Where do we meet our gods?

There’s many a discussion whether Druidry is even a religion. Some say yes, some say no, for many different reasons. No, because ‘religion means dogma’, means ‘someone telling you what you are supposed to believe’, and so on. My personal definition of religion is an extremely simple one. I’d say it means ‘doing some kind of devotional practice that involves honoring the divine and its expressions in the world around us.’ By that definition, I would say that yes, Druidry is a religion. (Or at least, my Druidry is. )

So then, how to go about it: how do we come face to face with the divine, where do we  even find these gods? How about taking inspiration from our ancestors? When reading the old tales, it becomes obvious where to look. The same place as where people have been finding them from the beginning of time. In our interactions with the world around us.

Many of us came to Druidry (or paganism) to satisfy a deep yearning, hoping to find something that they felt was missing from their life. A desire to connect with what was sacred. A desire to find our center. A desire to reconnect with nature, and to find true community. 

A desire to making living our  life a sacred act again.

And that begins by standing still. Stopping to run away. Finally starting to listen to ourselves, and truly seeing the world around us.

Stop what you are doing for a moment. Close your eyes. Breathe. Become conscious of the miraculous fact that you are alive. Then listen. To each thought that wells up. It doesn’t matter what it is. Listen to it. Acknowledge it. Give it space to be. If you continue doing this – not just in this moment, but for days, for months, probably for years to come, you will at some point reach a moment of stillness, when your conscious mind has told you everything it desperately wants you to hear, right now. The stillness means that it is satisfied that you are at least trying to listen to it.

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Enjoy the open space of that stillness, and keep listening. Keep listening for the voices that are coming next. For these are the voices of the sacred. These are the whisperings of the world around us. The voices that are always trying to reach us, but which are mostly being drowned out by the noise and static in our head.

Who is speaking now? Don’t worry about that at first. Don’t worry if no words come either. For not all spirits speak with human voices. If you feel like dancing, then do so. If you feel a sudden urge to go down on all fours, sniffing the grass and enjoying its aroma’s, then do so. And note what you are doing. You are beginning to interact. Dancing is a conversation with your body, with the air around you, with the space you are in. Taking in the aroma’s of the grass means starting to listen with different senses.

Continue your acts of listening. Go to different places and listen at different times.

Do not worry if sometimes (or maybe often, depending on your life situation), here-and-now thoughts and worries seem to take precedence. The fact that they are there means that they need to be listened to. (And interact with them. If they keep emerging again and again, that may simply mean that you have been trying too hard to ignore their existence.) If they are actual cold-hard real life worries that cannot be resolved in the short run (or which are beyond your power to fix by yourself), then simply listen, acknowledge, do what you can, then dismiss them for the time being. This is not an exercise in running away from life. This is an exercise in starting to live it. That means doing what you can (important!!), but not being a slave of pointless worries.

Start using all your senses. Make a habit of being open for listening. That is the only way hear.

For this is where you will meet your gods. In starting to be in conversation with the world around you. In walking through the forest, and having a sudden emotion well up while touching that special tree that means so much to you. By looking up at the full moon, and feeling blessed by the power of its light seeming to illuminate the way forward, and that sudden urge to do something crazy. In that one line that suddenly jumps out in the middle of a song, carrying special meaning. In walking through the city and suddenly seeing rainbows everywhere.

You want to meet the gods? Then be prepared to actually hear their call. Out in the world is where you will hear their whispers, not in the dusty tomes of the library. You may want to read these later, when you eventually want to give a name to what you felt or what called out to you. But that will rarely be the first step.

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And maybe you will never feel the need to connect your experience to something as official as a deity with a pedigree and a fully fleshed out mythology. In the end, names are not what counts most. For even that soft whisper from a tree, or the caress of the moonlight is a meeting with the sacred. And that is where it all starts. The place of relationship and connection. Where names and status are ultimately of minor importance…

Tell me: how many of your friends did you meet by looking up random names in the phonebook? How many of them did you meet by going out in the world and starting a conversation? And did you start out with the intention of meeting a celebrity, or did you simply want to make friends? Which approach, do you think, will be the most successful one? Meeting the gods is, ultimately, not all that different.

