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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Ruminations Under an Oak

On Wednesday we visited the Angel Oak near Charleston, South Carolina. It is a vast thing, probably over a thousand years old, twisted and hoary and huge, like a cross between a live oak and an elephant. From a short distance away, it looks like a whole grove of trees; under its boughs, it is a cathedral of gnarled, bearded wood, floored with waxen golden leaves.

Some random thoughts I had while sitting, meditating, and walking around and under the Oak:

Most trees are a tall trunk, from which spread the branches in a halo. The human body is much the same. Most animals follow a slightly different scheme: a horizontal trunk, supported by multiple limbs. Human architecture tends to follow the animal scheme, a horizontal roof supported by multiple pillars. But there are exceptions, such as the yurt, which is supported by a central pillar, and is extremely sturdy.

The Angel Oak has multiple support points, like an animal; but the overwhelming impression is more like an atom or an amoeba: its trunk is less like a central pillar, and more like a nucleus. Its branches and roots go up, down, sideways, in all directions.

This tree is a god. Literally. Touching its bark, you have same sense of something ancient, nigh-eternal, and very present, aware of you. Tolkien had it right when he described Treebeard’s eyes.

One felt as if there was an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking; but their surface was sparkling with the present: like sun shimmering on the outer leaves of a vast tree, or on the ripples of a very deep lake. I don’t know but it felt as if something that grew in the ground – asleep, you might say, or just feeling itself as something between root-tip and leaf-tip, between deep earth and sky had suddenly waked up, and was considering you with the same slow care that it had given to its own inside affairs for endless years. — Tolkien, The Two Towers

Time. The tree is old, old, but time is measured in changes. For something that changes little… time moves more slowly. The Oak moves slowly compared to humans, so a thousand human years is not a thousand oak years. Still, it loses and regains its leaves each year (in the spring); it is not changeless.

It is a living sculpture carved by gravity, light, air, time, and the forest around it. The branches curve and twist in unexpected ways, echoes of obstacles the tree once faced, now long-gone. For some reason, it hasn’t grown to the east. Maybe there was a building there, or another large tree, now vanished?

The tree has grown to become an axis mundi. An axis mundi, a world tree or central mountain, sits in a central location, and exerts its influence over the whole world; and the whole world is reflected within it. Just so: the Angel Oak influences the land all round it, physically and spiritually, so that the land echoes the oak; and the oak reflects the land all round it, too. Of course, this is true of all things; it is only our human manners of seeing and thinking that make some axes mundi clearer than others.

The Angel Oak and its surrounding forest are threatened by development. Get more information here.

Oddments

  • Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! Bury it, and it explodes into an oak! Bury a sheep, and you get nothing but decay. -Shaw
  • And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. -Shakespeare

Moss, Mire

This week we’re in Charleston, South Carolina, visiting the Angel Oak. It’s considerably sunnier and wetter here than it is back in Pittsburgh: the earth is sandier, the blue skies paler, and the waters warmer. In the morning we went out jogging past the stately homes, the gardens lush with semitropical bushes, huge magnolias, and towering pines. In many places the yards showed the ongoing struggle of the suburbanite to grow grass everywhere, everywhere in America, even in places that would much rather be, say, a sandy beach, or a peat bog. As we ran, we ducked under the hanging Spanish moss, one of my favorite plants of the deep South.

Spanish moss is not moss at all, really, but a kind of bromeliad, related to the pineapple, and native only to the Americas. Like many bromeliads, it grows in the air, attached to other plants (or poles or telephone wires), and thrives in areas of high humidity. The island of Barbados (from Portuguese “bearded”) was named after the Spanish moss growing there.

The Proto Indo European root meu meant both “moist” and “marsh”; it is the ancestor of Latin mucus (eww) and Proto Germanic musan, meaning “marsh,” “bog,” “mire,” and a plant that often grows there: “moss.” Musan became meos in Old English and moss in modern English. Meanwhile, musan became myrr in Old Norse, which was borrowed into English as mire. These words both carry the spiritual notion if manifestation, creation, in recognition of the tremendous life-fostering power of those areas where land and water mix in equal parts. Moss also has earthiness and growth, increase; while mire has strong motion, power, movement, and suggests an almost malevolent agency of entrapment.

