CAYA Coven

To Brigid

Cauldron of the Celts – Sacred Calendar Year – Brigid’s Holy Day

Being a Gaelic Polytheist that does not currently have a Gaelic Polytheist community at hand, I spend a lot of my time and effort being a public priestess in a interfaith pagan coven known as CAYA Coven as I have found the community aspect to be so very enriching to my life and practice. Over the years CAYA has grown to the point where we can now group off into devotional affinity groups of priestesses that share a deity or culture or other grouping. One such groups that I am apart of is the Cauldron of the Celts. All of us publicly dedicated to deities that fall under the “Celtic” umbrella. Currently that means Irish and Romano-Breton but in future could include Gaulish, Welsh and so on. Being a multi-faith group means that everyone is coming from a different angle as far as practice and so forth but I have to say that it has been refreshing to have more people to talk about the lore and cultural background of things, as well as be able to share our devotions and put on some truly wonderful rites for the gods.

In that vein we have collective decided it would be a good idea to start a Sacred Calendar year for the group, with a holy day selected for each of our dedicated deities. Understanding that nothing about this is particularly Gaelic but a more modern adaptation to further foster reverence and honor to the gods. It also provides an opportunity to share with the wider community, and be of service. With that being said the first day of reverence this year starts with Brigid, and below is a humble offering for all those who feel called to partake.


To Brigid

Cauldron of the Celts Sacred Calendar Year – Brigid’s Holy Day 2/1/15

The Cauldron of the Celts, a multi-faith devotional group within CAYA Coven, is endeavoring to establish our Sacred Calendar Year. Each priestess is publicly dedicated to a deity who falls under the wide “Celtic” umbrella and has chosen a date on our modern calendar year to be a day of reverence to their deity. In an effort to connect with other devotees and be of service to the public we share this calendar and some of our own workings, that we may all raise up the Gods names in honor.

Our calendar year begins with Brigid’s holy day on Feb 1st.

The priestesses of Brigid, Foxfire Kells and Doyenne Rowan, invite you to send us any petitions you wish to make before the goddess and we will offer them to her in supplication and gratitude on her holy day. You may email them at cauldronofthecelts@gmail.com.

Below are a few words from the priestesses of Brigid:

Imbolc is celebrated in honor of the goddess Brigid between January 31st and February 2nd; the name of the holy day comes from the Old Irish imbolg or oimelc, meaning “in the belly,” referring to the season of lambing and ewe’s milk. Brigid emerges from the silence of winter to herald the coming of spring and new life and growth; she is also a goddess of the forge, of the hearth, of poetry and inspiration, and of healing. Her symbols include lambs or sheep,  wells, writing implements, acorns, apples, milk, snowdrops and crocuses, and, of course, fire.

Imbolc falls during the Celtic tree month (a neo-pagan construct based on Robert Grave’s interpretation of the ancient symbolic language of ogam) of Luis (lweesh), which is the Gaelic name for the rowan tree, so one activity you can do is to make a protection charm of 2 crossed rowan twigs bound with red thread. For more information about the history of the Rowan and red thread charm you can find a incredibly thorough article here.

Another one of Her traditions is to leave out cloth or clothing to be blessed by Brigid on Imbolc, often to be used for healing and protection purposes for the following year. Given the current events happening, Her face of healing is very clearly one that is needed in the world and in our community.

To welcome and honor Brigid into your home and life, you may wish to perform the following ritual:

Lay out a white or yellow cloth
Place a white candle in the center
Arrange around the candle 3 acorns and/or apples, a small bowl of fresh water (spring water or melted snow is ideal), a sprig of juniper, and a small bundle of wool roving.
Prepare an offering plate with a piece of bread spread with soft cheese and a drizzle of honey, and some apple slices.

Light the candle and contemplate what new projects or endeavors you want to nurture this year. How will you tend to these goals? How will you tend to yourself? What parts of yourself or your life are beginning to emerge with the Spring? How do you keep the fires of your creativity and motivation burning as the year wears on?  Do you make space in your life for pleasure and the warmth of family (however you define it)?

Say a prayer or sing a song to Brigid to bring her into the room.
Feel free to use or adapt this prayer, as you wish:

My good lady Brigid,
I call upon you to light the fire of inspiration in my heart,
to warm my hearth and burn away the cold shroud of winter,
just as the snowdrops burn through the frozen ground to burst forth in flower
and give the promise of renewal.

