ADF Dedicant’s Program Essays

Here’s my final approved submission for the Dedicants Program for ADF.


Dedicants Study Program

Approved 4 February, 2013

The Nine Virtues

Wisdom

Some people consider wisdom to be simple common sense, but to me it’s
more like common sense plus.  It’s not just making good decisions
on practical matters; it’s also having an awareness of what you know
and understanding your limits.  A wise person is not afraid to ask
for help in matters that are beyond their knowledge and
abilities.  There are a number of different definitions of Wisdom.

On dictionary.com, wisdom is defined as:

“1. the quality or state of being wise;  knowledge of what istrue
or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity,
discernment, or insight.
2. scholarly knowledge or learning: the wisdom of the schools.
3. wise  sayings or teachings; precepts.
4. a wise  act or saying.
5. ( initial capital letter ) Douay Bible . Wisdom of Solomon.”
(Random House “Wisdom”)

In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, they discuss the different
types of wisdom and the many different definitions.  In their
final definition, the subject (S) is wise if:

“- S has extensive factual and theoretical knowledge.
– S knows how to live well.
– S is successful at living well.
– S has very few unjustified beliefs.”

(Ryan)

Our Own Druidry defines wisdom as ” Good judgment, the ability to
perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide
on the correct response” (ADF 82)

The dictionary.com definition above doesn’t really say much. It says
that wisdom is being wise, but does not define what it is to be
wise.  The Stanford definition gets closer to the heart of what
believe that wisdom is, but it starts out with “extensive factual and
theoretical knowledge”, and I don’t agree with that statement.
The ADF definition from Our Own Druidry gets back to defining what
wisdom actually is.  I would also propose that there is a key part
of wisdom that is in the Stanford definition and not called out in the
ADF definition.  Wisdom is also about self-knowledge.  Part
of being wise includes a large degree of self-knowledge, of
understanding what you know, what you experience, and how other people
experience you.  This knowledge is crucial to being able to
correctly evaluate the situation and decide on “the correct response”.

The ability to evaluate the situation, and determine “the correct
response,” is key to our ability to interact with our modern world in a
way that can bring out the best in ourselves, and in our fellow
inhabitants of this Earth.

Piety

Piety means a lot of different things to different people.  Some
people think that you have to be loud and public in your worship and
following of a deity to be pious, others say that you must keep your
worship quiet and not speak of it to others to be pious.  I don’t
think that either of these is true.

Dictionary.com defines piety as follows:

1. reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations: a
prayer full of piety.
2. the quality or state of being pious: saintly piety.
3. dutiful respect or regard for parents, homeland, etc.: filial piety.
4. a pious act, remark, belief, or the like: the pieties and sacrifices
of an austere life. (Random House, “Piety”)

Our Own Druidry defines piety as “Correct observance of ritual and
social traditions; the maintenance of the agreements, (both personal
and societal), we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the
Old Ways, through ceremony and duty” (ADF 82)

Neither definition fully covers what piety means to me.
Piety is a “reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious
obligations” (Random House, “Piety”), both in action and in
intent.  Piety includes the acts of devotion to the kindred as
well as a sincere desire to worship the kindred.  In the same way,
the person performing the acts must believe that the acts show
reverence for or devotion to the kindred to whom the act is directed.
It doesn’t matter who sees the acts, without the intent, the acts are
meaningless.

While the ADF is not about a religion, it is about connecting with our
spirituality.  Piety is key to this connection.  We must be
honest in action and intent when we try to connect with our
spirituality, however we define it.  If we are not pious, then
there is no meaning to our actions and we are not actually connecting
to our spirituality.

Vision

Vision is not something that I normally think of as a virtue.  To
me, virtues are linked to how we behave, but vision is something that
we have, or interpret, but is not something that we do, it’s something
that you know or learn.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines vision as:

“It starts by looking at the present, looks at the information from the
past, and then extrapolates a logical conclusion of the future. It is
the ability to see all the data that is available to us, and to make an
educated statement about what those choices mean. “

1 a : something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy; especially: a
supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation b : a thought,
concept, or object formed by the imagination c : a manifestation to the
senses of something immaterial<look, not at visions, but at
realities — Edith Wharton>

2 a : the act or power of imagination b (1) : mode of seeing or
conceiving (2) : unusual discernment or foresight <a person of
vision>c : direct mystical awareness of the supernatural usually
invisible form

3 a : the act or power of seeing : sight b : the special sense by which
the qualities of an object (as color, luminosity, shape, and size)
constituting its appearance are perceived through a process in which
light rays entering the eye are transformed by the retina into
electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve

4 a : something seen b : a lovely or charming sight (Merriam-Webster)

Our Own Druidry defines vision as “The ability to broaden one’s
perspective to have a greater understanding of our place/role in the
cosmos, relating to the past, present, and future.” (ADF 82)

A Virtuous Life: The Nine Virtues of ADF has this to say about vision:
“It starts by looking at the present, looks at the information from the
past, and then extrapolates a logical conclusion of the future. It is
the ability to see all the data that is available to us, and to make an
educated statement about what those choices mean.“ (Dangler 19)

I don’t think that the dictionary definitions really help us here,
there are a lot of different variations of “vision” and the definitions
from Our Own Druidry and A Virtuous Life are good, but aren’t what I
think of when I think of someone having “Vision”.  To me, vision
speaks of seeing the big picture, of being able to extrapolate from the
past to see the future. I like the definition from Virtuous Life better
than the other definitions here, but I don’t really think of this as
Vision.  Vision is seeing where we are going, a high level
strategy.  It is important for leaders, but not for everyone.

Seeing the big picture is not a virtue in itself, but learning from the
past is — realizing that doing the same thing again, with the same
environment, will result in the same result.  The definition of
vision from “A Virtuous Life” is much closer to what I consider a
virtue.  It is very important that we look at the present and
learn from the past in order to predict our future.  Part of that
understanding is knowing our place in the cosmos (as per “Our Own
Druidry”) but that’s not all of it.

If I were to define a virtue for vision, I’d define it as
“Understanding the impacts of our actions in the present on our future,
and the future of those around us, based upon our past experiences; and
making decisions based on that understanding to the best of our
ability.”  Understanding the impacts of our actions helps us to
accomplish our goals and desire in the world.  If we can
understand the impacts, we can determine the most efficient and
beneficial actions to take.

Courage

The Dedicant’s Manual represents courage as “the ability to act
appropriately in the face of danger” (ADF 82).

Dictionary.com describes courage as “the quality of mind or spirit that
enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear;
bravery.” (Random House, “Courage”)

I would argue that these definitions only cover part of the definition
of courage.  In Dune and Philosophy: Weirding Way of the Mentat,
Jeffery Nicholas argues that “if we are too confident, we are rash,
while if we aren’t confident enough, we are cowardly.  The
moderate state between those two extremes is courage” (Nicholas 112).
This is closer to the truth.

Courage needs wisdom and fear to help define it.  Wisdom helps an
individual determine which course of action is in that area between
rash and cowardly.  Once that action has been determined, then the
individual can act upon that action.  If the action holds no fear
for the individual, then it’s the right and smart thing to do.  If
there is fear of doing the action, then the individual requires courage
to accomplish the action.

In The Princess Diaries, the Prince of Genovia (Mia’s Father) states
that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that
something is more important than fear.” (Marshall) Combine this with
the quote from Nicholas, and we have what I believe is the actual
definition of courage.

Courage is facing your fear, and overcoming it, to take the right
action.  With courage, you have the ability to face the difficult
situation where you have something significant to risk.  Courage
allows us to face, and overcome, our fears.

Integrity

Integrity is an interesting virtue as the word itself has a number of
different meanings.  Dictionary.com defines integrity as both a
“firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values ” and
“the quality or state of being complete or undivided”.  Our Own
Druidry combines both definitions into one, “Honor; being trustworthy
to oneself and to others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, fairness,
respect, self-confidence.” (ADF 82)

This is also an interesting virtue for me to be writing about at this
time. I have recently recognized that there are parts of myself that
still carry old hurts from my childhood and I am seeing resistance to
doing a lot of the internal work of the mental discipline and personal
practice.  I have started a practice to heal that hurt and
re-integrate those emotions to make myself a more whole being.

Integrity is both about being honest to ourselves and other people, and
being a whole being.  Being whole doesn’t mean that we are perfect
beings, but that we are aware of our scars and hurts and have
acknowledged their effects on us.  The only way we can be truly
honest to ourselves and others, is if we understand ourselves as a
whole.

This ability to understand ourselves as a whole and to be trustworthy
to others helps us to be better people, and to live our lives honestly
and to recognize where and when we need to grow.  This virtue
allows us to grow as a person, and to be someone that our fellow humans
can trust and depend on to do what we say.