Oddments

  • We procrastinate all our lives. Perhaps we know deep down we are immortal, and that eventually all men will do and know all things. – Borges
  • When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with its fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze. -Carlyle

Rain, Wind

It’s been a cold, rainy spring here in southwestern Pennsylvania, and though there are lilies blooming in the garden and birds clamoring in the yard, I’m nevertheless wrapped under two blankets, the windows are shut tight and the rain and wind are beating at the glass.

3 AM – I am awake to the downpour, dark rains swelling the land, my bones themselves seeming waterlogged until they are spongy and wrinkled.

4:11 AM – The first bird opens his throat to swallow the dark in rising song slipping in between the rain. The land awakening, dawn remade. – Ali

Rain

Rain is probably from Proto Indo European reg, meaning “moist, wet”, related to Latin rigare (whence we get irrigate). In Proto Germanic reg became regna, and in Old English, regn, contracted to rain in Middle English. Spiritually the word indicates motion through initiation towards groundedness and release; it echoes the sentiments of many who feel that a shower is a baptism of the earth.

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Uprooted

Like a silent thunderclap
The sun strikes a blade of grass,
— A sharp thrusting blade it is, a defiant green punch
Out of the soil at the sky —
Now struck and smelted with gold leaf,
Humming with new life and power,
Slow and ruminous the photosynthesis.
The Long Hand of Lugh
Has painted it alive.
— Jan 2009

physviolenceThe path to divorce began before I even met my wife; I’d placed my feet on it inevitably, irrevocably, following the stars of my deepest desires and fears. I wanted to be loved; was this wrong? I wanted acceptance, approval, completion; was this wrong? I wanted to care for, and to give affection to, and to love; was this wrong? I sought these, and found these, in her. I loved her, and desired her, and cared for her, and was completed by her, utterly, as I understood love and desire and care and completion. And we loved furiously and ecstatically and laid the beautiful plans that lovers do.

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Pele: Fire in the Water

Well, first, of course, Obama was elected, and he grew up in Hawaii.

interviewfrankmaceowenAnd then my friend Slade (of sladeroberson.com) went to Hawaii for angelic training and, as it turned out, met essential people for his life path.

And then I stumbled onto a fascinating podcast called “Jedi trainer” (hunatrainer.com), which is really a tutorial on Huna, a (the?) Hawaiian shamanistic tradition. The podcaster is on a very good wavelength for me, and with a couple of his techniques, I was able to ramp up my manifesting energy enormously.

And then I saw my very first Hawaiian quarter — absolutely gorgeous, too.

And then, it turned out that one of the people in my work group was getting an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii as a thank-you from the company for basically being an awesome guy.

What on earth was all this Hawaii stuff about?

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The Coligny Calendar

The Coligny calendar was discovered in Coligny, France (near Lyon) as little more than a pile of bronze fragments in 1897 – most likely smashed by Roman authorities during the suppression of druidic practice – and painstakingly restored piece by piece. It was originally the size of a rather cramped doorway. Less than half of the calendar remains, but there is enough to clearly see a beautiful time-keeping system that aligned the sun and moon into a single calendar, and listed dozens of holidays, rituals, celebrations, and the like.

whatdoyouwantThere are lots of disagreements about the calendar. For example, although everyone agrees that it effectively tracks both the sun and the moon, it’s uncertain whether months began at the new moon, the full moon, or perhaps the first quarter. In this article, I’m going to state as fact many things that are in contention, because filling the article with equivocations would turn it into a scholarly work, not a philosophical one. For example: I’m going to say that the months begin on the new moon, because in my opinion, that squares best with the evidence.

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The Druid Zodiac

[Disclaimer: while I am a linguist, I am not an expert on Celtic languages (ancient or modern), and I cannot vouch for the translations offered below. Most of the information in this article comes from the book The Lost Zodiac of the Druids by Gregory Clouter, and it should be noted that the views in the book are not those entertained by most scholars.]

That the ancient druids practiced astronomy and astrology is beyond doubt. It would be amazing if they did not, since practically all ancient cultures did. But beyond that, their astronomical knowledge is specifically cited by many of the Roman, Greek and Irish authors that describe them; and there are even a few archaeological finds that suggest it.

mistyriver2Primary among these is the Coligny calendar, discovered as little more than a pile of bronze fragments in 1897 — most likely smashed by Roman authorities during the suppression of druidic practice — and painstakingly restored piece by piece. Less than half of the calendar remains, but there is enough to clearly see a beautiful time-keeping system that aligned the sun and moon into a single calendar, and listed dozens of holidays, rituals, celebrations, and the like.

