Friday, January 2, 2015

Liturgy Practicum 1: Domestic Cult Practice in ADF

Requirement #1: Key concepts from required reading:

1.  What three factors ("subcategories") does Bonewits identify as determining the impact of "familiarity" on the success of a ritual? Briefly discuss the ways in which personal or family-only ritual is aided or hindered by these factors when compared to public group ritual. (Minimum 100 words)
Familiarity, when being discussed in a ritual context, is how well the people participating in the ritual know each other and how comfortable they are working together.  Bonewits breaks down familiarity into three categories: knowledge, affection, and group identity (Bonewits 57).  Knowledge is the amount of understanding the participants have about the ritual and the other people involved. In a personal practice, having a strong knowledge of the subject and ritual format can help create a positive ritual experience.
Affection examines the emotional connection that ritual participants have with each other. In a personal ritual, the focus of affection is different, and instead the affection is for the work itself.  If you feel that the ritual you’re performing is a chore or hassle then it won’t work as well as if it’s something you’re doing out of affection and appreciation.
Group identity is the third factor of familiarity that Bonewits discusses, and this was a portion of familiarity that I had not considered before. Having a group identity allows the group to focus their intention and purpose of the ritual more effectively than clashing individual identities may.  For example, my protogrove is made up of many pantheons, including Norse, Greek, Celtic, and Vedic.  This diversity could easily make doing group worship a challenge, but instead we work together to explore new pantheons with our rituals, and as a group we are able to focus our energies and experience new things together.

2.  What six methods of prayer does Ceisiwr Serith describe? Briefly suggest an example of how you might employ each in your personal worship practices. You may include worship with a group if applicable. (Minimum 200 words)
Ceisiwr Serith describes the following six methods of prayer:  Praying through Words, Praying through Posture, Praying through Motion, Praying through Dance, Praying through Music, Praying through Gestures (Serith). 
Praying through Words
Praying through words is the type of prayer that I am most familiar with.  My morning devotional is a prayer said aloud, meal prayers are done through words, and my typical rituals are spoken aloud.  For my personal practice, I tend to use verbal prayers the most frequently to connect with deities, or to ask for guidance from them.  In moments of stress I look for a prayer in my mind to help me relax.
Praying through Posture
            The most comfortable prayer through position for me is similar to the “orans” position discussed by Serith where you stand with your arms are parallel to the ground and your hands open with palms forward (Serith 21).  However, I typically keep my elbows to my side and have only the lower part of my arms out ahead of me, but I feel the purpose is the same. When I hallow and affirm the waters of life, I hold the pitcher well above my head to show that I’m lifting the waters toward the Kindreds to receive their blessings.  I also frequently kneel or crouch down toward the ground when calling the Earth Mother, both as a way to be physically closer to her, but also to show that I am humbled by her and greatly respect her presence.    
Praying through Motion
            Prayer through motion shows how moving from one position to another can strengthen the meaning of your words and give them energy.  Serith describes circumambulation, which means “walking around something” as one way to use motion as prayer (Serith 23).  One area that I see this reflected in my practice is with the opening of the well.  While, I don’t typically walk around the well itself, I do use my arm to make a clockwise motion to open the gate, which is probably closer to a gesture than motion.  I then use a clockwise motion to once again close the well when the ritual is done.  I can see this being used in magic as well when casting a circle for the working.  You would walk clockwise to invoke your circle, and counter-clockwise to release it.
Praying through Dance
Dancing is a type of praying that I don’t frequently use in my personal practice, however, I have found it to be a very effective means of trance induction.  However, this fall I was able to attend a workshop on community building through dance, which was very interesting.  The idea is that by having a simple dance you help to build energy, while also helping people to learn to trust the actions of the other participants and appreciate their presence.  I do think that dancing is a great way to show emotion, and understand that it could be used effectively to pray for some people. 

Praying through Music
            Praying through music is a beautiful practice.  By sharing the gift of music with the Kindreds or with those people around you, you are giving a very personal part of yourself as an offering.  The act of drumming can help to build energy and enthusiasm in a ritual.  Singing a song can focus the intention of all the participants, while also helping them to feel more actively involved if they know the words.  Music can be an incredible way to build connections with other people, as well as the Kindreds.
Praying through Gestures
The intention of gestures in my practice is to help strengthen and reinforce the words that I am speaking. The most intentional gestures I use are when calling the Kindreds. When calling to the Ancestors, I keep my elbows by my side while my forearms are extended and my palms face the ground. When calling to the Nature Spirits, I once again keep my elbows by my side and my forearms extended, but my hands then face out, away from my body.  Finally, when calling to the Shining Ones, I rotate my arms, so that my elbows are still by my side, but my extended forearms and palms are facing up toward the sky. I use these positions based on the cosmological location of each of the Three Kindreds.  By using my hands to gesture in the direction of their realm, I am also sending my intentions and energy in the direction they exist in, which helps to further make a connection with them. 

3.  What arguments does Ceisiwr Serith make in support of set prayers (as opposed to spontaneous prayers)? Discuss how these arguments apply (or do not apply) to solitary Pagan prayer. (Minimum 200 words)
Ceisiwr Serith argues that having set prayers is an important part of our spirituality.  There are two arguments that he has in favor of having set prayers that most affected my thoughts.  First, people facing troubling times may have difficulty coming up with spontaneous prayer, while other people may just not feel that they have the knowledge or ability to write prayers that can properly convey their feelings. “There are times when we want to pray, but words fail us” (Serith 66).  The second reason for set prayers is that “it is impossible for people to pray spontaneously as a group” (Serith 67).  People need to know what to say in order to be comfortable praying together. 
            Set prayers definitely have their utility and can be beneficial in many situations.  Set prayers are useful when you don’t know what to say.  They can help you focus in tough times and give you words to speak when you feel lost.   Being a solitary member of a larger group, set prayers may be able to help you feel more connected to the group if you know everyone says the same prayers that you’re saying even though you are practicing alone.  They can also be beneficial for people who are new to the path by giving them prayers to start from when they may not have the knowledge or comfort level to create a prayer themselves. However, I also see a lot of value in sporadic prayers in personal practice.  Being able to express my emotions and desires at the moment is often a more intense and personal connection than reciting a familiar prayer may be. 

