Beginnings and Endings

I have always felt that beginnings and endings are important, and this is no less so in monastic practice. There are many beginnings and endings to consider; of each Office; of seasonal ceremonies; of each day; of retreats/retreat days; of the liturgical year; of monastic work itself.

In this post I am going to look at all of these (except for the beginning and ending of a liturgical year) in the earlier part of my practice before I joined the Order of the Sacred Nemeton (OSN). Although I did have a notion of a liturgical year, for me it ended and began at the Winter Solstice and I didn’t do any extra marking of it except what was in my Winter Solstice Ceremony.

The beginning of each Office was, and still is, marked by standing before my main household shrine for a few seconds of recollection before lighting the candles. (I did have only one candle at the beginning but the shrine gradually became a three-level one to correspond to the ‘Land, Sea, Sky’ idea). Then I have a short ‘candle-lighting prayer’:

‘Bright Flames, fragments of the eternal and everlasting fire, symbols of the Divine, I welcome you.’

The idea of a candle-lighting prayer or invocation came from my OBOD studies at the time.

Then, following the candle-lighting prayer, I would take up my breviary and turn to face the relevant direction for that particular Office. A few moments to centre and ground would be next, then I take three breaths; ‘one with the Earth beneath me, one with the Sky above me and one with all the waters around these beautiful islands’ (I live in the British Isles). Then I go into the Office itself.

These preparations have evolved a bit further during my years with the OSN and I will look at that in a future post.

The endings of those early Offices or Observances were taken from the ritual format taught in the OBOD study course at the time. So before blowing out the candle/s I would say:
‘As this light is extinguished may it be re-lit within all hearts.’
Then the candle is extinguished and the Office is completed with;
‘May the world be filled with peace, and love, and light.’ (said three times).

This early format has been built upon a little as my practice has progressed but the above elements of it remain. This format was based on the OBOD ritual structure at the time (I did what is mostly referred to now as the ‘old’ course). This is also the case with my seasonal ceremonies which began with:

‘O Great Spirit, O Spirit of this circle, O Spirit of this place, I ask for your blessing, guidance, protection and inspiration on this my ceremony of ….’

Following this the candle would be lit, and the ceremony proceed.

The ending of the seasonal ceremonies used a development of the closing for the Offices:
‘As this light is extinguished, may it be re-lit within all hearts’.
The candle would then be extinguished and,
‘May the world be filled with peace and joy, purity and love, light and life.’ (said three times).

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I tend to see each day as beginning at the Midnight Office so that is where my ‘Daily Dedication’ is. This was another idea which came from my OBOD studies. I kept it very simple with;
‘O Great Spirit, may my every action today be performed in your service.’

I also added a prayer, which I call my ‘Daily Invocation’, to the Midnight Office:
‘I thank you, O Great Spirit, for my life here on this Earth, and I ask for blessings on myself and my loved ones.
Fill me with holy power and bless me with wisdom that I may use and direct the power only for good.
Illuminate me from within that I may radiate light upon the world around.
I ask this in the name of the Sky Father, the Earth Mother, the True Taker and the Great Giver, One being of light.’ (then chant ‘Awen’).
(A slightly different version of this prayer is in the ‘Alternative’ OBOD ceremonies for Beltane, Alban Eilir and Alban Elfed which were written in 1994, and an amended version of it is in the current OBOD Beltane ceremonies.)

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I certainly saw, and still see, the Midnight Office as the beginning of the daily round. The ending of the daily round is less clear in that the Late-Evening Office (just before going to bed) does feel like an ending of some significance. I do my ‘Thanksgiving’ and ‘Daily Review’ at the Late-Evening Office so that Office does feel like it brings the day to a close. In the yearly round the Late-Evening Office corresponds to Samhuinn which is often seen as an ending of the year. It doesn’t particularly feel like a beginning to me although it is often seen as the ‘Celtic New Year’. The period between Samhuinn and the Winter Solstice feels more like a ‘waiting’ time, or a time of rest before the new year begins, a kind of ‘time out of time’, a ‘between time’. It could then be understood as, ‘we rise in the darkness of the ‘between time’ to witness the birth of the new day/year.’

For the retreats and retreat days I began early on in my monastic practice I felt I needed a formal beginning and ending for these, although I called the beginning a ‘dedication’, and the ending a ‘closing’. Again, I kept these invocations simple:

Dedication:
‘I declare the opening of this retreat. I consecrate this retreat to the attainment of wisdom to be used for the good of all beings.’

Closing:
‘I give many thanks for this retreat and for all I have received. I declare the concluding of this retreat. May I retain the wisdom gained and use it for the good of all beings.’

I like the idea of a beginning and ending to retreat periods. Our retreat days (Days Out of Time) in the OSN have this written in to the special Offices for the Days Out of Time.

