Michael's Dedicant Submission

Submitted May 11, 2013  
Approved May 15, 2013

Item 1: Essays on the Nine Virtues

Wisdom: “Our Own Druidry” defines wisdom as “good judgment, the ability to perceive people and situations correctly, deliberate about and decide on the correct response.”
Wisdom is in many ways borne of experience, and it is no fault of the younger person to be less wise than the elder. However, experience does not lead to wisdom automatically. It is the responsibility of each person to live in the kind of active engagement with life and the world that facilitates the increase of wisdom.
Wisdom need not come from personal experience. As an old saying goes, “Everyone learns from experience, but only a fool insists that the experience must be his own.” Wisdom literature such as the Havamal can provide much insight from the experiences or observations of others. And good stories – myths, novels, movies, etc. – while not as didactic, can also provide vicarious experience from which we can take wise counsel.
In practice, wisdom is the quality that allows a person to make sound decisions, to judge others accurately and to be less likely to fall into a trap. Wisdom often works in coordination with other virtues; for example, moderation and wisdom may both come into play as someone makes the wise choice to avoid intoxication when driving.
This is an apt one with which to begin the list, because the other virtues all depend on some measure of wisdom in order to be effective in their application.

Piety: The Random House dictionary defines piety as “Reverence for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations.”
Piety, at its root, is simply about being mindful of the kindreds and our relationship to them. We express our love, respect, loyalty and honor of them through ritual and ceremony. But the words and motions of ritual are only the outer form. Piety implies an orientation of the heart and spirit so that the ceremony expresses the internal reality. It isn't piety if it is simply reciting words.
Because of this, while piety is expressed in ritual, it can also be expressed moment to moment in simply thinking about the gods, speaking small prayers to them and, above all, treating them with honor and respect, not as cosmic gumball machines sent to do us favors.
Piety isn't limited to the gods, however. The other kindreds, the ancestors and land spirits, may also be the object of reverence and respect.
Tradition is part of piety as well, in that our rituals are based on old traditions, brought forward into a new century. One aspect of honoring the gods is understanding how our ancestors honored them and striving to acknowledge them in the ways they prefer to be acknowledged. Wisdom comes into play here in that it guides us toward discerning the better ways to relate to the spirits and away from those practices or motivations that are self-serving.

Vision: “Our Own Druidry” speaks of vision as being aware of one's place or role in the cosmos, relating to the past, present and future. The key point to remember is that one's place may be big or small, depending on the vantage point. As a human being on a planet with more than 6 billion human beings, in a galaxy with a hundred billion stars, I am insignificant. As a friend, lover, son, grandfather – and as a child of Mother Earth – I am important.
One's place in the cosmos is not frozen in time. It pertains to the past, present and future. Vision means an ability to see one's place not just today, but next year, next decade and, after a long enough period, as a legacy of one who has moved into the Otherworld.
It also entails an understanding of how one's place in the past affects the present and the future. To see one's own life, or the life of another, with true vision means to appreciate the interconnections of time, space and relationship and how what has gone before affects what is to come.
Finally, remember that vision is not limited to one's self – vision can pertain to another person, an organization, a nation or a world.
Courage: The Random House dictionary describes courage as, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”
I do not really agree with that. I think it's more accurate to say it is, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., despite fear.” The absence of fear is not so much courage as recklessness.
I see courage as the balancing point between cowardice and recklessness. It is to do that which is difficult and dangerous in order to achieve a worthy goal. It is to act despite fear, not necessarily without fear. Do not mistake recklessness for courage: Courage takes risks and dangers into account, recklessness ignores them. Courage leads to dangerous actions taken for good reason, recklessness leads to dangerous actions undertaken for their own sake.
In the same vein, just as to charge ahead is not necessarily courage, to retreat is not necessarily cowardice. It can be an act of courage to defer taking action when under great pressure to act. But blending courage with wisdom gives one the discernment to determine when taking risky action is warranted and when it would just be foolish.
Courage necessarily entails selflessness. Courage is risk, and in many cases, courage is willingly giving up something for a greater good.

Integrity: To behave with integrity is to maintain one's ethical principles in the face of temptation. It is to be consistent in character and to put principle ahead of desire. Integrity requires keeping promises, upholding oaths, speaking truth and sometimes sacrificing one's own desires.
Behaving with integrity is not just a matter of public perception. Even when alone, a person of integrity is called on to uphold his or her standards. What is done in secret (if indeed it is secret from the kindred) will have repercussions into one's wider world. What we do when nobody's watching says more about our true character than what we do in front of witnesses.
Integrity requires other virtues in order to be consistent. It takes courage to do the right thing at personal risk. Wisdom to know what the right thing is. Moderation to resist giving in to passions. The life of integrity can be difficult, but it's also rewarding, not least in giving one a good name (good reputation) to pass down.

Perseverance: Random House defines perseverance as “steady persistence in a course of action … especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.”
Simple in concept, often very difficult in practice. Very often, we give up the pursuit of something when it becomes hard. We may even decide we don't really want it any more, the “sour grapes” of Aesop's fable. But of course, we do want it … just not badly enough to endure the challenges that come in the pursuit.
To press on through tough times requires a focus on the desired outcome – physical changes, learning new skills, wooing a lover, getting a good job, or whatever it may be. (Finishing the ADF Dedicant program!) These things are rarely won easily, and a person who sets out to achieve them should be prepared for some tough going along the way. Perseverance is the virtue that makes them possible at all.
Patience is not singled out as a virtue on the ADF list, but perseverance very often requires it, as the goals sought can take a very long time to reach. As weeks and months and even years pass with the goal remaining out of reach, maybe even seeming unattainable through all that time, will you continue pressing on toward it? (And Wisdom again comes into play here, as we try to discern the difference between a worthwhile goal and a truly lost cause.)

Hospitality: The opening section of The Havamal is all about hospitality. The author (tradition holds these are the words of Odin himself) speaks of how weary travelers need food, drink, warmth, fresh clothing after arriving at a home.
Hospitality, in its general sense, is about being a “gracious host and appreciative guest,” as Our Own Druidry phrases it. A host who offers food to the hungry traveler, dry clothes to the rain-soaked visitor, fire to the one coming in from the cold. A guest who does not demand these things, but accepts them with gratitude when they are offered.
There is a more subtle sense of hospitality too, which is about adapting to another's needs without calling attention to it. General principles are fine in many cases, but there are people with special needs. The handicapped person who can't stand up for very long, or at all; the blind or deaf; the alcoholic who should not drink any alcohol, and so on.
Hospitality, tempered by wisdom, accommodates those things without making the person feel singled out. Offer the person with a drinking problem only non-alcoholic beverage options; don't serve a meat-based entree if your dinner guests include vegetarians. The end result of hospitality should be guests who have had their needs met by someone who has put some thought into understanding what those needs are.

Moderation: Random House says of moderation that it is “avoiding extremes or excess.”
The practice of moderation implies balance. While it shuns overindulgence, it does not counsel asceticism. When one engages in things that are good and pleasurable, but also prone to be pursued to excess – food, drink or sex for example – moderation seeks to find the zone between too much and not enough.
The words attributed to Odin in the Havamal are instructive here:
Less good there lies than most believe
In ale for mortal men; For the more he drinks, the less does man
Of his mind the mastery hold.”
Shun not the mead, but drink in measure;
Speak to the point or be still;
For rudeness none shall rightly blame thee
If soon thy bed thou seekest.”
This text contains several stanzas counseling against overindulgence in drink, perhaps a contrast to the popular image of drunken, bawdy Norsemen. But notice that the Havamal, neither here nor elsewhere, advocates abstaining from drink. It only advises controlling oneself to avoid the consequences of excess.
This is the essence of moderation. “Shun not the mead, but drink in measure.” The axiom may be applied in like manner to food, or sex or sloth or exertion. One can easily overindulge in work, and feel oneself virtuous by doing so, without taking heed of the other aspects of life going neglected in the process.
Fertility: I understand from discussions on the ADF Dedicant list that the name of this virtue has been the subject of some debate. Indeed, it does seem to be a wide-ranging concept. According to Our Own Druidry, fertility is “bounty of mind, body and spirit involving creativity and industry, an appreciation of the physical and sensual, nurturing these qualities in others.”

In common parlance, the word can connote a bountiful harvest, human reproduction, fecundity, a prolific creativity and productivity of work, among other meanings. Summarizing it is difficult, but what all of these things have in common is a drive toward creation. Whether the life force expressed in sexual love and, often, pregnancy, or in growing plants for food or beauty, or in writing, art and craft, fertility always suggests a rich vein of result. A person who writes a poem or song once every long while can hardly be called a bard, while one who is always writing, even if much of what he writes ends up deemed unworthy, may well be. A man who plants a flower in a pot is not a gardener, really, but one who is always planting and growing something, even if some of his attempts fail, is indeed a gardener.

To be a virtue, fertility needs to be pursued with deliberate intention. It entails cultivating skills and talents, applying another virtue – perseverance in this case – to soldier on through the less successful attempts and the early days of learning something new when failure is the rule rather than the exception.

Item 2: Essays on the High Days

Autumn Equinox

The Autumn Equinox, Mabon, is the feast that celebrates the harvest. It marks the end of summer and the reaping of grain.

The day is called Harvest Home in the Anglo-Saxon hearth (Albertsson, 171.) Traditionally it was celebrated at the completion of the harvest, a time that varies from place to place. Today, as a matter of convention, the equinox serves as a close approximation. Historically, the European peoples celebrated the feast in different ways under different names, but all mark the turn from grain harvest into the final weeks before the coming of winter.

The Autumn Equinox has marked the start of my favorite time of year for many years. I love the Autumn, when the heat of summer has broken and the deep cold of winter not yet come. The smells and colors of nature are especially intense, and the touches of chill in the air are reminders of the cycles of nature.

