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Posts Tagged ‘dedicant path’

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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I conducted my Midsummer ritual on Friday, June 21 as close to noon as I could arrange it, which ended up being about 3pm (the earliest I could get off work). This was a solitary ADF style ritual that followed the Core Order of Ritual, and was based around Ian Corrigan’s Solitary Blessing Rite, as I didn’t feel as connected to the Solitary Druid Fellowship ritual this high day. I did not honor a named Earth Mother or Gatekeeper, but I specifically honored Freyr as my patron and Sunna as the honored Deity of the rite. I brought incense for the fire and silver for the well, and the rest of the offerings were of a Peach Melomel (fruit mead) brewed not far from where I live in Texas.

I went back to a ritual that I know and love for this high day, because I couldn’t find anything I really liked – poetry or published ritual wise. Nothing was speaking to me, so I opted to work from an established template, albeit a generic ADF one and not a generic Norse one. I felt that the ritual went well – the poetry of the blessing rite is powerful and easy to read, and it flowed well in speech and in tempo of the ritual. I would have liked to do more to specifically honor Sunna, beyond a basic offering, but I didn’t have anything prepared. In hindsight, I should have improvised some praise offerings – I will remember that for my next ritual!

One thing I didn’t do (again) was remember to feed the Two Powers into the opening of the Gates, which I keep saying I need to do. Perhaps I will go back and re-read my previous ritual write ups next time before I start a high day ritual, to remember the things I’m supposed to be learning from this!

After making my offerings I asked “What blessings do you have for me in return for the offerings I have made?” and drew the following runes:

  • Berkano: Birch, Strength, Flexibility, Resourcefulness. This is the rune of resourcefulness and making something from nothing, and Rev. Dangler speaks of it as the rune of “female strength” (Very Basics of Runes 47). It speaks of birth and rebirth, and physical or mental growth. There is also an element of strength and pride to this rune meaning, alongside the current of fertility and creativity, that you can see in the last two lines of the rune poem. I see self-sufficiency as well, in the first lines of the poem (the tree that brings forth new trees generated from its own leaves)
  • Dagaz: Day – Rising sun, New day, Deliverance. This is a rune of a bright future, of good hope and promising things to come. Also, in Dangler’s Very Basics of Runes, he speaks of a sort of divine intervention aspect to this rune, that the blessings it brings are “heaven sent” (53). The idea that light will wash away evil, and gives hope and happiness to all. Daylight clarity as opposed to nighttime uncertainty. A time to plan or embark upon an enterprise. The power of change directed by your own will, transformation. Hope/happiness, the ideal. Breakthrough, awakening, awareness.
  • Othila: Stationary Wealth, Ancestors, Completion. This is inherited wealth or property, the kind of wealth that is passed from generation to generation and is stable and secure. Safety, increase, and abundance, or perhaps the completion of a task in such a way that it is stable and secure. Acting from your center, with all the support of your ancestors and your heritage, and being secure in their values.

We give you abundant blessings to get you through tough times. Things will end, and end well, and a new day will dawn.

I didn’t divide up the blessing questions between the Kindreds, since I was honoring both the three Kindreds and some Honored Deities. I feel like this is a pretty powerfully positive omen, which is encouraging, as a lot of things have been pretty rough going in my life of late.  I really couldn’t ask for a better blessing – strength, flexibility, resourcefulness, the brightness of a new day and new beginnings and a promising future, and the completion of a stable task (or wealth! I’m OK with wealth too!). I hope I get to see these blessings in action between now and Lammas in 6 weeks. It will be a good summer, if so.

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I just ran across a new meditation timer app that I thought might be useful to other people practicing meditation. It’s called Insight Timer, and it does a lot of the same things as the app I prefer to use (Meditator) with a number of other features. It’s got an online community, as well as tracking tools so that you can track how long you’re meditating and how many days per week and things like that. It’s got free versions as well as a full paid version for both iPhone and Android.

Meditator has more chime options, plus optional ambience noise for your meditation background, but since I only use the tingshas and singing bowl chimes, I’m not sure I’d miss them. As well, Meditator is only available for iPhone and iPad, so android users are out of luck.

I haven’t personally tried Insight Timer yet, but it looks like it could be a really good tool for a beginning meditator.

For a smartphone user on the Dedicant’s Path, this is a great way to keep track of your meditation progress (though I don’t know if it has a way to input comments after each meditation), especially if you’re like me, and just making journal entries once a week, regardless of the number of times a week you’re practicing your meditation.  When you go back to write your final essay, you’ll have easy access to statistics like how many times a week or month you’ve been practicing, as well as how long your average sessions are. Helpful!

