Category Archives: ADF Dedicant Program

an ADF dedicant oath

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It’s been over a year since I completed the dedicant program of ADF, and I recently realized that I haven’t published all of my work on it to this blog. It took me a long time to finish the dedicant program; mostly because I kept starting and stopping. I first joined ADF in 2001, but let my membership expire the following year, mostly because there were no groves nor even other members near me. I also wanted to explore Celtic Reconstructionism at the time and wanted to start with much simpler rituals.

I joined again in I think it was 2009 because there was a local grove and I was fed up the eclectic Pagan group I had been involved in. I soon left ADF again mainly because I hadn’t come to terms with the organization being pan Indo European instead of just Celtic.

Time went by and in 2011, I came to Heathenry. After much thought, I decided not to become an official member of my local Ásatrú group because I foresaw trouble with certain issues down the road. So in 2012, I started an ADF group and I’ve stayed an ADF member since. I had some materials left over from starting the dedicant program those other two times, but most of it was unusable because the requirements had changed and my hearth culture had also changed from Celtic to Anglo-Saxon. From the time I restarted (for the third time), it took me about two years to complete the dedicant program.

So here is the script of my dedicant oath. I hope it can be an inspiration to those looking for something simple.

I Beginning
Outsiders, those who would oppose my rite, take this and turn away. (Offering given.)

Water, make me pure, that I may reach the infinite. (Forehead anointed with water.)

I’m here to honor the Kindreds. Earth, Holy Mother, accept my offering and bless this rite. (Offering given.)

II Cosmos
(Silent Two Powers/Three Realms centering.)

I am at the Center of the Worlds.
At the Center is a Fire. (Candles anointed with oil and lit.)
At the Center is a Tree. (Minerals given to the Tree.)
At the Center is a Well. (Silver given to the Well.)

Hama, Gatekeeper, accept my offering and open the Hallows to the realms of the Kindreds. (Offering given.)

III Worship & Oath
Beloved Kindreds, hear my call-
Ancestors who came before, those who love me and watch over me,
accept my offerings and good will. (Offering given.)
Nature Spirits here now, those who animate the wild world,
accept my offerings and good will. (Offering given.)
Gods and Goddesses of where I’m going, the Powers that uphold all the Worlds,
accept my offerings and good will. (Offering given.)
Woden, beloved Allfather, Frige, Great Mother,
accept my offerings and good will. (Offering given.)
Beloved Patrons, I worship you with love and ask for your guidance and blessing.

With all the Kindreds here, I make my oath–
I oath myself to the service of the Three Kindreds.
May they bless and guide me on this day and forever.
May my mind hold the Fire of their wisdom. May my heart be a Well for their love.
May my body be a vessel for their life. I declare myself a follower of Druidry
and the old ways.

IV Blessing
Omen: What is the Kindreds’ reply? I got Kenaz from the Ancestors; a relationship, exchange. I got Sowilo from the Nature Spirits; energy success. I got Mannaz from the Deities; divine union, manifestation. Good omens indeed!

Blessing Cup: May the Kindreds fill my cup with blessing.
I receive them with a grateful heart.

V Conclusion
Now with offering given, and blessing received, I give my thanks before I go.
Mother Frige, Father Woden, I thank you.
Gods, Nature Spirits, and Ancestors, I thank you.
Hama, Gatekeeper, I thank you,
and may the Gates be closed.
Earth Mother, I give you my final thanks.
The ritual is at a close.
an ADF dedicant oath

A Solitary ADF Ēostre Ritual

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Although I am involved with more than one Pagan group these days, sometimes plans for a High Day ritual falls through, or never comes together at all for one reason or another. After a couple of cancellations last year, I decided to always have a solitary ritual written up just in case, not only in the event that a group observance doesn’t come together, but also, to make sure I make that personal connection to my own deities and enact the traditions that are important to me as an individual (in case the ritual I attend doesn’t happen to include those things). Also, I’m keeping record of my High Day records as part of the ADF Dedicant Program. This Ēostre ritual is from my just-in-case collection of (short but meaningful) solitary ADF rituals.
As usual, I have left out many items that are not considered “musts” according to the Core Order of Ritual. I have kept with simple wording and a basic brief format. I have a not offered to any outsiders (since the COoR doesn’t say I have to) but instead considered the hallowing part of the ritual sufficient for driving away unwanted spirits. The Saining I speak of below is a simple Scottish-inspired purification with water and juniper smoke. For the Hallowing, I carry fire around the area reciting the Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm. I’ve used some of my favorite ADF liturgy from their website, and some Asatru liturgy as well. You’ll notice some Ēostre ritual themes from previous years as well.

Purification: Saining & Hallowing

Ring bell to mark the beginning of ritual.

Opening Prayer: “Eartha, Earth Mother, from your dark womb springs all green and living things,
You who are the bearer of all life, I honor you this day and pray you bless and uphold
this rite of First Day of Spring. Mother of all, receive my offering!” (Give offering.)

