Honoring the Mighty Dead

I’m currently working on the assignment for week 12 of the ADF dedicant program, and this section is all about connecting with one of the three groups of spirits ADF focuses on in our ritual work: Our ancestors, otherwise called “The Mighty Dead.”

As with most things in ADF, who your ancestors are and which of them you choose to worship it totally tailored to you.
They also do not need to be just blood-kin ancestors. The definition falls under these four categories (as defined by Rev. Michael J. Dangler in “DP Through the Wheel of the Year”):

Blood-Kin: These are ancestors of your blood, such as Grandpa Winston, or your mother, or you sister, or your child. All of these are Ancestors, or would have been considered so by the Indo-European peoples.

Heart-Kin: These are the close friends with whom there are ties of love, respect, and strong friendship. They are family, even if there is no blood tie.

Hearth-Kin: These are people who have shared your hearth religion, though they may not be close friends or blood-relatives. (Also called “Spirit-Kin.”)

Mentor-Kin: These are teachers, guides, and friends with whom you share an intellectual lineage: perhaps you learned something from them that profoundly affected your life, or you are following in their footsteps in learning.


Thinking about this concept of kin and who we personally honor as our Mighty Dead reminds me of this quote by author Dorothy Allison (from one of my favorite books):

Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is just this- if we cannot name our own we are cut off at the root, our hold on our lives as fragile as a seed in the wind. – Two or Three Things I know for Sure, a memoir

This quote resonates for me for a couple of reasons. Finding “our own” is something that is incredibly powerful for everyone to seek, and can be defined in more that one way. It doesn’t have to be folks weren’t related to, and often it’s not, but what’s important is that we find our own, we find our clan, and we connect with them.

Blood kin is very important to me, even though I don’t have contact with most of my living blood relatives, and I take great joy in learning about my family’s history, good and bad. I like to feel that connection to the past. I was overjoyed when I found my father a few years back and was able to finally know where the heck his people came from. Going on Ancestry.com and watching his side of the tree unfurl in front of my eyes, hundreds of years of generations appear in the span of minutes, was such a feeling of pure delight. I never knew so much of it, like I’m part Dutch and had an ancestor named Joost!

I keep an ancestor shrine in my home and have written about it in this blog before. It is just as large and well-tended as the shrine to the Shining Ones (gods) that I keep in my home too. (I’m now realizing I need a Nature Spirits altar! Gotta have all three Kindreds represented, right?) Included on my ancestor shrine are pictures of family, deities I feel a familial connection with, along with flowers, items that belonged to family, and regular offerings of chocolate and steaming hot coffee (family favorites.)

For this blog post I wanted to share examples of a few categories of Mighty Dead listed above and who I honor for each. I have a wonderful family, but also wonderful other folks alive and dead who have deeply influenced my life and I seek to honor their memories as well.


This is one of my most prized family photos… It’s of three generations of my matrilinial line. The baby is my great-grandmother Hazel, holding her is her mother Musa Campbell, a strong and formidable woman with bright red hair, the young boy is Bertie, Hazel’s brother, and the eldest woman is the incredibly resilient Saphronia Moody, my great-great-great-grandmother. (I don’t know who the second baby is.) Saphronia’s story is one that is still passed down in my family. She left her abusive husband, unheard of in the 1800’s (love the Campbells but they were a hot mess), and rode from Missouri out to rural Washington in a covered wagon where she set-up shop as a seamstress and never remarried. Musa was adventurous too, she moved to Los Angeles and grew such an amazing garden that her family wanted for little during The Great Depression.
Needless to say, few women in my family stay in one place or wilt in the face of opposition.



I grew-up apart from my blood relatives, except for my mom. She’s gay, and so left the rural town she grew-up in as soon as she possibly could. She grew-up out in The Bible Belt, where her father was a Southern Baptist minister,  so I don’t blame her for running away to California. Because of this, I never interacted with my two uncles and only had significant contact with one out of three aunts (the other gay sibling, Becky.) My parents friends then became like aunts and uncles to me.

