Lyrics: The Greenwood Grove, or Let’s Learn the Ogham!

I am the Birch of the new beginnings,
The Rowan star with magic guarding,
Alder sight the future showing,
Sweet Willow sees her Moon arising,
Ash the three realms he is touching,
Hawthorn tells us the May is coming,
Mighty Oak with strength is stahding,
The Holly on his chariot riding.

(Chorus)
Come follow me, come dance with me,
Come with me to the Greenwood Grove such magic there to
See.
The Lord of the Wild, with his Faerie kin,
Deep within the Greenwood Grove,
We’ll dance the Magic Ring.

Wise Hazel watches the salmon feeding,
The Faerie Apple seed is falling,
The Vine is ripe intoxicating,
I am the Ivy heed my warning,
Yellow Broom I offer healing,
Blackthorn sharp for death preparing,
The Elder is a life of learning,
Fir the distant future showing.

I am the gorse I am destroying,
Heather from death recreating,
Hear the Aspen’s leaves a-whispering,
That Yew is death and life returning.

Alban Eilir

Today is the first day of Spring. Today the Earth pauses at a point in her orbit that makes the day and night equal – although actually that equality happened three days ago on the full moon – and from this point forward the sun blesses the planet more than the moon. Today the Oak King and Holly King continue their battle, today that battle reaches its climax, for they are equally matched, but soon the Oak Kill will prevail, will vanquish his brother, and will rule over the earth until Autumn begins. While Imboc is the celebration of light’s slow return from the darkness, Alban Elilir is the time when that renewal starts to see fruit: buds are forming on trees, crocuses, snowdrops, daffodils and hyacinths are beginning to appear, and the air is warming day by day.

Non-Druids would call today Ostara, and it is from that name that Easter comes from. It is just as much a time of balance and of renewal for non-Druidic pagans as it is for the Druids, in fact. Many of the symbols are the same, such as the egg, the budding flower. Even the trefoil, or three-leaved clover, is a symbol of spring more than just of Saint Patrick’s Day. Lambs are also a symbol of this time, and baby rabbits and chicks. New birth in all its forms is evidence of the renewal of the Earth under the warmth of the sun.

I have spent the last month or so cleaning house. We’re clearing out old things, unwanted and unneeded things, broken and unfixable things. We’re clearing the clutter that makes us both unhappy. There are a few things left to do, but we’re getting there. Today I have begin the day by opening the windows, to let in the light and the gloriously warm(er) temperatures. I will get out in the light as well, for after a few days of frigid weather I’m dying to take a walk, to see all the new life blooming. I think I will also get us some fresh fruit, and plan on having waffles and eggs for supper. (Real waffles, not those incredibly dense buckwheat ones.) I might even start making some yarn-covered eggs for decorating for Easter, and work on a new besom for my car and some decorations for the pentacle I keep on my door.

Besides that, I’m just going to reflect on balance today. I’m still working on finding my balance. It’s been a year since the greatest upheaval in my life, and I’ll admit I’m still touched by it at times. I see it as a time of learning, though. I had indeed forgotten who I was in the last several years of struggle, and I needed something big to shake me up and help me find my soul once more, and teach me how to nourish it.

~

Three lessons that Spring offers:
find balance,
seek renewal,
live life.

Bringing Spring

Imbolc has passed, and while it was a rather quiet celebration for me, I did give a lot of thought to how I was going to move forward with my plans for the year. I had seen my hyacinths beginning to peek above the mulch, and had been looking for bulbs so that I could force some pretty flowers inside. Unfortunately I didn’t think about the fact that most of the bulbs I want to force are planted in the fall, so finding them in local stores in the spring would be nigh impossible.

Jason and I did get supplies so we can start seedlings inside, however. I settled on a few herbs and flowers that I love. For flowers, I got a variety of dwarf sunflowers (talk about bringing back the sun, right?) and zinnia and forget-me-nots. I also chose calendula, which is an annual flower also used in herbal teas. The herbs I chose so far are spearmint, catnip, and stevia. I hope to get a few more, but I’m having trouble sourcing the seeds. Chamomile and lemon balm are a couple I definitely want to grow myself, but I also am thinking of things like mugwort, hyssop, lavender, lemon verbena. I’m fairly certain some of the others I would llike to use for teas are things I can’t easily grow myself. Things like tulsi, and echinacea, and milky oats, and bergamot. They all seem like something I’m better off sourcing the already dried parts.