Perseverance

Perseverance is something that is often talked about when you’re trying
to learn a new thing.  Our Own Druidry defines perseverance as
“Drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes
difficult” (ADF 82).  The Merriam Webster Online dictionary
defines it as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite
difficulties, failure, or opposition.” (Merriam-Webster, “Perseverance”)

Both of these definitions talk about continuing to do something that is
difficult to do, however there is another aspect of perseverance to
me.  It has to do with wisdom.  When you define a goal, you
sometimes run into difficulty, and you have to decide if to persevere
or if to back off.  Wisdom allows us to understand what the best
choice is in these situations.  There are times when it does not
make sense to continue to try to do something that doesn’t make sense,
or is not worth the effort.  Wisdom allows us to understand what
the situation is and if it makes sense to continue.  If we do
determine that the goal is worth the effort, then we should persevere.

The virtue of perseverance means, to me, not blindly pursuing difficult
goals, but being willing and able to achieve something that is
worthwhile in spite of any difficulties that you encounter.  It is
only through perseverance that we can push our limits and grow our
experiences beyond our current “box”.

Hospitality

As I was reviewing my notes for Hospitality, I was reminded that the
words for “host” and the words for “guest” are both derived from the
same source – “ghosti” (Dangler, The ADF Dedicant Path Through the
Wheel of the Year 96).  In Trinidad, where I grew up, the idea of
hospitality was very important to the culture.  If you let someone
into your house, you were required to offer them food, drink and
conversation for a reasonable amount of time.  In return, the
guest was required to be a good guest, provide something in return –
good conversation, a gift, or companionship – and to leave when
appropriate.  A guest should not be overly negative, unless
invited to do so, nor should they presume to take advantage of their
host.

In the ADF, we expand those responsibilities to our relationships with
the Kindred.  If we ask them for something, we should provide
something in return – an offering.  Sometimes that offering is
something physical, but it can also be companionship and
dedication.  In “Our Own Druidry”, hospitality is defined as
“Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving
benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honoring of ‘a gift for a
gift’.” (ADF 83) This covers the traditional definition of hospitality
that I grew up with, but does not define the extension to the Kindred.

No matter where we are, we are a guest in someone’s space.  We
should always be respectful of where we are and attempt to be a good
guest whether we’re in an office, a home, out in the wild, or in ritual.

Moderation

As a person who constantly battles with my weight and my difficulty in
saying “no”, moderation is a virtue that I’m constantly striving
for.  Merrian Webster Online Dictionary defines moderation as the
noun form of moderate –  “to lessen the intensity or extremeness
of “(Merriam-Webster, “Moderation”).  Our Own Druidry defines
moderation as “Cultivating one’s appetites so that one is neither a
slave to them nor driven to ill health, (mental or physical), through
excess or deficiency”(ADF 83).  In this definition “appetites”
actually should have a very broad definition.  Not only should we
moderate our physical appetite for food and drink, but we should also
moderate our “appetite” for doing things for others and ourselves, for
study vs practice, and for many other things in our lives.

Moderation is about balance.  It’s about knowing where the “sweet
spot” is between indulging ourselves and denying ourselves … in
whatever we do.  To be fully integrated humans and druids, we need
to be both spiritual and physical.  To be healthy humans, we need
to have a level of health in both mental and physical arenas that
requires us both restricting things that do not promote health, and
taking the time to enjoy what we want out of life.

To practice moderation, we should find that balance within
ourselves.  What are the right food and drink choices for us?
What’s the right balance between helping others and helping
ourselves?  What’s the right balance between spiritual study and
practice?  It takes wisdom and integrity to see how your different
needs mesh together to form a whole and healthy you.

Fertility

When I started the DP, the virtue of Fertility seemed difficult to
me.  The word fertility brings up thoughts of having children, and
that’s not something that I have any desire to do.  However, as I
did a bit more research and talked to other druids I realize that
fertility is not about children.  Our Own Druidry defines
fertility as “Bounty of mind, body and spirit, involving creativity,
production of objects, food, works of art, etc., an appreciation of the
physical, sensual, nurturing” (ADF 83) and this definition finally
makes sense to me.

To me, fertility is about experiencing the world around us.  It’s
about appreciating things around us, and participating in the
world.  We participate in the world by bringing things into the
world, by creating.  We can create art, create products, create
food, or just create sensations.  We also participate by observing
and noticing the world around us.  Take the time to stop our
rat-race lives and look, taste, scent, hear and feel the world around
us, and truly experience this beautiful world that we live in.

Not everything that we experience is always good, but the key to
fertility is to experience life, good or bad, and to appreciate what we
can from what we experience. The ability to create, and to experience
life, allows us to explore our feelings and perceptions.  The
virtue of fertility allows us to express ourselves to ourselves and to
each other in ways that allow us to be understood, even when the
subject is less than comfortable.

Compassion

In addition to the standard virtues.  I also consider Compassion
to be a virtue that we should strive for.  Compassion is defined
as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a
desire to alleviate it”(Merriam-Webster, “Compassion”).

To me, compassion comes from love, and thus from strength.  Some
people consider compassion a weakness: something that can prevent you
from making the hard decision or the tough choice.   But it’s
not.  Compassion is what helps us to bring our humanity to
conflict, to those hard decisions.  It allows us to see our
fellows and our opponents as humans, to understand if there is a better
resolution to a conflict, and to honor the sacrifice (ours or theirs)
if one is necessarily.

Without compassion, it’s too easy to view the people on the other side
of any conflict as objects, as things to be used, or to be
converted.  But they’re just people: people with their own needs,
and wants, and desire for survival.  Understanding who they are,
understanding their situation, and understanding their desires helps to
bring out a better resolution for everyone.

Compassion does not mean doing anything to make people around you feel
better.  Compassion sometimes means not helping them, so they will
learn to stand on their feet.  Compassion also, sometimes, means
understanding what help should be provided.  Doing a task for
someone won’t help them learn to do that task better, but maybe they
just need to not have to worry about it for a while.  Only through
love and compassion can you really understand what is best.

There is also the other aspect to compassion.  In order to have
compassion for those around us, it is necessary for us to have
compassion for ourselves.  Each of us is human, none of us are
perfect, and each of us have love to share.

One of the hardest things to do is to love ourselves.  That inner
critical voice is harsh and hard to ignore.  While there is some
benefit in recognizing that inner critic, we must also remember that
sometimes we’re not going to be perfect … and that’s okay.  If our
body isn’t perfect, our speech not exact, our skills not as grand as we
desire, it’s okay.  It’s okay to forget sometimes, and to hurt,
and be in pain.  Sometimes we just need to let ourselves
experience, to feel, to understand that sometimes life isn’t
great.  And to know, that we still love ourselves, we still
understand, and we can get through it and feel better.

Compassion is also allowing ourselves to feel, to experience, and to be
not perfect.

We say that we love others even with their faults … the harder part is,
can we love ourselves, even with our faults?

A lack of compassion will tear us apart.  Through compassion, we
can build something together.

High Day Essays

Midsummer

Midsummer is one of my favorite high days, but all of the summer
celebrations are. Midsummer is the summer solstice, the time of the
year when the Sun is at its peak.  In Wiccan traditions, this is
the day of the battle the Dark Sun God and the Light Sun God
(Bonewits). After this day, the days begin to get shorter and winter
approaches.

Modern celebrants of Midsummer light bonfires or sun-wheels to
celebrate the height of summer. It’s also believed that sitting in the
middle of a stone circle will allow you to see the Fae on Midsummer
(Wigington). In secular celebrations, bonfires and this day is
celebrated with reverence to Saint John the Baptist (Wikipedia).

To me, midsummer is all about celebrating the growth that comes with
the summer.  The crops are growing, the flowers are blooming and
the animals are active.  This time of year is a celebration of the
best of life.  It’s also my anniversary of joining the ADF.

Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is my favorite High Day because it’s the closest to my
birthday.  A “Neopagan Druid Calendar” says that this is a harvest
festival and signals the beginning of the harvest season. This holiday
is both a celebration of the harvest and a sad time as the days are now
obviously getting shorter and winter is on its way (Bonewits).
The name of the high day is derived from the god Lugh. According to
Chalice Center, Lugh dedicated this festival to his mother, Tailtiu,
the last Queen of the Fir Bolg.  Funeral games were held in her
honor, and the prophesy states that as long as the games are held,
Ireland shall not be without song (Freeman).

Modern pagans will often celebrate Lughnasadh by drinking hard cider,
mead, applejack and other alcoholic beverages made from honey or apples
(Bonewits), and by the eating of corn and other harvest grains
(Wikipedia, “Lughnasadh”).  Modern heathens consider Lithasblot,
as they term this High Day, as a day of ceremonial magic (“Norse
Holidays and Festivals”).  It is said that at Lithasblot 1941, the
magical lodges of England performed magic to prevent Hitler from
invading England.

For me, a Leo, Lughnasadh is a time of celebration and a time to enjoy
the outdoors.  Lughnasadh signals the start of the warmest time of
the year and re-enforces the power of the sun!  It’s a time to
celebrate, enjoy the harvest and absorb the strength of the sun.

