My Samhain

The first thing I should say is that I’d really like to find a better name for this than Samhain in the future. I like the wheel of the year, but I feel as though the obviously Celtic name and the perennial “It’s not a real high day” that seems to crop up in Pagan social media each year just dampen my enthusiasm, as much as I love the idea of a high day honoring the ancestors and — now, as you’ll read below — their queen.

So, for next year: learn more about Roman holidays or think of my own name.

You might have guessed from the introductory paragraph that I wasn’t really enthused about the high day. I was, however, enthused to finish my Dedicant’s Path. So, I resolved to get it done. However, my lack of motivation made it difficult to set time aside for a full-on ADF ritual. As the deadline (within one week of the ‘calendar’ holiday) approached, I told myself that I didn’t have to do the full ADF thing, I got to celebrate four high days in non-ADF ritual.

That’s what I did.

In the woods, in the middle of a run, I stopped and caught my breath by some water and began to speak to my ancestors. I began with my ancestors of place, and acknowledged that many may not have welcomed me, but said that I would strive to value this place. Then, I invoked my ancestors of the blood and spirit and then, finally the path.

Feeling myself considerably in the presence of my ancestors, I spontaneously asked them to stand with me as I invoked Persephone (I used the Greek name! Generally, I worship with the Roman name!) and I spoke to her.

Here, I don’t know that I felt she particularly heard me. But I did get the sense that I should address her on Olympus, rather than in the underworld (palms up, rather than down). I told her that I knew the separation from her mother was not her choice and that I felt for her not having any voice in the whole matter, but hoped that she’d learned to find some joy in her husband.

Then, I felt called to speak to Hades (again, the Greek name!) and turned my palms around. I acknowledged not feeling drawn to him, or connected to him, but I said I knew that I knew that this was a joyous time for him and that as we moved into the ‘season of dark’ (pretty sure that was a direct quote — this was two days ago) I would try to learn to appreciate his joy, as he, too, was entitled to it.

Finally — again, without a script — I felt called to speak to Proserpine again, and I suddenly realized that my sense (is that what UPG is?) of where she was had changed. I felt more compelled to address her in the underworld.

That’s the thing about my Samhain. I really got the sense that my task was to celebrate her return to her husband, to be happy for him, to wish her happiness, and to celebrate them both and, of course, their subjects, my ancestors.

The improvised ritual continued for a while, with me trying to get all the things said that I thought should be said in that moment.

TL;DR: Basically, I wound up enjoying a ritual I didn’t expect to, but mainly because it was my first real experience of UPG and I suddenly felt like the holiday had a meaning to me.

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Doing the reading

I’m happy to report that I’m making progress towards my dedicant’s path. This is one of the three books I have to read… Though funnily enough, I got two books from this category.

So far, I’m mostly loving it, though it’s a series of interviews and not a well thought out presentation. I’m not liking everyone I encounter in the interviews, but I think that’s part of life.

Connoisseurs of Nature

I’m starting a new book, The Secret Life of Trees, by Colin Tudge and I keep finding parts I want to except here. This one is from the end if the preface:

So this book presents it’s not as it is often presented, as a tribute to human cleverness and power, but truly and spirit of reverence. I like the idea (I found that some people don’t, but I do) that each of us might aspire to be a connoisseur of nature, and conniseurship implies a combination of knowledge on the one hand and love on the other, each enhancing the other.

Is it any wonder that I’m excited to read more? I love both the way he presents science, and also the idea of being a  connoisseur of nature.

Persephone and Demeter – A lesson in flexibility

As I’d been contemplating the stories of Persephone and Demeter — or, by their Roman names which I use in my practice, Proserpine and Ceres — I thought I might as well share the little bit I got from the lore in a Lesson from the Lore.

What really impressed me about the story is that Ceres is really a badass. She has power and willpower, but I wound up most impressed at the one time she choose to yield rather than dig her heels in.

Life in review: the Quickening Moon

In the perennial druidry course, this moon is the Quickening Moon, which only comes every four years and is dedicated to review. In Orr’s words:

Although the Quickening Moon comes every four years, at each of these moons we review the past seven years. The reason for this is that every seven years we have renewed through regeneration every cell in our bodies.

So, the last seven years in review. That’s hard, because I feel so… constant. Still, as I began looking at photos from seven years ago, one big change in my life occured to me:

Children. I could talk a lot about how children changed me, but I’m assuming that, if you don’t have children yourself, you know someone (your parents?) who have children and you’ve heard enough on the subject.

