Daily Devotions

(Pause at the edge of the ritual space to quiet the mind, ground the body, and open the spirit to the presence of Divinity. Open the altar cabinet doors OR step out into the garden, at dawn.)

I enter the Sacred Grove with reverence.
I enter the Sacred Grove in peace.

(Visualize the Sacred Grove, materializing.)

(Salute the East.)

Peace and greetings to the East,
Birthplace of the rushing winds,
Where the golden eagle soars at dawn,
With gifts of vision, scent, and song.

(Salute the South.)

Peace and greetings to the South,
Pathway of our brilliant sun,
Whose soothing warmth and plays of light
Encourage us and bring delight.

(Salute the West.)

Peace and greetings to the West,
Wellspring of the mighty Sea,
Whose fog banks and rain clouds, rivers, and tides
Cleanse and refresh us, and nourish all life.

(Salute the North.)

Peace and greetings to the North,
Homeland of the ancient trees,
And patient, radiant Shasta Mountain,
Urging us to simply be.

(Light the gold candle OR greet Dyéus in gesture.)

Praise Dyéus, Father of Law and Light,
Source of inspiration and insight,
Lord of the shining celestial sphere,
Master of seasons and cycles, here!

(Light the green candle OR greet Matria in gesture.)

Praise Matria, Mother of manifest Earth,
Churning power of heat and birth,
Builder of landscapes, shaper of seas,
Keeper of winds, and all life within these!

(Light the blue candle OR greet Simurgh in gesture.)

Praise Simurgh, Spirit of Transformation,
Breaker, re-maker of all creation,
Bringer of Holy Wisdom and growth,
Wondrous diversity, awe, and hope!

In the union of these Three
Powers of Divinity,
Is born the Awen, Jewel of Light,
Which fills the world with blessings bright.

(Light the white hearth-candle OR bring hands to heart.)

Dyéus, Father of Inspiration!
Matria, Mother of all Creation!
Simurgh, Spirit of Transformation!

I am Druid; I heed your call.
I ask your blessing, for one and all:

(Open hands, to receive their blessings.)

Awen! Awen! Awen!

(Visualize three streams of energy, emanating from Dyéus (gold), Matria (green), and Simurgh (blue), mixing to create a shining ball of white light, which expands to fill the Sacred Grove, and then radiates outward, showering blessings upon all the Kindred, in realms of Land and Sea and Sky.)

Grant, O Holy Ones, thy protection;
and in protection, healing;
and in healing, strength;
and in strength, understanding;
and in understanding, wisdom;
and in wisdom, justice;
and in justice, the love of it;
and in that love, the love of all existences;
and in the love of all existences,
the power to heal, and bless your world,
that all may find comfort and peace in my presence.

Holy Powers, help me stay
Upon the trail that you have blazed;
Help me use my moments wisely,
Choosing joy, and shining brightly,
Caring for the gifts you gave,
Until my rest, at close of day.
Help me find my way.

(Morning nature divination & meditations.)

Dyéus, Father of Inspiration;
Matria, Mother of all Creation;
Simurgh, Spirit of Transformation;
Spirits of Nature, one and all:

Thank you for your steady presence, and guidance in my life.

I depart the Sacred Grove with gratitude;
I depart the Sacred Grove, in peace.

Deep within the still center of my being, may I find peace.
Here, within the quiet of the grove, may I share peace.
Gently, within the greater circle of all life, may I radiate peace.

Awen! Awen! Awen!

(Allow the Sacred Grove visualization to dissipate. If at altar, snuff the candles and close the altar cabinet doors. Depart the ritual space, slowly, returning to the normal course of the day.)

Prayer to the Kindred

Hael, my Kindred of the Land,
From jagged peak to silty strand!
Hael to the mosses and lichens that grow,
Turning rough, barren rock into soils, below.
Hael to the flowers and food plants and glades,
And old growth that offers up shelter and game.
Hael to the animals, teachers and friends,
And fungi who work to recycle all ends.

Hael, my Kindred of the Sea,
From mountain spring to ocean deep!
Hael to the seashore, its currents and tides,
Its wetlands and fishes, and seaweeds and fry.
Hael to the snowfields, and rivers that flow,
Cleansing and shaping the landscape below.
Hael to the wellsprings, and soft-falling rains,
Which nourish all life, and soothe all our pains.

