This sounds like such a silly statement. But where things spiritual come in to play, it can be hard to find things that are off limits. I’m kinda sure that the tree I found is what I was supposed to find, but I’m aware that this is – well, not temporary but transitory. The goal wasn’t to have a tree, it was to find a tree. I expect a different instruction in time.
The tree in question is a piece of jewellery, specifically a necklace – and the first I really felt called to wear. It is a symbol of Yggdrasil, the World-Tree out of Norse mythology. And this is oddly significant.
I spent part of last weekend away with some pagan friends celebrating Beltane. (Beltane is the counterpart to Samhain, both of them probably the most important two sabbats in the pagan calendars. Beltane is a solidly Spring event, which is why we celebrate it at this time of the year in the southern hemisphere.) The whole thing was two nights and two days of a variety of activities of a most pagan bent. This group has been doing this for quite some years and do it for both Beltane and Samhain.
The theme for this one was “Viking”, which meant Norse. Dressing up for Saturday night was encouraged and the costuming varied from a handmade kirtle to costumes from eBay to random items from home wardrobes that might qualify (yeah, that was me).
We were also aiming to connect with the earth dragon. This was the focus of most of Saturday. It was a craft exercise of making our own dragon masks.
However, quite what that could entail is actually fairly broad – and that was a little bit of a problem. When you have a spiritual system that has no fixed rule book (or indeed almost no rule book) and an extremely small number of practitioners, there is an awfully large amount of figuring it out yourself and very often on the fly. This is totally different to (for example) Christianity where there is always scads of advice available along with a lot of quite definite ideas.
What the regulars seem to have not realized is that a newbie does sometimes need some extra guidance. One thing I wish I’d known about two weeks earlier is that pictures are around of the masks made previously. Also, I missed some useful group meditation that I didn’t know about, and nearly panicked in the face of everyone being helpfully unhelpful until I realised two things: 1. there was no pressure to finish or even start by any particular time and 2. I needed to do my own meditation to find inspiration. Perils of arriving late.
I kind of know now how to find a place in the nearby bush to find inspiration from the earth dragon. I could not say I would’ve known how to do that six months ago. But this time I did. I found my earth dragon was one of concealment, and yet he had a bright, flamboyant side hiding in there, too. So my mask became one of two halves. Strips of dark leather and dead leaves on one side, leopard print and bright ribbons on the other. It reflects me in a lot of ways. (And yes, I had a very limited range of material to work with.)
It was probably that afternoon that I found the small collection of jewellery one of the others there had on display for sale. There was a range of items, necklaces, earrings and bracelets and a variety of icons. That’s where I saw Yggdrasil. I have other such items; a pentagram, a green man and have been looking for a tri-moon. But the tree sang to me. However, I didn’t buy it then.
Saturday night was the highlight of the weekend. The plan all along was to create our own ritual, complete with custom invocations. The original intention was to call Freyja, Frey and the Valkyries, but in the wake of a hot day a storm cell moved over us. A very violent storm cell: Thor had decided to make his precense known. We decided to call Thor instead of Frey but the lack of anything that could stand in for Mjolnir was mildly annoying. And then I remembered I had a rubber hamer in my car, which looked a lot more like Mjolnir than a claw-hammer would! And that’s how I got asked to write an invocation to Thor. Thor the god of thunder, Thor the mighty warrior, Thor the protector. I definitely need to read up on the Thor of mythology as opposed to the Thor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
After the circle was cast, we danced a maypole. This was kinda fun. Remember, it’s only called a “may-pole” because it was danced on May 1. Which is Beltane in Europe.
We were supposed to have a bonfire as well at that point, but due to there being a Total Fire Ban, we had to make do with a small cauldron indoors filled with methylated spirits. Once we were all tired, we went back outside to close the circle. The structured part of the evening over, several people started playing drinking games, which was amusing to watch for a while.
We had one more activity which was what Sunday morning was for: we made our own set of rune stones. I’d seen professionally made rune stones before and was familiar with how runes worked. It had never occurred to me to make my own, though. But I’d spent a lot of my childhood playing with clay because my grandfather was an inveterate artist. He was always sketching or drawing or painting or sculpting. And the latter was with clay. So theoretically I knew what I was doing.
Being a spiritual exercise, though, what came with the crafting instructions were also instructions about how to begin using them for spiritual tasks. The process and benefits of blooding them (yes, putting your own blood on them) was described, and this coupled with the fact that they are hand-crafted can render them powerful. I’m tempted to actually do this with mine.
It was after this that I finally gave in and bought my tree. I’m not sure where to go next with it. The weekend away was pretty much over once we’d cleaned up after the rune-making and had lunch. But there is a regular full-moon circle next Friday which I will be attending.
It feels like I’ve crossed a milestone of some sort. The demands of living in today’s modern world makes this journey into new beliefs and spirituality systems a long journey. And there are pieces of my past life I can’t really leave behind as I must continue to masquerade as a Christian to some.
But I’m not a Christian anymore. Not like I was, anyway.