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Posts Tagged ‘dedicant path’

So, for the last year and some months, I have been a solitary Druid. At first, this really bugged me – I had a few pagan friends, and a few resources in ADF to help me through rough spots, but no real community. Still, I got through the Dedicant Path, submitted it with pride, and joined the rank of ADF Dedicants – and now the rank of Initiate Students.

I was fully prepared, even though there is a local protogrove, to complete my studies alone. The Initiate’s Path is one of inner work, after all.

Then, as it turns out, the grove organizer from my local protogrove found out that all her emails were getting diverted, so she’d never received any of the emails I’d sent (and I’m of the belief that you send one email asking a question, and if you get no response, you send one follow-up. After that, you assume the person doesn’t want to talk to you). On top of that, my friend Yngvi* joined ADF – and started talking about it at his work (where I used to work), and – with the help of the Druidry article in the New York Times, found two coworkers and their significant others who were interested in Druidry.

And so, just two months after starting the Initiates Path, I find myself leading an ADF study group of 5-7 people as regularly as our schedules match up.

This is, on one hand, very good! I am building a new community (and possibly getting to meet some other active Druids in my area). I am drawing on my DP experience, and helping cultivate new Druids!

On the other? I’m suddenly feeling very protective of my Druidry. I did two rituals for Hallows – one with Yngvi and his wife, and one on my own, because it didn’t feel like a High Day without having done my own ritual in my own house at my own altar. This whole process has been a personal and private one, and it’s weird to suddenly be very open about it with new people – especially new people who are essentially strangers (even if Yngvi knows them well, I haven’t worked with him for almost 2 years, so I had never met these people before our first meeting last week). I am not, and probably never will be, openly pagan – there’s too much risk with my family, so it’s really quite odd and more than a little uncomfortable to be talking about things.

We have another meeting this week, and then a Yule ritual next week. I’m co-leading both (and writing the rituals for both), which should be interesting. (I’m kind of in this by the seat of my pants really.) There aren’t really any resources for how to run an ADF study group – especially if you’re not doing the Dedicant Path, and doubly so if your group isn’t particularly self motivated.

I’d love it if people would have questions or things to talk about, but our first meeting was very much me talking and them listening, and then not responding much when I asked questions (even leading questions they couldn’t get out of like “What do you find most interesting?” or “What is your experience with X?”). This probably means I need to get better at asking/planning questions and activities. (The Two Powers meditation seemed to go over pretty well.) We’ll probably either start working through the virtues or working through the COoR, depending on what people think this week. They’re gonna HAVE to choose, because Yngvi likes virtues and I like rituals, so we’ll have to have some kind of way to decide where we’re going first.

So I guess we’ll see what happens. I am cautiously optimistic about our little group. I know statistically they won’t all stay, which is fine, but I hope we can have some good experiences and learn stuff together. They say the best way to really learn something is to teach it, right?

*Note: It’s a little bit weird that one of my best friends uses as his online name one of the names of the God that I work with and for most closely. So far it’s not been an issue (as I usually call my God Ing Frea) but it’s still a bit odd. Also possibly a cool coincidence.

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Last year, around mid-October, I decided to do something different with my spiritual life. I was struggling where I was, six or so months after having left/been asked to leave (it’s complicated) a BTW coven where I had been an apprentice for close to 2 years. In my mind, I was preparing for initiation. Apparently that wasn’t how things were supposed to work out, and in the intervening time my HPS has made it clear that she doesn’t think people with my particular brand of mental illness (Bipolar/Anxiety/PTSD) are cut out for Witchcraft in general. Regardless of how I feel about this, it’s not likely to change her mind, and I found myself mired down in trying to sort out what I wanted from my spirituality and struggling with the transition from group-focused work back to only doing solitary work.

So I decided to try something new.

After doing a lot of reading on the ADF website, I jumped in with both feet, submitted my membership, and started on the Dedicant Path. I set myself the goal of completing it in a year – to do a “year and a day” with ADF – something I’d already been doing with my previous path. I didn’t know what I really wanted out of ADF, more than just to explore a new type of Neopagan spirituality and see if, as the song says, a change would do me good.

Over the last 11 months, I’ve worked my way through the DP, guided loosely by Rev. Dangler’s Dedicant Path through the Wheel of the Year book (which I highly recommend). Some of the work was decidedly remedial – I’ve been a practicing Neopagan for awhile, so writing about what the High Days in the wheel of the year were celebrating was a homework assignment and not particularly spiritually nourishing. Still, even those assignments got me to put my thoughts out in text, and sometimes challenged me to learn new things (especially as I started exploring the Northern Traditions/Norse Hearth). I was an established meditator, so that requirement mainly was about documentation, but again I used it to challenge what I had been doing and build new spiritual practices that could sustain me going forward, particularly the mental grove exercises.

