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.