We had a rather impressive snow storm here this past week. It wasn’t a true ‘storm’ but it was a significant event because we received about 6-8 inches of snow and on top of that about half an inch of ice. That sort of snow and ice pretty much shuts down the area, because the budget just doesn’t allow for the treatment of roads in the snow. They brine them, sure, but there aren’t many plows and such. We were stuck inside for most of the last week, and on Friday we had the first opportunity to do much of anything.

20140216-114144.jpg

20140216-114254.jpg

20140216-114516.jpg

20140216-114525.jpg

Because my car isn’t exactly idea for driving in bad conditions, I stayed home, but chose to take the opportunity to start my seedlings inside. I planted everything but the stevia in my little peat pot kit; I’ll start the stevia in a month or so, on the advice of my garden guru, Meredith. Right now they’re sitting in the front window, it doesn’t get full sun there but it does get a good bit which I hope will help the seeds germinate. I’m looking forward to planting the herbs in several pots, and the flowers in the beds outside. I hope I’ll be able to find the rest of my desire seed in the next couple of weeks, so everything will be growing by mid-march.

20140216-114553.jpg

20140216-114532.jpg

20140216-114539.jpg

Nearly all the snow has melted away, except in areas that the sun rarely touches, and I’m okay with that. Living in the South, I definitely miss the snow, because I grew up in a climate that saw a great deal more of it. It helped to delineate the seasons a bit more. We do still get a little snow once a year, usually in February. It’s a little odd for it to come when those of us who follow the seasons are already looking forward to spring, but I think it makes sense in some ways. Once it snows and that snow melts, we can begin looking forward to spring fully.

I’m doing that by getting a jump on my ‘spring cleaning’ as well, a little bit every day. Rather than trying to devote an entire day to cleaning the house from top to bottom, I’m taking time every day to work on one small part that needs attention. It’s making the task a lot more manageable, so that I will hopefully be happy with the state of our home by the time Alban Eilir comes around in March.

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Practice

I have been continuing my OBOD Bardic Grade studies, though I will admit that I have not been terribly consistent in the suggestion of daily/weekly practice of the Light Body exercise and the Bardic Grove exercise. I have never had much in the way of a daily ritual in that way, even when I was a Catholic. Scheduled prayer always irritated me somehow.

I do see how developing a regular practice is beneficial to my well being, to my health. It’s not that I don’t recognize that. It’s just that my current daily schedule is still so uneven that it’s not always possible for me to perform meditation before I start my day, and I’ve always been one of those people who gets discouraged if I falter on any path. This is something I’m working on, however. I think that right there tells me what I need to know, actually. On days when it is possible, I need to try at the very least to sit in stillness, to perform the Light Body exercise and the Bardic Grove exercise – especially if I’m going to be writing and want to tap into that inner fount of Awen.

I am making a commitment to myself, then, to practice the light body and bardic grove exercises four times a week. I am allowing myself to choose when I do this. At times, it may be easier to do this in the morning, and at other times it may be easier to do this in the evening, and that is okay. I will also keep a journal of my experiences, so that I can look back over my journey and see where I have come from. I think this will be useful to me in the long run.

I spent the better part of yesterday listening to the next set of Gwersi. I find it helps me to listen to them while I’m doing something like knitting, or spinning, at least the first time through. Since I don’t have the printed copies, I feel that listening to them once this way allows the material to soak into my mind and into my soul. I will later delve into the material more deeply, and connect it to my understanding of the world. Coming from an existence as a Witch (though not Wiccan) I find I’m having to assimilate some ideas a little more, and there are some things – mostly to do with ritual – that I’m having to go back to later.

I’m not certain if that’s because the rituals don’t speak to me because of their Druidic focus, or if it is because they were written by another. I’m guessing it’s a little of both, but also reflects again that lack of practice. Nothing feels “right” the first time, or the first few times. Unless you count spinning for me, because the first time I sat at the spinning when I was apparently a prodigy, though even I will admit while I was able to produce rather pretty yarn, I didn’t understand what I was doing. It took me months yet to reach a point where I actually understood the process and how it was working between my hands and the wheel, and I’m still not at a point where I would call myself an expert spinner.