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For the idea of beginnings to one’s monastic work there are the monastic Vows. I may look at our OSN vows in a future post. At the beginning of my early monastic work I hadn’t thought about taking Vows. I did have a formal beginning of my monastic practice in May 1994, and I did renew my commitment to my Druid work each year on the anniversary of my entering the Bardic Grade in OBOD in February 1992.

Beginnings and endings feel as though they give some kind of definition and ‘shape’ to whatever it is they enclose. There is also a feeling of intent put forth with the beginnings, and of summing up and making sense of the event with the endings. I think it contributes to the idea of containment and of ‘order’ which is so important in monastic living.

Developing My Druid Prayer Beads (3)

This post follows on from the previous two and continues to look at the ways I developed to work with the set of Druid prayer beads I designed. This time I look at the ideas around using a similar, or the same, prayer on each of the smaller beads which are arranged in five sets of nine.

The use of the pendant was the same as before:

Druid Prayer Beads Words

This was then followed by the use of a short prayer on each of the nine small beads:

Meditation with Prayer Beads (2)(The drawing shows a set of seven small beads but I actually kept working with the set I had already made with nine small beads. The ‘May the world be filled with Peace and Love and Light’ is an example and was the one I used first and one I go back to very often.)

The sets of nine smaller beads could be used in a number of different ways. For example, a simple prayer repeated on each bead. E.g. ‘May there be peace throughout the whole world’.

Another idea is to say a line of the Druid Prayer on each bead, and repeat that for each set of nine beads. I use the following (slightly amended) version;

‘Grant, if it be thy will, O Great Shining Ones, thy Protection;
And in Protection, Strength;
And in Strength, Humility;
And in Humility, Understanding;
And in Understanding, Knowledge;
And in Knowledge, The Knowledge of Right Action;
And in the Knowledge of Right Action, the Love of it;
And in the Love of it, the Love of all Existences;
And in the Love of all Existences, the Love of the Gods and of all Goodness.

Any of the prayers from the previous post could be used on all of the small beads repeatedly. Some work well but some are a little bit long.  These would be fine if a longer period of prayer or meditation is wanted.

Another idea would be to develop a set of nine Triads to work with. I haven’t done this yet but it remains a possibility I am interested in.

As the ring of beads is arranged in five sets it is possible to work with the four directions and the centre, or the four Elements and Aether, or the four Mythical Cities and Tara, or the four Hallows and Wholeness.

It would also work with devotionals to five different deities; or five different types of devotionals to one particular deity; or the same short prayer repeated all the way round to one particular deity.

There are lots of possible ways of working with the circle part of the prayer-beads. I’m sure I’ll find others in time although I’ve found that keeping it simple seems to work the best for me from the point of view of prayer when working with the prayer beads.

The use of the pendant on the way out of the circle is the same as before (see above).

Druid Prayer Beads 2

Above are three more of the sets of Druid Prayer Beads I made from semi-precious stones. From the top: rose quartz, clear quartz, and amethyst.

Developing my Druid Prayer Beads (2)

Following on from the previous post, this post talks about a different use of a similar set of prayer beads but using various set prayers for each of the seven small beads between the sets of three larger ‘Awen’ beads.
The use of the pendant is the same:

Druid Prayer Beads Words

Once into the circle of the beads each of the seven small beads has a particular prayer associated with it:

Meditation with Prayer Beads (1)(Above is the page from my early breviary with the idea for the prayer sequence mapped out.)

All of these prayers were taken from the studies I was doing with OBOD at the time, although I did alter some small bits of wording on some of them.
Illumination of Lights (version 1)
The Illumination of Lights,
The Illumination of Seasons,
The Illumination of days and of nights,
The Illumination of the Elements.
May light be kindled in the hearts of all.
May my light be lifted to the Greater Light.

I am One with the Light….
I am One with the Light,
Sustained by the Light,
Made by the Light,
Born of the Light,
Filled with the Light,
Made whole by the Light,
Healed by the Light,
Changed by the Light,
Fed by the Light,
One with the Light.

Universal Majesty…..
Universal Majesty, Verity, and Love Infinite;
All reverence to the Holy One, the World-Enlightener;
All reverence to the Holy, the Pure, the Liberating Doctrine;
All reverence to the fellowship of the elect, and to all that is noblest and best in humankind.

The Druid Prayer
Grant, if it be thy will, O Great Shining Ones, thy Protection;
And in Protection, Strength;
And in Strength, Humility;
And in Humility, Understanding;
And in Understanding, Knowledge;
And in Knowledge, the Knowledge of Right Action;
And in the Knowledge of Right Action, the Love of it;
And in the Love of it, the Love of All Existences;
And in the Love of All Existences, the Love of the Gods and of all Goodness.
So may it be.

May the World be filled……..
May the world be filled with Peace and Joy, Purity and Love, Light and Life.

