I have been engaged in the ADF Dedicants Path for the last seven months, since Samhain. In that time, I have made a bit of progress, but not nearly so much as I should have liked. Life, as it does, has gotten in the way, sometimes in more demonstrable ways than others (as I was telling a friend yesterday, my bouncing around from house to house and from employed to un- over the past year has put something of a damper on some aspects of my spiritual development—though others this past year has fanned into a flame I’m both pleased and surprised to now notice). For that reason, as well as as a result of the past several omens my Grove has received at our High Rites, I have decided to start up a DP study group, working through Rev. Michael Dangler’s excellent curriculum The ADF Dedicant’s Path Through the Wheel of the Year, which serves as an unofficial (though highly recommended) guide to working through the DP in an orderly way. Throughout the coming year (or however long it takes) I will be posting a series of more informal entries asjournal entries to work through some of the homework he assigns. These entries will be collected and linked to in sequence on the Dedicants Journal page.
Week One’s homework gives a series of introductory questions to meditate on.
Why have you chosen to take the first steps on the Dedicant Path?
I initially began working on the Dedicant Path because my own level of responsibility with the Pagan community was growing; I had identified as a Druid for seven years, about half of which I’d been a member of ADF, and had just founded a Protogrove. As a fledgling leader-of-sorts, I figured I’d better have done the work to be able to better perform the duties of a Grove Organizer and to be able to better communicate to anyone who was interested in the Grove what Our Own Druidry actually was. At the time I was also one of the very, very few ADF Druids in the area, and figured that if at any time in the future, Raven’s Hollow was going to grow to become a Fully Chartered Grove, it was going to need not only people committed enough to ADF to have completed its initial training course, it was going to need at least one clergy member, and I had (and have) a hard time picturing anyone else I know in my community insane enough to envision at some point tackling the CTP.
Is this a step on your path, or will this become the Path itself?
Both? I’m never easily restrained into doing Just One Thing; I’ve usually got all four burners going on various different endeavors. Even in my work in ADF, I prefer to shake it up a bit—for one, I tend to shy away from the ADF identification as Neopaganism, and tend to call myself a devotional polytheist Druid; I don’t balk from incorporating either Revivalist or even Christian practices or teachings into my work wherever it’s appropriate (usually either when practicing with a non-ADF affiliated group, as I do on a monthly basis at least, or when practicing hoodoo, in which Christianity tends to bleed into my Own Druidry pretty damn freely). But I certainly consider Ár nDraíocht Féin to be my religious core and spiritual home, and it is certainly at the center of my practice. I find myself a bit too creatively-minded and freewheeling to consider Just The Things That Happen To Be Listed On The Dedicant Path to be my Path itself, as that’s far too limiting, so in the most literal interpretation of the question, it’s obviously just a step. But trees have a habit of branching out from the trunk, or even of having their trunks split into unsightly twos or threes, so I guess you (or I) might consider the Dedicants Path a sapling, or even maybe an acorn, that has the all-but guaranteed certainty of branching off into unexplored territory: the Ingwaz rune, that has the potential to open up into Jera.
What do you expect to learn?
Well, I suppose I could reasonably expect to have a more advanced understanding of virtue ethics, particularly the nine ADF chooses to focus on (which, as a side note, together give an interesting perspective on the particular personality of the organization itself, as compared to, say, Asatru, which also focuses on a similar-but-markedly-different set of nine virtues). I anticipate learning more about the history of modern Paganism and the scholarship that informed ADF’s decision to focus on Indo-European culture. As I’ve been in ADF and have been leading rituals for a while now, I don’t expect to learn a whole lot of the ins, outs, and how-tos concerning that, per se, but my expectations there tie into my desires below.
What would you like to get out of this journey?
More than anything I would like to develop my own regularity of practice and piety, as well as deepening my abilities to meditate well—as well as regular, consistent journaling. Those are three areas that I have always struggled with, and as they are pretty well woven into the core of the Dedicant Path work, at its end I will consider that a mountain well climbed. I also hope to meet completely unexpected challenges and knowledge, so that I can grow new ways—but as those items are by their nature unanticipated, I’m afraid I don’t think I can be much more specific than that.
Do you know where this path will take you?
Ohferheavenssake. There is no such thing as an honest ‘yes’ answer to this question. Obviously I don’t know. But, as I mentioned above, the DP is the prerequisite for every other ADF training course, and it’s just on the horizon of possibility that at some future date I might walk through the hallowed doors of the Clergy Training Program and brazenly shout, “All right, what have y’all got to offer?” In the most humble way possible, of course. My gods have precisely that sense of humor: The other week I was perusing the results of the ADF elections, and mentioned to my wife that I could not imagine running for any sort of office in ADF that did not directly and entirely involve my Grove, because enough responsibility already. The very next day, I got an email from the South Eastern Regional Druid asking if I would be interested in being the Deputy Regional Druid for North Carolina (and ooooh, how my wife laughed at me). So I can well imagine the DP leading to the CTP at some point.
If you have just joined ADF, why have you chosen to work on this immediately? /
If you have been in ADF for a long time, why are you starting only now?
