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Posts Tagged ‘Drawing Down the Moon’

A short evaluation of where I am on the Dedicant Path after somewhere around 7 months of work. These are the actual DP requirements, followed by a little bit about where I am towards completing them.

Written discussions of the Dedicant’s understanding of each of the following nine virtues: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation and fertility. The Dedicant may also include other virtues, if desired, and compare them to these nine. (125 words min. each)

These are complete, as of yesterday’s posting of the Fertility essay. Some will need some editing, but I think I’d rather run a little long and have good, real life examples than cut out the meat of the essay just to make it fit the word count.

Short essays on each of the eight ADF High Days including a discussion of the meaning of each feast. (125 words min. each)

Completed: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Eostara, Beltane, Midsummer. All I have left are the last two (Lammas/Lughnassadh and Fall Equinox/Mabon). These are fairly standard, since I’ve been pagan for awhile, so they don’t take too long. Making sure I include some hearth-culture information is important, but I’ve changed hearths a few times so they’re a bit eclectic.

Short book reviews on at least: 1 Indo-European studies title, 1 preferred ethnic study title and 1 modern Paganism title. These titles can be selected from the recommended reading list in the Dedicant Program manual or the ADF web site, or chosen by the student, with prior approval of the Preceptor. (325 word min. each)

Complete. Book reviews include Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Comparative Mythology, and Drawing Down the Moon. I may complete some other book reviews (particularly of Anglo-Saxon specific books) but those will be more for myself and/or for Oak Leaves.

A brief description, with photos if possible, of the Dedicant’s home shrine and plans for future improvements. (150 words min.)

Completed and posted here. Pictures attained of my altar as it was first set up, as it was in progress, and as it exists now (which is likely how it will exist for awhile). I have plans to add some actual God statues or symbols, but that will have to wait on budget and finding ones I like.

An essay focusing on the Dedicants understanding of the meaning of the “Two Powers” meditation or other form of ‘grounding and centering’, as used in meditation and ritual. This account should include impressions and insights that the Dedicant gained from practical experience. (300 word min)

Completed and posted here.

An essay or journal covering the Dedicant’s personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five months period. (800 words min.)

Completed and posted here.

An account of the Dedicant’s efforts to work with nature, honor the Earth, and understand the impacts and effects of the Dedicant’s lifestyle choices on the environment and/or the local ecosystem and how she or he could make a difference to the environment on a local level. (500 word min)

Not completed, but I have notes started for this, plus several preparatory posts that I’ve put up here about my landbase and how I interact with it. This will probably be my next “big” essay that I tackle.

A brief account of each High Day ritual attended or performed by the Dedicant in a twelve month period. High Days attended/performed might be celebrated with a local grove, privately, or with another Neopagan group. At least 4 of the rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style. (100 words min. each)

Completed: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Eostara, Beltane/Maitag, Midsummer. Next will be Lammas/Lughnassadh and the Fall Equinox. I don’t expect these will be troublesome, as I write them up immediately following my rituals. I am shooting to have all 8 rituals be ADF COoR style, though they represent a few different hearth cultures.

ONE essay describing the Dedicants understanding of and relationship to EACH of the Three Kindreds: the Spirits of Nature, the Ancestors and the Gods. (300 words min. for each Kindred and 1000 words total)

I’ve posted several preparatory essays for this, but have not yet started on formulating the final essay. I’m a little intimidated by this requirement, since I don’t always feel like my attachments to the kindreds are “deep enough” or “good enough” yet to write this essay, but I know that I’m expected only to be DEVELOPING that relationship, not to have everything worked out. It’s only a year long program after all. I’ll probably attack this one after I do my Nature Awareness essay. I have some notes prepared for this as well.

A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures. (600 words min.)

Another requirement that feels HUGE to get started on. I’m not sure how I want to write about this, but since it’s an experiential essay, I imagine there’s not a lot that I can do wrong. Will need to make sure I document my travels through a few hearth cultures as I figured out where I belong (at least where I think I belong at the moment). Also, I need to talk about my experience as a solitary by choice, since that is figuring large in my practice, and in how I am searching for a long-distance Druid community as well. My notes on what does and doesn’t work for me in ritual will probably come in handy here.

The text of the Dedicant’s Oath Rite and a self-evaluation of the Dedicant’s performance of the rite. (500 word min.)

This is the one I have no idea how to approach. I’m wary of oath-making in general, so it will definitely be the last requirement I complete, because I want to make sure I have everything else feeling solid and finished. I’m going to be very careful about how I approach this, and honestly will be asking for advice on how to write an oath that I can feel comfortable with. If there was anything that would prohibit me from completing the DP, it would be this requirement – not too long ago I was getting prepared to take an oath to a different tradition, and that turned out poorly (before any oaths were made, fortunately). I don’t want the same thing to happen again, so I think I will continue to be hesitant about doing this. Still, the longer I practice this, the more comfortable it is (which is to be expected).