I swear by Peace and Love to stand….
I swear by Peace and Love to stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand.
Mark, O Spirit, and hear me now
Confirming this, my sacred vow.

(I had a slightly altered version of this for working alone, as the original is something which was said at the end of a ceremony. The altered version is given below:)

I swear by Peace and Love to stand
In heartfelt link and hold of hand.
Mark, O Spirit and hear me now
Confirming this, my sacred vow.

Illumination of Lights (version 2)
The Illumination of Lights;
The Illumination of Seasons;
The Illumination of Days and of Nights;
The Illumination of the Elements.
May Light be kindled in the hearts of all.
My Light made one with the Greater Light.
I didn’t actually make a different set of prayer beads with seven small beads but used the set with the nine small beads and added the ‘May the world be filled with Peace and Joy, Purity and Love, Light and Life’, on the first bead of each set of nine and also on the last bead of each set of nine. This worked very well. All of the prayers were ones which I knew well so I would just have the above page in my breviary open so that I could remember the order.

Using these prayers was a bit more challenging than simply repeating the same short prayer on each of the small beads so that trance-like state that can sometimes be achieved when praying repeating prayers with prayer beads was less likely to occur.

Some of the prayers seem a bit ‘dated’ now, or use terms which probably wouldn’t be used much today in modern Druid work. Particularly I am thinking of the ‘Universal Majesty, Verity and Love Infinite’ one. It was used in many of OBOD’s ‘old’ seasonal ceremonies, and I think it comes from, or is influenced by, what could be called the Perennial Wisdom tradition. It shows the three-fold structure that is also found in Buddhism as ‘Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha’: the enlightened one, the wisdom being brought, and the community who gather round that wisdom. To some extent this structure can still loosely hold for Druidry today but I don’t use this particular prayer myself at the present time.

Developing My Druid Prayer Beads (1)

Over the years of my Druid practice I have often felt an interest in using prayer-beads as part of my monastic prayer work. I looked into the use of the Catholic Rosary, the Buddhist Mala, the Anglican Rosary, the Ceile De Paidirean, and a whole variety of different (mostly Catholic) chaplets. The idea of having something physical to work with during prayer and meditation appealed to me partly because it would bring an involvement with the physical world rather than just simply being mostly an internal, mental process, and partly too because it felt like a grounding influence and something to simply be able to ‘hang on to’ at very difficult times.

All of the various sets of prayer-beads I studied did, of course, have very close and relevant links with the traditions in which they were used, although the Buddhist Mala and the Ceile De Paidirean could be used for meditation involving simply counting breaths, or for short repeated prayers. Given that the various forms of prayer-beads were generally suited and relevant to their specific traditions, I set about thinking what a set of Druidic prayer-beads could look like. I made a few sets over the years and developed different prayers and sequences of prayers to use with them.

This is the arrangement I settled upon:

Druid Prayer Beads

These are two sets of the same idea, just using different materials and different sized beads. The green set at the top of the picture is made using aventurine, and the lower set is made using haematite. I decided to use semi-precious stones because I was studying for a crystal-healing diploma at the time.

The basic structure of the Druid prayer-beads is five sets of nine small beads separated by four sets of three larger beads. The five represented the five points of the pentagram (a symbol of the OBOD Ovate Grade which I was studying at the time); the nine represented a connection to the Goddesses as well as being a multiplication of the number three which is a particularly sacred number for Druids; the four represented the four Elements.

The pendant part of the prayer-beads also makes use of the sacred number three, with three larger beads and three smaller beads; as well as a single larger bead, and circular/donut-shape at the end. I chose the donut/circle for the symbol at the end of the pendant (where a Christian rosary would have a cross) because the circle seemed to me to be such a powerful and central symbol for Druidry. I generally aimed to have the donut made out of the same stone as the rest of the set but I couldn’t find one for the haematite set. This was the first set I made and it was back in the 1990’s when the internet wasn’t so readily available. The donut I used for the haematite set is made of black ceramic and it was the same as the pendant I wore as part of my early monastic habit so it had a special connection even if it didn’t match the rest of the beads. The bead which joins the pendant to the circle (called a ‘Guru bead’ on a Mala) is a small flat silver bead with something like a labyrinth pattern on it.

The pendant starts with the circle/donut and this is the beginning of the sequence. It has no particular prayers attached to it, just the idea of calming and collecting oneself at a point of peace. The next part of the pendant uses lines from the ‘old’ OBOD noon ceremony for Alban Hefin (the Summer Solstice) which I had worked with for some years by that time;

single large bead; ‘The One spoke…….’
first small bead; ‘and the Three came forth.’
second small bead; ‘Thus declared the Ancients.’
third small bead; ‘And the Three lead us on to the Many.’

three large beads; sound the ‘Awen’ on each bead.