Hael, my Kindred of the Sky,
From puff of cloud, to starry night!
Hael to the sun and its rich, golden dawn,
Its brilliant noon sunshine, and comforting warmth.
Hael to the songbirds, and sweet-scented breeze,
To rainbows and sunsets, and shade from the trees.
Hael to the glittering planets and stars,
Who teach us and guide us by lighting the dark.

Kindred Spirits of Land, Sea, and Sky,
Thank you for sharing, and blessing my life.
Spirits of Nature, here on Earth,
Be welcome at my Sacred Hearth!

Awen! Awen! Awen!

Lesson from a Hedge Rose

In the Coast Range Mountains of California, our Flower Season — our warm explosion of new green growth, with native wildflowers rioting on the hills and blankets of native flowers covering the shrubs and trees, has long since passed. The new generation of brush rabbits have already grown, and taken up their gardening duties of mowing the lawn and pruning up the garden hedges.

Hedge roses, not being native California plants, and living in the irrigated portion of our gardens, are one of the few sources of flowering beauty that we typically can enjoy during the festival of Beltane, when Druids elsewhere in the world are reveling in their own, native Flower Seasons. But this year, they are certainly taking their dear, sweet time about it!

So, during my morning meditations today, I asked the roses: what are you waiting for?

Answer:

Others will always desire the pleasure of my flowers and foliage, for food, or shelter, or spiritual sustenance. But I cannot be always giving, and never receiving. I need time to rest, to gather resources, to build up my strength, so that I may continue to offer my unique gifts to the world, in brief seasons of glorious productivity. Besides, my beauty is well worth the wait.

I feel as if there is some wisdom in that, for me, as well. I always come back stronger, happier, and more vitally able to give of myself, after retreating from the busy world of work and family, for a time, to rest and to reflect.

Time to schedule another nature retreat!

World Druidry: A Globalizing Path of Nature Spirituality

The proposal for my current research project has just been accepted by the Mount Haemus Awards program, organized and funded by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. The results are to be published at Beltane 2021, and presented at Mt. Haemus Day 2024. A synopsis of the proposed project is as follows:

Larisa A. White, M.S.Ed., Ph.D., is an educator and independent scholar with over 25 years’ experience using mixed research methods to shed light on the ways in which people learn, grow, and change, under the influence of changing educational contexts. She is also a global nomad, fascinated with the ways in which intercultural mobility affects people, habits, and beliefs. She now turns the focus of her academic research on discerning the ways in which Druidry, as a globalizing path of nature spirituality, has evolved as it spread beyond the traditionally Celtic lands of its origin and took root in other countries and cultures. As practicing Druids around the world grow beyond the initial mastery of received ritual forms and practices, and begin to follow the Rule of Awen, what do they continue to hold in common? In what ways do their practices and beliefs diversify? What, if anything, forms the spiritual “common-core” of contemporary World Druidry that is able to transcend local culture? This paper will present the findings of an extensive survey-research project designed to answer those questions.

The complete proposal can be viewed here: World Druidry: A Globalizing Path of Nature Spirituality, proposal by Larisa A. White.

I am very much looking forward to learning more about what my fellow druids, around the world are doing with their practices! Now, on to developing the survey questionnaire.

Lesson from a Fig Tree

This morning, I noticed my 3-year-old fig tree straining against the tethers that anchored it to its support posts. When I loosened the tethers, I noticed that underneath, the tree bark was beginning to suffer from damaging effects of trapped dampness. Fortunately, I caught my error in time, and gave the young tree some additional breathing room, in which to heal and continue to grow.

The tree pointed out that providing it the optimal growing environment required that I not simply tether a young tree to support stakes upon planting, nor that I simply free the young tree to fend for itself on this windy hill, but that instead, I maintain a closer vigilance, noting when it was just beginning to outgrow its tethers, and giving it just a bit more freedom, and just a bit more freedom, and just a bit more freedom — while it slowly builds up its own strength and powers of resilience.