I never did a formal “first oath” when I started the DP – I just promised myself that I would finish it, and I think I can see the end in sight at this point. I’m well over half way done, and well ahead of the Wheel of the Year book in several regards. Now it’s just time to knock out some of the bigger essays that really show progress and how far I’ve come in the months that I’ve been on this journey.

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This book review is part of the requirements for the reading list for the Dedicant Path. It intends to fulfill the requirement for the Modern Paganism title.

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America. 3rd Ed. New York: Penguin Group, 2006. Nook file.

The stated goal of the Modern Paganism book is to understand where Neo-Paganism has been, and Drawing Down the Moon fills this role very nicely. Adler sets out to catalog the history of American Neo-Paganism, from the first offshoots of reconstructionist religions in the 30’s all the way up to the (then) current events of 2006. Her main thesis is an interesting one, but appropriate given the subject matter – that “the spiritual world is like the natural world – only diversity will save it” (8), and Neo-Paganism is nothing if not diverse.

From that stance she sets out to describe the main movements in American Neo-Paganism, from basic definitions and word usage, through the Witchcraft revival, through all the other flavors of Neo-Pagan movements, and into the relationship all these movements have with American society. She devotes an entire section of the book to the rebirth of Neo-Pagan witchcraft, but given the sheer numbers of men and women who have identified with various facets of modern witchcraft, in its many derivations, this isn’t all that surprising. As someone who comes to Druidry through traditional-flavored Wicca (with some time spent as a solitary), I think my situation is not unique – while some Druids obviously come to ADF as their first foray into Paganism, many people will come through the more public, more obvious, and more populous traditions that are so readily available via the internet, bookstores, new-age and spiritual stores, and 101 classes.

One of the most interesting things about this book is the overarching deductions that Adler is able to make, via her years of research and through use of surveys and interviews, about Neo-Paganism as a whole – things like sensing an “aliveness and ‘presence’ in nature”, a penchant for polytheism, animism, and pantheism, a gravitation toward “ancient symbols and ancient myths” (21) and the ability to have escaped certain forms of enculturation (54). However, as with any part of the Neo-Pagan movement, she can only ever use the words “most” and “usually”. Pagans are, as always, a religion of exceptions. This is true both of the movement as a whole and of the divisions within it. Even within a fairly well-defined path like the Dedicant Path, a prescribed subset of study and experience specific to ADF style Druidry, there is great variation. The Dedicant’s list is full of conflicting opinions, and the work itself is frequently about deciding how each particular Dedicant will experience things within a larger Druidic context – not about learning a set of beliefs by rote. While many of the Neo-Paganisms that Adler studies are similarly orthopraxic (as opposed to orthodoxic), not all fit that bill, of course, reinforcing the sheer diversity of the movement.

Adler spends a good deal of time talking about the various divisions and practices of modern, Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, and takes from this a very interesting attitude toward myth that I really found myself drawn to. Rather than be as worried about the actual, factual basis that many Witches began from (of which, as with so many things that happened even 50 years ago, the full story can never be known), she focuses on the more modern take, which is to accept the spirit of the myth for what it is – an inspiration – and let the actual craft work itself out, regardless of how old (or new) it is. “The realization has come around to everyone that it doesn’t matter whether your tradition is forty thousand years old or whether it was created last week” (Ed Fitch qtd. in Adler 97).

This attitude is important for ADF to remember, since we are both a Neo-Pagan religion and (at times) a reconstructionist one. The balance has to be there; a balance between what is ancient and what actually works in the modern day is crucial.

Of particular interest to me were, of course, the section on Norse Paganism and the section on Druidry, from it’s earliest start in the RDNA through the creation of ADF in the early 80’s (329). One thing I did find was that I’m more drawn to a practice of Druidry within a Norse hearth culture than I am to the practice of true Norse reconstructionism (at least for now). I am, at heart, a modern Neo-Pagan, and while I can learn a lot from Asatru and its offshoots, I like the balance of ADF. I thought it curious to have modern Druidry in the same section with the Discordians. I think perhaps this is more true of the earlier Druidic movements – the RDNA certainly seems to have more in common with the people who worship Eris than modern ADF does (at least to this solitary practitioner), especially given that Isaac Bonewits is quoted as saying that ADF would “keep nonsense, silliness, and romanticism down to a dull roar” (334).

I wish there had been more information about ADF in particular, but we are a much smaller group in the larger Pagan world. I also think the section on ADF could have been updated more recently. Still, I liked Adler’s final take on what became Druidry, that “when one combines a process of inquiry with content of beauty and antiquity, when, even as a lark, one opens the flow of archetypal images contained in the history and legends of people long neglected by this culture, many who confront these images are going to take to them and begin a journey unimagined by those who started the process” (336).

Overall I found this book to be a fascinating look into both the big picture of Neo-Paganism and the small snapshots of individual practicing Pagans. While I don’t see it becoming much of a reference, I truly appreciated the discussions about the definition of magic and ritual, and I look forward to participating in whatever the future holds for Neo-Paganism.

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