Druid Prayer Beads Words

(Above is the page from my early breviary which has a representation of the use of the pendant. The top part is the pendant on the way into the circle of the beads; the bottom part is the same pendant (using different words) on the way out of the prayer-bead circle.)

the joining bead; simply another chance to collect oneself and centre, with the feeling of passing through a ‘gateway’ in to the circle.

The circle of beads is quite flexible to work with. The sets of three large beads are used to sound an ‘Awen’, (one on each large bead) when they come around, but I didn’t have any one specific thing in mind for the sets of nine smaller beads. Instead, I used these in a number of different ways, for example;

simply using each bead to count a breath;

praying one line of the Druid Prayer per bead:
‘Grant, if it be thy will, O Great Shining Ones, thy Protection.
And in Protection, Strength.
And in Strength, Humility.
And in Humility, Understanding.
And in Understanding, Knowledge.
And in Knowledge, the Knowledge of Right Action.
And in the Knowledge of Right Action, the Love of it.
And in the Love of it, the Love of all existences.
And in the Love of all existences, the Love of the Gods and of all Goodness.’

A simple prayer such as ‘May there be Peace throughout the whole world’, could be said on each smaller bead. Another possibility would be, ‘May the world be filled with Peace and Love and Light.’

A deity name could be repeated on each of the nine smaller beads too, or any simple prayers I felt were suitable at the time.

After the journey round the circle of the set of prayer-beads we arrive back at the silver labyrinth bead and this is again an opportunity to centre and collect oneself getting ready to leave the circle.

On the way down the pendant there are a set of three larger beads, again used to sound three ‘Awens’.

The three small beads have slightly different words on the way back, but these were also taken from the same ceremony, the ‘old’ OBOD Alban Hefin Ceremony for Noon;

first small bead; ‘And the Many……’
second small bead; ‘lead us back……’
third small bead; ‘to the Three……’
large bead; ‘and to the One.’
donut/ceramic circle; ‘Thus shall it ever be.’

At the end of the sequence I usually simply hold the donut/ceramic circle or the whole set of prayer-beads in my hands for a few moments to feel centred and at peace.

I will look at some other ways of working with the set in future posts, as well as some other sets of prayer beads I put together for specific uses and occasions.

Retreats and Ceremonies

During these years I decided to look at the possibility of adding regular retreat periods to my monastic practice. After some thought, the most obvious periodic marker throughout the year was the Dark (New) Moon. I began to observe ‘silent days’ on the days of the Dark Moon. I tried to keep these days as clear of other commitments as possible. This has continued with our ‘Days Out of Time’ in the OSN monastic practice.

Later on I decided to do quarterly weekend retreats (Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon) in addition to the ‘silent days’, and I went to the Krishnamurti Centre at Brockwood Park, Bramdean, in Hampshire. This was within reasonably easy travelling distance (about three hours door to door), and a fairly simple journey (Tube to Waterloo, train to Petersfield, taxi to the Centre). I had been to a couple of the Centre’s ‘Theme Weekends’, which were very good but the Centre is set in such beautiful countryside that I found I wanted to be outside in that lovely countryside rather than inside following a set programme. The Krishnamurti Centre does offer accommodation at other times as well as when they are running particular activities so people can go and do their own personal retreat and study work, and that is what I decided to do. I went usually about a fortnight before each cross-quarter festival (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhuinn) although the Imbolc visit was in the first week of February because the Centre was closed each January. During each retreat I would study the material for the relevant festival and have lots of time to walk the land and spend time out in nature. It was lovely to see the landscape change through the seasons each year.

The practice of keeping silence began to play a larger part in my monastic work after some years and I began observing the ‘Great Silence’ each night, from the end of the Late-Evening Observance until the end of the Dawn Observance (except for speech during the Observances themselves). This included no longer using audio books to help me go to sleep or having any other use of manufactured sound such as music CDs or radio (I don’t have a TV). I didn’t start using the internet until 2004, and that was only about fortnightly at a local internet cafe, so it was easy to avoid using the internet at that time during my silent/retreat days and the Great Silence each night. I bought a laptop in 2006 and still didn’t use the internet during my silent/retreat days or the Great Silence each night, although the temptation was greater!

As the year turned I was, of course, celebrating the eight seasonal festivals. The seasonal ceremonies I used were slightly adapted forms of the OBOD solo seasonal ceremonies. These had evolved over time from the ‘old’ ceremonies, to the ‘alternative’ (and simpler) ceremonies, to the ‘new’ ceremonies which each had a solo and group version. I tried to keep these festival days as clear of other commitments as possible. In line with the idea of the various festivals being linked to particular times of day I began doing the festival ceremonies actually at that particular time; Winter Solstice-Midnight, Imbolc-3am, Spring Equinox-Dawn, Beltane-9am (10am BST), Summer Solstice-Midday (1am BST), Lughnasadh-3pm (4pm BST), Autumn Equinox-Dusk, Samhuinn-9pm. This certainly added an extra depth to the ceremonies although Imbolc and the Spring Equinox could certainly be a bit of a challenge! It was quite powerful though to begin the Spring Equinox ceremony in darkness and for the sun to be rising during the ceremony itself, and vice versa with the Autumn Equinox ceremony.

