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I thought for this week that I’d provide a bit of trance journaling that I did after some work in my Mental Grove. This is not quite a full fledged trance journey, but does involve my closest ancestor spirit guide, and is a good example of one of the ways I use trance to try to help me with mundane world problems.

***

Mentally and emotionally this was another hard week, but I did continue to practice Trance and even work a little magic. This time they were mostly separate, with the Trance being a working I was doing to go have a communication with a spirit ally (Ruby Olar, a deceased professor from college who I had a specially connection to in life and who has been a willing and eager spirit ally in death). I wanted to make sure I was making a decision to be true to myself, and so I set out to go to my Mental Grove and hopefully call to him and have a conversation with him.

My mental grove is as it always is – seasons don’t seem to have meaning here, which makes some sense, as the tree that I see in my grove is a massive Live Oak, with huge sprawling arms, like the Seven Sisters Oak or A&M’s Century Tree. The branches totally enclose the grove, setting it off from the rest of the otherworld, and so I find that I can truly relax there. After several years of practice, it has become my “home” in trance. There is a fire in a wide stone circle, firewood for tending it (neither of which ever seems to go out) and a spring that burbles up from the ground, over a round rock, and down over several rocky little pathways to the edge of the tree branches.

I did a progressive relaxation exercise to begin, and then called up the mists, and then allowed my mind to materialize into my Grove, where I found it peaceful and quiet. The light in my mental grove is often ambiguous, but this time it was clearly liminal – I believe dusk, by the way that my interactions went. I spoke to the grove, which has several inhabitants that come and go, including a large brown and white rabbit, a barred owl, a couple of different toads, and a stag. Tonight it was just the rabbit, who seems happy to be there most of the time. She and I said our greetings, and I settled myself down to the fire, and said to the grove “I would like to speak to Ruby Olar”.

Sometimes this works, and other times it doesn’t, but tonight it did work, and Ruby walked in through a small gap in the tree limbs, as spry and light on his feet as ever. A dancer and martial artist in life, I recognize Ruby as much by his face and his voice as I do by the way that he moves – a trait that stuck with him in the afterlife.

We had a long conversation, that I will not document here, but where he told me several times that I needed to “be in the moment” and that while I should be proud of being a “force of nature” to remember that nature is both still as a mountain and flows like the river. I don’t remember precisely what he told me in answer to my questions, but after a good few minutes of conversation we fell into a companionable silence. He ended the encounter by standing, and – like he did in life, and like he has always done in my grove – asking if I wanted a hug. I always accept (but he still always asks), and then he disappeared into the mists outside the grove.

I sat in the grove for awhile, made offerings of incense and whisky to the fire in thanks for my conversation with Ruby, and then allowed the grove to disappear into mists in my mind and brought myself back to my body, lying on my floor.

The journey took about 30 minutes total, and when I was done I felt both refreshed and tired. I had a cup of tea and some yogurt, and left the lamp burning on my altar long after I was done with my working.

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There are a number of theories relative to ethics and ethical behavior, however, a universal truth for resolving moral dilemmas, is non-existent. Ethics by definition is the systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Ethics 1 will explore professional ethics as it applies to the ADF clergy-lay relationship.

Primary Goal

The primary goal of this course is for students to enhance their knowledge of professional ethics, as it relates to their work as ADF Clergy, through research, analysis, self-introspection and the development of a personal Code of Ethics.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will increase their knowledge of basic ethical concepts and explore the impact of these concepts on the clergy-lay relationship.
  2. Students will identify their own personal morals and values and examine the potential impact of their morals and values on their work as ADF Clergy.
  3. Students will utilize their existing knowledge of the ADF Nine Virtues and as well as newly acquired knowledge of other widely accepted ethical principles and codes to develop a personal Code of Ethics.

1.    Find and provide an appropriate definition, discuss your understanding, and provide illustrative examples for each of the following seven terms: morals, values, personal bias, professional boundaries, confidentiality, right and wrong (100 words each minimum, not including definitions)

Morals

1 a :  of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior :  ethical moral judgments
b
 :  expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior a moral poem
c
 :  conforming to a standard of right behavior took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination
d
 :  sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment a moral obligation
e
 :  capable of right and wrong action a moral agent

(Merriam Webster)

Morals are the principles by which one makes decisions about what is right and wrong in behavior. Societies have morals (or moral-like structures) that guide them, as well as individuals having their own ‘moral compasses’, so to speak. Often a society’s hot button issues (our current ones seem to be gay marriage and abortion) come about when individual morality conflicts with societal morality. My ninth-grade civics teacher always said that legislating morality didn’t work, but I’ve come to believe, as an adult, that it’s restrictions on morality that are hard to legislate. Permissive moralities are still moralities, they’re just a lot easier to maintain laws about. Ethical dilemmas come about when a person’s morality conflicts in some way – either with itself, or with society.

Values

3 :  relative worth, utility, or importance – a good value at the price – the value of base stealing in baseball – had nothing of value to say

(Merriam Webster)

Values are the big picture ideas from which definitions of right and wrong are derived. They are bigger than “right and wrong” in the sense that morals dictate behaviors specifically, where values are principles on which morals are built. Much like morals, values can exist at a societal or personal level, or on a group level such as within a grove. Nine Waves Grove values study and learning, so we make decisions about our group meetings that emphasize and prioritize those things that we value. It would not be morally wrong to prioritize something else as a grove, but that is what we have chosen to value, as our group began as a study group, and we would like to continue that tradition. If, over time, our values change, we can change the way we structure our behavior to mirror those changing values.

