Patterns of Devotion

I have written in the past about my deepening devotional practices. Today I wish to share with you how my devotions have changed.

I used to honour my ancestors at the dark moon, Maponos on Sundays and, Brigantia, Epona Rigantona and An Cailleach around the full moon.

Then I joined a flame tending cill with Clann Bhride and began flame tending in honour of Brigantia every twenty days.

I can’t even remember exactly when after that point that other things began to change but at some stage I began to honour Epona Rigantona each week on a Friday. I chose a Friday because Epona is my beloved and Fridays in the past have been linked to deities of love (see Wikipedia Names of the days of the week if you are interested).

It felt good to be honouring Epona each Friday so I decided to start honoring An Cailleach on a Saturday. I was now honouring different deities on Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus every twenty days flame tending in honour of Brigantia.

Then Loki came into my life.

I used to consider myself to be solely a Brythonic Polytheist.

Then Loki came into my life!

That bit bears repeating.  Loki brought change with Him.  I wasn’t looking for Sleipnir’s Dam and I didn’t expect or invite Her (at least not to start with) but for some reason best known to the Bound One, He decided to bring Her changes to me.

One of those changes was that I started to include Loki in my weekly devotions.  At first I tried slotting Him in on Thursdays but that didn’t feel right. So I switched to Saturdays, prompted in part by something I had read that suggested Saturdays had been linked to Loki in the past.  I can’t remember exactly what that was now but I switched days and it felt much better.

But it didn’t feel right honouring An Cailleach on the same day so after a bit of thought I decided to move honouring Her to Mondays.  There are aspects in some of the lore which I believe indicate ties to the moon for An Cailleach so this seemed to fit well.

For a couple of moons I tried to keep the lunar links I had made as well but that became a bit confusing as I ended up trying to honour two different deities on one day.  For me that became confusing and I felt I wasn’t doing justice to my devotions to either deity when the days linked into full moon cycles.  I decided drop the full moon devotions in favour of the weekly ones for a moon or two to see how it felt and I’ve kept that change.

So now I honour different deities on four days of the week and another every twenty days. I’m also no longer solely honouring Brythonic deities.  At first I thought maybe Loki would be in my life for a set purpose and then maybe wander off but at the moment it feel much more like the Sky-treader is here to stay.  The current pattern feels good with one exception and that’s the ancestors.

In dropping the full moon devotions I found I began to lose touch with the lunar cycle and the pattern of honouring my ancestors at the dark moon began to slip as well.  I still have my ancestral shrine area and still think of varying ancestors at different times but the more ritualised devotions have fallen away.  I’m still not sure if I need to start on a weekly basis for honouring my ancestors or try and restore the dark moon practice.  I think maybe moving to a weekly based practice would work out best, if so I have my choice of Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday currently free of other devotions. Maybe Wednesday as that day has links to deities of communication.

My journey with devotional practices has not been a swift one but one that has gradually altered to a more frequent family of devotional practices.  And I know that I am still changing and that my practices will also continue to change.

Deepening devotions

Today (Thursday 30 July) is the day before a full moon and as is my custom I have set out my offerings to Brigantia for this moon.  I am blessed in that my daughter has taken an interest in joining me for these devotions and the ones I do for Maponos in particular and this evening as I finished off some washing up she began to get things ready for us.

Since I began flame tending earlier this year my lunar rites for Brigantia have also developed. In addition to lighting three tea lights and offering a bowl of oatmeal and a bowl of warmed honeyed milk I now include a small bowl of water which I dedicate to Brigantia and use during flame tending to anoint myself with.  I’ve also started to put slips of paper with names of those I know that are in need of healing into a small bronze cauldron I have and requesting healing for them both as part of my flame tending devotions and now part of my lunar devotions as well.

I light the tea lights and my daughter and I offer our praises to Brigantia together.  We make the offerings together and then I sing while my daughter dances round me.  I am enjoying the increased depth of connection I feel with these devotions.

Tomorrow evening (Friday 31st) I will make my devotions to my lady Epona Rigantona. These devotions have also changed slightly since I began flame tending as I felt strongly that in addition to the flame tending I needed to do more for Epona.  I began knitting some roses dedicated to Her.  Some have been kept here on the shire I have for Her while others have been sent out to individuals I felt should get one.  Now when I light my single candle for Epona at the full moon I place a beautiful stone carved with a Pictish style horse in front of it with the wooden quaich I had made for libations sat with an offering in it behind the candle and arrange the roses I have kept for Her around them all.  I now have an additional prayer I use with my prayer beads during these devotions which I usually do alone.

I have recently made contact with others who are devoted to Epona and I hope that my communications with them will inspire me further.  Already I feel I have been led to them.

On Saturday 1st August and the day after the full moon I will make my usual offerings to the one I know as Cailleach.  These alone out of the devotions I do have not really changed.  Perhaps they will at another time but for now I don’t feel I need to do more than I currently do for Her the main aspect of which is a libation offered in a particular goblet.

All the food and drink offerings I make are left out overnight and ritually poured out into the back garden the next morning.

