Dedicant Path: Catch-Up Week

This past week I’ve been scrambling to get my ducks in a row and figure out exactly where I stand with my DP. To aid my progress and ensure I stay on track, I’ll be utilizing Rev. Michael J. Dangler’s immensely helpful The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year (which is only available to ADF members, I believe). As I mentioned in my last post, this isn’t my first attempt at working through the DP, but I certainly hope it’s my last. Next week I’ll pretty much be following Rev. Dangler’s guide week-by-week instead of squashing four weeks together like I am today. Lucky for me I’ve completed much of this material already.

Week One: Introduction to Our Own Druidry (AKA the Dedicant Path Manual).

What I appreciate about Rev. Dangler’s guide is its transparency and straightforwardness. I respect the place of poetic narrative and rich descriptions of the subconscious, but I’m also a practical gal and need things spelled out for me in mundane speak. The DP Manual isn’t quite as user-friendly as it could be (mine was current as of July 2010, so perhaps changes have been made) and having this guide helps put things in perspective. I’m also apparently a masochist in that I love the idea of a religion with homework – actual weekly homework assignments, extra reading and writing outside of the core requirements of the DP, and plenty of outside links and books referenced for our edification. Some of the books listed I already have, like Ceisiwr Serith’s A Book of Pagan Prayer (which I love so far) and The Solitary Druid by Rev. Robert Ellison (which I absolutely hate so far).

Rev. Dangler poses questions during the first week which I’ve already answered at least twice, but are generally good things to consider when embarking down a new path or course of study. One question that continues to stump me is: “Is this a step on your path, or will it become the Path itself?” It’s a bit unfair to ask a question about the future when I don’t even have a working time machine to verify my answer. (Though I’ve been assured my TARDIS will arrive in the mail any day now.) I know that ADF Druidry will not be the only thing I do in my life, either right now or later on. Call me a spiritual polyamorist, but the idea of settling down to just one path makes my skin itch. I know the practices and skills I build during the next several months will serve me throughout my entire spiritual life; I wouldn’t have joined ADF if I didn’t think there was something of value for me. I do have the feeling that Druidry is the right path for me at this point in my life, so it’s definitely the first step into a wider Druidic world, whether I stay with ADF or not.

One last thing I like about this week and the guide as a whole is the emphasis on keeping a journal (and backing it up!). Unfortunately the article about blogging/journaling the DP is locked to ADF members only, but there are several public DP blogs including Rev. Dangler’s from 2003.

Week Two: The First Oath

This is an optional step on the Dediant Path, but one that I chose to undertake anyway. The idea behind a First Oath is not to swear you’ll finish the DP or dedicate yourself to any new path or deities, but rather an official, ritual start to the DP journey for those of us who like that sort of thing. I’ll be re-oathing myself once I get back from New Jersey, so I’ll blog more about that later. I will say that I’m keeping most of the text of my original First Oath; besides being beautiful and poetic, it also references the Litany Against Fear and the Wizard’s Oath from two of the most influential sci-fi/fantasy books I’ve ever read.

Week Three: The first High Holy Day: an explanation

The way the DP guide is set up, there’s one week to explore the meaning of each High Holy Day (another word for sabbat – ADF follows the Wheel of the Year) and do research for how to incorporate it into one’s Hearth Culture. When I thought I would stick with a Hellenic Hearth Culture, it was difficult to figure out how to celebrate in the Wheel of the Year style. While there are enough Greek festivals to shake an entire tree at, few of them fit the Celtic/Norse agricultural cycle of the Wheel. The two Greek High Days I’ve held have been to celebrate the descent of Persephone into the Underworld during the autumn equinox and her ascent during the spring, both of which were purely based on my UPG. Fortunately for my sanity but perhaps not fortunately for anyone wondering how to balance the intricacies of Greek Druidry, by the time my interest in pursuing the DP returned I’d found my way to Brighid and a keen interest in keeping an Irish or Welsh Hearth. (At the moment I’m sticking with Irish to build my relationship with Brighid and Manannan, but I’ve had so many mental pokes from so many different deities, it’s a wonder anyone can pick a primary Hearth Culture, much less work with one exclusively!)

