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I’ve long thought about writing up the holidays that I celebrate, as an Anglo-Saxon pagan druid with a strong English folk bent. So here you go – the wheel of the year, with the names I call each holiday and what I do primarily to celebrate each one.

  • Yule – greenery, lights, candles, and 12 days of preparation to begin the new year
  • Candlemas – the celebration of the returning light. Buying and preparing candles, cleaning oil lamps, blessing the home with light.
  • Eostara – the celebration of the dawn, the radiant dawn maiden Eostre, and the balancing towards the growing light of the year. Sometimes just “Spring Equinox”
  • May Day – For summer is a comin’ in and winter’s gone away-oh. Celebration of summer, and also of the first harvests of vegetables in Texas, planted back in February.
  • Midsummer – bonfires, grilling, burned herbs for protection, and protection against hurricanes and tropical storms. Purification by fire, dawn and sunset rituals.
  • Lammas – John Barleycorn, the sacrifice of Ing, the first grain harvest. Loaves baked and sacrificed for the blessings of the harvest for the whole season. Sacrifice – personal and as a group – made to ensure the prosperity of the group.
  • Harvest Home – very much a mini-Thanksgiving, this is the height of the harvest, and the middle of the second growing season in Texas. Naming a harvest queen, drawing her around in a wagon to bless the town. The “holy month” of the harvest.
  • Hallows – Ancestor’s night, the welcoming in of winter, the blood harvest and final sacrifice. Celebration of prosperity (hopefully) and of a year well spent. Entering into a liminal time between Hallows and Yule in preparation for beginning the cycle again.

I should note that a lot of this calendar is UPG and modern Neopaganism derived, just with an English-folk flavor to it. It works for me, and makes me feel connected to the ancestors of spirit from whom I draw my practice.

I also observe the Anglo-Saxon Lunar Months, which begin on the new moon – the true new moon, not the dark moon (so 2-3 days after the actual “dark moon”, when the first crescent is visible in the sky). You can find out when those dates are here.

This lunar calendar is given to us by Bede, so your mileage may vary as to how accurate it is, but I find it meshes well with the 8 holidays I celebrate above:

January, Bede explained, corresponds to an Anglo-Saxon month known as Æftera Geola, or “After Yule”—the month, quite literally, after Christmas.

February was Sōlmōnath, a name that apparently derived from an Old English word for wet sand or mud, sōl; according to Bede, it meant “the month of cakes,” when ritual offerings of savory cakes and loaves of bread would be made to ensure a good year’s harvest. The connection between Old English mud and Bede’s “month of cakes” has long confused scholars of Old English, with some claiming that Bede could even have gotten the name wrong—but it’s plausible that the name Sōlmōnath might have referred to the cakes’ sandy, gritty texture.

March was Hrēðmonath to the ancient Anglo-Saxons, and was named in honor of a little-known pagan fertility goddess named Hreða, or Rheda. Her name eventually became Lide in some southern dialects of English, and the name Lide or Lide-month was still being used locally in parts of southwest England until as recently as the 19th century.

April corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon Eostremonath, which took its name from another mysterious pagan deity named Eostre. She is thought to have been a goddess of the dawn who was honored with a festival around the time of the spring equinox, which, according to some accounts, eventually morphed into our festival of Easter. Oddly, no account of Eostre is recorded anywhere else outside of Bede’s writings, casting some doubt on the reliability of his account—but as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “it seems unlikely that Bede would have invented a fictitious pagan festival in order to account for a Christian one.”

May was Thrimilce, or “the month of three milkings,” when livestock were often so well fed on fresh spring grass that they could be milked three times a day.

June and July were together known as Liða, an Old English word meaning “mild” or “gentle,” which referred to the period of warm, seasonable weather either side of Midsummer. To differentiate between the two, June was sometimes known as Ærraliða, or “before-mild,” and July was Æfteraliða, or “after-mild;” in some years a “leap month” was added to the calendar at the height of the summer, which was Thriliða, or the “third-mild.”

August was Weodmonath or the “plant month.”

After that came September, or Hāligmonath, meaning “holy month,” when celebrations and religious festivals would be held to celebrate a successful summer’s crop.
October was Winterfylleth, or the “winter full moon,” because, as Bede explained, winter was said to begin on the first full moon in October.

November was Blōtmonath, or “the month of blood sacrifices.” No one is quite sure what the purpose of this late autumnal sacrifice would have been, but it’s likely that any older or infirm livestock that seemed unlikely to see out bad weather ahead would be killed both as a stockpile of food, and as an offering for a safe and mild winter.

And December, finally, was Ærra Geola or the month “before Yule,” after which Æftera Geola would come round again.

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An excerpt from the lovely pre-ordination rite that Rev. Jan Avende wrote for me, performed by a small circle of close friends and mentors, in preparation that my ordination and my priesthood would be blessed and strengthened:

Blessing and Spirit Gifts

Blessing – one person speaks while another purifies with incense and water

May your feet be washed clean and purified,
as you stand ready to embark on your new path.

May your legs be washed clean and purified,
As you draw strength from the earth in this work.

May your hands be washed clean and purified,
as you prepare to do the work of serving the Folk.

May your heart be washed clean and purified,
as you open yourself to the love of the Land

May your lips be washed clean and purified,
as you sing praises to honor the Gods.

May your eyes be washed clean and purified,
as you see the way open before you.

May your head be washed clean and purified,
As your judgments be just and sure.

Individual gifts:

Each individual places their hand on their heart and reaches a hand toward the individual and states the gift that they give. You may speak these words as written, or use your own that better reflect the intent of your gift.

The work of a priest, while challenging, is fulfilling in many ways. May you find beauty and contentment in your vocation.

You will be challenged in many ways, and by many people in this work. May you be blessed with the confidence to hold your ground and be firm in your beliefs and your work.

Some things have no easy answer, especially in the work of a Priest. May you be blessed with the knowledge that you have a fair heart and strong will. They will serve you well.

You are a Priest, soon to have the blessing and burden of responsibility to the Folk. May you be filled with strength and courage to be surefooted along the path you set out to walk, knowing that we support you in your work, and that we trust in your vision.

Though the road may be uncertain at times, know that the path will reveal itself in time. May you be blessed with patience as you find your way, and may you never stagnate in your growth.

Priesthood can be lonely, and requires sacrifice. May you know that you’ve got allies in this world, as well as in the Otherworld to support you in your work.

As you find yourself changed after this rite of passage, know that your words carry weight. May you be filled with the deep voice that speaks to the spirits and invites them into your work.

Let it be so!

I have done the thing. My hand guides the heaven-bound boat. My feet walk the paths of the earth mother. I am a priest of the people of ADF, and I have sworn my oath before them and all of my spirit allies.

May I always remember how it feels to be this blessed.

New Priest - Jan's photo

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.

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.