Saturday, May 9, 2015

For National Prayer Day, and thoughts on leadership and power

Which was on May 7th, but yes, I'm just posting it here now. It was on my Facebook wall on the 7th:

Lords and Ladies of peace and justice, let us come together to find solutions.
Let people get off their asses, roll up their sleeves,
and get dirty with the work of building a better future.
Let us unite,
let us pull each other up with love instead of tearing each other down with fear.

Shining Ones, help me to be in the right place to contribute to that work.
And grant me the patience to not bitch-slap ignorant people on social media.

So mote it be! 

As I currently have two major dust-ups going on in two different pagan organizations to which I belong, not to mention the recent and somewhat on-going unrest in Baltimore (which I don't really need to link to, do I?), this was a very appropriate sentiment for the end of the week.

Let's talk briefly about those dust-ups, as I seem to be in the right place to contribute to at least some of the work of building out of love versus tearing down in fear. I'm not going to name the organizations here... it's internal politics. If you're with them, you'll recognize. If not, I promise not to be so vague that you get nothing out of the discussion.

The first issue exploded on Thursday afternoon, and seems to be a power struggle between an old faction and the current leadership. The current leadership is investigating. I hope that my "cut through the bullshit" comments on social media helped. I tried to be rational.

The second issue exploded yesterday, and while it also involves the group's leadership, it seems more about (a) pushing a change through before the current leadership steps down and (b) misconceptions over the role of the leadership and the interest of the membership in leadership decisions. I made a few comments on social media on a friend's account about said issue, but not in the open forums of said group.

These issues do have something in common. Power, or lack thereof, and perceived notions of leadership as a privileged class. Both are issues that are very hot-button in pagan communities, and both actually stem from the same root issue -- who has control?

Power, at least as it applies to leading a group, is often an illusion. Those on the outside of the leadership see a clique, a small group holding the power, often without deference to those who've put them there. In some cases, that ends up being true... but not always. Probably not even most of the time.

I've been, and continue to be, a leader. It's the most thankless fucking job in the world if you are doing it correctly. Leaders have power, sure, but they're doing something with it. A leader who isn't getting it done isn't a leader. Leaders are the first people there, the last people out. They do the scut-work that others don't want to do, and they make the hard decisions.

It's easy to say a leader should always consult with their base. I do agree that leaders should make a concerted effort to communicate and be transparent in what they are doing. But the base also has a responsibility to give feedback when asked. Don't act like you don't give a shit until something happens, and then howl about it, if you had your chance earlier to speak up.

But power is an illusion, and only poor leaders crave it. And when you depose poor leaders, they will continue to crave it and work in the back channels to get it back. These are cowardly, empty people, but they will persist as long as we give them our ears. As long as gossip is allowed to fester and rot in the dark corners, they will persist.

I've had it said to me twice now, once per dust-up, that these things have happened before, the organization has survived, we'll lose some people over it and that's ok, etc etc etc, yadda yadda yadda.


Why do we have to allow these destructive patterns of behavior to continue? Why do we give credence to gossip rather than seeking the truth? Because it's salacious and entertaining? Because we secretly want to tumble someone in power because we, too, harbor the same delusions of exclusion?

We don't need to continue to go down the same road because it's a familiar, easy pattern.

I'll say that again: We don't need to continue to go down the same road because it's a familiar, easy pattern.

We choose how to react. If we, as a community, collectively choose to seek truth instead of spreading gossip, to support our leadership through the tough work, to demand transparency and answers when our leaders get lazy... if we as a community choose to work together out of love to improve ourselves, then we don't get caught in self-destructive (or community-destructive) patterns.

We choose how to react. I chose this time to not react defensively, to not see nefarious conspiracies that aren't there, though I acknowledge the ones that are actually playing out. I choose to seek the truth and to hold my leaders accountable for what actually happens, as opposed to what the court of public opinion thinks might have happened based on what they heard fourth-hand through Facebook.

I also choose to make this a personal mandate, as part of my whole "tend the hearth" personal philosophy. I'm going to "preach" this every time there's a conflict, and walk it myself. And maybe, just maybe, behaviors will change because of it. I feel the Gods expect no less of me now that they've revealed a truth.

