Some New Tarot Spreads for Uncertain Times

Path Forward Spread (1)

This first one I called “A Path Forward” and it kinda weighs three options for moving forward in an uncertain situation.

Card 1: Represents you. You could choose an indicator, if that’s your sorta thing, but I’m a glutton for punishment and like to let the deck tell me exactly what sort of disaster I’m being at any given point in time.

Card 2: What Crosses You. Basically a big influence causing the period of indecision, stagnation, and tension.

Card 3: Represents the Path You’re Currently On. Meaning, based upon the patterns you’re following and the energy at hand, this is the way things are headed.

Card 4: Road Block! This is what’s keeping you from moving forward on the path you’re currently on.

Card 5: Alternate Route #1. This can be an option you’ve already considered or a suggestion someone (heck maybe the cards suggest it) gave you.

Card 6: Road Block for Alternate Route #1. Self explanatory.

Card 7: Alternate Route #2. Just like the first alternate route, this is just another possible path to take.

Card 8: You guessed it, this is a Road Block to Alternate Route #2. But don’t worry, there are still three more cards left in this reading.

Card 9: Overcoming the road block for the path you’re on. This should be a practical action to take towards pushing through and continuing on your way.

Card 10: A means of overcoming the road block for Alternate Route #1. Again. Practical action to take. A means of clearing your options.

Card 11: A means of overcoming the road block for Alternate Route #2.

This spread is meant less to be an outcome thing, and more of a means of examining some options when it feels like you’re spinning your wheels.

Key to Purpose

The second spread I’ve (for now) called the “Key to Your Purpose” spread and is meant for those existential “What do I wanna do with my life?” sort of times.

Card 1: Again, this will represent you. Just like the last spread, you can pick an indicator, or let the cards call it like it is.

Card 2: What Crosses You. The big influence/situation that’s got you feeling this way.

Card 3: The Path You’re On. What you’re currently doing!

Card 4: The Thing You were Meant to Do. What it is you’re being called to do. It could align well with Card 3. It might not.

Card 5: The Turning Point. The means of moving from the path you’re on, to the path you’re meant to be on. Like turning a key that unlocks a door.

Cards 6-8 are practical actions to take in order to achieve this. Card 5 gives you the big picture, but 6-8 are meant to be the little steps to take.

Card 9: Your Purpose. Sort of an outcome card. This card should (hopefully) grant some closure. A goal to work towards. A purpose for life that is achievable through the advice given in the earlier cards.

Hope these are helpful to someone!

Forest Blessings,
/|\ Rachel

Ritual at the Hunter’s Moon

This past full moon, often called the Hunter’s Moon, marked my eighth year in working with the Wylde Hunt. This year has already made me keenly aware of how quickly time can fly by. An eight-year milestone in something that still feels so new to my path is mind boggling to me, and yet… here I am nonetheless.

I typically mark the Hunter’s Moon each year. It’s become something of a tradition to honor my relationship with my hunter god and his cohort then. Autumn has well and truly fallen upon us now. Samhain isn’t far behind. The winds are fierce and chill. It is their season, after all. That this Hunter’s Moon fell upon the anniversary date of that fateful evening in my parents’ backyard felt especially potent.

The past five months or so have also revolved around beginning a new chapter in my life. I touched on this in my post for Lughnasadh, but much has changed in my life. A couple big moves. A new career choice, new relationship. The freedom of having my own vehicle. My time since last year’s Hunter’s Moon has been spent in a sort of transient path of self discovery- I’m not actually certain that it’s ended yet. This season, I believe, has been a lesson in realizing there needn’t always be a direction or a plan.

At any rate, I wanted to mark the occasion with something special, and also to reaffirm my path which had been left to the wayside for months while I was in Georgia and in the process of moving and settling in again. The ritual I constructed drew on a few different things that had been potent to me in the past. One of them was Damh the Bard’s post about the Ritual of the Wild. Another was a rite originally dedicated to the Washer at the Ford aspect of the Morrigan found in Stephanie Woodfield’s book Celtic Lore and Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan. There were also some affirmations made along the way through my Bardic Studies that found their way into this ritual. What it resulted in was a potent ritual of rebirth and reaffirmation of my path.