Personal Bias

3 a :  benttendency
b :  an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially :  a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment :  prejudice
c :  an instance of such prejudice
d (1) :  deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates (2) :  systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others

(Merriam Webster)

Biases are a tendency for a person to think or respond a certain way in certain situations, especially in a way that is unfair to or slanted towards a certain outcome, regardless of the actual details of the situation. Systemic biases in a culture can be inherited, and often are inherited, by the members of that culture as personal biases – often in subtle and insidious ways. A good example of a systemic bias is found in resumes and job hunting, where names that are non-white-sounding are judged more harshly than stereotypically Western names, even by people who have been trained not to have racial bias affect their decisions. Personal biases like this often get in the way of treating a situation fairly, and should be identified and sought to root out as much as possible.

Professional Boundaries

1 :  something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent – Those two trees mark the boundary of our property. The mountain range that forms the country’s northern boundary

(Merriam Webster)

Professional boundaries set limits on interactions between professionals and the groups they serve. They prevent misbehavior (and the implication of misbehavior) of a sexual, personal, financial, or religious nature. Especially, they prevent someone in a position of power (like a clergyperson, but also like a doctor, teacher, or employer) from interacting with people in their organizations in a way that is inappropriate. My primary experience with professional boundaries is in the workplace, where sexual, religious, and political conversations are not relevant to our work, so I do not engage in those conversations with coworkers, and my bosses do not expect me to be forthcoming with my thoughts on those kinds of subjects. Boundary setting is especially important in the Neopagan community, where often political, religious, and sexual values are different than within the wider society.

COnfidentiality

1 :  marked by intimacy or willingness to confide – a confidential tone

2 :  privatesecret – confidential information

(Merriam Webster)

Confidentiality is the status of something as private or secret between two (or more) parties. This can be explicit, such as someone pulling someone aside for a conversation and asking specifically that the contents of the conversation be kept private, or implicit, such as within relationships where the details of the relationship are understood not to be public. In some religions, the relationship between laity and clergy is understood to be confidential in certain situations (such as within the sacrament of reconciliation in the Catholic Church), and sometimes those bounds of confidentiality are so strong as to be respected within a court of law. In a Neopagan clerical sense, confidentiality is something I would seek to uphold, simply because I value being trusted by my grove, but as always, the mandatory reporting requirements in Texas (and my own personal morals) would require that I break confidentiality if I thought someone was harming a child, for example.

Right and Wrong

Right:

2 :  being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper – right conduct

Wrong:

2 :  something wrong, immoral, or unethical; especially :  principles, practices, or conduct contrary to justice, goodness, equity, or law

(Merriam Webster)

Right and wrong are exceptionally subjective measures that vary wildly from culture to culture. In the broadest sense, ‘right’ action upholds the laws of the society, and ‘wrong’ action breaks those laws. Personal morals, however, might dictate doing a ‘wrong’ action (from a societal standpoint) because it is ethically the ‘right’ thing to do. Civil disobedience is perhaps the most well-known action of this type. As well, individuals must weigh their actions versus their own sense of right and wrong in a challenging situation. Morals, values, ethics, and fairness all weigh into an individual sense of right and wrong, leading to a lot of ‘gray’ area between black and white polarities. These grey areas are seen even in the legal system, where one person killing another person can be judged more or less harshly depending on the circumstances of the killing. Someone accidentally hitting a pedestrian with their car will usually get a much lighter sentence than someone who premeditates and brutally murders another person intentionally, despite the law regarding “one person killing another person” as wrong.

2.    Self-awareness is key to the implementation of professional ethics. Discuss how your personal morals, values, bias and ability to maintain adequate boundaries, confidentiality and determine right from wrong might both positively and negatively impact your professional relationships. (200 words minimum)

All of the topics in question 1 have instances where they could create potential conflicts – either internal or external – along the path of being a public, pagan clergyperson. For myself, I tend to hold myself to very strict standards, especially where confidentiality is concerned, but also in terms of doing the right thing for myself and for my group. The one place where I struggle now, and expect to continue to struggle in the future, is in maintaining adequate boundaries. Not necessarily in a sexual or professional sense (that’s something I don’t think I will need to worry about), but in the sense of maintaining an appropriate amount of distance and “proper behavior.”

When I started Nine Waves as a study group, I was the de-facto leader, but I was not a clergyperson. Over the years, I have begun to act as clergy for the group that is now my grove, but in general, the members who have been around since the beginning treat me more as a friend than they do as a priest. This is fine, as they certainly are my friends, but I worry that there will be the perception of bias or improper conduct there. I’ve also felt a sometimes heavy burden as a Grove Organizer and then Senior Druid to constantly act as an ambassador of ADF, and I expect that will only grow, serving to enforce my need for boundaries and ‘right’ behavior – where that expectation of myself will be higher than I would put on others. As well, I can find it easy to get excited and not set good boundaries for myself and my time, which is not so much a question of right and wrong as it is a question of maintaining my own personal health and well-being.

My personal values and morals are not likely to conflict in professional relationships with most pagans, but in Texas, it is possible that I will run into pagans who have very different morals and values than I do, especially where it comes to race, sexuality, and gender-orientation. I expect my own professionalism will be the best way for me to navigate those interactions, as well as my virtue practice with ADF. I can be hospitable without compromising on my values and morals, and I can ensure that my group does the same.

