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Archive for the ‘priesthood’ Category

This World is not Conclusion.
A Sequel stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, don’t know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

Emily Dickinson, LXXXIII

To call this final, capstone essay “Discipline” is oddly suited to the journey I have been on since beginning the clergy student discipline. In fact, over the course of this work, I have changed nearly every facet of my mundane life, including completely reinventing my personal practice, and yet still maintained the disciplines set before me – to pray, to take retreat time. Even in the fallow times, I knew that this practice would sustain me. It sustained me through a new job in a new field, moving, numerous mental health challenges, the death of my 10 year marriage and subsequent divorce, and the reinventing of myself that is ongoing as I step forward into the world unfettered by my previous expectations of myself.

This is not to say I never faltered – in the darkest days of my divorce, there was certainly not a lot of incentive to pray beyond knowing that I needed to pray. But I did it anyway, and coming out the other side of it I find myself having grown and changed in ways that seem both miniscule and radical at the same time.

So what have I done, or come to do over the course of my time as a clergy student?

I have a daily practice – one that has now expanded to include the practice of a daily office. My decision to pray every day, three times a day, has been hugely rewarding to my devotional practices and to my closeness to my gods and spirits. I have a (mostly) weekly practice, where I do a larger ritual that encompasses divination, usually a full core order, though usually improvised. I maintain a once-monthly retreat day, finding solace in my practices according to the clergy student discipline. I keep the high days, often with multiple rituals, both private and with my grove.

I also lead weekly study sessions on various topics, provide care and advice and spiritual counseling to my grove, and provide divination and mentorship to my grove and to a small cadre of new pagans online from all around the world. I’ve given presentations at festivals, written articles for Oak Leaves and for publication in other online spaces, and generally turned from a solitary, sheltered pagan into a public face in my community and online.

In short, I have started “priesting” – to coin the present participle of the noun.

I find it fitting that the rune that has followed me throughout my time as a clergy student is Gyfu – the gift, the rune of hospitality and reciprocity. Through it I have continued to find my space in the community, online, and with the spirits – through the giving and receiving of gifts. I have given good gifts, such as are within my power, and I have received blessings abundantly in return.

My relationship with the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper has grown as well. They are part of my daily devotions, each receiving a prayer every morning, as well as at my monthly longer rituals.

As an Anglo-Saxon druid, I have an easy connection to the Earth Mother, as we know the Anglo-Saxons revered her. I simply call her Eorþan Modor, which just means Mother Earth. She is the ground on which I walk, and I honor her both in the green spaces around my apartment and in the garden that I grow on my small balcony. I find there is nothing so fitting as growing some of my own food and herbs, that I can enjoy – and then give back as offerings themselves. But she is also a challenging goddess to serve. I see in her remnants of Nerthus, from whom she descends, veiled and mysterious, a peacekeeper, but also demanding of sacrifice. I say to her “may I learn the meaning of true grace through your guidance,” but she is enigmatic at times. Other times she is simply the fertile ground of agriculture, which is so prevalent only half an hour’s drive from where I live.

Finding my gatekeeper was more challenging. There is always Woden to ask for the task, but he remains distant from me. Hama – the cognate to the Norse Heimdall – is another easy deity to ask, but though I work with him closely as the patron of Nine Waves, he never felt right in my personal rituals. I went so far as to ask Modgud – the giantess who guards the gates of Hel – but she was completely unresponsive. So I started looking for unconventional gatekeepers, and realized that the essence of a gatekeeper is their liminality – their ability to exist both in one world and the next, to traverse the worlds and cross the boundaries. So I reached out to Eostre – the Anglo-Saxon goddess who is honored in the early spring, usually celebrated by modern pagans at the Equinox. Her name is cognate with many other goddesses – Ostara, Eos, Aurora, Usas, and the Proto-Indo European *Hausos – in meaning East, and in being associated with the dawn. Her reaction to being asked to walk with me through the gates can only be described as joyful, and so with her help, I speak into the worlds. She is the Guardian of the Gates of Dawn, the radiant maiden of the East, who dances upon the boundary between night and day.