What I liked about this work, especially with the guidance of the WOTY book, was how it paced me well over the course of a year. Yes, I finished a little early, but I didn’t get burned out after trying to finish all of the assignments in the first week. Slow growth is hard for me; I tend to get excited and try to do ALL THE THINGS. Because I paced myself, I think I got more out of it – I truly spent a year thinking and working on Druidry, with the end result being that I’m fairly comfortable in this system of practice now.

I also learned that I don’t have it in me to be a reconstructionist. While I like history, and definitely enjoy original texts and learning from original sources (or translated original sources), I have no desire to try to recreate accurately a historical Paganism. I am a modern Neopagan, and my practice reflects that. I use ADF-style rituals with no hesitation, even though I know aspects of those rituals aren’t found in the historical Northern Traditions. I combine aspects of the various Germanic Paganisms, knowing that they are related enough to work well in ritual together – my work with the Disir/Matronae isn’t documented directly in Anglo-Saxon Britain (Nor are the Gods Njord and Nerthus) but I haven’t found any trouble working with those elements, even in the same ritual, because they come from closely related cultures. Overall I find academic study interesting and often enlightening, but I don’t want to make it the focus of my Druidry – I am, and always will be, a modern Pagan.

I’ve developed (and am continuing to work on) relationships with a variety of different Spirits, from my Prairie Godmothers (and other Disir/Matronae) to Ing Frey and the other Vanir. As well, I am cultivating a deeper relationship with the land spirits and house spirits that I share my day to day life with. This isn’t new work, but these are mostly new entities for me to build relationships with. This isn’t something that comes particularly easily to me, so I’ve had to really work at this aspect of the Dedicant Path and my Druidry. I’ve found it rewarding, and feel much closer to my various Ancestors as a result. My work with Ing Frey was strongest earlier in the year, but I’m working on restoring that and making it stronger. I had some pretty significant mental roadblocks to working with Him, but He seems willing to be patient with me as I work through them. (Many thanks to Beth for a really enlightening rune reading to help with this.)

I’m also developing a new community of Pagans online, through the various ADF lists, twitter, and (ugh) Facebook. While it makes me very nervous to be involved with Facebook, it seems like a lot of the community is active there, so I’m willing to take a risk. (I don’t like the idea of someone snooping through my Facebook groups and asking me questions about my religion, but I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my privacy settings extremely strong so far. I need to go through and make sure that’s still up to date though.)

As well, I’m developing a community offline – there is a local Protogrove, and though my original efforts to contact them were fruitless, I’m told there are others who are actively trying to build the community here, so I am looking to find them and see if I can get involved. The Protogrove is Celtic, but I don’t think they’d mind an Anglo-Saxon Druid so much (and I don’t mind Celtic rituals either). I also have friends (online and off) who are beginning their Dedicant Path studies, or thinking of doing so, and I look forward to working with them as they worked with me as I did this program.

Is ADF what I thought it would be? Yes and no. As a solitary, ADF is largely what I make of it, and so I’ve been able to shape the materials into something that works for me. But it’s not the same as working in a close knit tradition either – which is fine, but I definitely miss that aspect of my previous work. It has what is, for me, a good balance of innovation and study, which helps me fine tune my practice. The overtly public nature of ADF makes me a little nervous, but I am not required to publicly do anything, so I can live with other people’s openness. I definitely don’t feel like I’m “done” in ADF – there is more here for me to do, and the last year is only the first step on that path. Whether that means I’m here “for good” or just “for now” I don’t know, but I feel that I’m being guided to go deeper into this tradition. I don’t know what my “place” will be – as a solitary, or as part of the community, or both – but I feel like it is possible for me to make a place for myself in this spiritual community.

Along those lines, I am going to be working on the Initiates Path as my next step in ADF. I do not have a desire to pursue the Clergy Training Program at this time, nor do I have a working community where I could complete that work, but the Initiates Path seems to be the logical next step for me.  I am not giving myself a timeline to do this program, because I don’t yet know how I will take to it. It is both more mystical and more scholarly than the DP. I am thinking of starting with Divination I, because I have been seeking to deepen my relationship with the runes I use in ritual. I am encouraged by the idea of adding a relationship to the Elder Wise to my practice, and of serving the ADF community.