3.    Discuss how an individual learns to determine right from wrong and explain the factors that influence this determination? (100 words minimum)

Learning right from wrong is a process that starts from very early childhood, with the first expressions of consciousness. As I watch my niece and nephew grow up (they are currently two and a half years old), they are like little sponges, absorbing the culture, morals, and ethics of the people around them. They learn from what they do, from what they are told, and from the media that surrounds them. Some of my own formative memories come from interactions with my parents, but also from the television shows Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood – both shows that teach fairness, tolerance, understanding, and compassion to children, as well as helping them grow into (what I would call) ‘good people.’

As children grow up and enter school, societal factors grow much larger in their determinations of right and wrong, and peer pressure especially becomes a much larger factor that extends well into the teenaged years.

Even as adults, though, our determinations of right and wrong can and do develop, whether from interaction with others, life experiences, or our own changing perceptions of the world. Religions, social groups, political movements, and (increasingly) social media all affect how adults make decisions about right and wrong behavior. Like teens though, if surrounded by enough voices to do something more or less ethical, our morals and values can change. My own morals and values have changed dramatically since I left college, largely due to my surrounding myself with people whose beliefs I respected, and through the complete abandonment of my childhood religion.

4.    Describe several reasons why an individual would strive to “do the right thing”? (100 words minimum)

I can think of two primary arguments for why someone would strive to ‘do the right thing’, one internal, and one external.

As an external argument, a person would do the right thing because it comes with some sort of feedback that they see as positive. Whether an actual monetary reward, social appreciation, a feeling of belonging, or otherwise feeling rewarded for making the correct decision, the attitudes and opinions of those around us often influence the way we behave and can pressure us (in a good or bad way) into ‘doing the right thing’. This audience can also be ‘cosmic’, in the sense of karma or other forces that may judge a person’s actions on a grander timeline and scale. Though John Wooden says that “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when nobody is watching,” having an audience definitely influences why people do the right thing.

As an internal argument, many of us also have values and ethics that we strive to live up to. ADF’s nine virtues are perhaps a strong reminder of the internal compass that we place on ourselves. We do the right thing because it fulfils our values and promises to ourselves. This is the argument that places how we feel about ourselves next to how others feel about us, and weighs our personal opinion as more important. This is also the ‘right decisionmaking’ that happens when there isn’t anyone around to see that we make the right choice, but prefer to do so to live up to our own moral compass.

5.    Discuss how an individual’s values relate to the decision making process. (100 words minimum)

Values, as defined in question 1, are the big picture ideals around which we base our morals and ethics as people. These big picture ideals might be things like ‘tolerance’, or ‘compassion’, and they serve as the foundation of our decision-making process most of the time. We weigh our decisions against what our values say is important, and (ideally) make decisions that are in line with those values the majority of the time. Emma Restall Orr defines decision making axes as: intuition and conscience, emotion and feeling, rational sense, balancing pleasure and pain, religious law, social and political law, rights, and personal freedom (Orr 68-95).

These can be looked at through a lens of win/loss – when there is a decision to be made, and a person sees that they will ‘win’ from that decision, in the sense of gaining something or being closer to their own ideals, they will usually decide to act according to their values. Similarly, if something is viewed as a loss – even if it’s a loss of integrity or other personal judgment – they will usually decide not to act in a way that is contrary to their values. In the ‘gray area’ between moral absolutes, multiple values may come into play, and decision-making gets more complicated.

6.    Discuss the importance of ethics to the clergy-lay relationship. Do you believe a clergy person has ethical responsibilities? If so, what are these responsibilities? (300 words minimum)

Ethics are extremely important in the clergy-lay relationship because of the expectations placed on that relationship and the expectations placed on the clergyperson. The folk of ADF do not expect a simple fire-priest or liturgist, they expect pastoral care and counseling because of our culture’s relationship to priests in other, specifically Abrahamic, religions. Whether or not the ADF priest wants those responsibilities, the folk will frequently expect that kind of care and consideration based on the society in which we find ourselves, and so there is an ethical component to priesthood that is important to consider.

Perhaps the most immediately obvious in this is confidentiality – when people approach a priest, they do so expecting to find a person who will listen to and help them with issues (often moral dilemmas!) without the threat of those conversations becoming part of the public discourse, especially within a grove. Whether or not the priest can actually help solve the problems, people expect that the nature of those interactions will stay private. As well, they expect that priests will be people of virtue and ethics, and will be able to help them navigate their own ethics and values.

Above all, clergy must interact with the folk with a sense of trust and fairness, especially because of the power (whether perceived or actual) that priests have within the structure of a religious group. This type of power dynamic can distort relationships in the same way that bosses/reportees, teachers/students, and even older/younger relationship dynamics can work within families. Priests hold positions of leadership, and as such there are expectations of trust and fairness, especially in a group like ADF where the folk give the mantle of priesthood to the priests. Those expectations may not be entirely fair, and they may not be entirely realistic (see: The Dogma of Archdruidic Fallibility), but they are important to consider when defining what behavior is ethical as a clergyperson.

7.    Discuss the meaning of confidential privilege, the laws in your state that provide for this privilege and the extent to which it applies to clergy-lay communications in your community. (200 words minimum)

Confidential privilege is the assumption in a court of law that communication between a clergy and a lay person when made privately and not intended for further disclosure. Within the state of Texas, ADF clergy fall under the designations of clergy members, and thus fall under the statutes of Rule 505 about confidential privilege. The exception to this is when there is abuse that has happened or is believed to have happened, per Sec. 261 of a minor, or per Sec. 48 of the elderly or persons with disabilities.

