Time as Senior Druid

My time as the Senior Druid of our grove is coming to an end. On Samhain, I will be stepping down and passing the torch back to Marc Meadows.

Over the past two years, I feel I was able to accomplish a lot of my wish list, but at the same time I feel I didn’t have quite enough time to finish. The plan, of course, will be to continue working on these aspirations, but I thought I might make a list of all that has come to fruition…

Grimoir

I have always felt that we needed a physical manifestation of what our grove represented –something that we can change and mold as we continue developing our paths. This would not be any sort of Bible or absolute law of what we believe, but would be a representation of who and what we are and where we came from, as well as a learning tool for our families. At this time, we have drawn up a lot in the sense of content and what we want to add to the book, but making it physical has not yet come to fruition.

Now, this doesn’t mean the project has been a failure. We have commissioned local artists for work and have streamlined a lot of our rituals into one standard look. The content of the book has very much come along and so far it looks amazing!

New Members

This has been more of a 50/50 project.

One of our stronger rules is “No Proselytizing”. We never push our beliefs or ideals on others and we hope to never make others uncomfortable with their own beliefs. Everyone is entitled to believe what they wish, and we strive to welcome and support all individuals who decide our path may be for them. In the last two years, we have attracted one new member and accepted a past member back into our grove, while at the same time saying “goodbye” to two members. The reasons of those two members for leaving are their own, and both left knowing they will always be welcome back.

As a leader, people leaving the grove is a little hard to swallow. Could I have done more to make them feel included? Did something happen that made them feel uncomfortable? What could I have changed that might have made them change their minds? In the end, as I’ve said, leaving was their choice and both assured me the decisions were for personal reasons unrelated to the Grove or it’s members.

I did my best.

Environmental Activism

This one I can say had little to do with our own shortcomings and more to do with government bureaucracy. I, personally, would like to see our Grove do more with the land, be it environmental activism or even participation. So far, we have attempted two highway clean-ups, but both times the government offices involved with these projects had mishaps with our paper work preventing us from legally cleaning up the highway. These experiences were pretty frustrating on our side, but we are making plans to try again this year.

Land Purchase

One of the larger project I want to see us accomplish over the coming years will be for us as a Grove to purchase land. This land, I hope to see used by all the members of the Pagan community. I’d love to see it be a place of pagan worship for all paths. So, this year, we finally took some steps to get this project started, and we have some exciting fundraising efforts set to take place over the next while. This was never a project I expected to completely in my tenure as Senior Druid, but I am happy to see it started and hopefully it will keep momentum.

Community Outreach

A difficult thing for most pagan paths is community outreach. I view this as a two part process:

  1. To reach out to the local Pagan community. To let them know we are here and welcoming, open to new members, and eager to help in whatever ways we can, be it holding rituals, hosting “meet and greets”, or simply taking part in larger community events;
  2. To reach out to the general, non-pagan population and just say, “Hey, we are here and there is no reason to be afraid of Pagans.”

We made a fantastic connection with the Nova Scotia Health Authority this year, where we helped them add religious identifiers (“Pagan”, “Wiccan”, “Heathen”, and “Druid”) to their administrative systems, and are presently working to a) identify individuals to serve as pagan “chaplains” for inpatients seeking  spiritual care and b) provide generic altar boxes containing such items as sage, candles, deity statues, etc. to have on hand. This project is something we are very proud of. Additionally, we are trying to actively partake in more charity events, such as donating backpacks and school gear at return to school time and turkeys to FEED NS at Christmastime. Finally, not so much me, but one of our members, Dan Negus, has represented our Grove and has lead and encouraged our participation in Halifax’s annual Interfaith Harmony Week. That has been amazing.

Regional Druid for ADF

The next step, I feel, for me is to become more involved with ADF. I have spoken to the current Regional Druid and hope, with her help, to run for the position when it becomes vacant in a year and a half. I put my hat in for this last year, but semi-abandoned the idea as the election approached, mostly due to personal time restraints and a desire to focus more of my attention on our own Grove. I now feel I am ready to step forward and help others.

Druid Retreat

The last major project I hope to focus a lot more on now that my term as Senior Druid has ended is the creation of an east coast “Druid Retreat”. We have been discussing a weekend where our Grove and anyone who identifies as a druid can sit and discuss community, philosophy, and the general world around us. I hope to have more info on this as the time comes.

