The Ancestors

"Walhalla" (1896) by Max Brückner.

Image via Wikipedia

In ADF practice, there are three Kindreds— The Shining Ones, The Mighty Ones and the Noble Ones.  The Mighty Ones correspond to what many of us call Ancestors.  Indo-European cultures tend to have traditions of strong ancestor reverence, as do many other cultures around the world. Neopagans often like to follow these practices of honoring our Ancestors, and remembering our beloved dead. ADF encourages this, and ADF bills itself as a religion of orthopraxy (consistency in practice) rather than one of orthodoxy (consistency of thought). Sometimes, however, these strains of orthopraxy and orthodoxy are hard to sort out, as was illustrated by a fascinating conversation going on At the Sign of the White Hart.

We weren’t talking Ancestors there, nor yet cosmology, but even so a conversation about the nature of hospitality led us down that path. When we do ritual, are we the hosts or the guests? How do the rules of hospitality apply in ritual situations? In ADF ritual, we are opening doors and inviting Shining Ones, Ancestors, and/or Noble Ones in. This clashes a bit with my personal cosmology. I view the cosmos as layers, and the natural world is as divine as any of the other layers.  The Shining Ones and the Noble Ones especially I see as permeating the natural world. Perhaps there are other layers that they live in, perhaps there is a Valhalla and an Astral Plane and other shades of reality besides. But I view the divine as imminent and immanent as well as transcendent. While the Gods may exist elsewhere and the nature spirits may exist at a slightly difference frequency or intersection of quantum reality or such, they’re still here, all the time too, for whatever values of “here” we’re discussing. The spirit of the Mississippi isn’t in my living room and isn’t going to be, but other beings might be. And if it’s territory that would traditionally be theirs, then who is the inviting one and who is the invitee?

This becomes more complex with Ancestors, as many traditions have a fairly concrete tradition of the land of the dead. ADF people discuss this quite a bit, as it’s somewhat at odds with neopagan notions of reincarnation.  Some traditions seem to believe simultaneously in Ancestor worship and reincarnation, which seems a bit whacked. How can you invite the Ancestors to join you if they’re now living in Peoria, carrying on with a completely new and different life?

For me, I think we carry the spiritual energy of the Ancestors in our genes and in our memory and so they are also in a sense, always with us.  But beyond that, I think of the Ancestors in a way that I suspect lies slightly outside of IE practice. Many cultures, especially in South America but also elsewhere, have a notion of the soul or spirit of a person being a multi-part entity. For example one South American indigenous belief says that after the death of your physical body, one part of your soul will go live with the Ancestor spirits in the high mountains to guard over the people, one part of your soul goes off to some other place, and one part is bonded to an animal companion (whom you may never meet in life).

I believe in reincarnation because I don’t really have a choice in the matter. I have past life memories that are very clear with details that are easy to corroborate.  So unless I buy into some multipart soul theory, I’m going to have a hard time inviting the spirits of the Beloved Dead in for tea. The thing I’ve come to understand for myself is that while some part of me is present in those persons I recall being in past lives, those past people are not me and I am not them in very real ways.  I think of it as a combination of soul or spirit essences making each “me” unique.  If I were your three times great grandma, you could still commune in some way with her without directly affecting the present me.

Coming back round to the orthodoxy/orthopraxy problem, this whole eccentric view of cosmology I have could indeed seriously affect my practice of ADF rites. I prefer to think of it as my simply having a slightly different understanding of the universe, but maybe my understanding of the universe is incompatible with ADF orthopraxy and the little orthodoxy that orthopraxy creates. I hope not. We’ll see as I continue my studies.


Candle for Brigid

 I decorated and dedicated this candle in fulfillment of a vow to Brigid, as thanks for Her healing graces.  I’ve posted before about my struggles to understand Brigid and to discover if I had a relationship with her.

About a day after I requested Brigid’s healing help, I read a blog post somewhere on the web about how it’s a bit misguided for people to ask Brigid for healing help when there are better Celtic gods to call upon for healing. This was very depressing to read! Brigid is very well known in popular culture as a healing goddess though, and I’m not sure that I can move my understanding of Her away from that. Where does scholarship end and faith begin? When is popular understanding inappropriate? The world isn’t flat, after all, no matter how many people believe it or wish it so.  But reality is to a certain extent what we make it and so maybe the Bride does bring healing today, even if it wasn’t one of her first functions in ancient times.

In any case, I did make a vow and I did receive healing, so even if I had just asked the telephone repair person to hem my dress for me metaphorically speaking,  I had my end of the deal to fulfill. Initially I was going to repour a red candle that I have and decorate it, but this earthy candle with its warm, wonderful scent seemed much more “Brigid” to me. So I made it a collar of pretty sparklies and now it’s on our already over-crowded family altar. I hope She likes it. I think She does.