Mabon

Fall Equinox, or Mabon is the point in time where the light and dark
times of the day are even.  It is the point when the night begins
to lengthen.  This is often referred to as a Thanksgiving feast
and is a time when hunting season begins in many areas
(Bonewits).  Mabon is the second of the harvest festivals, the
first of which is at Lamas, and the last of which is Samhain.
Mabon is a ritual of thanksgiving and a time to share a bit of the
bounty with the gods (Wikipedia, “Wheel of the Year”).

Modern pagans often celebrate this day as a day of thanksgiving and a
day to celebrate the last of the “summer” festivals.  In the greek
traditions, this is the time when Persephone goes to spend half of the
year in the underworld.  It is a time to celebrate the harvest and
to prepare for the winter to come (Wigington, “All About Mabon”)

Mabon, to me, is a time to prepare for the cold season, to break out
the winter coats and prepare to spend more time indoors.  It’s
also around the time when we can begin to use the fireplace, and bring
the warmth of the sun inside.

Samhain

Growing up, Halloween was a time for candy and a few visits to friends
in the guise of trick-or-treating, but we never made a big deal out of
it.  When I began my Wiccan worship, I recognized that Halloween,
or Samhain, was about connecting with the ancestors and
divination.  As I moved into Druidry, the celebration of the
ancestors became a key part of my practice. While Samhain is not a
major holiday to the Norse, they celebrate Winternights around the same
time.

In my eclectic pagan practice, Samhain is the time when the veil is at
the thinnest.  It is the time to invite the ancestors in, to
celebrate their lives and to ask for their guidance in the year to
come.  Many pagans celebrate with a “silent feast” where they
perform a full feast in silence, including setting an additional place
for the ancestors.  Others celebrate the descent of Persephone
into the underworld and the beginning of the dark time of the year.

In the Norse mythology, this is the time when Odin and his Wild Hunt
roam the land until Walpurgisnacht, when the Norse celebrate the Winter
Solstice.  Winternights is about celebrating your ancestors, and
about accessing divinatory abilities.  There is a myth that states
that if you spend Winternight on a barrow mound you will gain full
divination ability (“Norse Holidays and Festivals”). This is also the
time for a blot (or Sacrifice) to thank the ancestors for the harvest
of the previous year and to ask for a good harvest in the coming year
(Wikipedia, “Winter Nights”)

For me, Samhain is about preparing for the winter to come, it’s time to
prepare for the colder weather, to plan for in-door activities, and to
begin the introspection and self-examination that lasts through to
Yule.

Yule

The Winter Solstice is one of my favorite times of the year.
During this time people of all religions are celebrating holidays of
peace and hope.  The winter solstice is the time of the year where
the night is the longest, and the day is the shortest. After this day,
the days become longer until the spring equinox.  For me, it is a
time to celebrate with family, for sharing of gifts, and for seeing the
best of humanity.

Many religious traditions celebrate the coming of the son, or the
Sun.  This is the time of the return of the light, of the return
of hope.  It is interesting how certain celebrations have the same
connotations across all religions.  The Jews celebrate the miracle
of the ever-burning lamp, the Christians celebrate the birth of the Son
of God, and Wiccans celebrate the birth of the Oak King. (Fox)

Imbolc

Celebrated in the middle of winter, Imbolc celebrates the coming of
spring.  It’s not officially spring yet, but winter has now turned
and we are starting to see the signs of spring.  Historically,
Imbolc has been associated with the first milking of ewes (Black).
Traditional pagan activities at Imbolc include creating corn dolls to
represent Brigid, creation of a solar cross, cleansing and purification
activities and milk and butter offerings to the fae (Moura Ch 10). In
the Celtic practice, Imbolc is considered sacred to Brigid.  In
Scotland, they celebrate the rebirth of Cailleach as Bride, the maiden
of spring, who rekindles the Sun’s light (Freeman, “The Wheel of the
Celtic Year: Imbolc”)

The Christians replaced Imbolc with Candlemas.  The older
traditions of lighting candles to represent the return of the light
were converted into the Christian ceremony and Brigid was converted
into a saint to whom Christians prayed on Candlemas (Freeman, “The
Wheel of the Celtic Year: Imbolc”).

Today’s modern Celtic Druids and Pagans continue to practice the
celebration of Imbolc as a day dedicated to Brigid with ceremonies
inviting Brigid in to bless their lives with new beginnings,
purification and divination. (Wigington, “All About Imbolc”). Common
offerings include milk, butter and grain as well as offerings of poetry
and story.

To me, this high day is a celebration of the coming of spring, and the
promise of new life.  It’s a time when we come out of the long
night of the winter and celebrate the rebirth of our creativity.

Ostara

Ostara is the celebration of the Spring Equinox.  According to the
Venerable Bede the name of the high day came from the name of the
goddess Eostre, the Germanic goddess of spring (Wigington, “History of
Ostara”). Jacob Grimm, writing in 1835, provides evidence to support
Bede’s claim of a goddess Eostre.  The evidence is not complete,
but does suggest that Eostre might have existed (Wikipedia,
“?ostre”).  In some communities, Easter is linked with the goddess
Freya (Wikipedia, “?ostre”). Many of the celebrations of Ostara have
been adapted for the celebration of Easter.  Ostara was a
celebration of fertility and sowing of seeds.  Rabbits are common
in the month of March, and have been associated with fertility of the
season (Wigington, “History of Ostara”).

Today, Neopagans celebrate Ostara with the planting of seeds and
rituals celebrating new beginnings.  It is a time of renewal and
rebirth (Wigington, “History of Ostara”). To me, Ostara is a
celebration of life.  This is the time of new life and new
beginnings.  It’s a great time to clean out the old stuff and
begin new projects.

Beltane

Beltane is the first of the fire festivals and the beginning of the
summer season.  It’s the high day that is opposite to Samhain, and
it is believed that the fairies are particularly active and powerful on
this day (Morgan).  In some cultures, it is believed that you
should appease or protect against the Fae or they would play tricks on
you (Morgan).  Fires were also used for celebration and
purification on this High Day.  Bonfires would be used in rituals
for purifications and blessing of the crops and cattle.  In the
early 20th century, the Irish would hang rowan and hawthorn branches,
decorated with ribbons and garlands, were hung over the doors in
celebration of Beltane (Wikipedia, “Beltane”).

May Day is the secularized version of Beltane and is still celebrated
by many, especially in Ireland and England.    In some
areas of England, they still celebrate Beltane with celebrations and
burning wicker men (Lambert).  Today, neo-pagans celebrate with
Maypole dancing, bonfire rituals, handfastings and weddings and
planting rituals (Wigington, “All About Beltane”).

For me, Beltane celebrates the beginning of summer and my favorite time
of the year.  This is the season of growth and activity; it’s a
time to be outdoors and a time to tend growing plants.

Book Reviews

A History of Pagan Europe

Jones, Prudence, and Nigel Pennick. A history of pagan Europe. Repr.
ed. London: Routledge, 1998. Print.

“A History of Pagan Europe” is not the most easy book to read but it
does have a wealth of information in it.  Prudence & Pennick
take us on a journey through history in the different areas of the
Indo-European world from early pagan days to the 1900’s.  We start
off in Greece and the move to the Romans, to the Celts and then to the
Germanics and Baltics as we trace the history of paganism from its
early days, through the conversions to Christianity, and end as
paganism begins to re-assert itself.  The authors focus on
different parts of the world in each chapter, or in some cases a pair
of chapters, and the timelines overlap quite a bit.  For example,
they start talking about Rome in the eighth century BCE when the
beginnings of Roman society was emerging in Italy (p25), and follow the
changes in the Roman society through the rise of the Christian emperors
and to the spreading of Islam in through approximately 1044 CE.
In the next chapter, the authors start talking about the Celts in 700
BCE and follow the Celts all the way to the twentieth century CE.
This makes the book a little difficult to read as you try to match up
what’s happening in the different areas of the world at the same time.

In spite of the jumps back and forth in time, the authors do highlight
a number of concepts through history.  I find it interesting that
the early pagan religions, and indeed Christianity in many areas, adopt
the traditions of their neighbors and conquered people.  In one of
the better known adaptations, Alexander the Great included the Egyptian
myths of Isis and Osiris into the Greek culture as the Greeks
interacted with the Egyptians (p23).  This adaptation of new
traditions shows that paganism was, as it is today, a living and
evolving tradition.  In fact early Christians would refuse to
sacrifice with flame or smoke (p66) but today’s Catholics often use
incense and candles as offerings to God.

According to the authors, Christianity started as a “grass-roots” type
of religion, where the lower classes of people were the first to follow
that faith.  When Christianity began to spread out of Rome, many
countries were converted in a top-down direction.  The leaders of
a country would convert to make trade with Christian countries easier.
Then those same, formerly pagan, rulers would, either by encouragement
or force, convert their people.

In many lands, the people retained both their pagan practices and added
in Christian practices until they were forced by their leaders to
become totally Christian … at least in name.  In some areas,
like Iceland, many of the pagan traditions were re-framed into the
Christian practices and the people were still following the same
practices as before while the leaders of the country were Christian.

