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Archive for the ‘Dedicant Program’ Category

Ásatrú Alliance of Independent Kindreds, The.  “2257 Runic Era Calendar Feast Days and Days

of Observance.”  The Ásatrú Alliance. 18 Jun. 2008  < http://www.asatru.org/ >.

Clifton, Chas S.  Her Hidden Children The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America.  Lanham:

AltaMira Press, 2006.

Ellis, Peter Berresford.  A Brief History of the Druids. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers,

2003.

Ellison, Robert Lee.  The Solitary Druid.  Kensington Publishing Corp.  New York, NY.  2005.

Freeman, Mara.  Kindling the Celtic Spirit. Harper Collins. New York, NY.  2000.

Hutton, Ronald.  The Stations of the Sun A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.  Oxford

University Press, Oxford.  1996.

Johnson, Helen Sewell.  “November Eve Beliefs and Customs in Irish Life and

Literature.”  The Journal of American Folklore. Vol. 81, No. 320.  1968.

Jones, Prudence, and Nigel Pennick.  A History of Pagan Europe.  New York: Barnes & Noble,

1995.

Mac an tSaoir, Iain.  “Samhain.”  Clannada na Gadelica. 1999-2007.  18 Jun. 2008

<  http://www.clannada.org/bof_samhain.php >.

Markale, Jean.  The Epics of Celtic Ireland. Inner Traditions International.  Rochester,      Vermont.  2000.

Rolleston, T.W.  Celtic Myths and Legends. Dover Publications, NY.  1990.

Thesmophoria.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 18 Jun. 2008

<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/591846/Thesmophoria>.

 

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I sat down with the intent to write out the script for my Dedicant Oath Rite a few months ago, after I finished a final book review, but the timing didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t motivated to do it.  I’m not sure why, but I’m sure it had something to do with college.  I also think that I simply wasn’t ready for it.  I needed to go through a period of introspection to make sure that I really wanted to pursue this path and I’m glad that I gave myself that time.  It made the ritual all the more meaningful because I decided that, yes, Druidism is the path for me.

The real push for me to finally perform the ritual was the discovery of a ring.  I had read about a few other Dedicants using rings as symbols of their oath and I really liked the idea.  I never remove my rings and it would therefore be the perfect way for me to display my devotion to the Old Ways and have a continual reminder of my oath.  It took me awhile to find exactly what I was looking for, but when I found it I knew that the time to finish my Dedicant Program had come.  The ring suited my path perfectly.  In the center is a spiral.  Spirals have always felt significant to me – they’re symbols of the cycle of life, the turning of the seasons, and the movements of celestial bodies.  On either side of the spiral is a triquetra, another important symbol to me as it represents the sacred three that show up again and again in my hearth culture’s lore.  I’m naturally drawn to these symbols and their existence together in one ring was perfect for my spiritual expression.

After acquiring the ring and finishing the script, I set about making offerings.  As an artistic person, it was important for me to make the offerings given to my patrons.  For the Winter Solstice I had made my mother a pendant out of clay.  I decided to make similar charms for my patrons Brighid and An Dagda.  One side of Brighid’s pendant is decorated with a triple spiral to symbolize her triple nature.  The other side has a flame as I have been participating in a flame keeping group for the past year and her association with fire has become important to me.  An Dagda’s charm is decorated with his club of death and rebirth on one side, and his cauldron of abundance on the other.

I decided to perform the Dedicant Oath Rite on Tuesday January 6th 2009.  It was the perfect evening for the occasion as my fiancé was at work, leaving me alone.  I wouldn’t have to worry about disturbing him or being disturbed. After I came home from work and did some cleaning, I printed out a copy of my script and set about preparing for the ritual.  First I gathered all of my offerings and made sure everything was on or near my altar.  I then took a cleansing shower all the while focusing on purification.  After the shower I put on a ritual robe.  I’ve never worn a ritual robe for my home rituals and it made the occasion all the more significant.  Before officially starting my rite I lit several candles throughout the room, further purified myself with incense, and shut the lights off.

My ritual began nicely.  I processed into the room with my altar, circled the ritual space, and stated my purpose.  As I began, a horn sounded and some red lights flashed outside.  I stopped and starred, unsure of what was going on and whether or not I should continue.  The lights weren’t going anywhere – they continued to flash an obnoxious red that rivaled the comfortable glow of the candles I had lit.  Confident of the fact that I could enter and exit my ritual space with comfort, I peeked out of a window and noticed that a policeman had pulled someone over.  Annoyed at having been disturbed, I returned to my altar and took a few breaths before resuming.  I was just at the point where I had to acknowledge the Outsiders.  To my amusement and surprise, I had placed the offering bowl in the same direction as the scene outside.  I felt that the Outsiders were really making themselves known before the ritual.  I gave them an offering of beer, asked for peace, and everything else went really well!  If the Outsiders wanted to make me nervous and edgy before my ritual, they certainly accomplished it!

Although I had written everything ahead of time, speaking the words aloud to the Kindreds was a powerful experience – one that I’m not used to.  I usually perform my rituals from memory and let my words come naturally. Sometimes I get caught up in the structure of the ritual and so I fumble for words.  That didn’t happen this time.  The script allowed me to focus on the words I had written specifically for this day without getting nervous or frustrated.  I did, however, perform the Two Powers meditation from memory without a script.  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a longer or more fulfilling Two Powers meditation.  After the disturbance from the police lights, the meditation allowed me to really relax and let go of my anxiety.  I felt myself grow calm in the flow of Earth and Sky energy.  I must have sat there for several minutes just basking in it.

After I made the offerings I took an omen using ogham.  The Nature Spirits and Ancestors emphasized the natural world and rebirth through Yew and Gooseberry.  It made sense considering the purpose of the ritual.  This rite marked a transition, a rebirth into my spirituality, and as a follower of Druidism I am to be more concerned with the natural world than the average person.  From the Gods I received the Oak ogham, symbolic of strength and wisdom. This seemed like a positive omen considering that Druids strive for both attributes.