I plan to write about some of my own personal encounters with deity and spirit in upcoming posts. But if you have stories of your own to share, I’d love to hear them!

Coming face to face with death

This is the time of year when they say the veil between the world is thinnest. The time of year when we honour our ancestors and loved ones that have passed over to the other side.

A good time, too, to reflect on the way in which our society tends to deal with death.

This essay is based on my own personal encounter with death. My father died at the beginning of this year, after finally losing a 10-year battle with cancer. From the very first, we knew that there would be no healing for this. The cancer had already spread too far when it was first discovered, so all that could be done was to halt its progress for a while. How long, was something nobody was able to tell us at the time. ‘Until we run out of options.’ For cancer is devious: no matter how great a cure may seem for the first few months, after a while the cancer will find a way around it. One weapon down, on to the next one.

Until finally you know you are down to the last treatment, the final thing that can buy you some more time. After which, death is inevitable.

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It is that final journey I want to speak about, and about the lessons I learned from it. How it changed me, and how, paradoxical as it may seem, it took away most of my own fears regarding death. And how it showed me just how toxic the ways in which we deal with death in our society are.

It is a humbling and confronting journey, to see the man you once looked up to as a protector gradually become weaker. See the person, who, before, had been there to keep you safe from the world and who you could always lean on for assistance, now more and more begin to lean on you. Beginning with simply leaning on your arm when going up the stairs, until, towards the end, needing assistance with eating, and help to change the diapers he needed to wear now.

Coincidentally, at around the same time when the final decision was made to cease all treatments, my sister got her first child. And there was a curious inverse parallel between both journeys. One new life, completely helpless at first, then gradually beginning to explore and gain more and more control over her body. At the same time, an increasingly broken body, slowly falling apart, loosing control and abilities at about the same rate. One person being born into this world, one person being born out of this world, preparing for his journey towards the otherworlds.

The very last month, a decision was made to move him into hospice care, so that all care would be taken over by professionals, thereby giving us time to focus on what was truly important: saying our goodbyes, and preparing for the journeys to come. For all of us would have to make a journey after this death finally happened. Also those of us who stayed behind: a journey back to the world of the living.

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For that last month was spent somewhere in-between. In a place that was still here, but where death was a constant companion. A companion that was not hushed away, but that could be freely talked about. For we understood each other. Family members, soon-to-be-departed, hospice staff. There was no taboo. Here, death was simply part of everyday life.

And that made that this was a period that made it possible to focus on essentials. By not running from the truth, by not denying this reality, openings were created that would make the mourning process considerably lighter later on. This may sound weird, but I have almost exclusively positive memories of that final month.

How different things were afterwards. The return to the normal world. Going back to work for the first time. Seeing a hint of fear in people’s eyes when you speak to them for the first time. Having no idea how to confront this immensity, wishing it will simply go away if they keep silent. Then, immense relief when I choose to talk about something else. With the assumption that now, everything is back to normal and will now never have to be talked about again.

Can we stop doing that to each other, please? Can we, as a society, learn to start talking about death? Break the taboo? Be not afraid to talk about the fact that sometimes, we hurt? That one day we, too, will no longer be there? That missing someone does not finish after the funeral?

Let’s make it so that the most difficult part is missing someone, not having to fight for the right to feel sad. Where it does not feel as if you, as the person mourning, are responsible for shielding the people around you. Let us learn to carry each other, rather than building walls around death and sadness, stop pretending that it doesn’t exist as long as it isn’t our turn.

I am writing this on a Druid blog, because I strongly feel that we, Pagans and Druids, members of newly developing traditions, have a responsibility here. In our rituals, let us make space for this. In our sharing circles, let us not shy away from these difficult topics. When you know someone is hurting, let them know that you will hold space for them. That you are ready to listen to how much or how little they wish to share. Let death become a natural companion of the living once again, like it used to be for our ancestors.

Samhain musings

Have you ever wondered why we die? Why there is a time of winter following the time of summer? Why must all submit to the rule of nature that nothing lasts forever?

Well, isn ‘t it an obvious thing, once you start thinking about it more deeply? Because we all need a break. We need time to digest and have a more distant perspective.