Two Powers Meditation

Sacred Center & Opening the Gates: Make offerings to the triple hallows and say:
“By Land, Sky, and Sea, by Fire, Well, and Tree…” Make offering to the Gatekeeper.
“Hama, Let the Gates be opened!” (Envision the Gates opening.)

Calling to the Three Kindreds & Patrons of Occasion (while offering to each):
“To the Ancestors, I give offering and welcome. To the Nature Spirits, I give offering and welcome.
Hail Sunne! Herald of Spring: She who brings the warmth & the light.
Hail Eartha! Mother of Spring: She whose body is crops’ delight.
Hail Ing Fréa! Lord of Spring: He who blesses the land; its king.
Hail Fréo! Lady of Spring: She who permeates all living things.
Hail Ēostre! Flower Maiden: The embodiment of Spring.
Hail Thunor! Bringer of Rain: He who is the friend of farmers, & makes grow the grain.
Make fruitful our labors, & also our crops, that we may live & prosper!
Kindreds Three, join with me as I honor the turning of the seasons at the time of Ēostre.
May you bless and uphold this rite.”

Seed Blessing: “Now is the dark half of the year passing. Now the days grow light
and the Earth grows warm. The spirit of these seeds is summoned by the sunlight
after they have long slept in darkness. May the Shining Ones bless these seeds that are here.”
(Hold seeds up.) “Behold, they will awaken, stir and swell. Soon they will be planted in the earth,
to grow and bring forth new fruit.”

Omen: “What have the Kindreds to teach me today?”
Divine, then say: “I hear what the Kindreds have said, and am made wise by it.”

Blessing Cup: “Ancient Ones, a Child of the Earth calls out for your blessing.
Hallow these waters, O Holy Powers. Grant me the blessing I seek.
May the Wisdom, Love, and Power of the Deities, Ancestors and Nature Spirits flow into this cup of blessing.”
Hold cup out with both hands and feel the energy flow into the cup.
“This cup now holds the waters of life. I drink this in the name of the Kindred.” (Drink deeply.)
“May these waters I have received flow through my body and through my spirit,
and may they pour out into the rest of my life.”

Thanking Kindreds: “I offer my thanks to the Mother of All.
I offer our thanks to the Gods, Dead and Spirits. May the Three Sacred Kins
Bring joy to all beings, and renew the ancient wisdom. To the Fire, Well and Tree, I offer my thanks.
May Wisdom, Love and Power kindle in all beings, and renew the ancient wisdom.
To the Earth, Sea, and Sky; I offer my thanks. May the ancient wisdom be renewed,
and may all beings know peace, joy and happiness in all the worlds.”

Closing: “Now by the keeper of the gates and by my magic I end what I began.
Let the fire be flame. Let the well be water. Let all be as it was before.
Let the gates be closed! I go now, a child of the Earth, in peace and blessings. The ritual is at a close.”

Cultural Practice (ADF Dedicant)

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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.

Essays on the Eight High Days (ADF Dedicant)

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This is another item from my ADF Dedicant studies; short essays on each of the eight ADF High Days including a discussion of the meaning of each feast.

Essays on the Eight High Days

Winter Solstice / Yule
Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. It occurs sometime between December 20th to 22nd each year. The Norse- originated holiday associated with the Winter Solstice is Yule. However, Yule is considered a season; hence the phrase “Yuletide Season”. Ásatrúar and Fyrnsidu folks celebrate Yule for twelve nights, beginning on Modranecht (Solstice night). Modranecht is a celebration of the family’s female Ancestors; Idesa for the Anglo-Saxons, Dísir for the Norse. A lot of customs that were thought to have originated in Pagan times are actually quite new. For example, the Yule (Christmas) tree is less that three hundred years old, originating in early modern Germany. Yet one must wonder if it was a lingering Pagan mindset that created such a tradition, for the tree veneration symbolism is obvious. The Yule tree is the World Tree, the Yggdrasil or Irminsul. One Anglo-Saxon tradition that is truly ancient is Wassailing, which was originally a ceremony of singing and drinking to the health of apple trees. The Wassail is a drink of hot mulled cider. Also, the traditions of bringing greenery in the home, burning a Yule log, and caroling, all have ancient Norse origins.
Many Neopagans celebrate this holiday as the re-birth of the sun. Heathens celebrate Yule starting on Modranecht by lighting candles on a Yule log, having a ritual honoring the Dísir/Idesa, and feasting and celebrating the Twelve Nights of Yule. On the Twelve Nights, each of the months of the year are reflected upon, and on the first nine nights, each of the Nine Noble Virtues are meditated upon. On the Twelfth Night, oaths are sworn.

