Week 19 – DPWotY

This week is a short week as far as the blog, week 19 has us taking our first looks at the Dedicant Oath and what it means to us, much as we are looking at what Our Druidry is to us and what our Hearth Culture means to us.

Although the Dedicant Oath is a while off yet (another 20 odd weeks from memory) Rev. Dangler suggests beginnning to look at it now, to figure out what talks to us about the ‘Old Ways’ and how our other paths interact with Neo-Pagan druidry if they do at all.

He also suggests that we consider our patrons and what they might like to see in our oaths, although it is strongly recommended not to make an oath to any particular one or thing in the Dedicant Oath it doesn’t mean that we can’t consider aspects that our patrons find favourable such as patience, wit and cunning (those three are examples I chose, not suggested by Rev. Dangler) and find a way that they fit into the Oath.

Finally we are doing more work on the ‘Inner Grove’ working towards finding a tool, this is continuing on from other weeks. I’ve downloaded the audio for this but haven’t had a whirl at it yet.

So to the questions we go!

What aspects of the Old Ways appeal to you most?

The sheer reverence for nature and the world around us, the fact that nature was important to our ancestors, even if someone of it could be said to be based on needing to understand the wild places and the harshness of their lands. They found wonder in life, the seasons and nature and through it a spiritual balance. Perhaps this is just me romantacising it but the joy and wonder I experience working in nature makes me certain I’m not.

Have you encountered any sorts of powers that have aided you?

Yes as I have discussed previously I have two patrons, of varying steadyness. I also feel that I have a firm grasp on a relationship with nature spirits, I deal with them almost daily gardening here on the edges of a small town. I’ve always made them welcome and tried to do things that they enjoy, like not using harsh chemicals if I can avoid it, providing food and shelter for wildlife and slowly building up the plants that are beneficial to bees, butterflies and birds. In return they always respond happily when I call on them and I seem to have more luck with my garden than me neighbours, despite the fact I have less money to spend on it.

Have you setttled on a specific Hearth Culture?

Yes. I came to ADF as a Heathen and I have retained that hearth culture, however my grove that I attend has a Celtic slant to it and I have ended up with a Celtic Patron, so although I tend to focus on Heathen aspects in my practice I try to make sure I keep balance with the Morrigan too. Whether this means that I will end up with a dual Hearth Culture practice at home I do not know. However I think that the hearth cultures work in well with ADF and Neo-Pagan druidry, and that there can be a balance maintained.

Do you have a/some patron(s)? What would they like to see in your oath do you think?

Yes. I have two. The first patron is Loki and the second and more recent one is the Morrigan.

I think the Morrigan wants to see honesty and realism, no promises made that cannot be kept. She is pragmatic in my experience, but also brave. I think she would like to see something about not shying away from challenges and being brave when it matters. Not foolish types of bravery though.

I think Loki wants to see people learn and grow and not lose the joy and wonder of the world. I think he would like to see some consideration to being just and fair, along with some modesty. Perhaps a desire to continue learning new things and not to assume that you know best, to listen when others speak. Finally to laugh and bring laughter, remember not to take everything too seriously at the expense of never enjoying anything.

Finally, do these thoughts and views conflict with the virtues and commitments of Neo-Pagan Druidry?

I don’t think so, none of these aspects are mean spririted and a lot of them tie into the vitues in some way, certainly none of these undermine the virtues in any way, only re-enforces them further.

So apparently we need to have finished our IE text in six weeks time, I’m not too worried about that, I’m more worried that in six weeks time makes it week 25 and we have two more texts to go. Eeep!

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Week 18 & 2 (revisited) – DPWotY

So this week is reviewing our personal religion, as such some of the questions that Rev. Dangler puts to us involve the First Oath, which was meant to happen in the second week, however due to personal feelings on the matter I didn’t make it at the time. However I am now one third of the way through the DP and it now feels like it is time to make it, to reaffirm why I am doing this, and to keep on track.

This unfortunately for anyone reading this means this will be a long entry, I’ll be dealing with the First Oath and the unfinished components of week two first and then going on to look at the week eighteen content properly.

So the first oath is meant as a affirmation more than a solemn vow and we are discouraged from writing an oath that explicitly states we will finish the DP or that will finish it by a certain date. Being this far into the DP I can certainly see why they do so, it is a large commitment that takes up a fair amount of time. Not to say it isn’t a worthwhile endeavor, far from it.