My good lady Brigid,
I offer you my devotion and gratitude
for the many ways you bring joy and beauty to life in the world.
May my lips ever sing your praises and my hands bring comfort and healing;
ever may the embrace of my favour glorify your name.

Offer Brigid the bread with cheese & honey and the apples, for sweetness and sustenance.

Dip the juniper sprig in the water you have charged and asperge your house to bless and protect you in the coming year.

More Links and Points of interest:
Detailed article about the customs in Ireland and Scotland of Là Fhèill Brìghde
:http://www.tairis.co.uk/festivals/la-fheill-brighde
Craft Ideas for Imbolc: http://unfetteredwood.blogspot.com/2014/01/crafts-for-imbolc.html
video from Gaol Naofa on the celebration of Imbolc: http://youtu.be/oEieym5uI7k
Podcasts from Story Archaeology about Brigid and her various tales:  http://storyarchaeology.com/category/series-01-mythical-women/mythical-women-05-the-search-for-brigid/

Cauldron of the Celts 2015 Sacred Calendar Year:
Feb 1st – Brigid’s Holy Day
March 19th – Sulis Minerva’s Holy Day
June 21st – Honoring of the Selkie
August 1st – Lugh’s Holy Day
August 9th – An Dagda’s Holy Day

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Starting something new…

arms_open_by_waitingforemma-d4chrhkArms Open by ~WaitingForEmma on deviantART

For several years now a project, an idea, has been brewing in my mind. A growing desire to create a space for something that I need, while providing that same space for others who may also need. All the way back in 2011 when I wrote “Carving out more Worship”  it was this new space and project that was on my mind. Now I am literally days away from enacting it. 2013 it seems, is the year of fulfilling a lot of promises, and making vows.

As those of you who read this odd little blog may know or at least summize, I am a public priestess. For several years now I have worked with CAYA Coven and the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe putting on countless rituals. No literally countless, I have loss track. Our Coven puts on 8 sabbats, 9-13 full moon rituals, 8 pan-dianic sabbats, and a smattering of other rituals in the minuscule inbetweens. Learning ritual coordination and creation in this dynamic group with Yeshe Rabbit’s excellent example has been one of the highlights and true blessings of my public priestess path.

Even with all those rituals, and the calendar year packed, I still felt little tug that something was missing. See CAYA rituals are fantastic, and dynamic and always changing. Always learning. With all those people with their different ideas, paths, and ways the stream of creativity is truly astounding. But on the flip side CAYA rituals are eclectic, and interfaith and most the time do not speak to my specific path. They certainly fulfill my community needs but I knew that I would eventually need to be more of a public priestesses for my gods specifically, in some way.

When you are elbow deep in public ritual it’s hard not to start creating your own, imagining different flavors you would try, the things that are important to you, the things you would probably not do. And as a Celtic Polytheist who has yet to experience a Celtic-centered ritual that she was truly happy with, the thought “put up or shut up” began to circle round and joined forces with another reality.

In the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe every HPS is expected to create and maintain a project that benefits and brings forth the Divine Feminine into the world. These are our Legacies. For the past two years my Legacy was High Priestessing the Goddess Sabbats that the Tribe put on. That meant maintaining, coordinating, and helping wherever needed with the 8 sabbats we put on every year. The “put up or shut up” had teamed up with a whisper of  “what if you did your own rituals for your Legacy?” The threads began to come together.

During my many Dark Moon outings with Temple Witch to our beloved beach another tugging became known. That of the soul satisfying rush of worshiping outside. There are many pagans whose path is not nature based, I’m not one of them. The three realms, Land, Sea, and Sky, and the mysteries and balance found within them are things that get my blood up. Nothing so easily puts me into alignment than being in the alignment of the realms. It feels whole and right to create a relationship with the local places. To see the subtle changes of a place. To notice when people have been less than kind to it, to do what you can to make amends (cleaning up trash).

Another layer, perhaps the most eye opening layer, was the freedom that came with worshiping freely within the eyesight and earshot of whomever. Creating the normalcy of it all.

I have to say I am damn lucky to live in the part of the country where that is even possible. Where no one intrudes and asks what I’m doing while bent over intently by my serpentine rock altar.  And while a few eyebrows may be raised as Temple and I wander out into the cold waves with out silver chalice singing our songs and laughing, no one heckles. No one shouts. There is no danger.

