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!
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.
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
Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2009. Print.
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.
Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2006. Print.
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!
I’ve been putting off the book-review 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 review.
Jones, Prudence, and Nigel Pennick. A History of Pagan Europe. London: Routledge,an Imprint of Taylor & Francis, 2011. Print.
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!
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:
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Our Own Druidry defines fertility as,
Bounty of mind, body and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of art, etc., an appreciation of the physical, sensual, nurturing
Merriam-Webster defines fertility as,
the ability to produce young
the ability to support the growth of many plants
the ability to produce many ideas
As a modest and childfree woman, you can guess that I have had a complicated relationship with the term “fertility.” According to ADF, I am not alone in this, though I used to think I was , at least among pagans, most of whom seem to be significantly more open about sex than I. Though many of them are also childfree, fertility connotes perceived ability to produce offspring rather than the actual act of doing so. Therefor, presenting oneself as sexually fertile was the essence of fertility in my narrow mind.
In my time as a Dedicant, I have come to learn that to be fertile means so much more than body positivity, sky clad rituals, and getting laid. Nevertheless, one can hardly deny that the term, with no other descriptors, implies ability to produce offspring before any other connotation. Even Merriam-Webster recognizes this. It is much like the term “Doctor.” Any one who holds a doctorate degree is a doctor, but with no other descriptors, “doctor” implies medical doctor before any other type. Similarly, describing a woman as “fertile” is much different than saying she has a fertile mind, for example. The connotation of a word is no small thing to be cast aside.
Setting connotation aside anyway, fertility as a virtue remains problematic for me in that unlike the other virtues of ADF, it is inherently an ability rather than an action. In my other virtue essays, I stress the importance of action over ability whenever the provided definitions do not. I can have a fertile body and a fertile mind, but if I never use them to provide something of benefit to the world, then I am not being virtuous. Perhaps “productivity” may be a better term to use in place of “fertility.” Though not as poetic, it embodies the spirit of the third triad of virtues, all of which belong to the producing class.