We don't need to continue to go down the same road because it's a familiar, easy pattern.

So mote it be.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tend the Hearth

Hello blog. I've missed you!

I'm still working on my ADF DP, but am taking a new approach to how I'm scheduling the work. I love the idea of the DP Through the Wheel of the Year publication, but the only thing it's been doing is allowing my perfectionist tendencies to sabotage my work.

I like to procrastinate when I get overwhelmed or too concerned about "doing it right", and trying to do everything in a lock-step program doesn't help me when I fall off the wagon for a week or two. I feel like I need to start over.

So I set up my own schedule based on getting things done about over the course of a year, but not so inter-dependent. I need to sit down tonight and do the Ostara ritual that the DH wrote up last weekend.

I don't know that I'll blog much here about the DP, in the future. Probably a bit here and there. What I really wanted to talk about today was a message I got during a meditation several months ago. My coven had done a guided meditation during moon ritual where we would ask the Gods what we might be able to give back to the community.

As a parting note from Brigit, I got "Tend the Hearth".

As communiques from the Gods go, it's always the short ones that are the most multi-dimensional. In the ensuing months, "tend the hearth" has come to mean many things to me. Beyond the most literal sense of home fires and tending to domestic issues, I've also found it to mean:
  • Minding your own business/tending to your own affairs
  • Keeping track of your health (tending your personal hearth fires)
  • Allowing your personal spirituality (your hearth) to be a beacon to others
  • Growing the flame of your personal spirituality
  • Getting through a harsh winter (or end of winter, anyway, here in Maryland.
This week, it's become important in an ongoing situation with a pagan message board I've visited on and off for many years, mostly in the "mind your own" sense. It's time for me to back away from the place, as the atmosphere there is no longer conducive to my spiritual needs. It's changed, I've changed... it's like waking up one day and realizing that your best friend from childhood no longer have much of anything in common.

I am sad.

But, I have other places to turn for spiritual support and fellowship. Right now, I'm really craving the fellowship. While I need to rekindle my own personal spiritual practices (again, with tending the hearth) as far as devotionals, prayers, magic, etc, I also need the energy that group work and socializing can provide to relight that fire. As within, so without... as without, so within.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Update and Beltane Reflection

No, no, no, I've not abandoned the blog. I'm still working on my PIE book, I've renewed my ADF membership for another year and officially joined Cedarlight (though I won't be a full member for another couple of High Days).

I do want to sit down and rework my schedule for getting the DP done, but I've decided I'm not going to be a slave to the schedule in the Wheel of the Year booklet. Too much temptation for procrastination and falling off the wheel (so to speak). I am going to set down some deadlines for finishing books and doing the essays.

What I need to focus on now is laying out a plan for the longer-term requirements: mental discipline and nature awareness. I have some ideas percolating.

So. Beltane.

I went to Beltane at Cedarlight. It was pretty crowded, as rituals have been  so far. No helicopters, I'm almost sorry to note. In fact, it was a pretty quiet afternoon in the neighborhood.

The ritual team was painted to embody their roles in ritual, including those folks "aspecting" Bel, Danu, and Cernunnos (our Gatekeeper). I put aspecting in quotes because that isn't entirely what the ritual team was attempting to do, but it ended up happening to some degree nonetheless. I almost feel like Bel and Danu, in particular, were so happy to be invited in that they stormed the castle. And Cernunnos isn't particularly known for being a gentle guest (and this is a good time of the year to celebrate a horned God).

Fun moment... when the offering was put out to appease the Outdwellers, a metal bench in the sanctuary collapsed under the two folks sitting on it. While the bench certainly collapsed because it isn't really rated for the weight of a couple of real people sitting on it, the timing was... well, it couldn't have been timed better.

The energies at this ritual were a bit chaotic and untamed. I usually feel pretty peaceful at CLG, but I ended up sitting outside in the sanctuary prior to ritual because I needed some quiet time to ground away from the teeming hordes of people. I was pretty successful.

I enjoyed the drumming because I was able to take part in it. We had a good set of drummers so I didn't feel like I was trying to fight people who can't keep a beat, as usually happens in large ritual. The energy in ritual wasn't as high as I've felt before, but I think that was a combination of a lot of new folks/guests plus a chief liturgist running her first ritual plus a very dynamic invocation of the Deities of the Occasion that peaked out the energy early.

