Druidry - The Hunter Ally

Guardian of the Seven Sisters
by Laura Smith-Riva
Owl is a most beneficent hunter ally. She watches, her eyes receiving even the faintest of light. She listens, her tufted ears cock towards the faintest of sound. She sits calmly and waits, her head swiveling silently. And then with all the precision of a ruthless hunter, she glides on silent wings and pierces her prey with powerful talons. She consumes the smallest prey whole. Large prey is torn to pieces and consumed in smaller chunks.

And so it is with the work of hunting down all that blocks me or is no longer useful or needed on my spiritual journey. Small changes are integrated more easily. Larger shifts require smaller bites, time to process. Perhaps a bit of the prey is stashed in a tree hollow or some marsh grass to be returned to later.

In Druidry, the hunter ally is first invited in during the Ovate grade - a time of deep reflection in which the student begins to see and acknowledge those parts which are out of balance, bloated or diminished. We hunt for the energies which feed off our fears and siphon our magic, our possibility, our power - all that impedes us on our journey.

My hunter ally came as Owl. She is the perfect response to my sun sign leonine qualities. She teaches me to become a warrior, but not the warrior that is familiar to me who lives within the more yang qualities of reason and logic, the extroverted problem solver, an action oriented doer in all forms. Owl, as a supplicant to the darkness, thrives on the stillness, the silence, contemplation. The moon is her companion and as such the yin qualities of receptivity, deep intuition, and the watery depths of feeling and emotion are her offerings. And yet, she is a fierce hunter, moving through the nocturnal landscape with stealth and surety.


The Ancient

"Calm" by Niki Katiki (nikifineart.com)

The dream:

I am a youth with B (a man in my life who is a trusted father figure, mentor). He is on his boat and I am on my own, a small little disc shaped boat which is tethered to his. We are exploring out on the ocean and he is navigating us through the water. My small craft is so low on the water that my little body is floating in the water but yet I still feel safe, connected. I look up and he is at the helm of his boat  which from this angle looks a bit unstable like mine. He is looking back at me and tells me to stay close to him. We pass over some ledge just below the surface and I ask him about it. He tells me it’s call The Ancient and I run my hand over its smooth dark surface. 

This dream for me holds a moment of presence. There is no particular destination that I am aware of, though perhaps the dream imago of the guiding father knows where we are to go. He tells me to be attentive to him, to stay in connection. I am the child, curious, connected to my father, in his care and protection, present to a moment. The dream offers the gesture of stroking my hand across the smooth black stone, The Ancient, to remind me of this presence. Slowing down, sensual touch, innocence. 

The stone is a threshold between the above and below, reminding me of the depths and what lies below the surface and also what arises from the depths with the waxing and waning of the tides of life. Ancient and deeply rooted. Terra Firma at one with the waves.  Mariners, from all times, have navigated the shoals of life just as my navigator guides me. He guides me close enough to touch the smooth surface of The Ancient, perhaps a mountain top at the threshold, as am I.

The Green, Dreaming of Me


❂  The Green, Dreaming of Me  

I was not drawn so much to the darkness as to the crucible,

To wrap myself in crisp white muslin, to enter the desert, the burning sun, 

To walk the serpent’s path to the beating heart at the center of it all. 

Blue eyes fading into red corporeal dusk,

Pain kidnaps blackened feet,

One in front of the other, a trod well worn, both flower and thorn. 

Each cairn a hope, a wish, a prayer, a promise. 

Where is my oasis? 

Thirst licks tear, dust meets knee,

A cry to heaven…

A holy vision - the green, dreaming of me. 

Death Valley, 2018 Earth Wander

Druidry - Assumption, Sonnet to Li Ban

Assumption Ceremony. An assumption ceremony in the tradition of the Green Mountain Druid School training is the culmination of three years of training and involves journeying to meet a God or Goddess from any pantheon who steps forward to be assumed. Preparation involves spending time in contemplation, ceremony and synchroncity with the deity who chooses the supplicant. To merge with and co-create ceremony with a deity is a daunting task requiring the ability to deeply commune with the magical realms in a safe way, with humility, curiosity and reverence. This work is a requirement of third year students, supported by the teachers, and is witnessed by first year students in an evening ceremony. 

