I’ve been staring at my screen for sometime, trying to decide where I want to begin, but I can’t think of anything better than: “I am no longer a hard polytheist.” So, why didn’t I just come right out with it? Why the hesitation? I suppose it’s because I wanted to soften the blow. Not so much for you, the reader, but for myself. Because to say “I am not” is to leave a hole, which “I am” must fill in. But I don’t know what I am. And so I have been holding onto my polytheism as a child continues to hold onto a security blanket long after it’s truly needed – with a false sense of dependency. That is, until now.
After holding on for so long, I finally experienced the dreaded spiritual burnout and knew it was time to let go. So I did. I opened a text document and began just as described above. After that, and to my surprise, I felt immediately better and inspired to start anew. The hole that I feared ins’t so much a hole as it is a fresh pot of soil. I feel cleansed of all that has been holding me back, and ready to continue growing.
As for what I am now, I suppose I am somewhat of a Naturalist Pagan and Pantheist, though I am not entirely comfortable with the Naturalist label. I trust science above all, but I have experienced so much that cannot (as of yet) be scientifically explained that I remain open to the possibility of supernatural phenomenon. My observable, albeit unexplainable, experiences reside in the empirical world, but I get the impression that Naturalists either discredit or don’t experience such strange occurrences. What I am giving up is not the unexplainable, or even the metaphysical, but rather, the specificity of woo-driven theistic paganism. I want science with just a dash of woo, not the other way around.
I am still working out how much to change of my current practices to fit my new path, but I am enthusiastic to begin. Stay tuned…
I celebrate the return of the sun on the third night of Yule; that being the night following the first day that was longer than the previous day. I prefer to “confirm” that the day’s are getting longer before I rejoice. In other words, I don’t count my eggs before they hatch, as the old saying goes.
Once I have borne witness to Sunne’s renewed strength, I ask her what her return heralds for the coming year. This is the first year in which I have practiced this method of yearly-omen taking, but I plan to maintain it as a tradition going forth. I take my monthly omens from Móna (the god of the moon), so it seems appropriate to take yearly omens from Sunne.
This year, it turns out, is the year of ᚩ (Ós). Ós is the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Elder-Futhark ᚨ (Ansuz).
OS (The God) is the creator of all language,
widom’s fountain and consolation of sages
and every man’s joy and trust.1
After receiving the rune omen, I proceeded to come up with a theme for 2018 that embodies the essence of it. In the past, I’ve let my yearly omen set a tone for the year and act as a lens through which I interpret various events, but I’ve never actively used it to set my intentions or resolutions.
I really like the idea of a New Year’s theme in place of a resolution, so I decided to go that route this year. It took me some time and contemplation to come up with a word or, rather, a noun phrase that worked. I considered “communication”, “divine inspiration”, and “awareness”, among others, but none of these really captures the entirety of Ós. I finally settled on “divine consciousness,” having also considered higher/heightened consciousness. “Consciousness” assumes awareness and “divine” assumes a higher state of it. “Divine consciousness” reminds me that the breath of divine inspiration flows through me and that I, though not a god myself, am the result of an unbroken chain going back to the divine source. Concequently, I have access not only to the guidance of the gods, but also to that of my ancestors. My focus this year will be on developing, accessing, and learning from this state consciousness.
Because this is a theme and not a resolution, I have no objective goal to meet. I imagine it would be difficult to objectify progress in heightened states of consciousness anyway. But the theme will inform my monthly intentions, interpretation of future omens, and over all spiritual journey this coming year. It’s going to be an awesome year!
1. From the Old English rune poem as translated by Alaric Albertson
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.
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.
Our Own Druidry defines hospitality as,
Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and the honouring of “a gift for a gift.”
Merriam-Webster defines hospitality as,
generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.
There was a time in Indo-European history when a weary traveler could almost always trust that he would receive room and board at the nearest residence. Today, the idea of stopping for a rest at a stranger’s home is absurd. The cultural climate has changed significantly over the centuries as has the role of hospitality.
Most people we let into our homes are friends or casual acquaintances at the very least. We generally don’t need to be reminded to be hospitable to people we know. A true test of hospitality occurs when we are in a ghosti, or guest-host, relationship with a stranger. And in fact, it is said that the gods used to test hospitality by stopping by peoples’ homes in disguise.
Although we aren’t, nor should be, as quick to admit a complete stranger into our homes today as in times past, situations still arise when a ghosti relationship with a stranger is possible and reasonable. The service people we let into our homes, if only for short while, should be treated with hospitality. When a new person moves into the neighborhood, we can act as a host by bringing them a housewarming gift. We can also engage in a safety-conscious ghosti relationships with strangers by participating in the pay-it-forward method of hospitality. In this age of individuality, when communities are fragmented and neighbors don’t even know each other, hospitality is arguably the virtue we can most benefit from.
n.b. I have modified this essay from the original in order to reflect my current understanding of the virtue.
