Druid Monastic in Southern California

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kkirner

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Druid Monastic in Southern California
« on: May 22, 2019, 03:54:19 PM »
Hi, Everyone- I'm Kimberly Kirner, a cultural anthropologist and OBOD Druid (currently in Ovate grade) in the foothills of Southern California. I've always been deeply religious; I was raised a solitary Christian mystic with a focus on accessing the divine through nature. From the time I was a young child, nature spirits and "others" -- what some would call the fae -- were my companions. I was also always "chased" by the Spirits I Serve. By my early 20s, this calling was growing very strong, and I could not remain a Christian, even as a heretical one. In undergraduate and graduate school I studied anthropology and religious studies and I read extensively about animism, which resonated much more with me. In one of the first classes I taught while in graduate school, I had to do research on new religious movements for a week of lectures, and this is when I found Druidry. I read everything I could get my hands on about Druidry in 2002-2005 and then joined OBOD in 2005. Over time, I developed relationships with some of the Celtic gods, and through spiritual direction under T. Thorn Coyle, I was able to develop a very close relationship with the Spirits I Serve, which I explain to be ancient beings related to creation and destruction forces (a bit like very old universe elementals, a bit like celestial fae... words escape me). I have always loved monasticism and been fascinated with it in other religions, so when I found out there were others who were polytheist and monastic in orientation, this made me so excited and inspired. I was part of the Pagan and Polytheist Monasticism Facebook Group, which is how I found out this forum was happening!  Hooray!

A bit more about me: I'm a 40 year old person who considers myself both agendered (but not particularly caring much about it) and queer.  I'm married to a wonderful, caring woman in an interfaith marriage that is mutually supportive of our respective religious traditions and needs.  My religious practice aspires (though often fails) to include daily morning and evening contemplative prayer, offerings, and meditative practice. My religious practice honors the Spirits I Serve, the divine unfolding in all beings, the nature spirits, the ancestors, and gods in the Celtic pantheon with whom I have a working relationship. I am both polytheist and animist, and consider a core part of my ministry to be through my work as an environmental and medical anthropologist focusing on worldview and religion (I'm a professor at CSU Northridge). I also founded with two other Druids a devotional Celtic polytheist OBOD grove that is focused on deep work, such as trance, journeying, and inviting the gods to be present with us. I maintain a shrine room, art studio, and meditative garden, and my wife and I are working on putting together a glamping tent and indoor/outdoor lounge space for people who want to come for Druidic or monastic retreat.

Most of my life is taken up by my work, which is integrated into my monastic practice. I also spend a lot of time in silence and with horses. Dressage is a passion and art form for me, as well as a movement meditative practice that demands my full mindfulness. Horses have taught me so much spiritually about presence, attuning to other beings, non-verbal communication, and patience. I also love to paint, draw, and creatively write. I struggle to maintain balance between different parts of my life; I'm passionate about so many things. I hope in this online community to find inspiration and resources to help my practice grow!

Bright blessings! /|\
"The three foundations of spirituality: Hearth as altar; Work as worship; and service as sacrament."
~ Irish Triad

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barefootwisdom

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Re: Druid Monastic in Southern California
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2019, 06:27:48 PM »
Welcome, Kimberly!  It's great to see you here.  We've never met, but I recognized the blog post you linked to in the other thread; it was something I really appreciated when I first found it.

The retreat space you and your wife are working on sounds amazing, and what an awesome potential gift to the wider community!

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Danica Swanson

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Re: Druid Monastic in Southern California
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2019, 07:07:42 PM »
Welcome, Kimberly. Glad you joined us here!

I have always loved monasticism and been fascinated with it in other religions, so when I found out there were others who were polytheist and monastic in orientation, this made me so excited and inspired. I was part of the Pagan and Polytheist Monasticism Facebook Group, which is how I found out this forum was happening!  Hooray!


I've had a similar fascination with monastic life in other religions, though I kept this interest hidden from everyone I knew for many years. Yet I knew I could never become a Christian or Buddhist nun. Until I discovered the websites for the Maetreum of Cybele and the Church of Asphodel, I didn't think it could even be a serious possibility for a polytheist involved in a new religious movement. After finding those two sites, for years and years I looked far and wide for a good online discussion forum for Pagans & polytheists interested in monasticism, but I never found one. Not until Merri-Todd Webster decided to start the Facebook group in 2016, anyway. The formation of that group happened in the aftermath of the second Many Gods West conference, which marked a turning point for many of us in being more "out" publicly with our polytheism. Ever since then the polytheist "revival" movement has been gaining momentum, and so has the interest in monasticism within our communities. Or at least that's how it looks from my vantage point, anyway.

