After seeing how others have posted their work and thoughts, I felt that my work might also be of some use perhaps to others who are working their way along this path. The journey for me has been informative, thought provoking, stimulating, difficult at times, but very rewarding. I found that I was not content with stopping here and began to work on the Initiate, Generalist and some Guild Programs. The more I study and learn the less complete I feel and this urges me on seeking knowledge and comfort from my studies. Comments from my reviewers have always been greatly appreciated and helpful because they push me to achieve better and increase my learning and skills. May the gods continue to bless them with patience and integrity as they guide me along the paths.
The Nine Virtues
ADF Requirement: 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)
DP Definition: Good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response
Dictionary Definition: 1 a : accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight 2 : a wise attitude, belief, or course of action
Wisdom requires a variety of items in order to be applied correctly. There must first be knowledge, whether it is gained by practical experience or through study. That knowledge forms the basis for the individual to make choices and decisions which then, depending upon their results, form new knowledge and expand the foundation of wisdom for the individual.
Secondly there is consideration of the proposed action response to the situation and the weighing of resulting consequences which is particularly important to me. The old adage “For every action there is a reaction” is pertinent because through our action of offerings to the Kindred, their reaction can have great import on one’s daily life.
Many years ago my father said to me (among other wise thoughts that seemed irrelevant at that time,) that before you perform any action or deed, think about the benefits of the action. Then ponder upon the negative effects that action will have on you and those around you. Have considered those factors decide upon a course to take. Well, that turned out to be great advice many times over the years. Did it work in every situation? Obviously it cannot because timing sometimes necessitates quick response; however as a general rule it is beneficial. Wisdom comes from accepting the consequences, learning from those consequences and applying that knowledge in the future.
Wisdom is definitely a virtue and one that should be strived for because it teaches one to expand their outlook on circumstances such when to be silent and when to offer suggestive advice, when to know instantly the result of actions and when it is necessary to meditate for answers. It is applying knowledge in a correct responsive manner that provides the best solution for the situation in which one is involved.
DP Definition: Correct observance of ritual and social traditions; the maintenance of the agreements, (both personal and societal), we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty
Dictionary Definition: 1: the quality or state of being pious: a: fidelity to natural obligations (as to parents) b: dutifulness in religion: devoutness
Piety is not something that should be shown for effect so that others think you are “a holy worshipping person” because their definition may vary from what you, as an individual, are practicing. Too often in society we judge people by our own standards and not by the standards of the individual, whether it is based on religion or culture. Unfortunately, in society today, piety is too often seen as being insincere. Society fails to take into account that a person who is truly devout, and practices their beliefs on a daily basis, rather than a weekly one, will present a sincere, pious attitude. One’s demeanor is often shaped by our beliefs and practices but because we are judged by standards not our own we are misinterpreted.
Piety is something that is personal, and should be practiced daily between you and the Gods, Goddesses, patrons, Nature and those close to you. It should be both natural and instinctive to be honest respect for all that one stands for, not a show for effect. Are there many facets to a daily ritual that bring about piety? Indeed there are, but each is a small, short event that can be easily assimilated into one’s routine and when practiced often enough becomes almost second nature and worries about lengthy lists, time consumption, and complicated processes quickly become redundant.
True piety is something that each person travelling the Druid Path should strive to obtain for the rich benefits that are waiting to be discovered and utilized.
DP Definition: The ability to broaden one’s perspective to have a greater understanding of our place/role in the cosmos, relating to the past, present and future
Dictionary Definition: 2 a: the act or power of imagination b (1): mode of seeing or conceiving (2) : unusual discernment or foresight <a person of vision> c : direct mystical awareness of the supernatural usually in visible form
There are many definitions of vision but the ones that seem most appropriate to me are, an “…unusual competence in discernment or perception; intelligent foresight, the manner in which one sees or conceives of something, a mental image produced by the imagination, the mystical experience of seeing as if with the eyes the supernatural or a supernatural being.” I believe that there is a close connection between what is visible in the mind and what can be physically observed. I believe that what the mind often views in meditation is a mystical manifestation of what should be in my life and therefore the ‘vision’ of my path is directed by my patrons and forebears.
Vision is not necessarily viewing the future, although that is possible at times, but is more of one seeing clearly the path and essential steps necessary to achieve the goal of honest and true discipleship. Knowing where we have been, what we are experiencing and understanding where we are headed implies vision of balanced person. If we have this vision we will not see ourselves as others do. We will see ourselves as a tool, a resource, a vessel for the good of the world and the Kindred. We will not put ourselves upon a pedestal but realize that we are an instrument of progress and a guide to those who seek our help.
Is this easy to achieve? No but it is well worth the effort and the dedication required to attain.
DP Definition: The ability to act appropriately in the face of danger
Dictionary Definition: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty
The definition of courage that I think applies most generally to those who choose the Druid path is “…the confidence to act according to one’s beliefs, the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty, uncertainty and intimidation.” Druidism is not the easiest path to choose in a predominantly heavy Judeo-Christian country. The lack of understanding despite their respective teachings requires those following the path to face many physical, mental and spiritual obstacles. It is here that courage comes into play if one is sincere about their faith and devotion. For many the uncertainty of their belief causes them to falter, while for others it is the lack of knowledge and true desire to persevere that causes them to fall along the path.
At some point in everyone’s life there comes a time, usually when we have achieved a mature age and accomplished many goals including some degree of status in society, when we care less about what others think and more about what we know is right for us. There is a great deal of concern over being ‘politically correct’ and not being the least bit offensive to others today. It takes courage to state your beliefs and ideals in the face of such pressure, to develop a hard shell as it were to sometimes vocal and other times silent, prejudice, misconception and often ignorant trepidation of the world around us. Dare to be different in the face of opposition of your beliefs could be a good mantra for some who need more confidence.
Steadfastness in the face of adversity and enmity is courage. I feel this especially in my community which is predominantly Mormon and I am ‘different’ than the mainstream, yet I must continue in my ways because I feel they are true, honest and proper regardless of what people around me say.
DP Definition: Honor; being trustworthy to oneself and to others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, fairness, respect, self-confidence
Integrity is by definition “…the steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.” For those of us seeking the path of the Druid, this means that we must do what we say we’ll do, and say what we truly think, even if it is unpopular, which it generally will be because of different beliefs. It is doing the right thing based upon our beliefs and strict ethical/moral code, especially when we think no one is watching. Integrity intertwines with courage because we must have the courage to stand behind our beliefs and the integrity to always follow them knowing that we are in the minority. To else wise would be hypocritical, a trait too often displayed in society today, especially when referring back to Piety as already discussed.
Integrity also means giving credit where credit is due such as in recognizing those whose work we use for quotes, guidance and blessings. Do we not honor the Kindred for their blessings? Why should we not credit and honor those who provide us with secular and worldly knowledge?
This virtue is one that shows what we believe and follow. It is an outward appearance of the principles that are contained in the other virtues and which we strive daily to adhere to. Another lesson learned from my father and his wisdom was that when we make a decision, any decision, one third of the people will like it, on third will hate it, and the other third could care less. We must decide what is best for us and live by that decision letting it shape our lives regardless of the derision, scorn and enmity that it may draw. Our integrity dictates that we follow that which we believe in sincerely, honestly and devoutly.
DP Definition: Drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult
Dictionary Definition: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement
To persevere is the “…steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose.” How appropriate is this virtue and how neatly it, like the other eight virtues inextricably intertwine. If one is to follow the Druid path then indeed the steady persistence in following the path is essential.
Is it possible to follow the path without continuous adherence to the practices and beliefs? I believe it is possible but to the truly devout and honest, I feel, the perseverance of practice in daily rite and routine is essential. It is too easy to yield to the supposed difficulties of actions. It is easy to put off until later, or tomorrow, that which is hard. It is only through perseverance that we overcome the attitude of indolent behavior.
As in many other religions a daily prayer is suggested and surely the Kindred recognize and respond to those who persevere in their beliefs and purpose by following this practice. As with the other virtues, and already commented upon, to persevere goes hand in hand with Integrity and Piety especially, I feel it is a virtue that must be practiced daily and often in the face of controversy to become adept in every facet required by the principles of the Nine Virtues.
DP Definition: Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honoring of “a gift for a gift”
Dictionary Definition: hospitable treatment, reception, or disposition
Hospitality is I believe “… the cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.” It also refers to the practice of being hospitable to guests. This is an especially critical virtue because when faced with the barrage of Judeo-Christian beliefs and the often scorn or disdain for our own, even though those being uncharitable claim to practice hospitality, the truly hospitable person will endure the barrage and smile with understanding and love for those who abuse them.
In daily practice it is also the acknowledging and welcoming of the Kindred in our lives and homes. Offerings of thanks are given and need not always be done so in requesting a favor or blessing in return I feel. I am thankful for the presence of my patrons, my ancestors, the Gods and Goddesses of my Hearth Culture on a daily basis and to give food and drink to these ‘spirits’ is no less important than to give the same to physical company that visits my home.
Giving of succor to those in need is often easy because of sympathy or empathy, but being hospitable to those we cannot always see is no less important if one is to retain their honesty and integrity.
DP Definition: Cultivating one’s appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health, (mental or physical), through excess or deficiency
Dictionary Definition: 1: to lessen the intensity or extremeness of
Moderation is “…the process of eliminating or lessening extremes.” In ancient Greece, the temple of Apollo at Delphi bore the inscription Meden Agan – ‘Nothing in excess’. Doing something “in moderation” means not doing it excessively.
This applies to every aspect of our lives whether it is food, drink, exercise or even study. The person who truly practices moderation as a virtue will constantly be seeking balance in every aspect of their being, making this virtue as essential to their life as sustenance required to remain healthy.
It is exceedingly easy to forget moderation in a physical sense and unless a conscious effort is made it is easier to forget it in a spiritual sense. Inasmuch as moderation places a person between two extremes the implication is that there is balance. The effort required to maintain a balance between priorities in life is often weighed by misconceptions of what is important. By meditating and prayer the answer to what is really important can be found and when this accomplished it is surprising what priorities have changed.
Moderation can only be achieved, I believe, when all aspects of one’s life are brought into harmony with Nature for it here that one can observe true moderation in the actions of fauna and flora. Rarely is excess seen in Nature and when it is observed it is often misconstrued by our own perceptions.
DP Definition: Bounty of mind, body and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc., an appreciation of the physical, sensual, nurturing
Dictionary Definition: the condition, quality, or degree of being 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 (2) : affording abundant possibilities for growth or development <damp bathrooms are fertile ground for fungi
Fertility is the “…condition, quality, or degree of being fertile.” When one considers how this noun is generally used one can begin to see many other aspects that coincide with the definition. When fertility is applied to farmlands and plants, it implies a capacity to yield large crops of sound fruits, seeds or vegetables. Instead of farmland we should, when considering fertility as a virtue for ourselves, think of mental, physical and spiritual blossoming and receptivity to ideas, precepts and codes.
Once again our integrity, perseverance, and vision play a crucial role. For our minds to be fertile we must lay a foundation or planting bed of receptivity. That planting bed is then nurtured by our daily rituals of belief, worship and adherence to the ways of the Ancient Ones. If our mind and soul are fertile then the blessings of the Kindred cannot help but be bestowed upon us and received with openness and gratitude for their bounty. I believe that it is impossible to expect bounty if I am not prepared sufficiently to grow the seed given to me. I do not expect plants to flourish in an unattended and unnurtured garden, if my mind and soul are such a garden I cannot expect to grow in spirit, mind and soul.