Requirement #2: Documenting personal ritual practice:
4.  Keep and submit for review a journal documenting the development and observance of the personal/household worship customs described above covering a period of not less than four months, including one observance of a seasonal festival, such as one of the eight ADF High Days. Entries are to be not less than weekly. The text of individual prayers and longer devotional rituals should be provided as frequently as possible. Regular practices occurring less than weekly will be considered if they are documented as revivals or reconstructions of historically attested observances occurring less than weekly.

Month 1
9/1/14 to 9/7/14
Discipline has really never been my strong suite when it comes to practicing my spirituality.  So much of my life is ritualized that I feel much more comfortable sporadic rituals or prayers when I feel like I need to do something, so I know these CTP courses will be a challenge for me.  The discipline portion of the Dedicant Path was one of the most challenging parts of that program for me.  I understand the importance of having a regular practice, but this course definitely makes me feel anxious.  I’ve started this process by using a morning Sun Devotional that is based on the writings of David Crawford.  It’s a very simple prayer, but it gives me the ability to do the devotional no matter where I am, which is important with my crazy schedule.  
The sun rises, refreshed and renewed, as do I into this new day.
Through the ancestors, may I gain courage.
Through the nature spirits, may I find peace.
And through the gods may I learn wisdom,
for it is through the Kindreds that I am made whole.

This week I was also blessed with the opportunity to attend the Midnight Flame Festival in Michigan.  The festival is a twelve-hour drive from my home, but the fellowship and experience is absolutely worth it.  Before I left, I said a brief prayer to Hestia, goddess of the hearth and home, and asked that she watch over my home and family in my absence and to keep them safe and warm.  I also gave an offering to Hermes and ask that he watch over our travels and allow us to make it to our destination safely.  
My devotional work during this week took on a much different meaning than it typically does.  I spent the day attending workshops to explore different aspects of spirituality, which always makes me feel much more connected and introspective.  I was also honored to get to experience the first two steps of Jan Avende’s Initiate Program completion, including her exit interview and a full COoR ritual done in with a Hellenic focus.  Her ritual was inspirational and moving.  I also experienced a COoR ritual performed by Grove of the Midnight Sun and several members of ADF Clergy. During this ritual I witnessed the ordination of Matthew Rutledge, which was the first time that I have ever seen the ordination rite.  It was moving and extremely emotional for me considering I had just been accepted to the CTP myself, and knowing that I may be standing where he was some day.
Attending Midnight Flame also gave me the opportunity to meet Rev. Kirk Thomas for the first time and discuss the current role of Regional Druids, their history, and his expectations of the role, which was incredibly important to me because it’s a position that I’m very proud to hold.  The Festival closed with a large Sumbel, which once again moved me to tears.  The love and support seen within the ADF community never ceases to amaze me.  It makes me proud to be a part of the organization.  I received a candle from Jan Avende that had been lit from the Hellenic Kin Flame and spent the trip home exploring my own thoughts, what the study program means to me, and ultimately my expectations of ordination.  Attending this festival was an amazing way to begin the Clergy Training Program. Learning that I had been accepted while there let me share the excitement with the people who care for me and understand what this means.  I couldn’t think of a better way to start this new, exciting path.
Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Pi -- Perseverance through adversity
                                                Gamma -- Successful harvest
                                                Lambda -- Blessing in disguise

9/8/14 to 9/14/14
September 11th is an unofficial day of mourning within the US. People mourn the loss of those who were killed on September 11, 2001 and those who have died in the war that followed.  It brings about a sense of community that is often missing in my city life.  In many Indo-European cultures, ancestors were honored and worshiped in the home, so it seemed appropriate to take this time to honor my own ancestors, for without them I would not be who I am.  My meditation this week was focused on those ancestors.  I started a sonic driving recording that I was comfortable with and sat myself in a comfortable position.  I then began to visualize myself sinking into the ground, into the realm of the ancestors.  Once there I was able to visualize the many ancestors who came before me.  I thanked each one, both those I knew and those I couldn’t recognize by saying: “Hail to you, ancestor.  Thank you for the gifts that your life has given to me.  Without you I would not be who I am.”   I repeated this over and over, honoring them in a very personal way.  I then returned to this realm, sad at those I had lost, but grateful that they are a part of my existence.  I did this each day this week as a dedication to them, as a way to remember all those lost, and to welcome my ancestors into my home as a part of my spirituality. I then did an Omen at the end of the week to try to sum up the experiences, and the Omen definitely seemed fitting.  It shows that I need to be responsible for myself, and that I have high hopes for things that could grow in the future.  I also need to remember that what goes around, comes around, which means can be positive or negative, but I took this as a positive step.  By honoring the ancestors and welcoming them into my heart and home, I truly believe they will walk this path with me and help me to become the best person I can be.
Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Phi -- Take responsibility for actions
                                                Epsilon -- Desire for offspring from a righteous union
                                                Omicron -- What goes around, comes around

9/15/14 to 9/21/14
I spent this week trying to focus on my morning Sun Devotional, which helps honor the Kindreds and welcome them both into my life and into my home. I’m working to get it to be a more regular practice for me.  It is often challenging for me to remember to take this step in the morning when rushing around to try to get myself ready for work and my son ready for school.  However, I’m trying.  I feel like I need to do more than just the prayer, so I’ve started to also light incense with my prayer as a form of offering.  I light the incense as I say my devotional and then place the burning stick in a burner outside of my front door because I am not comfortable leaving anything burning in my house when I am not going to be there.  This still doesn’t feel quite comfortable to me, but I will continue to work on building something that works for me.
Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Rho -- Hold your ground and you will succeed
                                                Eta -- Life giving sun watches you
                                                Omicron -- What goes around, comes around

