ISFJs – Dispelling Another Stereotype

E0E93A14-A798-4988-ABF7-3A27A2E2CC5BIf you’ve read my “about” section, you’ll know that one of my goals with this blog is to dispel stereotypes associated with both Aspergers and Paganism via open and honest blog posts of my everyday life, behaviors, dreams, and ambitions. Now, it seems, I have yet another aspect of my identity for which I must battle stereotypes.

As an enneagram type four, I am driven by a need to seek my identity. I also desire that the external world recognize this identity. I like to introduce myself with simple labels in order to give the other person a quick and concise framework of who I am so that we can skip the formalities and get to the fun. Unfortunately, any number of labels that seem entirely straightforward in my mind are not so to others. It’s a bother to say “I’m [insert label] but I don’t…” In other words, I hate having to add modifiers to my labels as if the label itself is inaccurate. This is something I’ve been having to do for years with my MBTI type. In this case, however, the label was indeed inaccurate.

I usually test as an INTJ, with the occasional INFJ result depending on my mood at the time. But I’ve never felt like either. Not entirely. I have a few traits typically attributed to INTJs that I liked to play up in order to feel like I fit there, but I never quite felt at peace with the label. Nor do I resonate with INFJ, despite unsolicited suggestions from others that I am one. It’s curious to note that when poking around on MBTI forums, I rarely – make that never – see it suggested that someone is an ISFJ when their current label is under scrutiny. Even the most smug of the armchair MBTI experts would never be so cruel as to suggest someone is the most “boring” of the types.

In general, the online MBTI fandom is biased towards intuitives. Intuitives get the best memes and the best stereotypes. Everyone wants to be an “N.” Furthermore, the available tests pose questions biased towards intuitives, never mind that the entire four letter dichotomy system is problematic. Only xSFPs seem to be immune from the sensor hate. What we end up with then is a whole conglomerate of both sensors and intuitives clinging to one of the intuitive labels and skewing the understanding of the type.

Meanwhile, the ISFJ label is chilling with a handful of humdrum memes that inspire no one. Boring, traditional, straight laced, motherly, enjoys knitting and avoiding anything novel, creative, or fun. Like what? Who’s going to jump on that bandwagon? Well ok, some people do and kudos to them for being confident about their straight-laced identities, but it certainly isn’t the place for a whimsical identity seeker such as myself. But then, neither is INTJ or INFJ or any of the other types that I wish I was.

After so many years of feeling like I don’t have a place in the MBTI system, I finally sought professional help in the form of micro-expression typing. Some MBTI fanatics are strictly opposed to visual typing, but from my own research it comes across as significantly more accurate and reliable than other methods. At any rate, I am more concerned that my mbti label match the first impression I make on a person than anything else. We can go back and fill in the details later if the relationship is destined to continue. To this end, micro-exprssion typing is more useful to me.

I submitted a video of myself to the lovely ladies of INTJ and INFP Coffee, and as you’ve probably already deduced, I was typed as an ISFJ. They provided me with an exceptionally detailed report of how my body language, smile, eye movements, vocal tone and speech patterns all fit among the ISFJ cognitive functions. They also cleared up any concerns I had about my typing via video chat. I can honestly say that I feel comfortable with the results and am proud to take my place among the underdogs. What better way to be unique than to be different among the different – to accept the label that no one else wants 😉

Stereotypes aside, the way I approach my life and interests is very SiFe (the top functions of an ISFJ). I do not actively mingle with people in groups, but when engaged or when in select groups of people, I am all Fe. I have been in denial about this since my Aspergers puts a unique spin on my social skills. I care too much what other people think of me to be an Fi user. This is why my quest for identity requires external validation. I avoid conflict and can indeed read the emotional atmosphere of a room, although I was a late bloomer in this regard (that ASD again). I am crazy sensitive to criticism though I try to make out like I don’t care (because I was trying so hard to fit into that INTJ box). If I am criticized for even the tiniest thing, you can bet I will never ever make the same mistake twice (this is totally an Si thing).

