there is this moment
when one of the protagonists proclaims
"Something is wrong here"
Something is odd
Sort of not the way it seems to be
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
and "State is me"
I joined ADF two years ago because out of all the Pagan traditions I encountered it seemed to offer a framework closest to my heart and an intriguing study system. ADF theology resonated with my own and the Indoeuropean focus guaranteed enough room to for me fit in. At that time I had vague ideas about most key areas of Pagan religious practice: I didn't have a particularly deep relationship with any deity. I actually had very little experience with meaningful Pagan ritual. I didn't have a proper home shrine. I felt uneasy about prayer and devotional work. I haven't done any meditative divination for some time.
This was about to change. One of the first things I did on my Dedicant Path was setting up a home shrine, back in the flat where lived (we have moved two times since). I started studying ADF liturgy and acquired a new divination set and work with it regularly, taking note of my insights. I visited all Pagan rituals I cold get invitation to, as required, and read a lot; Ceisiwr Serith's Pagan Book of Prayer, books by Isaac Bonewits, I even went to Germany to attend a seminar he was giving to Western European Pagan clergy with his wife.
Perhaps the greatest mistake (or was it one) I did was that I put most of my hopes into the Protogrove I have been organizing, and failed. Even though a healthy community of believers is incredibly supporting to one's own spirituality, it's not the spirituality and sometimes there is no such community. In my case this was a painful thing to realize. Although I am still engaged in local Pagan community at leadership positions, as a board member of Davny obycej1, I have turned my focus completely to personal spiritual work. I pray to my Patrons and other deities, explore the Hellenic pantheon and perform regular meditatory divination.
Regarding Hearth Cultures, I have to say I had huge problem with this concept from the beginning. It seemed flawed to me on the whole and rather discriminatory. Interesting development followed. I observed that some rituals, even though excellently performed,2 brought me little spiritual satisfaction and, most remarkably, I could not hear or see those deities, often at all, contrary to other attendants. As if those Gods were completely foreign for me and were about to stay that way. This was two Celtic ADF rituals. On one ritual I became observably unquiet and felt what is happening is “wrong” (a dark Norse mystery cult ritual). So I came to conclusion that there must be something like spiritual family or ancestry, a particular path one is called to. I have repeatedly received subtle messages, and one time a regular prophecy, from beings of Hellenic origin. I knew I had two patrons, Athene and Hekate, for some time already, but I still uncomfortable with Heart Cultures. Finishing my DP took me almost a year longer than I had planned, because I waited for this important issue to settle down. Then one day this summer, I was just getting out of the bus when I realize I know it now that I have a Hellenic Hearth.
I have been successfully working with Deities such as Hera or Aphrodite, and several minor ones like Hygeia or Nyx. I know Hermes has been always in favour of me, especially since I became a retailer, but he is not my patron. Other interesting outcome is that I have moved far more to the inspirationist side of the reconstruction vs. inspiration argument. I came to the conclusion I have Hellenic Hearth by pure personal gnosis and prophecy, without any ideological input, and I am quite sure now that direct personal communion with the Powers is the only solid foundation one can have. (Or at least an intellectual like me.) I have found much inspiration in writings of Raven Kaldera, a Pagan priest and leader of a small Norse community whose take on Paganism is inspirationist, apolitical and devotional. He derives his practice from shamanism and voudon and, interestingly enough, I have been drawn to voudon too. I will undergo an initiation from the hands of my good friend, a Norse-Voudon priestess, and continue towards this direction with a group of Kaldera's readers that has been forming here. My other spiritual endeavours include “Gothic” Paganism and vampiric lore, a Wiccan training I will probably resume once it is time, and hoodoo, American folk witchcraft.
In ADF I wish to pursue Initiate status and serve as Dedicant Program reviewer.
1Czech Pan-Pagan umbrella organization, founded in late 2008. Registered as citizen's association.
2Some rituals felt obviously dull, because I had no background in those ritual forms and traditions (Wiccan, Satanic).
I have performed my dedication at my home shrine, August 9th at dusk. I spent the days preceding the ritual in preparations, furnishing the altar, preparing a rich sacrifice and cleaning ritual dishes. I also meditated on the contents of the liturgy and did research on the powers I wanted to call upon. I felt uplifted and spiritual, and my room was already hallowed and full of serene peace when I begun the ritual. Only my flatmate, a good friend of mine, attended as silent guest.