9/22/14 to 9/28/14
This week was Pagan Pride Day - Omaha, which is something I have been a part of for the past two years, since its inception. I put a lot of effort into making this event successful, just to find myself torn down by the figurative “leader” of the group.  It made me overwhelmingly emotional and forced me to spend several days focused upon my own needs.  I spent the week saying prayers to Hestia, Demeter, and Athena while focusing on cleansing and purifying my home and myself.  I made offerings to each of these goddesses, as well as the Earth Mother to provide me strength and stability when I felt the world around me had been shaken. By the end of the week I was ready for the big event, and ready to conquer the obstacles in my way.
Glorious Hestia,
Goddess of hearth and home,
please watch over my home and kin
in these hard times.  

Graceful Demeter,
Goddess of fertility and harvest,
please guide me and help me to
grow along this spiritual path.

Gracious Athena,
Goddess of wisdom and inspiration,
please grant me your wisdom so
I can make the right decisions in
the days to come.

It was an interesting experience for me to call on upon the deities for assistance because it’s not something that I typically have done in the past, but it felt necessary during this emotional time.  Ultimately, Pagan Pride Day Omaha 2014 was quite successful and I’m quite proud of what we’ve continued to accomplish.  The day started with me smudging the entire park while chanting my Sun Devotional.  The weather was warm and the sunshine upon my skin as I walked through the grass helped me feel warmed and filled with light, and I tried to share that positive energy within the space.  I then knelt at the entrance and said a short prayer to Gaia to thank her for her land and to ask her to help keep negativity away.  
Gaia, mother of all,
you who grant us nourishment and stability,
thank you for letting us use this beautiful space to gather and build community.
Please help us to maintain energy and keep the negativity at bay.
For all of your gifts, Gaia, we thank you.

I then participated in the opening Wiccan ritual.  The day was filled with workshops and fellowship, which was a huge blessing to me. I presented two workshops, first a guided meditation which was a modified version of the two powers meditation that I had found on the ADF website here: .  It was very well received and set a good tone for the day.  I also led an impromptu workshop on ADF Druidry, and then helped to lead the closing ritual which was done using the ADF Core Order of Ritual, written by one of my fellow grove-mates.  It was a very positive experience overall, despite how draining and trying it was at times.
When I returned home after PPDO, I once again made offerings to the goddesses I had worshiped throughout the week and thanked them for their assistance in making it through the week and making the event successful.  I also thanked them for their continued presence in my life, and for helping make my home someplace I felt safe and secure.
Greek Alphabet Oracle --      Khi -- Succeeding will fulfill a golden oracle
                                                Nu -- Strife-bearing gift fulfills an oracle
                                                Gamma -- Successful harvest

9/29/14 to 10/5/14
I’ve continued with my Sun Devotional again this week, trying to do it each morning.  Lighting incense to offer to the Kindreds and placing it outside the door to my home feels like a way to keep my home and family safe and surrounded by the blessings of the Kindreds. I hope the devotional also brings the warmth and light from the sun into our lives.  It’s strange to me that despite how long I’ve been working with this devotional it still feels forced and awkward at times, but I continue to try to make it work for me.  This week I also participated in a second Pagan Pride event, located three hours from me.  I had an informational booth for Prairie Shadow Protogrove, ADF, and also did a workshop on ADF and Druidry.  It gave me the opportunity to spend the day in the park, surrounded by a new community and building relationships.  I participated in a community building ritual, which invoked Hestia as well, which was very comforting to me as it felt a merger between my home practices and the community.  Spending the day in the park warmed my soul and helped me to keep mending after a few stressful weeks.  I walked through the grass barefoot with friends, laughed, and took the time to lie on the ground and look at the clouds.  The loving presence of the community was phenomenal and spending time with my friends surrounded by the natural world made the experience even better.  I love these experiences and it helps to reaffirm the idea that I need to try to continue to build the Pagan community into a positive experience as much as possible.
Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Khi -- Succeeding will fulfill a golden oracle
                                                Nu -- Strife-bearing gift fulfills an oracle
                                                Sigma -- Stay, friend

Month 2
10/6/14 to 10/12/14
My Sun Devotional is going much better this week, and I’ve continued to make offerings of incense to the house spirits and Kindreds.  I find that it comes to my head when I start to feel stressed, and helps me to invoke the warmth of the sun when I most need it.  It’s a blessing to finally feel like I’m doing things “correctly” even though I understand that isn’t the purpose of the discipline.  My first monthly retreat day was also done this week, and it was not quite what I expected.  I woke up earlier than usual in order to have time to do my devotional at my altar.  I stood, still trying to shake the sleep from my eyes, and expressed just how important it was for me to continue along the path toward becoming clergy with words that I can’t seem to remember.  I don’t typically eat breakfast, but I made sure to say a simple prayer at lunchtime to the Earth Mother to thank her for my food and for helping me become who I am.

Gaia, earth mother, you who sustain and support all living things
thank you for providing the nourishment and fulfillment that I need
both in my physical life and in my spiritual one.
Without you, life would not be possible.
Glorious Gaia, thank you for your blessings!

