I’m engaged in the Candidate Year of membership in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. Here I’ll go into some detail about some of the requirements and how I plan to meet them.
The core curriculum requires following the Earth Path, Sun Path, and Moon Path, as well as a choice of Spiral. I chose three Spirals — Poetry, Earth Mysteries, and Magic — because I couldn’t decide on just one!
Two things are recommended for daily practice: meditation and the Sphere of Protection ritual. Both of these are part of the Moon Path. In addition to these two, I plan to frequently practice the next upcoming Sun Path holiday ritual, so that I will know it reasonably well when it arrives.
AODA suggests doing a ten-minute morning meditation daily. They recommend meditating on a phrase or word that is suggestive to you — ideally something that arises in your Druidic research — and ruminating on it. This is quite different from Eastern-style meditation, where the goal is to quiet the mind into silence. They are similar, however, in that the practice develops mental control.
I have practiced meditation for a number of years — my mother introduced it to me when I was quite young — and I’m reasonably good at it. I usually do not have time to meditate when I get up in the morning (I get up at 5 am so that I can get started on my work, or drive to Boston for the day) but I love to meditate while I am driving. I usually end up driving at least ten minutes every day, so that works out well. The past couple of weeks I’ve been meditating on some of my biggest goals for this year: increasing my health, getting out of debt, and establishing a good home for my family. This isn’t strictly what the AODA recommends meditating on to further one’s Druidic practice, but think it’s pretty important. I will incorporate more of the latter soon, as I get into my reading and research.
Daily ritual practice
I haven’t found time to do this yet. I looked at what is involved for the Sphere of Protection ritual, and found that it will require a good bit of practice. I need to figure out how to work it into my daily schedule. My daily time is pretty full of driving, working, cleaning, and being a husband and father; but I know that a shift in my perspectives and attitudes can reveal time where none seemed to exist before.
The Earth Path involves experiencing nature for fifteen minutes every week. This seems like a paltry amount to me, but it will be a good place to start. There is not a lot of nature near our apartment in the center of Holyoke. We do live next to a nice little park, but it’s just stretches of grass with sidewalks and occasional trees and playgrounds. Nice, but you can’t feel surrounded by nature in such a place. Fortunately there is a small forested area right near where I work in Boston, and I plan to spend time there.
Part of the poetry path is to get books of poetry and poetry exercises, and to practice them weekly. I haven’t done this yet, but there is a long list of recommended reading on the AODA web site, and I’ll be referring to that to make my selections soon.
Creating sacred space
A weekly recommendation for the Magic Spiral is performing a ritual for opening and closing a sacred space. I need to make time for this practice.
Earth mysteries reading
My goal is to read one or two books on Earth mysteries this season. My mother suggested reading a recent study in Europe which indicated that lay lines in the Earth were not properties of the Earth at all, but more spiritual in nature. It should be an interesting topic. But I will do more background reading before I move on to recent studies.
Memorization was a big part of ancient druidry practice, and I feel it is an essential part of modern education as well. Or rather, it ought to be. Our capacity for memory is a pale shadow of what it once was. The ancient Druids had religious proscriptions against commiting sacred material to writing — quite the opposite of many cultures, where writing was reserved for the priestly class. In those times, candidate Druids or bards had to learn many hundreds of poems and songs, in addition to history, geography, and genealogy. Even in the early middle ages, people had prodigous memories of family history, stories, and so forth. Cathedrals were designed around the idea of communicating Biblical stories, and helping people remember them. But as literacy has increased, our training in memorization is decreased. So I’m very much looking forward to developing my skill in this area.
My goal is to write two new poems this season. I’ve already written one, “Thor’s Stroll“, but depending on how my poetry reading goes, I may write two additional ones. I’m particularly interested in learning about a kind of Celtic poetry, Deibhidh, that I read about in Ellis’s book on Druids, a kind of “Celtic haiku”. In my humble opinion, English is poorly suited for poetry forms that rely on syllable counts. This is because English is stress-timed instead of syllable-timed. In some future posts I’ll write about that. It would be interesting to try to write English stress-timed haiku or Deibhidh and see how it comes out!
The AODA web site and Archdruid John Michael Greer’s book (The Druidry Handbook) both have great lists of books on the magic employed by Revival Druids, but I’m starting with a slightly different take: neurolinguistic programming (NLP). Check out the Wikipedia article for some details. The Wikipedia article is locked for editing as of this writing, meaning one may safely say that the technique is controversial. Overall, Wikipedia is quite skeptical of the technique, but I will reserve judgment. I learned about this from the blog of Steve Pavlina; he has a number of interesting thoughts on it (“The Value of Confidence“; “Overcoming Negative Emotions and Boosting Motivation“) . Steve is a big proponent of the “intention-manifestation” model of reality, in which reality is subjective and can be at least partially influenced by your thoughts. His thinking was influenced by the NLP movement, particularly in the matter of changing one’s own beliefs by choice. Besides Steve’s recommendation, I am especially intrigued about the link between NLP and linguistics. I am a linguist myself, and I am very curious to explore the connections between language and magic (see, for example, my previous posts on taboos in Proto-Indo-European).
It has been a challenge to keep up with these goals, so I may have to slow down. But that will just change how long it takes me to achieve them; and what is six months on the scale of a lifetime?