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.

ADF Dedicant Path: Book Report #1

I’ve been putting off the book report portion of the DP for some time now. I was/am not sure if I still plan to submit my essays for official approval, so it hasn’t been a priority. But I haven’t been writing anything else on my blog recently, so I figured I may as well write a book report.

Book Report: A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick

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A History of Pagan Europe gives a broad but detailed overview of the culture, politics, and religious practices of pagans in Europe before Christian conversion. The book is organized more or less by geographical region. The focus varies from region to region, with some chapters focusing more on religious practices and others on politics, but the overall effect is a picture of how these and culture as a whole are interrelated. The authors’ primary aim, besides documenting history, is to examine how some pagan practices have survived the centuries relatively unchanged despite political opposition and forced religious conversion.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this book is its holistic approach to history. Anthropology, sociology, religious studies, and the cold hard facts of history come together to provide a vibrant glimpse into times long gone. This book is of value to both academics and neopagans alike. Although neopagans do not live in the same time as pre-Christian pagans, it is important that they have an understanding of the context from which the practices they immerse themselves in today come. It is easier to adapt old customs to modern life if we understand their original purpose. And since the purpose of religious customs cannot be separated from culture and politics, knowledge of these is also essential.

Having a long and arduous academic history (in comparative literature among other subjects), this book was not especially eye-opening to me, but I did gain some insight none the less. A lot of it was review, but review of things that I had forgotten. I had a basic understanding of the interconnectedness of all Indo-European religions, but it was fascinating to read the particulars, like a puzzle coming together. For example, I know the number nine is significant in Germanic paganism and is a multiple of three, which is significant to the Celts, but I learned from this book about a Romanian ceremony that lasted nine days and involved nine boundary points (190). It was the random, seemingly trivial facts like these that were of the most interest to me in this text.

I recommend this book to all neo-pagans interested in an European-based pagan spirituality. It isn’t a quick read, but it is worth the effort. A lot of information is contained in the 200+ pages. I ended up reading though the book twice. The first time was a speed-read in order to form an outline in my head to fill in during the second read-through. It may also be helpful to keep a notebook on hand to write down important dates, events, and names, since the book jumps around a lot in time and some names recur often enough that it is helpful to have a reference point. For those lucky few with a superb short term memory, notes may still come in handy for future research endeavors. Regardless of how one choses to tackle this book, s/he will not regret it!

 

 

Deviant INTJ (or am I?)

Long time no post! Sorry guys. I keep doing that to you. I’m going to do my best to get onto a regular posting schedule next year. If any of you can suggest some fun blog prompts or yearly blog challenges, I would love to hear them. I was all on top of things when I had the DP work to do. But now that’s over, more or less. I haven’t posted the book reports yet because I feel accomplished enough with my spirituality that it hasn’t been a priority. Sounds very INTP of me though doesn’t it? Dropping a task as soon as I near completion to  start something else? Well, INTP isn’t one of my possible types, but this does lead me quite nicely into the topic I mean to blog about right now.

I’ve been defending my INTJ status for a few years now. Nevertheless, I don’t fit into the INTJ box very well. If I did, I wouldn’t fee the need to keep defending my place in it. But every so often, I start to question myself. Could I be an INFJ? Drop the INFJ bomb in any INTJ forum and they will immediately go to the standard script: INTJs don’t question their type. More INFJs are mistyped as INTJ than vice versa. The mere fact that I am questioning my type must mean I am not INTJ. Perhaps. There certainly is a correlation. Other facts and correlations that don’t work in my favor include being  female and former female INTJ Youtubers revealing that they are really INFJ. But if we can just put aside these quick-solution correlations for a moment and look at the facts of my particulate situation, that’d be great.

I have been told that I am intimidating as many times as I have been accused of being personable. But there is a clear differentiation of context for each identity. When I am doing customer service work such as tech support or cashiering, I am always labeled the most personable employee. Customers seek me out on purpose because I am the “nice one.” This has been consistent across the board in every job I’ve ever held. Get me out of my day job and the friendly facade is gone just like that. Not that I am necessarily mean, but the immediately approachable persona is no longer there.  I become an acquired taste. When people get to know me, they no longer fear me and they even come to me with their problems from time to time for advice or just an ear to listen.