My favorite psuedo-uncle was Gerry. He was long-time friends with my mom’s wife, and was always such a joy to have around. He was constantly witty and hilarious, the most fantastic conversation partner, and he aspired for a long time to become a screenwriter, but never got a break. He was so kind and supportive towards me when I was little. Gerry sadly passed from this earth a few years ago from brain cancer and is very missed.



If you know me well you know I consider my earthly Muse to be Louise Brooks, the silent film star, modern dancer and writer. I acquired her biography at the age of 16 and immediately knew I’d found a kindred soul, though she had died in the 80’s. She was not only stunning, but a fiercely intelligent and independent woman who basically told the head of Paramount to go fuck himself and was blacklisted from Hollywood for it. She lived a life that was both charmed and tortured, experiencing incredible success in her youth but was an abuse survivor and alcoholic who was crippled by an autoimmune disorder in old age. But through it all she was passionate and resilient and phenomenally talented and I adore her. Her image was my first tattoo at 18-years-old.



A Prayer For Chronic Illness

It’s a lovely, though slightly cloudy, spring day in Portland today, and I’m about to get ready to go to a Beltaine rite with my grove.
I feel awful today though, because I inadvertently was exposed to gluten yesterday, and I have celiac disease, so this means I am very sick today. And frustrated. I have been dealing with chronic illness since I was 22, so fourteen years now. I feel so over it, so done with the limitations it causes, the pain it causes, and I morn for the destruction it brought to some of my dreams. At the same time though, I know that these trials are just part of having physical form, and that my illness led me to a more spiritual and fulfilling life.

I know lots of people also experience chronic illness and pain, and I’ve never found a pagan prayer made just for us, to say on those days when we are just sick of being sick.
So I wrote one today. I hope you enjoy it and find solace and resonance with it.

A Prayer for Chronic Illness

In this moment of pain and aching
When your physical form limits you
And feels like a cage

The pain is just in this moment
This pain is not who you are
Your true self is limitless
And can soar through clouds

Feel the sacred fire burning
Within your belly
Within your heart
Within your mind

That fire connects to an eternal flame
That burns within the hearths and temples of time immemorial
Watch it burn brighter with your love
Feel the power from the earth below
Flow upward into you and encircle your flames
Connecting you with all that is

This time of darkness will pass
Light and shadow dance as one
Embrace all you are
Feel the sacred fires warm the parts
That hurt and cry

Embrace the love of all you are
As the Great Mother embraces you
Holds you to her breast and
Wipes away your tears
Embrace the love of all you are
Embrace the love of all you are

You are the phoenix that rises from within

pheonix fire

High Day Essay #1 – Spring Equinox

Blessings! On March 20th I went to my first High Day ritual in years. It made me soooo happy. Hooray for finally living in a city with other druids and pagans who do things, and hooray for my health and schedule aligning properly to go to one.

As part of my homework for the DP, here is my first draft of my essay on the experience:



On March 20th, 2016 I attended the Spring Equinox High Day rite of Columbia Protogrove in Portland. The hearth focus was Hellenic, and was honoring the goddess Kore (Persephone) as she emerged from the underworld to be reunited with her mother Demeter and herald the return of spring. It was held at a Unitarian church in south Portland, which is surrounded by trees.

The focus of this ritual was fun and a little new for me, as I don’t gravitate towards Greek deities generally, but, as an adolescent I loved Greek myths and deities and Persephone was actually my favorite. A friend of mine in high school one had a dream that I was flying through the night sky and my name was Persephone, so that was my nickname for awhile. What a nice experience it was to reconnect with the goddess after all these years.

The ritual started outside of the main room and was led by the personification of Perseus, then everyone walked inside singing “Come We Now As A People.” As they entered the door, they were anointed with oil (a dot on the forehead) and cleansed with rosemary water (a sprinkle with a sprig of rosemary.) I got to do the sprinkling rosemary water part, and really enjoyed welcoming everyone into the room in that way.