Overall, I am very happy with what has happened over the last two years, but I feel it’s good to look back on what one has done well and poorly and to grow from that, much like a tree that takes damage and a new limb sprouts.

Practising Mindfulness

There’s a certain amount of mental and physical preparation that goes into any task. Sometimes, it leads you to a very peaceful place and, other times, it brings on bouts of anxiety. Really, you make the choice.
As I rolled out of my yoga mat tonight, I noticed it was caked with some type of food (probably goldfish crackers lovingly left by my toddler)… initially, this was a little bothersome. I considered stopping what I was doing and cleaning rather than actually taking the time to care for myself.
In the end, I left the crackers and continued with my practice. It was well worth it. I was quickly able to center myself and be present.
While working my way through my flow, it occurred to me that the same could be said for all ritual practice. Some of us get anxious and bothered at the thought of performing ritual. Others embrace the chaos. The remainder just try to be in the moment and find it cleansing. I will forever strive to be the type of person who finds ritual practice purely cathartic. And I am almost there.
I wear a small pendant around my neck that is supposed to remind me to always be present, and I find I never need that more than just before going into ritual. So many things can go wrong: people get stressed, items go missing, children misbehave, and somehow you have to center and enjoy. But getting there is the ultimate gift to yourself. In the end, we don’t have a regular mass like some religions, and when we get to perform ritual, either solo or with our groves, we need to allow ourselves to embrace, enjoy, and be present.

Magic Potion for Sickness

 

It is that time of year. We are all getting sick or have been sick. What are your favourite remedies? For me, I have my “Sick Tea”.

Whenever I am feeling under the weather, I mix up this “tea” and sip it back like there is no tomorrow. My “tea” consists of freshly grated ginger, two or three slices of lemon, and a big dollop of honey all mixed together with some nice hot water. I prefer this to conventional medicine… and why not?

Ginger is packed with antioxidants that help boost your immune system. It can also help with nausea, heartburn, and indigestion. We’re off to a good start!

Lemon is high in vitamin C –great for you overall, but particularly if you are feeling sick. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, including bones, blood vessels, and skin. Lemon also helps to break up mucus when you are sick and can help reduce the inflammation of a sore throat.

Honey has been used for years to sooth sore and scratchy throats. It has antibacterial properties and the natural peroxides in honey act as disinfectants, which may help reduce inflammation and thereby pain.

Mix the three together and you’ve got yourself a powerful “Sick Tea”.

Good luck, cold sufferers!! *sniff sniff

Yule 2016

Back at the time of Samhain, the Green Man, old and tired and naked of leaf and vine, bundled himself against the impending long, cold, dark nights and welcomed a deep and well-deserved rest. While he settled to sleep, we cast into the universe our hopes, dreams, desires, and wishes for the new year, before we too pulled our blankets up and waited for the days to once again grow long.

The night of Yule, the Winter Solstice, brings with it the rising of a new sun and the rebirth of the Green Man. We have made it through the darkest time of the year, the longest night, and we rejoice. Through the burning of the Yule log, we invite the light back into our homes, and we celebrate the knowledge that with all endings come new beginnings.

     

Last night, we were finally able to get together for the celebration of Yule. There was singing and laughing and the sharing of bowls of homemade chili and cornbread and too many butter-tarts.

And also cat cuddles. (Because sometimes stereotypes are real.)

    

 

As spoken in ritual,

let us take a moment to reflect on the love and respect we share for ourselves, each other, and this family. Let us continue to be present in each others’ lives, and to support one another through whatever challenges we each may face. […]  Let us laugh and share, and be grateful for this life and this day, this fire and this food, these precious young souls, our homes, our jobs, our abilities to breathe, to speak, to listen, and to love.

Happy Yule from all of us here in the GNSD!

-xo

“Good Witch” – “ Bad Witch”

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I recently came upon an article discussing the “crazies” in Pagan communities. Here, you should read it too:

http://badwitch.es/pagans-know-total-douchebags/

But I’ll give you some highlights…

 

A lot of pagans? Douchebags. Complete tools. So, so fucked up.

 

The thing with paganisim, witchcraft, wicca and all that jazz is that it is a religion of individuality, and the shadow side of that is that it can really easily turn into a religion of ego.

