life, Neodruidry

Letting my mind and spirit free.

I’m writing the after a soak in loads of epsom salt. My muscles are sore and tired, but the kind of “vacation” sore and tired you get from a day of activities you’ve long looked forward to.

Can I tell you how much I love Pagan Pride Day? In the past, it was just nice to go to a place where I felt less isolated. This year, my partner and I were able to go, hang out, and just enjoy the company of good people from the Druid group I’m involved in.

We sat under the spread of an oak tree that occasionally dropped a gentle rain of acorns on us when the wind blew right, eating fruit, shaved ice, and very good Filipino food (provided by Rollz On Wheelz). There was music and dancing, and friends and acquaintances who passed by, stopped for a chat or an introduction, then drifted back into the crowd. My partner and I walked by all of the vendors, secretly pointing out what we’d bring home that afternoon and what we’d hope to see next year.

I picked up handmade soap, Florida water, supplies for offerings, a beautiful devotional bracelet to my patron deity, and a horseshoe for the front door. I also obtained a large, crocheted axolotl, and the seller and I laughed about his adorably wonky eye — as it turns out, we’re both people who gravitate toward things that are slightly off. Not always things in need of repair, but things that are a little out of the norm and likely to get overlooked. He was the last one of his kind, and I knew that leaving him behind was going to eat at me. He’s also made of very, very soft chenille, is delightful to hug, and I apologize to no one for my strange sympathies for inanimate objects.

Admittedly, the event had a strange kind of melancholy for me, too. I was talking to two people about the generational differences between witches and Pagans, open and closed practices, gatekeeping, “Witchtok,” and the seemingly shrinking role of elders in the ever-expanding online community. The internet has provided more interaction and connectivity than ever seen in history, but at a cost — the wisdom of experienced people is easily drowned out by teachings that can be inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.

I say it was melancholy for two reasons: For one, I feel a pain in my heart for people looking for a place for themselves. I was one for a long time. I was happy with an eclectic practice, but opportunities to learn from experienced practitioners were few and far between. I kludged together what scraps of information I could get but becoming part of a more organized tradition gave me something that eclecticism and patchwork internet teachings didn’t. This won’t be the case for everybody, but damn do I wish that people had access and opportunities that would let them discover and decide for themselves rather than feeling like their only options are books and social media. I know I would’ve loved to have had that opportunity years ago, even if I might’ve turned it down at the time. At the very least, I wish I had been free to make that choice for myself when I was young.

For two, I feel melancholy because it was a bit of a memento mori. Every day brings me closer to being an elder, or a spiritual ancestor. The idea of mortality isn’t really what bothers me — I more than made peace with that a long time ago — but the feeling of ever-plodding obsolescence is. It’s like a sense of loss for something that isn’t gone yet. I don’t really know how to describe it.

So I guess all of this is to say that I love feeling like I’m in a place I belong. It reminds me of the warm, vibrant, thrumming dance of life, with all of its sweetness and bitterness and joy and sorrow and love and loss. I love the drums and the hum of insects. I love the smells of incense and late summer wind through oak leaves. I love the candy sweetness of syrupy ices and the coolness of Florida water on my temples. I love the warmth of tree-dappled sunlight and the smooth coolness of polished bone.

Arright, I’m gonna go before I get more emotional. I need to get the cabbage butterflies off my broccoli anyhow.

Here ’til the lettuce peeks to see the salad dressing,

j.

Burning incense.
life, Witchcraft

Rosemary for Remembrance

My family has a long history of military service stretching back on both sides — all the way back to the soldiers in Acadia and beyond. I don’t know the names of my ancestors who died in war, though I’m sure there must have been some. Monday was Memorial Day, so I thought I’d do a Witchcraft Wednesday post on a ritual for memorializing the departed. Even if your Memorial Day plans don’t include rituals or spellwork, or you usually perform your remembrance work around Samhain (when the veil between worlds is thinnest), this is a good, simple working for this time of year.

All you’ll need are:

  • A white (or natural beeswax) candle
  • Rosemary oil (optional)
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • A piece of string or ribbon
  • The names, photos, or even just visualizations of your departed ancestors
  • Other herbs or woods associated with remembering or honoring the dead, like marigold. Oak is symbolic of strength, vitality, and victory, and is often a motif on military headstones.

Begin by anointing the candle with rosemary oil, if you wish. Next, fashion the rosemary into a wreath and tying it with the string or ribbon. If it is large enough, place it around the base of the candle. If not, place it before it. Inhale the sweet green aroma, as rosemary is the herb of remembrance. Let whatever memories or images it conjures up for you flow.

Fresh herbs.

If you have photos or belongings from the deceased, or even just other herbs, leaves, or flowers, arrange them how you wish. There is no right or wrong way.

You can say a few words acknowledging your lost ancestors’ bravery or sacrifice, if you wish. This is a complicated time for many people, and that’s okay. Many people choose military service as a way for them or their families to escape poverty, which is a terrible choice to have to make. Even if you are a pacifist, or are against the wars that they fought, you may wish to acknowledge the courage it took to go into the battle that claimed their lives.

Light the candle.

Say,

“The ones you left behind mourn you, but you are beyond pain and fear. You did not return home, but you are alive in our hearts and minds. Be at peace.”

If your belief system includes reincarnation, now is a good time to visualize your ancestor as they might have been reborn — free and happy, in a healthy, uninjured body. You can add some words to that effect, if you wish.

Allow the candle to burn. Dispose of the ritual remains in a manner appropriate to your tradition.

Though Memorial Day is for honoring the fallen, there are those still living who have sacrificed their well-being. The Wounded Warrior Project has a variety of veteran programs designed to help them move forward with mental and physical wellness, career and VA counseling, and more. If you can, please consider donating.

Books, Neodruidry

Let’s Read: A History of Pagan Europe

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Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick’s A History of Pagan Europe was originally recommended to me years ago, and I pretty much just read it for the fun of it. When it popped up on the approved reading list for the ADF dedicant path, I realized it’d probably be a good time to give it a closer look. It’s a rather dense read (though still an enjoyable one), and, considering the subject matter, it takes a couple of passes to really absorb all of the information presented.

paganeurope

Jones and Pennick do an excellent job of connecting dots between disparate cultures, explaining each area’s stages of religious development in easy-to-understand terms. (The convergent evolution of the concept of sacred wells/trees/etc. between Mediterranean and Celtic cultures was especially interesting.) I particularly enjoyed the analysis of Celtic culture pre-Roman contact. There’s really a dearth of information available on this period — it seems like a lot of what we know is via the Roman conquest itself. Because of Rome’s relatively relaxed attitude toward outsider religions, many aspects of Celtic religion were preserved (albeit in an altered form) through syncretism with the dominant religion of Rome. The Druids disappeared. Their symbols, deities, and sacred sites, however, survived.

(Ultimately, it was this attitude that led to the persecution of monotheists — Rome didn’t particularly care what religion anyone was, so long as every citizen honored the ruler’s personal deity. It was believed that this helped preserve the state itself, and thus failing to do so was tantamount to treason.)

A History of Pagan Europe is a bit dry, as many books of this nature are, but it’s a book I find myself returning to now and then. There’s a lot to take in, and, as a Pagan, I feel that sources like this are important — simple, factual, without a lot of the editorializing you find in books geared toward a new-age or Pagan audience.