Everything, seriously ~everything~ reminds me of something. I used to think everyone was like this, and was surprised to learn that they are not. Again, this is an Si thing. I do not take things at face value. A tree is not merely a tree, it’s that time when I was in school and the weather was really good and I sat under a tree just like that one and it was one of the most peaceful and happy moments in my life. I think this is why I haven’t considered myself a sensor before. I don’t just exist in the moment, I take in all my surroundings and immediately proceed to daydream about them: about what they remind me of, what they symbolize, even a little bit of what they could become (my inferior Ne does come in from time to time). I guess, in a way, I am both present and in my head at the same time!

I could go on and on about how well the functions of the ISFJ fit me, but I will spare you. Also, I am late for my morning jog 🙂 Just let it be known that I am whimsical, bookish, creative, academic, a lover of the hard sciences as much as I am of the arts, and I am no less an ISFJ for it. I will leave you all with this MBTI analysis of the Disney princess, Belle (commonly mistaken for an INFP because of her whimsical nature):

And this personal account from another ISFJ:

 

 

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My Wheel of the Year

I have always struggled with being present. Not that it’s bad to live primarily in my head; I’m simply an in-my-head kind of person and I don’t intend to become something I am not. However, as one following a nature-based spiritual path, it is essential that I come back to Earth from time to time.

Even though High Day rituals help to notify me of major seasonal changes before I miss them (and miss them I have before I began celebrating High Days with regularity), I miss the subtle phenological changes that occur over the course of a season. Those rare moments when I naturally tune in to my environment are some of the most magical, and they breath new life into my internal daydream world. Each time this happens, I ask myself why I don’t do this more often, so I came up with a solution.

As I was setting up my bullet journal for 2018, I discovered the 24 solar terms of the Chinese calendar and was inspired to create my own 24-season calendar. Because I have a hard time disassociating Gregorian month boundaries from seasons and solar-terms, I arranged my 24 seasons such that each begins on the 1st or the 16th of a month (or 15th, in the case of February). I then adapted my current ritual practices and patron dedications to my new calendar. Since February, I have been holding a full ADF COoR at the start of each mini-season in addition to the usual High Days. When I choose to celebrate a Cross-Quarter day on the 1st of the month, I will combine the workings for both into a single ritual.

In my bullet journal, I create a page for each season which includes seasonal inspiration (quotes, poems, images, etc), ritual notes and reflection, and a section for taking notes on my phenological observations. With only two weeks between seasons, it’s nearly impossible to miss small changes in my environment. Even if I forget to take notes for the entire season, I will inevitably return to my journal for the next season and hence be reminded to take notes about whatever I can recall about the previous two weeks or, at the very least, take a quick walk outside and record notes about the present day.

In the image below, you will see that I have named the new and full moons in addition to the seasons themselves. What name goes to which moon phase will vary from year to year. I give the name to the full or new moon closest to the beginning of the season. When there is a 13th full or new moon in a year, I name it a ‘gypsy moon’ (my version of a blue moon). The gypsy moon is the extra new or full moon farthest from any of the seasonal boundaries.

After having worked with my new system for almost 4 months now, I can safely say I have found something that works. I wanted to share my new calendar as soon as I created it (and indeed I did on my private facebook account), but I thought it best to try it out for a while before blogging about it.

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My personal 24-Season Wheel of the Year

 

Where My Paganism Has Led Me. 

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Image Credit: NASA

I started this blog while in the midst of completing my Dedicant Path work with ADF. Before joining ADF in 2015, I was an on-and-off again eclectic pagan with no formal practice, filling in the gaps with spiritually-empty agnosticism. Though my practice is now regular and structured, I am still in the process of tweaking it for the best fit. I don’t imagine this process will ever end, but perhaps the changes will become less frequent.

I have chosen a hard-polytheistic orthopraxy, but my beliefs about the divine remain agnostic. In the end, it matters not whether the gods I call on are independent beings, semi-independent beings, manifestations of my mind or archetypes. I use the language of hard polytheism regardless of which belief I am leaning more towards at any given time. Whatever the source of deity, it communicates with me and guides me along the path of self-improvement.