That was about a week ago, and last night I dreamed of Brigid for the first time ever. A lot of people have wonderful, profound dreams full of portents and messages from their Gods. I tend to have my subconscious freaking out and babbling at me in ways that are a bit labyrinthine to navigate. When things are particularly convoluted, I revert to dream journaling, never fear. Anyhow, I’m very happy for those of you who regularly get dream visits from the divine world. For me it’s a very rare occurrence.  The last time was years ago, and it was Anubis stopping by to tell me that I was being slightly silly. He was very kind about it and it was awesome of Him to make a house call to someone who doesn’t even worship in His culture or pantheon. It was much appreciated, and as I said, a very rare occurrence for me.

Inside Brigid's Well by IrishFireside, Flickr Commons

In my dream last night though, Brigid was heartily approving of some things I have in the works, even going so far as to show that if I followed through, I would be able to do some other things that have been lifetime dreams and goals of mine.  She also showed me a bunch of stuff about my relatives that I don’t yet understand, and gave me a very clear message about my deceased maternal aunt and why she had behaved the ways she had at various points in her relationship with me and my mother.  My relationship with my maternal aunt is relevant to my relationship with Brigid because my relationship with my aunt is one of the many reasons why I have always felt without family and adrift in the world. Brigid has enough compassion for both of us, it seems, and I think She’s encouraging me to follow suit.

So I guess I have work to do, both in work for financial prosperity and spiritual work of understanding and acceptance of my family background. Yes, a lot of people have turned their backs on me to one degree or another at times when I needed family most. But I am coming to accept that  some of that has more to do with the troubles in their heart and their prejudices than it ever had to do with me. I have always taken the blame, never felt worthy of anyone’s love, and have felt very alone in matters of  “family” since my parents died all those years ago. I have my own little family now, and as fate would have it, I’m married to someone who has a lot of similar “family” issues of acceptance. Perhaps we are together in part because of that.

I thank Brigid again for Her healing, for Her visit, for Her insights, and for Her patience with me. And thanks to whomever’s reading this for putting up with me in a much more “woo-woo” mood than I usually indulge in public.


Rubens take on Ops

Rubens: Abundance

Last night we did our Lughnassadh, only we did it as a Roman festival to Ops Mater. For years we’ve celebrated Lughnasa as the death and rebirth of the Corn King– John Barleycorn must die and all that. But since we’ve learned that this is totally wrong, I’ve felt even more disconnected from my Celtic heritage than ever.  I am hoping that my last remaining Celtic holiday, Samhain, isn’t going to be more of the same as in– everything I know is wrong, I’ve been celebrating wrongly all these years with messed up ideas based on bad research by spotty authors who led us all astray en masse. Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasa– they’re all dead to me in the face of superior research. So what to do but look for Roman equivalents? If I can’t be a proper neo-Celtic pagan, and it seems pretty conclusive that I can’t, I can at least embrace my Western European Classic heritage.

So, Ops. We did our very best to construct an ADF style ritual, following the Core Order of Ritual, to this Sabine goddess of abundance, fertility and wealth. A Chthonic deity, she was at one time the leading goddess of the Sabines. There were two festivals for her in August, one on August 10th and another on the 25th, as well as a third in December. The Consus in OpiConsivia is a god who protects grain storehouses, especially underground ones.

The ritual itself was cobbled together from extant Roman ADF rituals on the website and prayers to Ops found there and elsewhere. We got the nine of pentacles/disks as our omen, an excellent omen for this ritual and one that greatly cheered up everyone present. I wish we would have had more music, but skipping the whole John Barleycorn/lord of the harvest theme made modern pagan music very difficult to find. Even the folksongs that we know, such as “Band o’ Shearers”, aren’t really the right flavor. Maybe by next year I’ll have found something different.

Some of my adjustment to ADF has been very rugged. The worst of it has been realizing my lack in things Celtic. But we move on, learn and grow. Ah, what the heck. Have a Band o’ Shearers on me! 😉

Lughnassadh Planning


Kornmark, via Wikipedia

So far my planning for an Opiconsivia ritual for Lughnassadh is going fairly well. I’ve been pillaging the Roman ritual template by Jenni Hunt on the ADF site as well as looking at historic Opiconsivia information to see what I might use from there. I’m not going too far into the historic material though, because my goal here is to make an ADF style ritual, not a Roman re creationist one.

I want to use a lot of music, so I’m trying to think of some good harvest music to use. Someone on the “Celtic Lore” group on Paganspace posted a ten song playlist. Some of it I liked, some of it is a bit too Wiccan for me. She decided to include my suggestion of John Barleycorn even though she initially said it was too violent. Now I’m not sure I want to use it for my purposes, not because I think it’s too violent (I have nothing against some good old fashioned grain-murdering) but because it also seems kind of Wiccan to me. It very much fits with that feral myth of the Death and Rebirth of the Corn King, which I guess we now know is Completely Wrong, but not such a good fit for thanking the Goddess of the grain and her consort for a good harvest. Not that a grain murdering theme doesn’t necessarily go with that. . .

I still have a bit to figure this out, luckily for me!

