2016 Yearly Review
It’s difficult to remember how I was feeling one year ago when I started this journey into the OBOD Bardic Grade. I was reviewing my open journal, which I founded online on a truly strange website called Tumblr, and I found many exclamation marks and words of excitement as pieces of the puzzle of what we call this world began to fall into place in my mind. Everything I had been absorbing like a sponge for the last eight years was finally converging and yet I still saw so many loose threads just begging to be pulled. It frustrated me and excited me that this was not the end to my learning but only another, and perhaps deeper, beginning. My initiation, both in solitary at my house and again in community at the OBOD East Coast Gathering, were profound to my development along this path. I find ritual to be an instigator of peace and emotional healing both within myself and within my space. “To Know Thyself” has been my goal since High School. A goal that meant facing up to some brutal honesty about myself, my past and my personal issues. Nothing has been more sacred and more healing to me then my time in ritual and in mindful meditation where my shadow work was waiting to break down my walls and build myself up again as a whole person. The goal to “Know Thyself” will never change, but after this year of intensive introspection I find my new goal to be “To Know Happiness, Peace and Love”.
Ironically, I discovered Druidry in 2008 in the academic setting while studying Nursing, of all things! During my Freshman year of undergraduate in an electives class I was assigned to write a paper on a religion that was not one of the Top 5, ei: Not Christianity, Judaism, Catholicism, Muslim or Buddhism. My grandmother is our family’s genealogist and had recently shown me our family lineage, of which a good portion are labelled as “Celtic”. I decided to look in the library under Celtic religion and found Philip Carr-Gomm’s “The Druidry Handbook” which had been released not two years previously, in 2006. After reading that book in one afternoon I went back to the library and borrowed every single book they had by Philip Carr-Gomm and every book they had regarding Druidry. I received an A+ on that paper.
Not two years later my first altar was dedicated to my personal growth and also to the elements which have continued to inspire me. The most sacred tool I have established in my practice would be meditation. The second most sacred tool would be the staff I cut myself from a familiar Apple tree. It is full of life and helps me begin and move forward in my thoughts. Most notably, even through all the years my staff had remained inconspicuously like a walking stick, this October I placed a clear quartz on it with a triskelle and the small metal leaf I received after my Bardic Initiation. This change in physical appearance to my staff was rather significant to me emotionally but I really can’t put words as to why. I have a feeling I’ll learn more about the significance in my Ovate Grade.
Despite my inability to establish deep roots in the physical world, due to moving around a lot as a child and as an adult, my roots have dug deep into the soil of my sacred grove. I have established friendships with Bards, Ovates and Druid’s alike, both online and at the OBOD ECG. Friendships which will continue to nurture and grow throughout the years. Beyond that I have grown connected to the items I use within my daily practice, my physical representations of the elements, my physical representations of the masculine and the feminine, my oracle cards, my tarot cards, my books and the feelings I have when I sit down to meditate. These little things are that which together keep calling me back to “my Druid room”, my sacred space, the physical connection to my spiritual sacred grove where I can think, be at peace, be safe and be open to that which wishes to make itself known. My sacred grove is this universe and also my spare room and also the community of OBOD and also a place my spirit energy goes to when I am deep in meditation. There is peace in my Sacred Grove.
Light Body Exercise
I was quite excited to see this exercise among the Gwers as I had been doing this for years after reading about it in one of Philip Carr-Gomm’s books. I remember first completing this exercise in the back yard of the dormitory in my freshman year of college almost 9 years ago and feeling that my brain was too fuzzy afterwards. I remember eating half a pizza for supper before that fuzzy feeling in my brain went away. I remember googling “self care after meditation” and realizing that I had no idea what this “grounding” was. I remember practicing grounding and making tea for myself before trying to meditate or create a Druid’s Egg or a Light-Body Exercise again. I have kept those practices with me even today. Specifically, for the Light-Body Exercise, the colors I most tend to create around me are yellows, greens, and blues. This is not by some conscious choice but simply because that’s what feels best at that time.
I have created a ritual out of meditation which goes something like this:
- Make tea and set it with my moon-charged water on the west side of my altar as an offering and a water element and something I will drink in honor to the universe and the gods.
- Cleanse and Center Myself
- Align my chakras in a spiral pattern
- Light-Body Exercise
- Druid’s Egg
- AWEN Three Rays of Light Exercise
- Meditate (what a short word for something so broad)
- Ground myself while I drink tea
- Document the experience in my online open journal
The Elements: Earth/Calas
Earth was a hard element to connect with at first, my brain had difficulty with the notion of understanding an element deeper than its characteristics. I was aware of the element of earth and could list hundreds of words associated to it but I knew I needed to go deeper then that in order to truly find a connection with it. After about a week of mindful meditation, nature walks and reading I slipped into earth quite comfortably! The element of earth feels like a parent to me, oddly enough. A calm stability, an oxymoron, that reminds me to de-stress, to focus, to act on animal instinct and be wild but also to ruminate before speaking.
The Elements: Water/Gwyar
Frequently as I child and teenager I would allow my emotions to overload my senses when frustrated or angry. I was conceived under a water sign, born under a water sign and have lived my life through my emotions. I realized that at a young age and self-control and moderate became a long-term goal for myself during my High School years. Recently, I was reading Tarot with my little sister and she asked me to pick a card as a self-representor. I drew a random card from the deck, turned it over and it was the Queen of Cups. My growth in this element has been long and arduous, a labor of self-love as I learned to balance my emotions, to add the other elements to my water to assist in decision making (now based as much on logic as on emotion) and to trust my intuition implicitly.