Upon beginning the Dedicant’s path, I was anxious to get to know all the deities of my new hearth culture (and a few from the Norse for good measure). My personal pantheon underwent several changes during the first two years until I finally felt at home with one that was more focused on celestial bodies (Sunne, Mona, Eorthe) than on anthropomorphic deities. Even the language I use to honor the sun and moon has become less anthropomorphic. I initially referred to the moon, for example, as Mona’s ward rather than as Mona himself. I wasn’t consciously aware of this development until I developed an interest in planet and star veneration outside the earth-moon-sun trio, and I realized I had already been on the path to astrolatry all along. Incidentally, I aspired to become an astrophysicist from the age of 12 through most of my 20s, but academic life eventually wore me out. Sometimes all the detours can cloud our senses from realizing the path we’ve been following all along.

My personal pantheon still includes Woden, Frigg, and my gatekeeper and first patron, Thunor. This too was an organic development for which I later understood significance. Woden and Frigg can be thought of as the archetypal God and Goddess, though I interact with them as if they are independent beings. Thunor is the one who led me onto my current path, who wards and opens the gates to the Otherworld, and whose hammer is the symbol of my faith. In other words, he symbolizes and grants access to my spirituality. It’s as if my non-theistic side worked on my behalf while I pursued hard polytheism. I am now left with a pantheon that could easily adapt to a non-theistic approach if it ever needed to.

My practice also includes veneration of nature spirits. Of all the otherworldly beings, nature spirits are the only that I’ve never struggled to believe in. I suppose this is because I am vehemently animist. The nature of deity is beyond my comprehension, but the various various manifestations of the same animistic essence that resides in us is easier to wrap my head around. The universe is alive and worthy of veneration, from the smallest unit of matter to entire galaxies.

Last, but certainly not least, are the Ancestors. I am as agnostic about the afterlife as I am about deity, but I value the wisdom preserved in the memory of a life well-lived. I honor my ancestors by recalling their lives and leaving my mind open to contact should any part of them live on in another form. I sometimes like to believe that deity is nothing more or less than the spirits (merged, independent, or something in between) of the dead. And perhaps that the nature spirits, who can be fickle and seem to live outside of our human-constructed morality, are the spirits of non-human dead. Agnosticism doesn’t keep me from speculating. 

My current practice involves dedicating to a specific deity, spirit, or related group from my pantheon each month or semi-month. When the honored being of the month is a celestial body other than the Earth, Moon, or Sun, I extract lessons that can be applied to my life from a study of its historical, mythological and scientific significance. My dedication to other beings takes a similar, but more personable approach. My motivation is always spiritual growth and self-improvement, but I approach my primary patrons with the understanding that our relationship is reciprocal and with the assumption that they are autonomous beings with agendas that may or may not have anything to do with my own. 

 

 

My Year of Divine Consciousness

I celebrate the return of the sun on the third night of Yule; that being the night following the first day that was longer than the previous day. I prefer to “confirm” that the day’s are getting longer before I rejoice. In other words, I don’t count my eggs before they hatch, as the old saying goes.

Once I have borne witness to Sunne’s renewed strength, I ask her what her return heralds for the coming year. This is the first year in which I have practiced this method of yearly-omen taking, but I plan to maintain it as a tradition going forth. I take my monthly omens from Móna (the god of the moon), so it seems appropriate to take yearly omens from Sunne.

This year, it turns out, is the year of ᚩ (Ós). Ós is the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Elder-Futhark ᚨ (Ansuz).

OS (The God) is the creator of all language,
widom’s fountain and consolation of sages
and every man’s joy and trust.1

After receiving the rune omen, I proceeded to come up with a theme for 2018 that embodies the essence of it. In the past, I’ve let my yearly omen set a tone for the year and act as a lens through which I interpret various events, but I’ve never actively used it to set my intentions or resolutions.

I really like the idea of a New Year’s theme in place of a resolution, so I decided to go that route this year. It took me some time and contemplation to come up with a word or, rather, a noun phrase that worked. I considered “communication”, “divine inspiration”, and “awareness”, among others, but none of these really captures the entirety of Ós. I finally settled on “divine consciousness,” having also considered higher/heightened consciousness. “Consciousness” assumes awareness and “divine” assumes a higher state of it. “Divine consciousness” reminds me that the breath of divine inspiration flows through me and that I, though not a god myself, am the result of an unbroken chain going back to the divine source. Concequently, I have access not only to the guidance of the gods, but also to that of my ancestors. My focus this year will be on developing, accessing, and learning from this state consciousness.

