Changes to my altar

In the last couple of weeks there have been changes to my altar.

Meet the Smith, for Gofannon.

The Smith

The Smith

Today arrived a wonderful, amazing gift.  A traditionally made Zuni Coyote fetish crafted by Aaron and Thelma Sheche. I am deeply honoured to have been entrusted with this fetish. It’s actually two coyotes carved from the same stone bundles with an arrow head and pieces of turquoise.

Coyotes fetish

Zuni Coyote Fetish

Both the Smith and the Zuni fetish are now on my altar, shown below.

Altar 6 September 2017

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Messages from Gods

Like forgotten yet eternal dreams.
Broke in bits before her, the lady lacks her necklace.
Like the sweet-apple reddening high on the branch.
Better far that my body should suffer outrage than my soul.
Oh, each of us discovered life’s burden, and we call that time a fable, remembering ourselves as we would a stranger.

These are words for me from a divination two weeks ago where I basically asked if I was doing ok with my devotions.  The overall interpretation I was given was I’m doing ok but there’s room for improvement.  Isn’t there always?

In April I had a three card tarot reading done for me with the following overall message:

These may seem vague, as Minor Arcana cards, but I love the combination of elements here. It seems to tell of an emotional time, perhaps with ups and downs on several levels, but also with a sense of determination, goals achieved and a clear path opening up through it all. Keep hold of that determination, hun, you’re going the right way and have good friends at your side!

I had another reading in January of this year but that one was face to face and I can’t remember a great deal from it.

I’m also working on improving my own divination skills.  At the moment that involves working with runes and practicing readings mainly on myself.

And then there is what happened to me on Saturday as I sat before my altar praying and listening.  I slipped into a trance and began to journey, something I haven’t done in quite a while.  Loki appeared beside me and we walked and talked in the Otherworld I know.  I’ve been asking, thinking and wondering why Loki is still interested in me, half expecting Him to move on and not return.  One part of my journey and conversation had a very powerful effect on me.

Loki asked me if I wanted Him in my life. At first I sidestepped replying clearly by saying “If you want to be”.  That wasn’t good enough though. He asked me again:

“Do you want me?”

And this time I simply said yes.  His reply was that He would remain with me then.  I asked if it was that simple. “Yes.”  We talked further, other things that I’ll not mention here but that helped clarify aspects of our growing relationship. I also gained insights into aspects of other deity relationships.

——————————

This year I have already asked for reassurance that I’m doing the right things, going in the right direction more times than almost any other year in my life. I’ve been unsure why I feel the presence of certain deities, why still other deities have come into my life.

Each time though I have been given reassurance that I’m doing the right things, going in the right directions.  Most of those reassurances have been open to some aspect of interpretation. This time, with Loki, I’ve had something amazingly direct, amazingly simple.

And that simple question echos on in other voices – Do you want me in your life?

Sometimes devotion is as simple as answering that question.

Traveling Shrines

A home shrine is a wonderful thing but what do you do when you are away from your home for whatever reason?  Recently my family and I were away from home for holidays so I decided to put together a few things and take a form of traveling shrine with me.  Rather than try and describe what I did in words I took a couple of pictures while I was away so I could share what I had done.

photo of traveling shrine

Traveling Shrine while on holiday on the Island of Skye

 

photo of traveling shrine

Traveling Shrine on the Isle of Lewis

 

The cloth I used for my traveling shrine is actually a cloth for reading oracle decks made for me by Gemini Aspect.  The prayer cards are from Galina Krasskova‘s etsy store where there are prayer cards to many deities in several different pantheons.

The shrine while we were on the Isle of Lewis includes a card from both the Druid Animal Oracle and the Druid Plant Oracle both by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm with artwork by Will Worthington.

 

For Loki

I’ve written in an earlier post how Loki came into my life and I’ve also written a little about how my patterns of devotion have been changing.  Saturday has become the day I devote time and thought to Loki.  Last Saturday I received an email that led to me writing something for Loki.  This Saturday I feel I should post what I wrote on my own blog.  The photo is of the candle burning on my altar for Loki as I write this post.

Words from my heart

Loki, you came unlooked for, unasked for into my life.
Bound one, your challenge forced me to face my bindings.
Shifter of forms, you lead me to change.
I honor You!

Burning one, you scare me still!
I don’t know what you see in me,
Why I interest you,
But I know you come calling.

Calling in the darkness
Shining in the silence
Mystery and Mischief

I honor You! I praise you!
I’ve even come to love you.
You, the disreputable friend!

The one that speaks truths no-one else will face
The one bringing joy in the madness
The one whose pain we turn away from
The one who forces us to see
The one who scares us in the night
The one who holds us when we cry
The one who gives us the blade with which to cut our bindings
If…

If we have the courage to turn and take it
If we choose to try.

Uninvited, unexpected, uncomfortable,
Yet welcomed, honored, praised and loved!