Li Ban is a pre-christian Goddess of the Irish pantheon of gods and goddesses, originating in Northern Ireland. Li Ban translates to "Paragon" (or Beauty) of Women. She is triple goddess aspect, the maiden and a water oracle. Her tale speaks of a great loss, her guilt at having survived when others did not, her retreat to solitude, and her rebirth as a mermaid of the great Loch Neagh.

To speak too much of the ceremony would take the mystery from it, so instead of explaining what it was like, I share this poem I wrote to the Goddess, Li Ban, who chose me and this photo taken just prior to assumption.

Sonnet to Li Ban

Beneath the lake so wide and deep,
She bowed her head in shame and loss
A grieving heart sank into sleep
And fiery tresses turned to moss.

The curving sky the sun did yield
The silver moon grew full and soft
In the deep her fate felt sealed
Her cry to heaven flew aloft

To know forgiveness and release
From a burden carried not one’s own
Oh Ancient One, maiden of peace
With your grace may love atone. 

The girl burst forth from sorrowed cave,
By bright, iridescent tail and fin and wave.

Druidry - The Antlered One, Guardian of All Who Journey

The Antlered One, by Laura Smith-Riva

The Antlered One first came to me in the dreams. She is a wise woman, a protector of the pathways, a teacher and a healer. She is the mystic on the other side of my amazon/warrior. She is deeply mysterious and lives in the liminal spaces awaiting those who seek her on the path.

I have encountered her many times on my journey. She came after a dream where a young deer had its antlers brutally cut off by a man. In the dream she offered me the large antlers of an adult deer carved with magical and sacred symbols and images which she had discovered on her land. This moment represented for me the return of that which had been cut off. In so many ways, we cut off sacred and holy parts of ourselves in order to survive in a world filled with traumas and challenges, to fit in, to make do, to take care of others at the expense of ourselves. Our creative life withers and we become like the walking dead, moving through life on a stream of expectation, fear, numbness and unrequited desire all fueled by the many lies we come to believe about ourselves and the world around us. Many will never escape from this inertia, often disguised as a whirling dervish of doing.

Some, however, are called or thrown into the journey, the journey back to soulful life. The Antlered One is waiting. She is a profound archetype with a history dating back to ancient times, perhaps Paleolithic times.   In the Celtic pantheon she is known as Elen of the Trod and her roots trace to northern Wales and a time when humans were in relationship with reindeer there. Female reindeer have antlers as do the males. The Celtic god Cernunnos is the male counterpart.

As a Druid, she came to me in a vision. As part of the druidic training of the Green Mountain Durid Order, each grade participant is encourage to journey to and find the inner grove that will support their work. There are three grades: Bard, Ovate and Druid. They roughly correspond to these steps:

  • Opening the Way - reigniting the magical child and rediscovering our creative, magical selves
  • Hunting the Shadow - transforming old conditioning and habits, developing a practice of self-reflection and accountability
  • Being of Service - manifesting one's calling, becoming a guardian of the earth and providing spiritual guidance in one's community
It is a path of spiritual discovery. There are many such paths. This path taps into my own Celtic indigenous ancestry and has offered me the opportunity to work with an animistic approach to spiritualism which allows for direct contact with spirit through the natural world. 

Back to the Antlered One. She came during my Ovate training, appearing first during an inner journey and became part of my Ovate Grove as a supportive ancestral guide. In this inner sanctum, she stood at the gateway entering the grove and as a protector along the way forward in my work. She rubbed red ochre on my belly and breasts, she brushed my flesh with the soft needled branches of the Tamarack. She invited me to lie back in the roots of the great tree and covered me with the softest sheepskin. 

We all need succor on the journey. We all need support. We may find support in the world through family, friends, mentors or others, but the beauty of inner support is that it's always available to us. Building a relationship with this support is so important and must be done during those good times, when we are feeling good. It's like building a muscle. If we don't exercise it how can we expect it to be strong when we need it most?

The Antlered One is timeless and ageless. If you look for her, you may find her in dreams, visions and journeys. She may appear in the synchronicity of the deer on the field, in a shell on the beach or a flower in the wood. She is the keeper of the trod, the protectress of the magical pathways, the healer and the divine spirit of the land who knows the hidden trails and traverses of the true heart. She is the guardian of all who journey. May you receive her.

The Return, by Laura Smith-Riva

Blessed be.

Laura Smith-Riva is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner from the mysterious Green Mountains of Vermont. www.archetypaldreamworks.com.