Just a note to say that I’ve decided to give ADF a decent try, and am attempting to complete their Dedicant Path – or at least the parts of it that I’m OK with. (The DP eventually involves an oath to those Gods to complete, which I won’t do if I’m not fully sure it’s the right thing to do. Casually made oaths are a bad idea.)

I’m blogging that journey over at Druid in the Swamp.

I figure if I’m going to try on a new identity, I might as well do it the whole way, and trying to blog here just kept me comparing ADF to Wicca, and that way leads to madness.

It’ll take me a year to work through the DP, at the end of which I hope to have enough to make a decision one way or the other.

If I’m honest, after two months, I still feel like I’m pretending to do something to fill a void where what I really want to do is gone.

But I can do it for a year, and the learning certainly won’t do me wrong. I still feel like a Witch, not a Druid. I am pretty torn about it, but I want to give it an honest try. So I will. Feel free to follow me over there, and on twitter as @SwampDruid. I’m not deleting this blog, and next Samhain I may be back. Or I may not. We’ll see when that time comes.

Blessed Samhain

I hope your new year is filled with the blessings of the Gods.

I spent my Samhain night handing out candy to little goblins (sadly, not very many of them), and then in meditation to speak with the Mighty Dead. Today I’ll be working on a reading for the new year.

Holidays are hard as a solitary when you’d rather be working with a group.

Especially when you’d rather be working with a specific group, that is still working together, just not with you in it. I know why I’m not there, and I agree that it wasn’t helping my mental state. Still, there is part of my (very human) subconscious that says “you got sick and they threw you out”. That part of me may be 4 years old, but she can be loud. My rational self knows better, and knows that’s not what happened, but the feelings are still very real regardless. It’s just hard to let go of something you love doing.

I’ve tried to work as a solitary for the last 6 months, and I’m finding it really hard as well. With no community or feedback, the holidays and full moons have just become little semi-religious holidays that I throw something together for instead of feeling truly connected to the wheel. When I’ve done the full ritual, it’s felt empty and hollow, which didn’t endear me to trying to do the full ritual a lot. It was a little exciting, in a way, when I first started back to doing this on my own, but that faded pretty fast. I guess I’m just not good at going it alone anymore.

A bit ago, I started looking into ADF, since there is a local grove here, and I thought maybe I could plug in there to something neo-Pagan and get the community I’m obviously looking for. I’ve not had the guts to go to any of their major rituals, but I’ve been corresponding with several, and I started to work on the Dedicant Path as well.

It’s… I’m not really sure what I think. The history and study required really appeals to me, so I’m not put off by doing that – in fact, regardless of what I end up doing long term, I probably won’t regret a solid foundation in comparative mythology. But I can’t shake the feeling that there is a ton of depth here that I just can’t get my brain around yet. I’ve done several ADF style rituals, and they’re very well put together, if VERY different from Wicca, but the connection just isn’t there. So maybe it’s just a familiarity thing, I don’t know. (I can’t say the connection is really there with my Wicca-style rituals right now either, so maybe it’s just me.)

I also can’t shake the feeling that I’m a Witch, not a Druid. I’ll admit that may be because I’ve thought of myself as a Witch for years, but it still nags at the back of my brain.

Or maybe I’ll be a Witch AND a Druid, but I know better than to try to learn two systems at the same time.

I’m trying to decide how to start off this new year. Samhain always feels like a good time to put aside the old and start over. I’ve done a few readings (using the Ogam, since I’m trying to learn that system) and I keep getting Muin and Ifin/Phagos.

  • Muin is the ogam of communication and introspection, with connotations both of finding your voice and understanding emotions as well as letting go of the things that you no longer need and gathering in what is dearest to you.
  • Ifin/Phagos is the ogam of Ancestral knowledge and clear thinking, of drawing on the collective wisdom of those who came before you. Use the knowledge of the Ancestors to help clear your own mind.

Which is somewhat auspicious for this time of year, given how thin the veils are and how close this holiday is to the Ancestors. I feel like I don’t have a clear path forward though, which I guess is the meaning of the reading – Use the knowledge of the ancestors to help clear your thinking. Maybe I’ll focus on that in whatever ritual I end up doing today.

