Finding Nature in things

As part of the Dedicant’s Program for ADF, we are expected to connect to nature.  I’m an urban druid .. very much so!  I did inherit a rose bush with my current home and I’m going to try to keep that going, but a nature spot?

There is a park across the street, and that would be a possibility, but much of what I do is to get my urban-ness to work with my pagan-ness.  Which makes me think that maybe sitting in a manicured park isn’t the way to go.  Maybe instead I should sit outside in my patio and work with the dirt there … and just maybe grow something.

These photos are of my current patio “garden”.  There’s three live plants that I inherited with the condo, and I’d like to put up some more.  I’ve got a rose plant, and a couple others that I’m not sure what they are, but I’d like to encourage them to grow.  I’m going to do a bit of research on what plants will grow well in containers and see if I can’t get a few more shrubs, some herbs, and maybe even something like Kale or similar.

On Compassion

Part of the ADF Dedicant’s program is essays on the discussion of virtues.  This is one of my essays.

“Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.” (Dalai Lama)( 1)

Soldier's CompassionCompassion is defined as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it” (2).  In other descriptions, “Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy (for the suffering of others) are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.” (3)

To me, compassion comes from love, and thus from strength.  Some people consider compassion a weakness: something that can prevent you from making the hard decision or the tough choice.   But it’s not.  Compassion is what helps us to bring our humanity to conflict, to those hard decisions.  It allows us to see our fellows and our opponents as humans, to understand if there is a better resolution to a conflict, and to honor the sacrifice (ours or theirs) if one is necessarily.

Without compassion, it’s too easy to view the people on the other side of any conflict as objects, as things to be used, or to be converted.  But they’re just people.  People with their own needs, and wants, and desire for survival.  Understanding who they are, understanding their situation, and understanding their desires helps to bring out a better resolution for everyone.

Compassion does not mean doing anything to make people around you feel better.  Compassion sometimes means not helping them, so they will learn to stand on their feet.  Compassion also, sometimes, means understanding what help should be provided.  Doing a task for someone won’t help them learn to do that task better, but maybe they just need to not have to worry about it for a while.  Only through love and compassion can you really understand what is best.

There is also the other aspect to compassion.  In order to have compassion for those around us, it is necessary for us to have compassion for ourselves.  Each of us is human, none of us are perfect, and each of us have love to share.

One of the hardest things to do is to love ourselves.  That inner critical voice is harsh and hard to ignore.  While there is some benefit in recognizing that inner critic, we must also remember that sometimes we’re not going to be perfect … and that’s okay.  If our body isn’t perfect, our speech not exact, our skills not as grand as we desire, it’s okay.  It’s okay to forget sometimes, and to hurt, and be in pain.  Sometimes we just need to let ourselves experience, to feel, to understand that sometimes life isn’t great.  And to know, that we still love ourselves, we still understand, and we can get through it and feel better.

Compassion is also allowing ourselves to feel, to experience, and to be not perfect.

We say that we love others even with their faults … the harder part is, can we love ourselves, even with our faults?

A lack of compassion will tear us apart.  Through compassion, we can build something together.


Restarting the ADF program

Around mid last year, I joined the ADF with the idea to get the Dedicant program done in a year.  And then life happened.  So here I am, almost 6 months later and I’m not very far into the program.    I’ve waffled a bit, on understanding if I wanted to focus on the ADF program, or if I want to focus on the OBOD program or both.  I’ve been working more with both programs lately, and I do believe that I want both.  The ADF program is good for helping to establish the physical discipline of writing (something I want to do more) and a focus on scholarly work.  The OBOD program seems to be more about the creative side, with more inward focus and focus on creative works (while still holding to scholarship).  Each is a different side of the path and I feel the need to explore both. Only time will tell if I’ll end up with one or the other, or a blend of both, or something else entirely.

Today the online ADP Dedicant Path eCourse re-started and I attended.  I really like how the program is presented and run so I’m hoping that it can help me keep on track.  I also signed up for a mentor, so I’ll have someone that I can ask the detailed questions.  This is a good time for me to focus on the scholarship and get more information on history.  I’m quite relaxed about sources and who did what … I hope that this focus on scholarship helps.

The focus in today’s class was about getting setup, and basically what we want to get out of the class.  For me, I’m looking for the scholarship and history, and incorporating that into my practice.

Defining who I am …

There are times in our lives when it becomes important to us to define who we are.  The key is that we are defining who we are to ourselves, not to anyone else.Stonehenge 5 obyvatel on

Many many *cough* years ago, I started down the path of Wicca.  At first I focused on magick and casting spells.  Then slowly I added in meditation and inner work.  I found the College of the Sacred Mists and learned even more about working magick and working internally.  As I grew inside and in my faith, I began to wonder if Wicca really matched what I needed and wanted.  Sacred Mists also has a great course by Gavin Bone and Janet Farrar that teaches their Progressive Magic.  The course focuses on developing your relationship with the elements and magic.

