Pagan Environmental Statement Passes 7,000 Signatures!

Have you signed the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment yet? 7,000 people have!

Humanistic Paganism

Latest Update

Just one year ago today, our wider Pagan community got its first glimpse at the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment, crafted by a large group of diverse Pagans, including Pagan leaders, authors, artists, and bloggers from around the world .  It was officially released on Earth Day (April 22), 2015, and the signatures started pouring in – first 100, then 1,000 – then more, with Pagans from many traditions and places on our Earth!  It has now passed 7,000 signatures, extending its reach and impact.  Where will it be on its one year anniversary, just a few short weeks away?  Will we reach 10,000 Pagans, united for our Earth and our future?  You cansign it here.   

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Happy Eostre!

Phew, four posts in one day! Well, I did promise that I would finish up the ADF Dedicant Path over the long Bank Holiday weekend, and I have! I’m off to eat an Easter egg.

In many Pagan traditions, this time of year is celebrated as a festival of new life. Higginbotham states that “most of the Spring traditions that we observe today relate to fertility and renewal of the life force. The most familiar is the colouring of eggs”. Eggs are an ancient symbol of life, and their traditional meaning has been co-opted into the Christian celebration of Easter, along with the “Easter Bunny”, or March Hare.

In some Druid traditions, the Spring Equinox is known as Alban Eiler, the Light of the Earth, while many Pagans refer to it as Ostara or Eostre. This name, according to Bonewits, comes from the Germanic goddess, Eostre (also the source of the name Easter). This name is attested to by the monastic historian Bede, but does not appear in other sources. Hutton writes that Eostre may have been “a Germanic dawn-deity who was venerated, appropriately, at this season of opening and new beginnings”. It may also be the case, however that the name simply referred to the month itself.

Whatever you celebrate today, have a lovely weekend!

Home shrine decorated for Oestre.

Home shrine decorated for Eostre.

Creating a plan for living your Druidry

The final piece of “homework” from The Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year is a set of questions for reflection and inspiration to create a plan for living your own Druid path going forward. While I am not continuing within ADF, I am continuing with Druidry, and I thought it would be useful to consider these questions in light of my future Druid plans. The Q&A are a bit long, so are behind the cut:

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(On not doing) the Dedicant Oath

Sign in woods near Bergen. Photo by me.

Sign in woods near Bergen. Photo by me.

The final requirement of the ADF Dedicant Path is to work a Dedicant Oath Rite and take the final Dedicant Oath as a sign of commitment to the Path. Our Own Druidry describes the Dedicant Oath as “the crown of the first stage of our Druidic work…It says that your work is recognised by fellow Pagans and that you have taken a significant step into a like-minded spiritual family”.

I have a complicated relationship with oaths. Being raised Catholic, I took an oath at my Confirmation to uphold the doctrines of the Catholic faith…guess how that turned out? When I started the Dedicant Path, I put off doing the First Oath for several months, and made sure to allow myself an “out” clause by swearing to follow a Pagan way “for as long as the Path leads me”. I take oath-making seriously, as did ancient Pagans of almost every hearth culture, especially the Norse, and so I feel it disrespectful and dishonorable to make an oath you are not fully committed to.

While Michael J. Dangler states that “We do not expect you to swear allegiance to ADF, to the Archdruid, to a Grove or anything like that”, the Dedicant Oath does mark a formal commitment to the path of “Neo-Pagan Druidry” as understood and practiced by ADF as your “primary path”.

I have come to feel that ADF’s explicitly religious approach to Druidry, its self-definition as a Church, and its emphasis on polytheism and worshipping the gods, simply does not fit with me and my own Druidry, which is more of a nature-centred philosophy than a deity-centred religion. With that in mind, I have decided not to take the Dedicant Oath to complete the Dedicant Path.

Dangler writes of those who have decided that ADF is not the right path, “That is fine. We do not expect the ADF Dedicant Path to be for everyone…The DP is not a set of goals to complete, but a journey that we take. You’ve seen all the wonderful things it has to offer, and the journey isn’t over, but has rather just begun. You may not finish the DP, but you have come to an understanding on the same level as one who has. There is nothing to be ashamed of in stopping here”.

Unfortunately, not taking the Oath means that I cannot formally submit my Dedicant Path work to ADF, and get a nice certificate of completion, but I don’t feel that this was time wasted. I have learned so much on the Dedicant Path and as an introduction to Pagan thought and practice, I would recommend it to anyone. It’s been a great journey and a transformative experience.

So what does this mean for me? I have no intention of giving up Druidry, far from it. The Dedicant Path has shown me that, while ADF might not be my final destination, Druidry is definitely my path in one form or another. I think I will re-start my OBOD studies, and spend some time immersed in a different, but equally valid, form of Druidry.