For each of the Solstices I began to do an all-night vigil. The idea of this had come from my OBOD ceremonial work which suggests an all-night vigil for the Summer Solstice. I had been doing that for some years before I added an all-night vigil for the Winter Solstice too. This is very long here in the UK – from just before 4pm until around 8am the next morning! Having the Winter Solstice ceremony at Midnight certainly breaks it up a little. For the all-night Solstice vigils I had a short ceremony to begin the vigil (usually added to the end of the Dusk Observance), and a short ceremony to mark the end of the vigil (just before the beginning of the Dawn Observance).

During the all-night vigils I have tended to relax the Great Silence and listen to recordings of traditional stories such as the ‘Mabinogion’. For the Imbolc ceremony I listened to and read through a recording of ‘An Office for Saint Brigit’ (sung by the group Canty) straight after the Midnight Observance, did some Brigid-themed chants, had a rest and a hot drink (it could be getting quite chilly by that time), and then got ready for the ceremony itself. This timing turned out to be quite fortuitous on a couple of occasions when there was a light snowfall during the ceremony. On looking out after I had finished the ceremony there was a snow-covering looking as though the Goddess had spread her cloak on the land in blessing. The light snow-covering was gone by morning, melted into the ground to nourish the beginnings of the Spring growth.

During this time in developing my monastic practice I was doing a few different things to mark the phases of the Moon; the short greeting-type salutation at the appropriate time in the little Observances, the silent days on the Dark Moon, and something called the ‘Circle of Light’ meditation at the Full Moon. The ‘Circle of Light’ meditation was something that OBOD started to do in the 1990’s. Below are some of the directions/suggestions given in OBOD Newsletters:

‘….spend a few moments to align with each other, to the Spirit of the Order, to the Universe, and consciously work for the creation of right relations on all levels, throughout all realms of existence, creating it within ourselves and radiating it into the world.’        (1994)

‘…spend a few minutes at these times to align with each other, to the Spirit of the Order, and its members around the world, to the many forms of existence on this planet, and then become consciously aware of our common purpose ……. seeing it as a light within yourselves before sending it radiating out into the world, creating a beautiful glowing ball of light around the Earth.
‘Having meditated …. take the energy and love that you have created within yourselves out into your lives and let it manifest there.’             (1997)

I tended to use some form of chant with the ‘Circle of Light’ meditation; something like, ‘Circle of Light around the Earth, renewing, protecting, healing.’ I didn’t use the same words at the end of the chant each time, it depended on what came up or felt most helpful at the time.

These practices set a pattern for working with the phases of the Moon which largely continued for me, with some alterations, when I began to work with the OSN.

Developing a Breviary

Within a short while of beginning my Druid monastic practice I began to think about having the prayers etc. in some sort of book. I tended to think of this as a ‘breviary’ as I was familiar with the Christian use of the word to describe a book containing prayers, hymns, psalms, readings, etc. which were used for the Daily Offices.

The word ‘breviary’ comes from Late Middle English, by way of the Latin ‘breviarium’ (meaning ‘summary’ or ‘abridgement’), ‘breviare’ (meaning ‘abridge’), and ‘brevis’ (meaning ‘short’ or ‘brief’). The breviary is seen to hold the summary of the daily practice. The word seemed suitable for me to use because my daily practice, being based on the wheel of the day, the wheel of the year and the wheel of life, did feel like a ‘summary’ of the cyclical nature of Druid practice, and I didn’t have any idea of a more ‘Druidic’ word to use instead.

After looking around for a suitable notebook for a while I decided to use a small folder for a breviary containing my daily Observances. This meant that I could add or remove things without the breviary ending up looking a mess with crossings-out and extra things sellotaped in. The breviary was useful not only at home but also when I had to be away from home during the day. I could quietly pray the Observances anywhere I was at the time; on trains, buses, in parks, even in busy city squares. This felt good in many ways in that I felt I was taking my prayers out into the city. I would try and arrange to find a suitable place at the relevant times to simply stop and unobtrusively pray the Observances. It did of course require me to plan ahead but I found many little green places which were very suitable. It wasn’t always ideal but a certain amount of pragmatism is needed. I frequently had to pray the Observances on railway station platforms, or crowded trains and buses. Again, not ideal but better than missing the regular prayer times altogether.

Early Breviary 3
Above:  This is a picture of the folder I used the longest. I bought it in a charity shop and I liked that it had a strap to keep it closed when not in use. I did have an earlier, smaller folder which I used but it didn’t hold so many pages and I ‘outgrew’ it as I added more to the Observances.

