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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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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.)

I came to Druidry after almost two years of pre-initiation study with a Gardnerian Wicca coven that turned out to be incompatible with my mental health issues. I was very upset with the loss of my coven and found I couldn’t practice Wicca on my own in a way that I found satisfying, so I needed something to challenge me spiritually in a way that would be different from what I had been doing before (since that was no longer something that was going to be an option). After a few months of reading everything I could get my hands on about ADF, I joined and started the Dedicant Path immediately, with the idea that I would have the best chance of really giving this new mode of operation a try if I worked on their introductory study program. I didn’t make an “official” first oath, but I promised myself that I would finish the Dedicant Path within a year of starting it, and that I would use that time of spiritual searching to decide if this had the potential to be a lifelong path for me.

I also went in hoping to have a Grove to learn from and with, but that hasn’t worked out well for me. My efforts to get in contact with the local protogrove have not been productive, and their only meetings take place at a private home (and I am uncomfortable having my first meeting with people I’m intending to do ritual with taking place in a stranger’s house). Their hearth culture is also very different from mine (at least as I am currently practicing), so I have contented myself with finding my Druid community online, especially with the support of my Regional Druid and the ADF mailing lists. It is curious that I did so poorly practicing as a solitary Wiccan, but have settled into practice as a solitary Druid. I think it is the community online and the structure of the Dedicant Path that has helped me stay on track. Having something that I am pursuing as an academic and spiritual study has done a lot of good, and is encouraging me to continue my studies in ADF.

I started this path fairly certain that I was going to practice in a Celtic hearth of some kind, but after only one High Day, started looking elsewhere – the mythology just wasn’t clicking with what I felt I should be doing. I have since done several Gaulish rituals that went very well, but settled into a Norse hearth culture, with a newly developing transition into a more Anglo-Saxon based style. This was a totally new mythology for me – I am not even a reader of comics, so I didn’t have comic books or movie mythologies to contend with. My first experience was through a good friend who is a practicing Vanatruar. He was telling me of his relationship with Freyr and Freyja (particularly Freyja) and I decided to give the Norse hearth a try just to see how it felt.

I had some serious trepidation about the change, because there are some really unsavory things that are promoted in the name of Norse Mythology, but I figured going through the ADF side of things would protect me from a lot of that backlash. I read my Hearth Culture book, HR Ellis Davidson’s Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, and set about learning about the Norse Gods and their culture. As time went on, though I did make an initial contact with Odin, I found myself drawn very strongly to Freyr, and I had a personal encounter with him in a meditation that put me on the path to working with him in a way that I hope will become one of patronage. While I haven’t had any really close experiences with Him regularly, I feel that relationship will deepen with time and practice.

I have my altar set up in an ADF style (with a few nods to my Norse hearth yet, since I haven’t found any statues that I like) and I light incense and meditate there regularly. I utilize the ADF methodology of Threes as an integral part of my worship – Three Worlds, Three Hallows, Three Realms, Three Kindreds, and though the Norse Mythology claims nine worlds, I connect them all with the World Tree (with the Underworlds Below and the Upperworlds Above), so I don’t see much of a disconnect. I find the Three Kindreds belief system works particularly well for the Norse, since they strongly believed in Ancestor worship, in a proliferation of land and nature spirits in the world around them, and in a full pantheon of Gods with different functions.

Recently, I’ve found myself being drawn toward the Anglo-Saxon strain of Germanic paganism, though I have other aspects of my practice that fit into more of a pan-Germanic worldview. I am cultivating a relationship with Njord and Nerthus, who are not talked about in the Anglo-Saxon sources I’ve seen so far, and I have a strong relationship with my Disir/Matronae/Ancient Mothers, whose cult spanned most of Germanic Europe at various times. I think this will remain something that is somewhat fluid about my practice, since there is a lot of overlap between these cultures, and that doesn’t really bother me. What draws me to the Anglo-Saxon hearth is the similarities to things I understand (being an English speaker) and that it is the culture of my ancestors, some of whom date back to pre-Norman Britain. I will be trying, as I move forward, to add more Anglo-Saxon flavor to my rituals, hopefully through writing more ritual material for my own use.