Each of us has talents yet we do not always produce anything with what we have been given. To some it is given to be writers, musicians, to be artistic, to be orators, to be studious, and still others to be craftsman etc. What do we do with the talents that we have been blessed with? Do we nurture and grow and produce or do we ignore and let them stagnate? To be fertile is to be able to show through production of an end result that which we have been granted to benefit others. Is this essential for our well being? Most definitely in one is to feel truly comfortable and meaningful and fulfilling of life and the wishes of the Kindred.
Dictionary Definition: 2 a: fairness and straightforwardness of conduct b: adherence to the facts, honesty implies a refusal to lie, steal, or deceive in any way. Integrity implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge.
Although honesty and integrity are akin to each other, and integrity cannot be achieved, I believe, without honesty, this essential ingredient that serves as a pre-requisite for Integrity as a virtue must be included in our daily lives. The definition of honesty that I find most suitable, “fairness and straightforwardness of conduct.”
As a solitary it would be easy for me to purport that everything I do in my life is in accordance with my chosen path. However, I know that this is not yet the case. I am trying to follow the path but sometimes the divergence in the road will beckon and I stray off course. If I do not honestly acknowledge my failings then I cannot adhere to my definition of Integrity.
To me Honesty is an integral part of Integrity but is not the synonym in the context of Druidry, it is a pre-requisite along with Courage, Vision, Piety, and Fertility.
Dictionary Definition: 3: natural or normal function: as a: a process (as digestion) that an organism carries on or participates in by virtue of being alive b: a similar process actually or potentially involving mental function; specifically: an educational procedure designed to stimulate learning by firsthand experience
Therefore to me at least, activity is “…a similar process actually or potentially involving mental function; specifically: an educational procedure designed to stimulate learning by firsthand experience.” Activity to me is a virtue because without it there is no progress. One cannot simply remain stagnant and expect to maintain a status quo. If some effort, or activity, is not made then the stagnant person falls behind in knowledge, wisdom, fertility and indeed all of the other Nine Virtues.
Activity is the antonym of passivity and to accurately follow the Druid path one must of necessity be active. This means active in mind, body, ritual, and spirit. The way of the Druid requires a constant seeking of knowledge and wisdom and this is only achieved by activity and balance in life. Balance brings fertility among other things, so activity is, to me at least, an integral part of desired virtues.
Dictionary Definition: 4 a: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another
This coincides with, but is different than, the virtue of Hospitality. If we are to believe in the teachings of the Ancient Ones, then we must exhibit love for others, even if they do not believe as we do. If we expect the Kindred to be beneficent toward us then we must in like kind render the same attitude and action towards others in all that we do.
This is not to implicate that a sexual love need be sought for everyone in a person’s life, but rather that devotion for the well being of others in general should be sought. It is possible to love others for their existence and import in one’s life without the physical context brought about by the act of sexual intercourse, although in some cases this act might be what is required to be able to aid another.
This is not a passive virtue but very much one that requires constant work and dedication. As in all things along this chosen path it is something that for me is still in the distance but one which I am toiling towards along with adherence to the other virtues.
All definitions are from the Merriam Webster unabridged Dictionary
– If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day. – Alex Noble
– The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil. – Cicero
– To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
– The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth. – Pierre Abelard
– Faith is never identical with piety. – Karl Barth
– Piety is not a goal but a means to attain through the purest peace of mind the highest culture. – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
– When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. – Audre Lorde
– Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. – Carl Jung
– In life, many thoughts are born in the course of a moment, an hour, a day. Some are dreams, some visions. Often, we are unable to distinguish between them. To some, they are the same; however, not all dreams are visions. Much energy is lost in fanciful dreams that never bear fruit. But visions are messages from the Great Spirit, each for a different purpose in life. Consequently, one person’s vision may not be that of another. To have a vision, one must be prepared to receive it, and when it comes, to accept it. Thus when these inner urges become reality, only then can visions be fulfilled. The spiritual side of life knows everyone’s heart and who to trust. How could a vision ever be given to someone to harbor if that person could not be trusted to carry it out. The message is simple: commitment precedes vision. – High Eagle
– It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. – Alan Cohen
– The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. – Charles Dubois
– One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. – Maya Angelou
– To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform. – Theodore H. White
– But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads? – Albert Camus
– Living with integrity means:
- Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships.
- Asking for what you want and need from others.
- Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension.
- Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values.
- Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe. – Barbara De Angelis
– If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning. – Carl Rogers
– First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. – Epictetus
– Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again. – Joseph Campbell
– The secret of success is constancy to purpose. – Benjamin Disraeli
– The heights by great men reached and kept / Were not attained by sudden flight, / But they, while their companions slept, / Were toiling upward in the night. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
– Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Alva Edison
– There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us. ‘Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night’s lodging. ‘Tis better to be hospitable to his good meaning and thought, and give courage to a companion. We must be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light. – Ralph Waldo Emmerson
– Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide. – Cicero
– To go beyond the bounds of moderation is to outrage humanity. – Blaise Pascal
– The management of fertility is one of the most important functions of adulthood. – Germaine Greer
– The human mind cannot create anything. It produces nothing until after having been fertilized by experience and meditation; its acquisitions are the gems of its production. – Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon
– Of all the feats of skill, the most difficult is that of being honest. – Marie De Beausacq
– It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit. – Noel Coward
– Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle. – Eric Zorn
– Human good turns out to be activity of soul exhibiting excellence, and if there is more than one sort of excellence, in accordance with the best and most complete. – Aristotle
– Happiness consists in activity. It is a running steam, not a stagnant pool. – John Mason Goode
– If you have love in your life it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough. – Ann Landers
– Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver. – Barbara De Angelis
– Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. – Denis Waitley
– When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. – H. H. the Dalai Lama
– Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Eight ADF High Days
ADF Requirement: Short essays on each of the eight ADF High Days including a discussion of the meaning of each feast. (125 words min. each)
Imbolc is the first of the four major celebrations of the year. It is also known as; Imbolc, Bride’s Day, Oimelc, Candlemas and Brid’s Day and is considered a time of renewal and rebirth, as it marks the reawakening of the Earth making this festival a celebration of newness. It is a time to honor the goddess Brighid specifically (although others included at this time might be Danu, Epona, any of the virgin or sun Goddesses) in her many aspects as a deity of fire and fertility. It is celebrated on February 1st or 2nd in the Northern Hemisphere, and August 1st or 2nd in the Southern Hemisphere.
Evidence of how Imbolg was celebrated in Ireland seems to be derived from folklore collected during the last two hundred years mingled with some cross-cultural studies of similar customs in Scandinavia. In Scotland, the Old Woman of winter, the Cailleach, is reborn as Bride, the Young Maiden of Spring, fragile yet growing stronger each day as the sun rekindles its fire, turning scarcity into abundance once more.
Highland women also invoked Brigid’s presence at the hearth-fire, the center of the home. The hearth was not only the source of warmth and cooking but also symbolized the power of the sun brought down to human level as the miraculous power of fire. The use of basil, myrrh or wisteria incense which are traditional for this festival, would represent the element of fire in our Home Shrines or altars.
Because it is a time of rebirth it would be appropriate to renew oaths and make plans or goals for the coming year, asking for the blessing of Brigid to assist in the achievement of those goals.
This celebration is also known as Alban Eilir, Eostar, Eostre, Lady Day, NawRuz, No Ruz, Ostara, Ostra, Rites of Spring, and more commonly the Vernal Equinox celebrating the Victory of a god of light (or life, rebirth, resurrection) over the powers of darkness (death). This is the time when the courtship between the god (possibly Cernunnos) and the goddess (Ostara) begins, a relationship that will eventually be consecrated at Beltaine. In the Northern Hemisphere this is March 21st whereas in the Southern Hemisphere it is September 21st.
It is one of two dates where day and night are equal; a point of balance, after which the forces of light gain power and preeminence over the powers of darkness until it reaches its ultimate at Midsummer. It is generally a celebration of the Goddess of the Dawn, who heralds the triumphant rebirth of the Sun and the return of the greening season. It would be appropriate to use violet, jasmine, rose, sage or strawberry incenses at this time during rituals.
Hellenic traditions celebrate the return of Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, from Hades. The Anglo-Saxons painted eggs with their hopes and dreams and presented them as a gift to Eostre. These eggs were then buried in the Earth, so that the Earth-Mother would know dreams of her children, in hopes that she would see fit to help them realize their desires.
The same mundane ritual of spring household cleaning can be applied to our inner selves, as well, if we use Ostara to clean out all the mental cobwebs and to throw away all the old, negative modes of thought. We should throw open the doors to our minds, hearts, and souls and let the gentle breezes of Ostara breathe new hope and the vigor of youth into our newly awakening minds and lives at this time.
Beltaine is an Anglicization of the Irish “Bealtaine” or the Scottish “Bealtuinn.” It is the second of the four major celebrations of the year and is a time of fire and fertility. It is a time to honor the abundance of the earth at the planting season. It’s the time when the Earth Mother opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around. It is one of the three “spirit-nights” of the year when the faeries can be seen. Beltaine occurs in the Northern Hemisphere: May 1st and the Southern Hemisphere: November 1st.
In Scottish Gaelic, the month is known as either An Cèitean or a’ Mhàigh, and the festival is known as Latha Bealltainn or simply Bealltainn. Traditionally in Scotland, every fire in the household was extinguished, and the great fires were lit from the need-fire which was kindled by 3 times 3 men using wood from the nine sacred trees which were oak, ash, hawthorn, rowan, apple, birch, alder, maple and elm. When the wood burst into flames, it proclaimed the triumph of the light over the dark half of the year.
This festival also begins a month of sexual freedom in honor of Ostara and Cernunnos and their sacred marriage. Traditionally the powers of the Elves and faeries are growing so it is a time of great magic also. Any offerings to the fertility Gods and Goddesses might be accompanied by the use of frankincense, rose, lilac or hawthorn incense.
This day is opposite to Samhain in more than just the spacing of time, it is also opposite in what we focus upon. Whereas we regard Samhain as time for evaluation and discarding of what we no longer want, and think of the losses we have experienced, at Beltane we should focus more on the new, the fresh, the energetic, the pleasurable; it is indeed a time of rebirth for us and a time to embark on new quests.
Litha is the summer solstice, a time of sunshine and growth where the Earth is lush and green. It’s a time to celebrate the blooming gardens, the crops in their fields, and the power of the sun. Anciently Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again.
In Wales it is called Gŵyl Ifan, also referred to in modern times as Alban Hefin and Midsummer, is called Sonnenwende in German, In Denmark, the solstitial celebration is called Sankt Hans aften Celtic deities connected with Midsummer include Áine, Ogmios, Lugh, Math and any solar god or goddess. Other deities associated with Litha are: Apollo (Greek), Hestia (Greek), Horus (Egyptian), Aten (Egypt), Juno (Roman), Sulis Minerva (Celtic, Roman), Sunna or Sol (Germanic), Ra (Egyptian), Helios (Greek),
It is traditionally seen by many Pagan beliefs to be the time when the reign of the Oak King, who ruled between winter and summer solstices, gives way to the Holly King who rules from summer to winter solstices. During rituals and rites at this festival it would be appropriate to use frankincense, myrrh, mistletoe, pine, rose and wisteria incenses. Sacred foods would include mead and wine, any of the first vegetables of the summer, bread, new cheeses and edible flowers.