Watching my youtube videos, I have a hard time figuring out what it is that intimidates people. Truth be told, I wish I was intimidating. It’s an aspect of INTJness that I like to play up, but when I watch myself in action, I laugh at how stupid I come across. How in the world can anyone find that mess of derp intimidating? I discussed this with my husband and he said that my youtube persona doesn’t match how I behave most of the time out in the wild. I really want to believe it. But I have no idea how I really come across except that people have told me they don’t know how to approach me, so there must be something to it.

My behavior has also changed with age. I go out of my way to avoid conflict and to try, albeit poorly, to be a peace keeper. This is normal. People change as they mature and some develop their tertiary functions more than others. Could this be my issue? Do I have a super-developed Fi? Maybe, but this still wouldn’t explain why I try to avoid conflict. Fe is the one that bases morals on societal norms and tries to adjust their behavior to harmonize with the group. But is it even harmonizing that I do? If I was harmonizing so well, people wouldn’t be intimidated. Before I was 18, I had no intuition for group dynamics and social queues. I was so Aspie it’s embarrassing to remember. I did what I wanted as I wanted to with no regard for how it affected others. I was completely oblivious to the social atmosphere around me. I cringe remembering some of the horrible things I’ve done in the past, now that I can understand the big picture in hind sight.  Today, I excel at picking up group dynamics and it surprises me how natural it has become. However, I don’t pick them up right away. There is a processing delay. I don’t get those famous INFJ vibes  in a room the minute I walk in. But I can analyze the landscape fairly quickly. Once I do, I will try my best not to make waves.

I enjoy debate and any excuse to have discussions about hot topics, but only with select people who also aren’t wave makers. I might attempt to speak my mind from the beginning in an unfamiliar group, but the minute someone takes it personally, I back off. I don’t go around proactively trying to create harmony, but I make sure I personally am not involved in the discord. In fact, it has occurred to me that conflict around me doesn’t bother me. It only bothers me if I know I am somehow involved.

While (I think) I am blending in externally, my personal moral code is not Fe driven. I disagree with so many traditional norms and morals it’s crazy. I have my own sense of morality, but no desire to impose it on anyone. I privately judge everyone while behaving cordial. I believe in “to each their own”; live and let live. I might not agree with you, but if you stay out of my way, I’ll stay out of yours.

I read a blog post about sympathetic INTJs and it struck a chord with me. Especially this part:

While I understand people on an extreme level, I don’t feel their emotions the way an Fe user would. My Ni lets me know intuitively what’s going on behind the lines and then I’m able to logically put together what someone is feeling by using Te. I can understand, but I cannot empathize unless I have shared experience.

I call myself an empath from time to time because I do think that I can understand people deeply and even feel their emotions. But only if it relates to a shared experience. I can reason out just about any emotion, but if I can’t relate to it, I won’t internalize it. I have a hard time imagining what it must be like for empaths who claim to internalize emotions no matter the situation.

I read elsewhere that:

[INTJ]s feel uncomfortable with overt displays of emotion, because for them, feelings are highly personal and private. When an INTJ is approached with a personal problem, the INTJ’s first reaction is to treat it like a challenge to be solved. In lieu of emotional support, the INTJ may offer practical solutions.

While I certainly do enjoy helping out a friend in distress, it’s definitely more of a puzzle than an emotional event for me. I love the accolades for solving the problem, but I don’t do emotional support. I want to and wish I could and I hate myself that I don’t, but I can’t handle displays of emotion. Internally, I care deeply when it’s someone in my inner circle; externally, I come across as impersonal and indifferent. When I try to provide emotional support it comes across as fake, cold, forced, or awkward to the point of comedy. In some rare cases, people have told me I was plenty emotionally supportive, so perhaps my efforts can read as I intend them, but they do not come to me naturally or feel natural when I enact them.

