Sunday, February 1, 2015

Discipline 1

1. Describe your discipline practice as an ADF Clergy Student. Explain what you have learned from this practice, describe how your connections with the Earth Mother and the Gate Keeper have grown and changed over the time you have worked with them, and reflect on your journals and omens over the period. (min. 600 words)
I originally joined ADF on February 20, 2008, almost 7 years ago as I write this.  I can definitely say that my life has changed completely since that day, and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Through ADF I have explored my spirituality, made so many new friends, and found a practice for myself that makes me feel productive and successful. 
My practice typically involves a morning sun salutation to help me greet the day and honor the Kindreds.  I find that this practice, while challenging at times, reminds me that I am not alone on this journey.  I have also started doing monthly retreat days during the first week of every calendar month, which involve a full ritual and prayers throughout the day.  These rituals have become a way for me to help build my relationship with the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper more solidly by allowing me to honor them and connect with them on a more personal level.  I have also done smaller weekly rituals for the past six months, which took many different forms including rituals to honor the deities of my hearth, ancestor worship, magical workings, and trance practices.  I used this time to explore different types of ritual workings to see what works best for me and to establish what I’m most comfortable with.  Overall, my practice is continually changing and evolving as I learn more about my spirituality and the world around me, but I feel that I am at least on the right path. 
My connection with the Earth Mother has been a large part of my spirituality since I first started to explore Paganism as a teenager.  I have always viewed nature as a sacred space and my practices have helped to reaffirm this as an important part of my spiritual practice.  Greek mythology describes the Earth Mother, Gaia, not only as the personification of the earth, but also as the “mother of all, eldest of all beings” and the sustainer of life (Homer). Since I was a child, I have seen her in the gardens of my grandmother and in the wild Nebraska plains.  I feel her energy as I play in the grass and explore the woods with my son.  Over the past six months my primary formal contact with the Earth Mother has been through my rituals, inviting her to attend my rites and doing rituals dedicated to her specifically.  However, I always try to honor her when I find myself surrounded by the beauty of nature, whether walking through the woods or playing in my back yard.  I definitely feel the importance of her presence in my life and know I want to continue to build my relationship with her.
Building a connection with the Gatekeeper has been a much more recent development in my spirituality.  It wasn’t a practice that was used in ancient religions specifically, but it is a very important aspect of ADF rituals.  The gatekeeper is used to aid us in our abilities to open and close the gates between the realms.  While this idea may be modern, many different cultures had beings and deities that could cross the boundaries between the worlds, such as Hecate and Hermes in Greek mythology (Newberg).  The more I have used a gatekeeper, the more I have started to appreciate this connection and the utility of them within rituals.  My work with personal rites, as well as leading our protogrove rituals, has helped me to establish this relationship more firmly.  In my personal work I tend to call upon Hermes to help guide me through the realms and to help share my words to the Kindreds.  Hermes was the Greek God of travel and persuasion.  He also acts as the messenger to Hades and Olympus, which gives him the ability to travel between all the realms (Theoi Project).  His abilities make him a very useful and competent gatekeeper for my practices.  However, my protogrove is very eclectic so I have had to become comfortable working with many different Gatekeepers from many different pantheons.  The courses of the Clergy Training Program have helped me to become more comfortable with the idea of using the Gatekeeper archetype in my spiritual practices, so I am able to experience and work with Gatekeepers from many different cultures. 
Journaling through this process has been very interesting to me.  It has allowed me to go back and remember the perceived failures, along with those things I felt I did well with the advantage of hindsight.  Looking at those experiences from my current perspective has definitely changed my feelings about some of them, and sometimes what seemed like a failure actually helped me move in a different direction, making it incredibly useful. I also appreciate being asked to record my prayers and rituals because being able to look back at those heartfelt words has helped me build better rituals and prayers.  It has also helped make my journal feel more complete and easier to understand. It shows me at weak moments, praying to the Kindreds for their aid, and at moments of joy, giving prayers of gratitude and excitement.  Recording the journey has been a blessing for me, even though it was quite challenging at times.  
Another part of my personal practice has been taking weekly omens.  This has been a big change for me.  In the past, I typically have only used divination as a medium for communication within my rituals.  Taking a weekly omen has given me the opportunity to focus on the message in that week to understand where my focus needs to be.  Most of my omens provided messages of success and hard work, showing that persistence, and sometimes patience, is needed.  There were a few times where I felt like I was headed in the wrong direction, and the omens seemed to reflect that, essentially telling me to take responsibility for my actions and continue working.  I don’t believe any of these messages to be “negative” but more a guidance to show that sometimes we head down the right road the first time, and sometimes we need to be redirected to find which way we’re supposed to go. For my divinations, I used the Greek Alphabet oracle, which helped me become more familiar with the symbols, and also helped deepen my connection with my hearth culture.
Each of these practices and relationships has helped to reaffirm my beliefs and to establish a stronger sense of my own spirituality.  I think having this understanding of my own faith will definitely help to prepare me for the work as a member of ADF clergy.

Works Cited

Homer. Hymn 30: To Earth The Mother Of All. 2011. January 2015 <>.

Newberg, Brandon. Core Order of Ritual Tutorial - Step 6: Opening the Gate(s). 2007. January 2015 <>.

Theoi Project. Hermes. 2011. January 2015 <>.

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