But I really no longer considered myself a Wiccan.  I continued to study with Wiccans, as well as whomever was offering training that I was interested in, including some great courses from T. Thorn Coyle, and at PantheaCon.

Recently, I discovered the Druids.  I started out with just the ADF, and I have recently joined the OBOD as well.  I have always felt connected to the Celtic, and have been fascinated by Druids for many years.  There are a lot of the druidic practices that resonate with me, and I like the focus on history in the ADF, but there was something missing.  I wasn’t totally ready to let go of some of the Wiccan practices that I have been doing, mostly the inclusion of the elements in my rituals.  The OBOD has helped to fill that in for me.  I love the way the two programs balance.  Each has a different focus, and together they give me the whole that I desire.

I have gone from being a Catholic, to a Wiccan, to a Witch, to a Druid as my path has unfolded in front of me.  Everyone has their own path to follow and sometimes it’s good to define where we are on the path so we know where we have been and to help us see where we need to go.

Humans need definition, so we define what is and remember that it does not define what will be.

I am a Druid today, but it may or may not be the path I will continue to walk.

Only time will tell.

Midsummer at the Grove

This Midsummer, I was invited to a Druidic ritual at the Sierra Madrone Grove.  This was to be my first ritual down my new path.  I haven’t even taken the first oath for the Dedicant’s program yet!  Sierra Madrone is a bit of a drive for me, so it turned into an “almost all day” thing, and I’m really glad that I went!

I got to the ritual site a little early, but the Senior Druid was already there and was very welcoming.  We all chatted a bit as more people arrived, and I spun some yarn on my new spindle from Purlescence Yarns.  It turns out that there are quite a few spinners and yarn crafters in the Grove!  It was fun to chat with folks about my craft.

When we were ready to start the ritual, we moved off to the side to do the offering to the outsiders, and then processed into the ritual space.  The outsiders are those energies and spirits and beings who would disrupt our rite, so the druids give them an offering to encourage them to stay away.   In the lovely outdoor space that we had, we made that offering outside of our ritual space … which makes sense 🙂

The Senior Druid lead the ritual, but there were a number of other, experienced, druids who also participated in the leading of the ritual.  The ritual was very good .. the senior druid explained the different steps for all us newbies (there was 3 or 4 of us) so it was easy to follow and the “huh?” moments were minimized to the point of non-existent!

We called Manannán mac Lir to open the gates and we were in between the worlds.  Our bard honored was William Butler Yeats, a “modern” mystic and fantastic poet.   We also called to Áine, Queen of the Fae to join us on this day of faerie frolicking.

When it came time to do the offerings, I was surprised at the number of folks who made offerings.  Later, it was explained that it was about average.  Druidry has the concept of “a gift for a gift” … if we receive, or expect to receive, blessings then we should return with a gift of our own.

Towards the end of the ritual, we placed a bundle of wheat and a bundle of reeds by the fire.  Traditionally, wheat (for Áine) and reeds (for Manannán mac Lir) were burned and spread around the fields to bring prosperity to the crops.  To represent this, we put the bundles near the fire, and then we each took a few stalks back to our altars.

After the ritual, we had a pot-luck dinner and I got to chat with some of the members of the Grove.  I had a great time and stayed until most others had left.  I look forward to spending more time with the folks of Sierra Madrone.

Now for the next step

For many years I have been attending the College of the Sacred Mists, an online Wiccan program that is run by High Priestess Lady Raven Moonshadow.  The online college offers a Wiccan training program as well as courses in Herbalism, Tarot, Progressive Magic and Historical Paganism.

I have been working through the 2nd degree course in the Wiccan program and taken a lot of time to review what it is that I want out of my spirituality.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be good to explore other paths, without turning my back on wicca.  Because the College offers a great range of courses, I’m happy to be able to continue attending with a simple course change to the Progressive Magic course, taught by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone.

I’m only on the first lesson so far, but I’m really enjoying it.  There’s a lot of meditation work as well as some research into the history of Wicca.  It’s pretty awesome.

In addition, I’ve joined Ár nDraíocht Féin, or ADF.  ADF is the largest American-based druidry group.  They aren’t exactly a re-constructionist group as they based their practices on studies of a number of Indo-European Druid-like groups.  So far they seem to lean more to the mystic/shamanistic angle but with a fair amount of high ceremony mixed in.

All ADF members have the option to take the ADF Dedicant Program.  You’re welcome to participate in the practices and rituals without formally completing this program, but if you’d like to further your studies in the group, of if you just want a more in-depth understanding of druidry as ADF practices it, then it’s generally a good idea (and required for further training) .. so I’m doing it.

As part of both of these programs, the Progressive Magic and the ADF Dedicant’s program, there is fairly extensive journaling and essays required.  I’ll be sharing the journals and essays that I’m comfortable with being public on this blog, so expect a bit of variety and hopefully more frequent updates!