I spent my day working, as I typically do, but tried to keep my spirituality in mind.  To help with this I have created a small altar space on my desk, including representations of the fire, well, and tree.  It gives me peace to see it there, and allows me to remember my spirituality in a very technical world.  I’ve placed it right next to my computer monitor, so it is always in my peripheral vision, so even when I’m working on something else it’s always in the corner of my thoughts, both during the “retreat day” and during every day of work.  It helps remind me of who it is I want to be, and where my focus is needed.
With supper, I once again said my prayer to Gaia, thanking her for her blessings.  I spent the evening with my family, reading mythology stories to my son, and enjoying their company.  Then after I had put him to bed, I did my Solo offering rite to the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper.  I used the ritual found in Appendix 1 in the First Circle Guide for the Clergy Training Program as it was written.    During the workings, I felt the need to put more thought into the omen I had received, so I knelt before my altar and began to focus on the flames of the fire.  Overall, I determined that while this doesn’t necessarily appear to be a favorable omen, the message is that while there may be rough times ahead, if I continue down this path I will ultimately be able successful and able to move forward.   

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Phi -- Take responsibility for your actions
Omega --  there will be a poor harvest, or autumn will be
Rho -- If you will hold your ground for only a short time,
        you will be able to proceed

10/13/14 to 10/20/14
Several times this week, I found myself either unable to sleep, or woken in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.  Each time I was drawn to my altar, where I would stand in the darkness and light candles.  I would then sit in a comfortable position and meditate on my life, my path, and what I expected for the future.  After I felt comforted, I would say a prayer to the goddesses of my hearth, asking for their guidance and aid.  I would then take my offerings outside and stand barefoot in the darkness, listening to the world around me before making my offering.  The wind was cool, but the world was alive around me.  It was a very interesting experience.  

Goddesses of my hearth,
Goddesses of my heart,
I look to you for inspiration,
as both leaders and role models.
Demeter, you who love your child unconditionally,
and show me the gifts of motherhood
Athena, you who helped so many heroes,
and show me how to help those in need.
Hecate, goddess of the crossroads,
you help me to find the right path when I feel lost.
Aphrodite, you who love wholeheartedly
and show me how to love in turn.
Artemis, goddess of the hunt,
you show me strength and independence.  
I thank you all for your gifts and for your guidance.

Greek Alphabet Oracle --      Alpha -- Success
                                                Gamma -- Successful harvest
                                                Xi -- No good can come from an angry woman  

10/20/14 to 10/26/14
I’ve continued to do my Sun Devotionals and really do appreciate having this small practice as the weather starts to cool.  It helps me remember that as dark and cold as the world can be, the warming light of the sun will return.  It also helps me make a small connection to the Kindreds, and makes them feel more present in my life.  This week I also experienced a different kind of meditation.  I had the opportunity to spend several hours on the back of a motorcycle, riding through the country among forests and fields, around lakes and across rivers.  It allowed me to watch the world from a very different perspective than I typically do.  I could smell the plants as we rode past corn fields and into the woods. I could feel the wind on my skin and was warmed by the sun.  It was incredible to feel the connection on so many different senses.  It was like I could feel the lively energy from the natural world encompassing me, and embracing me.  While it seems strange, it was a very beautiful experience for me.   When I returned home, I went to my altar and gave offerings to each of the Kindreds, as well as Gaia and Hermes.  These offerings were to thank them all for allowing me to see the beauty in the world around me, for guiding me along this new path, and for helping me to become a better person.  I wanted to say my thanks to them, but the words just didn’t seem to come out right.  Instead, I gave my offerings in silence and allowed my emotions to send the message.
I also decided to once again perform my ritual in the middle of the night to honor the goddesses of my hearth.  However, now that it feels more planned and less sporadic it doesn’t seem to have the same feel for me.  I don’t understand why I have such a hard time structuring my personal practice, but spontaneous rituals definitely feel less successful in my heart.  Eventually I hope to get past that, but for now, I will go back to using my Sun Devotional as my daily practice and see what happens next.

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Eta -- Helios watches you
                                                Xi -- Don’t polish a turd
                                                Phi -- Take responsibility for your actions

10/27/14 to 11/2/14
Samhain has always been one of my favorite holidays, so for me it’s always a weeklong event.  I spend time preparing myself, my family, and my home for the celebration.  We carve pumpkins as a family, and bake the seeds to use as offerings to the nature spirits.  I bake fall desserts, some to use as offerings to my ancestors and some to share with my community.  Also, at each meal I share a random memory or story of my ancestors, to help share their memory with my family so their presence can live on beyond me.  Samhain now also happens to coincide with the anniversary of my protogrove’s very first ritual, which makes it even more special for me.  This week I went back to the ancestor meditation that I had done in September to allow me to reconnect with my ancestors and remind them that they are welcome in my home.  This week the meditation seemed to be much deeper and more meaningful.  I was able to visualize my great-grandparents and the gifts I had received from them.  I was able to visualize my recently passed mentor and hear his words of inspiration and love.  It seemed remarkably appropriate for this week.
The Samhain ritual for our protogrove felt even more deeply connected for me than it did a year ago.  The invocation we used in our public ritual was inspired by many different ADF ancestor rituals, and seemed to encompass all those people who we had lost in a way that worked for all the people participating.  It was a great experience.

Ancestors of Blood, we call to you!  You gave us our flesh and bone so that we might walk in this world.  You adopted, fostered and nurtured us when our blood could not. You who first taught us right from wrong. You who told us the stories of your past and of ours and gave us the traditions we still hold dear in our own homes.

Ancestors of Our Land, we call to you! You stood on this Land where we live before all others. You lived simply, taking from the land only what you needed.  You who were one with nature. You who loved and respected the Land and all Her inhabitants.  You from whom we learn to go back to natural ways for healing.

Ancestors of Spirit, we call to you!  You worshiped our gods before us. You walked the lands that gave them birth.  You kept the old ways alive despite the encroaching darkness.  Your ways inspire our ways.  Your history and sagas teach us right action. Your artwork and poetry speak to our souls.  We hear your voices in the words of our songs. Welcome all of our Ancestors!

