Monthly Archives: June 2014

Poetry and Musings

The following is a collection of poems and musings that landed on me beginning in May and up through the present.  I want to spend more of my time crafting poetry, even really bad poetry, because it allows me the opportunity to approach my relationship to the land from a different perspective.  When I have to change the rules of language to support a thought it allows me creativity and Awen comes to wash me clean again.  I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

 

Becoming the Pine

There is a Blue Spruce

in the yard

and it filters light

through the kitchen window

on grey days it catches the rain

while I watch out the window with my son

the water tumbles over 

the green needles

to the eager mound of Earth

stepping out the front door

a toddler hugging my knees

the rain washes over

my twisted limbs

upon my growing son

I am a graying elder

I am a growing child

 

Musing:

There are times when I want the roof of my home to crack open like an eggshell over my head and let the rain pour in and soak everything.  There are times when I want a dying pine tree to topple over and make his final resting place in my bedroom.  Invite the Wild into my living room, let the black bears hibernate in my couch, the raccoon can eat canned ravioli in the kitchen sink, the seagulls can nest in the bathtub.  My son will play with coyote pups and my wife will teach knitting to the groundhogs.  I will listen to the sound of chickadees nesting in the open microwave and the mice will use the oven racks for a jungle gym.  Ivy will grow up the wall and over the television, moss will cover the electrical outlets.  Beavers will dam up the washing machine and flood the basement.  There is a moose sifting garbage in the garage and a family of deer are playfully jumping up and down on the hood of the car.  In the bedroom, the mirror fell off the wall and stares at the sky in surrender.

 

Blood Rite

Stepping out into the wild next door

I walk with ungraceful strides over the ferns and through the witch hazel,

in the place of four bears,

sometimes my footsteps cross their tracks

and nothing is familiar

except maybe the mosquitoes

my bare arms are not bear arms

and the sentinel pines offer no protection

and while I wander over mossy rocks in large dumb circles

the wild watches me in spreading awareness

like a fly caught in a gossamer thread

and the twisted trunks smile at me in amusement

the mosquitoes draw her price from me a thousand times

and my arms are itchy scars

Nature is a blood rite.

 

Black Fly Tidings of May

Black beads buzzing around my head in silly circles

Lightly touching, itching,

scratching

Shooing away from ears and eyes.

I’m not sure why it makes me sigh.

Wondering,

Dreaming,

Leaning,

Leaning on a White Pine,

There is Honey in my beard and a buzzing in my ears,

with my back touching the tree I’ve known for years.

 

Skiing into the Summerland

Blessed is the smell of earth in the springtime up one’s nose,

And blessed is the grass one feels in between their naked toes,

And blessed is the sun we feel, upon our naked brow,

And blessed is the carefree feel, as before the spring we bow.

Before the gnats and mosquitoes perch, to taste our red liquor,

Below the skin their proboscis search, and drive us back indoors,

We have but a week, or perhaps 10 days, before the armies fly,

To lay upon the greening Earth and bask beneath the sky.

To whit young man upon the ground, his lady love in reach,

And naked laying arms outstretched, might be a summers ripened peach

If the armies of the black fly king, were to search and seek him out,

And chase that screaming ninny fool, that whining silly lout.

Yet bask he does beneath the sun of summer’s prognostication,

Upon the grass, beneath a tree in the land of eternal vacation.

Without a mosquito or black fly found, to land upon his skin,

And seek the beating blood and veins that he has so rich within.

The sun declines on western lines, the coolness never felt,

As his naked form has lost for norm, a overcoat or pelt.

And as the twilight settles in, his lady gone to home,

The night begins just warm enough, to simply cool his bones.

As the mistress moon glides overhead, the Earth sheds off her heat,

And the coolness of the sod below, sucks fire from his seat.

He shivers lightly in the night, frost forming on his lips

And in the dawning of the light, has crowned his fingertips.