On Sunday 2nd August I will be making my usual weekly devotions to Maponos.  This is another area of devotion that my daughter usually joins me in.  For Maponos we prepare a special oil burner, adding drops of one of three oils I brought for this purpose alone. Again for this one I sing and my daughter dances.  I also have a prayer we have begun saying together which includes praying for healing for those names in His sister Brigantia’s cauldron. (Their relationship is more my UPG than anything bu some tales do have Angus Og and Brighid as siblings so I don’t think it’s an unreasonable link).

This weekend I am also aware that many will be celebrating Lughnasadh.  Of all the festivals this is the one I feel least connected to and as it happens I will be unable to join with others to celebrate this time.  I think this year that instead I will be thinking of all those celebrating but for myself focusing more on my devotions to those deities I have been gradually developing deeper connections with.

Hail the Gods!

(and by using that wording I mean to give honour to deities of any and all gender types)

Devotion takes many forms

A little over two years ago my wonderful Neil made me my first outdoor altar.  While I did use it sometimes it didn’t change much for most of that time.  Following on from my several days of devotional activities at the beginning of May I’ve been moved to develop the altar further.  Doing this in itself has been devotional and I intend to use the altar a lot more now as my practices continue to deepen and develop.

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Close up of top of altar

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Altar and its surroundings

An unanticipated cycle of devotion

I wrote a bit not so long ago about my devotions.  Today I’ve realised I have a cycle of devotional and religious practice that I didn’t plan but has just fallen into place.

The flame keeping I am now doing with Clann Bhride means I am now spending a period of time devoted to Brigantia every 20 days but the cill tends as a group on the fire festivals so I began flame tending at sunset on 30th May.  After 24 hours which included a fair amount of contemplation as well as other more mundane and devotional activities I completed that shift at sunset on May 1st.  This evening, May 2nd, I have lit three tea lights and made my lunar cycle devotional offerings to Brigantia.  Tomorrow I will be joining Tuatha de Bridget for the Beltane Ritual during the afternoon and in the evening I will light a candle and make my lunar devotions to Epona Rigantona. As it’s a Sunday I will also be making my weekly devotions to Maponos.

The full moon is at 03.42 GMT 4th May so at some stage on Monday 4th Neil and I will be doing the Druid Network international full moon peace intention ritual.  And that evening I will be making my lunar cycle devotions to the one I know as Cailleach.

My usual flame keeping shift happens to fall on Tuesday 5th May so I will be finishing this cycle of devotional and religious activity as I began it with a flame tending shift.

So in the space of a few days I will be engaging in devotions with all the deities I have developed relationships with as well as engaging in a Beltane ritual and a peace intention ritual.

This is an unusually intense period of devotions for me and it will be interesting to see what else comes of all this activity.

Devotions

Having a devotional practice of any kind in a very personal thing.  Over the years I have had a few devotional practices. Many have involved song in some way.  some practices have been daily for a period of time, some have been weekly, others less frequently.  Some practices have been for fixed periods of time, part of arrangements between me and the being in question.  My personal opinion is that when a devotional practice ceases to have real meaning to you then it is time to reconsider that practice.

For many years now I have had devotional practices based on the lunar cycle.  I’ve written about them before but essentially at the dark moon I share a cup of tea with the ancestors in silence remembering them.  On the day before the full moon I make offerings to Brigantia, on the day of the full moon I make offerings to Epona Rigantona and the day after I make offerings to my Cailleach.  Last year I also started to light a special oil burner in honour of Maponos each Sunday evening.

Just before Imbolc I took up an invitation to join a flame keeping cill with Clann Bhride. My first experiences have been very good ones. I have found it a soothing thing to be involved in so far and am looking forward to continuing with this practice.

I’ve also started a new devotional practice for Epona Rigantona, it’s perhaps a bit odd but it seems to be what she wants me to do at this time.  I started knitting roses for her.  At first I wasn’t sure what would happen with this but it’s a practice that I seem to be getting urges with connected with the build up to the full moon.

For a few days in March before the full moon I had the urge to knit a rose every day.  I thought I would be giving these away but when the full moon came I had a dozen roses of different sizes and colours and it was clear to me that these would be kept for my shrine areas.  A dozen roses for Epona Rigantona.

A couple of days a go my next urge with knitting roses for Epona Rigantona started to rise (by the way I see both Epona and Rigantona as titles for the same being but accept that this is my vision and may not be shared by others).  This time though I also got a very strong feeling that the roses I would knit were to be posted out.  I have also in between knitted a couple of roses as gifts for others with healing intent and not specifically as devotional knitting.  I was guided to make a list of names for this next batch of roses.  Nine individuals, all of whom I feel should be sent one of the roses I knit for Epona Rigantona.  I don’t even have postal addresses for them all yet but the knitting is progressing anyway.

I do this because I feel I must.  Some devotional practices are ones you choose to do, others are ones that feel requested for some reason not clear to you.  It is a choice you make to follow these invitations, however they come to you.

