First Rains Dance

Darned inconvenient when the First Rains arrive in the very wee hours of the morning, when singing and dancing loudly out-of-doors will get you reported for disturbing the peace. So, we waited for first light, and tried to sing quietly, and muffle our laughter and squeaks of joy, at the healing power of Gwyar…

Today, we dance
The Return of the Rains,
Quenching the fires,
Cleansing the panes.
We dance for the hope
Blessed Simurgh has brought,
With the flow of clear water
Her magic has wrought.

Praise Simurgh, Spirit of Transformation,
Breaker, re-maker of all creation,
Bringer of Holy Wisdom and growth,
Endings, beginnings, despair, and hope!

First Rain Dance

First Indigenous Food Harvest

Our ongoing effort to deeply connect with the land upon which we live began with our ecosystem restoration project, some years back — in which we planted several hundred tiny, one-gallon seedlings of native plants. Over the years, the plants of our Native Garden have established and grown more and more fruitful, feeding native fauna, birds, and insect life. Until now, we reserved the restored area of our property for the service of the wild animals, but finally, the bounty has become so robust, that we felt comfortable harvesting a bit of that bounty for human consumption.

Harvest Season Jamming Ritual (with Recipe):

Step into the Native Garden, saying:

“I enter the sacred grove with reverence;
I enter the sacred grove in peace.”

Walk the land, in a state of receptive meditation, greeting each of the Backyard Kindred, thus:

Hael to you, beloved Oaks,
In greying green, from summer smoke.
Hael to Sagebrush, Lilac, Sage,
All dusty, leafless, wanting rain.
Hael Toyon berries, biding time,
And Coyote Brush’s shining eyes (Aaachoo!).
Hael, blessed Manzanita grove,
Of peeling bark and rusty fruit,
I ask of you a gift of Life,
From which to craft a sweet delight.

Shapeshift into a Bewick’s wren. Using Bewick’s wren’s-eye-view, find the hidden, rust-red berries, camouflaged by rust-red bark, peeling from behind and beneath the leaves. Circle the Manzanitas thrice, picking a few berries from each bush and tree, until you have gathered one heaping cup of manzanita berries.

Return to human form.

Thank the Manzanitas for the blessing of their bounty.
Reciprocate the blessing with a prayer for early rain.

Wash the berries in water, thrice, to get out all the dust and debris.

While the water flows through the berries, meditate upon the seasonal threshold currently upon us — dry, dusty seeds in a dead, drought-deciduous world, awaiting the First Rain to wash away the grime and return the world to vibrant life.

Call upon the powers of: Dyéus, Father of Inspiration, Simurgh, Spirit of Transformation, and Matria, Mother of Manifestation, and with their assistance, transform the harvested berries into jelly, thus:

Boil the berries in 1.5 C water, until the dry berries plump themselves up and brew a deep reddish tea. Mash up the water-plumped berries, and boil a few minutes more. Let cool. Strain through a jelly bag, to remove all solids.

Add a splash of clear apple juice, to bring the liquid up to a total of 1-1/6 C. Add 1 Tbsp. no/lo-sugar pectin, 1/8 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. ascorbic acid crystals. Bring to a boil, mixing constantly, to remove all lumps.

Add 1 C sugar, and stir it in well. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture returns to a boil. Boil and stir for three additional minutes. Remove from heat.

Pour into two clean, 1/2-pint jelly jars, cap them, and boil in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes.

Thank the Gods for the blessing of manzanita jelly.

Enjoy!

The Result:

Two cups of Manzanita Jelly, from berries harvested off of our Arctostaphylos bushes (pictured above), a mixture of three varietals: Howard McMinn, Franciscana, and Densiflora “Sentinel”.

Taste Test:

The jelly is a delicate sweet-orange and pumpkin flavor, with hints of apple blossom.  Delightful!

Crocheted Lace Druid Robes, part 2

After roughly 650 hours of work on my Druid robes, following sweetly whispered messages of Awen, pacing myself diligently, to ensure that every stitch be a prayer, I have finally completed the main body of my robe. The process was slow, as I visualized,
designed,
stitched,
fit,
frogged,
redesigned,
restitched,
re-fit,
unraveled,
redesigned,
and restitched
the crocheted lace
on my way to completion.

Closeup inspections better show off the details:

Waistband of tribanns:

And three shots showing the lower panel of lace images that represent my personal cosmology and theology:

I am now working on a set of seasonal stoles that will drape over the shoulders, and include variously colored leaves, flowers, and other symbols appropriate to my seasonal celebrations. Stay tuned!

