Reintroducing Solitary Work into Your Life
Many times, I have heard solitaries in ADF react with envy to the ease in which Grove-affiliated members can find community in their worship, especially if said solitaries are geographically isolated and not solitary by choice.
It can be a hard thing (as I well remember) to be a solitary member of ADF. The email lists do not create the feeling of connectedness that a warm handshake or the friendly hug of a fellow Druid can create. Articles in
tend to discuss Grove formation and talk about Grove spirituality. At festivals, it is sometimes hard for the solitary to find a place.
But we Grove members have something to be envious of, as well.
The process of running a Grove is no easy task, and neither is being an active member. For the majority of Grove-affiliated members, the Grove rites become our High Day rites. They fall on days that are mutually convenient for us, not often on the High Day itself. We sometimes simply attend rather than participate, especially when it's been a long week or a trying day. At the end of the day, we collapse on our couch, exhausted from the planning, work, and general stress of putting on a public rite.
How many of us remember our own needs at the end of such a long day of stress, worry, and work? Are our obligations fulfilled, not only to our Gods, but also to ourselves?
What are we missing?
When we attend these rites, worshipping with the community, we are fulfilling our obligations to the Gods. There's no question there. ADF is primarily about public worship in the Elder Ways, and that is what we do at these High Day rites. The Groves are partially fulfilling ADF's obligations and their own when they hold these public rites. But what is it that the Groves are not necessarily doing in these rites that a solitary practitioner does in every rite she holds?
I recognized that something was lacking at Yule in 2004.With my brother graduating from college on the same day as the Grove's Saturnalia rite, I was unable to attend our group worship. I recognized that there is an obligation that we have to our Gods, and that obligation is part of the world that I live in. My obligation, of course, is that I need to provide due worship to the Shining Ones each of the eight High Days. I have held this obligation since my Dedicant Oath in 2002, and I did not feel that, "Oh, well, I can't attend with my Grove," was a good enough excuse for breaking this oath to maintain my piety.
I had not, however, done a solitary ritual for a High Day since 2002. Always, I knew that my obligation to the Gods was fulfilled by attending (and especially leading) the rites of my Grove. Yes, I have done daily devotional rites, but those are simply not the same. The devotional is informal and simple. A High Day rite is a celebration and a connection to deity in a mythological framework. High Days take planning, and you set them off specially from the rest of the year.
Well, I sat down and wrote the ritual I intended to use (now available at <http://www.adf.org/rituals/celtic/yule/sol-yule-mjd.html>
and in this webpage's section on Rituals) and set about with preparations as I usually do for any ritual. I expected this rite to be the same as any other rite I have done. Open gates, insert patron, close gates. I think, to some extent, that I was seeing this rite as an obligation to the Gods, not as an obligation to myself.
And so I began, describing the sacred space, attuning myself to the Two
Powers, and opening the gates. When I came to the invocation to Sulis, however, I realized that something special was happening. I was connecting with this deity in a way I had never connected before. It was as if I was being filled up with the light of the sun.
It was when I went to light the candles, though, that the real connection brought me up short. All at once, it was a feeling of, "Stop. Listen. Tell me about it all." And I did.
I stopped and listened to Sulis, felt her warmth on my face. I poured out my problems. I chatted about things important and insignificant all at once. The ritual ground to a halt as I simply
experienced the goddess of the sun.
And it hit me: this is the other part of piety that I have been missing. There are obligations to the Gods that we must fulfill, but there are also obligations to ourselves.
This one-on-one time I had with Sulis is something that should happen more often. In group rituals, there is pressure to move on, to get the job done. People have places to go and things to do. Individual attention to the Gods can drag a Grove ritual into a long, boring hour of downtime for everyone except the person receiving the experience. Such experiences are not impossible to achieve in a group ritual, but they are somewhat uncommon for many Groves to be able to achieve.
Piety is a two-way street: it involves obligation to the Gods and obligation to the self. We are thinking, feeling creatures, and as such, we need that individual connection to keep going. A big part of fulfilling obligations to the Gods is holding and attending the public rituals our Groves put on, but similarly, we need to remember that there are reasons that some ADF members choose to remain solitary, and the obligations to the Gods can be fulfilled just as well by a solitary rite, and often the obligation to the self can be fulfilled much better with one.
So when you consider your own piety, your own obligations to the Gods, remember that piety requires that you gain from it, as well.
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