For someone who's not been in ritual space when another person has aspected or channeled a deity, it can be overwhelming, uncomfortable, and/or frightening. I totally understand that, because that's how I felt the first time it really happened for me. It's like that first time you feel a gale-force wind, have the lightning crash down a little too close, or feel an ocean wave take control over your direction. And considering who we were calling in, two of those metaphors are pretty appropriate.

I highly enjoyed the ritual, myself. I've seen a lot of sacred theater that didn't work for one reason or another, but this did. I'm sorry that it seems like many of the other participants didn't feel this way. I also seemed to anticipate the weather well enough, but I should have worn real shoes instead of flip-flops. Once the sun set and the damp started to come down, my toes got COLD!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ostara High Day Recap/Reflection

I was back at Cedarlight Grove for this one, and it was another cold one. Not as frigid as Yule, thankfully, but I wished I'd gone ahead and put on another layer under my jeans and sweatshirt. I really need to get sturdier wet/cold weather shoes, a warm rain-proof coat, and a long winter cloak.

Deities of the Occasion were Grainne, Sadv, and Aengus. Brigit and the Dadga were also called, I'm not sure in what respect. One, or perhaps both, served as the Gatekeeper. I need to follow up on that... as I said, it was cold. I spent a lot of time hunched up in my hoodie trying not to focus on how chilled I was.

Many different Cedarlight folks took parts in the ritual, including some of the children, which I enjoyed. It's always nice to see a group where a lot of different people are involved in projects instead of the same old faces all the time.

We did a bit of group dancing and singing. It was a little tentative, both because many of us didn't know the songs until an hour before ritual, and because they'd done some work to replace/upgrade some of the stones within the sanctuary, so we were all careful not to trip over a stone or slip in the mud. Rain had been forecast and had fallen earlier in the afternoon, but it (thankfully) cleared off prior to ritual.

My offerings (well, our... my husband shared the offerings) were sunflower seeds to Grainne, the winter sun. Sadv got edamame (soybeans) as a treat for the deer (I did a little research to see what deer like to eat), and Aengus got an offering of romantic love -- a kiss between myself and my husband. Everyone thought that was cute, judging by the loud "Awwwwww!" we got for that one.

We had yet another police helicopter incursion. I've now joined the Grove, so we'll see whether this happens during every rite or not. So far I'm 3 for 3 on noisy flyovers. While the Grove is in Baltimore, the neighborhood is really not that bad, so I don't get the air traffic.

I'm not sure what the message is from the omen just yet. We're discussing that on Sunday at the weekly Rites of Caffeina, which I plan to attend unless I'm just too miserable from having a couple teeth pulled tomorrow. Our Seer used a method of dropping raw egg into a boiling cauldron (which was boiled during the ritual over the fire) and interpreting the pictures. I've also heard of people doing this with hot candle wax into cold water.

Egg was appropriate given the Ostara season, though I'm sure neither person working the omen expected the egg to splatter everywhere when it was squeezed. It probably would have been better to crack the egg into a hand, then drip the egg through the fingers, but whatever. I wasn't the one that got splattered. :)

The Grove has had some nice improvements since Yule. There are a couple new stone walkways joining the concrete pavilion with the sanctuary area and another altar area further back. There's also been work on a drainage ditch at the rear of the property, and the gardens have been weeded and such. I can't wait to get my hands into the gardens. I need to start working on my garden at home, before the weeds get even more established. But I digress.

There's a clootie tree on the property now, and I tied a clootie after ritual and offered up some of the Earl Gray tea I was drinking. Brigit is my Patroness, and I figured that asking for boons in Ireland worked so well, I'd try it this time. We'll see how that works out.

All in all, I thought it was a fun ritual. We don't often do enough singing and dancing in Pagan rites. The feast was yummy, though all the Dublin Coddle disappeared too quickly for me to get seconds. I'll be happy when it's warm enough to eat outside, as there really aren't enough seats indoors for a large crowd, and while I don't mind eating on the floor, it does get to my back after a bit.

