The Three Kindreds

When working within a ritual space I’ve called out the Three Kindreds in two different ways.  Each ways has its place depending on what the focus for the rite is, and depending also on what pantheon I’m working with.  The first way I call out to them, and the way I tend to do more often and feel more comfortable with, if by calling out first to the Ancestors, and feeling the power of them raising up from the ground and soaking up through the Well.  I associate the Ancestors with the Well.  I then call to the Nature Spirits all around me, within this world and realm.  I associate the Nature Spirits with the Tree.  Then reaching up to the sky, I call out to the Shining Ones, and feel their warmth wash around me.  I associate the Shining Ones with the Fire. As I’ve deepened my work however, I’ve begun to question whether or not this way of calling to them is always the best way.  After all, are there not Deities who reside below me, and Spirits of Nature in mythical forms that aren’t of this realm, and the Mighty Dead, the Heroes, who may drift up from the Underworld, who’ve been made constellations, or even those more modern heroes whose accomplishes still influence the world today?  So if I’m always calling to them in a way that partitions them into the Three Realms, am I then, in essence, unintentionally skipping some of the Kindreds?

The result of this argument in myself was to begin changing the way I call to the Kindreds as the circumstances necessitate.  So now, the other way that I call out to them is by first calling to the numinous beings of the chthonic realm.  The Ancestors who dwell there, the Spirits of Nature who dwell there, and the Shining Ones who dwell there.  I then call out to the numinous beings of this realm, the beings in the world around us.  The Ancestors who dwell there, the Spirits of Nature who dwell there, and the Shining Ones who dwell there.   And then finally I call out to all the numinous beings of the Upper Realm, those in the heavens, on Mt. Olympus, or in Asgard.  The Ancestors who dwell there, the Spirits of Nature who dwell there, and the Shining Ones who dwell there.

With this broadening understanding of where each of the Three Kindreds dwell, my understanding of each of them has also broadened.  The Ancestors are the Mighty Dead; the Ancient Wise who have gone before, and as such they have knowledge beyond my comprehension that can help me on my path, my journey.  There are three ways that I connect to the Ancestors.  There are ancestors of my blood, ancestors of my country/culture, and ancestors of my hearth.  My immediate thought has always gone to blood-kin first, and I at first believed that was the only way to approach the Ancestors.  So, that caused major problems for me because I’m adopted.  Trying to forge a connection the ancestors over bloodlines and ties hasn’t worked at all for me.  I think I probably have a bit of mental block against connecting that way.  I’ve tried to do some family history work to trace back my adoptive family, but even that only goes back four generations or so.  My family isn’t very talkative, and doesn’t seem to have any desire to talk about stories from their past, and there are no tales about the “Old Country.”  I’ve only got a couple of names and a few stories to connect me back, and it’s not a connection I feel particularly strong about to begin with.

I’ve had more luck connecting to the cultural ancestors.  The me these are all the people who have helped to shape our world and culture, and made it what it is today.  For me, this means important figures in science (Galileo, Copernicus), philosophy (Socrates, Plato), literature (Shakespeare, Homer), history (Caesar, Queen Elizabeth, Washington), and human rights (Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa), etc.  By honoring the cultural ancestors I connect both to the culture of humanity as a whole, as well as to sub-cultures of people and professions that have shaped out society.  For instance, in healing I may honor or Brighde as well as someone like Alexander Fleming.

The third way I make connections with the Ancestors is through the myths of the heroes.  This goes back so far as to include people like Herakles, Daedalus, and Theseus, but I also see it including folk heroes such as Paul Revere, Paul Bunyan, and the Chocolate Pilot.  They are the people who’ve experienced the world, strove to make it a better place, and because of that have had their stories told to millions.

