Well, apparently I am not a druid. Again.
My attempts back in November to fulfill the requirements for NaBloPoMo and to make Druid spirituality my primary path both failed. Since then I have wrestled repeatedly with the angelic conundrum of being attracted to a number of religious paths that I simply can not practice, or can not practice simply.
I’ve been attracted to Druidry since the early 1990s. Back then I longed to join OBOD, but the cost was prohibitive; while my income has increased since those days, so has the cost of OBOD’s famous correspondence course. Whatever the exchange rates between the pound and the U.S. dollar might be, the Atlantic has not gotten any smaller, and packets from OBOD will always have to cross it to get to prospective druids in the States.
I discovered the Ancient Order of Druids in America at the end of 2004, and I managed to achieve the first degree, Apprentice Druid, within a couple of years. I’ve tried repeatedly to advance to second degree, but no matter my intentions, I repeatedly found myself not doing the work. I am still a First Degree member in good standing, but the work for further degrees is not, I think, going to get done.
I learned today that there has been a big blow-up in another pagan tradition to which I’ve been attracted for years, the Feri or Faery tradition stemming from Victor and Cora Anderson. Like many people, I think, I first heard of it through Starhawk’s mentions in The Spiral Dance, which I first read when I was thirteen and the book was brand new. I was thrilled to discover that people actually worshipped the old gods whose stories I’d read throughout my childhood, and practiced a kind of magic, another topic I’d read about precociously. I was enchanted, and I use the word in the fullest sense, with her descriptions of Victor’s Faery teachings, though that enchantment translated into lots of bad poetry rather than into trying the magical exercises or even performing rituals.
I still rather miss being an Anglican, particularly around Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. The Incarnation was and is far more important to me as a doctrine than the Atonement; the Atonement, for me, makes little sense without a stress on the Incarnation and has everything to do with Divine Love revealing itself in extremity and nothing to do with a wrathful Deity being bought off somehow by the torture of his Son.
Buddhism, especially the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet, is the thing that has been the most helpful and illuminating for me over the past five years or so. Its philosophy explained so much of Western magic and religion in a newly coherent way, and the practices and community I found helped me deal with stress, train my mind, look at the big picture. But I don’t live in circumstances where I have regular access to a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, and I’m not willing to make huge changes in my life–such as relocating to another city or learning to drive and buying a car for the first time–in order to do so. I can’t help but feel that makes me a bad Buddhist, a half-assed practitioner, but I’m insistent that my spiritual practice reduce chaos and stress in my life (give or take a few necessary crises) rather than increase it, and moving or buying a car would definitely count as an increase in stress. I can’t even switch tracks and practice with a Zen lineage, which might not be a bad thing; again, there’s no sangha with a teacher that’s accessible to me in time and place.
There’s a saying that is often useful even though it sounds ditzy: “Bloom where you’re planted.” I prefer metaphors like, “Go through the door that’s open, or out the window if the door is locked.” Or, “Deal with what lands in your lap.” Recently two things have opened up for me or landed in my lap: The chance to take yoga classes and develop a practice, and the chance to study further with Jason Augustus Newcomb in the New Hermetics system.
I’ve been interested in yoga since I was a teenager (hm, along with Witchcraft and Druidry and what not else), and right before Christmas I discovered I was living a few blocks away from a thriving yoga studio. I registered for their five-class beginners’ workshop, which started anew on December 23rd, and started attending regular beginner-level classes alongside my equally interested husband. The improvement we have both felt in strength, flexibility, pain relief, and overall well-being has been enormous, in a relatively short time. I can do things with my body that six weeks ago I would have sworn were impossible for me, and that’s after little more than a month of classes. Those really terrifying postures you see on yoga calendars now look to me like a difference of quality, not of kind–like the difference between my own fiction and [insert Great Novel here] rather than like the difference between my body and an invertebrate’s. Even now I’m looking forward to sweating through tomorrow night’s class and hoping that the mix of snow, sleet, and rain we’re predicted to get won’t cause a cancellation or make walking too treacherous.
Back in 2005, I was one of the first students to take the course that Jason based on his then-new book, The New Hermetics, and one of a few to make it through the whole program and go on to take the Advanced work two years later. Jason’s system of mental and magical training worked better for me, in terms of both daily life management and of working big changes in my life, than any other spiritual practice had worked before. It also led me to the Mahayana ideals of bodhichitta and dedicating the merit of one’s practice to the benefit of all beings, and thus to investigating Buddhism afresh and finding new answers and inspiration there. When Jason recently announced that he was going to teach a beta version of a revised course, available to previous students at a hefty discount, I was right there like all the bad metaphors for being right there that you can think of–white on rice, ugly date, cheap suit, the works.
Actual work with the new program is starting in February, at Imbolc. I’ll be lighting some candles for the Star Goddess again and asking for a blessing on the work. My overriding goal for this re-training is to bring everything that I’ve learned, from Feri, Druidry, the Church, Buddhism, and wherever, and use the New Hermetics to contain it. To put it another way, my goal is to cross-fertilize the New Hermetics, which comes out of a specific tradition of Western magic, with everything else that has worked for me. I have, after all, spent over twenty years seeking, studying, learning, in a variety of traditions; perhaps it’s time for me to stop envying people who have spent as many years identifying by one name, one tradition (whilst no doubt studying many things), and start taking seriously what I’ve learned and bringing it to bear on the practice that I know I can work, and that will work for me.
To that end, I would like to stop posting here and renew posting at A Comfortable Oxymoron, to give myself a wider context in which to talk about walking the Path and undertaking the Great Work. I will likely be cross-posting a version of this entry to that blog. See you at the new URL, I hope.
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