Overall my transition into the Norse hearth was both immediate (ritually) and slow (personally) – it’s taken me awhile to get to know this new group of deities and their surrounding customs. I work primarily with the Vanic deities, specifically Freyr (or Ing-Frey), and I would like to have a better relationship going forward with His sister and father (and possibly mother – Nerthus is a goddess that I find extremely intriguing, and my research about her has only increased that intrigue). I like that she is a sort of “Earth Mother”, and that she can fill that function in ADF ritual, while still remaining a separate functioning Deity in her own right. Some recent articles I’ve read have put her name as a linguistic cognate to Jord (the other “Earth Mother” of the Norse), and I am fascinated by her role in the hierarchy of Deities, as well as her domains of holiness and peacemaking.

I have kept to my informal first oath, writing this penultimate essay of the Dedicant Path before I have completed the final High Day of my year of observations, and I am very proud to have stuck to it. In a way, it was a promise I made to myself, to give myself this time of searching and exploration of something different. In some ways I feel like I haven’t learned much at all, but then I am reminded of just how far I’ve come in a year, and how many new paths are open to me now.

I don’t know for sure if ADF will be my path forever, but I am finding myself increasingly comfortable here. There is a great deal of tolerance for variation, an emphasis on scholarship (but also an emphasis on practice, when scholarship falls short), and I am drawn to the practice of ADF style rituals. I think the poetry of those rituals makes them work well – even if they seemed very strange to me at first, coming from a traditional Wiccan worldview. While I have not always fully embraced the views that get presented as “ADF’s”, I like that if you ask three Druids a question, you should expect six answers. The balance of scholarship and personal practice/personal gnosis is one that I think I can find myself at home in as I continue this path. I am drawn towards the Initiates Path at this point, though I do not know if I will start on that coursework immediately. I crave a deep, meaningful spirituality, as well as meaningful community and spiritual interactions with other people – something that can be hard to get as a solitary. I hope through ADF’s embrace of technology, through my ability to volunteer to help in the organization, through learning more and mentoring other new Druids on the Dedicant Path, and through furthering my own spiritual practice, I can find my own place here in this corner of Neopaganism.

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

ADF splits many of its observances into threes, a number that seems to have been fairly sacred to the Indo-Europeans. There are the three worlds – the underword, the middleworld, and the upperworld – the three realms of land, sky, and sea, the three hallows of fire, well, and tree, and the three Kindred, sacred to our worship, the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Gods and Goddesses of old.

The Ancestors, sometimes called The Mighty Dead or the Mighty Ones, are associated with the underworld, with the sea, and with the realm of the well. They are sacred to burial mounds and crossroads, as well as to the sea.

To the Norse, the ancestors were a vital part of their culture, and ritually remembering them was a vital part of their family religious structure. The dead could influence the living, and bring good luck or bad, depending on whether their rituals were followed correctly. This included sacrifices of objects, food, and drink, as well as the ritual of “outsitting”, whereby one brought offerings to an ancestor’s burial mound, made the offerings, and then sat all night in meditation to commune with them and receive messages from them (this was especially common for mothers and grandmothers). These ancestors were usually buried nearby where the family would live, and were considered to protect and help ensure the survival of the family.

I generally divide my “Ancestors” group into three types:

  • Ancestors of Blood – These are my direct relatives, and those relatives that I inherited through marriage. They are my grandmothers and great grandmothers, the people to whom I am related by blood, as well as my grandmothers-in-law. I consider my inlaws to be part of my family, and so I place them here. I keep a special place in my home (the mantle of our fireplace) for pictures of my and my husband’s grandmothers who have passed away as part of my relationship to my Ancestors of Blood. I also make sure to keep up with the genealogical research that has happened on both sides of my family tree (and my married-into-family-tree), and keep that in a special place in our home.
  • Ancestors of Heart – These are the people to whom I have been close in this life, who have left their mark on me as a person, but who have passed on to the otherworld. They include teachers and mentors, and most especially my two martial arts teachers – a Shotokan Karate Sensei and my Tai Chi Sufi. Those two men did a great deal to shape who I am and how I think, and I am sad to have lost them. My relationship to them was very close, and though I am related to neither of them, I consider them as part of my Ancestors of Heart. I keep them alive by telling their stories, and by passing on their wisdom to those around me.
  • Ancestors of Hearth – These are the people who shared my faith (or something like it) in an earlier time in the world. They are likely Anglo-Saxon in descent (though some of them are Scottish), and I include my husband’s German and Danish ancestors in this group as well. This is the group of Ancestors I relate to the least at this point, because I am not sure what they would think of my modern practice, but I am trying to reach out to them.