I see the Nature Spirits in two broad categories.  Those beings of nature that we can see, and those we can’t.  The first type of Nature Spirit is the more obvious.  They are the creatures that inhabit our world: the birds, fish, insects, reptiles and mammals, but they are also the trees, rivers, rocks, plants, dirt, and oceans.  They are all part of the ecosystem that makes our world work together and function, and that is a large part of why they deserve honor.  Of the Three Kindreds, the Nature Spirits are the ones I connect the most to.  I can see them everywhere, and interact on them in a physical sense everyday.  I can go out to my garden and I can honor and worship the Nature Spirits in a way that I can see results.

The second type of Nature Spirit, the kind you can’t see, are the mythical beasts.  This incorporates creatures that live hidden in our world, are described in myths, or take on roles beyond that of their mundane counterparts: the unicorn, phoenix, griffin, dryads, and nymphs, but also the creatures like the crane, wolf, falcon and owl, who have extended responsibilities and duties.  These nature spirits are those who are our spirit guides, our totems, or those to deliver omens.  I connect to these in many ways the same way I do to the visible Nature Spirits, especially in the plants and waters.  I feel extreme connection to the wide variety of nymphs (the dryads, naiads, okeanides, etc.) and see them in the world all around me.  I see this second group of Nature Spirits as the tenders of the first, and it is my job to aid the second group in their care for the first.  And because of this relationship between us, the way I worship the Nature Spirits best and the way I am the most fulfilled by it, is through my active work out in nature, experiencing the world around me.

The Shining Ones are grouped more based on their “job description.”  There are those who work in the Upper Realm, Gods of the sky, air, sun, wind, etc.  or those who are specifically said to dwell in the Upper Realm.  There are those who work in the mid-realm, like Gods of the forest, hearth, commerce, war, etc.  And then there are those who work in the Underworld, mainly the Gods of death.  When I work with the Theoi, I approach them first on a professional level.  When I’m learning about a deity and first begin my approach toward them based on what their “job” is.  I read the myths and occasionally ask others who work with the deity, but I approach them on that professional level.  It’s only after I’ve started to develop that base relationship where we can talk on a professional level that I can then begin to deepen my relationship with certain deities on a more friendly level.  So the Shining Ones are a great in power and in number.

I find myself most strongly drawn to the Gods of the Mid-Realm, and I think that is probably because I’m so strongly drawn to the Nature Spirits.  And just as the mythical beasts protect nature, the Gods of this realm protect and work with all beings of this realm.  That includes the plants, animals, minerals, and humans.  In the sense that it is easier to connect to the Gods of the Mid-Realm because they are more connected to and invested in the affairs of humans.

The Gods of the Upper Realm and the Underworld I generally have less connection to.  I still feel connected to the Upper Realm Gods who I can see and feel and interact with, like gods of the sun, wind, air, and rain.  Though they dwell above me, I directly feel their influence.  I think the reason I still feel only a slight connection the gods of the Underworld is because of my trouble connecting with the Ancestors.

In conclusion, all of the Three Kindreds are tied together.  Each of their relationship to each other affects how I, in turn, am able to relate to them.  Because of my comfort with the more tangible aspects of the Kindreds, it is those particular entities in each of the delineations of the Kindreds that I best relate to, and the more work I have to do to grow the relationship with the others.

 

 

The 8 Neo-Pagan High Days

November 1 – First Cross Quarter

The first cross quarter, often called Samhain, is a time of remembrance for the dead.  It is thought of as the time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, and thus it is a liminal time when we can more easily communicate with the Mighty Dead, the Ancient Wise.  It is the final of the harvest festivals, and is often celebrated with a great feast honoring those who have passed.

In our Grove we’ve celebrated Samhain by holding a “dumb supper.”  During this time we have a feast with the Grove members and create a plate of food specifically for the Ancestors.  Then one by one, while everyone is quiet, we go up the altar and tell a story or share a memory about our ancestors.  It is a time for community with each other and our ancestors.

In current culture it is linked to Halloween.  Children wear costumes (which stems from the folk wearing masks so the spirits wouldn’t recognize them) and candy and other treats are given out, hearkening back to a time of offering hospitality to travelers.