Imbolc / Ewemeolc / Disting
On February 2nd falls a holiday that commemorates the first signs of Spring. Imbolc is a Gaelic word that refers to lactation of ewes. The Anglo-Saxon name for this holiday is Ewemeolc and also celebrates the lactation of ewes. It is also the commemoration of the agricultural year, reflected in the ceremony known as the blessing of the plough, in which farming implements are blessed and cakes offered to the Earth Mother. For Ásatrú folk, the holiday celebrated at this time of the year is Disting, in honor of the Dísir, or female guardian spirits.
In Gaelic culture, Imbolc is also a High Day which is dedicated to a specific deity: Bríd (or Brigit), the goddess of poetry, healing, and smith-craft. Many Neopagans follow the Irish traditions of weaving new Bríd’s crosses/triskelles to put up over doorways and windows, and making a Bríd doll. The Scottish custom of stepping through “Bríd’s Girdle” (a rope hoop) to symbolize rebirth/renewal is a lesser- known custom. Since this is a holiday of purification and renewal, it is the time to do a thorough physical house cleaning, and a spiritual house cleaning ritual using juniper smoke and water. Many Neopagans see this holiday as a time of celebrating early spring and they celebrate by lighting candles and honoring fire goddesses and/or maiden goddesses.

Spring Equinox / Ēostre
The Spring (or vernal) equinox is one of the two times each year in which the tilt of the Earth’s axis in in a position in which the equator is lined up with the center of the sun. It occurs sometime between March 20th to 23rd. (The other time of the year this happens is the autumnal equinox in September.) It is commonly thought that the equinoxes are times of equal day and equal night, but this is not strictly so, for on most places on earth, day and night only come close to being equal.
The Neopagan holiday associated with the Spring Equinox is most commonly called Ôstarâ (Old High German) or Ēostre (Anglo-Saxon). These were names for a goddess that we actually know very little about. The only mention of her is from an eighth century Christian cleric known as the Venerable Bede. He refers to her as the heathen goddess after whom a spring month was named, and that during that month a holiday was celebrated in her honor. Her name may mean “to shine”, and linguists think she may be the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn known as Hausos. Some Norse Pagans equate her with Idunn, keeper of the apples of youth. Most Neopagans associate the unexplained (but seemingly Pagan) symbols of “Easter” (rabbits, colored eggs) with the goddess Ēostre.
This High Day marks the end of Winter and the beginning of the season of rebirth. Most Neopagans mark this High Day by honoring maiden goddesses and celebrating the rebirth of nature. Many (especially those with children) reclaim the traditions of “Easter” by coloring eggs, having egg hunts, and sharing a special dinner.

Beltane / May Day
Beltane (or Irish Bealtaine), May 1st, is the Celtic beginning of Summer. The name probably means bright fire or new fire. Historically, it was the day that the Tuatha Dé Danann first arrived in Ireland. At Beltane, the herds were brought out to summer grazing lands. All fires were put out and rekindled from the Beltane fires. People jumped over the Beltane fire for luck. The livestock were driven between two fires for purification from disease and as a way for the deities to bless the herds and insure fertility. Other customs that survive in varying degrees include hilltop gatherings, rising at dawn to bathe your face in May dew (for beauty and youthfulness), and gathering flowers. These flowers are used to make flower crowns and fill May baskets (little paper cones filled with flowers given to friends and neighbors). It is traditionally a time that the fairies are out, about, and mischievous, for it is considered one of the three “spirit nights” when the veil is thin between this world and the Otherworld. (The other two spirit nights are Samhain and Midsummer.)
The Maypole is a tradition of German origin at dates back to the 16th century- and the kind with ribbons that are woven around is an even more recent variation. The tradition really caught on with the Anglo-Saxons. Morris Dancing is also an Anglo-Saxon tradition of May Day. The Celtic tradition is/was to decorate a May bush- a branch of piece of a tree (sometimes a living tree) decorated with flowers and blown eggs. Some of these decorate the inside of homes, some are set outside- the ones outside were danced around in the evening of Beltane.
Neopagans celebrate as many of these customs as is possible for the group’s or individual’s circumstances. I’d like to note, according to Vance Randolph in “Ozark Superstitions”, there are many Ozarks May Day customs including; packing away winter clothes in Sassafras leaves, and going barefoot outside for the first time in the year.

Summer Solstice / Midsummer
The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. Astronomically (and on our calendars), it marks the beginning of summer, but seasonally, and in the Celtic way of reckoning, it is in fact Midsummer. However, across Europe, Midsummer is not celebrated on the actual solstice, it is celebrated on June 24th. The reason for this is because the 24th was the date of the solstice when the Julian calendar was created.
Traditions surrounding Midsummer mostly involve fire; lighting fires on hilltops, and in Wales, rolling a flaming wheel down a hill (it symbolizes the journey of the sun). It is also traditional to gather healing herbs on Midsummer. In Ireland, Midsummer was known as one of the three ‘spirit nights’ of the year (the others being Bealtaine and Samhain). All sorts of rituals and magic were enacted for protection against fairies. In western Ireland, especially around Cnoc Aine, Midsummer is closely associated with the fairy queen Aine.
Neopagans celebrate Midsummer by honoring sun deities and fire, and by burning sun symbols in honor of the sun. In Celtic, Norse and Anglo-Saxon cultures, the sun deities are goddesses.

