Meditation: Animist Consecration

Last night my awesome wife Ali and I joined in a set of consecration ceremonies at our Unitarian Universalist church. Along with the Reverend’s UU blessing and our friend Chris’s Wiccan consecration, we demonstrated a Druid / Animist method of connecting with an object.

I say “connecting with” an object instead of “consecrating” because in our tradition, all things are sacred. We cannot imbue an object with holiness. It is already holy. What we can do is recognize the sacredness of the object, and enter into relationship with it (or deepen our existing relationship). We do this by sitting with the object, touching it, and listening for its voice in the Song of the World.

I wrote a meditation to guide this process, and it seemed to go well, so here it is in full:

Animist Consecration Meditation

Sit and relax. Take a deep breath… and release. As you breathe out, let all your tension melt away. Relax your shoulders, relax your neck, relax your eyes. Take another deep breath… and release. Imagine that a wave of warm golden light is slowly rising in your body, starting in your feet, rising up through your legs, up into your torso. The warm golden light fills your body, down your arms and into your fingers, up to the top of your head… Let your body sink, growing heavier. Your arms and legs have become heavy and settle comfortably.

Now turn your attention gently to the object in your hands. Feel its weight there. Imagine that, like your body, it is becoming heavier. Feeling its weight and heft pressing in your hands helps you relax further. … Feel its texture. Is it hard? Soft? Smooth? How does it respond when you apply gentle pressure? … Feel the temperature of the object in your hands. Perhaps it has responded to the warmth of your body, becoming warmer as you’ve been holding it.

Think about history of the object. Where did it come from? How did it come into this room? How did it come into your possession? Do you know who else has held this object, if anyone else ever has? Was it crafted by a person, or by a machine, or is it completely natural? How long ago was it made? Where did the materials of the object come from? From an animal? A plant? If so, what do you know about those living beings, and the lives they led? Did they live nearby, experiencing the same summers and winters and rains as ourselves? Or did they live far away, in a distant land, under different stars? Has it been under the sea? Did it come from the earth, crafted from stone or crystal, formed millions of years ago?

Imagine what it must have been like to experience the history of this object — from the time of its making down to the present day. Think about what it must be like to be the object, now, today, surrounded by us in this warm and sacred space, being held and warmed by your hands.

Feel the warmth of the object again. The object has responded to the heat in your hands. The heat in the object is nothing more nor less than vibration; its atoms and molecules have begun to vibrate along with the atoms and molecules of your hand. If your ears were sensitive enough, you would be able to hear the vibration of the object in the air. Hold it tightly and feel the warmth. If it were making an audible sound, what would it be? Would it be high-pitched, or low? Would it be a single constant tone, or a chord of notes? A monotone, or a tune? …

Hear that sound in your mind. Focus on it.

Now, in a moment, when you are ready and comfortable, respond to the song of the object, in whatever way feels right. Maybe you want to hum along with it, or provide a bass or counterpoint. Maybe what is called from you is a chant, or a whisper. Sit with your object, listen to it, and respond. Sing the song of the world with your object.

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A Wedding on the Edge

Ocean, a poem

Mary Oliver

I am in love with Ocean
lifting her thousands of white hats
in the chop of the storm,
or lying smooth and blue, the
loveliest bed in the world.
In the personal life, there is

always grief more than enough,
a heart load for each of us
on the dusty road. I suppose
there is a reason for this, so I will be
patient, acquiescent. But I will live
nowhere except here, by Ocean, trusting
equally in all blast and welcome
of her sorrowless, salt self.

On the edge of the Sea, Alison and I are getting married today. May our souls be wound round each other in joy. May Earth, Sea and Sky bless us, and may our love be as great as they, and as free, as wild, as young, and as eternal.

Beltane 2008: Scattered Blossoms

I’m working on a very large post, and normally I would post it in sections, but it’s not the sort of thing that can be broken up. In the meantime, I offer some reflections of the joys of the season:

hangedgodThis morning — May First — out of the blue — our five-year-old son woke up and saw fairies everywhere. Everywhere. He was ecstatic, sitting in bed, watching the tiny things dancing on his blankets, dancing on his pajamas, dancing on his sisters’ heads. He laughed and laughed and laughed! He saw them at school, he saw them on the playground, he saw them at the dinner table… He whispered his secret into his best friend’s ear. “That’s so awesome!” said his friend. At dinner all the kids put a bit of their food into a bowl for the fairies.

Fairy folk are all around
In the trees and in the ground
Gods above we honor you
Be with us in all we do
Ancestors who’ve gone before
Wisdom from the other shore
Offerings we make to you
Fire, water, living wood.

Esmerelda’s weather witching this year has apparently led to a striking result. Look at this map, which shows temperatures for the month of March this year, alongside an in-depth look at the El Nino and La Nina phenomena. Notice in particular that while March 2008 was the second-warmest March ever (beat only by March 2002), and Europe and Asia in particular suffered amazingly high temperatures, North America (where Esmerelda focused her efforts) was pretty much dead-on average — even slightly cooler than average in eastern Canada.

