A Newsletter of the Reformed Druids of North America
Beltane Y.R. 39
Beltaine, May Day, the beginning of the Summer half of the year when Nature awakens once again. This is the most widely known of the pagan and Druidic High Days with the practices of paganism having evolved or been adopted into practices of folklore and custom. The marking of the return of life in the veneration of vegetation appear in the words of the old saying "April showers bring May flowers," May Day celebrations, and the dancing around the Maypole with colorful ribbon streamers. It is not surprising that Mircea Eliade's words "the cosmos is symbolized by a tree" and "fertility, wealth, luck, health" are all concentrated on herbs or trees.
Beltaine probably originated as a vegetation, agricultural, and fertility festival. Cattle were driven between two fires to insure their health and fertility before being sent out to green pastureland for summer, with Druids officiating at the ceremony. With the beginning of the summer half of the year the tree embodied the newly awakened spirit of vegetation. The belief was held that the tree-spirit would bless women with children, cause the herds to multiply, and make the crops grow. Houses and farm buildings were bedecked with green boughs and flowery garlands. May flowers were crushed and the juice from them was used to wash the cows' udders.
Nothing symbolized the tree spirit more than the Maypole. Originally a sacred tree, the Maypole became the focal point of Beltaine festivities. A sacred ash tree stood at Uisnech, County Westmeath, an important Druidic center and assembly place where Beltaine was annually celebrated. The Cerne Abbas Giant cut into the hillside above the village in Dorset, possibly dating back to Romano-British times, obviously epitomizes fertility and vitality. For centuries a fir Maypole was erected on May Eve on the hillside above the giant's head in readiness for the May Day festivities, which were again dedicated to the continuance of fertility. In villages whole trees were felled and set up. Later the pole was permanently left up and then decorated each year for May Day. To this day a few villages in England and local parks and Renaissance faires in the United States still retain the Maypole, which is often painted with red and white spiral stripes. These colors are often used in spring festivities, red signifying the color of life and generative energy, and white, a fresh, new beginning. Again we see the constant theme of renewal and rebirth as the world awakens from its long season of sleep.
Taking a Sit on Recycling
As Druids we don't just worship trees and have a reverence for Nature in name alone. There are things we can do in our daily lives where we can incorporate our beliefs into our daily practice. One of these is using recycled paper products, especially toilet paper. Recycled toilet paper has come a long way from the days of the late 70s and the scratchy material with the consistency of cardboard. Now there are choices equal to regular toilet paper in softness, strength, and absorbency, and they are available at your local supermarket:
Seventh Generation bathroom tissue is available in 2-ply, white, unscented, and without dyes. It is 100% recycled, involves no chlorine bleaching, and is hypo allergenic. It is safe for the environment and for septic tanks.
Second Nature Plus toilet tissue is also available in 2-ply, is 100% recycled, uses a 100% bleach free process, and is 100% post-consumer grade material. Second Nature might have been discontinued by its manufacturer Wisconsin Tissue. Please write in to let us know.
Green Forest is made from 100%-recycled paper, including at least 10% post-consumer paper, and is also safe for septic systems.
If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of 500 sheet virgin fiber toilet paper with 100% recycled we could save 297,000 trees; 1.2 million cubic feet of landfill space, equal to 1,400 full garbage trucks; 122 million gallons of water, a year's supply for 3,500 families of four. Do your job for the Earth Mother!
News of the Groves
Mike went down to visit the very active and spunky Carleton Grove for Beltane. I was very impressed! The current grove is headed by yet another quadumvirate of Arch-Druids (Ehren Vaughn (CL99:Scharding), Chloe (2nd), Merri Webber (CL99: Irony Sade), and Chrissie Flynn(CL00:?)), all still Juniors or less. About 10 core members, 25 regulars (3 Thirds & 15 second orders?) and 150 on the mailing list; which is unbelievably high by Carletons historical standards. Weekly tea meetings, frequent interactions, romances and plentiful meetings indicate a very active and productive grove.
