So, I just asked the ancestors for an omen, and I got the card Rebirth / Judgement. Quick consultations in both my Tarot books suggests this: encouragement to try to see the divinity in the world, and to be reborn into the spirituality of oneness with creation.
That sounds like something to do at a ritual honoring Proserpine and Ceres. But how? There is some thinking to do.
Like the well, the fire is a basic part of an ADF altar. In fact, it’s such a basic part of Druidry, that one of the first things I knew about it was the greeting “May you always pray with a good fire.” I asked the founder of the local proto-grove about it when we met.
I’ve had a candle on my alar since before I really had an altar. I started out with a candle on a table, and I’d put everything away when I was finished. From early pagan readings, and from that conversation with the founder of the local proto-grove, I knew that the fire was basically the gate to the gods.
It’s like a window
I think that what I struggled with, initially, with the fire was what it said about the nature of the gods, that I needed to open a gate to communicate with them. The explanation I liked best (credit: the proto-grove leader) was to think of the gates as windows. If the various realms are rooms separated by windows, we’ll be able to hear, dimly and muffled, what happens in the other realms. If you want better communication, to make someone in another realm feel welcome, then you open the window.
And, that’s how I’ve approached the fire. However, as I decided to do some reading about the parts of the altar, I’ve learned to expand my appreciation of it.
I knew, in some abstract way, that the Greeks and the Romans viewed fire (or some fires) as the embodiment of a goddess. That would be Hestia for the Greeks, and Vesta for the Romans.
Since six or so months, I’ve really started seeing Vesta in all the fires surrounding me. Or, more precisely, being intellectually aware that she is in these fires, and then feeling bad for taking her presence all over my apartment for granted.
We have at least two pilot lights in the apartment, and five different coal stoves to make fires in as winter approaches, as well as a gas stove to light several times a day, on top of the candles and incense I light fairly often.
The Romans had such appreciation of the power of fire — which we, I think, take for granted and (wrongly) think we have tamed — that they could see the work of the gods in it. Or, of a specific goddess.
And I don’t appreciate that enough. Vesta was the first goddess invoked in any religious circumstance, and so essential to prayer, that her name was synonymous with it.
Short version: What I learned from my reading is that I have a lot more to learn.
In going through the rituals that other ADF members have shared, I’ve found that the fire is honored for it’s transformative, and its inspirational power.
I still have to think about the inspiration part (OBOD makes a bit of a deal out of Awen, and a little bit, I get the sense that the fire of inspiration means something similar).
As for the transformation, I think that it should be pretty clear what is meant: Fire can change things from one form to another. Whether it’s directly burning something, converting it to smoke and ash, or converting something as inedible as a raw potato to something as useful as a cooked potato.
Further, a lot of people use the fire to make sacrifices. The sacrifice is burned, converting something mundane into something sacred.
I think that, what I’ve taken from the whole experience — aside from the need to learn more — is that, when I write my ritual, I will need to acknowledge Vesta, the goddess who visits my altar embodied in flame, for all the amazing powers she has.
I think I was first drawn to paganism because of the chance it gave me to have a relationship with my ancestors. So, it may be a little odd that the Well was the last thing I added to my altar when it came to it’s new, more permanent location in my apartment.
The well, as I understand it, represents the waters of the deep, the life-giving force of the Earth Mother. On the altar, as part o the Hallows, it represents the gate that the ancestors take to join in the ritual. So, it’s a little strange that I was slow to add one.
I looked a bit into what I could find on the Well with regard to a Roman Hearth, and I was interested to see that some people who write ADF rituals for the Roman Hearth refer to it as the Mundus.
It seems the Mundus served the same function that the Well serves on an ADF altar, but for the entire city of Rome (it must be interesting living in a polytheistic culture!) and that was a shaft to the underworld with a covering that could be opened and closed.
Interestingly, it was only opened on three days of the year to make offerings of the first harvest to the dead, and those days were considered unlucky and no business was transacted on them. And yet, it was opened nonetheless (presumably they could have left it closed). Now I want to learn and reflect more on the Roman relationship with the dead.
Right now, my inclination is not to refer to the Well on my altar as the Mundus, but instead to acknowledge that it serves its function. That seems more reasonable, and I’m not about to start closing the Well, or considering it unlucky.
