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I started in on this on twitter, but realized there was a lot more than I could cover in even a series of tweets here.

ADF is, at its core, welcoming to Pagan laity. We hold public high day rituals because we want people to come and worship the Gods. We don’t force everyone who comes to our rituals to join ADF, and we don’t force everyone who joins to complete their Dedicant work, and we don’t even require attendance at regular study meetings, let alone mandatory ritual celebration (solitary or in groups). Can you spend a lot of time studying in ADF? Absolutely. And I think there’s a ton of value there. But if you just want to show up, get your worship on, and then go home and continue with your life… THAT’S OKAY.

It is 100% okay to want to be a practicing Pagan and just do your thing, practice your devotions to your gods, and live your life.

ADF is a public Pagan church. That inherently includes both priests and laity. And this is good! Not all Pagan groups are run with laity in mind!

So let’s knock off the shit about how we’re more spiritually enlightened because we have bookshelves worth of study materials and enjoy debating the finer points of paleo-religious theory. You can be pretty damn spiritually enlightened with a small home altar, some candles or a triple hallows, and heartfelt devotion to the Kindreds or your spiritual beings of choice. And, in fact, if you’re actually practicing and doing the religious devotional work, you might even be MORE spiritually enlightened than someone who never does any actual religious work but spends all their time reading without applying or doing anything with what they’re learning.

ALSO WHILE I’M WEARING THE RANT PANTS.

Someone believing in the disproved “Great Ancient Mother Goddess Religion” of Gimbutas and her ilk DOES NOT MAKE THEM WICCAN. It makes them ignorant of current scholarship. There are lots of ways to be Wiccan (of various flavors and types – it’s a hugely diverse religion), and most of those ways are at least duotheistic, if not truly polytheistic (the Trad coven I was part of the outer court with was polytheist). Also there is an entire religion devoted to a Great Mother God that has nothing to do with Wicca.

(Also with the “this person believes a stupid thing about a goddess therefore WICCA”? WTF? Wiccans are not uneducated morons.)

If someone says “I believe in the Goddess, but I’m not Wiccan” you say “okay”. You are not the arbiter of other people’s religion. You don’t try to force them to change their mind about how they’re really secretly Wiccan. Double especially if you’re trying to convince them to be Wiccan because they’re disruptive and embarrassing, and you just want them to go away and stop coming to your particular group’s meetings. Be straight with people about their behavior. If they’re a pain in the ass, tell them so and ask them to shape up or stop coming. The Wiccans don’t want embarrassingly disruptive people either.

So. Let’s be welcoming to the laity, and encourage them on their spiritual path(s). Let’s encourage, rather than one-up, each other, and remember that studying might make you knowledgeable, but it doesn’t make you a better person. And let’s quit it with the ridiculous assumptions about Wiccans. Many Wiccans (especially coven/Trad Wiccans) have just as much homework as the more well-known-for-being “studious” traditions, and often more spiritual discipline to go with it.

And in case it wasn’t painstakingly clear from the rest of this post, if you choose to use my comments section to bash Wicca, I will send your comments straight into the spam oubliette.

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I submitted my Initiates Path Intention Letter a few weeks ago, and it has passed from “discussion” into “voting” at this point. I’m trying to take this waiting in stride (though it was hard to have my DP go through review again, this time to see if my work was deemed adequate for the greater work of the Initiate’s Path).  There is a chance I could be denied entry into the program, but I’m trying not to think about that too much.

Over the last few weeks I’ve done a lot of thinking about what kinds of things I want to get out of the IP going forward, about what my expectations are going in. It’s hard, since I have to define my own level of service to the ADF community, but I think I’d like to be part of the web-presence of ADF (since I’m primarily solitary) and possibly work as a mentor for Dedicants as well.