It began with a Sweatlodge April 21st, an Earth-day convocation & a scheduled prairie-burning on the 22nd .
On the 27th, there was a five hour drinking session with 9 members at Northfields Contented CowEBritish-Style Pub, where Julie Ann Doneaux asked many questions pertaining to Celtic & Druidic matters (often different subjects) and got the standard batch of crazy replies from Carleton members.
On the 28th, everyone recovered early and set up a sweatlodge. Then a potato soup was prepared for the evening. Later in the evening, Mike and Brandon Schields (CL94: Sam Adams) held two sweats with 6 participants. Rob Harrison (CL99: Scharding) is doing well. Hanging around under the sky we ate and most of us stared into the fire until 1am.
On the 29th, there was Druidic Tea to discuss the Beltane activities. A small collection, including Amanda, Liz & Fillard & Mike went to Marks house for a Druidic showing of a Half Dozen Eggs Film A PrisonerE Mike behaved like hed been reborn and could not stop jabbering about how amazing this awful film was.
On the 30th, 20 or so gathered at the massive stone circle left by Irony Sade (CL96: Scharding). The trees were barely leafing out, but the maypole dance was spoiled by a light rain. The traditional Beltane service was followed, led by Ehren, which seemed remarkably wise in retrospect. Merri and Ehren were handfasted by Mike, who was surprised by the requests and wishes the best for the new couple Merri entered the Order of Grannos (4th), becoming the 8th member of that council. The group adjourned to a large indoor space where a huge feast ensued, dancing to Karabushka & Mairis wedding, tarots were ready, foosball was fought, and much lazy napping was done. That evening, eight Druids gathered in a secluded forest grove and burned a great Christmas tree and four vigiled till dawn.
One the 1st, Ehren entered the Order of Belenos (6th), making him the 9th member of that council. Steve Crimmins (2nd) founded the order of Hephasteus (god of fire-keepers), becoming Patriarch of that order after bathing in the dying embers of the campfire. (the symbol is a short yellow ribbon tied around the right ankle). Liz was forgotten by Mike, and should have been ordained into the second or third order. A maypole dance at noon concluded the events and all rested.
Joan came across in a discussion from another list the book Far Pavilions. In this book the protagonist, who had been exposed to different religions, prays to the mountains of his Indian home:
"Lord, forgive three sins that are do to my human limitations.
Thou art everywhere, but I worship Thee here.
Thou art without form, but I worship Thee in these forms.
Thou needst no praise, but I offer Thee these prayers and salutations.
Lord, forgive three sins that are do to my human limitations."
She would like to know if anyone can make a connection between the author and Carleton College, the RDNA, or know how else he might have gotten hold of that prayer.
Birch Grove continues in a kind of limbo. It holds Services whenever Phyllis and I and any third person are in a place of natural beauty and wish to celebrate it. I may hold a few Services this summer in relation to my coven, which is getting inquiries from people who are unfamiliar with the Pagan worldview in general, and need some time before they are ready for Wicca or whatever Path is best for them. I explained how good RDNA is for people in that position, and my High Priestess was intrigued. We may work in her backyard, which has a hilly view, and is bordered by woods, and there is also a new "Pagan Grove" site at UMass/Amherst which we may try.
It has been a loong cold snowy winter up north here. I was taught that if you have your peas in by Patriot's Day [mid-April], you'll have peas for 4th of July [the traditional 4th meal is salmon, new potatoes and fresh peas]. Well, Patriot's Day, a holiday only observed in Massachusetts, mostly by the running of the Boston Marathon, was this Monday, and so far I can only see parts of my garden. It will be some time still before the snow is gone & the ground workable. However, the crocuses are up, and a couple of daffodils are blooming, so there is hope. Two weeks ago there wasn't even that- it looked like Winter was never going to end. My windowsills are full of baby plants.