The oath is something we are encouraged to do, when we are comfortable with it, to get practice working in the style used by ADF and to help re-enforce in our minds why we are doing this. It can be a generic affirmation not naming particular gods or a partiular pantheon, or it can be before your chosen pantheon (if you have one yet). It really is quite flexible and there are a variety of ones already written and available including one in Our Own Druidry and in Through the Wheel of the Year.

I have opted to go for a variation of the one in Our Own Druidry, the appeal of that one was that it was short and sweet but made it’s point. It is a generic salutation, in that it doesn’t address any particular deities, not even ones I consider to be patrons. It is not meant as a slight or to give me wriggle room or a loop hole. Simply it leaves it open to whoever wants to hear the oath.

This ritual uses minimal tools but still shows reverence appropriately, I’ve reached a point in my life where I acknowledge it is too easy to get bogged down in pointless details and over the top excess. The only concession to extra symbolism is that I am doing it on the full moon two nights from now.

So week eighteen, personal religion. The week does ask us to review our feelings on the first oath we were supposed to make on week two, obviously I cannot do that. However it does go on to ask some more questions which I will put below with responses.

Write down your feelings on Hearth Culture:

Do you feel you have one? Or do you know you have one?

Yes I do know I have one, as I’ve stated previously in this blog I was lucky enough to come to ADF as a Heathen and still identify that way, so I have a Hearth culture, one that works for me, even if I am still learning and growing as I move down the path. It was this path that ultimately led me to ADF. I also do a decent amount of work with a Celtic pantheon at the grove I attend, since their main focus is the Celtic God(s)/ess(es), although I do not consider myself to follow that path.

What makes you so certain, and what still makes you a bit insecure?

I found my Hearth Culture by virtue of my first Patron, a somewhat controversial one in the Heathen community – Loki. I actually started down this path as a Lokean, rather than a Heathen or Asatruar, in time as I licked my wounds, both physical and psychologically and put my life back together I found purpose and meaning through the Norse pantheon. It was this that gave me my certainty that I had found my place and that I did belong, a great treasure for which I am thankful for.

I sometimes still experience doubt as to whether I am doing things right, whether I am devout enough, offering enough back to the Kindreds and the Earth mother. I have found that the best thing I can do is to continue to work through it, not give into paralysing doubt. Perhaps the answer to some of those questions is sometimes no, that’s ok. I just have to find ways to fix or improve it, never give up. I experienced a major crisis on New Years Day, something that has made me feel very insecure and that I have been slowly addressing. I felt a presence during my Nature Awareness, one that wasn’t familiar to me but was anything but hostile either. I didn’t know what it was at the time and resolved to keep my senses open to figuring out what it was. The next time I meditated I was doing a guided meditation and a raven appeared and landed in my branches (I was a tree). I offered thanks, thinking it was a message from Odin. It felt wrong. I tried to discover what it meant through my Northern Shadows tarot deck but found nothing. Ravens kept turning up everywhere from then on, until a few weeks ago when I finally realized I was being visited by the Morrigan. I went home and immediately put a painting of a raven I had done last year on my altar. A sense of peace and rightness followed immediately. I am now working on building a relationship with the Morrigan, slowly and carefully, which has been frightening, partly because of some of my misguided ideas about her (I’ve been reading books about the Morrigan since then and realised I didn’t know anywhere near as much as I thought) and also because she isn’t part of my pantheon so I have to make sure I keep all parties happy.

What do you like about the cultures you have chosen? What do you dislike?

I think one of the main things I like about having become a Heathen is the sense of belonging that I have gotten from it, I am a member of a community, I’ve made friends and in some cases have got a new family from it. It has forced me to break down walls I had put up for self-defense and to learn to be generous again and hospitable. I like that often there is a no-nonsense approach to things.

I dislike that there are fractitious elements in the global Heathen community, I’m not going to say who is right or wrong (or even if anyone is right or wrong). Only that this in fighting and hostility seems pointless and harmful to all involved and even in some ways to those who are trying to not be involved. However I don’t know if you can class that as part of your chosesn culture or not really.

Patrons – do you like/dislike the word? Do you have one? Do you have more than one? Does patron fit with the way you think of dieties? What do you know of your patron(s)?

I think as far as words go patron works, and it works on a few levels. Oxford dictionary online defines a patron as ‘A person who gives financial or other support to a person, orginization, or cause’. I think this works because although they aren’t giving financial support to people they are providing other support and guidance. I also think it works because it is indicative of the respect and or reverence that they are due.