I begun by calling on Horae, the spirits who govern each period of the day, and asked Hora Spondae (Hour of libation) co come. Even before, I circled the room clockwise carrying a bowl with purifying incense, even though this showed unnecessary. Shortly before initiating the rite I also decided to include an appeal for inspiration to Apollo in the opening prayers and give him a bowl of laurel, which was accepted graciously. (This was only the second time I have called unto Apollo, so I was hesitant.) I gave Mother Earth an offering of stone shaped candle and aid in on the floor. Then, stating the purpose of my ritual (“to give a sacred oath”) I continued to blessing the three realms – Underworld (Hades), Middleworld and the Heavens (Olympos). I lit the sacred fire, an oil lamp, and touched the bowl of holy water. A sacrifice of incense was made to Ianus Patulcius, the Opener of Door along with Ianus Bifons, the mysterious Two-faced God of new beginnings. I could not feel the opening of the gate as I was used to; it seemed to be half-way opened already. I had a rich sacrifice for the Kindred – a bowl of herbal incense for Nature Spirits, a scented candle sprinkled with herbs for Ancestors and a bowl of exquisite incense for the Gods.
Somewhere during the offering section, I paused, confused and had to regain my mind, because the amount of the mana from sacrifice begun to overwhelm me and also the air in the room got unbreathable, filled with smoke as thick mist. I felt incapacitated to feel the full presence of the High Gods when I got to this point of ritual. Luckily, my friend started opening all the windows and door. I panicked slightly, because I was unsure about my skill to transform so much mana properly into the blessing cup. I performed a piacular offering before stating the prayer of sacrifice and asked for an omen to be given to me. A spiral of smoke rose violently from the offering bowl and I pronounced the sacrifice to be accepted. I was choking slightly, but proceeded to the final sacrifice – giving my oath. I took the first paper into my hand, on which was written the oath I gave at age thirteen:
Let my mind be open to your truth.
Let my mouth be silent among the unbelievers.
Let my heart seek you always.
Let my hands lift in praise of you.
Let my feet always walk your secret paths.
“Nine years ago, I gave this oath to the Old Gods, I have used it as a roadmap. Now I call unto Mnemosyne (Memory) and dispose it in the waters of (Lethe). Let it be a thing of the past and may it count as my good deed at the Underworld court.” I put the paper into the Well. “I give this new oath to Diké (Justice)”, I said, lightning a blue candle, “because you will be the last to depart when the Earth becomes inhabitable. Until Justice rules this Earth, I shall be bound to this Oath.” Then I read my oath and lit a violet candle in sacrifice to Horkos (Oath).
“I seek the threefold path of Virtue, Piety and Study. To behave right unto myself, other people and the Powers. May my time on this path be long and prosperous. This I swear.” (approximate translation)
I chose this key concept of Our Druidry, because I wanted to give an oath so basic I could live by it for the rest of my life, independent on spiritual tradition and specific Gods which may change. This core teaching about our duty to the Powers, society and ourselves holds true for me. I pronounced the pendant that was lying next to the Oath candle to become a sign of my dedication and proceeded to call for the blessing, hallow the cup of wine and share it with my friend. Because of the dramatic course of the ritual I decided to skip the prayers to patrons and do them as a devotional tomorrow. After sharing the feast I unwinded the ritual quickly by closing the gates, forgot to thank the beings and rang the chime three times to tell Horai the time of sacrifice was over.
Then I looked on the room behind me and it was absolutely full of mist, even though all the windows were already open, my eyes hurt (they still do) and I felt like fainting. I quickly assembled my luggage and went outside the house to take a walk, while my friend would bring the burning offering bowl to the balcony. It took me another couple of hours to regain my sense of self, and writing this the morning after, I can still feel something profound has happened inside of me which I am not fully able to seize at this moment. From the liturgical aspect, I really felt that 1. it was incredibly hard to concentrate on performing such a complex liturgy on my own, unaided, while falling into deep trance and 2. I would rather prefer simpler devotional framework or different type of ritual for my future personal mystical / magical practice. From the safety side of things, I was really happy I didn't do this alone, because I would be unable to spot the amount of smoke and probably faint. But in overall I would judge my performance of the rite as good and I feel accomplished about what I have done.