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Liturgy Practicum 1: Domestic Cult Practice in ADF, Question 4, Entry 9

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Week beginning 10/09/06 - Refreshes and Stresses: A Wedding and Mailing a Goddess

This week began with a clean altar space and a refreshed idea of who I am and who I'm supposed to be. Particularly, it reflected who I wanted to be, which is a huge thing in my life.

I also determined over the previous weekend that I would certainly be sending Epona to Erien, and so began preparations to send off a Goddess on Wednesday, before I would leave for Mitty's wedding in Minneapolis.

I managed both evening and morning devotions on time on Monday and Tuesday, and began to feel more in-tune with the timing. I began to think about the timing of the morning devotions, though, and the fact that they are becoming later and later, and are beginning to approach a critical point in my morning commute: the point where, should I leave at that time, I will not make it to my office at 8 AM, even with good traffic.

One option that has occurred to me recently is that I could get up earlier, and be out the door twenty to thirty minutes before sunrise, and then do my morning devotional on campus, either at the Chadwick Arboretum or (if time is really that short or the weather conditions that bad) in front of my office building.

Of course, that leads me to thinking about how long I intend to keep these sunrise/sunset devotionals up, and wondering if they will last longer than this journal (or even longer than this week). Part of the problem with them is that when I'm not actually in the process of doing the rite, I don't fully grasp the importance of the rite in my daily life. When I do the rites, I feel such a deep connection, such a religious feeling, that I can't imagine not doing them, but when I glumly look at my clock in the early morning after a long night out, I justify not doing the ritual quite convincingly in my head.

I don't really want to lose this devotional practice, but given my inconsistent performance with other devotional practices, I'm afraid that I might.

I guess I just have to keep drowning out that little voice in my head that tells me that "one day won't hurt, sleep in an hour, you can do it later because sacred time isn't real time, anyway!"

Gods, I hate that voice.

On Wednesday morning, I did my morning devotional and packed my bags for my trip to Mitty's wedding in Minneapolis. The final order of business was to package Epona for her trip to Texas.

I had picked up a blue cloth the previous weekend, and would use that to wrap her. I wrote a letter to Erien including instructions for the goddess' worship so that at least a consistent prayer would be said to her until Erien developed her own praxis revolving around Epona (if she did), and Epona wouldn't feel like I abandoned her.

I actually seriously worried about that last bit, that she would feel abandoned. I hope, though, that she knows I sent her to someone I really do deeply love, in the hopes that she could bring Erien some of the feelings I have cultivated with my own Patrons.

(As I write this, I suddenly realize that I've never done ritual with Erien, and suddenly, inexplicably, really want to right now.)

I packed the candle holder that has sat in front of Epona for four years now (even in the move, I made sure that the candle holders stayed with their original deity), and wrapped her in as much bubble-wrap as possible.

Interestingly, the bubble-wrap was the same stuff that Cei used to send me my depiction of Esus last year. That bubble-wrap has held more Patrons than most packing material could ever hope to pack.

As I wrapped her, I said the prayer I wrote so many weeks ago, when this idea first came into my mind.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006:

I send you because I love you.
I pray that you will hold her
As you have held me.

It became a mantra for the packing, and I said it many times. I washed Epona, wrapped her up, and sealed her in the box.

When I got to the post office later that day, I presented the box to the man behind the counter.

"Anything liquid, perishable, fragile or potentially hazardous?" he asked.

"Fragile," I said.

"Do you need delivery confirmation or insurance on the package?" he asked.

"Insurance. . ." I trailed off. "Um, that's a good question. It's priceless."

He looked at me. "Priceless? What is it?"

I probably blushed a bit at that point, because I hadn't really expected that question. "It's a goddess. She has a value that is more than the cost of the physical stuff within that box. I'm not sure how to insure it, because I'm not comfortable placing a monetary value on a deity." I was now thinking out loud.

The postal employee stared at me.

"Aw, hell. Let's not insure it. I'm sure it'll get there fine. It is, after all, a deity."

To his credit, the postal employee regained his composure well. "That's true. I don't think we could lose a goddess if we tried."

He placed the "fragile" stamp on the package, marked it priority, and slapped some postage on, and Epona was on her way to Texas.

And I got into the car and made my way to Chicago.