Within ADF, however, we do not have a religious doctrine that privileges the clergy-lay communication with confidentiality in certain situations. That does not mean that ADF clergy should not strive to act ethically when things are told to them in confidence, however, it does mean that on an organizational level we are not required to do so. This is probably for the best, as it allows our clergy to act within the laws of their particular states.

Rule 505: Privilege for Communications to a Clergy Member

(a) Definitions

(1) A “clergy member” is a minister, priest, rabbi, accredited Christian Science Practitioner, or other similar functionary of a religious organization or someone whom a communicant reasonably believes is a clergy member.

(2) A “communicant” is a person who consults a clergy member in the clergy member’s professional capacity as a spiritual adviser.

(3) A communication is “confidential” if made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present to further the purpose of the communication.

(b) General Rule. A communicant has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing a confidential communication by the communicant to a clergy member in the clergy member’s professional capacity as spiritual adviser.

(c) Who May Claim. The privilege may be claimed by:

(1) the communicant;

(2) the communicant’s guardian or conservator; or

(3) a deceased communicant’s personal representative.

The clergy member to whom the communication was made may claim the privilege on the communicant’s behalf—and is presumed to have authority to do so.

(Varghese)

SUBCHAPTER B. REPORT OF CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT; IMMUNITIES

Sec. 261.101. PERSONS REQUIRED TO REPORT; TIME TO REPORT. (a) A person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report as provided by this subchapter.

(b) If a professional has cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglected, or that a child is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code, and the professional has cause to believe that the child has been abused as defined by Section 261.001 or 261.401, the professional shall make a report not later than the 48th hour after the hour the professional first suspects that the child has been or may be abused or neglected or is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code. A professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report. In this subsection, “professional” means an individual who is licensed or certified by the state or who is an employee of a facility licensed, certified, or operated by the state and who, in the normal course of official duties or duties for which a license or certification is required, has direct contact with children. The term includes teachers, nurses, doctors, day-care employees, employees of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services, juvenile probation officers, and juvenile detention or correctional officers.

(b-1) In addition to the duty to make a report under Subsection (a) or (b), a person or professional shall make a report in the manner required by Subsection (a) or (b), as applicable, if the person or professional has cause to believe that an adult was a victim of abuse or neglect as a child and the person or professional determines in good faith that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of:

(1) another child; or

(2) an elderly person or person with a disability as defined by Section 48.002, Human Resources Code.

(c) The requirement to report under this section applies without exception to an individual whose personal communications may otherwise be privileged, including an attorney, a member of the clergy, a medical practitioner, a social worker, a mental health professional, an employee or member of a board that licenses or certifies a professional, and an employee of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services.

(d) Unless waived in writing by the person making the report, the identity of an individual making a report under this chapter is confidential and may be disclosed only:

(1) as provided by Section 261.201; or

(2) to a law enforcement officer for the purposes of conducting a criminal investigation of the report.

8.    One of the main principles of ethics is to “do no harm”. Discuss the meaningof this principle as it applies to the clergy-lay relationship. (100 words minimum)

Harm is an incredibly difficult concept to gauge, and striving always to “do no harm” is a largely impossible task. However, as an ethical guideline, if we expand it from “do no harm” to “do the least amount of harm, to the smallest number of people,” it becomes a much more applicable structure to clergy ethics. As clergypersons, ADF priests are often found in leadership roles, whether in local groves, in larger communities, or on the national scale of the organization. As leaders, they are tasked with making decisions, and it’s a useful exercise to examine what the downstream costs are in terms of who might be harmed by a decision – from the grove, to the larger community, to the priest themselves. Ethical decisions will always have consequences, and it is nearly impossible to make a difficult decision that will not have both positive and negative consequences in the long run, but evaluating potential harm is at least a good starting place for a priest making a difficult decision.

9.    Compare and contrast the Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path and prominent values in the dominant culture of the country in which you live. (200 words minimum)

ADF’s nine virtues are Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Perseverance, Integrity, Fertility, Hospitality, and Moderation. These virtues allow me to live as both an American and an active ADF member, though the variations of their practice are different within the two social groups for sure.

Wisdom – the virtue of knowing the truth and essence of a situation – is especially valued in American society as the ‘wisdom of elders’, but we find wisdom in many places. Those of us who are around the Unitarian Universalists often find that they value the wisdom that comes from quieter voices, and seek it even in unlikely places.

Piety, in ADF, is defined by right action in a religious sense. American piety is twofold, encompassing both religious belief and patriotic duty. While this is generally (at least in mainstream society) expressly confined to Christian religious practice and the strongly conservative, often Christianity-laced expressions of patriotism, more Americans are valuing the piety that comes from other religions, and those who have stood up to the face of American culture often do so from a sense of patriotic piety.

Vision is strongly emphasized in American culture. We like visionaries, people who see the world for what it could be, instead of simply the way it is right now, and we also really like it when people have the Courage and Perseverance to stick to those visions and make them into a new reality.

Integrity, which I often conflate as much with wholeness as with right action, is something that individuals must strive for, and while some Americans do value it, others place value in other, flashier virtues. I would say that, however, integrity is baked into our national mythology with stories such as George Washington not being able to tell a lie, and Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Honest Abe’ moniker.