Moving on from all the feelzy talk, my “T” also doesn’t fit squarely in the INTJ box. On all cognitive function tests, my Te and Ti are nearly identical. I spend a lot of time in my head, but so do other INTJs apparently. In this case, I think I am misunderstanding Te and Ti rather than using both equally. I am the type to correct details and grammar in others’ speech. I question what others perceive as trivial details, whereas an INTJ is only supposed to be concerned with the big picture. I want the big picture and the details, but the latter only on my terms. I cannot stand people who take forever to get to the point. I will be rude and ask them to get to the point or point out if something has already been stated. If they say a detail I notice as false, I call them on it immediately. I do this to my husband all the time and he hates it. He’ll say something happened on a particular day of the week, for example, and I’ll volunteer empirical data to prove that it couldn’t have happened then. He gets frustrated not knowing why I should even care, since the day it happened wasn’t essential to the story being told. At the same time, I constantly accuse him of taking too long to get to the point. I don’t want fluff details. If the date was never mentioned, I wouldn’t have asked for it. But if an inaccurate detail is placed there, relevant or not, I’ll call you on it. Why insert a random fluff detail if it’s not imperative to the point —especially if it’s not even accurate? This drives me nuts. I have been confusing this as a Ti attention to detail when I’m not so sure that’s really what it is. I will request details as I deem them relevant, but I don’t like the speaker to volunteer any more than necessary up front. I prefer to seek the big picture first and then go back to retrieve details. Still, I do enjoy thinking about stuff purely for the sake of thinking about it with no practical purpose in mind except for logical satisfaction. This is a Ti thing, isn’t it?

The most frustrating thing of it is, I want to be unique. Individuality is a priority for me, but I also want to fit neatly into a box. What even is that? I want a box and don’t want one at the same time? Ok, I do know. I want a box that’s pre-defined but not too crowded.

Results of my most recent cognitive function test are as follows. For the time being, I am still (a deviant) INTJ.

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But why am I all whimsical and airy fairy and into the occult and magickal stuff? That’s more INFJ. But the “counselor” personality? No way. I do not go out of my way to help people. If I know you well, and I respect you, then yes, of course. I would absolutely hate to be a therapist. Strangers do not concern me. I wish them well, but I don’t want their baggage on me.

Let us Tend the World Hearth Flame

I have a candle that was lit at the Brigid Shrine in Kildare. I received it as a gift from my Grove last Imbolc. I haven’t done anything with it until now. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I know it is sacred, something special, something I needed to hold onto. But my hearth culture is Anglo Saxon and Brigid is not one of my patrons. Today, however, as I was thinking about the post-election stress, about friends and family dividing over politics, about issues that I feel so small standing up against. I thought of that Brigid candle and felt strongly compelled to light it. A candle that holds the energy of a shrine to which both Christians and Pagans make pilgrimages. A place that unites people despite their differences; dedicated to a Goddess (or Saint) of inspiration, healing, and the hearth-flame among other things.

Brigid seemed like exactly the Goddess to call upon for matters beyond my personal needs. She is not my personal patron, but she is a one that my Grove honors and she is one I will now call on whenever I wish to light a candle for others. Her flame, to me, represents the hearth flame of the world. A hearth that unites rather than divides. We can and should still have our independent hearth cults. But it is never a good idea to segregate oneself so much that the “other” becomes the enemy.

The Earth Mother is host to the World Hearth, and Brigid is one of the deities I believe tends to it. In recognition of this, I dressed a new candle with Cypress oil to be lit with the flame from my original Brigid candle. Cypress oil is my ritual oil for Imbolc, the Holy Tide when I honor the Earth mother and, with my Grove, Brigid. I then invited Brigid to my devotional and told her my intentions.

