Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Alban Heruin (Summer Solstice)

A ritual to be performed at noon on the longest day of the year.

Have an altar ready, indoors or out as weather or situation dictates, with representation of the elements, a druid sword, a special clear chalice with appropriate drink (or water), and a simple feast of whatever fruits of early summer were ready for harvest from the garden that morning.

[Perform solitary grove opening then move into seasonal blessing below.]

[Stand facing the noonday sun in the south and say the following aloud with feeling...]

The earth turns, and with its turning, the sun "rises" and that which we call time is called into being
The earth circles the sun, and with its circling, that which we call the seasons become
And with these times and with these seasons the Sun gives order to our existence
And with this order we measure out our lives upon this earth

On this, the longest day of the year, we give thanks for the blessings summer brings
We give thanks for the light, for without it, the plants could not grow
We give thanks for the warmth, for without it, the earth would be barren
We give thanks for summer for within its warm and fertile embrace the plants of summer grow to bring forth the fruits of the harvest!

Lift the chalice from the altar

The maiden of spring becomes once again the green queen of summer! Behold the richness of the growing season, the fertility of the living earth, and the first fruits of the year. We give thanks for the return of summer and the rich promise of a new harvest to come!

[Salute the noonday sun with chalice]

Father Sun, bless and warm us!

[With chalice, salute the earth]

Mother Earth, bless and feed us!

[Pour a small libation from chalice to each tree in the grove in turn, and by either pouring into dishes or dipping fingers into the chalice, let the critters have a taste as well]

All of life, live! Grow! Rejoice!

In Gaia, all life is one!

[Bow head and drink also from the chalice, signifying oneness with all the other life present]

[close grove]

Modified Solitary Grove Ritual

Ceremony to open, close and work within the Druid Grove


One Druid
Basic Altar Setup (elements, altar candle and sword)
Seasonal Items or Offerings
Cakes & Ale


Written Affirmations


Basic Altar setup placed upon white or colored cloth or special items appropriate to the season, and on table or other flat surface in center of open space. If indoors, the potted Grove Trees can be moved to encircle the altar area. If burning affirmations, have a cauldron with salt or ash base ready, as well as matches for lighting fire. All artificial lighting is turned off during ritual, but natural sounds of water or of family pets joining the ritual are welcome.

Opening the Grove:

Druid enters the Grove from the North, lights the altar candle, and proceeds to proclaim peace to the four directions and throughout the Grove by saluting each direction with an open hand in turn and saying “I proclaim peace in the North” (South, East, West…) or by partially unsheathing, then re-sheathing the small sword from the altar while saying the same.

Conclude this portion with “Golden Aspen Druid Grove is now open. Let nothing hinder or interrupt the work of this Grove.”

Consecrating the Grove:

Hold each element up in turn to do their work of cleansing and protecting the Grove. “Ask” the elements of air/sky, water/sea, and earth/land to be a part of the mystery and magic of the grove ritual, and to cleanse the participant and the area of any negative or unproductive feelings they might be carrying into it. State with each presentation of the elements, “May [element] cleanse and prepare this Grove and all present for its holy work and banish from here any element of discord or other hindrance to its peace.” Conclude with “I hereby declare this Grove cleansed and consecrated for all work required of it this day.”

Working Within the Grove:

At this point, the Druid will do whatever work is required, or desired, within the Grove. Any seasonal ritual, personal working or meditation can be inserted here. Here is also where affirmations should be given voice and then burnt in the cauldron. If there is no other work required, move to thanking the Universe for providing sustenance, symbolized by the Cakes and Ale.

Closing the Grove:

Proclaim the work of the Grove to be finished for this day by unsheathing the sword and holding it aloft for a moment, and then sheathing it again and saying “I declare the work of the Golden Aspen Grove closed for this day; may good fortune and peace follow all who are a part.”

Spiritual Development Essay II

The goal of spiritual development, in my opinion, is gaining the willingness and ability to:

* look within one's self and discover the inconsistencies within one's own belief system, and then work to resolve those inconsistencies in order to strengthen the solidarity of our own internal belief system
* look at how one has been relating to the world at large and, using the "new and improved" version of one's beliefs, work to eliminate the inconsistencies between what one believes and how one acts in the world and how one treats others
* and, three, to continue to think about and refine these two spheres of thought throughout life, putting into practice any changes made to one's beliefs so that our beliefs and actions remain more or less consistent as we grow.

This process may result in an abandonment of a traditional religious belief, it may entail a change to a totally different belief system, or it may result in the person remaining within their current belief system but pursuing it with renewed understanding and more active involvement. However, as long as the goal is an improved ability to discern "truth" and to put that truth into practice, then the result will hopefully be greater spiritual development.

In my view, there are many barriers to achieving a state of continual spiritual development. The first is the fact that we often find it quite difficult to be honest with ourselves about who we are and what we really believe. Everyone wears various masks in their every day life that show only the parts of ourselves that we want the rest of the world to see. We even wear masks that serve to show only the parts of ourselves to ourselves that WE want to see! It is not fun to look at the primitive and sometimes violent emotions that churn behind our facades. The hardest part of true spiritual development is it requires you to pierce through the masks you wear and delve into the mess that lies behind them.

In my experience, it is often quite painful to admit that you are even wearing a mask - nearly everyone wants to believe that they are "honest" and "good" and the general consensus is that "good honest people" don't wear masks. And certainly "good honest people" don't have all that violent emotional churning going on behind the scenes! So, while a mask may be what we think we need in order to live with ourselves in peace, the more masks that we create the less we are able to access what lies behind them and the less we are able to do the work that is required to advance our lives spiritually.