I definitely want to start something new, to start working towards a goal again. Maybe that will just be finishing the Dedicant Path and seeing where I feel in a year. I know I don’t have to leave behind what I’ve learned (and, in fact, all I’ve learned should be helping to propel me forward), but I miss working with the intent of getting somewhere. Whether it was to figure out this paganism thing, to find a teacher, to cement my relationship with the gods, or to be ready to ask for initiation, I’ve always had something that I was working towards. The Dedicant Path seems to fit that goal pretty well, and it’s a varied and rich study program that seems like it would be valuable to anyone of any neo-Pagan persuasion.

And maybe I just need to realign my brain with my reality, to know that even though the meds and therapy have made a massive difference, I will never not be bipolar, and bipolar and Trad Wicca just didn’t seem to get on well together. Maybe that’s what I need to leave behind as this year ends, and allow myself to fully experience something new as next year begins. There’s no harm in trying something for a year, right?

Obviously, I am not a spiritual teacher, by any stretch of the term. But I’ve seen some interesting things crop up in the pagan online community recently with regards to teaching online. A lot of people start out working in their free time, posting to blogs and podcasts and Youtube channels. It’s all very fun and lighthearted, with the occasional serious discussion thrown in.

Usually, after awhile though, one of two things happens.

They burn out and are never heard from again.

Or, they realize they’ve got a good thing going and monetize. Publish a book, host a paid forum, start teaching paid classes and hosting conference calls and selling spell kits. And, of course, promoting those things.

This is, in a way, the way of the internet. Very few people stick with it long term, create a huge audience, and continue to do what they do for free, simply because it starts to take a lot of time, especially when they start responding to all the emails and comments. When running a blog starts to feel like having a second job, it’s pretty normal to think about how to get paid for all the work you’re doing.

Unfortunately this brings out the “how dare you’s” so fast it will make your head spin. The speed at which a content creator can go from a well-loved personality posting Fun Lammas Activities on their blog to a sell-out shilling snake oil and fakery to fools who don’t know any better is, frankly, astounding. It’s a combination of jealousy, entitlement, and resistance to change. Jealousy, because really, who wouldn’t want to make this their day job (it sounds like so much fun on the surface, especially if you’re not familiar with how tedious the work can be); Entitlement, because how dare you start charging for things that were free before (as though the free posts are going to disappear behind a paywall), or the more insidious “I can get everything I need to know for free somewhere else online, how dare you charge for it” (which, if that were true, why not just go learn elsewhere?); Resistance to change, because readers get used to one thing, and getting them used to something else can be a hell of a challenge. The maturity of the audience obviously has a large factor here as well.

Is it right to charge for craft teaching? I don’t know. I think the answer is both no and yes. Obviously, I think it’s right for me to pay a professional for a Tarot reading or a magical working, especially if it’s someone I don’t know (via the internet or via a witchy shop). I also have no problems buying handcrafted magical tools. And if I was going to a class hosted for a number of people at a local witchy shop, I’d expect to pay at least SOMETHING for the teacher’s time and materials.

On the other hand, I’d be a little put out if suddenly it cost money for me to train with a tradition. (Beyond, of course, the usual costs of running a circle, like good candles, incense, and whatever you brought to the pot luck.)

It strikes me that the magical relationship is very different. Working with a tradition is more like working within a family and less like being part of an educational (or retail) environment. I wouldn’t expect to pay for my grandmother’s cannoli recipe, but I have no problem buying cookbooks or eating at restaurants either. The relationship is different. Training with a tradition is giving up as much energy as you’re getting, and the magical link is an extremely strong one. The tradition is interested in making sure you’re exactly the right person to continue their Way, and adding money to that mix can really foul up the selection process. You’re interested in making sure this tradition is exactly what you REALLY want to do, and saying no gets a lot harder if you’ve already paid in a bunch of cash.

Teaching an intro class? The magical link is there, sure, but it’s not nearly of the same depth and strength, and people can (and do) drop out or join late all the time.

I don’t claim to have any inspired answers, other than to say that as a long time blogger, the entitlement problem always sticks in my craw a little. There’s a feeling that your readers expect certain things from you, and there can be a lot of pushback if you change that. Add in the instability of the pagan online community, and things can (and do) get crazy. Good people end up shutting their doors over lesser troubles.

TL;DR version? It’s complicated, have a cannoli.

As I prepare for the Solstice, I’m finding myself really missing the idea of being a student of a tradition. In a way, it’s a mourning as much as a growing process, and while I understand (and really came to a mutual agreement about) why this wasn’t going to work right now, it’s still hard. Especially knowing that my fellow students are probably going to be initiated soon – though I am very happy for them.