The Elements: Air/Nwyfre
My study of Air was easier then I expected it to be as Air has become nearly as strong within my person as Water due to years of study under academia and under my father who is a very strong Air element. I previously misunderstood Air to be a flighty mistress but now that I know more about the elements I have found it to represent detached intelligence and wisdom without arrogance. I’ve been cultivating Air within me for years through my undergraduate and graduate work and also use the detachment and clarity of the element daily within my nursing career.
The Elements: Fire/Ufel
The element of Fire is an active element and the hardest element for me to connect with. For passionate people it may be easy to relate to this element but it wasn’t enough to “know” about the element of Fire as I wanted to understand how it fit into my life and how it reacted with me. It doesn’t feel right to memorize a subject’s properties, not when it comes to personal growth. I wanted to experience the elements.
It never felt like the element of Fire “fit” me as it was always too pure, too hot, too wild or too irrational. The spontaneity and extraversion is hard to relate to for introverted personality types. As an ambivert, both introverted and extraverted, I am neither spontaneous nor continuously extraverted. It was finally when I realized that it’s ok for me to constantly be attempting to achieve Fire that I understood my relationship to Fire. My continued ambition, both academically and personally, is part of the element of Fire. It is ok to keep “invoking the element of Fire within me” as one of my long-term goals in my life because to live with Fire is to constantly try, to constantly attempt new things, to constantly go with passion after what you desire. Fire is not something that I will ever “be” but something that I will constantly “do”. I have Fire deep within me and all around me and the moment I stop learning, the moment I stop loving, the moment I stop trying to improve myself or the world around me is the moment I will have lost my connection to the element of Fire. I now have the symbol of Fire, a simple triangle, tattooed on my left shoulder surrounded by three Oak leaves as symbolism of this notion.
Wheel of the Year and the Seasonal Celebrations
What a broad subject for this tiny paper! I could not even begin to fit everything I have learned into less then nine pages but I will try to make this extremely brief and yet poignant. The grand consideration of the turning of the wheel, of the year, of it’s correlation to our lives, to the elements, to astrology, to Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, to the four fire festivals and to the four Equinoxes has played a significant role in my thoughts this year and I have come to some conclusions.
- The spiritual energy we see building at different points throughout the year, converging at points and then dispersing only to start rebuilding again is something which cycles four times a year without fail. This energy is neither created nor destroyed and appears to follow similar patterns and rules to our current understanding of the laws of energy. This thought process requires further research and understanding before any hypotheses or assumptions are created on my part.
- Circles are profound and the movement within the circle has shown itself to be sacred but a specific type of sacred that holds no reservation. The ethics and views of the universe I currently have are much developed in comparison to where my thoughts were a few years ago. And again very different to the thoughts I had developed in middle school after many discourses with my father (a formally trained Christian theologian… so you see the different perspectives we are coming from: monism vs. polyism, etc). It all relates in one way or another to the idea of a circle which has been impacted heavily by observing the seasons more diligently this last year during my Bardic training. The most thought provoking word I have encountered this year was Pandism and I have spent many hours considering the theories surrounding spirit energy, which was a topic I was, sadly, never introduced to in my childhood beyond the idea of the “holy ghost”.
- I enjoy celebrating Druid Holidays with others. This was surprising for me because I don’t enjoy talking about spirituality or religion. In fact, I don’t really like that many people as I find the majority of people I meet to be rude, brash and thoughtless. I feel very strongly against pushing your views upon anyone else. However, the sense of community I felt at the OBOD ECG was overwhelming, the people were all fascinating, intelligent, accommodating and the experience has changed my viewpoint of doing ritual and celebrating seasons with others.
This Bardic journey has allowed me freedom to learn, to explore and to experience myself and our universe without a fear of failure or inadequacy. Within the boundaries of natural laws, truth and justice I am experiencing Taliesin’s journey and AWEN, and through AWEN, freedom. Freedom to be creative. Freedom to be a whole self. Freedom to embrace change. Freedom to germinate in all three motions: downward, outward and upward. Freedom to pursue wisdom in all it’s forms.
The triskel is such a meaningful symbol to my life, my growth and my aspirations. It represents continuity, development, and the grace to get back up on my feet to start over again. All while surrounded by love and protection. Working within the Intensive Care Unit these last five years I have been a part of the last moments in many strangers lives and death has become a huge part of my everyday life. I would consider myself to have a close companionship with death and I’ve found that most of my patients do not fear death itself but rather fear leaving behind their family and fear any pain that may prelude death. Druidry, the triskel and the triads have assisted the development of my worldview, a view that associates death with part of the process of being alive, as not a true ending but as a doorway to the greater gathering of spirit, to which our own spirits will disperse into like droplets of water scattered in the ocean. While, at the same time, in another place, new droplets of spirit come together again out of the ocean in new ways to create a new spirit in a new body. This is part of what Pandism means to me.
“When you die, only three things will remain of you, since you will abandon all material things on the threshold of the Otherworld: what you have taught to others, what you have created with your hands, and how much love you’ve spread. So learn more and more in order to teach wise long-lasting values. Work more and more to leave to the world things of great beauty. And love, love, love people around you for the light of Love heals everything.”
French Druid Triad, François Bourillon
My gift to the world will be realized as I continue learning just as I have been these last eight years, so that I may teach what I have learned through my studies, through my experiences and through my intuition. I plan to create a book, of which I am already 65 pages deep (yay!), marrying the concepts of scientific inquiry to modern non-religious witchcraft. I am not a very artistic person but I can do research like no-body’s business as I have practiced that particular skill over and over again these last eight years in the academic setting, so I plan to put it to use.
Druidry is a spiritual journey which marries the material, the here and now, with the recognition of that which is beyond the material. It is loyal only to truth, seeking AWEN: Gwron, Alawn and Plennydd. I will continue down this path with the purpose of knowing myself, knowing my world, and leaving something beautiful in it before my own energy disperses back into the spiritual atmosphere.