Following the omen I made my oath.  Declaring my promise to stay true to the Kindreds and the Old Ways, I placed the ring on the longest finger of my dominant hand.  While I won’t say that I felt a grand transformation, I honestly did feel that I was entering a new phase of my spirituality.  When the ritual had finished, I felt as if I could call myself a Druid for the first time.  Prior to the Dedicant Rite, I always felt that I didn’t have enough experience.  Now that I’ve finished my Dedicant Program, and considering that I’ll be graduating from college in the Spring, I feel that I’ve gained enough wisdom and experience to place myself within the ranks of Druids.  I know that I’m only a young Druid with much to learn, but I finally feel prepared to be a part of that learning experience.  I left my altar feeling proud of myself, at peace, and absolutely at home within my spirituality.  The words I sang as I processed to my altar echoed in my head with renewed significance: “We have come home.”

 

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Preparation:

Offerings to gather:

Earth Mother: herbs

Outdwellers: beer (to be placed in a separate bowl)

Earth: salt

Sea: water

Sky: incense

Manannan (Gatekeeper): beer

Nature Spirits: bird seed

Ancestors: fruit (apples?)

Gods: Whiskey

Brighid: Token I made

An Dagda: Token I made

Return offerings: Oil

Additional Needs:

Ogham for the omen

Wine for the return flow

A ring for the oath

Before the Ritual: I will purify myself with water and incense.

  1. Processional

We Approach The Sacred Grove

(Words and music by Sean Miller)

We approach the Sacred Grove
With hearts and minds and flesh and bone
Join us now in ways of old
We have come home.

2.      Opening Prayer / Statement of Purpose

I am here today to honor the Kindreds and to make an oath to the ways of Druidism, Irish polytheism, the Old Ways, and the Old Gods.

  1. Purification

[Prayer and offering to be made in the south where an offering bowl will be placed]

Outdwellers!  Powers of chaos!  Although I recognize your purpose in the world, I desire peace for my ritual.  I respectfully ask that you leave me and my rite in peace.  Please accept this beer and let us be.

  1. Honoring the Earth Mother

[I will call to and honor the Earth Mother with a chant]

Earth Mother (Author Unknown)

Earth Mother, we honor your body
Earth Mother, we honor your bones
Earth Mother, we sing to your spirit
Earth Mother, we sing to your stones

[I will then give the Earth Mother a kiss.]

Earth Mother, you are the source of all life.  I am grateful for the many blessings you have bestowed upon me and I give you this offering of herbs in thanks.  Earth mother, I honor you!

 

  1. (Re)Creating the Cosmos
    • Establish the Sacred Center

[This will be done with the Two Powers meditation.  I will speak it aloud.]

    • Acknowledge the three realms

May the Earth not open up and swallow us! [Chanted while an offering of salt is given.]

May the Seas not rise up and drown us! [Chanted while an offering of water is given.]

May the Sky not fall down upon us! [Chanted while an offering of incense is given.]

 

    • Establishing the Vertical Axis:

[I will chant and make the offerings simultaneously.]

Portal Song (Words by Ian Corrigan) –

Come we now to the well
The eye and the mouth of earth
Come we now to the well
And silver we bring
Come we now to the well
The waters of rebirth
Come we now to the well
Together we sing

Chorus:
By fire and by water between the earth and sky
We stand like the world tree ,
Rooted deep, crowned high
By fire and by water between the earth and sky
We stand like the world tree ,
Rooted deep, crowned high

We will kindle a fire
Bless, all and with harm to none
We will kindle a fire
And offering pour
We will kindle a fire
A light ‘neath the moon and sun
We will kindle a fire
Our spirits will soar

Chorus

Gather we at the tree
The root and the crown of all
Gather we at the tree
Below and above
Gather we at the tree
Together we make our call
Gather we at the tree
In wisdom and love

Chorus

 

  1. Opening the Gates

[I will call to Manannan Mac Lir as Gatekeeper.]

I call to Manannan Mac Lir, he who walks between the worlds!  He who rides the waves like horses!  He whose cloak separates the realms!

Manannan, I humbly ask that you allow me to reach the Other World so that I may make offerings and give honor to the Kindreds.  Please protect me as I walk the path and aid me in my rite!  I give you this offering of beer to thank you for your help.

Manannan Mac Lir, I ask that you join your magic with mine, and when our magic is joined: let the fire open as a gate to the upper world; let the bowl open as a gate to the under world, and let the wand grow into the World Tree which connects the upper, middle, and lower worlds.

Let the Gates be open! [I will say this loudly while gesturing with my hands that the Gates have been opened.]

  1. Inviting the Three Kindreds

Nature Spirits

Nature spirits, you have always been with me.  From the beginnings of my life, you have inspired me to be creative and imitate you.  I have always wanted to be one with you, to shape shift into you.  I will forever try to channel your energy so that I can emulate you, my brothers and sisters.  I know that our relationship is imperfect, but every day I try harder to live in better harmony with you.

Please join me as I perform this oath rite.  Nature spirits, please accept this offering of bird seed.  Nature spirits, I honor you!

Triad Chant (Words by Phoenix)

Earth child, Wild one, born of the Earth
Call to us, and sing to us, creatures of the Earth
Ay ya, Ay ya Oh
Ay ya, Ay ya Oh

Ancestors

Ancient Ancestors! The more I study your homelands, the more I honor and respect you, Ancestors, and oh how I long to set my feet upon your homelands so that I can be closer to you.    Every day, I feel your old ways and thought patterns entering into my own.  I am grateful for your lessons.  Recent Ancestors!  As my connection to our older kin grows, I learn to value you more and more, especially those of you who I knew in this realm.  I know that death is not an end and that we are ever entwined.  Rest assured that I will continue to honor you, and that you will always have a bite to eat at Samhain.