Personal meaning: This is a time of retreat for me (in the sense of rest and restoration). The warmth of summer is fading, and it's time to build up stores for winter. It is time to take stock of the year so far, and to prepare for the final months of it. This is a time conducive to meditation and prayer, for looking within myself for spiritual connection.


As is probably true of most Americans, I grew up knowing Samhain as Halloween. Only relatively recently have I learned more about its ancient roots as a day in which the veil between worlds is thinnest.

Samhain also marked the “third harvest,” meat. Animals were slaughtered for meat, as keeping them fed over the winter would be expensive or impossible. In Celtic lands, the Samhain celebration included the lighting of fires at dusk, feasting, processions and pranks. (MacLeod, 61.)

Many pagans celebrate Samhain with a “dumb supper” in honor of the ancestors. It is a meal in which no one speaks for the duration, allowing those who have gone before silence in which to make their presence known. the tradition appears to have its roots in rural America rather than any ancient pagan culture. (Albertsson 175-177.) Still, it is meaningful and powerful.

Personal meaning: I have celebrated Samhain with ADF twice as of this writing. I find it to be an opportune time to honor those who have passed into the Otherworld ahead of us, whether recently or long ago.


The Winter's Solstice marks the longest night of the year and the slow return or rebirth of the sun as the days slowly grow longer through the winter and spring. The Norse culture celebrates this time as Yule, marked by a 12-day celebration, a burning Yule log and feasting. It begins with Mother's Night, honoring the goddesses, and may include the sacrifice of a boar – or a modern equivalent such as eating roast pork. (Our Own Druidry 66.) Albertsson notes that among Saxon pagans, the only Yule tradition of real antiquity that is still practiced is the Wassail bowl (178).

Yule was originally celebrated around what is now the end of the year, but can occur anytime between about mid-November and the beginning of January. (Wikipedia)

In contemporary practice, the Winter's Solstice is a suitable time to praise the returning of the sun, to honor the Norse or Anglo-Saxon deities in public ritual and, as Yule and the Solstice traditions have become subsumed into Christmas, gift-giving might also be appropriate.

Personal meaning: Yule is mixed with Christmas for me, given that all of my blood family celebrates the Christian observance and so did I for many years. It is a time for family and gifts (both given and received.)


Imbolc is an Irish cross-quarter day, falling early in February. It is associated with the coming of spring and the beginning of lactation in ewes.

The goddess Brigit is the deity most closely connected to Imbolc. However, another important item of lore concerns The Cailleach, the hag. Imbolc is traditionally the day on which she gathers her firewood for the remainder of winter. If the weather on Imbolc is nice, it portends a longer winter, as The Cailleach is making the day pleasant to allow more time to gather firewood. Therefore, bad weather is cause for celebration as it means winter will end sooner. (Carlyon)

In the Germanic hearth culture there is an agrarian festival called the Charming of the Plow, centered on a blessing of the fields in preparation for planting season. It is a celebration of fertility and a pleading to the gods for bountiful harvests. A more direct parallel, however, is Ewemolc, a variation of the Celtic celebration. (Albertsson 156)

Personal meaning: Imbolc is about anticipation of the coming spring, despite the snow on the ground and the chill in the air when it's celebrated. It usually comes right about the time I'm growing weary of winter and ready to see green on the trees again.


Ostara marks the spring equinox, the ending of winter and the return of life to the land. Under the budding new leaves, the earth awakens and growth emerges from the once snow-covered ground.

In a general Indo-European sense, the high day is a celebration of fertility, renewal and life, although it seems to have not been an important day in many hearth cultures within the ADF family. It is important to the Germanic/Nordic culture, and is named for the Saxon goddess Eostre, from which the Christian Easter also takes its name. (Albertsson 161)

The celebration of the vernal equinox is the celebration of the cycle of life, the rebirth of life from death. Imbolc promises this renewal while the cold still grips the land, and by Beltane the warmth is fully manifest. The equinox is the time in between, the liminal time between winter and spring where the transition has begun but is not complete.

Personal meaning: Ostara is the observance of spring's arrival. The air is warming and, usually where I live, the threat of snow is almost (but not quite) past.


Beltane celebrates the return of warm weather. The name may mean “fire of Bel” or “bright fires,” but that is uncertain. (McLeod 14) It is about fertility and abundance. Like its opposite high day Samhain, Beltane is a day when the veil between our world and the Otherworld is especially thin (Chadwick 181). It was also, agriculturally, the time when farmers would take their livestock out to new fields, away from the crops and settlements, where they could graze on new grass (McLeod 58).

Celebration of the day, also called “May Day” or “Summerfinding,” is centered around lighthearted revelry – dancing around a maypole, singing, sex and general merriment. Beltane expresses a sense of great relief that the fallow time of winter, the endurance of the cold and privation of living off of food stores is at an end. By May in most of northern Europe, as the traditional song “Hal An Tow” puts it, “Summer is a-comin' in and winter's gone away.”

In Ireland, the ancients celebrated Beltane with bonfires and dancing sunwise around the fires. It was customary to release the animals and drive them through the smoke for purification. (Jones and Pennick 90).

Personal meaning: Summer has arrived, and celebrating the warmth awakens my sensuality.


Midsummer marks the summer solstice, the longest day and shortest night of the year.

Midsummer appears to have been an important event in many of the ancient societies that inform ADF's modern hearth cultures. The Romans, for example, allowed non-virginal women to enter the temple of Vesta and make offerings during this time of the year only (Gill). While high days sometimes take on differing significance and importance in cold-weather climates (Norse, Celtic) compared to warm-weather (Greek, Roman), midsummer appears to have been important in either case. In the northern lands, the day was often marked with bonfires, and the celebrations focused on gods of the sun, gods of fire and the community itself (Albertsson 168).

But not all cultures observed midsummer with any particular ceremonies. This is not really surprising. The day has no agricultural significance, marking neither a sowing nor harvest time. Rather, where it is celebrated it seems to be more for pure pleasure in the warm weather and relatively easy living compared to the colder months.

Personal meaning: The height of summer is not always the most comfortable time of year, but I usually find it easy and free.


While these days are celebrated around the same time, the beginning of August, they have different meanings. Lammas (Anglo-Saxon – called Freyfaxi in the Norse context (Our Own Druidry 67)) celebrates the first wheat harvest. Lammas is celebrated by baking bread and offering portions to the gods – a classic example of sacrifice as a giving back to the gods of the bounty they have provided (Albertsson 169-170).

The Irish Lughnassadh honors the god Lugh, or Lug, and his mother Tailtiu. Traditionally it's celebrated with contests of skill, and large fairs with many activities (MacLeod 60). One tradition from Ireland involved cutting sheaves of grain. The first one cut was called the Harvest Maiden, and dressed and decorated accordingly. The last one cut was named the Hag and given to a farmer who had not yet finished his harvest, a signal that he should hurry it up (MacLeod 61).

Things were different elsewhere. In Rome, for example, where the harvest was mostly complete by this time of year, several festivals honored Ceres and other gods (Our Own Druidry 71), while Vedic cultures may observe the Soma Feast, named for a now-lost drink purported to have had intoxicating properties (Our Own Druidry 68).

Personal meaning: Around this time is when I begin anticipating the turn of the weather to cool and then cold, but it isn't here yet. It's about preparing before it arrives.


Albertsson, Alaric, Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan, Woodbury, Minn., Llewellyn, 2009. Print.

Ar n'Draiocht Fein, Our Own Druidry, Tucson, Ariz., ADF Publishing, 2009, print.

Carlyon, Dillion, Brighid, the Cailleach and the Battle for Spring, Druid's Egg. 2008, Web. Accessed 2 May 2013. (http://www.druidsegg.reformed-druids.org/newsimbolc08-05.htm)

Jones, Prudence & Pennick, Nigel. A History of Pagan Europe. London, Routledge,1995. Print.

Gill, N.S., Six Vestal Virgins, About.com, 2013. Web. Accessed 6 February 2013. (http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/rome/a/aa1114001.htm)

MacLeod, Sharon Paice, Celtic Myth and Religion, Jefferson, N.C., McFarland & Company, Inc. , 2012. Print.

Yule,” Wikipedia, n.p., n.d.

Book Reviews

Indo-European Studies
A History of Pagan Europe
Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick

"A History of Pagan Europe," by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick, presents a survey of the pagan cultures of Europe, including Russia and the British Isles. The authors broadly define paganism as polytheistic religion that sees nature as theophany – a reflection of the divine rather than the fallen, broken thing of Christian theology – and recognizing a feminine divine principle in addition to the masculine.

In the introduction, the authors suggest that modern paganism tends to see the gods as manifestations of a God and Goddess rather than as distinct, individual beings. I think this is an overgeneralization perhaps reflecting the dominance of Wicca in the pagan world.

The overarching theme of the book is the decline and eventual near-end of the various pagan cultures chronicled at the hand of Christianity. In most cases, a remnant of pagans survived, often driven underground, but Christianity – and to a lesser extent, Islam -- spread and became the dominant religions throughout Europe.

The authors devote two chapters to Rome, which hosted a flourishing pagan civilization for many centuries, and conquered much of Europe. That gave Christianity, which rose to prominence first in Rome after the first missionaries brought it out of Judea, a road into much of the rest of the pagan world.

Many histories identify Constantine as the Roman emperor responsible for turning the Empire to Christianity and cementing the fall of paganism. Jones and Pennick, however, make clear that while Constantine adopted a form of Christianity (baptized on his deathbed), he did not forbid pagan worship. That fell to his three sons.