It was cold, but clear that night, and the moon rose quickly to cast its silver glow on the whole of our yard. I gathered a vessel of water, an offering of whiskey, and some herbs I had blended and stepped out into the night. It was too windy for fire, and so I brought a small flashlight with which to read my notes by.

The night wasn’t as quiet as I’d hoped. Somewhere in the distance, a boat horn could be heard loudly and intermittently blasting from over the bay and the river to the south east (My girlfriend later pointed out: was it a boat horn? or the hunter’s horn? I’m sure I know the truth, but the more imaginative answer makes me feel less frustrated by it in hindsight). It had been ages since I’d cast a circle. Doing so just felt natural though; how many times had I walked that same circular path around our firepit? I couldn’t say, but the energy of that memory bolstered me.

I called for peace at the quarters, and stood, facing the northwest and the forest I couldn’t see in the darkness. I called to the Hunters then. Sometimes, the reassurance of something larger than ourselves is subtle- a gentle rise in the winds and in the whispering of the cottonwoods overhead, a certain rising of goosebumps on the skin. 

I returned to the center, where I’d placed my tools on the cold stones of the firepit. A little billow of ash danced in the wind and off into the darkness. I emptied the herbs I’d prepared into the water, and I called to the Hunters for rebirth. I meditated a moment on the things I wished to leave behind, on the person I wished to become. And then, as the oils and herbs had steeped the water, I washed my hands with it, symbolically scrubbing away the old and worn out things that were holding me back.

Then I knelt and placed my head to the ground, and using some of the dialogue from Damh’s Ritual of the Wild and affirmations I’d used along my bardic studies, I spoke my desires into being. I struggled a little with remembering the words- but then felt a gentle reassurance: “Just speak from your heart.” I spoke aloud affirmations about feeling renewed on my path, about finding my place as a teacher and using my skills to guide others. I affirmed a release of relationships and toxic behaviors that hold me back. I spoke of living more fully and completely in the world- whatever joys or struggles that might entail.

As I stood, the wind gently rose again, bitterly cold from the northwest. And I raised my offering to the Hunters. Another turning has come, and I walk with renewed purpose. I buried in the soft ground around the firepit some wooden staves marked with the things I intended to leave behind and those I wished to manifest, and the necessity of change and transformation to achieve that end. I thanked the Hunters for their guidance, and I opened my circle.

My mind’s eye is always a little more colorful and dramatic as I’m preparing rituals. It’s why I’ve quit truly planning them altogether. The thing I’ve learned about initiations and dedications however, is that the shift in question has already begun long before the ritual take place. The ritual simply calls it into your conscious mind; the changes have been being made, little by little, for some time. And so, it needn’t be a flashy dramatic ritual with intense supernatural experiences. Sometimes, subtlety is even more potent.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Lughnasadh: Reflections on Summer

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My “wicker” man perched atop my altar.

It feels like ages since I’ve posted, and yet like the summer has absolutely flown by in the blinking of an eye. A great deal has happened and it feels like a great unraveling and re-weaving of a tapestry. It’s all seemed a blur, but I’m able to sit now and reflect and give thanks for the process though I know the work is not yet over… but after all, that is what Lughnasadh is about, isn’t it? Giving thanks for the first fruits of our labor though we know there is still much left to do.

In the past months since posting, I’ve moved back to Michigan from Georgia and, on mutual terms, ended the long-term relationship I’d been in. I left a living and job situation that was not promoting growth and stability like I had hoped that it would. The stars (or energies, or whatever) aligned so that I was able to get my job back in my home town, and I have my own little bit of space in my parents’ house. Right now, I’m looking at returning to school to become an English teacher. I have the freedom to drive where I please. There’s a great deal I’ve been thinking and feeling, that for sake of privacy I won’t divulge here, but for the first time in I can’t quite remember when… I feel happy and fulfilled and hopeful for the future.

This year, as I was crafting my “wicker” man (he’s truthfully made out of sticks, wild grapevine, leaves, tigerlilly stems, and all manner of other foliage from my back yard), I began with a poppet. I’d wanted him to be a little bit more stable, but I also decided to fill him with written prayers of thanks, affirmations of the personal transformations I’ve been undergoing, herbs and scraps from spells over the past winter, and all my hope for the coming fall and winter.