His feet won’t thrum, his heart won’t beat, his hands will ne’er grasp,

The feeling of the summer grass, the shuddering cold and final gasp,

The songs of summer soft and sweet, of grilled and charred and perfect meat,

The Spring in Maine is often cruel, by daytime Litha by nighttime Yule.

 

Another Musing

 Last night, I saw some clouds absolutely illuminated in silver moonlight though the moon remained obscured.  It drew my attention and I began thinking about this object in the night sky. Our ancestors identified the passage of time by all these easily observable celestial bodies.  This is of course, the basis for many of our Pagan festivals and holidays.

It fills me with a sense of awe(n) when I look at things online like computer models of the galaxy and galaxy clusters.  The distance between things in space is far more vast than what I can comprehend without relative terms.  I’ve heard people try to point out that this makes us insignificant and yet, I don’t feel insignificant.  I feel important and legitimate no matter how many stars and galaxies there may be.  I also feel that the way I see things is a unique perspective on how the Universe interprets itself and that my experiences are valid and real.

So I think about how Organic ritual must have been for our ancestors as they stared at stars and wondered about what they were and what it meant that they were there in the first place.  I imagine that sense of bewilderment and the meaning that came out of it.  It makes sense to start with celestial events.  I wonder if the celestial holidays, the observation of the changing Earth and the Seasons, isn’t our most observed holidays because it was the first and most recognizable.  I also love the idea of smaller rituals in which we honor more individual concepts to the gods of place.

In a very real sense, it seems to me that our ancestors probably did the exact same thing.  There were these large, observable correspondences upon which the basic structure hung and then they filled it in with other immediately observable events.  If you think about it, isn’t that exactly how life developed here in the first place?  A large blank canvas upon which life began and filled in organically?

 

~Alban Artur

 

A Druid Order for Maine

I’ve been wondering lately, what exactly is Maine?  In the strictest sense, Maine is lines on a map that define its political boundaries, to the West with New Hampshire and to the North and Northeast with Canada.  However, within the arbitrary lines that define our political existence lie innumerable regions, micro-climates, geographical features and geological history.  The spirits of place are innumerable here and their stories are even more so.  The land we call Maine is many lands, many places and many are the stories that describe both.

Having been raised with the context that Maine is defined by the political processes of boundary creation, it is not hard for me to see that familiar shape when I think of this State and all that it means to me and many more people who live, work and play here.  Maine is a place that seems so spiritually fertile that it nearly begs for more people to root into the land and make connection.  No matter where I go I tend to feel the pull of something that desires my attention: a stone, a tree, a bird, a bush, a stream, a mountain.  When these things fall under my gaze I no longer see them as geographical features or flora and fauna, I see them as godlike, divine, inspiring.

When I speak of Maine, the rocks sing to me.  Katahdin springs up from the land, Mt. Desert island forms from lava spewed before the last ice age.  I think of visiting Cadillac Mountain, how the sides are just steep enough that every step seems like you are going to encounter a cliff and yet it just keeps going.

I pick up rocks at the beach, geological history in my hand.  Here are my ancestors, the trilobite, the ancient fern.  I feel the grit of the sand and imagine the stories it tells, perhaps lovers under moonlight, the bodies of billions or even trillions of beings washed up upon it, most microscopic, some as large as whales.

I go deeper inland to the forests and there the conifers and deciduous trees watch me pass as though I am burning a path as I go, the essence of my existence like a quick burning fire, a counterpoint to their own more deliberate existence.  Their language is slow, deep, sometimes sorrowful.  The trees hum in bass tones that vibrate up through the land into my feet and the stones absorb these vibrations like sinks and hold them.  I go further into the mountains and high hills where millions of years ago the Earth moved and creased new structures.  Above the tree line it is as though the wind has swept away everything yet here and there a plant pokes out from the rocks in stolid defiance…it reminds me of a balding man’s scalp but with more character and ancient stories written into it.