Early Breviary 2

Above: The breviary open at the 9pm or Late-Evening Observance, showing the ‘Thanksgiving’ and ‘Intercessions’.

Early Breviary 5

Above: The breviary open at a page showing instructions for use of a set of prayer-beads I developed at that time (I’ll write about those in a future post).

Early Breviary 4

Above: The breviary open at the beginning of the Dusk Observance. I added a suitable picture at the beginning of each Observance.  The mark/smudge on the top right-hand  corner is the result of my turning the pages over many years.  Christian monastics avoid this happening by having a small piece of folded paper or card, sometimes decorated with a sacred picture, which they slip over the top of each page when they turn it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about that at the time.

For this early breviary I used small folders (like FiloFax folders). There is paper as well as index tabs designed to fit these types of folders but I bought a hole-punch which could make holes in the right places to fit the folders when I added pictures to the breviary. I added a picture at the beginning of each Observance, and also had pictures at the front of the breviary. The index tabs were useful as I added sections on the Druid prayer-beads I had made, inspiring texts I had come across in reading or in the OBOD material, and meditations for use during the seasonal ceremonies. The text was typed using an old-fashioned manual typewriter but it is probably possible to print such things if you’re more adept at using technology than I am!

Fine-Tuning the Observances

A few extra items did get added to various Observances over time, such as, a ‘Daily Dedication’, and a prayer giving thanks and asking for blessings on the coming day were added to the Midnight Observance as I saw that as the beginning of the daily round. ‘Greetings to the Moon’ at the appropriate time in its phases were added to the little Observances (Waxing Quarter – Early Morning Observance, Full Moon – Late Morning Observance, Waning Quarter – Afternoon Observance, Dark Moon – Late Evening Observance) as I saw the little Observances as perhaps more ‘moon-focussed’ than the main Observances which I saw as more ‘sun-focussed’. I used a prayer called ‘The Illumination of Lights’ at the Early-Morning Observance instead of the Druid Prayer which I had just said at the beginning of the Midnight Observance. I also added a prayer called ‘The Blessing of Beginnings’ to the Early-Morning Observance. At the end of the Dawn Observance I added a reading of the ‘Desiderata’ (‘Go placidly amidst the noise and haste….’) as I felt that set a good tone for facing the day and its coming challenges. To the Late-Evening Observance I added a prayer of thanksgiving, intercessions for the various realms of Creation (although this was later replaced with intercessions for the ancestors and all those in the Otherworlds, and the intercessions for the various realms of Creation moved to the main Observances), a daily review, a wishing of peace to the Ancestors, the Druid Peace Prayer (‘Deep within the still centre of my being may I find Peace…….’), and a prayer as preparation for sleep.

The idea of using a Daily Dedication, and a Daily Review were both directly from the Druid studies I was doing.

As a Daily Dedication I used, and still use:
‘O Great Shining Ones, may my every action today be performed in your service.’

‘The Illumination of Lights’ prayer comes from the OBOD study course and is as follows;

‘The Illumination of Lights,
The Illumination of Seasons,
The Illumination of Days and of Nights,
The Illumination of the Elements.
May Light be kindled in the hearts of all.
May my Light be lifted to the Greater Light.’

‘The Blessing of Beginnings’ prayer is a slight adaptation of a poem from one of the OBOD study course lessons (gwersu). It is addressed to all young creatures and is as follows:

‘Deep Peace, pure white of the Moon to you.
Deep Peace, pure blue of the Sky to you.
Deep Peace, pure brown of the Earth to you.
Deep Peace, crystal clear of the rain to you.
Deep Peace of the running wave to you.
Deep Peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep Peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep Peace of the quiet Earth to you.’

The ‘Greetings to the Moon’ prayer is an adaptation of something I read in one of Dion Fortune’s works, so was part of the wider Western Mystery Tradition even though not specifically Druidic. The version I use is as follows:

‘At this time of your Waxing (/Fullness/Waning/Darkness) I greet you, O Moon.
You are that soundless, boundless, bitter sea.
All tides are thine and answer unto thee.
Tides of the air, tides of the inner Earth,
The secret, silent tides of death and birth,
The tides of souls and dreams and destiny,
All these are thine and answer unto thee.’

The ‘Desiderata’ (‘Go placidly amid the noise and haste…..’) was written in the 1920’s by an American lawyer called Max Ehrmann and doesn’t have any particular connection with anything Druidic at all. I used it in the Dawn Observance simply because I felt it set a hopeful tone for facing the challenges of the coming day. I still think that is the case but I didn’t continue to use it when I started to work with the OSN Daily Offices.