Fertility, to Americans, is more often regarded as fecundity and related to sex, I think largely because of the associations our culture has with Puritanism. However, when explained, most people think creativity and being prolific with ones gifts are virtues worth cultivating.

ADF’s strong focus on hospitality is not always a virtue that Americans understand. While we instinctively cultivate relationships with our communities, the American ideal is much more individualistic than any of the Indo-European cultures would have recognized, and that triumph of the individual over their society often works counter to how reciprocal hospitality works. As well, American society places a lot of emphasis on the responsibilities of the host, and less on the responsibilities of the guest.

Moderation, however, is a virtue that Americans often say they find as an ideal, but as our society was founded by religious zealots seeking freedom, most often American moderation is found in our willingness to let each other do as they will, and to define one’s own boundaries for themselves. As such we value moderation as a society, but many individuals struggle with being moderate in their beliefs, especially in today’s political climate, which is exceptionally polarizing.

Overall, I find that ADF’s virtues are not in conflict with my living in American society directly, but the emphasis in the two groups is often different enough to be notable. I find it especially interesting that the so-called ‘warrior virtues’, of courage, perseverance, and integrity, are the ones that translate the most easily, while the producer virtues are the ones that are the most different. This is especially interesting when you think of the agricultural basis of so much of our society, and I do wonder if my understanding of American culture would be different if I lived in a rural community instead of in the large city where I currently reside.

10. The Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path are proposed as a starting point for individuals embracing a value system inspired by traditions of the past. Utilizing the ADF nine virtues, develop a Code of Ethics for your use as ADF Clergy. Describe how you derived this code from the Nine Virtues and how you would apply this Code. (No minimum word count for the Code; however the Code must contain a minimum of five principles; 300 words minimum for the description)

I will nurture the fire of piety in myself and others. As a Priest, I will maintain my own spiritual practices and nurture spiritual practices in others. I will tend the fire of piety.

I will be kind and encourage kindness. As a Priest, I will seek always to be kind to others, and when I am faced with a challenging person or situation, I will first ask how I can be kind in that situation or to that person.

I will walk the path of justice. As a Priest, I will seek to correct the many injustices in the world, as much as it is within my power to do so, even if I can only act in the microcosm that is my smaller community.

I will act with integrity and fairness. As a Priest, I will be a person worthy of trust, and as unbiased and impartial as I can be in each situation that requires it.

I will uphold the laws of nature and ecology. As a Priest, I will remember that nature lives according to laws and that I must act within those laws. I will seek to minimize my negative impacts on the environment and to maximize my positive impacts.

I will uphold the dignity of all persons, human and non. As a Priest, I will remember that I serve the Gods, the Folk, and the Land, and thus all beings are worthy of dignity and respect.

And if I may steal from the Methodists the quote most often attributed to John Wesley, I will seek to:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

(“John Wesley”)

I found this question both difficult and easy. Difficult to begin, but once I began, I found that my last four years as a Dedicant and my last two years as a Senior Druid prepared me well for writing out what kind of Priest I would strive to be. As with any code of ethics, my values are on display here, and many of those come directly out of ADF’s nine virtues.

  • Wisdom, in that all of these virtues will require wisdom and in that they come out of my collected wisdom from my time living as a human on planet Earth.
  • Piety, in that the first thing I focus on is the fire of piety that I seek to nurture in myself and in others, and in the way that all of my values are influenced by my dedication to the Kindreds.
  • Vision, in that this is a vision statement for my future as a Priest, and in that I must have the ability to see something through to the future in order to create that reality for myself.
  • Courage, in that some of these statements will be difficult, and I must be courageous in facing hard decisions.
  • Perseverance, in that none of these principles will be easy to uphold all of the time, and that I must work at it, in the long haul, to become the Priest I wish to be.
  • Integrity, in that justice, trust, fairness, loyalty, and dignity all stem from being a person of integrity.
  • Fertility, in that these principles will encourage my own spiritual growth, and ideally the spiritual growth of others – whether in ADF or outside of our organization.
  • Moderation, in that I must always know where my boundaries are, and I must always know what is possible – even if I will always strive to do just a little bit more, it is good to be balanced. As well, moderation and balance are some of the laws of ecology, which I find as a Druid it is important to maintain.
  • Hospitality, in that all things come down to relationships, and I, as a Druid Priest, must be willing to embody *ghosti as often and as strongly as possible, for it is on those relationships that the rest of this code of ethics will fall.

Any code of ethics is only as good as the Priest who follows it, and I intend to post this publicly, as well as to share it with my grove. I must be accountable first to myself, but second to them, as I walk the path of Priesthood in ADF.

Works Consulted

–. The ADF Leadership Handbook. Tucson, AZ: ADF Publishing, 2014. PDF file. 28 August 2017.
<https://www.adf.org/system/files/members/publications/leadership-handbook/leadership-handbook.pdf&gt;.

“Bias.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

“Boundary.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Hereford, Z. “Healthy Personal Boundaries and How to Establish Them.” Essential Life Skills.net. Web. 3 Sept 2017. <http://www.essentiallifeskills.net/personalboundaries.html&gt;.

–. “John Wesley.” Wikiquote. Web. 25 Sept 2017. < https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Wesley >.

“Moral.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Orr, Emma Restall. Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics. Hants, UK: O Books, 2007. Print.

“Right.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

“Value.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Varghese, Benson. “Rule 505: Privilege for Communications to a Clergy Member.” TexasEvidence.com. Web. 25 Sept 2017. < http://texasevidence.com/article-v-privileges/rule-505-communications-to-members-of-the-clergy/&gt;.

