‘Clergy Program’ Posts

 

Cosmology 1: #2

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Describe the physical items that exemplify the sacred center in ADF ritual, and how each constituent part reflects the vision of an ordered cosmos. (300 words min.)

The physical items that represent the sacred center are the well, the tree, and the fire.  These three physical objects are representations of gateways to their respective realms of the Underworld, Middleworld, and Upperworld.  In truth, they can also represent the land, sea, and sky in their own relative aspects, creating a woven interlink of world representation in various forms.

For example, the Well is where offerings of coin and silver are thrown to act as gifts to our Ancestors.  The well roots run deep into the earth, into the underworld, where the waters of our Ancestors remain and flow within us.  The Well also represents the sea, or waters of the earth.  Ancient waters where the Ancient Ancestors of the land, our blood, and our mind dwell.

The Tree represents this world and all the creatures, including us that dwell here.  It is the vertical link between the Underworld and the Upperworld, residing in the Middleworld.  It is the land, it is the axle (I say axle as a pinnacle frame of the cosmos) that holds everything together and links everything for us to have access to and grow within us.

The Fire represents the Upperworld, the gateway that carries burnt offerings upwards to the heavens and to the Gods so that the fire may grow within us.  It represents the sky, and is one of the main focal points in our ritual.

All three of these gateways are what make up the sacred center of our rituals.  Combined the are like Captain Planet, they make up the proper order in which our worlds come together and our  to network in which we want to connect to our Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Shining Ones.   The tree interlinks all the realms (and in the Norse, there are 9) to act as a network for delivery of our intent.

(Word Count: 310)

 

Cosmology 1: #6

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Describe the relationship between earth and sky in ADF ritual. (125 words min.)

The earth and sky can be represented in ADF lore through the Two Powers meditation, or within our cosmological structure.  The earth is the land, sea and sky of the Middleworld in which we reside.  The sky above is the heavens in which we pray to the Gods and our messengers are sent upwards through the fire to carry those messages upwards into the sky.  I have seen members in ADF pray to an Earth Mother and Sky Father, and my own native bloodline acknowledges such an existence, but I do not pray to it in my Heathen hearth culture.  The sky is the gateway to the upperworld through the fire, and the earth is where the creatures of our world, and the world tree reside.  The roots of the tree dip down into the underworld, the branches raise up towards the sky, thus linking the three worlds together.  A fictional similarity would be like the standard of two snakes, facing each other, over a black sun and black moon.  The snakes could represent the serpent of the World Tree, and the sun and moon could represent the heavens and earth, opposite each other.

(Word Count: 194)

 

Cosmology 1: #1

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Describe the generation of the cosmos, and what is done in ADF ritual to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. (300 words min.)

The creation or “generation” of the cosmos is where we recreate the creation of the world, and in doing so create a sacred space for ritual.  The creation of the world is a symbolic act, such as recreating the death of Ymir in Norse lore.

To do this, we attune ourselves to the three realms to create that link within the three realms where they all “collide” in our ritual space.  Those realms are the underworld, the middleworld, and the upperworld through access of the three gates of the well, the tree, and the fire in this realm of land, sea, and sky.   By giving offerings to the three gates, and opening the gates between the worlds via the tree, we are creating that vertical access in the three realms to have our messages be sent to the three kindred.  We acknowledge that this time and the place is now for sacred work.  To the well of our Ancestors, we sometimes offer silver (my Grove often offers coffee or a good whiskey).  To the tree we offer water and nourishment.  To the fire of the Gods we offer incense and things that burn well to carry our messages to the heavens through the smoke.  In the Norse culture, many hearth culture, this is represented by the nine realms rather than just the three, but they are linked with the world tree just the same.

The general process is that a gatekeeper is called to watch over the gates, and the gates are then opened, creating the connection between all the worlds and making our space sacred for ritual.  By offering these gifts, and continuing to offer sacrifices through praise later on, we maintain the cosmos until we are ready to close the gates and thank the gatekeeper for their assistance.

 

Trance 1: #10

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Create a self-hypnosis tape to put yourself in trance and go on a spirit journey and bring yourself back out. Submit a script as well as a summary of your results. (min. 200 words for the summary)

My journey script:

Breathe deeply, inhaling and exhaling with the rhythm of the drums.

