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Posts Tagged ‘Gods and Myths of Northern Europe’

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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This book review is part of the requirements for the reading list for the Dedicant Path. It intends to fulfill the requirement for the Hearth Culture title.

Davidson, H. R. Ellis. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. New York: Penguin Books, 1977. Print.

Davidson sets out, in Gods and Myths, to bring together the various poems, sagas, epics, and tales that make up the myths of Northern Europe – specifically those of Germany, Denmark, Scandinavia, and Anglo-Saxon England. After a brief introduction, where she elaborates on some of the developments in archaeology and the study of the Norse cultures, she sets off to build the world of the gods as it was envisioned by various peoples across the northern landscape. She begins with Snorri’s Prose Edda and uses it to set up the basic world view, from Yggdrasill to Asgard, and then addresses the stories of the Gods.

This first section provides a solid overview of the main northern myths, and from there she delves into the assorted myths of each “category” of god myths: Odin, Thor, Freyr and Freyja, Njord, the gods of the dead, and the individual myths and stories that stand out in the sagas, like Mimir, the divine twins, and Heimdall. I found the most traction with the gods of the Vanir – Freyr and Freyja and their father Njord – the gods and goddesses of fertility, peace and plenty. Though these gods had different names in different places, there are threads of similar worship throughout, like being brought around in a wagon and the symbols of horse, boar, and ship.

Davidson ends this well-documented overview by examining the creation and destruction of the world, the great tree of Yggdrasill, the final battle of Ragnarok and the downfall of Asgard as it is presented by Snorri. Here in this last section is the myth of Ymir, the giant whose slain body becomes the world, followed by the great destruction of the world. Davidson argues that there is not a lot of Christian overlay in this description of Ragnarok, despite being recorded by monks, as the fears match up with folk beliefs, with other Indo-European beliefs about the end of the world, and with the geographical and natural perils of the north (203-4).

I was not overly familiar with the Norse myths before reading this book, and I’m glad to have read it. Davidson writes in a very approachable voice, and though at times the constant referencing of various sources can be a little overwhelming without prior knowledge of those sources, I appreciated the cross-referencing to the original tales. After reading this, though, I want to read some of the original sources for myself, especially the Prose Edda (which I already have a copy of). Davidson does a good job of organizing an otherwise disparate and somewhat scattered number of myths into coherent groups, though occasionally she does skip around a bit between them. As an overview of the myths, this is an excellent book, and this book is well placed on the reading list. I was pleasantly surprised at Davidson’s balance between keeping the gods as separate entities while still recognizing that they were clearly influenced by each other, and may or may not have originally been from the same source.

Unfortunately I didn’t feel like this book gave a lot of depth to my personal practice, but I think my lack of familiarity with these myths made that worse. I was absorbed in learning the myths more than I could really think about applying them to my practice. I did definitely feel drawn to the Vanir though, and I will be exploring that connection further to see if I can’t deepen those understandings. I definitely intend to keep this book as a reference.

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