Lughnasadh, or Lammas, is the third of the four major celebrations of the year and the first of the three harvest festivals. It is a time to celebrate bread and the first harvesting of the grain. It is also a time to honor the Celtic god of craftsmanship, Lugh as the primary deity, but others that can be recognized include any of the solar deities, Mother Goddesses, or the harvest and grain deities. It is celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere on August 1st and in the Southern Hemisphere on February 1st.
Lá Lúnasa is seen as a time to give thanks to the spirits and deities for the beginning of the harvest season, and to win their favor with offerings and prayers to bless and not harm the still-ripening crops. In Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), the festival and the month are both called Lùnasta and it was sometimes referred to as the nasad, or games, of Lugh, son of Ethle in the Scottish Highland. In Welsh (Cymraeg), the day is known as Calan Awst.. The name of the festival has been written as Lughnasa, Lughnasad or Lughnassadh at different stages in history.
“This festival was also an occasion for handfasting, or trial marriages where young men and women lined up on either side of a wooden gate in a high wall, in which a hole was carved, large enough for a hand. One by one, girl and boy would grasp a hand in the hole, without being able to see who was on the other side. They were now married, and could live together for year and day to see if it worked out. If not, the couple returned to next year’s gathering and officially separated by standing back to back and walking away from each other.” (Mara Freeman, http://www.chalicecentre.net/lughnasadh.htm)
Foods that would be considered sacred for this festival are; bread and all foods made with grain, wine, poultry and other domestic fowl, fish and other sea foods, porridge, oatmeal, pancakes, strawberries, blueberries and any other ripe fruit. The incense that should be used at this time would be aloe, rose, or sandalwood.
Mabon is also known as: Alban Elfed, Autumn Equinox, Autumnal Equinox, Cornucopia, Feast of Avilon, Festival of Dionysus, Harvest Home, Harvest Tide, Mabon, Night of the Hunter, Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Witch’s Thanksgiving, and the first day of autumn. It is a time to celebrate the second harvest, and the balance of light and darkness. In the Northern Hemisphere this is September 21st whereas in the Southern Hemisphere it is March 21st.
Mabon is the mid-harvest or second of the harvest festivals and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons. It is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings. The Druids called this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and they honored the Green Man; and the God of the Forest. For those who celebrate Mabon, it should be a time especially to pause and seek Balance as the Earth Mother pauses to Balance as well, resting after labors and providing a chance to give thanks for the Her generosity. Above all it is a time to welcome the goddess in her Crone aspect.
Celtic deities that are associated with this Festival are Mabon, Bran, Branwen, the wine Gods, any harvest or grains Gods, the goddess of the Hunt, sun Gods and any of the aging deities. It would be appropriate to utilize myrrh and sage incenses at rituals and to use red wines, wild game (particularly fowl) squash, melons, cakes, stews and pomegranates as sacred foods.
Mabon is an important pivotal day. Time is beginning to change with the advent of longer nights and shorter days so we find that some things may be left unfinished. There may be regrets for actions left undone, for the trips not yet taken and for things left unsaid. It is a time of reflection also, where we should ask ourselves if we have made the most of our year and fulfilled all of our promises and pacts.
This is the last of the four major celebrations of the year and is a time when the veil between our world and the next is at its thinnest so it’s the perfect time of year to reconnect with our ancestors, and honor those who have died. It is the Celtic Feast of the Dead and the night of the Wild Hunt. In the Northern Hemisphere it begins at Sunset on October 31st and in the Southern Hemisphere at Sunset on April 30th.
Samhain is considered a significant time for divination, perhaps even more so than May or Midsummer’s Eve, because this was the chief of the three Spirit Nights. In Scottish Gaelic it is Samhuinn and is seen as a time for deeply communing with the deities, especially those whom the lore mentions as being particularly connected with this festival such as Donn, Cernunnos, Demeter, Persephone, and Hades. The Cailleach now presents as an Old Woman. At all the turning points of the Celtic year, the Gods drew nearest to Earth at Samhain, so many sacrifices and gifts were offered up in thanksgiving for the harvest. Appropriate foods to use at this time would be acorns, apples, red meats, red wine, root and vine vegetables such as squash, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnips etc. Traditional incenses at this time were apple, mint, nutmeg, heliotrope and sage.
Samhain is the equivalent of the Christian Hallowmas or All Saints Day, a time to commemorate the blessed dead. The night before this festival became known as All Hallows Eve and later morphed into Halloween. There is something almost macabre about the way Christianity embraces the dead with ghoulish masks and traditions at this time. It seems that throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a hodgepodge conglomeration of celebrations from October 31st through November 5th, all of which appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery.
Is the time of the winter solstice and as such is the longest night of the year. It marks the return of the sun, and with it, light. Winter Solstice also known as Yule, Christmas, and Saturnalia, occurs in mid December. This is a time to honor the goddess in her Virgin aspect and to once again observe the battle between the Holly King (god of the waning year) and the Oak King (god of the waxing year.) At this season the powers of light (Oak King) grow strong as they combat the powers of darkness (Holly King). The winter solstice occurs sometime between December 21 and December 22 each year in the Northern Hemisphere, and between June 20 and June 21 in the Southern Hemisphere
The ancient peoples had rituals to hasten the end of winter and bring in the spring when nature’s bounty would, again, prevail. The Druids celebrated the overthrow of the old god, Bran, by the new God, Bel, at the time of the December solstice. Other Celtic deities associated with this festival include Cernunnos, the triple goddess, newborn Gods and virgin Goddesses. Foods for this festival include white wine, white cakes, bitter herbs and mints. The traditional incenses for this time are cedar, bayberry, pine and rosemary.
This day is a reminder that death isn’t final; there will be rebirth. It is also a good time to reflect on one’s achievements during the last year and what is desired in the coming year. It is a celebration of the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of winter. The Goddess manifests as the Great Mother and the God as the Sun Child. This is a festival of inner renewal. This should also be a time to strengthen bonds with family and friends, forgive the hurts of the past year and make new pledges for the year about to come.
Aloi, Peg “Popular Pagan Holidays” The Witches Voice, April 8th. 2001 http://www.witchvox.com/holidays/beltaine/beltainehistory.html
Chamberlain, Von Del “Equinox Means Balanced Light, Not Balanced Eggs”, the Clark Foundation,http://www.clarkfoundation.org/astro-utah/vondel/equinoxver.html
Chamberlain, Von Del “May Day Announces the Onset of Summer”, the Clark Foundation http://www.clarkfoundation.org/astro-utah/vondel/crossquartermay.html
Chamberlain, Von Del “Solstices Are Milestones of Civilization”, the Clark Foundationhttp://www.clarkfoundation.org/astro-utah/vondel/solsticesum.html
Chamberlain, Von Del “Shortening Days and Changing Weather Ushers in the Harvest”, the Clark Foundationhttp://www.clarkfoundation.org/astro-utah/vondel/crossquarterlam.html
Chamberlain, Von Del “A Celebration of Light”, the Clark Foundation http://www.clarkfoundation.org/astro-utah/vondel/solsticewin.html
Crick “Spiritual Aspects of Yule”, The Witches Voice, Posted: November 30th. 2008 http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=uspa&c=holidays&id=13019
Ellis, Peter Berresford, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, ABC-CLIO Inc., Santa Barbara, CA 1992
Freeman, Mara “Beltaine”, The Chalice Centre, http://www.celticspirit.org/beltaine.htm
Freeman, Mara “The Feast of Bride”, The Chalice Centre
Freeman, Mara “Lughnasadh”, The Chalice Centre http://www.chalicecentre.net/lughnasadh.htm
Freeman, Mara “Samhain”, The Chalice Centre http://www.chalicecentre.net/samhain.htm
Gatherings, Fae “Lughnasadh, The Ritual”, The Witches Voice Posted: July 26th. 2009 http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usfl&c=holidays&id=13458
Jobes, Gertrude, Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbols, vols. 1 & 2 Scarecrow Press Inc., New York 1962
Josie “The Theme of Mabon”, The Witches Voice Posted: September 13th. 2009 http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usla&c=holidays&id=13515
Josie “The Celtic Origins of Samhain”, The Witches Voice Posted: October 11th. 2009http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usla&c=holidays&id=13576
Light , Mara
“Ostara: Enter the Light!” The Witches Voice Posted: March 29th. 2009 http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usca&c=holidays&id=13210
Raewytch “Winter Solstice By Any Other Name” , The Witches Voice Posted: December 21st. 2008 http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=ukgb2&c=holidays&id=12981
“Samhain: A Time for Introspection—and Activism”, The Witches Voice, Posted: October 19th. 2008 http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usaz&c=holidays&id=12905
ADF Requirement: 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)
Comparative Mythology by Jaan Puhvel
Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 North Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA
Copyright paperback Edition 1989
There is no doubt that Jaan Puhvel is knowledgeable regarding the subject of Indo-European Mythology. That being said it also appears that he is impressed with his own knowledge as evidenced by the tenor of his writing in this book. It is almost as if he was jotting down notes for a book but never got around to editing it prior to print. Puhvel’s tendency to follow a random thought down a myriad of paths adds to the confusion promoted by his lofty verbiage and knowledge. Although Puhvel states that it is in response to promises made to students over the years to be a resource for others and he hopes that it is lucid enough to be of some use, at first reading he has missed the mark.
Admittedly this is not a work for the casual reader but for one who is interested in the subject on more than a blasé basis. It is also not a book that can be digested by simply reading from front to back, nor with just a onetime experience. Rather this text should be studied as opposed to read in order to glean from its’ pages the wealth of information and knowledge that it contains. For my part it was one of the more difficult works that I have read over the years, especially when trying to read it in a standard front to back system. This is perhaps as a result of the method of writing employed by Puhvel where it is not really intended to be a text so much as a resource for use in study of culture and mythology. I soon realized that what I had perceived to be an above average knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology was inadequate to enable me to comprehend how these figures translated into other cultures.
Having reached the above conclusions I sat down and decided how I might best digest the information that was held within this tome. I formulated the concept that for me at least, I would be best suited to start with those traditions with which I was most familiar, in this case the Greek then Roman. Fortunately Puhvel divides up the various cultures of the Indo-European world in just such a manner. I began my exploration with Chapter 8, Ancient Greece where I soon learned Puhvel’s feelings on Greece. He states in the topic paragraph, beginning in the second line that, “Greek myth tends to carry disproportionate weight in any comparison.” I at first found this objectionable but upon further reflection much later on I realized that he meant we tend to judge everything from that which we are most acquainted. Why is that so? Because Greek mythology is what we are taught in our schools leaving us with the impression that this is the most important mythology for us to know; an obvious misconception when pondered upon with an open mind!
I moved through Ancient Rome, another mythological culture familiar to me, and into Celtic Myth because this was my Hearth Culture and was an area which I needed to know a great deal more about. From there I sallied forth into Germanic, Baltic and Slavic, Vedic and Epic India and finally Ancient and Epic Iran. Having thus acquainted myself quite thoroughly with his style, I was able to comprehend much more easily his themes of the third section.
