Final Oath Essay

25 03 2014

I performed my dedicant oath during my Ostara ritual in March 2014 at the moment of the Vernal Equinox. It was the final high day of my Dedicant Path year. I did the rite in private at home as I do not live near to a grove. As with all my rituals, I followed the ADF format of ritual using the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s text with a few changes.

I really liked the wording of the Oath text in the ADF manual and so I primarily used that with a few adaptations. My oath was to follow the path of Druidry for as long as I feel it to be the right path for me. This phrasing was deliberate because, while I am confident that this is the path I want to follow, I didn’t want to make an oath which stopped me changing it in future if I no longer felt it to be the right way. I also included wording in the oath that stated my intention to seek to live in harmony with the Earth, to keep the eight holy days of Druidry, to continue to research more about my ancestors beliefs and cultures and to try and live by the ADF virtues. As I made the oath, I held a hammer in honour of Thunor, the Anglo Saxon god of oaths. I finished it with the traditional ending of invoking the three worlds against me if I break it.

The whole ritual went well and the oath part went well too. I didn’t have any issues as I had prepared it all before and had everything written out, however I would have liked to have bought a special ring for it which I didn’t manage to do. I didn’t really feel much in the rite except that it felt like the right thing to do. I did have a sense that this was a very important decision I was making which made it more solemn.

After finishing my oath, I gave a sacrifice of honey to all the Kindreds as I felt this needed an extra special offering to mark the occassion. I also took an omen specific to the oath asking the Kindreds what blessings they offered in return for the Oath and sacrifice. The omen was Iodhadh (Yew) from the gods which is illusion in the ADF dedicant path book, Luis (Rowan) from the ancestors which is protection and Uillean (Honeysuckle) from the nature spirits which is attraction. I am not sure how to interpret the omen, especially from the gods, but overall it seems positive. Looking at the Wheel of the Year Manual, the Iodhadh could be interpreted as memory/ ancestors and Uillean as sweetness and drawing together which again would be positive.

Looking forward I want to develop in ADF Druidry by pursuing the Generalist Study Program and joining a few of the guilds such as the Naturalist guild. I also want to further develop my devotional practices and look for more ways to live in harmony with nature. Overall, I am feel this year has really helped me to discover Druidry as the spiritual path I want to pursue in my life and has prepared me to be able to take the oath to do so.





High Day Recap – Ostara

25 03 2014

I did my Ostara ritual at the moment of the vernal equinox on 20th March. It went well and I had a surprisingly good Two Powers visualisation (perhaps because I was standing up this time and so it felt more real.) As usual I used the Solitary Druid Fellowships basic ritual format with my own additions and changes. I honoured Eostre and Njord as the patrons of this ritual as Eostre is the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, while this is also the beginning of much of our fishing season so Njord seemed appropriate. I honoured Heimdall as my gatekeeper and Hertha as the Earth Mother. I gave oats to the Earth Mother as an offering, silver to the well, oil to the fire and shining ones, an apple to Heimdall, seeds to the nature spirits, cider to the ancestors, oil to Njord and Eostre and bread as a final offering. I also did my Oath at this rite, giving Honey as an offering to all the kindreds.

I took two omens during the ritual. My normal Ostara one using my homemade Ogham set was Luis – protection from the gods, Hawthorn – consequences from the Ancestors and Hazel – creativity from the Nature spirits. I’m not sure what to make of the omen as it’s got both positive and negative elements. I wonder whether the Ancestors want more from me. I will have to meditate on this and seek guidance.

The rest of my celebrations included making a curried scrambled tofu dish as a vegan alternative to scrambled eggs and an attempt at naturally dyeing eggs which only really worked with tumeric. I also decorated my altar with daffodils.





