Hymn to the Winter Hunt

Winter is nearing its end here as Imbolc approaches, but the howling snows that have returned to Michigan this week make me feel as though we’ve still some time to go. This poem was originally written for the winter issue of Ink & Fairydust, an e-zine of fanfiction, poetry, spiritual writings, and other various creative works. Being that it’s been out for some months, I wanted to finally share it here…

Hymn to the Winter Hunt

When the cold winds from the northwest blow,
When the moonlight casts its silver glow,
When the dark skies threaten snow
T’is then I hear their call.

It echoes through dark forest and fen-
A droning horn- and silence then
That makes the wary traveler ken
The truth behind the squall.

In the icy blasts of wind that cut
Through clothes and doors kept tightly shut
There is a pounding. Do you seek what
Lies out there in the thrall?

The Horned Man on rugged beast
That hunts the boar to make his feast
Or maybe like some darkened priest
Beckons you to heed the call.

To ride on winds above the ice,
To give the greatest sacrifice,
And surrender to that which does entice…
Are you ready for the fall?

Or perhaps, in swirling dark
You’ll fly just like a meadowlark
And find some light, a warming spark
Of truth behind it all.

Take heed, take heed oh you who go
To travel in the ice and snow
For hunters harry you as you go-
Death comes to us all.

Advertisements

Thinking About: Initiations / Rites of Dedication

yule lantern

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

Imbolc: The Light in the Darkness

candle glow.JPG

As the new solar year gets under way, it is nearing the time of Imbolc. In Druidry, and indeed for many neo-Pagans, this is a festival that marks the returning of spring. The light has started to return to us following the Winter Solstice, or Yule, and the first signs of new life can begin to be seen. It is associated with a return to youth, light in the last dark months of winter, a time for stirring from our post-holiday stupor, as it were.

I do quite honestly believe that this year is the first year in which I feel these things in any sort of real sense. For several years, my practice often completely overlooked the festival altogether. How could I celebrate the coming of spring when I’m up to my rear in snow? Where was the light at the end of the tunnel when we’d hit only about a quarter of the way through the Winter Semester of the academic year? After the solar New Year’s glimmer and excitement had faded, it was altogether much more difficult for me to find that same light still burning by the time we had reached Imbolc. A bit of a seasonal rut and bout of depression seemed to hit every February without fail as I juggled work, school, and social life, as well as trying to even find the motivation for the simplest of continuances of my pagan practice. Celebration and ritual generally wasn’t in the schedule for me.

IMG_2435.JPG

This year feels different, and I’m a little disappointed that it a) took me this long to find a connection with that idea of hope and of light returning for this sabbat, and b)is occurring right before I move to a drastically different climate where I’ll have to learn again the patterns of the Wheel of the Year as they unfold in the tropics rather than in my rather temperate home state. Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having; I was able to take a walk in the ravines this afternoon without gloves or anything of the sort because it was nearing forty degrees Fahrenheit. I’m almost more willing to believe that spring is nearing this year. It might also be that I’ve something new to look forward to in the coming months: graduation and the start of a new life.

Early January was sort of riddled with a deep depression that I had sunken into, but now that things have started to move forward, I’m gradually feeling a bit better. There’s something stirring, and I’m hoping it’s something better than last year had to offer about this time.

Here’s hoping you all have a blessed sabbat however you do- or don’t!- celebrate it. May the quiet and steadfast light of hope and life reborn be with you as The Wheel continues to turn.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Winter Break: Looking Forward

The semester is at its end, and that means that Yule is fast approaching. The Fall 2016 semester has been, without a single doubt, the hardest and most taxing semester for me emotionally, spiritually, etc. since my first semester at college (and maybe even fall of last year and all associated drama). My academic courses were challenging, and I experienced a total upheaval of some things within my own interpersonal relationships; that is the reason for my relative silence on the blog over the last several months. I’ve lost a couple of people along they way- and fallen short on a lot of projects that I’d hope to have going throughout the course of this semester. At times lately, it feels as though I’ve sort of pushed myself back to zero- but I know better. I’ve learned a great deal about myself in regards to my own limits, thoughts, means of self-expression, etc. And I’ve learned a great deal in the terms of time management, dealing with other people, and more.

I’ve seen a few posts floating around that explained how, numerologically, 2016 was a ‘9 Year’: a time for dramatic changes, the shaking up of foundations, etc. I know that nationally (as an American), and globally, I’ve seen that to be true; although I won’t comment on politics and the like here (I don’t feel as though I’m well-informed enough, and quite frankly, that wasn’t my hopes for this post). And, as I’ve indicated above, I’ve seen a great deal of this theme of loss, chaos, change, etc. in my personal life as well. 2017, however, is meant to be a ’10 Year’: one for new beginnings and fresh starts. I’m really hoping that holds true as I look at what a mess is still sort of left over from this year.

As ready for a rest from 2016 as I am- as much as I want to just close my eyes and find some form of peace as we creep into the holiday season- I know that I must be more mindful than that. This past Full Moon (12/14/16) in Gemini reminded me that rest is important- but so is mindful release of all that negative crap that might still be lingering. As this final month of 2016 starts to wind towards its end, I find myself needing to look both at my past (to synthesize what has happened, to finalize those lessons learned, and to determine which things need to continue into the future), and to the future. So many changes are coming for me within the first few months of 2017. I’ll be starting my final semester of college (this time with a significantly larger amount of time to myself which I’ll have to learn how to handle), I’ll be graduating and taking those first steps into the ‘real adult world’, and moving over one thousand miles away to live in Florida with my boyfriend of four years. There is a great deal of planning to be done if these things are to be done successfully.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be journaling about all of these things, and coming up with new plans for my personal practice, this blog, and my YouTube channel for the coming year. I was not as active here as I had hoped to be, and I’m hoping some better planning and reevaluating of where I’m at will help to change that in 2017.

Until next time,
Rachel