Overall I found “A History of Pagan Europe” to be a decent book to
read.  The authors do seem to have a tendency of romanticizing the
pagans of the ancient world.  They even went so far as to
say  “In Pagan times, no abuse of trees or animal was tolerated”
(p176).  Even with this bias, the authors presented a lot of
information in a way that was relatively digestible and managed to
highlight the changes in culture and religion.

History of Wicca book review

Hutton, R. (1999). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan
Witchcraft. Oxford Paperbacks.

“The Triumph of the Moon” takes us on a journey following
Paganism from the Middle Ages through modern times. Hutton starts out
with the different ways that people in our history spoke of
paganism.  He then goes on to discuss how these two points of view
developed over the nineteenth century.   He follows the
progress of paganism through the poetry of the Victorian poets, the
development of the Masonic Lodges and Ceremonial Magic, and the rise
and fall of Aleister Crowley, Margaret Murray, Gerald Gardner,
Alexander Saunders and other major modern pagan figures.  Druids
are not mentioned often in this work, but it gives us a good background
for today’s Pagan environment.

While “The Triumph of the Moon” is a scholarly text, it’s not
particularly difficult to read.  Hutton does make some assumptions
about the base knowledge of his reader, but in general the information
in these assumptions is not critical for understanding the text.
I like the fact that he frequently uses quotes from the people that he
discusses.  This helps to bring a more immediate feel to the
opinions and theories that Hutton proposes.

One of the key theories presented is the theory that today’s pagan
traditions are not likely to be, in spite of what their founders say, a
direct line from the ancient pagan traditions.  Hutton shows how
many different groups, from the Masons, to Wiccans and Witches, claim
to have come from ancient traditions, but there is not sufficient
evidence to lend credence to their claims.

Hutton also shows how often the development of a modern pagan tradition
is influenced by modern politics and public opinion.  Crowley was
one of the early “big names” in modern paganism, and many of the later
folk would claim an association with Crowley that may, or may not, have
really existed.

It’s interesting how many women rose to prominence in modern paganism
even when women were struggling with power in other areas of society;
from Dion Fortune to Doreen Valentine, to Starhawk, women became
prominent figures in the pagan world.  Paganism became a religion
of empowerment and it often attracted people who felt dis-empowered due
to their current life circumstances.  In the early days of the
feminist movement, that meant that women were often attracted to
paganism.  Today we see a more balanced ratio of men and women in
paganism, but this balance is often differentiated by tradition.
American wiccan traditions, for example, often have a higher portion of
women than men.

Before coming to the ADF, I had followed a Wiccan path.  Hutton
presented a point of view that I had not thought about … the
interactions between the different individuals in the history of
paganism. I do wish that I had lived in a time to see the development
of paganism, but I think we are on the brink of a new era, and it’s
exciting to see that too.

Hearth culture Book review

Albertsson, A. (2009). Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a
Saxon Pagan. Llewellyn Publications.

Overall I found the book interesting but not particularly
scholarly.  There is a bibliography, but Abertsson rarely uses
direct references in his book.  He does, however, give a
reasonable overview of the Anglo-Saxon practices that he follows.
A lot of the information that Abertsson gives is information that is
useful to any new Saxon pagan or druid.

Abertsson describes his view of the Saxon deities and compares them to
the Norse gods where appropriate. I find the relationship between the
Scandinavian-Norse and Anglo-Saxon beings to be interesting.
According to Abertsson, the Anglo-Saxons also believe in the nine
worlds, and many of the gods are shared between the two different
cultures. Because I have previous knowledge of the Norse deities,
Abertsson’s definitions of the Anglo-Saxon deities raised questions of
identity.  I intend to do some further meditation to see what I
can discover and what makes sense to me.

Some of the deities that I would like to investigate further are
Frig/Freya and Frige/Fréo.  There seems to be some disagreement if
Frig and Freya, or Frige and Fréo are the same goddess or if they are
different goddesses.  To make things more complicated, according
to Abertsson, Frige is pronounced FREE-yah, which is very close to
Freya.  I have done some work with Freya, and she seems to be
separate from Frig, but at the same time the Anglo-Saxon version of
Freya, Fréo, seems to have some overlap with Frige.

I find that the general advice that Abertsson gives is very reasonable
and full of common sense.  He offers ideas for people who are
living in small spaces, or with other people who may take offense at
the Anglo-Saxon worship.  I appreciate that Abertsson includes
information on brewing your own mead.  Mead seems to be such a
large part of offerings and hospitality that it’s good to be able to
make your own.

Abertsson then discusses worship in groups, specifically an inhíred, a
Saxon “family” group.  Again Abertsson utilizes a lot of common
sense in his discussion.  He talks about how to find a group, what
you should be looking for as well as what you should expect in return,
and how to leave a group should you find that it doesn’t work for some
reason.

Finally, Abertsoon reviews his reviews and practices for the Saxon
equivalent of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, and for key rites of
passage.  The rites are very different from the Wiccan rituals
that I have studied and attended previously, and follow the patterns of
the rites presented earlier in the book.

Overally, the book is fairly well written and easy to read.  The
information presented in the book seems to be mostly, or completely,
the Saxon practice as Abertsson practices it.  There are some
references to historical practices and events, but there are very few
links to other sources.

The Home Shrine

I’ve had a personal altar for many
years before joining the ADF.  Previously, my altar was more Wicca
or Witchcraft based, and it was an interesting exercise to make it more
of a druid altar.  My first attempt was very simple, a shell for
the well, a little silk tree for the tree and a candle for the
fire.  The green man symbols were also representations of nature
to me.  The candle holder is Selenite, a stone which I associate
with the mind and the upper world from my shamanic studies.

I started to integrate my druid altar in my daily practice, and added
some items to represent the deities that I regularly work with.
Each morning, when I do my practice, I take some time to light the fire on my altar, center myself, and do whatever rite I’m doing that day.

When I re-did my altar for spring, I added some flowers to celebrate the season, and changed the well to be a little soapstone bowl that came as part of an oil warmer.  Now I have a candle for fire, the soapstone bowl for the well, and my silk tree for the tree.  Also on the altar, I have a glass candle container for liquid offerings, and a wooden bowl for non-liquid offerings.  The stones on the altar are my scrying stone, and a large piece of amber for my patron Freya.  I also keep my runes on my altar, but they’re off to the side of the photo.

Each season, I change the altar around a little, adding and removing items and decorations. In the future, I’d like to replace the tree with a wall hanging of a tree from yarn that I’ve spun myself.  The idea is of a braided tree with gem & knitted leaves spreading out above, and braided roots spreading out below, on a woven background.

The Two Powers

When I started to work through the ADF Dedicant’s Program, I used the
two powers meditation that is in Our Own Druidry (ADF 36). This
particular meditation was new to me, but the idea of managing two flows
of energy in a meditation was not. I did not have any issue with the
visualizations in the meditation. I do like how the Two Powers
meditation takes the time to set the connection with one energy flow
before adding in the second energy flow and then mixing the two.

When I do the Two Powers mediation, I connect with the chaotic primal
energies of the earth and the more orderly energy of the stars and the
Gods from the sky.  Together the energies mix within me, the
embodiment of Midguard, Middle Earth, and enhance my connection to the
spiritual worlds.

During my time in the Dedicant’s program, I also explored versions of
the Two Powers that changed the visualization to include the three
cauldrons at loins, heart and head (Corrigan 29).  In addition to
Druidry, I am studying in a magical tradition and we work with the
centers in the loins, heart and head.  Corrigan’s version of the
Two Powers that includes the three cauldrons melds well with my
non-Druidry work and appeals to me more.  The idea is that our
center is held in our loins, our heart holds compassion for others and
ourselves, and our head holds our intellect and connection to the
divine.  Focusing the power in these three areas makes sense to
me.  Because the powers are flowing through me, the power doesn’t
stagnate in those areas, it just holds in larger concentration in those
areas.

Other Druidry programs teach a different form of meditation that only
involves one power, not two.  I think that the ADF Two Powers is
superior because it promotes balance.  We aren’t just connecting
with the powers under the Earth, but also with the powers of the
Sky.  We connect with light and dark, order and chaos, emotion and
intellect  or whatever pairing you give to the two powers. This
leaves us both connected and in balance.

Establishing this form of connection before doing any kind of ritual,
spiritual or magical work is critical.  Making these connections
allows us to remain ourselves, to keep our balance, while accessing the
information and power of the other realms.

The particular form of the Two Powers also makes it accessible to
people who do not have prior experience with meditation.  The
guided meditations, both in text and in the available audio recordings,
give the people who are new to meditation something to follow.
The more advanced versions of the meditation such as Corrigan’s three
cauldrons or the Advanced Two Powers Meditation (Paradox) are available
to people who are experienced in meditation or who are ready to move
past the basic Two Powers meditation.

