[Dedicant Path Requirement] Three Kindreds Essay

The three groups we revere in ADF are the nature spirits, the ancestors, and the gods – collectively known as the Kindreds. In this essay, I will explore who each of the Kindreds is, why and how we should honor them, how we relate to one another, and what my personal experience of them is.
The nature spirits are those beings who have power over and/or are tied to our world – including such beings as spirits of place, elemental beings, and guardian spirits. We honor them because they move and embody the pieces and places of our planet. They compose our world. We honor them for their gifts. There are many ways to honor the nature spirits – the best way to start being to actually pay attention, to acknowledge their presence and how necessary they are to us. I’ve always been a bit conflicted about the idea of offering out the nature spirits; anything we give them was theirs to begin with. For me, the best way to honor them is to live lightly and respectfully, taking no more than we need and doing so with many thanks. Teaching others the wild ways and seeking out the nature spirits for communion and companionship are a way to honor. Cleaning up litter is a way we can honor them. When I give physical offerings, they tend to be libations. The reason I prefer libations is that we have taken something given by the nature spirits, transformed it in some small way with our time and effort, and offered it back as their due. It’s less ‘I made this for you from my stuff’ and more ‘Here is what I have done with what you have given me; now we can share it together.’ In legend and myth, nature spirits are often set apart – interacting only in need or anger, and not often affectionately towards humans. However, I would say that we are almost obligated to recognize and honor them, to seek out a relationship with them, even if they do not reciprocate. Without them, we would not be. They are the source and foundation of our experience.
My experience of the nature spirits is the basis of my understanding of the sacred. Before I was willing to call myself pagan I said I was a panentheist – that I believed the divine was immanent through all things. Nature spirits are the wild sacred, raw experience, the essence of things and places.
Our ancestors, or the ancestors in general, are those individuals who make up our physical, tribal, or spiritual lineage. While ancestors are no longer materially present in our lives, their influence is still felt through the lessons they have taught us, the debt of gratitude we owe them, and their spiritual support and protection of us as their descendants. We should honor the ancestors because we exist through their work, their struggles, their survival. We benefit from the fruit they bore and many of the lessons they leave us. It is only right that we remember them, celebrate them, tell their stories and thank them for their gifts. The way that we honor ancestors are many – keeping traditions, remembering them, using what they have passed on to us. There are many ways that we relate to ancestors and they to us – ‘ancestors’ may be siblings, grandparents, parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, guardians, lovers. Even among non-pagans, it is not unusual to have dead loved ones offer guidance via apparitions or dreams. Ancestors may watch from afar or they may be vibrantly (albeit nonphysically) present in our everyday lives, giving guidance and protection. At the very least, ‘the way we do things’ comes from them and affects us every day. I experience the ancestors most vividly and viscerally of all the Kindreds. From a very young age, I was aware of guardians nearby that I referred to as my ‘big brothers,’ whom I recognized as I grew older. As a child, I refused to attend funerals because I could feel the spirit near the body and was frightened of the alive-deadness. When my great grandmother (who I was very close to) died, she remained near; I was given some of her jewelry (which I now use as a talisman) and consult her on family matters regularly. I am my family’s historian, genealogist, storyteller.
The gods are those beings who have natural and supernatural power such that they are capable of being aware of, intervening in, and altering the natural world, human lives, and the course of past and future through manipulation of energy and elements in ways unknown to or incomprehensible to us. Often, we relate to the gods is as powerful, knowledgeable beings with capabilities most human beings do not possess, but they are also known to us as our ‘elder kin.’ In terms of mythology, we see that gods relate to humans as teachers, benefactors or patrons, foster-parents and foster-siblings, friends, enemies, lovers, guardians, parents, creators, destroyers, muses, and companions. The gods should be honored because they are part of the equation of ‘right relationship’ and balance within our world. In a very real sense, honoring the deities is a survival strategy – the relationship of reciprocal goodwill both keeps us safe and can be a source of aid when we need it most. In another sense, honoring the gods helps maintain the balance of the world at large – spreading around mana to where it is most beneficial and valuable, depending on the deity’s spheres of influence. Honoring the gods can also bring the personal benefit one obtains in any valued relationship – guidance, love, support, happiness.
The ways we can honor the gods are many, but generally focus on energetic exchange – dedicating our time, skills, energies, or resources as gifts or payment. We might offer acts of service (volunteering, working to protect/preserve/advance something sacred to your deity), things we’ve made (tangible, like jewelry, or intangible, like music or poetry), energy, money, or hospitality. Wrapping my mind around the idea of the gods has always been something that I had trouble with, never mind approaching them. However, dreams of Freyja led me to ADF, and consistent spiritual practice brought me to Brighid. My experience of the gods is very much a teacher/student sort of situation; I wouldn’t say that I’ve been claimed, but I have certainly been led.
I think the key thing in understanding the Kindreds is the old ecological truism, ‘everything is connected to everything else.’ Our connection with the Kindreds is one of right relationship.


[Dedicant Path Requirement] Ostara 2014

I’ve always kind of had trouble understanding Ostara as a holiday; it’s never really clicked in my head. If Imbolc is the seed, the new beginning, then Ostara’s egg and connotations of birth seem redundant, I guess. On the equinox I was in Florida for work, so I got up and greeted the sunrise with a few words, but didn’t do much else on the day. Over the past three months I’ve had a pretty intense devotional practice honoring Brighid and more recently Freyja, so I decided to celebrate the equinox by creating planter shrines to honor them both. I had two pots, which I had painted purple (which I chose for Freyja) and blue (which I chose for Brighid); I washed them, filled them with soil and fertilizer, and blessed them with ashes from incense I had lit in honor of each, and dedicated them to the appropriate goddess. For Freyja, I planted Icelandic poppies; for Brighid, I planted Queen Sophia marigolds and Empress of India nasturtiums. I sprinkled them with basil, said a charm to protect them from harm and ensure their fertility, and then watered them and said a final prayer of blessing to close the ritual space.
While I love the Core Order of Ritual for the structure and reliability it brings, sometimes a simple, intuitive ritual reminds me of a very important fact: we can’t force magic or mana. I went into this ritual tired, just home from work, not at all in the mood for a full ritual. So I’d isn’t even try for formalities – I just reached for center, lit my candles, and dug my hands into the dirt, whispering words as they came. So much of this religion is cottage magic and folk-ways, recognizing the everyday sacred. That is one of the things I most treasure about it, and sometimes the best place to be reminded is amidst ritual. If the equinox is about birth and renewal, moving into light, then my celebration of it did its job, I think.