I maintain a shrine room, art studio, and meditative garden, and my wife and I are working on putting together a glamping tent and indoor/outdoor lounge space for people who want to come for Druidic or monastic retreat.

Sounds very similar to what I'd be doing if I had appropriate space for it. I look forward to following your progress on it! For many of us, lack of proper space to operate an actual monastery is the biggest barrier to formalizing our practice more "officially," so it's encouraging to know that you're taking steps in that direction.

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kkirner

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Re: Druid Monastic in Southern California
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2019, 07:42:20 PM »
Thanks, all.

Yeah, we have tried in the past to purchase larger spaces by finding fellow pagan/polytheist people to go in on it with, but no one was ever able/ready at the time we needed to buy. So here we are. I don't plan to move again until/unless I retire, because I've moved so so many times and it's exhausting on multiple levels. So I have to figure out what I can do with what I've got (which I'm deeply grateful for, because I know it's more than many of my friends).

Because of that, especially living in Southern California in the foothills in a more rural location, I want to find ways to create a space that could be offered for Druids and polytheists who need serious contemplative retreat space/time in nature and silence/darkness. I spent 7 years living in Los Angeles and struggling more than I realized at the time. I grew up in the foothills and mountains and spent so much of my time all the way through 30 in silence, alone, in wild or farming areas. The city was... a lot. Just totally overwhelming at times. I didn't realize until I moved back out of it last year how deeply I missed the silence, the owls and frogs and coyotes at night, the stars... oh, the stars. The stars are a visual reminder of the Spirits I Serve and being without them for 7 years was painful to me.

I know so many urban folks even in my own little pagan/polytheist/Druid circle down here in So Cal that lack access to silent time in nature to have retreat and who struggle to pay for weekend trips. We figure if we can manage to finance the work we'd have to do this year (a couple grand probably), then my wife can AirBnB it and play hostess to people just looking for a general retreat to pay off the improvements, and then we can host people in the monastic/Druid network who need a break from noise and chaos so they can renew, refresh, and listen to their gods and the land spirits for free. We're grateful that while the house needs a lot of improvements over time, it has some core attributes that we couldn't do otherwise: a pool and spa (essential for being outdoors in summer when it's 100+ degrees), enough space to put in this stuff, a partially-finished garage that already opens to both the front and back yards, and the location -- our view is a steep hillside down to a stream and open fields to the mountains. It's super quiet, dark at night, and very private (we have 15' oleanders along the perimeter of the back yard). And it has enough space to host Druid meetings and rituals comfortably in several rooms, which has allowed my grove to have more complex initiations, silent/separate meditation time, prep space for anyone who is taking on possessory trance to go into/out of trance on their own before mediating, and large spaces for ritual meals and communal altars (with lots of work setting up the furniture, but it's worth it).

I wish it could have been more -- we looked at a 35 acre property of mature live oak woodland with a house and tons of space for an entire retreat center. My heart longed after it, but I just couldn't afford it and no one else could finance the rest and join us at the time. I have to trust that this is where my Spirits want me, and where it best fits the work I'm meant to do. I think that's probably true for all of us.
"The three foundations of spirituality: Hearth as altar; Work as worship; and service as sacrament."
~ Irish Triad

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barefootwisdom

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Re: Druid Monastic in Southern California
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2019, 08:16:20 PM »
Thanks, all.
I spent 7 years living in Los Angeles and struggling more than I realized at the time. I grew up in the foothills and mountains and spent so much of my time all the way through 30 in silence, alone, in wild or farming areas. The city was... a lot. Just totally overwhelming at times. I didn't realize until I moved back out of it last year how deeply I missed the silence, the owls and frogs and coyotes at night, the stars... oh, the stars.
This!  Oh my, yes!  I've been living in a very urban area these last 3+ years, and it nearly destroyed me.  Since last summer, it was becoming clear that I need to move, and two really intense experiences of the stars on trips since then sealed the deal.  I'll be out of here one month from this morning... not that I'm counting the days or anything...  ;)

I have to trust that this is where my Spirits want me, and where it best fits the work I'm meant to do. I think that's probably true for all of us.
Definitely!  And it sounds like you're doing some amazing things where you are, both for yourself, and for your human community, and for the Spirits you serve! 

Thank you so much for sharing this; it is so inspiring!

