Rebirth

We went out the other weekend exploring Glen Lochay near Killin in Pethshire. We chose that area because of something Neil had read about Creag Na Callich which overlooks Glen Lochay and because I had been feeling the need to seek out the Ancient One in the land.

Several years ago the wooden hammer that had been given into my care and used since in ritual had been destroyed by my ex-husband. That hammer was dedicated to An Cailleach and I still feel it’s loss. I had been thinking about this a fair bit recently and felt that something wasn’t resolved between An Cailleach and I over this loss. I felt I had to know if I needed to make some form of reparation to Her for the hammer’s loss and my failure to anticipate my ex-husband’s behaviour.

The first snows were on the mountain tops and much of the colour lower down was of late autumn. I had offerings with me of whisky and oatmeal. We drove along the Glen stopping from time to time to explore something or for Neil to take some photos. I was seeking for something, somewhere I could feel An Cailleach and commune with Her. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, just that I’d know if I found it. If I didn’t find that something then I would need to do more, If I found that something then I hoped things would become clearer for me.

At one point we spotted something unusual. We stopped and went for a closer look. We had found something, something quite special. Closer to the river on the other side of the field I found a place that called to me, a tiny island forming just by the river bank. A place of magic that sang to me and my heart filled with wonder. I poured out part of my offerings there. Then I returned to the centre of the field and the tree that was growing there.

I have seen trees growing out of cracks in rocks and cliffs. I’ve seen trees of one species growing out of another older living tree of a different species but I’d never seen something like this before. A stump of what must have been a pretty old tree was still connected to the large rocks it had grown on top of and between. Growing on the top of that stump were several types of mosses and lichens and in the midst of them a silver birch tree. As I walked round this gazing in wonder at this a single word resounded like a bell in my head. “Rebirth!”

I gave more of my offerings there in that place beside that tree.

Glen Lochay - renewal

Later in the day we walked part way up the route out of the other end of Glen Lochay in a route that leads towards Glen Lyon, we didn’t have time to do more that go part way up. Before we turned back I made my final offerings in a place that looked back along the Glen towards Creag Na Callich among other peaks.

I sought An Cailleach and She had answered me.

We took a slightly different route out of the Glen towards Killin and in the dusk as we came towards a couple of fields we saw a herd of red deer. There were a couple of stags, one clearly more dominant as he chased off others bellowing at them, and about forty does. A wonderful end to our visit to Glen Lochay.

 

All photos thanks to Neil Pitchford, Awen photos

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Dealing with Deities – tainted love?

A few days ago on 29 October I ordered a book called “Dealing with Deities: Practical Polytheistic Theologies“.  On Saturday 4th November the package arrived and I opened it up with a certain amount of excitement only to see something that appeared to be very different…

DSC_0300 A book called tainted love apparently.  So as you might expect I start to prepare the complaint.  I was tired so I didn’t do much that evening and tried to sort it the following morning.  The first time I tried to complete the complaint form I was using my kindle and the photos I had taken wouldn’t upload to the complaint form.  So a bit later I got out my laptop and completed the form on that.  At that stage though I thought I’d better just check the inside of the book in case that looked damaged in some way.  Imagine my surprise when the first page I saw inside the cover said “Dealing with Deities”.  As I looked further the contents of the book seemed to be exactly what I had ordered!

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover!”

How many times have I heard that saying?  How many times have I used it? Although that thought has only just occurred to me as I write this. what came to my mind yesterday as I saw the inside of the book was that someone had played a trick on me.  My first thoughts went to Loki because in my experiences he has a talent for playing with electronic equipment.  And the book arrived on a Saturday which is the day I devote to him.

Next thoughts were the juxtaposition of the words “Tainted Love” with “Dealing with Deities”.  I’m not sure what to make of that.  Initially I laughed.

Today though I’m thinking about the word “tainted” and how that means something that has been corrupted or fouled in some way. It occurs to me that the love we have when dealing with deities is often corrupted by our own wants and desires.  And then there’s the fact that those of us that are polytheists are also reconnecting links that long past ancestors shattered for various reasons.  Our efforts to make those connections again are tainted by what has happened in the past of our societies.  Some of these things we can do something about, we can do our best to love our deities without clouding maters with wants and desires.  I don’t mean we never ask for help but if we do so we do with respect and never taking such help for granted.  There’s not a great deal we can do about taints left from the actions of previous generations long gone into the mists of time.  We can acknowledge them.  We can do our best as we re-forge broken connections but the scars will be there for a long time. And if we do our best then hopefully over time as we and those to come build on what we do now those connections will become stronger and clearer.

And sometimes after we first see a “taint” we find that it actually helps us develop something new and wonderful.

 

 

Winter approaches

Call it what you will Samhain, Halloween or Nos Calan Gaeaf that time has come and here in Glasgow I feel the winter approaching.  There’s still time to jump in piles of leaves if you can find any that haven’t been soaked in rain but the year is shifting.

