This is the latest installment of my work on the ADF Dedicant Program. The cultural practice essay is “a brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures.”
Cultural Practice Essay
My background in cultural practice is varied. I started on a Wiccan path as a teenager, then later went on to explore Celtic Reconstructionism, Hinduism, New Thought, Gnostism, and Ásatrú. I’ve had an on again, off again love affair with ADF, having first joined in 2001. I am continuously drawn back- for the beautiful liturgy, the deeply meaningful cosmology, and for the excellence in scholarship. Over the years, the tradition has grown to be a part of me. So now I’ve dug my heels in to stay.
For my hearth culture this time around, I’ve decided to mainly follow an Anglo-Saxon tradition. These are mostly the Norse gods I’ve been honoring as an Ásatrúar, but now I am exploring what they have to teach me from an Anglo-Saxon perspective. (Many call Anglo-Saxon Paganism by the name Fyrnsidu, which means “Old Customs”.) I have chosen seven Anglo-Saxon deities to focus on, and one Celtic goddess. I have made salt dough wall plaques depicting all of them and have hung each Anglo-Saxon wéoh (deity image) on the wall above my wéofod (Saxon altar). The Celtic goddess I honor has a separate altar. In my daily devotions, I use these images to help me connect to the deities, and I touch the edge of each plaque, in turn hailing, praying to, and/or meditating upon them.
Hertha (the Norse goddess Nerthus) is the Earth Mother. As per ADF custom, in ritual I honor her first. One of the first things that compelled me spiritually about ADF-style ritual is how the Earth Mother is honored and worshipped by everyone kneeling down to kiss the ground. This is something I continue in my personal practice when doing ritual outdoors.
Hama (the Norse god Heimdallr ) is my Gatekeeper. It is he who guards Osgeard (Asgard) and sounds his horn in warning of intrusion. He is a white and shining god whose name may mean “the one who illuminates the world”. He is a patient and ever watchful god, keen of sight and hearing, and the son of nine waves.
Thunor (the Norse god Thor), is a powerful protector, hallower, and lightning/rain bringer. I especially call on him when I feel in need of protection. In Anglo-Saxon tradition he is associated with fire. I recite an Anglo-Saxon hallowing charm while carrying fire to clear my home of ill wights (negative spirits). It is a powerful galdr and I have had much success with it.
Fréo (the Norse goddess Freya), Lady of the Wan (Vanir), is the fertile goddess ruling over matters of love, beauty, sexuality, magic, and death. I honor her most often in the Spring and Summer months when the land comes alive with her gifts.
Ing Fréa (the Norse god Frey) is Lord of Elves, god of fertility, prosperity, and fair weather. I often think of Fréo’s twin as a Green Man or Cernunnos figure. Like his sister, I especially honor him in the warm months of the year, over which he rules.
Woden (the Norse god Odin) is the All-father, lord of wisdom, magic, the breath of life. It was the painting by Georg von Rosen titled “Odin, the Wanderer” that first compelled me to explore a Heathen path. At once I felt that the soulful old man looking out from the picture at me was real; my kin and my god.
Fríge (the Norse goddess Frigg) is Queen of Osgeard, patron of mothers and children. She is soft-spoken and kind, knowing all, yet keeping her secrets. As a homemaker and mother, she is my patron and I often look to her for guidance and spontaneously pray to her when one of my children is sick. Her love always comes through.
I have one Celtic deity that I honor and that is Bríde (I use the modern Irish pronunciation “breej-uh”), goddess of healing, poetry, and smithcraft. She is a goddess of water and fire. When I wash or bathe, I first say; “Bríde, goddess of the waters of life, purify me that I may go clean into this day. Bíodh sé amhlaidh” I honor her before cooking; I take a pinch of salt or a spice I’ll be using in the meal and press it around the edges of an image of Bríde I have hanging above the stove. I say; “Gentle red-cheeked Bríde, of flame and honeycomb; bless this cooking, bless this home. Bíodh sé amhlaidh”. And of course, I honor her on Imbolc/Ewemeolc . I make a Bríde’s Cross (Cros Bríde) to hang over doorways and windows, I make a Bríde doll (Brídeag), and I step through Bríde’s Girdle (Crios Bríde) in a ceremony of renewal.
Other ways in which I incorporate culture-specific spirituality into my life is the occasional use of songs as prayers. Lisa Thiel’s CD “Invocation of the Graces” is my source of Celtic inspired song prayers. (I changed the lyrics to make them Druid instead of Wiccan.) And my source of Heathen song prayers is the treasure trove of songs called Heathen Songbook Online. Also, I say “Sigdrifa’s Prayer” upon rising in the morning.
I do things in threes and nines, sacred numbers to the Celts, and to Germanic cultures. For example, I make crafts, and I will work in a pattern of threes or nines in what I’m making, and if I’m sewing, I knot the thread three times. Often when praying or incanting I repeat a word or phrase three times. As a homemaker, I have other subtle ways of expressing spirituality through culture; in the folk crafts with which I decorate my home, in the fairy tales I tell my kids, and in the foods I cook. I have special meals I prepare for each High Day, that are either Celtic, English, or Germanic in origin, and I set aside a special little loaf, roll, or biscuit for the land wights when baking. The hearth cultures I chose are part of my ancestry, so when I do these things it is also a way of honoring my ancestors.
In these ways, my personal cultural spirituality is ingrained into my life and into my heart.