December 21 – Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice, often referred to as Yule, is the longest night of the year.  It is seen as a time of death and rebirth.  It is the darkest night, but from that point on the days will get longer each day, and so hope is renewed that the winter will not keep getting darker and it will end eventually.

Hellenic tradition celebrates Heliogenna at this time, as a rebirth of the Sun.  The honored deity is Helios, God of the Sun, and it is a time for the folk to reflect back on what they did the past year and to wipe their slate clean of that which they don’t want to take into the coming year.  This is similar to the practice in current culture of making New Year’s Resolutions.

February 1 – Second Cross Quarter

The second cross quarter, often called Imbolc, is the time of year when the sheep begin lactating again, signaling that the winter is coming to a close and spring is just around the corner.  Imbolc celebrates the fire that burns within, and the hearth.  This is likely because the family stays together more and remains around the hearth more in the wintertime.

In current culture, Groundhog’s Day is celebrated on February 2nd, and is a time when people look to a groundhog leaving his borrow to see how much longer the winter will be.  So, in the same sense, winter is coming to an end, it will last just a bit longer, and spring is just around the corner.

March 21 – Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox, often called Ostara, is the time of year when winter is finally letting go of the world and the day and night are the same length.  It is a time for fertility, new life, and new beginnings.  Farmers can begin planting, and new livestock are born to sustain the herds.

In Hellenic culture the festival of Anthesteria takes place around this time.  It is a three day “Festival of Flowers” that celebrates the coming of spring, new wine (honoring Dionysos here), and the ancestors.  The first day, the Opening of Jars (Pithoigia), is where the new wine was opened and libations to Dionysos were poured.  The folk prayed that wine drunk mixed with water as Dionysos taught would be good for them.  The second day, the Day of Cups (Khoes), was a time for revelry and merrymaking.  The third day, the Day of Pots (Khytrai), honored the ancestors by leaving out traditional food for the dead (Orsini).

May 1 – Third Cross Quarter

The third cross quarter, often known as Beltane, is a time of revelry, and like Samhain, a time when the veil between the worlds is thin.  It is another liminal time, though in the case of pop culture associated more with fairies and magical beast than with the dead.  However, this is okay because it is seen as a time when the folk can communicate more easily with the Gods and with the Nature Spirits.

In our Grove we generally dance the Maypole, which is a derivative of Morris Dancing.  “Morris dancing, in fact, has been claimed to be a remnant of a pre-Christian Celtic, or Druidic, fertility dance” (Witcomb), though the historic evidence supporting this is questionable.  Despite this however, dancing the Maypole is an example of neo-pagan practices surround May Day, or Beltane.  It is considered a fertility dance that focuses on raising power.

June 21 – Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, is the longest day of the year.  It is a time to celebrate the glory and power of the sun, as well as the mighty Fire within.  During this celebration there often would have been many bonfires burning.

A modern Hellenic celebration is Prometheia, referencing Prometheus, the Greek Titan who gave fire as a gift to mankind.  It is a three day festival with the first day honoring the ancient philosophers and remembering the ancient Greek culture and traditions. On the second day the surviving parts of the Prometheia trilogy by Aeschylus are performed.  They relate the tragedy of Prometheus and how he was punished for giving fire to mankind.  The theater performance is followed by revelry late into the night.  On the third day purification, name giving, and marriage ceremonies take place (Prometheia).

August 1 – Fourth Cross Quarter

The fourth cross quarter, also known as Lughnassadh, is the first of the three harvest festivals.  The summer months where food is in short supply due to the heat are coming to an end and the bounty of the fall harvests is a time for celebration.  In Celtic tradition this festival honors Lugh and a variety of warrior games were held in honor of Lugh’s foster mother, Tailltiu.  In Hellenic tradition warrior games were also held at this time of year for several days following the main ritual.  During Panathenaia a 2-mile uphill torch race was held ending at the Acropolis.  “The first runner one to arrive with a torch still alight was the winner and his torch was used to light the fire to burn the sacrifices” (Panathenaia).

