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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

January 11th, 2011

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04:23 pm - Ritual Studies comes to the Liturgy Meetings
Last night, I finally received the draft of the Ritual Studies Journal I put together for the Grove. It looks nice, it's got plenty of space for omen-keeping, and it's got the essential writing-prompts that I want to make use of built in. Plus, it has my drawings of different ritual configurations (based on my "Theatre for Ritual" studies) so that I can explain things with a bit more visual information.

I experimented with a lower quality of paper for this book in order to keep the price low, and it seems to have worked out alright. There are some priting mishaps on the paper, but generally speaking, everything is legible and appears to work just fine. The thing I was most concerned with was the durability of the book: I want people using these for about a year, and one can put a lot of wear-and-tear on a book over the course of a year if you're dragging it to outdoor rituals and writing about your omens and experiences. So far, so good, though: I think it will hold up nicely.

Our liturgy meetings have generally been about the upcoming ritual, but I've come around to the notion that we shouldn't focus on "the next rite" so much as on "ensuring the practice."

Let me explain:

You might think of High Days, rites of passage, and other major rituals as "desserts." Yes, you could live off those alone, but imagine getting "enough to eat" from cheesecake alone, and you see the issue: "special" and "seasonal" rites must be the treats and the joy of our lives, not the staples: they are no longer as sweet if they are all we eat, after all.

What, then, provides the staple of our religious selves? That is the meditation, daily prayer, and devotional work that we do. Our morning prayers are our eggs, toast, and bacon; our afternoon mediations are our chips and sandwich; and our evening devotional rites are our steak and potatoes. These are the things that feed our souls, not the sugary treats we often enjoy.

Keeping up the daily rites, the moderate worship, and the mindful prayer ensures that the "special" rites remain special. I would be willing to argue that if the High Days have lost their lustre in your life, you likely aren't keeping up with the daily work you know you should be doing.

At our last ritual (Rivros), I asked a simple question before assigning parts: "Who has done work at their shrine in the past week?" Only 4 people raised their hands, and I gave the parts to those people. . . for they had been practicing. It didn't matter that they had not been practicing the specific part I gave them, or that they hadn't finished their DP, or that there were other people who had more experience than they did. What mattered is that they weren't depending on the experience provided by the Grove to get their work in. They weren't interested in *only* eating cheesecake. . . they also wanted rice and beans so that when they had the cheesecake, it tasted sweet.

They could, through their experience of the sweetness, pass it along to others.

And that is what a good ritualist does.

So, the liturgy meetings will begin to become more about the staples than about the desserts. Sure, we'll still talk about the upcoming High Day, but the liturgy meetings will involve practice more than talk. We will learn about the ritual process by doing it rather than by letting it settle upon us and rot our spiritual teeth.

At least, that's the aim.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: coldcold
Current Music: "Ballad of Spider John", -JB

(37 comments Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 11th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
I like cheesecake. It is yummy in my tummy. You have dairy and protein in cheesecake. And even a little bit a grain without too much. The only thing that is missing is bacon.

And bacon grows on trees. Lees said so.

I think that you have the right idea taking the liturgy meetings aware from being about the assigning of parts. I suppose though that speaking as someone who doesn't do all the praying you are referring to, I am a little concerned that it sounds way too much like being xtian. Which I am NOT for.

I may talk to my deities/kindreds daily (throughout the day) or I may not. It's like talking to anyone of my Cranes. I don't always talk to you guys on a daily basis, let alone several times a day. It doesn't mean that I don't care about or love any of you less for it. It doesn't make me less of a Crane. If anything, it makes me appreciate the time I have with you all the more. Let's face it, if we saw each other multiple times a day every day we would probably begin to dread it after a while. And the joys we find in each others company might begin to diminish at that point.

I pray when I am called to. I do devotions if I feel the need for it. But not being considered to participate if I haven't done these things unless there is no one else I am not sure I appreciate. My path isn't yours and yours isn't mine. All of that might work for you. It isn't for everyone.

I am certain that the way you phrased this isn't necessarily how you meant it to come across. I do not think you would penalize someone for not doing devotionals. I just want you to remember that we don't always sit by the same fire all the time, it's that we are warmed by it at all that binds us together.
[User Picture]
Date:January 11th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)
I'm kind of miffed, Anna Gail. How did any of what he wrote sound anything about "way too much like being xtian?"

[User Picture]
Date:January 11th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
This is where the post lost me, while before I found it quite lovely:

"What, then, provides the staple of our religious selves? That is the meditation, daily prayer, and devotional work that we do. Our morning prayers are our eggs, toast, and bacon; our afternoon mediations are our chips and sandwich; and our evening devotional rites are our steak and potatoes. These are the things that feed our souls, not the sugary treats we often enjoy.

Keeping up the daily rites, the moderate worship, and the mindful prayer ensures that the "special" rites remain special. I would be willing to argue that if the High Days have lost their lustre in your life, you likely aren't keeping up with the daily work you know you should be doing."