I still miss the group I worked with before joining ADF – it’s possible I will always miss them. Maybe in the future I will be able to go back to that path, though it might have to be with a different group, as while it’s possible I don’t truly have Bipolar (just something that looks/acts like it due to other issues), I will probably always have some elements of Anxiety and PTSD to deal with. For now, I am trying to be content with my new experiences and community and not compare them to things I’ve done in the past. I am striving to excel at Druidry – both as a way to grow my personal spirituality and service to the Gods and Spirits, as well as serving the folk within a greater community.

I can only hope that, through my continued practice and studies, I will continue to grow spiritually and mentally, and develop better and deeper relationships to my Gods and Spirits. In the end, that’s the most important part, right?

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I officially submitted my DP documentation last night. I got the confirmation email, everything was transferred properly. The document was within the size limits; I’d had a friend proofread it and correct some inconsistencies and grammar mistakes. ‘

So now I wait for it to be assigned to a reviewer.

It was actually weirdly hard for me to push “submit” last night. It felt suddenly very personal and vulnerable, even though I’ve put all the essays up on this blog over the last year. Maybe it’s because, in its entirety, it’s a big chunk of who I am and how I practice. Maybe it’s because I included the oath rite and text. Maybe it’s just because it’s attached to my real name, and not just a blog handle. Maybe it’s because it’s being read and judged, not just out there on the internet as an example.

Regardless, it took me awhile to get the guts together to push submit and let it go.

Now I just get to see what happens.

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The text of the Dedicant’s Oath Rite and a self-evaluation of the Dedicant’s performance of the rite. (500 word min.) I am not including the oath rite or the oath text itself here on the blog, as they feel rather personal. I may change my mind at a later date. These will be included in my DP submission, as they are part of the requirement. What follows is merely the ritual write up that I did following the performance of my Dedicant Oath.

I completed this ritual on Friday, September 20, 2013, just under a year after I joined ADF and started this Dedicant Path. The ritual was done as a solitary, and though originally planned to be an outdoor ritual, rain moved it inside to my usual altar space. The ritual honored the Three Kindreds in general (as Ancestors (Alfar and Disir), Landvaettir/Land Sprits, and Aesir and Vanir) as well as specifically honoring Ing Frey/Freyr, who has become close to me through this last year of work. While I do not know if he will become (or has become) my Patron, working with him has brought depth to my path, and I wanted His presence specifically at this rite.

For offerings, I brought the following:

  • Silver for the well
  • Incense for the fire
  • Whiskey for Heimdallr, the Gatekeeper
  • A bottle of good, local beer for the Ancestors
  • A blend of homegrown herbs for the Land Spirits (basil, thyme, rosemary)
  • Whiskey for the Aesir and Vanir
  • A bottle of Aranciata Soda – an Italian orange juice soda similar to Orangina – for Freyr and for my final sacrifice, as well as for the cup of blessings.

I used a combination of written rituals to create my Oath rite, including Ian Corrigan’s Solitary Blessing Rite and the sample DP Oath Rite from Our Own Druidry, as well as adding in my own poetry in a few places and giving it more of a Norse flavor throughout. The oath text itself is a combination of other published oaths, the sample oath, and some of my own writing. I was actually very pleased with the original sample oath text, so I kept a lot of it the same.

The ritual itself was very powerful, especially because I was already familiar with a lot of the text, and did a lot of preparation so I would know how the rhythm of the various parts went as speech.

I felt the two powers very strongly when I began this ritual, and my gate-opening was stronger as a result. Between good poetry and a good connection to the Two Powers, I think this was my best gate-opening to date. Overall the whole ritual was infused with a level of power and gravity that I haven’t felt in ritual before, and it was really very powerful and meaningful. It was almost as if someone had given my voice new depth when I spoke my oath – or like I was speaking into a large cavern, where my voice had an echo effect, even though I was standing at the same altar that I always use. I didn’t feel any strong emotion, other than a sort of tingling excitement once I finished my oath and moved into the omen and blessing portion of the ritual. It felt ‘right’ to have taken the oath today, and the text felt right as well.

For the omen, I used runes. I asked the question “Answer me now, O spirits, what blessing do you offer me, in return for my oath and offerings?” and drew the following three runes:

  • Jera: Year, the harvest, hard work – Each is given their proper due in full measure, good or ill. The golden crop, sown in the past, has come to fruition and is now the full harvest; the results of earlier efforts are realized. Natural cycles will always spin, and the year will always turn again, but for now all is well. The order of the cosmos is maintained, and everyone reaps the benefits of hard work and has a chance to build a new harvest for next year.
  • Fehu: Cattle, Wealth, Generosity – The “order of the cosmos” is maintained through reciprocity – the giving and receiving of wealth. This is movable wealth – like cows or coins – wealth that you can and should share as part of the greater whole. It is a sign of hope and plenty, and of income, but in the present or very near future.
  • Algiz: Elk-sedge, Offensive/Defensive Balance – Protection in an active sense – the best defense is a good offense. Warding off evil, a shield or guardian. Maintain a position won or earned against any who would topple you. Close yourself off if you need to, and only lash out if necessary.