I did add things like a more formal beginning to each Observance using a grounding and centering idea, and a more formal ending of each Observance by blowing out the shrine candle and repeating ‘May the world be filled with peace and love and light’ three times. These were all taken from the Druid work I was doing and the ceremonial forms I was using at the time. I felt it was important to be faithful to that and not simply to add other things from other traditions.

This was the structure of my eight-fold daily Observances until mid way through 2010 when I began to work with the OSN, which has its own set of four Daily Offices.

In the next few posts I will look at other aspects of my monastic practice at that time; making a breviary, the construction and use of a set of prayer-beads,seasonal retreats and retreat days, and some other ideas I used for a while but discontinued.

My Summer Daily Round and Spoken Prayers for all the Observances

In the previous post I put a plan of my Winter Daily Round (GMT), so below is a plan of my Summer Daily Round which I use during British Summer Time (BST) which is GMT +1 hour. ‘Winter’ is roughly from the end of October to the end of March; ‘Summer’ from the end of March to the end of October. These are the times of the clock-change in the UK.

Daily Round Summer
Summer Daily Round

(All times BST)
1am – Midnight followed immediately with
Early Morning Observance then
Sleep until
Dawn Observance (moveable between 4.30 -7.30)
(Any extra time before breakfast can be used for sleep or reading)
7am – Breakfast (later if the Dawn Observance is later.)
Up to 10am – Work period
10am – Late Morning Observance.
10.15 – 11am – Study period
11am – 1pm – Work period
1pm – Midday Observance
1.30pm – Midday Meal
2pm – 4pm – Rest/Sleep
4pm – Afternoon Observance
4.15 – 5pm – Study/Reading period
5 – 6.30pm – Work period/Online stuff
6.30pm – Evening Meal
Dusk Observance (moveable between 7pm – 9pm)
Evening (up to 10pm) – Study/Reading/Music Practice
10pm – Late Evening Observance
10.30pm – Personal Night Prayers
11pm – 1am – Sleep

One element I haven’t mentioned was a twice daily ‘Gorsedd’; after breakfast, and after the evening meal. The morning gorsedd was to look at the various tasks for the day, the evening gorsedd was to look at what had been done and what needed to be added to the tasks for the next day or at some point in the future. The use of the actual word ‘Gorsedd’, which means ‘gathering’ does seem slightly comical as there was only me there! I used it as the best Druidic substitute I could come up with at the time for a daily monastic ‘Chapter’. Those meetings were called ‘Chapters’ because the Benedictine monks read a chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict together as well as organising their daily tasks, which I clearly wasn’t going to do, so I couldn’t really call what I was doing ‘Chapter’, even if it did have some of the same functions.

The next development was in the spoken prayers for each Observance. For the four main Observances I focussed on the realms of creation (mineral, plant, animal, human), for the little Observances I focussed on the yearly cycle and the life-stages. So for the Midnight Observance I had a prayer for the mineral kingdom; for the Early-Morning Observance the prayer was for all young creatures; for the Dawn Observance the prayer was for the human kingdom; for the Late-Morning Observance the prayer was for all lovers; for the Midday Observance the prayer was for the animal kingdom; for the Afternoon Observance the prayer was for harvest and for family; for the Dusk Observance the prayer was for the plant kingdom; and for the Late-Evening Observance the prayer was for all those approaching and crossing the threshold from one life to the next. Again, all these attributions came from what I was learning in my Druid studies.

An example of the prayers for the realms of creation is this one for the Mineral kingdom used during the Midnight Observance:

‘O Great Shining Ones, I give you great thanks for the rich beauty and variety of the minerals upon this planet, and I ask for your protection and guardianship on the mineral kingdom.
Please bring awakening, I pray you, to the minds of humankind so that we might come to see and appreciate the true worth and value of this precious kingdom and to stop exploiting and destroying it, and instead, work to preserve and protect it.
Please help us to use wisely the gifts the minerals can bring.
So may it be.’

The prayers for the other realms of creation were very similar.

An example of the prayers for the life stages is this one from the Afternoon Observance; ‘For harvest and for family’

‘O Great Shining Ones, I give you great thanks for the rich blessings of harvest and of family and I ask for your protection and guardianship on all harvests and on all families.
I pray for your help in guiding all people to the achievement of right relations towards each other and all things, so that all may live and grow fully, freely, and wholly.
We are all part of the great family of Creation and we all rely on harvest. Help us to remember this and never to forget it.
So may it be.’

This, then, was the basic structure for my daily Observances;
The main Observances had; opening invocation, Peace to the Quarters; Druid Prayer; list of correspondences; prayer for the Elemental kingdom; period of silent meditation.

The little Observances had; ‘May there be Peace throughout the whole world’; Druid Prayer; list of correspondences; specific activity.