In addition to the competitions, Panathenaia was a celebration of Athena’s birthday, or the birthday of the city of Athens.   It is celebrated as a time when Gods and mortals feast together.  During the Greater Panathenaia the main workings for this festival were giving the statue of Athena a new peplos, or robe (Winter).

September 21 – Autumn Equinox

Autumn Equinox, or the neo-pagan festival of Mabon, is the second of the three harvest festivals.  It begins the dark half of the year, as it is the day when the day and night are the same length, but the nights will become longer from this day on.  It is a time for reflection on the joys of the summer months and the light half of the year, and a time for contemplation of the coming hardships of the dark half of the year.

In our grove we celebrate this festival as our Anniversary Rite, a time when our spiritual work really took off.  We have a Grove Poem that is read every year at this time, adding a new stanza each year.  The new stanza reflects our work from the past year, carrying on the theme of reflection and contemplation.

 

DP Book Reviews

Indo-European Title: A History of Pagan Europe

A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick is a reasonably well-written book, and a fairly good resource for Ár nDraíocht Féin’s Dedicant Path.  It works well as a source for studying the roots of Ár nDraíocht Féin because you can identify the common themes both in the rituals of Our Own Druidry as well as in the rituals of the ancients across the Indo-European cultures discussed in the book. The book is a very good resource if the reader already knows a decent amount about Ár nDraíocht Féin, because then he or she can then make connections between the ancient practices of various cultures and religions and what the current practice is in Our Own Druidry.

There are many references throughout that book that are helpful for understanding our religion, specifically in regards to our re-creation of the cosmos using the fire, well, and tree.  For instance, in talking about the Greeks and Hellenistic religions the book describes how “many sanctuaries in later Greek culture centred on a sacred tree” and did dances in order to establish a connection between the worlds (Jones 6).  There is evidence at La Tene II barrow at Normee of this dancing around a central point, demonstrating that this idea of a sacred tree standing at the center of worlds (82).   There were Jupiter pillars as well, that seem to have served the same purpose.  The Baltic tradition uses a “pole or tree as a symbol of the World Tree, the celestial axis of the Earth’s rotation” (174).  All of these things relate to our current concept of the sacred tree, or the world tree, in Ár nDraíocht Féin.

As far as the Well in Ár nDraíocht Féin goes, this book gives evidence for that as well.  The Celts had “shrines at springs, rivers, [and] lakes” where they kept holy wells that are still known today (Jones 81).  The wells were known for their healing waters.  The ‘sun springs’ that are referenced in regards to the Celts bear a certain resemblance to a version of our two powers meditation.  The idea the deep chthonic waters mix with the bright light of the heavens is a visualization that we in Ár nDraíocht Féin often use during an attunement (88). The waters for the Greeks were often the sites of Oracles and prophecy.  This can be interpreted as a connection between the Ancient Wise that dwell in the deep and the wisdom that the Greeks thought could be gained there.

The sacred fire is also mentioned throughout the discussion of different culture.  Hestia and Vesta served as the flame and hearth keepers in Greece and Rome, respectively.  The Celts, “in County Kildare Brighde had a shrine with a scared flame, which was tended by a college of women” (Jones 102). When other religions sough to stamp out the various brands of paganism, one of the first things they attacked was the sacred fire.  “Various Church councils held in Germany called for the suppression of heathen practices, including … the need-fire” (131).  In Rome, when Catholic Christianity was declared the only allowed faith, many Pagan shrines and ceremonies were to lose State funding, but “perhaps worst of all, the Vestals were to lose their privileges and immunities and their sacred fire was to be put out” (71).  Fire was also very important in sacrifice so that the offerings could be burned and the smoke sent up to the heavens.  The Celtic and Germanic peoples echoed this importance or fire in the burning of the dead.

