Dedicant Path Week 5 – Home Shrine

12 04 2013

Above is the picture of my altar. The centre of the altar is my tree (a small bonsai), well (a dish of water with a shell in) and fire (candle). In front of these is a wooden bowl for offerings. On either side of the altar are two vases with flowers in which I inherited from one of my grandmothers who died a few years ago. I have also added two glasses with daffodils in temporarily.

The left hand side of my altar is dedicated to my ancestors and includes a fan used by my grandmother, a picture of my parents wedding which include three of my grandparents who have died, a poppy because I found out recently that I had a great great grandfather who died in the first world war, a St Christopher necklace given to me by my grandmother when I was born and a fossil to remind me that my ancestors go right back through time and evolution to the first common life form. I also have a funeral programme for a friend who was killed three years ago in a car crash and who’s death precipitated my own crisis of faith that led to my rejection of Christianity and my search for a spirituality that is more connected to nature and to ancestors.

Across my altar there are objects from nature to remind me of the nature spirits in my area. These include shells from my local beach, feathers from some local sea gulls and pine cones and chestnuts from local trees. I often add fallen leaves in the autumn too. I also have a bell to begin and end rituals, a chalice for the waters of life and an incense holder with incense in. At the moment I am using a homemade Ogham set for my divination tool so that is also on my altar.

My altar is in my front room so it maintains a central place in my life and is the first thing I see when I walk into the room. It is in the West because it is not practical to put it in the North or East. I am able to maintain it as a permanent shrine.

In future I would like to improve it by having more candles and getting a cauldron for the well and a nicer offering bowl. As I am going for a more Norse/ Anglo-Saxon hearth culture now, I need to make some Runes for divination and I would also like to get some pictures or statues of Norse deities, especially Thor/ Thunor to put on there. I know I have some Japanese ancestry so I’d like to get something small to represent that too. I would also like to buy a drinking horn to replace the chalice.





Dedicant Path Week 4 – First Book….Draft Report

9 04 2013

So I know I said I’d do the report by next week but I managed to finish the book today and write the report too. So here’s my first draft….

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

This book looks at the historical evidence for the ancient Druids in order to make the argument that they were the intellectual class of Celtic society. The author, a historian, looks at sources from across the ancient world including classical authors in Greece and Rome, Celtic (especially Irish) sources, archaeological evidence and the similarities with other Indo-European cultures. He brings all the evidence together to present a fascinating picture of what the historical Druids were really like and cuts away the myths that have built up around them, especially since the Druid Revival in the 17th Century.

The book begins by looking at the world of the Celts and their culture and goes on to describe how the Druids probably arose within the culture to become the intellectual caste of Celtic society. He then looks at what different authors in the ancient world said about the Druids and what the Celtic mythology suggested. Key to the authors argument is that many of the Roman and Greek sources should be treated with caution because they were written by people who were trying to conquer the Celts at the time and so were probably propaganda designed for this purpose. The most fascinating chapter is when he looks at the evidence for female Druids and the place of women in Celtic society. He very convincingly shows that they were quite progressive compared to what came later. After this there are chapters on the religion and rituals of the Druids explaining some of the details of their polytheism and showing some of the evidence for the rituals they did surrounding baptism, funerals and fire walking. He also shows how they maintained their authority through the use of “geis” prohibitions. He looks at the evidence for Druids performing human sacrifice and finds little to support the assertions made by the classical writers. After this is a very long chapter, almost a separate section of the book, in which he looks at the evidence for their schools and books, as well as each of the roles the Druids carried out – Philosophers, Judges, Historians, Poets/ Musicians, Doctors, Seers, Astronomers and Magicians. Finally he gives a history of the Druids after the coming of Christianity, explaining how they adapted to the new culture and religion, how traces of them survived throughout the medieval period e.g. as poets, and how the idea of the “Druid” was revived in the 17th century as a romantic reaction against the Enlightenment.