I take this to be a very good omen, especially Jera, and take Fehu as meaning that now that I have completed this step in my Druid studies, I need to share the knowledge I have gained, and be willing to stand up for what I’ve done and the work I’ve completed. I also am inspired to get better at using Runes as I go forward on this Path, since I didn’t recognize Algiz when I drew it, and had to look it up.

Overall I think it was an excellent ritual – it went pretty much exactly according to plan, and I found a lot of meaning and worth in having done it. I do wish I could have had the experience of taking an Oath in front of my community, but they are all online at this point, so a solitary ritual was the best I could do. I don’t mind practicing as a solitary, but this oath feels like something that should be part of a community.

The only flub in the entire ritual happened after I was finished. I was taking the (very full) offering bowls and well outside to put them in the garden, and the cat knocked into me and got herby-beer-soda-whiskey all over himself. And the only thing I had handy to wash him off? Was the well water, which I promptly upended over his head. He didn’t seem too offended, and other than water all over the porch, no harm came from it. I got a good laugh though, and was reminded never to take myself too seriously. Even when making a serious oath, the Kindreds have a sense of humor.

I go forth from this ritual with a renewed sense of purpose. I am surprised by how powerful a ritual it was, and by how different I feel having completed my oath. I didn’t expect to have this dramatic of a response, and I feel newly reminted as a Druid and a Pagan, like an old coin that someone polished and brought into bright light. I am renewed in my goals to complete further study with ADF, and possibly to guide other Dedicants along this path. It has been an excellent ending to a year of hard work. This last essay is the only bit of the DP I had remaining to write when I performed the ritual, and I am glad to have experienced it as a sort of capstone on the course work.

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I celebrated my Autumn Equinox ritual in the early afternoon on Friday, September 20, 2013. This was a solitary ADF style ritual that followed the CoOR. I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s Autumn Equinox ritual and devotional for this rite, since I wanted a simpler observance for this High Day. I brought silver for the well, incense for the fire, and a bottle of handcrafted ginger ale for the Spirits. As well as honoring Nerthus as the Earth Mother and Heimdallr as the Gatekeeper, I honored the Vanir as a pantheon for this High Day, since they are closely related to fertility and the harvest, which is celebrated at this time of year.

I did this ritual just prior to completing a separate ritual for my Dedicant Oath, and I was a little nervous about both. I didn’t ever really settle into a rhythm, even though the SDF ritual uses lovely poetry and text as part of the celebration. For it’s purposes, I feel like I celebrated other High Days better, and will spend more time on personal offerings when I use this ritual format in the future. Overall it was a good, if somewhat shorter than usual, celebration. I almost poured out ALL of the ginger ale in my last offering and had to remember to save a few mouthfuls for the blessing! That’s what comes of pouring offerings out of the bottle instead of out of my own cup. When I use my cup, I know how much I have to keep back for the blessing!

In the future, before celebrating this holiday, I will also take time to get my “fall” decorations up in my house. It doesn’t feel like fall outside, so having those decorations up (and in my ritual room) helps me feel the changing seasons more than the weather does. I will definitely be using the SDF Autumn Equinox devotional in my future rituals, as I really liked the poetry and imagery for this holiday. It stressed the balance of the Equinox, between light and dark, in a way that I felt was very meaningful.

For the Omen, I said “Great Kindreds, grant me true seeing that I may know what blessings you have for me.” I then drew the following three runes:

  • Isa – Ice – beautiful but dangerous – Something has the appearance of beauty, but danger lurks beneath the surface if you are careless enough to break it. Deceit may be nearby, or a time of frozen standstill. Things aren’t changing – they have the appearance of being fine, but are frozen. Clarity. Make sure your choices are correct and made with consideration and forethought.
  • Hagalaz – Hail – Destruction, death, an early Winter. Destructive, uncontrolled forces of chaos disrupt the natural order – but may renew that order in the end. Disruption of the unconscious.
  • Pertho – Dice cup, vulva, joy, uncertainty – A secret thing, hidden matters, an unseen destiny. Initiation and the unknown changes it will bring. The gamble that is any new beginning. Female mysteries.

Ensure that you know the truth of the situation, what looks beautiful may be hiding danger; the time of destruction is not yet over. The outcome is unknown and will result from your actions – roll the dice carefully, you’re treading on new territory.