In focusing on how the fire, well, and tree were treated in pagan practices in Indo-European cultures, it is possible for the reader to understand how those ancient practices relate to our current practices within Ár nDraíocht Féin.  These connections, among many others, make A History of Pagan Europe a good study title for use in the Dedicant’s Training Program.

 

Cultural Title: Theogony and Works and Days

Hesiod wrote Theogony and Works and Days during the period in Greek history when oral tradition was finally being record due to the emergence of the Greek alphabet.  His work was, in many ways, overshadowed by Homer and his writing, but Hesiod’s works are still very useful in learning about the Gods themselves, as well as the people who worshiped them.  Theogony is verse that explains how the Gods came into begin, and how they family tree, or more accurately, the family thicket, plays out.  It is a good explanation of the creation myth of both the Gods and of Man, but is also not necessarily a good resource for beginners.  The text does not explain what each god has specific dominion over, and thus how he or she relates to the world, and to us.  He also uses multiple names of some gods, which I’ve never heard outside of this text.  So it may not be nearly as helpful to those new to the mythology.  One of the things I noticed in reading the long lists of names of gods, was that those who actually had every god in a group listed were the daughters of rivers and oceans.  In this relatively short text, the percentage of text that is devoted to the names of the water deities shows how important sacred water was to the Ancient Greeks.

In the notes and introduction before Works and Days Athanassakis notes how this text was likely written by Hesiod directly to his brother, so he could “speak to Perses the naked truth” (Hesiod 65).       It is a text that is about moral values and the proper time to do the proper thing.  I found this section both very boring and very interesting in sections.  Hesiod spent a lot of the text discussing how farmers and sailors should go about their jobs.  And while this is excellent anthropological information about the common man during that time period, it does not speak particularly well to me.  However, the portion that I found interesting was the section where Hesiod spoke regarding portents and the correct day and the correct month for certain tasks, saying “Zeus sends the days; observe them in good measure” (Hesiod 84).  This section provides knowledge for worshiping and living with the Hellenic religion as the people of Ancient Greece did.  Granted, some of it is outdated, and some may regard it as silly superstition, but that is that nature of faith and belief.  It is in the Works and Days that we are told which days are sacred to certain gods.  For instance, beginning at line 768, the sacred days are laid out:

Here are the days that come from Zeus the counselor,

If people judge their true nature and live by it:

The chief sacred days are the first, the fourth, and the seventh;

Leto bore Apollon of the golden sword on the seventh.

This part of the text is what specifically makes Works and Days a good book for the Dedicant learner.  It provides specific information about how the Ancient Greeks lived, and how they worshiped.

All in all, I would recommend this book, but encourage it to be read alongside a collection of Greek myths.  I think that the reader will get more out of Theogony and Works and Days if they have good background knowledge of the myths.  It is an excellent primary source that is beneficial to the Dedicant learner.

 

Modern Title: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Paganism

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Paganism by Carl McColman provides a broad overview of varying kinds of paganism.  It is a mixed bag of information with some glaring inaccuracies as well as some valuable tidbits that could contribute to a budding pagan’s new spiritual path.  The beginning of the book focuses on the general beliefs that all pagans have and some of the larger brands of paganism.

I had a difficult time with this first section because it tries to ascribe a set of beliefs to a huge group of people.  This not necessarily a fault of the author, but rather of the broad nature of the topic.  If one considers that the world could be divided into monotheists and polytheists, most people would agree that it seems mad to try saying “all monotheists think this way,” which in turn makes it rather insane to try coming up with a way to say “all polytheists believe this way.”  The other gripe I had with the majority of the book is how centered on Wicca it is.  Granted, Wicca and witchcraft is what gets the most press, and what will probably make the book sell, but for a book that is claiming to cover all aspects of paganism, many of the chapters and discussion within the book lean towards Goddess centered, Wiccan worship.  This, for the person who knows nothing of paganism, is likely to give a skewed picture of what types of paganism are out there.  The one other thing that made me question this book’s scholarly worth was the vast number of small, but easily noticeable and correctable, errors.  For instance when stating that Dianic Wicca is “named after the Greek Goddess of the hunt,” even though Diana is a Roman Goddess (McColman 54).  It is a small error, but one that is easily fixed.  These types of inaccuracies give the impression of little editing and research.