Mental Discipline

I’ve been a practicing pagan for many years and a few months before
starting the Dedicant’s program, I had begun doing a daily
practice.  In the course of the time that I recorded for my DP, I
tried the two powers, a candle gazing meditation, zen meditation, and a
center and circumference technique from T. Thorn Coyle.  I’ve
included extracts from my journal for 2011 from the time that I started
the DP.  In 2012, I am continuing the more-than-weekly
meditations.  I often do meditations five times a week, but
sometimes it’s as little as once a week.  I the last couple
months, I’ve also added a physical practice by working through my Kung
Fu forms and defense moves before my meditation.

Week 1 (06/19/11) – started doing the two powers in mostly daily
practice (4/week); then following 2 powers tried stillness meditations

Week 2 (06/26/11) – was having trouble with stillness, so I tried
candle gazing instead.  Using the 3 point technique from Thorn ..
inside, aura & candle.  Better, but still having trouble
stilling my mind.

Week 3 (07/03/11) – still working on the candle gazing.  It’s
getting easier to stop extra thoughts from going through my mind.
I also feel like I’m connecting more with the spirit in the flame ..
starting to see “beings” in the flame. Also tried adding in some yoga
to the daily practice.

Week 4 (07/10/11) – continuing to work on the two powers as a starting
meditation for my daily practice.  I find that it works best for
me when I envision two loops of energy – one running from earth up
through me and fountaining back down again, and another from the stars
down through me and then springing back from the earth to the
heavens.  Continued with the yoga.

Week 5 (07/17/11) – Started using the daily devotional from the Two
Cranes daily devotional.  Continue working with silence .. it’s
getting much easier now to be still in both body and mind for a little
bit.  Also started pulling daily runes.

Week 6 (07/24/11) – This week I attended the Battle Goddess Workshop
with T. Thorn Coyle.  In the workshop we learned a few movement
meditations … they all seemed just a little awkward to me.  I
think I’ll stick with movements that I know. Continuing the daily Runes

Week 7 (07/31/11) – Missed a few days of my daily practice today and
noticed the difference .. was a bit more scattered and easy to annoy
than usual.  Also did my own Lammas rite & continued with runes

Week 8 (08/07/11) – continue to do daily practice during the week and
drawing runes.  Missed a couple days

Week 9 (08/14/11) – I’ve started to write my dreams down in my journal
in the morning, and to consider them in my mediations.  Continuing
runic pulls throughout the rest of the time and beyond

Week 10 (08/21/11) – Worried about some stuff going on with my
condo.  used candle flames to help focus my mind in meditation

Week 11 (08/28/11) – More candle gazing for meditations to help calm my
mind.  Having a hard time focusing on the meditation many
mornings.  Rune pulls continue.

Week 12 (09/04/11) – Managed to keep up the meditations at SOAR ..
mostly staring out the window or lying in bed so my room-mate wouldn’t
be disturbed.  Back from SOAR and trying stillness meditations

Week 13 (09/11/11) – Daily meditations and rune pulls .. nothing
extra-ordinary

Week 14 (09/18/11) – Work and personal stress make it hard to
focus.  Use the candle gazing techniques when that happens.

Week 15 (09/25/11) – More Candle gazing for meditation.  Also
actually listening to the two powers to help with the focus.  I
notice how much I use my breath to control energy.

Week 16 (10/02/11) – House hunting this week so a little
stressed.  Managed to do my daily practice a couple days this week
and it really helped.  Mostly just sitting in silence and two
powers.

Week 17 (10/09/11) – Went on a trip to a conference and did a short
meditation looking out of my window every morning.  I think I
helped with keeping focused and not getting too spacey

Week 18 (10/16/11) – I’ve noticed how much my muscles relax when I do a
focused exercise such as candle gazing or the two powers.  I
continue to do meditations twice this week.

Week 19 (10/23/11) – My dreams get really weird when I’m stressing
out.  I’ve been writing them down to see if I can see patterns
when I’m not in the middle of  the dream.  Centering
meditation this week was from T. Thorn Coyle.

Week 20 (10/30/11) – Continued with my more-than-weekly
meditations.  In my morning practice, I use the Center &
Circumference meditation from T. Thorn Coyle, and I’m also doing the
online DP Program course and do the Two Powers then.

Week 21 (11/06/11) – More weird dreams for internal worries, but my
rune pulls seem assuring.

Week 22 (11/13/11) – Pretty normal week.  I did meditations twice
this week with the Center & Circumference meditation and rune pulls

Week 23 (11/20/11) – We moved this week, and the first thing I did was
setup my altar so I had it for daily practice.  Meditations
happened three times this week.

Week 24 (11/27/11) – Thanksgiving this week and we were at my brother’s
for the weekend.  Still managed to find time for a short
meditation in the hills of Arizona.

Week 25 (12/04/11) – I did meditations five times this week.
Mostly center & circumference and my rune pulls

Week 26 (12/11/11) – Only one meditation this week, use the two powers
to help focus

Week 27 (12/18/11) – Yule rituals this week were great.  It was a
bit hectic but I managed to do my meditations *most* mornings.  I
did three morning meditations this week.

Week 28 (12/25/11) – I’ve been multitasking a lot between home and
work.  I’m back to using the two powers meditation as it helps me
to focus.

Nature Awareness

This morning I sat out in my burgeoning garden for my morning
practice.  It’s lovely weather now in California and it’s
comfortable to sit outside with a cup of tea and just be there.
Because I am an urban druid, living in a condo complex on the edge of
downtown, there’s not a lot of open space.  There is a lovely park
across the street, and my patio is surrounded by trees and shrubs and
there’s a fountain in the distance.  We have wind through the
leaves, bird song, road noise and the sound of people and pets out for
a walk.  It’s a reminder that people and nature can do-exist in an
urban environment.

Over the last decade or so, I have worked to make my family into a
lower environmental impact household.  While the Earth will
continue long past humans, we do have a significant impact on the earth
through our trash and the food we eat.  In our house we get our
vegetables and fruit at farmer’s markets or stores that carry local
produce, and lately we’ve been trying to eat more grass-fed, free range
or wild-caught meat and fish.  We also recycle as much as the city
we live in allows, and have eliminated paper towels from our home –
using re-usable, often handmade, cloths instead.  In our current
complex, we can recycle plastic, cans, glass and paper, so we have
recycling bins alongside the trash bin.  We also bring our own
bags to the store, and try to reduce the amount of factory-prepared
food that we eat, so we are consuming products with less packaging. All
of these things help us to reduce our impact on the environment, and
doing them helps us to remember our connection with the Earth we live
on.

To help us get more fresh food and to connect more with nature, I
recently started a patio garden. I have a pot full of different types
of Basil to make pesto, which we both enjoy, and another few containers
with different types of herbs such as rosemary, mint and thyme.
There are also pots with various types of greens in it such as celery
and bok choy.  As I plant and grow the plants, I try to connect
with the spirits within them, both by learning more about the specific
strains that I have and by taking the time to care for the spirits
within the plants. I’m looking forward to being able to cook food with
the plants from my own garden.  In the future, I also plan to
include medicinal and magical herbs in my container garden.

While I have always lived in cities since moving to the US when I was
15, I am usually within a short walk of a park or forest.  In most
cases, these areas have a genius loci, or spirit of the place.
Even before I began following the path of Druidry, I have taken the
time to get to know the genius loci of the area and clean up their
parks.  In addition to cleaning up the area, I talk to the
spirits, and usually they are willing to talk back.

Since I’ve started following the path of Druidry, I have realized that
there are nature spirits everywhere in the cities.  There’s the
tree with mushrooms around it’s base, the beautiful blue jay that flies
across the street, lovely wrens that play in the gardens and road-side
hedges, and spirits who have adapted to living with humans.  It’s
absolutely amazing how much nature we still have in our cities.
Even our apartment complex has a genius loci who keeps everything safe.

I find that since I’ve started the DP, I notice the little bits of
nature more.  I stop to admire the beauty of a flower, or to watch
the birds play in the wires, or to admire the beauty of the weeds a lot
more now that I have done before.  It reminds me of something that
I overheard once, that we need to remember that Humans are nature too.

High Day Attendance

Midsummer

I was happy to be able to celebrate
the Midsummer ritual with the Sierra Madrone grove on June 19th,
2011.  This was my first ADF ritual, and was very interesting to
me.  I had previously attended Wiccan and wiccan-derived rituals
before, and the ADF ritual was very different.

The grove follows the Celtic pantheon.  For this ritual, we called
Queen of the Fae and Manannan as the Shining ones, and Manannan was
also the Gatekeeper.  We did the ritual outside, near to a large
tree and with an above-ground fire pit.  One of the grove members
invoked William Butler Yates as our inspiration by reading one of his
poems.

Prior to studying Druidry, my circles tended to be a more flexible than
traditional Wiccan circles, so the idea of defining sacred space rather
than a hard barrier made sense to me.  The opening of the gate was
also very interesting as I could see a vortex that was a gate between
the worlds.  Once the gate was opened, I could feel the kindred
around me and could feel the sacredness of the space.  It was a
wonderful feeling.