There is one thing I want to say: having kids really encouraged me to actively rethink my life. Constant improvement has always been part of my personal mythology, but having kids, an audience, being a role model, these things have made me really think about being the best me I can be.

With kids, I no longer bike without a helmet, because if they can’t, I can’t. With kids, I realized that I was a spiritual person and, while I don’t need an answer to what that looks like for me right now, I needed to be looking, and including them in that. Not that we all arrive at the same destination, but that they understand the importance of journey.

Journey as lifestyle might be what I most take away from the birth of my kids. I mean, there’s the journey you know about — my constant searching for a way to live as a quietly pagan man — but there are things like trying to teach myself programming, amateur radio. Working to improve my mathematical abilities and understanding of the ecosystem’s complexities. Trying to get in shape, and to understand what that even means for a man of my age and physical requirements.

All of these are things that I try to include my children in, not because any of them are the right journeys to be on, but because I think it’s important to actively — if gently — work to avoid giving the impression that ‘growth’ is synonymous with ‘school’ and that when the latter is finished, so is the former.

Conclusion. I’d like to write on this more, see more photos, think about who I was and who I became, but, if I don’t make the time for that, I think it was nice that this moon helped me realize that the last seven years were years in which I decided not to work towards perfection, but to work towards always working towards something.

My Autumn Equinox

So, I suppose it’s a bit late to be writing this up, but it’s been on my list of things to do for a while.

My strongest memory of the autumn equinox was my sense of nervousness. The script included an up-or-down omen on whether the offerings were accepted and that will continue to frighten me for a while. (Remember the drama of my first autumn equinox ritual and the following Samhain? Sure, it led to me working with a pantheon I’m very comfortable with, but it was still uncomfortable.)

So, there was that and the fact that I was expanding a little on my bare-bones Core Order or Ritual format. I should be writing these omens down, but I remember that I took an omen before incorporating my little pseudo Eleusinian mysteries into the ritual. But, even with the positive omen, it was outside my comfort zone.

I’m not going to keep you in suspense: the ritual went well and my offerings were accepted. It was another really positive ritual of the sort where, in the moment everything felt right and it felt like I was part of something bigger than me, but now, reflecting on it, I don’t know what exactly I felt.

Still, I have an affinity for Proserpine and I am glad to have observed this particular part of the wheel of the year the way I did.

Autumn Equinox Script

So, autumn equinox has come and gone, and I spent a good bit of it very frustrated with the way ADF members (or not?) responded to one person asking if ADF would consider supporting Black Lives Matter.

I’m not proud of that.

However, for the dedicant’s path, I have a week to hold my ritual, so I’ve been busy scripting away — mostly modifying the script of last year’s disasterous ritual — at a script I can use when I have some time to myself tomorrow.

I’ve decided this year, to observe something of the Eleusian Mysteries in the ritual, giving myself some purpose to a high day that seems popular only in the opportunity it gives ‘reconstructionists’ to be disparaging.

The mysteries, obviously, are mysterious. We don’t know exactly what they taught, but I did find this quote from Cicero:

For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called “initiations,” so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope.

Cicero, Laws II, xiv, 36

Somewhere — in a book by Robert Graves, perhaps — I’ve read something about the Eleusian Mysteries promising something similar to the Christian ‘eternal life.’ The best I could find is this:

When Demeter came to our land, in her wandering after the rape of Kore, and, being moved to kindness towards our ancestors by services which may not be told save to her initiates, gave these two gifts, the greatest in the world – the fruits of the earth, which have enabled us to rise above the life of the beasts, and the holy rite which inspires in those who partake of it sweeter hopes regarding both the end of life and all eternity, – our city was not only so beloved of the gods but also so devoted to mankind that, having been endowed with these great blessings, she did not begrudge them to the rest of the world, but shared with all men what she had received. The mystic rite we continue even now, each year, to reveal to the initiates; and as for the fruits of the earth, our city has, in a word, instructed the world, in their uses, their cultivation, and the benefits derived from them.
(Panegyricus 28-29)

So, I have no intention at all of preparing a ritual which will ensure eternal life. But, I’ve read suggestions that it’s the combination of Demeter as a giver-of-life here on the surface and Persephone as Queen of the Underworld that suggests we are forever in the care of the two.

Either way, as the seasons are shifting here, to me it makes sense to make the two — using their Roman names Proserpine and Ceres — the focus of my ritual.

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