|10. A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures. (600 words min.)|
PERSONAL RELIGION ESSAY
My personal Druidry is animistic, oracular, ancestral, devotional, and polytheistic. I would say that primary among these things is devotional polytheism, the sacred *ghosti relationship I have with Shining Ones, and in particular with Brighid. But it did not start here. I came back to paganism from an affirmative atheism that was highly materialistic and admitted only evidence that fit the scientific orthodoxy of Western American culture. In the summer of 2017 I became increasingly aware of a yearning towards something and really a feeling of being pulled back to paganism, which I practiced from an eclectic solitary Wiccan perspective in my teens and early twenties. At Samhain 2017 I began practicing again with my first high day ritual and reading everything I could on different pagan perspectives and theology. I celebrated Samhain and Yule in that vaguely Wiccan fashion echoed from my previous practice. The rituals were beautiful and deeply moving but I felt pulled to something different. Then I found a book that encouraged me to open myself to experiences with no pre-set explanations of phenomena and to act “as if” there may be some form of spirit being or soul. Thus, at Imbolc, I had a powerful encounter with Brighid. That same book introduced me to the idea of modern Druidry and after exploring ADF and OBOD, I found a grove in my area. On April 6th I visited Nine Waves Grove for the first time and something in me said “yes!” so I went home, joined ADF national, and started the Dedicant Path.
Since then, I have been building both my grove centered religious practice and my hearth practices. Nine Waves Grove is largely Anglo-Saxon in ritual practice as our priest (Rev. Lauren Mart) and many of the founding members practice in that hearth culture. All of my high days except Imbolc and the Equinoxes have been within that hearth. Imbolc, as I mention below, was within a Celtic hearth and the Equinoxes were celebrated in a Slavic hearth. I have not settled on a personal hearth culture; I am still exploring the hearth cultures across the Indo-European cultures. However, I focused on a Celtic hearth for my book review and spend a lot of my time learning about this hearth because my Lady, Brighid, is Irish Gaelic. I wish to know Her better in part through knowing Her stories and historical context as well as how She has changed over time. I wrote my first full core order rite to lead our public ritual at Imbolc as a special honor to Her. Exploring within the Celtic hearth more deeply has raised some questions for me that I wish to explore further, and I feel that having a Grove practice in addition to a personal practice has deepened my understanding, still in its early stages, of the broader themes and practices across the many Indo-European cultures.
The Grove has also given me a deep sense of belonging and a community that is a true blessing. I am surrounded by a group of individuals, all of us very different people, who are each seekers and who bring their own gifts to the whole. I have learned so much about Druidry, ADF, and myself through my time with them. We have weekly study meeting, Druid Tea, and our ritual nights. I am a Voting Member of the Grove and was voted in as Secretary, taking my oath of service at Yule 2018. That was a deeply moving experience, expressing my commitment to working for the good of this family of mine. My priest is an inspiration to virtue practice; it is through her example that I decided to establish a daily office and devotional practice that form the center of my personal religious practice.
That practice consists of a morning prayer, centering myself then saying the Cosmos prayer as a meditative practice with specific body postures and motions at each step. I then recite some form of virtue dedication, sometimes my own virtue prayer, sometimes the five principles of Reiki (which I am currently learning), and sometimes simply speaking from the heart. I have committed to living a more mindful life so throughout the day when I notice myself becoming upset I engage in some form of mindful practice. I end each day with a prayer to Brighid, healing work for those who need it/have asked for it, and a dedication prayer. I sometimes also say prayers to the Kindreds more generally or in specific, such as to a specific ancestor. In addition, I make offerings to Brighid at least weekly and engage in meditative practice at least once a week. I have not missed a nightly prayer to Brighid since I began them back in May, nor have I failed to light a candle to Her for at least a few minutes. As a busy full tiem doctoral student, this is a time of renewal for me each night. This devotional aspect, particularly in my relationship with Brighid, is deeply meaningful to me and is the center of my Druidry. I seek to embody Her virtues in the world and to live what I consider a virtuous life more generally.
I set up my home shrine very early in the process and the items that have come to live there really reflect my relationship to my Druidry. All of my hallows are gifts from important others in my community of chosen family. My shrine contains also my image of Brighid, also a gift, the candle I use to light a flame to Her each evening, and the various materials I use to make offering to Her and to the Kindreds. I have begun creating another shrine outside in the form of a small container garden where I can pour my offerings to the Noble Ones and begin to really feel the rhythms of the Earth as She cycles through the seasons here. I am also now dedicated to lessening my environmental impact so I am working to create the kind of garden that can supply some of my fresh vegetables and reduce the impact of fertilizer, water consumption, and transportation costs associated with supermarket produce. My time working to develop an awareness of and relationship with the natural world has manifested in other ways well. I avoid packaging and plastics, especially single use plastics, as much as possible. I have tried to reduce my carbon footprint and invest in renewable sources for my homes. I also feel the cycling of energy from the rising sap to the fallow times in my bones and blood. I feel them echoed in my psyche and in my own natural rhythms; I am learning to hear and honor these. While I have mentioned elsewhere that I struggle to connect with the naturekin at times, this piece of the Dedicant Path has helped me to find a glimmering of a way to relate to and honor them. I look forward to deepening this relationship.
I have found the process of working through the Dedicant Path helpful as I have sought to understand my spiritual experiences, what virtues are most important to me, and who and how I want to be in the world. I have much growing to do in my spiritual life. I want to continue to build liturgy skill and a deeper knowledge of ADF orthopraxy. The ADF core order is something I am still developing comfort with as a solitary practice, especially opening the gates. I do not “see” energy and I have a hard time trusting in my perceptions. I wish to continue to deepen my personal religious practice and relationship with Brighid, as well as with the Kindreds. I am beginning to explore trance work as a way of doing Work in the worlds. I am also considering the possibility of exploring CTP Prelim and Clergy Training. I look forward to my Druidry being a true Path, one that is about what I do and who I am and Whose I am, one that allows me to give back to my community and live the best life I can.