For you have for sure experienced this for yourself. Standing on a high vantage point, overlooking the area, everything seems obvious. You can clearly see where all the roads are, where they will lead you to, and what path you need to take to get to a given destination. But then, once you have made your plans and set off for the journey, sooner or later doubt will start to set in. Was it left or right at this junction? And wasn’t there an easier road somewhere? You find that the road is riddled with obstructions that somehow hadn’t been visible from up high…

Yet we do the best we can. We live, we try our best. We have successes, and we make mistakes. We develop strategies that, for better or worse, allow us to navigate through the complexities of live. But there’s always a vague memory of that original vision, of that time when everything seemed clear.

That is why we need to die. To allow us to reconnect to the essence every once in a while. To recharge, to offload, and to prepare to begin anew.

This is, of course, not without sadness. For turning away means that we have to leave behind what we had started to build, say goodbye to those we loved. And that is hard.

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Maybe that is why it is good to think about the meaning of death while we are still alive. To get over our fears. To realize that there is fundamentally nothing to be afraid of. And that the only things we will be leaving behind, are things that are only of secondary importance. That we only leave behind that which we do not need anymore. For that is really all we lose. The connections that matter, the bounds forged by love, these will remain. And those that we care about will never forget us, and we will be able to keep in touch or see each other again on the other side later.

This Samhain, think of this. Think of what is so important for you that you will never leave it behind, and what are the things that you could do without. Then remind yourself of the implications. What are the things you spend most of your time on? If these are not the important things, then maybe you should rearrange your priorities…

Elder: Preparing for the Dark Times

I am elder. Tree-gift. Medicine.

Yet, beware, you who seek my lessons. Do not come to me unprepared. Have you come for learning? Then remember that learning requires the ability to hear. Have you come for healing? Then ask yourself whether you are prepared to become whole.

True wisdom, true healing will change you. It will force you to remember who you are, to reforge the net that connects you to the world around you. What is heard cannot be unheard. What is seen cannot be unseen. It is the story of Cerridwen’s cauldron, and it is my lesson as well.

So, come closer if you dare, and accept my healing.

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Are you ready for initiation? For that is my mystery. Those who are called to work with me are those who consciously step into the darkness to explore the inner mysteries. This is not a letting go like yew, but rather a deepening. My darkness is not one that needs to be healed and transcended, but one that calls to be embraced.

I call you to yourself. I call you to the otherworld. I cal you to the quest for understanding.

I am the tree that protects those that choose to put themselves in service to these mysteries. This is my gift to you. I will not make the path easier, but I promise you my medicine. In going deep, you are forced to let go of your defenses. And so I offer you mine instead.

Take my hand. I will help you step forward and honour your calling.

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The first step: gathering resources

Nobody should try to enter the deeper forest unprepared. Before you go, take time to gather ingredients and tools for the quest.

You may already have done that, and reached this point after years of preparation. Or it may be that you were only called to this quest a short time ago, and had little time to prepare. And even if you took a long time getting here, it may not be clear to you whether you managed to gather the right things.

So, let us start there now.

Ritual of gathering

  • Open ritual space (in your own way, or by using the suggestions given in the introductory section of this book)
  • Visualize yourself walking through the forest. The sun is shining, it is a beautiful late-summer day. However, you are very much aware that the first signs of autumn will be around soon, and you need to be prepared when that time comes. So, you call out for guidance.
  • As you look out in front of you, you notice how a particular pathway suddenly looks very appealing. Walk in that direction.
  • Follow the narrow trail. A very non-assuming tree on your left-hand side catches your attention. You notice a little old lady standing right next to you. She introduces herself to you as elder-woman.
  • She asks who you are, and what brings you to this place. So, you explain: what does the coming (metaphorical) winter mean to you? How have you prepared so far, and in what ways do you feel underprepared? What scares you?
  • She points to the berries on the elder-tree, explains their purpose to you, and invites you  to pick some. She adds a warning that, while a potion made from these berries will protect you against some of the hardships of winter, you should not eat them raw.
  • She offers you her help in brewing that potion. She gives you a list of further ingredients for you to gather, and asks you to return when you have found them.
  • You thank her, gather some of the berries, then walk back home, promising to return when ready.
  • finish the ritual in you usual way.

In the days that follow, take time to think more about the instructions you received. Do you understand the meaning of the extra ingredients you have been told to gather? Do some further meditation/questing on this if necessary.