Although Puhvel states in the Preface that his work “… cannot pretend to be a summa of any kind; it is merely one man’s’ view of a complex and somewhat amorphous mass of multimillenial tradition…” (p. IX-X) his apparent aloof manner of writing would suggest otherwise. In the chapter on Epic India for example he states that the Mahabharata is the largest epic known to world literature (p69), a fact that he bases upon the vast number of couplets in the work. It takes another full page of reading, wherein he breaks down the Odyssey and the Iliad hexameters in comparison to the Mahabharata, before the reader begins to find out why this is so important to devote so much time and space to a work that is known in a relatively small circle of scholars.
The work is, as already stated, a vast resource for those who are interested and it can be easily understood why it has importance to the ADF in particular. While each member has their own Hearth culture it is extremely helpful to know how that culture meshes and intertwines with those that are adopted by other members of the ADF. To use the knowledge gained by reading this work, is for me a development of more understanding, empathy and acceptance for those who choose these other cultural Hearths. Quite apart from the foundation of knowledge obtained is the further depth of belief and comprehension for that which is essential in the practice which we have all chosen. In the end I think Puhvel reaches his goal by supplying a text that if studied appropriately and used as a resource for reference it is a valuable tool.
I would caution others to begin as I finally did when studying this book. Begin with what you are familiar and move in a logical sequence for you from that point. Don’t be satisfied with one reading, but be prepared to research, question, annotate and digest what Puhvel writes. In that way, you will gain much more than you anticipate or could hope to expect. Keep the work handy as a reference resource because as you traverse other writings you will come back to Comparative Mythology for clarification and understanding.
A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick
29 West 35th Street, New York, New York 10091, USA
Copyright paperback Edition 1995
A very enlightening book and one that is relatively easy to read and comprehend as well as being very informative. The combination of historical movement, settlement and cultural morphing gives a great deal of insight as to the formation of not only languages but cultures that exist even unto this day. The influences of the various European major empires and peoples that have shaped so much of what we now recognize is exposed with both the positive and negative trends that occurred at the period and reinforced the literature theory with archeological findings.
I wish that I had read this book before Puvhel’s work because it clarified a lot of what he stated and made a more complete picture of European configuration as a whole entity. Not only does it explain how the establishment of the beliefs and deities came about it also shows the foundation of modern cultures and their development thus allowing the reader to comprehend why there are similarities and disparities within small geographic areas.
An area of particular interest to me was how the Roman Empire attempted to influence the Celtic world by adding the names of Roman deities to existing Celtic ones, as if this would bring the local populace into conformity with the will of Rome automatically. This tactic ultimately failed because the peoples overtly feigned obeisance while covertly continued with their own established religious practices, a trend that continued for several centuries. It was of further interest to me in the influence of the Germanic and Norse invaders into the British Isles and how their deities and practices became assimilated. This was perhaps because of the pan-Celtic convictions of earlier times and the recognizing of familial deities.
One area that struck me as vastly different to Puhvel’s was the space dedicated to explaining the festivals and the deities that were worshipped, the associated calendars and the customs that were practiced during these festivals. This all provides a clear and distinct insight into the peoples and their daily lives as well as their beliefs. The continuation of these practices and eventual assimilation by the Christian churches gives indication of the strength of devout belief. A fascinating corollary is the full acceptance of Pagan deities with sainthoods by the Roman church such as St. Bridgit. Jones and Pennick state on page 110 that, “…Pagan ceremonies have continued until the present time. A few of them have continued directly, and others have been amalgamated with Christianity, and yet more have turned into folklore…” which gives the reader a depth of knowledge and understanding of how lives have evolved while retention of Pagan beliefs has morphed into acceptance in one fashion of another.
It is in my nature to retain books that I find myself constantly referring to for information and using as a resource for understanding. A work such as this falls into this category and I have in my own enigmatical manner annotated this book to suit my own purposes and aid in research areas that I find fascinating. I suppose others may not be so analytical and dependent upon resources as myself but for easy to understand and clear comprehensive analysis this book is hard to beat. It has an easy flow with logical sequencing, a broad overview of both insular and continental structures, archeological and geographical references that make the reader instantly immersed in the time and place of the specific culture being examined. I can easily understand why this book is on the suggested reading list and when using it as a companion to Puhvel’s it becomes an invaluable tool for the student of Pagan European studies.
Pagan Celtic Britain by Anne Ross
Academy Chicago Publishers
363 West Erie Street Chicago, Illinois 60610 USA
This book is full of archeological and anthropological evidence which is used to provide proof for the various cults of the Celts. Along the way the reader is introduced to many deities, their attributes and localities as well as the reasoning why they had a following among the ancient Celts.
Anne Ross is obviously well versed in her subject and is very capable of demonstrating her knowledge in a manner that is easy to follow. There is a fluidity of thought and content that increases the understanding and knowledge of the reader in a logical and methodical manner that one is not nearly ware of until retrospect is utilized, something that I have found to be of profound worth when studying texts that deal with weighty matter. Cross referencing with other works, annotating, and sometimes clarifying from references that Ross makes, helps enormously build upon the foundation of understanding into the lives of the Ancestors in Celtic Britain, members of what she refers to as the ‘Druidic Caste’ (p79).
Rather than use what I call a ‘shotgun approach’ by blasting the reader with general knowledge of the lives of the ancients, Anne Ross divides their beliefs into a coherent series of cults that she demonstrates and emphasizes with plates of artifacts and factual documentation from archeological finds throughout Britain. The eight sections or chapters that she divides the beliefs into, when examined with mentions in other sources of similar content, provide a very clear picture of why, how, and when the various groups of Celtic people in Britain employed the use of these beliefs. She explains her use of the word ‘cult’ on page 94 as, “…a convenient term to apply to the different religious ideas prevalent among the pagan Celts, but it would be incorrect to imagine rigid barriers between them or think that they were mutually exclusive.”
Ross starts with perhaps the most obvious; the sanctuaries, temples and various cult sites. Perhaps one of the most definitive descriptions or explanations as to the importance of these sites is found on pages 50-51 where she states, “It is clear that the early Celtic peoples regarded all such places as entrances to the otherworld…” One simple line that immediately puts so much into context! It is a well known fact that the Celts carried a strong belief of the Otherworld with them throughout their travels. That the Otherworld played an integral part in their lives is obvious from the many references in literature that have been preserved from that time and for me at least, the concept that these structures provide a portal to the Otherworld is not something I had ever considered seriously enough before. I acknowledged that they were worship sites much like the temples of the classical Greek and Roman deities but to view them as distinct portals was something new to me.
This leads immediately and smoothly into the transmigration of souls where Ross introduces the Cult of Graves and the belief that, “Death is regarded as a stage in the progression of life.” (p65) This section explains in quite a bit of detail as to why graves and burial rites were so predominant in their lives. It is clear that contrary to Judeo-Christian belief that while there is an afterlife it is designated as either a paradise or a hell, whereas the ancient Celtic people saw everything as a step or stage in an ongoing process whereby one might learn and forever progress. This is something akin to existentialism in which each person must take responsibility for their own actions and by learning as they progress shape their own destinies and future.
Quite a lot of space is dedicated to the Horned God in Britain and Ross compares, again with archeological and anthropological proof, the importance and correlation of this deity with those in other Celtic realms. In fact, so much is written about him (Cernunnos) that one is led to believe that his role and importance is often understated or overlooked in many works. Yet Ross states that this cult is, “…perhaps second only in importance to the cult of the head.” A statement that makes one wonder if this is perhaps a personal observation on her part or if there is a whole colony of belief that the Cult of the Head was the preeminent cult among these people. Certainly she discusses the importance of the head in detail in that particular section and accounts for the prevalence of heads in statuary and coins that have been found. But a question for me that requires further research on my part is how can one cult be determined to be of more significance than another?
Anne Ross devotes space to the Warrior God in Britain, the Goddesses, Sacred and Magic Birds, and finally Divine Animals. Each of these sections is insightful, explanatory, well correlated and documented fully with examples of the Celts. It is of particular interest the manner in which she outlines the relevance of each deity, animal or bird and how the festivals were used in conjunction with each significant entity. Being a nature people as the Celts were it is easy to understand why they saw symbolism in their lives and how each sign or manifestation had deep and intense meaning for them. Ross provides a background that brings clarity to the reader whose knowledge is not as insightful as hers and in such a manner that a reflective attitude is required in order to assimilate all that is provided.
As a resource for those who Hearth Culture is Celtic, this is a work worth having. This is not a book that can be read then left on the shelf however. It should be used continually to provide explanation, background, evidence and practical knowledge for those following the Path. It may not be the ‘One’ essential book for this purpose but it certainly fulfils a need that is lacking in many works. To understand the world of the Celts may not ever be totally achieved but Pagan Celtic Britain certainly helps the reader along the way to reaching this goal. Any knowledge obtained that brings the lives and culture of the Celts into perspective is worth any effort required to gain insight.
3. Modern Paganism
The Idiot’s Guide to Paganism by Carl McColman
Alpha Books, Published by Penguin Group, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York, 10014, USA
This is a truly delightful, entertaining and informative work that covers the full spectrum of Neo-Paganism. McColman does an excellent job of providing the newcomer to or casual seeker of (it matters not which the reader is) Neo-Paganism an easily understandable method of obtaining a great deal of knowledge in a relaxed but informative manner that causes me to think of a favorite storybook format.
The five sections of this book are divided up into a logical progression of information. Each section’s contents builds upon knowledge already obtained by previous sections. The first segment introduces the reader to Pagan Basics, a great place to start because even if you think you already know this you will be surprised at how little you really do know for the most part. These first 6 chapters incorporate knowledge regarding the Pagan path, Natural Ingredients, Shamanism, Wicca, Philosophical Pagans (Druids,) and a myriad of misconceptions and contributions regarding Paganism.
Secondly the reader is instructed on “How to Think Like a Pagan.” Once that is completed, one is introduced to “Ritual” and “Magic,” followed by “Living the Pagan Path.” Each of these areas gives one the general overview of what Neo-Paganism is, what is involved for those who choose the path and how different yet alike the various disciplines are.
Of particular use are the ‘Earth Words’ that are introduced on various pages. These side notes provide a quick understanding of the term and how it is used allowing the reader to digest and comprehend quickly without having to deviate from the work itself causing one to research the word. There are also side notes called ‘Oracle’ that provide insight and definition of terms, and ‘Taboo!’ that clear up popular misconceptions. In the true style of the “Idiots Guide To…,” McColman writes in a down-to-earth manner clarifying within the contextual material questions that frequently arise. For those questions that are not covered in the material he provides further and more in depth resources in the form of websites, e-mail lists, and discussion groups.
As an introductory source material for modern day Pagan living it is an essential resource for quick understanding or refreshment of knowledge. It is not a scholarly tome as some other texts portend to be but is more informative for the average person and their reading/comprehension level. While not needing to be ‘studied’ as such, the work contains a wealth of valuable information. One such area that leaped out at me and has subsequently aided me tremendously in my development was that of Meditation. McColman advises that “…if a certain type of meditation doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry. You don’t have to give up on meditation. It just means you have to keep looking to find the kind of meditation that fits your style.” (p226)
This was just what I needed because I, like some others that I have heard from, have been confounded regarding meditation and being somewhat fixated on a particular format. After reading this I realized why I was not having the success that I envisioned I would have and began experimenting with various forms until I came upon a method that ‘clicked’ into place and made a lot of sense, brought me comfort, and was relatively easy for me to use whenever I felt the need. It actually revolved around the type of music I was using to help induce the meditative state, what I was focusing on with my mind and how I was positioning myself for the experience. Once I found the first key the others fell into line immediately and I rapidly achieved my goal.
