I’m going to work through the ADF Dedicant Path with the help of Michael J. Dangler’s supplementary book The Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year. Given that I’m starting at a slightly different time than the book schedules for, and that I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to do an assignment a week, I will probably mix up the order a bit here and there.
Even though I’ve been dabbling with Druidry for a few years now, on and off, I think the Dedicant Path will be a useful exercise in what’s known in Zen Buddhism as Shoshin, “beginner’s mind”, learning to see familiar things (such as the wheel of the year) with new eyes and re-examine what they mean without judgement.
The first assignment in the book is to answer some questions about why I have chosen to join ADF and take the Dedicant Path. My answers are below the cut:
Why have you chosen to take the first steps on the Dedicant Path?
I was raised Catholic and became an atheist during my university degree in Theology and Religious Studies (specialising in the psychology of religious belief) when I realised that all the “inerrant” dogmas I was led to believe were ultimately made up, often centuries after the events they purported to describe, by councils of priests and politicians.
After a few years of eagerly immersing myself in atheism, philosophy and science, I began to feel that living by the intellect alone was not enough. Our minds have after all evolved to use reason and intuition, logic and emotion. I remembered the sense of connection to the world that I felt through nature, and looked to earth-based Paganism as a possible path. I had no real interest in Wicca, and my search eventually led me to Druidry, which I feel is one of the most explicitly nature-centred Pagan paths out there.
I started with OBOD, but certain features of their course did not sit quite right with me. So I dabbled on and off for a while with books like John Michael Greer’s Druidry Handbook, and even starting the Dedicant Path before abandoning it again, not commiting to anything fully and often forgetting Druidry entirely until the next Equinox rolled around. I have recently felt the urge to take my Druidry more seriously and integrate it into my life more fully. Coming from an academic background, I admire ADF’s commitment to real scholarship and research instead of the romanticised writings of the 17th and 18th century Druid Revivalists such as the forgeries of Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg). I am uncertain about some aspects of ADF ritual, but I look forward to being challenged by the material and finding out how to walk my own Druidic path.
Is this a step on your path, or will this become the Path itself?
At this stage, I don’t know. I would like to be the sort of person who can commit to one path fully (while still being inspired by other ideas), but it really remains to be seen how it goes this time.
What do you expect to learn?
I hope to learn new ways to connect with nature and the seasons, as well as how ancient Pagans saw their world and practiced their traditions. I know that there is a lot of theory, but I hope to be able to put the Druid ideas I come across into practice in my life.
What would you like to get out of this journey?
I would like to find a path that I feel at home with and that helps me to create a meaningful relationship with the natural world around me. I want to learn about Druidry as it is practiced in ADF, and deepen my (currently very sporadic) meditation practice.
Do you know where this path will take you?
Not a clue, but that’s half the point, right?
If you have just joined ADF, why have you chosen to work on this immediately, or if you have been in ADF for a long time, why are you starting only now?
I joined ADF last year to do the Dedicant Path, and abandoned it around the time of my mother’s death. I let my membership slip, but have renewed it recently so that I can rejoin the path and hopefully go on to further study afterwards. Renewing my membership has been a sort of sign of re-dedication to my Druidry.
Does it look hard or easy? Which requirements appear to be difficult to you now, and which appear to be easy?
I think the Dedicant Path has a mix of difficulties. I am going to try to approach it as a journey, and as a beginner, rather than rushing through to get to the next thing. I imagine that writing essays and reports will come quite naturally to me, but the requirement to maintain a meditation/mental discipline practice will no doubt be much more difficult as I have never been great at consistent meditation.
Do you have doubts, questions, or concerns that you need to ask about?
One of my concerns is that ADF uses the model of “hard polytheism” for its rituals. As a sceptical agnostic, I see the gods and goddesses of Pagan cultures as anthropomorphic personifications, or mythic representations, of natural forces. I am reassured somewhat that ADF do not require members to have any specific beliefs about deities, as it is about practice not faith. Dangler’s book does state that you are not required to believe in any deity as real outside of your mind, and I have heard ADF’s polytheism described as an agreed-upon “game rule” for ritual, so I am willing to work within that framework while still holding my naturalist/agnostic worldview.