That’s simply not true everywhere.

In Florida, Kyjra Withers has been experiencing escalating attacks on her home.  While it there is no official stance on who or why, but evidence seems to point to her being targeting for her being an out witch. It’s sort of hard to imagine such things happening now and in this country. Especially when you live in a liberal area, and work at a metaphysical store, and in general have never experienced any harassment for being a pagan.

The knowledge of this inspires a sense of responsibility in me. That this freedom, that should be available to all, needs to be utilized, cared for and nurtured. Because it needs to be protected. It needs to grow.

Thus were the small pieces that came together and became a vision for rituals, for a platform that I’m calling the Temple of the Open Sky.

The Temple of the Open Sky is founded on the belief that freedom of religion is a right that needs to be practiced when and where it can be. Here in the SF Bay area we are privileged with a freedom from fear of retaliation for outward expression of differing religious beliefs that is not found elsewhere in the USA, let alone in the World. It is this truth that brought forth that need to create a space where the Gods names were spoken outside of closed doors, without hiding, witnessed under the open sky.

In that vein, the Temple of the Open Sky seeks to create a platform for pagan worship and devotion that is supportive of the many and varying methods of finding the divine. To create a safe container, free from shame, to be out in the world with our spirituality.

For me being a Celtic Polytheist, and the founder of these rituals, it means that for now the rituals are going to be Celtic-centric. I’m not aiming for reconstructionism  but for culturally founded and modernly adapted. But the underlying goal is creating a space for authentic expression of worship and normalization of that worship. In the future I hope that other priests and priestesses in the area might wish to share their rituals, and speak their gods names aloud for all to hear.

An important aspect of the Temple is once again bringing feasting into ritual space. It’s not an easy aspect to work in modern times, especially in public rituals. While it would be easy to host a ritual and feast for a small party in a home when you know how many guests you are expecting, opening things to the public complicates matters. Dietary needs, and just the basics of feeding an unknown number of people quickly turn the idea to a dream out of reach. But the feast is such a central part of the Celtic celebratory ritual, and is the part that I  long for the most. Food being a central foundation of my practice. If we release the idea of trying to feed an unknown number of people without a budget and acknowledge the fact that we will be outside away from a kitchen anyways, an obvious solution presents itself. Picnic! A completely acceptable and long held American tradition, easily rolled into pagan worship. That simplicity really is the structure that I’m building on and hope others will enjoy as well.

But for now it’s just me, which means all Celts. The first ritual is scheduled for this coming Saturday and will be a devoted to Brighid. The next will be in June or July and devoted to Manannan Mac Lir. August or September will be in honor of Epona, and we will end the year feasting to the Dagda.

I plan on posting more about the process, how each of the events go, and even the outlines should anyone be interested in them.

Gotta say I’m a little nervous. But I know this is what I’m suppose to do.

Holding the Media to a higher standard

If you keep an eye out for pagans in the media you will probably be aware that FOX News recently picked up an old story apparently just so that they could make elitist  sexist, ignorant and generally to be expected base remarks on Pagans and Wiccans in particular. You can find the details at The Wild Hunt.

While I am not surprised by this in the least, as FOX News has already proven itself time and time again to be a irresponsible propaganda machine in far more damaging ways than this infraction. I was happy to see many in the pagan community taking a real course of action and stand about demanding a higher standard of our news media. I personally believe that this needs to happen on a wider scale across the board, and am hopeful that this beginning will lead to more.

With that said, I stand behind the statement of my community and coven in regards to this issue:

The Clergy of Come As You Are Coven, an Interfaith Pagan community in Northern California, take exception to the statements about Pagans and Wiccans made by Fox Network commentators Anna Kooiman, Clayton Morris, Tucker Carlson, and Tammy Bruce on-air Feb 17, 2013.  The inaccurate and slanted reporting and commentary permitted by the Fox Network on the topic of the recognition of Pagan and Wiccan holy days by the University of Missouri was an incident of egregious misinformation, lack of research, blatant sexism, religious prejudice, and personal invective. The remarks made by these Fox Network hosts were especially irresponsible in light of the increasing diversity of religious tradition in America, where members of minority religions still struggle to establish equality and fair treatment in their schools, local governments, civic organizations, and communities.

