Dedicant's Oath Report:
"I have to say, that was the most unique Dedicant's Oath I've ever heard."
Those are the comments I received on my Dedicant's Oath immediately after and within a day of the ritual. From the Dedicant's Oaths I've seen other people give, I know that the comments are usually words of congratulation, not relief. Then again, in this particular instance, it was better that those 100 or so persons at the ritual were relieved.
I suppose I should back up some, shouldn't I?
The process of creating (and finally performing) my Dedicant's Oath was somewhat interesting. The requirement listed in the Dedicant's Program is as follows: "#8. The text of the Dedicant's Oath Rite and a brief evaluation of the rite." Simply presenting the text of my Oath not only fails to show the full spectrum of how it affected me, but it is also impossible. Allow me to tell the story:
I had been planning on giving my Dedicant's Oath at the Summerland Gathering, a festival hosted by 6th Night Grove, ADF. Two years previous, I saw Inish give her Oath at the main ritual at that festival, and I knew that the Oath needed (or at least should be) preformed in front of the person's community. Summerland was a festival that would allow not only 6th Night Grove's members (half of my community), but also the Pagan Student Association (PSA) at Ohio State (the other half of my community) to attend the rite.
I spoke with Amergin of 6th Night, and I think he initially tried to talk me out of it. After all, there are about 100 people at each Summerland, and that particular ritual usually runs a bit long anyway. Did I really want to give a personal oath in front of that many people? Well, if I wanted everyone possible to attend, then I needed to do it either at Beltainne, Summerland, or Samhain. I knew I wasn't ready to give the Oath at Beltainne, and I wanted to submit by Samhain. Summerland was the only option for me.
Amergin said that, if I really wanted to do it that weekend, he would accommodate me in the main ritual, and so we decided to go for it.
I have two Patrons who I needed to include when I gave my Oath. My main Patron, Esus, I did not think would pose any problems with the ritual. He is a wood cutter God, and a generally good person. The second Patron, Eris, is the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Discord. I was not entirely sure how to handle this particular Goddess in an ADF ceremony (see my essay on Eris and ADF ritual for further information). On top of that, 6th Night usually does a unity ritual as the main ritual for Summerland, and this year was going to be no different.
How does one have their Patrons witness an Oath at a ritual where one of them is not a welcome force?
This central question bothered me for a very long time. I had to be fair to both Esus and Eris, and both had to be present at this ritual.
I also planned to do my Patron Oath the night before. You can find that elsewhere in my Dedicant’s material.
What I did to resolve the conflict that may have occurred had I invited Eris into the Unity Rite at Summerland was make it very clear to Her what my intentions were at my Patron Oath. I took the opportunity of speaking with Her on a very personal level to let Her know exactly what I was doing and why. Given the success of the ritual, I think She understood.
Despite this apparent understanding, I think that Eris wanted to test my seriousness. I had a script in hand prior to the weekend, and I had spent some time trying to memorize it. When I went to look for that script on Friday night, I found that it had vanished, though I distinctly remember packing it. The original script is also included with my materials.
I also managed to mess up my part (as a Grove Organizer) in the Unity ritual. It was all of 10 lines (if that), and I had the paper right in front of me, but I still managed to make what I consider a major error, even if almost no one noticed.
When people walked into the circle for the Unity Rite, they saw a sight that has probably never been seen at an ADF Rite before or since: there was a mini-altar next to the main altar that had, sitting high and in full view, an uncooked hotdog in a bun. I heard later that the hotdog raised more questions at the ritual than anything else I did, at least until I was heard to invoke Eris.
I also learned that hotdogs should not sit out for half a ritual, because they attract flies. Next time, I’ll be putting a cloth over it to keep the flies away.
The Rite started and went off (mostly, except for my own part) without a hitch. Finally, after all the praise offerings were given, Amergin turned to me and asked me if I was ready. I smiled and got up.
Below you will find (as close as I can remember it) the actual text of my Dedicant’s Oath. I didn’t say this exactly, but it was pretty close. You’ll find commentary on it at the end.
I call out to the Nature Spirits to hear my Oath! Accept my offering!
I was impressed with the amount of power I was able to put into those words above. They felt forceful, but not forced. It was like I had been practicing those words for years, even though they are almost nothing like what I had planned to say. I spoke directly from the heart that day, as I had not done in years.
Those attending the ritual, unless they were part of 6th Night or knew me well, had no idea who my Patrons were. Most of them had not heard of Esus, and I was asked several times after the ritual to name my Patrons again. Some had not heard of Eris either, but that number was far fewer, as could be guessed by the reaction to my invocation of Her.
When I shouted, “O Lady Eris, Goddess of Chaos and Destruction,” the circle suddenly grew tense. There was actually fear in some eyes around the circle, but I knew what I was doing (or so I told myself). I was counting on Her understanding of my need and the needs of the Ritual to help Her behave (that’s the only word I can use to describe it). The subtle difference between my invocation of Eris and my invocation of Esus was that I had asked Esus to come “into the circle,” while I had asked Eris to “hear my Oath.” I had invited Her, but I had not asked Her to come in, and She knew why.
The hotdog was offered at the Outdwellers shrine, and I know that She doesn’t mind being included with Them, even though I sometimes paint an unflattering picture of the Outdwellers as a whole. The other offerings to Eris were made inside the circle, along with the other offerings I made to Esus and the Kindred.
I did run into a problem with the axe I used to sacrifice as well. My original plan was to bun the axe handle out in the fire, but I decided against this for two reasons: first, it would take far too long; second, if there were impurities in the head or any irregularities, it might explode. My friend Brian (who amazingly went along with this) helped me get the handle off the axe so I could drop the axe head in the Well and burn the wooden handle in the fire. Just this one task took us almost 6 hours the week before.
6th Night then gifted me with a torc as a symbol of my passage, and I wear it now any time I’m in ritual. The rite ended without incident after that, and the statements you see at the beginning of this synopsis embody all of the sentiments I received.
Amusingly, I don’t think that most people are relieved to get out of a “routine” Dedicant’s Oath with their lives, but from what I could tell from some of the participants, this one is one they’ll remember for a long time.
In all, my offerings were accepted, as was my Oath. Amergin put it best after the rite, though: “Well Mike, you’ve done the easy part. Now you have to live up to your Oath.”
I hope I can.
Were you there? Remember something different? Email me with comments!