I'll also admit that now that I've done a few rituals outdoors, I can say that I feel a much keener bond to nature. You really feel close to the winter when you're standing out in it for a couple hours huddled around a fire. Likewise, you appreciate the chill rains of March and how that contrasts with other seasons when you're squishing around in the mud.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Update, A Rethink, and Some Nature Awareness

Ok, so it's been, like, months since I've updated the blog. It's been months since I did any of my Dedicant Program work. But we're through winter now, and that's great. The last month or so, from mid-February until now, has been a blitz of new projects, mostly involving one of my other major hobbies.

I'd really wanted to get to Cedarlight for the Imbolc ritual,  but they decided to have a dawn ritual and I had to work that weekend. I downloaded the liturgy from Teo Bishop's Solitary Druid Fellowship, and even customized it, and then proceeded to procrastinate my way through the entire weekend. While, yes, it was my birthday weekend, I was still unhappy with myself.

This leads to the rethink...

I'm honestly surprised it's taken me this long to understand that I will never have the motivation to do complicated rituals at home. Now, it's not like I've never done my own solo rituals. I started out as a solitary Wiccan in the late 90s, and did ritual work on my own prior to joining a coven.

What I mean is that I'm just not going to sit down and do a full COoR at home on my own. It's a lot of steps, a lot of materials to gather, and those things give me an easy out for the procrastination. "Oh, I can't do ritual, I don't have all my offerings!" "Oh, I can't do ritual, it'll take an hour and I'm tired!"

Going forward, this means that if I do need to do ritual on my own, I'm going to "plan" a much more relaxed, "kitchen witch" sort of thing. I've always had success with these, and it doesn't matter if half the rituals for my DP are done in another style, anyhow. I can cast circle and wrap up a holiday ritual in 20 minutes if I want to, because I don't have to think about it.

Being Wiccan for almost 20 years, I'm familiar enough with those ritual patterns to do it in my sleep. Sometimes I kind of have. ADF-style ritual is still new to me, even though I've been a card carrying member for like 7 years now, and I have to think about all the steps if I'm alone. If I'm at the Grove, I just follow along with everyone else. I get a lot out of participating, but participating is nowhere near the level of "running things".

So that's that. As a part of my rethink, I've retooled my timeline for completing my DP, as I did not legitimately celebrate Imbolc. Oh, I thought about lying and writing it up anyway, so I could get the project completed at Samhain this year. No one would have known. Except me. And the Gods. And how can I build a foundation on dishonesty? I never cheated at school. Why cheat now?

As part of that rethink, I've decided that it isn't that important to strictly follow the Wheel of the Year booklet. I think it's fabulous, and I do want to make DP work a regular, mostly-weekly part of my life. But again, a weekly regimen gives me ample opportunity to shoot myself in the foot. "Oh, I missed 6 weeks now! I have to start again!"

The only requirements for the DP that have any sort of time-frame attached are the 8 holiday rituals, which must be completed in a 12 month period; the mental discipline training, which needs to take place over a certain number of months; and I think the nature awareness requirement, though I need to look that up. So if I don't write an Ostara essay this month, no big deal. If I don't get my home shrine set up for a while longer, no big deal. No reason to tank things because I'm not doing it perfectly.

Wow. That was long. In other news, I submitted my application to join Cedarlight last night at Ostara. New Grove membership involve a trial/training period, so that'll start once they get me into the system. I can't wait. :)

And a bit of nature awareness... winter is a rough season for me, as I've said before. This year, though, I think I'm more in tune with nature than ever before. In mid-February, I started noticing that the days were actually getting longer, well before I usually do. I've noticed the daffodils have started coming up around my area, and trees are budding... all in the last couple of weeks. This isn't something I've consciously worked at, but it's coming to me all the same, and I'm delighted. I'm also delighted that spring is just around the corner, because I'm SOOOOO ready for flip-flop weather. I hate wearing shoes!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ritual Recap #1: Yule

So I haven't posted in a while, but I haven't fallen off the wagon. Yes, I let my DP work slide. However, I've retooled my schedule for the work, going forward.