During the ritual the senior druid of the grove, made the offerings.
Different people from the grove did the different parts.  Our Seer
took a reading but I don’t remember the details of the reading. I do
know that she read the runes and Isa was one of the runes drawn.
There was some discussion on the interpretation of the runes.  It
was determined that the grove should take time to regenerate their
energy.

After the ritual, we had a pot luck and I got to spend a little time
with the members of the grove.  There is a wide range of people in
the grove, and it’s good to see how they all work together.

Lughnasadh

I did a short ritual for Lughnasadh.  To frame the ritual in a
more druidic I used the daily rite from “A Crane Breviary and Guide
Book” by Rev. Michael Dangler as a base for the opening and the closing
of the ritual. I did call the elements in so it’s not an ADF rite, but
that was more comfortable for me. I asked Lugh and Cerridwen to join,
asked for omens, then read the Lammas chant from “Victorian Grimoire”
by Patricia Telesco was three times to build energy and released to
bless the harvest.

For the omens I pulled runes and got Eihaz from the Ancestors, Ehwaz
from the Nature spirits and Teiwaz from the Shining Ones.  Eihaz
is about transitions, Ehwaz is for energy and motion, and Teiwaz is
about sacrifice and protection.  Overall I think this is a good
omen as I embark upon my path.  It will be challenging, but good.

Mabon

Mabon was a very interesting ritual for me this year.  I went up
to the Sacramento Pagan Pride event and joined the Sierra Madrone grove
for the ritual that they did at the event.  It was my first time
being in an openly public ritual.  Rev. Sean Harbaugh lead the
ritual in grand style.  The crowd that gathered was a mix of
different types of pagans, including a number of members from Sierra
Madrone.  As we went through the rite, Sean explained what we were
doing, and folks generally seemed to understand.  The grove
members acted as examples for the crowd to respond in the appropriate
spots.  We didn’t do the personal sacrifices during the rite
because there were so many non-ADF’ers there and we were limited on
time.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of the omens of the
ritual, but they were fairly positive. After the rite, I did my
personal sacrifices for some help with a retreat that I had following
the ritual.  I also burned the burnable sacrifices that I had done
during the time since the last High Day since I don’t have a convenient
place to burn the offerings at home.

Samhain

For Samhain 2011, I celebrated with my local group of eclectic
pagans.  The ritual itself was fairly standard for this group, and
has some interesting parallels to the ADF rituals.  We started
outside, and processed into the ritual space to the sound of drum beats
and chants.  Then we formed a rough circle and invoked the
elements and ancestors.  Each person was encouraged to give an
offering of memories to the ancestors, to both celebrate their lives
and to acknowledge their impact on us. As the offerings were completed,
one of the priestesses read the myth that I wrote to the assembled
adults and children.  Pomegranate seeds and water were blessed and
passed around so all could receive the blessings, then the circle was
closed.

This ritual was very interesting to me, both because I had written part
of it and because I was acting as guardian for the ritual.
This  group doesn’t cast a solid circle as many pagans do, but
they define sacred space in a similar manner to the ADF, so the
guardians are in charge of keeping the outsiders out.   I was
pleased that nothing unfriendly tried to get in.

Samhain is a time when I specifically remember my Grandfather, a
warrior and a kind and generous man.  He still means a lot to me,
even after his death.  At Samhain I feel especially close to him
so the high day is a bit bitter-sweet for me.  In this particular
ritual, I could feel him with me, encouraging and supporting.  I
find that the more I study the mystic arts, the more aware I am of the
things going on around me.  I could feel the ancestors of those
who were there, and the support and love was strong.

Retelling of the Persephone Myth: http://liondragonfly.com/2011/10/the-story-of-persephone/

Winter Solstice

This year I did the Yule Blessing
ritual from Ian Corrigan.  This was my first solitary ADF style
ritual. For my offerings, I used silver for the water, frankincense
& myrrh for fire, oil for the kindred, and water for the tree. The
rite was written for a group, but I adjusted wording to apply to a
solitary as needed. Before I started the ritual, I did mediation rather
than a full processional. I did not have time to memorize the rite, but
I think that it would be better if I did.

I performed the rite in my living room in front of my gas fireplace. I
started reading out loud but quietly. As I got through the section of
recreating the cosmos, my voice got stronger.  I was still fairly
quiet, but there was more power in the words.

The omens for the rite were Jera, Naudhiz and Sowilo from the
Ancestors, Nature Spirits and Shining Ones respectively.
Jera is the rune of transformation and balance.  Naudhiz is the
rune of need, of necessity.   Sowilo is a rune of movement
and spiritual guidance.  This particular combination is
interesting because, in the last part of the year, I have felt
stagnated with my spiritual growth.  Now, I suspect, it is time to
move forward

Overall, I felt that the ritual went very well.  While I did not
feel the individual kindred, I did get a sense of being in sacred space
in the time between light and dark …standing on the edge of
transition.  It was both tense and peaceful.

Once the rite was over I took my offerings outside and poured out the
water and oil into a large raised bed outside of our patio with a
whispered thank you to the Earth.

Link to Yule Blessing Rite: http://www.adf.org/rituals/norse/yule/nyule.html

 

Imbolc

This Imbolc I was happy to attend a small ritual with three druids in
the nearby area.  This was Caitlin’s first ritual that she was
leading, so we used the ritual outline from the Sierra Madrone Grove
Missal and Songbook.  The four of us who were there each took a
part of the ritual to lead with Caitlin taking the majority of
it.  I did the grounding meditation.  We called Brigid as
both Inspiration and Shining Ones, and the sea god Manannán mac Lir as
our gatekeeper.

Instead of the Two Powers meditation, I did a variation of the Center
and Circumference meditation (Oigheag).  I adapted the meditation
by replacing the god-soul breath with a breath into the arms of
Brigid.  To “un-do” the meditation, I had the participants take
one breath to breath in the energy of the ritual, then another up into
the arms of Brigid to release the excess energy unto the goddess and
from her back into the Earth.

Caitlin drew the omens using the ogham and got Dair, Coll and Eabhadh
as our omens.  We all agreed that these were auspicious omens and
they were very good omens for the first ritual of our
protogrove-to-be.

The ritual went really well, especially with four folks who were new to
running rituals doing the parts! There was some laughter and mistakes
along the way, but we opened the gates successfully and celebrated the
High Day with laughter, joy and friendship.

Ostara

Ostara was a great High day for me this year as it was the first ADF
ritual that I wrote and lead.  The day was a rainy one, but we had
a tent to stand under and the rain held while we were performing the
ritual.  The ritual went well.  I would have liked to have
more of the parts memorized, but we had scripts and everyone had
practiced their parts before the ritual.  In preparation for the
ritual, I was doing some research on Eostra and discovered that there’s
not a whole lot of information about her, found her aspect as the
personification of Spring and wrote her as such.  I adapted two
rituals from the ADF website: The Ostara Blot and Unity Rite by Aesa;
and the Gleichennacht by Paul Maurice, I also took some of the words
from the Sierra Madrone ritual book to add a familiar feel.

In the ritual, we called Nerthus as the Earth Mother, Saga for
Inspiration, Hiemdall as the Gatekeeper and and Oestra as the deity of
the occasion. Our seer drew runes for the omen, and they were Dagaz
from the Ancestors, Uruz from the Nature Spirits, and Eihwaz from the
Shining Ones.  Our interpretation was that we are starting up an
effort that will help to create a place in the world today to bring
balance and magic to the world.  A good omen for our first
official rite as a Protogrove.

Link to Ritual:
http://www.whatyourhearthinks.com/leonaoigheag/2012/03/21/ostara-2012/

Beltane

For this ritual, Caitlin surprised us by renting out a space in one of
the local national parks.  It was lovely to do the ritual in such
a rural setting.  There was a large barbeque pit, but we brought
along our own metal pit for the fire.  The ritual area was set up
to the side of the area for food.

The ritual was well attended and went very well.  Rev. Sean
Harbaugh joined us presiding Druid, with Caitlin as his assistant and
myself as the Sacrificer.  Due to the rules of the park, we
couldn’t have a wood fire, but we could have a charcoal fire.  The
charcoal fire worked out well.  Whenever we would pour a sacrifice
of alcohol or oil on the fire, it would flare up with great dramatic
effect. I didn’t write down the omen, but I do remember that it was
auspicious for our new protogrove.

After the ritual, we all sat down for a pot luck meal.

Three Kindred

One of the things that made me interested in the ADF was the focus on
the three kindred.  The balance between ancestors, nature spirits
and deities (shining ones) rang true to me.

I found that the Ancestors are the hardest of the Kindred for me to
connect with.  Growing up, I was aware of ancestor worship, but
all the grandparents and great grandparents that were alive when I was
born, were still alive until I was 13.  I do remember when my
great grandmother died. She and I were not particularly close, but
there was always a soft spot in my heart for her and in hers for
me.   It was also the first encounter I had with death.
That was first experience that I had with ancestor spirits.  My
great grandmother would visit me, first in my dreams, and later while I
was awake.