I like this time of year.  I know for some the increasing dark brings a range of problems and they dread it.  Most of the time I like it.  I don’t like hot days and I struggle in bright sunshine as being in the brightness gradually hurts my eyes and can give me headaches if I’m not careful.  But the dark is gentler for me.  I’m fortunate enough to be able to keep warm and dry, to listen to the wind and rain outside and enjoy it most of the time.

This time of year for me is also about family celebrations so that’s another level of warmth I can bask in. Not just the winter solstice, Yule and New Year activities but birthdays too.  Family birthday celebrations are not usually very big gatherings so I don’t have to brace myself for increasingly large social gatherings.  I’m happy with that.  I’m happy in my understanding of why I struggle with larger social activities.  I’ll happily sit down and have a cuppa with one or two friends in a quiet place though.

For me darkness is comforting.  If it’s clear at night I can see the wonder of the stars, it’s very rare that we are in complete darkness.  And the dark night of the soul or the dark gods and goddesses?  Without darkness how do we appreciate light?  I’m not saying these things are easy but they can be embraced.  And we can learn from the things in the darkness too.

If you struggle with darkness you are not alone.  Neither are you alone if you welcome the dark.

 

 

 

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

These are words that first began ringing loudly in my mind a few days ago when Neil and I were travelling to Glen Etive for a day out.  It was the day after a storm and the skies were still grey and heavy with rain when we set out.  The water poured off this hills in streams and waterfalls, rivers were swollen.  As we turned into Glen Etive I felt as if we were travelling in a land surrounded above and below with water. And that’s when these words started to sound in my head.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

And I knew what this was referring to.  I had a decision to make, to try and write a book about devotional practice I experience it or to leave it.

I remember Nimue Brown once writing that she wrote books she wanted to read.

I want to read about someone who juggles devotional life with family life, someone who isn’t very good at hearing messages from deities. I want to read about someone who says something about how long it has taken them to develop a devotional life, how they have tried things and then dropped them, how life has sometimes overwhemed them.  And I want to read about their journey with deities who have traces of ancient worship in the land I live in.

I haven’t come across a book like that yet.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

As our day in Glen Etive progressed we did see the odd patch of blue as the sky lightened.  We heard the bellowing of stags on the mountainside.  As we began the journey back along the Glen we had to stop.  Deer on the road. A small herd, a doe with what must have been this year’s young, a couple of slightly older but still immature stags, a few mature does and him.  He posed beautifully for our admiration.

One doe gently ate pieces of apple from the hand of another woman who like us had stopped.  This small herd were clearly used to people. That was the highlight of the trip for me and still those words echoed in my head.  A decision was made. I will write.

We came home days passed with other things; catching up with chores, spending time with the kids, doing some knitting and still these words come back to me.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

I’m working through things I said I’d do for others.  I’m beginning to plan, to think about what I want to say, how I might say it. I’m intending to start writing my first ever attempt at a book at Samhain.  It may take me a long time.  The first steps of a journey are not when you set out but when you make a decision and pack your things.

I am beginning to answer the questions that keep ringing in my head.

I will write and very soon now.

Musings on divination

Like many others I’ve dabbled with divination on and off over my years as a Pagan but although I learnt a few things, nothing ever seemed to quite connect.  Recently I’ve been working on my divination skills again and I believe I know why earlier efforts never really felt quite right.  It wasn’t the tools, I use the same rune stones now that I made about twenty years ago now I think, it was my approach.

When I first started to learn about divination it was as a tool to tap into my unconscious mind or into some form of a collective consciousness of the world.  I could get some benefit from this but it wasn’t an approach that really felt right and I never really knew why until recently.  Now I have come to understand divination as a method of communication between myself and my gods and I have found that to be a profound change.

No longer am I doing the equivalent of shouting into the wilderness and hoping someone will hear me, respond and provide useful advice.  Now I am doing the spiritual equivalent of making a phone call to a particular being.  I might not get a reply but if I do I have a much better chance of someone listening and replying.  Given the deities I am devoted to that may not always mean a sensible reply, they too have a sense of humour, but the chances are much improved.

At the moment there are two tools I am working on improving my skills with and both are ones I have had for quite a while.  One is the set of runes I mentioned above that I made many years ago and the other is a set of the Druid Animal Oracle Cards that I’ve also had for several years but not quite as long as the runes I made.  I’ve always loved the artwork on the Druid Animal Oracle cards but used to get more distracted by the details.

I have a number of small yew wood slices now and I intend to use pyrography to create a set of Ogham disks.  I have Ogham staves and cards which I do occasionally use but I like the idea of a handmade set of disks to work with and maybe making them will help me learn the various symbols that I don’t know yet.  If I manage all that, then I may start to use Ogham as a divination tool as well but that’s a bit in the future yet.