I’m counting my first High Day of this cycle to be Beltane 2011. While I’ve celebrated every High Day since joining ADF last summer, I feel like I need a do-over – especially on the High Days celebrated in proper ADF-style. This past Beltane I spent with the Circle of the Sacred Earth, so I get a free pass this time on researching Hearth Cultures and all that jazz. 😉 Only half of the High Days in a full cycle need to be done according to ADF’s Core Order of Ritual while the other half may be observed in whatever style or with whatever group the Dedicant sees fit. Knowing me, though, I’ll probably celebrate most High Days once with my Wiccan coven and once as a solitary Druid. (I ended up celebrating Ostara 2010 no less than four separate times – talk about ritual burnout! Thank the gods we only have a High Day every month and a half or so.)

Week Four: First High Day Recap

This is the week I get my first DP requirement out of the way: a 125-word essay on the first of eight festivals attended throughout the year. What follows is a description of Beltane with Circle of the Sacred Earth and my reflections on the sabbat.

Beltane marks the beginning of my favorite half of the Year. In my neck of the woods spring has firmly claimed victory over winter, the last danger of frost is a scant two weeks away, and the sweet taste of summer is teasing me away from my studies. This High Day represents Life in all her powerful, overwhelming, triumphant glory and as such hangs perfectly balanced between the light and dark halves of the Year. We continue to plant our fields and prepare to increase our labor, knowing the harvest will come soon enough.

I spent Beltane 2011 with my Wiccan coven, where we celebrated the 10-year wedding anniversary of two members who chose to renew their vows with the circle as their witnesses. The happiness I felt for the married couple, along with the first truly warm bout of weather since the start of spring, reinforced that Beltane is a time for joyful union, of enjoying and strengthening ourselves with the fruits of the earth.

Any writers will know that saying a lot with a small word quota is more difficult and impressive than saying little but verbosely. I look forward to the challenge of conveying my DP progress without resorting to thesis-long essays.

Next Week: I’ll be jumping into the Nature Awareness requirement and learning to get in touch with the natural world, the Earth Mother, and the Noble Kindred (the spirits of the land). Tune in next Saturday for another exciting round of Ellen’s progress through the Dedicant Path!

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4 thoughts on “Dedicant Path: Catch-Up Week

  1. While I’m certainly not the religious type (As, uh, you well know.), I feel I can comment on the Path thing a wee bit. That is, the question “Is this a step on your path, or will it become the Path itself”.

    I think this is a legitimate question, and while it isn’t one you can answer right off the bat I think it is an important question to keep in mind. It’s not a common thing for an Epic Scale Derailment to happen, but it’s important to keep in mind that it can happen and that if it does its not necessarily a bad thing. My personal example — possibly because it’s the only one I can remember happening to me — concerns me locating my master’s thesis topic. I went into a class 100% convinced that I was just going to be filling a requirement and that the paper I’d be hacking out would be a paper of convenience designed with the sole purpose of fulfilling that requirement – the same mindset I’d applied to every paper thus far in my academic career.

    Then the paper ate my life.

    It’s hard to explain at what point things changed, but, at some point the paper — or rather, the project of the paper, the question that the paper was designed to answer — became the Path as opposed as a step on the path. I hadn’t initially wanted it to (I was going to be a sociologist of religion, dammit! No one would take me seriously if I studied the Internet, or play, or even worse play and the Internet.) but eventually I gave in to it and let it carry me away like a tide. And it hasn’t stopped since — it’s hard to explain, but, now my thesis is looking like a means to an ends instead of an end goal itself. After all, if I finish my thesis I’ll get to move on to a PhD program where I can have a much bigger space where I can take on some of the bigger questions I’ve encountered recently*.