I’m coming a little late to the ritual preparation game, but I’m hoping to make up for that with enthusiasm. There are a list of things that I’d like to do before I hold my ritual (probably on the 30th, as the whole family will be home on the 31st. It’s a holiday here in Germany.)
It’s easy to blame my wife: she was always the one who asked me to break the fast, but the fact of the matter is, I wasn’t able to fast without being annoying. The longest attempt — when I hoped to fast for five days, but only fasted for two — ended with me just being lethargic. With three children at home, that wasn’t really tenable.
Then, I had the idea to at least fast one day a week. After all, I’d be able to pick a day when I didn’t see the children except for at breakfast, and the problem wouldn’t work. But, in the evening, my wife told me I was being too grumpy and I should just eat.
Reasons for failure
I’ve thought about a couple of possible reasons why this wasn’t the right time:
I’m tired. I’m not sleeping like I should (kids, work, hobbies) and I think that’s cutting into my willpower.
I’m overtaxing my discipline. There are so many habits I’m still actively forming — from meditation, to fitness, to piano practice — that I think I’m not allowing my discipline to regenerate. Tossing hunger on top of all of that is rough.
Dopamine is addictive! Something I learned from the whole experience is just how often I want to eat, even though I’m not hungry. When I take a moment to listen to my body, I realize that I just want that good feeling of biting into a block of cheese, or putting something sweet in my mouth. I need to find some dopamine alternatives.
Should I fast?
I don’t think it’s a clear-cut yes. I mean, I like the idea of being in control of my desires, and that just seems like a pretty hardcore way to start that. Also, I feel like the ability to comfortably skip a day’s eating would be an interesting form of independence. Take a day trip to Berlin, invest all of my time in doing stuff, not eating. It seems cool.
Also, because I’m trying to work out how to form a relationship to Ceres, fasting seemed like a spiritual thing to do. Aside from the fact that there was a celebration dedicated to her that involved fasting, it seems like a good way to learn an appreciation for the bounty that she provides.
So, it’s on the back burner now, while I focus on willpower, discipline, and other aspects of my spiritual development. But, I continue to like the idea of fasting.
I don’t know why I think of this as something for my spiritual blog/twitter, but I do. After watching the following video, I’ve given myself permission to eat more than I had been (I struggle more with body-image than with actual weight, though I’m heavy enough to have had foot injuries from running) and to begin fasting next week.
Why next week? Well, obviously I’m not going to start today! I’m too hungry! Also, I want to try and focus in meditating before and during the fast. And so, now I’m concentrating on meditating (which I find myself needing where I didn’t before, without feeling that I’m getting any better at it).
I’d been eating only one meal a day during the work week when I stumbled across this video:
In the past, I’d experimented with fasting and enjoyed it in a weird way. There was something good about knowing that I’d made a decision and was sticking to it, and I kind of enjoyed the sense of control it gave me over myself. I think that, at the moment, I’d like that feeling again.
As I said at the beginning, I don’t know that it’s a spiritual thing, except that meditation is something I came to through the Dedicant’s Path, and is something I want to try experimenting with in the fast. (The idea is that I could put at least some of the time that would be set aside for preparing and eating meals into more frequent meditation sessions.)
The last ADF ritual I did according to the Core Order of Ritual was fully a year ago. And, as I haven’t yet written up my eight rituals, for the dedicant’s path, I wanted to return to full rituals for the wheel of the year.
But I didn’t. That’s the disappointment. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t bring myself to invest the energy, as strange as that sounds. My heart wasn’t in it.
On the other hand, I’ve recently had an omen from Ceres suggesting she’s not happy with our relationship, and I wanted to do something. That’s why, this morning, I set time aside to stand in front of my altar and mark the equinox.
I offered the gods incense and the ancestors an apple (I’m moving away from alcohol… though I may move back) and simply acknowledged that Pluto, for whom I’m developing an affinity — is waiting in eager anticipation and Ceres is counting the days she has left with her daughter and that, if the Gods can’t have everything all the time, I shouldn’t want it, either.
It wasn’t a big deal, though, in retrospect I realize that I invoked the fire and the well in the way that you might if opening the portals, but didn’t ‘undo it.’ I have since turned to the well and the fire and asked them to return to their mundane functions.
I feel better having done it, rather than pushing it off for forever, and for getting it done within the time limit set by ADF. Nonetheless, I’m underwhelmed with the whole thing.