The last part of the book I think is where the most value comes for a new pagan.  The book offers sound advice on starting to explore through meditation your own beliefs and finding the path that’s right for you.  There is a section of how to set up and altar in your home, how to start learning about different deities, and how to go about finding groups of pagans if you don’t want to be solitary.  It even gives a list of questions that you should ask before joining any sort of pagan group, which I think is especially valuable.  I would take it further and say it’s an important set of questions to ask before joining any religious group, because they include things like “Is it okay for members to disagree with the leaders?” and “Do you feel comfortable with the members?” (McColman 308)  These are questions that can help to determine if a group has cult-like tendencies.

All in all, I would say this is a good book for the person who knows nothing about paganism and is trying to find their way spiritually.  It is a good exploratory book, and a good book for brand new pagans just beginning to develop their spirituality.  I would not recommend it to learners on the Dedicant Path if they have any sort of background knowledge on paganism, due to its heavy focus on Goddess worship and Wiccan paths.

 

Summer Solstice

How does it relate to Hellenic traditions? Some beginning research:

Philokhoria

http://neokoroi.org/artemis.html

An interesting interview with Thista Minai: http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=976

Prometheia is a modern day Greek festival that is basically celebrating summer solstice: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/prometheia

Other thoughts:

Skira: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/skira

Arrephoria: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/arrephoria

Dipolieia & Bouphonia: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/bouphomia—dipolieia


Autumn Feast

In the neo-pagan high days this feast is often designated as Lughnasadh.  August 1st is said to mark the beginning of the harvest season, the first ripening of fruits ready for the picking.  Traditions of Lughnasadh:

  • make a cornmeal bread or cakes in the shape of Lugh and then symbolically sacrifice and eat them.
  • funeral games for Lugh’s foster mother Tailtiu (games of skill and strength)
  • Tailtiu predicted as long as the games were still happening, Ireland wouldn’t be without song (cite)
  • Games were much like the Olympics

The beginning of the harvest season can be seen as birth, fruition, and renewal.  While researching in an attempt to link the autumn feast to Hellenic traditions, the closest major festival is Panathenaea.  This festival celebrates the birth of Athena Polias, the Guardian of the City.  Traditions of Panathenaea (cite):

  • Panathenaea Games (athletic & bardic arts contests)
  • Peplos sacrifice and renewal (cite)
  • honoring of craftsmanship & protection of the city
  • Great Panathenaea every four years (much like the Olympics)
  • the feast of bounty

I also could see the Autumn Feast relating to Demeter and Kore, as it is the first of the harvest festivals.

Another festival is Kronia: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/kronia

Perseverance

Perseverance is something that I’ve been struggling with lately.  I’m going through a lot of changes in my life right now, and it’s hard sometimes to keep pushing myself and to keep moving forward, or at least not moving backward.

perseverance: noun:

steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc. especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. (Dictionary.com)

persevere: verb:

1.  to persist  in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose inspite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.

2. to persist in speech, interrogation, argument, etc.; insist.

“The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.”