Contemporary Druidry

Contemporary Druidry: A Historical and Ethnographic Study,” by Michael T. Cooper, is an academic study of modern Druidry, written by a non-Druid, associate professor of Religion and Contemporary Culture, at Trinity Graduate School in Deerfield, IL.

The book is divided into two main parts: a brief overview of the history of Druidry, and an ethnographic study, based on a combination of field observations and interviews conducted with a rather small sampling of 56 practicing Druids, primarily members of ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin), OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids), but also including 7 members of the LAW (Loyal Arthurian Warband.

As you might expect from an academic, the volume is well annotated, and filled with citations. It is also highly readable, as academic writing goes. The areas of inquiry for this study were limited to the general topics of Druidic perspectives on the meaning of life, Druidic interpretations of death, well-being, and misfortune, and Druidic approaches to seeking guidance, and relating to the unknown. He also includes chapters on the relationship between (some) contemporary Druids and Stonehenge, and the pathways to conversion from other religious paths to Druidry.

The weakness of the study primarily stems from self-selection and sampling biases. Cooper admits that his access to sources was limited. He was able to survey and interview a few senior Druids in each of the three aforementioned organizations, who were willing to speak to an outsider. A few of those sources invited him to observe their public rituals, after which Cooper spoke with a few more participants, whom he met at those rituals. Given the diversity of Druidic beliefs and practices represented by the various Druid groups, groves, and teaching organizations scattered about the globe, and given the differences in perspective between those Druids who feel comfortable being open about their beliefs and practices and those who must remain private about their beliefs in order to avoid discriminatory retaliation, or worse, and given the exclusion from the study of solitary Druids, and Druids of other Druidry group affiliations, the results of this study are of limited value as a general study of Contemporary Druidry.

It is worth a glance, as part of a broad literature survey on Druidry, but it is not a comprehensive, stand-alone reference.

Petrochemical Chariots

So, the 20-year-old Saturn was finally on its last legs, and I was in the market for a new car. Being a responsible Druid, concerned with the environmental impacts of cars and driving, my knee-jerk assumption (based on all the lovely, green propaganda) was, of course: get an electric car, or at the very least, a hybrid! Right?

Well, if you look at the current research, and policy analyses, in depth…

Hawkins, et al. (2013). Journal_of_Industrial_Ecology, “Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles”

…it turns out that the decision is WAY more complicated than the propaganda suggests, and very much sensitive to one’s anticipated use-case.

My use case happens to be VERY low mileage, but LOTS of shortish trips with starts from cold, in hilly terrain. My last car, when retired due to the gradual engine gunking from oil and petrol (which happens to all cars over 20-odd years, given a very high number of starts from cold), had barely 90,000 miles on the odometer when she died. And sadly, since so many of the parts for an old Saturn were no longer made, it was not reasonable to consider rebuilding the engine at that point.

If one considered only the air-quality issues in one’s own backyard, during only the consumer-use phase of an automobile’s life, a case might be made for purchasing an EV or hybrid vehicle. However, when one considers the cradle-to-grave impacts of the manufacture, use, and end-of-life disposal of the automobile and all of its various maintenance/replacement parts, the calculus changes dramatically. The EVs do slightly better, over the lifetime of the car, when it comes to overall greenhouse gas emissions (about 10-20% better) – provided that you get at least 93,000 miles out of your car. If you drive your car fewer miles during its lifetime, that benefit decreases to only 9-14% better for a lifetime mileage of 62,000 miles. However, given the same automobile lifespan, EVs are nearly three times (300%) worse than combustion engines when it comes to the impacts on: human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, and freshwater eutrophication. If you consider people, flora, and fauna, the EV no longer looks so appealing!

So, very much to my amazement, it turned out that a traditional gasoline engine was still the option with lowest environmental impact, at least for me. It was really hard for me to wrap my brain around that one, but the science was right there. And the policy analysis cited above (based on my personal evaluation of the work, as a Ph.D. graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Engineering & Public Policy), is rock-solid.

My final decision: a manual transmission Honda Fit. A high gas mileage, base model to minimize the amount of manufacturing impact, with the intention to maintain it well, and drive it slowly into the ground. If I get 20 years out of this car, as well, then by the time I need another car, perhaps the battery manufacturing, toxicity, and longevity issues will have been addressed, and the calculus will look a bit different than it does today.

On the other hand, by that time I might have retired to a castle in the country, and be ready to trade in my car for a horse.