In the room there was an area for each of the Kindreds, ancestors, nature spirits, and deities. The ceremony began, we did a Two Power meditation to center, and the gates were opened by calling on Hecate. It was a loud, powerful gate opening, I was quite impressed by everyone’s energy. This ritual also had a chorus to lead the songs, which I really loved, they sounded wonderful and covered up my off-key tones nicely!

The ritual then progressed to talking about the story of Persephone/Kore and her mother Demeter. Two grove members played the goddesses and they had a lovely tearful reunion and then sat on chairs in the center. When everyone was able to give their offerings, you could either give it to them or to any of the Kindred. I gave Kore my offering.

After the ritual there was a room full of food and wine and we all delighted in one another’s company for awhile. I do really love my fellow grove members, what a great bunch of people. It feels AMAZING to finally be back in a city where there are large public rituals and a pagan community to take part in. I think I had a goofy smile on my face the entire time I was there. One of the big reasons I decided to focus on a specific religious modality was for community, and I’m ecstatic to have finally found it.

All in all I thought it was a wonderful ritual and experience. There were a few forgotten lines and I could tell a couple folks were stressed about the flow, but being a Protogrove, this is to be expected, and I’m sure as more High Days pass, things will get smoother.


A Meditation on Meditation

In preparation for eventually writing my final meditation essay, I was reflecting upon my entire history with meditation.

I’ve been meditating on and off for about 20 years now, and this is my personal reflection on the whole process. This post isn’t all about meditation within the ADF dedicant program, but I think analyzing my whole meditation practice is relevant. Meditation is one of those things that could really always get better. It’s also something that just goes through organic phases, like most things do. Trying to be perfect isn’t going to happen, so you have to be gentle with yourself on the journey.

Honestly, quite often when I’m trying to get myself to just sit down and meditate, I feel like my inner voice is taking on the tone of that hilarious spoof bedtime story narrated by Morgan Freeman called “Go the Fuck to Sleep.” Except it’s saying, “Sit the fuck down darling, and MED-I-TATE.” (If you’re not familiar with this story, here’s the link, it’s hilarious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G17wQR3DL0)

I think everyone who meditates struggles with consistency and discipline on some level. We all just have go with the flow and do our best.

I started meditating around the age of 14. I was in the middle of my New Age book obsession phase and I’d collected all sorts of fun books on palmistry, tarot, auras, and the like. I forget where I read it, but I found my first meditative mantra in a book I picked up  and used it constantly: “Breathing in, I clear body and mind… Breathing out, I smile.” I tried sitting and doing straight breathing exercise/emptying the mind type meditations, but couldn’t focus on it much, I preferred using my mantra or doing visualizations and trance work.
Then I bought a book on past life recall and had an amazing time doing long guided meditations and discovered that I can fall into trance HEAVILY. (And apparently, had a past life as a rather dull banker in Victorian England…)

Consistent meditation and trance work changed my entire perception of the world, it was almost like being on a low dose of magic mushrooms constantly, plants had vague auras and I felt like a trance state was always just a single step out of my normal conscious focus. Needless to say, I was a slightly weird teenager. In a good way though.

Then… Oh, life interfered. My late teens were tumultuous and my meditation practice did not survive at all. Severe PTSD took away any semblance of calm and I didn’t have the emotional bedrock go guide me back to meditation, even though it really would have helped.

In my mid-20’s life calmed for a minute and I began to try to meditate again, this time trying Buddhist techniques. None of those techniques clicked with me, except for one, which I read in a book called Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzburg (I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone.) With these techniques you start out focusing love on yourself, using a mantra you choose from a variety offered in the book. The one I chose was:

“May I be free from danger
May I have physical health
May I have mental health
May I have ease in living.”

Then after a period of time of consistently meditating with this feeling towards yourself, you then focus it on someone you care for. After a bit with that, you focus it on everyone in an area, then, hardest of all, you progress to focusing this loving wish on someone you despise.
I found this practice to be really calming, as my PTSD often made me feel agitated and hyper-tense in public spaces. This kind of meditation calmed my fear.