Please join me as I perform this oath rite.  Ancestors, please accept this offering of fruit.  Ancestors, I honor you!

Triad Chant (Words by Phoenix)

Ancestors, Spirit, Blood, one with the Earth
Call to us, and dream with us, teach us of our worth
Ay ya, Ay ya Oh
Ay ya, Ay ya Oh

Gods

Shining Ones!  Since I was very young I have felt a connection to you.  Mighty Tuatha de Dannan, it took me awhile to find you, but your pull kept me searching.  I never gave up.  You inspired me to question the status quo, to learn, to create, and to grow as an individual.  You gave art a greater meaning, you gave love a greater meaning, and you gave life a greater meaning.  I will continue to ponder our connection all my days, but rest assured, I will never turn my back on you.  I have felt you too strongly.  Even Gods of other tribes, I have felt them too – felt their arms around me, felt their care for humanity, felt their desire for contact, and felt their existence.  Great Ones, I believe that you inspire me and bless me.  I believe that you protect me and guide me when you feel that I need it.  I believe that I am a part of your tribe in the mortal realm and that, as elders and powerful Druids, you deserve honor, respect, and love.

Please join me as I perform this oath rite.  Great ones, please accept this offering of whiskey.  Mighty Gods, I honor you!

Triad Chant (Words by Phoenix)

Shining one, wisdom filled, healers of the Earth
Call to us, and be with us, show us what we’re worth
Ay ya, Ay ya Oh
Ay ya, Ay ya Oh

  1. Offerings to my Patrons

Brighid

Brighid: Goddess of hearth, home, and healing well; Goddess of poetry, crafts, and divination – I call to you!  I invite you here to witness my oath rite.

Brighid, I feel you in the art that I create, in the food that I cook, and in poetry and song.  I feel you in fire and water.  You inspire me to create.  Every day, I strive to honor you and emulate your sacred ways. I hope that our relationship grows.  Brighid, I give you this offering in thanks for your many blessings.  Brighid, I honor you!

An Dagda

An Dagda: laughing God of magic; God of life and death; God of abundance; God of virility – I call to you!  I invite you here to witness my oath rite.

I have felt your presence much this past year.  You always seem to be watching over me, protecting a member of your mortal tribe.  I feel you when I receive gifts, in the cycles of life, and in the arms of my mate.  Every day, I strive for your attitude and humor.  Every day, I strive to honor and emulate your sacred ways.  May our connection grow.  An Dagda, I give you this offering in thanks for your many blessings.  An Dagda, I honor you!

 

  1. Omen

[I will chant while drawing ogham.  Once the ogham has been drawn, I will stop chanting and meditate on the meaning.]

Speak To Me (Words by Phoenix)

Speak to me,
Speak to me Goddesses.
Speak to me,
Speak to me all the Gods.

 

  1. Return Flow

Kindreds, I have given my gifts to you.  And as my tribe says, a gift calls for a gift.  As I have given to you, I know you will send greater blessings to me.  I am forever grateful for them.

[I will hold up a glass of wine and visualize the Kindreds who have gathered standing with me.  I will see their blessings flow into the glass.]

Behold – the waters of life!

[I will drink.]

  1. Oath

Nature Spirits, Ancestors, Gods, and Patrons: I have called you here so that you may hear this oath that I make to you.

Kindreds, I declare to you my devotion to the ways of Druidism and Irish Polytheism.  I declare myself a Pagan, a walker of the old paths, a seeker of the old knowledge.  I worship the Old Gods and honor my ancestors and the spirits of nature.  I believe in the sanctity of life and the value and spirit of Nature.  I swear to the Gods my tribe swears by  to keep the sacred ways and maintain the holy rites.

This ring symbolizes my spirituality.  In the center is the holy spiral, symbolic of the cycles of life.  From childhood through adulthood, I have always been attracted to the spiral.  I would doodle them in notebooks, spin them on the lawn, and trace them in foggy windows.  On either side of the spiral is a triquetra, a symbol of the three realms, the three Kindreds, and many other triads.

This ring is symbolic of my spirituality, and by placing it on my finger, I declare my devotion to my path. Let it be known that Grey Catsidhe is a follower of Druidism, a priestess to the Tuatha de Dannan, and a child of the Earth.

If I should ever fail you by bringing shame to my path or my tribe, may the Earth open up and swallow me, may the Sea rise up to drown me, and may the sky fall down upon me.

Kindreds, witness my devotion!

[I will place the ring on my right middle finger.  My right hand is my most used and thus I pay more attention to it.  The index finger wears a ring from my mother and my ring finger wears a birth stone from my parents.  My middle finger, as the longest finger of my most used hand, becomes a suitable seat for the symbol of my spirituality.  I will end by chanting.]

I Am Of the Earth – by Grey Catsidhe

I am of the Earth

I am of the Earth

I am of the Earth

Oh I am of the Earth…

  1. Thanking the Beings

An Dagda

An Dagda, I am grateful for your joining me.  I hope that you have enjoyed my gifts and that you accept my oath.  Please accept this offering of oil.  I give it to you in love while asking nothing in return.  An Dagda, I thank you!

Brighid

Blessed Brighid, I am grateful for your presence.  I hope that you have enjoyed my gifts and that you accept my oath.  Please accept this offering of oil.  I give it to you in love while asking nothing in return.  Brighid, I thank you!

Shining Ones

Great Gods, I thank you for your presence today.  I hope that you enjoyed my gifts and that you accept my oath.  Please accept this offering of oil.  I give it to you in love while asking nothing in return. Gods, I thank you!