Eighth High Day Essay – Ostara Explanation

17 03 2014

Also known as the Vernal Equinox, Eostre or Alban Eiler (Light of the Earth), this day marks a time of balance, when day and night are of equal length. Until now the nights have been longer than the days, but from here on the days are longer and warmer as we head towards summer. The vernal equinox is a day to celebrate the revival of life after a long cold winter. It is a time when birds are returning from their migrations, animals are giving birth to their young and all around us the world is turning green once again. It is a time when nature has officially woken up – the buds on trees are bursting, seeds are beginning to sprout up out of the ground, spring flowers such as daffodils are blossoming and there is a palpable sense of renewed life all around us. It is the feast of awakening.

Historian Ronald Hutton says that there isn’t “any reliable evidence for a pre-Christian festival in the British Isles during the time which became March and April.” However, it is important to note that Bede said that the name Easter came from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre and the month was named after her. Eastre signifies both the festival and the season of spring. Hutton says that one could argue that “Eostre was a Germanic dawn-deity who was venerated, appropriately at this season of opening and new beginnings. It is equally valid, however, to suggest that the Anglo-Saxon ‘Estor-Monath’ simply meant ‘the month of opening’ or ‘the month of beginnings.'” He goes on to say that the practice of decorating eggs at this time does go back to at least the 1200’s but the chocolate version of the egg is a twentieth century invention. Eggs are a very apt symbol for this season as they represent new life. For agricultural societies, this is also the time when the extra light led to a big increase in egg production and was a welcome source of food.

ADF calls this the spring feast, the time to bless the seeds and prepare the land for new growth. In Norse and Anglo-Saxon hearth cultures, Eostre or Idunna are honoured. Neopagans celebrate this day as a time of beginnings and action, doing magical spells for the future and tending their ritual gardens.

It is traditional to celebrate this festival by giving chocolate eggs and sweets, painting eggs, planting new seeds and going for picnics and walks in nature. We can also decorate our altars with signs of spring – seeds, daffodils, eggs and symbols of baby animals like chicks, calves and rabbits. This year I will be doing an Ostara Ritual including my final Oath, having a party with friends and going for a walk in nature to search for signs of spring. I will also be planting my seeds for the year and maybe going out to hunt for wild food. w. I live near the sea and this time marks the beginning of the main sea fishing trips season here so I will be honouring Njord in my ritual. The 14th of March is also the beginning of river fish breeding season when no one is allowed to fish in rivers in the UK for two months so it also fits in quite well with that. As a vegan, I don’t eat eggs so I will instead be eating a meal of scrambled tofu (an alternative to scrambled eggs), pita bread and spring greens such as spinach, spring onions and parsley. I will also be making a rhubarb crumble because it is also coming into season now.

Hutton, Ronald. Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.

Cunnigham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Minnestota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003.





Personal Religion

6 03 2014

I started off the Dedicant Path convinced that a Celtic hearth culture was the way forward for me, and specifically the Gaelic Irish one. However, over the course of the past year I have moved away from that view and towards a focus on a mixture of hearth cultures – Gaelic, Norse and Anglo-Saxon. Part of the reason for this was that there is limited information about the Celtic deities and worldview compared to the Norse/ Anglo-Saxon one which made it harder to connect with a Celtic hearth culture. The second reason was because it has been very difficult to work out whether my ancestors are Celtic or Anglo Saxon e.t.c and so I think it is best to look at a mix. It really made an impact on me when I read that regardless of ancestry, the culture I have grown up in (english) is culturally Anglo-Saxon. I like the way Brian Bates talks of the “Middle Earth” culture and I feel that best describes me now – a combination of aspects of each of the three hearth cultures. While I don’t have a Patron deity, I primarily honour Thor/ Thunor. I also honour a range of other deities based on which one seems to fit best with the season.

Because I live a long way away from other ADF members, I have been solitary based and have regularly used the Solitary Druid Fellowships ritual structures. Since completing the Meditation requirement in December, I haven’t really maintained any kind of regular meditation but I have tried to do a weekly devotion to honour the three Kindreds and the Earth Mother as a way to continue and develop my mental discipline practice. I find this is much easier to be disciplined at. When it comes to the Virtues, I know I have a long way to go, but over the course of exploring them in the course, I have seen the sense of them all and have changed some of my ethical principles to fit these ideals. In particular, the importance of being remembered for our deeds, the concept of Wyrd and seeking to always be hospitable have been important to me this year.