Cherry Blossom festival went well, with 200,000 attendees faithfully worshipping the cherry trees that bestrew Washington DC in this annual ceremony. Thankfully, there were no fatalities this year and the beavers seem healthy. Sine Ceolbhinn is doing well, having recently come out of the closet and dusting off her Druidic finery. We had a nice practice together down by the Rock River Creek. Our Grove's attempt at hand-fishing was hilariously unproductive!! We also joined www.dcrevels.org for their May Day festival of dancing, labyrinths and music at the corner of 36th and Newark St. 100s of guests participated, and Mike learned a great deal about Beltane-able customs.
Grove of One in Garden City, MI
They have apparently disbanded.
Volcano Grove News
Irony is doing quite well, despite the heat, from a picture in the Carletonian newsletter. Tonga experienced a little bit of a shock when the Mir flashed across their sky recently on its earthfall. Several natives were seen previously praying to the gods that some pieces would hit their island so that they could claim profitable damages from the Russians' insurance policy. They were all sorely disappointed.
Druid Heart Spirit Grove
They are almost done completing the standing stone circle and need one more stone to have a circle of eight. They will be having two Beltain rituals with a May Pole this year. The first will be on April 29th, and the second will be on May 5th starting at twelve noon for the May Pole dance, then the ritual, followed by potluck and drumming circle. Rhiannon's band "Beltain" will be playing with their octave mandolin player Morgan McDow and their Irish flute/Hammered Dulcimer player Dave Cowan. Morgan, and Rhiannon will be doing the music for the May Pole dance.
Rhiannon is looking forward to seeing her newly planted Birch tree clones grow as they are now shooting out little greens which must mean that they are growing roots! She plans on planting them around the Grove site.
Druid Heart Spirit Grove is soon to start building a Celtic Sweat Lodge. They have gotten about ten volunteers which will be plenty. They have also manifested a butt load of Willow for building the frame.
Creeks Called Groves
They celebrated "First Leaves" festival on April 12th when the first buds of the year have turned into tiny leaves.
Hazel Nut Grove
While Mike was rummaging through the Archives, he discovered a VERY DISTURBING letter dated 1998. Apparently in a fit of despair over the apparent dearth of written information on the RDNA deity of DALON AP LANDU, the Hazelnut Grove decided to retireEhim by invoking a martial contest to the death with Hu Gadarn (of whom, I must add there is great amount of information, but mostly baloney from the 18th century). Our old patron, Dalon, did not do well according to the 18 verse epic ballad and was skewered through the chest and allegedly died. Further confirmation reports were not available, but I would speculate that the three pages of intense literature on his attributes produced by his death reportEwould be more than enough to revive him according to Hazel Nut rules and make him worshipable again. As far as I can tell, he seems to be doing well. So I guess its a case of Dalon Ap Landu is dead, Long live Dalon Ap Landu!!!E More details will follow on the Summer Solstice.
After taking three people to remove the tree stump of the old Pine, we finally got our new Pine planted and held a tree dedication for it on April 7. The Preceptor read The Two Trees by William Butler Yeats from his collection of poetry The Rose, 1893. This is a familiar poem to many as favorite Celtic music singer Loreena McKennitt set it to words in her album The Mask and the Mirror. We have done quite a bit of sprucing up of the Grove site in these last couple of weeks before the Season of Life begins. The new Pine , Ghiuthais, as well as Birch, Cuileann the Holly, and Rose were fertilized, Birch was pruned and mulched, and Rose got a new of wire fence to protect her from the nibbling deer. Even our Ash, which looked as if it had gone into permanent hibernation last winter, appears to be coming up from beneath its blanket of oak leaf compost. And last but not least, and much to the relief of the AD, we are in the process of removing the new poison oak growth from the immediate area of the Grove site.