Lughnasadh / Lammas
The traditional date of this High Day was August 1st, though Lughnasadh themed fairs take place throughout the month of August in Ireland. Lughnasadh means ‘the gathering of Lugh’. Despite the name, Lughnasadh was not so much a holiday in honor of Lugh, but rather, it was called by him to honor his foster-mother Tailtiu (pronounced tal-chuh). Her name meant “Great One of the Earth”. Legend has it she died in the effort of clearing land for agriculture. The Lughnasadh games were her funeral games. Her burial place was Teltown. An older name for this High Day is Bron Trogain, which means “the earth’s sorrowing in Autumn”.
Although it is widely believed in the Pagan community that Lugh was/is a sun and harvest god, many scholars believe this simply wasn’t so. What we do know about him is that he was/is a lord of every skill, patron of the arts, traveling, influence and commerce. He was called Lamfhada or ‘of the long arm’ in Gaelic because of his great spear and sling. He was called “the shining one”, but so were many other Celtic deities and this may have been simply a general term they used to refer to their gods, just as ADF Druids do today. The epithet “shining one” could mean something other than the sun as well. Many wonder if he was a lightning god, for in County Mayo thunderstorms were referred to as battles between Lugh and Balor.
In early Ireland Lughnasadh was a time of inter-tribal gathering, a time for races, competitive games, trading (especially of sheep and horses), reunions, marriage/handfasting (also called “Teltown marriages”), and of fairs. Lughnasadh was also a traditional time for gathering on hilltops, and for picking fraughans (wild blueberries).
Many Neopagans use the terms Lughnasadh and Lammas interchangeably. However, Lughnasadh’s traditional emphasis seems to have been on fairs and competitions. Lammas (the holiday’s English Christian name) is a feast of first grains harvested. Baking bread is an  especially important part of this day. Many Heathens honor the god Thunor/Thor and the goddess Sif (Thor’s wife) at this time. The reason for this is that Thor brings thunder the thunderstorms that nourish the grains and Sif is popularly thought to be a grain goddess. Most Neopagans celebrate this holiday with a meal of breads and first fruits, and honoring deities of grain, sun or thunder, and earth.

Autumn Equinox / Harvest Home
The Autumn equinox (as stated above for the Spring Equinox) is one of the two times each year in which the tilt of the Earth’s axis in in a position in which the equator is lined up with the center of the sun. It occurs in September sometime between the 20th to 23rd.
Another name for this holiday is “Harvest Home”. Although Harvest Home is actually the name of a Christian harvest festival started in the mid-1800s in England (celebrated the first Sunday after the full moon, “Harvest Moon”, closest to the equinox), the holiday clearly has an older-than-Christianity origin.  Ásatrú folk celebrate Haustblót  (“fall sacrifice”) or Winter Finding at the time of Autumn Equinox, and honor the Álfar (Elves).
Celebrating the harvest and feasting are big themes for the Autumn Equinox, but many Neopagans also celebrate the theme of balance, because of the (approximate) equal night, equal day theme.

Samhain / Hallows
Samhain, October 31st to November 1st, marks the Celtic end of Summer and the end of the harvest season. It is the origin of Halloween (appropriated in to Christianity as “All Hallows Eve”), and a time especially for honoring the Ancestors. Some Fyrnsidu call this day “Hallows”, in Ásatrú it is called “Winternights”, and is commemorated in mid-October. It’s the time of the Wild Hunt, in which a group of spirit huntsmen on horses and with hunting dogs go in wild pursuit across the skies, sweeping up those in their path, to bring to the land of the dead. The Wild Hunt is a widespread legend common to many Indo-European cultures, and the leader of the hunt varies according to the culture. In Norse culture the Wild Hunt would take place at Yule instead, or in addition to Winternights. At Samhain the boundary between our world and the worlds of the dead are closer, thinner, easier to traverse, and so spirits may pass between the worlds; the dead to the land of the living and also the living to the land of the dead. Neopagans prepare the favorite meals of departed loved ones and Ancestors, set a place at the table for them, and prepare a special shrine to them. Often this meal is eaten in silence, called the “Dumb Supper”. This is also a favored time for divination of all kinds.

“The Druids” by Peter Berresford Ellis – a book review

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This is the preferred ethnic studies book review I did for the ADF Dedicant Pragram when I rejoined in 2011. Since that time, I have changed my hearth culture to Anglo-Saxon (with some Celtic hold-overs), but I plan to include this review in addition to an Anglo-Saxon book review.