Because this is a theme and not a resolution, I have no objective goal to meet. I imagine it would be difficult to objectify progress in heightened states of consciousness anyway. But the theme will inform my monthly intentions, interpretation of future omens, and over all spiritual journey this coming year.  It’s going to be an awesome year!

Footnotes:
1. From the Old English rune poem as translated by Alaric Albertson

My Morning Devotional

I never thought I would make it to the point where I write my own devotionals. But with all the druids participating in #prayeraday this month, I felt motivated try my hand at using my own words.

I begin my devotional as usual, lighting a candle as I say a Flames of Unity chant. The words I use for this are not the ones I find in most sources around the web. I first came across this chant on one of the ADF Facebook pages, but have not seen it written the same elsewhere.

I end all of my devotionals with closing words inspired by the Carmina Gadelica and as modified by Ozark Pagan Mamma:  “As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be, with the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.” I absolutely love this closing.

Without further ado, here is my current morning devotional:

*Light Candle*

Kindled from the great flame
Kept by prudent skill
Living on our common hearth
That these flames be one!

Earth Mother, as the light of dawn brings color to your horizon once more, I greet this new day in reverence of your power and beauty. I thank you for your support in this rite as in all things. Hail to you Great Mother!

By the fire of the gods,
May my spirit be kindled
That I might follow a virtuous path towards enlightenment.

By the deep waters of the Ancestors,
May my mind be asperged
That I might receive the wisdom of those who have gone before.

By the sacred tree of the cosmos,
May my body be rooted
That I might be as one with the spirits of land, sea, and sky. *

By Fire, Well, and Sacred tree,
I send my love, thanks, and devotion to the Kindreds Three!
May I navigate this day with Their guidance and be worthy of Their blessings.

Love and Peace to all beings!
As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be
With the ebb, with the flow,

Blessed be.

*at this point, I will ask via pendulum if any of the Kindreds have a message for me that day. I will then draw an omen (or omens) accordingly. I always take omen during major rites, but I think it is overkill to expect a message every single day. Asking if there is a message for me in advance helps to reduce the static that often accompanies daily omen-taking.

Feel free to use and modify this rite for personal use. Please give credit when sharing publicly.

The First Day of Autumn

Today is the day of the Autumn Equinox. The exact time of the astronomical event is 22:02 UTC (That’s 2:02pm Mountain Time for me). According to Google (and to my brother for whom Google is never wrong) this is the first day of Autumn. Although Google certainly has creepy mass mind-control powers, I don’t get the impression it has convinced most of the U.S. that this is the first day of Autumn. Popular culture seems to be in agreement that Autumn begins either on September 1st or after Labor Day at the very latest. Starbucks, another mass-mind control powerhouse (lol), delivers Autumn with the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte on the first of the month. The overlords of fashion dictate that we wear no white (read: Summer) clothing after Labor Day. Validating pop-culture Autumn are the dependable scientific minds of the Meteorological community, who, for ease of comparing seasons year-to-year, define Autumn as a static three month period neatly consuming the months of September, October, and November.

And then there’s me. A rebel among rebels, welcoming Autumn in August. My fellow Indo-European-based pagans should be with me on this, but it seems even among my own kind, I am not well supported. Undeterred, I continue to follow my own path. My logic blends phenology with ancient custom. The seasons are not as static as the ideological meteorologists would have them, but phenological seasons are a bummer to keep track of.

I, like the meteorologists, quite like a cut-and-dry static model for the seasons. As a pagan, however, I can’t help but notice that the seasons themselves don’t adhere to unequivocal models. They vary each year, but unlike the calendar dates of the solstices and equinoxes, phenological seasons cannot be calculated in advanced, nor can phenologists agree on an exact start date even after the season has begun. Way to be elusive Mother Nature! XD Even if we could pinpoint the exact first day of a season in a particular area, the date would be different in every region. Social species that we are, standard dates for celebration bring us together across long distances.