Tea Blend: Stress Less

For my first attempt at blending and infusing my own herbal teas I’m using Meredith’s blend, as I don’t have all the herbs I want to try just yet, and I really liked that blend when we tasted it. I made it very simple – I mixed a tiny baggie of each of the five herbs she said were in it in a small Mason jar, and have about a tablespoon steeping in my glass teapot. I would have just used tea bags, but I don’t have any of them yet, and this works just as well and is so very pretty.

I’m letting it infuse a little longer than is needed for a beverage tea, though probably not long enough to be considered truly medicinal. I’m really just trying to see if length of time changes the taste drastically. I have a feeling this, or perhaps some version of it if I get really into making my own blends, will become a staple in the house. I really need something to help me rest at night, and this may be the ticket.

It’s a lot lighter in color than teas I’m used to, though admittedly that’s in part because I’m used to black tea, true tea. I had originally sweetened it with honey when I tasted it, and now I’m rather wondering why. It has a definite herbal flavor, but it’s mild and I quite like it. I can definitely see myself drinking several cups of this a day, especially at night before bed.

I also took a look at my usual bedtime tea, my Sleepytime. It’s made up of Chamomile, Peppermint, and Lemon Balm, plus a couple other things like Orange Blossom. I could easily work up a version of that, though I don’t currently have Chamomile. I might take a quick trip to Earth Faire though, and see if they have loose herbs. It wouldn’t be quite as good as fresh grown but I think it’d be alright.

Making Herbal Teas

I had the opportunity to take a class on making herbal teas today, a class taught by a dear friend of ours, Meredith Mizell, and I’m so very glad I did not wimp out of it even though I’m still slightly hobbled by shoulder and leg pain, sleeplessness, and of course my monthly cycle. Because when I want to do something enjoyable, the world seems to collapse in on itself for me and make it all too easy to curl up in a ball and hide.

I didn’t hide though, and had made the decision I was going even before I knew Jason was going to travel with me, though he didn’t also go to class, he went on to a library for some genealogy research. We got there much earlier than we thought, which was amusing because we even left earlier than we thought we had to so we could stop for breakfast. The highlight of the drive there was the random pig on the side of the road at the edge of an apple or peach orchard somewhere in York.

The class was incredibly informative. I drink herbals teas, though for the most part I’ve only had commercial ones, like Celestial Seasonings. I have had some others, from natural grocery chains, and some of the flowering teas (which are just plain pretty) but never tried my hand at blending my own for specific purposes, which is really why I wanted to take the class in the first place. Meredith started with the basics of why we would want to blend our own teas, and worked up to what the difference is between tea as a beverage and tea as medicine, and finally talked about different herbs we can use for specific purposes, and had several for us to try along the way. I learned a lot, and have decided I really want to start making my own teas instead of buying commercial stuff. For one thing, it tastes better. I can get he same effect from herbs I grow myself, or buy from a local source, with a lot more potency and better taste, and I’ll be supporting the local economy and myself.

I took some notes along the way, and some of them had to do with the types of teas I think would benefit me most at this point in my life. One of the most obvious, especially as I’m writing this (very) early in the morning, is a tea that will help me with my sleeplessness. It’s not so bad as insomnia. I get to sleep at night without much trouble, but I often wake up around 3-4am, and then can’t shut down enough to get back to sleep. I usually can get up and read, or knit, or even play some mindless game, and then go back to sleep for a few more hours, though on a day like today when I have to work at 7am, that’s not really worth it. I’d like to work on a tea that will help with that. Sleepytime is the commercial version I used to enjoy, but I suspect I can replicate the effects with better herbs. Meredith called the herbs used for this application ‘nervines’; that’s something I’ll definitely have to research more.

Another likely application for teas is digestive troubles. I don’t have a lot of them, though I occasionally do, and it wouldn’t be bad to have something that simply supports my digestion, especially when I don’t eat as well as I could. This might actually benefit Jason as well, and I’d like to do as much as I can for him in that regard, since he has more troubles than me with digestive matters.

Another big one for me is, as Meredith put it, women’s issues; specifically mood fluctuations and cramping. My cycle has become a lot more regular and for that I’m thankful, but I still get horrible cramps, and my moods can be legendary. I commented to the cat the other day how I must be starting my period soon because everything was making me cry. It’d be nice, especially now that I can better predict my cycle, if I could start drinking a tea when I know it’s coming to try and level that out, as well as maybe lessen the intensity of the pain.