But if Gregory Clouter (The Lost Zodiac of the Druids, 2003) is right, the Gundestrup Cauldron puts the Coligny calendar to shame.

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Hanged God Calling on Line One: an Unexpected Interview

Some time ago I promised my wife I would stop meditating in the car. I was sorry to do it, because some of my very best meditations happened then, but I understood her concern. I’m willing to concede that perhaps deep meditation is not really safe at 70 miles per hour…

sixarguments4aBut on Tuesday I broke my promise. It wasn’t my fault, though — I swear! I was driving along, minding my own business, and a spirit quite firmly forced himself into my full meditative attention. Here’s how it happened.

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Interfaith Blog Event #7: Gender in Druidism: Girl Bullying

Once again I’m delighted to participate in an interfaith blog conversation held by Mike (writing from the Mahayana Buddhist perspective), Jon (a Protestant Christian), Sojourner (pagan/UU), and Matt (an evangelical Christian) and myself, a Druid. Every month (or thereabouts), we write on a topic of interest to us all. This month’s topic is gender:

What does gender have to do with divinity?

The links to the other articles in the conversation will be updated as they are posted:

[Mike’s Essay] [Jon’s Essay] [Sojourner’s Essay] [Matt’s Essay]

The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

My wife and I just picked up some amazing books on “girl bullying”, as explained in the bestseller Odd Girl Out and other follow-up research by Rachel Simmons. The gist is that bullying is common between girls — at least in US American culture, between the ages of about 10 and 18. From the LA Times review:

The code is unwritten, a conspiracy among girls to turn on one of their own. Secret pacts made among middle and high school girls to ruin reputations, to humiliate–whisper campaigns that so-and-so sleeps around; barking like a dog at another girl in the hallway; shifting to exclude someone from her usual lunch spot.

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The Plight of the Honey Bee

Almost everyone is aware by now that honey bees are having a very, very difficult year. Bee colonies are dying all over the United States, imperiling not only the supply of honey, but also crops that depend on the bee for pollination, such as almonds, strawberries, blueberries, apples, watermelons, cranberries, and soybeans. While there are other pollinators out there, the honey bee is the only domesticated pollinator — it is the only pollinator that can be moved from crop to crop as necessary, and the only pollinator that can be depended on to serve crops that are not native to North America. As such it is essential to the large-scale agribusiness of the United States.

The death of a colony is frightful. First, the older adult worker bees begin to disappear, until only the younger ones are left. The workforce grows smaller gradually, becoming too small to care for the bees’ young. The Queen begins appearing outside the hive more frequently than normal. The bees seem reluctant to eat the food provided by the beekeeper.

Within a week or two, all the workers have disappeared entirely. They have gone away, and do not return. There are very few dead bees found near the hive. Food stores are abandoned uneaten. The babies are left growing in their hexagonal chambers, and they quickly die with no adults to feed them.

BUT WHY?

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Midsummer – Interview with Apollo

If you’re a regular reader, you know that Apollo is one of my primary guides, and was the original inspiration for this blog. Over the past year, I’ve worked at improving my connection with him, to become a clearer conduit for solar energy. It’s been an amazing ride…

Midsummer is the point of Apollo’s maximum power, and it’s also the first anniversary of this blog. There seemed to be no better time to share some of Apollo’s thoughts and reflections. This interview was gathered together from a number of separate meditation sessions as well as automatic writing.

The setting is a grassy, windy hilltop in the sun. We are sitting on a stone bench just outside Apollo’s temple — a small Greek affair, little more than a dome supported by columns, covering a small pool with water rippled by the breeze and dappled by sunlight through nearby trees. The temple is at the edge of a dark green wood, but we are facing away from that, watching the wind play in the tall grass, and the sunlight glittering on the sea beyond the hills.

Like many famous people, Apollo is not as tall as you might have expected. He is muscular, but certainly not overbuilt, and he rarely wears anything. His skin at this time is bronzed, glowing as though with a recent tan; earlier in the spring, when he was as new-born, his skin was actually flowing molten gold. His hair is brown and curly, short-cropped; and his eyes are black as night, studded with swirls of stars.