I was impressed that emphasized that Paganism does not proselytize by stating that, “The most important rule to keep in mind is that it’s never your job to convince people that paganism is the right path for them (or even you.) And in the next paragraph says, “When telling others that you practice paganism, never argue to prove a point.” (pg 330) This may seem like a small point but in today’s world where so many religions send out emissaries to covert people to their way of thinking and belief; it is refreshing to find that not everyone is stuck in the quagmire of conversion. If one chooses to investigate a belief or practice then help them understand but don’t force the issue. Allow them the dignity of choice.
As already stated, this is a good book, an essential and immediate reference resource for a quick overview of Paganism in today’s world. It is loaded with ideas, resources, definitions and explanations.
ADF Requirement: A brief description, with photos if possible, of the Dedicant’s home shrine and plans for future improvements. (150 words min.)
At present my Home Shrine is in the southeastern corner of my bedroom on a triangular shelf visually directly above and behind my laptop. This space was chosen specifically for two reasons. First it is in an easterly direction which allows me to welcome the sun each day as it appears and to give blessings and thanks to Aimend and Bride, both Goddesses of the sun in my Hearth Culture, for the beginning of another day. Secondly this is place where I spend a good portion of my day doing research, reading and writing so it is a constant source of contemplation available to me.
The platform or ‘altar’ is made of oak designed to fit in with the rest of my desk and shelves that surround it plus it is a sacred wood in my work. Upon this altar I have a simple green cloth with the Celtic Tree of Life in the center and two Celtic designs in the corner nearest to the front edge. Upon this cloth are three oak candle holders, with small white candles inside, in the form of chalices to represent the Fire. I also have a small oaken bowl for the Well and another slightly smaller bowl for the offerings I make. I have a small replica of a bear to represent my two most prominent patrons, Artio and Matunus, with whom I have frequent contact. I have small branches of one of the trees on my property that I clip with respect giving thanks to the spirits of the tree for their allowing me to use it upon my shrine.
In the front of the altar hanging down is a placard that reads, “Today I seek to honor the Gods.” I got this idea from reading some of the suggestions on the ADF site and it felt appropriate to me, not that I needed reminding, but that it should be something I think of consciously and subconsciously throughout the day as well as a physical declaration to any who see it.
Living in a rural area affords me the opportunity to gather directly from the spirits of nature in my own back yard. To this end I have gathered feathers, some small stones, deer antlers and pieces of trees and shrubs on my property. These are all added as adornments to my Home Shrine and will be replaced or added to as time goes on.
In the future I plan to add hand carved icons of my patrons, something I am working on over the winter months when venturing outside is less than desirable on occasion. I also plan on developing a small tree in a container, much like a Bonsai but with a tree native to my area, for the area where the two walls meet. This will replace the branches that I now use and change weekly.
I am also working on some of the items for my outdoor altar that if all goes well will be completed in time for Ostara. This outdoor altar may very well become my predominant space for ritual worship but the area already in use as my Home Shrine will always be my constant source of refuge and guidance, a place I can go to any time of day or night, fair or inclement
weather. Although I have many sites around my property that I use to communicate with specific deities that I have encountered at that site, I do not feel as if they will ever replace either my outdoor altar in my Nemeton or Home Shrine. Each of these is a place I go to for specific communication with that particular deity, much like physically going to a friend’s house, whereas my Home Shrine or the altar in my Nemeton is more like attending church in a building dedicated for the purposes of communing with the Gods and Goddesses. Although I do not believe a building is necessary for this purpose anymore it explains in an analogous manner the way that I feel.
The Two Powers
ADF Requirement: 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)
Many years ago I had practiced meditation as a source to relieve the heavy stress that I was experiencing and always felt reasonably comfortable with the results of each session. I practiced it often enough and reached a depth sufficient to slow my heart rate to a point that when meditating in the hospital CICU where I was placed after separating the muscles surrounding the heart, I accidently set of the alarms and caused a panic among the staff. It also caused a panic in me and so I ceased practice for fear of what might happen in the future. A foolish assumption on my part but in the irrational impulses of an unwise youth it made sense at the time.
After this experience it was with some trepidation that I once again approached meditation for the Dedicant Path. Fortunately the process of the Two Powers was sufficiently different than that which I had previously used that I was not nearly as stressed as I had imagined I would be the first time that I attempted to meditate using the format outlined in the Dedicant Manual. Although I did not completely relax sufficiently the first several times, as might be expected I suppose, the continual daily practice soon brought about a feeling of comfort and ease that I had not experienced at any time before.
Having overcome my hesitation to a large degree, I was next faced with the challenge that I am sure many face, freeing my mind of all intrusive thoughts except those directly related to what I was concentrating on in the Two Powers script. This was something that took another several days to overcome and at first was highly frustrating, but I quickly found that some soft background music assisted me immensely in not thinking of anything but Earth and Sky. Of course it was too much to expect that I would find the right music immediately so I ventured forth listening to several music compositions until I found one that instantly struck the right chord and almost had me in a trance without intending to be so moving was the musical selection..
The soft music of Kitaro with ocean waves breaking on the shoreline (the third leg in Earth, Sea and Sky interestingly) was the clarifying opportunity that added sufficient subtle impetus that I was able to clear all thoughts without imposition and enabled me to feel the essence of my soul reaching out to the deep earth core and feeling the flow of energy and hospitality fill my being just as water fills a well. I envision the pool at the core of the earth, not as a molten mass but as a cool lake feeding the roots of the trees and flowing into my inner being as if my own roots were stretching out to the flowing life sustaining liquid. The transcendency from Earth to the stars in the Sky felt like a natural progression and I was instantaneously able to find focus on the triple pointed star that would act as my pole star as mentioned in the script. This star appears every night and always seems to have the three flaring points radiating out from it is pulsing blue nucleus. I felt the vital energy wash over me and become absorbed into my body through my pores and mouth, filling me with it’s exciting, animated force. The total feeling of comfort as I was surrounded by the ethereal power was something that I enjoyed, felt refreshed and relaxed by, saw so much with greater clarity of mind, and definitely acted as a spur to want that sensation many times again.
For perhaps the first time in my life I felt a sincere connection with spirits from the Otherworld as this sensation surged through my being and knew that I was protected and welcomed by them. If I had known this reaction and sensitivity existed prior to this experience I would have sought it long ago.
So what do the Two Powers mean to me on a religious basis? I found that the term “grounding” meant so much more and had a depth of meaning far beyond my previous understanding. To me it meant becoming one, a conjoining of entities almost, with Tailtiu (the Celtic equivalent I believe of Gaia, the Earth Mother) through her daughter Icovellauna (the Celtic/Scottish goddess of water). I felt a solid connection holding me to the Earth, I recognized that the analogy of deep roots is indeed very appropriate in the script because that was what it felt like, an attachment that kept me in contact and place through which the power of the earth emanated into my being, coursed throughout my body and did indeed overflow. In Judeo Christian beliefs there is the mention of a silver or golden cord that holds the soul of man to his body and I compare this cord to the effect that the grounding had on me as I mentally drifted towards my pole star high above. This grounding enabled me to return to my place with full awareness of what had transpired, the sensations and knowledge obtained when the meditation was completed.
For me the Sky above holds the clarity of mind and a far reaching vision that is comparable to standing on a high mountain top and surveying the vista stretching out to the horizon, except in meditation there is no horizon aside from that employed by the mind. From the ethereal vantage point of the Sky I was able to perceive connections that were previously veiled to me. When the powers of the Earth and Sky connected within me it was very much akin to the meeting of tidal waves and a reef or shoreline. At first I supposed that it was the background music but upon further contemplation the indication came to me that it was indeed what occurs when two powerful forces meet at a juncture and explode upwards. What a powerful and meaningful sensation to experience.
I have used this format of Two Powers meditation with my music many times over the past few months. Every time I was left with a greater sense of being in the form of knowledge, understanding, renewed physical vigor and revitalization of mind and spirit. For myself I find the Two Powers meditation to be obviously extremely beneficial and although I have added the music I do not feel that anything has been compromised. There have been times of late when I have been out of doors and not used the music as a background and still had the same thrilling experience. Perhaps the music adds for me a source of comfort much like a security blanket to a child, yet the total experience is not diminished in any way. I think more that the combination of the water sounds on the seashore completes the third leg of the Triad, Earth, Sea and Sky.
ADF Requirement: 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.)
My initial thought was that this would be the easiest essay to compose based upon my past experiences and religious dedication. That belief was very quickly quashed as I investigated and studied more on the process. It has turned out to not necessarily be the hardest essay but it is by no means the easiest. As I have mentioned in the Two Powers essay I was once a practitioner of meditation but after a somewhat traumatic event I ceased the formal practice of the art. Now here I am practicing it again. How do I feel about it in light of past events? Very much relaxed after several weeks of inept and fearsome attempts. After each session I documented in my journal how I felt, what I experienced and what I perceived. Looking back from now in February to the beginning of my documentation in April it is interesting to see the progression by degrees and be amused at my first hesitant and feeble baby steps in the process. I feel exceptionally blessed in being able to have devoted so much time to this development that has progressed from 15 minutes once a day to three 15 minute sessions a day and then to where I now am with multiple sessions a day as I feel the need that when totaled together equal between 2-4 hours a day depending on the day and my impulses.
To state that I was faced with much trepidation would probably be the understatement of the decade, but I persevered overcoming many fears, phobias and nervous experiences. My nature being that I should study all that I could find on a subject led me to many writings both within the ADF framework and from outside sources. To me study means so much more than reading. I read, digest, annotate, question and probe for answers to my questions. Once I have satisfied myself that I am somewhat versed (by no means adept at this stage) in what is required I begin the actual practice. This studying period for me lasted three weeks, give or take a day or two. Looking back at the material I amassed and annotated causes me to smile because there is so much of it, albeit some of it is repetitious and redundant. Nevertheless, I amassed it and have it cataloged for future reference. I am somewhat OCD in regard to study material, something I admit freely and I have a tendency to over research a topic.
Ready to begin the work of meditation I chose to sit in a chair in front of my Home Shrine in the morning after making my oblations to my Patrons. This position is necessitated by arthritic joints and the subsequent inconvenience of rising from the floor. I sat upright with my arms resting on the arms of the chair and my hands hanging loosely in my lap. Having already prepared myself physically and spiritually I began the deep breathing that would help to control my mind. The steady rhythmic in and out breathing was very relaxing and I quickly ascertained that for me the best pattern was in-4, hold-2, out-4, hold-2. While this was calming it did not cause a tranquil enough state to be termed a ‘trance.’ I felt that something more was needed for me to bring about the ‘trance’ state that my research had stated was essential.
I attempted to concentrate on counting my breaths on several occasions but still did not feel that this was sufficient for me because I felt tenseness associated with over concentrating. I remembered after several days of trying to expunge all thoughts that entered, that often in times of stress I will listen to soothing music of which I have several cd’s. Subsequent to experimenting with the use of several of these musical selections I discovered that Kitaro’s Ocean Dreams cleared the tenseness and left me with a clear mind. Such a simple solution amazed me!
With this music playing softly in the background I was able to regulate my breathing extremely easily and have no intrusive thoughts interrupt my concentration. What few thoughts fought their way in were quickly washed away on the outgoing tide of the music. For me this was an experience the depth of which I had never reached in any of my other practiced meditative states it seemed. The rhythmic ebb and flow of the ocean on the shore from the music helped me to regulate my breathing so that I became aware of my breathing in and out was syncopated with the sound of the waves ebbing and flowing, ebbing and flowing.