Special among my ancestors are my Disir, my ancestral mothers, an idea I gained through my studies of the Norse. The cult of the Matronae was common throughout Western Europe, and I see no reason why it should stop there. While I call upon my Ancestors of Hearth as part of this group, I also have a special group of women called my Prairie Godmothers (who are like Faerie Godmothers only they carry wooden spoons and are very concerned with the running of households and the strength of their families) – from both my family and my husband’s family. These are the women who came to the United States and scratched out a living here, making a new life for their families. Though they were all Christian, I take great strength and inspiration from them, and I try to remember them as I build my hearth and home – even though I am a modern woman with a 40 hour a week job outside the house.

Beyond the various things mentioned above, I have a small hearth shrine in my home, set up on my stove (the place where I do all the cooking – I have a fireplace, but it is not used most of the year. I use my stove daily). I light candles there in honor of my Disir – both the ancestors of my blood, my Prairie Godmothers, and those who walked this path before me. I try to make sure the kitchen is clean before I light those candles, out of respect for them. My hearth should be in good order before I ask for their blessings.

My usual offering to the Mighty Dead is to share with them a portion of my own cup, marking it as a sacrifice – this is a drink that I purchase specifically for the occasion, and I choose to share it with them. However, they also like brownies. (And who doesn’t?!)

The second of the three Kindred are the Nature Spirits, sometimes called the Noble Ones, the Land Wights, the Land Spirits, and the Sidhe, as well as the Spirits of Place. They are associated with the middle world, the land, and (to some extent) the tree – though the tree usually has other functions in ritual, the Nature Spirits seem to fit best there, and trees are among the Nature Spirits. (Also, to the Norse, the World Tree is inhabited by several nature spirits, my favorite being Ratatosk, the squirrel). This is a fairly broad group of beings, from the elves, wights, and trolls who inhabit particular places and objects (and homes) to the larger Nature Spirits, like the spirit of Stag, or Owl, or Rabbit, as well as the smaller spirits we see around us, and the spirits of the trees themselves.

To the Norse, the world was one full of spirits, from Giants (Ettins and Jotnar) to trolls (who could be good or bad) to elves and dwarves, who each inhabited a certain type of place and required a certain level of decorum in dealing with them. Unlike the Sidhe of the Celtic lands, it was considered very bad form not to accept food or gifts from these beings, as frequently they would turn out to be of great benefit (and refusing them would usually peeve the offering spirit, which was something to be avoided at great cost). Even today in parts of Iceland, a road will be moved to go around a rock that is known to be inhabited by Elves, or extra time given to allow the Elves to find a new home before the rock is moved to allow for road construction. These naturekin frequently like small, shiny objects and offerings of milk and honey, or a portion of meals as an offering. One of the most productive books I read on this subject has been Kvedulf Gundarson’s Elves, Wights, and Trolls, which offered deep insight into the various Norse distinctions between these spirits and how to live productively among them.

My personal relationships with the Nature Spirits run more along their natural embodiments as animal spirits, especially Owl, Rabbit, and Toad – creatures I have had a fascination with since I was a very small child. I find that these animals often act as guides for me when I am working in trance states, and I frequently find that I can get wisdom from them, just based on their behavior and mannerisms. I also like to leave offerings for my local house spirits and the spirits of the land on which I live (They especially seem to like homemade chili, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. I do live in chili pepper country.) These relationships aren’t particularly deep or meaningful, but I find it important to honor those spirits who live here on this land with me, even if I don’t work with them directly.

In ritual, I tend to call the Nature Spirits as their fur and feather natures, instead of calling on tree wights or river wights, though I lump all of those under the distinctions of the Nature Spirits. These are the Noble spirits with whom we share this middle world, and their presence can add good energy to ritual observances. Also, they have the ability to affect the world in ways that we do not, being beings of different substance and gifts, and so I find it appropriate to honor them and make offerings to them. My usual offering to the Nature Spirits is the same as that to the Ancestors – a portion of my own cup, something I have purchased specifically for the purpose of sharing it as a sacrifice. They have also received both grain and honey as a sacrifice, but that was quite a challenging sacrifice to make, since I don’t have a fire to pour the honey into, and pouring it into the communal offerings bowl made a very sticky mess. As a solitary, having to clean a whole pile of sticky offering bowls was a bit off-putting, so I’ve stuck with more easily pourable sacrifices most of the time.

