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.
My own hearth culture has shifted over time as I have explored the Dedicant Path. I began with a Gaulish/British Celtic hearth, and after travelling to Norway and having a numinous experience while meditating by a fjord in a small village called Flam, I switched to a Norse hearth, and placed a statue of Thor that I bought on that trip on my home shrine. Lately, while I still have a deep interest in the Norse myths, and still feel a connection to Thor and the Norse hearth, I have increasingly become interested in Celtic, Druidic, culture and myths once again and in my current practice I am figuring out how to combine these two cultural influences.
When I began the course, I wrote: “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.”
I feel that the Nature Awareness part of the course has been my favourite feature of the Dedicant Path and has provided me with the “roots” or foundations of an Earth-centred Druid practice. Now when I spend time in nature, even just in my own garden or on a riverside walk on my lunch-break, I feel that I am more aware of the local flora and fauna that share this land with me, and I feel more connected to the great web of life all around me. Learning practical details about my local area, such as where my water comes from, how my waste is recycled and what crops my region grows, has given me a store of knowledge about where I live as well as inspiration to live more lightly on the Earth.
I have enjoyed learning about Druidry as it is practiced in ADF, and how it differs from the sort of “traditional British Druidry” I had previously encountered in OBOD. There are certain aspects of ADF’s ritual form that I love, such as the “triple hallows” of fire, well and tree, the three kindreds, and the use of physical offerings, and other aspects that do not resonate particularly well with me, such as the emphasis on hard polytheism. With its American foundation and base, ADF has felt very remote at times, and I feel like I have been ignoring the vibrant traditions of Druidry here in my own land.
Since completing the Mental Discipline requirement, which was the hardest part of the Dedicant Path, I have not kept up a regular meditation practice, though I am working on returning to a daily 5-minute meditation at my home shrine in the evenings.
The home shrine itself has become a major focus of my Druidry, and I spend time there most days, even if only to clean and rearrange the flowers, rocks, pinecones and other bits of nature I find and display there. Having it at the centre of the house is a visual reminder of my Path and ensures that I always keep it in my mind.
The nine virtues of ADF have given me plenty to think about, and even the ones I do not always agree with have challenged my ethical thinking and given me prompts to attempt to live a more virtuous life. I have a long, long way to go yet, but they are a useful road-map.
Throughout the year-and-a-bit that I have spent on the Dedicant Path, I feel that my knowledge of Paganism has grown and that my own personal spirituality has grown as well. Having the clear structure of a Path has made me think more deeply, and work more consistently than I would ever have done otherwise.
That said, I have reached a point where although I feel much more committed to Druidry, I do not feel that ADF is the right “spiritual home” for me and I will not be pursuing further study with ADF beyond the Dedicant Path.