Then off of this kind of meditative riff I developed my own meditations while walking outside, which is where I have the biggest anxiety attacks about my safety. I remember once I was walking around my neighborhood, feeling unsafe, as usual (and not without warrant – I am a woman and have been harassed, threatened and attacked in public for most of my life.) I walked by a small park that day and noticed a beautiful tall tree with expansive roots. I wished I could be like that tree, it owned that space, it was sturdy, it was in public and that public space belonged to it. So I walked around and visualized myself as that tree, my roots expanding below into the ground, my trunk strong and tall, my branches and heart open wide. It felt incredibly powerful and soothing.

Another time while walking to the BART in downtown Oakland I developed a new meditative visualization around this theme. Instead of viewing everyone who passed as a stranger who was an “other” and thus a potential threat (as PTSD brain can loop you into sometimes) I would envision that each person had a glowing, gemstone heart radiating through their chests, I imagined hugging each of them, the warmth of their skin, the feeling of their soft shirt under my hands, like how a friend would feel hugging a beloved friend.  All this didn’t make my PTSD disappear, and didn’t make the harassment stop, but it gave me moments of respite, which is a wonderful thing.

The next phase of my meditation journey was when I became very ill. I have an autoimmune disorder that was crippling for a time, the pain was horrendous and I worried about becoming wheelchair bound and having my whole life unravel.
There was a witchy shop 2 blocks from my house at the time, and days when I had the energy I would walk down there and touch all of the beautiful bowls of crystals and minerals they sold. I’d usually buy one that sang to me, and I’d take it home and started to make a little altar in the corner of my living room where I collected all of my stones. I started gathering other little things from outside, like pretty leaves and flowers and even sticks and putting them on the altar too. Then one day in the witchy shop I found a gorgeous wooden carved plaque of the goddess Brighid. I splurged and bought it and added it to my altar too. I began reading books on Wicca and would sit and meditate and pray to Brighid and do visualizations again. I felt the door to my 3rd eye open again after many years, the hinges were hella rusty, but still worked just fine.
These meditations were far more intense than anything I’d attempted while dabbling in Buddhist meditative practices, I went places while meditating quite often.

Then, to bring it back to my current practice, I went on a journey to find my spiritual home and found the neo-pagan druid group Ar nDraiocht Fein. I’ve integrated their meditative practices into my life and love their core meditation, called the “Two Powers Meditation”, as well as some of their mantras. The Two Powers meditation is especially wonderful because it also involves a tree visualization, you use your own channeled energy to root you to the earth and extend yourself out and above like the branches of a tree. It’s extremely grounding and after much practice, something I can slip into quickly even in public.
I have several entries in this journal that go into more detail of my adventures with ADF style meditation and ritual. These particular methods are quite perfect for my highly imaginative, visual brain.

I still use the Two Powers meditation regularly, and love it even for super short “grounding” meditations. For instance, I meditated in the break room at work today for about 5 minutes. It’s so versatile. When I first started using Two Powers I recorded myself on my iphone saying the full script of the guided meditation, and I would listen to it regularly. But after a few months it became automatic. I plug my energy into the earth, feel it rush up into the visualized bowls in my pelvis, heart and head, and then energy shoots out the top and reconnects. Badda-bing.

In my more recent meditative wanderings I have noticed that the more I meditate, the easier I slip into trance, and I start connecting to that frame of consciousness without trying to sometimes. This same thing happened when I was a teenager. It’s sort of like opening a door that doesn’t stay closed all the way- Either you bolt it shut or leave it open, there are no in betweens. And that honestly scares me a bit. It makes me anxious that I don’t have total control of it, even though I know I do.
It’s just that when you’ve experienced something strange like sitting down on the couch one normal evening and then you unintentionally fall into a heavy trance state where you see this griffin walk up to you, stare right in your face with it’s glowing golden eyes, and say: “I am you, and you are me… I am you, and you are me…” You are both awed and a little weirded out at the same time.
So I am curious to see how my practice develops more in that aspect.