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Students will develop new (or document existing) personal and/or family worship customs, such as morning devotions, meal offerings, or seasonal observances. Students will research worship customs of ADF and/or from a chosen Indo-European culture-whether historical or reconstructed and begin to implement these customs within the home setting (or other personal, rather than large group, context). These personal and/or household rituals or other observances may be either reconstructions of culturally specific practices, or based more upon modern ADF liturgical format, or a combination of the two. Household practices and rituals should include all interested members of the household, with options for the inclusion of children encouraged when applicable. Worship should be practiced weekly at a minimum, although daily practice is encouraged.

A specific aim of this course is to experiment and expand practice where possible: to that end, new practices and prayers should be a large part of the journal turned in for the final question.

NOTE: This course assumes the student is working with at least one hearth culture. In completing the Dedicant Path documentation, the student will have begun to explore this culture, including the reading of at least one book as the subject for a review. For students who may wish for further study—or who may wish to explore another cultural focus—the following books are possible resources to consult as needed.

The primary goal of this course is for students to develop and implement regular personal and/or family worship customs in the home setting.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will increase their knowledge of personal and/or family worship customs of ADF and/or from a chosen Indo-European culture and be able to compare these customs to those of public ritual.
  2. Students will demonstrate the implementation of new (or document existing) personal and/or family worship customs through regular journal entries documenting and describing this practice.

1.    What three factors (“subcategories”) does Bonewits identify as determining the impact of “familiarity” on the success of a ritual? Briefly discuss the ways in which personal or family-only ritual is aided or hindered by these factors when compared to public group ritual. (Minimum 100 words)

Bonewits identifies three subcategories for intra-group familiarity: knowledge, affection, and group identity (Bonewits 57). Knowledge is both knowing each other and knowing the material – if you know, for example, “how well the other members of your group can chant, or drum or visualize, you have a better idea how to blend your energies with theirs to create the group mind” (57). Affection is fairly obvious – bonds of genuine friendship or love within a group will enhance the ability to perform ritual, as the “psychic and psychological barriers that most people keep between themselves will be fewer and more easily set aside” (57). Group identity is most effective when it is most specific – Bonewits gives the example that “We are of the (Gardnerian) Wica” is more effective than just “We are all witches”.

Personal or family-only ritual is aided largely by the first two – in small group ritual, you typically know everyone (or get to know them) and that knowledge and working history creates the bonds of friendship that Bonewits calls ‘affection’ in this case. Both of these are largely lost in large group rituals, where things are most often open to the public and where complete strangers may show up. In some ways, this may actually work counter to the ideals of knowledge and affection, especially with members who are more shy or reticent around new individuals to a meeting. However, group identity, especially if it is well cultivated during the ‘creating the group mind’ step of the COOR, can be very strong within a large, even public group ritual. A well-orchestrated public ritual does its best work when everyone feels – at least for the moment – as though they are part of a community that is working together, and thus that is an obstacle that can be overcome in public group ritual.

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2.    What six methods of prayer does Ceisiwr Serith describe? Briefly suggest an example of how you might employ each in your personal worship practices. You may include worship with a group if applicable. (Minimum 200 words)

Praying through words

Perhaps the most obvious method of prayer for me is prayer through words. I have found, through my practice, that there is power in words spoken aloud that is not there in words spoken silently ‘in your head,’ though obviously in public places like at work this is often the only option. My prayer practice is largely done out loud, even if sometimes sotto voce, which doubles as practice for group prayer. As a Senior Druid, I do a lot of group prayer with my grove, and that is done intentionally through using my voice to create atmosphere and tone for the people who have joined us around the fire.

Praying through Posture

Serith mentions both kneeling and prostration as prayer postures familiar to a Western audience, but I find that I most often stand to pray, as my altar is on top of a small bookshelf that is about waist height. I do make use of the orans position quite frequently (which I was rather appalled to learn is restricted in some churches only to priests!), both in private prayer and especially in public prayer. I also try to use my hands in group practice as directive of where the prayer is “going” – whether up to the sky for the Sky Father, down to the earth for the Earth Mother, or into the Hallows.

Praying through Motion

Serith mentions circumambulation as one type of prayer through motion, which is a type of prayer that I use more often in group ritual. In my private practice, most of my praying is done at an altar that is butted up against a wall, so it’s hard to walk about. However, if I am doing a blessing or a cleansing, I use the motion of my body to mirror the motions of the prayer through the space.

Praying through Dance

Serith calls dance the “ultimate form of praying with motion” (24), and it is a prayer form that I almost never use in my own practice, public or private, which I think I might want to reconsider. The act of dance can be very sacred, and can also facilitate a trance state that is very helpful when directing energy in prayer. This is a form of praying that I’d like to explore more, though I often feel ‘funny’, for lack of a better term, when dancing alone in my apartment.

Praying through Music

Music can be either accompaniment to dance, or the sung or chanted prayers themselves. I particularly enjoy sung prayers and have memorized a number of songs and chants to use in core order rituals. My grove uses these extensively, led by our bard and his guitar, but they are equally powerful with just a voice or voices. Praying through song changes the pace of the ritual and can add great affect to both group and private ritual, and is something I do often.

Praying through Gestures

Gestures are “somewhere between postures and motions” and are “things done with the hands and arms” that have their own meaning (Serith 27). I especially like the description of prayer gestures as a “little dance” – a dance performed with only one part of your body (27). I use gestures in ritual frequently; identifying things, showing the motion or flow of energy, directing participants, and channeling offerings.