Ladies of the Land

In my lunar devotions I honour three Goddesses in turn.  On the night before the full moon I make offerings to Brigantia or Brighid.  On the night of the full moon I make offerings to Epona Rigantona (my personal understanding is that these are titles for the same being but I know others may feel differently). and the night after the full moon I make my offerings to the one I know as Cailleach.

I know some may see these Goddesses as tied to the Maiden, Mother and Crone concept but I don’t see them this way at all.  When I was starting out with Paganism this was a concept I found useful but I’ve grown and changed since then.  My relationships with my deities have gradually taught me that these beings are not tied to a particular human appearance or apparent age.  It may suit them to take on a particular feel or appearance in order to teach or for the sake of making an initial connection but sooner or later my experience is they change that appearance in the same way we’d change our clothing.  Some deities may grow impatient with someone that is slow to get this idea, others will be more patient and teach us gently.  I was lucky enough to be taught this idea fairly gently and with some humour which is just as well as I don’t think I was very quick to grasp this idea.
These three Goddesses may seem at first glance to not have a great deal in common.  One set of myths even places two of them (Brighid and An Cailleach) against each other as summer and winter queens.  To me though these beings have a particular areas of influence where they overlap to some extent and that is the Land.
My understanding of the Cailleach I know is that she is a being deeply tied to the Land and in particular the wilder areas of Scotland. She is in the hills, mountains and glens of the land I live in.  My impression is that she’s not actually that fussed about most people, she seems to prefer the company of the non-human beings living in and on the Land. Sometimes she’ll take an interest in a particular person for some reason.  In my experience if that someone is you it is likely to be a challenging relationship at times but also one with a sense of deep love and support.
Epona Rigantona to me is also linked to the Land but is much more interested in people.  I fell her interest is drawn in to those areas of Land that people in habit.  Among other things she is a carrier and granter of sovereignty in relation to human tribes.  And I mean this in the older sense of sovereignty as being in service to the Land and the tribe that live on it, leadership and service interlinked.  While I feel she has much more interest in people generally than the Cailleach I know her focus seems to be the relationship of the tribe and the Land.  Again I feel she will take an interest in particular individuals and my experience has been a much gentler and lighthearted relationship than that I have with my Cailleach.  It is she that led me to my present understanding of the way in which deities can use appearance.
Brigantia is a being I’m still finding to be a greater mystery in some ways.  The aspects of the others I speak of above are but one small facet of these wonderfully complicated beings.  I see Brigantia as linked to a specific area of Land and at the moment I’d say that is northern England and parts of Scotland.  I’m not sure of how far the ties to the physical Land spread for this being.  I see her as being interested in the peoples that live on her areas of Land not so much as carrier and granter of sovereignty but as a warrior and protector.  I also see her as having a particular interest in small focused areas of Land containing a family hearth and home where she is honoured.  At the moment my main interactions with her have been to that aspect of her being that is focused on hearth, home and family but as with the others I acknowledge that she is much more than this.
These three being to me connect to the Land and those on it to me with expanding and overlapping circles of influence but they came into my life at different times and for very different reasons. That story though is for another time.

Pagan Tea Time: Get Face to Face

Yesterday I had the wonderful experience of taking part in the Pagan Tea Time initiative. I responded to an invitation from Naomi who blogs as Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places and I recommend a visit and a good read of her blog.

I loved the idea of being able to connect via Skype with someone whose writing I have come to enjoy so much but who I hadn’t met so I replied to the invitation and we managed to find a time and date to suit both of us. That turned out to be yesterday morning.

Once we got through the few technical hitches (I hadn’t used Skype for a long time and our home PC is usually defaulted to headphones for when my daughter is playing Moshi monsters or My little pony!) we began chatting. Our conversation ranged over a few topics including autism, family, what I mean by now saying I am a Hearth Druid, perspectives of our experiences with deities and being part of a community.

We discovered that we have similar feelings about some of our deities, we are both polytheist for example and both have relationships with beings that answer to the name Cailleach. We have no way of knowing if we are relating to the same being of similar ones but our experiences and feelings about our Cailleachan seemed remarkably similar. We also seemed to have similar feelings about our respective relationships with Brigantia/Bridget.

There were also differences as well of course. My devotional practices are once a moon where Naomi has daily devotional practices. I use more singing in my practices and Naomi uses more prayers often based on words in the Carmina Gadelica.

We chatted about our connections with local Pagans, in particular getting to moots and Druid grove meetings. I think we both face challenges in connecting with parts of our local Pagan community. Our challenges are very different in nature but the need to connect and the frustration our challenges can cause us seemed pretty similar to me. I suspect that’s one reason Naomi chose to make the Pagan Tea Time invitation and it’s definitely why I responded.

I really enjoyed chatting with Naomi in this way and both of us at the end of our conversation said we hoped to be able to do this again sometime. I’m also looking forward to a time when we meet face to face in the same room.

At some stage I know Naomi will be writing a blog post of her own about her experiences with Pagan Tea Time. I look forward to reading it 🙂