Speaking of weather magic: since we’re deep into 2008 now, it makes no sense to keep offering the 2008 Almanac at full price. It’s now available at 50% off: $9.99 for the print version, $7.00 for the download. Happy Beltane!

After a long winter of silence, I’ve started posting again at the Word of the Day and Druid Journal Meditation blogs. (Update 2010: these blogs are now ended.)

For the Word of the Day, I put up an analysis of the name Barack Hussein Obama, which was hugely fun to do and uncovered a lot of surprises about the names — and surprises about the man, as well.

For DJ Meditation, I posted a description of one of my daily visualization meditations — no analysis, no rumination, just what I experienced. See what meaning you can draw from it.

This winter I’ve been working on a major project for DJ Meditation, which I hope to unveil very soon. Stay tuned, true believers!

Tomorrow we will have Maypole dances for the small children at school, and this weekend we’ll be going to the big dance at Lady Tiana’s. Anyone else local headed out there?…

Oh, the green grass and the blooming trees! What greater joy??

beltane2008

Winter Solstice 2007

What does a druid do on the winter solstice? That depends on the druid.

ire7If you’re a Reconstructionist, you don’t do much. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence that the ancient druids did anything to celebrate the two solstices and equinoxes; their high holy days were the four cross-quarter holidays (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). The solstices and equinoxes aren’t even marked in the Coligny calendar, for example, while there is evidence there for Samhain, Lughnasadh, and Beltane.

If you’re a Revivalist, you celebrate Alban Arthuan, the festival to honor King Arthur and the return of the light. Druids commonly gather in a sacred space and watch for the sun to rise, greeting it with the powerful “Awen” chant, and honoring it with ceremony. However, the Revivalists are not dogmatic, and traditions vary widely among them.

I have called myself Reconstructionist on this site several times, but honestly I’m not quite sure about that.

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Lughnasadh 2007: Embodiment of Sunfire

This Lughnasadh has been a quiet one for our family, but one with some very interesting revelations for me personally.

Our Family’s Lughnasadh

tolkientarotiiiOur usual mentor, Ellen Hopman, was away in Tennessee leading a large gathering, so the six of us tramped into the woods to do our own little thing. It turns out that back behind the farm where we get our summer vegetables is a stand of woods with a network of crisscrossing paths, and a lovely little brook with bridges scattered here and there along it. It was amazing to us what a sense of peace and reverence permeated these quiet woods, even though they are almost completely surrounded by developments now. At one of these bridges we sang “We are Children of the Earth” and silvered the water; then we went to the top of a hill and gave our offerings to the trees and to fire. I read a selection from the life of Lugh — the part where he’s taken from his home on earth and raised up to be a man by the King of the Sea, and how he decides to return to Ireland and free it from the yoke of the Fomorian invaders. Then we did a brief divination using Druid Animal Oracle cards, asking for guidance in our search for a home closer to the land. The general indication was that the search will take considerable cleverness and a strong warrior spirit, but that we will have help.

Then we tramped back to the farm proper and had a feast of whole wheat and oat rolls and salad. We placed a roll at the base of a birch for the local fairies, as well. Afterwards, most of the kids headed for the sandbox, but our 6-year-old second daughter, who I sometimes think has more intuition about people and relationships than the whole rest of the family put together, sought out the farmers, buttered them up properly, and secured a free cantaloupe and other random fruit. We had a lovely time.

Lugh: The Embodiment of Sunfire

Lughnasadh is Old Irish for “Lugh Gathering”, and it was a fire festival celebrated midway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox — a time of gathering together for trade and exchange of goods and ideas. As such, it wasn’t primarily a harvest festival, though according to legend it was established by Lugh, king of the gods, in tribute to his mother Tailtiu, who died readying the fields of Ireland for agriculture.

Lugh is the primary syllable of Lughnasadh, and it is similar to the name Luke and Latin lux in sound and meaning: a light, volume-filling energy is gathered with speedy, fluid motion into a grounded container — or, put more simply, embodied, flowing light.

It appears that some of my guides arranged matters so that they would be “revealed” at this time of year, when the energy of the sun is made manifest, because they are so closely tied to solar energy.

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Summer Solstice 2007: Innovation and Tradition in Religion

This past spring, an arsonist destroyed the Church’s meeting house. It is now a two-story skeleton of blackened bones, wrapped round with a single yellow caution strip, as if that were the only thing holding it up. Around it, the forest, lawn and garden are lush with summer growth.

ire18Near the top of the hill stands the husk of a tree, struck by lightning. It was also smitten this spring. At the base of the tree, one of the Church’s members cut a crop-circle-like maze in the tall grass with a weed whacker, and placed a salvaged soot-covered statuette in its center. Before the Solstice ceremony, and late into the evening afterwards, the children played games in the maze, and chased lightning bugs.

The Nature Church has been purified by fire.

