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2018 Election Results

It is with great pleasure and humility that I announce I have been elected to serve in the position of Non-Officer Director to ADF’s Mother Grove, the international Board of Directors of our organization. I look forward to serving ADF and all its members for the next two years, and to whatever hopefully beautiful things are coming for this organization.

ADF Members, you can see the results here at this link – the results are also being posted to the Announce list, but must have moderator approval first.

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Reverend Lauren Mart

It is with a great amount of celebration that I am able to announce, as of this evening, that I am officially Reverend Lauren Mart, ADF.

I will take my oath in front of the Gods, the Folk, and the Land at a ritual with Nine Waves Grove on April 28.

When did you hear the call to the path of ADF priesthood? What did it sound like?

If I may offer an answer that is slightly tongue in cheek, it sounded like a phone call to Rev. William Ashton where he asked me why the h*ll I wasn’t doing the CTP. (It was not a subtle call, that one.)

To more seriously answer the question, I need to go back to days long before my even knowing that paganism existed, to the time as a child when I first considered a calling to ministry. My paternal grandfather is a minister, and he is a wonderful example of the beauty and sacrifice that such a vocation can take. When he retired, I spoke at the party – I was eight – and read a poem about being shown the way to do things, instead of being told. I think back on that now and all the things that he showed me how to do that I am now doing in my grove, and I am thankful for him.

I think back on considering Methodist seminary, on considering whether I had a Catholic vocation to holy orders, on my days with a Trad Wicca outer court, and it is very clear to me that I’ve always been intended to be a priest, have always been called to ministry. I just had to find the right religion first.

When I began to study with ADF, it was entirely as a solitary. It wasn’t until I began working with a group – flexing my muscles as a leader – that I started to consider ADF’s priesthood. Over time, as my study group grew, as I was encouraged by other priests who provided shining examples of servant leadership, as my own spirituality grew and changed, I realized that while the path of the Initiate will one day be one that I walk (and probably soon), my little community here needed a priest, and I was willing to step up to fill that need.

ADF is my spiritual home. I’ve studied a lot of theology, and tried on a lot of religious hats, but until I found ADF – and specifically a devotional polytheist current within ADF – I never truly felt like I’d found the tradition I was supposed to plant my roots in. In ADF I’ve found a tradition that values both study and piety, ritual and action, history and inspiration. Reimagining the Indo-European religious practices has given me a depth and breadth of spiritual practice unlike anything I’ve known before – and unlike my days studying Christian theology, the more I study, the more sure I am that I’m in the right place, and that I’ve found the place where my vocation is meant to be nurtured, cultivated, and grown into a full-blown ministry.

The call itself wasn’t something that began or ended at any one time, but rather something that grew and was nurtured in me by my practice and study, by other priests, by my community, and by the Kindreds, until it was something I could no longer ignore. In August of 2014, I officially set foot on the path to become ADF clergy.

What form do you expect your vocation to take?

I expect my vocation to take a few different forms, based on my work so far in the clergy training program. My oath will be to serve the gods, the folk, and the land, and I see my vocation as falling into those categories as well.

I know that my devotional relationships with my deities will remain the central focus of my private practice. I have taken oaths to that service, and though I fully expect to “Serve the Gods” in many and different ways, I will likely always remain both a public servant priest and a devotional priest. I look forward to my vocation encompassing multiple spirits and to my service in the community continuing to be one where I am known as a polytheist priest – someone who will make offerings on behalf of the folk, and who will help people listen to the gods and spirits that are important to them, even if they are largely unknown to me.

I also expect that my vocation will continue to grow one on one, with the people to whom I act as a mentor. I have a strong history of helping people who feel “lost” find their footing again, getting them restarted in a devotional practice and helping them find a new home in paganism. That home may or may not be with ADF, but usually within a few months of working with someone they feel more confident and empowered to step out on their own and be the type of pagan they are called to be. Since I seem to attract these types of people both in-person and online, I will continue to make myself available for both in-person and virtual mentoring, and I look forward to seeing many more folks find their way.

My vocation in my community will, I hope, continue to express itself through the growth and development of Nine Waves Grove. I have tried since my first study group meetings in 2013 to empower the people in my group to lead, to study, to teach, and to perform rituals in such a way that my grove has never become “the Lauren show” – and I fully expect that to continue. With a slowly, but consistently, growing membership, I serve there as a coordinator, as a liturgist, as a spiritual counselor, and as a mentor, and I hope that my vocation to leadership in this group continues to grow along with it.