Christianity became the official religion of Rome by the mid fourth century CE, and pagan practices were gradually forbidden and quashed across the continent. The authors recount many specific instances in the chapters on various cultures, such as St. Martin of Tours destroying pagan shrines in northern Gaul in the late fourth century, and a list of punishments for pagan worship in the Norse lands published around 690.

The authors also find some surprising survivals, however. Even as Christianity and Islam spread and supplanted pagan religion – often by force – there were pockets where pagan worship seems to have continued. In the chapter on the Baltic Lands, for example, they document the resistance of certain cultures, such as the Mari and the Udmurt, to both Christianity and Islam. In Lapland, they write, forcible baptisms led simply to dual faith practices – the baptized Laplanders would return to worship Thor. (But this co-existence was not necessarily a peaceful one. The authors note ongoing conflicts, and the martyrdoms of some pagans.)

Finally, the authors document the resurgence of paganism dating back several centuries. During the Renaissance, pagan deities began to appear in art, in public places, and some landowners built authentic pagan temples. The authors trace the renewed interest in and practice of revived versions of the old polytheistic religions over the ensuing centuries, up to the late 20th century, when the book was published.

Summary: A History of Pagan Europe is a very good introduction to what we know of the ancient pagan cultures, how they grew and developed. The survey of various cultures will give the newcomer some sense of what it would mean to adopt any one of them as a hearth culture for personal practice, although they also reveal the limitations of the source material available. That is to say, we know a great deal about the pagan religion of Greece and Rome, for example, but quite a bit less about the Celts, especially first-hand.

The book is written for a general audience, so no one should find it too challenging. It includes a lengthy bibliography for readers who want to delve deeper into specific topics or cultures, as most probably will.

Ethnic Studies
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
H.R. Ellis-Davidson

"Gods and Myths of Northern Europe," by H.R. Ellis-Davidson, recounts the lore of the Nordic culture in great detail, providing the student an accessible survey of what we know about the deities revered in Iceland, Norway and other Scandinavian lands in pre-Christian times.

Apart from the Romans and the Greeks, the Norse lore is probably the best-preserved and most generous collection available of any Indo-European culture. Between the Poetic and Prose Eddas and the various sagas handed down, there is wealth of information about Odin, Thor, Freyr, Freya, Balder, Heimdall and others.

However, as Ellis-Davidson points out, this material doesn't come to us unfiltered. It was committed to writing during the Christian era, by Christian authors. Separating the authentic heathen lore from the Christian glosses can be challenging. The opening chapters of the book describe the sources, and then summarize the overarching themes of the lore – the cosmology and creation, the relationships of the Aesir, Vanir, Jotun, dwarves, elves and man, the binding of Fenrir, the coming of Ragnarok and other major stories.

Turning to the actual myths and gods, Ellis-Davidson devotes most of the book to Odin and Thor, with Freyr, Freya, Heimdall, Loki and other figures getting briefer surveys. Given the prominence of Odin and Thor is the religious lives of the ancient heathens, this seems appropriate. She examines Odin's role as warrior god, as cognate to the Roman Mercury, and as a shaman. On the latter point, she describes Odin's journey to the underworld on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, as recounted in the poem Baldrs Draumar. Sleipner also traveled to Hel – whether the rider was Odin or an emissary is unclear – to try to reclaim the slain Baldr. Odin hung on the World Tree to discover the runes, and has the power to send out his spirit in animal form.

Thor is presented as the powerful god of action, defender of Asgard, the friend of man, adversary of the Jotuns and other powers that would seek to do harm. With his iconic hammer, Mjollnir, Thor slays giants. He is married to Sif (about whom little is known). Thor is associated with the sky, and therefore, the weather, thunder in particular.

Thor also was portrayed as a powerful adversary to Christ, and Ellis-Davidson includes accounts of his appearing in a dream to a recent convert, warning him to return to Thor or else be consigned to rough seas and "never to be delivered from them." In another incident, Thor stirs up a storm to shipwreck Christian missionaries.

Turning to the deities of fertility, drawn from the Vanir, Ellis-Davidson details what is known of Freyr and Freyja, the twin son and daughter of Njord. It was apparently customary for the image of gods of abundance to be drawn through the land in a wagon, to be worshiped and sacrificed to when they passed through. Ellis-Davidson recounts a story that she says was probably intended to be comic, about the servant of King Olaf impersonating Freyr and delighting the Swedes because the god could suddenly eat and drink with the people. Tacitus, meanwhile, recounts a practice in Denmark of a priest pulling a wagon bearing the image of the goddess Nerthus through the land.

Then come longer sections on Freyr, the Earth Mother and Freyja and the Vanir overall.

Ellis-Davidson then turns to gods of the sea, the gods of the dead (Odin and Thor make prominent return appearances here) and the "enigmatic gods" about whom little is known from the lore or whose nature is unclear, but who nevertheless appear to have been important figures in Norse culture.

She concludes the book with a chapter detailing the beginning and end of the world (Ragnarok) as told in the myths, and an epilogue on the passing of the gods in favor of Christianity.


I found the book to be very helpful in understanding the northern myths and the major figures, but I also have some concerns.

For one, the book, published in 1964, appears to be outdated in some ways. Ellis-Davidson takes as a given the thesis that the Aesir and Vanir existed as separate pantheons for a time before warring and being blended. However, it appears that this notion has become more controversial in the light of continuing research.

For example, Simek argues that the Vanir are almost never mentioned in the oldest heathen poetry. The bulk of the information about them comes from Snorri Sturleson's Prose Edda, which must be regarded cautiously when it departs from earlier lore due to its late composition and Christian overlay.

Simek writes:

I believe that these are not Snorri's mistakes that we are dealing with here, but rather his deliberate creation. As a literary name in medieval [Old Norse] literature, we shall have to live with the Vanir, because Snorri has made them immortal. As an element of heathen Scandinavian religion however, we should accept the vanir as a rare collective term, but bury the Vanir as a family of gods. No Viking Age heathen Scandinavian, apart from a handful of skalds interested in arcane terminology, would have known what is meant by vanir, and even these would not have known which gods to ascribe to a group of them called Vanir. (18)

In a more practical vein, as an ADF member in search of a hearth culture, Ellis-Davidson's work provides me a great deal of insight but also makes me question whether it is the right hearth culture for me. (Note: Since writing the first draft of this review, I have settled into a mixed Saxon and Hellenic hearth culture by practice.) I am put off by the number of these gods who seem to have demanded human sacrifice and dubious about the vision of the afterlife. (Why do we want to worship gods who are doomed to die at Ragnarok?)

Overall, I can say I recommend this book but with reservations. In particular, readers should be alerted to the issues Ellis-Davidson presents as settled that subsequent scholarship has reopened.

Works Cited

Simek, Clifford, “The Vanir: An Obituary,” Retrospective Methods Network Newsletter, Dec. 2010, 10-19, Electronic, http://www.helsinki.fi/folkloristiikka/English/RMN/RMN%20Newsletter%20DECEMBER%202010.pdf

Modern Paganism
Drawing Down the Moon
Margot Adler

Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon is widely considered a seminal work, a comprehensive history of the emergence and growth of, as the subtitle says, “Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America.”

I have mixed reactions to this book. On the one hand, it is exhaustively researched and highly detailed, and surveys a broad range of contemporary pagan groups and practices. On the other hand, though, it may be a little too detailed – it's a long, sometimes tedious, read.

My primary criticisms pertain to editorial decisions. Adler devotes inordinate amounts of space to relatively unimportant groups. Perhaps this is an artifact of the original publication in 1979, but some topics that seem like footnotes instead get whole chapters, while some that warrant whole chapters are scarcely more than footnotes.

The book starts with a lengthy history of Wicca. This takes up about half of the book and while I appreciate its thoroughness, I am not Wiccan and not sure I needed to read quite so much about it to understand its place in the modern pagan revival.

If I edited this book, I would have cut the interview with Sharon Devlin, which occupies all of Chapter 6. Adler states upfront that Devlin's views, especially on sexuality and drug use, are not typical of the Wiccan community – so what is the value of devoting an entire chapter to expounding on them? I would omit this chapter, or move it to the end as an appendix. Adler does use some quotes from the interview elsewhere in the book, where they make sense, in context, as adding a different perspective to the topic at hand.

I grant that the exhaustive treatment of Wicca makes DDM an authoritative resource on Wicca – my criticism here is that it's not of much interest to me, not that it lacks intrinsic value.

It is when we finish that section and begin to read about other pagans that the editorial decisions really become baffling. For example, the section opens with a couple of pages on the Church of Aphrodite, which is a sensible enough place to start if she's right that it was the first neo-pagan reconstructionist group in America. But then she segues into a lengthy section of Feraferia, which appears to be – and to always have been – a tiny group, invented and maintained by just one or two people. The equally idiosyncratic Sabaean Religious Order gets ten pages.

Meanwhile, ar n'Draiocht Fein gets just two pages, and much of that dwells on controversies around Isaac Bonewits' confrontational nature rather than ADF itself. But if we consider which neopagan groups are active and influential today, do we think of the Sabaean Religious Order? (To be fair though, the Druid revival in general gets a more expansive treatment, as does the growth of Norse and Anglo-Saxon heathenry.)

Perhaps some of what I perceive as imbalance is an artifact of the book's age; while I am using the 2006 revision, much of the 1979 original is retained, including presumably the relative weight that various groups get. Perhaps Feraferia seemed more likely to thrive in 1979.

On the positive side, what Adler does cover she covers very well. Her research is obviously meticulous, with a great deal of personal experience and interviews augmenting any written documents she used. She gives ample space to the relationship of pagan religion to the wider culture, with particular attention to feminism and environmentalism. Finally, there is an appendix which really serves as a new final chapter on the changing attitudes among writers and academics to pagan religion. In the time between the first edition and 2006, a great deal changed about the way those disciplines perceive pagan religion, and she charts the evolution in detail.