Lughnasadh has always been for me one of those important touchstone holidays. I may skip nearly every other sabbat in the Wheel of the Year, but I’ll find time to bake and to get crafty and gather friends together to mark the start of Summer’s end. I make the first pumpkin bread of the year. The Halloween costume shops start to crop up around town. There’s a cool breeze now and again in the air that smells like the coming rains of autumn. The leaves and grasses are more yellowed with the languid late-July/early-August heat, and the spring and summer flowers are fading away. Crows have moved into my family’s yard and chatter away each morning. The countdown to the renaissance festival has begun.

As I write this, my bread has just finished baking and my wickerman is perched upon the altar awaiting a small rite tomorrow. I am deeply thankful for the lessons and the strength the beginning of 2019 has given me. I look forward to whatever the coming months have in store.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Thinking About: My Neo-Paganism

The Wild Unknown Tarot and Candle

Today, I was forwarded an article by Sarah Anne Lawless, titled “For Sale: Neopganism ‘As Is'”. It’s a powerful read, and I do recommend you head over and give it a look if you haven’t seen it floating about the good ol’ neopagan / witchy online community already. I won’t expound too much upon the details within the article. This is meant to be a response to it, not a review or criticism of it. In this poignant work of prose, Sarah Anne Lawless calls attention to the misinformation, lack of consistency, and abuse facing the community at-large.

Some of the information presented: about the origins of the religious and spiritual movements I have been / currently am a part of, about some of the abuse within the community, about the incorrect ‘historical’ information that is often given in widely published books on the topic, was not foreign to me. I spent a great deal of time in my under-grad applying my newly-acquired skills of research to that which was near and dear to my heart: my spirituality.  Some of the information was new, and I admit I was a little heart-broken to hear so many stories of abuse and manipulation associated with something that has brought me so much joy, learning, and purpose in life.

With the negativity floating about in the rest of the world and with as entrenched into the neo-pagan community as these issues seem, it feels very easy to become dejected and hopeless. I don’t want to let that get me down; I want to use it as a motivation for change.

My response to this article is not to review it and dissect it, but to acknowledge that there are real problems that I as a young adult within the community, as a blogger, as a person capable of speaking out about these things want to work to change- and must change if I want the neo-pagan community to be a safe place in the future for myself, for my friends, and for the future generations.

I wanted this post to be a promise to myself, to those who follow this blog, and those affected by my actions within the community:

This is a promise that I will be one-hundred percent honest in the historical context of my spiritual traditions. That I will not willing spread mis-information, and work to correct it should I accidentally do so. That my study will be not of just mass-produced books touting appropriation and misinformation as “ancient tradition” but tempered with actual research, and acknowledgement of what I was inspired by and what is of my own creation. I will not stand for blatantly appropriative behavior in the community. We can share and be inspired by one-another without claiming something as our own.

This is a promise that my neo-paganism is centered in nature-centric and animistic beliefs, and that it honors the past without attempting to claim it. It is a promise that sex and sexuality, while natural, are honored and treated appropriately. I will not stand for sexual abuse in our community. I will not stand for manipulation and abuse of any sort within our community.

This is a promise that my blog and the spaces that I hold on the internet are, and will continue to be safe spaces for people regardless of age, sex, gender, race, etc.

This post stands as an acknowledgement that I am not, and never have been perfect. Humans make mistakes. Well-meaning people spread things without realizing the effect. But this is a promise that I will continue to try and do better in the future.

Let’s make our community better. Let’s get back to the things that matter: personal spiritual growth and caring for one another and our world.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Thinking About: Personal Deities

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This is a topic I’ve been wanting to take on for some time, but have been unable to find the proper words to do so- perhaps there never really are any. Something I’ve been working on over the past year or so is my relationship with deity. For several years, I’d defined myself and my path by them: “I’m a devotee of Herne the Hunter” or “I worship the Goddess Cerridwen” etc. I spent countless hours reading and re-reading myths, researching, learning, reaching out…

And over time had my own experiences that I then would try to rationalize against the mythologies. “I experienced x, is it y trying to contact me? How do I know?” I see these questions posted all over the online pagan communities- as though you were going to a doctor. List the symptoms, and someone will hopefully be able to tell you what it is you have. List your experiences and maybe someone who’s been practicing and studying longer than you will know the god or goddess who matches.