I have also done a lot of book buying, purchasing Anglo-Saxon texts and reference material, with the goal of completing my Indo-European Language course before I start any of the other courses. There isn’t currently an ADF approved list for using Anglo-Saxon for the IP, but since it’s an accepted ADF Hearth Culture, I guess I’m going to forge new ground in that regard.

As well, my good pagan friend here (who is of the Vanatru persuasion, which would probably be where I’d end up without ADF) has joined up with ADF and will be starting on his Dedicant Path work, which is exciting.  We’ll be able to support each other as we go through these classes and challenges.

If I’m quite frank, the Trance I and Trance II requirements of the IP are quite terrifying for me. Meditation I can do, but trance work has always been beyond me. I know part of the process is learning to do it, and learning different methods and what works for you for achieving trance states. As practice for that requirement, I’ve re-upped my Mental Grove practice, and am beginning to build around that hallows towards the outer edges of the low-hanging tree branches, placing doors and arches and entryways into a mist-filled beyond that space.

IE Language will be hopefully fun (I love languages) and allow me to start using Anglo-Saxon phrases in my rituals, a goal I’ve had for awhile. I’m also going to use the Wheel of the Year format followed by Cranberry Protogrove, since it works well, and will honor the biggest patron of my path (Ing Frea) as part of the high days in Autumn. I like the balance it provides, and intend to use this next year’s ritual observances to really get to know these new aspects of the Gods. (I am especially interested in getting to know Frige – she strikes me as a fairly differently aspected Goddess as either Freyja or Frigg, and I’d like to work with her and see if she has guidance for me in the part of my life where I’m responsible for a home).

What purpose this blog will serve in my further studies I don’t yet know. I’ll be posting my Initiates Intention Letter for sure, but I don’t know if I’ll post all of my coursework – but perhaps just reflections on it as I’m progressing. I don’t expect to move through the IP particularly quickly, as it’s much more in-depth and requires a lot more reading and study than did the DP. Plus there’s a good bit more work that I don’t know I’ll be okay talking about until it’s been well past (namely the Magic 1 and Magic 2 work). Some of the classes are extremely scholarly, and I’m already collecting those books as I can find them at my local used bookstore. My “to read” pile is growing at an astounding rate.

It feels good, again, to be (hopefully) starting on this new journey around Samhain – regardless of how long it takes me, I think I will want to finish my studies (and hopefully be accepted as an Initiation candidate) in the fall. It always feels like a time of beginnings and endings to me.

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I’ve not been so good about two parts of my practice recently – both blogging and my meditation time have suffered as my commitments in life have ramped up. Those two things are related, since they both represent time I spend in thought and contemplation about my path (or just about my breath), and I’ve not been doing a lot of that recently. Quite frankly, I think it’s time to swing back that direction. My meditation practice is directly tied in with my daily offerings, so you can imagine that those have been less as well, and frequently have been getting skipped.

I’m not sure exactly where the balance is, but I know right now I’m not on it. I have some health issues going on that are taking up more time than usual, and that means rebalancing my time to make sure I’m making time to do the things I need to do. I’ve also had some personal issues getting in the way of my devotional practice. They’re intensely personal, so I’m not sure I will talk about them much here, but suffice to say it’s been very difficult to maintain a devotional practice with regards to Ingvi Frey lately. I am hoping to get some guidance on that front, but it’s been challenging. I’m hoping that with a bit of guidance I can find a way to do those devotions in a way that is also protective of and safe for me mentally.

My ancestor devotions are about where they were – I’m definitely going through a lot more candles in the kitchen on my hearth lately!

As well, the two books I ordered on Anglo-Saxon paganism have come in, so I am anxious to get started reading them. I think it’ll be good to read something more scholarly after having immersed myself in fiction with the Iron Druid Chronicles. Those were fun – and spiritually interesting – but as with all things, balance is good.

