|9. ONE essay describing the Dedicants understanding of and relationship to EACH of the Three Kindred (300 words min. for each Kindred and 1000 words total)|
THREE KINDREDS ESSAY
The three Kindreds fit for me within the tripartite patterns that repeat throughout ADF’s Indo-European practices. There are three worlds- Underworld, Midworld, and Upperworld-, three realms- Land, Sea, and Sky- and three hallows- Fire, Well, and Tree. We rather like these neat little divisions and have made some efforts to divide our understanding of numinous beings similarly into the three Kindreds of Mighty Ones (Ancestors), Noble Ones (Nature Spirits), and Shining Ones (Deities). I am not sure that this neat boxing really reflects the complexities of our mythologies nor of life itself, but it forms a useful shorthand for relating to and understanding certain forms of beings and energies in a complex, animistic, polytheistic worldview.
The Ancestors for me are associated with the Underworld primarily, and thus the Well, as well as the Sea which supports and surrounds the land. In some ways, this is evocative to me of the way in which our ancestors have created the context in which we live and the way that their history echoes up in us across time and space. There are many types of ancestors, of blood (biological), of heart (chosen), of mind (intellectual/vocational), and of spirit (spiritual/cultural). I found when I began working with the ancestors that in some ways this was very difficult. My parents were abusive throughout my childhood and are both deceased; I was present for both their deaths and there is much that is unhealed between us. Still, I held vigil for them as they died and after. In large part due to this history, throughout much of my life I have thoroughly discounted the importance of blood relationship. It has only been in the last few months that I have begun to find ways to honor who my beloved dead were in life without feeling pressured to sanctify them (as our culture so often tries to do) but still honoring what gifts they did give me. This opened the way for me to work more with all my ancestors and has been immensely healing. More importantly in the spiritual sense, it has opened new ways of relating the Mighty Ones of all types and of viewing the worlds. I most often offer my ancestors of blood food I have made with my own hands or a special drink, often in the context of a shared meal. I find it more natural now to simply speak to them when they are on my mind, and to pour an offering for them to carry my love. I will also tell their stories as they arise in my mind and heart, sharing memories good or painful with others in my life. Hallows was an especially intense time of working with my feelings around my beloved dead and remembering them, telling their stories, and thanking them for who they were to me.
For my ancestors of heart, such as several dear friends who have passed and my childhood babysitter and her husband, who were second parents, I make similar offerings of food or drink as well as prayers, as for me this category is as close or closer than blood family. I tell them jokes or share stories with them that I know would have made them laugh and smile. My ancestors of spirit and mind, people who have inspired or been instrumental in my professional growth, culture, or spiritual path, often receive crafted items or prayers and drink, especially when I have worked on something related to our shared area of passion. I am working on creating an ancestor shrine in my bedroom on a small shelf where pictures of my dead may reside along with a candle, offering bowl and plate, and fresh flowers or gifts I make for them. I feel that this will help me grow closer to my ancestors of all kinds and to my own history as well. Most of all, I think that I see my ancestors of all types as those who have gone before on their own path, creating knowledge, skills, and strengths that I can tap into, and having a vested interested in us, their descendants, who carry on their legacy in our own ways. I do not really worry so much about whether they would have shared my spiritual path; I do not think that death nullifies choice and those who would not wish to receive my offerings due to their own beliefs can choose not to accept them.
The Nature Spirits for me include two types of beings- the animate spirits of all things in this realm and the beings we call Sidhe or Land Wights or Elves or many other names. This includes beasts, both mythical and real, and plants, stones, rivers, and other natural phenomena. The Nature Spirits are associated with the Middleworld, the Land, and, to some extent, the Tree. This is the class of beings with whom I have the most difficulty working. For one thing, some of them find people to be tasty treats. But most of all I am deeply uncomfortable with my own wildness. I live a very controlled life and there is not necessarily room or respect for that control with these beings, whether of this world or another, especially the beings such as the fae who have their own realms, their own courts, and very little reason to love or value us given what we as a whole have done to this realm of ours and our nature kin who must share it with us. I do not believe that all the Noble Ones are hostile to us by any means, but I am not entirely sure of the etiquette or my welcome and so I have a respectful but distant relationship. It is area of growth for me, I think, as I would like to build stronger bonds here. I think this is also the class of beings about which my rational mind most of ten says “OK, but really? Now you might going too far in your credulousness.” This internal response reminds me that it has been less than a year since I began moving from a materialist, empirical, atheistic worldview into an entirely new epistemology and ontology. It also gives me places to lean into and explore where I know growth is happening. With these beings, I most often honor them in ritual at high days and during Core Order rituals I do at home, usually with offerings of liquor, fresh bread or scones, honey, and poetry or crafts.