Ancestors

Mighty Dead, I thank you for joining me.  I hope that you have enjoyed my gifts and that you accept my oath.  Please accept this offering of oil.  I give it to you in love while asking nothing in return.  Ancestors, I thank you!

Nature Spirits

Beings of land, sea, and sky, I thank you for joining me.  I hope that you have enjoyed my gifts and that you accept my oath.  Please accept this offering of oil.  I give it to you in love while asking nothing in return.  Nature spirits, I thank you!

  1. Closing the Gates

I call to you once more, Manannan Mac Lir, guardian of the veil!  I thank you for your protection and aid to me as I made my oath rite.  I hope that the offerings I made were to your liking and that you accept my oath.  Please accept this offering of oil in thanks.  I give it to you in love while asking nothing in return.  Manannan, I thank you!

[Offering is made.]

Manannan, son of Lir, I ask that your join your magic with mine.  When our magic is joined, let the gate to the upper world be but a candle.  Let the gate to the under world be but a bowl.  And let the tree that connects the upper, middle, and lower worlds be but a branch.  Let everything be as it once was.

Let the Gates be closed!

[The closing of the Gates will be accompanied by a hand gesture.]

  1. Thanking the Earth Mother

Earth Mother, source of life, I thank you for your blessings as you witnessed my rite.  I hope that my gifts and my oath have been acceptable.  To you, I give all remaining offerings as it is your due.  Earth Mother, I thank you!

  1. Closing the Rite

Walk With Wisdom (Words by Sable)

Walk with wisdom, from this hallowed place.
Walk not in sorrow, our roots shall ere embrace.
May strength be your brother, and honor be your friend,
And luck be your lover, until we meet again.

 

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Ireland has captured my imagination, for better or for worse.  A few years earlier, I never would have believed that I would be seriously studying Irish lore, Irish history, considering learning the Irish language, and worshiping the Irish Gods.  A few years ago, the Irish Gods were “the strange Gods with even stranger names.”  In a society that seems to idolize the Greeks and Romans, we’re just more familiar with their mythology and history.  As a fledgling Pagan, I really tried to make those cultures central to my worship.  In the end, Ireland finally got the attention I now realize it was trying to get all along.

It isn’t that I hated Ireland as a younger me.  In fact, I was very much enamored with anything medieval, and Ireland started to attract me then.  In middle school I went through a phase where I had to read about medieval castles, swords, history, and clothing. I was obsessed with the legend of King Arthur and Merlin.  Above all, I was captivated by Irish music, especially harp music.

Upon finding ADF I felt like I was already feeling a call from the Tuatha de Danann.  I wasn’t sure what to do with this calling, but ADF gave me helpful hints and I began to read voraciously about Ireland.  My interest in medieval culture came back, along with an even greater interest in Ancient Ireland.  At first, the books I read were confusing.  Again, I was dealing with “those strange Gods with the even stranger names.”  As I went along, I soon realized that I was growing more and more familiar, and thus comfortable, with the culture and the Gods.

I first realized how akin the old Irish ideas about the world were to my own.  The Irish respected and even venerated nature as do I.  They didn’t see a separation of the mundane and the magical/spiritual, and nor do I.  The old Irish were polytheistic and so am I.  They felt that art, knowledge, and truth were some of the most important and powerful things, and so do I.  Yet there was more than that.  Something just clicked.

Before I knew it, the ADF rituals started to make sense.  When I first attended a grove, although it was a lovely experience, I was reminded of long, Catholic masses full of mystery.  Through studying the lore and history, I realized that there was a pattern being followed.  I started to understand Gatekeepers, the three realms, the three Kindreds, and so many other theological subjects within ADF through a Celtic, especially Irish, frame of mind.  Somehow, during the voracious reading I was doing, I started to internalize the culture bit by bit.  I found that I believed in the Otherworld, fairies, and even found myself a bit fearful of the Pooka around Samhain.  I pray to the Gods and thank them often.  Slowly but surely, Irish concepts are leaking into my art.  I’ve been sewing dolls that resemble the Tuatha de Danann and incorporating spirals into my projects.   The number three has become very important to me.  I don’t feel like I forced myself to think in this way – I believe that it happened slowly and over time.  I know I will never actually be Irish, but I think it’s important to have a good grasp of a pantheon’s culture, and through the study of said culture, I find myself adopting its ways, however small.  I intend to continue my Irish cultural studies and I’m sure that, by doing so, my perception of the world will shift even more.

Academics aside, I do put a lot of effort into spiritual practice as well.  I try to meditate as often as possible.  It’s sometimes difficult to make the time, but when I do it is very relaxing and refreshing.  I am hoping to study trance in the near future.

I now have a lovely altar in my room.  Every day, usually at night, I perform a simple daily devotional in which I light candles for the Three Kindreds.  I’ve started to form a relationship with the Goddess Brighid and her father The Dagda.  I have representations of them on my altar, a doll of Brighid that I made and a large rock I found on a hike which I dedicated to The Dagda.  I think about their influence in my life a lot and try to learn as much about them as I can.  In Brighid’s case, I’ve joined a flame-keeping group and light a special candle for her each month.  I also feel that practicing a form of art is a way to worship Brighid as she is a Goddess of creativity and crafts.  I bought a small lap harp at an Irish Festival a year ago.  It seemed appropriate because of my love of Irish harp playing and The Dagda’s relationship to harps.  Every so often, I pick the instrument up and attempt to learn something new which I feel is a way to honor him. I pray a lot as well.  In some ways that may be a carry-over from my Catholic upbringing, but I don’t see praying as a negative thing.  I believe that talking to the Gods strengthens our bonds with them.  Every morning, I have a prayer ritual in which I put on the Brighid talisman I have while saying:

I thank the Three Kindreds for their guidance, protection, blessings, and inspiration.

May they continue to bless myself, those I love, and the land,

And may I honor them with all I say and do.