Sit comfortably, allow your body to stop fidgeting

Spend some time trying to empty your brain, focus on the beats

For each beat, you journey further and further down a wooden pathway, surrounded by fog.

The pathway is familiar, you’ve traveled down it many times before

At the end of the pathway is a stone gateway with two figures standing on each side.  

One is dressed in a white robe with blue trim.  There are no facial features revealed, just simply a long white beard. Your gatekeeper.

The other figure is a dark-haired, dark-skinned woman in a lose violet robe, the earth mother.

Through the stone gate is more indiscernible fog, but you can still navigate down the pathway.

Eventually you come upon a second gate that reveals itself through the fog.  On the other side you see a beautiful open field of yellow and green grasses and bright sunshine.

The path no longer continues, but in the distance there is a large hill or mound.

You walk up towards this mound and see a small stone-lined gateway that tunnels underneath the mount.

You enter through the third gateway and before you is a spiraling stone staircase that lead downwards into the earth

As you descend the air is cool and damp, but you eventually reach a round open chamber.

In this chamber there is a stone firepit that protrudes from the floor filled with rainbow fire.

You are able to look around the room and see faceless figures surrounding the chamber against the stone walls, each having its own place within the wall.  These are your ancient wise.

[Allow time to see, hear, feel and interpret any messages]

Once you have finished speaking, leave a prayer at the fire and return through the steps in which you came.

Summary:

This was a very familiar journey work, as it was the same one done for my initial clergy journey to the mound, except it was scripted by me this time and not anyone else.  I recorded a separate track, bringing my own mixing skills back on the table, of my usual drum beat to help me follow along.  It worked for the most part, but honestly I was thrown off-guard by hearing my own voice, which I am not comfortable with, and of course with the guided meditation part.  To me, the speaking portion is distracting, and I would much rather allow my brain to do all the work for me rather than have someone else direct where my brain needs to go.  That’s not to say that this is never successful, it’s just not frequently successful, or preferred.

So my journey for this portion was partially successful.  I was able envision myself in the mound, but I did not hear any words from the Ancient Wise.  There was no message, and most of them weren’t even there.  I suppose unannounced visits are simply not always successful.  I walked around for a bit, said a prayer to those who have gone before, basically leaving a message that if there was anything that needed to be said, to feel free to leave them in my dreams later on.

 (Word Count: 227)

 

Trance 1: #9

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Keep a journal for five months detailing the trance work that you have done. Write an essay based off those journals that examines your practice over the time you journaled. In this essay, explain how you can apply the trance work to divination, magic, and other workings you do in ritual and personally. Entries occurring less than weekly will not count toward completion of this requirement. Your journal must include work from the exercises found in the support material for this course. (min. 1000 words)

I decided that a weekday would be best for doing my trance-work, simply because my weekends get too hectic between Grove and Kindred events (among other things).  It was easier to pick one day during the weekday to reserve for this purpose.

My trance-work started out in the spring during a fairly hectic time in my career.  Work was insanely busy, I was working long hours with no over-time, my boss was taking advantage of my dedication and I was really feeling run-down for it.  Perhaps this was the perfect time to start to do trance-work for my mental health, as well as for training my mind and body to take control in times of stress and need.  My hope was that this would also strengthen my mind for chaotic times as Clergy, whether it is through crisis’, or keeping energies where they need to be in ritual.

The first 3 weeks worth of meditations were fairly uneventful.  I was able to do my usual struggle for the monthly clergy journey to the mound.  My personal trance-work however, was not very successful, simply because I went into it without a purpose, and I went into it silently.  Doing silent meditation was my first initial goal and test to see how successful I could be at it, since it was always the hardest and least successful for me.

To change things up a bit, over the next 5 weeks I decided to try a guided meditation through “The Calming Collection”.  I was in the process of switching jobs, so I felt like my stress level was going to decrease and I was going to enjoy keeping myself calm and motivated.

Guided meditation is another method I dislike because most of the experiences I’ve had are with inexperienced individuals attempting to create a script from memory and instead just creating a bucket full of awkward words strung together in a poorly-written story.  So I decided to try a professional.  Unfortunately, my results were still not that great.  They were certainly improved.  I felt a lot more calm, I was able to focus more, and I even felt like I had reached the next level of trance in that my brain was starting to reach the level of calm that would allow me to experience a deep calm.