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Omicron -- What goes around comes around
                                                Gamma -- Successful harvest
                                                Mu -- Hard work leads to good return

Month 3
11/3/14 to 11/9/14
This week was time for my monthly retreat once again.  I woke up once again before the sun to do a devotional at my altar.  I stood in the dark, candle-lit room while my family slept only rooms away, and expressed just how important it was for me to continue along the path toward becoming clergy.  I really enjoyed the message and simplicity of my mealtime prayer to the Earth Mother from last month, so I decided to continue using it for these days.   It feels foreign for me to have a prayer time before meals, but I do appreciate expressing my gratitude at the same time, so it’s a strange clashing of emotions within me.  
I once again had to work on my retreat day, but was blessed with a “slow” workday, so I spent a lot of time focusing on my Ritual Mechanics course so it is ready to submit.  It gave me the opportunity to be reminded of how others do their rituals, and to consider how I do things myself, and why I do them.  I spent the day listening to music that helps me feel lifted, and had an hourly timer that reminded me to acknowledge my small altar space.  Each time I would look at my altar and think, “Fire, well, and sacred tree, flame and flow and grow in me.”  It was a very simple devotional that took only a few minutes of my time, but helped to keep my goal in mind throughout the day.  
With supper, I once again said a prayer to the Earth Mother, thanking her for her support and sustenance.  In the evening I did a solo rite to the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper.  I once again used the ritual found in Appendix 1 in the First Circle Guide for the Clergy Training Program as it was written.  The ritual went pretty well, and the omens for this month seem much more positive than they were a month ago.  They seem to indicate that working hard will help keep things positive, and I should continue to stay on the path I am on.  It’s been interesting to try to incorporate my retreat days into my daily life, but I think they are going well thus far. I know some people would do their retreat days on a weekend so they don’t have to work, but it’s important to me to be able to keep my spirituality in mind during every part of my life, even sitting at my desk in the middle of the day.  
Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Mu -- Hard work will result in a good return.
Epsilon -- Desire the offspring of righteous marriages.
Sigma -- Stay, friend

11/10/14 to 11/16/14
This week I tried to continue with my Sun Devotional, but it was more challenging than it has been in a while.  I think it was so difficult because we had cold, cloudy weather so it made doing a devotional to the sun very challenging.  However, I try to remind myself that it is the cold and darkness that I need to put in the most effort.  I also took some of the pumpkin seeds we had from Samhain out into the yard of my home.  I placed them in and around the trees as an offering to the nature spirits, and to help the small critters that live in my yard as the weather begins to cool.  Spending time in my yard, surrounded by the plants and animals makes me feel much more at home than any type of “home” ritual can.  The presence of nature in my life is vitally important to my practice, and I’m happy to be able to give back in any small way that I can.  I said a small prayer to the Earth Mother, thanking her for the beauty of the world around me and for the nature spirits that share this realm with me.  I find joy in their sounds and movement and see them as my companions.  These are the times I feel most connected to the world around me.
By mid-week I had decided to spend a few days with my Patron goddess, Athena.  I would approach my altar, light some incense in offering to her, and say a brief prayer to her.  Each prayer was slightly different, but they all had a message similar to the one below.  Athena has been a presence in my life for longer than seems possible, so it’s important to me to keep my connection to her though this journey, while also allowing myself to explore my spirituality on many different levels.  This prayer was my way of sharing that message with her.
Gracious Athena
Guide me in your wisdom as I approach this new path.
Grant me the strategy to be successful
and the knowledge to know my limits.
Glorious Athena
You who have guided me for so many years
Help me to explore my spirituality
while also remembering my roots.
Amazing Athena,  
Allow me to learn from your lessons
so that I can become the person I am meant to be.
Allow me to explore the depths of my spirituality
and the spirituality of those around me.
Help me to stay connected to my path,
and to have the wisdom to know when I am lost.
Wondrous Athena,
Thank you for your continual presence in my life.  
Thank you for your guidance and your understanding.
Thank you for helping me to become the woman I am today.
May my actions and devotions make you proud.

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Tau -- Parting from companions
                                                Mu -- Work is needed, but change is good
                                                Beta -- With fortune, Apollo will help you.

11/17/14 to 11/23/14
Ever since I was a kid I have used bath time as a time to meditate and explore my thoughts. To do this, I lay down to where my ears are below the water so all sounds are muffled and the only thing that really stands out are the sounds of the water. My brain was really scattered last week because of some random chaos at work, so I decided to take a bath and relax. Once I was in the bathtub I decided to do a brief meditation to help calm me down a little bit and let me focus. I lowered myself into the water, closed my eyes, and let my thoughts drift away listening to the sounds of the water and my breath. Focusing on my breath lead me to do some trance work, continuing upon the Enochian work that I’ve been doing for my Trance course, but lead to a very interesting visualization.  However, in the middle of the trance work, I heard the bathroom door open. I tried to ignore it, I could feel my husband staring down at me in the bathtub wondering if I was trying to drown myself or if I had fallen asleep but I was trying desperately to ignore it so I could finish my conversation, but to no avail.
I’ve also been doing my Sun devotional, but doing it in the cooling weather, as the world grows darker, is difficult.  However, part of me also knows that it is in the weakest, darkest moments that I need to try the hardest to invoke the energies of the sun back into myself and to be thankful for the connection to the Kindreds even if the Sun itself is harder to find.  