Summary: People interested in understanding the emergence of pagan religion in America, and Wicca in particular, can learn a lot from this book. However, there are other books that do a better a job on specific topics apart from Wicca – Isaac Bonewits' “Bonewits Essential Guide to Druidism” and various titles by Philip Carr-Gomm and John Michael Greer come to mind. Adler has unearthed a great deal of useful information here, but it could be organized and presented much better than it is, in a book about half as long.

Item 4: The Home Shrine

The main shrine in our home is a cabinet that we bought specifically for the purpose. It is made of wood, painted red to match the furniture in the room, and sits under a window along one wall. On the top are: A bell, a wooden pole (actually a Mexican hot-chocolate stirrer) representing the world tree, a piece of granite with an oil lamp built in for the fire, a stoneware bowl for the well with a silver bracelet for purification, a drinking horn and stand, an incense holder and a candle snuffer. We also have offering bowls available when needed.

On the shelves inside the cabinet are baskets containing incense and other ritual items, and spiritual books that we are currently reading or plan to soon. When we set this altar up, we held a ritual to consecrate it and each of the items that are dedicated only to ritual use. There is no deity image because we want it to be versatile. We can add an image when we honor a specific deity, or leave them off to do a more general working.

Another table next to the altar holds seasonal decorations and we had also used it to set things being used in a ritual that should not be placed on the altar itself, such as matches or the pitcher we use to fill the well. Recently we have made it an altar to the nature spirits, so we are less likely to use it as a temporary resting place.

There are also three smaller shrines in the house. One is in our kitchen and devoted specifically to Frige. This is my partner's patron, but also a goddess whose favor I seek due to her role with Woden. It holds a statue of the goddess, an oil candle, a chime and an offering dish. A small shelf on the wall serves as my shrine to Hermes, using an image of him on a block of wood, a tea light, offering bowl, Mercury-head dime and incense holder. And a small plant stand is my partner's altar to Juno, featuring an oil warmer, incense holder and a peacock feather.

These are fairly recent developments though. For a while our main altar was the table – a repurposed TV stand – that we now consider the nature spirits' shrine. During the time it was our main altar, it did double duty – seasonal décor display plus ritual space – which was certainly not ideal. After trying to make that work a few times and never being satisfied with it, we made the investment to create some dedicated ritual space.

We are planning to add a shrine to the ancestors, with photographs, my great-great-grandfather's pocket watch and other items.

Item 5: The Two Powers

Before I started the Dedicant Path, I had been daily practicing the Sphere of Protection as described by John Michael Greer in his Druid Magic Handbook, and as taught in his order, the Ancient Order of Druids in America. While I am not an AODA member, I considered them before choosing ADF.

The Sphere of Protection entails envisioning an elemental cross channeling energy through the practitioner, then drawing (in the air and the mind's eye) the symbol for each of the elements – earth, air, fire, water and three forms of spirit – and finally, imagining whirling spheres within spheres.

The Two Powers seems like a much simpler, but similar, practice. In working through it, mostly using the recorded narration that Ian Corrigan did, I've come to feel the energies as real and, on my best days, immediate presences.

In my days doing the SOP, and in the early days of working on the Two Powers, I considered it an exercise in creative visualization. But then I read somewhere – and I can't now recall where – that the ancients did not differentiate between "real" and "imaginary" in quite the same way moderns do. In the materialistic view of reality, where only the physical and tangible is "real," the visualization of powers from above and below is not real. It might be calming or helpful for mental focus, but it is not real, not in the way that the computer keyboard on which I type these words is real.

But in the magical view, in the pre-materialism world view, the imagined is real. The mind's eye is not something separate from the universe, but part of it, and the energies we channel in the Two Powers exercise are real magical energies – "the raw material of magic."

After reading about this, I began to practice the meditation with the conviction that I was in fact drawing energy into myself, not just using a set of visualizations to focus my thoughts. And as I have done that, I've found that it becomes easier over time, and something I can do more and more easily whenever I have a few free minutes, without the narration and even without full quiet.

I always emerge from the meditation with a feeling of being refreshed, re-energized as it were. I try to do some form of it, at least a brief one, fairly often, usually as part of my larger mental discipline/devotional practice.

As a grounding and centering exercise, the Two Powers is effective, but probably not more so than many other techniques. But as a spiritual practice to connect to the cosmos – the Kindred, the forces of nature – it's become, with practice, an easy and immediate way to spend a few minutes attuned to the universe.

Item 6: Mental Discipline

My mental discipline journal spans a year, but it records a false start before I managed an unbroken five-month period. I'm pleased to say, though, that here, a little bit past the end of that five-month run, I have found a practice that works and enriches me.

Today I perform a regular devotional rite. I based it on the simple devotional that begins on page 96 of the Dedicant's Manual, with minor variations day to day. I perform it, on average four days out of seven.

I begin by chiming a bell three times and breathing to a four-count (inhale four, hold four, exhale four, hold four) for a minute or two, until I feel my heartbeat begin to slow and my mind quiet. I usually do this first thing after rising in the morning, so my mind is predisposed to remain calm. I typically use incense for the offering, devoting a single stick to all the kindred. After the devotional is finished I draw an omen for the day, often using a tarot deck, but occasionally runes.

Earlier on in my efforts to fulfill this requirement, I tried several different things that that did not work well. Prior to ADF I had not practiced any regular meditation. During my years as a Christian, my prayer was generally fairly brief and specific, not contemplative, and between then and now I did nothing to encourage mindfulness until just a few months before joining, when I began a daily working of the Sphere of Protection exercise from John Michael Greer's "Druid Magic Handbook."

I therefore approached the requirement as nearly a pure beginner. I first tried in May 2012. I was already several months into my Dedicant work at that time, and had not anticipated how difficult this requirement was going to be for me.

I started with simple counted breathing. For the first few days, according to the journal I kept at the time, I did the counted breathing for periods of four or five minutes. Then I added the Two Powers meditation, using Ian Corrigan's narration downloaded from the ADF website.

The simple breathing exercise wasn't hard per se, but it was boring. I was able to clear much of the mental noise but I had no ability to estimate time, so I would break it after what seemed like a long while and find that only three or four minutes had passed. The narration helped me sustain it for ten minutes, giving me a point of focus and something to actually do during the meditation time.

The Two Powers is a simpler approach to what I had been doing with the Sphere of Protection, visualizing currents of energy penetrating you from the earth and sky. I found the visualization easy to maintain and had no trouble maintaining mental focus while working through the exercise, and I achieved some deep relaxation.

I was still experimenting though, so I also tried a few other things. I would use a fire – a candle, or on some occasions, outdoors using a firepit – as a visual focus, letting my eyes go slightly unfocused while gazing at the flames and working through bodily and mental relaxation. I also tried music as a point of focus, finding lengthy pieces with prominent rhythmic drumming.

Both of these worked just fine on occasion, but as I tried to do them on a frequent basis I found it harder to stay engaged for more than a couple of minutes. I would either mind-drift to the point of distraction or fall into a light sleep. I concluded from this that I really need a point of mental attenuation in order to stay involved. Guided imagery works well for me; so far, free-form does not.

This whole period lasted a little more than two months, ending in July 2012.

After that, I tried a couple of times to restart, following the same general pattern, but could not make it click.

In late November, I did get started again, using Corrigan's narration of the Two Powers to work through that visualization several times a week. While it is a basic grounding and centering, it is a technique that does work to put me into a state of relaxation and mindfulness, and since I had had a good result with it earlier, it seemed a suitable point of re-entry.

At Yule 2012. My partner decided to commit a year to honoring Frigga with a nightly hearth ritual, but because she was temporarily physically incapacitated at the time it fell to me to actually fulfill it for the first couple of months. (I was also doing the cooking then, so it all fit together.)

The general flow of the ritual was based around dinner preparation. We dedicated a tabletop in the kitchen, with a statue of the goddess, an oil candle and an incense holder. As I carried it out, I would light the candle and recite an invocation to Frigga, lighting incense in offering, at the start of the dinner preparation. When the meal was ready, I would place a serving of each food item into a dedicated offering dish and offer it, again with a set reading. Then, at some point after finishing dinner and before bed, there was a third segment to formally close the hearth, with words of thanks to Frigga and to the fire as it was extinguished.

This process focused my mind on the act of preparing the meal. Each evening I would gather any needed recipes and ingredients. Then, before beginning to assemble things, I performed the first segment of the ritual. As I cooked, I stayed focused on the value of this basic hearth activity, preparing nourishment, and Frigga's role as a goddess of the hearth and home. In making the offering, the focus shifted to our relationship to the goddess and the reciprocal nature of offerings. Closing out the hearth near to bedtime put a cap on the activity of the day, marking a clear transition from waking time to rest.

When my partner's health returned, she took over the ritual – it had been her vow, after all – but by then I was seeing the daily devotional as a mental discipline practice I could maintain, so I began to perform a morning rite for myself.

At first I kept it more simple. I would simply do few complete breaths and then slowly recite this devotional written by Teo Bishop:I am one and we are many.
Fellowship, in solitude.
Here I stand to greet the sun
And welcome in the morning light.
In my mind and in my body,
I hold space in solitude
For all of those who walk alone.
May they find comfort on this day.
And may the day unfold in peace,
And may this peace be born within,
And may my heart be set ablaze,
That I might shine into the world.
I honor this fire.
The fire of the gods.
The gods of my heart.
The gods of this land.
May I come to know the mystery
Of the divine in all its forms.
I honor this water.
The water of the ancestors.
Ancestors of blood.
Ancestors of spirit.
May I understand the knowledge
Of the wise and ancient ones.
I honor this tree.
This living body.
This sacred plant,
With roots and leaves.
May I feel the spirits of nature,
And be one with all the earth.