After several of these alternative meditative attempts, I decided to go back to my usual routine that has more of a success rate.

The next 4 weeks were spent doing weekly meditation through listening to drumming on a CD.  I picked rhythms there were simple and repetitious without singing, and allowed me to simply listen to the rhythm and focus on that instead of all of my thoughts and concerns.  These were pretty successful and I felt I was able to reach a level of deep personal trance that I was unable to attain previously.  My only issue with this method is sometimes I start to dance along with the rhythm, or I start to picture scenarios appropriate to the music (think movie scenes).  So while not 100% successful, it will do in a pinch when I am unable to take a drum with me.  Compact meditation right here.

My final and preferred method of trancing out and meditation is through actual physical drumming.  The repetitive movement and sound that I create through MY own brain and where MY subconscious wants to go is far more successful for me and what I enjoy the most.  It forces my mind AND body to focus on the same rhythm, and it’s my rhythm.  It’s the beat coming from me allowing me to focus and remain calm.

When I was being brought to the mound for the first time, Caryn asked Ian to drum for me.  She did this because over the many years we have done work together, she knew hands-down that this was the best method for me to be able to do this for the first time.  She was very correct, and I was able to successfully complete the journey with my fellow Clergy.

In our rituals at the Grove I have been the designated drummer for quite a few years.  I have developed a process and etiquette for drumming that I feel best suites public ritual in my opinion over the years.  My go-to rhythm involves 9 beats that is very similar to a human heart that I call the heartbeat of the earth.  This is done in a very low, non-intrusive sound so it is not overpowering the speakers or offerings during ritual.  Once a liturgist has finished speakings and a call and response is induced, the beat increases sharply during the response to enhance the energy of the group mind.  When we reach the praise offering portion of the right, the intensity of the beat may become louder, and with each response I hit the drum sharply again to enhance the energy of the group.  When there are portions where a lot of awkward silence may break up the flow of ritual, I will increase the intensity of the same beat to keep everyone on the same page.  The highest point of energy in our rituals, where the drumming has to be the most intense and consistent, is when folks are performing their personal magic.  I truly feel that having the rhythm of the group mind to back them up during their workings only enhances their rate of success and passion for their outcome.

At this point the energy of the ritual needs to come down off of its highs, so my rhythms will start to decrease in volume (again, except for during the responsive portions).  At the very end of the flow, I will then try to keep everyones spirits up with a fun beat during the recessional on the way to revels to feast and ground.  People will sometimes linger after ritual to dance around, but the sound will help carry everyone and their energies off to revels so we can then all ground together as a community.

Now, there are parts of ritual and magic that physical drumming is not appropriate or even possible for.  During an omen/divination where I have to physically pull and read the runes, then drumming is not possible.  For personal omens I could listen to a CD, of course, but I don’t bother.  In public ritual, either someone else will continue the drumming, or we will do so in silence.  Silent meditation would also be an option here, and is the most likely candidate during public ritual where I am reading the omen, which is why it is still important for me to continue trying and improving my own personal ability to silently meditate.

(Word Count: 1097)

 

Trance 1: #8

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Describe what happens to the body during a trance state from a physical standpoint. (min. 300 words)

During a trance-like state, at least during the beginning stages of getting used to trance-work, my body was generally still, but somewhat fidgety.  Since I’ve been working on adjusting my abilities to trance, I’ve noticed the subtle adjustments in how my body reacts.  It becomes more calm, eases into the trance-state with less distraction, and I am able to keep on focus for a longer period of time.

Psychology today describes the process of going into trance or hypnosis as a disconnection of your mind from your body and surroundings.  You feel relaxed, similar to taking a nap, but the difference is the experience you have during trance.  There’s often a sense of disconnect with time and an aware europhia (Psychology Today). Other sensations that people have experienced include arm levitation

Essentially, your body does not really go through many physical changes except relaxation.  You may feel sensations of hot or cold, breathing may change, you may shake, but overall your body is the same before the trance.  Mentally, however, you go through various changes in order to prep your mind for the journey, during the journey-work, and then the adjustment back to a normal alert state.