I was nervous inviting a new deity to my private rituals. Although I honor Brigid in group ritual, I did not know how she would take to me asking so much from her privately. I lit the candle and spoke my prayers without any expectation. I prayed that she might inspire people in whatever way necessary to unite them despite their differences. I asked if she might lend her healing energy to my grandfather in-law who recently broke his hip and to my friends and family who are suffering from broken relationships in the aftermath of election day. I offered wine and I took an omen. I asked her if my request was received favorably. Her response?  The rune, Gyfu (aka Gebo), which means “gift.” I have heard it said that Brigid rewards all offerings to her. Perhaps this omen was confirmation of this. A gift calls for a gift. I offered her wine, but I also offered my love. My love for my family, friends, my country, and the world. My love that I give irregardless of others’ religions, politics, and identities. The omen I received in return yielded a sigh of relief from me.

Please, people, try to put love first. Don’t go immediately into battle while filled with rage. Try to see yourself in your would-be enemies. Try to understand their side. Ask yourselves if hate is really the answer right now. And, like I have said before in this post, do not think that condescending or smug language is going to be met with open ears. I know you are mad. I know you think you are right. But only respectful dialogue can bring another to consider your point of view.

Etsy Store Progress

Sorry guys, I’m really leaving you all hanging aren’t I? But I’m quite flattered that I haven’t lost most of my followers yet!

I’m doing a lot better keeping up with my youtube channel than I am my blog. So, hey, if you wanna watch and listen to me ramble for longer than necessary about stuff, feel free to subscribe to me there if you haven’t already!

TheAspiePagan Youtube Channel

Most of my time lately has been spent preparing for the January opening of my Etsy store. I’ve been setting up my mini workshop, taking classes at the local Tandy leather to freshen up old skills and learn some new, watching hundreds of youtube tutorials for ideas and inspiration, experimenting with possible designs and working out logistics for practical marketing.

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My Workspace

I’ve pretty much narrowed down what will be my two primary journal styles. I will also be making dreamcatchers with tooled leather centers and possibly some more traditional ones too. I simply adore dreamcatchers and I had to fit them in somehow.

Because I don’t want to limit the future expansion of my product line and because I also don’t want to end up with a random mashup of unrelated stuff, I had to think long and hard about the marketing. I was struggling to figure out how to even tie dreamcatchers and journals together in a way that makes sense. Besides the obvious, but severely limiting dream-journal concept, including the dreamcatchers as part of an overall “leather craft” theme also doesn’t work incase I decide to create leather-free ones as well.

What I know is that I want all my designs to inspire people and to make dreamers out of them. That I even have this amazing opportunity to work full-time as an artisan is an amazing dream come true and I want to inspire others to follow their dreams too. Or to at least to not lose their childlike wonder for the world and all it’s possibilities. So I came up with the following tagline: “Whimsical crafts to inspire the dreamer in you.” I thought it was a clever way to keep “dreams” in there without limiting the definition. Most of my items will have witchy, pagan, or otherwise whimsical designs and themes.

Oh yeah, and sorry too that I’m taking so long to get those book reports posted. It will happen though. I promise!

 

 

I’m still here!

So don’t send out a search party just yet… :p

So where exactly have I been? Oh you know, here, there, everywhere but blogging. Obviously.

I did my Dedicant Oath, by the way, during Harvest Home. Here’s a video of it:

ADF Dedicant Oath

I have not, however, submitted my final materials yet for evaluation. You may notice that the book reports section under the DP tab is lacking in actual reports. I was all happily preparing to submit some half-arsed reports, the kind that result from having read books while falling asleep (because I was so damn tired everyday after work). But I realized that I would only be cheating myself going through with it, so I am now re-reading one of the texts and have selected an alternate text to read for one of the categories because #reasons. You should see book reports popping up here in the next couple of weeks.

In other news, I have officially began the work for starting my business. A name, a DBA registration with my state, a tax number, a business bank account. It’s all feeling so real. But the most exciting part? I finally have the funds I need to purchase supplies for start up. And indeed, the first orders have been placed. SO MUCH TEH EXCITE!

