.

I hung on that windy Tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself to mine own self given,
high on that Tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven.
-Hávamál

And so Odin received his wisdom and power- from his initiation on the World Tree, at the center connecting point of the universe. The World Tree is the backbone of our universe, the connection to all the worlds, the cosmic pillar that upholds everything. It is symbolic of all life and is a connecting force like a web. No wonder it is one of the most common motifs in mythology around the world.

Trees connect the world we live in, in very non-metaphoric ways as well. They hold together the soil, clean the air, and produce the very oxygen we breathe. Without trees, we most likely wouldn’t be here. It is a most essential symbiotic relationship. If you look at a river system from the air, it looks like a tree. Our lungs and nerve systems look like trees as well. We have the power of the world tree within us. As above, so below, so without, so within. The ancient Norse knew this, for in the mythology, the first people were from trees- they were driftwood in which Odin breathed life.

tree of life prayer