When I first started this course, I wanted to develop more of a connection to nature, to feel more spiritually fulfilled and to develop a sense of purpose in my life. I have certainly achieved the first two of these and getting out into nature has been my favourite part of the Dedicant Path. I am optimistic that as I continue this path, I will develop purpose too. I also wanted to learn much more about how ancient people’s practiced their religions and this course has allowed me to learn so much about them through the books that I have read and to apply what I have learned to my own practices. I have made offerings my primary spiritual practice. I have celebrated all eight seasonal festivals. I use ADF’s core symbolism e.g the three realms and gates in my rituals and as representations on my altar. I honour the three kindreds. I also maintain an altar, honour my ancestors and use a homemade Ogham divination set.

I feel that I have kept my oath this year and I have grown spiritually in many ways. I have developed a more scholarly approach to my Paganism and respect the importance of historical research much more now. I have developed a closer connection to and understanding of nature and seek to live my life in a more environmentally friendly way. I have explored meditation, and while I didn’t find it as useful or productive as I had hoped, I did get to experience and explore many different techniques to see what worked best for me. Having a structured path has really helped me to explore my spirituality in a deeper and more systematic way, it has challenged me and made me work on areas of practice that I would probably never have done without it and for that I am grateful. In conclusion, I feel very strongly that Druidry is the religion for me and that ADF in particular is the place I will continue to develop my spiritual path.





The Two Powers

5 03 2014

The two powers are the key magical concept in ADF. They are two forces that mingle together to magically form the basis of all existence. The first power is the sky power. This is the power of the heavens, the power of light that emanates from the sun and moon and stars. This is the power that orders existence and provides the patterns and energy which turns potential into manifestation. This is the power of shaping. In the Anglo-Saxon/ Norse worldview, this is represented by fire and in ADF it is the sacred flame – one of the three hallows. The sky power is connected with the upper-world and with the gods, especially the sky-father.

The second power is the earth power. This is the power of the underworld, the fertile “chaos of potential.” This is the power flowing beneath the earth. It is connected with the ancestors, with memory and wisdom. It absorbs the nutrients of all that decays and allows them to be reused by the living beings of the middle world. The earth power is the dark, cool current that represents the Celtic primal mother Danu. In the Anglo-Saxon/ Norse worldview, it is represented by Ice and in ADF by the sacred well – another of the three hallows. Interestingly, quantum physics suggests that at its smallest most basic form, the universe is simply potential, so this is what I view as the earth power.

As we meditate on the two powers, drawing up the earth power through our roots and drawing down the sky power with our raised arms, they mingle inside us and become the “raw material for magic.” When considering the two powers, I find myself thinking about Taoism and the Yin/ Yang – the symbol that represents all existence as having two opposite aspects which are in constant tension with each other – night and day, light and dark, masculine and feminine. None can exist for long without the other and both are in constant movement and change. Cultivating these is called Internal Alchemy and I believe that when we meditate on the two powers, we are also doing internal alchemy – druid style.

I tried very hard to use this form of meditation but found it very difficult to do because visualisation is very difficult for me. There were a few times when I felt warmer or sensed things become more light than normal but on the whole I didn’t feel much going on when I tried this form of internal alchemy. It was suggested to me that I should try to imagine feeling the powers rather than visualising them in future and I will be trying that out. Of the two powers, I do seem to find a stronger connection with the earth power rather than the sky power. Despite the issues I have with trying to make it work, I do feel it is a very important practice to use the Two Powers meditation not only in preparing for magical activities but also especially in grounding and centering because it helps us to attune to the forces which Druidry teaches are at the very basis of the cosmos.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Davidson, H. R Ellis, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin Books, 1964.