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3.    What arguments does Ceisiwr Serith make in support of set prayers (as opposed to spontaneous prayers)? Discuss how these arguments apply (or do not apply) to solitary Pagan prayer. (Minimum 200 words)

Serith makes the argument that set prayers involve “a relationship between the pray-er, the prayer, and the one prayed to,” where this relationship is “expressed through the words of a prayer” (66). He argues that while the words of a set prayer may be identical each time they are prayed, each prayer event is “no more identical to those before it than each performance of a particular piece of music is the same as another” (66).

He also argues that ancient Paganism had set prayers – some of which have survived until today – and particularly mentions the Rg Veda and Roman prayer books. As well, there are times when we want to pray, but we can’t find the words (66-7). At these times, such as at a funeral or other times of great personal distress, set prayers allow us to be comforted and to give up having to think about or try to find the right words.

Group prayer is also, by nature, set prayer – people “need to know what to say, so they can say it together” (67). This type of prayer serves both its function as a prayer and also as a way of bringing people together.

The most important rationale, according to Serith, for set prayers is a phenomenon that he calls ‘deepening.’ “The more often a prayer is said, the deeper it sinks into your consciousness. Eventually, it sinks into your unconscious mind” (67). At that point, you are no longer simply saying a prayer; it has become a part of who you are and how you think.

In my personal, private practice I have found that there are times for set prayers, and there are times for extemporaneous prayers, and it would do my practice a huge disservice to abandon one or the other. Serith’s own Cosmos Prayer is a huge part of my practice, and is a prayer that I hope is slowly ‘deepening’ into my consciousness. As well, my daily Earth Mother and Gatekeeper prayers are fairly set at this point. However, I also find that if I want to do a core order, I am less likely to stress less about what is being said if I have a prayer to start from, but don’t feel obligated to speak it identically every time. In my journal below I have included two full Core Order rituals that I use, but I rarely use one entirely from start to finish, despite having most of them memorized. I’ll feel inspired, or be in a hurry and need to hit the high points, etc.

For myself, then, I find Serith’s arguments for set prayers to be compelling, and use them in my practice frequently, but then, I come from a Catholic background (albeit having been born in an American Baptist family) so my love of set and memorized prayers is fairly unsurprising.

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4.    Keep and submit for review a journal documenting the development and observance of the personal/household worship customs described above covering a period of not less than four months, including one observance of a seasonal festival, such as one of the eight ADF High Days. Entries are to be not less than weekly. The text of individual prayers and longer devotional rituals should be provided as frequently as possible. Regular practices occurring less than weekly will be considered if they are documented as revivals or reconstructions of historically-attested observances occurring less than weekly.

All Liturgy Practicum 1 Journals are previously posted on this blog, in the category Liturgy Journal 1, and can be read there.

Works Consulted

Bonewits, Isaac. Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work. Minneapolis: Llewellyn Publications, 2007. Print.

Serith, Ceisiwr. A Book of Pagan Prayer. Boston, MA: Weiser, 2002. Print.

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I spent a lot of time this last week in contemplation, just of things in general. I got back my Liturgical Writing 1 submission, which is exciting, and I’ll be sharing it here, but otherwise it was a quiet week of offerings, prayers, and a lot of mantra meditation. I’ve been working on my Trance practice (not journaling it on the blog because it’s been a lot more of a learning process, and I didn’t feel like I wanted that out in the open), and working on what it means, or will mean, to be an ADF Priest, and to be a priest in general.

There’s a lot of quiet, personal work that is being asked of me right now – a lot of divination, a lot of meditation and prayer. I feel like I’m being “geared up” to do something bigger in time, but for now I’m getting used to a deeper relationship with Ing Frey, and what it means to serve a god of frith, a god of prosperity, a god of protection, a god of harvest. I wrote a prayer to him for my LW submission that I think I’d like to share, because it’s encompassed so many aspects of this deity that has become the central focus of my practice. (House spirits and ancestors always get offerings, but right now He is demanding a lot of attention.)

Hail Frey, Lord of the fields!
Beautiful lord of the Vanir
Golden of hair as the fields of wheat and corn,
Bringing riches of heart and hearth to the folk.

We hail you with the grain that springs forth
And falls again to nourish us.
We hail you, on your mighty boar in flight,
Lord of Frith that is bound to land,
You who can warm the cold heart,
Warrior without a weapon
Who give your prosperity to all of your kin,
You guide and sustain your descendants.

Lord Ing, Providing god,
God of the bees and the barley,
You who make the grain spring forth,
We sacrifice this, our first loaf,  to you
As the grains are sacrificed for us each year.

It is late summer here, and my plants are spent – in need of pruning, fertilizing, and resetting for the autumn growing season. In many ways, I am preparing for the inward turn that winter brings – but also the outward turn that is being asked of me in my work in leading Nine Waves grove.

My rune readings for last week were:

  • Wynn – Joy – contentment, having enough, being fulfilled
  • Lagu – The Sea – an uncertain time, one that may feel unsettled and uprooted
  • Sigel – The Sun – victory, good advice

Find joy in this time in your life, despite the upheaval that surrounds you in your path. Look for those who can guide you and give good advice, for theirs is the way to victory.

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This week has been defined for me with conversations I’ve had with various grove members about hospitality, about frith, about community, about relationships.