A good question, lacking in an easy answer. My journey through Druidry over the past eight years has been one of very gradual focusing. It was immediately preceded by several years of traumatic spiritual experience that both tore me away from the religious teachings of my youth and precipitated a divorce that wreaked absolute mayhem on an emotional level. My initial introduction to Paganism, which happened parallel to my introduction to Druidry, was to say the least unorthodox; to say a bit more it was not filtered through the most rational of lenses and so prompted about a year and a half of nonstop spiritual chaos and apocalyptic thinking. Alongside this ran my initial forays into Druidry, principally in OBOD; I found my experiences there extremely healing and therapeutic, as well as transformative, but I lacked (and somewhat still lack) the discipline to engage with any consistency with the correspondence course style teaching method, as a direct result of the precipitating and still-ongoing years of chaos just mentioned. I also lacked any way to regularly meet with people that would me accountable to press on slogging through. In 2012 I discovered Cedarlight Grove, which apart from having met a few representatives of ADF in years past was my first real introduction to the organization, and after a few months of more or less regular attendance I decided to join. At that point I was still attending school and work full time, and the Dedicants Path was the farthest thing from my mind; I was instead learning the ins and outs of ADF through direct hands-on experience with a large collection of friendly and dedicated fellow Grove members, and I simply didn’t see a need to write down the things I was doing for somebody else to check over. In Cedarlight, I became more diligent, more educated, and developed—to put it bluntly—a firmer grasp on reality than the past several years of shapeshifting spirituality had afforded me. However, of course, things changed, as they always do; after three wonderful years of deep and meaningful engagement with a vibrant religious community of Druids, I found myself newly married and moving to the American Deep South, to an area where the word ‘Druid’ often seems to raise eyebrows, even in the Pagan community. I was, however, aware of a great need for the presence of Druidry practiced with a ‘Why not excellence?’ ethic in the area, both because I suspected there were people who would appreciate what ADF had to offer, and to improve the reputation Druidry had seemed to gather in my region (as well as to foster for myself a group with which to regularly meet and practice), and so, following some very strong promptings (urgings, really) by the Morrígan, I decided to start a Protogrove. For the reasons discussed towards the beginning of this entry, I knew that undertaking the Dedicants Path would have to be my next step; I did not believe that our Grove would be a lasting success if I could not at the least be sufficiently committed to it to achieve that. However, I have to admit once again to the disorganized quality my life has had for the last couple years and my lack of diligence in keeping up with the workload. The past two omens received by Raven’s Hollow, for Ostara and Beltaine, pointed first to engaging with mysteries and spiritual teaching as necessary for survival, and second to the importance of maintaining sharp wit and personal and group piety to avoid destruction. After the second repetition of what was essentially the same message (with exclamation points added!), the point sank home, and the Grove embarked on an effort to work through weekly DP classes using this curriculum to keep ourselves in line.
Does it look easy or hard?
Most everything of the required activities and documentation, aside from the journaling and meditation bits, is pretty routine stuff, and the essays are not difficult (I believe I’ve already exceeded the maximum length of the longest essay in this journal entry alone). However, as I’ve mentioned, I do find regular journaling and meditation quite difficult, and the diligence to keep up with the assignments is something I struggle with. One thing I’m considering incorporating into the meditation bits is picking up a copy of John Michael Greer’s Learning Ritual Magic and working through an ADF-adapted version of his instructions for learning how to meditate, since from what I’ve found ADF doesn’t (hell, most places don’t) have very well developed instructions for learning what’s really a pretty necessary skill, which is why I think a lot of people struggle in that area.
Which requirements appear to be difficult to you now, and which appear to be easy?
I believe I’ve just answered that in full.
Do you have doubts, questions, or concerns that you need to ask about?
I’m more than quite sure that I will. The main thing I doubt is whether I’ll have the wherewithal to complete what I’ve started. But for the time being I think I’ve bulwarked against that as much as possible, and don’t really have any other questions or concerns that come to mind—as they occur I’ll be sure to ask them, or at the very least write them down.
Meditation: Two weeks ago at Beltane Brouhaha I commissioned a ritual sickle from Jason at Wolf’s Moon Forge. Today I picked up the completed and altogether gorgeous product and took it home to bless and consecrate it.
I passed it through incense, and made offerings and prayers to the Morrígan to sanctify it as a ritual blade, and received very positive impressions. However, when I laid it on the shrine of Herself, I was immediately uncomfortable and filled with doubt. I asked if it had to do with the blade being of iron; and divination confirmed that yes, that was indeed the case. Damn! I had been worried about that, and was concerned that, as the lore pretty consistently indicates that the Aos Sidhe are by no means fond of iron, the new sickle would be pretty much useless to me if I couldn’t use it to harvest plants or even have it near my gods without offending them. What followed was a fascinating yes/no conversation via pendulum in which I inquired about the iron cauldron that was also on Her shrine, about which no doubts had ever been expressed. What I received was that iron was one thing, iron blades were quite another. There would be no problem the sickle for pretty much anything I had intended: however, I ought not to put it on the shrine or altar of any Celtic god or not-god. I threw the runes to try to get an impression of why Celtic gods particularly find iron off-putting: What turned up was Laguz, Isa (in very close proximity to) Dagaz, Gebo, and Nauðiz. I meditated for a while on each of these in sequence, and was rewarded with a story told in images. With Laguz I was sent underwater, peering upwards towards the blue-white dappled sun. Isa froze the surface of the water, blotting out the sun and darkening and making still and stiff the day. I then saw that sequence of images explained as a metaphor for the gifts (Gebo) of the gods and not-gods being impoverished (Nauðiz) as a result of contact with iron blades. I also got strong impressions that the Celtic spirits were very closely associated with brightness (one notes there are a multitude of solar gods, and no obvious lunar or even nocturnal gods to be found), and that iron blades somehow dim them, also that this has something to do with strong cultural memories of invading neighbors who wielded iron blades (perhaps Romans? the sons of Mil?). Obviously this is UPG of the most quintessential sort, but I did find it very interesting, and it reminded me very strongly of Damh the Bard’s song ‘Iron From Stone’:
I also cast runes to see if there were any that ought to be particularly associated with it: Gebo and Eihwaz came out together, Gift and the World Yew Ash Tree. Together, they provided a name for my new tool: Trégjafir, the Gifts of the Tree.