The summer solstice is known variably as Midsummer or Litha. As the longest day of the year, celebrations usually involve honoring a sun deity and building bonfires to represent the light and heat of the sun. It is also a popular tradition to gather herbs for medicinal and magical use, since they, like the sun, are thought to be at their most potent (Wodening, 112).
At Midsummer, the Earth is in full bloom, and green is the reigning color. Some believe this is when the Green Man, or Oak King, is at the height of his reign, while others believe the Holly King takes over at Midsummer. No matter which version of the myth you subscribe to, there is no denying the significance of the Green Man at Midsummer.
Similar to the spring and autumn cross-quarters, Midsummer is thought to be a time when the veil between the worlds in thin. But where the autumn cross-quarter is dedicated to the Dead and the spring cross-quarter to the witches, Midsummer is for the Fae. This may explain Shakespeare’s season of choice for his fairy-centric play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Wodening, Swain. Path to the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism for Beginners. Huntsville, MO: Wednesbury Shire, 2012. Print.
Do you do this meditation as your daily meditation, or as part of daily rituals?
I use the Two-Powers meditation more often than not as part of my daily rituals, though when I am short on time I will choose between either the Two-Powers or another meditation. I prefer to preface all other meditations with the Two-Powers when I have time. I haven’t found the accelerated versions of the Two Powers to be effective for me, so if I am short on time, I skip it all together.
Apart from formal meditation time and daily rituals, if I have a quiet moment during my day, I will practice different Two-Powers techniqiues, such as the accelerated versions or just different visualizations.
Can you describe how it feels?
For quite some time, it didn’t feel like it is supposed to. When I say “supposed to,” I refer to its function as a grounding and centering activity. I was too distracted sorting out the particulars of my visualization to feel grounded or centered. I struggled to match up guided versions of the meditation with my exact sitting or standing position. Sitting cross legged on the floor with a guide telling me to imagine the Earth Power rising up through my feet was distracting. Similarly, sitting in a chair drawing it up from both my tailbone and feet was too much to visualize at once. My seat being higher than my feet made the symmetry off and only imagining one working over the other made me feel off balance. I tried recording my own guide and using no guide at all but my memory. No matter how I chose to approach it, I left the experience feeling less grounded than I did coming into it.
I decided to put the Two Powers meditation on hold for a few weeks, until I could master a simple breath-work meditation. Multiple sources recommend diving right into visualization activities. I have no trouble with visualization in-and-of-itself, but pairing it with meditation was too much for me to handle at once. Separating the two was a big help to me.
Once I brought the Two Powers back into play, they produced a significantly more fulfilling experience than they had originally. I still had to sort out some kinks with the visualizations and my physical situation, but I could manage them without disrupting the entire meditation.
What parts of the meditation move you the most? The least? Does one power or the other seem stronger?
I can’t ascribe a preference to one over the other, at least not as a singular answer. On some days, both are equally as strong, and on other days, one feels more powerful than the other. I assume this is because I am in greater need of one or the other on any given day.
Months ago, I might have said that I am most moved by the Sky Power, which I envision as my personal pole star. That is, until I realized that it wasn’t the Sky Power itself that moved me, but the meeting of the Two Powers which takes place after I have already drawn up the Earth power.
Write a short paragraph on how the Sky Power is masculine and the Earth Power is feminine. Now, write another short paragraph about how the Sky Power is feminine and the Earth Power is masculine. Can you make both arguments? Which one convinces you more? Is either worth arguing?
Sky Power as masculine and Earth Power as feminine:
- Mother Earth vs Father Sky mythology
- Chaotic feminien vs. Ordered masculine
- Waters come from the Earth. Water = feminine
- Fire comes from the Sky. Fire = Masculine
- Not all mythologies associate fire and sky with masculine, or Earth with the feminine.
- The moon is in the sky and is, according to the neopagan perspective, feminine.
- The Great Rite usually involves a Moon/Star/Sky goddess mating with the Horned God of the Earth.
- The earliest IE cultures recognized a Sun goddess and Moon God => fire=feminine, water = masculine.
The Sky Power is sometimes described as “ordering” and the Earth Power is sometimes described as “chaotic”. Do you feel this is an accurate description of the Powers?
The way I personally visualize the Two Powers does indeed lend an ordering aspect to the Sky Power and a chaotic one to the Earth power, but I don’t see the either power as inherently one or the other. The chaos or order of either power depends entirely on perspective. The sky can look orderly at a particular point in time, or it can be chaotic in the form of star death and rebirth, thunderstorms, etc. The Earth as well can be either depending on perspective. The Earth element is attributed to the stable, grounded astrological signs. The Earth is the grounding force of the Two Powers and grounding is an ordered state of being.
If you have chosen a hearth culture, how does the mythology of that culture embrace the Two Powers?
I don’t know if the Anglo-Saxon lore matches up with Norse in this case, but I am aware that some following the Norse path envision the two powers as Fire and Ice. I do not find this presentation effective for my own meditations. I like to keep a Yin/Yang perspective whenever possible and I view Fire and Ice as too binary for my own Two Powers meditation.