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.





Seventh High Holy Day Explanation – Imbolc

25 01 2014

Known as Imbolc or Candlemas, the 1st of February is one of the four great festivals of the Celtic year. It marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring. At this time the first signs of spring are appearing in nature – buds are beginning to appear on trees, animals are waking up from hibernation and early spring flowers like snowdrops and daffodils are beginning to bloom. The day is also known as Oimelc which is Gaelic for “ewe’s milk.” The ewe’s are lactating and the lambs are beginning to be born. Milking can begin again, which in ancient times, when food was hard to come by in winter, offered people a lifeline. The sun is getting stronger and the days are noticeably longer. It is time to celebrate the awakening and rebirth of the earth, as well as new beginnings in our own lives.

In the tale of Tochmarc Emire, in which Emer is wooed by the hero Cu Chulainn, Emer talks of “Imbolc, when the ewes are milked at spring’s beginning.” Historian Ronald Hutton says that “The festival must be pre-Christian in origin, but there is absolutely no direct testimony as to its early nature, or concerning any rites which might have been employed then. He does point out that is has something to do with milking as ewes began to lactate and that “it is reasonably certain that behind this alleged holy woman [St Bride]…stands a pagan goddess of the same name.” He further says that there is uncertainty whether she is one goddess or a triple one, but in legend she is “associated with learning, poetry, prophesying, healing and metal-working, and was in general the most pleasant Irish female deity.” A fire was kept burning at her Kildare shrine during medieval times, but Hutton points out that in legend, the goddess “was not especially associated with fire.” By the 1700’s it was believed that she visited households on the eve of her feast to bless people if they were virtuous and many customs of this time are recorded. For example, feasts to mark the last night of winter, bread and butter left outside on a windowsill as an offering, Crosses made of rushes hung up over the door as a sign of welcome or put in stables so the animals would be blessed, and a bed of twigs made so she could rest. There was also a custom of putting up cloth or ribbon the windowsill overnight for her to bless.

However there are other festivals associated with this time that have helped shape how we celebrate it today as modern pagans. Hutton’s book on the Stations of the Sun looks at Candlemas, a Christian feast of purification with a ceremony of kindling candles. He says this was a “celebration of returning light” and that later medieval services use images of “rebirth of light in the dark time of the year” and the “promise of better times not far away.” Meanwhile Bede said that the pagan Anglo-Saxons called February “Sol Monath” ie cake-month as it was a time to offer special cake to the gods.

Historian Peter Berresford Ellis points out that according to Rennes Dinnsenchus, St Brigit was a “ban drui” and was said to have been nourished on the magical milk of Otherworldly cows. She later became a Christian and created a religious settlement at Dumcree. He says that in a biography of her in 650AD, her “cult was mixed with the Irish goddess of fertility, Brigit, after whom she had obviously been named” and that her feast day was “grafted onto the festival of Imbolc….sacred to the goddess Brigit on January 31st and February 1st. He explains that this feast was connected with ewes coming into milk and so “was a pastoral or fertility festival.” The goddess Brigit was a daughter of The Dagda and was a “divinity of healing, poetry and arts and crafts” as well as divination.

There are many customs recorded throughout history in Gaelic countries which honour her and may date back to the time of the ancient Celts. In Scotland, a cold day on Imbolc meant warmer weather was soon to come. Offerings of milk were made to the earth and porridge to the sea to ensure a good yield of fish and seaweed in the coming year. A St Brigit doll was made of corn and dressed elaborately e.g. with snowdrops and primroses. A bed was made for her and she was invited into the house, while a white birch want was placed alongside the bed to represent the wand she used to make vegetation start growing again. Ashes in the hearth were smoothed and left overnight. In the morning, these were checked for evidence she had visited and if not incense was burned to her. In Ireland, celebrations were similar. Imbolc represented not only the beginning of spring but also the fishing season as the storms of the sea were supposed to have been over by then. While some farmers would turn over a sod of earth in a symbolic act to hurry up warmth, the feast was known as a “holiday from turning” and so any type of turning such as weaving, ploughing and spinning was forbidden out of respect for Brigit who it was said had taught women how to spin wool. The house was cleaned thoroughly beforehand and sained or warded, while water was brought from a sacred well to sprinkle around the house. A feast on the evening included sowans, apple cake, dumplings, colcannon and most importantly, butter. Later mashed potato with butter and onions was added. A place was laid at the table for St Brigit and a portion of food left out for her. Items such as ribbons or cloth were left on trees and bushes outside for her to bless and the fire was kept burning with the door open so she could come in and warm herself. St Brigit’s crosses were made of rushes or straw and hung up for protection. It was also a time of charity and hospitality.