After two weeks of practicing this with music I found that I was able to visualize the ocean on the shoreline breaking in rolling waves and was able to bring my breathing in rhythm with this visualization without the aid of the music. For me this was another giant step, to shed the ‘security’ of the music meant that I was finally approaching a point where I was able to control my mental acuity. I found that it relieved all my stress and freed my mind from all worries that previously intruded upon my silent observations. I felt that my body was more attuned to itself and its desires and rhythms calm yet alert and this awareness brought a welcome peace to my soul in a way that was most warm, enveloping and pleasant. This awareness found me wanting to repeat it throughout the day and so I began practicing in the morning, at noon and in the early evening, times when I was before my Home Shrine giving thanks and recognizing the Gods, Goddesses and Patrons. It very soon became so natural that I could accomplish the ‘trance’ while remaining aware of all around me yet not having it intrude on my mind.
I had read the Two Powers meditation script enough to be sufficiently aware of the steps. Once again my OCD was helpful not a hindrance as sometimes happens. Memorizing has always been something that has come reasonably easy for me with a little practice and this script was not exception to that rule in my life. So venturing further I used the script to progress along my meditative path. I found out how quickly I was now able to enter the trance state and yet be aware of the outside influences, the breeze blowing through the open window and how sweet it was, the sounds of the chipmunks calling to each other, the call of the eagle and the other birds outside, the hum of the hummingbirds at the feeders, all sensory sounds but not interfering with my mind’s journey through the veils into the world beyond the physical.
I began to move my meditations outside and away from my Home Shrine. I have several sites where I feel the strong presence of spirits and deities. I have a comfortable seat and a small offering table at each site and I began my practice between the three inside sessions at my Home Shrine. I discovered quite rapidly that being outside brought me closer to Nature with a deepening intensity of sounds and aromas. I felt the connection with the Earth through my feet and perceived the rhythm of the Earth as it emanated throughout my being. To be in such a conjoined state and yet feel as if I was floating above my seated position was at first a little unnerving but after several occurrences it was almost expected and eventually became matter of course for me. The resonating sounds of Nature brought much calmness to my soul.
It was through this communion with Nature in meditation that I eventually felt sufficiently comfortable to attempt connection with those who would be my Patrons. And it was while in a semi-trance enjoying the pleasantness of the outside worlds that I first met Flidais and also Artio and Matunus, encounters that I discuss somewhat in my essay on Personal Spiritual Practice. What a wonderful blessing it has been to feel this closeness with the earth and especially my little piece of paradise. It has been during these meditations that I have received much guidance and been led to the location of answers to my many questions.
I have also felt more connected with my Ancestors and at times have envisioned them, had intellectual mind discussions with my Ancestors, the deities, spirits and Faeries. Now after all this time I sometimes feel drawn up into the air in my mind and can see myself floating above my resting shell and soaring over the landscape, visiting places and friends, absorbing so very much in a sensory fashion that I feel overwhelmed, like a dam or levee in rising flood waters. Yet I desire that transcendent consciousness more and more, reveling in the tastes, sounds, feelings and memories that each journey leaves me with. I am still surprised at how refreshed, calm and composed I am following each reunion but I am adjusting more after each session. The blessings that follow these experiences are memorable and even though I journal them I find that the memory stays fresh without the journal reminder.
I remembered something that Jenni Hunt had written in her essay about “Meditation for the Type A Personality” that struck me as being exactly what happens to me. She said, “Often I do this sort of meditation immediately after prayer, because I think an important part of prayer is listening. Sometimes, these meditations just quiet my mind. Sometimes they lead to contemplation of all sorts of things: daydreaming about my future, thinking about my ancestors. Sometimes what I experience I can only describe as epiphany. At such times, I’ve written some of my best poetry.” There is nothing that brings such a freshness and clarity to my writing as a great meditative session and I eagerly look forward to many more in the future.
Working With Nature
ADF Requirement: 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)
It seems that for as long as I can remember I have always had an affinity with Nature. I have always enjoyed being out away from the noise, pollution and frenzy of the city. I have many fond memories of being alone in the forest contemplating problems while watching the animals and birds cavort as they went about their business. It has been my experience that by simply observing nature one can determine weather patterns, geological and ecological disturbances prior to their occurrence. A perfect example of this was displayed when the tsunami ravished the area of the South China Sea in 2004. People were drawn to the beaches because of the tidal withdrawal and ignored the animals who were heading for high ground. This is a typical reaction by unenlightened people, although I would have expected a different reaction by the native inhabitants of the islands who should have been in much closer contact with their nature than the tourists.
Animals and birds are the best weather forecasters and predictors of impending natural phenomenon yet so few people give heed to their behavior. I think it is the arrogance combined with ignorance that most human beings consider animals to be ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb creatures,’ terms I have overheard far too many times in the past. If cattle and sheep are such ‘dumb’ creatures then why is it that they gather together and put their backs to the approaching storm? It is because they know that there is protection in a group and they know the direction of the storm. We would all do well to pay more credence to our friends in nature.
I consider myself to be extremely fortunate in that I now live on six acres of land about half of which is covered in Cedar trees. It is very rural, about seven miles from the nearest town. We have a constant visitation by the local wildlife which we supplement feed on a daily basis. All of this reminds me constantly of the specialness of Nature and how blessed I am to be able to enjoy it daily.
Because of our location our source of household water is from a well. Our irrigation water is from water shares that we have in the irrigation association and which we are allotted time during the spring and summer months. We have small gardens for vegetables and compost our waste such as eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, fruit peels and cores, we shred all of our paper from letters and statements after they are no longer of use as well as light cardboard. The heavier cardboard we soak down, tear or cut into smaller pieces and mix them in the compost and return to the Earth in this manner much of what has been taken for commercial use.
We are starting to plant our own fruit and shade trees that are indigenous to the area to enhance our own small corner of the world and we use the compost for fertilizing these plantings, cutting back enormously on the use of artificial fertilizers required for the sustained growth. Since we have about one and a half acres of meadow we also collect and use the clippings from the mowing to enhance the compost pile.
Composting has also been found to reduce the amount of water required for plant and vegetable gardens so we are conserving water as well as becoming self sufficient as much as we can.
Once a year we are planning to have a tree company come in and clear away the dead wood and trim the lower branches of our trees. This will then be chipped and used for mulch wherever we around the base of the trees and as walkways between the gardens. This also will aid in reducing the water usage and make use of the otherwise disposable material in the form of recycling and giving back to the earth in a natural fashion.
We are also looking into the use of solar and wind energy systems to reduce our electrical demand. Because we have position our house and shed in such a manner the solar energy source is very viable. Wind turbines are also a plus since almost every day there is at least an afternoon breeze and many times we have 10 to 15 mile an hour winds and although this energy cannot be stored it will serve as an adjunct to the solar, especially in the winter when sunlight can be minimal.
That is what we do on a visible level. For me spiritually, there is much more involvement with Nature on a more personal manner as I go throughout my daily routines. Because of health issues I have had to retire earlier than I had planned but the benefits for me far outweigh any material loss. Because I have the time and because of our location, I can commune with the spirits of the trees, the birds and the animals at leisure wherever I am and in whatever I am engaged. I am more aware of my surroundings as I go about my business, whether it is feeding the deer and turkeys, filling the bird feeders, working in the garden, the meadow or the forested areas of my property. I am able to speak to the spirits overtly and be open to their responses.
Because I have the time I am able to identify with each tree and shrub, even though they may be of the same species, because of the individual and unique shapes and flow of branches. Each one has become almost equivalent to a trusted friend as a result. I have always enjoyed being in nature from when I was a young lad and my father taught me to respect the land. This enjoyment has blossomed over the years since that lesson and I have become more in tune with and comfortable with my surroundings over the passage of time.
Of course I have my favorite areas of the property where I can sit and meditate, or ruminate on how I want that area to thrive, or even just watch the animals and birds as they frolic and feed. Each such sanctuary is becoming a place I go to for a specific purpose during the day. On the south end of our property there is a small grove of cedars that I have sat amongst and felt the energy that vibrates there at different times of the day. It is an area that has a central opening and that the deer sleep around at night. In this area I am building my outdoor altar and fire ring using the natural elements of wood and stone that I find here.
This will become my primary site of Ritual when the work has progressed enough. At the moment I still prefer to use it as such even though I have not consecrated and dedicated the area for this purpose. I hesitate to formalize this location because of the disturbances that I am making to the locality while I construct my altar, fire ring and dedicated patron and spirit emblems that will be erected at strategic points as found in my Celtic Heart Culture. Many of these emblems will be hand carved by me over the winter months for erection when life returns to the earth at Ostara. My goal is to have all of the work completed by the time this festival arrives so that I may use the festival in conjunction with my consecration and dedication of the site which seems appropriate as Ostara is a time rebirth and renewal.
Each of my spiritual sanctuaries located around my property serve as a functional center for when there is a specific patron or spirit that I wish to commune with and make ritual sacrifices to. Obviously there is some overlap but so far I have felt no discord among the entities at any site.
I feel especially blessed to be fortunate as a solitary to have such a place where I can connect with my Kindred and with Nature. Visitors will sometimes ask me about some of the things they see at each area which has provided me with the opportunity to explain my beliefs and practices. Having been an ordained Christian minister for many years prior to joining ADF, I am able to explain to the visitors in terms that they can relate to. I always felt slightly out of synchronization before deciding to follow the Druids Path and having made that decision I am find myself much more comfortable, relaxed and in tune with my surroundings. I am aware of every slight change in temperature, of wind movement, and animal reaction. I feel that if I never have to leave this place my life will be filled with contentment and love for my surroundings.
Personal Spiritual Practice
ADF Requirement: 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.)
I have always found the term “Pagan” objectionable from a religious point of view and never more so than now. The etymology of the term found in the online Wikipedia tells us “The term pagan is from the Latin paganus, an adjective originally meaning “rural”, “rustic” or “of the country.” As a noun, paganus was used to mean “country dweller, villager.” The semantic development of post-classical Latin paganus in the sense “non-Christian, heathen” is unclear. The dating of this sense is controversial, but the 4th century seems most plausible.” Yet the application of the term today indicates a bias towards anything that does not fit into the Judeo-Christian belief system which is prejudicial at best. I understand the convenience of using such a term but surely a term such as Polytheist is more appropriate.
The connotation of Pagan is that of a bunch of illiterate ‘heathens’ performing orgiastic rites involving human sacrifice, or “to signify a person who is sensual, materialistic, self-indulgent, unconcerned with the future and uninterested in sophisticated religion.” (What is a sophisticated religion? That definition will vary greatly also dependent upon the theological adherences of the individual.) This is the picture painted by the religious establishment and is thrown around indiscriminately to categorize any belief system different than their own. If I was to use the term as originally defined in the Latin form it would be apropos for me because I do live in the country, about seven miles from the nearest organized community and over 50 miles to the nearest city. I am rural and most definitely a country dweller. The nearest community is predominantly Mormon, so my contrasting beliefs are always categorized by the prejudicial form of Pagan. I much prefer Druid to Pagan but I also understand that this is a battle that will probably never be won.