I know there are plenty of people out there who develop ‘friendships’ with deities and that seems to work for them, however for whatever reason, possibly having been raised as a devout catholic, I don’t feel comfortable with that approach.

For me patron fits well with the way I think of deities, they are an other wordly being, that has existed for goodness knows how long and are providing guidance and support. For example while I maintain a relationship with an employer, through polite discourse, slight reverence where applicable and following guidlines laid out by them I do not consider them my equal.

It is not a balanced relationship, they are in a position of power and I could never be flipant or casual in my approach. I also think that we need to show our appreciation for the services rendered (so to speak) so offerings and prayers are a good place to start, but so is respect.

Although the flipside to that of course is that you do have rights, they aren’t automatically entitled to run roughshod all over you just because they turned up and are ready to be a patron. If you feel that you are getting the rough end of the stick then this patronage isn’t working and you need to find a way to leave it without causing more problems, this isn’t a situation I am in, only a thought that has come up in my rambling answer to the original question.

Moving on to me personally ass it stands I have one patron that I consider to be in a rock solid arrangement with and I have one that is tentative and new. As you might have guessed from earlier things in this entry I consider myself to have a rock solid arrangement with Loki. My new and tentative patron is Morrigan, I don’t feel an tentativeness on her behalf, that is coming from me, in part from aprehension and in part from caution gathered from people who already have her as a patron. They aren’t trying to scare me off, only cue me into what to expect from her. I feel that this relationship/patronage has the possibility to become as solid as the one I have with Loki as long as I don’t focus only on one of them, I have to maintain balance with both of them.

As for what do I know of my patrons, well not as much as I would like, I devour information available to me on the subject, and through trial and error try to learn about them and what they want. For instance Loki doesn’t need me to wear a token to represent him or even have one on the altar, that I learnt through trial and error. He seems happier without any symbology for him at this time. Morrigan really appreciates offerings and symbols that have been made by me, this I did learn from reading and talking to others and tried out for myself. I could go on and on about what I have learnt from working with them but there isn’t a lot of written work I’ve come across that supports this. All I can do is read things as they come up and discuss it with people that I meet.

 

With that we are at the end of week eighteen, there is the usual nature awareness and meditation reminders, as well as the reminder to continue working on our IE text, however I don’t tend to bring that here unless WotY asks it.

Week Five & Six – DPWotY

I’m combining week five and six because week six is the beginning of the Indio-European studies text, which I’ve chosen to read A Pagan Journey Through Europe for. While there is a good deal of reading to do there isn’t a lot of ‘homework’ for week six.

So week five is about starting to begin our Nature Awareness component, getting out into nature, observing, learning to switch off and observe and reflect on what is happening all around us in nature and finding a nature spot.

To help us with this there were a few articles to read from the website, the first of which was Urban Druid by Mary Jones. At first I thought this was not going to be applicable to me since I live in the country, however after a read and reflect on the article I realised that despite not living in an urban area there were some things of value for me.

Mary tells us that no matter where we go, we are never completely cut off from nature, there will always be the cycle of the sun, stars and moon. The ever-changing seasons and things like the wind and the rain. Even some animals that have adapted to the constructed environment.

She recommends that we should be more aware of what sustains us in a constructed environment, things like – where your water source comes from, what farms produce things nearby. By taking the time to understand these things and to observe the glimpses of nature we begin to see nature everywhere.

We are also given the idea that as members of a nature centric religion that we should consider ways to cut down on our impact on the environment such as public transport, walking, or cycling instead of driving. Recycling as much as possible and cutting back on what we send to landfill.

The final thing I took from the article was her part about plants, that even if you live in a small apartment, you can help your connection to nature by keeping some small plants, doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact if you like it can be practical like herbs, they oxygenate, they give you a link to nature and they can be eaten.

After that there was the article Honoring the Environment Through Religion by Sylvan. It was definitely an interesting read, I have many notes in my Dedicant Path notebook but I’ll just share the one gem from this article. If we as ADF members revere the Earth Mother always, we include her in every ritual, then we must look after her. This is part of our adoration for her, and an important one.

Which was kind of the same gem from the article that followed called Loving Our Mother by Marae Price. What are we doing as Groves and individuals to help her, protect her and look after her.

The last article to read for week five was Learning From the Trees by Judith Anderson Morris. Which really was a good article to finish with before going out to find our nature spot. She talks about the concept of truly understanding that something is alive. The article tells us of a task she sets her writing students to help them understand this, of going out and finding a tree and hugging it, then recording what happens.

