Meandering

Last week I created a labyrinth in my backyard.  It’s a simple three circuit labyrinth, very small and simply placed.  I haven’t outlined the whole thing, and I’m not sure if I will or not at this point.

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My simple labyrinth

 

I merely placed large stones at the major points and turns, and hope to be able to ware the grass away where the path has been formed.  So far it’s working out great and I should have a nicely seen path very soon.  My experience walking it so far has been calming.  I find it a very reflective process and even strangely liberating.

Doing research on labyrinth myths and folk beliefs leads one to believe that labyrinths were used not just for meditation and reflection, but also as a way to purge oneself of worry and evils.  In the folk history of nothern europe one finds that these stone labyrinths were used to insure good fishing expeditions by trapping trolls or beings/spirits not conducive to such endeavors.  Literally people would walk a labyrinth to trap a following negative spirit in the center…seems a bit metaphoric doesn’t it.   They can also be, according to some sources, related to seasonal changes, that walking them may have emulated the awakening of the earth goddess in spring and her ‘greeting’ of the sky-god.  This interaction would have been ritualized with a young woman being placed in the center and a boy walking the labyrinth in order to find and claim her to enact the drama of spring.

Again, the benefits of labyrinths seem pretty clear to me; They offer a time of reflection, a time to put aside worry, a time of meditation, and a time of focused seperation from anything and everything else in your life.  It’s no wonder that one finds labyrinths all over Europe, in churches and at sites thought to be sacred to pagans.  Whether or not pagans were using labyrinths prior to Christians in Europe or just alongside them is anyone’s guess, but certainly in the Mediterranean labyrinths were being discussed and utilized well before the Christian era.

some references:

http://www.labyrinthos.net/pagansweden.html

http://www.ukforsk.se/nya/vhm.htm

A mystics attempt at demystifying and re-mystifying the Tarot

One of the challenges facing the new Tarot student is coming to a personal understanding of what Tarot is or is not.   Does it hold the answer for everything past and present, or is it just a collection of paper with pretty pictures?  That’s a large spectrum to begin with, but I think the extremity of those positions is fairly honest  in how both skeptics and enthusiasts see Tarot.

I’ve studied copious amounts of Tarot material, and the one thing I’ve taken away from it is this; Tarot, as modern readers and users know it, has very little in common with the card game (s) it was meant to be used for when it (or its very similar predecessor) was created in the 15th century.  All the thousands of books on the Tarot are merely guides on how everyone else perceives Tarot, and if you’re using Tarot in any way as a spiritual/mystical/life informing-affirming tool you’re relying on a very kabbalistic/hermetic creation of the 19th century. Yes, you can read the Golden Dawn material and derive all the meanings that modern practitioners use (most without even knowing themselves where much of that symbolism derives from), you can read the how-to books, and those on Tarosophy…But if you honestly look at and question the Tarot what will be your personal stance on the cards?

My stance has mostly always been that Tarot is nothing special.  I don’t charge my cards with crystals, I don’t assume they hold the keys to universal knowledge, and I don’t expect them to answer all the problems plaguing my sub-conscious.  More than not I lean toward the Tarot being a bunch of paper with pretty pictures.  Yet, I read Tarot and I work with Tarot nearly on a daily basis.  Odd you say.  Not really, I respond.  Things in my opinion don’t hold power – people do.

Tarot is a repository of wisdom, yes.  It is not wisdom in and of itself.  Tarot bares (or can bare) in it’s images generations of knowledge, a heritage of what it means to live in a Western society.  It conveys the psychological and sociological truths that we as modern individuals have been adapted to live within for hundreds of years at this point.  The multi-layered fabric of the Tarot is woven from the threads of that which we all share, it’s a mirror reflecting the great ‘Dreaming’ of Western culture – the truths of work, relationships, life challenges, our emotional well being, religion, etc.