 

I couldn’t take it. I was done with the events where one douchebag would talk over the main speaker, just to prove how much he knew.

I was done hanging out with people who wanted to be witchy because they wanted to be edgy and cool.

I was done with the shallowness of it all, with the constant ego battles, with the drama and the showing off

 

 

Yes, yes, I know every community has them. But don’t you feel like ours attracts just a few more?

I have personally hit this wall more than once and proclaimed that, “I AM DONE” or, “THAT’S IT, I AM GOING SOLITARY.  But here’s the thing: each time I do, I somehow come back… With the support of the wonderful people I have met though my Grove, I continuously end up attending and even hosting “Meet & Greets”.

I can relate to Demi’s desire to draw back from what I call “holier than thou” pagans or the ones who believe the world is owed to them, but if I truly gave up I would never have met some of the wonderful people I now call my Grove.

So, keep trying. Pulling back can sometime give you much needed time to heal, but, when you are ready, be sure to reach out again and tag in someone new.

Communing With Nature

We all strive to do this a little more –to get out and experience nature; to take a walk and meditate on the growth and the decay; to appreciate it all. With the sunny weather we have been having lately, I set out to get my son started early. He is at an age where touching everything is terribly exciting, so we wandered around the yard to see what we could find.

I thought it could be fun, for just a moment, to consider and see the world though his eyes. Everything is new. Everything is exciting. Each and every leaf is a new texture. And every colour is brilliant and thrilling.

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Meditation is part of the Druid way, and it can be challenging, but there are many forms of mediation. For me, one of the best ways is to walk in nature and focus only on my breath and embracing the environment around me. It is a single focus that calms the mind and body, and I hope to pass it on to my little one.

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I hope we can all take some time, with summer at its peek, to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us all.

A Solitary Solstice

Today I rose before the dawn.

I went outside to greet the sun, on this, the longest day of  the year.

Sunrise on June 20th, 2016
Sunrise on June 20th, 2016

It was supposed to be a simple act of catharsis, though an important one – for a druid whose last full ritual was Beltaine, and who hasn’t prayed or meditated in what felt like months.

“Life got in the way”
“things are just too hectic from the move”
“I’ll start my daily devotionals again tomorrow”

As I sat there in quiet reflection, waiting for the sun to emerge from the rosy glow in the sky, a voice in the back of my mind kept whispering to me, “You’re missing something.”  Eventually, the feeling got so strong I got up and brought my whole tote of ritual & altar gear outside onto the deck with me and set up a full impromptu ritual.  This is what I love about ADF’s Core Order of Ritual – it was like riding a bike… by continued practice, the mundane-seeming physical actions of our rituals become second nature, and in those moments when our hands are busy and our minds are free, we can focus on the sacred significance that flows through, around, and between.

After the praises had been sung, and the offerings given, I was blessed with very good omens:
My omen of Acceptance of the Offerings Given was Muin (Vine) – a sign to, “Trust in what you have done and unwind”
My omen of Blessing (what the Gods grant in return) was Beith (Birch) – the tree of beginnings – which I took to be a glad sign of the gods’ invitation to a fresh start to my daily practice.

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The ritual (and my morning) was comfortable and relaxed. I got up to greet the sun, and I felt like the light of the solstice soothed me in return. So when life gets busy, and you feel like you have no time for a regular spiritual practice, remember that making those few minutes of quiet reflection a priority can bring perspective and help you to better deal with the hectic flow of everyday life.  Though not a pagan, I think Sukhraj S. Dhillon said it best:

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

Today I rose before the dawn, to greet the sun

and it was glorious.

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Father’s Day

As of the past few months, all of our Grove men have officially become fathers. They are loving, patient (most of the time), kind, and devoted, and we are so so proud of them.

A very Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful fathers out there today!

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marc-connall    brian-atticus

(Photos all taken from Facebook)

Family Times: Mead Making (part II)

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Back in October, members of the Grove got together to kick-start some family mead making. While the initial phases were completed that weekend, there was a long wait between that first step and the next (or possibly the third, as I believe Dan may have actually done some extra things on his own to somehow advance the process… I don’t understand how this stuff works haha).

(See pictures from mead making get-together numero uno here.)

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The phase completed last week was the final one. It involved filtering the aged mead from one carboy into another and then into bottles, which are then corked and will eventually be labeled (maybe). The whole process is sterile. Small glasses are passed around for tasting.