The experience usually helps transform the concept of alive from an abstract notion to a more rooted reality. Judith then goes on to say that it is worth hugging different trees and different types of trees, to help you feel the different energies that happen depending on the environment as well as species.

Finally, she talks about spending time with trees, reflecting and perhaps sharing some medative time with them and shares an anecdote of how she has a favourite tree she spends time with and that she often leaves it a small offering because it gives her affirmations and help.

This of course leads to the homework section.

Did you have problems focusing (on being aware of nature and tuning out man made noises)? 

The spot I’ve chosen as my nature spot is a quiet area, there are rarely any man made noises, so this was a plus. I find it very easy to listen to the noises of nature here away from people deep in the forest.

Did you have trouble finding your spot?

I’m fortunate that I found this spot not long after we bought our house in this town and already enjoy strolling through the forest with no purpose or care other than being there ‘forest bathing’ as it were.

Try drawing a map from your house or your office to this spot, but don’t include street names or man-made objects; instead, use natural landmarks to remind yourself how to get there in the future.

IMG_4338 (2).JPG

You’ll have to ignore the erased part of one of the creek names, for the sake of anonymity I’ve taken it out because the creek is named after our town.

So if I was to use this map I would use the following prompts:

  1. Head south and cross the small creek.
  2. Keep the creek on your right you should come to a point where it connects to Spring Gully just after you spot the giant hawthorne on the flood plains.
  3. Follow Spring Gully keeping park lake on your left.
  4. About 150m after you finish walking past park lake turn left, crossing spring gully.
  5. Walk over the hill and down into the forest until you hit the oak gully, that follows the natural valley. The Douglas Firs and Maritime Pines will guide you.

Were you able to hear things you’d never heard before?

Unfortunately no, probably in part because I’m already familiar with the sound the pines on the tops of the valley ridges make as they whisper to each other in the wind and the quite creaking of the trees shifting slightly. The sound of the kookaburras laughing up in the pines and the tree creepers hunting bugs.

I do hope though that as I progress along the Dedicants Path that my experiences and relationship with this place will grow and improve over time.

Week six – I’ve been keeping a lot of notes about the things I find interesting in Prudence Jones’ book in my Dedicant Notebook. It is a long time since I’ve read an academic text at this level so it has been a little slow going but I’m really enjoying it, the book is full of interesting insights into the IE practices and the roots of some of the practices that are present in ADF today. It becomes increasingly clear with each chapter why this is a recommended IE text for the DP.

I’ll not be posting my notes on the IE text as I go because they are going to be long and out of context for anyone not familiar with the book. I’ll be starting week seven soon too because as much as I wish I could read all of A Pagan Journey Through Europe in a week, it isn’t going to happen and I want to keep going with the course work.

Week Two – DPWotY

Ok so clearly it hasn’t been a week since I did the last entry, I’m squishing the first few lessons together into the space of a few days because one of the High Days is pretty much here, Beltane or for those following the Norse perspective Walpurgisnacht. I’ve actually already had one Beltane this year, last weekend at the oldest free neo-pagan gathering in the world. However it was before I became a member of ADF so I view it as cheating to use that. As such I’m attending my local groves* Beltane celebration this weekend.

* By local I mean a good two hours drive away, I’m fortunate to live that close to the only ADF Grove in Australia at present.

So week two’s lesson asked for us to make an oath, the First Oath. I’m choosing not to do this at this time for a variety of reasons that all basically add up to – I’m not ready yet. If I’d started this path of study a decade earlier I would have done so without thought, nowadays though I take such actions much more seriously and I never make a promise I don’t intend to keep.

This doesn’t mean I won’t make the oath but I want to get further down the path first, I cannot say with any accuracy exactly how far down I need to be before I’m happy to do it but I think much like joining ADF I’ll know it is time and then I’ll make appropriate preparations and perform it.

So I’ve been looking at the prescribed reading lists to ascertain what books I want to look at from each category so I can start working towards acquiring copies of them. The first book I’m looking for is A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones. So far the cheapest I’ve been able to find it for is $35, the Australia tax hits again. After that I will be looking at The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer by Jesse L Byock and, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R Ellis-Davidson. For the final category I will look at Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today by Margot Adler. Finally, I also want to look at Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans by Ceisiwr Serith.

Just a touch of reading to do. 😉