I want to work tea into my spiritual practices as well, and Meredith touched on how that could be done. She spoke about lunar and solar infusions, and it really resonated with me. I could easily develop a blend based on those associations, on the seasons, on lunar and solar cycles and incorporate that into my practices. Not that I do a lot currently in the way of celebrations, but it’s all about developing habits and my own practices.

I really want to begin using tea as a way to nourish and restore my body. I believe, as Meredith said, that in today’s world we’ve gotten so far from natural living that our bodies are starving for the things that living off the land provides. If I can supplement that though something as simple as brewing a cup of tea or two a day, then I think that’s the least I can do for myself, and even for the people that I love.

What makes a Druid?

When I received my original packet from OBOD, it came with a beautiful sheet of paper suitable for framing that describes what a Druid is in the OBOD tradition. It begins by saying “Druidry encourages us to love widely and deeply. It fosters: love of the land, the earth, the wild – reverence for nature.”

This has pretty much been my belief for most of my life, although I was raised Roman Catholic by my parents. I’ve always been a child of nature. I was most at peace when I was romping through the woods with my friends. I spent hours in a tree in my backyard as a child, until that tree was split in half by lightning strike. Even now I love wandering through the woods, although I’m smart enough not to go out by myself; the world we live in is not one in which I can go wandering through the woods by myself.

The description of a Druid’s beliefs goes on to list 13 different items; 13 facets of a Druid’s belief. When I first read them I realized how very much they resonated with me, and as I’m rereading them now that hasn’t changed; in fact that resonance has only gotten stronger. I thought that I might touch on a few of them, and discuss why they touch me so deeply.

The first facet of Druidry, or Druid belief, is the Love of Peace. It talks about how Druids were traditionally peacemakers, and how each Druid ceremony begins with peace to the quarters (not a quarter calling as in traditional witchcraft) and that there is a Druids Peace Prayer (which I have posted previously) and that Druids plant peace groves. I am at heart a rather peaceful person. I don’t go out of my way to argue with people, although I know that my temper and my need to be correct often gets in the way of that. I am working very hard on both of those things, both in my professional life and my personal life. I think it would be beneficial to me to adopt the Druids love of peace; I believe it would make me a much happier person.

Love of Beauty is the next facet of Druidry that this piece of paper lists. This facet is one of the most important ones to me, for it is the facet that has most to do with the Artist Within, with creativity and with the Bard. The way I express my creativity is predominantly through writing. I would call myself a Bard, although I do not pretend to be on the level of Taliesin, or even on the level of Dave Smith – Chief Pendragon of the order. Writing is in my bones, in my breath, in the beat of my heart, and that is how I know that I am at heart a Bard. I intend to continue writing, to continue becoming the best Bard that I can, and to wear that title proudly.

I will only briefly mention the Love of Justice, which is the next facet listed. It tells us that the Druids were judges and lawmakers, but that traditionally Druids were interested in restorative not punitive justice. I mention this only because I have noticed a tendency and myself to seek justice where it is needed, I think I need a great deal more balance in how I approach that desire for justice.

Another facet that really touches my heart is the Love of Story and Myth. It says very simply that Druidry recognizes and uses the power of mythology and stories. Many people who do not understand, or do not wish to understand, religions other than their own believe that those who follow a path – spiritual or religious – which uses mythology actually believe that mythology to the fact. This is not how I understand it, and is not how I understand Druidry uses mythology. Myths are simply stories used to teach; the Bible is nothing more than mythology for Christians, although they take it as fact. The myths of the Celts, including Cerridwen and Taliesin and Lugh, the Oak and Holly Kings, the Horned Man, Cernunnos – and many many more – are not taken as factual history. Instead they are understood to be teaching tales to describe great imagination the way things were done so that future generations could follow those ways. Modern advances do not require us to live as our ancestors did, but that does not mean we should not understand how they lived, and it is in mythology and stories that we learn those things.

That leads me to the next facet, the Love of History and Reverence for the Ancestors. This states very simply that Druids recognize the forming power of the past, that we are formed by those who have come before us. It does not mean that because our parents were assholes we will be, but that we should learn from the lessons of the past. We are thinking creatures, we know that our parents were assholes, or were not assholes. We are capable of taking our past and changing it into a better future. This reaches further than our own parents as well, for as Druids we accept and honor all of those who came before us for without them we would not exist.