So if you like tracking and statistics and the idea of building a virtual meditation community that you can connect to (and know when other people are meditating), as well as the usual features of a meditation timer (chimes, reminder chimes, timer presettings), check out Insight Timer. Both Insight Timer and Meditator are the same price (unless they go on sale! I got Meditator for free on a promotion), but Insight Timer has a reduced-function free version that you might try to see if you like it first!

Note: I am not affiliated with either Meditator or Insight Timer, nor have I been paid or compensated for this post. I am just a user of meditation timers and thought my readers might find this information useful.

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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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The Ancestors, as one of the Three Kindreds, are pretty central to ADF. Ancestor veneration was pretty important across the Indo European world, and it’s well documented in the Norse and Anglo Saxon cultures, where some of the strongest protectors of the folk are your disir – the ancestral mothers and grandmothers who looked out for and protected their family line.

Still, it can be hard to get started, as a modern American Neopagan, who hasn’t had a lot of real upbringing around honoring and remembering our ancestors. While we might place flowers on a grave, we don’t typically (as a culture) consult with or do actions in honor of those who have died. Also, not everyone is on the best terms with their actual blood family, and in today’s culture, families are often split up by long distances thanks to jobs, divorce, travel, and all the other things that create physical distance in a way that our earlier forebears would not have understood. I’m also fortunate (and young enough) to not have lost a lot of people who were particularly close to me in my life, so I need to expand my definition of Ancestors well beyond just “my dead grandmother”.

So how do we find the Ancestors in the modern world?

First, I think it’s useful to remember that by Ancestors, I don’t just mean “people who are related to you who died”. (This is especially good if the people who have died that you are related to were unpleasant people with whom you choose not to associate.) Rev. Dangler, in the Wheel of the Year book (p 43-44), breaks down Ancestors into four types.

  • Blood- Kin: These are ancestors of your blood, such as Grandpa Winston above, or your mother, or you sister, or your child. All of these are Ancestors, or would have been considered so by the Indo-European peoples. (DS: I include the ancestors of my husband’s family in this group as well, as they are now part of my family.)
  • Heart-Kin:  These are the close friends with whom there are ties of love, respect, and strong friendship. They are family, even if there is no blood tie.
  • Hearth-Kin:  These are people who have shared your hearth religion, though they may not be close friends or blood-relatives.
  • Mentor-Kin: These are teachers, guides, and friends with whom you sharean intellectual lineage: perhaps you learned something from them that profoundly affected your life, or you are following in their footsteps in learning.

From that breakdown, I include in my ancestors my two martial arts teachers, from whom I learned a great deal and who had a huge influence on my life, both of whom died very suddenly while I was studying with them in college. They are Mentor-Kin, in a way, and from them I learned a lot. When I list my honored dead, I include both of them among the other close people I have lost, because they profoundly affected my life. (I also think at least one of them is absolutely tickled that I’m now a practicing Druid – he’s probably the most interesting man I’ve ever met – a practicing Jew, a master of Tai Chi, a professional ballroom dancer, and an expert in the I-Ching. I can only think he’d be profoundly amused to think of one of his former students as a Druid.)

Of course, I include my family and my husband’s family in my ancestral lineage as well. Both of our families have strong ties to our past and to the people who came before us, and there are pictures all over my inlaws and my parents houses of their various relatives from the past. As good solid Methodists, they’d be appalled if I said it was anything other than good Christian remembrance of their family members, but it does start to look a lot like an Ancestor shrine, especially when you start to include little mementos and tokens belonging to the various family members.

I have recently started honoring my Hearth-Kin as well, lighting candles and incense and asking for their guidance as I work my way towards their practice. I know my religion looks very little like what theirs would have been, but I hope that I can honor them in a way that makes them feel valued and remembered, and that they can be proud of having their beliefs and traditions passed on. As part of this practice, I keep a candle on my “hearth” (my stove) that I light each evening as I am cooking and then cleaning up, in honor of my ancestral mothers who also worked to feed their families. It brings a little sacredness to the daily chore, and helps me remember to see the value in little things done with intention.

As I build on my altar space, I am also adding things that remind me of my ancestors. I’ve had some trouble with this, since I don’t often associate people with specific things, but I’m trying to expand that. I use a coin to represent my Tai Chi teacher, and a guitar pick to represent my Sensei who died, since those were things that were particularly special to them in life – even if they didn’t have a lot to do with what I learned from them. I have pictures of my grandmother and great grandmother, and I’d like to gradually build to have some items and pictures from both my family and my husband’s family on our mantlepiece.

My favorite way to honor my Ancestors, though, is through stories. I don’t know a lot of their stories yet, but I’m learning to ask about them now – asking my Nana about her mother’s story, and about the stories of my husband’s family as they worked their homestead in the Hill Country of Texas. I love to share the stories of the people I know who have died though, about the things that made them special or interesting, and about how they lived their lives in ways that influenced mine. I really enjoy sitting around with family and telling the stories that make us who we are (I’m lucky to be close to both my own and my husband’s family for this).

