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Archive for the ‘Druidry’ Category

I’ve been roaming the blogosphere lately, looking for new writers to read, and by curious chance (or perhaps divine guidance) I came across this post by Cat Treadwell, “Sacred Reading”. Cat, a Druid, writes movingly of reading a book about a woman’s stay in the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani in Kentucky, made famous by enclosing the writer Thomas Merton, and being struck by the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina, sacred reading. Lectio is a slow, ruminative, prayerful encounter with the sacred, primarily in the Christian Scriptures, but also, potentially, in other texts and other ways of seeking meaning.

I myself was struck by finding a pagan Druid writing of Christian monastic life and spiritual practices when I have lately been restless and unhappy after immersing myself in much the same sort of reading for months. Now I was seeking pagan bloggers, druid bloggers, new pagan books.

In early 2013 I transferred my church membership to a new parish (new to me, that is, not to the area) and had contentedly identified myself as Episcopalian, no qualifiers, for the past year. At least, that has been my story. I put books on magic and pagan topics in empty Amazon boxes, determined to give them away, yet somehow they never found their way out of the apartment. My New Hermetics pantacle, my Tarot decks, my tiny statues of Buddha sitting zazen and Isis on her throne lingered in my possession, along with books I never even considered giving up. And since the beginning of this year, more or less, the words of the Daily Office have withered, disconnected from the actual relationship I am having with Jesus, and I have been missing another deity I used to have a relationship with: Antinous.

I have said all along that I think Antinous pointed me toward my Episcopal church and said, “Visit one more time. You’ll see.” I felt that if I asked for his help again, politely, he would be inclined to give it.  He has this in common with Jesus: He does not turn people away, regardless of who they are. He excludes no one. (Jesus’s followers haven’t always lived up to that principle, but I think the Gospels are pretty clear that it was his modus operandi.) And the Bithynian Boy has indeed calmed my anxieties and helped to clear my mind over the past few days.

The truth is, while I’ve been an Episcopalian most of my life, I’m not sure I’ve ever been a monotheist. I remember having two children’s Bibles, one with simple crayon-like drawings and retellings mostly of the Gospels, the other with “religious” paintings of a Protestant kind in which Jesus was, quite bluntly, a blond-haired, blue-eyed hottie. I know I spent a lot of time staring at the illustration of Jesus, naked to the waist, standing thigh-deep in the waters of Jordan at his baptism.

At the same time, I owned or borrowed from the library numerous books on mythology, especially Greco-Roman and Egyptian, and on world religions. There was a lavishly illustrated Time-Life volume I borrowed many times that included a two-page illustration of the Hindu pantheon, done in popular devotional style; photographs of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox liturgies; cool black-and-white photos of Zen monks, and chapters on Judaism and Islam as well. I always read far ahead of my grade level and quickly graduated to the mostly-text books on the adult side of the library, on comparative religions, archaeology, and the ancient world.

As near as I can remember, if you’d asked me what those Greek, Egyptian, Hindu gods were doing now that everybody knew Jesus was The Real God, I would have said something like, “They’re retired now.” They weren’t in charge of everything any more, because Jesus, but they certainly existed. I don’t think I ever doubted that they existed. Maybe all those color photographs helped me to understand that all those other people actually took their religions seriously, even if they weren’t Protestant Christianity.

A chance mention somewhere, on someone’s blog, most likely, led me to look up meanings for the placement of Jupiter in my natal chart, in the sign of Gemini. I actually suffered the old cliche of a sinking stomach as I read that Jupiter in Gemini can be a religious dilettante, attracted by everything, always hungry for new information, but not very likely to settle down with one particular path or practice.

I thought about this, and prayed about it, and finally said to myself, I’ve just turned forty-eight. I could live another fifty years or more. Instead of trying to fight this trait in myself, how about turning a bug into a feature? How about just going with the flow and see where it goes?

So tonight the triptych I made for Antinous, my statues of Buddha and Isis, my stones and feathers, rocks and shells, joined my icons of Christ, the Virgin of Tenderness, and the Trinity on my mantel and on the table below. My best photo of my grandmother is there, along with icons of Julian of Norwich, my beloved spiritual mother these thirty years, and Perpetua and Felicity, early Roman Christian martyrs whom I venerate during Lent. Incense is burning and tea lights are lit, offerings to the holy powers. Tomorrow I will go to church, sing Lenten hymns, hear the Word preached, and receive the body and blood of Jesus at his table where all are welcome. Tonight, I feel calm. In the midst of this topsy-turvy time of warmth and cold, longer days, Lent over here and Purim over there, Ostara and Holi and at last the crocuses are opening, the birds are singing, I finally feel calm.

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Hildegard starring Patricia Routledge

The Antinoan Doctor surprised me this morning with a post about an actress who became a nun in the only traditionally cloistered Benedictine women’s community in the United States. He had stumbled across a short documentary on her conversion engagingly entitled God Is The Bigger Elvis. At once I went looking for it on Amazon, and from there I segued to looking for another film I knew I had heard of about Hildegard of Bingen.

Amazon Instant Video did not fail me: I have just watched Hildegard, the 1994 film starring Patricia Routledge as the twelfth century’s most famous nun. Routledge is, of course, best known for playing Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s pronounced ‘Bouquet’!”), but she is as capable a dramatic actress as a comedienne; this is not Hyacinth-playing-Hildegard, but a solid and sober performance.

