When I started on the pagan path in college many moons ago, I began with the Greek pantheon. I had taken Ancient Greek as my classic or foreign language and had learned about the pantheon through mythology courses in college and high school. As a beginner, I used what was familiar and easy. As I grew older and began investigating my own heritage, I began to be drawn more and more to the Celtic cultures. About a year ago I was meditating and a strong, powerful Celtic goddess appeared to me in three separate meditations. I began to research who this woman could be and was led to Brigid and the Celts. Looking back, this should have been an obvious choice. I am predominantly Scottish, Irish and British with a bit of Welsh and German thrown in for flavor. Several of my tattoos have Celtic knot or spiral themes. Once I started digging into the Celtic deities I was hooked. There are so many of them, some well known, like Brigid, and others more local that are hardly mentioned. I am still learning about them and will continue to do so for as long as I can read. The history is both rich and sparse and I think that lends an air of mystery and etherealness to the stories and culture.
Adopting a pantheon or culture with which to work is only one part of developing a spiritual practice. Establishing regular practice is another, and for me, more difficult part. I grew up in a conservative Christian environment where you did as you were told and never deviated or questioned for fear of not only eternal hellfire but the disapproval of the community. This lead to abject misery. As soon as I could, I rebelled against the hard-line organized religion, preferring act and show devotion in more extemporaneous ways. I am now trying to balance the two in my own private celebrations as well as within the CUUPS group of which I am a part. Looking back, the two parts of my spiritual life were at opposite ends of the spectrum. My personal religious acts included only spontaneous devotions. As I was walking or visiting a park I would stop and offer water or energy to the Kindred or my Patrons whenever I felt called to do so, but never in a regular, formal way. On the other hand, when I first started writing and organizing liturgy for CUUPS, I always adhered to a script. All the words and actions were written out and meant to be followed to the letter.
I now have more formality in my personal devotions and more spontaneity in the group liturgy. Before I do yoga or meditation, I light my sacred fire and anoint my forehead with water from my well. I say a brief devotional, and always end with “Between fire and water I find my balance.” After I am done I extinguish the fire. If I am running or walking, I anoint myself but don’t actually light the fire because I don’t want to leave it unattended. As I walk or run, I repeat mantras or words of devotion depending on what has happened that day. I still offer water or energy when I feel led to, but I have also added some regular actions that I find personally meaningful. I think once it sunk in that I could choose my own devotions and not have them dictated to me, the fear of turning into a mindless “pious” drone subsided. I learned that Piety can exist without the mind numbing zombification that was my previous experience.
My group or grove practice has gone in the other direction. I still adhere to the Core Order of Ritual and there are a few scripted pieces due to the fact that I am the only ADFer in the group there are celebrants that wish to participate but aren’t comfortable working unscripted. I have, however, stopped formally scripting the parts that I do such as the Two Powers meditation and the introductions to the various parts of the ritual. I have found that the more I performed ritual, the more the words flowed naturally and the more they deviated from the formal script. I began to allow myself to change words and direction based on the feel of the energy of the group. I believe this allows for a more meaningful experience for all the celebrants. Instead of trying to make the energy fit the ritual, which never seems to work, you let go of the script and allow things to flow as they need to in order to serve the needs of the celebrants. As I said before, the COoR is still followed, but the content and the wording may change from that which was originally intended. I am looking forward to seeing what direction future studies and development take my personal and group practices.