My current meditation goals are to keep a regular practice and to find a way to develop a good bedrock, a way to foster it so it survives life’s storms. I don’t want to drop my practice again the next time tragedy hits or work stresses me out. Because life is so much better if you sit.

“Just go and fucking meditate…”


Thor, My Father’s God

It’s so interesting how certain deities will just choose to come to you, though you had little to no inclination to focus on them before that time. It’s as if they’re saying: “I’m the right one for this moment, let me help.”

One such experience I had with this was last summer when my father died suddenly. My dad was an agnostic, he ascribed to no spiritual path and was very cool with whatever anyone else wanted to believe. He thought it not out of the ordinary that I was pagan and he loved illusions to Norse mythology, because he was a retired war veteran and so of course he loved the warrior-centric culture of the Norse.

What made me connect his memory to Thor and to seek him out for comfort was due to the seasonally uncharacteristic appearance of Thor’s iconic symbol, lightning, right after my father’s death. Now, thunder and lightning storms are very rare in San Diego, especially in the summer. They don’t happen often in Portland, either. But for two weeks after his death, I experienced intense lightning storms in both cities.
Flying back from San Diego after having to pack-up dad’s apartment, then sell or give away the things of his I couldn’t keep, and plan the funeral, all the while trying to find a calm second to grieve, made that flight unbearably difficult. Then a rare storm erupted below my plane. The clouds danced with so many miraculous lightning bolts, flashing between the nighttime clouds. That flight to that point had been horrible, I was so close to having a horrendous emotional breakdown right there on the plane, but when the bolts of light started flashing below us I was hypnotized by them, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Something so few humans, in the scheme of things, have been privileged to witness, watching a lightning storm from inside and above.
I imagined dad was up in Valhalla, probably many pints of mead deep, hanging with Thor (they would be natural drinking buddies), flirting with all the shield maidens and singing battle songs (and a little Roxy Music, “Avalon” was his karaoke song.)

This description of Thor sounds so much like my father, connecting the two seems natural:

“Thor, the brawny thunder god, is the archetype of a loyal and honorable warrior, the ideal toward which the average human warrior aspired. He’s the indefatigable defender of the Aesir gods and their fortress, Asgard, from the encroachments of the giants, who are usually (although far from invariably) the enemies of the gods.
No one is better suited for this task than Thor. His courage and sense of duty are unshakeable, and his physical strength is virtually unmatched.”

Dad identified so strongly with his warrior side, and he loved being a soldier. He was also extremely honorable and would defend anyone who needed it, stranger or no. He was not a very big man, and looked unassuming late in life, but he was a fearsome opponent if provoked or defending a lady in distress. One swift move and he’d dislocate your arm and have you pinned to the ground and begging forgiveness. But aside from that, he was normally the most jovial, easy-going guy, a friend to all.


The week after my return home from San Diego was a horrendously painful time of mourning and one day I went on a walk around my neighborhood to calm my mind. It was a mostly sunny warm August day and I stopped to have a pint of cider on the lovely patio of McMenamins. Then out of nowhere it began to pour buckets of rain, and thunder and lightening clapped through the sky. Soaked, I laughed up at the clouds overhead, I knew it was another show put on my dad and Thor, a goodbye to me since we hadn’t had a proper one in person.

Since then, I’ve done more research and found that the Thor’s hammer was a traditional symbol on gravestones throughout northern Europe. So I bought a small silver Thor’s hammer pendant and paired it with the tiny urn locket necklace that holds a bit of my dad’s ashes. I wear it to honor both of them, to show my love.

dads locket



Emergence of the Bloom


It’s been a really long time (3 years actually!) since I updated this blog. Good goddess almighty it’s been quite an intense 3 years at that!

While I feel remorse I was not able to keep up my studies during that time, I do not in the least feel disappointed in myself for taking a break. I needed it. Life shattering tectonic plate moving intense shit happened. I was just surfing the waves and could think of not much else. I stayed on my surf board though, and I made it ashore. Hooray for me, and blessings to my ancestors and deities Brighid, The Morrigan, Odin and Thor for being everlasting sources of strength.