My first method of approach to seasonal reckoning was to stick with the ancient Celtic calendar (according to which seasons begin on the cross-quarter days) and back it up with the logic that, despite the weather, the longest days of the year should encompass Summer, the shortest, Winter. And yet, I couldn’t help but be distracted by both conflicting weather and conflicting opinions. What to do?

I decided to continue as I had been, welcoming in the seasons at the cross –quarters. At Hlæfmæst (Lammas), I call for Autumn. I bid it to hurry along because I have missed it so. Similarly, I may ask a particular season not to leave yet, because I am not ready. Not that I expect Mother Nature to adhere to my every whim, but the idea of it is in line with the way ancient pagans prayed for longer or shorter seasons per their agricultural needs.

As I welcome the onset of the phenological season, which may or may not begin right away, I consider the “official” start of a season to factor in the length of days as well as the cultural atmosphere. In August, Autumn themes begin to appear in the media, harvest decor creeps into shops around town, and people begin preparing for the onset of the full season. Autumn weather or not, the signs of Autumn appear in August, whether in the balancing length of days (which straddle the equinox) or in the cultural environment.

I may have been wrong to call August unequivocally Autumn in the past, but so too are others for calling it Summer. I witnessed Autumn begin while Summer continued. The cross-quarter months are liminal months. The secular world, too, acknowledges this liminality with Groundhog Day in February. If everyone is so confident that February fits squarely in Winter, then why the superstition concerning groundhogs and early Spring?

The cross-quarter months contain the endings ~and~ beginning of seasons. By all means, wish me a happy Autumn anytime in September, but don’t tell me that it didn’t begin in August or even that Summer is finally over now, as late as the equinox. My liminal-months model, while closer to Nature, still doesn’t box Her in.

Dedicant Oath-Rite Recap

I spoke my Dedicant’s Oath during my grove’s Harvest Home ritual. I completed my full year of High-Day attendance at Midsummer and had originally planned to give my oath during Lughnasadh. But as Lughnasadh approached, I realized I wasn’t going to have all of the required reading done in time. I decided to re-schedule my oath for Harvest Home. In hindsight, this was probably best. Although the Cross-Quarter High Day in August has always been one of my favorites, my grove always celebrates it as a Celtic Rite. Norse may not be my hearth-culture either, but most of the Norse gods are also my gods, so it was a better fit in the end. The patron of the rite was Tyr and the Gatekeeper, Heimdall.

Because I honor seven deities equally in my home practice rather than having a single patron, I gave separate offerings to each as well as to my ancestors and the nature spirits. I felt a little uncomfortable taking up so much time making these offerings. By the time I got around to speaking the oath itself, I felt like I had outstayed my welcome as the center of attention.

There was some confusion concerning when I would be giving the oath during the ritual. I got the impression that the officiant (who was not the senior druid this time) was not even aware that I would be doing my oath that day until I got there. This only increased my anxiety about taking up too much time. I ended up consuming all of eight minutes for my oath and its surrounding activities, which really isn’t all that long, but I felt like it was at the time.

I had all of the words for my praise offerings and the oath memorized. My anxiety about being the center of attention for so long was somewhat alleviated by the fact that I didn’t mess up my words. I brought a print-out of the text with me just in case, but I never needed to consult it. I had pre-planed the order I would give the offerings and the only mistake, if I can call it that, was that I switched the order of two of them. No one in the group could have known, but I picked up the offering for Frigg when I meant to pick up the one for Fréo. As I was about to speak my praise to Fréo, I noticed I had the wrong item in my hands. I froze up on the inside for what felt like a long time, but it wasn’t. To onlookers, everything ran smoothly. I hardly consider myself articulate on an average day, so some muse must have been with me that day to help all the words come out right.

I am especially happy that I have a recording of the whole affair, well most of it anyway. I probably would be writing a much more critical review of myself had I not the video to assess myself from a different perspective. All of the thoughts going through my head would be all I have to go on. I wouldn’t have known that my “very long time” was only 8 minutes. I wouldn’t have known that my words came out more confident-sounding than I perceived them at the time.