My personal devotional practice is, as began in my Dedicant work, dominated by my relationship with Ing Frea (Freyr/Ingui/Yngvi). As much as this path has been one of becoming a public priest, it has also included the trials and tribulations of becoming his devotional priest as well. I do not know yet what that will entail fully, but I trust in him and his guidance and advice. He is the sacrifice and sacrificer, death and rebirth, the golden god of the grain, the harvest lord, providence and the sacrificial king. In him, my practice is rooted deeply. (Though strangely, his rune almost never shows up in my readings, and when it does, it often indicates harvests rather than Himself.)

Journaling has never been a strong suit of mine, and my omen records are extremely intermittent, unfortunately, due to having lost some of my documentation when my apartment was struck by lightning last May, which took out part of my hard drive – a lesson in backing up your documents to the cloud, certainly. I do know that my journals – most of which are published on my blog – have given me a chance to go deeper into this practice, to own it, and to come into my ownership of it.

This discipline has become a part of my practice of sovereignty, and through it I express myself in the world. I stand at the precipice, having finished the coursework, but not yet applied for ordination, and I find myself returning to the words of Emily Dickinson – this has been a great adventure, one that has been hard, at times exhausting, but always rewarding. It is with much anticipation that I step forward into the sequel, and get to see what lies beyond.

VSLM

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So I’m not a priest.

Yet.

But I’m kind of a priest? I’m a devotional priest, but you get that through a relationship with your deity, not through an ordaining organization.

I do a lot of priest-work. But I’m not an actual priest in a way that anyone outside of my grove would really ever recognize. They see me as one, but I don’t have the credentials yet.

Anyway. My final essay, the capstone Discipline course, is currently being graded for ADF’s first circle Clergy Training Program.

Which puts me in an odd, liminal space right now where I’m not really sure what I am, or what to do. I’ve finished all the work, but my ordination won’t be for another six weeks or so (shooting for April 28, if all goes well). It’s exciting – I turned in my first CTP-Prelim course in August 2014, three and a half years ago. So much of my life has changed since then, so much of who I am has changed since then.

I’m really proud of what I’ve done, of who I’ve turned into, and yet this process is only just beginning.

After all, I’m not a priest yet. There’s an ordination, an oath, a change of status for me with respects to my religious organization and to the world. I get to add “Rev.” in front of my name (though I have to figure out where and when I’m going to want that, if at all). It’s a beginning – of a lifetime of dedication, of work, of service.

“I pledge to love the land, to serve the folk, and to honor the gods. To this I dedicate my head, my heart, and my hands.”

It’s a simple oath, really. But a heavy one.

Planning an ordination is not unlike planning any other large event. You send out invitations, you figure out who is bringing what. You make arrangements for friends coming in from out of town. But somehow there’s a lurking terror beneath the excitement and busyness and planning.

What if I can’t hack it? Of course, I think I can, or I wouldn’t be trying, but what if I can’t. What if I bonk out of priesthood? What if I can’t live up to that oath, or the virtues and ethics I’ve set for myself? Thinking about it is intimidating.

I have two great priests coming to my ordination (at least). Rev. Jan Avende will hear my oath upon her sickle, and do the official work of ordaining me. And my good friend and spiritual mentor Rev. William Ashton will be there to witness it, to guide me, and because I came onto this path at his urging and wouldn’t want to formalize it without him there. (I have invited another priest, but he is unsure if he will be able to attend.)

But I haven’t met either of them in person before. Neither of these priests have seen me do ritual. Neither has seen my grove in action. Heard our songs and liturgy. Watched us work like the family we’ve become. And so I am nervous – what impression will we make. What impression will I make on these two who are coming from so far away to confer this ritual upon my head, to witness my oath.

And so as I enter into this liminal space – where my coursework is done, but I am not yet ordained, I find myself turning inward. To ritual, to trance work, to my allies and the spirits that surround and aid me. I’m doing more full rituals, because it feels right to do them, even if they’re the 5 minute kind and not the elaborate kind.

There is preparation to do, both in this world and the other, and it just feels right to amp all that up as I get ready to make this step into a new role in my life and in my grove and in my community.

We call through the mist to the Ancient Wise,
To Poets, Magicians, and Priests.
We, too, keep the fire of the Ancient Ways,
We have honored you well at our feasts.

Wisdom and love we have gained in the work,
But greater from you we now seek.
The voice of the wise has been stilled for too long,
And with it we now hope to speak.

So lead us, and speak to us, open our eyes,
Guide us in mind, heart and hand.
Teach us, we pray you, the ways of the wise
For the Gods, for the Folk, for the Land.

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