A Meditation from the Druid Heart Spirited Grove:
Meditation is the key to trance when it is done correctly. Breathing techniques help induce these states of trance and also awaken the electric governing vessel and the magnetic conception vessel which helps our outward journey to succeed. Meditation and trance are a pathways between the conscious and sub-conscious for inner therapy, reprogramming, recreating our pasts, healing our core self, etc. We use trance and meditation for all of these plus journeying. Journeying is similar to astral projection except that you are safe and still in your mind, body, and spirit. When you journey into the underworld (Anwyn), you journey into the sea, deep parts of your self where your Ancestral memories exist, genetic and spiritual, past lives also.
There are different levels of trance. We like to use medium trance because you are safe there. Deep trance should only be done by those with much experience or by a guide who leads you by voice.
The TREE MEDITATION
The tree meditation does many things. It grounds your entire being. It runs Nyvwyres (Sacred Spirit) energy through the governing vessel which runs down through the crown of your head to a spot called the core-star, and the conception vessel which runs up (from the earth) from the bottom of your spine or feet to the core-star. The core-star looks just like it sounds like a small white sun located between your solar-plexus and your navel. Thus uniting the earth and the sky, and filling the channel with Nyvwyre. The tree meditation is also a medium trance state. So instead of ending your meditation when it is done you can slide right into a journey.
Start by finding a quiet place where you will be undisturbed. Unplug your phone. Put a sign on your door "DO NOT DISTURB." Do your meditation outside if you can find a place and the weather is willing. Have a pillow ready because you are going to sit cross legged. When you are comfortable you may begin. Take a few deep breaths slowly. First filling your stomach then your lungs. Fill completely. Do this a few times. Focus on letting go of any tension that may have built up during the day. Keep deep breathing as you take your mind and body off any distracting thoughts. THINK NOTHING!
At the bottom of your spine imagine pushing and growing a large tap root down into the earth and feel other roots pushing down. Feel your roots pushing down through rock breaking them apart. Feel your roots feeling water, minerals, and nutrients. Now just take some time to allow them to grow further down until you feel warmth. Feel them reach water.
After you have a strong root system well grounded, feel that earth energy moving up to your lower body (belly area) and developing a wide base trunk. Grow up quickly. Feel the trunk growing up your entire body, and when you get to just above your chest feel branches push their way out. Keep moving up and out. Take some time to do this. Make sure that branches grow out of the crown of your head. Reach those branches for the light of the sun. Feel the warming rays giving you energy. Grow new sprigs and lots of leaves and don't forget to take a deep breath and live. Be a tree for a moment. Notice if there are any animals living in your branches?
Now I want you to focus on the earth energy coming up to your core-star, that is directly above your navel. Feel how strong Mother Earth's energy is flowing through you!
Take a moment...
Now feel Father Sky's energy coming down through your branches, down to your core-star at the same time you still feel the earth's energy coming up.
Take a moment...
Now send the Earth's energy up to the sky, out your branches, and send the skies energy down into the earth through your roots. As soon as both are united you see a bright light that is gold-white. It is coming from your core-star. Back in that light. Feel the love. Let that light burst throughout your entire being. You are meant to be here now. To continue with journey
Now stay within and visualize that gold-white light filling you up trying to burst out of your bark. All the way out to the ends of your branches, and all the way down to the tips of your roots, especially your tap root. Once you have done this imagine that you as your human self are smaller that normal and inside this tree that is filled with light. You are floating around as if there is no gravity. Now turn yourself upside down and look at the opening of the taproot that looks far into the underworld. It looks like it goes forever, all you see are its sides and the light. You decide to investigate. But first you find that there is a small white pouch tied around your waist, and you realize that it must have a purpose so you open it, and inside there are three golden seeds. You put them back in the pouch and continue on your journey. You grab a hold of the bark and pull yourself into the tunnel, as you are small inside this great tree and you are light energy you find it very easy to move along.