I’m going to combine three of the facets that this piece of paper lists because they seem linked in some way; those three are the Love of Trees, Love of Stones and the Love of Animals. Druids are often called tree huggers derisively, but it is very true that the Druids find great wisdom in tree lore, and keep sacred groves in which they use specific trees to create a place of sanctity and of power. Druids also built and continue to build stone circles (of which Stonehenge is an example) and work with stones and crystals of all types. Both of these make a great deal of sense if you consider that hundreds of years ago they did not have the weather channel to ask how the weather was for that day, for the coming week, for the coming season. They did not have modern drugs to deal with ailments, and so they used what they had available; trees and plants and stones and crystals provided relief for a great number of concerns. Druids also see animals as sacred beings, and teach animal lore. Their reverence for life alone explains how Druids see animals as being sacred, and their use of animal lore is no different than their use of plant and tree lore or stone floor, they are using knowledge gained over centuries that has served them well. I am very interested in the Ogham, in the Druids Animal Oracle, and in using the knowledge of trees and plants, of stones and crystals, and of the animals of the earth in ways that make sense for my life.

Love of Truth is the next facet listed, and says that Druid Philosophy is a quest for Wisdom. Wisdom and intelligence are two totally different things, because a wise man may not score 1600 on his SAT, but the man who did score highly on such tests may not be very wise. Wisdom and truth are learned through experience not from books, so I believe that this tenet or facet is telling us that in order to find wisdom, to find the truth we must experience the world and not simply read about it.

Another facet that feels very important to me is Love of the Sun, Moon, Stars and Sky. The Druids used the sun, the moon and the stars for timekeeping, and wove tales about the heavenly bodies into their mythology so that future generations would be able to do the same. As long as I can remember, I have loved gazing at the sky – especially at night. I once thought that I could be an astronomer, but there was way too much science involved for me. Although it is very difficult in our modern world to keep time by the moon and sun and stars, I try very hard at least to honor that passage of time. I believe that is the lesson that Druidry today wishes us to learn, that it is not absolutely necessary to use the sun, the moon, and the stars so long as you honor their passing.

This list mentions Love of the Body as another facet of Druidry and says that Druidry sees the body and sexuality as sacred. What this does not mean is that sex is used as a tool for Druidry. What I believe it to mean is first that the body is sacred, that you should not do anything to your body that you would not do to the earth. I believe sexuality is mentioned to remind us that any sexual act is a union of two bodies, of two souls and should not be undertaken lightly.

Somewhat similar to this but not exactly the same is the Love of Each Other. This states that Druidry fosters the magic of relationship and of community. While many Druids are notoriously solitary in their study and in their practice, this does not mean that we should be hermits. I have learned this lesson myself, because I have a tendency to shut myself away from the world when things become difficult. (I will note that as I dictated this part I felt my eyes tearing up and a tightness in my throat, an indication that this is touching a nerve.) When I attempted to step out of that box in a big way, and attend the East Coast gathering this past fall, it was much too large a step. I have made great efforts to begin with baby steps instead. I am forcing myself to leave the house more regularly, to make friends, to do things with other people. Ever since I moved here 18 years ago, I have slowly allowed Jason to become the absolute center of my world, when instead I should have been that center. I did not make friends that were not our friends, I did not do things that he did not also do, I did not go anywhere that he was not also going. I did myself a great disservice in this, but I am working very hard – albeit very slowly – to undo that damage.

The final facet of Druidry listed here is the Love of Life. It tells us that Druidry encourages celebration and full commitment to life, that it is not a spirituality that wants us to escape from it. Too many spiritualities and religions encourage their adherence to use that spirituality or religion to escape from the life around them. This creates an unhealthy duality in those people’s lives, one which creates a balancing act that can never be completely balanced. Druidry on the other hand encourages us to live, to experience the world around us, to reflect on it. Druidry does not teach us that our actions are wrong, only that they have consequences, and in doing so allows us to learn organically rather than through dogma.

I started this post intending only to list and briefly discuss my feelings about the tenets, or facets, of Druidry. It ended up being something much more introspective for me. This exercise has shown me the areas in which I need to work on myself, and on my connection with the world around me; it has also shown me what is most important to me, and to my personal and spiritual growth.