A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures. (600 words min.)
Choosing a hearth was never really a question for me. However, there are definitely pieces from nearly every culture from which I can learn from, appreciate, or enjoy. I can’t claim a strong heritage-type tie to any particular hearth but for me that has never mattered. I love the art and lifestyle of the Celtic people. I love their land and the way they speak. I love the passion and pride of the Norse people. The “warrior-type” mentality combined with a fierce thirst for knowledge makes me appreciate their spirit. However, it is the Hellenic hearth that owns my heart. The architecture is magnificent, the philosophies fascinate me, but the mythology is what initially let me know I was home. This hearth culture presented itself to me at a very young age, well before I was looking for a “home,” and has been present in my life ever since.
I remember the first time I read about the Olympians, both their highs and their lows. I was instantly in love. When I was little I made a book with a page for each of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses including their responsibilities, my favorite myth, and any animals or symbols they were associated with. In the midst of my exploration, one goddess stood out from the crowd and figuratively bashed me in the head with her presence. Athena is a very persistent and patient figure, and has been in my life since my very first introduction. Through her I have learned to see wisdom and beauty in places I would have otherwise missed it. She has helped cultivate my thirst for knowledge. I have seen how to stand strong when times are hard. She has been a guiding force for a majority of my life, showing me the person I want and need to become.
My biggest challenge has been not focusing exclusively on Athena. Logically I understand that working with the entire pantheon, and even those from different pantheons can help me grow as a person. Each deity has something to offer, some bit of knowledge, or some trait to be admired. However, she is so clear to me and so comfortable that it’s easier to fall back to her. In an effort to further my understanding and relationship with other parts of the Hellenic culture I began writing rituals that focused on deities that I had not worked with in the past. I would have Athena there as my patron, but the Deity of Occasion would be someone more fitting of the high day, such as Persephone and Hades on Samhain. Through this type of interaction I have grown to better know and understand the deities of the pantheon.
I think that the Greek culture fits with the ADF style of worship for many reasons. Within the Hellenic theology there are deities for each of the three kindreds, as well as for each of the three realms. I believe part of my comfort with the Hellenic hearth is the flexibility built into it. While much of the hearth believed in an afterlife, some of the popular philosophers believed in the idea of reincarnation. There also isn’t really one particular “creation” myth. These are two of the biggest, most debated areas in religion so not having a strict dogma as to how those are handled is much more comfortable to me.
I also tried to expand my knowledge further by doing a few rituals based in other pantheons, and they worked out fine, but it really seemed like a formality. It was almost awkward, like inviting a friend of a friend over and not really knowing what to say. It’s difficult to explain it. For me, the Hellenic hearth is home. It’s in my heart and always has been, even when I wasn’t looking for it. I am trying to expand my relationships with the gods as much as possible, while not pushing Athena away. She has and always will be a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t change that for the world. (676 words)