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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: Home Shrine Revisited (Essay Prep.)

Behold, the evolution of my altar:

Home Shrine

August 2015

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October 2015

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Current Altar Setup

As you can see, my altar has undergone a few changes since I first set it up. I’m still trying to keep the arrangement simple, although the over all look is definitely cozier than before.

I changed the candle style twice. The first candles were tea lights that were too short to be easily and safely lit within their wood holders. I replaced them with taller candles and discovered the hard way that different types of candles have different names for a reason. A votive candle != a pillar candle no matter how similar I think they look (#^^#). I briefly lamented my candle situation and thought that I’d have to do away with my beautiful holders. Fortunately, I discovered extended burn tea lights which are twice the size of the standard ones. Easy to light and the wax pool stays where it belongs.

The first offering bowl, pretty as it was, had to go because it became terribly discolored from holding water. I only ever used it for water offerings since that’s what I did my first rituals with. I replaced it with one, then two pretty tea cups – two for larger rituals which require more offerings.

I moved the incense burner off the altar because I ended up rarely offering incense. I tried in the beginning, but got the feeling that the Kindreds didn’t care much for the same incense as I. It now sits off to the side for personal use.

I also added several items. First, the pendulum I use for clarifying my omen interpretations, then a devotional mini Mala for Fréo, one of my patrons. And yes, i’ve decided to start using the term “patron” openly and comfortably. If I might go off on a tangent for a moment here…

Over the course of my time spent with ADF, I was at first eager to find a patron, then hesitant, then open to the idea but not in a hurry. My biggest issue was the general pagan-community’s understanding of a patron. Most of the accounts I read come across as much more of a serious priest(ess) type of relationship that what I was looking for. Outside of deity relationships, a patron is simply a person who supports, endorses, and/or protects another. Before getting too involved in the online pagan community, a patron deity to me was one who could and would offer guidance, wisdom, protection to an individual follower or community. A patron could be a deity that rules over one’s own line of work or one who has specific relevant teachings for an individual, whether temporarily or for a lifetime. But then I mingled with pagans online and realized that everyone else with a patron had made a serious oath-type commitment and was in über solemn service to that deity. I held back calling my patrons what they were for fear of ridicule online. But you know what? I’m so over that. Oh boy am I over that. Yes, there are many things I will keep private about my spiritual experiences because they are necessarily private, but I’m not going to be intimidated out of publicly expressing the non-private just because paganism is turning into a dogmatic-path-in-denial.

When I call on the Deities as part of my general invitation to the Kindreds, I say, “I call out the the Shining ones, my Matrons and my Patrons…” Because thats what they are. They are the small handful of deities out of hundreds, thousands of others who have expressed particular interest in my life and well-being. If that’s not what a patron is, then go ahead, call me a fool. But I do what I want. There are three of my seven patrons who are especially close to me: Fréo, Thunor, and Mona. I expect these three to be life long patrons. The others, Frige, Hretha, Woden, and Hel, may or may not be with me for life, but that doesn’t make them any less my patrons at this time.

Well, anyway, getting back on track now…

Because I have yet to put up shelves for individual deities, I want my current altar to have symbolic representations of my primary patrons. This is why I keep Fréo’s mala there. The altar itself is oak, and some of you may recall, I chose oak especially to represent Thunor. He was the very first deity in my life and my current gatekeeper. Speaking of oak, aaaah!! I’m so excited!! Guess what I got?? I got a baby oak tree for my front yard. I named him Atlas. Look at him, look how pretty he is:

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Don’t worry, he has been properly supported since taking this picture. Yes, I know, the irony that “Atlas” should need support 😉

The dark blue ritual cord is for both Mona and the Star Goddess. The latter not a personal deity by any means, but she is the original source of ~all the things~ and if that is not reason enough, I have several more personaly relevant reasons for representing her there.

I keep other devotional items off to the side and place them on the altar only on the days I honor the particular deity associated with them.

Lastly, I added some crystals around the well. No particular reason except that I like how they look there.

I’m pretty happy with my altar the way it is now. I thought I might like to change the arrangement of the fire, well, and tree, but experience so far has led me to decide the current configuration is best.