Serving the land is probably the place where my vocation feels the weakest, at least in the sense of things that are demonstrable outside of my own small spaces. I expect that I will continue to serve my local landbase, to clean roadsides and waterways, support legislation in Houston that preserves our wild spaces, and to grow what things I can in the little bits of earth I have access to. I have always sought to be the “Druid of this Place”, and I want to continue to be that druid.

Do you feel prepared to become an ADF priest now? Do you see further work that you will need to do to prepare yourself for the work ahead?

I don’t feel like the work I will need to do to be the best priest I can be will ever be done, but I do think that right now I have done the work that it takes to be a first-circle priest. In many ways, the work that I do for my gods and my grove already is the work of priesthood, and it is now up to me to “formalize” that relationship through ADF and ordination. I knew what priesthood often looked like when I started, having grown up in a family with a minister, and I knew what I needed to do to prepare for that and practice that, even though much of it has been external to the clergy training program courses themselves. ADF’s study programs have given me the academic foundation for my priesthood, but I expect to be challenged and continue to grow in study even as I mark this one moment of completion in my journey.

But the work of being a better priest is ongoing, and I am fully prepared to continue to study, both within ADF and with other groups, in my goal of serving the gods, the folk, and the land. I hope never to feel stagnant, never to feel like I’ve “learned it all”, because this journey is one that will change and grow as the responsibilities I have change and grow. May I never become complacent, and may I always strive for growth and the betterment of my ministry and service.

I don’t currently have any tattoos. This surprises none of you, for though I may be a flaming pinko commie on the political spectrum, when it comes to how I live my life, I’m quiet, conservative, and reserved.

Going out on a limb and having purple hair for awhile was a HUGE radical change. (That part of my life is done, now that I’m covering my hair.*)

But when I started this path in ADF there was an image that caught my eye, and I fell in love with it. With what it means, and with what it looks like – it’s just an aesthetically pleasing image to me.

cosmos sigil

Ian Corrigan created it – affectionately known as the Cosmos Sigil – and it is unofficially the symbol used by ADF priests and groves. It’s the primary symbol on the stole of an ADF priest, and many of us have it carved or painted on world pillars or pieces of art that we use on our altars.

 

And I looked at it and thought “I want that as a tattoo”. But I was new to ADF, and I figured impulsive tattoo getting was both a) dumb and b) really out of character, so I filed it away and nursed the idea and let it grow. A few years ago, when I got serious about my path as a priest, I started to really consider this a thing that I would be doing. I made it about a goal. I would get this tattoo when I was ordained, as a gift to myself, and as a symbol of my ordination.

 

I meditated on it. I had a friend who is good with henna dry-run the tattoos for me twice, to make sure I liked them, liked where they were placed. And I did. Having them on me was just right – it was how things were supposed to be. So I settled down to wait until I finished the first circle of Clergy Training, so that I could formalize the arrangement.

 

Well, that time is upon us, but my tattoo artist (that I picked out after seeing wonderful work that he’d done for friends) was booked through until May, so I was going to get the tattoos as a reward for having been ordained.

Until this morning.

I messaged him about something, and he got all excited – he’d had a cancellation this Saturday, and did I want to come in and get them done now, so they’d be all healed and glorious for my ordination ceremony. After a quick check in with the friends I want to go with me, I agreed.

So on Saturday I go to formalize an arrangement I’ve made with the Gods and Spirits, in a way that is permanent. I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited. One more step on the process that is taking me from where I was to where I’m going.

*Yes, I’m covering my hair full time right now. This is not a religious mandate (yet) but something I have felt called to do, and that makes me feel beautiful. So I do it! So far nobody has commented negatively on it, probably because I’m wrapping Tichel style and not Hijab style. 

I’ve been reading Kathleen Norris’ (wonderful) book The Cloister Walk, about monastic spirituality, as a sort of side piece to all of the work I’ve been doing and to kind of keep me sane as I prepare for ordination and all the rest of the hoopla that is my religious life right now. And one of the things she talks about is the idea that, at least for Benedictine spirituality, formation is endless – the conversion of the self is a process that takes a lifetime.