ADF suggests that this is a feast of the hearth, a time to celebrate the rekindling of the world’s hearth fire and the return of light, a time to purify the home, a time to prepare for spring planting by blessing tools and fields, and a time to give offerings to the Earth Mother. Alaric Albertsson in Travels through Middle Earth suggests that this is a good time to honour Hertha, the Anglo-Saxon earth goddess. Meanwhile, Neo-pagans celebrate by doing a spring clean, eating spicy or dairy foods, honouring Brigit and placing candles in all the windows of the home to represent the growing strength of the sun. I like to go for a walk on this day to search for the first signs of spring – especially snowdrops. Imbolc is also a time to create poetry and songs or to make candles for the coming year. It is traditionally the time to begin buying seed potatoes and chitting them ready for planting. I will also be celebrating by doing an ADF ritual, eating a spicy lentil and vegetable shepherds pie and having a party with friends.

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

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.

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

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

Tairis – http://www.tairis.co.uk

Gaol Naofa – http://www.gaolnaofa.com/festivals/

Gaelic Folkway – http://gaelicfolkway.webs.com/feiseannaomh.htm





Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Vision

29 12 2013

ADF defines Vision as “The ability to broaden one’s perspective to have a greater understanding of our place/ role in the cosmos, relating to past, present and future.”

The dictionary defines it as –
1) The faculty or state of being able to see
2) The images seen on a television screen
3) The ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom
4) A mental image of what the future will or could be like
5) An experience of seeing someone or something in a dream or trance, or as a supernatural apparition.
6) A vivid mental image
7) A person or sight of unusual beauty.

As can be seen from both these definitions, vision involves many things, but primarily it is the ability to create the future. As the ADF definition explains, it begins by looking at how past decisions and actions have affected where one is now, and then considers what actions and decisions one needs to make in the present to bring about a desired future. It is being able to see a future one desires in your mind’s eye, as well as the path to get there. But it also involves the ability to see many possible futures and therefore to choose which one you want to create. Vision is vital to successful leadership however I question whether it can be considered a virtue as it is not really related to excellence of character.

To have vision one needs to know history – mythology, lore and genealogy so that one doesn’t make the mistakes of the past. One needs to be wise to be able to anticipate problems or see opportunities. One needs to be creative to use the imagination to “see” the vision. One needs vision itself to have the drive and motivation necessary for perseverance. Using mental training, and especially visualisation meditation, can help us to improve our capacity for vision.

The ADF definition also talks about the importance of knowing our place and role in the cosmos. For example, scientific advances continually remove us from our self proclaimed pedestal in the universe by uncovering just how insignificant we really are. Astronomy in particular is a very humbling experience. The ancient Norse explored the same concept through the idea of the Web of Wyrd spun by the Nornir. This is an idea similar to fate – or as the author of The Real Middle Earth says, Wyrd means “that which unfolds in life is the natural outcome of all that came before.” Prophecy and divination were highly respected as ways to discover where one’s Wyrd might flow. Both the ancient Norse and the ancient Celts had gods of vision or prophecy like Heimdall and Brighid, and these show the importance that vision held in ancient pagan society.