Moving with Dawn and Dusk

After some years of working with my eight-fold daily observance pattern I did begin to feel that I should be doing the Dawn Observances actually at Dawn and the Dusk Observances at Dusk, (I wonder now that it took me so long to notice this discrepancy!) so this would mean a shifting timetable as I live in the UK and there is quite a big variation in the times of Dawn and Dusk throughout the year. In practice this developed into alternating periods of ‘Solsticial Stability’ (around the times of the Solstices) and ‘Equinoctial Change’ (around the times of the Equinoxes). During the times of ‘Solsticial Stability’ the daily timetable was fixed, but during the times of ‘Equinoctial Change’ the times of the Dawn and Dusk Observances were changing week by week. I kept the changes in the Observance times to half-hour changes so that it didn’t get horrendously complicated. There were certainly times I wished I lived nearer to the Equator but was glad I didn’t live within either the Arctic or Antarctic Circles!

yearly round2

My Basic Yearly Plan

 

There was the added complication of the clock-change between Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time to consider. To continue to do the Midday Observance at 12pm once we had moved into British Summer Time was not really quite accurate, so that would have to be moved to 1pm and the Midnight Observance to 1am during the part of the year when we were in British Summer Time. So I then had a Winter Daily Round and a Summer Daily Round (as I came to call my daily timetables).

Daily Round Winter

My Winter Daily Round

 12am-1am: Midnight Observance
1am-1.30am: Early Morning Observance
1.30am-6am: Sleep
(Dawn Observance moved through the Winter between 6.30am and 9am and was fitted in at the correct time.)
Following Dawn Observance: Breakfast
8am-9am: Cleaning/Work
9am-10am: Late Morning Observance followed by study/reading
10am-12pm: Work/Cleaning
12pm-12.30pm: Midday Observance
12.30pm-1pm: Midday Meal
1pm-3pm: Work
3pm-4pm: Afternoon Observance followed by study/reading
(Dusk Observance moved through the Winter between 3.30pm and 6pm and was fitted in at the correct time.)
4pm-5pm: Work
7pm-9pm: Recreation/Reading/Craftwork/Music practice
9pm-9.30pm: Late Evening Observance
9.30pm: Personal Night Prayers
10pm-12am: Sleep

(The pictures are of the actual diagrams, which are just laminated paper, that I have used ever since. There have been some revisions and alterations along the way. It’s a bit ‘rough and ready’ and ‘make-do-and-mend’ but they work fine in the absence of anything more slick-looking. Also they date from the 1990’s and early 2000’s which was before I owned a computer.)

With this eight-fold Observance plan I had my basic structure for the times of prayer in the Daily Round. The parts of it that moved at times throughout the year were the times of the Dawn and Dusk Observances. The rest of it was relatively stable. What I did during the Observances did continue to slowly develop over time.

Expanding the Introductions

As I continued working with the daily Observances I began to add to the spoken words used. I tended to draw inspiration from the OBOD Druid ceremonies which I was working with seasonally. For example, at the beginning of the Midnight Observance I began to use the opening;

‘Facing the place of the starry night sky, of midnight, of Alban Arthuan, of winter, I greet the spirits of the North and of the Element Earth. Dear Spirits, I send you my love and greetings and ask that my Intuition might shine within my Spirit.’

This was followed by a short visualisation connecting with the Element Earth, visualising the Pole-Star rising high above in the night sky, and feeling strongly connected to my intuition. Similar openings were used for the other main Observances, (Dawn, Midday and Dusk) with variations depending on the time of day, direction, Element, etc. and different visualisations. These were all based on the work I was doing with the Elements and festivals in the OBOD course.

I didn’t add these more formal openings to the ‘little’ Observances.

The structure of the Observances as I developed them relied a lot on the structure of the various ceremonies I was working with in my OBOD work, both seasonal ceremonies and the ceremonies which came up as I worked through the Grades. One very important feature of just about all of these was ‘Giving Peace to the Quarters’, and it wasn’t long before I added this to the four main daily Observances. I gave Peace to each of the quarters, North, South, West, East, followed by a ‘May there be Peace throughout the whole world’ facing the relevant direction. For the ‘little’ Observances I simply had ‘May there be Peace throughout the whole world’ facing the relevant direction. After this I added the Druid Prayer for all the Observances as this was also an important feature of the OBOD ceremonial work I was doing. I continued to use the lists of ‘Correspondences’ for each Observance and these were read following the Druid Prayer

The version of the Druid Prayer which I use is as follows:

Grant, if it be thy will, O Great Shining Ones, thy Protection;
And in Protection, Strength;
And in Strength, Humility;
And in Humility, Understanding;
And in Understanding, Knowledge;
And in Knowledge, the Knowledge of Right Action;
And in the Knowledge of Right Action, the Love of it;
And in the Love of it, the Love of all existences;
And in the Love of all existences, the Love of the Gods and of all Goodness.
So May It Be.