But when is a raven a messenger of Odin rather than a messenger of Bran or The Morrigan- or none of those at all? What if all signs point to Cerridwen, except this handful of experiences that don’t match anything in the established lore and practice of those already worshiping her? Does it matter? Does it make it less valid? How does one justify it?

What if, as it happened to me in the springtime of last year, you are faced with the divine who is such a myriad of things that she seems not to be able to fit in any one goddess’s body of myth?

Moon Goddess
The goddess in question appeared to me in several dreams and meditations cloaked in the deep blue of the starry night, half her face in shadow the other luminescent and beautiful like the moon. She carried in one hand a staff of birch that held a silvery sickle-moon crescent, and in the other a lantern that cast a cool blue light. She was a guardian of the cauldron, a washer of the ford, a wanderer in the mists, the cold kiss of death, the hands that wove the stars… And though I saw her face echoed in the stories of Morrigan, Cerridwen, Arianrhod, Hel, Artemis… I could not attribute a single one of these goddesses to her.

moon goddess sculpture

For a time, she worried and confused me. Who was she? I wanted to find an answer in a book or a blog post, or some obscure myth in fragment over the tides of history. The more I looked, the more pointless the search became, but still she called to me more than any deity ever had, and I knew I must answer her call.

I moved away from myth and tradition- though they have their place as things to honor, to draw inspiration from, to find guidance in- and started to simply interact with deity in the way it presented itself to me. What I have found is something more deep, profound, and personal than any relationship I’ve ever had. There is a goddess I worship whose name has, perhaps, only been whispered on my lips. She guides me in the darkness.

Horned God

A similar issue had arisen during college with my relationship with the Horned God. There was a darker side to the Hunter that I did not find present in existing myths, and I tried fruitlessly to pinpoint: Is it Herne, or some other being I work with? Now it does not matter. He appears to me dragon scaled or clad in a cloak of feathers, his eyes dark like the soil or the midnight sky, and like the Lady with the Lantern, he has names that only I call him, and my path is all the richer.

I guess what I am saying is that it is perfectly fine to connect with particular gods and goddesses, to reach for them or find inspiration and connection within the stories that exist about them. It’s more than okay to try and follow traditions and old ways and rationalize. But there’s something deep and rich and worth exploring, in not worrying about the who’s and why’s and letting the divine express themselves to you in the ways that they wish.

Blessings of the Forest, Frost, and Moon,
Rachel

 

Thinking About: Samhain

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A small shrine I set up on my altar. On it, are pieces of jewelry from my mom, my grandmother, and great grandmother.

In this corner of Michigan, it feels almost as though Samhain and Autumn itself have been skipped. The weather has gotten incredibly chilly already, and it seems like the leaves have been dropping a bit faster than they used to. With the all of the warnings about the dangerous changes in the climate, I can definitely feel on these frigid blustery days that something is amiss.

But even the spirit of autumn seems absent. It feels like a dreary veil of grey has sort of fallen over the whole ordeal. Where I would usually be preparing for Samhain, I’m filled with a sort of apathy. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the environment. Perhaps with all that is filling my mind between the horrors of United States politics, the climate, and what’s going on in my own personal life, I just don’t have the energy left.

The time between Mabon, which passed with very little feeling for me this year, and Samhain are usually filled with a great deal of creativity and spiritual activity. The Wylde Hunt appears again in the blustery winds and the rolling thunderstorms. But this year it feels stagnant, and murky. It’s hard to feel as connected as I typically do.

However, I’m of the opinion that succumbing to that feeling of despair and hollowness only gives it a further foothold. Today, after several weeks of disuse, I approached my altar, lit some candles, placed some items in its center to honor my ancestors and family. The feelings of autumn might feel missing, but there is still time to reflect; to tend to the decaying and changing happening under the surface; to honor what was, what is, and what shall be; and to reach out and feel that yes, those energies are still there even when we don’t feel them to be present in our lives.