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Rho -- Parting from companions
                                                Zeta -- Sometimes flight is wiser than fight
                                                Upsilon -- If you will hold your ground for only a short
time, you will be able to proceed

11/24/14 to 11/30/14
My daily Sun devotional is something that I’m still trying to do, although doing so successfully has been a bit of a challenge.  I’m thankful for the connection to the Kindreds though, so I will continue to do it, during both rough times and good.  It’s like a weird marriage I suppose, through sickness and health, better or worse?  However, this week I had a dream that I was sitting at the top of a hill in some tall grass, surrounded by wild flowers and dandelions.  As I sat there in the sunshine, I began reciting my daily devotional.  I found it very interesting to find my practices showing up in my subconscious mind. Maybe it’s a sign that things will improve from here again?
This week was also Thanksgiving, which gave me the opportunity to express my gratitude in many ways.  I started the week by saying a prayer of gratitude to the Kindreds.  I thanked the ancestors for the courage and opportunities they have given me.  I thanked the nature spirits for sharing the realm with me, and for providing me sustenance and companionship.  I thanked the Shining Ones for their presence in my life and their guidance.   Next I thanked Gaia for the life she has given me, and for helping me to find a spiritual path.  I also thanked Hermes for working as my guide between the realms and helping me to communicate with the Kindreds more effectively. 
Thanksgiving is a time that we do a lot of travelling as a family, so before I left I once again called out to Hermes and asked him to aid us in our travels, to allow us to get to our destination and back home again safely.  When we returned home, I again gave him offerings to thank him for our safe travels. We participated in many Thanksgiving feasts throughout the week, and before each one I would offer a silent prayer to Gaia to thank her for her support and sustenance.

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Alpha -- You will have good luck in all your activities
                                                Xi -- You can’t get blood from a turnip
                                                Iota -- There will always be hard work

Month 4
12/1/14 to 12/7/14
Discipline is something that I still don’t feel like I am succeeding with, and I don’t feel like I’m making the connections I’m supposed to make, so I’ve decided to take on a new project.   I have written a generic COoR rite for my personal use, the purpose of which is to make connections with new deities that I have never worked with in the past.  This generic ritual states that the purpose of this is to aid me on my path toward clergy, and to help me make connections that I have never had before.  To begin with, I want to work through the Greek pantheon, because while it is my hearth, I have focused much of my attention on Athena so I don’t always have the connections I feel that I should at least try to experience.  
I decided to start this process this week, because it was time for my monthly retreat to happen.  I spent all week working to perfect my base ritual, and managed to get it to a point that it can be used repeatedly by simply replacing my deity of occasion and focus of the ritual.  I have also left a space in the “Working” section of the ritual that will allow me to do my Trance work each week in the same ritual.  I have decided that doing Trance work in the ritual for each deity, and trying to make it specific to the deity of occasion may be an interesting way to try to complete these courses, and may give me a chance to further connect with each of them.

Initiate the Rite
Light the fire candle
Shining Ones, I ask for your blessings on this path as I work to build new relationships with the Hellenic deities and foster my spiritual growth on my journey toward ordination.
Cleanse hands, head, and heart
Through this cleansing water, may my actions, intentions, and emotions be pure.
Hearth/Earth Mother
Light Hestia Candle
Glorious Hestia, goddess of the hearth and home, as I work to honor my connection with the Gods I ask you to join me and as I welcome them into my home.
Light Earth Mother Candle
Earth Mother, you who support and sustain all life, I ask you to join me as I continue my journey and work to build my spirituality.
Statement of Purpose
I stand before my altar, purified and ready for ritual.  By performing this rite, I hope to expand my spiritual and ritual experience, while also building relationships with those deities that I have not previously connected with.  I hope to build positive relationships with them, while also growing to understand my own path more clearly.  Today, I am here to connect with __________________.
(Re)Create the Cosmos
Sacred Fire, flame of the hearth, gateway to the Shining Ones, this is the center of the cosmos.  I kindle this fire in warmth and love.  Sacred Fire, burn within me.
Offer whiskey to the fire.
Sacred Well, waters of wisdom, gateway to the Ancestors, this is the center of the cosmos.  In the depth of the water flows wisdom. Sacred waters, flow within me.
Offer silver to the well.
Sacred Tree, pathway between the earth and sky, gateway to the Nature Spirits, this is the center of the cosmos.  You are the path between all worlds.  Sacred tree, grow within me.
Offer incense to the tree.
Open the Gates
I now call to Hermes, the messenger of the Deities and gatekeeper for this rite.  I ask that you guide me through the cosmos.  Let my words and actions carry to the otherworlds.  Hermes, open the gates!
Offer feathers to Hermes
Inviting the Three Kindreds
Shining Ones, those who have been worshipped for millennia, deities of my hearth and many others, you who have guided me through life, I ask that you join me in this rite.
Make offering of oil.
Ancient Ancestors, those who have passed on before me, ancestors of blood, land, and heart, you who have helped me to become who I am, I ask that you join me in this rite.
Make offering of tobacco.
Nature Spirits, those who share this realm with me, spirits of land, sea, and sky, you who have shared my land and home, I ask that you join me in this rite.
Make offering of bird seed.

Deity of Occasion
This is where I will insert the invocation for the deity of occasion.
Prayer of Sacrifice
Through my feelings, thoughts, and actions I honor the Kindreds.  They have given me guidance, inspiration, and motivation.  It is with love, honor, and respect that I have offered my hospitality. Mighty Kindreds, I honor you.  Accept my offering!
Make offering of mead.
I take an omen so I can receive a message from the Kindreds.  What words do you have for me?
Call for the Blessing
I have given my praise freely and now receive a blessing in return.  Mighty Kindreds, may your blessings be given to me.
Hallow & Affirm the Blessings
Behold the Waters of Life!
Drink the waters.
This is where I will insert specific trance work depending on the Deity of Occasion.