As you keep looking ahead it seems as though it will take forever but as you continue to move you see the bottom of the root and it looks like it is open at the end. As you get closer you see a beautiful luminous light that is tranquil to see. Upon reaching the opening you see a reflection, you grow more aware of the object that the reflection is coming from, and you see that it is a cauldron. A very large cauldron that could hold one to two hundred gallons. It appears to be water. Looking into that water it's dark at first just reflecting that luminous light, then you notice that an image appears, some kind of writing. Some ancient symbol that may have belonged to your ancestors. Look very closely. Memorize it, you may know it, it may even be unfamiliar to you, but remember it well...
The experience has made you feel somehow, special, like you were given a gift. Then you realize that you must also leave an offering so you reach for your pouch and open it, allowing the golden seeds to fall freely to the sacred waters. You will receive a sign that the offering was received. After you have received this you may return back up the root to your core self.
Once you are back in the trunk of the tree, expand your body to fill the tree and return to the earthly plane, remember to keep your core self intact.
It may be helpful to record this reading it aloud into a tape deck allowing for the amount of space you will need in different places during the meditation and journey.
Part of a Druid's training is being able to identify native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees, and to learn their medicinal uses and as well as esoteric properties. To help in learning the plants in your area the Missal-Any presents a listing of recommended field guides for across North America.
The Audubon Society Field Guides are the first all-photographic field guides and have vinyl covers to protect them from the elements. The books are divided into three parts: color plates, family and species descriptions, and appendices with a glossary. The series includes Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Western Region; North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region; North American Trees, Western Region; and North American Trees, Eastern Region.
The National Audubon Society also publishes handy Pocket Guides small enough to fit in your back pocket or jacket without the weight of a larger book. The photographs are close-ups with good detail. These titles are: Flowers (Eastern Region), Flowers (Western Region); Familiar Trees of North America West; and Trees (Eastern Region).
The Peterson Field Guide Series have excellent line drawings and beautiful colored illustrations, and shows what features to look for to tell one species from another. In the series are Pacific States Wildflowers, Rocky Mountain Wildflowers, Wildflowers (northeast and north-central North America), Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers, Edible Wild Plants (eastern and central North America), Ferns (northeast and north-central North America), Western Trees, California and Pacific Northwest Forests, and Rocky Mountain and Southwest Forests, and Medicinal Plants.
Nature Study Guild Publishers has a Finders series of 4" x 6" pocket-sized guides identifying native plants of the United States and Canada. A dichotomous key leads you through a series of questions about the plant you're trying to identify. Each question makes you chose between two possibilities (dichotomous means dividing in two), and each choice brings you closer to the name of the species.
The series is quite extensive with 22 titles: Pacific Coast Tree Finder, Pacific Coast Berry Finder, Redwood Region Flower Finder, Pacific Coast Fern Finder, Sierra Flower Finder, Tree Finder, Winter Tree Finder, Fern Finder: A Guide to Native Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America, Berry Finder: A Guide to Native Plants with Fleshy Fruits for Eastern North America, Flower Finder: A Guide to Identification of Spring Wild Flowers and Flower Families, Winter Weed Finder: A Guide to Dry Plants in Winter, Rocky Mountain Tree Finder, Rocky Mountain Flower Finder, and Desert Tree Finder.
Astronomical Beltaine, when the Sun is half way between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, will occur as 15 degrees of Taurus on May 5 at 03:46 PDT or as 16 degrees 18 minutes decl. on May 5 at 00:53 PDT. Beltaine services will be held on Saturday, May 5, at Solar Noon which is now 1 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Please call for carpool arrangements (510) 654-6896. For the social observance of Beltaine we will be going immediately after the service to AD's house. Call for potluck "theme" ideas. Regular Druid services will be held at Solar Noon, 1 p.m. on May 20, and June 3. Please call the above number to confirm.
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A Druid Missal-Any is an RDNA publication that began in 1983 by Emmon Bodfish and ran until 1991. This newsletter was re-established by his student Samhain 2000, Day 1 of Geamhradh Year 38