Sunday, April 13, 2014

I digress

In my last post, which I know was too long ago, I said my personal practice has been faltering. "I have a hard time maintaining regular habits of piety and meditation, but I am eager to set about changing that," I wrote then.

I put a lot of thought into that reality, and as a result, I have shifted gears. Rather than moving directly into ADF clergy training, I'm going to undertake the Initiate Program first. It continues the academic study that I began with the clergy preliminary work, but it also requires steady and consistent devotional, divination and meditation/trance practice, with documentation. I believe I should deepen my own spiritual dimension before presuming to lead other, and I believe the IP will be instrumental in my doing that,  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reflections upon finishing the latest phase

I have come a long way on my ADF journey. I made a false start in 2008, and after attending a ritual and reading a bit, I felt led to give the Christianity of my upbringing one last try. (Blame Rich Mullins). I had not been a practicing Christian in years, but that was my childhood religion, and even though I had essentially left it behind (a few times!), its echoes continued to reverberate. So I put pagan religion aside and found an Episcopal church nearby. (My own heritage is United Methodist, but I wanted something a bit different.)

The experience was not bad, but nowhere near as satisfying as I had thought it might be. Despite the eagerness with which I had started, even arranging to meet one of the priests for morning coffee and conversation, I was ready to call it done in just a few months. 

After Lynda moved in in 2011, we joined ADF together, and that was when it really started to click. I tackled the Dedicant program with enthusiasm and delved into study and practice. It's important to say, though, that I was not committed to the path. I took seriously the idea that the Dedicant Path is intended to help the beginner figure out whether paganism in general and ADF Druidry in particular, is the right place to be. I've heard some describe finding ADF, or another pagan path, as being like "coming home." For me it was more like walking around a strange town and trying to decide whether I liked it. I even left that town a time or two during the exploration. Those departures, though, were short-lived and, rather than looking around for something else, ADF was the only place I wanted to return to. When I had completed all of the Dedicant study and the time came to write and then swear the final dedicant's oath, it came easily. 

It is my will to walk the pagan way. By the gods and by the dead and by all the spirits. I swear to live by the virtues given by tradition, to strive to act mindfully to do good in all I do.  I swear to keep the feasts and observances of the Druid way, keeping the wheel of the year. I swear to seek the truth of the elder ways, to learn the lore and meaning of our ancestors' wisdom. I swear to cultivate the habits of piety, contemplation, prayer and study. 

I am certain that if I had not undertaken the study program, I would not have reached the point, at least not in the time that I did. The DP, for all its faults (and there are a few), is a a very well-crafted program for leading the student to both knowledge and experience. Those who take it as a serious opportunity to learn, rather than a requirement to check off, will be well-rewarded with a deeper understanding of why various aspects of the ritual and religion are there, what purpose they serve, and how far they can be stretched without losing their essential importance. As the DP also requires a regular mental discipline practice and rituals to mark the eight high days (at a minimum), the student comes away with a feel for what ADF practice is all about as well, a good base of experience from which to decide whether it suits. 

I have felt a call to clergy for most of my life. Twice I considered leaving my profession and attending seminary as a United Methodist, and came very close to actually doing so once. But it never felt quite right. Now I am pursuing ordination with ADF and have completed the preliminary coursework necessary to apply for admission to the First Circle. As I found with the DP, the curriculum is well-designed to increase the base already established. In the past eight months, from finishing the DP through finishing the six CTP Prelim courses, I think I've gained an even deeper understanding.  

Where I falter is regular practice, and it is here I will have to apply the most effort as a clergy student, or even just as a follower of this religion. I have a hard time maintaining regular habits of piety and meditation, but I am eager to set about changing that. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

On The Cusp

The Indo-European Mythology I course took a good bit longer than I expected, mainly because of time needed to look up good references for everything. But it is submitted for approval now. IE Myth is the final course in the preliminary clergy training program -- once it is approved I can apply for admission to the First Circle study and, once completed, I will be eligible for ordination.

This is really exciting to me. I have felt a call toward ministry for many years, even came close to going to seminary when I was still a United Methodist. ADF's program is rigorous, but a bit less all-consuming than a three-year master's program would be.

I need to put some thought into formulating a good explanation of the reasons for this desire, for the application. Whatever I finally come up with to say, though, I know that this feels like the path I need to be on.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Land, Sky and Sea

From my earliest memories, I have felt both connected to and overwhelmed by the world around me. The roaring wind. The vast sea. The limitless reaches of the sky. This sense of connection is one of the things that first drew me to Druidry. I do not claim to be an avid outdoorsman, because I'm not (although sometimes I want to be), but I do attest to a feeling of continuity with nature.

I am not quite finished reading Emma Restall Orr's The Wakeful World, but I can say that her argument for animism makes sense to me, and puts a context around this feeling of connectedness. As she presents it, animism is the idea that all of nature is minded. Everything, even the things we don't perceive as animate, has some sort of perception and a place in the vast grandeur of nature.