Third among the Kindreds (in this list, though certainly I would rank them all as having equal importance) are the Gods and Goddesses, who have perhaps the longest list of names: The Shining Ones, First Children of the Mother, The Gods of this Place, The Great Ones, The Elder Ones, Eldest and Wisest. They offer us a clear connection to the creation of the world, though they are not usually the same generation as those who created it. Most of our Gods and Goddesses are their children, but they are the First Children of the Mother Earth, whose body was formed out of one of their forbears.

They are associated with the upper world, with the sky, and with the hallows of the fire, to which offerings to them are most often burned. The Deities of our chosen hearth (or of our chosen preference, if we don’t follow a hearth) provide a lot of the backbone for the structures of ADF, especially as it follows the Wheel of the Year. While some festivals might be just as easily associated with Nature Spirits (Spring Equinox) or the Mighty Dead (Samhain), we usually attach associated Dieties of the occasion to that worship, and a lot of our thought and energy goes towards building relationships with those Deities that we chose or are chosen by.

Whether I think of the Deities as beings to be worshiped or not (which is something I go back and forth about, as the word worship for me comes with a lot of emotional baggage), certainly the words honor and love come into play. We honor these great beings, because of all the Kindreds, they have the greatest power at their disposal. Each of the Gods will have a domain where he or she is best found, Njord by the ocean, Freyr in a garden or in a plot of farmland, but they are not bound to those domains, or even bound to the domains usually associated with them. While Freyr may be a god of fertility and frith and peacemaking, there is no reason he could not also act as a protector. The Gods may have limits, but those limits are much fewer and lighter than our own as humans. While we interact daily with the Nature Spirits, and owe our very existence to our Ancestors, the Gods hold a special place in life as protectors and nurturers and challengers of what we can accomplish as humans.

It is with the Gods that I find I hold the greatest *ghosti relationship. With the Ancestors, they already have a vested interest in me. The Nature Spirits are more indifferent, but some are inclined to be friendly (and even helpful towards) humans. But with the Gods I feel that the *ghosti relationship is truly the sacred one – I offer so that they in turn may offer. There is some evidence that the Norse believed their primary relationships were with the Ancestors and Nature Spirits, only calling on the Gods for big things, but I find that I prefer to have a closer relationship to the Gods than that. Still, I find that my relationship with the Gods is most defined in formal ritual, as opposed to casual offerings or remembrances, like I do with the other Kindreds most of the time. I encounter them primarily in ritual, and I try to make that count. I also try always to make their offering directly from my own cup, because I want it to be something special that is “mine” that I am specifically offering to them as a shared offering.

I am attempting to cultivate a more personal, daily relationship to specific Gods, notably Ing-Frey, through my morning devotions and my meditation times. I would like that relationship to transcend the boundaries of a ritual setting and embark more on a patron relationship. Beyond that, I typically work with and work for the Norse Gods, though I am trying to transition to a more Anglo-Saxon hearth (which is hard, because one of the Gods I’d like to get to know is Njord, but I may just have to cross-hearth for that one).

I try to make sure that I am giving small offerings, fairly regularly, to the Gods just for the sake of giving offerings, usually of incense or of food. I think it’s important to keep up the communication, and I frequently meditate during these offerings of incense. I try to not make every encounter with the Gods (or any of the Kindreds) simply about asking for things, though I am not afraid to ask for things if the situation warrants it.

Combined, these three Kindred provide a complete spiritual picture of the types of spirits that an ADF druid can expect to work with through ADF style rites. While far from an exhaustive list of ALL the types of spirits that might be out there, the three Kindreds provide a solid grounding in Indo-European beliefs about how the world was ordered, and how they should interact with it. By basing my own practice around these three types of spirits (even if I don’t always do so in a truly Norse-derived way), I know I’m plugging into a spiritual current that is growing and developing around the world as ADF grows and creates its own spiritual egregore. As well, I know that I am honoring the primary divisions of the spirit world that my spiritual ancestors would have seen and believed in.

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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)

I’ve had a personal relationship with nature since I was a small child, when I had a “Nature Sanctuary” in the woods behind my house (there was a goodish sized clearing with an old stump), and I would have nature rituals there. How this managed not to attract the attention of my very Christian parents I will never know, but I treasure those memories, and when I go to nature in visualization I often start from my memories of that place. I like to meditate outside, and while I’m fortunate to live in a place where it is temperate except for during the summer (when it is miserable to be outside), that means I live with the Cult of The Eternal Yard Work, and during pretty much any daylight hours I can hear the sounds of yard machinery. During the week, weekends, evenings, mornings – it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve even tried going to the local park to meditate when I get extra time, but there I am regaled by the sounds of the local airforce base.