What I need to figure out before officially opening up shop is the logistics of the marketing. I know I’m doing leather crafts and that I want to stick to new-age, pagan, or generally whimsical themes. Hand-carved journal covers are definitely in the plans.  There are other crafts I want to include, but I need to figure out how to put it all together into a branding that makes sense. I’m tentatively aiming for a January opening on Etsy, but we’ll see how that goes.

I’ll keep everyone posted!

 

ADF Dedicant Path: Personal Religion

I found ADF after having spent several years as a non-practicing pagan. I had pagan beliefs, but rarely applied them to my life. I had no altar, no garden, and no group with which to celebrate pagan holidays. Though I dabbled in Wicca and Eastern spiritual practices, I did so as I teenager seeking association with something cool and exotic, while lacking true commitment. Eventually, I lost interest in Wicca, but I didn’t know where to go from there. Eastern religions remained of interest, but a feeling of cultural disconnect kept me from fully embracing any of them as my own. I labeled myself an eclectic witch and pagan, but I felt lost in the sea of spiritual practices. Eclecticism was not right for me either. I tried to resign myself to a secular life, but I couldn’t do it. I returned to my spiritual quest in early 2015 with more resolve than ever before.

Having already explored Eastern spirituality and eclecticism, I knew I needed something more focused and culturally relevant. I first came across Germanic and Celtic reconstructionist paths, which were almost what I wanted, but I didn’t want to give up eclectic and neopagan influences entirely. I wanted focus with a healthy dose of flexibility. Fortunately, ADF offers exactly this. I don’t remember exactly how it was that I came upon ADF; I am inclined to say it was pure chance. At any rate, I knew almost immediately that it was exactly what I sought. I paid for membership and began the Dedicant Path (DP) within a week of discovering ADF’s website.

My first altar was a TV tray. I gathered up what I could find around the house to serve as the recommended altar items and set up my rudimentary altar outside under my Ash tree to give my initial oath. I was so excited to finally be doing, rather than just believing. The energy was notably strong that day. The sky was overcast and it thundered. Since Thunor played no small role in leading me to my Hearth Culture, I took the weather to be a good sign. It wasn’t long before I had a permanent altar set up indoors.

I began the DP fairly confident that Anglo-Saxon would my Hearth Culture, but I also considered a dual Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Hearth Culture. I decided to focus on one at a time, beginning with Anglo-Saxon. I became discouraged fairly early on with the lack of information available about Saxon paganism relative to Norse paganism. Even more troubling was the lack of community. Most of my online Germanic-pagan acquaintances follow a Norse path and the Grove that I joined focuses on the Norse and Celtic. I tired of having to translate all of my Saxon terminology to Norse in order to communicate with my Grove and on my blog. I considered going the Norse route myself in order to go with the grain for once in my life. This was a very short-lived consideration. I felt overwhelmingly compelled to return to the Anglo-Saxon Hearth. I feel at home with this Hearth Culture. I feel like I belong here, like the Gods (especially Thunor) want me here. It is still possible that I will integrate the Celtic pantheon into my private practice later on, but for now it is enough that my Grove recognizes it.

Although I have an especially close relationship with Thunor and at least one other deity, I have not formally accepted a patron. I refer to all seven of my personal pantheon as my matrons and patrons in the sense that I focus my worship on these seven among the larger Anglo-Saxon pantheon. Also, in the last month so, I’ve decided to decrease the frequency of my matron and patron devotionals in order to increase my focus on the other two Kindreds. A dedicated patron type of relationship is not right for me at this time, though I am not ruling it out.

Nothing about my spiritual practice is set in stone. I may return my focus to the Gods, and I may not. I might accept a single patron and I might not. I trust that the Kindreds will guide me and I will adjust my practice accordingly. For the time being, I am immensely satisfied with my paganism. I never thought that I would get to this point, but here I am!

 

 

ADF Dedicant Path: The Three Kindreds

The Three Kindreds of ADF druidry are the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Shining Ones. Each of these play a different role in our lives, some being more involved with us than others. My own understanding of and relationship to Kindreds has changed since I first started out on this path.