Perseverance is the flame that continues to burn inside yourself when the storm seems the worst.  Sometimes it burns bright and strong with no trouble, though this is often only when the winds are calm, and the Theoi are easily heard on the breeze.  When times become difficult, and the rain is pounding down, the flame flickers, just barely keeping alight.  The sound of the rumbling thunder seems to drown out the Gods, and the lightning blinds you from seeing them in your life.  It is then that the flame needs to be tended most, and cared for.  And just as it seems as though it may extinguish itself in the whipping wind you remember: The Gods are always present in your life, and will hold you close and keep you tending that small flickering light.  After all, even when the storm seems worst, it is still the mighty Zeus. (150 words)

Summer Solstice Recap

I celebrated Summer Solstice with Three Cranes Grove on June 20th, 2010.  This rite worked with the Vedic Pantheon, specifically with Savitar, the deity of Solar Light and often of Healing.  The ritual itself was particularly interesting because rather than having a Fire, Well, and Tree we instead had three fires; the hearth fire, the sacrificial fire, and the fire of Agniras (the priest for the gods).  I took the role of aspersing for this rite, cleansing the folk as the entered the sacred space. Some of the main forms of offering for this ritual were oil and ghee.  I brought summer tea and spices to offer to the Kindreds.  I don’t feel any specific connection to many Vedic deities, and so I wasn’t sure how I would feel during the ritual, but there was some connection.  It was much more like a first introduction to someone you’ve never met, rather than a meeting between old friends, and this makes sense as I’ve had little connection to Vedic gods before.

Our omens for this rite were taken via fire scrying, which our grove has not attempted before.  MJD did a wonderful and poetic job.  A flame of green accepted our offerings as “songs of praise are heard as our words transcend the boundaries.”  The Kindreds offered the grove joy and dance in return as the flames spun in circles, danced and leaped, flew apart only to touch and dance again.  The Kindreds require offerings and sacrifices of us, forever and always.  The fire is ever hungry “seeking out with nine tongues silvered and buttered with ghee.”  I like the way our grove has taken to infusing the Waters with the blessings of the Kindreds using either toning, chanting, or song.  We used the “Power of the Spirit” chant to bless the Waters.

During the working portion of the ritual, we honored the fathers, in part because the rite happened on Father’s Day.  This was especially moving for me.  Missy started out by praising an honoring the father’s of modern paganism, and of our druidry, our past and present leaders in ADF, the clergy of ADF, and then her own personal father figures.  We then went around the circle of folk and each person was given a chance to offer praise for their father figure.  Hearing of others connections and struggles was emotional and unifying.  (394 words)

The Home Shrine

I redecorated my altar a couple days ago to better match my growing knowledge of Hellenic rituals.  There have been some major additions, and some rearrangement as I made more space on my bookshelves.

Full Altar

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The altar itself resides on the top two shelves in the picture, with the bottom two shelves for ritual items and related texts.  The whole set up in the middle of my bookshelves in my bedroom, but as they are for books, the shelves are very shallow.  Ideally, I’d like to be able to have the altar arranged on a deeper surface so I wouldn’t have to separate out my Fire and Well.a

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Omphalos

One of the big changes/additions I made to my altar was to add an omphalos (or navel stone) for offerings.  The omphalos is the Navel of the World, and so it’s arranged to sit at the base of my Tree.  I’m not entirely sure what kind of stone it is, but it’s a bluish gray, shot through with streaks of white.

My Tree is a copper wire representation.  I especially like how I can send the roots down into the bowl where the omphalos sits.  Most of my offerings over the omphalos have been oil, though I just recently went out an got some nice deep red wine.

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Gods of the Wild

On the left side of my alter I have my representations of the Wild and some of the Gods who protect the Wild.  The unicorn rampant represents Artemis.  There are many myths regarding what type of animal pulls the chariot of Artemis, and one suggests that it is pulled by 8 unicorns.  In the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili there is a plate illustrating what is supposedly the chariot of Artemis (see spread #88).  The black disc at the base of the unicorn sculpture is a deer, one of the sacred animals to Artemis.  So, I use this combination of symbols to represent Artemis on my altar.

The other wild god represented on my altar is Pan.  I would like to update this representation of him to be more goat-like, and less deer-like.  I’ve also go the twigs shaved into a spiral that seems to resonant with Pan right now, so they will sit by him until it seems they no longer should.