Completely off-topic random info dump – because there are too many exciting things to share and not enough places to sneak them in above 😉

I got to learn how to make mead yesterday. \(^^)/

One of my Grove’s members is an expert brewer and has won some awards too. He led a mead-making meetup yesterday wherein we learned some basic techniques and started a five gallon batch for future Grove use. We got to sample several of his current selections. And oh my word, let me tell you, his lemon mead was possibly the best tasting anything I’ve ever had.

In other exciting news, I’m going to a goth prom on the 28th. Denver’s first annual goth prom. So so so excited. I have an awesome outfit and I got it in for alterations just in time.

And even more exciting goth-related news. VNV nation will be here in October and I am going. I saw them years ago in Atlanta when they were touring with And One. I love VNV Nation. It will be a 3 hour show 😮

My husband has another interview tomorrow. I’m really hoping he gets hired soon. I’ve done some candle magic for him and just last night, my friend and senior druid of my grove made him a rune charm to carry in his wallet. Please, if you can guys, send some positive energy my husband’s way. This job hunt has carried on much longer than we expected. We came to live in a metro area specifically so searching for an attorney job wouldn’t take too long.

Despite the little bit of sad I have over the job hunt, I have so many things to be happy for that I really can’t complain. Life is pretty good right now. 🙂

ADF Dedicant Path: Seventh High Day Recap (Beltane)

Despite all the sunny days we’ve had since Eostre, Beltane managed to land on a cold and rainy one. I made the best of it in my mind by thinking of the weather as the dark half of the year’s final farewell. After all, my enthusiasm for this time of year is more for Walpurgisnacht than it is for Beltane, so I took the weather as a positive. That is, until I arrived at the outdoor ritual site. I was equipped with a hooded coat and an umbrella, but the wind did not agree with my hood, which kept blowing off my head. I abandoned my umbrella in order to free my hands, but ended up have to hold my hood in place most of the time instead. Irked as I was with my situation, I didn’t let it deter me from appreciating the ritual as best I could.

This was a Celtic rite in honor of Belanus, Caer, and Aengus. We had a small fire, appropriate for the day as both a cold one and a fire festival. Unfortunately, the heat of the fire did not extend very far out and I was not near it for most of the ritual. Because of the cold, I had trouble focusing during the grounding and centering meditation. This left me feeling slightly disconnected for the remainder of the ritual. I went through the motions and said the words, but I was not as mentally present as I should have been.

Since I have a small personal pantheon, but no single patron at this time, I decided to give my praise offerings from now on to each deity from my pantheon on the High Day I associate most with them. Previously, I was offering to deities as they came into my life. I gave my praise offering to Fréo (Freya) this time since she is associated with both fertility and witchcraft. Fertility is a significant aspect of Beltane, while witchcraft is significant to Walpurgisnacht.

The omens drawn for this rite were Elhaz, Naudiz, and Uruz. The head druid couldn’t immediately interpret the first omen, so he drew two more for clarification. After ritual, he remembered that Elhaz pictorially represents wings. One of our patrons, Caern, takes the form of a swan, so this was definitely a good omen. The other two were also interpreted as positive.

We were supposed to dance the maypole after ritual, and at least two of us, myself included, brought drums for the occasion, but no one felt up to it in the wet cold. Once again, we went to Denny’s to seek warmth and to feast.

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With my Grove on a cold Beltane

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Making an offering to Fréo

ADF Dedicant Path: Personal Religion (Essay Prep.)

When I started out on the DP, I was already confident about my choice to follow an Anglo Saxon hearth culture. But I was also curious about the Norse and tentatively planning to add Celtic deities to my personal pantheon at some point.

Yet, as delve deeper into a regular devotional practice, I find that I am becoming increasingly more settled into the Anglo Saxon path. Even the Norse deity-names I held onto out of familiarity are fading from my tongue. It used to feel weird to refer to Freyja as “Freó.” The name was to foreign to me, but now I am beginning to use it comfortably. Mona I referred to variably as either Mani and Mona, with no particular preference. Now, however, I definitely favor “Mona.” Woden and Thunor were always “Woden” and “Thunor” to me, so no change there. I immediately used the Saxon names for deities who joined my personal pantheon most recently.