The Ancestors: The Ancestors are the departed souls of our own blood lineage, of our cultural lands, and the heroes of our hearts regardless of relationship. There are many places our Ancestors might end up after death. Some are reincarnated to live among us once again, while others might be taken into the hall of one of the Gods to be of service to that particular deity. Therefore, not all of them are able to be of assistance to their descendants. Some, however, join the ranks of the Ylfe (Alfar) and Idesa (Disir), semi-divine beings who are able and willing to watch over us. Given that the term Ylfe refers to the entire race of Light Elves, our ancestral guardians might also be counted as one of the Nature Spirits, indicating that the three Kindreds do not exist as isolated groups with unrelated duties and motives.

I did not always take an interest in ancestor worship. This has changed significantly since joining ADF. I did not know how to connect to or relate to beings that I have little in common with besides genetics. I did not accept that blood should create a default connection between people. As far as immediate family is concerned, it makes sense that there is a connection because we live(d) together – strong bonds are bound to develop. I attribute my feelings towards blood ancestors to the modern world. Families don’t stay together the way they did a two thousand years ago. Even the nuclear family breaks apart as children grow up and move away. The ancestral bonds that the ancient pagans felt were likely a result of having remained in the same area together for many generations. The bond was more than blood.

Nevertheless, my Dedicant Path (DP) studies inspired me to learn more about my blood lineage. I am exceptionally fortunate to have a mother who maintains all of our genealogical records and collects stories about our Ancestors whenever she can. I do not necessarily feel a connection to every Ancestor she tells me of, but some I can imagine getting along with well if I had met them during their lifetime. I have learned much about where I came from and I feel a lot better about honoring those who had a hand in bringing me here, whether I can relate to them otherwise or not. Also, the concept of an ancestor being anyone who helped get me to where I am, blood relative or not, was one I had not considered before my DP studies. This too has increased my interest in Ancestor worship.

The Nature Spirits:  This is somewhat of a catch-all category for spirits who are neither Gods nor Ancestors. The title “nature spirit” seems self-explanatory enough. One would think it refers to spirits whose domain and primary concern is nature. Indeed, such spirits are part of the Nature Spirit Kindred, but so are many other wights. The general consensus seems to be that the Nature Spirit Kindred is the one least interested in, and sometimes hostile towards humans. I do not think this is a fair assessment considering the diversity of spirits which fall into this category. I’ve already noted above that some of our ancestors join the ranks of the Nature Kin, and the Cofgodas (household gods) are, by their very title, particularly concerned with human and domestic affairs. Considering that only a small portion of human spirits are part of ones Ancestral lineage, it seems to me that there must be as many, if not more Nature Kin interested in human affairs as there are Ancestors.

Because this Kindred includes so many different classes of wight, my relationship with it is somewhat complex. For most of my indoor ADF-style rituals, I have called on the Nature Kin, using this exact term, but I felt odd doing so. Though I know this Kindred includes more than the Landwihta (land wights), I have a hard time not thinking only of them when I use the term “Nature Spirits.” I noticed that Our Own Druidry refers to them as “The Noble Spirits” (42), in one section of the text, but this term too does not agree with me as it seems descriptive of all three Kindreds.

Since I already honor the Cofgodas at a shrine over my hearth and since any other wight of this Kindred, apart from the Alfar (which are already included as Ancestors) will probably not be present at my indoor rituals, it seems superfluous to call on the Nature Spirits for my main altar devotionals.  The Gods and Ancestors might keep an ear out for the call of humans around the globe, but the Nature Spirits are very much localized beings whose acquaintance we make only by visiting their domain. When I want to honor or make offerings to the Nature Spirits on my own land, I go outside and talk to my trees and other plants. I make offerings to the Earth before I plant seedlings. I sit outside and simply feel my connection with them.