My husband was the camera man, as he had been at previous rituals since he, as an agnostic, doesn’t participate in the ritual itself. I always ask that he use my phone to take photos and to film. This time, he used his own phone, which had little space left on it for media. As a result, my post-oath omen-taking was cut off. When he first told me, I thought he missed more than just the omens. I was distraught and let it be known before apologizing to the group for inviting negative energy into the ritual.

I took omen after speaking my oath but before blessing the pendants I had acquired specifically for the purpose. I used my own handmade set of Anglo-Saxon runes to take omen and I asked the following questions:

  • Do the Kindreds accept my oath and sacrifices?
  • What do they offer in return?
  • What more do they ask of me?

The responses were Ger, Tir, and Yr respectively. Ger corresponds to the Elder Futhark Gera and Tir to Tiwaz. Yr is unique to the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. I took Ger to mean that my oath and sacrifices were accepted but also to be a reminder that my oath is a lifetime commitment. As Tyr was patron of the rite, I took his rune to indicate that the Kindreds offer me their support; that they are present in my life and listening. Amazingly enough, the omen taken by the officiant for the rite as a whole was also Tir/Tiwaz. Tyr was definitely with us that day. Yr indicates that the Kindreds ask me to continue my studies and perhaps specialize in a particular skill set. Yr represents the English longbow, mastery of which, at the time the rune-poem was written, was limited to a select few.

After taking omen, I asked the Kindreds to bless two Thunor’s hammer pendants, one in silver and one in bronze. I got two so that I can always wear one no matter the colors of my outfit. The pendants are modeled after the 6th century hammer found in Kent, England. Up to this point, I had been wearing a Norse Mjölnir, but I wanted something specific to my hearth culture for my oath.

As I wrap up this final essay for my DP documentation, I feel accomplished and amazed that I actually did it all, but I also feel the sweet sorrow that accompanies the completion of any chapter of one’s journey. I may pursue further studies within ADF, in fact, I am almost certain that I will. But not right away. For now, I am going to focus on my hearth practice as it is and appreciate what I have accomplished up to this point.

OATH RITE TEXT:                                                                                                                                           I stand here at the Sacred Center to make an Oath to the Kindreds that I hold most dear to my heart. Beloved Kindreds, hear my call and join me as I offer up these sacrifices and give my oath as an offering in your honor.

 Mighty Ancestors, you of my blood and you of my heart, accept this offering and my good will.

 Noble Ones, Fae of this place, accept this offering and my good will.

 Thunor, Middangeard’s protector, you who has been my guide long before I knew your name, accept my offering.

 Fréo, beautiful Lady, you who has taught me much about self-love and respect, accept my offering.

 Hela, Mistress of the Underworld, you who has motivated me to learn about my ancestors, accept my offering.

 Frige, Queen of Ésengeard, you who encourages me to be self-reliant, accept my offering.

 Móna, shimmering God of the Moon, you who has been there for me in my darkest hours, accept my offering.

 Hrethe, mysterious Lady, you who has taught me never to give up hope, no matter how grim the situation, accept my offering.

 Woden, wise All-Father, you who pushes me to face the hard truths for my own good, accept my offering.

 

 And now, before all in attendance here, I make my oath.

I oath: to keep the feasts and observances of Saxon Druidry, following the Wheel of the Year; to seek the Old Ways and adapt them to modern life; and to keep the memory of my ancestors alive in my heart.

 These things I swear by the well that flows in me, by the fire that shines in me, and by the tree that roots and crowns my soul. Before all the Powers here, I swear it, lest the three Worlds rise against me! Mighty Kindreds, accept my sacrifice and oath!

Omens:

Do the Kindreds accept my offerings? Ger                                                                              

What do they offer me in return? Tir

What more do the they ask of me? Yr

 Finally, I ask that the Powers gathered here bless these þunreslecg pendants as a symbol of my devotion and a reminder of the oath I have made today.

 Oath offerings:

Ancestors – tea

Noble Ones – oatmeal

Frige – home-baked brownie

Mona – Sambuca

Hrethe- ribbon bow in yellow and purple

Woden – rune

Thunor – beer

Freya – ribbon bow

Hela – rose from my rose bush

 

ADF Dedicant Path: Book Review #3

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2009. Print.