Given the current politically divided climate, it is crucial for the media to hold a high standard of integrity and commitment to reporting fairly about the diverse cultures in this country and the countries with which the United States interacts. This is achieved through unbiased reporting, sensitive yet unemotional delivery of factual material, and thorough research to establish the verity of assertions made by reporters and commentators. The media has a responsibility to act with conscience and accountability in the selection and appropriate preparation of the individuals who are professionally tasked with informing large portions of the population. In this case, accurate factual information about Pagan and Wiccan holidays is widely and readily available online, in libraries, in government documents such as the US Army Chaplain’s Handbook, and in a number of state and district court cases where Wicca was specifically recognized as a religion protected under the First Amendment. There is no sufficient excuse for the gross misrepresentations allowed by Fox Network on Feb 17.

We request that this issue be addressed by Fox News Network via an immediate, prominent, on-air apology; significant on-air retraction of specific comments with factual corrections; visible dialogue with practicing Wiccans and Pagans conducted in a respectful manner; and appropriate commitment by the Network to providing the individuals responsible with a mandatory professional course of diversity training in religious and sex/gender sensitivity.

As an Interfaith Pagan organization that recognizes Wicca as a major influence, and that also recognizes the First Amendment right of each individual to choose a personally meaningful spiritual path, we denounce any effort to undermine the sacred nature of any religion/practice, holy day, and/or celebration, especially but not limited to those growing, emerging, and/or marginalized religions/practices.

We applaud the University of Missouri’s sensitivity to the needs of its Pagan and Wiccan community members via recognition of their holy celebrations, and encourage other academic, government, and business institutions to include similar awareness of these holy days in their own administration and planning.

We support the varied and diverse efforts of the concerned individuals and groups who are bringing this issue to public attention and mobilizing Pagans and Wiccans to demand public accountability and fair resolution.

__________________________________

The Clergy of my coven, the Come as You Are Coven, and myself will be printing and signing this statement and sending it to the following addresses:

FOX News Corporation

1211 Avenue of Americas, 8th Floor,NY, NY 10036

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

 

If you like this language and it expresses your feelings well, feel free to adjust and use this for your personal or group purposes.

The Parts of Priestessing

There are times when I get so surrounded in what I’m doing. In my single minded bull headed focus on the things immediately around me, that other layers and context just fade away. Sometimes this is a good thing, it gets shit done. Sometimes this is a bad thing, in that I forget very important lessons. But as with all things in my life eventually the tide comes round and I can see the other side. Remember what I had forgotten, see the forest for the trees, whatever colloquialism is in vogue at the hour. Herein is where I relieve a little bit of how my convoluted, multi-streamed practices work for me.

There are three parts to my path. This is not a surprising revelation, but I just never thought of it till recently. It makes sense, as my daily blessing ends with the line “All three are in me.” My personal path, wherein I have been charged by my Gods to live the values of a culture long past in a modern age. Where I worship my Ancestors, where I tend the spirits and beings of the land around me, where I worship the Gods who have seen me thru this life and past lives. This in and of itself is a fair amount of work. It’s a constant learning experience, study course, at some point (soon-ish) I will need to learn Gaelic. There are big major, long term plans on this path. They involve me owning a house on a fair amount of land. On studying the construction of stone circles and creating a modern one on some scale. They involve outdoor shrines, and eventually a cairn. In short a lot of work.