As a parent, I find this to be a powerful reminder of my duty to provide an appropriate level of protection and support to my son, while also ensuring that I provide him adequate room to experiment, move, grow, and breathe. Finding the right balance between support and freedom is a real challenge. It requires vigilance because the needs of children (as of plants) will vary with the weather — both physical and spiritual — as they slowly lurch their way toward adulthood.

Literature Survey – Bibliography

The following (slowly growing) list of books, theses, doctoral dissertations, and academic journal articles will inform the survey research design, and survey questionnaire development for my investigation into what modern Druids, or people who self-identify as such (circa 2020), currently believe to be the essential nature of modern Druidry:

  1. Hopman, E. E. (2015). A Legacy of Druids: Conversations with Druid leaders of Britain, the USA and Canada, past and present. Winchester, U.K.: Moon Books.
  2. Cooper, M. T. (2010). Contemporary Druidry: A Historical and Ethnographic Study. Salt Lake City, UT, U.S.A.: Sacred Tribes Press.
  3. Hutton, R. (2009). Blood and Mistletoe: The History of Druids in Britain. __: Yale University Press.
  4. Letcher, A. J. (2001). The Role of the Bard in Contemporary Pagan Movements. (Doctoral Dissertation.) Winchester, U.K.: King Alfred’s College, University of Southampton.
  5. Nichols, R. (1992). The Book of Druidry. London, U.K.: Thorsons Publishing Group, Ltd.
  6. Greer, J. M. (Ed.). (2011). The Druid Revival Reader. Traverse City, MI, U.S.A.: Lorian Press.

If any of you, dear readers, happen to know of other, solid academic research in this area, I would very much appreciate your noting it in the comment section, below. Thanks!

Lesson from a Camellia

Today, during my morning meditations, the camellia bush next to my sit-spot reminded me that, even in Beings that at times seem tough, prickly, and profoundly unhappy, new growth can be delicate, pliable, and vibrant. It responds robustly to a gentle touch, careful feeding, one’s full attention, and a few kind words. So, remember: treat it gently.

This is also true of human children, and human adults who are acting like children.

Braiding Sweetgrass

“Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, is an inspiring book of essays exploring various ways of understanding and interacting with the natural world around us. In its pages, I learned an enormous amount about the flora, fauna, microorganisms, and ecology of the the North Eastern/Mid-Atlantic/Great Lake regions of the United States, based purely on the modern, scientific perspective of the field of botany. But Kimmerer also shared some of the myths and traditions of the indigenous peoples of that land, which offer another, and perhaps a wiser, approach to interacting with nature than does the scientific method, alone – an approach grounded in the dual themes of gratitude and reciprocity.

The book begins with the creation myth of the indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region of the United States: Skywoman Falling. In that story, Skywoman falls from Skyworld to Earth (a water world), bearing a bundle of seeds from the Tree of Life. The animals already present on Earth risk their lives to save her from drowning, and pile some mud on Turtle’s back, to give her a safe place to rest and recover. In an act of gratitude, and reciprocity for their kindness, Skywoman dances to extend the reach of the new land, and scatters the seeds of all the plants of the world, introducing all the plant teachers, food plants, and medicine plants of the world. And her gifts to the world continue to care for us, even to this day. With this simple tale, Kimmerer launches her argument that nature works as a gift economy, which can only survive so long as all participants harvest wisely, nurture the givers, and reciprocate rather than greedily grabbing for all they can get away with in the present moment.

An interesting point she raises is that this focus on gratitude and reciprocity becomes easier when the language people use to refer to it speaks of the world in terms of living beings, rather than as a conglomeration of soul-less “its” to be used or ignored, as a mere, inanimate resource. This also makes it easier to remember the difference between times when profiting from the fruits of your own labor is appropriate, and times when your receipt of an unbidden blessing or bounty, freely given you by Nature, is meant to be freely shared with your neighbors.

The essays she uses to illustrate and support these thematic points are all so rich in fascinating detail, that the book bears many repeated readings, and each time I pick it up, I learn or relearn something wonderful. My words can not possibly do it justice. I highly recommend that you read this book – or better yet, buy three copies, and give two away. I know I will!