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Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan provides pagans new to the path with a brief introduction to the practices of modern Anglo-Saxon paganism. While the author, Alaric Albertsson, references ancient practices and history for context, his focus is on modern practice. He is careful to note that the information he presents reflects the practices of his own inhīred (a group of practicing Saxon pagans) and is neither universal, nor indicative of exactly what ancient pagans would have done. Topics covered include cosmology, deities, altar set-up, Holy Tides, ritual format, and mead-making. Although broad rather than deep, the material covered is just enough to get the aspiring Saxon pagan onto his or her feet with a living practice.

The most frequent criticism of this book is of its cursory nature. Indeed, no topic is covered in depth. Instead, the text (hopefully) whets the reader’s appetite for more, provided that Saxon paganism is the right path for them. Someone new to paganism, Saxon paganism, or both is not looking for a heavy coverage of lore and history.

The to-the-point manner of this text is most-likely why it is recommended reading for ADF’s Dedicant Path (DP) program. The DP program does not assume that new members come into it knowing what hearth culture is right for them. This book is intended for those who are initially drawn to or curious about Anglo-Saxon paganism and who would like to get started with active practice right away before delving in deeper.

I appreciate this book for what it is, but by they time I got around to reading it, I was already certain of and decently well-read in my hearth culture. I came into the DP considering Norse, Saxon, and Gaelic hearth cultures. I purchased this book right away along with several others and used it for reference occasionally, but found myself fully immersed in the world of the Saxon pagan long before I picked it up for a proper read-through. For this reason, I sometimes disagreed with Albertsson, but my biases in no way negate the merit of this text. My disagreements were not over matters of fact or “correct” methods. For example, I recognize Hrethe as a different deity than Hertha/Eorðe, while Albertsson introduces her as the as Hertha. Scholars do not agree on this matter, so either view is viable.

Although short on scholarly details, I highly recommend this book to any pagan wishing to get their feet wet with Saxon pagan practices. Lore and history is certainly important, but at the heart of any polytheistic religion is a relationship with the gods, ancestors, and nature spirits. This book will get you started with building such a relationship, while providing just enough detail to set it apart as uniquely Anglo-Saxon.

 

ADF Dedicant Path: Book Review #2

Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2006. Print.

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Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America follows the rise of Wicca and other neopagan religions from their beginnings in the early 20th century to the present day, with especial focus on developments in the 1960s and 70s. While the story of Wicca itself is the driving force of the text, Author Chris Clifton could hardly ignore Wicca’s influence on and by other pagan religions, thus resulting in a well-researched comprehensive text chronicling the growth of many of the biggest Neopagan religions to take root in American soil during the 20th century.

This text takes a much needed comparative-studies approach to American pagan practices. Studies of pre-Christian, European pagan religions are necessarily comparative in nature, so too should be the studies of the neopagan religions inspired by them. There is an unfortunate tendency for followers of non-Wiccan pagan paths to distance themselves from Wicca as much as possible. It is this distance which Clifton successfully bridges by demonstrating how Wicca has touched, however indirectly, all American Pagans, from the “traditional” witches claiming a pre-Wiccan lineage to the reconstructionist Heathens who refuse to associate with the broader pagan umbrella, much less Wicca.

Although Clifton gives more attention to some (non-Wiccan) religions than others, with reconstructionist-based paths receiving the least of it, the over-all scope of the text is impressive for its size. Clifton, in fact, addresses this very issue in his introduction by means of a clever island analogy wherein he concludes that “to tell one story . . . is to tell many stories” (4). And hence, the story of Wicca becomes the story of American Paganism. Or rather, the story of a British mystery tradition which makes its way to American soil and evolves into the nature religion we recognize it as today.

I highly recommend this book to all Indo-European-based Neopagans, Wiccan and non-Wiccan alike. Don’t let preconceived notions or biases put you off. I, myself, came to this text with little enthusiasm. Had it not been recommended reading for my Dedicant Path studies, I may never have picked this book up on my own. I hope that my review can convince others not to pass this one by!

My Autism-Spectrum Diagnosis Story

I was nervous about getting my autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. What if I didn’t have an ASD at all? what then? But what if I do? Maybe I don’t want that. Maybe I just want to be normal, or at least to believe it. Is it really worth it? What will change in my life after I know?