I dive back down into the River valleys, run the course of spring waters through the torrent of the rapids.  I see the great boulders as the rivers rage around them and think of the smooth and weathered beach stones I held in my hand and know that their stories are ancient and different.  I find a stream feeding fresh water into the torrent of the river and I follow it up to a pond where the loons make their mournful sounds and the trout and white perch feed mercilessly from the swarms of mosquitoes and black flies at dusk.  Surrounded by the pine, the water is still at sunrise, reflective and beautiful where songbirds call from the cattails across the marshy boundaries of a lake.

When I see the land of Maine, this is how she speaks to me.  In Mountains and Rivers, lakes and seashores, stones and trees.  I wander off the path of the forest into the wild and I see stories, so very many stories.  The dance of mating dragonflies, the chattered recriminations of the squirrels, the diving swoop of the Hawk.

I want to tell these stories, I want to climb into them, live them and then sing the songs of Nature, the songs of the wild, so that others may hear them and perhaps seek to find the music themselves and I am not alone in that desire.  There are others who wish to do so as well, other practitioners of Druidry for whom this land, this region, is home.  It is a place of Land and Sea and Sky in such natural beauty that one can barely help but Love it and feel Loved in return.  This is the place where our feet touch the land and through it, the Earth.

To that end, several of us are in the early stages of forming a Druid Order for the State of Maine.   Maine is a land that is vibrant and alive in its natural beauty and yet still in need of relationship to the people who inhabit her.  Druidry is a living tradition, one that seeks to craft sacred relationship with the land and the spirits that inhabit it.  We hope to be the keepers of tradition and a relevant addition to the foundation of the Pagan community here.  The Order will serve several purposes.  It will allow those who practice Druidry to belong to a central hub by which we can share information, knowledge and inspiration that is relevant to our individual communities.

The Order itself is founded on three basic principles, each of which have three contexts:
Location:  The Place, the Land and the Earth
Being:  Our Ancestors, Ourselves and our Community
Becoming:  Knowledge, Learning and Teaching (1)

[Another concept here is that] this Order can support Druidry, which has a unique hum to it. We don’t all have to have the same definition or the same practices or the same core of learning. Druidry is bigger than that. It is about questing Awen. And we do that through our relationships. The most prevalent relationships are self, family, community and the spirits of place. Always it is about wakeful honorable relationships, for those bring inspiration. That from my studies is unique to this tradition. Others may talk about ecstatic practices, but Druidry is very clear, holding seeking Awen at its center. (2)

We presently have no “name” for this Order and that will likely be forthcoming soon.  Ultimately though, this is a Maine Order of Druidry and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we look forward to presenting ourselves in this capacity to the community.

If you have any questions please feel free to shoot me an email:  lightofthebear@gmail.com

(1) Quote Courtesy of Aracos
(2) Quote Courtesy of Snowhawke

A Pagan EDC: Everyday Elemental Tools

I have written before that for me, paganism is a way of living rather than a theology or a specific belief system. At the core of my practice is an awareness of being in relationship with Nature. Despite the many infrastructures of 21st century civilization that we live in, we are fundamentally organisms existing on a particular planet, in a particular ecosystem. We are beings being, in Nature. One way I like to think about being in Nature is to be ready to work with all the elements no matter where we may find ourselves.

Ironically, I have found that I have a lot to learn about being outdoors in Nature, from people who usually do not identify as pagans, but who live in ways that seem much more pagan to me. For the past few years I have tried to learn how to be outside more easily, without feeling like an interloper when I am in Nature. In return, I have tried to bring my spiritual awareness to my time in Nature. One example of this is in my EDC strategy.

EDC, or Every-Day Carry, is simply a specific strategy one uses to have a particular set of tools or supplies always ready-to-hand, usually carried in a bag or a pouch of some sort. Whether one thinks in terms of a strategy like this or not, most of us employ it. How many of us leave the house without our keys, our cellphone, and our wallet? These simple items are part of our every-day carry.