I suspect Samhain will be a quiet one for me this year. There’s much to think about, and much that needs to change- on a global level and a personal level. Last year was about re-attuning to the cycles and finding the rhythm without the old markers for shifts in the seasons. This year has been a lesson in subtlety, and feeling connected even when it feels most difficult to do so.

What are your plans for Samhain? How are you preparing for the darker part of the year, and the changes still ahead?

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

A Lament at Mabon

I’ve found myself feeling very disconnected and aloof lately. What follows is a bit of wax-poetic rambling from earlier this evening as I sat among the trees to enjoy the energies of Mabon, and the rising of the Full Moon.

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“Princess of Cups” from The Druidcraft Tarot, artwork by Will Worthington

Once I knew the language of trees
How each rustling of their leaves
Could mean so much—if only one knew how to listen.

Once I had so much definition in just that one thing:
That I could see their faces and
Read their leafy lips as they blew in the autumn breezes.
And now it seems so foreign…
Have I been so long in this land of fluorescence and brick?
Have I been gone so long that I have forgotten
How sweet the melodies of the forest can be?

Now it fills my heart not with understanding
But with a melancholy longing
For that which once felt so familiar to me, no—
That which still feels familiar—
But only the familiarity of a dream
As though in the very throes of sleeping wonder
I’ve been wrested from it by mundane duty.
Ephemeral on the edges of my consciousness:
Like flickering of faery light,
And distant horns of hunters that roam the evening skies.

In my heart, with each pulsing of the blood that flows through my veins,
I feel it… an echo.
An echo of something deeper—and much more profound and yet:
In my waking consciousness, I cannot quite put finger on that which I have lived before.
The melody haunts my eardrums and yet I cannot quite put to fingertips—
Or lips—the profound tune that catches in the wind and then is gone.

Faintly, my mind’s eye remembers beauty which no photograph, no drawing—
No painstaking sketch could ever come close to imagining.
On the tip of my tongue, the faintest taste of something… something…
Always searching for that which I cannot in waking consciousness grasp.

With each falling leaf,
With each howl on the wind that seems to pierce my very soul…
I want to remember
I want to wake up
Back in the place where trees spoke and moonlight bled between the branches on inky nights…

There were nights when I would run
From phantom figures in the trees,
Where I swear I heard the hoof-beats harrying me along dirt paths…

There were nights, long ago, that seemed to go on forever,
Where the cold dark eyes of a vampire
Haunted me in my sleep,
Where deep and sorrowful melodies pulled me into a sense of ecstasy.

There nights when I could hear the goddess calling me in the mists,
Her silver light a comfort,
A crow to show me the way…

And yet, now…

I cannot feel more than mere glimmers of what had once been
There was a time when I had tasted of Cerridwen’s cauldron—
When I could see the way energy moved through the land—
So apparent to my sight, that I felt one with them.

And now…
I am so trapped in that webbing of wire and artificial light
That I find myself balking at the very notion of sitting in my own yard past sunset.

And yet
Here I am on the verge of dusk,
Staring, trembling, into the forest—
As if on this night of all nights
Something will come to me that will wake me from this madness

On this grassy marshland hill,
Perhaps I’ll find a wonder—or a wound…
Like blessed Pwyll, of Dyfed before me,
Perhaps my lady in white will come riding by to take me back to that place of understanding,
That place of oneness…

Perhaps the dark hunter will blow his horn
And carry me upon his steed and into the western winds.

Or perhaps,
I will have sat here, my heart broken open,
Only to return again tomorrow
To that endless drudgery of everyday life…

Lughnasadh Reflections

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While last summer seemed to stretch on forever this one has just flown by. Lughnasadh has passed and though there’s a stretch of muggy days left, fall is coming, and I am very much ready for its return. I’ve now completed a little over a year working in the RV industry, and August heralds the winding down of the camping season, and a slower pace of work. It is both relieving (fewer people in the store, fewer broken parts to match up, etc.) and worrisome; the days at work seem longer when there’s less to do and it can be agonizingly boring at times. I fear stagnation and falling into a lull as the days grow quiet and dark.

