This course will prepare the student for being an Initiate by giving them basic instruction in divinatory work, as well as an introduction to doing divination for ritual and others.

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For the first time since 2012, it’s a high day, and I’m not running a ritual. This feels EXCEPTIONALLY strange, even in the days of COVID, but I’ll be attending a ritual tonight, one on Saturday afternoon, and one on Sunday evening – all virtually. I’m going to get into that headspace and wear my stole, but I won’t actually be priesting.

As such, it feels very odd and not very much like May Day. But I got a playlist put together and have it cranked up, am dressed nicely (all the way to shoes) and have an apron on, and I’m making potato leek soup from the fresh leeks I got from my mom’s overabundant harvest. Also have a loaf of no-knead bread going to have with the soup for dinner.

Here’s that playlist, if you want to join me – I suggest you start with The Queen of Argyll and then put it on shuffle – it’s a massively diverse playlist, but really feels like the start of summer and festivals and outside.

And if you only have time for one song today, let it be this one. This is a traditional English Maying song, sung by The Watersons.

So fair warning – this post has a lot of opinions in it about things I’ve done, traditions I’ve been part of, and etc. I’m going to try not to air any dirty laundry, but I’m finding myself in a hard place with regard to my spiritual path right now, and I think processing it out will help.

I’ve spent 8 years with ADF, and attained clergy status – there’s about 40 people who have done that – it takes quite a bit of work and dedication. There’s two more circles of clergy training open to me, but they’re heavily scholarly (and somewhat dated) and won’t make me a better priest in ways that I think are useful for the kind of ministry I’m trying to build, so I’ve opted to do the Initiate Program, which is REALLY well done. I’m on course four of twelve, and when I am done with the coursework I will be set to face the trials (a questioning/defense, a ritual performance, and a secret one that I don’t get to know about in advance, but I have a bit of an idea what to expect). It’s an independent body, with it’s own leadership and preceptor, and the only requirements are “do the work” and “find three initiates who will initiate you”.

Okay, so that’s all good, and it’s good work and I’m enjoying it and getting some real nourishment out of it.

But… I’ve been on the mother Grove, ADFs elected board of directors. And it was so bad, I had to resign, which I did in January, alongside two other female directors on a 9 seat board. (Yes that’s right – things were so toxic that literally a third of the governing body resigned, and the other two quit ADF as well, though I obviously did not). The org has a serious “if we say we’re inclusive that’s all that matters” problem, and thus it has really problematic people running around because “we welcome everyone” and despite bylaws that espouse anti-racist and other (good!) ideals, doesn’t seem to back that up when people display really bad behavior. It also tends to not want to make hard decisions out of fear of “choosing sides”, something that I find very displeasing.

I have friends who have left the org who have said things to me that I struggle to describe (like “you just don’t have the strength to leave yet/you’re brainwashed”). They were actively harmed by the organization’s top leadership structure, and not only do I believe them, I have seen the harm that was done and did my best as a MG member to try to fix it. I was unable to do so.

On the other hand, ritually and energetically and magically it works for me. In the words of a clergy friend, it feels like if the good stuff is like a clean spring, the stuff I’ve lived through and seen and know is like someone dumped motor oil in it. To get to the good stuff, I have to go through the oil slick of gross that’s floating on top.

But I’ve looked around, and if I were to say, seek out a BTW coven? (Something I have seriously considered) I’d be going back to really basic stuff again, and that would be the fourth time I’ve started over like that. And that’s okay – everyone has to re-do the basics when they switch traditions, especially ones as different as Trad Wicca and ADF Druidry, but I’m very much tired of starting over if I don’t have any guarantee that it’ll work out.

Maybe that’s sunk cost fallacy kicking in, but it would have to be really perfect in every other way for me to be okay going back to square one.

I guess it boils down to:

Why am I continuing training, even if it’s really excellent training, with a tradition that I wouldn’t recommend other people join unless they have a really good local grove, and even then maybe not?

I have friends that I respect deeply who have decided to leave ADF. I have friends that I respect deeply who have decided to stay. All of us agree that the large organization has major issues, and I don’t begrudge people who decided they’d had enough and just voted with their feet and left. But I also struggle to abandon the magic, the religion, the mythology, the story that is my path in this religious organization.

My hearth fire is a hearth fire. My hallows are a fire, well, and tree. I’m a devotional polytheist at heart, and the ADF religious system just works for me. If it didn’t work, if I didn’t feel nourished and fed by it, I would leave.

But I also feel very alone. Some of that is because priesthood is inherently a lonely path unless you’re in a tight-knit community of co-priests. Some of that is because I don’t have a grove anymore, and am distanced from the community I’d worked so hard to build for the last eight years. Some of that is COVID and my inability to gather with the community I do have here in North Texas. It’s a lot to puzzle through, and in the end I’m trying to make the decision based on what my end goals are.

Right now my end goals are to deepen and improve my magical, trance, seership, and spirit work practices in a really intense way. I don’t know of anyone else offering this kind of training other than ADF or the advanced levels of an established traditional coven, and of the two, ADF is the only one I have access to right now. So I’m staying, and doing the work, and seeking initiation. I do not think I will regret doing that, just as I do not regret doing ADF’s clergy training program. I learned a lot, deepened a lot, and made some really amazing magical and religious connections through that endeavor. I am a priest, and that’s part of who I am, and I value that part of my work and my identity.