Thanking the Beings
_______________, thank you for attending this rite.  I am honored to know you and experience your presence.  Thank you __________.
Nature Spirits, thank you for attending this rite.  May your knowledge and protection continue to make my path clear.
Ancestors, Thank you for attending this rite.  May there be peace between us until we meet again.
Shining Ones, thank you for attending this rite.  May you continue to guide and bless me on this journey.
Closing the Gates
Hermes, thank you for your guidance and protection as I have walked between the worlds.  Now, I ask that you close the gates.  Let the tree be but wood, let the well be but water, and let the fire be but flames.  Let the gates be closed!
Thanking the Earth/Hearth
Gaia, divine mother, thank you for your support and sustenance on this journey.  May my work continue to honor you.
Hestia, mistress of the flame, thank you for attending this rite.  May your warmth and hospitality be shown through me.
Closing the Rite
I have done as my ancestors did and as my children will do.  I will go into the world blessed by this newly found connection with _______________________ secure in the knowledge that I am on the path I am intended to be on.  This rite is closed.
To begin these rituals, I decided to start with Hestia who is the goddess that the Greeks honored both first and last, as well as the goddess of the hearth and home.  I had previously written a prayer to her for my Liturgical Writing course, so I decided to put it to use to see how well it worked.  When retreat day came, I woke up and said my impromptu prayers at my altar, and started my day.  During lunch and supper I said my prayers of gratitude to Gaia for her continued sustenance and support, and spent the evening reading over the ritual I had written to make sure everything sounded the way I wanted it to. After I had put my son to bed, I completed the full ritual, and I’m quite pleased with the results.  I think this will help me put a standard practice into place, while being varied enough to not get bored or frustrated with the process.  
The flame is lit, to build our hearth and to welcome Hestia to the rite.

“Hestia, glorious goddess of the hearth,
You who we honor both first and last.
You embody both hearth and home
And guide us with your warmth.
With your name, we ignite the hearth fire.
Come forth and dwell in this space.

(Offer mead)

“We offer to you our mead, first bottle of the season,
to honor you first, before all others.”
“Hestia, gracious goddess of home
Goddess of the living flame
You who keep the hearth ablaze
And inspire us with your light.
With your name, we start our rite.
Come forth and dwell in this place.”

(Offer mead)

“Through you, may our hearts warmed.
Through you, may our homes be bright.
Through you, may all who join be welcomed.
And through you may our intentions be pure.
Hestia, magnificent goddess,
Come forth and encounter this rite.”
I received positive omens that I am on the right path and that I am taking a step that is pleasing, both to me and to the Gods.  I decided to try to incorporate my trance work into these rituals, so once I made it to the “working” portion of the ritual, I picked up Hestia’s candle from my altar, and placed it on a low shelf.  I then sat upon the floor and focused my eyes on the flame, which was hidden behind the sigil of Hestia that is etched into the candleholder.  Initially my vision doubled and I watched the flames dance and move.  I found myself drifting, and remembering fondly the flames of my past, those hearth fires and community fires that I had experienced throughout my life.  I had thoughts of camping as a child, telling stories by the fire.  I could feel the warmth of the Midnight Flame as I talked into the wee hours of the night.  I felt the warmth of my grandparent’s fireplace.  I saw the shadows of the flames as I spent hours talking with my new protogrove after our very first ritual. All of these flames showed me the community I was in, and helping to build.  All of these reminded me just how important the hearth is to me, and made it quite obvious that Hestia has been present in my life for much longer than I realized. I think this will be a very interesting experiment overall.
Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Eta -- The life-giving Sun will care for you
                                                Gamma -- You will have a successful harvest
                                                Theta -- You have the helping Gods of this path

12/8/14 to 12/14/14
My sun devotionals this week feel much improved, maybe because of the additional work, or maybe I’m just in a better state of mind.  I’m not sure why there is an improvement, but I’m pleased with the work that I’m doing now.  The ritual with Hestia worked very well last week, so I’ve decided that the invocations that I do will be written in the same format, so at least I have a form to work from in creating a new invocation each week.  This week, I have decided to honor Gaia, because in ADF tradition she is the first Goddess honored, and the last one to be thanked.  I’ve decided it would therefore be appropriate to do her ritual after Hestia, but before I continue along this journey.  Also, the connection with the Earth Mother is a vital part of the CTP discipline, so I wanted to make the effort to further make my connection with her.  I did the same “plug and play” ritual that I had created, with Gaia as my deity of occasion.  I had great results and thought the structure worked well for this practice, and I’m excited for the possibilities of this ritual style.
“Gaia, primal goddess of the world,
Great mother of all.
You were the first to be born from Chaos
and from you all life has formed.
With your name, we grow and change.
Come forth and dwell in this space.
(Offer honey)

“Gaia, gracious goddess of the earth
Eldest of all beings,
You who support and sustain us
And inspire us with your love.
With your name, I start my rite.
Come forth and dwell in this place.”
(Offer honey)
“Through you, may we learn to love.
Through you, may we learn to support.
Through you, may all who join be welcomed.
And through you may our intentions be pure.
Gaia, magnificent goddess,
Come forth and encounter this rite.”

This week I also participated in an interfaith Yule ritual to build fellowship and community.  This ritual was done in collaboration with the Red Grail, and Nebraska Heathens United.  It was a beautiful, short ritual and was nice to see the community coming together to form friendships and “play nice” together.  I’ve always wanted to see a true Pagan community and it is through those efforts that it is more likely to happen.  I already see people making connections and building relationships, and that makes me incredibly happy.  
Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Lambda  -- Blessing in disguise
                                                Eta -- Life-giving sun will care for you.
                                                Iota -- There will always be hard work

12/15/14 to 12/21/14
This week, my ritual was done for Hermes. Hermes is a god that I have used as my Gatekeeper repeatedly since I joined ADF, but I have not ever take the time to honor him as the deity of occasion, so I thought it would be appropriate to honor him next.  Also, the Gatekeeper is a very important part of clergy discipline, so I want to continue to foster that relationship.  Building this ritual allowed me to see just how important the gatekeeper is to ADf practices. The gatekeeper is the one that we use to open the doors between the worlds, and it is through those doors that we are better able to communicate with the Kindreds and build relationships with them.  From my experiences, the gatekeeper also works to keep the way down the path clear and safe, making the journey between the realms a much more positive experience that it could be if we tried to undertake the journey on our own.  I performed my solo rite again, and used this invocation:
“Hermes, god of boundaries,
and great messenger of the Gods.
You are the protector of travelers
and the patron to writers and poets.
With your name, I make transitions,
Come forth and dwell in this space.
(Offer mead)

“Hermes, skilled bringer of luck
guide to our ancestors,
You who guide and guard our travels
And share our words with all worlds.
With your name, travel between the realms.
Come forth and dwell in this place.”
(Offer mead)
“Through you, may I learn to share my words.
Through you, may I learn to travel between  words
Through you, may hone my skill.
And through you may I embrace hospitality.
Hermes, magnificent god,
Come forth and encounter this rite.”