I will have more thoughts on this soon, but I want to finish the book before I say too much. For now, I can say that it provides an elegant philosophical basis for pagan religion, and can enrich one's practice.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Good Omen

During the ritual that I mentioned here, I pulled a four-card draw from the Wildwood Tarot for my omen. I asked each of the Kindred, and then Cernunnos specifically, for guidance as this new year begins. I think you'll be impressed by the consistent message.

Ancestors: Ace of Arrows: The Breath of Life -- our minds are linked to a greater consciousness. When an idea begins to form, we can tap into the energies of that connection to give it form and power.

Nature Spirits: Six of Arrows: Movement toward new possibilities, or cycles.

Shining Ones: The Wanderer (the Fool in other decks): The beginning of a new phase, the end of one journey and the start of another.

Cernunnos: Five of Bows: Facing and defeating fears; empowerment, possibly through the mastery of a skill or discipline.

Altogether, it suggests that my spiritual growth is reaching a new level ... that my intuition, desiring renewed attention to nature, to earthiness, is movement in the right direction.

Playing in the Mud

I’ve had a lot of signs about mud lately.

I’ve been reading about animism, and am currently about 2/3 of the way through the marvelously dense The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature, by Emma Restall Orr. It’s giving rise to a new appreciation for nature and a desire to spend more time out in it. Then, last Saturday, a seer at the Grove suggested the same to me, without knowing anything of that recent reading and thinking.

While listening to an old episode of Druidcast, I encountered the song “Spirit and Soul and Handful of Mud,” by James J. Turner, which speaks powerfully to that same impulse.

Also, for the past few months I’ve felt some interest in Cernunnos, a deity whose wildness appeals although I have had no prior relationship with him. 

Today, I plan to make offering to him during ritual and try to open that door a bit. My practice has been centered on the intellectual and practical for a while. Now, the time feels right for earthiness.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Reading for 2014

In my opinion, one of the best Tarot spreads suitable for annual readings (whether at the New Year, one's birthday, or other yearly milestones) is Joanna Powell Colbert's Out With the Old, In With the New Spread.  I did my reading or 2014 yesterday, using Zach Wong's Revelations Tarot.

1. What do I leave behind in the Old Year?
3 of Wands Rx

This year, I leave behind my tendency to let things go until opportunities fall apart - I will stop dissipating my energy so that nothing worthy manifests. I will stop expending my energy with no commitment to my goals.

2. What do I open up to in the New Year?
3 of Pentacles

This year, I open myself to accepting the mentoring of those who can help me grow and develop my ability to create something concrete of lasting value.  This year, I will learn what I need to to be able to contribute to our financial and material wellbeing. (we being at home, at the Grove and elsewhere where I share a group identity)

3. Key Opportunity of the New Year
6 of Wands

My key opportunity this year is to be able to achieve in a way that comes with public acclaim and appreciation - I should expect to find myself more in the spotlight this year, and to be a motivating force for improving the morale of those around me.  This is the year to get comfortable with being noticed and appreciated. (this feels so much more like a challenge than an opportunity to me!)

4. Key Challenge of the New Year
3 of Cups

My challenge this year is to maintain friendships and a sense of celebration.  I must be mindful of how work and play, friendship and conflict can overlap and not forget how much I like and enjoy the people around me.  My challenge is to approach our encounters with joy and gladness, but also to not lose sight of the distinction between playing as friends and working as colleagues.

5. Hidden concern (pull from bottom of the deck)
0 The Fool

My hidden concern is that I don't know what I'm doing, and that where I am not worrying it is because I haven't noticed the problem.  I don't want to land on my face or bring anyone else down with me.  I'm also concerned that others see me as a fool and too inexperienced to be doing what I am. I am concerned that others may be actively hoping I will fail.

6. Deep Wisdom / Advice from God/dess (pull from middle of the deck)
III Empress

The mother/queen goddesses (Juno and Frigga, primarily - but all of them in some way) are those that call to me - this year, I must lean on their wisdom and operate from within their guidance.  My role as mother is called on - to be a nurturing caretaker of those around me, and of the Earth itself.  To be firm, without being hard.  I should also remember to approach the year from a place of prosperity and abundance - of more than enough and plenty to share, and to help others to grow their own stores.

7. Key Theme of the New Year
2 of Pentacles

My key theme this year is Balance and Meditation - the ability to juggle multiple concerns without undue stress, to see the playfulness in all tasks, to learn to balance physical and material expenditure with recuperation.

Highlighted are wands (energy and will) and pentacles (concrete manifestation).  3s are strongly highlighted - III Empress, and 3 3s (missing is the 3 of Swords - heartbreak and unvarnished honesty).  Working with others to manifest results in a way that strengthens and nurtures the group is important this year - it is a time of teamwork, leadership as gentle guidance and diplomacy.