This year was the first that I did not craft a “wicker” man to toss into a bonfire on Lughnasadh. This past year or so, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, has been strange. I’m finding myself without the people and traditions that used to act as markers for my point of being in the cycles of time. It was a little disorienting, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it exactly other than it was just… weird.

All the same, Lughnasadh has come to take on yet another new meaning for me (I was musing as I wrote this post that it seems to be one of the festivals that changes for me in subtle ways all the time, and yet still remains my favorite of the eight). Rather than being a time to prepare and gear up for school and for being extremely active in an academic/work sense, it is now a time to breath a little sigh. I can look forward to quieter days ahead, more opportunity to take time off, my favorite local festivals and events, etc. It’s almost taken on a completely opposite meaning, and yet… It also heralds a time for myself to get working on projects. Newfound free time means work should be done on things like the blog, steps towards my future, my art, etc. It is only in working through these things I’ll avoid the brainfog that seemed to settle in between about November and June for me.

What is your relationship with the first harvest? How and when do/did you celebrate it?

Yours among the ripening apples,
Rachel

A Journey With the Wheel of the Year

The Wheel from The Wildwood Tarot

The Wheel of the Year is, easily, one of the most unifying things in the neo-pagan community. The seasonal festivals might have slightly different names or customs between practitioners and groups, but most (that I’ve seen) seem to acknowledge in some way, shape, or form, the eight stations of the Wheel of the Year.

In recent years, I’ve seen (and participated in) a number of attempts at re-thinking the Wheel of the Year. After all, the eight sabbats were created based on ancient western European agrarian festivals. While incorporating ancient practices and interpretations brings us closer to our long-lost pagan ancestors and the rhythms of the land and its seasons, it’s a system that doesn’t necessarily fit everyone’s paganism.

Michigan is definitely not in perfect sync with the traditional Wheel of the Year. For example, Imbolc and Ostara, usually regarded as the beginnings of spring are usually cold and icy here- with snow storms likely to continue well into April. Lughnasadh doesn’t quite see the first of our grain (though there is some summer sweet corn), but there are tart blueberries to pick.

Much of the last few years had involved much of coming into my own particular path as a pagan as well as a young adult. I’ve gone over the high days almost each time they come to pass, rethinking traditions, adding new things to my celebrations, letting go of what is of little use to me, etc.

But something happened: I graduated from college, and suddenly all the markers I used to use for stopping to observe my place along the Wheel of the Year were gone. It wasn’t noticeable at first. Beltane just after I’d graduated from college was, after all, still the sweet beginning of summer and freedom from the academic part of the year. Midsummer was my usual return to my spiritual and artistic work… But Lughnasadh was no longer about preparing for the coming school year- in fact, there was very little to really prepare for, because I work in an industry with a busy season between May and October. If anything, it was a breath of release- but I didn’t know what to do with it.

I had spent the last thirteen years or so of my path defining my year by the patterns of that which had defined a great deal of my life: school. My view had been framed around cycles of classes and how my paganism and my artistic interests were able to be enjoyed in relation to those cycles. My rituals for the sabbats centered around preparations for what was to come: being away at school, finals perhaps, a free period in the summer to work on my own projects, etc. I had celebrated the turning Wheel of the Year with the same handful of people- people who have since gone about their separate ways, who are in different parts of the state or country, or vastly different paths in life.

By about Imbolc, I was feeling really very lost and lonely, and really beating myself up for not having “done anything” for most of a year.

A short while after Beltane, when all had come full circle once again, I felt the strength to sort of pick up where I’d been with my OBOD course work and personal study. What I realized was that it was completely OK that I hadn’t performed any rituals or felt connected to the few celebrations I had hosted. After all, a great deal of my previous frame of reference was sort of lost in a pretty sudden way.

What I’d accomplished in not worrying about the rituals or the fact things hadn’t gone exactly the way I’d hoped, was that I was able to observe and learn a new cycle for the year. Now, it’s almost flipped from what it had been: where my period of “rest” and personal work had once been May-September, now it’s more like October-May when work is slower and there’s less yard projects to worry about around the house.