Another warning message in the form of a blessing, I think I know what this is referring to – things have been tough recently, in new and different ways, and it’s challenging to go through. But I think the outcome will be good if I continue to work on it and myself, becoming stronger and continuing on my path. This is a pretty personal omen though, so I won’t discuss it further.

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The Autumn Equinox (often called Mabon or Harvest Home in Neopagan circles) occurs on or around September 21st each year, and falls at the point of balance between day and night, when the two stand equal. This year it falls on Sunday, September 22, just a few days after the full Harvest Moon on Thursday September 19th. In the Wheel of the year, this is the second harvest festival – usually the harvest of vegetables and fruits – and serves as the gateway into the “dark” half of the year in some myths. (In other myths the dark and light halves of the year switch at the Summer and Winter Solstice, or at Samhain and Beltaine, so this is a common motif that has several different applications).

Our Own Druidry suggests that this is a time to honor Thor and Sif for their functions at the harvest (67), but this doesn’t make much sense to me, so I will be honoring the Vanir as a pantheon, for their role in the fertility of the earth and its productivity. These Gods and Spirits are involved in the productivity of man and the cultivation of the earth, from Frey’s direct patronage and sacrifice at the Harvest to Freyja’s fertility and Njord’s blessing on the harvest of fish from rivers and seas. Since this is a celebration of harvesting and preparing for the winter, storing up and taking stock and being thankful for the plenty of the year, the Vanir are an appropriate group of deities to honor.

Thematically, in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, this is the time of reaping what we have sown – all of the ideas and plans that were set into motion at earlier holy days are now coming to fruition with the crops, and the focus is on harvesting the bounties we are due for our labors. The cornucopia is a common symbol, and in some traditions this holiday is called the “Pagan Thanksgiving” – a time of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest.

This is a time of plenty – all the crops are ripe – and a time of very busy preparation. Those ripe crops need to be picked and stored appropriately so they will last until next year, whether stored dry like grain, or canned and pickled, or just placed in cellar storage. Winter may be long, so it’s best to be prepared. Being thankful through that preparation is something I find very appropriate at this time of year. I also enjoy canning and pickling as hobbies, which are good ways of celebrating this harvest festival. My garden is still producing okra, so perhaps I will make some spicy okra pickles to mark the occasion.

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Fall is coming – though you wouldn’t know it by the temperatures outside. The light is changing, and the evenings are shorter. Soon they’ll be cooler as well, and my evening walks will be increasingly more pleasant as the seasons change towards winter.

It’s a bit odd, but winter here is so much more “pleasant” in general than summer, that Fall and Spring get a little mixed up in my mind. Not only do we plant again in fall, for harvesting in winter, but in Summer we tend to hibernate. The heat is so intense that you really don’t want to be outside more than you have to, and other than yard work and (for me) exercise, I stay in the house as much as possible, with the blinds drawn and the air conditioner running. (We keep it “warm” in the house – about 80 degrees – but it still feels cool and comfortable when it’s 105 outside).

Seasons are just a little different, but fall will always be my favorite.

I’m glad I’ll be finishing up my DP in this liminal time. It’s a very in-between sort of feeling, and that’s how I’ve been feeling about the DP. I’m working on my oath, and have only the one high day left to celebrate. (I think I’ll be doing two rituals, but haven’t decided for sure). I’m feeling both more secure in the idea of making my oath, and more insecure in my ability to do so “properly” (whatever “properly” means).

It just feels right to be finishing things up and starting new things at this time of year. Maybe that’s a tie back to my love of school, and how excited I’ve always been for the beginning of school. Even as an adult, I like to go back to school shopping, for new pens and folders and binders. (Or maybe I just have a thing for office supplies, who knows). Regardless, it’s all feeling like it fits together pretty well right now, and I’m glad for the DP to be coming to a close. I’m ready to move forward, to begin the actual work of Druidry, and hopefully to begin working as a DP mentor until I decide if I want to continue on any of the study paths. I’m drawn to the Initiates Path, but I don’t feel like I’m ready to commit to it just yet, so I’m going to wait and learn until I feel more secure.

I may poke around in some of the other modern Druidic traditions – I know OBOD just re-released DruidCraft as an audio book, and I will definitely be picking that up to listen to on my commute. Not that I’m dissatisfied with ADF – I’ll probably end up staying here – but because I’m just curious as to what else is out there under the Druid umbrella.

Endings and beginnings, exploration and rest, expanding and contracting – it’s a fun, in-between, liminal time of year.

I’m ready for Autumn – are you?

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