Hopefully I will continue to grow in my respect for and devotion to the Ancestors as I work with and for them, and do things in their memory. Keeping in mind that I have “hearth kin” ancestors as well as those from whom I directly descend, I want to remember them and honor them as … well, as my ancestors would have honored THEIR ancestors. Without them I would not be here, and would not be the person I am today.

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A short evaluation of where I am on the Dedicant Path after somewhere around 7 months of work. These are the actual DP requirements, followed by a little bit about where I am towards completing them.

Written discussions of the Dedicant’s understanding of each of the following nine virtues: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation and fertility. The Dedicant may also include other virtues, if desired, and compare them to these nine. (125 words min. each)

These are complete, as of yesterday’s posting of the Fertility essay. Some will need some editing, but I think I’d rather run a little long and have good, real life examples than cut out the meat of the essay just to make it fit the word count.

Short essays on each of the eight ADF High Days including a discussion of the meaning of each feast. (125 words min. each)

Completed: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Eostara, Beltane, Midsummer. All I have left are the last two (Lammas/Lughnassadh and Fall Equinox/Mabon). These are fairly standard, since I’ve been pagan for awhile, so they don’t take too long. Making sure I include some hearth-culture information is important, but I’ve changed hearths a few times so they’re a bit eclectic.

Short book reviews on at least: 1 Indo-European studies title, 1 preferred ethnic study title and 1 modern Paganism title. These titles can be selected from the recommended reading list in the Dedicant Program manual or the ADF web site, or chosen by the student, with prior approval of the Preceptor. (325 word min. each)

Complete. Book reviews include Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Comparative Mythology, and Drawing Down the Moon. I may complete some other book reviews (particularly of Anglo-Saxon specific books) but those will be more for myself and/or for Oak Leaves.

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

Completed and posted here. Pictures attained of my altar as it was first set up, as it was in progress, and as it exists now (which is likely how it will exist for awhile). I have plans to add some actual God statues or symbols, but that will have to wait on budget and finding ones I like.

An essay focusing on the Dedicants understanding of the meaning of the “Two Powers” meditation or other form of ‘grounding and centering’, as used in meditation and ritual. This account should include impressions and insights that the Dedicant gained from practical experience. (300 word min)

Completed and posted here.

An essay or journal covering the Dedicant’s personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five months period. (800 words min.)

Completed and posted here.

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)

Not completed, but I have notes started for this, plus several preparatory posts that I’ve put up here about my landbase and how I interact with it. This will probably be my next “big” essay that I tackle.

A brief account of each High Day ritual attended or performed by the Dedicant in a twelve month period. High Days attended/performed might be celebrated with a local grove, privately, or with another Neopagan group. At least 4 of the rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style. (100 words min. each)

Completed: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Eostara, Beltane/Maitag, Midsummer. Next will be Lammas/Lughnassadh and the Fall Equinox. I don’t expect these will be troublesome, as I write them up immediately following my rituals. I am shooting to have all 8 rituals be ADF COoR style, though they represent a few different hearth cultures.

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

I’ve posted several preparatory essays for this, but have not yet started on formulating the final essay. I’m a little intimidated by this requirement, since I don’t always feel like my attachments to the kindreds are “deep enough” or “good enough” yet to write this essay, but I know that I’m expected only to be DEVELOPING that relationship, not to have everything worked out. It’s only a year long program after all. I’ll probably attack this one after I do my Nature Awareness essay. I have some notes prepared for this as well.

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.)

Another requirement that feels HUGE to get started on. I’m not sure how I want to write about this, but since it’s an experiential essay, I imagine there’s not a lot that I can do wrong. Will need to make sure I document my travels through a few hearth cultures as I figured out where I belong (at least where I think I belong at the moment). Also, I need to talk about my experience as a solitary by choice, since that is figuring large in my practice, and in how I am searching for a long-distance Druid community as well. My notes on what does and doesn’t work for me in ritual will probably come in handy here.

The text of the Dedicant’s Oath Rite and a self-evaluation of the Dedicant’s performance of the rite. (500 word min.)

This is the one I have no idea how to approach. I’m wary of oath-making in general, so it will definitely be the last requirement I complete, because I want to make sure I have everything else feeling solid and finished. I’m going to be very careful about how I approach this, and honestly will be asking for advice on how to write an oath that I can feel comfortable with. If there was anything that would prohibit me from completing the DP, it would be this requirement – not too long ago I was getting prepared to take an oath to a different tradition, and that turned out poorly (before any oaths were made, fortunately). I don’t want the same thing to happen again, so I think I will continue to be hesitant about doing this. Still, the longer I practice this, the more comfortable it is (which is to be expected).