Preferred Ethnic Studies (Celtic) Book Review:
“The Druids” (also marketed as “A Brief History of the Druids”)
by Peter Berresford Ellis
ISBN 0-8028-3798-0

“The Druids” by Peter Berresford Ellis is an in depth introduction of what is known of the historical Druids. It begins by describing the Celtic world, it’s culture and origins, including etymology of the word Celt (hidden people) and etymology of the word Druid; “oak wise”- the Druids may have been the first to discover that acorns could be ground up and used to make bread. He examines, in quite a bit of depth, how the Druids were seen through foreign eyes and gives reason as to why we can’t quite trust foreign sources, as there usually isn’t evidence to back them up, and because foreign writings were often propaganda to justify Roman military campaigns. We also learn what the Celtic peoples had to say about the Druids, the role of female Druids and the heightened role of women in Celtic culture in general, as compared to other cultures of the time. Then the actual religion and rituals of the Druids is thoroughly examined. Chapter eight goes into the details of the many roles that the druids played in Celtic society; the Druidic schools, Druidic books, Druids as philosophers, judges, historians, poets and musicians, physicians, seers, astronomers and astrologers, and magicians. The book concludes with a review of the emergence of renewed interest in the Druids in the 1600 and 1700’s, and the Druid revival groups of the 1800’s that continue to this day.
My first thoughts were that it is obvious why this book was suggested in Ár nDraíocht Féin dedicant reading, and that is because it gives a thorough and accurate review of the historical Druids. However, another item of relevance for ADF that I see as standing out in this work is the many references to the commonalities among Indo-European religions. Since ADF is rather unique among modern Druid groups in that we include all Indo-European pantheons as possibilities in our worship, I think the mention of this is significant. Our tradition is often “under fire” for such inclusion and it can be hard to explain to outsiders. This book demonstrates, in many instances, a common Indo-European denominator. Its not a far leap to say that a variety of Indo-European peoples may have found common ground in the religion of the Druids. The Druids were a unifying factor among the many Celtic cultures. It stands to reason that due to the historical Druids’ widespread renown and respect, if history had played out different, they may have emerged as a spiritual authority of many Indo-European cultures in addition to the Celts.
A third point of relevance for ADF, that I see in the book is the discussion of Druidic rituals; the origins and nature of water reverence and worship is given much attention in chapter seven, as are fire customs. Add this to the plentiful evidence of tree worship given in chapter two, and we find the historical basis of ADF’s well, fire, and tree sacred center concept.
“The Druids” by Peter Berresford Ellis holds quite a bit of significance for me, as a person who has chosen to follow the ways of modern day Druids. There is a lot of information packed into this slim, readable volume. It has become my source book on what the Druids were and were not. Upon finishing this work I am struck by the sheer excellence and accomplishments of the historical Druids and the Celtic peoples and the sheer tragedy of their eventual and prolonged oppression.
The author paints a picture of the Druids being a class of people much like the Brahmins of India. They are depicted as a class of scholars and philosophers, authorities in legal matters, as well as doctors, poets and musicians. He emphasizes that the Druids were not necessarily priests, but that they were a class that the priests came out of. I see a spiritual component in nearly all these roles held by the Druids.
In this book we are given a glimpse of what Druid religion and ritual was really like. The tripartite nature of their cosmology is clearly defined, as are the fire, water and tree worship mentioned earlier in this review. In other words, this book can be used as a source of demonstrating that a “truer to history” method of worship can be found in ADF’s style of ritual than in the romanticized 19th century traditions of Druidry.
It is unfortunate, yet understandable that the author paints an unfavorable picture of modern Druid revival groups, given that his only examples are the romantic revival groups of the early 1800‘s and the witchcraft movement of the 1960‘s. However, modern American Druid groups such as ADF and Henge of Keltria, as well as scholarly-focused Pagan movements like Celtic Reconstructionism are not given any mention in this book. As the book it was first published in 1994, it may be that these groups had not become prominent enough to reach the author’s awareness for inclusion.
I would recommend this book as beginning reading for anyone wanting to pursue a Celtic Pagan or Druid path. Although this is not light reading, neither is it too difficult for the average layperson.

Travels Through Middle Earth (ADF Dedicant Book Review)

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This is another installment of my ADF Dedicant Program studies.

Preferred Ethnic Studies (Anglo-Saxon) Book Review:
“Travels Through Middle Earth: the Path of a Saxon Pagan”
by Alaric Albertsson
ISBN 978-0-7387-1536-0