So I sat down and looked at a typical formation process for someone in the Catholic faith vs what I’ve done, and realized there are some similarities. With apologies for generalizing, as each community really does have its own rules, and because what I’ve done is nowhere NEAR as dedicated as true monastic life, it still struck me that there were things that I could relate to.

My dedicant year was the equivalent of basic religious education – it gave me the tools to get started on the path, and set me up with a spirituality that I could practice satisfactorily for the rest of my life. This only took me a year, but for others it is the work of a lifetime, and that’s more than okay.

The 2 years I spent working CTP-Prelim were my postulancy – where I figured out whether this whole priesting thing was really going to be for me. It was a longer process, but like all processes – like all formation – it takes however long it takes. I did a lot of work, internally and externally, between August 2014 and August 2016, and I don’t want to shy away from that. It involved a lot of confirmation that what I was doing was really the right thing, and set me up with a lot of the spirit relationships that have continued to nourish me through to today.

From August 2016 to March 2018, I was a novice – not yet having taken any formal vows, but having applied and been accepted to my community of faith and living as best I could the life and spirituality of a priest in my community. I did the clergy student discipline, I spoke with mentors who assisted with my formation and my growth. I studied hard, got handed a few massive life-lessons in the process. I served my community in such a way that they could see my building ministry and vocation, and they allowed me to learn and grow.

And now I sit in the liminal space before taking my oaths as a priest – before being vested with the stola of a priest (which is given to me by the folk). I will step into the role of a junior professed, whose path is renewed every year through continuing education. I wonder what this life will look like in a year, or two, or five. Or twenty. I’ve been “in formation” since 2012. In five-odd years, I’ve come an awful long way, but yet there’s still so much that I don’t know. I’m still so new at this.

What will my life-long formation as a polytheist priest look like?

Because I am not done. If anything, the wheels of change in my life are spinning at a rate that is almost dizzying. New doors are opening up for me, with new opportunities to study and practice my spirituality. This is a watershed moment that I am preparing for, yes, but it is only the beginning.

To coin a phrase, this isn’t even my final form.

I wonder what that will look like.

Part of ADF’s core order of ritual is a moment we call Creating the Group Mind, which involves grounding and centering. Most groves work with what we call the Two Powers – fire and water – that represent the primal forces of creation. Water is down, dark, chaos, potential, swirling, magnetic. Fire is up, light, cosmos, order, creation, burning, electric. As they combine, we find the energy we use to do magic. Below is a quick and dirty two powers meditation that you’re free to use – it works well with both large groups and as a solitary practice. Enjoy!

Children of Earth, breathe deep and close your eyes. As we stand here, preparing to work the magic that is found in our ritual, let us pause and release all the tension we may be carrying. Relax your arms and shoulders, ease your jaw and your forehead, and breathe deep into your belly. Now, let us take nine breaths together, to find our center and order ourselves in this great work.

For the first breath, our roots reach deep into the earth.
For the second breath, we draw up the swirling, chaotic waters.
For the third breath, we are filled with the cool waters.

For the fourth breath, our branches reach high to the heavens.
For the fifth breath, we draw down the ordering, creative fires.
For the sixth breath, we are filled with the burning fires.

For the seventh breath, the waters and fires alight, turning into the druid’s mist.
For the eighth breath, they expand and pour fourth, filling our grove.
For the ninth breath, we open our eyes, one grove, to work our magic together.

(2018, Lauren Mart)

This World is not Conclusion.
A Sequel stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

Emily Dickinson, LXXXIII

To call this final, capstone essay “Discipline” is oddly suited to the journey I have been on since beginning the clergy student discipline. In fact, over the course of this work, I have changed nearly every facet of my mundane life, including completely reinventing my personal practice, and yet still maintained the disciplines set before me – to pray, to take retreat time. Even in the fallow times, I knew that this practice would sustain me. It sustained me through a new job in a new field, moving, numerous mental health challenges, the death of my 10 year marriage and subsequent divorce, and the reinventing of myself that is ongoing as I step forward into the world unfettered by my previous expectations of myself.

This is not to say I never faltered – in the darkest days of my divorce, there was certainly not a lot of incentive to pray beyond knowing that I needed to pray. But I did it anyway, and coming out the other side of it I find myself having grown and changed in ways that seem both miniscule and radical at the same time.

So what have I done, or come to do over the course of my time as a clergy student?

