My family is pretty evenly split in descent between Scottish (my mother’s side) and German (my father’s side). And so, like many in ADF, I feel drawn to both the Celtic and the Norse hearths – called to by both sets of gods. This has been a source of frustration for me: to whom should I give my allegiance? How do I split my time, my celebrations, my customs? Because of this split, the mechanics of my spiritual practice vary greatly.
It seems natural to begin with the part of my spiritual practice that centers on honoring the Kindreds. I do not claim a formal matron or patron. This is, in part, because I feel torn between the two pantheons. I am fascinated and beguiled by many of the Norse gods, but have no active devotional relationship with any of them. In the beginning of my path as a serious pagan, I heard what I thought was a call from Freyja and began making offerings and doing divination to try and communicate with Her. This was my first honest attempt at a devotional practice centered on a deity. I offered to Her for several months and saw no result or response, so I did a more formal ritual using divination to ask what I might do to please Her, and was summarily dismissed with what was essentially “try again when you’re older and more experienced.” This was not at all what I expected. I was pretty discouraged and a little shaken that I had gotten such an abrupt, alive response from a thing I wasn’t sure I believed in. Shortly before the following Yule, there were a series of vicious snowstorms that cut power to most of my city. Our power went out, and sort of on a whim I made an offering to Brighid and asked for safety and warmth for myself and my loved ones. Our power came on and stayed on, so I thought it was only right to make an offering of thanksgiving, and then I just sort of kept on making offerings to Her. I felt a pull, a magnetism, a desire to offer to Her – I liked it; it seemed good and right. I continue to offer to her on a semi-daily basis. This devotional relationship effected a massive change in both my spiritual practice and my theological perceptions. Having a reciprocal relationship of this sort has made me much more aware of ghosti (or the lack thereof) when I approach other beings and really brought the difference between having a relationship with the Kindreds and not having one front and center. Since then, semi-regular offerings to the Kindreds at large (sometimes more formal ones to all three Kindreds, performed at my altar; sometimes as simple as libations whenever the opportunity presents itself). I am working on establishing more regular spiritual and devotional practices aimed at nature spirits and ancestors, but this is still a work in progress. I’m currently trying to build a relationship with the White River, which I live by, but that is slow going so far. One thing that I’m learning in terms of the difference between nature spirits and deities is that nature spirits (in my experience) tend to be much more transactional and literal; they’re very focused on the exchange of gifts. I get much better response from the White River when I come bearing substantial gifts than if I go sit with it empty handed or with only a libation.
Besides building reciprocal relationships with the Kindreds, other elements of my spiritual practice include celebrating the High Days (both solo, in ADF-style, and with my community in a much more freeform fashion), regular fasting, and other meditative practices.
Although my community is not ADF-focused, we usually celebrate Samhain and Yule together (other holidays are spottier but sometimes happen). Since beginning the DP, I’ve become much more proactive in organizing community activities. Other area ADF-members and I are planning about an ADF-style Samhain in 2014, and I am organizing a blood drive for my local Pagan Pride Day.
Fasting became a part of my spiritual practice at Imbolc; I fasted for four days prior to celebrating the rite, and was amazed by the clarifying, focusing effect it produced. Since then, I have begun regularly fasting on the day of the new moon so that I have a dedicated time of spiritual reflection and seeking. This custom is well-attested in both Norse and Celtic cultures – fasting and withdrawal have often been a means for seeking guidance and inspiration.
In addition to fasting, I do a sitting meditation at least once (often more) per week, and have recently begun writing adorations to Brighid. This practice was one I came across on a pagan blog – a form of prayer that uses the titles, names, qualities, and achievements of a deity as a focus for our devotion and concentration, very much akin to a rosary. I keep a running list of adorations and often recite them as part of my offering to Brighid.
The Dedicant Path has been transformative for me in terms of helping me create a vibrant, active spiritual practice. Having been raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, I had very little context for creating a spiritual practice from scratch. The requirements of the program have really pushed me to find material ways of expressing my values and beliefs, as well as made me question my theological assumptions.