I did this meditatively, envisioning the cosmos, the gods, the ancestors, the connection of the tree. This was easy to maintain and served to focus my attention for a few minutes each day, but after a few weeks it began to feel perfunctory, which was when I changed to the more elaborate devotional in the Dedicant's Manual.

Also, for a while I was adding an offering to a specific deity (usually Hermes, who introduced himself to me just recently, and to Woden on Wednesdays), reciting a prayer to the god and lighting incense after completing the cosmos-centered devotional. I later decided to separate those two, to make the deity offering a separate ritual, because they serve different purposes. (There are still some days when I do blend them, but they are rare.)

Through this process, I learned that I simply don't do unguided meditation well. I have trouble banishing unwanted thoughts, and when I do succeed at that, I get bored from the lack of thought, very quickly. I need a sequence of events to follow. A guided meditation such as the Two Powers works well, as does a devotional practice with actions and spoken words interspersed with the visualization. The practice I'm doing now is one I can see myself continuing for quite a while.

I am interested in continuing to learn too, and still hopeful that I can crack the code on deeper trance work. Some of my grove-mates speak of "journeying" into the realm of the spirits and make it sound as easy as driving to Starbucks, but I can't do it. Yet.

Item 7: Nature Awareness

My interest in the Earth and nature is not a new thing. Some of my earliest memories are of my fascination with the environment around me. As a child, I was given a microscope and spent many happy hours magnifying plants, animal fur, a scraping of my skin. I filled jars with stagnant water and cultivated bacteria to observe. I read about the ocean and the creatures that live in it. I learned about weather and the atmospheric factors that lead to rain, wind or snow.

Over the years, this interest has waxed and waned depending on what else was going on in my life, but it's never gone away. And after I began seriously considering a Druid path in 2008, it took on a spiritual significance as well.

In more recent times, the interest has manifested in practical ways. As my partner and I have learned more and more about the impacts of daily living, we have made several significant changes in our lifestyle in an effort to walk more gently on the Earth.

Many of those changes have to do with food – what we eat and where it comes from.

Farm fresh

Beginning in 2011, we started shopping farmer's markets for our produce and much of our meat. We have staked out three that take place in and near Washington D.C., and during the season, we visit two of them every Saturday. We just recently (early 2013) discovered a farm nearby that sells pastured meats directly and are visiting them once a month to stock up.

This lightens our environmental footprint, if only a little, because the produce hasn't been flown and shipped and trucked in from all over the world. It's grown locally – the farthest that any of the sellers travel is maybe 100 miles, most are closer and the aforementioned farm requires no shipping distance at all.

We have been impressed with the quality of the merchandise. It's tastier than what comes from the supermarket. And most of the farmers are conscientiously using sustainable growing techniques, avoiding chemical pesticides and fertilizers and other factory-farming shortcuts.

In 2012, we started trying to grow some of our own food. Our gardening efforts have been unsuccessful so far, but we're learning. I am hoping the garden this year will do better with the lessons learned last year. We've also been composting food waste for the past couple of years, keeping it out of landfills and returning it to nutrient-rich soil.

Energy conservation

Our home uses heating oil for its furnace, which, as a petroleum product, is not a clean or sustainable fuel. Unfortunately I can't change to another system right now, but in 2011 I had several inches of insulation added to my attic in order to help the house retain the warmth longer and need the system running less. I also applied new weatherstripping to the doors to help.

Because the winters since then have been relatively mild, I can't say with certainty whether it helps us need the furnace less or whether it was just the warmer temperatures that did it, but I have needed less oil than usual. I'll have a better gauge on the real effect of the insulation after another cold one.

However, we have had two summers with significant heat waves since then, and I can say that we need less use of the air conditioning to keep the house comfortable, even when the thermometer is in the triple digits outside.

I also arranged in 2011 to work from home 2-3 days a week, saving me a 40-mile round trip drive on those days when I don't go to the office. That's allowing me to use about five gallons less gasoline each week than I would commuting every day. Also, my office is near a Metro stop (the Washington D.C. local rail system) that is under construction. As soon as that line is up and running, I will see if I can feasibly use it to commute, which would cut my mileage from 80 to about 20 each week, to drive to and from the nearest Metro station.

All of this sounds very pragmatic, but the spiritual aspect of it comes in the recognition that Mother Earth is a living being, in a way, a dynamic and ever-changing system that is affected by what the smaller beings upon her surface do. We can't avoid creating some waste, but we can take steps to reduce it.


Beyond practical concerns, I have several “nature spots” that allow me to spend time in connection with the land. Most immediately, I have a reasonably large yard in an old, established neighborhood with tall trees and a couple of small patches of uncleared woodland nearby. Within a few minutes' drive are two parks, each with walking trails through the woods, along the Potomac River. At least two or three times a month I take a couple of hours to walk slowly through the woods and down to the river's edge, where I spend some time in the presence of land, water and sky.

Item 8: High Day Observances

Mabon 2011

I attended the Mabon high rite at CedarLight Grove in Baltimore.

The ritual took place outdoors, and the grove is based in a small house in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so there were some occasional distractions -- barking dogs, voices in neighboring yards or the street -- but nothing that disrupted the flow of events. There was a bonfire, a well permanently installed in the ground, and a living ash tree, forming a triangle with the altar space inside the triangle. The deities invoked for this rite were from the Gaulish pantheon: Teutates, Nementona and Epona as the gatekeeper. I've been studying some on the Irish and Welsh deities, but the Gaulish pantheon is mostly unknown to me.

The ritual began with a responsive reading, followed by an opening prayer and honoring of the Earth, a statement of purpose and the formal establishing of the recreation of the cosmos. A chant for the group ended that opening section. Then a member stood to recite a bit of the lore of the season and another placed an offering well away from the group for the outsiders.

My companion and I noticed that mosquito activity went down remarkably after the outsiders were placated. The rest of the ritual unfolded according to the ADF core order of ritual, and everything went smoothly.

The theme of the ritual was thanksgiving -- for the bounty of the second harvest and, by extension, for jobs, homes and other blessings. A good number of people offered words of gratitude and offerings in appreciation.

That did bring up the one point of confusion for me as a newcomer. I had brought an offering of milk for Epona, and precisely when to offer it was unclear. People stepped up to the altar to place offerings during the invocation of Teutates, and then people came with individual offerings one at a time for the aforementioned offerings of praises. I put the milk there during the invocation, as that's what I saw others doing, and then I wasn't sure that had been the right time. But it was a simple matter of watching and learning -- I'll know better next time how to plan for offerings.

The woman who read the oracle was using her own system, with coins depicting kinds of horses (including unicorns.) The message she relayed to us was that this is a time to let go of things, to heal, and specifically to let go of ongoing conflicts with family members.

What impressed me the most about the rite was the structure and flow of the order. When you read the Core Order on the page, it's hard to envision it in reality. When you experience it, it becomes clear that it forms the structure of a serious religious service that is part of a living tradition.

Samhain 2011

The Samhain high rite at CedarLight Grove was powerful. It started dynamically, with a procession accompanied by beating drums. We invoked the Morrigan as gatekeeper, and I was struck by the degree of devotion several of the Grove members expressed toward her during the giving of praise. But even more affecting was how we honored the ancestors.

Many of the participants, including me, had written letters to some of our ancestors. Over the course of the ritual those letters were collected into a wicker basket that was finally given to the fire. The sense of this hit home with me, and I can believe my grandparents – to whom I had addressed in my letter – heard the words in the Otherworld.

After this portion of the ritual and the omen, the Grove allowed several hours for sitting vigil before the gates were to be closed and the rite ended. We were unable to stay for the full duration.

The omen itself was taken by smashing a pumpkin to the ground and reading the "entrails" – entertaining, to be sure. The result was a message that there are two paths for each individual to choose – both good, but different. Either way, be ready to be like a snake ... to "shed some skin, to be reborn."

Yule 2011

I was surprised by my reaction the Yule rite at CedarLight Grove. Before I joined ADF, I'd read some about Asatru, but I had not pursued it. But we honored deities from the Norse pantheon, as is appropriate for Yule, and I found it to be fulfilling. I didn't fully realize it until talking to my partner on the drive home. She said she had been more affected by and attracted to the Norse deities than she would have expected. I began thinking about it and realized I had been too.

As is common at CedarLight, we held the ritual outdoors in the sanctuary. The ritual featured the sacrifice of a goat made of straw, and also a model Viking ship filled with paper circles on which the participants had inscribed runes representing gratitude and prayers for the coming year. I've just taken up homebrewing and sacrificed a full bottle from my first batch – a stout – to the gods.

The rite included an overnight vigil a sunrise service to welcome the sun returning. We were unable to stay for that, having a dog to care for at home, but we had our own sunrise observance on the morning after the Solstice.

Imbolc 2012

I attended the Imbolc high rite at CedarLight Grove in Baltimore. This one was held indoors due to inclement weather, and it was crowded, but the space was adequate.

The ritual, honoring Brigid with Danu invoked as gatekeeper, was focused on the purification of water. One participant offered as a sacrifice to lead a stream clean-up, and other aspects of the rite emphasized the well and the water it contains. In a departure from CedarLight's more common practice, the passing of the waters of life was pure water only, not the usual choice of water or something alcoholic.

The seer used wax in water for scrying. The message had to do with forgiving, courage and remembering the gods are near.

Unfortunately, my experience at this ritual was not as good as past ones. I was not feeling well and had a hard time keeping my focus on the proceedings. (This is no fault of CederLight.) I look forward to attending next year and being more engaged. [Note: I wasn't able to attend the next year, 2013, as they decided to do it in the early morning; I live too far away to have gotten there by 7 a.m.]