I am convinced our ancestors viewed the elemental hallows, or tools, as useful items to have with you when you are in Nature; they were more than mere symbols. As such, I try  to represent all the Elements in my own EDC strategy. This is a picture of a small pouch that I carry with me every time I leave the house:

My EDC (everyday carry) pouch, containing tools from all the elements.

My EDC (everyday carry) pouch, containing useful tools representing all the elements.

From right to left I have a knife (Air), an eating tool (Earth), a stack of 3×5 index cards and a small pen for recording my thoughts (Ether), a ferro rod for firestarting and a small flashlight (Fire), and finally a corkscrew (Water) — I go to a lot of gatherings with mead and need a convenient way to open the bottles! When I leave the house I nearly always carry a glass water bottle filled with spring water to complete my EDC for Water. The remainder of this article will take a closer look at these items and the elements they represent.

Air

The relationship between a knife and the element of Air might be the most abstract of all these tools, so a bit of analysis is in order. This traditional Air Hallow is often called an athame, particularly in Wiccan traditions. I remember early on in my pagan path reading that the athame

“isn’t used for cutting purposes in Wicca, but to direct the energy raised during rites and spells…. The knife is often dull, usually double-edged with a black or dark handle. Black absorbs power. When the knife is used in ritual to direct energy, some of this power is absorbed into the handle — only a tiny amount — which can be called upon later.” (Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, p. 30).

These days, Cunningham’s approach seems a bit abstract to me. Though I have great respect for Cunningham’s legacy in the pagan community, thinking of a knife in this way, with the dulled edge, used only as a sort of “energy” conduit misses the point for a regular practice of a person being in Nature. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors certainly carried the best edges they could — whether forged metal or flintknapped stone — but the edges carried by our ancestors were meant to be used, very practically, with an immediacy far beyond the abstraction of an energy conduit. For our ancestors, their knives were tools that allowed them to survive, to exist in a deeper, more effective relationship with their ecosystems.

In my view, the defining characteristic of a knife is the intelligence and knowledge required to create, use, and maintain it. A knife — at least not a modern metal knife — does not spontaneously appear. It requires wit and insight, specific construction techniques that were discovered over eons of time. Furthermore, a knife is the fundamental tool of bushcrafters: it is the tool that allows one to create other tools. In this sense, I think of a knife as a meta-tool. In this way it represents the “airiness” of intellect, of imagination, and the skill that accompanies both of those. We can imagine a tool that we need, and with the technique we know with a good blade at our service, it allows us to create these tools. Tools made with knives can be anything from a bow-drill set to start a fire, to a spoon to eat with, to lashed-together saplings for a shelter, to batoning through wood to make it more suitable for burning, to a weapon, snare, or trap for hunting. This tool is in service to our imagination, to our intellect, and to our skill.

My EDC blade is a folding knife that is big enough to fit in my hand, yet small enough to fit into my EDC pouch that I use. This goes with me everywhere. In my bag I keep any one of several larger knives that I think will best serve me in the circumstances I expect to encounter.

Fire

To me, humanity’s relationship with Fire in the 21st century may be the most out-of-balance of all the elements. Very few of us can start a fire without the aid of convenient fossil fuels, yet nearly all of us stare into glowing screens for a good chunk of each day. Apart from this, fossil fuels burn in nearly every home and vehicle.

Learning to start a fire without fossil fuels has been a very rewarding exercise for me. I can sometimes succeed with primitive technologies such as a bow drill or a hand drill (which I can make in the woods with my knife and access to the proper materials and conditions), but to save time I carry the ferro rod with me. This ferrocerium rod, when scraped against steel, produces small sparks that are thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, and can easily start a fire when one has an adequate tinder bundle (ie, a small grouping of dry, flammable materials, such as birch bark, small wood shavings, fatwood, etc).