 

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.

An offering made Kemetic style

Well sort of Kemetic style anyway 🙂

A week and half ago I pledged an offering to the Egyptian Goddess known as Isis.  The details of why I did this are not important to this blog post. I had a slight problem though in that I had never made any offerings to any of the Egyptian deities and as a polytheist I wanted to do this in a manner fitting to what is known of the reconstructed Egyptian path referred to more properly as Kemetic.

First stage of preparation to fulfill my pledge was to do a bit of internet searching and reading.  I also asked for advice in the Glasgow Pagans facebook group and from a couple of individuals I know that are interested in or practicing a Kemetic path.

Key things I found out were that the ancient Kemetic name of the Goddess I had made this pledge to is Aset and that in the Kemetic path it is normal, and considered more polite, to consume any food or drink offerings you make.  That’s not something I am used to doing.  I’m more familiar with offerings being discarded after a suitable period of time once they have been dedicated.

From my limited general knowledge in Egyptian mythology I believe that the written word, especially when then spoken aloud, has a great deal of power.

Gradually I began to build up an idea of what I would do to fulfill the pledge I had made.  I decided to offer food and drink in the form of a meal using foods known to be important in ancient Egyptian times as well as things I felt would fit a special meal.  I also felt that while it would be fine to use the area I use for other devotions I should use a separate small table.

Today I fulfilled my pledge.  I purchased a couple of particularly nice seeded whole grain rolls and some maple and thyme hot smoked salmon.  I cleared and cleaned a small table to use and moved it to my shrine area and placed a flat pillow I use as a kneeling or meditation pad on the floor in front of it.  I went upstairs and changed into a lovely silk skirt I have and chose a jumper of a similar shade of blue to go with it.  Both items remind me of Lapis Lazuli and again I believe that colour and the gem stone had importance in ancient Egypt.

Before I began my meal preparations I lit a stick on Myrrh incense.  I then sat down and decided on the words I would use and wrote them down.  I placed the page on the small table and got the meal ready.  The meal consisted of the rolls I had purchased with the smoked salmon and five Medjool dates. I also made some peppermint tea in one of those  teapots with a single cup that I have.  I placed the plate, teapot and cup on the small table and knelt down before it.

After a short time in silent contemplation I spoke aloud the words I had chosen.  I then sat in silence for a little while and poured out a cup of the tea.

Mindfully I then began to eat and drink.

This experience of sharing a meal I had offered to a Goddess was something new and special to me.  I found it strangely relaxing.  I got the impression that those beings I usually hold devotions for were also interested in this process, in this different style of doing things and that they might wish to engage with me in this way themselves from time to time.

When I’d finished the meal I thanks Aset for this experience and then cleared everything away and changed back into the clothes I had been wearing before I started preparing.

 

These are the words I used to make the offering with names of those I was doing this for removed for privacy:

Hail Aset, Great of Heka, You who are known in the Redlands as Isis, Queen of Heaven!

I ask that you accept this bread, this fish, these dates and this mint tea as fulfillment of the pledge I made to you.

I offer this food and drink in thanksgiving for your protection over one who I believe holds you close to her heart. I know her as xxxxx,  Priestess, wife, mother, and friend of many.

I pledged an offering to you Mighty Aset and I ask that you accept this meal as fulfillment of that pledge.

 

Orkney part 3 – Echoes of Devotion

To me Orkney is a place in which the echoes of past devotions take on powerful and tangible forms.  I’ve already spoken of our journey to Orkney and some of the places we visited with our wonderful guides.  In this post I intend to talk about some of the other places we visited both with and without our guides.

Our guides were adamant that we should experience a few of the lesser known and more unusual sites before we would visit Maeshowe on Thusday 7th July so the day before they took us to visit the Tomb of the Dogs also known as the Cuween Hill Cairn, Unstan Cairn and Rennibister Earth House. Many people visit Maeshowe and go away feeling that it is a good example of tombs in Orkney, and so it is in many ways, but it is also very unusual.  It is one thing to accept this with your more logical mind but quite another to visit a wider range of tombs and see and feel the differences.

Our first tomb visit was to the Tomb of the Dogs or Cuween Hill Cairn. This is a small tomb a fair way up the side of a hill.  It’s called the Tomb of the Dogs because there were a number of dog skulls found in it as well as human remains.  To get to it you have to be fit to first get up the hill (which isn’t too bad) and then be flexible enough to get down and crawl thought the narrow passage way into the chamber beyond.  The chamber is large enough for a small number of people to stand in but it is pitch black inside so a working torch is a must. It is an example of a chambered cairn with four smaller side chambers. the side chambers are virtually at ground level and you can look into them fairly easily.  At Maeshowe the side chambers are well above the main floor level and would not be as easy to see into let alone access as the chambers at Cuween.