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kkirner

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Re: Druid Monastic in Southern California
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2019, 08:35:09 PM »
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I'll be out of here one month from this morning... not that I'm counting the days or anything...  ;)

Congratulations! Seriously, for me it was life-changing in many ways. While I still struggle with daily practice (my never-ending struggle -- but this forum is already helping me through reading about others' struggles with daily prayer, and now I have some ideas to put into place coming up), moving back out here has helped me so much. I long-distance commute to my job in LA now. I spend 2 nights/3 days on campus and the rest at home. The split has enhanced my sense of home as sanctuary and I spend less time in the car. I feel like I have more rhythm to life, and when I return home, all I have to do is look at the night sky and there is this immense feeling of peace and "rightness" that washes over me. Being close to my horses and a dressage barn again has also meant I can train 3-4 times per week, which is helping me with mindfulness and finding stillness in the chaos of broader national and global life. I can't say enough, too, the value for me in having true silence again when I am in contemplative prayer. For years, it was never ever silent during my practice. There were always noises of traffic, sirens, helicopters, neighbors' music, neighbors talking or yelling, parties, etc. My last house was truly lovely (a 1910 Craftsman Victorian) with the most amazing house spirit and a historic enormous live oak tree over it. But it was so SO loud all of the time. This house is a plain ranch style which my wife is slowly renovating to be California Modern (she does interior design on the side). It will never have the character or charm our last house did. But it is SILENT at night, except for the sounds of nature. It is silent almost all the time, actually, because there aren't as many neighbors and those that live way up here usually come here for the peace and quiet. It's just... relief for me. Makes everything easier.

Many blessings on your upcoming move!
"The three foundations of spirituality: Hearth as altar; Work as worship; and service as sacrament."
~ Irish Triad

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Lorna Smithers

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Re: Druid Monastic in Southern California
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2019, 01:27:45 AM »
Welcome Kimberley :) What an inspiring life to read about. It's fascinating to hear about how you were drawn to the fae in early life then later discovered the Celtic deities - that happened to me too (I now worship the Brythonic gods). When I manage to move out of my parents' house I'd love to set up a shrine room and develop some kind of circle of Brythonic polytheists/awenyddion who come together to honour the gods through journey, trance, ritual, etc. Coincidentally I spent a lot of my life torn between academia and working with horses. I grew up working for free riding lessons as a child and returned to horses after giving up my philosophy PhD and worked as a riding instructor, event groom, and head girl at a dressage stud. I've also appreciated time around horses and see dressage as an art form.

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kkirner

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Re: Druid Monastic in Southern California
« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2019, 09:51:37 PM »
It's fascinating to hear about how you were drawn to the fae in early life then later discovered the Celtic deities - that happened to me too (I now worship the Brythonic gods).

I've found it very interesting that so many texts in Druidry discourage connections to the fae, because for me, these were my childhood companions and continue to be at the heart of my relationships to the spirits. The Spirits I Serve are what I would vaguely consider fae-related more than gods-related. Though I also honor and work with a number of Celtic deities at this point.

Coincidentally I spent a lot of my life torn between academia and working with horses. I grew up working for free riding lessons as a child and returned to horses after giving up my philosophy PhD and worked as a riding instructor, event groom, and head girl at a dressage stud. I've also appreciated time around horses and see dressage as an art form.

That's so interesting. It's like the reverse of myself. I worked as an apprentice under trainers (hunter/jumper then Arab) during undergraduate and graduate school, then had to give it up to complete my PhD. I largely took off from riding 2011-2018 as I worked insane work-weeks to gain tenure (and my older horse, who was my main ride, retired due to age and arthritis). I returned to dressage after 10 years off last fall and am also training my younger horse (a draft... not for dressage, because he's incredibly non-athletic LOL). I've absolutely fallen back in love with dressage in the same way I did before giving it up. I find it incredibly helpful as meditative practice. Do you consider your work with horses part of your spiritual practice?
"The three foundations of spirituality: Hearth as altar; Work as worship; and service as sacrament."
~ Irish Triad

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Lorna Smithers

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Re: Druid Monastic in Southern California
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2019, 03:49:10 AM »
Kimberley Kirner it's interesting to hear we've gone in opposite directions. Training your draft horse sounds lovely. I really liked the raising of youngsters/backing/schooling side.

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Do you consider your work with horses part of your spiritual practice?

I don't work with horses any more. I gave it up around 2009 and got a less strenuous job so I could focus on my writing. I didn't know about animism/paganism then but I would definitely say there was a spiritual connection with the horses and in working on the land and living in accord with the seasons. I really felt that when I lived on a yard in a tiny mobile home on the event yard in Hertfordshire.  That was almost an initiation in a way...