"At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he takes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find Nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men who come to her."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Pinecone

Watercolor of a Pinecone
Throughout recorded history certain elements of nature have come to symbolize various human traits and this is often used in Bardic tradition to enhance the magic of story-telling. In the circle of fire light a thousand years ago, perhaps, the bard uses his voice and body to enact various scenes of the story. A captive audience will find their imaginations soaring as different characters are described, sometimes as animals, sometimes as a plant or other part of the natural world. Immediately their understanding of the character deepens through the use of symbolism.

 As the seed-bearing part of one of the most ancient plants on earth and the first evolutionary form of a flower, the pinecone is a very interesting thing as both itself and as a symbol for peace, fertility and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to perceive light, to "sense", to find connection to the Source.

There are both male and female cones, the males being typically smaller than the larger females. The females hold and protect the seed until they sense that the time is right for them to open and release their seed onto the earth. This isn't always as often as we might think - while many cones release their seed yearly, or every few years, some pinecones can remain attached to the tree for many more before maturity, and some serotinous cones only are able to open when exposed to extremely hot temperatures that will melt the resin coating them. Often, this extreme heat takes the form of fire.

As so often happens when we look around us at the order and cyclical beauty of Nature, there is much for us to learn. What are the seeds we are holding? What dreams do we have? What do we want to see happen in our lives? Are we hiding our dreams or are we actively letting them develop, consciously waiting for the time to let them grow? What is holding us back? Are we listening for the Source, are we trusting our instinct? If we experience devastating circumstances in life, is there a way to allow this to change us; to bring us closer to our dreams? If we go through fire, is it an ending? Or will it merely burn away that which no longer serves us? May we all seek the next step in the journey of Becoming.  

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Reflection & Purpose

As this calendar year draws to a close, the end of my first year in OBOD fast approaches. Earlier this month I was sitting in my room, by the sunny, south-facing window where I have my books and my journals and I started considering how this past year has affected and changed me as I went through the Bardic grade. The thought was enormous and overwhelming so I started my thought process over and began very small.

Just looking around me at that corner in which I sat, I noticed the stark change from last November. Last fall this bit of my room was efficient and organized, perhaps, but it wasn't warm. It wasn't living. It wasn't full of my thoughts, my dreams, my lessons and my creative spirit. It wasn't a place of inspiration and motivation like it is now. Now, with so many hours spent here over the last year, it has become a sacred place in my home, a place where I can go when I need a moment to quiet my soul and to find reason in whatever I am currently struggling with.

In the window bundles of herbs hang to dry, infusing the air with spicy odors. Pots of brushes and palettes of paints are messy on the windowsill. A large bag stuffed with yarn is nearby and whatever project I'm currently working on is on my work table. My drum is in its woolen bag by the chair and my flute hung by the strap of its bag on a hook. The reading table next to me is littered with papers, pens and pencils and practice paintings, sketches and scraps of poetry. On the shelves are books that I open and use daily; my OBOD gwers, of course, but also books of poetry, philosophy, history and science. Many of these are books I have had for years but, somehow, with the busy pace of life and the addition of children to the household, I had less and less time for.

One year has changed and transformed this area of my home. I go out further into my home and see more visible evidences of change. I have loved this home more; I have tended her more carefully, respecting who she is. Perhaps, after all, it isn't change but is a reclamation of what I used to have. A reclamation, yes, as well as a progression beyond what used to be. I look into myself. The change and transformation is less physically visible, but nonetheless present. After all, everything outward is an expression of what originates inwardly. Some days it is hard to remember what I was like "before"; somedays it is hard to know if I am any different, but the pursuit of old journals reveals the contrast. It is good to keep records, or else we will never know how far we have come, where it is that we are going and we will be stuck continually going up the same few steps, over and over, because we forget where we started.

As I end this first year in the Order, I have thought about if I want to go on and start in the Ovate grade for this coming year. I think, though, that I desire to take this next year to reflect on what I have learned, to continue to pursue the Bardic gwers over and over and to let their wisdom seep and settle into my being, on increasingly deeper levels. One year isn't long enough to explore all their aspects. A lifetime isn't long enough, perhaps. Maybe only True Wisdom is to be found when we have learned enough to, paradoxically, leave this earth yet become one with it, at the moment of death.

There is much to learn. I hope to never stop seeking.

My Approach

This blog is written from the perspective of someone who was raised in a conservative Christian community and who was taught that the spiritual element of nature is a reflection of the glory of God. It wasn't until my mid to late 20's that I was brave enough to question what I had been taught and not until my 30's that I knew that nature based spiritual belief systems existed, though often under the umbrella term "pagan". I began to search my own instincts more thoroughly and this brought me back to the very beginning of my memory store, where I felt awe, joy and awareness in the presence of nature. Over the next years, my studying and discovery of different possible fits for my re-discovered and progressing beliefs brought me to the early 19th century Transcendental movement, Unitarian and Quaker churches and finally back to my first church, the church of Nature. While my Christian upbringing still influences my approach and I find much merit in the Bible, I no longer feel confined to narrow, specific and uncompromising views. When I discovered OBOD in 2018 I knew I had found a community of like minded people. While modern druidry is, at best, a very faint and uncertain reflection of the druids of old, engaging in earth-honoring practices makes me feel connected to the past, present and future in a way that feels natural and right. I am so happy to be on this druid path.