Ostara 2012

I attended the Ostara high rite at CedarLight Grove in Baltimore. As always, it was a formal rite following the ADF core order of ritual.

To celebrate the return of Spring we honored Arianhrod and the nature spirits, with Cerridwen being asked to serve as gatekeeper. The offerings included several poems; one participant sang Damh the Bard's “Lady of the Silver Wheel” a capella; and some offered fine spirits and wines.

I did not bring an offering this time. I have been pondering whether there's an obligation to provide an offering as praise to deities with whom I've had no interaction. This time, I chose to honor Arianhrod and Cerridwen by my presence, but nothing more.

The ritual itself was, as always, patterned on the Core Order and flowed smoothly. I did not find it terribly inspiring, though, perhaps because I've shifted my interest more to the Germanic/Nordic pantheon. The deities of the British isles remain enigmatic to me, and Arianhrod in particular is one I've never had much understanding of. On the other hand, it might be because I made the conscious decision to not make an offering. This bears more reflection.

The omen was taken with the Arthurian Legend Deck, which I am not familiar with. The thrust of the message was: People are not listening to their intuition, or are in self-restraint. It is a time of fear, people are playing it safe. The solution is to relearn to fight for ourselves.

Beltaine 2012

The Dagda was only meant to be the gatekeeper at Cedarlight Grove's celebration of Beltane, but he ended up dominating the event. From the rush of wind that came right as the gates were opened, to the fire batons that wouldn't go out easily, to the snapped strap of one woman's top as she danced in offering, he made his presence known.

The deities of the occasion were Dagda's son Aengus Mac Oc and Aine. The prayer was for the kindred to bless all our creative efforts in the coming year, and the omen suggested that we may encounter difficulties, but should remember that the gods are near. The gods enthusiastically accepted our offerings, according to the seer. (She was using a crystal ball to scry … I'm a little distrustful of that because there's nothing objective to it, but nevertheless, that's what it was.)

At the end of the rite, we processed out between two fires, reflecting the ancient Irish Beltane tradition of driving the animals between two fires for purification.

The Irish deities felt warm, mischievous and friendly. This came at a good time for me, as I had been flagging in my studies and I left with new affirmation and determination.

Midsummer 2012

Midsummer was the first high rite I attended that was not done with the ADF core order of ritual. Although I am not a member of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, I am friends with one of its leaders, so I attended their Centennial celebration in Pittsburgh and witnessed my first AODA ritual.

In keeping with AODA's roots in the Druid revival, and the revival's emphasis on Welsh lore, the group referred to the day as Alban Hefin.

The ritual seemed more like a lodge ceremony than a religious observance. Four high-ranking Druids took positions at the compass points – Grand Archdruid John Michael Greer in the north – and four others took up the positions next to them to guard the quarters. The four key participants all dressed in full regalia – white robes, sashes and rope belts. Greer's sash and nemyss were purple with gold trim.

The grove opening ceremony involved the Druids at each quarter in turn carrying a representation of each element around the circle in purification – but since we were in a hotel with strict rules, unlit incense stood in for air and an electric tea light for fire. Then the Druid at the West gate carried a sword to each quarter, declaring peace in each quadrant through a call-and-response script. Then another member performed the Sphere of Protection, a magic rite described in Greer's “The Druid Magic Handbook,” intended to invoke the positive energies of the seven key components of AODA's cosmology – air, fire, water, earth, spirit below, spirit above and spirit within – and banish the negative energies of the four physical elements.

The actual ritual was disappointing. There was a brief call-and-response script and then silent meditation for about ten minutes. There was little said about the actual season or its significance.

The grove closing ceremony, held at the end of the day after a couple of hours of informal talk, essentially reversed the opening, with each Druid declaring the work of that quarter to be accomplished. The opening, ritual and closing each culminated in the attendees intoning the word “awen” (pronounced, for the purposes of intonation, “ah-OO-en”) three times.

All in all, it was interesting for me to witness, very different from ADF and not anything I feel an interest in pursuing.

Lammas 2012

A schedule conflict prevented us from attending the August ritual at CedarLight Grove, so we wrote and performed our own at home – the first one we had done ourselves.

We adapted one from the ADF website, so that it would be suitable for our Anglo-Saxon hearth. We ensured that it followed the ADF core order but kept it fairly simple.

Our offerings were: grain for Nerthus, the Earth Mother; home-brewed beer and homemade banana bread for Hama, the gatekeeper; pipe tobacco for the ancestors; grain and banana bread for the land wights; and banana bread and beer for the Shining Ones. Then we added special offerings and words for Frige, Woden and a petition of Ing to help us succeed at gardening (as our first effort failed miserably.)

Our omen was, we think, positive. We used the Anglo-Saxon futhorc runes. In asking whether our offerings were accepted, we turned up Ing – and since this was the first time we had specifically spoken to him and it had come with a request, we took that to mean he wanted a bit more.

Asking what blessings the gods offer in returned, we turned Eolh – elk-sedge, protection from outside dangers.

And in asking what the gods wanted from us, we turned Yr – a reminder to use our own skills and knowledge as well as asking their help.

Overall, I much prefer the fellowship and sense of shared worship at the Grove, but it was good to see how it works in a more solitary setting. We honored the gods and deepened our connection to them that much more.

Item 9: The Kindreds


The word “ancestors” most immediately means the lines of people of the past from whom a person is descended. Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. It can less directly refer to other people in the family tree: cousins, aunts and uncles.

But our ancestors can also include people not in our actual bloodlines. A pagan may count among their ancestors important figures from their hearth cultures or a nation's history. In some cultures, such as the Norse, the gods themselves may be seen as the original ancestors.

Our ancestors matter because they are where we came from, and their life choices affect who we are today, and even our very existence. Honoring the dead was a significant aspect of ancient pagan practice. The pouring of libations for the dead, or otherwise leaving offerings for them at grave sites or other important locations was common. For example, Bretons poured libations over the tombs of the dead (Jones and Pennick 109), as did the Greeks (Burkert 194) and many other ancient cultures. Today we leave flowers at graves, and in some American subcultures, the pouring of libations continues even beyond the neo-pagan world. (“A History of 40s: Tipping”). (I do not mention this last for humor but to show that honoring and memorializing those gone before is a universal human practice.)

Specifically in regard to ancestors, then – our bloodline through the past and those figures who are our spiritual ancestors – we honor them in part because they shaped us and in part because we believe their spirits may still be with us, watching and guiding and interested in communicating.

In my personal practice within ADF, I have thought of my father, who died in 1989, and maternal grandmother, who passed away in 1997, most often as the ancestors I choose to honor. My relationship to my father in life was strained, as he was a simple man and I was an intelligent and, in his final years, college-educated person with no small measure of arrogance. At the time he died, I was in a phase of disdaining much that was important to him. My relationship with my grandmother was similar and for many of the same reasons, although she lived long enough to see me grow out of some of it.

I also feel some connection to my great-great grandfather, who fought in the Civil War. I have his pocket watch and some letters he wrote to his wife and mother while he was away in the war.

At Samhain 2011, our grove's high right included encouraging us to write a letter to some chosen ancestors and then offer it to the fire. I wrote to my grandmother and grandfather. As I grow in pagan practice, my aim is to honor my ancestors regularly. We have plans to establish an ancestors' shrine in our home within the next few weeks and then I will begin regular devotional work there.

My mother is still living, but I also seek to honor my ancestors by showing her greater love and respect than I once did.


In general, the nature spirits are those spiritual beings connected to the land. They go by various names among the hearth cultures included in ADF – wights, trolls, sprites, dryads, and so on. In Our Own Druidry, the ADF Dedicant Manual, they are broadly referred to as “Noble Spirits,” the spirits of wild places, and we are duly cautioned to not assume that they are friendly (42-43).

The ancient concept of divinity was closely tied to nature and, in addition to the gods, natural features were seen as divine, often as gods tied to place. In Homer's the Illiad, for example, Zeus summons the gods to Olympus and they come, including the nymphs and the rivers (Burkert 174).

In the heathen cultures, the nature spirits are generally called “land wights,” and are believed to occupy natural features such as streams, forests and mountains. In the British isles, the “wee folk,” more properly called the sidhe, are ever-present, and belief in them persisted even after Christianity replaced most of the older pagan folkways. In Rome, the spirits of the natural features were the numina, from which the word numinous derives. In Greece, nymphs could be found in streams and forests.

Indeed, every Indo-European culture had some belief in spirits of natural places. These spirits were acknowledged and honored with offerings, and people sought their favor. For many people, the spirits of nature may have been a more important part of their spiritual practice than the gods. As Winter writes, “A shepherd or farmer in ancient Greece might have paid more regular cult to the nymphs than to the Olympians because the nymphs impacted his daily life. They lived all around him in the woods, in his pastures, they guarded the spring water his goats drank, they lived in the same caves that gave him occasional shelter” (71-72).

This interaction with the spirits of the land – called land-wights in the Norse and Germanic cultures – often survived long after other pagan practice had been overtaken by Christianity. “Conversion could forbid the names of the god/desses, but not stop folk from putting out beer and porridge for the tomte [a type of wight that protects a farmer's home and family] or making their offerings at springs in secret” (Gundarsson Kindle Location 217)

I've also noticed that many in ADF, and I am sympathetic to the view, regard animals as nature spirits. Domesticated pets and the untamed wild beasts alike, they see as embodiments of the spirits of the natural world. I see no reason to dispute this view, although the family dog and the unseen wight are not the same.