Outstanding items:
  • Performing my First Oath Rite (Week#2). I've written the oath, and it's published here. I'm going to use the sample ritual in the DPttWoY booklet. I'm hoping to do it tomorrow, as I'm off work and I just picked up a very nice new Well and Tree in the Cedarlight Grove  auction last night.
  • Writing up my Yule essay (Week #3). The difficulty here is including too much information, and in finding information about how the ancient Irish may have celebrated the solstice. There are a few monuments, such as Newgrange, that line up with the sun rise (or in one case, IIRC, the sunset) of the winter solstice.

Week #4 is the first ritual recap. For me, this is Yule. I attended the Cedarlight Grove ritual last night. Our deities of the occasion were Thor and Freya. Heimdall was the Gatekeeper, and the rest of the ritual was in keeping with the Norse theme. We processed in singing "The Holly and The Ivy", a little off-key (I think singing in Pagan ritual wouldn't sound so pathetic if people would just go for it. Mumbling the words quietly so no one else can hear you singing doesn't really give a good effect. I'd have sang a bit louder myself if I could have seen the paper to read the words).

It was cold and very windy, and I'm a spoiled Wiccan who likes to have her rites indoors most of the time. However, there were two or three roaring fires, and I stood next to one of them. We arrived very late and missed the pre-ritual briefing and time to stake out a chair, so we had to stand for the whole ritual. That wasn't very fun... however, the Cedarlight ritual crew brought such mirth to the ritual, that I couldn't stay in a bad mood for long.

The Grove offered a beautiful hammer to Thor, and I enjoyed the creative use of multi-colored twinkle lights around the Tree to symbolize Heimdall's rainbow bridge. The sounding of the horn was comical, because it's really difficult to get a decent sound out of one of those horns! The lore of the season was imparted by a cute little play about Thor, Freya, and the Yule Goat. I was not aware of this Yule Goat thing before, so that was new.

Many brought praise offerings to the Gods. I did not, partly because I was in a rushed hurry to get things together for ritual (most of which was my own fault), and partly because I don't work with Norse Gods and don't feel much of a connection to them (despite my genetic ancestry being about 80% German). I did promise myself that I would take the time to bring offerings for Imbolc. While that will be easier, since Brigid is my patron, it will be my third Grove ritual (and hopefully my first as a Grove member) and it's just getting rude to show up and not have something for the Gods.

It was difficult to hear the Omen, as it was very windy, and I was all the way on the other side of the ritual space from the folks doing the Omen. The Yule Log was burned as a sign that the sacrifices had been accepted, and they were. With all the expensive beer flying around, I'm not surprised! This may only be my second Grove ritual, but this group does not stint on honoring the Gods.

The Gates were left open for the all-night solstice vigil, and we all went back inside for feasting and a fundraising auction. I won a little Well and a little Tree, photos of which will show up in a few weeks when I do the Home Shrine work. I also got an Isis Chalice for my husband, who works with the Egyptian Pantheon. And we had a lot of fun randomly talking about Doctor Who with one of the Grove members (whose name I will catch next time!)

So summing up...
  • Positive ritual impressions: Norse pantheon work was interesting, as it's not my hearth culture. The printed ritual program allowed those of us who aren't really familiar with ADF rituals to follow along. Ritual space decorations were pretty. I definitely felt like I was walking with the Old Ones. And fire good.
  • Not-so-positive ritual impressions: It was COLD, and once my toes started to go numb I found myself distracted from the praise offerings. I also had to stand up the whole time because there weren't enough chairs. It was hard to read the program because it was dark and I didn't have a flashlight. And it was hard to hear much of what was going on, I assume because of the wind, because the ritual space isn't all that large.
Lessons learned:
  • I need to arrange things to get there early enough to hear the pre-ritual briefing. We were lost because we were late. We got no chairs because we were late. We had to park halfway down the street, and I didn't really get enough chance to ground myself prior to ritual. We were late because I didn't account for traffic on the way home from work, changing clothes at home, and rushing to Home Depot to pick up hand warmers. So going forward, I need to budget in an hour to get home from work, and everything needs to be ready to go. No stops for supplies and cash.
  • Flashlights are good. If I pick us up a couple small clip-on book lights, those can easily clip to a piece of clothing and allow us enough light to see the ritual program without being distracting to others. I gave up following along after about 5 minutes because I couldn't see to read.
  • If I want to talk to Grove leadership about joining up, it's going to have to be during a Sunday Rites of Caffeina, because it was an utter crush last night. I guess I should have expected that, as Yule is a popular holiday. And I want to get to the Rites whenever I'm not working, so that's not a hardship either. I was just sorry I didn't get more of a chance to socialize and ask questions.
This is not a verbatim piece of the ritual write-up I will submit with my DP documentation, as I haven't gone into detail on the COoR or anything like that. And I'll probably edit out some of the personal comments for length. I did really enjoy myself, and I'm glad I dragged myself out in the cold for it, because I didn't have anything planned to do alone at home and that would have pushed my year of rituals for the DP back again. However... going forward, I need to put more effort into planning praise rituals and participating in ritual. I know what's expected now, so there's no more excuses except laziness.

