I am not an individual to move rashly into new territory. Whether it’s playing around with the perfect blog name for an entire day, confessing a crush months after it began, or taking years to come to the conclusion that my “teenage angst” was full-blown depression, I like to take my time and weigh my options, preferably with no one else’s involvement until my decision is finalized. I researched Paganism for a good six months before performing my first ritual and I looked at Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) on and off for years before finally committing $20 for a year’s membership. The reason I decided to finally sign up was because the notion of ADF’s Dedicant Path (DP) intrigued me, and because founder Isaac Bonewits’ voice was the closest to my own within a sea of Pagan ideas clamoring for attention. A tradition that fosters both serious academic inquiry (the Holy Sacrosanct Footnotes come to mind) and personal, experiential relationships with an entire host of divine characters – at the same time? The ability to explore a variety of pantheons (since ADF is a pan-Indo-European organization) while still maintaining the integrity of individual cultures? “Fast as a speeding oak tree” as a core motto? Sign me up.
It’s ironic, then, that my progress with the DP and ADF in general has been so slow. I remember Ostara 2010 – has it really been a year ago? – when I did my first ADF rite (more or less – I think I missed a few steps from the Core Order of Ritual, but it’s the thought that counts). Danu was my Earth Mother, Manannan my Gatekeeper, and a very surprised and curious sports team my unexpected audience. Did I mention I did this ritual outside, in the middle of the day, on my old campus? Since those early days of exploration, I felt like ADF could offer if not a home for me, at least a good guidepost for the next step on my Pagan journey. I remember tearing into my Dedicant Manual the second it came home and skimming through Rev. Michael J. Dangler‘s helpful resource “The DP Through the Wheel of the Year” with glee.
I also remember how easy it was for even a small dose of religion each week to slip away under the bustle of everyday life. Stress, depression, school work, getting used to a new college, starting the Pagan Fellowship, joining the Circle of the Sacred Earth, getting thwapped over the head by Brighid… those sorts of things take a lot out of a girl. Three times in total, my efforts with the DP were ditched and I felt as though I had to start all over, as though I’d lost something incredibly important by my inconsistency.
This may very well be untrue, and I’m prepared to accept that any training course, regardless of religion, needs to be flexible and realistic for its students. That’s why I’m throwing back my shoulders and starting again – only this time, I want everyone to see what I’m doing, when I’m doing it. I want to share my triumphs and pitfalls with people who have walked where I have before. I want visible proof that I’m progressing and not just retreading the same tired cycles again. I sat down and planned out Saturday blog posts for the next year(ish – I’m consolidating some weeks together) and, including this past Beltane in the DP journal, I will end in Ostara 2012. My five-year anniversary of stepping onto the Pagan path.
If you think that’s coincidence, I started this blog on a Friday the 13th without realizing it until after the fact. But I digress.
Because I have been over the first six weeks or so of Rev. Dangler’s study program so many times, I’m pushing some weeks together so Week 9 (the second High Holy Day – remember, I’m starting with this past Beltane) hits during the Summer Solstice. This week, then, is catch up and planning. I’m getting all my ducks in a row, planning everything ahead of time so I don’t get overwhelmed and toss in the towel the second I hit a speed bump. It’s also good impetus to take my time and enjoy the journey, ensuring that changes not only happen, but stick around for the long term. Going back to the phrase “fast as a speeding oak tree” – Rome wasnt’t built in a day. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Nothing of any lasting value cropped up overnight. (Except for mushrooms. But again, digression.)
I know a number of my fellow Neo-Druids over at the Cauldron are also involved in either the DP or similar study programs. What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to self-directed study like this? Do you think making your efforts public would help or hinder your progress?