I mingled with Loki and his family for a brief time. I even purchased a devotional piece of jewelry for Loki. But Hel is the only one of his posse with whom I have remained close. I still wear my Loki necklace, though, to signify that I am Loki-friendly.

I have what I feel is a complete personal pantheon. I dedicate one day of the week to each of my Hearth Gods. I have also dedicated a High Day to each of them. Since I do not have a single patron deity and I consider all of my hearth gods to be matrons and patrons in a sense, figuring out how to handle praise offerings, especially in group ritual, was about to become a challenge. Until now, I made High Day offerings to each deity as I became acquainted with Him or Her. The offering was my way of acknowledging that deity’s significance in my life and formally admitting them to my pantheon. On a few occasions, I made more than one praise offering, but as I move into the future with a fully formed pantheon of 7, I need to work out a system for public High Day offerings that isn’t too excessive or exclusive. This is what I came up with:

Walpurgis/Summerdaeg: Fréo

  • Because she is a goddess of witchcraft and fertility.

Liða/Midsummer: Mona

  • At first I wasn’t sure whom to honor at Midsummer. Additionally, I couldn’t figure out where to fit Mona into the High Day rights. I thought about offering to Sunne as a default, but she isn’t one of my patrons. I also didn’t just want to fit Mona arbitrarily into a leftover day. Then it occurred to me that the moon and Midsummer are a perfect pairing. Sometimes I need time for such correspondences to occur to me. The moon was an important Motif in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. A whole play named for Sunne’s time of year, but in it, the night and the moon take the lead.

Hláfmaest: Thunor

  • My favorite high day paired with my first deity ally. He tends to be associated with all my other favorite things, so why not a High Day too? Also, this is a harvest day, and Thunor is a harvest deity among other titles.

Harvest Home: Frige

  • I was going to offer to Frige on Modraniht, which aligns with Yule, but I already have that time of the year set aside for Mona and Woden. Harvest Home felt like the next best option since it has a domestic feel to it.

Winterfylleþ: Hel and Ancestors

  • Yet another obvious correspondence.

Yule: Woden

  • Obviously

Ewemeolc: Eorðe

  • Because traditional activities around this time of year are especially Earth-Centric: preparing the land for planting and burying offerings, especially cakes, in the ground.

Eostre: Hrethe

  • Eostre is technically for “Eostre,” but the Spring Equinox when we celebrate this High Day falls in March, which is Hrethe’s month.

 

ADF Dedicant Path: Seventh High Day Essay (Spring Cross-Quarter)

 

The Spring-Cross quarter is most commonly known as Beltane in the neopagan community. It corresponds with our modern May Day and with the German Walpurgis Night. Although the Cross-Quarter days have more historical significance to the Celtic peoples than to the Germanic peoples, the most iconic element of this High Day today is the Maypole, which originated in Germanic lands. The original symbolic meaning of the maypole was lost when it was adapted into a Christian context, though some scholars suggest it had something to do with a reverence for trees or was representative of the world tree, Ygdrassil. Some even suggest that it was a phallic symbol, which would correspond well with our current understanding of Beltane as a fertility festival.

Unlike Eostre, which is also a fertility festival, Beltane celebrates the fertility of the people rather than of the land. This is a logical correspondence for ancient pagans, since the first major planting of the year would have been completed, leaving time for more personal pursuits. Even today, Neopagans retain these associations, despite not being as dependent on the land. We may not have to base our entire livelihoods on our crops, but many of us maintain our own gardens and have plenty of work to keep us busy in early springtime.

The Germanic counterpart to Beltane, Walpurgis Night, is named for the 8th century saint, Walpurga, whose feast was celebrated the following day. Although Christian in origin, the Eve of Walpurga’s feast was and is a night for pagan-based festivities. Germanic pagans believe it is on this night when Witches gather for a celebration on Brocken mountain. It is a night, much like Samhain, when the vail between the worlds is thin and marks the end of Woden’s Wild Hunt, which began on Samhain.

