A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures. (600 words min.)
I joined ADF in 2001, after several years of searching through Druid traditions. Since then, much of my spiritual practice has been dominated by Grove-centered spirituality: I began with The 6th Night Grove, ADF, and then founded my own Grove, Three Cranes Grove, ADF. I have come to accept that participation in Grove-centered spirituality is very much about "keeping the lights on" while "turning on the folk" at the same time.¹
When my journey started within ADF, I wasn't quite sure where it would go: I had an idea that I wanted to be clergy, but I wasn't really sure what that meant. I also knew in my heart that the Gaulish gods were the ones I would devote myself to. I began work on the DP in early 2001, shortly after joining ADF, and immediately began the work of looking for a patron. I found the first one on accident in Eris, and then I began seriously seeking the Gaulish god I knew was out there, waiting for me.
During this time, I formed short but relatively good working relationships with several deities: Cernunnos, Oðin, Thor, the Daghda, and Lugh (just to name a few). But it was when I stumbled onto a relief of Esus in a book that I really felt called to patronage.
There was something about this gardener, this gentle but firm hand that I felt upon my shoulder that really spoke to me. The idea of a driven life had never really occurred to me, and there was a sudden knowledge of where I was going, what I should be doing, and that each step I took was taken with his guidance. This led me down a path of deep study into his character, and a full fleshing-out of the Gaulish pantheon in my personal work. He has been cultivating me much as a gardener tends his garden.
It was coming under the wing of this parton, Esus, that brought me to the path I now walk as Grove Priest for Three Cranes. You can see his influence in our earliest thought-patterns (initial names for the Grove that we tossed around were "Woodcutter's Grove" and "Willow Crane Grove," and our settling on "Three Cranes" shows just what we were thinking). To this day, when I see Teutates (the patron of our Grove: we see the name as a title or mask for the patron as each individual sees him/her), it is Esus I see in my mind's eye. Our Grove's focus on "tending the garden" and our collective understanding of this venture as a garden to be tended and watched over also speak volumes about how this patron has influenced our path as a Grove.
In more recent years, I have deepened my connection to these Gaulish gods (some might say to the exclusion of my first patron, Eris, though I think not) through a variety of means. Perhaps the most interesting method I've used is an ever-deepening study of Vedic lore, and the courtship of one particular goddess, Usas. While Usas and I do not have a patron/client relationhsip, the relationship we do have is a very special one of love and joy. It was when exploring my love for this goddess that I truly embarked on a deep journey that informed my work with my primary pantheon of gods and goddesses. My prayers have increased in quality, my joy has deepened through those prayers, and my heart is more open to the love of others than it ever has been before.
I'm nowhere near perfect in my devotions, and my altar sometimes gathers more dust than I would like, but there are deep connections that I have made among the Kindreds. I'm not as attentive as I would like to be, but I do find that my connections have manifested themsevles in ways that those around me can see. The humility I feel at never being as pious as I would like is ever tempered by the love and understanding I experience in my relationships with the Kindreds.
Related, but not part of the essay: Since I finished the DP in 2003,² I've finished much of the work it takes to become an ADF Priest. My consecration took place in 2006, on the same spot as my Dedicant Oath and Patronage Rite. I hope that my ordination will take place there, as well, three years from my consecration.
¹ - Jimmy Buffett once sang:
He said, "Son you got to be commercial
If you want to turn the people on."
And I said, "turnin' on the people,
Now that's a beautiful place to be
But if I spend my time makin' them up a rhyme
Well, who's gonna turn on me?"
This is often how I feel regarding my own work and practice: it can't just turn me on, and it can't just turn them on: we have to be in agreement and we should all be gettin' turned on.
² - I finished my DP in 2003 under now-outdated requirements, and have since found that a lot of my work is being held up by other Dedicants as a "good example." My old work isn't really a good example, and actually doesn't really match or fulfill the current requirements, mostly because my work was barely "passing" back then, and so just isn't passing any longer. This is one catalyst in my drive to re-do a lot of it. Another catalyst is that I have always believed that there is value to going back and re-doing basic work: I have found this to be very true while re-working the DP.
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