These may be practical acts to perform, like talking to certain people, going places, learning about specific things. Let your intuition guide you. Be aware that the purpose behind an action may only become clear to you after you have performed it.

Another thing to keep in mind is the need for self-care.  Especially when a situation is difficult, it is important that you take good care of your own mental and physical health. There is no point in seeking healing while neglecting the needs of your body at the same time. Think about this, and how this also is a necessary ingredient for a potion intended to help you survive through difficult times. In what ways are you currently ignoring your own needs, and what could be added to the potion to help with that?

Struggling with the Goddes: in search of self

This post is the next episode in my series on ‘asexuality and paganism‘. In this post I’ll be exploring the link with gender, and how being asexual can cause us to struggle with gender questions.  This is my personal story of how Paganism both caused these questions to be more acute, but also ultimately, helped me to (start) resolving them.

In struggling with my sexuality, I seemed to have lost my connection to the woman within myself at some point. A fact which, for quite some time, I chose to (try to) ignore: I had sort of settled for being ‘blissfully unhappy’ (i.e., knowing deep down that something was off, but just continuing to run away from that realization as hard as you can… ).

One of the things that becoming a Pagan has done for me, is somehow force me to stop, breathe, and allowing these hidden wounds to start coming to the surface. Now, probably one of the first notions any new Pagan will come across, is that of the Goddess and the Divine feminine.

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And I realized that I had no idea who She was. Probably because I had no idea who I was, either. I had embraced my sexuality as being a-sexual. It was very liberating to do so, finally allowing me to embrace the idea that if I was not like other people, then that wasn’t because I was a social failure. At the same time, my sense of identity started falling apart. For what else was I ‘not’?

If I wasn’t part of the sexual world, could I still lay claim to the word woman? Walking away from sexuality was like walking away from all reference points that are usually used to ‘define’ what it meant to be a woman. Yes, I had breasts, a vagina, I was menstruating. So yes, in a strictly biological sense, there was no doubt that I was female. However, I realized now that it was very likely that none of these body-parts were ever going to be used for the thing they were meant for. They were part of my body, but seemingly not part of my identity. If I was going to identify as a woman, then my body, female as it might be, was not the reason why.

Time to look elsewhere then. Paganism gave some hints, stating that water and earth were associated to the feminine, and earth and fire were connected to the masculine. Was this helpful? Thrice no. I am an Aries sun, and so the element that I identify with most strongly would be fire. The element that I felt the strongest disconnect to, especially at the time when I started these explorations, was water… As you can imagine, this created more confusion than anything else… Who was I??

It would be fair to say that at the time, I found being around ‘real’ women to be a very scary thing. Because their very existence seemed to confirm how I was a fraud, desperately trying to play the part, but really trying to hide that I had no idea what that meant. What I could not see at that time was that my definition of ‘real’ was as faulty as it could possibly be. It referred to those who looked the part, who were beautiful and sexy, the kind that you would come across in commercials. And so I’ll apologize to them. For I admit that for a time I was almost unable to see the person within, because I was too focused on seeing them as a confirmation of all that I was not.

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Where to run to then? For a short period, I even allowed myself to entertain the notion that maybe the solution was that I was actually trans, with all that fire that I had within me. Luckily I realized pretty quickly that I was on the wrong trail there. (Wrong FOR ME, that is. Let me stress that in writing this, I am only talking about myself, and I have no intention to in any way question other people’s lived experience. You do you.)

But it also made me read quite a bit of stuff written by trans women. For it seemed to me that, if anyone would know the answer, well, wouldn’t they be the ones who had the most ‘pure’ understanding of what it meant to be women? If they could manage to correctly identify themselves as women, even though they were in a different kind of body… Surely I would be able to find the answer there? Another disappointment. Anytime the question of ‘how do you know’ was posed, the answer seemed to be something like, because ‘I just know that is who I really am’, or ‘that is just how I feel on the inside’.

Well, I can tell you that I, for one, wasn’t feeling it. Maybe then, that was because, once again, I actually wasn’t anything at all? And so I began to retreat more and more into trying to identify as agender, as seeing myself as simply ‘person’, and nothing more than that. It felt like a safe place to retreat, but deep down, it also felt a bit like running away from the world, in those few moments when I allowed myself to admit it…

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Enter the gods.