These three batches passed the test.

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The rest of the time is spent catching up, consuming excessive amounts of coffee, and cooing over the babies. We genuinely enjoy each others’ company, so this is actually pretty swell. And adorable. Because babies. (Little Atticus –below– actually tried his first taste of solid food. He did not appear disappointed.)

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As always, another lovely time in the company of lovely lovely people.

-xo

For an opportunity to actually partake in one of these batches of home-brewed mead, join us at AEGIS, where the Grove plans to share, laugh, and be merry.

 

 

 

 

Beltane, a personal reflection

This year’s Beltane ritual was my first experience at holding the lead position in a major ritual. Not being accustomed to speaking in front of people, I was fairly nervous going into it, but also looked forward to the experience and the chance to face my fears and the challenge head on. Doing my due diligence, I researched the gods and goddesses associated with this festival, settling on the Welsh goddess Creiddylad and the Irish god Belanus. These deities both seemed to call to me. Belanus being the more obviously associated, being the namesake of Beltane — Bel (Belanus) and tane meaning fire — but also Creddylad, being the goddess of flowers and love and the daughter of the sea god Lir. These two gods seemed to balance and compliment one another like the best relationships seem to do, and being a traditional festival in which to hold marriage ceremonies, this seemed appropriate.

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The ritual was going as well as could be expected, given that it was a cold and cloudy day. The rain held off, which was a god sent (pun intended). It was even a bit inspiring seeing the mist of my own breath escaping my lips. Images of the mists of Avalon jumped to mind briefly. Thankfully, I was able to project my lines for all to be able to hear, as that was a concern for me, being a quiet spoken individual by nature.

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When the first Ogam was drawn –Blackthorn (“Wounding”) for the Omen– we were all a bit thrown. Were the gods displeased? We didn’t forget any of the offerings. We didn’t skip over anything vital. Why were the gods showing their displeasure at our gifts? So, adding a couple of more offerings to the fire, we drew another Ogam. This time, Yew (“Transition”) was drawn. A little better (and upon later reflection, explaining much). We were all relieved when, in return, the gods blessed us with the Ogam of Apple (“Wholeness”).

I must admit, I was rather thrown in the moment by what had been drawn. I even shed a few tears, but recovered enough to enjoy the maypole dance and other festivities, and then to close the ritual properly. Over the next couple of days, I reflected on the Ogams that we drew, and read over their meanings in greater depth. Blackthorn, although quickly translated to “Wounding”, also “offers initiation into the mysteries of self-conquest and transcendence”. Yew’s main translation, “Transition”, is also known for “transformation, renewal, (and) rebirth. An opening, a new element approaching.” Looking further into Apple was interesting as well. Not only was it’s basic meaning “Wholeness”, a very good blessing indeed to receive from the gods, but also a deep connection to the universe. While reading the section on Apple, a few more unexpected connections popped up. “The apple tree in Celtic myth is associated with Avalon, the Island of Apples,” where King Arthur is said to have gone to heal from “grievous wounds”. Belanus, the festival of Beltane, and the Son of Lir were all also mentioned within Apple’s explanation. The interconnections at play were numerous. Since thoughts of the mists of Avalon had come to mind due to the chill in the air and seeing my breath at the very start of the ritual, it being mentioned in the Apple’s texts was fascinating. For a connection to then appear for both of the deities that I had chosen to call upon, Beltane directly and Creiddylad, daughter of the sea god Lir (and therefore sister of the son of Lir), well, I must say, it felt as if the gods were definitely working their magic.

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So, looking at the Ogams drawn for the Omens and Blessings received from the gods, I think that their combined meanings tells a larger story. We may all be wounded in many ways (Blackthorn, wounding), but it is through the healing (Yew, transition) of those wounds that we can become whole again (Apple, wholeness). It’s the point of the human experience really. The greatest lessons in life are often the result of the healing process from traumatic life experiences. This time of year, when the flowers spring forth from the ground and love is in the air, this is a time for transformation and rebirth. A reminder to let go of old wounds and to transition into wholeness. To learn from our experiences and become wholly who we are meant to become, both individually and as a grove.

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So say we all.

 

-Written by Lily M.

(Quotes all taken from Ogam: the Celtic Oracle of the Trees by Paul Rhys Mountfort.)

**photocred: Karen

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