ADF Dedicant Path: Sixth High Day Essay (Spring Equinox)

ADF and most Neopagans recognize Ostara (or Eostre) as falling on the spring equinox. The Anglo-Saxons, however, would have most likely celebrated the feast of Eostre on or just after the full moon following the equinox, which coincides closely with the Christian Easter holiday. Either way, Eostre is the festival of early spring and the deities of springtime, especially Eostre. Beltane too is a springtime festival, but the focus is slightly different. It seems to be the general consensus  that Eostre is for celebrating the fertility of the land, while Beltane is for celebrating the fertility of the people. Although some areas of the northern hemisphere start their gardens as early as Imbolc, Eostre is widely recognized as the start of planting season. By Beltane, the hard work is done and people can turn their attention to more personal festivities.

Eostre is also a popular time of year for clearing out clutter and ridding one’s house of stagnant winter air and energies. Spring cleaning that may have begun at Imbolc really gets going around the spring equinox. For busy Neopagans, the simple act of opening a window or bringing in fresh flowers can be turned into a meaningful ritual to wake up and rejuvenate a home and it’s inhabitants.

Common symbols of the season include colored eggs, bunnies, and flowers. There are many legends surrounding the association of bunnies and eggs with Eostre, but some claim the association came about in Christian times. Nevertheless, rabbits were associated with fertility in pagan times even if not specifically associated with Eostre. Don’t let the specificities keep you from letting the Easter bunny visit!

 

ADF Dedicant Path: Fourth High Day Essay (Winter Solstice)

The Winter Solstice, most commonly known as Yule among Neopagans, marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. Symbolically, this is when the Sun is reborn and hope is returned to the world.

Although ADF recognizes the Winter Solstice as a single High Day, Germanic Neopagans usually celebrate it over the course of twelve days, beginning on Mother’s Night and ending on or around New Year’s eve. Mother’s Night, or Mōdraniht (night of the mothers), is supposed to take place the night before the solstice, but many Neopagans, myself included, choose to celebrate it on December 20th every year so that the 12 nights of Yule line up with the end of the modern new year.

The particulars of the original Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht and Yule rituals are unknown. According to Swain Wodening, the only explicit mention of Mōdraniht comes from Bede and the exact length of the Anglo-Saxon yuletide holidays is unknown (“Path to the Gods” 89, 96). What we do know is that Yule heralds the start of the Anglo-Saxon year.

Modern Yuletide customs are adapted from what evidence we have of ancient rites performed during this time of year. Such customs involve honoring the Disir (on Mother’s night), decorating an outdoor Yule tree for the nature spirits, and burning a Yule log.

Works Cited
Wodening, Swain. Path to the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism for Beginners. Huntsville, MO: Wednesbury Shire, 2012. Print.

Surprise Gift

I recently received my completed custom-order necklace from Seb. It’s beautiful and I will review it later, but this review is for a different necklace, “Loki the Cat”

This one is a gift from my husband (a Yule gift that I received early with a little help from Loki 😉 )

I love it so much! It’s a good sign if I wear a new necklace two or more days in a row. Just one of you try and tell me this beauty wasn’t made for me:

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It’s my very first Loki devotional piece. I placed in on my alter the night before I wore it to let Loki know I’m wearing it in his honor (I do that with most of my devotional jewelry – lay it on my alter to formally dedicate it to a deity or other spirit).

I’ve been giving Loki a shifty look whenever I’ve sensed his presence before – Last summer, I was still on the fence about going the “real” (reconstructionist) Heathen route. I’ve gone more rogue since then, obviously, but I felt like any formal Loki correspondence would be a more official declaration of what side I am on and I wasn’t ready for that. But the time has finally come. So, Hi Loki! Welcome to my life (^ᴗ^)۶

 

What’s In a Name?

When I began the dedicant path, I chose Anglo-Saxon as my hearth culture. Before discovering ADF, I was curious about heathenry and had been poking around various Asatru groups. I didn’t know the differences among different types of heathenry and chose to focus on Anglo-Saxon because of my English ancestry. Not that I believe in that folkish stuff. Not at all. yuck. But I figured since I didn’t have a preference anyway, might as well learn a bit about my ancestors in the process. Incidentally, I do have some Icelandic waaaay back there in the family tree. My 37th great grandma is is Groa Thorsteindottir  (This bit of info thanks to my mother, the expert genealogist of the family). Apparently Groa married into a Scottish royal family which essentially ended any further Norse affiliation in my family.

But I digress.