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Fionn Mac Cumhaill Sings of Beltane

The following is a poem attributed to one of the greatest Irish heroes, Fionn Mac Cumhaill, said to have been composed by him shortly after gaining the gift of poetry from the salmon of wisdom.

ire36May-day, season surpassing!
Splendid is color then.
Blackbirds sing a full lay,
if there be a slender shaft of day.

The dust-colored cuckoo calls aloud:
Welcome, splendid summer!
The bitterness of bad weather is past,
the boughs of the wood are a thicket.

Summer cuts the river down,
the swift herd of horses seeks the pool,
the long hair of the heather is outspread,
the soft white bog-down grows.

Panic startles the heart of the deer,
the smooth sea runs apace-
season when ocean sinks asleep-
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Thanks, Mr. Sun: Druid Spring Equinox Ritual

It’s been a month since the Spring Equinox, and now at last in Massachusetts we’re getting some truly springlike weather — yesterday was the first day we could go outside without coats or sweaters. I spent the day with my hands in the earth, digging and weeding out a garden plot behind our apartment that lay fallow all last year, while the kids rode their bicycles and tricycles and asked to see more worms and pleaded for a chance to use my spade.

tolkientarotiiiThe fact that I haven’t written about our equinox ritual before now gives you some indication of how busy we’ve been this spring. I think for many of us, it has been a difficult time — many of my friends have been ill, overwhelmed with work or too many responsibilities, or stricken with tragedy of one kind or another. Still, a few days ago my cousin and his wife were blessed with twins, and the sun continues to rise earlier and earlier each morning on schedule… So not all is lost.

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A Druid Imbolc Celebration

Imbolc is traditionally the time when the lambs are born, and the sheep begin to give milk. (The etymology of “Imbolc” is uncertain, but is probably derived from Old Irish i mbolg, “in the belly”, referring to the pregnancy of the ewes, or to the nascent springtime.) In the British Isles, the daffodils are blooming, and spring is making its presence felt. Here in Massachusetts, we finally got our first real snowfall, and any lambs born right now would be nursed on ice cream. Maybe we should consider pushing back the celebration next year… In any case, our family and our Grove celebrated this weekend, and we all had a great time.

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The Order of the White Oak

I have been a member of the Ancient Order of Druids in America since this summer, but there are no other druids in that order anywhere nearby. For us, it has been very important to find other druids, because of the children.

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Samhain 2006

Samhain, the old Celtic pagan holiday underlying Halloween, has recently passed. It’s the old New Year, and it’s a time of endings and beginnings. It’s also a time when the residents of the other world — gods, sidhe, and the dead — are more able to reach out of their realm into ours. For most modern pagans, Samhain is a time to honor ancestors and teachers who have passed away.

We took our children to Celebrate Samhain, a gathering hosted by the Spiral Scouts in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The price of admission: nonperishable food items or winter clothing in good condition. (The Spiral Scouts, which you can learn more about here, is an organization analogous to the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, but you don’t have to be monotheistic to join.)

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Alban Elued: Gaudeamus Hodie

This past Monday we finally managed to get the family out in to the woods to celebrate the autumnal equinox — Alban Elued in the Druid Revival tradition. Two weeks previous, at the actual equinox, my wife was quite sick with a cold. One week ago it was raining cats and dogs. This weekend was perfect.

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Alban Elued Revival Druid Ritual

For some notes on the origin and meaning of Alban Elued, see this previous post.

onthanksgivingOur family’s Alban Elued ritual is drawn directly from the pages of John Michael Greer’s Druidry Handbook. It is in no way supposed to be a reconstructed ritual, a reenactment of what ancient Druids performed 2000 years ago. Almost nothing is known about their rituals or holidays. Instead, this is a ritual of the Druid Revival tradition, which mixes elements of known Celtic mythology with Arthurian romances and 19th-century mysticism. The overall effect is eclectic and hermetic, infused throughout with nature symbolism.

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On the Druid Path to Alban Elued, the Autumn Equinox

This morning was deliciously bright, clear, and cool in western Massachusetts, reminding me that Alban Elued, the Druid celebration of the Autumnal Equinox, is coming before long. Another big hint is that we just spent a tidy bundle on back-to-school clothes.

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Lughnasadh 2006

Lughnasadh (pronounced lune-ah-sah) was a summer festival of the ancient Celts, celebrated around August 1. My understanding is that it is known that it was celebrated at either the full moon or the new moon closest to the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. Since the midpoint is on August 6th, that means that this year, Lughnasadh falls on either July 25 (the new moon) or August 9 (the full moon). We celebrated the new moon this year; for the reason why, see the footnote below.

onthanksgivingLegend has it that the god Lugh established the holiday in honor of his mother, Tailtiu. Traditionally, it was celebrated with trade festivals, fairs, and bonfires. In the modern Druid Revival tradition, Lughnasadh is the midpoint between Midsummer and the fall equinox, one of the eight primary holidays of the Sun Path.

For some reason, the company I work for, which builds dictation software, has not yet established Lughnasadh as a company holiday. So we decided to celebrate on Sunday, the 23rd, instead.

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