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I have always been a fairly avid reader, and I’ve completed my three “required” books for the Dedicant Path, so I’ve moved on to reading other Druidic things (among reading some not-so-Druidic things). ADF encourages study and scholarship, but not all of these books are scholarly – some of them are pagan brain candy, things to keep me interested and maybe make me think a bit, without having to wade through serious scholarly references.

Anyway, here are some things I’ve been reading recently, and some thoughts about them!

Recently Read:

Frey, God of the World (Ann Groa Sheffield) – an overview of all the attested sources referencing Ing/Ingvi/Frey/Freyr, organized by sphere of influence. This is a fairly scholarly work, but if you want a solid overview of the mythology and of Frey’s spheres of influence in the days of Northern Paganism, this is a good place to start. It does not contain any “translation” to modern worship, however. For me, this book was about knowledge building – getting a solid mythological basis for my devotions to Freyr, and in what associations he would have influence.

Freyja, Lady, Vanadis (Patricia M Lafayllve) – Similar to Frey, this book contains the attested sources referencing Freya/Freyja to build a picture of her as she would have been seen in the days of her original worship. This book also contains some modern interpretations for building a devotion to Freyja. Similar to Frey, this book was, for me, about building my scholarship base for working with Freyja. The poems and prayers in the back are also quite nice.

Elves, Wights and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry (Kvedulf Gundarsson) – A fairly dense, but still accessible overview of all the OTHER kinds of spirits that enhabited the Northern Pagan world, from different types of wights, to house spirits, to dwarves, to Jotuns and Ettins. Gundarsson puts these all into direct practice in the modern world, from simple instructions on what to do when you meet a Wight, to different rituals to help you find them where you live. The magic is somewhat advanced, especially in its use of runes, but this was a highly practical book. It also includes an essay on the “Earth mother” concept in Norse paganism that I found extremely interesting. Gundarsson sets out a “hierarchy” of spirits, saying that most people would deal with the land spirits and wights on a daily basis (much like neighbors), the Gods for larger and more important needs (like a Chieftain), and a spirit like Jord/The Earthmother only for things of enormous importance.

Sunna’s Journey (Nicholas Egelhoff) An ADF centric book with a Norse focus, Sunna’s Journey is a book primarily of rituals to take a Norse flavored Druid through the Wheel of the Year, with bonus devotionals to Sunna and Mani. It’s a highly practical sort of book, and one I’m reading piecemeal as I go through the year. The rituals are a little more involved than I usually do for my solitary practice, but they’re quite well done, and I find them inspiring as I put together my High Day celebrations.

Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner (Galina Krasskova) This book was recommended to me, but to be honest, I didn’t like it much. I liked the section of prayers a LOT, however, and have made use of several of them. In general, I just don’t think I’m ever going to be a recon, so recon-flavored books (even ones with a lot of UPG in them) aren’t as appealing to me. I will definitely make use of the section on prayers though. I’m not sure what I think about the tables of correspondences, but that’s not something I’ll use a lot either way.

Currently Reading:

Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan (Alaric Albertsson) Recommended on the Dedicants list, this is a different take on Northern Paganism, focusing on the Anglo-Saxon/Saxon pagans and their beliefs. While there is some overlap to the more frequently studied Norse paganism, there are other bits that are distinctly Saxon. I’m about 1/3 of the way through this book, and enjoying it. It’s a quick read, and extremely practically minded. It’s a great “Hearth Culture” book for the Dedicant Path, as its generally introductory in nature. I’m looking forward to reading Albertsson’s other book – Wyrdworking – which is about Saxon magic working.

To Read Soon:

Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World (Philip A Shaw) I’ve not started this one yet, but it looks to be an interesting book. I’ll let you know what I think. It isn’t very long, so hopefully it will be fairly quick read. From the blurb:

This book considers evidence for Germanic goddesses in England and on the Continent, and argues on the basis of linguistic and onomastic evidence that modern scholarship has tended to focus too heavily on the notion of divine functions or spheres of activity, such as fertility or warfare, rather than considering the extent to which goddesses are rooted in localities and social structures. Such local religious manifestations are, it is suggested, more important to Germanic paganisms than is often supposed, and should caution us against assumptions of pan-Germanic traditional beliefs. Linguistic and onomastic evidence is not always well integrated into discussions of historical developments in the early Middle Ages, and this book provides both an introduction to the models and methods employed throughout, and a model for further research into the linguistic evidence for traditional beliefs among the Germanic-speaking communities of early medieval Europe.