Before meals, I say a prayer of thanks that was inspired by Isaac Bonewits’ book Pagan Man:

I thank the Earth Mother for the food before me,

I thank the men and women who toiled in field, farm, and kitchen to bring this meal to me,

And I thank the plants and animals that had to die so that I could live.

I also have a special prayer that I say to myself when I am on the road, taking a walk, or doing any sort of traveling.  While I don’t necessarily focus on a Gaulish culture, Cernunos has always been very important to me as the Lord of Animals.  And in my readings, I’ve learned that Lugh is a protector of travelers and merchants.  Whenever I transport myself in any way I say, “May Lugh and Cernunos protect me while I travel.”

Aside from my bedroom altar, there are also a couple of shrines I’ve set up outside.  One is right outside the door.  Using a pot, soil, and a fairy statue, I created a shrine for the house spirit.  I felt that it was important for her shrine to be situated in a threshold of sorts because I see her as both a protector of the indoors and the outdoors around my home.  I always acknowledge her as I enter and exit my home.  I sometimes leave offerings of flowers, petals, stones, or other such things.  Further back, as you walk into the forest behind my home, there is another shrine I set up.  I like to give offerings to the Kindreds there, and I feel that it is an especially sacred spot because once, while meditating under that tree, I opened my eyes to see a whole herd of deer standing around me.  It was truly amazing and I felt that the ground was sacred because of that experience.    However, due to the leafy and uneven consistency of the forest floor, I generally don’t do my full rituals there because a flame of any sort would seem dangerous.  I tend to perform outside rituals by my garden under an oak tree using a candle to represent the fire.

Luckily, there are a few groves in Upstate NY.  As of yet, there isn’t one in my hometown of Utica, but I started to visit Muin Mound in Syracuse.  I felt immediately welcomed there.  They tend to perform Celtic rituals for Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine, and Lughnasadh, and Norse rituals for the Solstices and Equinoxes.  This is interesting for me because I get to learn about another culture besides my own.  The experiences with them have helped solidify a lot of my thoughts on ADF.  Seeing an ADF ritual performed is more helpful to me than reading about one.  It’s helped me to become more familiar and comfortable with the liturgy.  So much so, in fact, that I’ve lead two Druidic rituals for the local Pagan alliance in Utica – one for Imbolc and one for Beltaine.  While I was nervous about them, they were successful and well-received.  I now feel a calling to become a clergy member within ADF and serve my local Pagan community.  This calling has grown especially strong now that I know there are at least three other ADF members in Utica who would love to see a grove form.

In the meantime, I’ve helped to organize a study group with the other local ADF members.  We are just starting out, but I hope to see it evolve.  In the meantime, it is a place to discuss our spirituality with likeminded individuals. I hope that we can begin performing some rituals, but at the same time, I hope to continue visiting Muin Mound and other groves to keep things fresh and to help inspire me.

I feel very comfortable with my hearth culture.  My world is now full of spirals, Gods, and hidden places of power, and I feel very connected to some of my ancestors.  That is…  some.  While I feel very at home with the Tuatha de Dannan and my Irish hearth culture, my ancestry is not just Celtic but also Germanic.  There are times when I feel little tugs from Norse Gods, like Thor, and I feel that it is because I’m ignoring a part of my genes.  Here and there, I’ve picked up a book on Germanic culture and lore.  I hope to one day figure out how to balance between these two hearth cultures.  It will take some time, study, and practice, but I’m sure that I will be able to do it.

As I near completing my Dedicant Program I look forward to the future and what it brings to my soul.  I can see myself serving my community, growing as an artist through spirituality, learning more and more about the world around me, growing more adept at meditation, and learning Irish.  I hope that I am one day able to help lead a nemeton and provide guidance for future Druids.  ADF has given me reason to want to serve the Pagan community at large rather than just myself.

 

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In my early days of Pagan study and worship, it was easiest for me to connect with and understand the Nature Spirits.  I was raised to respect them and even taught by my mother to believe in fairies and unicorns, even if they were part of a different reality than our own.  As time went by, I forged some bonds with deities, but it wasn’t until taking up the Dedicant Program that I was truly able to feel connected to and understand the Three Kindreds of Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Gods.

While I very much believed in the unseen Nature Spirits as a child, I was more aware and interested in the visible and tangible.  I have always cared deeply for plants and animals and have been an environmentalist from an early age.  As I grew, my animism developed and I came to the realization that there really was more to the natural world than met the eye.  As a child, I was bombarded with the modern myth of fairies – little, beautiful creatures with wings and fairy dust.  I am still very much attracted to this image and often incorporate such creatures into my artwork, but I’ve come to realize that the Spirits of Nature are as varied as people and that they can be perceived by humans as beautiful, silent, loud, mischievous, disgusting, and, perhaps, aggressive. While some are weaker than humans, others are much, much stronger. Studying Irish folklore and mythology has given me a more mature frame of perception in regards to the Nature Spirits.   They are, indeed, the unseen forces of nature that can be creative, like a spirit attached to a garden, or destructive, like the Pooka of Irish lore, and they can come in any guise.  In my own spiritual work, I’ve found that I believe that all beings, even the rocks and trees, have souls, and so I feel that they are also Nature Spirits worthy of respect and, in some cases, veneration.

So how do I perceive the Nature Spirits?  They are the birds and the song that they sing.  They are the rocks in the earth.  They are the drops of rain.  They are the wind rustling the trees.  They are the sequins of sunlight that splash through the forest canopy.  They are the trees, alive and decaying.  They are the dandelions poking up through cement sidewalks.  They are the ferrets cohabiting with me in my bedroom.  They are the unseen creatures that move my things without any explanation. They are the rotting corpses of animals on the streets.  They are the diseases that we get.  They are the unseen forces in the dark.  They are at work outside making the flowers and vegetables grow. They are present within the upper, middle, and lower worlds and represent all the elements.  I believe that my existence is inextricably linked to theirs and so they deserve to be honored and treated with respect, like brothers and sisters who have their own wants, needs, and motivations.  I may not always like what the Nature Spirits have in store, but I’m sure they don’t always agree with me either!  As with human siblings, we have to give and take equally and learn to live in harmony with each other.