Relationships today with the nature spirits are complex and, I think it is reasonable to assume, often difficult to attain. Chisholm suggests that modern life has deprived most of us of sensitivity to their presence (21). Given that the predominant view in our culture is that nature is simply material for us to use as we will in our own endeavors, the nature spirits may rightly see us as more likely to be invaders than allies. Perhaps we can dispel that individually by speaking respectfully and making offerings when out in the wild places, but it's easy to understand that they might view us with suspicion even so.

In property one owns or is frequently on, it may be more feasible to encourage good relations with the spirits. Kind words and regular offerings can go a long way toward building friendship. I have, admittedly, not made a consistent effort to develop relationships with the spirits of the land near me. There is a cherry tree in my yard which I planted several years ago, and I have made occasional offerings at its base for the spirits – grain usually, sometimes other things. And I mention them along with the other kindred in my regular devotional work. But I feel a need to become more consistent in seeking their alliance.


The nature of the gods and goddesses is a complex question. Various theories exist to explain what and why they are. Some of the lore – written well into the Christianization of Europe – suggests that the gods were originally humans, mythologized (or actually transformed) into deities over time, a process called euhemerization. Others suggest they are personifications of nature, or archetypes of human personality traits.

Some of the Greek philosophers argued that there must be a single Prime Mover from which all else emanates. Sallustius posited that the gods exist in two broad categories: The hypercosmic gods, which are unknowable, the purest of the emanations from the Source, in particular nous and psyche -- in English, the Divine Mind and the World Soul. The cosmic, or mundane, gods are those of the familiar Greek pantheon, Zeus, Hera, etc. (Alexander 56-57). It is those mundane gods with whom we can interact, the highest of the emanations from the Prime Mover that are accessible to us.

I find some persuasive power in this argument, and I also think that if the philosophers were correct where their own pantheon is concerned, the logic surely applies in other cultures as well. If everything emanates from a Source, then Odin, Lugh, et al are of the same nature as Hermes and Artemis. This theology provides a response to the monotheist who argues that the gods are only intermediaries between us and the real God and thus not worth bothering with.

In his essay “Summoning The Gods,” Collin Cleary points out that any attempt to explain the gods by reductionist argument – as archetypes, as euhemerized humans, or whatever – is ultimately an attempt to explain the gods away. (3). That is, if we can explain the gods in some kind of a rationalistic context, we can reduce them to a manageable, human phenomenon and, ultimately, dismiss them altogether.

All of our efforts to explain what the gods 'really' are, or what our ancestors 'really' experienced, are thoroughly modern. It is part of the modern mindset to insist that everything can be explained, that everything is penetrable and knowable. The gods show up for us, however, in the brute facticity of existence itself—in our wonder that this world, and all that is in it, exists and is the way that it is. No 'explanation' of why something is the way that it is can remove our wonder in the simple fact that it should be at all.” (Cleary 13-14).

My own relationship with the gods has been developing slowly. When I first began my ADF work, I was trying to honor deities of the Irish pantheon, but I felt little response. My thoughts were turned to the north during the Yule ritual in 2011. My fiancee had the same experience, feeling Frigga's energy powerfully, while I came to think over the next several months that Odin had taken an interest in me. Over the next several months of learning about them, we came feel more affinity for the Anglo-Saxon hearth rather than Norse, but that affinity grew stronger. Now we make offering to Frige almost daily, and Woden from time to time. I also pray to Woden as I am inspired to, not daily but several times a week. And more recently, Hermes made himself known to me and now has a small shrine in the house.

Works Cited

Alexander, Timothy Jay. The Gods of Reason..N.P., Lulu Press, 2007. Print.

Ar n'Draiocht Fein, Our Own Druidry, Tucson, Ariz., ADF Publishing, 2009. Print.

Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1985. Print.

Chisholm, James Allen. True Hearth: A Practical Guide to Traditional Householding. Smithville, Texas, Runa-Raven Press, 1993. Print.

Cleary, Collin. Summoning the Gods. San Francisco: Counter-Currents Publishing Ltd., 2011. E-book

Gundarsson, Kveldulf Hagan. The Elder Troth: An Introductory Course of Study. New Haven, Conn., The Troth, 1996. E-book.

History of 40s: Tipping,” 40ozMaltLiquor.com. N.P. N.D. Accessed May 4, 2013.

Jones, Prudence & Pennick, Nigel. A History of Pagan Europe. London, Routledge,1995. Print.

Winter, Sarah Kate Istra. Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored. N.P. 2008, Self-Published via CreateSpace. Print.

Item 10: Personal Practice


When I first joined ADF, in 2008, I had very little experience with paganism. My girlfriend had been exploring it longer, and I was intrigued enough by what she was discovering to want to learn more about it. I sought a structured way to do that, and had an attraction to Ireland, and eventually Ar n'Draiocht Fein came to my attention and I joined.

It didn't take that first time, though, and I let my membership lapse. I briefly returned to the Christian church, but that served more to remind me why I had left in the first place than anything, and I bounced back out of that and continued reading on paganism now and then while not having much spiritual practice at all.

Life changes, though. My partner and I had been separated by a couple hundred miles for several years, but then she moved in with me in my home near Washington D.C., and joined ADF herself. I renewed my membership at the same time and we attended Mabon 2011 at CedarLight grove in Baltimore a few weeks later.


For the first few months after renewing, my grove-centered practice provided some consistency and the aid of more experienced hands, while our home practice was somewhat unfocused and experimental. I do not envy anyone trying to do this without the support of an active grove. I have learned a lot about worship by taking part in the grove rituals and talking to their leaders and other members that I am not sure would have been anywhere near as clear had I been doing them on my own using the Dedicant manual.

Since Mabon 2011 we have attended every high rite at CedarLight Grove in Baltimore with only a couple of exceptions. I take the high rites as powerful times of communal worship. I always try to center and focus on the energies of the kindred and the folk that are engendered there. Whether or not I bring offerings depends on the circumstances.

My home practice in those first few months was minimal (more on this below), largely because I had not chosen a patron or even a hearth culture. I felt some affinity with several, but no strong lock with any of them. It was at the grove, at Yule, that I first became intrigued by Odin, who would eventually become the first deity I can describe as a patron – although I found I preferred the Anglo-Saxon Woden, whom I take as a different aspect of the same being.

Although it is an hour and half from home, CedarLight has become our ADF home base.


Today, my home practice is near-daily. We have an altar in the kitchen which we treat as our hearth, opening it with a brief prayer and candle-lighting when we begin dinner preparation. When we are ready for dinner, we offer Frigga a portion there, and then close it with another prayer at the end of the evening.

We also have an altar in our living room (more details are in my essay about the home shrine) which we use for any high rites for which we can't make it to CedarLight, and other personal prayers and rituals as needed. We have smaller shrines to Juno and Hermes, and also an outdoor area where we can build a bigger fire that we have used for rituals occasionally.

Backing up to the beginning, though, home practice was at first sporadic and not well focused. We used Michael Dangler's “Breviary for Solitary Cranes” as a guide for honoring Druid moons with ceremonies in our back yard for a few months, but we eventually abandoned it. At Samhain 2011, we had a dumb supper. We did set up a home shrine – a more makeshift one than we have now – and for a while we had devotional rituals every week or so, but they were just held in general to the kindreds, and we were not consistent with them. It moved in fits and starts with frequent declarations that we needed to get serious about it.

Sometime in the spring of 2012, that started to change. At Yule, we both had experienced a feeling of interest from the Norse deities that were honored at the Grove. My partner felt a quick affinity for Frigga. And I felt an interest in/from Odin, but I didn't respond quickly... in fact, I resisted for some time, both attracted to and a bit afraid of the wanderer. But meanwhile, we read several books and had many discussions, and have gravitated toward the Anglo-Saxon side of the Germanic hearth.

Eventually, I lowered my resistance to Odin. One Sunday in May, we were at our UU church and I saw a large black bird in the trees behind the building. Whether it was a raven or not (could have been a crow or even a black vulture, I can't be sure) it was enough to put Woden into my consciousness again. The next morning, I awoke early and held a brief ritual at the home shrine, in which I offered Woden some olive oil and asked for a confirming sign, if indeed he was trying to get my attention. Less than an hour later, I saw another raven-like bird.

I decided to take that as my confirmation and begin working under the assumption that Woden was seeking to be in contact with me, and held a small, solitary ritual to offer him ale and tell him I was listening. That was on the night of May 17, 2012.

Since then, home practice has been more consistent, and has become even more so with the setting up of the shrines I described above. Now I perform a daily devotional (or near-daily anyway) to honor all of the kindred, which is also my main mental discipline practice. (See that section for more detail.) I also make small offerings and prayers to Hermes several days a week, and Woden on Wednesdays. Looking back to those early uncertain days, I'm sometimes surprised at how far I've come.

Item 11
The Dedicant Oath

The full dedicant oath rite that I wrote exceeds the word count for this section considerably, so I am including just the oath itself here. I will add the full rite as an appendix.

I developed the rite using the template presented in Our Own Druidry, but with a considerable amount of my own words. It follows the core order of ritual, which comes naturally to me now.

The oath itself was:

I come, after a long time of seeking and study, to make an oath before the spirits, the ancestors and the gods and goddesses. I come through the door of new learning, to the fire of inspiration, to the well of wisdom, to the gates between the worlds. Hear me, O powers, as I offer up these sacrifices. I give you these gifts, I give you my oath as an offering in your honor. O mighty, noble and shining ones, hear me, I pray.

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.

These things I swear by the well that flows in me, by the fire that shines in me, by the tree that roots and crowns my soul.

Before all the powers, I swear it. So be it!

Now let my voice arise on the fire, let my voice resound in the well, let my words pass the boundary to the spirits. Mighty, noble and shining ones, accept my sacrifice and my oath!