In conclusion I feel that while it is important as Druids to have vision, and it was something highly respected in ancient cultures, it’s not really a virtue. Instead I think there are other virtues that could replace it. Personally I would consider my ninth virtue to be Ahimsa, non violence to any living being. This is not a virtue that warrior cultures such as the ancient Indo-Europeans would have followed although it did develop out of the Indian Vedic cultures by 500 BCE. In my opinion this is the highest virtue and I seek to express it in many areas of my life.

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

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

Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahimsa.





Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Perseverance

28 12 2013

ADF defines Perseverance as “drive; the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult.”

The dictionary defines it as –

1) Persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

These definitions of perseverance are very similar and accurately reflect the definition in my opinion. Perseverance is having a goal and pursuing it despite the challenges that one faces. It is not giving up when things become hard or difficult. It is having determination and purpose. It is doing things even when we don’t enjoy them. It is living for a higher purpose than simply pleasure seeking and being disciplined enough to keep to that. It is all about attitude. When I think of someone who is persevering, I think of a sportsman who trains day after day to become the best, or the athlete who injures themselves on the track but keeps running anyway, through the pain, because finishing the race is the important goal for them. I think of the businessman who is passionate about an idea and, despite getting turned down by many banks, he keeps searching for someone to invest in his business. I think of the person in ill health who commits themselves to a strict diet and exercise regime to turn their life around. I think of the person who takes hundreds of driving lessons and fails to pass many times, but keeps taking the test until they succeed.

To persevere one needs to have clear goals, a determined and patient attitude and a belief in one’s ability to overcome all obstacles. But like all other virtues, Perseverance is the mean, its in between laziness and stubbornness, and there is a fine line between these. Perseverance becomes stubbornness when one does something to look good, out of pride or arrogance rather than because it is right. Perseverance means one works hard, puts in 100% effort and never, ever gives up. ADF values excellence, the ancient Greeks saw excellence of character, arete, as vital to living a flourishing life and I think this is why Perseverance is such an important virtue. Without perseverance, developing a character of excellence is impossible. Without perseverance, one will not put in the effort to complete aspects of the Dedicant Path course that one needs to in order to pass e.g meditation. Without perseverance, little is ever achieved.

Cultures like the ancient Celts and Norse would have valued Perseverance highly. To stay fit for fighting, to keep going through harsh winters, in the face of a dangerous environment where death was an everyday occurrence, they would have persevered. They also told many stories of heroes who often had to persevere through trials in order to achieve their goals. Just like them, we too are inspired by tales of perseverance in the face of large obstacles and we hold up those who do overcome as our modern heroes. It is therefore very important to exemplify this virtue in all aspects of our lives.

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

Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press.





Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Integrity

27 12 2013

ADF defines Integrity as “honour, being trustworthy to oneself and to others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, fairness, respect, self confidence.”

The dictionary defines it as

1) The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles

2) The state of being whole and undivided.

I think both these definitions encompass aspects of what Integrity means but neither one is enough on its own. Integrity is about telling the truth, standing up for strong moral principles, keeping your word, being reliable and not favouring some above others but treating all people with respect. It means being very careful with our words – not lying, flattering or exaggerating but instead saying exactly what we mean. It means knowing what’s right and sticking to it. It means not cheating, but instead playing by the rules and being fair. Ultimately it means being someone that others can trust. Trust is vital in all relationships, including with the Kindreds, and it is vital to the success of community. It also means being true to yourself, not compromising your principles or convictions for wealth, power or social prestige. It means being honest with yourself, knowing both your strengths and weaknesses and accepting yourself.

Integrity can also be used in the sense of something being “whole and undivided.” We can talk of structural integrity of a building, or integrity of an ecosystem or community. Integrity must include all these things – not just being whole in oneself, but looking after and protecting the integrity of an ecoystem or a community. Ensuring balance and harmony within yourself, the community and the natural world. It means an acknowledgement of interconnectedness and interdependence – what the ancient Norse called “Wyrd” – what one person does, what happens to one aspect of something, effects everyone and everything else…both now and in the future. We must therefore be concerned not only with our own integrity, our health and moral standing, but also the integrity of our communities and the environment in which we live.