The Solitary Druid (Skip Ellison) This one is out of print, but a friend of mine is letting me borrow it. It’s Celtic centric, but I thought I should read it, with all the references to it in the Wheel of the Year book. If nothing else, it’ll get me more familiar with ADF and working as a solitary.

The Prose and Poetic Eddas are definitely on the “to read soon” list as well! I am not sure yet which translations I want to run with, or just borrow them from the library. As well, I’ve purchased e-books of Ian Corrigan’s Book of Nine Moons, Sacred Fire, Holy Well, and Beginning Practical Magic. I know several of those are also Celtic focused, but I’m not against using things that work, and I’m not so tied into the Norse hearth that I don’t want to learn things about other ways of Druiding.

What’s on your bookshelf this week?

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Having gone through the online versions of the Dedicant Manual, I figured, given that I was on vacation, I’d just get started on this whole Dedicant Path thing, wherever I felt like it would work. Of course, given that I’ve been a member of ADF for two weeks, one of those weeks including a High Day, and one of those weeks where I was on vacation, it was a lot of flying by the seat of my pants. Very exciting, though possibly a little too high energy to be sustainable now that I’m back at work.

Of course, as soon as I get some things completed, I end up stumbling across people with Homework! Homework for the DP! This is exciting too, since that means there’s a study program somewhere. After a bit of digging around and some help from twitter, I’m now reading through the Wheel of the Year study program by Rev. Michael J. Dangler.

As expected, I did things ALL out of order. Oops.

Still, I think I can make it work. I’ll be putting up homework assignments for weeks 1-4 all in one clump over the next few days. I’ve already put together and done my first High Day rite (Samhain) where I honored Donn and the Cailleach, so I’ll have both the High Day essay and the Ritual Redux essay to put together. If I can get those done, I’ll do my first oath, and I’ll just say I did the first month out of order.

Also, I’m ahead on my book reading, since a week off meant a good excuse to plow through Puhvel’s Comparative Mythology. Which was, as mentioned, not an easy read. I’m doing an easier book next – Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, which I’ve started in the past (and already own) but have never actually finished. Oops. Anyway, it’s nice to be reading something a little more approachable.

I’m already a meditator with a regular practice, so I’m ahead on that front as well. I’ll be posting (hopefully) weekly journal entries to that effect. For my first Druid Meditations I am starting to work with the Two Powers Meditation, which I like a lot. More on that later.

I also need to get myself set up with a mentor. I think in conversations – I’m a writer and blogger after all – and it’s always good for me to put my thoughts into words to someone else as a way to clarify what I actually think. That’s a big part of why this blog exists. Since it’s publishing to the entire internet, I need to use my words well and wisely, and that thought process really helps me clarify what I think and feel and believe. I’ll be emailing the DP Preceptor to start that process.

It feels like I’m going to have to pace myself on this, especially while everything is new and shiny. I hope the Wheel of the Year book will help me both stay on track and not burn myself out too quickly. Having a week off at the very beginning was nice, since I could take a pretty leisurely look at my first ritual and have lots of time to read a difficult book, but I’m also feeling a little bit like this breakneck pace is unsustainable. While I’m sure my current seat-of-pants style of learning Druidry would work out, having something a little more concrete will help (as will the Socratic style that the Wheel of the Year book is written in. I’m a big fan, at least when it’s not kicking my ass.)

I’ll have my first week’s questions up later today, along with my first week’s Meditation Journal.

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