I never did a formal “first oath” when I started the DP – I just promised myself that I would finish it, and I think I can see the end in sight at this point. I’m well over half way done, and well ahead of the Wheel of the Year book in several regards. Now it’s just time to knock out some of the bigger essays that really show progress and how far I’ve come in the months that I’ve been on this journey.

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From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

Fertility: The quality or state of being fertile.

Fertile:1  a : producing or bearing fruit in great quantities : productive
b : characterized by great resourcefulness of thought or imagination : inventive <a fertile mind>
2  a (1) : capable of sustaining abundant plant growth <fertile soil> (2) : affording abundant possibilities for growth or development <damp bathrooms are fertile ground for fungi — Consumer Reports> <a fertile area for research>
b : capable of growing or developing <a fertile egg>
c (1) : capable of producing fruit (2) of an anther : containing pollen (3) : developing spores or spore-bearing organs
d : capable of breeding or reproducing

From Our Own Druidry (83)

Bounty of mind, body, and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc., an appreciation of the physical, sensual, nurturing

(Note: As with Hospitality, I used the dictionary definition of Fertile, as Fertility was self-defining.)

I really like the first part of the ADF definition of Fertility: “Bounty of mind, body, and spirit.” Fertility is the act of creation, whether that be to create things, art, ideas, food, or babies. While babies are certainly a part of fertility, this virtue is so much more than just procreation (which is, of course, not something all Druids will be interested in!). Bringing an idea from germination to fruition is as fertile an act as planting a seed and growing it into a vegetable plant from which you harvest tomatoes. Much like with the creation of babies, fertility also includes caring for those ideas as they grow and change, as they influence and are influenced by others. This is a virtue that anyone can value and nourish, regardless of their desire (or lack thereof) to have children.

This virtue also has an element of appreciating our connection to the Earth herself. We are physical beings, and fertility is an aspect of that physicality that is valuable and desirable. Our spirits are not disembodied things, nurtured only by thoughts – we have bodies too, and are fully of the Earth. We are to appreciate our physical forms, and the world that we perceive through our senses.

Fertility, as a virtue, keeps us constantly moving forward into new things. If we value fertility, and fertile minds, we will nurture that in each other, and ADF will be richer for the community of creators that it contains. Of course, nobody can be constantly fertile all the time; moderation applies even here, and fallow periods are normal in between periods of great productivity. But fertility is the path forward. If vision is what lights and shows us the path forward, fertility is the virtue that will get us there.

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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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From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

Hospitality: : hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition

Hospitable:
1 a : given to generous and cordial reception of guests
b : promising or suggesting generous and cordial welcome
c : offering a pleasant or sustaining environment
2 : readily receptive : open <hospitable to new ideas>

From Our Own Druidry (83)

Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honoring of “a gift for a gift”

(Note: I chose to use the dictionary definition of “Hospitable” as the definition of “Hospitality” was rather slim and circularly defining, and I found the definitions of Hospitable to be more in line with the way this virtue is actually practiced in ADF and in my life.)

In this, the first of the “producer class” virtues, I think we start to see the other virtues come to light as part of an active society. Where integrity and courage are virtues you define as actions you take yourself, hospitality requires interaction with others – a fundamental part of Druidry, whether you interact online or in person.

This is a virtue I try actively to cultivate, as I think it is often forgotten in our modern culture. I appreciate being cared for as a guest, and I enjoy caring for my guests. A gracious host provides for their guest, and an appreciative guest brings a token to show their appreciation, and maybe offers to help with the dishes. The relationship we have is one of mutual honor and respect, and I think it is an extremely important virtue for the internet-inclined Druid. It is so very easy to forget to be hospitable, to forget to be gracious and appreciative of others, especially those who create friendly spaces online (like blogs and forums) and take the time to moderate and run them. This virtue goes a long way towards keeping the peace, even amidst disagreements, if mutual respect is maintained.

I do not, however, think that this virtue should be seen as “becoming a doormat” – one can be a gracious host or an appreciative guest while still maintaining one’s individual opinions and living according to one’s own integrity. In fact, it could be seen as an act of courage to maintain a disagreement while still honoring that you are a guest (or a host) and should behave accordingly. One can still say “please” and “thank you” while having a debate about the nature of something or other.

In terms of ADF’s basis in the *ghos-ti relationship, hospitality is the virtue that stems directly from *ghos-ti. It defines not only our interactions with each other, but our interactions with the Earth and our interactions with the Kindreds, whereby we accept and expect to be treated accordingly to our own offerings. It is a bit like the relationship that you have between friends, where you might keep a loose running tab of whose turn it is to pick up dinner, but you are both contributing to the relationship, and it is one of balance, commonality, and respect.

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