In the book “The Druids”, the author states “From the Old Irish texts one gathers that the Druids were concerned, above all things, with Truth and preached….the Truth against the world.” It is seen as the sustaining power of creation and has magical power. There is also the tale of Cormac, who is given a magical cup by Manannan Mac Lir which breaks when lies are told over it, but fixes itself when truths are told over it. In ancient Norse cultures, making an oath was considered something sacred as can be evidenced by people swearing oaths on an arm ring of Thor. Taking a misleading oath in the name of the gods would be “breaking faith with them.” These examples show the importance of integrity to the ancient Celtic and Germanic people’s and illustrate why it is important for us as Druids today.

Finally, Integrity is about truth. It is about wanting to find the truth, not jumping to judgements, spreading rumours or believing things without evidence. It is about constantly being open to learn new things in the search for truth, even when that truth is something we don’t necessarily like. Within ADF, it means doing the serious work of research to discover exactly what was believed and practiced in ancient cultures and then building our religion upon that, not claiming our ancestors practiced things we have no evidence for. Trust, Truth, Wholeness – these are what integrity means.

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.

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

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003.





Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Courage

26 12 2013

ADF defines Courage as “The ability to act appropriately in the face of danger.”

The dictionary defines it as –

1) The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.

I don’t agree with either of these definitions as I define courage as “feeling fear but doing it anyway.” To me, you cannot be courageous by not feeling nervous or scared of something. You can only show the virtue of courage when you consciously face that fear. It is being willing to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty and intimidation in order to do the right thing. It is being willing to stand up for the innocent or weak even when you know the crowd will laugh at you or hurt you. It is both physical courage in the face of pain or death, and moral courage in the face of popular opposition, shame or discouragement.

Like moderation, the ancient Greek and Roman pagans called courage or fortitude a “cardinal virtue.” Aristotle said it was the mean point between cowardice and foolhardiness. And it takes wisdom to know when to be courageous. The ancient Norse and Celtic peoples also highly valued courage, especially in their battles. They told myths of heroes like Beowulf who fought against enemies much stronger than them and prevailed. The Romans recorded how courageous the Celts were with quotes from Diodorus Siculus like “the women of the Gauls are not only like men in their great stature, but they are a match for them in courage as well.” It is obvious then that the ancient pagan people’s of Europe valued the virtue of courage highly.

In today’s world, we see soldiers as brave because they go into battle despite the risk of getting killed. We see those who stand up for their human rights e.g the right to religion, gay rights, campaigners for democracy e.t.c, as brave because they often risk imprisonment or death in countries that seek to deny these basic liberties. I think of heroes like Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela, who’s courageous stands against oppression of black people helped revolutionise the way society treats them. And it’s not just the famous people. There are those who work in the emergency services like policemen and fire men who must be brave in their jobs every day. There is the young person who is being bullied at school yet turns up every day and tries to learn. There is the daughter who’s mother is suffering from a mental health issue but she does her best to look after her. I love the quote from Gandalf in the Hobbit as I believe it really explains courage well. He says “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” Courage is not just about fighting battles and standing up to oppressive governments, its doing the small things in life because you know they are the right thing to do. And sometimes it is deliberately putting oneself in situations that are outside our comfort zones in order to challenge ourselves and grow as a person. Courage is just as important a virtue in today’s society as it was in the ancient pagan past. Like them we also tell stories, through our books and films, which emphasise the hero idea, the morally righteous one who must fight against the odds to overcome some enemy and save the world. Like them, we are all capable of being courageous and ADF were right to include it in their list of virtues.

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

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Compnay, 2000.





Dedicant Path ADF Virtues – Moderation

24 12 2013

ADF defines Moderation as “cultivating ones appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health (mental or physical), through excess or deficiency.”