With the animistic spirits of animals, plants, streams, and the like, I find that much of my work is in communion. I have always had a deep love for trees and as a child would spend time just learning the texture of their bark and the way light shined through their leaves in different tones at different times of year and the cycles of their sap rising, running (or covering the car!), and sinking back. Much of my understanding of the yearly cycle of my own energy comes from patterns I observed by feeling what the world around me was doing. The wildflowers of Texas are famous, and they too have their cycles that remind of the larger pattern of the world. I have learned much from my plant brethren. Since moving to Houston and being so close to the bayou, I have begun to have similar relationships with the waters. Stones and rocks are harder for me, with their deep mysteries, and quiet unconcern for short human cycles. Animal life abounds on my university campus that is also a bayou preserve and so I have begun to connect more with the bird and deer, the small scurrying wildlife, and the flight of the falcon. I also have started growing a few plants on my balcony to have a place for the various forms of nature spirits to visit and for me to leave offerings. I most often offer clean water, native bird appropriate seed, and fresh fruit in small chunks for these spirits.
The Shining Ones are our deities, those who go by many names- The Shining Ones, First Children of the Mother, Great, Eldest and Wisest, The Gods of this Place. These are our Gods and Goddesses- some are heroes, formerly human, who has experiences apotheosis. Many are part of mythological cycles and cultural traditions that place Them as something other, with a variety of perspectives on what that may be, but often being a race or races separate from humanity. They are associated with the Upperworld and Sky, and thus with powers that order the Universe. Although there are deities who embody chaos and destruction, I would argue these are a part of the ordering of the Worlds. The Great Ones are associated with the Fire in the Hallows, and often are offerings to Them are given through the Fire, the smoke and flame transforming and sending them on their way to the Gods.
I see the Shining Ones as beings of great power and wisdom, who are gods because They are virtuous, and Their virtues and areas of influence are part of what makes Them godly. While I know that not all ADF members, Druids, or Pagans take this perspective, I see the Shining Ones as real, independent beings with Their own thoughts, personalities, concerns, needs, and plans. While They take some interest in humanity, both individual people and as a whole, it is not, I think, an interest based on a parental feeling or a desire to make life easier or better for us in the way that many monotheists perceive their god. I do believe that They offer us blessing and give much that makes life beautiful; this does not preclude Them from also being part of those things that can make life painful or ugly for individuals or as a whole. I think the appellation “First Children” has interesting implications for this relationship as a kind of elder sibling or cousin of humanity; we are all of related, Shining Ones, Noble Ones, and Mighty Ones, in various ways and we have within us the same universal elements that are part of our kin.
Much of my daily practice as a Druid is centered in my relationship with the Shining Ones, in particular with Brighid, of Whom I am a devotee. I pray to Her daily, do healing work with Her daily, and make regular offering to Her. She is, too, I think, a patroness although that relationship is still evolving and what specifically that will look like is something that I suspect will have many different meanings over time. In terms of other gods and goddesses, I most often honor Them during high days. Much of my high day experience has been in the Anglo-Saxon hearth as my Grove largely practices in this culture. I am exploring the Celtic hearth for my personal practice and slowly learning more; however, I do not have a sense of any of the deities in that hearth as individuals the way I am developing with Brighid. The Shining Ones receive from me different offerings depending on context. At high days I may offer to the Beings of the Occasion a handcrafted item traditional around that time (for example, a wheat dolly to Ing Frey at Lammas) as well as herbs and various distilled spirits. During open offerings at High Days, I always offer to Brighid something- a poem, a prayer, herbs, or alcohol. She also receives from me frequent offerings at home; lately this has been Irish whiskey or clear water, often I will add lavender and honey to the water or honey to the whiskey. She seems to particularly enjoy that. I occasionally ask Her to bless my pen and write a poem or prayer to Her. Many of my prayers during the prayer a day challenge this year were to Her as well.
The Three Kindreds are in some ways a classification system, a neat shorthand that does not always quite fit. Some of our gods are ancestors who are deified; some of our nature kin are in other mythology gods or ancestors. Still, these neat boundaries help us to find ways to speak of and relate to numinous and complex forces. They help us to reach out to these beings and powers during ritual and to make offering and receive blessing in return. I do not take a transactional perspective of my relationship with the Kindreds but I do think that *ghosti, the idea that I give that you may give that I may give again, is central to my relationships with Them. Hospitality for me is at the root of it all and we each give what we may that everyone else can do the same. In this way, virtue is multiplied and the many gifts of life, including its sometimes painful lessons, are themselves multiplied and shared. Thus are we all made stronger, whole in our individuality and in our connectedness.