Personal Religion

My practice is both Grove-centered and personal. My grove generally worships the Norse gods on the cross-quarter holidays and the fire festivals are for the Celtic gods. We occasionally also worship gods from the Greek pantheon. So my grove sometimes is spiritually fulfilling in terms of the deities worshipped at rites. However, I certainly need my own rites for those holidays where my pantheon is not worshipped.

While the DP was difficult, I kept up with it fairly well. I am surprised by how active I became in my practice and how much more I know about why ADF does what it does in ritual and about my Hearth Culture. I have also gained multiple relationships with the kindreds. Being the kind of person who gets choked up with ‘doing it right,’ I’ve always had trouble adapting my beliefs and developing my personal practice. I feel like that’s completely changed.

When I looked at my first oath, I vowed to be pious. I vowed to seek virtue and do right. And I vowed to deepen my knowledge of the ancient ways.

I believe I have managed to be pious. I my essay on this virtue, I noted how piety is both social and personal. I have attended most of the High Days and almost always took part in them. I have also managed to make it to several monthly meetings and occasionally brought items for the ritual. I feel I have been a more active member of my grove since starting the DP.

I have, of course, deepened my knowledge of the ancients and why ADF does certain things. I have learned so much from the I-E book and the Hearth Culture book. Both have shown me why ADF works with Fire and Water (in meditation, with the gates, etc). They have both also shown me certain ways multiple I-E cultures are similar. And the Hearth Culture book has given me a lot of knowledge about important symbols and ways of practice for the Norse, Germans, and even Celts. I have also read books outside the DP list, including Diana Paxson’s Odin.

When I made the vow to seek virtue and do right, it was specifically for ‘my kin and community.’ I simply felt that this is something I should always strive for, but I didn’t have a clear goal with it and with the DP. Again, I would say I have practiced piety over the year. I would also say there are three other virtues I have used particularly often during this year. They are Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation. I have used wisdom in that I have learned to practice on my own. I have done a couple of full High Days at my altar. And I have developed a weekly ritual practice, which is heavily influenced by ADF. I think I have used Courage because I have talked more about my religious path with friends and family. (I’m even letting my mom read my finished DP.) And I believe I have used Moderation often on various pagan Facebook pages, especially Heathen ones. When I wrote about the virtue of Moderation, I said it was a balancing act. In my case, it was understanding how I felt and what I believed balanced with the acceptance of an imperfect world.

As I have written elsewhere, it has taken most of the year for me to accept Odin as a presence in my life. And part of that was because of my own family history and because of bigots in the Heathen community, many of whom seem to have a particular affinity for Odin. My great-grandfather’s own brother was a voluntary Nazi officer (I don’t know specifically what within the Nazi party). And my great-grandfather, Otto, either during or after WW2, refused to speak to his brother ever again. This story weighs heavily on me sometimes, and it’s part of why I refused Odin at first.

Sometimes I have gotten caught up in what someone on Facebook says. Or I go through their personal feed and see all the crap they post. And it’s hard to reconcile. However, once just person posted on a page asking for book recommendations on Norse religious practice. And since I loved my hearth culture book so much, I replied and recommended it. And we had a perfectly civil conversation about it. I plan to pick my battles with bigoted pagans, and a high-quality book that has nothing to do with bigotry is not the place for that conversation. This is part of how I have created balance in my practice and while engaging with the pagan community. And it is why I have used Moderation so much in this year.

Another area of spiritual growth this year has been with meditation. At first, I tried doing a very quick morning devotion every weekday at my altar. I was only able to this is a couple times a week. So I changed it to a more formal weekly ritual. This includes honoring the Earth Mother, asking a spirit in the form of a bear to help me open the gates, praising each of the three kindreds, doing a short meditation, taking an omen, thanking each kindred, closing the gates, and thanking the Earth Mother. I use steel cut oats for my offerings when calling to and thanking each being. I also have a shrine which I have developed over the year. It has a section for the Norse gods and a section for the ancestors. Then there is an offering bowl and a candle that I made. I generally go to the shrine when I ask the gods for something or when I am giving thanks. There was a point for a few weeks when I filled the bowl with water as a daily offering, just because. But I wasn’t able to keep that up.

I would say the one ADF practice that has perplexed me the most, and taken the most time for me to accept, is opening the gates. I don’t believe you need to open any pathway to establish communication with the spirits. There are mushrooms in my backyard; I can just go and talk to them. I still have very strong animistic feelings. However, I began to understand at Wellspring and Summerlands that opening the gates is part of the ritual. It is a way to bring participants into a sacred mindset. Catholics also have a lot of ritual in the Mass. You have a procession and a blessing with water, you bless the book and the crowd, you say a prayer, some swing the incense thing around the altar space — there’s a bunch of stuff and the main purpose is to create sacred space. That’s why ADF does the blessing, recreating the cosmos, and opening the gates. And, of course, the gates have particular I-E significance. Fire and Water represent the creation story of most I-E cultures. And they are also good metaphors for the Upperworld and Underworld. The tree, the world tree, is particularly important to the Norse and it connects all the worlds. Trees are very important religiously to the Celts as well and, I assume, other I-E cultures. So between ritualization and symbolism, I have accepted not only the idea of opening the gates, but also using it in my weekly rituals.

Before starting the DP, I was one of those people who was interested in both Celtic and Germanic cultures, because my family comes from Germany, France, England, and Ireland (also Italy). And I knew that there were a lot of similarities between those cultures, although I didn’t know any specifics. I am closest to my German roots, however, and so I decided to work with the Norse pantheon (it’s much easier to research than the continental Germanic pantheon). I have read the Havamal, which I ironically bought not too long before Odin started bothering me. I have also read (in English) A Handbook of Norse Mythology by Karl Mortensen. This book is used in high school in Scandinavian countries. It has many of the major lore, as well as information about the religious life of the Norse pagans. I still want to get copies of the Eddas and other sagas. I would also say over the course of the year, I have connected to Odin, Thor, Freyr, and Freya the most.

While ADF is a Druidic group, it is strongly based off of all I-E cultures. Before I took my Dedicant Oath, I wondered if I was sure I wanted to be a ‘Druid.’ I realized that I was worried about a misnomer. Practicing Druidry does not mean being an ancient druid. And, again, ADF Druidry is not only an Irish Celtic religion. I have found ADF’s style, community, encouragement to learn and research all very fulfilling, and I honestly want to continue my path this way. However, I also wondered if I wanted to hide behind the name ‘Druid,’ so I wouldn’t be as associated with the bigotry of some Heathen groups. And I didn’t want to hide. I decided to mention both the paths of druidry and heathenry. At plan at some point soon to also join The Troth, which is one of the largest Heathen groups and does not allow bigotry in the slightest. I feel that having these two organizations as my guides on my path will help me greatly.

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