    But this only happened because I let it happen. I was fortunate enough to have an encouraging professor and for the derailment to happen concerning a topic I loved and cared about. Looking back I have to wonder how many beneficial derailments I’ve overlooked by Sticking To The Plan Goddamnit. I personally have a tendency to clench my teeth and stick to the path I’m on, even if it’s covered with stinging nettles and taking me a place I only sort of want to go and that other path over there is lined with fragrant, fruit bearing trees and leading to a fascinating city where the people all wear cats as headgear. So, I can see some use in the advice being given there — not in that that’s a question you have to answer right this minute but that it’s a question that ought to be entertained at all times.

    Of course, this is only me. But, me being me I also have to wonder if there’s some sociocultural aspect to it all. Thinking about this, and typing about it, my mind keeps drifting back to Pilgrim’s Progress where the end message is: Derailments, all of them, suck. Stay on the path! No matter how shitty it gets! Because at the end of the path is Good Things/Jesus. Considering how much of western culture — particularly American culture — is borne of Christian philosophy I gotta wonder if the Stick To The Freaking Path message is something that we’ve all been conditioned to and that that’s what the Reverend is warning against here.

    … Or I could be talking a great load of bullshit laced with ignorance. I feel hesitant in commenting as I’m not familiar with pagan spiritual writings except through you.

    *I can elaborate if you want! But, uh, if I start elaborating then I mostly just look odd, and mad, and terribly enthusiastic and I can go on for a while whilst other people nod and eventually just decide that I must know what I’m talking about if I’m so in to it. I make no claims of actual understanding.

    • Aubin, thanks a bunch for commenting. I’m sorry it took awhile to approve your post – I was at a con in New Jersey and the internet decided to go out yesterday.

      I know I’ve heard that story before, but thanks for re-elaborating on it. The idea of having something that’s really big and central to my identity suddenly swerving course is a little scary to contemplate. (You remember what happened the last time I went through that spiritually. Lots of fun for everyone. And by fun, I mean the exact polar opposite of fun.) I can definitely appreciate being stubborn in the face of change. Despite our religious differences, a lot of your skepticism and rationalism has rubbed off on me (thank goodness!), and a lot of the spiritual questions I find myself grappling with are dealing with being rational about very irrational things. A lot of it, too, has to do with the fact I have a hell of a hard time trusting myself or believing spiritual experiences aren’t all fantasy in my head. It’s been a thin tightrope to walk, and a lot of times I feel like I left that balancing stick on the floor of the big top and I’m left to my own devices. (Yay circus metaphors!)

      I guess part of the problem is I like plans and transparency, and I don’t like routines that get upset. One of the reasons I love ADF so much is that it’s got a big emphasis on research and history – not as strict as some reconstructionist paths like Ásatrú or Hellenism, but a heckuva lot more than most branches of Wicca – and it’s orthopraxic (based on a set of actions and practices) instead of orthodoxic (based on checking off a set of beliefs). There’s room for mysteries and mysticism, but none of the New Age woo-woo that turns me off so much. Left brain and right brain going hand-in-hand, as it were. But I know that religion (like the rest of life) is subject to forces outside my own control, and like falling in love, there are reactions I’m just not going to be able to foresee. Sometimes that’s exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens. Sometimes that bugs/scares the crap out of me and I want to run away to China and study with Daoist monks.

      Definitely, your post wasn’t full of bullshit /or/ ignorance. I’d love to hear more about your PhD work!

  2. It looks like you have gotten off to a good start Ellen. I can’t wait for next weeks post on getting in touch with the natural world. Especially since that is what I am most interested in when it comes to my spirituality. Keep up the good work 🙂

    • Thanks, Robert! 😀 I’ll definitely keep you guys posted on my progress. I’ve found that for all the nature-based religion I’m involved in, there’s precious little connection to the actual natural world. Funny how that works when you’re a college student!

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