A First Year Report with ADF & Merging Blogs


Image by peter pearson via Flickr

It’s about time for me to renew my membership with the ADF. This first year has included a lot of study as I’ve worked on the Dedicant Path coursework. Even so I don’t think I’ve yet given it the attention it deserves. Partly that’s because I’ve been distracted by my hearth culture studies. This coming year I hope to finish the Dedicant Path work and work at some syncretism between my ADF work and my Roman work. To that end, I’m considering merging this blog and my other, Tita Rufia Prisca’s House, into a single blog.

I don’t know if it’s the best idea, since there hasn’t been a lot of overlap between the two, but then again that’s part of the issue. I don’t want my Roman studies to be one thing and my ADF studies to be another. I’d like to blend them and not be so much living in some kind of pagan Separate Lives remake.

I’m still very much interested in Roman hearth culture and I don’t see that changing. I also don’t think I’m ever going to be rigorously Roman enough to fit into the Roman re-creationist scene. I had that problem with the Celtic recons too, which is how I eventually ended up at ADF. I think at ADF I can be mostly Roman with some Celtic in my practice without anyone’s heads exploding with stress over my syncretism, or my lack of desire to do it just like they did in the Golden Age of Man.

It’s been a good year. I’ve met a lot of people online who have been very generous with their knowledge and opinions. I’ve read a lot, learned a lot and enjoyed posting about it and applying things to my daily life. My first task for my coming year, which starts on Lammas for me because of when I joined ADF, will be to make my own Roman ritual for the “Lammas” spot on the ADF calendar. I’m planning an Opiconsivia ritual. The historical Opiconsivia happened later in August. I think it will make a really good fit in terms of intention and tone, and hopefully Opis and Consus won’t be too annoyed by having their day celebrated a early.


William Blake: Night

Today I found a wonderful post, Befriending the Night, by Souldipper.  I’ve never been afraid of the dark, though I know it’s very challenging for a lot of people. I’m more afraid of the burning brightness of the mid-day sun, which does terrible damage to my skin and eyes.  I say this with all seriousness. The cloaking aspects of the dark have always been a comfort to me. Yes, one has to be more cautious in the dark but I am hidden too. My dad taught me how to move very quietly when I was quite small, and walking gently in the moonlight is one of my favorite things.

I also am quite fond of caves, but one thing I don’t like about any commercial cave tour is that moment when inevitably they decide to plunge you into total, blinding darkness. That’s a kind of dark I don’t like. It’s not a natural part of a seeing person’s experience. It is interesting from the perspective of getting a tiny taste of a non-sighted person’s world, though I’m not silly enough to think that me in a dark cave = the true experience of a non-sighted person. But otherwise, it’s a few moments of disorientation that are never long enough to truly settle into and experience the cave without the distractions of sight. Then the lights come back and everyone is relieved and restless and louder. So a lose/lose all the way around for me.

I see enjoying darkness less as a huge spiritual quest and more as a matter of expanding one’s natural awareness and self-confidence, so part of our Nature Awareness exercises. Usually people who are afraid of the dark are afraid that something in the dark is going to get them, instead of being actually afraid of the dark. Or they’re not confident in their ability to handle themselves in the dark without falling over things or getting lost. I think it would be a very interesting exercise to go to our nature spots in the dark and see how the experience is different. Different animals, different smells, different spiritual presence perhaps. If anybody tries this, please let me know. I’m definitely going to try it sometime soon!

eta: a wonderful link courtesy of souldipper, about a woman’s solo nature campout. See Memory: Seduction below!


“Fruit Basket”, oil on wood

Image via Wikipedia

This is the time of year in my part of the world where we see the fruits of fertility. Almost everyone I know associates Beltane with fertility, and that is perhaps as it should be with Beltane being the “planting” time of year for many folks in the northern hemisphere.  Midsummer has passed and everything is growing and growing– or if you’re down south here, being harvested and enjoyed.

Fertility isn’t really about things that are growing, although that is its results– fruits, babies, projects completed. Fertility is a state of receptivity. From bearing or being capable of bearing offspring.  It’s easy to get confused about this as a pagan virtue. Does it mean we should try to have lots of children? Does it mean we should try to produce many awesome projects? I think it’s more about the quality of being receptive, of being open to the possibility of producing, be it children or art or some other work that the Gods set us upon.

If we’re not receptive, we aren’t listening or paying attention and we can miss our opportunities.  Fertility is not, however, a passive state. You can’t be fertile ground for new things to grow in without working on being healthy. This is doubly important with spiritual and mental projects. If we’re not doing the work we need to do to prepare ourselves for the job ahead of us then we won’t be fertile ground. Our work will wither and die, if it sprouts at all. So part of being fertile is taking care of ourselves. Like preparing a garden with compost and weeding, we need tending if we’re going to bring forth our best work.

Fertility can be ranked by quality, not quantity as well. One small fertile field will give a better harvest than several acres of sub-standard land. One nutritious dinner is better than three low quality meals. In being fertile, we are being called to be rich sources for whatever we are producing.  I think fertility is important as a virtue because it’s the soil from which other things grow. We can be rich, loamy earth or we can be pallid deserts, and much of that is up to us. We do the work to improve and ensure our own fertility and through that, enrich each other’s lives with our gifts.

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