Blessed Yule! Hail the Gods!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Week 2: The First Oath

Ever so slightly behind in my quest to keep up with the weekly work assigned in the DPttWOY booklet, but that's ok.

The First Oath is something that I wrote out, but never actually performed in all my attempts at working through the DP. Maybe there's a message there. I don't know. At any rate, below is the text of the oath I'll be reciting. I'll utilize the simple ritual included in the DPttWOY booklet for taking the first oath, and journal on that once it's done, which should be Friday or Sunday this week.

Some of this is taken from the oath text in the booklet, some is taken from the "The First Oath" article written by Ian Corrigan available on the ADF website, and some is my own words.

My oath text:

I, Dragonfaerie, Wiccan, ADF Dedicant, and Priestess of Brigid, do declare before the world and the Otherworld that I will be a keeper of the Old Ways. I will seek to understand my own spirit, the ways of the world and the ways of the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits. 

With this holy oath, I set my foot upon the path of learning Druidry, and I swear these things:

That I will seek virtue in my life and deeds. That I will seek to live well and to do right in wisdom, honor, integrity, and diligence. That I will strive always to keep piety, to observe proper rites and works and seek to perfect my personal practice.

That I will do right by my chosen kin, my friends and community. That I will make my Paganism a part of each day, and to seek to blend all parts of my journey into one balanced, fulfilling path.

That I will work to learn all I can about the Old Ways, by studying the remnants of the past and seeking the opinions of learned people, so that my work may be strengthened. That I will listen to my intuition, to the words of the Gods, and not be afraid of the path simply because it is overgrown or untrodden at times.

Before the Gods and Spirits, and before these witnesses, these things I swear. Biodh se!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Week 1 of "The Dedicant Program through the Wheel of the Year"

A Quick Introduction...

So, this is about my 5th or 6th time attempting to get through the Dedicant Path work since I joined ADF. In the past, I've run into many snags that dropped me off the wagon: mislaying my journal and other materials, illness, work issues, and procrastination.

I'm hoping this time it sticks. I've changed my outlook on the DP, and my approaches towards completing it. I want to utilize Michael Dangler's excellent "The ADF Dedicant Program through the Wheel of the Year" booklet because it directs the student to carve out regular time to complete spiritual work -- something I've been sorely lacking over the past several years.

And I'm already a little behind in terms of the schedule I've worked out for myself, but only by about a week. I didn't make it to Cedarlight Grove for the Samhain ritual (and didn't have a viable back-up plan in place to do a ritual at home), so now I'm a ritual longer in completing the work, but that's ok.

This blog, linked to the Gmail account that I utilize for ADF email lists, will house my DP work over the next 12 months. I hemmed and hawed about putting it online, but you can't misplace a blog. Plus, this is all stored on the cloud, so it's unlikely to get zapped (though I will be saving off copies on my external hard drive at home, just in case).

After completing the DP, I hope to go on to other training programs, and plan to house that work here, too. For now, this place will be solely about my Dedicant work. The name, Spiraling Flame, honors both the spiraling journey we take through life and my patroness, Brigid.