I feel an especially strong connection to nature at the beach. There is a magic to the ocean (and a feeling of being very small in the face of a very great power) that I find is both soothing and discomforting in a very good way. I try to get to the beach as often as I can, even if it’s just to sit on the seawall for an hour or two and listen to the waves. I love to meditate on the beach, where the sound of the waves becomes almost trance-inducing, and where the combination of warm sun, gentle waves (it is the gulf coast), the sea breeze, and the sand between my toes is like a healing balm for my soul. I have seen the truly powerful effects of the sea as well as the peaceful ones, so I am under no misconceptions about it being a force to be reckoned with. The sea I usually encounter is a gentle one, though, and I truly enjoy those moments of connectedness that I feel there.

My other main connection to nature comes from caring for the little bit of Earth around my house. While I spend a lot of time outside, and am an avid gardener, I don’t meditate in my yard much because of the machinery noise, so I sustain my relationships either through active cultivation or through visualization inside where it’s quiet. My strongest connection to nature is probably through my garden and my yard, where I can have a direct impact.

Gardening helps me to connect with the Wheel of the Year (even though I live in a place with odd growing seasons compared to those in Northern Europe) and to the powers that drive that cycle. It also puts me in touch with the Earth herself. While I more frequently address the power of nature (and the cycle of life and death) as masculine, I feel the Earth itself is strongly feminine. I honor my connection to the Earth as her child: as the saying goes “from you all things emerge, and to you all things return”. I suppose that means I honor the Earth as a Goddess in her own right, though in my rituals I sometimes give her a name (often Nerthus, but sometimes Jord, or Danu). I am just as comfortable with her just being Earth, or Gaia, or the Earth Mother, and I actively seek to make my presence here one of respect and honor. I know that the modern lifestyle is not always conducive to Earth-friendly living, and that dichotomy is something I truly struggle with.

In light of that struggle, there are a number of things I do on a regular basis that seem mundane on the surface but are a crucial part of my Druidry. I compost as much as I possibly can – and buy compostable containers when I can as well. I use that compost to feed my garden, which I do not put chemical fertilizers on (though I do use an abundance of manure and supplemental compost, as the land here is almost entirely red clay). I also do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides in my yard – with one exception: fire ants. Both my husband and I are ferociously allergic to fire ant bites, so they are my one pesticide exception. I also recycle as many things as possible, and try to buy recyclable packaging as much as possible. I use only re-usable bags at the grocery store, including some mesh produce bags that have drastically reduced the amount of plastic that comes through our house. We are also slowly replacing the light bulbs in our home with LED lights, as they use almost no electricity. Also, I keep the thermostat set very high in the summer (80-82 degrees in the house) to reduce our air conditioning usage. I try to buy cleaners that are biodegradable (or use things like vinegar and baking soda), as well as using personal care products that don’t use plastic containers or contain petrochemical-derived ingredients.

What could I be doing better? Lots of things. My recycling efforts are notable, but I haven’t taken a stand against purchasing things that have nonrecyclable packaging entirely. I also sometimes get lazy and throw things away instead of cleaning them out to be recycled. I would also like to be a better advocate for my landbase. I live in a threatened area – the coastal wetlands. These wetlands are disappearing rapidly, due to a combination of human encroachment and changes in the waterlines, and while my area was not personally affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the plants and animals in this ecosystem are still threatened. I would like to look for some local conservation organizations to support, though that support will primarily need to be financial for now.

Overall I feel like I’ve had my connections with nature pretty solidly created before I started the Dedicant Path, so over the last year I’ve spent my time reinforcing and thinking about those connections that I had already made. I also stepped up my efforts at living responsibly. This is one of the aspects that drew me to Druidry, and while I haven’t always thought of it as honoring the Earth Mother as a Goddess, caring for the planet – especially the little corner I’m responsible for – is something I’ve found important for a very long time. I hope as I continue with Druidry that these connections will only deepen, especially as I make more relationships with the Nature Spirits as a Kindred.

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

My Druid altar sits in my “craft” room (it is a craft room both in the sense of sewing and knitting and in the sense of magical craft). The room is just off the main hallway of my home, and I walk by it several times each day going to and from our office. It is, by necessity, in a room that’s easy to close off when we have guests – both because it is not anywhere near appropriate for a small child, and because I am still a closeted Druid, and do not wish to share my religion with my (very Christian) family.