DJ: Good morning! Thanks for coming by today.

Apollo: Thank you! My pleasure.

DJ: First off, let me ask you this: was this interview your idea, or mine?

Apollo: The very fact that you’re asking that question means that you’re making a lot of progress in aligning your energy with mine. Congratulations! The answer is: it was my idea. And it was also your idea. As you open yourself up more and more, you will find it harder to distinguish your thoughts from mine.

DJ: That seems a little… uh… creepy.

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Interfaith Blog Event #6: FAITH (Faith in Druidism)

I’m honored to have been invitied to join in an interfaith blog conversation held by Mike (writing from the Mahayana Buddhist perspective), Jon (a Protestant Christian), Sojourner (pagan/UU), and Matt (an evangelical Christian) — all bloggers I hold in high esteem. Every month (or thereabouts), we write on a topic of interest to us all. This month’s topic is faith:

What is your view regarding the meaning and the role of faith? What importance does it play in your community and in your daily life?

The links to the other articles in the conversation will be updated as they are posted:

[Mike’s Essay] [Jon’s Essay] [Sojourner’s Essay] [Matt’s Essay]

Faith in Druidism

Faith in Druidism is a tricky topic.

ire430eThere are plenty of polytheistic druids, who try to adhere as closely as they can to the pantheon of gods worshipped by the ancient Celts. I am one of those. Then there are duotheistic druids, who believe in a God and Goddess, much as many Wiccans do; and panethiestic druids, and animist druids… There are druids who worship a pantheon of gods who were admittedly made up (or discovered?) out of thin air by college students in the 1960’s. There are druids that practice a mixture of Celtic mysticism and Buddhism (which are not nearly so far apart as you might think — in fact, the similarities are frequently striking). There are even Christian druids, who practice a form of Christianity native to Scotland and Ireland in the latter half of the first millenium (known as “Celtic Christianity”). For all I know, there may be agnostic or atheistic druids as well.

How can this be? What unites all these belief systems?

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A High School Student Asks About Druidism

Last week I was surprised and delighted to get an email from a high school student who is curious about Druidism. In particular, for a school project, she wanted to know about the relationship between Christianity and Druidism, and what factors led to the rise of one at the expense of the other. She sent me a list of questions and asked whether I might be able to answer them for her.

The questions were:

  1. In your personal experience, has anyone of Christian belief or other religion told you your belief system was bad?
  2. How did you discover Druidry? Was it easy to find information on it?
  3. In your opinion, do you think Druidism being replaced by Christianity so many centuries ago had to do with the religion itself? Or was it caused by other factors?
  4. Why is Druidism your chosen faith? What do you like the most about this belief system?
  5. And finally, what is your opinion of Christianity? Do you personally think it’s a good religion? If not, what weaknesses within the faith can you point out?

ire24I found something remarkable about her questions. Some of them were good, solid, and straightforward — like (2) or (4). These were the sort of questions that might be used to spur discussion on an interfaith forum. But others were more daring — like (3) and (5). These are questions that few people ask, because they go beyond simply “asking about Druidism” and get into the thornier area of relationships between religions. They are perfectly natural questions, and they deserve answers; but they’re also dangerous and insightful, because they skirt close to the questions at the heart of religion itself: why do some religions rise, and others fall? Is there such a thing as a true religion — and if so, could it be pushed off the world’s stage by a false one? If Druidism is a true religion, how come Christianity replaced it? And how do you, as a Druid, feel about that?

So I was delighted to answer her questions; and she graciously agreed to let me turn our little dialogue into a blog post.

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Running with Cernunnos

Along with all and sundry, I’ve been tagged by Slade of Shift Your Spirits to talk about money — everybody’s favorite topic. Slade’s got a neat twist on it that’s worth exploring: an exercise he picked up from Morgana Rae. Since money is such an abstract concept — for many of us, it simply flows in and out of our lives, and we’re never sure exactly how much we have, or why — he suggests we personify money and establish a relationship with it. Give it a face, give it name, and think about the relationship you have with it. Is it a healthy relationship? Is there plenty of give-and-take? Is Money someone you’d want to take home and meet your mother?

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