“Travels through Middle Earth” is a simple, practical guide book to practicing Anglo-Saxon Paganism/Heathenism, also known as Fyrn Sidu. There are less than a handful of books available on Fyrn Sidu at this time, and this is the first book I’ve read on the subject. Albertsson refers to himself as a Saxon Pagan, explaining that historically, no group of people ever called themselves the Anglo-Saxons. All the various German tribes that settled in England seemed to begin calling themselves Angles upon arrival. This would tell me that the name should be Angle Pagan, but I suppose this just doesn’t sound right. Albertsson has an easy style of writing that makes his works easily accessible to the lay person. When reading this book, I felt like I could be talking to a brother- I guess it helps that we are both from the Ozarks!
This book does not have a ton of information on the deities themselves (which mostly seem to be the same as many of the Norse deities, but with slightly different names). So one would have to look elsewhere for that kind of in-depth information. For those already familiar with the deities of the Norse, this isn’t much of a problem, for the two cultures share mostly the same gods. The deities Albertsson describes in Travels Through Middle Earth are Sunne, Mona, Tíw, Woden, Thunor, Fríge, Hama, Fréo, Ing Fréa, Eostre, and Hertha.
Especially significant to me, were the ways Albertsson explained how much the Saxon mindset is already built into our culture through language. Toward the end of page four he states; “If English is your primary language, you think in Anglo-Saxon.” As a person who seeks out those deeper connections in culture and ancestry, I tend to want to “bloom where I am planted” rather than seek out the exotic. There is comfort in what one already knows, and a truth one can know more deeply that is ingrained into one’s own culture. It may sound like a cliché, but in many ways, reading this has been like coming home.
Some examples he gives of how Saxon Paganism is built into our culture are; the days of the week contain the names of Saxon deities, the word “mood” is related to the word mód (the part of one’s soul that contains one’s personal identity), and the fact of our culture’s fairy tales contain codes of conduct for dealing with elves and other wights.
I really like that in the Holy Tides chapter, he called those Tides by some of their most simple names. For years I’ve been calling the fall equinox by the name “Harvest Home” and I was delighted by the serendipity of finding it called that here. There is no pretending in this book about “ancient origins” of things like the Yule tree or ribbons on the maypole. From Alaric, we get the straight answer that these things are not ancient, but yes, we can derive Pagan meanings from customs that are not-so-ancient. I can’t help but to conclude, however, that some of those old-but-new traditions were a result of a Saxon Pagan mindset still at work in our culture.
Other subjects explained in this book were the concepts of wyrd, of orlay, and of Saxon virtues. The author does a great job of explaining not only what these are, but why they are important. Especially compelling to me was his explanation of the importance of piety. This slim volume was easy to understand, and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it, especially the glossary, again and again.

Three Kindred Essay (ADF Dedicant Program)

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Noble Ones, The Spirits of Nature
When I was about eight years old, my friends asked me to go with them to watch planes take off. We went to the end of the street we lived on (it was a dead-end street) and they showed me this opening in the fence. I crawled through to find a small woods and a well-worn path. After short walk through small trees, shrubs and briar, the path opened up to tall pines. Oh I will never forget that feeling of smelling the pines moments before stepping into such a beautiful scene. It was breathtaking and serene! To me this was the destination. To my friends, just a shortcut to the airport. I came back again and again, to to walk and think, to absorb the sensation of being in such a magical place. Thus began my love of nature and my relationship with the Nature Spirits. The little woods by the airport is gone now, which greatly saddens me, but I have connected to other places since then; luminous places along the West Fork branch of the White river, places along the paths of Devil’s Den state park, and most recently, many little nooks and crannies along Skull Creek across the yard from my apartment building. The Celts called them Sídhe, the Norse called them Landvættir, no doubt most Indo-European cultures had their names for the Spirits inhabiting land, plants, waterways, trees, and rocks. Rather that knowing them as distinct personalities, I know these spirits by the mood they convey. I don’t know if Nature Spirits have multi-part souls such as humans do, according to Anglo-Saxon belief, but if they do, then I believe I have gotten to know the Mægen and Mod of many Nature Spirits- their personal energy and emotions. In stillness and being open to perception, one can become aware of them at any given moment. At least once a week I try to leave an biscuit or slice of homemade bread at the base of a tree in offering.

Mighty Ones: The Ancestors
It’s perfectly fitting that we should revere and honor those who have gone before so that we may live today. While it’s harder for me to connect to the ancestors I’ve never met, the connection to the spirits of my grandparents was easier to make, for I knew them in life. However, when my own parents died, I developed a much fuller connection to the Ancestors. On the day of my mother’s funeral, and for about a week afterwards, I spotted a rabbit close to my apartment door. It seemed to be watching over me, and I immediately felt the presence of my mother. The Celtic and Norse cultures had varied beliefs on what happened to the soul after death. The Anglo-Saxons believed that the soul had eleven parts; Lich (the body), Hyge (the intellect), Mynd (memory), Willa, (will), Æþem (breath of life), Hama (the soul’s skin), Orlæg (personal wyrd), Mægen (personal energy), Fetch (guardian spirit), Mód (emotion), and Wód (source of passions & inspiration). So I believe that it’s as likely as anything that different parts of one’s soul may have different afterlife destinations. When our thoughts, prayers, and offerings are sent out to the Ancestors, there are many sources they may nourish; the Isle of Youth, the halls of the dead in Hel, and in Osgeard, yes, but there are other worlds of possibility. Some Ancestors (or a part of them) may have joined with features of the land and became Nature Spirits. Some may have been reborn along family lines. I even think it’s possible that I may have absorbed some part of my Mother’s spirit; I sure act a lot more like her in the years since she died! Germanic cultures believed that the spirits of some female Ancestors joined the Dísir (the Saxons call them Idisi) to watch over their descendants. The first night of Yule, Modranecht, is dedicated to the Dísir. The thought that my Ancestral Mothers are watching over me is very comforting, and commemorating Modranecht is very meaningful to me. On Hallows night I remember all the Ancestors, including Ancestors of spirit as well as blood.