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Zeta -- Futile to fight the force of the ocean
                                                Phi -- Take responsibility for actions
                                                Psi -- Righteous judgement

12/22/14 to 12/28/14
This week my family celebrates Christmas together, and even though I’m not Christian it’s an important tradition to me.  This once again meant it was time to travel away from home, and I felt drawn to call to Hermes to ask for aid in safe travels.  I used a prayer based on last week’s devotional and gave offerings to him both before we left and when we returned home. 
Hermes, god of boundaries,
and great messenger of the Gods.
You are the protector of travelers
and the patron to writers and poets.
I ask that you aid us in our travels,
To allow us to spend time with our loved ones,
And again to help us return to our home.
Thank you for all the aid you’ve given me in the past
And I hope to continue to work together in the future.

I also said a prayer to Hestia before we left and after we returned, asking her to protect our home while we were away saying something similar to this:
“Hestia, glorious goddess of the hearth,
You who we honor both first and last.
You embody both hearth and home
And guide us with your warmth.
I ask that you watch over our home as we depart
Keep it safe and warm as we are away
And help us to keep your hearth fire in our hearts.
Thank you for the warmth and light you’ve shown
Both me and my family.
I am honored by your light in my life.

I also continued with my weekly exploration of the Greek pantheon.  I’ve been really enjoying these rituals and building relationships with deities that I haven’t connected with before. This week, my ritual is being done to Helios, to welcome the light of the sun back into the world.  Doing this ritual this week also seemed to reignite the flame of my sun devotional, helping me remember how important it is to my practice, and reaffirming the idea that the simplicity of it is awesome and beneficial for my practice.  Calling to Helios seemed like a fitting ritual to do during the time of the winter solstice since he is the one who drives the sun across the sky. I performed my solo rite again, and used this invocation:
“Helios, god of the bright sun,
and guardian of oaths,
You who drive the sun across the sky
and bring light to the world.
With your name, I look for the light in the world around me,
Come forth and dwell in this space.
(Offer mead)

“Helios, great god of sight,
all-seeing chariot driver,
You who help the sun traverse across the sky
which brings hope to the world with each dawn.
With your name, I look forward to longer days.
Come forth and dwell in this place.”
(Offer mead)

Your journey across the sky reminds me
to bring my own light to the world,
to channel the warmth of the sun.
I wish you safe travels throughout the year,
and hope to have the same throughout my journey.
Helios, magnificent god,
Come forth and encounter this rite.”

Prairie Shadow Yule Rite
            This week I also attended and performed the Prairie Shadow Protogrove Yule rite.  We did a beautiful Norse ritual to Sunna to welcome the light back into the world and help us all find the light in the darkness.  However, this was the first time that our omen indicated that we had not yet sacrificed enough to the Kindreds.  When the omen was returned, I gathered up extra offerings and as I gave them shared the idea that the omen reminds us that even in these darkest times, when things seem to be the hardest, we need to be able to look for the light and often that means being able to give more of ourselves than we thought possible.  The words were sporadic, but came from my heart, and the message was well received by those participating.  It also lead to us receiving a much more favorable omen, and which allowed us to proceed with the remainder of the ritual.  During the workings part of the rite, we installed our first set of officers, with myself as the Senior Druid.  It’s phenomenal to see how much our little group has grown, and it makes me incredibly proud to be a part of it.  

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Theta -- You have the helping Gods of this path
                                                Alpha -- You will have good luck in all your activities                                                          Upsilon -- The affair holds a noble undertaking

12/29/14 to 12/30/14
This week, my ritual is being done in honor of Hecate.  Hecate is a goddess that is often misunderstood by people, and she is often viewed as a “dark” goddess.  However, my experience with her was anything but.  She is a goddess of crossroads, and a guide along the path of the unknown.  To me, she seemed like the appropriate deity to work with as we transitioned from 2014 to 2015.  My omens seem to indicate that the path I am on can be a positive one with hard work, but that the timing is important, as is taking responsibility for my actions.  It is an omen of hard work, but positive outcome if I’m willing to put that effort into it.
“Hecate, goddess of the crossroads,
and patron of magicians,
You who light the pathways
in the darkest nights
With your name, I continue down this path.
Come forth and dwell in this space.
(Offer mead)

“Hecate, great goddess of new beginnings,
shining your lantern on the path for those who are lost,
You who help the ancestors find their way,
and carry the knowledge of sorcery and magic with you.
With your name, I seek to choose the right fork of the crossroads.
Come forth and dwell in this place.”
(Offer mead)

“Through you, may I learn to see my own path.
and through you, may I learn to help guide others toward their own.
Through you, may I find comfort in magic
And with you may I find light in the darkness.
Hecate, magnificent goddess,
Come forth and encounter this rite.”

Greek Alphabet Oracle --       Delta -- Timing is everything
                                                Mu     -- Hard work will result in a good return.                                                                    Phi     -- Take responsibility for your actions

Works Cited

Bonewits, Isaac. Neopagan Rites. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2007.

Serith, Ceisiwr. A Book of Pagan Prayer. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2002.

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