Crowley, in his popular book The Book of Thoth expounded that the Tarot is a representation of the Cosmos, that each card is also a being, and that the deck is literally the composition and culmination of the Wisdom of Thoth.   I don’t think the Cosmos is written in the Tarot, I feel it’s wisdom is much more terrestrial and immediate to our lives – I don’t feel that each card is a unique entity but a mirror of our own existence – and Thoth had very little to do with the creation of a 15th century card game.   And to be blunt true/historical Tarot should have nothing to do with Kabbalistic wisdom.  Can it? Sure.  The beauty of Tarot is that, again, it’s a reflection of what the Reader brings to it…I tend to be pretty rational (in my opinion) when using tools like Tarot.  Some would say though that Tarot is a tool of the irrational..so there you go.

My tendency is toward seeing Tarot as a Reality Simulation device.  It’s a technology that functions as  a Simulation of events and life situations based in reality.   Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist is a great place to start with such thinking.  He goes a bit further to say that perhaps most of our icons and the symbols of our society (which Tarot of course uses and probably IS) are mostly historical and even fictitious to the modern westerner, but I digress…There is a Tarot book by Emily Auger which discusses briefly these concepts, and even postulates that Tarot is a kind of Cyber Reality Simulation, which is an absolutely inspired way of looking at the Tarot.  Cyber here means artificial or a Technology that has been manufactured or created, just as the Tarot is a technology; an artificial representation of reality. This concept really influenced my image of the Tarot and what it means to be a Reader – and the mental image of a Cyberpunk Astralnaut jacked into a fanned out Tarot spread while he co-mingles fiction, fact, and history into a hazy surreal blend of human potential is an awesome ideal.

Tarot, to end it all, is about what makes sense to you in your world.  Just as the final Major is The World (or perhaps the Fool), it’s up to the journeyer to discover just what it will be.  Use the books, use the websites, and the tutorials but remember that the mirror of the tarot is for you to understand and should not be used as just another technology meant to box you in.

Druish and those Druids

I’ve been doing tons of soul searching these days about this Druish (Druid) thing –   Is it important to have in my life? And why? And what does that mean?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is important in my life and not in the way that it has been previously.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that for me Druidry is not a Religion in and of itself, at least not to someone like myself who practices a very Heathen/Norse Religion.  For me Druid/Druish goes beyond any kind of specific tenet or dogma or even mythology.  It carries with it a history of Nature, Truth, and Mysticism that has a definition hundreds of years long through many varied changes, organizations, and minds.  It’s difficult to say for me that any particular era in that long history is any more relevant than another…

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I’ve been trying on the operations and rituals of a few different Druid groups. Most have very Wiccan-esque, Golden Dawn inspired aspects that just don’t sit well with me.  I mainly stick with a Fire, Well, Tree composition as the basis for much of my religious work, which stems from studies of Indo-european mytho constructs.  I’m just not well suited to a Hermetically inspired religious framework I’m finding, so most of the revival era Druidisms are not cutting it.  More than anything I’m personally finding that Druidry is not a central focus of my practice but an addition.  My practice is not going to change drastically and if you’ve read my Morning Devotional posts you’re more or less familiar with it.  I am very happy with my Religious practice as it is and I’m not going to pepper it with components that don’t jive with it such as directional honorings or elemental correspondences or cabalistic craziness.  I’m still working on a personal definition of Druid –  but Nature, Truth, Mysticism (a definition that sat well with me some 10-15years ago) pretty much sums it up,  though one of Peace, Knowledge, and Power sounds good too. Those definitions don’t contain a ‘this is how Druids do ritual’ or this is what they believe slogan, it merely holds a philosophical outlook.

So where does that leave me.  I think it leaves me with RDNA, or it’s like; A non-hierarchical, non-dogmatic, and a very non-specific form of Druishishness that is not Revival based, but is Reformed and open.  The one thing I didn’t like about ADF is that it calls itself a Religion ” ADF will be a Neopagan religion..,” in the words of it’s founder, Isaac Bonewits.  I can respect that vision, but it’s not what Druid means to me.

I’m left wondering still if I need to belong to or support a Druid organization or if my current practice is enough.  Druidry does not modify my practice but energizes it, it is not a practice in and of itself but a mindset…in the end perhaps it really doesn’t matter one way or another.