I found the book a fascinating read and it has opened my eyes to just how civilised, cultured and progressive the ancient Celts were. From their attempts at a limited form of democracy to their creation of a simplistic and local welfare system, from their equal treatment of women to their legal system based on compensation instead of revenge, they appear to be quite an advanced people. The author shows how the Druids were sophisticated in their art, poetry and music, religious and moral beliefs, legal system and medicine. His explanation of how the ideas of reincarnation and the Otherworld worked in Celtic society helped make things clearer in my mind and his information about the various members of the Celtic pantheon and how they fitted together coherently gave me a much better understanding of the gods for incorporating into my own Druid practices. His details about the centrality of “truth” to Druid teachings has shown me that it needs to be the central value in my own life.

There were a few things that surprised me in the book, including that the Celts invented soap, that they probably used Stonehenge and similar sites even if they didn’t actually build them, that the Druids used meditation (Dercad) and that they baptised people. However, I did not feel that he made some of his arguments particularly well. For example, his claim that Pliny made up the stories about Druids using forest groves – he doesn’t back this up with any evidence. And he does this to other statements put forward by classical authors without ever giving real reasons. In other places he doesn’t really make clear his own opinion or what he is arguing and seems to present both sides of the argument or just pose questions and this was frustrating. I would have liked to have seen more evidence for his assertion that the bards were part of the Druid class rather than separate as many classical authors had suggested, as well as more similarities between the Druids and the Brahmins to show the common Indo-European roots. Finally, I think he doesn’t really explain how the Druids are connected to nature or their role as natural scientists in any great detail which is a pity.

It wasn’t too difficult a book to understand, although I get put off reading the Celtic myths because of the strange and hard to pronounce names and I find my eyes glazing over when he mentions these names in the book. However, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who was interested in the ancient Celts or the Druids. The information is excellent, it’s well researched and, on the whole, well argued and it really opened my eyes and overcame some of my prejudices about this unique Iron age society. When there is so much incorrect information around regarding the Druids, this is a book that goes back to the evidence to clear the mists of time and give us a clearer understanding of the true role of Druids in the ancient Celtic world.





Dedicant Path Week 4 – First Book Started

8 04 2013

One of the requirements for the Dedicant Path is to read three books from a selected menu – one book on Indo European Culture, one book on a chosen hearth culture and one book on the history of Modern Paganism. The Sixth part of the ADF Dedicant Path “Through the Wheel of the Year” Supplement is to start reading the Indo-European Culture book, however I have already chosen my hearth culture as Celtic (probably Irish) and saw a copy of the book “A Brief History of the Druids” by Peter Berresford Ellis going cheap on Amazon so I bought two weeks ago and I’ve decided to do Hearth Culture first. I started reading that last week and I am now half way through it. We are not due to write a report on it till much later in the course but I can see myself finishing it this week so next week I will probably put up the report. I’m really enjoying “The Druids” and have learned a lot.  There are some really interesting and exciting ideas in there which I’ll explain more about next time.

druid1





Dedicant Path Week 2 – The First Oath

1 04 2013

The second week of the ADF Dedicant Path “Through the Wheel of the Year” Supplement asks us to do a ritual and to make an Oath. I chose to do use the one from the guide….

“I, before this assembly, declare myself to be a Pagan, a seeker of the Old Ways, a worshipper of the Elder Gods.

With this holy oath I set my foot upon the path, the Druid’s Way, and I vow to make my dedication plain.

I vow to seek virtue in my life, to do right by my kin, my friends and my community, I vow to make my Paganism real, by keeping the rites and works that call to me.

I vow to deepen my understanding of the Ways through study to fill my mind with the truth of the Elder Paths.

These things I swear to the Gods, with those gathered here as my witnesses. So be it.”