The Shining Ones: These are the Gods and Goddesses and are among the most powerful of all the Spirits. As with the other two Kindreds, the Shining Ones do not fit exclusively into their own category. Ing Fréa, for example, is ruler of the Ylfe and may even be considered one of them by association. Some Gods and Goddesses are part Ettin, a race whose power matches that of the Gods but who are not necessarily allies of Gods or humans. Some still, such as Sunne and Móna, were even once human.

This is the Kindred I was most keen on interacting with when I began the DP. They were less obscure to me than the others, even if significantly higher up in the chain of hierarchy. I was familiar with their names and their stories. They are the flashy, powerful, and famous ones among the spirits. As I got to know my own personal pantheon and came close to taking a single patron, my relationship with the other two Kindreds also grew. I became less dependent on the familiarity of the Shining Ones and more curious about the others. I had hoped, early on, that I would be one of the special “chosen ones” of a God or Goddess. I must admit that I am the type who craves the spotlight as long as it doesn’t interfere with my introversion. But as time went on, my desire for this type of relationship lessened. I no longer hope for it as I did before, but I am open to the possibility if the opportunity presents itself.

I still hold devotionals for the seven deities of my personal pantheon, but not as frequently as I did originally. Initially, I had dedicated one day of the week to each of my matrons and patrons (I use these terms loosely to refer to the deities of my solitary devotionals) and held devotionals daily. I have recently decided to change my devotional schedule to every 8 days, so that I still honor my matrons and patrons on the days I associate with them, but I am not overwhelming them with contact and making subpar offerings. I also hope that the omens I take from any one deity every 56 days will be more meaningful.

 

 

ADF Dedicant Path: Mental Discipline

I knew from the beginning that the mental discipline component of the Dedicant Path (DP) would be the most challenging of the requirements for me to complete. It is, in fact, one of the reasons that my time spent on this path has exceeded a year. I officially began the DP in mid June of 2015 and attempted to begin my 23 weeks of meditation in mid September of 2015. After many failed attempts at consecutive weeks of meditation, I finally managed to begin a weekly routine by March of 2016.

Despite the rocky beginning, I was proud of myself for managing to meditate every other week or two weeks, many of which included multiple days of meditation. But impressing myself was not enough to pass the requirement. When I realized I had run out of time to complete the 23 required weeks within a year, I felt somewhat defeated, but I kept at it none the less.

My inability to meditate weekly in the beginning had nothing to do with lack of interest, but everything to do with lack of time. I was a graduate student when I began the DP. Though it is usually easy to invent or steal time for interests, meditation is an interest that requires an alert mind. Unfortunately, I spent all of my potential free time half awake or asleep. I could sleep just about any where at any time. Never before had I ever been able to sleep so easily. I must thank graduate school for curing my insomnia. It should go without saying that meditation was physically impossible for me much of the time. Nevertheless, I made every effort to attempt it several days a week in those first months. Many times I’d pull out my meditation cushion, light a candle, and proceed to the nearest comfortable location to take a nap instead.

When I left graduate school, I didn’t quite find the spare time or freedom from fatigue that I had expected, but I managed to schedule my naps more efficiently. I could finally guarantee myself times to meditate when I wouldn’t be falling asleep. Having spent most of my non-consecutive weekly meditations exploring my options, I had a pretty good idea of what worked for me and what didn’t when I started the official 23 weeks. I had previously tried meditative coloring, walking meditation, Zazen, visualization, guided meditation, and journeying. I also experimented with different background music and sound affects.

It turns out that Zazen is my favorite. Therefor, it became my default for regular meditation sessions when I started the 23 weeks for the last time. When I first began meditating, simply focusing on or counting breaths was challenging. Thinking about my breathing caused me some anxiety, as does thinking about my heartbeat. The more I focused on my breath, the more I felt like I couldn’t do it naturally. I felt like I wasn’t getting enough air and I kept yawning, which distracted me from the meditation. It was my initial difficulty with Zazen that started me on an exploration of the alternatives, though I kept returning to it periodically as a test of my progress. All of the different forms of meditation I tried presented a challenge to some degree, but I believe that each of them had a cumulative positive effect on my mental abilities which made revisiting previously challenging activities a little easier each time.