 

Moving On and Beyond

So, it’s been about a month since leaving ADF.  I’m not sure yet where I stand…kind of odd to still be using much of the liturgy found within the Org and yet not officially being a part of it.   But then the ritual structure of Fire, Well, Tree: Ancestors, Nature Spirits, Gods – certainly is not ADF exclusive as it has it’s roots in Indo-european myth and cosmology and can be easily found with very little research.

I have contemplated more than once why I don’t just rejoin if my practice is going to be similar to what it’s been for the near decade of my membership.  But then my leaving wasn’t necessarily based on my agreement or disagreement with the philosophy behind the Orgs ritual frame (although I do have certain issues with it and have for years trimmed away much of what I didn’t like)….it was more on the current motivating vision found in the physical Org.

It’s been rather cathartic being a freelance pagan again.  Though no member of any Org should ever feel locked into a certain mode of religious practice – not being a card holding member of this or that feels a bit boundless.  I’ve thought about membership in a few other Orgs…AODA, The Troth, FoDLA, OBOD, RDNA to name a few.   I did join the Troth, as I feel the richness of the membership pool and the openness of their ritual form still allows me the freedom to pursue a practice that is mine.  Also the Troth is of value to me in that it is specifically Germanic/Norse/Teutonic based, and positive in it’s outlook.  One of the things that annoyed me about being in ADF was that I had to explain what my membership meant.  I’ve never considered myself a ‘Druid’ and I’m not a Celtophile, I’d always have to add a cavaet about being a Heathen within a primarily Celtic/Druid leaning organization, it gets tiring.

If I were to join a ‘Druid’ org again it would probably be along the lines of RDNA or OBOD, a more philosophically based form of Druidry that is more personal and less dogmatic, and not as Theistic.   However I don’t feel the need to belong to any of these yet or to support them with my dues or membership…I’m still trying to cleanse my palate a bit.  If there’s one thing I’m questioning after leaving ADF is my Hard Polytheist stance while under it’s banner.  That’s not to say that I’m not as pious in my practice only that it seems to be changing.

I’m also thinking deeply about getting an independent Heathen group off the ground in my area, a challenging endeavor that has failed in the past.

 

 

Days of the week – Prayers

Thursday

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Thorr

Great son of the ancient earth, May I be brave this day as you are brave; May I know strength this day as you are strong; May I know courage this day as you are courageous; May I trust and defend the goodness of my brothers and sisters as you know and defend the goodness of mankind. Great son and friend of man on this day, Thors-day, may you be named and remembered!
 Thors Prayer

 

Friday

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Frigga

Great Lady of Asgard, May I be wise this day as you are wise; May I be patient this day as you are patient; May I know the peace of silence as you know that peace; May I use my words calmly and concisely as you employ your words rationally and rarely.
Great Lady of Asgard on this day, Frigs-day, may you be named and remembered!
Frigga’s Prayer

 

Sunday

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Sunna

Great Lady of Illumination, May I be bright this day as you are bright; May I be swift of thought as you are quick across the sky; May I shine this day as you shine; May my will be sure and clear as you are bold and radiant.
Great Lady of Illumination on this day, Sunna’s-Day, may you be named and remembered!
Sunna’s Prayer

 

Monday

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Mani

Great Son of Night, May I be steadfast as you are steadfast; May I realize time as an asset as you hold it fast; May I know the blessings of prayer as you bless the dark; May I trust that there will be a well lit path just as you will always be brilliant in darkest night.
Great Son of Night, Great ‘Gleamer’ and ‘Teller of Time’ on this day, Moons-Day, May you be named and remembered!
Mani’s Prayer

 

Tuesday

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Tyr

Great Father of Order, May I be honest as you are honest this day; May I know and live my Troth this day as you know and live yours this day; May I stand tall this day as you radiate from above; May I seek betterment via my sacrifices as you have sacrificed for the good of all.
Great Father of Order on this day, Tyrs-Day, may you be named and remembered!
Tyr’s Prayer

 

Wednesday

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Odinn

Great Father of Mystery, May I be impassioned this day as you are passionate this day; May I seek answers this day as you seek answers this day; May I sing strongly this day as you sing this day; May I walk a road of bold decisions and wise ways as you great Walker and Seeker travel nine worlds of foe and friend, word and deed, lore and story.
Great Father of Mystery on this day, Wodan’s-Day, may you be named and remembered!
Odinn’s Prayer

Updates, Memberships, and Resignations.