First, insinuating that I 'should be doing' daily prayer work and rites is a concept that I affiliate with the xtian church. Now, I understand that my experience with xtians may be different than others. Mine is mostly negative. I have nothing against them practicing their faith as long as they do not tell me how to practice mine. I do have a problem with anyone trying to mold my faith to resemble someone else's.

I am not saying that the idea of daily work is a bad one. Or that personal devotionals are bad. On the contrary, if they work for you by all means do them. There are times where I will feel a need to do something everyday for a couple of weeks. Then I will not feel that necessity. Not because I practice my faith any less but that the closeness I feel with what I believe doesn't have to be stated over and over again everyday. I walk within it.

My thoughts are that each person is going to be different, and the way they practice is going to be different. Not everyone is going to pray multiple times a day or stop and do a rite daily or several times a day. The implication that that is something that we 'should do' in order to be allowed to take on a role in a rite, whether druid moon or high day is what I object to. I am no less a Druid if I do not do these like this. If when I clean I offer the labor to Frigg isn't enough, or as I write an invocation I offer up the words to whomever I am speaking of then why bother at all? I do not like the idea of anyone telling me or even giving the slightest implication that I am not eligible or even worthy to take on a role for a high day or druid moon that I am celebrating and possibly helping with just because I do not pray or practice as they do. That my dear is my experience with the xtian church. THAT is why I am concerned by Mike's wording.

I do not think this is what he is trying to say. I simply want to point out the possible perception.
[User Picture]
Date:January 11th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
I might counter your argument by saying that your point makes mine: I can't judge your devotion, but I can ask you if you feel you've lived up to your own notion of piety. If you'll recall, I asked, "Who did their devotions this week?" not "Who did daily prayers." I didn't define it or call for a frequency. I just asked who was getting in their practice.

I am, though, becoming more and more convinced that one cannot abandon their shrine and still present meaningful ritual to the Folk at a High Day. We must practice for the show, after all. That's the thrust here. It's not about judging someone's personal devotional schedule, but about ensuring that those who we certify to present the Grove's devotional work have the necessary practice in to show a good face to the deities and the Folk.
[User Picture]
Date:January 11th, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC)
And I would say that your piety doesn't necessarily mirror my own. My shrine can be any number of things, and there are plenty of times that it exists only within.

I may not always get something out of high days. It doesn't mean that my devotion or practice is sub-par because I didn't do devotionals. It may just mean that the liturgy that was written and used didn't call to me. I may not have a connection with a particular deity or hearth and so I simply enjoy the fact that I am there.

I don't tell anyone how they do their personal work. It's personal for a reason and none of my business. Much like mine is no one's business unless I make it so. I also don't like the idea of picturing the rite as a 'show'. I see where it can often feel or appear that way as we get lost in presenting a good ritual for the Folk. But it shouldn't. When I write liturgy of any kind, it isn't for show. It is what the kindreds inspire me with in order to commune better with the people that choose to gather.

I know that my idea of this isn't going to be a popular one and I am sure I will get the proverbial smack down by more than one. That's okay. We have different opinions and ways of doing things.
Date:January 12th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
and this is not a 'verbal smackdown' but you're arguing the same point as Mike. The question "Did you do your home spiritual work" (to paraphrase) means exactly that. Did you do YOUR stuff? Not my stuff or not your stuff the way I think you should do it. But YOUR stuff.

[User Picture]
Date:January 12th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Whether it's what you meant to say or not, the question that you asked was "who here has done their daily devotionals everyday for the past week?". J and I have both gone over it in our heads several times, and that is definitely what we both remember hearing at least. Add to that an offhand comment of something to the effect of "if you didn't do your devotionals and haven't finished your DP you just get to watch" and you had at least two people feeling completely shut out of the ritual from the start. Had the question actually been, "who's been keeping up with their devotionals" or "who has their devotional life in order" or something to that effect you would have had at least 2 more hands up, and I'd venture to say probably more.

I do have a, for the most part, daily personal practice, but purely devotional work is only part of that and isn't something that I feel is necessary every single day. It may be the bread and butter of my personal practice, to continue the food analogy, but the domestic ritual, experimental magic, trance work, and all the other components of my practice flesh out the menu. The bread and butter may be enough to sustain me, but it's not very fulfilling in isolation.

It may perhaps be an argument of semantics as I will admit that I don't really know if *my* definition of devotional work and *your* definition of devotional work are the same thing. I actually agree with you to a point that those who have their personal practice in order are better able to lead in corporate practice. That said, whether or not one has their personal practice in order does need to be by their judgement, not the judgement of anyone else.