 

Lesson from a Sweet Meat

It isn’t often that a vegetable headed for the roasting oven offers to its future consumer a loud-and-clear lesson in ethics. And it also isn’t often that I meditate upon the rules of the Honorable Harvest during the spring planting season. But here it is:

Yet another beautiful Cucurbita maxima v. Sweet Meat Squash. And this one is only the fifth of seven that we harvested off of a single 4′-0″ x 7′-0″ raised bed, last September:

The plants produce like crazy. They produce despite our incredibly chilly, foggy, coast-range “summers.” They succumb to powdery mildew at the end of each season, and they simply do not care. Our squash harvest last year – grown from six planted seeds – topped 65 pounds! They keep really well, for a very long time, even on a bookshelf, stored at room temperature: It is now April, and this harvest is still providing solid, well-preserved food for my family.

These beautiful, aqua-blue “pumpkins” are incredibly sweet and richly flavorful. They make superb pies, Afghani braised pumpkin, soups, stews, you name it. Did I mention the pie? The skins are thin and easy to peel. The squash is easy to cut and chop for cooking. The meat is typically at least three inches thick, and the seed cavity, though tiny is simply packed with big, fat, juicy seeds – delightful roasted, with a bit of oil and salt.

Until today, that is.

As I was scooping out the seeds, thinking about enjoying a toasted treat while the sweet meat braised in the oven, I was certain I heard the Squash Spirit speak:

You dropped six seeds on the ground; I grew and grew, magnificent climbing vines, bearing fruit all summer long. You offered a bit of water and compost; I fed your entire family for eight months. And now, you are going to eat all of my seeds, as well? How will I ever have children of my own?

Three of the rules of the Honorable Harvest (from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s wonderful book, Braiding Sweetgrass) are:

Never take more than half; leave some for others.

Give thanks for what you have been given.

Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.

I guess it is really well past time for me to begin thanking the squash plants for all their bounty, and doing a bit of habitual seed-saving. Starting with this squash, and with all others going forward, I plan to pick out the fattest, most beautiful 50% of the seeds (or more), and save them for re-planting, next year. I will share those seeds with neighbors, of both human and non-human kind – to help disperse the mother squash’s seeds, and to provide them more space and resources to grow, and reproduce again.

I can always roast the less-viable seeds.

And you really cannot go wrong with “just” pie.

Bumble Bee Barometers

I have now observed this three times in the last month: bumble bees acting frantic and racing about as if to avoid impending doom (and being downright testy about people being in “their” yard), on a sunny day just before a big rain storm arrives. Typically, our yellow-faced bumble bees go about their business in a busy, but relaxed and predictable manner. So, I had to wonder: can bumble bees be used as a kind of barometric indicator, to help a Druid predict the weather?

Hunting around the web, I found a report of a recent study, “RFID monitoring indicates honeybees work harder before a rainy day,” by He XJ, Tian LQ, Wu XB, and Zeng ZJ. (inInsect Science 23(1) • November 2015), which supports the idea of what I have observed, though the research was done on honey bees rather than on bumble bees.

Another study, by Erika Nardone, Peter G Kevan, Michael Stasiak, Michael Dixon, “Atmospheric Pressure Requirements of Bumblebees (Bombus Impatiens) as Pollinators of Lunar or Martian Greenhouse Grown Food,” (in Gravitational and Space Research 26(2) • October 2012) showed that there is a relationship between foraging activity in bumble bees and the atmospheric pressure – though the pressure differences they tested were much more extreme than the ones I am dealing with. On the other hand, much of physiology is driven not by absolute numbers or concentrations, but by the rates of change of those numbers or concentrations. So, the causes of the behaviors I have observed could easily be related to rapid atmospheric pressure changes.

I have never seen this frantic behavior in bees, going from overcast sky to drizzle, or drizzle to heavier rain, but only from brilliant sunshine to sudden, intense rainstorm. That said, the rate of pressure change might have been sufficiently daunting so as to cause a panic. If the bumble bees can sense the atmospheric pressure change preceding a storm, they might know that it will be harder to forage tomorrow, and so rush to lay in emergency supplies, just in case.

So: When bumble bees forage frantically, rain is on the way.

Tradition has it that the ancient Druids could control the weather. Perhaps a more accurate way of putting it would be that Druids have always observed subtle signs like this, and knew perfectly well how to predict dramatic changes in weather. The Wise among them would then choose when (and when not) to share that knowledge, only speaking when it might prove useful.