That being said… I’m back! Brushing the dust off my infrequently used altar and with a renewed sense of spiritual inspiration. I’m in a good life space now, and around a wonderful supportive community. I’ve had many dramatic ups and downs in my lifetime, and right now I once again feel just like the baby phoenix in this scene in Harry Potter when it pokes it’s head out of the ashes after a burn. (Who says fiction doesn’t belong in a Dedicant blog! It does!)


So here I am, dusty, bleary-eyed, but in a good place and back on the ADF Dedicant path wagon. One of my goals this time around is to found a strong spiritual practice that can weather dramatic life events better than it has thus far.

Even though I’ve done selected assignments and writing for the program, I’ve decided to start anew, right at week one. So firstly, I am going to do the homework for that first module. Here goes…

Why have you chosen to take the first steps on the Dedicant Path?

Learning. Focus. Growth. Laying a solid foundation.

Is this a step on your path, or will this become the Path itself?

Neither exactly? My path is… well, my path, and it is all about learning, which this is also about. Thus I see ADF is a part of my path.

What do you expect to learn?

How to structure and expand my spiritual nature in order to enrich my life and create beauty.

What would you like to get out of this journey?

Joy, knowledge, centering, maybe a sweet Druid robe… 😉

Do you know where this path will take you?

Not exactly, and that’s pretty great. Right now I am focusing quite a bit on tailoring my spiritual path towards two goals. One is helping myself and others heal from PSTD through prayer, meditation and trance work, and also continuing my focus on maternal health and supporting birthing mothers as service to the community and to Brighid.

If you have been in ADF for a long time, why are you starting only now?

I think I already described this above, but this seems like the right time.

Does it look hard or easy?

It will take a lot concentration and serious commitment to stop making excuses, which hopefully will not be TOO hard. I’m optimistic I can succeed at this.

Which requirements appear to be difficult to you now, and which appear to be easy?

Consistency of practice has always been challenging for me. And getting myself to just write the gosh darn essays!
I feel solid in my meditation skills, though this can always grow and improve. I feel I’ve already cultivated beautiful relationships with patron deities, but this can also grow and change.

Do you have doubts, questions, or concerns that you need to ask about?

I don’t think so.


So there it is… I’m excited to be back. Now to craft my first oath re-do for week 2’s assignment, and get the dust and kitty fur off my altar.


Keeping the Flame

Wednesday was my flame tending shift for Brighid. This is a ritual I’ve done for a couple of years now, first through Ord Brighideach, and now through the Brighid SIG (Special Interest Group) in ADF. Every 20 days I light a candle at dusk, meditate and say a prayer for Brighid, and keep the flame lit till bedtime (I have cats…) then re-lighting it in the am, and keeping it burning as much as I can till the sun sets. This keeps with the tradition of Brighid’s eternal flame, which was tended for 19 days by her nuns (as she is also a Catholic Saint) or devotees, then on the 20th day, she tends the flame herself. With the beauty of the internet, we can now have remote flame-tenders who are each part of a “cell” of devotees, and who each take their turns with their personal fires in various distant places.
This ritual has immense significance for me, as Brighid was the first deity I developed a relationship with, and I credit her with helping me to heal from my illness.

Each time I light a candle inside of a special candle holder I use only for this occasion, and I say this prayer to her:

“Mighty Brighid, keeper of the flame,
blazing in the darkness of winter,
O Goddess, we honor you,
bringer of light,
healer, exhaulted one.
Bless us now, hearth mother,
that we may be as fruitful
as the soil itself,
and our lives abundant and fertile.”

This week I was also working on a devotional piece of art for her. I finished it yesterday, as her flame was still burning in my home. I’m quite happy with it, and I think I’m going to make a series of various art pieces on wood of different deities.

Brighid 2

My ultimate goal in my devotion to her is to build a cob sanctuary in her honor. It will have a safe space to keep her fire burning, and will be covered with devotional art. Hopefully in the next decade I’ll have access to land on which to build it!