I'd also like to point out that for at least some, the group work is a hell of a lot more than just "dessert". It may be a function of geographic isolation, but for J and I, we're not making the 7 hour round trip drive just for dessert. There is a lot of nourishment that comes from meaningful spiritual contact with others and given our level of isolation from anything resembling a pagan community we really cherish that time and try to make the most of it.
[User Picture]
Date:January 12th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
the question that you asked was "who here has done their daily devotionals everyday for the past week?".

Then that was my bad, entirely, for it is not the question I intended to ask. Nor is it a question I really have an interest in.

Rather than try and explain my metaphor again (because, as my favourite high school teacher used to say, "metaphors are like rubber bands: stretch them too far and they break, often painfully for the person who kept stretching."), I'll try a different explanation that cuts the metaphor down:

I'm not suggesting that High Days have no value, or that we should cut them out (then again, it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that after Monday's lunch-and-desert combo). What I'm suggesting is that we can't live off them alone. . . or that we possibly can, but we won't experience them as the same source of joy and we won't be able to pass that joy on to others in that setting.

In essence, I'm not devaluing the High Day experience here. I'm upvaluing the hearth shrine experience and the practice that goes with it. If we take the notion that High Days and rites of passage have low value, then the point of being an ADF Grove is lost entirely.

So when you think on the metaphor I built above, you can really only apply it to a universe of "things that have meaning and are valuable". . . and I'm not afraid to say that some things of value are worth more than other things of value, for to do so doesn't decrease the value of those things that are worth less. Or something like that.
[User Picture]
Date:January 13th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
I actually like the metaphor a lot, although I would have gone with something finicky, time consuming, planning intensive, and totally worth it, like baklava or quiche.

Neither of which I would base a diet on, either.

But we weren't hurt by the idea that we don't get 357 days of the year off. Or even 345 of them. I was the biggest pusher of personal practice in Huntington back when I was just a Chaote.

What hurt us was that you phrased it as a pop quiz, and that meaning to or not you attached a standard to it of daily. Daily in its sense of same thing at the same time every day is not doable in any way for either one of us, nor do our personal practices require it. At this point, neither one of us is blocking our time out in 24 hour predictable chunks.

What we are doing, however, is some of the most exciting devotional work I've ever done. I'm more personally connected to, and fueled by, the Kindreds of my heart, old and new, than ever before, as 3 1/2 hours of excited chatter between the two of us on the way up would indicate.

Which is why it set off much of my symptomology when, wittingly or unwittingly, you tied the value of our ability to contribute first to a standard that we do not hold to and do not need. Had you actually asked if we liked where we were at devotion-wise, I wouldn't have triggered, I'd have just raised my hand. But instead, it came off as a pop quiz.

And when, I presume, not enough hands went up for that, you switched instead to DP completion as a standard. Which goes against all the promises I've been told that no one was going to look down on me because I hadn't completed. Having fought that very issue, I've been told repeatedly that not having filed my documentation shouldn't make me feel any less worthy than any of the other things that shouldn't make me feel less worthy.

Because ultimately, Sunday night I was made to feel unworthy. Despite having my devotional life together to the liking of myself and my Kindreds, using up the only full day off from work I'd get for two weeks, and making the drive, I was told to "just sit and watch" until I improved on something I wasn't even told we would be graded on. which does appallingly remind me of the Christian churches of my youth, as well.

And worse, I watched my sister, who struggles with the same mental issues and worse physical ones, who recruited me and taught me ghosti with the Kindreds by example, be told the same thing. The former triggered me, that just hurt.

I'm glad that you don't really have an interest in whether our devotional life dovetails into 24 hour periods. But it was the question that you asked, and that we answered, and that deeply wounded several people, and left at least 2 of us struggling with echoes of old wounds, as well.
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
C'mon, at least call me a jerk.
Date:January 12th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
Christianity is not the only religion that prays and has daily (or weekly or whatever) expectations of 'spiritual stuff to do on your own that enhances your group experience." Throwing it out there is kind of a straw man.
Date:January 12th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
crap. Not sure why i posted anonymously. that was me above.
Date:January 14th, 2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
speaking as someone who doesn't do all the praying you are referring to, I am a little concerned that it sounds way too much like being xtian.

Cross-culturally and historically, daily practice is the norm: please take a look at the Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Sikh, as well as Taoist, Shinto, and the African Diasporic Religions expectations of daily practice.
[User Picture]
Date:January 14th, 2011 06:46 pm (UTC)
I suppose I should have been more clear here in my statements. It isn't that I do not recognize that their are other faiths that have daily prayers and practices. I do. I was using an example that I am the MOST familiar with for my concerns.

I have never practiced Hindu, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Sikh or any of the other religions that were listed. I have practiced Christianity. I was raised Baptist, practiced Methodist, Assembly of God, Church of God of Prophecy, Pentecostal, and attended Catholic and Lutheran services.

I was speaking primarily of the experiences I have had.
[User Picture]
Date:January 14th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
and crap, I used the wrong there in line one. Darn typos.

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