Even as I was seriously questioning my gender identity, it would seem that Someone else wasn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. She called me out on the way in which I had started to systematically block anything marked ‘feminine’ as having nothing to do with who I was. And I can tell you that having to face the anger of a goddess is NOT a fun experience, even if this was not a face-to-face confrontation. The way this happened was through a series of channeled messages, sent to me by a friend who is a priestess of Isis. And Isis is not one to mince her words: she’ll say things as they are: just imagine your mother being very angry at you, where the core of her motivation for yelling at you is that she loves you. Now take the divine equivalent of that.

That accusation felt profoundly unfair. It was not as if I hadn’t tried to connect. The way I saw it, I had simply given up on something that had never been mine in the first place. And so I rebelled. And I yelled back. And had some more rebukes thrown back at me (and if they are phrased with an undertone of love, these are actually the worst kind to have to face…) I honestly did not understand where she was coming from, but she had more than touched a nerve within me.

Until eventually, my resistance broke. It happened one day when I was sitting before my altar. One of the statues on there is of the Virgin Mary (I am not a christian, but I worship her as a protectress of the land and of sacred springs – I live in a country that is littered with tiny chapels devoted to her, ignoring her presence seemed like an absurd thing to do for one who claims to believe in the existence of many gods…). At the time, that statue was standing next to one of Cernunnos.

Was it the contrast between those masculine and feminine energies that made me come to this realization? Still wondering… But suddenly I understood with overwhelming clarity, that that soft caring energy of Mary was very similar to my own. That this was an aspect of myself that I was repressing, and that in doing so I was living as only half of me. And I just. broke. down. I started crying, allowing all of these emotions to flow out all at once, as I felt my walls being torn down by Her.

I still do not fully understand what it means to be woman. Women-only events still scare me. But  there is something deep inside of me that somehow seems to respond to that name. Something that colours the way in which I interact with the world. Something that I am on a journey to try to understand, to become whole again as I try to re-embrace her as part of me.

To finish this post, let me share with you the words that Isis sent me recently. Not as a rebuke this time, but as a stepping stone on my journey. And they just might be useful to some of you as well…

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Musings on the divine feminine

What does it mean to be a woman? Is it part of our body that is shaping our soul, or does the soul residing in the body determine the characteristics of the flesh? Or is all of that inessential, and do we need to look elsewhere for answers?

Or is this a mystery that is just too complex to have a simple and concise answer? 

 The reason so many struggle with this question is because we live in a society that forces answers on us that are not based in what matters at the soul level, but on the roles we are supposed to play in life. Mostly, that is the role of child-bearer. And mother, and wife. 

Only rarely is the role of a women described in terms of how strong we are and how we possess a tenacity and endurance and fighting power that far surpasses that of the male half of society.

What does it mean to take control of your destiny? To be prepared to give up your own essential identity to care for those around you? To not be afraid to give all of yourself in the service of life itself? Or simply, to enjoy the beauty of the world around you? 

It means that you are the woman you are supposed to be. It means that you have found your place in life. Note that empowerment and self-sacrifice are not at all contradictory in this. Standing in your power means that you control what you have to give, and that you set the terms under which you will give it. That you embrace the fact that your life is yours to give, not someone else’s to take.

What is strength? It is knowing what will break you and not giving in to that. It means knowing when to fight, and being prepared to give it your all when the time comes. Whatever happens, you can tame the lion if you find the strength that is your birthright.

What is weakness? What is that? Who determines that? Is it relinquishing control and putting your life in service to another, or is it not daring to swim for fear that you might drown? Whenever you think yourself weak and undeserving of love, that is when you are weak. Not when it is the call of another that you follow willingly.

Woman, find your strength in giving, your empowerment in the fact that you choose who to give to, and your weakness in denying yourself the chance to fight for your own dignity. You are what keeps the world turning, and you are the source of renewal without which the world would not exist.

Claim your rightful place. Be proud. Accept your power to be that of giving yourself.

(Channeled message from Isis)

Exploring Awen: seeking connection

If you have read my previous posts, then hopefully you have tried the suggested exercise and tried to connect to your deep self through writing. In this post I would like to explore that method a bit more.