I’m still missing a representation that really speaks to me for Dionysos.  The closest thing I have for him right now is the silver leaf sitting below Pan.  It loosely shows Dionysos’s domain of vegetation, including grapes for wine.

The ladybug is a polished red stone (I don’t know what kind) that is painted to look like a ladybug.  This has a place on my altar partly because ladybugs are sometimes said to represent piety, and it also has a place on my altar in part to represent the Ancestors.  The reasoning regarding the Ancestors comes from the following rhyme, which can be interpreted to tell the story of ancient pagan temples and people being burned and persecuted as Christianity took over.  So, in general, it serves as a reminder to follow the ways of the Ancestors.

Well

“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
All but one, and her name is Ann,
And she crept under the pudding pan.’

‘Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your little house is burning.
Your little mother is crying and
Your father is on the threshold,
Fly away to heaven, away from hell.”

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My Well is in a glass dish surrounded by stones that change as they feel charged and with the seasons.  Just to the right of the well is an incense burner that I mostly use for Artemis.  I plan on getting a separate place for smoky offerings for each deity on the altar, but for now they share.  Behind the incense is a stained glass dragonfly container.  I keep my offerings for the well in this.
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Flames of Importance

The representation of Fire on my altar is completely separate from all the other flames on the altar.

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Hestia's Flame

I have a candle specifically dedicated to Hestia.  It was lit from our Grove’s Flame and from the Hellenic Kin’s Flame.  This way it represents the strength of my own hearth, as well as kinship between myself, my Crane-kin, and other Hellenes.  I made this candle by carving down a votive candle and carving Hestia’s name into it.  After I’d carved her name, it wasn’t really showing up, so I then melted some wax from a blue candle and pushed it into the carvings, let it cool, and then gently shaved down the candle again so the blue wax was only visible in the carvings.  Her name is barely noticeable when then candle isn’t lit, but when it is, the glow of the yellow candle makes her appear to darken, as shown by the picture.

The white candle in the bud vase is our Grove’s flame, lit from the flame of Kildare.  The Grove flames I the one I use to keep the Kinship with Three Cranes alive.  It is also the flame we use when we’re doing house blessings. Sitting below that flame is a small folded paper crane to represent Garanos.  The Crane is a guide for transformative work, and I occasionally call him as a gatekeeper.

Some more recent additions to the new altar are a larger tree that is a tea-light candle holder.  The candles sit at the end of each branch, and there are five of them.  It sits in the middle of the new altar.  Below it is where my Greek Alphabet Oracle usually sits when I’m not using or charging it.  I kept a set of runes there for awhile, but they were in a fox fur bag, and the cats saw that as an open invitation for them to play Godzilla on the altar, so the bag of runes has moved to a drawer where the kitties are less likely to eat them.

There is also a statue of the three aspects of Brigid.  She has a candle lit form the flame of Kildare, as well as a bit of charcoal in front of her.  The charcoal is what I use for her because it the one thing that connects all three of her aspects.  Charcoal in pencils for writing (inspiration), charcoal for heating a forge (crafting), and charcoal for purifying water and cleansing toxins (healing).  She originally claimed a place on the altar for Thom, but I’ve begun working with her as well.

Some Hellenic Gods that have claimed space are Athena (and her many owls), Hera (a bit of peacock feathers here and there that I have to protect from the cats), Helios (a very shiny pillar candle), and Poseidon (a bowl full of sea salt).  I’ve been working with Athena more closely since I began teaching.  She has the pursuit of knowledge and has helped me to deal with the challenges that working with youth and encouraging them to learn bring.  Hera has begun knocking at my door with my upcoming marriage.  I suspect after the wedding my relationship with her will develop more fully and deepen.  Helios I’ve been working with strongly ever since I wrote our Grove’s Yule rite, and I decided to do Heliogenna with him as the Deity of the Occasion.  Poseidon has been calling to me for a couple of months now, and I’m not sure where my relationship with him will go, but I’m trying to keep him happy, and keep the door open.

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