Tag Archives: Dedicant Program

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.

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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.

“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