For myself, my body can sit still for a good while as needed, but the stillness does not help my meditative state.  Movement is what helps me and allows me to trance out.  Rhythm through drumming is what keeps my mind focused, alert, but able to still avoid the distractions of thoughts and day-to-day activities.  The beat gives me something to focus on, provides a repetitive motion and sound, much like a heartbeat, and allows my body to adjust to that while my mind clears and fills with rhythm instead.  When in ritual, the same applies.  The drumbeat uniquely keeps everyone in the same rhythm and focus, which is something you can’t do through guided spoken meditation very easily, and certainly not during silent meditation.  Rhythm makes everyone want to dance, everyone want to focus on the same beat, and raise the energy as needed during the proper time.

(Word Count: 346)

 

Trance 1: Citations

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“History of Hypnosis.” Healing with Hypnosis. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2014. <http://www.healingwithhypnosis.com/self-hypnosis-articles/history-of-hypnosis.aspx>.

Hunter, C. Roy., and Charles Tebbetts. The Art of Hypnosis: Mastering Basic Techniques. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Pub., 2000. Print.

“Dionysian Mysteries.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysian_Mysteries>.

“SACRIFICE, PRAYER, AND DIVINATION.” Sacred Texts. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/rac/rac19.htm>.

Jonuks, T., and A. Kriiska. “Book Review: Anders Andren, Kristina Jennbert and Catharina Raudvere (eds), Old Norse Religion in Long-Term Perspectives. Origins, Changes, and Interactions. An International Conference in Lund, Sweden, June 3–7, 2004. (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2006, 416 Pp., Illustrated, Hbk, 978 91 89116 81 8).” European Journal of Archaeology 10.2-3 (2007): 257-58. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://eldar-heide.net/Publikasjonar%20til%20heimesida/Spinning%20seidr,%20Lund%20conf%20Heide.pdf>.

“What Does Hypnosis Really Feel Like?” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hypnosis-the-power-trance/200907/what-does-hypnosis-really-feel>.

 

 

 

Trance 1, #7

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Using one of the three methods described in requirement 6, describe in depth a single experience you had while in the trance state from an experiential point of view (i.e. what did you feel, see, sense, etc.). (min. 300 words)

One of the coolest trances I ever experienced was at our old farm, where I had Caryn, Will, my dad, and a few others over for a small fire, meal, and drumming.  Caryn, Will, and I decided to start drumming around dusk.  A fire was burning in a metal barrel, tall enough that you could see the flames from the top.  The heat from the barrel was soothing and the night was crisp.

As we continued to drum, everything else was silent around us except for the sounds of nature (we were on a farm, afterall, very peaceful).  The rhythms were in-sync, the fire was mesmerizing, and we were all quietly attaching ourselves to the rhythm and the moment.

I noticed my father sitting next to me just watching the fire and enjoying the music.  He was very quiet and contemplative, which is not abnormal for him, and he always enjoys supporting my spiritual endeavors so he’ll come out and participate now and then.

After the drumming stopped for this round, dad smiled and said that he zoned out during that and he had never done that before (lets face it, he’s a farmer, they don’t do this kind of stuff).  He was pretty tickled and felt refreshed and reconnected to the earth afterwards.  And of course, I was tickled pink because I got to experience that moment with him and interlink with him on a level we never have before.  It was an important moment for me and was really rather easy to obtain a trance-like state, even from someone who had never done anything like that before, or had any thoughts towards trying it.  It just happened naturally due to the ambiance of the light, the darkness of the night, the cool sounds of the earth, and the rhythmic beats of the drum.

(Word Count: 305)

 

Trance 1, #6

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Identify and explain three methods of attaining a trance state. (min. 150 words per method)

The number one method of attaining a trance state for me is through drumming (or rhythm).  Rhythm allows you to latch onto a “heart beat” of sorts and maintain a consistent and expected state that then allows the rest of you to relax and let go.  At least that is the experience of drumming trances for me.  Once I am in my “groove”, my mind focuses on the rhythm and the beat sorta…fills my soul and my thoughts so I can’t focus on other things.  I have to maintain the rhythm or be completely caught off-guard and feel distraught and unbalanced.  Think of this similar to counting sheep to fall asleep, it’s the repetitive rhythmic motion that your brain has to focus on, that actually allows your brain to relax from stress and distractions and go into a trance state.  This is what drumming does for me, and my love for music only enhances the feeling, which is why this is still the number one method of trance for me.