My Grandfather on my Mother’s side also spent a long time researching
our family history. In my time as a Wiccan, I connected with the
spirits of my ancestors at Samhain, but I didn’t really begin to
connect with ancestor spirits until I started working with the
ADF.  The study of my family did lead me to play an Irish person
from my ancestor’s town during my time in the SCA.  Looking back,
it was a great way to celebrate my ancestors by learning about the
lives in their area and time, and re-creating it today.

When I moved to California, I brought my Grandfather’s well-used and
loved hand-made easel with me and set it up as an Ancestor altar.
I kept photos of beloved family members and pets that had passed along
with some candles in my bedroom where I could see and talk with them
every day.  Now I include photos of my great grandmother and my
genealogy-loving grandfather on my altar.  “Gran the Great” and
“Gramps” watch over my morning ritual and remind me of their teachings.

As part of my practice in the ADF, I’ve come across the idea of
ancestors of spirit and heart, as well as of blood, and I find that
that idea has great appeal to me.  Growing up, some of my closest
“family” weren’t related by blood to me at all. I haven’t done much
work with these ancestors, but as I begin the work with Ian Corrigan’s
Spirit Arts, I intend to do a bit of work connecting with these
Ancestors of Spirit and Heart.

Ian’s Spirit Arts also encourages me to continue my connection with the
nature spirits.  Some of the beings that we encountered during the
ritual to meet the Court of Brigid were a mixture of Fae and ancestors
(Corrigan, “Court of Brigid”).  I’m fairly sure that the being
that I encountered was a nature spirit and not one of our ancestors.

When I was growing up, I played with the Fae in my best friend’s
garden.  My whole life I’ve believed in, what I then called, the
Fae.  I’ve since learned that the beings that I grew up
interacting with were a combination of different types of beings.
Together, they comprise the Nature Spirits.  As I have been
exposed to different areas of study, these beings are called by
different names: elementals, Devas, or just spirits.  Other
approaches differentiate between the “Fae” and “elementals”.  The
Norse call them the wights, the Celts call them the sidhe, others call
them elementals, or faerie, the ADF calls them Nature Spirits.. These
beings are all around us, even in the cities, and it is important for
us to recognize them and to honor them.  The Nature Spirits tend
to have a limited area of influence, usually limited to a specific
geographical area or, in our modern society, a particular building, but
we should not under-estimate their influence within their
area.   They can be formidable allies, but just as easily can
cause challenges for us in our rites and workings.

As I’ve moved around from place to place, I find myself connecting with
the spirits of the places.  Just down the street from my previous
apartment, there was a park with a play area and a resident nature
spirit.  That spirit was generally helpful and somewhat
motherly.  She looked after the children playing in the park, and
was very lonely.  I would always walk through or next to the park
on my way to and from the train, so I could say “hi”.  When we
moved out, I did take the time to say goodbye.   Our new
rented condo has it’s own house spirit, a young man who helped to build
the house.  Through conversations with him, I have discovered that
he enjoys a good brandy and rum, and I offer some to him periodically
by placing a glass of the appropriate alcohol in the corner where he
seems to reside more often.

The third of the kindred are the Shining Ones, the deities of the
world.  Most of the common myths are about the deities.  When
I started Wicca, the gods and goddesses where presented as aspects of a
single, unknowable, deity.  I worked with the different aspects of
the gods as if they were individual entities.  Now that I’ve been
working with the ADF, a group that often views deities as if they were
individual beings, I find that that perspective makes sense to me.

To expand on that idea, of the gods being distinct beings, at Eight
Winds 2012 Ceisiwr Serith talked about the idea that the being that we
refer to by one name can be different with each different group or
individual that worships the deity (Serith).  Cei’s proposition is
very intriguing for me, especially when I pair it with my understanding
that ancient pagans tended to worship their local gods, and there’s no
guarantee that every village and town interpreted the myths in the same
way.

The myths for the beings that are often considered the same deity, for
example, differ between cultures.  When I started with the
Dedicant’s program, I was researching the Norse hearth culture.  I
was familiar with Irish and Welsh Celtic from my days as a Wiccan, but
I had a very limited exposure to the Norse.  In researching the
myths, I found that I enjoyed most of them, but they didn’t quite ring
true.  I had started working with Freya, but there were aspects to
the entity that I was working with that didn’t match the Norse
Freya.  I’ve since started looking into the Anglo Saxon culture
and myths, and some of the myths seem to be the same, while others seem
to be different.  However, when I contact the deities under their
local names (Woden and Odin for example) I find that they seem to be
different entities.

In his book “American Gods”, Neil Gaiman presents us with a uniquely
modernized and Americanized view of various deities from around the
globe (Gaiman).  The gods presented in that book may be the true
gods to someone.  In fact, it’s likely that they have become so
now, even if they weren’t so before, due to the popularity of the book.

It makes complete sense that different cultures should view their gods
as differently, and we need to be careful of the trap of “my version is
the right one.”

No matter what the particular deities you worship are, they are the
beings that you work with whenever you need help beyond your own life
and environment.  They are the beings who can help you to find a
job, to gain more money in your life, or to make a change in your life
that you desire.  Some people, myself included, believe that the
gods can, and will, communicate with us through our daily lives by
presenting us with opportunities and omens, but it’s up to use to
interpret these signs and to make our own decisions what to do.

I view the gods as experienced, powerful elders, similar in
relationship to a martial arts master.  There are lots of
different masters out there, but I choose to regularly work with a few
… the rest are still there if I have a question or need to work with
them.  I also make my own choices in what I do, I can choose to
listen to the teacher, or I can choose not to.  I can also choose
to stay through the class and work my muscles to exhaustion in order to
become better at that art.  It’s the same way with the gods, I can
choose to pay attention or ignore them, but I have to put in the work
to benefit from their leadership.

We connect with the kindred during our rituals as we call ancestors
from the well, nature spirits from the tree, and shining ones from the
fire.  I don’t find that it’s necessary to utilize the full ritual
to contact kindred with whom I have developed a relationship.

As I have worked through my Dedicant’s Path in the last year and a
half, I have come to experience and to further appreciate all of the
different kindred.  There is some general agreement on what each
of the kindred are, but there seems to be variation in the individual
experience and beliefs.  I look forward to deepening my experience
with each of the different kindred.

Cultural Practice

I started down my personal practice path when I was 15 and discovered
“Good Magic” by Marina Medici.  This book was the first of many
and began the path that has lead me to Our Own Druidry.  Most of
my magical practice has been a solitary affair.  I briefly worked
with a coven, but that disintegrated in the acid of egos, and I was
certain that I should live my life as a solitary witch.  I found
an online group and started working with them for a while, learning
from the lessons and from the individuals.  Through that group, I
met a few local-ish folks, but the majority of my practice remained
solitary.

Over the last few years, I have begun to crave something more than
solitary.  While much of my work remains a solo affair, I have
found a local group of witches that I practice magic with, and I have
found the ADF and our new, local, protogrove. As I have gotten further
into my path, I find that connecting with community is as important as
doing individual work.  The individual work, however, is still
very important to me.  I was enjoying working with the ADF and
working through the Dedicant’s program, but I was looking for something
with a more mystical bent as well, so I supplemented my work with the
ADF by also starting to work through the OBOD training.  I enjoy
the different aspects that the different programs bring to my evolving
expression of my practice of druidry.

Prior to starting the Dedicant’s program, I had been mostly working
with a Celtic pantheon, specifically the Welsh gods.  After doing
a bit more research during the DP, I narrowed it down to the Welsh
pantheon. In the process of investigating different hearth cultures, I
found that I’m also attracted to the Vanir of the Norse mythos.
As I continue in my studies, I find that the similarities between the
different deities of the various Celtic and Norse cultures are very
interesting.  I’m still working to balance out the Celtic and
Norse sides of my practice.  After reading through “A History of
Pagan Europe” by Jones & Pennick, I have realized that working with
deities from multiple cultures, especially when I have cultural and
blood ties to both, actually makes sense in an Indo-European way.

As I started the Dedicant’s Program, I had started to work on building
a personal, daily practice.  I did some work with T. Thorn Coyle
and her class to learn about some ideas for a daily practice but it
didn’t quite seem great for me.  I was looking for something that
reflected the Kindred and the hallows of Druidry.  In my research
for my DP, I found “A Crane Breviary and Guide Book” and read the daily
rite  (Dangler, A Crane Breviary and Guide Book 62).  This
rite seemed to be want I was looking for – a simple opening, middle,
and closing rite.  I began using the rite in my morning
practice.  I experimented with changing the dieties called to fit
more with my Welsh and Norse backgrounds, using Lleu Llaw Gyffes or
Heimdall as gatekeeper depending on what pantheon I was working
with.  Almost a year later, I continue to use this simple rite to
frame my morning rites.   I’m still not doing the practice
seven days a week, but I usually find time to do at least a basic
centering in the morning.