Without further ado, my journal reflection on Week #1 of the DPttWOY (this is the acronym I'll use to save time in the future):

Week #1 Homework

Why have you chosen to take the first steps on the Dedicant Path?
I want to learn the path of ADF Druidry, and I want to take other training courses offered by ADF. The DP is the gateway to that. Druidry can enhance my path of Witchcraft and will bring me a step closer to building a path of Celtic Witchcraft that is inspired and embraces the old ways and practices rather than just being "Wicca with Shamrocks".

Is this a step on your path, or will this become the Path itself?
Both, I think. Learning Druidry is a step on the path I believe I'm on, but it's also a viable practice in and of itself. I like the emphasis on honoring the Gods and forging strong relationships with them, which I find is lacking from a lot of contemporary approaches to Witchcraft which envision the Gods as archetypes rather than as some sort of distinct beings.

What do you expect to learn?
I never "expect" anything, but I would like to learn about the Irish Gods, how the Ancestors honored them, and how I might add those ideas to my practice. I expect to find some way to put together regular devotional practice. I expect to come away with a deeper understanding of myself, how I view my spiritual journey, and how Druidry can inform that.

What would you like to get out of this journey?
Fun. Wonder. I'd like to learn some new things, feel more confident in my relationships with the Gods. Learn  how to put into practice things I've reading about and only wishing I could do. I'm hoping to become grounded again, after feeling lost and drifting for a few years. I still love Wicca, and I still consider myself Wiccan, but I've come to realize that I need more, spiritually, than I was getting out of my practices of Wicca. I needed to add something new to the mix.

Do you know where this path will take you?
No clue. I've learned that it isn't wise to chart the trip too tightly, or you miss a lot of scenery and serendipedous missteps along the way. I know, roughly, what direction I'd like to be heading in, but I intend to stay loose and go with the flow, and see where the roads and rivers take me through this forest.

If you have been in ADF for a long time, why are you starting only now?
I've actually started the DP several times over my time in ADF, only to flame out a few months into the process. Although the "Wheel of the Year" booklet isn't a mandated way to take the course, I like that it breaks things down into small chunks per week. I need to develop a more regular spiritual practice, instead of working in fits and starts as the mood takes me, so having regular work every week is a way to meet that goal.

On the other hand, it is a bit like falling off the wagon when I end up getting distracted from the work for weeks on end. I have a bad habit of putting my spiritual needs last, and then being bitter about that. I'm hoping this time, it sticks. I've changed approaches and attitudes, I'm starting to attend functions at my local Grove... I want to go through this work now for the sake of doing the work and recentering myself, and not necessarily because I want to do other training programs. Yeah, I do want to do other training programs, but I've come to realize that the DP isn't the entrance exam to those things. It's country I need to travel through before setting off on any other journeys.

Does it look hard or easy?
It looks challenging. But that's good. If it was easy, everyone would do it, and pagan paths are never easy. Sometimes there's smooth sailing, but these aren't paths for people who want everything spoon-fed to them and wrapped up in gilt boxes. But it doesn't look overly hard or demanding, either.

Which requirements appear to be difficult to you now, and which appear to be easy?
The easiest things are often the hardest... attending the 8 high day rituals looks easy, until you hit a roadblock. Like you plan to attend Grove ritual, but something comes up, and you didn't plan for ritual at home. So you let it slide. This is how it goes with me, and it's one challenge I'm approaching with different strategies this time around.

The reports and such look difficult, but only because I tend to overachieve. Reading a few books or doing a little research isn't hard, but I'll need to resist my temptation to write a dissertation on everything. The DP reviewers don't want 100+ pages of material to review.

Meditation and visiting my nature spot may or may not be difficult. It depends on how successful I am at carving out regular time to work on my spiritual things, as opposed to just laying on the couch and watching TV or thumbing through a book. I get tired at night and my motivation isn't always there.

Do you have doubts, questions, or concerns that you need to ask about?
I do have serious doubts that this time, things will "stick". But I need to press on through all that. I'm definitely hoping to get a mentor once I formally join the Grove this weekend. I need someone to be available to give me a kick in the butt when I'm getting too bogged down in other things. I think the requirements are straightforward, and as long as I remember to be concise and not write term papers, and to not neglect my spiritual work in favor of too much couch-potato time, I'll be fine.
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The Spiraling Flame blog by Karen Mitchell Carothers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.