Personally I felt a sense of pressure while inside Cuween Hill Cairn.  It wasn’t frightening but after a short while I felt as if the spirits of that place were telling me I had seen enough and it was time for me to leave now please.  Definitely well worth a visit if you are physically fit enough to cope with the hill and crawling through the passage.

From there we visited Rennibister Earth House.  A totally different experience.  For a start it’s accessed via the yard to a working farm and via a metal ladder going down into the ground.  This ladder is not the original access, that would have been the long sloping passage.  Originally it would have been closed in and pitch dark but as it was discovered by a machine falling into the roof and now accessed that way it’s reasonably light inside. Human remains were found within the chamber but archaeologists are not certain of the original purpose of the structure.  Around the walls are built in alcoves, not large ones and they look a bit like the alcoves seen in the neolithic houses and in the walls of the older section of Kirbuster farm museum.

To me this place felt as if it had been used for ritual purposes of some kind.  I could see it being used for some sort of rite of passage perhaps.  The atmosphere there was much lighter but mysterious too.

Rennibister earth house

Rennibister Earth House

The last place we visited on that day was Unstan Cairn.  This is a much easier place to access but still requires a bit of flexibility as you do need to bend a bit to go through the entrance passage.  Inside it is a quite different style of structure.  It has some features in common with chambered cairns in that it has a circular shape and a side chamber but other features are more like rectangular stalled cairns such as the one at Midhowe (which we didn’t visit).  It is an odd place, very light because it has a modern concrete roof and unlike other tombs we visited very green from algae able to grow on the stones in the light.  The stalls also add to the unusual atmosphere making it feel to me a bit like an animal barn even though it was very much a tomb still.

Unstan Cairn

Unstan Cairn

The following day we visited Maeshowe.  This is a much larger tomb than the others we had previously seen and thanks to our guides we had a much greater appreciation for the design variations and the atmospheric differences.  For a start at the other places it had been just us and the places themselves were much smaller.  For Maeshowe you are in a tour group of about 25 people with a guide.  Even though the place is larger you somehow feel more compressed due to the people around you all shuffling round to get a look at whatever aspect the guide is pointing at and talking about.  It is an impressive place with a fascinating history both ancient and more recent.  The Viking graffiti in it is interesting as well. Maeshowe is special and very well worth seeing but for me, in terms of atmosphere I much preferred the experiences of the lesser known tombs.

I’ve called this post “Echos of Devotion” and so far spoken of tombs, cairns and mysterious underground chambers.  But if you think about the work involved in crafting these structures and the devotion to purpose the builders of them had I think you will understand why devotion is such a strong theme for me in reflecting about these places.

On Thursday after visiting Maeshowe in the morning we took a drive back towards the Churchill barriers and visited the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm.  For anyone not in the know this is a chapel made using nissan huts and recycled materials by Italian prisoners of war during the second world war.  It is an absolutely remarkable testament to the devotion of those involved in all aspects of the modification and decoration of the nissan huts.  Although it was only completed just after the POWs were repatriated it has been beautifully preserved and cared for.  From the information present at the site I believe there are occasional services held there.  I absolutely loved this place! I found the atmosphere there highly sacred, a very special place and very accessible too.

Italian chapel exterior

Exterior of the Italian Chapel

Italian chapel interior

Interior of the Italian Chapel (the brick and stonework effects were all hand painted)

Devotion of a different sort was our next stop as we sampled some of the wonderful offerings of the Orkney Wine Company, unsurprisingly after trying a few samples we purchased a few bottles to bring home. Very impressive products!

That afternoon found us in Kirkwell visiting St Magnus’ Cathedral.  A wonderfully accessible venue for such an old cathedral.  St Magnus’ Cathedral is a place that shows a different aspect of devotion again to me.  In that place are the echoes of the devotion of craftsmen and women down the ages and the communities that have supported them as well as the echoes of the devotional use through many centuries.  It’s a lovely example of Christian architecture through centuries too as different aspects of the building date to different time periods.

St Magnus Cathedral 2

North Nave Aisle showing the back of a 17th century Mort Brod (death board) memorial to  a glazier, Robert Nicholson

St Magnus Cathedral 3

Pulpit and North Transept showing the Norwegian flag prominently displayed in honour of the many links between Orkney and Norway.

St Magnus Cathedral 1

One of two Green Man carvings in the St Rognvald Chapel area of the Cathedral.

The last place I am going to mention in this post is the remains of an usual round church at Orphir that we visited on Friday, our last day on Orkney. The Orphir Round Kirk is the last remains of a medieval round church and the only one surviving in Scotland.  It is found behind the Orkneyinga Saga Centre and the ruins of the Earl’s Bu.  Another fascinating little place to visit with echoes of the past also surrounding these unusual church remains in the well kept and still used graveyard.

Orphir Round church

Orphir Round Church

 

As always photos copyright and thanks to Neil Pitchford of Awen Photos.