(Word Count: 170)

Another method of trance is through meditative breathing.  This seems to be the bare bones basic method of getting to a trance state, and in some ways is very similar to my loud drumming method.  It’s all rhythm and repetition.  Your brain can latch on to the rhythm or action being performed so it cannot focus on all the distractions. However, breathing is a more accessible method, and one that can be done anywhere, such as the office, when needed.  The extra oxygen from breathing in and out in a repeated pattern helps to encourage an alert trance state.  After enough repetitions, the brain becomes used to the rhythmic flow and you may even start to lose count and succumb to the trance state naturally.  This is a rather non-evasive way to meditate and trance in order to allow your mind to be more receptive to the divine or unknown.  This way is representative of mental acuity and cleansing.

(Word Count: 159)

Lastly, visual trance, or journeying really, is another way to attain a trance state.  Using the breathing method above to start, or just silent meditation, you force your mind to focus on a visual “mind journey” to reach either a purposeful location, or allow your mind to wander where it pleases.  The premise is the same, your mind is latched onto the visual aspect of the journey that it is prevented from being distracted by the mundane (for the most part).  Your journey, or where your mind or the divine decides to lead you, tells a story or provides insight into your mind or what messages from the divine you are supposed to procure.  This method allows you to see things and go places you might not otherwise be able to in the physical world.  That is why I am interested in enhancing my skills for this method, because I am curious as to where it might lead me.

(Word Count: 159)

 

Trance 1: #4

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Identify and describe three instances where trance is found in ancient Indo-European cultures. (min. 150 words each instance)

Three cultures that had historical notations of trance-like work in the Indo-European cultures are the Norse, the Hellenic, and the Irish cultures.

Shared throughout the Greek and Roman cultures, one example we have that shows trance-like historical connotations are the Dionysian Mysteries.  This was a savory ritual where participants would ingest intoxicants and engage in trance-like activities in order to remove inhibitions with the intent of returning to their natural primal mental state outside of social restrictions.  Bacchus and Dionysus were both generally associated with madness, more of a divine madness however.  The induction rites associated with the Dionysian Mysteries had a very trance-like structure based on a death-rebirth theme and spirit possession (Wikipedia).  Part of these rites required dance and rhythm that was representative of the “invocation of spirit”, similar to possession.  The thought behind these trance dances is that it was a form of liberation from society where participants were considered more equal than current society allowed.   They believed they would gain divine power and knowledge through trance.  I can certainly sympathize with this method of trance, as rhythm is my top method for trance through drumming and the only way I feel completely comfortable allowing my mind to “let go”.

(Word Count: 181)

In Irish culture, after lengthy conversation with both Kirk and Sean since my Irish culture knowledge is limited, I learned of an old trance custom called the Taghairm.  During this ritual, a seer is wrapped in a cow’s hide that has been previously sacrificed for this purpose.  The seer was then placed somewhere quiet, alone, and was left to sleep and await for spirits to arrive in his dreams to deliver messages and inspiration (Sacred Texts).  I am suspect at the ability for trance-like states while sleeping, I suppose it is possible given the proper environments.

This particular custom is thought to link the seer to the divine through the skin of the cow, because the intent and sacrifice of the cow prior linked it to the divine through purpose.  This would allow the seer to procure enlightenment through a meditative sleep trance and some sort of mental acuity during this time of solace.

(Word Count: 152)

In some of the old Norse Culture, Seiðr had many different methods of a trance-like state.  One in particular, Gandr, is where the *gothi would send a “mind-in-shape emissary” forth.  This was generally done through “spinning”, or a representative act of “spinning” such as yarn, which is then sent out like a whirlwind and then comes back.  Several historical references relate to the spinning concept, such as folklore suggesting that skilled sorcerers could steal milk from other peoples cows by milking a rope (Andrén).  The emissary is referenced multiple times as some sort of spun thread or magic wind that has been spun by a type of sorcerer.

There is a Saami poem called “The Son of the Sun” that depicts three win-knots that contain the soul of a new human, which is another reference we see in the lore of magic wind or something spun that acts as an emissary carrying something. I sort of picture this like a boomerang effect in that what you send spinning outward would eventually return to you, for whatever good or bad.

(Word Count: 179)