The Three Kindreds

4 03 2014

The three Kindreds are the main objects of worship and honour in ADF. They are the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits and the Gods. The Gaelic reconstructionists refer to them as the “de ocus ande” – the gods and un-gods. We can enter into relationship with any of them through the principle of Ghosti, of sacrifice and a gift for a gift. Through prayer, the giving of offerings and the way we live our lives, we can honour them and show them respect.

Until a few years ago I wasn’t very interested in my ancestors. But since the death of a friend and my journey into paganism, they have become a very important part of my life and spiritual practice. With only one grandparent and my parents left, I have many direct ancestors to honour. In ADF the ancestors are associated with the Well because that is the gate to the underworld in which they dwell. They are also associated with the Sea. In Celtic mythology one of the dwelling places of the dead were islands over the western sea, while in Norse mythology, those who die at sea are thought to dwell under it in the halls of Aegir and Ran. The ancestors are also related to the concept of water because of the well of wisdom (Mimir). The ancestors represent the accumulation of many generations of wisdom and memory which one accesses through the sacred well. In terms of the Two Powers conception of the universe, the ancestors would be related to the Earth current – the dark, cool, embryonic power of the earth which is full of knowledge and potential.

The ancestors, also called the Mighty Dead in ADF, can be viewed in three distinct groups. The first are the ancestors of blood. These are our ancestors who are directly related to us through our blood e.g. family members who have passed away. The second are ancestors of spirit. These are people who have influenced our lives, whether people we knew or those who have had an important affect on our culture and helped to create the world we live in today. These can also include the ancient ancestors of our chosen hearth culture. Finally there are ancestors of place. These are the people who lived in and shaped the land on which we currently live – their bones and atoms are now in the very ground we walk on. I also think it is important to remember that science teaches us through evolution that our ancestry can be traced right back to a common ancestor and that we are therefore kin with all living beings in the world. In ADF the ancestors are considered to be able to hear the voice of the living, to value our offerings and to be able to guide and protect us.

There are many ways to honour our ancestors. For me, this takes three main forms. Firstly I have done research into my family tree to discover as much as I can about my ancestors. I have discovered that I have some Japanese ancestry and that one of my great great grandfathers was killed in the first world war. Secondly I maintain an area of my altar devoted to my ancestors and place several objects and pictures on it that remind me of them. Finally, I also call on them in ritual (especially on Samhain) and give them offerings of cider in order to show that I honour them. In Celtic, Anglo Saxon and Norse cultures, the ancestors could often be contacted by visiting their graves or sitting on their grave mounds so this year I would like to try and visit some of my ancestors graves which are quite far away from me and pay my respects. I would also like to do even more more research into my family tree and find out as many of their birthdays and death days so I can honour them on those days (which is something I already do for one of my friends who died). It is very important to remember our ancestors and teach others to do the same because one day, we too will be an ancestor. Also, they are often seen as the Kindred which is most interested in us and easiest to relate to because they have experience human life and are interested in their family lines.

In ADF the Nature Spirits are associated with the Tree, the middle-world and the land. They are called the Noble spirits who are seen as dwelling in and nurturing nature. They maintain the order of the worlds. They are our seen and unseen neighbours. In the Anglo Saxon and Norse cultures they are the land-wights, the elves and dwarves. In the Gaelic culture, they are the Sidhe, the fairies, the creatures who live in the mounds (perhaps descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan). They are viewed as otherworldly beings, disembodied spirits who can sometimes appear to people but usually only the very gifted can see them. Despite this, they interact with our world, Midgard, on a regular basis. They are usually associated with a particular eco-system or special place in nature e.g. Woodland-elves or spirit of a tree or rock. Like humans, they are viewed as having personalities and their own interests and goals. They are not there to do our bidding, but can be propitiated and asked for help if we have developed a relationship with them. They are wild and separate from us. Sometimes they can help us while at other times they can hinder or hurt us, especially if we have annoyed them. Anglo-Saxons talked of the Elf-shot which they believed was the cause of certain illnesses. Yet they also left offerings for the elves and drank toasts to them, showing the relationship between humans and nature spirits was not black and white. Brian Bates says they were viewed as “bright, beautiful and wise creatures” and they could be befriended. The realm of Alfheim was ruled by the god Frey or Ing. Davidson points out that people often paid more attention to them than the gods because they were seen as affecting many aspects of people’s daily lives, and this was especially true of the household elf.