On Wednesday night, my parents took me out to dinner. I had, unfortunately, not thought about the time change (from Eastern to Central time) or the latitude change between Columbus and Chicago. I was at dinner with my parents as the sun went down, and we made it back, I thought, just at sunset. I did my devotional at the time I thought might be right, and then decided that I would look up the sunrise and sunset times for Chicago and Minneapolis.

Unfortunately, I forgot to look up those times.

My alarm went off at 7 AM, though, and I rolled out of bed and immediately did my sunrise devotional, as I could see the sky from my window and knew it was close, at least.

When I went to check the times, I found out that, mostly by instinct, I had managed a sunset and sunrise devotional, back to back, in a different time zone at a different latitude, almost perfectly on time.

Still, I wrote down both the times for sunrise and sunset on the various days I'd be in Minneapolis and Chicago from then on, just to be sure.

I rolled into Minneapolis that night just after 6. I was a tad late to Mitty's rehearsal, and I wasn't sure how I would manage my evening devotion in the middle of the rehearsal. I sort of played it by ear, and hoped it would work out.

It did. By 6:30 PM, we were done with the rehearsals, and I found out that the alarm on my phone will go off even if the cell phone is switched off. That's useful information when you know you might be someplace that the cell phone isn't supposed to go off. The alarm went off at 6:30, and I asked where the restroom was in the church. I was given the general direction, and walked off to find a quiet corner to do my devotional in.

I asked about the restroom primarily because I didn't want to have to explain the devotional schedule to a number of people when I only had four minutes to get where I was going. I also didn't really want people looking askance because I was going to be doing a Pagan rite in their church, no matter how simple, unobtrusive, and inoffensive it might be.

I found a nice, isolated windowsill in a stairwell in the church, and placed my hands on it. I began to pray to Ratri, remembering words and feeling them flow. Then, I felt a cold breeze from outside the church brush past my face. It felt like acknowledgement, like a kiss from Ratri for my work and my dedication. I felt less self-conscious about myself and what I was doing, which is a good thing.

Because that night, I was asked what I did for a living.

Last week's entry detailed that I wanted to indicate to others that I was a priest, that that was my job and that's what I do. At the rehearsal dinner, the fiancÚ of one of Mitty's other groomsmen asked me what I did for a living.

"I'm a priest," I replied, happy to find a way to begin defining myself in that manner.

She was taken a bit aback (probably because I was wearing my necromancy shirt and am pretty young, and I don't think that Mitty hangs out with too many priests). We chatted a bit, and she asked me a couple of key questions, one of which led to me correcting her view that I was a Roman Catholic priest. I learned, though, that I like the momentary confusion that causes: nearly all people connote the word "priest" with the RCC because they're one of the few religions that still use that term. On some level, I expected this, but it isn't deliberate deception so much as an opportunity to challenge someone's paradigm in a soft but deep way (the Discordian in me loves it).

I informed her that I was a Pagan priest, which made more sense to her, but then she asked me specifically what I do in a normal day: "So, what's a day in the life?" Because being a priest is not my "dayjob," I was momentarily unsure how to answer. "How about a week in the life?" she asked, noting my temporary confusion, and assuming that it stemmed from a varied and difficult to pin down schedule.

It's hard to define what you do as a priest when you're not used to thinking of yourself in those terms. I realized that by making that choice, I had forced myself into a "sink or swim" environment, where I would either learn how to perceive myself as a priest very quickly, or I'd just appear to be another nut with what amounted to a ULC ordination off the internet.

Because I hope I'm not a nut and that ADF's training is worth a bit more than the ULC's, I found myself hoping I would swim, not sink.

I thought about what I did, and mentioned a few things: do ritual, write training, meet with people, etc. We ended up agreeing that a lot of what I do is generally ritualistic in nature and some counseling.

There were a few more conversations of this sort later. I could feel myself falling into the role, and even the people who knew me briefly before and knew I worked for the University seemed inclined to accept that the "priest" was now how I was defining myself. That felt good, very good.

Mitty asked me around 1 AM the night before the wedding if I had my ordination yet, and I told him I did. He then asked if I could do legal weddings, and I said I could legally marry people, at least in the state of Ohio. I might have to register here in Minnesota, depending on state laws, but I could do it.

"Good," he said, "because you're my backup plan in case the old dude doesn't show up tomorrow to marry us."