I am always trying to stay connected with my brothers and sisters or nature, as well as the Earth Mother, whom I see as a Goddess and mother of all life.  I try to learn about the seen and unseen Nature Spirits, and I try to live in harmony with them through environmentalism and vegetarianism.  I thank them before eating.  I remember them in my rituals and make offerings to them.  I’ve kept in mind that some offerings may be harmful to nature spirits, and so I avoid chocolate and sharp objects left out in the open.  My favorite offerings to give are flowers and birdseed.

I will speak of the Gods next, not because they are less important than the Ancestors, but because my relationship and familiarity with them was the easiest for me to experience next.  Despite my Roman Catholic upbringing, I always had a fascination with mythology from a very early age.  One of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was a series of animated Greek and Roman myths.  The exploits of Herakles, Castor, Pollox, and Jason mesmerized me and the Gods captivated my imagination.  Visiting museums and seeing statues from Egypt amazed me.  Who were these mysterious beings?  The statues exuded a power.  For me, this power was a calling and made me want to dance. I continually felt the pull of the Old Gods.  The more I read about them and devoted time to them, the more they seemed to “talk” to me. At first, it was difficult to go from monotheism to the duotheism of Wicca.  There was a certain taboo about it and, with it, a certain fear of the unknown.  Gradually, I started to form a relationship with Gods and Goddesses.  First it was the Greek and Egyptian Gods, probably because I was most familiar with them.  I had dreams of Dionysus and Bast.  It was easy as an eclectic Wiccan to worship both at the same time, but it wouldn’t satisfy me for long.

Here I am, a few years later, worshiping the Tuatha de Danann of the Irish.  I don’t know how it happened, and it was probably through my love of Irish music and Arthurian myth, but I was called by the Old Gods of the Green Isle, the home of my ancestors.  As with the Nature Spirits, studying Irish myth and legend has helped me to understand the Tuatha de Danann immensely.  Studying the myths and legends of other cultures has deepened my awareness of many other deities.  My Roman Catholicism and its veneration of various saints helped ease me into polytheism, and I now consider myself a hard polytheist.  I believe that, for the most part, the Gods can reside in any of the three realms and often interact with and interbreed with the Nature Spirits.  Because the Gods are so tied to the land and various natural phenomena, they further sanctify the environment.  Some of the Gods, like the Tuatha de Danann, are local deities and so I’ve come to believe that they mostly live in Ireland.  The same is probably true for other deities as well, such as Aphrodite dwelling primarily on the island of Cyprus.  However, as the Gods are more powerful than humans, I believe that they can interact with humans who are far from their sanctuaries.  While I don’t believe that you have to be Irish to love and worship the Tuatha de Danann, I can’t help but feel that my connection to them is partially due to my blood ties to Ireland.  I feel that it enables an easier connection. I also feel that repeated ritual and interaction with certain deities at an altar or through a talisman can, in some way, create a home away from home for them and that their energy becomes imbibed in foreign places where they are frequently made welcome (such as the powerful seeming statues in museums).  I also think that Gods associated with certain energies, such as arts, can manifest while a person is tapping into those energies.  I believe that the Gods are the most powerful and wise of the Three Kindreds and that they know how to use magic in ways that humans can only dream of.  Like the Nature Spirits, and like human beings, I believe that the Gods are all individual and have their own personalities, faults, and motivations.  Many, like Brighid, Odin, Thor, or Prometheus, have given us different arts and protect humanity.  Others, like the Morrigan or Loki, are a bit harder for me to understand and seem more interested in protecting the land or chaos rather than the tribe.  I don’t consider them evil – they have their place, but they can be hard for humans to relate to. As a former Catholic, it is hard for me not to subjugate myself to the Gods.  I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to do, but I think the Tuatha de Danann, or the Gods of any other Pagan culture, prefer that their followers view them more as kin – incredibly powerful and wise kin – but kin all the same.  I envision them to be a bit like parents, teachers, or tribal leaders.

I try to connect to the Gods in many ways.  The first is through study.  My fascination with mythology and ancient history has eclipsed all other academic interests.  Not only am I learning about other cultures and world history, but I am having fun as it is intrinsically satisfying.  Perhaps it is because through study that I am able to get to know the Gods and the other Kindreds and so my soul becomes happy.  I also connect to the Gods through ritual, meditation, prayer, art, and dance.  In ritual, I am able to express my love for the Gods and honor them for their many blessings.  In meditation, I am able to contemplate and maybe even receive a message from them.  In prayer, I talk to them.  I mostly thank them for any number of things, but there are times when I ask for help as well.  I always ask that Lugh, protector of travelers, and Cernunos, the Gaulish God of animals, protect me or those I love while on the road.  I also pray in thanks before each meal.  I feel that I’m able to connect to the Gods through art and dance because those activities connect me to a very spiritual part of my brain and soul and allow me to open up to the inspiration of the Gods, especially to Brighid.  Dance is especially helpful because it can put me into a trance and open me up in ways similar to meditation.  Another way I show the Gods I care is through service to them and the other Kindreds.  By leading rituals and keeping to my oaths, I am building lifelong relationships with allies who deserve to be honored due to their many positive influences in my life.  I no longer consider myself an eclectic Wiccan duotheist but a hard polytheist, a priestess to the Tuatha de Danann, and a Druid in training with Celtic Reconstructionist tendencies.  I feel that the Tuatha de Danann called me to this.

