Embarkation: Renewing My Dedication to the Dedicant Path

To those who noticed that Hemlock & Hawthorn briefly went private (and I know there were some because I received quite a few requests to grant individuals access!), it was due to some personal concerns about my and my son’s safety, and the desire to go a bit more anonymous until some turmoil in our lives simmered down. Things are peachy now and while I don’t necessarily still hold all of the opinions and beliefs discussed in past posts, I enjoy maintaining this blog as a time capsule of my spiritual journey. Gods willing, I will continue to have such a record and I will never again have to fear it being used against me!

The nights are growing so long and the old year is nearly through, so it is the perfect time to let die what no longer serves us and plan new paths and challenges, and swear oaths to pursue them. I will be embarking on several new journeys in the coming year, but the one I will likely be discussing here at Hemlock & Hawthorn the most will be my progress through the work of the Dedicant Path within Ár nDraíocht Féin

The following are some questions provided by Reverend Michael J. Dangler of Three Cranes Grove in his companion to the Dedicant’s Guide, The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year, to be considered upon embarkation.

Why have you chosen to take the first steps on the Dedicant Path? If you have been in ADF for a long time, why are you starting only now?

I knew I wanted to join ADF as a teenager, and when I turned 18, I was thrilled to finally be able to do so, and to begin more formal Pagan studies after essentially engaging them informally over my entire childhood. Unfortunately, while I did not have a stable childhood, my life after childhood has been even less consistent — or is that just the nature of life? It’s certainly the nature of my life. I haven’t been able to focus on spiritual matters much in the almost eight years that have followed my achieving adulthood, and haven’t had enough normalcy in my life to ever complete my Dedicant training. I’ve written quite a few of the required essays, but I haven’t been able to develop a regular meditative practice since high school (when I somehow used to exercise and meditate for a total of two to four hours a day) — given that consistency is an important component of the Dedicant Path, I have never completed the journey.

It’s tempting to ask myself, “What could possibly make this year different? What hope do I really have of completing it in the coming year when I haven’t been able to before?” But I really do feel that things have changed. It isn’t just that my circumstances are more stable — I am different. I am more unabashedly me than I have been in my entire life. I have always sought to hide facets of myself from others, fearing abandonment by even those who loved me if they were allowed to see everything — however, I have finally realized this year that I am enough, that people will weave in and out of our tales as we pursue living our personal legends and that I need not fear their loss. I’ve hidden my beliefs, my practices, how important my spirituality is to me, my geekiness, my affinity for aesthetics, my love of traditionally feminine roles (it surprises some people, but doesn’t surprise me at all that I became a homemaker). Even now I speak of myself softly and seldomly, but when I do, I no longer hide who I am for fear of losing what and who I have. When things, places, and people wind out of my story, new ones and new characters enter that are even better suited for it.

No longer fearing being myself means a weight has been lifted, freeing me to pursue what I am truly passionate about, including a polytheistic practice that has deep roots in my daily life and which guides the plot to my story.

I’ve also learned — thanks especially to Aengus mac Óg, who taught me the lesson — that oaths don’t keep themselves, but that they challenge you to really do the work and take action, and not just be passively spiritual.

Is this a step on your path, or will this become the Path itself? Do you know where this path will take you?

ADF has been a very important part of my spiritual journey and in how I’ve developed relationships with the Gods, Spirits, and Dead; even before I joined, I had been weaving their free online ritual and philosophical material into my practice for ages. I am enormously grateful and am doing my best to participate in and give back to the community now, as a “Friend” of my local Grove and not just as the solitary I’ve always been. I am sure that I will join and do study programs and/or initiatory work with other groups in the future — I have my sights on the Ancient Order of Druids in America and Vodou, to connect with my maternal grandfather’s ancestors and to follow a path and honor beings that I’ve felt a strong calling to since living in New Orleans — but I deeply enjoy my current devotional path which is predominantly informed by ADF cosmology and liturgy, folk and household (i.e., hearth or kitchen) magic, and historical sources. It’s perfect for me as a housewife and the busy mother of a young child, and as a polytheist.

I would like this path with ADF to result in ordination and clergy-ship, with an emphasis on psychopomp and death-doula work and spiritual assistance for the grieving. While traveling down this path and deepening my Druidic practices, I will also be embarking on homesteading, homeschooling my child and children to come, developing a consistent yoga and meditative practice, and opening a handmade garment and home-goods business. I hope to additionally gain a secular education in the coming years in the fields of herbalism and doula work, and ultimately become a doula for both birthing and dying. I know that deepening my work and relationships with the Kindred and seeking balance through offerings and other spiritual practices will contribute to these pursuits, and vice versa.

These ambitions may transmute over the years, because one result of this journey is certain: the people, ideas, and beings I encounter and relationships I develop along the way will most certainly change me and my relationship with the world.

What would you like to get out of this journey? What do you expect to learn?

When I entered 2018, I was quite sure, and had been for years, that my hearth culture was Gaelic. However, I have become less and less certain of this as the year has passed, and now I feel almost like a new Pagan again, looking for somewhere to call home (though I am thankful to have the advantage of 13 or 14 years of study and practice under my belt and of no longer being as naive as I was at the beginning of my journey) — and while I’ve been “wandering,” who should invite me to honor them and drink at their table but Odin, the great Wanderer himself, and Frigga, queen of housewives? I expect to learn more of what the Gods, Spirits, and Ancestors are asking of me in this life, and I hope to also settle in to a hearth culture. Maybe it won’t be possible to confine myself to just one, but right at this very moment, I feel most at home within the cosmologies of the Gaels and the Anglo-Saxons, but I don’t quite know that either is the right fit. 

Does this path look hard or easy? Which requirements appear to be difficult to you now, and which appear to be easy?

I have done all of the tasks involved (besides oath rites) in the Dedicant Path so many times that I have confidence in my ability to complete them. Making oaths intimidates me, however, after having damaged one relationship (with Hera) after violating a taboo and another (with Aengus) for oath-breaking. It is clearly an area of my spiritual life that needs work, so I know making and upholding new oaths will be a needed and fulfilling challenge!

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