Friday morning I woke around 7:20 and did my devotional on the floor of the room I was sleeping in. I got up and started reading some Hittite prayers, particularly blessings on the royal couple, just in case there was something useful I could glean from them for Mitty's wedding. Unfortunately, I don't think he wants me talking about the Sun-god and the groom's infantry and chariots.

Though on second thought, he might.

At the wedding, I noticed that my work with devotions and in praying more and more often has led me to an appreciation of prayers in all their forms. I am completely free of discomfort in praying to a deity I no longer worship (the Christian God), because it is about the action of praying to me, not the belief behind it. I think I had never noticed how much prayer to that deity had, in the past, caused me discomfort. The ease I found in the prayers was a remarkable contrast to my previous experiences (which I had always thought of as "generally comfortable").

My evening devotion didn't go as well as I'd hoped. I took my portable altar from the Church to the reception, carrying it the eight blocks because I figured I'd need it. Turns out I did, but I was back at my car, anyway, around sunset.

The evening devotion was about two minutes late because of traffic and two failed attempts to keep my candle lit. That devotion, though, taught me a lot about patience. Piety shouldn't be rushed: it is important to do the actions correctly rather than on time. Correct observance also includes managing to get the timing right, and the "right" timing for religious observances is a "religious" timing. One can certainly show reverence through slowing down and taking the time. I wish to do that more often.

Later that night, back at the wedding, Mitty came up to me.

"It's been all night and I haven't gotten a Druid Blessing on this wedding yet!" Mitty said to me. So I obliged him and grabbed the mike.

"It's been said that only two things can get me to Minnesota: Mitty calling me to tell me he has a body he needs buried, and him calling me to tell me he's getting married. We've been though a lot, including spending six hours in Key West before getting bored and leaving. I've known Mitty a long time, and I've seen him in the good times and the bad, but I've never seen him as happy as I have tonight with Heather. So bright blessings to you both, and thank you so much for having me and all of us here to share this with you."

I realized that I need to figure out exactly how to bless something. I don't feel too good at it, honestly, but I know I will have to do more and more of them.

The next morning, when my alarm went off, I was unable to find my paper with my sunrise and sunset times on it. I presumed that I had set my alarm to go off just before dawn, and so I did a morning devotional at that time.

Problem: I did it in bed. While half asleep.

I said the prayer in my head, not verbalizing, not singing the Charm, not moving a muscle. I was tired, and moving seemed like so much work.

When I woke up again a half hour later, I looked out the window. It was still not quite daylight, and I figured that I had been given a second chance. I grabbed my altar, still unable to find my sunrise timesheet, and went to work on a second morning devotion. This one involved fire and my altar setup, and I felt much better after it. I later found that I was off by about 2 minutes, but the feeling of completion was what I was after, and I now had it.

I drove back to Chicago that day, arriving at my parents house on Saturday afternoon around 3 PM. We watched the OSU v. Michigan State game, and then made a mad dash out to the local Men's Warehouse when we found out that they were slated to close at 6 PM. It turned out they closed at 9 PM, so I wasn't hit with any extra fees, though I think that the quick prayer to Fotamecus probably helped. In the mad rush, I forgot about my evening devotion entirely.

Actually, that is not the full case. I didn't want to make my parents wait while I worked an evening devotion. Despite the fact that they're fully accepting of this religious choice, I don't want to impose it on them too much too fast. I already dropped a bomb on them with the Consecration and the fact that their son is sometimes referred to as "the Reverend Michael J Dangler", and I don't want to go too fast. They could take it, but why push them when they're coming along just fine?

So, I did no ritual at sunset or on Saturday evening at all. Weirdly, I don't feel much like I missed one. I think that, in general, the Powers and I both agree that it was a "night off" and that not doing the devotion was perfectly fine. It is weird that I'm willing to say, "Oh, that's okay." I don't feel like I should consider it "okay." And yet I do.

Sunday morning, I got up and ran my morning ritual on time, and then went back to bed. I figured I'd need the sleep if I were going to continue the trip I was on.

I woke up later, and then drove back to Columbus. On the drive, I called Erien and found that Epona had arrived safely, even though she hadn't been able to pick up the box yet. I did my evening devotion at a truck stop, which was entertaining in its own right, but nothing uncommon happened.

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