In addition to using the Druidic rite from the Breviary, I have also
been working the practice of offerings and sacrifice into my
practices.  I’m still working out what the correct amount of
something to sacrifice is.  Unfortunately, my husband is very
sensitive to scents, so incense is difficult to work with.
Instead, I have been using scented oils in the candle wax for
short-term scents and to help set the scene for the working.

As I move forward through the Dedicant’s program and beyond, I have
found that I enjoy the community of meeting with my fellow Druids and
Pagans, but I also value the time that I spend doing work on my
own.

Dedicant Oath Rite

Text of the Oath Rite

Based on the Winter Ritual from the Solitary Druid Fellowship – created
by Teo Bishop

Here I bring my offerings To celebrate the Kindred Three.

Here before the sacred fire, Sacred well, and sacred tree, May we all
be purified. And may the fire burn within.

May all that hinders me be released, May all that binds me be released,
May the outdwellers of my heart be released,

That I may be made pure.

I place my hand upon the ground, Earth Mother.

This body is an instrument of praise. My mother is the earth, And we
are her children. Holy Mother, I call upon you – Bless the rite of your
child.

I have come to honor the Kindred, To affirm my connection to the earth,
To celebrate this High Day of Yule and to dedicate myself to the Druid
Path.

In this season of stillness, when the winter cold envelops all, I honor
my tradition.

I pray with a good fire.

I stand with the strength of an Oak. I move with the grace of the
Willow. I reach deep into earth, High towards the sun, and within my
being, I am still.

Here at the center of all things, Before the Fire, Well, & Sacred
Tree, I create the hallows.

I bless the well, and make it sacred. Waters of deep wisdom, flow
within me.

I bless the fire, and make it sacred. Fire of heavenly light, burn
within me.

I bless this tree, and make it sacred. Tree of great unity, grow in me.

Heimdallr, I call on you and ask that you be with me in this place, and
I make to you an offering.

Take this candle, and transform it. Let it become the Sacred Fire,
gateway to the heavens; gateway for the Shining Ones.

Heimdallr, make this fire a gate!

Take this water, and transform it. Let it become the Sacred Well,
gateway to the underworld; gateway for the Ancestors.

Heimdallr, make this water a gate!

Take this tree, and transform it. Let it become the Sacred Tree,
connecting heavens and underworld, standing as a gateway in the middle
earth; a gateway for the Spirits of the Land.

Heimdallr, make this tree a gate!

Through your power and magic, great Heimdallr  … Let the gates be
open!

Mighty Kindred, come close, that you might hear my praise and receive
my sacrifice.

I stand before the Sacred Fire, At the Center of All Things. {brandy}

This is my sacrifice of Praise and thanksgiving, Respect and honor,
Love, worship, and devotion.

Please accept this offering In the spirit in which it is given.

Shining Ones, accept my sacrifice!

I stand before the Sacred Well, at the Center of All Things. {honey}

This is my sacrifice of Praise and thanksgiving, Respect and honor,
Love, worship, and devotion.

Please accept this offering In the spirit in which it is given.

Ancestors, accept my sacrifice!

I stand before the Sacred Tree, at the Center of All Things. {rum cake
made by me}

This is my sacrifice of Praise and thanksgiving, Respect and honor,
Love, worship, and devotion. Please accept this offering

In the spirit in which it is given. Nature Spirits, accept my sacrifice!

On this day of the Winter solstice, this day that is the turning point
of the year, I call upon the Shining Ones to witness my Oath.

Freya, Goddess of magic, Giver of joy, Brísingamen’s Bearer, I call to
you this day, to join me here and witness my Oath.

Lleu Llaw Gyffes, Bight one of the steady hand, You who lived as an
eagle, I call to you this day, to join me here and witness my Oath.

Ceridwen, You who gave birth to the best of Bards, Who brews the
potions of wisdom, I call to you this day, to join me here and witness
my Oath.

To all of the Kindred here today, and to those who have interest, I
swear this oath on this day of the Solstice, when the light and dark
are balanced.

As the Earth turns to a new year, I swear to dedicate myself to the
path of Druidry, to respect and honor the Shining Ones, the Nature
Spirits and all the Ancestors of blood, heart and spirit.  I swear
to honor the Nine Virtues as I walk through these lands, to honor the
High Days, to honor the Old Ways and to learn from them.

Before all the Kindred, this I do swear.

Mighty Kindred, You have heard my oath, with this final offering I lift
up my heart, my being, As a sign of my commitment to you.

Mighty Kindred, accept my sacrifice!

{Omen questions: 1. How was my Oath received  2. How shall the
Kindred respond  3. What more would you have me learn }

Mighty Kindred, I am open to your blessing. I receive the gifts you
offer. May your generosity fill my cup.

Into my being, I accept the blessings of The Kindred.

The blessings are received, Into my body and spirit. I have reaffirmed
my relationship With the world, and with the Kindred.

On this dark day, the Winter Solstice, As I await the return of the
sun, I have prayed with a good fire. I have made offerings to the
Kindred, And I have received their blessings.

Now, I give thanks.

To Cerridwen, Lleu and Freya I give thanks.

To the Nature Spirits, I give thanks.

To the Ancestors, I give thanks.

To all the Shining Ones, I give thanks.

I thank you for your joining me on this High Day, for receiving my
offerings and oath, and for your great generosity.

I am blessed to be in relationship with you.

Great Heimdallr, I give thanks to you for aiding me in this rite.

I ask now that you undo what you have done.

Take this Sacred Tree, and let it become the tree once again.

Take this Sacred Well, and let it become the water once again.

Take this Sacred Fire, and let it become the candle once again.

Through your power and magic, great Heimdallr …

Let the gates be closed!

I place my hand upon the ground, Earth Mother.

This body is an instrument of praise and thanks. You are my mother, and
I am your child.

Your children give thanks For the blessings and bounty of This great
earth.

May we keep you In our minds and hearts, And may we honor you in every
action.

I go forth into the world, Strengthened by this Druid rite. May we pray
with a good fire, And make the Old Ways new again.

It is done!

Dedicant’s Oath Rite Feedback

I timed my Dedican’ts Oath ritual for sunrise the day after the Winter
Solstice.  I had originally intended to do the rite on the evening
of the Solstice, but I was unable to do so.   The ritual that
I used was adapted, with permission, from the Solstice ritual that was
written by Teo Bishop for the Solitary Druid Fellowship.  I
specifically chose to do my rite around the time of the Solstice as
this is a time of new beginnings.  The sun begins the waxing of
it’s yearly cycle, and light becomes longer.

The night before doing my Oath, I printed out a copy of the ritual and
my Oath (text included previously) and gathered my offerings.  I
brought brandy for the Ancestors,  local honey for the Shining
Ones, and some of my home-made rum cake for the Nature Spirits.
For the deities that I call in the ritual, I had amber for Freya, sage
for Cerridwen, and a coin for Lleu.  I read through the rite a few
times that night so I wouldn’t have any issue performing the rite the
following day.

On the morning of my Oath, I woke at 7am and showered with cleansing
intent before getting dressed in clean clothes for my Oath
ritual.  I started the ritual at sunrise, 7:20am.  I
performed my ritual in front of my bedroom altar.  It is the only
permanent altar in my house, and it’s what I tend to use for most of my
formal rites.  I have a set of hallows on my altar, photos of my
grandparents, and great-grandparents, a selection of stones, an
offering plate and bowl, and a heated oil diffuser to use for scented
oil offerings.

I could feel the gates opening as I called to Heimdallr to work his
magic.  As I called my patrons, I could feel their arrival.
I had previously worked with Freya and Welsh deities together, so I
wasn’t concerned about mixing Freya, Cerridwen and Lleu for this
rite.  The Fae also showed up in fairly large numbers.
I didn’t get a strong response from the Ancestors. The grandparents
that were represented on my altar did show up, but I did not feel a
significant presence of Ancestors.

I did read through my Oath, to make sure that I got it right, and the
words flowed easily. The oath felt real, and felt right.  This is
an oath that I believe that I can keep.

For my Omen, I asked three questions about my oath and used runes to
receive the answers.

1. How was my Oath received: I drew Berka, the Birch.  Berka
speaks of new beginnings, it’s the promise of spring and the new cycle
of life.

2. How shall the Kindred respond: For the Kindred’s response, I drew
Kenaz, the fire of creation, the ability to define your own reality.

3. What more would you have me learn: For this I drew Ehwaz.  This
rune reminds us of the journey towards the goal.  We must be
willing to take the time on the journey, to trust others and to work
together towards the goal.

I believe that my Oath was accepted, and the Kindred are telling me
that it is within my power to create my path, but I must be wiling to
work with others and to take the time it needs to get there.

The ritual went well, with only one stumble over words, and with no
missing offerings.  I think the pre-planning that I did the night
before really helped. As I move forward on my path, I want to work
towards more memorized rituals. Due to my pre-reading I was able to
work through the ritual without an issue, but I think that it would be
good to not use the script.

I am looking forward to moving further down my path of my own Druidry.

Works Cited

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