For me, the nature spirits include all the living beings around us, and even the rocks and “inanimate” aspects of nature. As an animist, I believe that all things are “minded”, all things can experience in their own way. For me the trees, the flowers, the insects, the birds and the micro-organisms are all nature spirits and should be honoured. There are many ways to honour nature spirits but the best way is to get out in nature and learn about them. They are best contacted in wild and natural places. I have done this primarily by spending an hour in nature each week to observe and learn about it. Every time I do a ritual I give offerings to them, usually of seeds, in order to honour them and thank them for ways they support the world around me. Of course, the most important thing we can do is to find ways to look after the land immediately near us. One thing I would like to develop in future is my relationship with the household elf as well as finding offerings that would be suitable to take to natural places to provide for the land-spirits.

In ADF the Gods are referred to as the Shining Ones. They are associated with the fire, the Upper-world and the realm of the sky. They represent the order of the sky power. ADF, and paganism as a whole, is a polytheist religion which believes in and honours many different gods rather than the one god of the Abrahamic monotheistic faiths. They are the most powerful spirits, the eldest and wisest beings in the universe, who are remembered for their love, help and power. They can be both male or female and in Celtic culture, they are often found in triple form. In Norse/ Anglo-Saxon mythology they are seen as the ancestors of humanity as Odin and his brothers created the first humans. Meanwhile in the Gaelic Celtic culture the gods are called the Tuatha De Danaan, the tribe of Dana. They are the first children of the Earth Mother. Most of the myths of these cultures tell the stories of gods and heroes. They are not seen as the god of one particular aspect, but have many interests and areas of expertise just as humans do. They are seen as distinct personalities. They have their own desires and goals, and while they can sometimes help humans, they are not seen as “spiritual cash machines.” They are not perfect but are capable of both vice and virtue. They are not immortal but are often renewed through magical feasts such as eating the apples of Idun.

I tend towards an atheistic or pantheistic view of the universe, and it is the universe or Mother Nature that is ultimately worthy of my respect and worship. However I do incorporate soft polytheism into my practice in that I believe that if there are gods, they would be manifestations of the one source – the cosmos. It is certainly easier to relate to nature by breaking it down into parts – the gods. It was this emphasis on honouring the earth that drew me to paganism in the first place, and I see the earth as sacred, which is why I love the fact that ADF honours the Earth Mother at the beginning and end of every ritual. Some of the best places to honour the gods with offerings are on hilltops, at rivers or in other unique natural features that command our respect. In ancient Celtic cultures, the main river of an area was associated with the land or sovereignty goddess and so it makes sense to honour and seek to connect with the Earth Mother at nearby water sources. In my personal practice, I seek to honour the gods by making offerings each time I do a ritual and by seeking to live my life according to the virtues.

Ellis, Peter Berresford. A Brief History of the Druids. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2002.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.

Bates, Brian. The Real Middle Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages. London: Pan Macmillan Ltd, 2003

Davidson, H. R Ellis, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin Books, 1964.