These goals and that path have been with me from the beginning of my consciousness of the spiritworld. What I did not see coming, where the other parts. Almost five years ago (I can’t believe I just typed that. I mean for normal people five years is not a long time but for the girl who moved every two years since birth five years is a lot) situations where bad at home, and my gods guided me that part of my path (of their path) is community. I was a lone Celt, and that’s just an out of balance thing. The culture is about community, there is a pride and integrity that was inherently missing. Especially since at the time I was having family issues, where it became clear that a large part of my blood family did not hold the same values. So I went out looking for some people to call my own. I looked at Celtic Recon. groups, I looked at ADF, I even looked at Asatru. But the latter didn’t seem to actually hold public events, the middle was not my flavor in congruence to my deities, and the latter just not my people. On a whim I went to a group’s full moon circle. The group was Come As You Are Coven (and what can be more inviting than that?) they said they were an eclectic drop in coven. I figured that I’d probably be the lone CR (which is what I identified with at the time) but I desperately needed to get out of the house and be around people and something just told me to go. So I did and it was lovely. Completely different from anything I’d ever seen or heard or anything (casting circle, calling directions, all that was all new to me). And I kept coming back when I could. They worked with different deities than I did, but I’ve always followed a strict let people worship what gods they will, and more importantly they had the same values of integrity, community, and so on that drew me to the people. Through a series of events and reasons that I do not remember (I never remember how important things in my life began with the exception of how I met the Lumberjack) I applied for and was accepted into their Clergy initiation path. Thus cementing the second path of my spiritual life. Community. It is part of my spirituality to provide, aide, and be an active part of my people. To strive to create a space of sanctuary for those who need it, to help where I can, to believe in the power of community of give and take as needed. I have met so many amazing people within this path. Friends that I will keep for all my days. Friends, family, who are connected to me even tho we worship different gods. It is vital, and it is a lot of work lol. And that my goodly people is how I can be a Gaelic Polytheist and belong to an Eclectic Coven. The key is also finding a coven that adheres to the “let people worship what gods they will” method. I believe that we maybe the only one lol.

Where is the three you ask? Well the three is perhaps the most unexpected one of the bunch. You see with this initiation came an ordination and the title Priestess. Then came another initiation and an ordination and the title High Priestess. These things where and are things that I struggle with in their collective understanding seems is a bit murky. Remember “let people worship what gods they will”? That also means that I believe the only person fit to tell you what is right and proper for your soul is you and your gods. I continue with this line of thinking now, with the understanding that many people find it helpful to talk to people who are sure of their own path in order to discover the path that is right for them.

My personal understanding of a Priestess has come to evolve a bit, thus the reason for this post. In that I see two aspects of Priestessing (or Priesting as you will), both are important, and it’s the finding and rediscovering of balance that I need to do. There is the Priestess of the spirits. In another time and place this would be tending the temple, making the sacrifices, reading the omens. In the now it means the same thing, for me it means tending to my house spirits and beasties, courting the local spirits, making offering and sacrifices to the gods, remembering and honoring the ancestors, all of that which I do in my personal practice. With the added caveat that I also am vested to perform blessings, cleansing, and other sacred rites for my community. Those things fall under the other part, the Priestess of the people.

We live in a society that has ostracized ritual with the exception of a select and privileged few. Yet the human need for ritual for connection to the divine has not diminished. So where then to people go? How do people who have never seen anything other than a select few forms of spiritual connection , that do not resonate with them, how do they find what does? Moreover how do we as a culture make it acceptable to have people worship what gods they will? Those of us that can, that know how, must hold the space and make the platform for other kinds of spirituality. I had forgotten that bit. For many months I was consumed with work and devotion to my gods, the spirits of the land and so on. They still need that work and that devotion, they are hungry for it. My work in the public arena made me more, upped my standards, and so too did the spirits and the Gods up theirs. It’s all a balancing act.

It took a trip far away, being surrounded by people who don’t necessarily believe like I do, putting on ritual for energies and deities that I have no connection with, to make me realize the impact and importance of bringing ritual to the people is again.

Because we’re human beings, and we learn through experience. Because we’re a society where sometimes we don’t know that things are an option until we see others doing it. So being a Priestess to me is being one of those people who gets out there and does it. Who shows one way, several ways that it can be done, and encourages others to find more. And a High Priestess? A High Priestess makes sure there is a stage for that to happen. Puts in the time and effort to make sure that the rituals are that have impact and meaning. Keeps the standard and keeps upping it.

Not too long ago I posted about carving out more worship, that is still true. As I said the Gods and spirits have upped their standards, there is more work to be done and on a grander scale than before in order to fulfill one part of my path and one part of my Priestesshood.  I am however thankful for the reminder that though their goals and means are different the two parts are equally important. This upcoming year I have the opportunity to by a High Priestess to the people, and specifically to the women of my area. That is precious to me and I am excited and dedicated to providing as many spiritual epiphany, soul lifting rituals in as many different ways as only my coven can provide.

That’s it. Just a little ramble on the things in my head. On how paths can multiple and get muddy. On how sometimes you just have to be mindful and look up from your work every once in a while. On how this one American Gaelic Polytheist witch is also a Public High Priestess in an Eclectic Coven, and sometimes makes it work. On how in the end I just wish that we all may worship what gods we will.