Shining Ones: The Deities
The Shining Ones are the deities, the eldest spirits who watch over us and guide us. Some believe the deities to be spiritual or cosmic forces. A very old traditional belief is that the deities are spirits of dead mortals, ancient and powerful Ancestors, protecting the living. Some may view the deities as immortal humans with superhuman powers existing in another dimension, or in this dimension, and maybe even living secretly among us. This idea has some mythological substantiation; Indo-European mythologies often tell of certain gods disguising themselves and visiting humankind to check up on us.
Yet, some might ask, why believe in any of this at all? The best reason I have found for believing in the existence of deities is the “argument from design”. This is the idea that life is too complex to have come about randomly, through blind evolution only. Modern forms of this argument do not deny the existence of evolution, but rather, suggests a “guided evolution”. Nor does the “argument from design” point to one designer, for it makes perfect sense that something so complex would have more than one creator. The book “A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism” by John Michael Greer examines the “argument from design” as well as the other classic arguments for theism. It is a very convincing and logical book, said to be the first study of the philosophy of religion from a polytheist standpoint published in the western world since the fall of the Roman Empire.
Yet there are other ways to know the existence and nature of the Shining Ones… Through piety we initiate the exchange. The best way to get to know a person is to initiate and maintain a friendship. Exchange gifts. Learn their story. Keep the conversation going. Share a meal and a drink. So it is with the gods.

“People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out” (ADF Dedicant Book Review)

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This is another installment of my ADF Dedicant Program studies.

Modern Paganism Studies Book Review:
“People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out”
by Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond
“People of the Earth” is a collection of very insightful interviews with a wide variety of Pagans- fifty-nine, in fact. Many of the interviews are with famous authors and leaders in the Pagan community; for example, Isaac Bonewits, Selena Fox, Oberon Zell, Starhawk, Susun Weed, Z. Budapest, and many more. Many of the same questions are asked to each participant, however, the diversity of  answers to these questions, and the in-depth responses, really give the reader an insider’s view into many different Pagan organizations. Each person, in his or her own personal style, discussed how he or she came to be Pagan, as well as some of the details on their specific brand of Paganism and where they see the Pagan community going.

I can easily see why this book was on the ADF Dedicant reading list. It gives a more in depth perspective of all the different kinds of Paganism out there. These are perspectives that, without the help of a book like this, would be hard  to obtain without direct experience with a wide variety of groups over a long period of time. What this book did for me was to re-affirm in my mind that ADF is the path for me. The most compelling interview for me was the one with Isaac Bonewits about ADF Druidry. “To me the essence of Druidism is combining the best of head and heart and hand. Combining the intellect, the emotions, and the artistic creativity and craft that people have. It’s using that to worship the Gods and to help ourselves to understand our lives better and understand what we are doing and where we are going.”1 It really seems in synch with my way of thinking, especially in respect to the importance of scholarship. I didn’t feel that with most of the other interviews. So I see this book as something that could be very useful for someone with is searching for their particular path. The information is directly form the source!
But also, it is important to understand our fellow Pagan’s perspective. I really found the interview with Victor Anderson informative. I have a friend who is in the Feri Tradition and now I feel that I have a fuller understanding of that tradition. I also know, beyond a doubt, that it’s not for me.
I thought the chapter titled “Paganism from Norway, Greece, Egypt, Israel and Italy” was going to be a cross-cultural view. Yet after reading the first interview, I began to realize that the interviews were not going to be with people living in said countries, but mostly with Americans reviving those traditions (or what they believe to be those traditions). They were interesting, quirky, and personal stories, however, and so were an entertaining read.

For anyone reading this book who isn’t Pagan, it gives myriad views and reasons why people come to Paganism. Among the many reasons found in the interviews are; being dawn to nature and the feminine divine, disappointment with monotheism, and being drawn to Pagan deities.

So in conclusion, from reading “People of the Earth”, we discover from some personal in depth interviews, what some of the Pagan options are today, and what many of the Pagan organizations are like.  We learn all about Pagan beliefs and practices and the direction they’re all hoping to be headed in. Although the interviews were done in the early nineties, the perspectives are still relevant today, although much (if not most) of the resource section for various groups’ contact information may be hopelessly out of date.

notes
1. Page 3, paragraph 3, part of Isaac Bonewits’ response to the question, “So what is the essence of Druidism?”

The Two Powers

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Earth and Sky

In ADF Druidry, the Two Powers Meditation is a grounding and centering exercise designed to bring about spiritual balance in the individual and open one up to the primal powers of Earth and Sky. There are similarities with the Wiccan grounding and centering meditation. However, the Wiccan version most commonly works with Earth energies only.
The “Two Powers” meditation is more than what the name suggests. It might just as well be called a Well, Tree, and Fire meditation, or the Three Realms (Earth, Sea, and Sky) meditation. In each individual lies the potential of the World Tree- we are life, we are living. The Two Powers meditation serves to remind us of that.