The Gods

4 03 2014

In ADF the Gods are referred to as the Shining Ones. They are associated with the fire, the upperworld and the realm of the sky. They represent the order of the sky power. ADF, and paganism as a whole, is a polytheist religion which believes in and honours many different gods rather than the one god of the abrahamic monotheistic faiths. They are the most powerful spirits, the eldest and wisest beings in the universe, who are remembered for their love, help and power. They can be both male or female and in Celtic culture, they are often found in triple form. In Norse/ Anglo-Saxon mythology they are seen as the ancestors of humanity as Odin and his brothers created the first humans. Meanwhile in the Gaelic celtic culture the gods are called the Tuatha De Danaan, the tribe of Dana. They are the first children of the Earth Mother. Most of the myths of these cultures tell the stories of gods and heroes. They are not seen as the god of one particular aspect, but have many interests and areas of expertise just as humans do. They are seen as distinct personalities. They have their own desires and goals, and while they can sometimes help humans, they are not seen as “spiritual cash machines.” They are not perfect but are capable of both vice and virtue. They are not immortal but are often renewed through magical feasts such as eating the apples of Idun.

I tend towards an atheistic or pantheistic view of the universe, and it is the universe or Mother Nature that is ultimately worthy of my respect and worship. However I do incorporate soft polytheism into my practice in that I believe that if there are gods, they would be manifestations of the one source – the cosmos. It is certainly easier to relate to nature by breaking it down into parts – the gods. It was this emphasis on honouring the earth that drew me to paganism in the first place, and I see the earth as sacred, which is why I love the fact that ADF honours the Earth Mother at the beginning and end of every ritual. Some of the best places to honour the gods with offerings are on hilltops, at rivers or in other unique natural features that command our respect. In ancient Celtic cultures, the main river of an area was associated with the land or sovereignty goddess and so it makes sense to honour and seek to connect with the Earth Mother at nearby water sources. In my personal practice, I seek to honour the gods by making offerings each time I do a ritual and by seeking to live my life according to the virtues.





Nature Spirits Essay

4 03 2014

In ADF the Nature Spirits are associated with the Tree, the middle-world and the land. They are called the Noble spirits who are seen as dwelling in and nurturing nature. They are our seen and unseen neighbours. In the Anglo Saxon and Norse cultures they are the landwights, the elves and dwarves. In the Gaelic culture, they are the Sidhe, the fairies, the creatures who live in the mounds (perhaps descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan). They are viewed as otherworldly beings, disembodied spirits who can sometimes appear to people but usually only the very gifted can see them. Despite this, they interact with our world, Midgard, on a regular basis. They are usually associated with a particular eco-system or special place in nature e.g. Woodland-elves or spirit of a tree or rock. Like humans, they are viewed as having personalities and their own interests and goals. They are not there to do our bidding, but can be propitiated and asked for help if we have developed a relationship with them. They can sometimes help while at other times they can hinder or hurt us, especially if we have annoyed them. Anglo-Saxons talked of the Elf-shot which they believed was the cause of certain illnesses. Yet they also left offerings for the elves and drank toasts to them, showing the relationship between humans and nature spirits was not black and white. Brian Bates says they were viewed as “bright, beautiful and wise creatures” and they could be befriended. The realm of Alfheim was ruled by the god Frey or Ing. Davidson points out that people often paid more attention to them than the gods because they were seen as affecting many aspects of people’s daily lives, and this was especially true of the household elf.

For me, the nature spirits include all the living beings around us, and even the rocks and “inanimate” aspects of nature. As an animist, I believe that all things are “minded”, all things can experience in their own way. For me the trees, the flowers, the insects, the birds and the micro-organisms are all nature spirits and should be honoured. There are many ways to honour nature spirits but the best way is to get out in nature and learn about them. I have done this primarily by spending an hour in nature each week to observe and learn about it. Every time I do a ritual I give offerings to them, usually of seeds, in order to honour them and thank them for ways they support the world around me. Of course, the most important thing we can do is to find ways to look after the land immediately near us. One thing I would like to develop in future is my relationship with the household elf as well as finding offerings that would be suitable to take to natural places to provide for the landspirits.