The dictionary defines it as –

1) Being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme

2) Not violent or subject to extremes; mild or calm; temperate.

3) a) of medium or average quantity or extent, b) of limited or average quality; mediocre.

4) Opposed to radical or extreme views or measures, especially in politics or religion.

In my view, the ADF definition of moderation doesn’t fully encompass the meaning of the term and the dictionary gives a better definition. It is about cultivating one’s appetites so you are not slaves to them or driven to ill health, but it is more. It is about being moderate in attitude and behaviour – calm not violent, moderate in views e.g in politics, and moderate in desires. Moderation is important in many areas of life. If one eats or drinks too much they will get diseases like diabetes, liver failure and heart disease. If they are too materialistic they will get into debt. If they work too much they may get ill from stress. Being excessive can lead to addictions – alcoholism, gambling problems and so on. Similarly eating too little can lead to malnutrition or anarexia and sleeping too little can lead to burnout. While we undoubtedly do need to increase certain things like healthy eating, on the whole, I think we suffer more as a civilisation from excess than we do from deficiency.

I think that western society is prone to excess in other areas of life too, like energy use. We are addicted to fossil fuels and consume them with no thought of the effects on the Earth Mother and other life forms. We buy lots of things brand new rather than reusing or recycling things, or making them ourselves, and then we create lots of waste. To be moderate means to walk lightly on the earth, to reduce our consumption, to live balanced. It means to live simply and minimally, spend money wisely, be frugal…and to live in voluntary poverty. Why do we buy so much new when we could buy almost everything we really need second hand or from a charity shop, saving money and the earth? Why do we take more than we really need to meet the basics in life? Moderation is vital to living in harmony with nature and saving it for future generations. It is vital to living in harmony with the self e.g for health. It is vital to avoiding the excesses that lead to dangerous and violent fundamentalism. Too often however, we judge moderation by the social expectations of society and I think that is wrong. Perhaps if we judged how moderate we were being by lives of the poor in Africa, we might get a better view of what it really means. To meet our basic needs, not all our wants. To not be greedy, gluttonous, lustful, slothful or engage in any of the other “seven deadly sins.” Importantly, moderation relates to other virtues too – it requires knowledge and the wisdom to apply it, and how can one share or be hospitable unless one lives moderately.

Various cultures around the world have held moderation to be a very important virtue. The ancient pagan Greeks and Romans held it in high esteem and called temperance a “cardinal virtue.” Epicurus in particular emphasised a life of simplicity and moderation, suggesting we concern ourselves with mental rather than physical pleasures, live a self sufficient life in the company of friends and engage regularly in philosophical pursuits. Aristotle thought that the virtues were at the mean between two extremes. And in the east, Taoism considers moderation to be one of its three Jewels for living in harmony with nature.

Frances Willard said “Temperance is moderation in the things that are good and total abstinence from the things that are foul.” I agree with him completely – it is very important to emphasise that moderation does not mean “everything in moderation” when it involves those things that are bad for us. For instance, science is discovering more and more evidence to suggest that the healthiest diet is a plant based, oil free, whole foods diet….pretty much a vegan diet that avoids all animal products. Some think its extreme to be a vegan because society doesn’t see it as normal, however if eating animal products is damaging our health and causing chronic diseases as the science is beginning to show – I think the moderate option, the option focused primarily on eating what is good for both the body and the earth, is surely switching to a plant based diet instead.

In conclusion, moderation is perhaps the most important virtue for us all to learn right now, its a virtue I regularly struggle to live by (especially when it comes to food) and it is one that takes a lot of practice. We must be self disciplined, work hard and, as the ADF definition says, “cultivate our appetites.” Unless we learn to do this, and learn soon, the effects on our own health, on the Earth Mother and on all life, will be disastrous.

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

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

Dr Fuhrman, Joel. Eat to Live: The amazing nutrient rich program for fast and sustained weight loss. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2003.