The film wisely concentrates on a few crucial moments and relationships in Hildegard’s life: Her friendship with the younger nun Ricardis; her conflict with the abbot of her community at Disibodenberg over the burial of a Crusader who may be excommunicate; her decision, supported by the nuns’ priest Volmar, to leave Disibodenberg and found an independent abbey at Bingen. Quotations from Scripture and from Hildegard’s profuse writings interweave with her justly famous music and tableaux of her visions to create a lovely taste of Hildegard’s personality, life, and work. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in her.

Despite no longer being a Christian, I remain deeply connected to a few saints and notables of the tradition who have meant a great deal to me. Julian of Norwich is foremost, but Hildegard is a close second, and I’d have to include the poet Dante and some of the English poets–Donne, Herbert, Hopkins–and Nicholas Ferrar, who founded the lay religious community at Little Gidding that inspired Eliot’s poem of that name. Hildegard, so very German in some ways, is also deeply Celtic; her Rhineland home had been evangelized by monks from Ireland and Scotland, and her persistent themes of nature and its goodness, the spiritual value of music and of the natural sciences, medicine and healing, and viriditas, literally “greenness”,  her metaphor for spiritual life and health (chi? prana? awen?) seem not only Celtic but Druidic (for Revival values of that word, at least). I am happy to discover I am still interested in her work and spirit.

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My OBOD materials are on their way, travelling by air mail from Lewes in Sussex. Huzzah!

Meanwhile, I have The Dedicant Path through the Wheel of the Year, by Michael J. Dangler of ADF, and I’m realizing I can telescope the first few weeks of the program. Tomorrow is the start of Week Two by my current count; by the end of this calendar week, I should have performed my first High Day ritual using the liturgy of the Solitary Druid Fellowship and made my First Oath, a commitment to the path of Neopagan Druidry, as a part of that ritual.

It’s an oath I have made before, the last time I took a stab at the Dedicant work. I think that while I have not upheld the oath, the Powers have held me to it: Here I am again, more certain than ever that Druidry is where I belong, and finally undertaking some structured training. I’m an INFJ, and I need a good deal of structure; AODA has a fine curriculum, but I think it proved a little too seat-of-your-pants for  my needs, or I proved a little too much in need of specific direction for the program. In any case, if I carry out my plans for the next few days, I’ll have covered the first three weeks of Dangler’s schedule and can then sit back and recap using the SDF liturgy and observing the Antinoan holidays of the season as well.

And then, of course, I’ll be celebrating Christmas with my family. It’s all good.

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I’ve renewed my membership with Ar nDraiocht Fein and am looking again at the Dedicant Path program. I have Michael Dangler’s helpful book that lays out the requirements over a full year.

I’ve enrolled in the Bardic grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’ve only wanted to do their study course, which is how one becomes a member, for about twenty years. I stopped telling myself I couldn’t afford it.

Today I took the three pictures of Antinous that I printed off from the ‘net weeks ago and mounted them neatly on a piece of cardboard to form a triptych. An artist friend of mine took me shopping yesterday for appropriate materials and gave me some tips on how to safely cut heavy cardboard with a knife.

And, not least, I purchased a nice fleece robe to wear around the house and a bottle of Mrs. Stuart’s Bluing for Whiteness so I can rehabilitate the white robe that I originally bought for druid work and have something else suitable to wear when I’m chilly. I hope the bluing works on the tea stains.

Wish me luck.

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Today on Twitter the Druid Network asked, “Do you think Druids are taken seriously? Why or why not?” Not many people seem to have replied, which might indicate that no one took the question very seriously. But I’ve been thinking about the question all day, and along the way it shapeshifted into other questions: Do I take myself seriously, as a Druid? Do I take *my* Druidry seriously? Do I take seriously a path which has called to me persistently for the last twenty-odd years?

I think the answers to those questions, unfortunately, must be “No.” I have not taken Druidry, or myself, or my druid practice, anywhere near seriously. If I had, I doubt I would have vacillated so much over the years, looking for alternatives.

What would it look like for me to take Druidry seriously? to take myself seriously, as a Druid? What would it look like and feel like to live as a druid in a 21st-century, urban, North American environment, on the east coast of the continent, in the Chesapeake Bay watershed? What would it be like to do everything I could to contact the wisdom of the Druid tradition and apply it to the life I am living right now?

I don’t know–but I’m going to find out.

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Recently read:

  1. Magical Knowledge Book I: Foundations by Josephine McCarthy
  2. An Encounter with Venus by Elizabeth Mansfield
  3. Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, V. 2: From Witch Cult to Wicca by Philip Heselton
  4. The Witches’ Sabbats by Mike Nichols
  5. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Currently Reading:

  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Theodyssies and Paradoxologies, collected poems of Aidan Kelly
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (have not tried reading it since I was a teenager; like it better now than I did then)
  • an inordinate amount of Sherlock fanfiction

Currently watching:

  • the first five episodes of series seven of Doctor Who (verdict: Good so far, but I’m gonna miss the Ponds!)
  • series five of Merlin (verdict after one episode: Pretty, stupid, lovable as ever)

Recent events of note:

  • My dear stepdaughter got married, with vast quantities of High Anglican ceremony and the performance of the Time Warp at the reception.
  • A dear friend came down with a serious infection and spent a good deal of her recuperation in our back bedroom.

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Sam Webster on the limitations of belief

This blog post is an excellent expansion of the brief remarks I made in “The Controlling Metaphor” about faith/belief as the controlling metaphor of Christianity.

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