We are all familiar with our conscience, probably most strongly with that nagging feeling of unease you get when you ignore it, when you neglect to do something, or push through with a plan of action, even though deep down you know that it probably isn’t such a good idea. We all cry out for guidance at least occasionally, and so it is worth entertaining the notion that that guidance is there, that it is somehow a built-in feature of being human. For no matter how often we ignore it, most of the time that gut feeling actually turns out to be right.

There’s a lot we humans disagree on, especially relating to spirituality. But I have never ever heard anyone, even the staunchest atheist, deny the existence of the inner voice of our conscience. And so a question that is worth asking, is: can we teach ourselves to listen better? If we were to pay more attention to it, would that voice have more to teach us? And of course, by asking that question, a second one arises: who is speaking? Is it our higher self? Our inner guides? Maybe the gods? Or possibly all of the above?

I am not going to tell anyone what to believe. My personal opinion is that it is probably all of the above, but if you are not comfortable with that, then just see this as a method of connecting to your subconscious. The technique is the same. Use it as it speaks to you.

Meditation – seeking guidance and inspiration

  • Close your eyes and relax. Breathe in and out deeply and slowly.
  • when you are ready, open your inner eyes.
  • You find yourself on a vast, empty, moonlit plane. Focus on the moon shining above you. 
  • Who do you want to connect to? Whisper their name. Continue whispering until the whole plane around you reverberates with that name (if you don’t have a specific connection in mind here, chant the awen instead)
  • State your intention. What is the project that you need help with, what question do you need advice on? Both state your question, and commit to honouring the inspiration that you may receive.
  • When you are done, see how a pathway opens before you. As you walk along it, you come to a pool of water, that looks somewhat like a giant cauldron. Step into the water, and immerse yourself in it. As you do that, feel how you become one with the liquid. Feel the spirit of the power you called to merging with yours.
  • Then, take a notebook. For the next ten minutes, let go of all preconceptions, and simply write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t worry about coherence. Don’t worry about relevance. Simply write, and keep writing. Give spirit a chance to speak to you. You are the cauldron carrying it, now allow it to flow.
  • When you are ready, climb back out of the pool, and walk back to your starting point. Give thanks, and end the meditation. In the coming days, continue to keep an eye out for signs. It might be good to carry a notebook, and write down any further inspiration that may arise. Especially be aware of little, stray thoughts and sudden unexpected urges. 

As you do this more often, you will find that it gets easier after a while. Personally, I find it to be a great method to connect to deity (or when I need inspiration for topics to write on the blog!)

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The druid notion that fits here is ‘awen’. Inspiration, flowing spirit, … whatever you call it. Experiencing awen is being ‘in the zone’, having a moment of peak consciousness, where it feels, almost literally, as if something flows through us and it seems that, as if by magic, we can suddenly find the perfect words, we suddenly ‘just know’ how best to approach our art project, and so on.

I suspect that this mystery works on the same principle as our conscience, and that we can train ourself to be more susceptible to it. Once again, opinions may vary as to what this mysterious awen is, exactly. Do we just happen to pick up on ideas that are floating around, is someone maybe whispering something in our ears, or is it just that magic happens when we stop trying to hard?

The keyword here is learning to be open.

How do you capture wind or water? Try to grab it and you will find that it eludes you. But, having a cauldron ready (and remembering to take the lid off, and you might just be able to catch the drops of this precious liquid when they fall.

Meditation – dancing with the awen

  • Close your eyes and relax. Breathe in and out deeply and slowly.
  • When you feel ready, open your inner eyes.
  • You find yourself on a vast empty plane, under a moonlit sky. You are sitting cross-legged on the floor, holding an empty cauldron. Notice how, the more you focus on filling the cauldron, the more you become aware of its emptiness.
  • Instead, decide to BE the cauldron. As you make that decision, feel how it merges with you, how the area around your gut becomes the cauldron. 

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  • Start singing. Chant the Awen, or whatever music feels right. Look around you, and see how a wind starts to blow around you. It is not just air, but a whirlwind of colour and sound. As it swirls around you, it invites you to a dance.
  • Take the invitation, get up and dance. Dance with the awen until you forget why you came here, until all that is left is just you, being at one with this dance of colour and light. In this moment, there is no distinction. You are the awen.