When we send our roots down into Mother Earth, we are re-affirming our connectedness and love to and for her. She is the richness of life, the food that nourished and incubates the seed, and also the grave of us all. The Two Powers meditation doesn’t stop at reaching down into the Earth. We go deeper still to find the deep waterways, the waters of life that sustain and connect us all. It is the primordial waters, the Well of Wisdom, from which all life arose. It is the waters of the womb, the well of Mimir where Wodan’s other eye watches, and also the waters from the sea that leads to the Shining Isles of the Otherworld. It is the realm of death and the Ancestors, but also of rebirth. Deities connected with the Earth are sometimes also connected with water in some form. The Irish goddess Danu is believed by some to be an earth goddess as well as a river goddess. Some believe that Frigga took the place of an earlier earth goddess, and Frigga’s home, Fensalir, means “Fen Halls”; wetlands. The powers of  Earth and Water are primal, creative, nourishing, life-giving powers. Life would not exist without them. We draw nourishment from them up through our roots, as a babe suckles her mother. The power of Earth and Water flows through us, out the top of our heads, and back down into the Mother again, re-nourishing her, not unlike the tree that reciprocates by shedding leaves to nourish the Earth.


Though we drink from the Mother, we realize we are not mere babes, so we stretch up on our hind legs and reach our branches upward toward our fathers and mothers in the sky. We reach to the sun seeking balance and growth, for without the sun, nothing could live. The sun is a star, among countless stars, and the source of fire. The heavens are bright and wondrous, the home of the Shining Ones. It is their light and inspiration and power we draw upon when doing this meditation. The power of the Sky is pure energy and warmth. When this power is drawn down into our bodies to combine with the Earth energies, the result is the essence of magic itself, for all the powers needed to bring forth and sustain life are combined, energizing and balancing us, giving us the realization of being alive in the moment and in this world.

Home Shrine

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As part of the ADF Dedicant Program (ye olde “DP”), I’ve taken a picture of my home shrine, described it, and mentioned plans for further improvements…

Alglo-Saxon ADF Shrine

This is my home shrine, or wéofod. It is at the center of my home, at the top of a built-in bookshelf on a wall facing the north.

Sacred Center: Tree, Well, and Fire
At the center is a metal tree representing World Tree or Irminsul/Yggdrasil. The tree doubles as a candelabra and it holds three candles. This represents Sacred Fire. (The three candles also represent the Three Kindreds.) To the left of the tree is a cauldron of water representing the Sacred Well, completing the Sacred Center of Well, Tree, and Fire.

Nature Spirits
On the right side of the altar are representations of Nature Spirits; a figure holding acorns and stones, and an owl figurine that represents my son‘s spirit animal. I plan to add collections of natural objects, representing the Noble Ones, to this representation as time goes on.

Ancestors
On the left side of the altar is an object I made many years ago that collectively represents my ancestors. It is a dolmen with skulls and a spiral inside. To the left of this is a Matronae statue I made out of salt dough to represent my family’s Ancestral Mothers, the Idesa who watch over us, and to the left of this is a rabbit figurine which represents my mother’s spirit animal. Pictures and possessions of other specific ancestors find their way to the ancestor area of the shrine at Hallows and at other times of special commemoration. I also have a separate ancestor shrine of photos in a different part of the house.

Shining Ones
The wéohs (deity images) hanging on the wall are made of salt dough and air dried. Starting at the left; Thunor, Fréo, Ing Fréa, Hertha, Woden, Fríge, and Hama. (I have a separate shrine in my home devoted to my Celtic deity; Bríde.)
I am a very visually-oriented person, and it has helped me a great deal to have physical images of the Shining Ones, and all the Kindreds, on my home shrine. It was a spiritual experience making them, and I feel an immediate connection when I look at and touch the images.

Other Items
To the right of the Tree is a wooden bowl I use for offerings. Behind the offering bowl is my “drinking horn” I use for the Waters of Life. In the left front corner (not shown) is a little nook kind of hidden by the front piece of the bookshelf. In that nook is a little basket that holds matches, incense (recels), and a small jar of silver beads. In the far right side of the altar is a recelsfeat (incense burner), a bell, and juniper smudge stick in an abalone shell. A fold-up basic ADF-style Anglo-Saxon ritual script and a bag of runes are tucked behind the right-side hidden corner nook. On one of the lower shelves, I keep pictures of my closest Ancestors, and a drawstring bag of various dry offerings; cornmeal, oats, seeds, and also a mini-bottle of olive oil.

Plans for Future Improvements
The nature of salt dough is that it doesn’t last forever. Someday I will need to make more plaques to replace these images of the Shining Ones and other Kindreds. I plan to take classes to improve my sculpting skills. Perhaps the next ones will be made of fired clay!

*Updated 7/7/14