In my bag (which often comes with me when I leave the house), I also carry a very small portable stove and tinder that will allow me to create a small fire for any reason, including warmth and cooking.

In addition to the ferro rod, I carry a small flashlight that is an astonishing piece of technology. It is a small LED flashlight, powered by a single AAA battery, that produces enough light to illuminate an entire yard. If I need photons, I can easily generate plenty of them using this tool. When I use it with a rechargeable AAA battery, it is also an extremely efficient use of electricity.

Water

I’m a bit of a fanatic about water. Most of the water I drink is water I have gathered myself from a spring a short drive from my house. Going to the spring is like going to church for me, and keeps me in tune with this most important element. It is a peaceful place in the western mountains of Maine, where the best water I’ve ever tasted comes naturally up from the aquifer deep inside the Earth to the top of the mountain, where I collect it 20 gallons at a time in glass containers.

When I leave the house, I always have a water bottle with me. Usually it is a recycled, 1.5 liter glass wine jug, but sometimes it is a smaller 24oz bottle. The corkscrew in my EDC pouch is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fact that I often bring my homebrewed mead to various gatherings I attend, and a way to open the corked bottles is quite useful. Between these two, the element of Water is quite well represented.

Apart from having a way to boil (ie, purify) wild water, I am considering getting a water filter, something like the Lifestraw personal water filter, to keep in my larger bag. But because water is is so essential to our survival — it is said we can survive for 3 minutes without Air, 3 hours without shelter (ie, Earth, at least in adverse conditions), 3 days without Water, and 3 weeks without food — I usually carry my own water with me everywhere I go. Staying hydrated is very important to me; I typically drink about a gallon and a half of water per day.

Earth

Earth symbols are perhaps the least abstract of all the elements. Shelter. Food. Shoes. Eating utensils. We are, after all, earthly creatures, existing on this specific planet, and we are inseparable from it. In some ways it is difficult to think about the element of Earth in terms of surviving in Nature, because these are the most common concepts in survivalism. Everything we put into our body is of the Earth.

For my pocket EDC kit, the Earth tool is a small eating tool/spork that sometimes comes in handy. In my bag I also carry a small pot that I can use to cook in, quite compatible with my portable stove. Other symbols that go in my larger bag are two stones: first is a small sharpening stone to maintain an edge on my knives in the field. Second is a stone that I use as a bearing block when attempting primitive fire with a bow drill.

Lastly, there is cordage to consider. I keep cordage in my larger back, a small roll of jute twine which I use whenever I can because it is a natural material. Additionally, I also keep a few hundred feet of “paracord,” also called 550 cord. This artificial material is small, light, and thin, and is rated to support weights of up to 550 pounds. Very useful stuff for many tasks, including shelter building (ie, lashing two supports together to build a primitive shelter).

Ether/Quintessence

In some ways, Ether is the most difficult to implement because it doesn’t really have a common, traditional tool. By definition, it is somewhat vaporous and abstract, and it both underlies and flows through the other four elements. One of the strategies I employ as a guideline is to maximize the flow of quintessence, as it manifests in the other elements. For instance, in Earth I will try to eat the best quality, most vibrant, locally grown or harvested food. For Water I try to drink the cleanest, most vibrant water I can. I feel that Fire started with primitive tools have more quintessence — a different vibe — than fires started with fossil fuel or electricity. And air that I breathe in outside — preferably on a beach, on a mountaintop, or in the woods — has a higher vibe (and at least 90% less pollution) than indoor air.

So my tool for Ether might be the most abstract, and kind of a “reach” in a sense, which in a way is fitting for this element. It is simply a pen and something to write on. For my EDC kit, I use a Fisher Space Pen which is very durable and can write even in adverse conditions. My “paper” is a stack of 3×5 index cards held together with a small binder clip, which is also more durable than regular paper. With these simple tools, if I manage to pull a thought from the ether, I can at least record it while out and about.