For example, did the Roman's value Nature? With their cities, conquests of other cultures, and belief to be the descendents of Greeks would lead me to think otherwise. I see them to be quite "Urban", as far as pagan cultures go.
I seek a pagan practice that is effective, experiential and resonates with me culturally. I do feel that being historically accurate is something that is important to me. ADF's liturgy is very humbling before the Gods, Land and Ancestors. I've had to change my thinking about ADF ritual, to learn not only to speak the words but feel them - to feel the gates open, to build that tunnelling connection spiraling upwards and downwards to the other realms.
I find myself concerned with how farmers within more remote regions around Rome would have practiced their religion. Surely they didn't travel into the city to go to temple. I was reminissing upon a custom of my Grandmother, an immigrant from Italy. Throughout November she'd keep a candle lit in memory of the dead, i defunti - she'd lay out photos of all those she'd known who'd passed away. I wondered about these traditions, steeped in Roman-Catholic customs but uniquely Italian. Many of these "superstitions" can translate remarkably well into neo-paganism.
My family, they were farmers. I feel like I'm denying myself of something essential while using The Pillar instead of The Tree, even though it's brilliant in regards to Rome. It feels wrong that the Gatekeeper should open the gates so I might speak through them, pass offering through them, without myself passing through to experience those mysteries. (Perhaps this sort of shamanistic approach is something taught to ADF Clergy?)
I have been exploring writings about Northern European Cunning Craft, of which my favourites would largely be considered "unverified personal gnosis". This UPG, however, contains symbols, concepts, and methods that are quite relatable to ADF's liturgy, which I find strikingly odd and inspiring. I've also been looking into Italian Folk Magic called Benedicaria or Stregoneria (not to be confused with Grimassi's "Stregheria"), customs and superstitions that have become intertwined with Roman Catholicism. I propose that they are customs that have evolved from something much older, the result of assimilation into Christianity.
Here are some links that I'm drawing from right now. With some more work, I intend to write something more definitive and descriptive soon.
Imbolc has always been a special time to me, as it's Patron Goddess has always been an inrtiguing force to me. Brighid is a very complex, a figure whom I have great repect for. Unfortunately, because of my experience in multiple pagan pathes, I feel like my opinion of this High Day, of how it should be celebrated, is at odds with many other pagans.
A Wiccan Approach to Imbolc
Wicca has it's own cosmology that runs through the wheel of the year - times of peaked strength for the God and the Goddess. EachSabbat (High Day) represents a different point in their growth as well as in their relationship.
Brighid is this maiden, who is to become The Bride. Traditions include making crafts from straw, Brighid's crosses, corn dollies. Rites of cleansing and purification are performed, putting out and re-lighting the hearth fire, and placing the besom (sacred broom) buy the door to represent the sweeping out the old and stagnant from the home.
This is a time, to Wiccans, reserved for the Virgin Maiden. The myth of the return of Persephone might be considered to conform this. (1)
ADF's Approach to Imbolc
In it's celebration of Imbolc, ADF attempts to be very traditional and historically accurate. They also see Imbolc as a time of purification and share many customs with Wicca in the emphasis sweeping as purifying, rites connected to promoting growth and fertility.Imbolc was the time when animals began to lactate.
Personal Approach to Brighid and Imbolc
Brigid plays three roles - Healer, Poet and Smith.* She is a Goddess with both bright and dark aspects, the latter I feel are often not acknowledged.
I cannot picture Brighid in my mind as a maiden, as the “bride.” This is the Goddess who shed the first tears of Ireland, mourning the loss of her son. *(Reference) As Poet, She creates. As Smith, she destroys and re-creates. As Healer, she nurtures. Through and through, to me, she is The Mother and this therefore creates a conflict between my beliefs and those of many other Neo-Pagans.
For Imbolc, I do not celebrate the beginnings of spring . In my region, February happens to be the dreariest, coldest month of year. We are tired, tense, and impatient.Imbolc has become to me a rite of purification and initiation - a time for beginnings. My rituals center around the cleansing and purifying the home (both mundanely and spiritually) and the self, by use of fire, incense, smudging and steam. I purify andsonsecrate new candles. I reconnect with other tools I use.
I then follow this by asking that my home and hearth be blessed, requests for inspiration, to nurture creativity in me. I enjoy leaving baked goods toBrighid, spices, Cinnamon Schnapps.
And then, I look forward to spring. I enjoy the anticipation, I pray that the struggle of winter storms, slushy streets and endless sniffles will come to an end.
My ADF Approach
Within ADF, I'm working with a Etruscan/Roman hearth culture and so at this time of year I honour Februus. The ADF website refers to Menlis Februarius, his sacred festival which would involve acts of purification as well as offerings to the dead. February was the last month of the year.
This coming February will be my first rite of this kind. As Februus is a God of the Underworld, I plan to work with salt and stones throughout the ritual.
I have worked with Him before and intend to make thanks for that working.
I also intend to explore his role within the Dii Inferni - the ADF pages suggest they could be considered as 'Outdwellers'. I currently disagree - their not 'Shining Ones', Bright Gods and Goddesses, but powerful deities they are, serving the roles they are meant to.
(1) I would disagree , as I believe that Persephone could no longer be considered pure of mind not innocent of body in her emergence from the underworld.
(2) A favourite author of mine, Arin Murphy-Hiscock, aligned these functions with life stages. The Healer represented her maiden aspect, perhaps referencing the purity and good intentions of youth. The Poet represents the mother aspect, she who created. Finally, with it’s dark elements, the Smith represents the crone, she who ends, transforms, creates something new. While I disagree that a youth best represents a healer, I do find this to be an interesting organisation ofBrighid’s attributes within the context of Wicca. I do disagree, however, feeling that they are all aspects of The Mother. I typically feel that the 'Maiden, Mother and Crone' structure isromanticization and unique to Wicca. To me it holds value only in relation to the relationship between Persephone, Demeter and Hecate.