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Posts Tagged ‘oath’

I’ve been reading Kathleen Norris’ (wonderful) book The Cloister Walk, about monastic spirituality, as a sort of side piece to all of the work I’ve been doing and to kind of keep me sane as I prepare for ordination and all the rest of the hoopla that is my religious life right now. And one of the things she talks about is the idea that, at least for Benedictine spirituality, formation is endless – the conversion of the self is a process that takes a lifetime.

So I sat down and looked at a typical formation process for someone in the Catholic faith vs what I’ve done, and realized there are some similarities. With apologies for generalizing, as each community really does have its own rules, and because what I’ve done is nowhere NEAR as dedicated as true monastic life, it still struck me that there were things that I could relate to.

My dedicant year was the equivalent of basic religious education – it gave me the tools to get started on the path, and set me up with a spirituality that I could practice satisfactorily for the rest of my life. This only took me a year, but for others it is the work of a lifetime, and that’s more than okay.

The 2 years I spent working CTP-Prelim were my postulancy – where I figured out whether this whole priesting thing was really going to be for me. It was a longer process, but like all processes – like all formation – it takes however long it takes. I did a lot of work, internally and externally, between August 2014 and August 2016, and I don’t want to shy away from that. It involved a lot of confirmation that what I was doing was really the right thing, and set me up with a lot of the spirit relationships that have continued to nourish me through to today.

From August 2016 to March 2018, I was a novice – not yet having taken any formal vows, but having applied and been accepted to my community of faith and living as best I could the life and spirituality of a priest in my community. I did the clergy student discipline, I spoke with mentors who assisted with my formation and my growth. I studied hard, got handed a few massive life-lessons in the process. I served my community in such a way that they could see my building ministry and vocation, and they allowed me to learn and grow.

And now I sit in the liminal space before taking my oaths as a priest – before being vested with the stola of a priest (which is given to me by the folk). I will step into the role of a junior professed, whose path is renewed every year through continuing education. I wonder what this life will look like in a year, or two, or five. Or twenty. I’ve been “in formation” since 2012. In five-odd years, I’ve come an awful long way, but yet there’s still so much that I don’t know. I’m still so new at this.

What will my life-long formation as a polytheist priest look like?

Because I am not done. If anything, the wheels of change in my life are spinning at a rate that is almost dizzying. New doors are opening up for me, with new opportunities to study and practice my spirituality. This is a watershed moment that I am preparing for, yes, but it is only the beginning.

To coin a phrase, this isn’t even my final form.

I wonder what that will look like.

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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 was thinking about my post last week, and about how I never made the first oath to start the Dedicant path, even though it was given as an assignment in the WOTY book and suggested on the website.

I’m oath-shy, I guess? I didn’t want to promise anything that I couldn’t fulfill to any Gods who might want to be listening. I take that very seriously, and at the time I didn’t think I could honestly promise anything more than to give it a try and see what happened.

I’m still not sure I’d make much more oath than that.

This week’s assignment is to start thinking about the Dedicant Oath, taken as the last step on the Dedicant Path. I know I don’t need to be ready for that step yet, but I’m really not looking forward to it right now. It’s probably the thing that will hold me up on completing the DP – all the other work is fairly methodical and finishable, but an oath? That’s much more complicated.

For one thing, it’s not just you that makes an oath – it’s a resounding sort of thing that you’re swearing to the Kindreds that you’ll uphold, and they will hold you to it. That’s pretty serious business, and I hesitate to make an oath that will be binding for the rest of my life when I really don’t know how the rest of my life will shape up. I know I can word it so that I’m only on this path as long as I want to travel it, but it still makes me altogether uneasy. I especially don’t want my words to be twisted to mean more than I intend, or to be held to a promise I didn’t intend to make, so there’s a lot of deliberation here.

Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, that it should be a little uncomfortable and challenging, something to take the step forward into being recognized as a Dedicant (though I think what I’m doing now is a pretty full practice of ADF style Druidry, I’m just not labeled as having completed a particular set of coursework yet). And maybe I’m a little bit afraid of commitment (I’ll admit to that much).

I know the Norse took oaths very seriously, and if I end up actually making an oath, I intend to do so very seriously as well. I’m just not really in a place with Druidry where I’m ready to swear anything to anyone about it, yet. Maybe I will get there and maybe not, and I really do have quite a while to make these decisions. It seems a bit early to be thinking about it, honestly, but I guess for some people this comes much more easily.

My tendency to overthink things may be kicking in here, but I feel like I should really mean it if I’m going to make an actual, serious, legitimate oath. What I want, more than anything, is to find the place that I fit into paganism (regardless of what that path is). Maybe in 6 months I’ll be more sure of how I want to address the Dedicant Oath and my eventual place in ADF.

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So this week’s assignment in the Wheel of the Year book has you revisiting a lot of the whys and wherefors of the Dedicant Path, with questions about why you got started and how you think you’re doing.

It’s gotten me thinking, since a lot of my practices have changed to be more in line with ADF since I began, but I don’t know how much I really feel like this is going to be the end path for me. I’m not going to rule it out, but after four months, I still feel strongly drawn to the Wicca tradition that I was previously part of. Thing is, I’m not sure I can go back. Not that I don’t want to, but that I’m not sure there’s a place for me there, and with a close knit coven, you can’t ask them to change their mind about something like this. (And solitary work wasn’t really working out.)

Also, I decided to do this “Druid thing” for a year, and I’m going to stick to that. I think I’ve done pretty well at keeping up with the various requirements, and I’m nearly done with several of them. I didn’t take a “First Oath” because I didn’t feel particularly prepared to make any oaths at that point, though I did promise myself that I’d give ADF a try for a year, which I guess is kind of oath-like. On that level, I’ve done pretty well so far, since I’ve made good progress on all of the essays (and am even ahead on some, like the book reports).

I’ve found what I think will be my hearth culture, after some experimentation, and I’m working on deciphering Who it is from that culture that has been visiting my meditations. (I have a pretty good gut feeling, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions. So I’m going to read more and meditate more, and maybe draw some runes.) I like the idea of having a focused few Gods that I work with regularly, while still having a Pantheon to draw from if I need them.

The requirements so far haven’t been particularly hard or challenging, though some of them have made me think a bit (which is the point). Honestly, I’ve done more thinking and questioning outside of the actual DP requirements than I have for the actual essays. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, since I know that self-discovery comes from that kind of introspection and questioning, but it wasn’t what I expected. I’m feeling a little like the actual requirements are just elaborate hoop jumping, on some levels. I understand why those hoops are there, but many of them are little more than pagan busy-work. But, of course, finishing the Dedicant Path is as much about having completed a course of study, so I’m not too upset about it.

Overall, I’m pleased with the last four months of work and feeling like I’m making some progress towards the end goal. Or at least AN end goal, as I don’t really know what my eventual end goal actually is!

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