I had my former teacher do a reading for me, in the vein of where I should go from here, and (not surprisingly) any path is going to be difficult, but come with its own rewards. I’ve considered looking at a local ADF grove, just to be a public member, but I’m not sure I could go back to just being part of a laity instead of a student. And I really don’t have the mental energy to be a student right now, especially with the sheer amount of homework that comes with the dedicant path in ADF.

I did a reading for myself as well, and after a long break (while I was studying with the coven), my old friend the Three of Wands came back. While I’ve always seen this as my seeking card, due to the way the main figure is so intently watching the ships on the horizon, I find it has rather a different feeling than it used to. (Oh Tarot, how versatile you can be…)

This time I’m seeing myself watching the ships, the things I see as possible futures, once I get my mental state in order, but there in the foreground are three trees to tend. Things that I can and should tend on my own. While this isn’t a typical reading for the Three of Wands, which usually reflects seeking for something new and leaving the old behind, for some reason I keep going back to his three trees, and the idea of focusing on what I can do here, and now, and on my own.

And really, returning to a solitary path IS something new and challenging, so I guess that part of the card applies as well.

Even if I know the solitary path is hard, and filled with the traps of inaction and succumbing to busyness rather than making time for practice, I see myself going in that direction for the time being. My husband agrees, and thinks a time of inner work and introspection will be positive and help me grow – and grow more stable.

It’s still hard to give up my identity as a student (something I was for nearly two years), but I think it’ll be for the best. I learned a ton in that time, and I’m a better witch for it, but I think I can grow as a solitary witch as well.

One of the perks of my new job is that I start very early, on the 9th floor of a building that faces east.

For the first time in my life, I’m regularly watching sunrises (and moonsets!) Over the last 11 weeks I’ve gotten to see the progress of the sun across the horizon and experience firsthand the mornings getting earlier. Just after the switch to daylight saving time, the sun came up as late as 7:30. This morning it was peeking over the horizon as I sat down at my desk at 6:30. It’s shifted quite a good distance North on the horizon as well.

I’ve been incorporating this into my magical practice each day, as a way to stay connected to my path in what is otherwise a pretty standard business office (where I am not and have no desire to be publicly pagan).

Nobody questions my taking a few moments to have tea and watch the sun come up – probably because very few people are here that early, but that’s beside the point…

For awhile I was doing a formal practice as well ( Paul Hume’s Wiccan LBRP), sneaking into a conference room so I could have a place with a door, but after a few close calls, I’ve mostly had to stop that and settle on something I can just do in my head as a morning devotion.

It’s a little weird to think that my best full-moon time is enjoyed at 5am, just as the moon is setting, but I’ve definitely enjoyed being more in tune with the solar rhythm.

Summer is coming!

(or may already be here, by the temperatures we’ve had recently!)

I’ve had to step away from my training.

It’s a complicated thing, but I’ve talked before about some of the mental health issues I have, and they’re just not cooperating with the level of energy that comes with (and is required for) coven work. I’m perfectly happy and really enjoy the Work, and I love being in circle, but the backlash the next day is, well, awful. And a little scary. It’s not an all the time thing, but after our (wonderful, high energy) celebration of Beltane this weekend, I had two of the worst days I’ve had in a long time.

Maybe it’s that my meds aren’t working (this is highly possible, from other cues in my life), maybe I just can’t handle the energy levels raised in a close knit circle.

Maybe I’m just not cut out for this priestess thing, no matter how much I may want it.

Self-limitation sucks, especially when it is because of things you wish would just go away.

I know that paganism and mental illness are not mutually exclusive, but they’re butting heads right now, and it sucks. I know this is the right decision, that I can still worship my Gods and do my magic on my own, and that I’m still allowed to be close to my circle mates. But it will be different, and it’s not what I want or what I’ve spent the last 18+ months working towards.

I’ve talked with my HPS, and she agrees strongly that this isn’t something I should push to continue if it’s going to make me sick. I trust her advice, and it’s somewhat comforting to know that this kind of mental backlash isn’t normal. It’s not a grounding issue either, or one of focus – by all accounts I’m fine when I’m working and have good energy flow and am grounding properly, it’s just… too much for my brain I guess.

Still, I’m conflicted by having to step away (at least for now, I keep telling myself) from something I really want to do and be. Even knowing its the right and healthy choice doesn’t make it fun.

I’m the River Daughter, and I’m a witch… and I happen to also have mixed bipolar and an anxiety disorder.

Somehow, I’ve got to find a way to make that work.