The altar itself sits on a bookshelf on the eastern wall, and I use the bookshelf to store all of my magical and religious tools as well as other less obviously religious books (like my mythology books). I try to have it keep a low profile, though my more recent updates have it looking more obviously altar-like and less like just a cluttered bookshelf.

I perform all of my ADF rituals here, as well as most of my meditation (I keep a cushion on the floor in front of the bookshelf for seated meditation). The shelf is standing-height accessible, so I stand for all of my ritual observances.

altar4-13a(The room my altar is in is yellow, so it’s hard not to get very yellow tinged pictures!)

On the altar I have a (handmade) metal Tree that hangs on the wall, a trio of votive candles as my Fire (along with an incense burner) and a Well handmade by a carpenter of carefully jointed wooden pieces. I also have two small Tree of Life wood-burned tree pieces from The Magical Druid, to help balance the altar and because I like having the extra representations of trees there. There are as well a set of tingshas I use as my musical signal to begin my rituals, a goblet for offerings and receiving blessings, some small bowls and a tiny pitcher for offerings, and a large wooden bowl to accept offerings, since it seems unwise to pour them on the carpet. I keep my runes on the altar as well, plus a large “holey” stone that a good friend of mine brought back from a military trip. I am sure he thought I was weird to ask him to bring me a rock with a natural hole in it, but he’s a geologist, so I figured he’d be sympathetic.

On the second shelf I have two larger candles, mostly because I like candles, as well as some owl figurines (a Nature Spirit I am particularly close to), some amber jewelry (to help me connect with Freya), a wooden acorn (to represent ADF Druidry) and a small green man figure.

Future altar updates include adding statuary for the various Gods I work with, particularly Freyr (I am thinking of looking for a small boar to represent him, as that will provoke fewer questions than an obviously phallic statue would) and something for Njord. A small wagon would be appropriate for Nerthus as well. These additions are waiting mostly on budget and on finding statues I like – I tend to find a lot of the things online too shiney or modern or just don’t like them much. I figure I can afford to be picky when it comes to my Gods. I don’t know where exactly I will PUT all of these things, but perhaps it will be time for my owls to move elsewhere, or for me to expand to a bigger surface. Right now, though, this version of my altar is highly functional, and I am always happy to settle into my rituals here. The setup is easy to use, and not too cluttered, but still contains everything I need.

I should note that I also keep a “hearth shrine” at my stove, where I light candles daily as part of my remembrance of my ancestors. There are no ritual objects there, only the candles I burn and my dedication to keeping the stove clean and the area tidy. I try not to light candles there if the kitchen is not clean, out of honor for my Disir.

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The Summer Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) occurs on or around June 21 every year, and marks the astronomical point at which the sun has reached its highest altitude in the sky. This produces the longest day/shortest night of the year, and the holy day of Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is celebrated at this time. This holiday is often referred to as Litha among various branches of neopaganism, a reference to Bede’s naming of the months of the summer.*

Historically this holiday was celebrated in most of Northern Europe, especially the British Isles, Scandinavia, and the Germanic lands, where celebrations included bonfires and the picking of golden-flowered plants, supposed to have miraculous healing powers. In the Scandinavia, where the sun sets very late and rises very early resulting in extremely long days, the Sun is the central figure, as well as the lit bonfires and celebrations of community. People frequently danced around (and through!) bonfires as a ritual of protection, as well as driving cattle through the fires to protect them. The strength of the Sun makes the crops grow, and there is a great deal of promised bounty as people tend the crops and prepare for the upcoming harvest.

In the Neopagan myth, this is the time of the second battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, where the Holly King defeats the Oak King (who has reigned since Yule) and will then rule until December when the two will battle again. This begins the “Dark” half of the year, where the Sun’s power wanes and the days grow shorter again until the cycle begins anew at Yule.

Bonfires are a very common method of celebrating this high day, often accompanied by all night vigils. This seems to be both an honoring of fire and a warding against wildfires, which are at their most dangerous during the hot dry summer months. The spirits of the land are also important at this time. Most central, however, is honoring the Sun at her (or his) strongest point in the year. I usually make a special point to watch both the sunrise and the sunset on Midsummer, and always have a “bonfire” in my charcoal grill, where I make offerings to Sunna, who is at her brightest (and most destructive!) at this time. As a tropical Pagan, my relationship with Sunna is one of deep respect as well as joy, for while it is sunny here most of the year, and I love basking in her warmth, it is very dangerous to underestimate the power of Sunna in summer, especially on exposed skin.

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