If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’ll notice that I have used both Norse and Anglo Saxon names to refer to the Gods. I tried forcing myself to use the AS names exclusively, but many of them I just couldn’t get used to. They felt awkward to say, they felt awkward to type, and most importantly, I didn’t feel like I was connecting with the deities with names that remain foreign to me. There are only two Gods whom I prefer to call by their AS name because it feels right (Woden and Thunor). I expect sooner or later I’m going to lose the small handful of my reconstructionist followers – or find that my posts show up in their Facebook groups as comic fodder. haha. But that’s OK :p I don’t think I’m woo enough yet for that honor anyway. lol.

But honestly, though, should I force myself to use the names that don’t feel right with the understanding that eventually they will? And never mind re-programming years of Norse-mythology influence on my brain, what about communicating with everyone else? If I start calling Freyr by is AS name, Frea or even Ing Frea, people may get confused and think I mean Freya since most are not familiar with the AS names. When I said Freo for Freya recently, my husband said “who?”

I’d rather not have to add an explanatory footnote every time I refer to a God or Goddess by their AS name on my blog. Fortunately, most people know, or can easily figure out, who Woden and Thunor are. As for the rest, I am just going to keep on referring to them by the Norse names and hope that none of the “you’re-doing-it-wrong” people come after me 😮

I’m sticking with the AS hearth culture for the dedicant path, but ultimately, I’ll probably end up following my own blasphemous Norse/Anglo-Saxon/ContinentalGerman mash-up with a hint of Gaelic on the side.

I Do What I Want

It’s about time that I stop acting like a scared little sprite. Seriously, Why am I so worried about what the rest of the world thinks? Ok, so I get it – We are a social species and yadda yadda, we have to care just a little about how others think. But good grief, I’m driving myself nuts trying to maintain approval from everyone whose anyone.

I have no problem telling my husband all the time that “I do what I WANT!” And yet I can’t do the same in the face of anonymous intimidating strangers? If you knew my husband, you would wonder what my problem is. He can be intimidating. He gets pretty snarly at me when I say I want a pet rat some day – and yet, I hold my ground (I do what I want!). So why is it so hard for me to be myself to the rest of the world?

I was more or less comfortable referring to myself as a heathen until I realized how insanely protective many “real” heathens are over their name. Apparently if I am not an obsessive reconstructionist with a condescending temper towards UPGs, I shouldn’t be calling myself heathen and spoiling their high and mighty name. Whatever dudes. Ill call myself whatever I want and Ill do what I want. Honestly, I don’t have any particular desire to call myself a heathen over any other pagan name. I just don’t like having to justify every single word I use to describe myself. I’m currently following the ADF path, but I am not a druid. It just seems like the right path for me at this moment, which covers most of what is important to me spiritually.

I was so excited to get my first Mjolinr necklace; until I discovered the prevalence of racism amongst heathens. I’m not too worried that others will think I am racist wearing it considering how dominant my mediterranean genes are. Although, I am still a “privileged” European – so I dunno. But I am afraid of the folkish aryan sort giving me a condescending look out in public. What is wrong with me though? I actually care if one of those sort look down on me? Gah, I should be looking down on THEM. Get it together here Shelley!

And as for my spiritual crisis the other day (if you’re looking for the relevant post, I’ve taken it down, sorry folks). I’ll give honor to whatever deities I want. I don’t need anyone’s approval. I don’t need to be told how or when I am allowed to honor particular gods (the gods have to come to you, not the other way around) or which particular gods I am “allowed” to honor.

No, I don’t mean that I am going to do whatever I want to the point of eclectic cherry picking. I believe in a decent historical grounding to work from. But UPGs are a significant part of spirituality in my book and if mine tend to go against the grain, so be it.

I am curious how much of the anti-Rökkr mentality of modern Heathens is resultant from Christian indoctrination. Why are the Hellenistic pagans so much more accepting of chthonic deities while the heathens are trying to set up a distinct good vs evil dichotomy? Isn’t the latter a Christian construct? Sorry if I’m coming across as anti-Christian here. I don’t mean to do that either. But, for my own purposes, I’d like to clear myself of the Christian imprint on my worldview and pagan practices.

This is *my* life and *my* spiritual path. I don’t need permission to follow my own path.

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