Nature Awareness Essay

3 03 2014

Nature awareness is very important for me and has been my favourite part of the Dedicant Path. I have enjoyed going out to spend an hour in nature every week between March and November (after which it was too cold and wet). I am very fortunate to live in an area that has beaches, parks, woodland and a nature reserve all within a mile of my home. Each week I went to a local park that is around 15 minutes from my house and which contains a nature conservation wetland area. I spent an hour observing and recording what was going on around me, noticing what had changed since the last time I was there and learning about the nature spirits. I spent some time meditating there for many of the weeks too. I often said hello to the nature spirits and Mother Nature when I was there and on one occasion the words “the graces of the Earth Mother” kept going through my mind. Spending this time in nature and discovering new things every week really felt like I was receiving a gift of grace from the Earth Mother. I constantly saw new things and learned more about the world around me. I saw many different types of birds including swans, seagulls, moorhens, coots, wood pigeons, blackbirds, blue tits, great tits, woodpeckers, dunnocks, house sparrows, wrens, mallard ducks and a heron. I saw insects like bees, butterflies and dragonflies. I saw a Pipistrelle bat and many baby chicks. I learned the names of trees such as horse chestnuts and white poplar trees. When I engaged with one of the horse chestnuts in particular, I felt a definite sense of a presence there. Seeing the changes through the seasons gave me a very strong feeling of connection to the cycles of nature. I would have liked to have brought offerings with me each time but there were signs up saying not to feed the birds and other creatures because the food attracted rats. I did however manage to pick up litter a few times as an offering to the spirits of that place.

For me, honouring the Earth is a vitally important spiritual practice. As a Pantheist that views Nature and the earth as divine and sacred, I feel a duty to look after the world around me. As an Animist, I believe that all things are “minded” and that mind in some form extends all the way down to the smallest atom and up to the largest galaxy. Unsurprisingly then, I fully accept the Gaia hypothesis. I view the earth as a mother, the mother who creates me, sustains me and will one day draw me back into herself.

Over the past year I have tried to learn a lot about my local area. I have discovered that my water primarily comes from two nearby rivers (Dart and Tamar) and three reservoirs (Burrator, Roadford and Venford). I have learned that my waste water is exposed to the removal of solids and UV treatment and is returned to the sea via an outfall at Sharkham Point. I live next to the sea and the water quality here is good. I live in an urban area which is built over quite a few streams, but the nearest large rivers are the Dart and Teign and these act as watersheds. A significant portion of the area is also categorised as an “area of outstanding natural beauty.” The climate is temperate and the prevailing wind is from the south-west. We have mild winters here and it is also one of the sunniest parts of the UK. It is coldest in February, sunniest in June and dullest in December. Spring has the least rainfall and Autumn the most. Various fruits and vegetables are grown here but especially apples for cider, potatoes and maize corn. Because it is hilly, the county I live in tends to be used more for animal farming rather than crops. The soil of the area is primarily sandstone, with the two edges of the area being limestone. Most of the trees are deciduous broad-leafs.

I try my best to live in an environmentally sustainable way. I have chosen to be a vegan which is a very environmentally friendly way to live. I regularly recycle about half of my waste, including all paper, cardboard, glass, clothing, cans, jars and some plastic. I buy some organic items and I always make sure I switch off lights or electrics when they are not in use. For the last two years I have not had a car and have taken public transport instead, however recently I have got a new job which is in a location that is not practical to get to by public transport and so I have had to buy a car again. I have got much better this year at taking reusable bags with me when I go shopping so that I don’t get lots of plastic bags. In future I would like to make a lot more changes. Currently my power is mostly from fossil fuels so I would like to change my energy company to one that uses more green energy sources. I keep my heating down and have only been heating one room in my house this winter. I will be voting for the Green party at the next election and have signed up for an allotment so I can grow my own food when it becomes available. I regularly give to two environmental charities – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and The Woodland Trust and am considering becoming a member of a local environmental charity too. I want to move towards buying more local and seasonal food and am currently trying to buy more things second hand or from charity shops rather than brand new. I don’t recycle my food waste currently because the bags provided are not suitable and break too easily so I need to find an answer to that. I need to get used to using the computer more in order to cut down on my paper use. I also need to investigate ways of reducing my water usage. I hope that by doing these things I will be able to make more of a difference both at a local and global level.





