Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Daily Work

I am still challenged by the mental discipline requirement of the Dedicant Program. I've tried to cultivate a regular meditation practice but it's not easy for me. I've learned -- and this realization will be part of my essay when I finally write it -- that I really need a point of focus to keep my attention, and most forms of the 'clear your mind' sort of meditation don't really work for me.

A couple of months ago, we began holding a nightly devotional to Frigga, divided into three phases -- opening the hearth when we begin preparing dinner, an offering made when we serve it, and closing the hearth at the end of the night. I've been counting that plus weekly or so sessions with Ian Corrigan's Two Powers narration, but just this week I've adopted a new practice.

Using this text by Teo Bishop, I'm performing a solitary devotional each morning, followed by a three-rune daily divination. It guides me to focus on the trinities -- fire, well and tree and ancestors, nature spirits and deities, and then on the runes of the day. It takes only a few minutes and it's right at the start of the day. I'd like to get 2-3 months of consistency with that, and then I may be ready to write that one.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nearing Completion

I've gone through my Dedicant writings, revised them and assembled most of the final submission. I still need to redo the section on the Kindreds, I'm not yet ready to finalize the mental discipline section, and I need to write and take the Dedicant Oath, with appropriate documentation. Apart from those things, it's all ready to go.

This has been a very rewarding endeavor and I've learned a lot. But probably the most important product of it is I have developed a real religious identity out of what began as an area of inquiry, something to explore. I can't say it was unexpected -- it was the goal, after all -- but it's gratifying all the same.

How much of that is credit to the DP and how much just to my own interest and inquiry -- that is, would I have gotten here on my own without the DP requirements driving me forward -- I can't say. But it has been very helpful to have the requirements, the range of assignments and the mandatory documentation along the way.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Developing a Daily Practice

My religious and spiritual ideas tend much more to orthopraxy (practice) than orthodoxy (belief), and it's been that way no matter what religious path I've been on. 

This doesn't mean that I'm great with Daily Practice - just the opposite. I find it very challenging to sustain an act until it becomes habit.  I don't see that challenge to be a bad thing - in my experience, making a conscious choice to engage in some sort of daily practice and pushing through the inclination to let it slide has all sorts of spiritual and mundane benefits to it, whether that practice involves a prayer of some kind, a ritual of some sort, a pause to meditate, a daily walk, a daily divinatory reading, or whatever habit one might come up with that allows one to ground, center and focus contemplatively on where they are in connection with the universe, their gods, or the sacred in whatever form it takes for them.

Since Yule, I've begun a daily practice of centered around my "hearth" - a small shrine in the kitchen that holds a statue depicting Frige (an Anglo-Saxon goddess who is the deity of my hearth), a bell (it's a sleigh bell on a the end of a wand), an oil lamp that acts as the hearth flame, an incense holder, and a leaf shaped dish  that holds offerings.  Sometimes, there are additional offerings, such as flowers, a libation, chocolates...

Everyday, before the evening meal preparation begins, I chime  the bell, then I light a stick of incense, use it to light the oil lamp, while saying a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to Frige. 

A bit later, when I am dishing up our meal, the first portion goes into the offering dish and set on the altar with another prayer, asking that she accept her portion as a 'gift for a gift'.

Lastly, after dinner, I pray a third time, this time requesting her aid in protecting our home, and blessing it with love, and kindness to one another, and that she stay with us throughout the night - and then put out the lamp for the evening.  The offering is left on the shrine until bedtime, and then set outside.

It took a good while not to feel self-conscious, or to wonder if this was a good practice or something 'silly', but that's gone away - it's my daily practice, it has become habit, and it is meaningful to me. As I contemplate Frige's qualities - organizational skills, domestic arts, managerial horsesense, being  the "Keeper of the Keys" - and of the peace, I am reminded daily to take my domestic tasks seriously, reminded that I, too, can choose to act in a way that leads to peace and harmony in the home rather than sowing discord.  It reminds me that the act of putting together a meal isn't jus a task to be got through, but something deeply important that is at the heart of our home.

My commitment is to do this until next Yule - but I suspect that by then the very idea of not doing it will be unthinkable to me.

Shared with Pagan Blog Project and cross-posted from The Auld Grey Mare.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Our Altar at Imbolc

Our altar has suffered lately from clutter, and attempting to do too much all at  the same time. So we decided to move the altar proper (the Well, the Fire, the Tree) to its own space, and purchased the lovely red cabinet in this picture for that purpose.  Beneath it, we will have space for storage of consumables (incense, candles, etc) and practical use items (lighters, a small pitcher to pour water, etc) as well as a shelf to house the current spiritual books we have on rotation, so they don't stack up waist high and trip us as we walk by (not that much of an exaggeration).

The green cloth covered cabinet (a repurposed entertainment center) is now our shrine - a place for the seasonal tree, which is decked out for each holiday, as well as a place to hold other ritual items.  This portion will change for each ritual we perform at home.  Right now, it's set for Imbolc.

On  the wall above the shrine are a pair of carved wooden symbols - the UU Chalice, and a triskele with two crescent moons.  Between the altar and the shrine is a tall table that holds what we think of as our chalice.  All of this together is a pretty adequate reflection of the eclectic nature (and history) of our religious journey.

A closer look at the altar, from left to right:  a bell - this was a gift several years ago from a friend who traveled through Asia.  There is a dragon on it, and a connected clapper that swings and hits the bell; our World Tree representation - this is actually a carved wooden "hot chocolate whisk" from Mexico, a gift from my daughter; a stone oil lamp (our Fire) Michael found during a trip to his hometown; a carved drinking horn (carved with a raven), sitting in a carved horn holder - a gift from me to Michael for Yule; a stoneware blue and brown bowl (bought at a yardsale) that serves as our Well, and in front of that a silver bracelet we use to silver the well.  Lastly, a candle snuffer.

Look how pretty the oil lamp is when lit!

The seasonal tree is something I've been doing for about three years now.  This is its 'look' for the season following Yule - blue and silver and white balls and sparkly snowflakes to reflect Winter after Yule has passed.  Amongst the frosty ornaments, there are also a few sun symbols, as the light returns, and for Imbolc, there is a Brigid's cross, as well as a Celtic harp.

For Imbolc, I have surrounded the tree with a ring of dried white roses, saved from a bouquet Michael gifted me a while ago, and next to the tree, a corn husk dolly (our "Bride") lies in her Bride Bed.

 Her bed is actually a stoneware bread tray - at the top is a Claddagh that was a gift from a friend who brought it back from Ireland - it's actually carved out of dried peat.

The Brigid dolly is made from cornhusks - one I made a couple years ago, and filling the bed are a bunch of dried red rose petals from a friend's garden, saved since last summer.

It hadn't actually occurred to me until now how very much of what we use are gifts that connect us with other aspects of our life.

 The remainder of the shrine is a simple arrangement of 8 white tea-lights surrounding 3 red votives - these are being lit for a part of our Imbolc ritual this year.   The trio of red votives reminds me of a red heart.

It seemed wise to make sure nothing cluttered or flammable was anywhere near the candles.