Though I encountered the bulk of my challenges before I started a consecutive 23 weeks of meditation, I am including the most notable of them for reference. When Zazen proved to be a challenge, as described above, I decided to add music to my meditation sessions, thinking that it may distract me from my anxiety about my breath. Indeed the music helped, but it took me a while to find music (or sound effects) that didn’t also cause me anxiety in other ways. As a woman with Aspergers, I have many sensory sensitivities. Many sounds, and even what seem like harmless melodies, can cause me distress. Often, I would find a meditation track to listen to only to be caught off guard ten minutes into it when a new sound is suddenly introduced. After a while, I found that I was able to calm myself of more severe sound-induced anxiety attacks because of my simultaneous work with breathing and periodic return to silent meditation.

Guided meditations were difficult for me as well because I had trouble syncing my thoughts, actions, and body with the prompts. It bothered me that my deep breaths in and out never lined up with the corresponding instruction. Guided tree and Two Powers meditations were challenging because my physical form didn’t always align well with descriptions for where my roots or branches were supposed to be growing from. If I was seated in a chair and roots grew from my feet, for example, I felt off balance because they weren’t also growing from my spine. Guided meditations have become easier since I began journey meditations, which help me attain detachment from my physical form while in meditation.

My current meditation routine involves a Zazen meditation once a week, preceding my weekly devotional. When I started the 23 weeks, I was doing daily devotionals, but I would only do a long meditation session before one of them and a quick Two Powers meditation before the others. In addition to my weekly Zazen meditation, I continue to explore other methods, though I don’t do so every week. Most recently, I have been exploring shamanistic journeying in more depth. I recently attended a shamanism workshop which, I am happy to say, was a lot more rewarding than it would have been had I not spent the last several months (or rather, year and some months) building up my mental discipline.

ADF Dedicant Path: Home Shrine (final essay)

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My home shrine has come a long way since I started out over a year ago with a TV-tray, a three wick scented jar candle, and an incense burner. Although I am happy with my current set up, I have plans for a separate ancestor altar as well as small shrine shelves for individual deities on the wall near my main altar.

My current altar setup consists of the following:

Three Tier Oak Table:  I had this table custom made to fit on the ledge the runs around the wall of my study. I chose Oak in honor of Thunor, whom I credit with leading me to my current path.

Chimes: I use these to initiate rites.

Yew-tree Candle Holders: These hold one candle for each of the Kindreds.

Mini Mala: Prayer beads dedicated to Fréo

Meditation Beads: I didn’t like these beads for meditation, but I left them on my altar as a representation of me. There is a goddess figure at one end of the beads and a charm with a moon and stars at the other. I think of it as representing my place in the universe, from where I am now spiraling out to the universe beyond.

Offering Bowls: I use two Japanese-style tea cups for my offering bowls.

Sowilo Rune: A memento of the very first ritual I attended with my grove.

Crystals: Those on my altar are associated with spiritual communication, magic, and psychic ability. The Leaf shaped-bowl near by contains grounding and protection stones.

Well: This is one of my favorite pieces on my altar. It is a gongfu tea cup with tiny feet on the bottom. I am a big fan of tea, if it isn’t apparent already.

Pendulum: My first and only pendulum sits on my altar to aid me when I need extra clarification for omens.

Artificial Bonsai: I also have a cherry blossom one that I put on my altar during the Spring season. I want to acquire one with autumn foliage as well sometime in the future.

Ritual Cord: When I purchased this cord, I had no particular use in mind. I was just very drawn to it. It was advertised as a ‘dark moon’ cord, for rituals and magic involving the dark moon. It has a tiny bat charm on one end and a crescent moon charm on the other. I put it on my altar on a whim and the space felt immediately more magical. This cord has come to represent so many things to me, that I couldn’t possibly list them all here, but suffice it to say that it has become a permanent fixture on my altar.

 

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