I have a daily practice – one that has now expanded to include the practice of a daily office. My decision to pray every day, three times a day, has been hugely rewarding to my devotional practices and to my closeness to my gods and spirits. I have a (mostly) weekly practice, where I do a larger ritual that encompasses divination, usually a full core order, though usually improvised. I maintain a once-monthly retreat day, finding solace in my practices according to the clergy student discipline. I keep the high days, often with multiple rituals, both private and with my grove.

I also lead weekly study sessions on various topics, provide care and advice and spiritual counseling to my grove, and provide divination and mentorship to my grove and to a small cadre of new pagans online from all around the world. I’ve given presentations at festivals, written articles for Oak Leaves and for publication in other online spaces, and generally turned from a solitary, sheltered pagan into a public face in my community and online.

In short, I have started “priesting” – to coin the present participle of the noun.

I find it fitting that the rune that has followed me throughout my time as a clergy student is Gyfu – the gift, the rune of hospitality and reciprocity. Through it I have continued to find my space in the community, online, and with the spirits – through the giving and receiving of gifts. I have given good gifts, such as are within my power, and I have received blessings abundantly in return.

My relationship with the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper has grown as well. They are part of my daily devotions, each receiving a prayer every morning, as well as at my monthly longer rituals.

As an Anglo-Saxon druid, I have an easy connection to the Earth Mother, as we know the Anglo-Saxons revered her. I simply call her Eorþan Modor, which just means Mother Earth. She is the ground on which I walk, and I honor her both in the green spaces around my apartment and in the garden that I grow on my small balcony. I find there is nothing so fitting as growing some of my own food and herbs, that I can enjoy – and then give back as offerings themselves. But she is also a challenging goddess to serve. I see in her remnants of Nerthus, from whom she descends, veiled and mysterious, a peacekeeper, but also demanding of sacrifice. I say to her “may I learn the meaning of true grace through your guidance,” but she is enigmatic at times. Other times she is simply the fertile ground of agriculture, which is so prevalent only half an hour’s drive from where I live.

Finding my gatekeeper was more challenging. There is always Woden to ask for the task, but he remains distant from me. Hama – the cognate to the Norse Heimdall – is another easy deity to ask, but though I work with him closely as the patron of Nine Waves, he never felt right in my personal rituals. I went so far as to ask Modgud – the giantess who guards the gates of Hel – but she was completely unresponsive. So I started looking for unconventional gatekeepers, and realized that the essence of a gatekeeper is their liminality – their ability to exist both in one world and the next, to traverse the worlds and cross the boundaries. So I reached out to Eostre – the Anglo-Saxon goddess who is honored in the early spring, usually celebrated by modern pagans at the Equinox. Her name is cognate with many other goddesses – Ostara, Eos, Aurora, Usas, and the Proto-Indo European *Hausos – in meaning East, and in being associated with the dawn. Her reaction to being asked to walk with me through the gates can only be described as joyful, and so with her help, I speak into the worlds. She is the Guardian of the Gates of Dawn, the radiant maiden of the East, who dances upon the boundary between night and day.

My personal devotional practice is, as began in my Dedicant work, dominated by my relationship with Ing Frea (Freyr/Ingui/Yngvi). As much as this path has been one of becoming a public priest, it has also included the trials and tribulations of becoming his devotional priest as well. I do not know yet what that will entail fully, but I trust in him and his guidance and advice. He is the sacrifice and sacrificer, death and rebirth, the golden god of the grain, the harvest lord, providence and the sacrificial king. In him, my practice is rooted deeply. (Though strangely, his rune almost never shows up in my readings, and when it does, it often indicates harvests rather than Himself.)

Journaling has never been a strong suit of mine, and my omen records are extremely intermittent, unfortunately, due to having lost some of my documentation when my apartment was struck by lightning last May, which took out part of my hard drive – a lesson in backing up your documents to the cloud, certainly. I do know that my journals – most of which are published on my blog – have given me a chance to go deeper into this practice, to own it, and to come into my ownership of it.

This discipline has become a part of my practice of sovereignty, and through it I express myself in the world. I stand at the precipice, having finished the coursework, but not yet applied for ordination, and I find myself returning to the words of Emily Dickinson – this has been a great adventure, one that has been hard, at times exhausting, but always rewarding. It is with much anticipation that I step forward into the sequel, and get to see what lies beyond.

VSLM