Our annual attendance at the Lunasa retreat has fallen through (as has the retreat as a whole), and so we find ourselves without this weekend to spend deepening the bonds we share as a group. As well, there have been “conversations”, or at least, I should say, I’ve been praying a lot. Lighting a lot of candles, burning a lot of incense. Not a lot of formal prayers, but more spontaneous, extemporaneous praying, as though I’m having a conversation with these beings that surround me.

This week’s rune draw was done specifically in relation to some of the feelings I’ve been having surrounding deity relationships and other spirit relationships. Mostly to try to figure out what a particular deity has been hanging around for, and what they would like from me. I drew:

  • Ur: The aurochs – strength, stamina, stubbornness, a test of strength
  • Gyfu: The gift – reciprocity, hospitality, relationships, *ghosti
  • Eh: The horse – partnership, working together to achieve a goal, a strong ally

Gyfu is a rune that has been drawn for me a lot with regards to my clergy work and clergy training. It often has the connotation that I need to be in right relationship with my grove, with the spirits and beings I honor and worship, and with the world.

Honestly, I see in this reading a mirror for my clergy training in general – it is a test of strength, and a test of my stubbornness to see it through and finish it, so that I can give my gifts in service to the gods, the folk, and the land. And to do it, I will need the partnership and allies that I have gathered around me.

An inspiring reading to get, honestly, and one that makes me think that perhaps a certain Person who has been nudging at my brain is attempting to kick me in the metaphorical butt, to get me working on more than just this course. I have the time right now to do so, though I am unsure of which course to pick “next”. They’ll all require a good bit of reading, and for me to dig out my books from storage, but that’s alright. I need a bookshelf anyway.

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Or rather, not meditating enough, but the attempt was made. In the past, I’ve done mostly mindfulness meditation, but I’ve also been reading up on what John Michael Greer calls discursive meditation, which is something like “thoughtful, focused meditation on a particular subject”.

In particular, I’ve been working a few bits from the blogger Hecate’s guided meditations for her Magical Battle of America. I know it’d be smarter probably to work on something with the Earth Mother, or the Gatekeeper, but this was on my mind this week, so I’ve decided to run with it. After all, ADF has a long history of activism, and Hecate’s posts are about the magical guardians and mental constructs that are particularly strongly rooted in the American consciousness.

I’m not sure it was particularly fruitful discourse, but I did at least DO it, so that’s a good start.

On Wednesday, I did some divination – just a simple three rune pull like I’ve been doing recently. I’ve been feeling called to do more divination in general, so I’m trying to make sure I do at least a quick rune pull once a week for myself. I drew the following runes:

  • Ac – the acorn: adequate resources, resourcefulness
  • Eolh – the elk-sedge: active protection, careful boundaries
  • Lagu – the sea: trepidation, uncertainty – could mean bounty, could also mean storms

I’ll be honest, I had some trouble interpreting this. In general, I read Ac positively, and Eolh as well, though Lagu is often a bit of a mixed blessing. I didn’t ask a specific question, just for “guidance”, so I guess that’s partially my own fault. That said, if I tried to make a sentence or coherent statement out of it, it would be “You will have adequate resources to meet the situation, but will need to be careful of your boundaries and possibly strive to be resourceful with what you have – the outcome is in flux, but the reward for success could be very great.”

We’ll see how that plays out in the next week.

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This week (or next week) marks the half-way point of my journaling for Liturgy Practicum 1. My first entry was for the week of 13 June, which was 8 weeks ago. The journal has to be for four months, so the week of 13 October should be my last “official” recorded week.

Though like with many practices in ADF, the journaling is supposed to be the beginning or the documentation, not the culmination of the practice. I’ve created practices with this work that I hope will stick with me, but I’ll admit to being a little discouraged at how “simple” my practice is. I make offerings at my altar most days, to the Kindreds, to the Eorthan Modor, and to Eostre. I make offerings at my hearth most days, to my house spirits (who seem very fond of oatmeal, so I’ve been eating that for breakfast more). I am rekindling my deity practices – my prayer beads are on my altar, and I’ve been developing a series of prayers to say with them. (Look for those in a future week.)

But it doesn’t feel like it’s “enough”.

And, of course, the next thing I think of is Rev. Jan Avende’s song “All Things are Sacred

You should know that all things can be offered.
You should know that all things are sacred.
You should know that you’ve given the best
Of yourself
And it’s enough.

This is something that I’ve always struggled with. I worry that I’m going to turn in this journal, and it’s going to be deemed “too simple” or “too basic”. That this practice that I’m developing will not be enough. But I’ve always set expectations for myself that are unrealistic, and finding the balance of “this practice is meaningful” and “this practice shows enough regular devotion to warrant my place in the CTP” is something I knew from the get-go that I would struggle with.

I can think of many things that I’d like to be able to say my practice includes. Some of those things – like regular meditation – are things I’ve done in the past and can likely do again. (In fact, I’d argue that I’ll absolutely HAVE to start doing regular meditation again before I can get my Trance and Magic work done.) Other things? Like a full Core Order ritual every day? They just seem utterly unreachable – whether because I don’t have the time or because I just don’t have the willpower to set up that kind of a devotional habit (which I know those of you with small children at home will just laugh at, but we each have our own struggles).

Self doubt is a part of any practice though, and I know this. Today it seems huge, and so, in response, I’m going to go and sit my butt on a cushion and just be for awhile. Just breathe. After all, that’s why they call it “practice” right? You have to take the time to get good at it.

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