Русский: Чертово городище (Козельск)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Afterwards I did a divination by pulling three tarot cards using the Wildwood Tarot. The three cards were: –

The World Tree (upside down) = Opposite of – Universal Mind, Primal Source of Creation, Natural Balance, Recognition, Ending Journey, Reward

The Wheel = Weaving Fate, Cycle of Life, Karma and Cosmic Law, Reincarnation, Wheel of Fortune

The Page of Stones (Lynx) (upside down) = Opposite of – Study/Scholarship, Starting Out, Carefulness, Reflection, Observing Others, Meditation.

My interpretation of the divination (as two cards are upside down so they mean their opposites) is – a journey is starting but its a natural progression, a fate that I got to based on what has come before in my life. I must be careful not to emphasise the scholarly to the detriment of actual practice though.

I have no idea if that’s a correct interpretation but it’ll do for a first attempt at this. I’m thinking of getting some runes or oghams to make things a bit simpler in taking omens.





Dedicant Path Week 1 – Introduction

1 04 2013

The first exercise to do in the ADF Dedicant Path “Through the Wheel of the Year” Supplement is to answer some questions about why I have chosen to join ADF and what I would like to get out of it. Here are my answers….

Why have you chosen to take the first steps on the Dedicant Path?

I have considered myself to be a follower of pagan practices for about 18 months. I left fundamentalist Christianity in autumn 2010 and found that I still needed a spiritual aspect to my life. I came to the conclusion that Nature should be the proper focus of my spiritual life and this led me to Pantheism and Paganism, specifically of a Naturalistic type. I spend a lot of time researching Paganism and spirituality and have looked at the ADF website multiple times over the past year unsure whether to join or not. The commitment to hard Polytheism and the cost have been the main reasons I didn’t join earlier, but I believe it is time to now take a leap. I respect the vision of ADF and especially its commitment to honest scholarship and rebuilding the ways ancient people may have worshipped their gods, instead of the “fluffiness” of much of modern paganism. My own spiritual journey has been very much “putting a toe in the water” over the past year or two and now I want to go deeper and really allow myself to grow spirituality. I want to deepen my practice and ensure that I have structure to help me be more disciplined in it. I enjoy learning and although I have written my own rituals, I believe ADF rituals will help me to design meaningful rituals for use in my practice in future.

Is this a step on your path, or will this become the Path itself?

At this point I am unsure if this will be just a step or whether it will become my path. I am interested in various world religions and like to integrate aspects of each one into my practice. However I haven’t been doing that very well or in any great depth so it will be nice to commit to one path for a period of time and see where it leads.

What do you expect to learn?

I hope to learn ways to connect with nature more, serve my local community and to learn about how ancient peoples practiced their religions.

What would you like to get out of this journey?

I would like to be able to connect with nature, feel more spiritually fulfilled and gain more of a sense of meaning and purpose in my life. I would like to learn as much as I can about Druidry and find a spiritual path that I feel at home in. I would also like to develop a much deeper practice of meditation and discover how to write empowering rituals.

Do you know where this path will take you?

I have no idea but I’m excited to find out.

If you have just joined ADF, why have you chosen to work on this immediately?

One of the main reasons I joined ADF was to do the Dedicants Path and hopefully further study afterwards so I can begin to grow and develop a deep spiritual practice.

If you have been in ADF for a long time, why are you starting only now?

N/A

Does it look hard or easy?

Reading the three books looks difficult, as does maintaining a daily/ weekly spiritual practice like meditation. I don’t find visualisation exercises particularly easy. However the written aspects of the course should be fairly easy as I’m used to writing essays and feel I’m a good writer. One of the main reasons for taking this course is to challenge myself so I can grow.

Which requirements appear to be difficult to you now, and which appear to be easy?

See above.

Do you have doubts, questions, or concerns that you need to ask about?

My biggest concern is that I don’t believe in supernatural gods/ goddesses, immortal souls and “spirits” as many people might interpret them. I see them more as myths and metaphors or as the literal powers of nature themselves rather than personal beings. However, I am open to learn and practice as though they existed in the way described. Perhaps my views will evolve in a different direction in time. I also have some doubts about my ability to be self disciplined and maintain my practice.