I joined ADF in March of 2009 as a result of much prayer, study and contemplation. For many years I had been an ordained minister in a Christian based theology and never felt quite comfortable, almost as if I was a square peg trying to conform to a round hole existence. I considered myself an educated person and spent many years educating others as a profession yet I always felt as if something was eluding me in my life, something just out of reach. I enjoy the ‘drudgery’ often associated with study and the subsequent ecstasy of uncovering information that I had been searching for.
Having moved from the city to what was my secondary home in the country after retiring for medical reasons, I am, as a matter of location dictates, obligated to follow the course of a solitary. I understand that this does not preclude me from visiting Groves but the distance to the nearest hinders attendance on a regular basis. And in all honesty after dealing with the public for so many years I find that I am enjoying immensely the solitude that my location affords me. One of the benefits I find is that I am able to go anywhere on my six acres and commune with my Patrons and my Kindred without questions regarding my spiritual observations. My wife remains steadfast in her Catholic Christianity but allows me the freedom to worship in whatever manner I choose. This independence is of particular importance to me after changing my theological stance and beliefs. I feel that I have so much catching up to do for the ‘lost years.’
At first I was hesitant about overtly communicating with the Kindred but as I spent more time developing specific areas of my property for ritualistic use and meditative junctures, I found myself conversing first with the Spirits of Nature more regularly transitioning to openness with my Patrons and finally the rest of the Kindred. Now it seems that as I negotiate my daily routine I find I am looking forward to the next time that I can commune with my ‘friends’ at the different stations of rest and meditation. I am reminded of the ritual prevalent in Catholicism whereby worshippers go to the Stations of the Cross and I find that my rituals are not far removed from that analogy, except I now have more meaning at each of my ‘stations’ than I was ever able to experience in any Christian setting.
With decided purpose of finding my Hearth Culture, although leaning heavily toward the Celtic because of my ancestry, I prayed, made offerings to, and sincerely sought communication with Ollathair the Dagda, the Scottish Celtic equivalent of Zeus or Jupiter, classical Gods that I was very aware of from my college days. Some may say that it was because I was seeking blessings and communicating with Ollathair that I received the answer I did, and perhaps they are correct but I felt instantaneously surrounded and comforted by a impression of profound depth of concern for my well being. I knew immediately that I had found my Hearth Culture and that I would be blessed immeasurably by dedicating myself to this pantheon above all others.
As I developed a meditation style that suited me, a slight variation of the Two Powers in the ADF Dedicant Manual, I spent several days searching for and seeking relative guidance as to who my Patrons may be. Being in the country and with acreage I of course encountered much wildlife and wondered if perhaps the plethora of crows was an indication that Badb should be one of my Patrons, but this did not resonate well with me. I continued my search begging the indulgence of those who would be my Patrons to convey their benefaction to me. Within a space of a few days I received comprehension in dramatic form. Although I have many deer that traverse my property I had never seen a stag/buck and while I was sitting in one of my favorite contemplation/meditation sites I felt a nudge at my hip and there stood a magnificent buck just staring at me. Apparently he was drawn to the cracked corn that I carry in my pocket to feed to the birds, deer or chipmunks and squirrels. After a few moments of contemplating each other he turned and walked away. Since that time, whenever I have been in that site he has visited with me and I have made sure that I always bring offerings that he will accept. From this experience and further research I deduced that he was Cernunnos and was an answer to my pleading summons.
Within a week of the above episode I also received manifestation of Sulis in the form of an owl that perched on the handrail at my backdoor one morning. I was aware of the presence of owls in my neighborhood but had never seen one in daytime. I was able to photograph her the next day as she sat across from me on a dilapidated barn structure. During this time an eagle took up residence in a tree near where I am constructing my Nemeton at the south end of my property. Surely this was Ollathair manifesting himself to me. Laying awake in bed early one morning I heard wolves howling and upon looking out the window I watched them trot down my driveway. The next two mornings this action was repeated. I hear and occasionally see these wolves but not as frequently in consecutive daily order as I did that time. And finally during one of my daily ritualistic nature walks up the hill behind my house where I had a select site to sit and meditate, I envisioned a large bear, twice more I was spiritually visited by this bear in much the same location which I have now set apart as a site for communicating with Artio. (I have always found a fondness and affinity with bears and suddenly I realized why.) Inasmuch as three is a significant number for my Hearth Culture I took it as an omen that among these were my Patrons, although some seem to be more predominant in their presence and others are there waiting to assist me in whatever way needed. Since having arrived at this conclusion and felt comfortable with the belief I have had many rich and rewarding episodes with these spiritual manifestations.
I have worked diligently with them and under their watchful eye taken my Dedicant Oath which was a variation of that written by Ian Corrigan and outlined in my Dedicant’s Oath Rite essay. I am working to further develop my own Nemeton in the grove mentioned above which I hope to have completed for my dedication and consecration during Ostara. The several sites I use around my property are all equipped in a like manner with cups, bowls and rudimentary altars for ritual work as deemed necessary or just simply the leaving of offerings whenever I visit them. All of these are outdoor extensions in some manner of my Home Shrine which I describe in detail through that required essay.
I feel much more alive, invigorated and blessed than at any other point in my life. I attribute this to the daily devotion I express to my Patrons and Kindred. I have immersed myself so comfortably in these rituals that they require very little thought now but occur naturally and fluidly as I go about my business. I feel a closer attachment to the world around me in a spiritual sense, and this is good because I am able to enjoy my Nature Spirits with more clarity of understanding and commitment. I feel as if I have finally found my place in the world by the knowledge that I have obtained regarding the Kindred and how closely they benefit my life. My appreciation for my surroundings has grown what could best be described as pastoral before to communicative acknowledgement and worship now. My mind has been opened in so many facets that at times it is hard to comprehend the entire dimension of how much I have changed, developed and expanded during the past months. The joy of finally doing what ‘feels’ right is indescribable and truly fills me with remorse for not having discovered this path sooner in life.
Relationship to the Three Kindred
ADF Requirement: ONE essay describing the Dedicants understanding of and relationship to EACH of the Three Kindred: the Spirits of Nature, the Ancestors and the Gods. (300 words min. for each Kindred and 1000 words total)
1. The Spirits of Nature
This is an incredibly complex concept to even attempt explaining my understanding of, and relationship with. In order to explain the relationship with the Spirits of Nature, one must first have an understanding of who they are. This is where the conundrum establishes itself for people like myself who investigate, evaluate and annotate. It becomes exceedingly more convoluted as one reads about Nature Spirits in the various cultures. My own Hearth Culture (Celtic/Scottish) is very insular so there is duplicity of Spirits all having similar roles but more tutelary it would seem. Yet when pondering over the whole spectrum of cultures there are many that do not have comparative roles anywhere but within the specific secular site of that singular culture.
The next conundrumaic (if there is such a word) episode begins with defining and allocating, much like a scientific order, where each Nature Spirit belongs. Obviously such a complex procedure might not be necessary other than to satisfy my own understanding of the role each spirit plays in the overall scope of this topic. My belief is that each tree, bush, flower, plant, bird, insect, animal, geographical and geological feature has its own spirit, much like we as humans do. I further believe that above all of these classifications is a spirit that watches over and protects those of his/her assemblage. Above this spirit there is also, I also believe, a greater spirit, demigod or even god/goddess that holds all within his/her protective domain. For example, Druantia is the goddess of oaks and Fagus is the god of beech trees, Maree is the goddess of trees, Abnoda is the Goddesses of the forest, Mór Muman is the goddess of sacred groves, and Danu is Mother Earth. Here is a typical pyramidical progression that I am referring to where many ascend to one. This patronage/matronage will exist for every living entity in Nature.
There are times when I am sitting in one of the designated locales on my property where I ponder and commune with my patrons, Artio and Matunus, do I always pay homage to Mór Muman and Ollathair? Not unless I want their blessing and then it is with a more formal ritual than the communing with a patron. Being aware of their presence, acknowledging their bounty and expressing gratitude for their allowing me to reside and move through their space is to me, a daily ritual that I perform repeatedly as I wander my property and study the behavior of the birds, insects, animals, trees and plants, geological features such as rocks and mounds. Surrounded by Nature Spirits it would be ludicrous not to acknowledge their very presence in my life for it has been my experience that nothing happens in contradiction to Nature and my life here amongst them must necessarily be in conjunction and harmony with them.
2. The Ancestors
Understanding our ancestors is far and away the easiest of these three essays. If we take a few moments of each day to look at who our ancestors are, what they accomplished (everyone accomplishes something during their existence spiritual or mortal) and how their existence impacts our life. For me, as an example, the knowledge that my ancestors were Celtic led me to investigate and eventually switch my religious convictions. I credit the Ancestors with guiding me to ADF and assisting me in choosing my Hearth Culture. This sounds very simplistic and I wish that it had in fact been as simple as it sounds.
It is comforting to know that when I question something that I encounter either in life or study, I find the answers quicker with the extended knowledge of the Ancestors. This does not mean that they just give me the answer, that would be too simple, but rather that they lead me to the answer by providing sources for me to explore that in turn give me the knowledge that they have accumulated and are willing to share. It is almost incomprehensible the vast amount of collective wisdom, knowledge and experience that the Ancestors have. I suppose it is something akin to the Library of Congress in scope and yet much more readily available than having to travel to Washington, D.C. in order to access.
This explains my understanding and relationship to my biological Ancestors but then there are those who by virtue of belonging to my Hearth Culture are surrogating Ancestors as I see it. To some this may sound farfetched and idealistic yet during meditation and contemplation of problems I have received the blessings of beings that are not genetically linked to me and are not Gods or Goddesses in the sense that we think of deities either. Having received guidance from such a personage early on in my study I felt compelled to seek out who she was. I discovered that she, Fiona, had existed almost two hundred years previously and was prominent in an area that my biological ancestors inhabited. To receive the help of this lady in my quest for knowledge was a considerable boon for me and caused me to realize that there are ‘levels’ or ‘degrees’ of Ancestors.
To extrapolate further, one could almost consider that the Gods, Goddesses and spirits of their Hearth Culture could be Ancestors since they existed at least spiritually at some juncture in time, else why would we know about them and recognize them now? Some may consider this going to an extreme and yet we receive knowledge, comfort and guidance among other things from these beings such as the Sidhe, which coincides with the belief of what we receive from our biological Ancestors. I feel that any being or entity that communicates with us in a positive manner is probably able to be considered an Ancestor, although they have the capability to scold or reprimand us they will not be malevolent towards us as would some of the other beings, spirits, Gods or Goddesses.
For myself, I feel as comfortable communing with my biological Ancestors as I do with the others mentioned. All provide me with what I seek when I acknowledge their role in my life and offer them thanks for having gone before. My life is what it is, and my knowledge and wisdom have expanded, as a direct result of my contact with my Ancestors. I praise them and thank them daily as part of my ritual in the morning, at noon and in the evening. I also make offerings to them at Samhain particularly because they have passed before me and this is a particularly ripe time to communicate with them. I do not always ask for blessings or favors but often seek just to communicate with them and feel their power and presence.
3. The Gods
What would we be doing with our lives if we did not have a relationship of some fashion with the Gods and Goddesses? The belief in Gods and Goddesses for me was a much more natural transition than for some others I suppose.
Having been an ordained minister for many years I had a firm belief in ‘God’ but was a little concerned about the Judeo-Christian argument over one God or a triumvirate of Gods. Unknowingly, at the time, as I studied this dilemma I was being slowly led towards ADF and the pagan belief in a multiplicity of Gods and Goddesses (polytheism.) Studying this new concept affixed in my mind that it was by far a more cogent and logical concept than what I had been battling with for many years.