Mental Discipline Essay

3 03 2014

I began the mental discipline aspect of the Dedicant Path course in late April and continued until early December. Throughout that time I usually meditated once per week but sometimes managed three or four times. My average was twice a week. One of the key lessons I learned was there are many different types of meditations and ways to meditate and I experimented with a wide variety. I started off trying to do ten minute sitting meditations focused on my breathing. After each breath I counted a number, going from 1 up to 10 and then I counted back down to 1. I felt I achieved some success using this method and usually found myself feeling calmer afterwards. Later I increased this to 15 minutes (or 20 minutes when outside).

The next method I tried from week five onwards was the Two Powers meditation. This took about ten minutes. I found this very difficult as I struggle to visualise things. I didn’t really enjoy it but persisted with the method for most of the time. Despite this, I don’t feel I really made any progress in this area.

Most of the time I meditated inside but I also tried to add 20 minutes of sitting meditation focused on my breath when I went to spend time out in nature each week. This helped me be more disciplined about it, but distractions were a real problem. I enjoyed meditating outside and feeling nature all around me – the birds singing, the sun or wind on my face e.t.c. When meditating inside, I would sit in front of my altar and often do a short devotion before beginning meditation.

One of the highlights for me was that the mental discipline requirement inspired me to go on a weekend trip to stay at a local Buddhist monastery. While there, I did 5 periods of hour long meditation sessions (focused on my breath) as well as a couple of walking meditation (mindfulness) sessions. These were the longest period of time I had done meditation and I felt they were very beneficial. By the end of this weekend, I was finding it easier to focus and keep my mind clear for longer periods. I enjoyed meditating in the dark as it provided for a more calming atmosphere. During the year I also experimented with metta (loving-kindness) meditation and found that to be quite peaceful and even emotional, although the visualisation aspect was difficult as usual.

Towards the end of the period, I took part in Exeter University’s Stoic Week which recommended several ancient mental discipline practices from Stoicism. These included planning and reviewing one’s day, contemplating the vastness of the universe and visualising how one would deal with difficult situations or people which might arise during the day. I found these to be very worthwhile exercises and probably the most useful mental disciplines I had tried. The big benefit I found from these Stoic meditation exercises was that, even in the space of a week, I became more calm in my daily life and less frustrated when negative situations arose.

I never managed to develop a consistent daily or weekly routine and so I learned that discipline is something I need to improve. Rather, I tended to meditate when I remembered. The other big problem I had was posture, which probably contributed to my lack of enjoyment of the practice. During the first few weeks, my back was in a lot of pain throughout the meditation sessions but eventually I learned that it was because I wasn’t properly pivoting my pelvis. Once I had solved that issue the back pain went away and it was easier to focus. However, I also found myself regularly slouching during meditation practice and this issue has not been resolved. A Buddhist monk in the monastery I visited suggested taking up Tai Chi, but essentially this problem is down to the fact that I slouch so much in daily life.

Despite the many setbacks during these attempts at meditation, I learned a lot of different methods and discovered verious things about myself. I am not sure whether it helped me grow spiritually, however by the end of the period I had come to the conclusion that my focus needed to be on regular devotionals and perhaps some stoic practices rather than the breathing or two powers meditation as a mental discipline practice. I still want to learn to develop a disciplined meditation practice so I will try again in future, however I think part of the issue is the need to have a clear reason or goal to carry it out. I have discovered that I can meditate for reasonably long periods if I put my mind to it, but its having that initial desire or reason to prompt me to start each time. In future, I would like to explore mantra meditation and trance to see how I get on with those. Overall I think I tried hard to meet this requirement but, while it was an interesting and educational experience, it certainly wasn’t my favourite part of the course.