References:

ADF. Our Own Druidry. ADF Publishing, 2009.

Dangler, Michael J. The Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year. Garanus, 2010.

Personal Religion essay

The requirement for the Personal Religion essay reads as follows:

A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centred) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures.

I came to Druidry initially via OBOD, and then discovered the ADF Dedicant Path. ADF’s emphasis on scholarship and essay-based approach to the Dedicant Path appealed to me due to my own academic background (MA Theology and Religious Studies).

With ADF based mostly in America, I knew that my Dedicant journey would be a solitary one, with books and the ADF website as my main guides. The solitary nature of my Dedicant Path meant that I used solitary versions of ADF ritual, mostly either those written by Michael J. Dangler, or those found in Sunna’s Journey: Norse Liturgy through the Wheel of the Year by Nicholas Egelhoff. While it would be nice to have a local Grove, I have also enjoyed being able to explore the Path myself at my own pace, and not have to “fit in” to a Grove’s ritual style or preferred hearth culture.

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Third book review: Hearth Culture

Image from goodreads.

Image from goodreads.

Ellis Davidson, H.R. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Penguin, 1964.

The book I chose for the Hearth Culture requirement is Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson. Written in 1964, this book is still one of the most-read academic surveys of Northern European religion and mythology today.

Davidson, a 20th century antiquarian and lecturer at Cambridge, sets out to not only provide a concise and detailed survey of the Northern European Pagan gods and myths, but to draw together common themes, such as “the gods of battle”, “the gods of peace and plenty” and “the gods of the dead” in order to understand the cultural and religious context of the Northern myths.

Davidson writes: “The mythology of a people is far more than a collection of pretty or terrifying fables to be retold in carefully bowdlerized form to our schoolchildren. It is the comment of the men of one particular age or civilization on the mysteries of human existence and the human mind, their model for social behaviour and their attempt to define in stories of gods and demons their perception of the inner realities.”

Davidson sets out to bring together the various poems and sagas that make up the myths of Northern Europe, here defined as the Scandinavian countries, Germany and Anglo-Saxon Britain. Davidson’s thematic sections present a very comprehensive survey of each of the Norse gods and their main myths and associations as well as the religious observances by which people worshipped them.

A review from the Heathen journal Odroerir says: “The strength of this book and the main reason for its popularity is that Davidson has been able to create an overview of the gods as they appear in myth, and how they were worshiped. She manages to bring the two together to form a picture of heathen belief and religion from a serious approach, in a lively and easy to read manner.”

Davidson writes in an approachable yet academic style and presents a generally well-balanced historic view of the development of both mythos and cultus in Northern European religion from around the time of the fall of Rome to the conversion of the Northern countries to Christianity, as late as 1000 CE in Iceland.

Davidson’s work is of its time, and sometimes this shows through, especially in the final chapter where she discusses the “passing of the old gods” and the adoption of Christianity. At times, Davidson sounds uncomfortably triumphalisitic, glossing over forced conversions and conflict, and suggesting that people flocked to the new faith because “the old faith could no longer offer men what they needed” and “the Christian conception of the relationship between God and man was immeasurably richer and deeper”.

Despite this, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe is an excellent introduction to the world of the Norse myths and presents both the stories of the gods and the religious practices of the people in an accessible and engaging way, drawing parallels and suggesting lessons we can learn from these old tales for today, which make the book a useful addition to any modern Pagan’s collection.

References:

Ellis Davidson, H.R. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Penguin, 1964.

Odroerir, “Book reviews: Gods and Myths of Northern Europe” [Online: retrieved from: http://odroerirjournal.com/gods-and-myths-of-northern-europe/ 27/03/2016].

 

Here the Vikings Worshiped Thor and Odin

Viking Heathen Hof Ranheim

Drawing of the place of worship at Ranheim discovered in 2010. (Photo: Preben Rønne, NTNU University Museum).

We still know little about how and where the Vikings worshiped their Norse gods, but a few findings show that religious rituals took place in holy places with processional roads, altars and houses of worship.

Only few remains of heathen hofs are found in Scandinavia, but in 2010 it was by chance discovered an almost complete place of worship at Ranheim, about ten kilometers north of Trondheim in Central Norway.

The discovery revealed a processional road, a round sacrificial altar of stone (Old Norse: hǫrgr) and a house of worship (Old Norse: hof). The wooden building contained traces of four poles that may have had carved faces of Thor, Odin, Freyr and Freyja.

The altar measured fifteen meters in diameter and was about one meter high.

A few meters away, a…

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