It was a lot of money for a two-day long analysis. Is two days enough to really evaluate me? It was a LOT of money to spend on a half-assed diagnosis. But my psychologist had good reviews. She specializes in autism, including adults with autism. The latter is a difficult qualification to find. She must know a thing or two.

It would be a few years between first contacting the psychologist and actually going in for an evaluation. I was initially a 2 hour drive away and stressed at the prospect of all that driving plus a long time spent in the office. I finally made the appointment when I lived a little closer, but it was still nearly an hour drive and into the heart of downtown Denver. City driving gives me more anxiety than long distance driving.

But I had to know. I was tired of my assumed ASD being used against me by friends and family when convenient and brushed aside when not. If anyone was going to use it as a weapon, it better at least be a valid one. And then, maybe, I’d feel more confident defending myself because I knew what exactly I was defending.

I found it difficult to behave naturally during the evaluation. I was worried about any of my natural traits coming across as forced or deliberate, even though they weren’t. I didn’t want her to think I was trying one way or another. As a result, I was hyper aware of every little thing I did. By the second day I was worried that I tried so hard to not come across as autistic, that the results would be skewed the other way. But oh well. I trusted that she could see through all that. By the end, I had the impression she wasn’t going to diagnose me with an ASD. We spent so much time discussing traits I had that didn’t quite line up, more so than time spent discussing the ones that did. And yet, her final assessment was, yes, I am definitely on the spectrum. I have what would have been labeled Aspergers before it was lumped into the larger ASD diagnosis.

I felt relieved when it was over. I had the words on paper to serve as evidence of my feat. I was so proud of myself, I did it. I survived the city, and the unfamiliar environment. And I survived it twice! I am not good with multiple big events happening too close in proximity. I need a lot of down time between activities outside the home that aren’t part of my usual routine. But I was a real trooper this time.

After the novelty wore off, life went back to normal. Only, now when my ASD is used against me, I can’t reply with “you don’t know that.” But, hey, on the bright side (I thought), when people give me grief about not fitting in with standard social customs, my excuses won’t be taken so personally. Maybe this will improve my relationships, maybe now I can start making real friends. I can say I don’t feel up to going out for multiple invites in a row and it won’t be perceived as rude. Now I can decline hugs without hurting people’s feelings. Now I can say something makes me uncomfortable and people will take me seriously. Unfortunately, none of this is the case. Others only acknowledge my ASD when they can use it as an insult. Otherwise, it is the same invisible disability it was before my diagnosis.

—Please, don’t make that sound —Oh, OK sorry

—Don’t touch me there. —Ok

—this aesthetic makes me uncomfortable —*shrug*

Some time later:

—I said I don’t like that, please, don’t —OK

and later again:

—Why wont you listen!! Stop, please! —woah! Chill out! Jeez. Wait, you were being serious?? I didn’t know it was such a big deal…

Yes, it’s a big deal. These aren’t petty complaints or preferences. I get surges of adrenaline when I see or feel certain things. To make matters worse, I have mirror-touch synesthesia. I’m really not messing around when I say something bothers me. It really IS a big deal. Why won’t anyone take me seriously?

And yet, I know why. I don’t look like anything is wrong with me. I’m not physically handicapped, I don’t have the physical traits that show themselves in conjunction with other mental disorders, I don’t act particularly unusual in most settings. People expect that I can control my mind the way they expect people with depression to do the same. —Just get over it! Mind over matter…

I wish I could. Sometimes I can manage better than others. My spiritual practices have been helping immensely. Especially meditation and breathing techniques. I haven’t had a serious meltdown in several years. I have a pretty good idea of what I can handle and what I cannot, so I plan my days accordingly. But I don’t always have control over my surroundings. And I can’t just get over it.

My friends try to understand. But I don’t think they really do. I still hurt feelings. I know they are human and that theoretical understanding of my situation doesn’t change how my actions affect them. I wish it didn’t have to be like this. All I can do is spread awareness. Perhaps if enough of us share our experiences, the rest of the world will believe that they are indeed real.

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