Finally, ADF has helped me form a closer bond with my ancestors.  When I began to study and practice Paganism, I didn’t consider my ancestors as part of my belief system.  I knew that Native Americans and Shintos highly honored their dead and, in some instances, created altars for them.  The only real emphasis on the ancestors in Wicca was to remember them on Samhain.  There were a few Samhains where, indeed, I felt their presence strongly. Some books recommended that special altars be made, or that places be set aside for the ancestors at a Samhain meal.  I never really did that – at most I threw some bread out for the souls of the dead as an afterthought.  As a whole, it felt that Wicca only honored the ancestors on a certain holiday and forgot about them for the rest of the year.  Because of this, my connection with the ancestors was not considered and not developed until I began my Druidic studies.

A year or so before my calling to Druidry, my Aunt Debbie died of cancer and I felt that I should do something special for her on Samhain.  I made her a bouquet of evergreens as I felt they symbolized never ending life.  I wasn’t sure where her grave stone was (indeed, she had yet to have a stone installed), so I tossed the bouquet into the air and did not look back at where it landed, content to believe she caught it.  I did not even think that throwing it meant the bouquet was trash rather than a gift.  To me, it was the easiest way to make an offering to her.

As I’ve progressed through ADF, I’ve felt a stronger pull to my ancestors.  It feels as if they are happy to be part of my daily practice.  I light a candle for my ancestors as part of my daily ritual.  At larger holidays, more is offered.  I feel like the ancestors really do watch over us.  Whether they are right with us or watching from a distance when they feel it necessary, I do not know.   Celtic lore says that the dead go to the Otherworld, and I do believe in such a place, but I can’t help but feel that they are able to communicate with us in some way, especially around Samhain and Beltaine.   I believe that care and concern do not end at death.  I also believe that some of the dead can get trapped in the world of the living as ghosts.

I would like to honor more of my ancestors on Samhain such as my Grandmother and Grandfather.  Truly, I think of my ancestors every day now, but I feel that the entire day of Samhain should be planned around visiting the graves of relatives.  Honoring ancestors needn’t only be about immediate relatives or even recent friends and relations.  When I visited England a few years ago, I felt very connected to the land.  I was very much aware of a presence linked to my own blood.  As I toured historical landmarks like White Tower, Westminster Abbey, or even Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, I felt as if I was connecting with people from long ago.  I was so aware of the feet that had walked where I was walking, wearing down the stone steps until they were smooth with time.

Today I do my best to honor and remember my ancestors.  I make offerings, verbally thank the ancestors, read their stories, research their land, and anticipate visiting my ancestral homelands.  We are here because of our ancestors and we should not limit our celebration of them to one day in the year.

Because the ancestors are human, it seems that they would have been the easiest for me to connect to.  It may have something to do with my grandfather’s obsessive interest in genealogy.  I’ve had my ancestors pounded into my head since a very young age, so I may have been resistant to thinking any more about them.  I’ve also considered their humanity to be a deterrent, possibly because I’ve viewed them as just mundane humans who died a long time ago. To a younger me, otherworldly beings were infinitely more fascinating.  Having matured, I’ve realized the importance of family and heritage.  I am proud of where I come from.  I often ponder my Irish and Germanic background.  I worship the Tuatha de Danann, but I sometimes feel the pull of my Germanic ancestors.  I sometimes wonder if there is an easy way to integrate the two hearth cultures together to satisfy my gene pool.

The Three Kindreds have many differences, and yet they have many similarities too.  This essay could extend for pages as I contemplate the many ways that they overlap.  Their main similarity, as far as I’m concerned, is that they have made my spiritual path seem whole and balanced.  Honoring the Three Kindreds not only helps me to form bonds with the Gods, but it keeps me connected to the Nature Spirits with whom I cohabit, and helps me to remember my very large, very extended family.  I am grateful to have grown closer to the Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Gods and hope that my ability to honor, love, and worship them deepens and matures with the years.

 

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Learning to perform the Two Powers Meditation was not difficult for me.  As a former Wiccan I was often exposed to different meditations and guided visualizations.  One of the most common meditations, the Tree of Life, shares some characteristics of the Two Powers Meditation of ADF.  Each asks us to reach into the upper and lower realms and absorb some of that world’s energy.  It wasn’t until I started working with the ADF model that I began to consider the symbolic implications of such an exercise.

Regardless of whether I stand or sit, I first feel myself firmly on the Earth’s surface.  I take three deep breaths to establish a mindset.  In this way I am telling myself that it is time to work and think in the symbolic world – the spiritual world.  I feel myself connected to the middle realm – to Midgar, if I may use the term from Norse cosmology.  Two Powers or Tree of Life, I think of myself as the world tree – as Yggdrasil or the Bile. I am suspended between the depth of the underworld and the sky.  I am of the earth and live in a realm of plants, soil, and animals. Whether I see myself as a human being or the actual tree, I am still very much a being of the middle world, pressing my body into the underworld and stretching up to the upperworld.

I imagine that the powers of the underworld are always available to us.  They are deep beneath the surface for spiritual taproots to drink up and they undulate across the earth to seep through our feet.  I experience the energy as a pulse or vibration that crawls (and sometimes shoots) up my legs.  It spirals in my loins, heart, and skull.  This power is both chaotic and ordered.  I imagine the first current as water.  It has the disruptive potential of a tsunami or raging rapids, yet it is also the same calming, healing, and organized power that trickles out of the earth in the form of sacred wells and rivers – the same forces that determine where many settlements are located.  It is the playfulness of the otter and the wisdom of the salmon.  The energies of the underworld are therefore powerful and deep, calming and healing.  Because of the underworld’s association with the dead, this current has a connection to such energies – the potential for rejuvenation and transformation.  The energies are the mysteries of Hades and the creative potential of dwarven smiths.  It is as masculine as the cauldron of An Dagda and as feminine as the holy waters of the Boyne.