The biggest thing on my mind lately related to this blog is my standing with ADF at the moment.  Not that the Org cares so much, but I’m deeply considering my place within it.  I am burdened by questions that do not have easy answers.  ADF has been a big part of my life for almost a decade…This post has been a long time coming, a few years I would say.  I have long pondered whether being a part of this particular Org is a benefit and this post is about choosing not to ignore the questions that have arisen.

After having detailed some of my concerns with the study programs to those who oversee them no reply came.  It’s not this alone that is upsetting me about my affiliation with ADF these days, but it certainly does not help.  My overall concern is that ADF is, or is becoming, the very thing I depise in large Orgs of this sort.   Eventually the Office and Overseers of large Orgs don’t care about the average member.  Is paganism perhaps not well represented by large Orgs?…I’m beginning to think that the idea of Orgs built to hold Pagans beneath an immense canopy of relateable philosophies is an erroneous endeavor.  Perhaps Paganism is best understood locally and via small personal cells of like-minded persons.

But then I also ask myself if Pagans do better when affiliated with a large Org.  Do we need the power of a large Org to protect and further the goals of Paganism in our modern day?  Does the meer existence and membership with Orgs as large as ADF insure a political power that Pagans may be without otherwise?  Does my membership in ADF say anything of relevance?

Another post of mine Contemplation of Continuance had me writing a bit about what thoughts cause me to re-up my ADF membership every year.  I’d thought I’d ask those same questions again in light of my current mindset…

This post tends to be tough on ADF.  And I don’t necessarily mean it to be that way.  I’m not ranting on what ADF is or has become, merely on my place within it and where I am on my Pagan path these days.

Have I grown as a religious person because of membership?  I can honestly say No here.  I have not been challenged by my activity and membership for a few years now.  Does there need to be a constant state of growth…no, but what good is being a part of something if it’s only my money that an Org has.  Being that ADF cannot get it’s act together in terms of Study Courses, I see no other way to answer this.  The bigger question should be if I think ADF should even try to better it’s programs…this is one of the things I’m wrestling with.

Is ADF an organization that does good? Um..I’m not sure.  The Groves within ADF certainly address the local Pagan communities need in a way.  I’m not sure that it’s doing good by being so obviously elitist in it’s theology and ordination process, however.  I’ve had the sense from the very beginning with ADF that it was the home of snobbish academics (I perhaps fall into this category on occasion), even experiencing it directly…and that feeling has only grown through the years.  That’s not to say that I’m not proud to be a member (or past member) of an academically rigourous Org, but it has its place. So I think I’m on the fence with this question.  I think perhaps the philosophy of ADF is good; Open ritual, academic honesty, reconstructionism curbed by modern culture.  Is it enough to keep me passionate about my membership?

Have I learned?  I think I’ve learned in spite of belonging to the Org.  Not good…not good at all.

Is ADF fun? No.  It’s getting to be a chore.  This very debate that I’m having with myself about the benefits of being or not being a member is an example of that.

I’ve heard stories of other members having a rough time of the programs as well and leaving to pursue other avenues of study and ordination.  For me it’s not ordination at all cost, or by the easiest means possible, and this is by far not the be all end all reason for thinking of moving on and out of the Org.  I’ve been a Pagan for all of my adult life, and I’ve never thought that an Org can declare a person clergy…that is up to the Community itself not to an Org thousands of miles away.

In the time it took me to type this up and ponder what my ongoing affiliation with ADF means I’ve come to the realization that perhaps it is time to sever my time with ADF, that maybe I have learned all I can during my stay and that I am actually excited by the prospect of being out from under it’s canopy.  I’ve thus sent an email to the ADF Office resigning my membership and await confirmation.

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A Game of Tarot: Video follow-up

A video follow-up to my other post, A Game of Tarot concerning the game Queens of Fate: A solitaire Tarot game.

This is by no means a How to Play tutorial.  It’s merely meant to give you a look at the setup and a fast play through to get you started.

Rules for the game can be found here: QOF A Tarot Game