If, sometime in the future, I decide that the only viable option is for me to leave ADF, the training will not go away. The learning, the practice, the intense work that I’m doing right now will always serve me well.

Which I guess is a long way to say “I know this is a decision with a lot of facets, but it’s what feels like the best choice for me right now”. I’ve made no oaths or promises about the work – merely some goals on how I’m going to get it done – and so I can always choose differently in the future.

Hopefully as I get settled I’ll feel less conflicted about this. The clergy journey that I do each new moon felt easier this month (especially as I did it over Zoom with friends – that really helped). I’m told that “searching for identity” is a common problem with priests of all kinds, so I maintain that deepening this work is where I think my efforts are best focused right now.

Initiate Trance 1

This course will prepare the student for part of the Initiatory Tests by giving them basic instruction in trance work.

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I’m officially moved out of my apartment in Houston. On the way home I stopped by Armand Bayou to say goodbye. I have a ton of memories at this park, and it’s been my home and my landbase for 15 years. And so I say goodbye, and move on to newer and different things. Here’s a few pictures from this morning – it’s gorgeous early summer here on the Bayou.

We made it to Denton! Lots more to do, but I’m starting to settle in. With COVID closures, it’s been hard to do much exploring, but I’m trying to stay in good spirits. I do feel very displaced, but all will be well in time.

I don’t have a desk or computer access right now, but that should change within the week. Until then, I’m saying my daily prayers and living out of boxes, and slowly getting used to a whole new life.

Charlie says this outside door is pretty great!

Initiate Liturgy 1

This course will prepare the student for part of the Initiatory Tests by informing how they perform ritual and why.

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Just a brief post to check in. Some major new developments have happened in the last two weeks (alongside the entire world going to hell in a handbasket), and I think you’ll start to see more and different flavor of posts here as I get going.

First – I got laid off last week. There’s a possibility that I’ll get rehired in August, but I’m proceeding as though that won’t happen. I’ve got my resume up and running, and I’m pretty happy with it, but obviously the job market is… not great right now.

As a result, I’m moving immediately, as soon as I can get packed and get up to North Texas, instead of waiting until my lease expires in mid-May. Not having a job, I’ve got plenty of time to pack, but even that has left me with more loose time than I’d like.

I’ve gotten in contact with Blackland Prairie Grove – the ADF grove that meets in Arlington. They’ll be about a 60-75 minute drive from where I’ll be living, unfortunately, but I’ll hopefully get to see them on occasion. Obviously, my job when I meet them is to learn the way they do things, but I’ve offered the use of some of my live-meet technology expertise as they start planning a Beltane ritual.

That’s all mostly mechanical though – on a spiritual front, I’ve been called to do deeper work, and that deeper work needs to be something structured. As such, I’ve spoken with the ADF Initiate’s Preceptor, Rev. Jan Avende (who some of you will know is also the priest who ordained me), and re-upped my study program membership with ADF’s Initiates Program.

A lot of the coursework is duplicated with my clergy training work, but all of the Initiate coursework has practicum elements that I’ll be doing. I’ll be starting ASAP with Initiate Liturgy 1, which my longtime readers will know harkens back to Liturgy 1 that I fulfilled for the Clergy Prelim program in 2014.

I’m intentionally going into these with fresh eyes though – with the focus on becoming an initiate – a spirit worker, a resource, a magical practitioner. I’ve done the work with the focus on being a clergy person, and I think I’ve proven in the last few years that I’m capable of that. So even though there’s a good bit of overlap, I’ll definitely be refreshing all the work, and you’ll start seeing study program courses posted here as I pass them.

I’m really excited about this. I like achieving things – I especially like working on my spiritual pursuits. I like digging my claws into the nuts and bolts of what makes magic and trance work, and this kind of work will absolutely enhance the work I do in ADF, in the wider pagan community, and as a Senior Initiate in the Henge of the Cobbled Path.

So wish me luck! There’s lots of good that could come out of this, so let’s hope it ends with less heartache than it is beginning with.

People as Things

“…And that’s what your holy men discuss, is it?” [asked Granny Weatherwax.]
“Not usually. There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment on the nature of sin. for example.” [answered Mightily Oats.]
“And what do they think? Against it, are they?”
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that–”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes–”
“But they starts with thinking about people as things…”
–from Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett.

On Being a Cog

I love this – especially the idea that while you may not be able to change the verbs in your life, you can change the adverbs. Great read for our troubled times.

Rooted Flame and a Deep Wellspring

Often we look at what is going on around us and we get overwhelmed at these huge systems that need so much fixing. We tend to take a stance in our language as though they are broken machines on a table in front of us needing to be fixed, or else these engulfing mechanisms in which we are trapped, whirring to some other purpose than our own. These two perspectives often feed each other. We look at them as though we are outside them, then we carry that sense of disempowerment back into them and get caught up in the narrative of being a cog in the machine (or whatever story most speaks to us in that context).

But we ARE embedded in them, not as mechanical parts but as persons with agency in relationship with other persons with agency*. So instead, let’s change the language and thus the story…

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