You may either stop here, or you can take it one step further (if you do this, it might be good to have some writing and/or craft materials ready):

  • Open your eyes, and focus on your breathing again. With every breath you take, feel how it is not just air, but the awen that you breathe. 
  • Continue breathing the awen until you start to feel how, in fact, it breathes you. The awen is what moves you, and you are simply the vessel that happens to contain it, to give it physical form. Allow it to control you. Give in to any creative ideas that come to you at this moment (write, draw, paint, dance, do whatever feels right. )

Probably the most important thing to remember when you do this exercise, is to get out of your own way. If you go in with the thought of I want to write a fabulous poem now/ create the best art in my life, then it is unlikely that this is going to work. Let go of all thoughts of results, and simply decide to enjoy.

Repeat as often as you like.

Sometimes, however, you will have a specific goal, a specific question, maybe even a specific power or spirit that you want to connect to. In that case, you may want to try the following version of this exercise:

 

 

A solitary ritual for the autumn equinox

Harvest time. Warm days, for the last time this year. 

harvest-fruit

Are you prepared? Bring in your final harvests now, for the time has come to face the fact that summer is over. Darkness creeps in, almost unnoticed at first, but bit by bit, the light is disappearing.

This is the tipping point. The point of balance. Now is the time to ask yourself what you have learned and achieved this year. Have your efforts payed of? Or have you used your energy inefficiently? It is too late to change things now, but remember that experience is worth harvesting as well. A lesson well learned has value, as it will no doubt ensure a richer harvest for the year to come.

This is not a time to be harsh on yourself, but a time for celebration. The year draws to a close, and you have seeded and grown. No matter what happened. So, harvest your experiences. For even if it doesn’t always seem like they are bearing fruit,  the only harvest that will serve you in the future is the one that you bothered to engage with, and made sure to preserve.

Here is a ritual to help you look back on the year that has past and to harvest your experiences for later use, and putting out the first tentative seeds for the future.

 

Autumn Equinox ritual

What you will need for this:

  • three stones
  • A candle
  • Something you harvested yourself
  • A glass of wine, beer or mead

Open ritual space in your usual way. Cast a circle, and call to the elements. When doing so, try to pay special attention to what you have learned this year in terms of air, fire, water and earth. As you call in the elements, give thanks for the ways in which they continue to enrich your life.

Then, take up the stones, and place the candle in the center of your circle. Light it, then circle around it. As you do so, think of the sun circling the earth. How has your year been? Which revolutions happened for you? In circling the sun a single time, how much has your life changed? No matter what the answer, focus on where you are NOW.

earth-rotation

Put down a stone on your current location. It is both a fixed point on your journey, and a marker to remind you of the cyclicity of life.

What are the things for which you need another go? Lessons which you haven’t learned fully enough, or challenges you did not dare respond to. Know that it is never too late to start. Make resolutions for the coming year, should you feel called to do so. 

When you are done, walk to the other side of the flame. Now put down the second stone. Look at your year from the perspective of your spring self. Congratulate yourself on successes gained. Note what went different than what you expected. Could you have foreseen that? Remember these lessons. How could you use them to ensure a better harvest next year? Also look at things that are outside your control. What is a way of circumventing such obstacles next time (if at all possible – this is not about casting blame)?

Then, enter the center. Put down the third stone. What are your goals should you have total control of things? Allow yourself a moment to dream. Then touch your heart. These can stay dreams for now, but it is good to have some light to focus on when entering the darkness. Simply acknowledge them, and allow them to incubate during the coming winter. For it is from your dreams that new light will eventually be reborn. Bless the sun, and realize how you have power over its eventual return.

Sunflower inflorescence with ripe seeds

Now step away, and look at your three stones. They represent past, present and future, and the way they are related. Remember that this process is not linear. May that give you hope for the future. Take the three stones and rearrange them in a triangle. This is your harvest. Place the harvested fruit you brought in the center, and ask your gods and spirits to bless it. Eat a bit of it, enjoying the sweet fruits of the year that has passed.

Finally, take your cup and take a sip. Then, pour out the rest in gratitude to the land that has sustained you through another year.

Spend some time in silence, then finish the ritual.