I performed the ritual at home on May 11, 2013 as the final piece of my dedicant work. I had planned to do it on the back patio, with the outdoor fireplace so that I would have a bigger fire. However, there were intermittent storms throughout the day and into the evening that forced me to plan B.

So far in my personal practice, Woden and Hermes have emerged as the deities whom I honor and seek most often – my patrons – so I asked them to serve as bardic inspiration and gatekeeper respectively, and also made special offerings to each.

I had spent some time while developing the ritual wrestling with some important questions about this. First, was it appropriate to blend hearth cultures like that in a full core-order ritual, and second, was it appropriate to ask the deities to serve in those roles and also as the deities of the occasion? I also briefly considered whether I should ask two gatekeepers, one from each culture.

I eventually decided that it would be better to not bring in deities I know less well to this important rite. The other best choice for a gatekeeper on the Hellenic side would be Hecate, with whom I've never interacted. Likewise, I don't know other suitable Saxon or Greek bardic deities all that well, and because of the intensely personal nature of his particular ritual, I chose to limit it to those I know best. Only one gatekeeper seemed necessary, though, because I reasoned that I was not blending hearths so much as inviting my patrons to be part of this milestone.

My fiancee Lynda took part in the ritual. She read the narration for the Two Powers for me, and then took the omen, using the Mythic Tarot. We asked each of the kindred what they offer as I move forward. From the ancestors, she drew the King of Wands, which she read as them reminding me that I have the abilities to go far, that they, as my ancestors, already gave me that. I need only confidence in that.

The nature spirits offered the Hermit, an urging to spend more time alone in nature. They have a lot to offer and teach, but I need to be out among them.

And the deities first asked for more offerings via the five of pentacles. I gave more and the next card was the six of pentacles, which she interpreted as the point that they had made with the five – they have a lot to offer, but the relationship is one of reciprocity, that I need to approach them with due respect and offering when asking for things. They take this oath as a stepping stone, a graduation of sorts from the basics. I now need to cultivate my own giving, trusting them to take care of reciprocating. I now no longer have the excuse of being one just exploring new things.

Overall the ritual went very well. I understand the core order now, and I think I wrote it to flow well within the framework. I was careful to triple-check that I had all of the materials I needed for offerings and the mechanics of the rite on hand before starting, so nothing interrupted it once I began.

So my self-evaluation is that I performed the ritual well, which I primarily credit to the preparation I did. There were one or two momentary setbacks, such as struggling to get an incense cone out of its bag, but they did not disrupt the flow in any major way.

I spent a good bit of time in writing and revising the words and the structure, and then a couple of weeks in planning offerings, buying supplies and ensuring I had everything I needed available before beginning. Ideally I would have liked to be able to do it without a script, but otherwise it was a good working.

Appendix: Dedicant Oath Full Ritual

Beginning: Bell. Circle the hallows three times

(Opening Prayer)
The waters support and surround me.
The land extends about me.
The sky stretches above me.
At the center burns a living flame.

Let me pray with a good fire.
And may my words be true.
(Earth Mother)

I give thanks to the Earth,
the Mother of all.
Giver and sustainer of life.
(offering of grain)

(Bardic Inspiration)

Woden, Allfather, walker of the worlds,
You who inspire wise words and seek knowledge,
You who took the mead of poetry, you who won the runes
Inspire me, I pray, that my thoughts be wise
And my words be sure. Inspire me, Woden, King of Oesgard,
That I might honor the kindred well.
(Offering of stout)

To those powers here who might disrupt my work, I ask you to depart, and give you this offering in thanks. Please accept it and leave this work in peace. (Offering placed far away)

Purification with khernips and incense

Meditation and attunement

(two powers, Lynda narrate)
Statement of purpose

I am here today, before the gods and these witnesses, to swear an oath of dedication to the paths of old. Into this sacred grove I come, to the time of all times and the place of all places, to approach the gods, the spirits of the land and my ancestors, of blood and of spirit.

Especially I bring offerings to Woden, he who wanders through the realms ever seeking wisdom, and to Hermes, the fleet-footed, quick-witted messenger. I ask them to bear witness to my oath, and guide and ward my way. I also bring offerings to specific ancestors and ask them to bear witness to my oath and to remain present in my life.

As the ancient wise did before me, so I seek to do now. Let every holy power hear me, and look kindly on me as I make my oath.

(Recreate cosmos)

I honor this fire, the fire of the air, the fire of the shining ones.
I honor this well, the water of the sea, the water of the ancestors.
I honor this tree, the tree connecting the worlds, the tree of the spirits of nature.

(Land, sea and sky )

The endless sky above me
The boundless sea around me
The solid ground beneath me,
I stand in this holy place.

(Opening the gate)

I call upon Hermes, the fleet-footed messenger of the gods, to open the gates between the worlds. Hermes, you guard the borders and boundaries. Let this fire be open as a gate. Let this well be open as a gate. Let this tree be open as a gate.

Let the gates be open!

(Triad offerings )


I call out to the mighty dead. Hear me, I pray, O ancestors, my kindred. Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit.
(Pour some ale on the Earth, in the shaft or in the offering bowl)
I offer to you, mighty ones. To the ancient tribes of this place, you whose bones lie in this land; to my own blood-kin and heart-kin; to the elder wise, druids, philosophers, bards, warriors and farmers of ancient days, to you I give welcome at this sacred fire.
(Pour ale)
I offer to you, whose blood courses in my veins, I ask you to hear my voice and witness my oath. I pray you to guide my ways as I walk the path of wisdom and follow where it leads. Mighty dead, accept my offering:
(pour ale)

Nature Spirits

I call out to the spirits of this land and household. Hear me, I pray, O companions, my allies.
(Sprinkle some grain at the tree's base)
I offer this to you, to the spirits of root and branch, of stone and stream, of wind and rain, and to those of fur and feather and scale. To all, I give welcome at this sacred fire.
(Make offerings)
I ask you to hear my voice and witness my oath. I pray that you will guide and protect me as I walk the way of the earth in reverence. Spirits of the land, accept my offering.
(Make offerings)


I call out to the shining ones. Hear me, I pray, gods and goddesses. You who filled our forebears with awe and wonder, and who are returning to the awareness of the world.
(Make offering of oil or incense to the fire)
I offer to you, shining ones. To the wisest and mightiest; to the gods and goddesses; to those mighty ones who watch over me and to those who may find me in times to come, to you I give welcome at this sacred fire.
(Make offering)
I offer to you, eldest and brightest. I ask you to hear my voice and witness my oath. I pray you empower my ways as I seek your favor and aid, as I seek to give you praise and thanks. Shining deities, accept my offering.

Druid chant:
Gods and dead and spirits all
Hear my offering, hear my call
By fire and well and sacred tree
From land and sky, and from the sea
Now come, I pray you, to the grove
And bring your wisdom, strength and love.

Pause to meditate for a while on the presence of the host of spirits you have called. Speak in your heart to whichever of them may present themselves to you, and listen for their voices.

(Key offerings)
Woden, the all-father, as I began to walk this path, you were the first of the gods to come to me. You offered me a taste of your wisdom, your gifts of eloquence and your drive to learn. To you, on this day, I offer this whiskey in gratitude.

Hermes, the fleet-footed, quick-witted one. You introduced yourself just recently, bringing your airy energy, easy laughter and charming wit. Hermes, messenger of the gods and god of messengers, I offer to you, on this day, this wine mixed with water, as is the tradition, and this frankincense, in gratitude.

To the spirits of my ancestors, especially my grandmother Margaret and my father, Elam, in life you gave me love, shelter and the freedom to follow my own road. Today I offer you this black coffee, in love and gratitude.

The Oath Offerings

(The Oath Sacrifice)

I come, after a long time of seeking and study, to make an oath before the spirits, the ancestors and the gods and goddesses. I come through the door of new learning, to the fire of inspiration, to the well of wisdom, to the gates between the worlds. Hear me, O powers, as I offer up these sacrifices. I give you these gifts, I give you my oath as an offering in your honor. O mighty, noble and shining ones, hear me, I pray.

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.

These things I swear by the well that flows in me, by the fire that shines in me, by the tree that roots and crowns my soul.

Before all the powers, I swear it. So be it!

Now let my voice arise on the fire, let my voice resound in the well, let my words pass the boundary to the spirits. Mighty, noble and shining ones, accept my sacrifice and my oath!

[13] The Omen
The omen is taken, asking what blessing the powers offer the dedicant in return for her offering. If an elder is witnessing the rite the elder might do this for the dedicant, but it is well if the dedicant has the skill to do so herself.

Waters of life

Ancient and mighty ones, I have honored you. Now I pray you honor me in turn. I thirst for the waters of wisdom, of bounty and rebirth, from the bosom of the Earth Mother. I open my heart to the blessing of the great ones, and pray you hallow these waters. Bless my spirit and my life with health, bounty and wisdom as I drink the sacred waters. Behold the waters of life!

[15] The Blessing
Slowly and contemplatively, drink most of the blessing cup. As you sip renew your center, and feel yourself drinking in the power of the gods and spirits. Again, meditate for a time on the whole work: on the grove, and the spirits and especially on your own Pagan path.
[16] Closing

Hermes and Woden, I thank you for witnessing this rite. I ask your continued blessing and help as my path unfolds.

Other shining ones, I thank you for being here. I will listen for your voices.

Ancestors, especially my father and grandmother, I thank you for being here. I ask for your continued guidance and protection.

Spirits of nature, wild ones, I thank you for being here. I ask you for your continued vigilance of my home and land.

Earth Mother, I thank you for sustaining life.

Hermes, I ask you now to close the gates between the worlds. Let the fire be but a fire. Let the well be but a well. Let the tree be but a tree. Let the gates be closed!

(Chime bell to end rite)

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