When I work with my runes I ask Loki for guidance with them.  I’m aware that He might not be considered the usual deity to approach for runic divination but this works for me.  I think some people often forget, or perhaps don’t even know, that Loki is skilled in the use of words. That is something that shines through in the various tales that we have about Him.  To me, and I’m probably not alone in this, that skill with words implies a skill with runes too.

When I work with the Druid Animal Oracle I have begun to ask Maponos for guidance.  If that seems like an odd choice to you then I will simply point out that the Romans linked Maponos with Apollo and Apollo is well known for His Oracles among other attributes so it is a strong possibility that Maponos too had his oracular side.

At the moment I feel my skills are improving and I have begun to offer readings to others as further practice.  I feel more confident about using divination now that I am approaching my gods when I do this and I trust in their guidance.

 

The Revolutionary Art of Hearth-Keeping

I came across this post by chance or perhaps, more accurately, by divine guidance. I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t even following this blog when I stumbled across this post yesterday evening. It resonates on so many levels though especially as I refer to my path as that of a hearth druid.

riverdevora

hearth fire

We are living in terrible times. Every passing day brings more violent racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic and classist attacks and incidents at every level of society, from local street violence to “Alt-Right” rallies to State and Federal governmental attempts to (and occasional successes in) passing oppressive legislation to the stripping away of protections for vulnerable communities. The regime we are currently living under is one that attempts to strip us of both individual and group identity, shames us for interdependence, and seeks to destroy our connection to ancestors and descendants, and to the land upon which we live (as complex as these relationships can be). The dominant paradigm is one that endorses survival of the most privileged, at the expense of nondominant communities and vulnerable people. And we are handed the lie that we can rise above the oppression of our people by disavowing ourselves of our cultures, that…

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Reflections on a state of mind

I wrote the core of this in a Facebook post earlier this week.  I’ve decided to add to what I wrote there for a post here.

Tuesdays are now my busiest days, I plan for the tiredness that follows by usually having fairly quiet days on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays are busy because of things I choose to do so I am not complaining just noting for background to this post that they are busy.

Last Tuesday though I also got hit by nebulous anxiety and wobbly emotions. Part of my difficulties could have been caused by one of the cats staying out until 1am Monday morning. It was very unlike her so I worried and had trouble settling to sleep.  Eventually I chose to check at the back door just one more time at 1am and there she was at the door!  I settled to sleep fairly quickly after that knowing she was safe and sound. Part of the difficulties could also be worrying about my lad going out on an overnight camping trip with a group from school. Camping for the inexperienced is challenging and this trip included a fair amount of walking too as it was a practice for a Duke of Edinburgh Award overnight expedition (I think that’s the Bronze level). I worried about how this was going all that day and the next until I saw him again and heard that it had gone reasonably well.

Part of my problems on Tuesday could have been hormonal, although I don’t usually get the emotional surges at that stage in my cycle, anything is possible though.

All I really know is that I struggled emotionally on and off all day.  I carried on with my usual Tuesday activities which include some hours of voluntary work at a Riding for the Disabled Association stables in Glasgow. Usually after a bit of time at the stables whatever emotional state I might have been in when I arrived is soothed with the presence of horses and in the feelings of being useful.  Not on this occasion.  I cried; at the stables; in front of people! Fortunately I held it together during the lessons where I was leading horses but between one lesson and another I cracked. Those that saw me were lovely about it by the way, tea was applied and soothing company.  I was asked if I wanted to be alone but I wasn’t really sure so someone stayed with me for a while. After a bit I calmed down enough to feel able to help out in another lesson side walking this time before leaving to collect my daughter from school.

I remained a bit mentally and emotionally wobbly throughout the rest of the day but didn’t break down again in the same way.  I struggled through.

This is me as well in terms of my mental health as I’ve been for a very long time. I still get odd times like this.  Fortunately at the last appointment I had with psychologist she said that there might still be times when I struggled.  This wouldn’t necessarily mean it was a relapse as the journey to improved mental health is not usually a smooth one, it may just mean a wobble, a temporary dip that I would be able to move beyond myself without seeking further assistance.  In this case I feel that is exactly what this was, a temporary dip in the journey rather than the beginnings of a relapse.

Many of my friends struggle with mental health on a daily basis. The type of experience I have shared here is the tip of the unseen iceburg of mental health.  It’s hard to talk about situations like these, hard to experience.  It is even harder trying to explain this type of thing to someone who has never experienced levels of anxiety, stress or depression that have affected their health to the stage of needing medication, counselling or both either long or short term.

And so I’m writing this for those who can’t find the words to explain. I get it. I have struggled with finding the words, I still do.
I’m writing this for me, something I can look back on and say this is where I was then.  A year after a period of my life where I was on medication, having nasty anxiety attacks and beginning counselling.  This is a major improvement and this is a part of who I am and I am proud of who I am!

I’m also writing this for those that haven’t had these experiences. Here’s a window to peek through.