Once I accepted this premise, then suddenly everything became much more clear and comprehensible and I understood my discomfort of the previous years of experience. In one aspect though, life became more complicated because I felt the need to ensure that I was praying and making offerings to the appropriate god or goddess. In Judeo-Christianity it was simple pro-forma because ‘God’ covered it. In my new conviction I needed to make certain that I was not offending a deity that I needed or might require the blessings of in the future. The matter is somewhat simplified by identifying a Hearth Culture, but not always is the particular name of the spirit, god or goddess that one desires communication with, available or even known. One is almost forced, at least initially, to seek the name of a god or goddess in another culture to complete the link desired at that moment in time. For me it is a little easier since I subscribe to the Celtic Hearth Culture and Scottish in particular, so if I cannot find the name among the specific Scottish pantheon, I have a number of other sub-cultures within the entire Celtic Pantheon through which I can obtain a name.
But is a name really important to commune with the Gods? Cannot they know who we are addressing without a specific name attached? I tend to believe that it is possible but somewhat impersonal to conduct your ritual in such a manner. Politeness dictates that you specifically address the personage with whom you desire communication. Etiquette, especially if you are seeking a blessing, necessitates that one specifies to whom the request is being made else the blessing be awarded, or not, by another entity who may not be beneficent to your cause. I believe in my communication with the ghosti that it is a pre-requisite to know the name, use it judiciously, and wait for the response from that individual. In my somewhat limited experience I have discovered that I have been led to sources that help me track down the appropriate name within my Hearth Culture for future usage. These acts of kindness, although infrequent, have been a great boon to me in my search for more authenticity in my prayers and rituals relating to the Scottish Celtic deities.
To many outside the realm of ADF it must seem that we spend an overly amount of time in prayer and supplication to the various Gods and Goddesses yet when spread out over the course of a day it is in fact a minute amount. Never the less, that minute amount is as important as breathing, eating and drinking to nourish our souls and bodies. The personal relationship each one of us has with our Gods/Goddesses is essential for our existence and furtherance of our wisdom and knowledge. To know their correct and appropriate names, the myth surrounding them and their various aspects is to know them on a personal level.
Dedicant’s Oath Rite
ADF Requirement: The text of the Dedicant’s Oath Rite and a self-evaluation of the Dedicant’s performance of the rite. (500 word min.)
I, Magnus Matunus, before this gathered assembly, declare myself to be a Pagan, a seeker of the Old Ways, a worshipper of the TUATHA-DÉ-DANANN. With this Sacred and Holy Oath, I do set my course upon the Druid’s Way, and I vow to make my declaration plain by developing a deep connection with kin, land, and divinity, recognizing that they are inextricably interlinked and intertwined. I further vow to seek virtue in my life, to do right by my kith and kin, my friends and my community, honoring the gods, my ancestors and the spirits of the place I live in. I hereby vow to make my Paganism real, by keeping the rites that call to me in daily observance and especially on the High Holy Days. I vow to deepen my understanding of the Ways through constant study and practice, to fill my mind with the truth of the Druidic Elder Paths. These things I swear to the Celtic Gods, TUATHA-DÉ-DANANN gathered here as my witnesses that with their guidance and wisdom I will succeed. As is verbally vowed, so be it.
This was a great deal more complicated than what I at first imagined it would be. I investigated several sample oaths that were available but none were what I would term a correct “fit” for my hearth culture (Celtic) and my own beliefs.
After meditating and seeking guidance from my Patrons, I was able to formulate the above text with gleanings included from ‘The First Oath’ by Ian Corrigan on the ADF web site, Seren on her web site ‘Tairis’ (http://www.tairis.co.uk/index.php), my own readings of various Celtic works, some of which are on the suggested reading list and others which are for my own edification. This melding of sources evolved over a period of weeks until I felt it honestly represented the way that I felt and it had that comfortable ‘fit’ that I was seeking.
The evolutionary process for me was of such a nature that my natural inclination for research and study led me into many areas that I perhaps would not have gone as early in my development had it not been for my intense desire to articulate appropriately that which I felt inside of me. The divergent paths eventually, much to my surprise, brought me full circle laden with more knowledge and understanding than I would have envisioned was possible from such a seemingly simple task as creating a First Oath.
Perhaps it was that I wanted a commitment that could express verbally and spiritually that led me to what is above. I know that when I made my daily offerings to my Patrons, and meditated, often for long periods of time, regarding this oath, I gradually felt the influence of what I really wanted to express and could sincerely commit to following.
Having put into print that which I felt was correct and proper for me as a Solitary, I went onto the area that I have set aside and dedicated on my property for the purposes of following the practices and beliefs upon which I have embarked. First, I centered myself by meditating upon that which I was preparing to do. I felt an encompassing warmth settle over me that removed my trepidations and encouraged me in an emotive manner while reassuring me, it seemed, that I was at last moving into a realm that I had long been seeking in my life. Thus comforted and reassured, I commenced with a modified version of the Solitary Celtic Ritual Template from the ADF General Celtic Rituals. I modified this because for the purposes of that which I intended I did not feel within myself that a full ritual was either appropriate or necessary.
I had offerings ready as suggested; corn meal, alcohol, an apple, incense, a branch from one of my cedar trees, a coin, bread and grain. I had placed a chalice of fresh well water on my altar along with a Blessing Cup and the branch. I rang a chime and spoke aloud, “I am here to honor the gods.” I then gave Honor to my Earth Mother stating, “Tailtiu, O bright goddess, all joy and prosperity comes from you, and it is you who sustains me. Tailtiu, I honor you now to thank you for the bounty you bestow upon me.” I then placed the corn meal on the altar and said, “Earth Mother, accept my sacrifice.”
My next phase had me calling upon Bride for the blessing of poetic inspiration as I proceeded with my tasks. I vocalized what I had previously prepared, “Bright Bride, Daughter of the Dagda, Flame of Inspiration, with you as my mother I need fear no empty words. I am triple-blessed, O shining light of the hearth, and I your child ask you to alight in my heart, alight in my head, and alight in my voice, that I may give praise to the powers with good skill,” followed by pouring some whiskey into a cup and reciting, “Bride, accept my sacrifice.”
The third segment began with me saying, “I kindle the sacred fire, claiming this land and time for my own. The shape-fire burns bright, this is the center of the world, my Meath, Tara, and Uisnech. Let none stand against me, let the world turn around me, let me have a good fire,
as I call the Kindred forth.” Following which I lit the fire and placed incense on it saying as I did so, “I kindle the sacred fire in wisdom, love, and power. Sacred fire, burn within me. “
To Honor the Sacred Well I stated, “I silver the sacred well, from which five rivers of wisdom run, this is the center of the world. Let none stand against me, let the world turn around me, let the well be deep with wisdom, as I call the Kindred forth.” Placing the silver coin into the chalice of well water and then pouring some of the water into the Blessing Cup. I then said, “In the depths flow the waters of wisdom. Sacred waters, flow within me.”
This was followed by my recognizing the third corner of the triad by stating, “I tend the sacred tree, towering high, hanging heavy with hazel, strength of Taranis, the thunder and wheel, from Tara to Nemeton, star-reaching bile, this is the center of the world. Let none stand against me, let the world turn around me, let the tree be tall and strong, as I call the Kindred forth.” I then dressed and censed the bile uttering as I did so, “From the depths to the heights spans the world tree. Sacred tree, grow within me.”
At this juncture I prepared an offering for the Gatekeeper, saying as I did so, “Oh Manannán, powerful son of the sea, holder of the magics of the crane bag, I ask that you hear my call. Oh Lord of the Otherworld, bearer of the silvered apple branch, join with me this day, so that you may guide me in my workings. Mist-shrouded rider of the maned waves, accept my offering and open the gates between my realm and yours.” Following which I placed the apple upon the altar and implored, “Manannán mac Lir, accept my sacrifice.”
For calling forth my ancestors as the next stage I called out, “Great ancestors, you who have come before, a child of the Earth calls out to you. You whose blood flows in my veins, you who I hold close to my heart and thoughts, you who were heroes of the ancient world, I offer you welcome. Mighty Ones, you who reside in the house of Donn, I remember you, and will not forget, for it is you who gave me life. O Ancestors of blood and heart, I call you forth!” after which I placed the bread I had brought with me upon my altar and asked, “Ancestors, accept my sacrifice. “
I next recognized the Nature Spirits through saying aloud, “Great nature spirits, you who frolic in the wild world, a child of the Earth calls out to you. You who change shape with the wind, you who pass between the worlds as I walk through air, you who for whom day is night, and night is day, I offer you welcome. Noble Ones, you who reside in the hills and sidhe mounds of the land, I honor you, for you are the spirits in the earth I live by. O Spirits of the natural world, I call you forth!” placed the grain upon the altar and ended with, “Nature spirits, accept my sacrifice. “
To call forth the gods and goddess of my Heart I said, “Great gods, you who are mightiest in all things, a child of the Earth calls out to you. You who are the people of the goddess Danann, you who count among you the spear of Lugh, the sword of Nuadha, and the cauldron of the Dagda,
you who brought the Lia Fal and cast out the Fir Bolg and Fomoire, I offer you welcome.
Shining Ones, you who rule this world and the other, I praise you, for it is you who provide sustenance and guidance in my life. O Shining ones of magic and might, I call you forth!” then poured more whiskey into another chalice. Followed again by, “Gods and goddesses, accept my sacrifice.”
At this point I paused for a moment of reflection prior to addressing that which I had come to do. Feeling reassured that all was well to this point I said, “I have called the Kindreds here today and it is right to give them praise: A round for the ancestors, a round for the nature spirits, and a round for the gods. Shining Ones, Noble Ones, and Mighty Ones, I have given you praise and honor! A gift calls for a gift, and I pray to you as I offer up these sacrifices. Accept them, open my heart, and give to me of your blessings.” I then gave my Oath feeling humbled and uplifted at the same time.
Raising the Blessing Cup I said, “Shining Ones, Noble Ones, and Mighty Ones, I have praised you and received your blessings. Hallow these waters and give to me of your power and inspiration and vitality. Seo iad uisci na beatha! Behold the waters of life!” after which I drank from the cup. I continued with, “I have called upon the Kindreds and they have answered! With joy in my heart I carry their magic into my life and work. Each time I offer to the powers they become stronger and more aware of my needs and worship. So as I prepare to depart let me give thanks to those who have aided me. Go raibh maith agait! Bride, Go raibh maith agait!
Manannan mac Lir, Go raibh maith agait! Gods and Goddesses, Go raibh maith agaibh Nature Spirits, Go raibh maith agaibh! Ancestors, Go raibh maith agaibh! Aine, go raibh maith agait.”
It was time for me to finish and I concluded with, “Now by the keeper of the gates and by my magic I end what I began. Let the fire be flame, let the well be water, let all be as it was before.
Let the gates be closed! I have done as my ancestors have done, and as my children will do, and the Kindreds have answered. I go now, a child of the Earth, in peace and blessings. The ritual is at a close. Biodh sé amhlaidh!”
Although I did not use all of the parts of the ritual and omitted all of the chanting, I felt reassured that my Oath had been accepted by those present and I departed from my dedicated place with a more sure purpose and knowledge, comforted by a warm glow and more aware of all around me. I felt exhausted yet excited by that which I had accomplished and sworn to do in the future.