Therefore, mentoring others in their spiritual development, while rewarding at times, can also be a very complicated and dangerous undertaking. It is more than enough work for most of us to just mentor ourselves. Helping others to undergo that difficult process is even more tricky. However, if the person requesting mentoring is sincere in their wish to undertake the task, there are a few things I believe can be done to aid them in this that go beyond simply pointing them in the direction of helpful resources.

First, we should not try to tell our mentee what they should do, even if we think we have the "right" answer, or that they are in some way not being honest with themselves about something they do or believe. Popping delusional bubbles is best left to the person who has them. If they cannot do it, then that generally means it cannot be done at that time. So we as mentors should try to leave any arrogant "I'll just HELP them out of their delusions" attitude at the door. In fact, popping one's own delusional bubbles is a skill that is so worth the work required to hone that we as mentors should strive to not deprive our mentees of the experience.

Second, I think mentors should resist the temptation to try to do all the mental work for a mentee when they are struggling. It's okay to make a few suggestions, but if you try to map everything out for them that you think they should be doing, then they won't own the process and owning one's own journey is imperative for achieving true spiritual development. Besides, who says we as mentors can really know it all anyway? That is serious arrogance! Worse, if the mentor is shown to be right about some things, the mentee may begin to try to relate to their mentor as yet another authority figure interceding between themselves and their concept of god. While that kind of regard might please some people's egos, adding yet another layer between our mentees and the divine is not at all what mentors should be working towards.

Third, I believe we should make peace with the fact that some parts of this journey are just going to be painful. There's little that can be done about that, and perhaps it is just as well. We all tend to value the things we've had to work the hardest to obtain, and spiritual development is no different in this respect. A mentor needs to learn to "sit with the pain" when a mentee is experiencing it, and allow the pain to do the work it needs to do without too much interference. Comforting a mentee is definitely appropriate, but I think it is important to realize that taking away the pain is not always the best thing to do: sometimes it is necessary to fully experience the pain of our own shortcomings in order to bring about the desire for true change.

Spiritual Development Essay

People, generally according to their personality and culture, have differing levels of need for a connection with something larger than themselves. Some people have a very high need to connect with a "god object" and others have a very low need for that type of emotional connection. Others fall more in the middle ground. I believe religion is the means by which people reconcile the outer world of rational experience with their inner emotional life and need to feel as if they belong to something larger and more powerful than themselves.

I believe that, also dependent upon people's culture and personality, is how different people go about relating to that something bigger. Some people rely upon this "god object" for protection. Some rely upon it (actually, they rely upon those who claim to serve it) to tell them what is the moral way to live their lives. Some want to use this god object to reward themselves and punish those they do not like. Some just want the emotional high that accompanies communion with their god object. I believe a lot of the reason for this difference is cultural in nature - that it often depends upon the religious atmosphere in which one is raised.

The reason I say it is dependent upon the atmosphere in which one is raised is because tribal affiliation is a strong human need - so strong that people generally tend to self-select into tribal groups even if they are not born to one. People incorporate tribal-type groups into their lives on many levels without even thinking about it. The choosing of sports team affiliations, school affiliations, gang affiliations, political affiliations, and even who you might root for on "American Idol" could be said to fall into this tribal pattern. One could even make the argument that product brand affiliation falls into this category!

Even if you don't want to take the analogy quite that far, it seems apparent to me that tribal affiliation is very important to most people. What this means is that if you are raised in a culture (tribe) with a strong religious affiliation, you may well buy into that affiliation out of your need to feel that you "belong." I think that is part of the reason why, until recently, people in different parts of the world tended to be more or less homogeneous in their spiritual beliefs within their cultural groups. People may say that they follow a particular religion because they believe it to be "the truth," but in my opinion the need to belong to their cultural tribe is so strong that people tend to overlook the parts of their group's religious tenets that do not make sense, or make excuses for them, rather than admit these inconsistencies and question them. I believe getting past that unthinking belief and fear of not belonging is an important step towards discovering one's true spiritual path.

I believe a large part of what a particular person believes on a spiritual level is also influenced by a second layer: their culture's need to also, as a community organism, belong to something that is larger than itself. I think this is why nearly all religions rely upon a select group of shamans, priests, clergy, or elders to determine what the larger tribal group believes, and which are the practices the group will or will not engage in. The laity generally concern themselves with their relationship to the community through adherence to its approved belief system, and the higher ups tend to concern themselves with the tribe's continued relationship to the cosmos, as they interpret it. This two layer system must work pretty well, because it is fairly common among religious groups, even among those that pride themselves on encouraging their adherents to engage in direct communication with the divine.

Another aspect of individual spirituality is personal in the sense that people tend to interpret events they experience in the "real" world in different ways according to their personalities and upbringings. For example, let's take the case of three different people who, while on walk in the woods, narrowly escape being hit by a tree falling over the trail. Each person experiences something that is very much the same, yet each will interpret the event according to their own inner, emotional needs and concordant spiritual belief system. One person might interpret the event as an "attack" upon them, personally. They may believe that evil forces are out there trying to do them harm. Therefore, they may experience this event as proof they need to further appeal to their gods for protection. Another person might experience this near-miss as proof that their gods are protecting them, and that they are therefore cared for, valued and loved. This person might be prompted by the event to declare their gratitude in a worshipful or sacrificial manner to the powers that they believe have spared them an untimely demise. Yet a third person may consider the event startling, but not as proof that the universe cares or doesn't care for them personally. This person might dismiss the event as random and while they may feel relief at not being hit over the head with a tree, they would probably not feel the need to commune with any gods over the event.