When I lift up my hands, fingers outstretched, I call on the energies of the sky – the upperworld.  I reach to the sun and guiding stars.  I cannot say that I feel a temperature from the underworld current but I definitely feel a heat from the upperworld.  It is subtle but there.  Like the first power, the second pulses and sometimes shoots through my body, spiraling in my skull, heart, and loins.  I see it as fire.  It is the chaotic energy of a wildfire or an explosive star, yet it is also the protective campfire and meditative candle.  It is the transformative flame of the alchemists’ lab and Ceridwen’s cooking fire.  It is the passionate energy of lovers, the rage of a warrior in battle, and the inspirational fire in the head.  It is the might of dueling dragons and the all encompassing sight of the high-flying eagle.  It has the masculine energy of Helios’ chariot and Lugh’s spear, but the feminine energy of Brighid and Vesta’s sacred flames and protective hearth fires.

I believe that the primary difference between the Two Powers is that one is more visible and accessible to us.  The powers of the upper world are equated to the sky.  Although the numerous stars that appear at night are distant to us, we can see them and we know our place within the vastness of their territory.  The sun and moon, which are even more noticeable, determine our daily routines.  A layman can look up and try to predict the weather.  The underworld, on the other hand, though equated with water (something very visible to us) seems more concerned with what lies below the land and the surface of the water.  It is very mysterious to us.  The plants grow out of it, caves delve deeply within it, and we bury our dead there.  We cannot quite grasp it in the way we can the upperworld.  That is not to say that the heavens don’t offer any wonder or mystery, but the underworld is certainly more hidden and, I think, spiritually harder to access in a comprehensive way.  This is why the ancients were both amazed and fearful of their blacksmiths, the priests and artisans of the underworld.

When I perform the Two Powers I am able to concentrate on and experience the deep symbolism of the energies.  I believe that the exercise is called the Two Powers because we call on the energies of the upperworld and underworld into ourselves, we being of the middle world – a third power.  Yet as beings familiar with the middle world, it is the powers of the upper and lower realms that truly inspire, empower, and awaken us, hence two powers rather than three.  We are already the third and we seek union with the other two.  By connecting with the upperworld and underworld, I am essentially recreating the cosmology I believe in and thus deepening my spiritual understanding of the other worlds.  The Two Powers not only connect me to the literal realms of upper, lower, and middle worlds, but to the spiritual realms of the Three Kindreds.  This is a wonderful exercise for simple meditations, and it also works well in ritual as it reminds all who participate of our interconnectivity with the realms and Kindreds.

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Creating a shrine was not a difficult requirement for me as I’ve been making altars for a few years.  The challenge, however, was making an altar in accordance with a hearth culture and within a Druidic framework.  Having started on a Pagan path through Wicca, I was used to having certain articles on my altar.  When I realized that Wicca was not the path for me, I abandoned some of the traditional tools, such as the athame, and turned my altar into a mishmash of significance.  It was only through the deep introspection and study of mythology encouraged by ADF that I was able to build a shrine that was truly important to me and symbolic of my faith.

When I first started to think about putting together an altar for ADF, I knew it would have to be different from my past altars.  It would require space for offering bowls, something I’d never dealt with before.  My altars used to be built on top of slender bookshelves.  After moving into a new apartment, I decided to use an old vanity that I was not using.

My altar is in the kitchen, the hearth of my home, near the stove.  In the very center of my altar is a representation of the Bile, the world tree.  It is a wand I made from an apple branch, wire, and silver bells, similar to the wand given to Cormac in Irish mythology.  To the right of the tree is a doll/statue I made to represent Brighid.  Below her is a dish with a candle so that I can keep her flame once every month. To the Bile’s left is a large stone representing An Dagda.  I found the stone during a hike I dedicated to him.  Atop the stone is a ring of black twine that is also significant from that hike.  Behind the stone is a lap harp I bought at an Irish Festival.  It always reminds me of An Dagda and his harp of seasons.  Perhaps I will learn to play it one day and I will be able to incorporate it into my rituals!

There is also a representation of the fire and the well on my altar in the form of a candle and a cauldron.  Towards the front of the altar are three small bowls containing tea lights that represent the three Kindreds.  The center candle represents the Gods while the right candle represents the ancestors and the left represents the nature spirits.  In addition to these there is a fourth bowl on the altar into which offerings are given.  There are also a few small incense holders. Everything sits atop a beautiful green altar cloth with black Celtic knots swirling over its surface.  On the wall above my altar are photos of some of my ancestors and a candle that I can light when I want to specifically pay homage to them.  I think the photos serve as poignant reminders of my ancestors and enable me to really connect with them spiritually and emotionally.

All of the items on my altar are significant because they represent something spiritually important whether it’s symbolic of a deity, spirit, or simply the connection I have to the other world or my hearth culture. Seeing these symbols reconnects me and mentally prepares me for the rituals and mediations held before the altar.

I don’t feel that my altar is complete.  There are many improvements that I would like to make to it.  To begin with, I would like to locate more photos of ancestors to put on my wall.  I would also like to find better storage compartments for underneath the altar.  Currently all of my candles are in a cardboard box and everything else is in baskets just sitting there, vulnerable to my two curious cats and all of the fur they shed.  I also look forward to the day when I have a larger home and will have room to expand my altar.  Perhaps I will move it from the kitchen area to the living room to make it more central and accessible to larger worship.  Ideally, it would have its own room one day, complete with prayer mats, a library of Pagan-related books, and soundproof walls for meditation.  One can dream, right?

I have enjoyed creating my Druidic altar.  It has become such a significant focal point in my spiritual life.  Never before did I interact with an altar on a daily basis.  Never before was an altar so important to me.  The altar is not only a shrine to the Kindreds, but a peaceful sanctuary for me.

 

 

My altar as of March 2010.

I moved my altar in the autumn of 2010. Here it is incomplete.

 

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