I’ve become more intimately aware of the seasons and patterns of nature as they manifest around my local area. The leaves turn gold in October. Orion is visible over the horizon in late September. Sometimes there’s a random thaw in January. This is where I can see the Moon through my bedroom window in the summer time. The crows return to the yard in late June and stay through most of the fall… These sorts of things are now a part of my view of the wheel, and I’ve begun again the process of reexamining the cycles and seasons of my life and my practice.

What is your relationship with the Wheel of the Year? Have you ever experienced a period of time where it seems almost entirely foreign to you? How did you overcome that? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Yours beneath the maple boughs,

Rachel

Thinking About: Initiations / Rites of Dedication

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Yesterday, I was finally able to perform my initiatory rite into the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I’m not able to speak at great length about the ritual itself in this post, but I can speak about my feelings leading up to it, and my thoughts following its completion.

Despite having the materials for the course for the past six months or so, I had done very little of the actual course work. Life sort of caught up with me, and my job, home life, and mental health just did not lend me the time and proper head space I had needed to perform the rite. Thankfully, the quiet spell has seemed to have broken over the past couple of days, and I’m feeling called home once again to my practice, my art, and my studies with the little warm spell we appear to be having.

Strangely enough, it was the rite of initiation that had given me some of the most trouble in the materials I had received- not because of its content or its format or any objections I had with what it would entail. I couldn’t quite place the source of it for those first months- in fact, I don’t know that I realized some of the… oddness I’d been feeling until I was speaking to a friend about the topic this afternoon.

Every so often, I had found myself called to go over it once again. I’d start making the plans and preparing for it, and something would come up: the weather would get bad, I’d have something I had to do, etc. It would be set aside and left for the next time I’d felt the stirring somewhere within me to get back to work.

Yesterday was different. I had finally accomplished reformatting the rite a bit so that it would work with the amount of private space I had and a few other technicalities; it sat in my journal, just waiting to be performed. Yesterday was another of our random January thaws. The sun was bright and we were nearing forty or fifty degrees Fahrenheit rather than the bitter 10’s and 20’s that are typical of this time of year. I felt it on my way in to work that morning; something was stirring. By the time I was home for the afternoon, the desire to be outdoors and working on something was burning within me.

And something spoke to me then: the initiation ritual. And after months of trying to plan it out, to perhaps contact other local-ish OBOD members to assist me in performing it, to make sure everything was prepared… I decided simply that I was going to go through with it, and quickly gathered some incense and a candle and my journal, and headed out to the small grove of pine and cedars that has been my sacred space for over ten years…

The ritual was nice, pleasant, it brought me back to a sense of being at home- on my land, within my being, in my spirituality… But as I was walking inside after its completion, and as I was talking to my friend this afternoon, I couldn’t help but think that initiation and dedication rites are never quite as profound as we expect them to be.

herne candle

I find I’m always, on a certain level, expecting the ritual itself to be the eye-opening, awen-inspired moment of “Ah-ha! I understand completely, and now everything will start to be different!” But as I reflected upon my journey to the rite itself, and upon the lessons included with the ritual in my course materials, I realized that the true initiation had begun long before I had stepped out the door that afternoon.

Initiation and dedication to a specific path happens not in the single moment of a ritual. They begin within us before a circle is drawn or a candle lit. The shift of paradigm has occurred before the rite; the rite is merely a formality, a means of affirming that which we have already long known to be true. The epiphany is not a new paradigm or state of being, but a realization that we have arrived at this new place some time ago, and can now acknowledge and celebrate it.

For me, that shift started back some seven or so years ago, when I first saw the Green Man staring up at me from the pages of a book, and I started upon my discovery of Druidry. It was there in my discovery of the OBOD’s countless open resources, the befriending of other members of the order, the books, podcasts, YouTube videos, music, etc. that I found resonated with me- which were created by members. A shift had occurred the day that I purchased the Bardic Grade course, and again on the day I received the first packet of gwersi in the mail. What happened in the grove yesterday was merely me finding the voice to affirm and speak aloud the truths that had been in my heart for years. And now, the journey deeper into my studies continues.

What are your experiences with initiation rites or dedication rituals (be them to a new path, deity, etc.)? Share, if you’d like, in the comment section below.

Blessings of the Winter Forest,
Rachel