A hearth culture

I’ve been meaning to write about the term hearth culture for a while now. It’s one of those ADF artifacts in my practice that I might not have thought of on my own.

ADF requires that dedicants chose a hearth culture during their dedicant’s path work. Initially, I equated hearth culture with ‘pantheon.’ I figured that I picked a set of Gods and that was it. Initially, I thought I’d “give the Celtic Gods a go” and went with them. That didn’t work out, and I eventually switched to the Roman pantheon.

Finished, right?

But, in trying to draw closer to my Gods, to understand them and to understand how I can form a relationship with them, I found myself sinking further and further into the culture part of the thing. Culture is defined as:

  • the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively
  • the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society

And, slowly, that’s what I’m getting into. I’m a big fan of anything that promises to help me “think like a Roman.” I cooked Roman food. I read Roman history. I contemplated Roman virtus.

Initially, I liked the idea that “the Romans belong to nobody.” Being an outsider in Germany was enough. I didn’t want to also be an outsider in another culture, as well. Blah.

Eventually, I found myself frustrated to think that I was emulating a culture that embraced slavery. I had to become critical of what I praised and chose to emulate about the Romans. I found myself fascinated as what I learned about the Romans grew enough to be a ‘second cultural lens’ through which I could view the world around me. Super helpful.

And then I started contemplating the word “hearth.” It’s equated with the idea of home in the expression “hearth and home,” but what is it?

I don’t have an answer, yet, but it’s basically the fire, with all that entails, at the center of your home. And, I have to say that I’ll welcome a lot of people into my home — my landlord, various handymen, the delivery guy, neighbors, missionaries — who I wouldn’t want to sit around my fire with me.

My conclusion: A hearth is more intimate than a home.

And, throw the word ‘culture’ on there, with the good and the bad that that entails, and you get the “culture of your intimate space.”

A better writer, or a more well-thought out post, would tie all this up with a bow. I don’t have that.

I just like the idea that I started off with a set of Gods — probably not even the most important part of my spiritual path — and wound up with the culture of my intimate space.


ADF Artifacts

Prompted by discussions on ADF member boards about whether ADF is worth the money ($30/year, and yes it is) I’ve started thinking of what I think of as ADF artifacts.

By this, I mean the things that I do that I probably wouldn’t have thought or known to do, if I had simply gone with “finding my own way” in paganism. There’s no question that the Dedicant’s Path helped me to progress faster than I would have, and that the required reading (I’ve read more from the list than was required… but then, reading is one thing that I’m abnormally good at) has been beneficial. But, I mean simple things that I find really valuable.

For example, the simple phrase “the light rises in me” when I blow out a candle. I don’t think it’s ADF specific, but that’s where I got it, and I’m glad for it.

Or, the concept of the outdwellers or of a hearth culture. I don’t think I’ve heard (or read) those terms outside of ADF, and I’m sure I wouldn’t think of them on my own.

So, the long and the short of it is: if you’ve been considering joining ADF, I recommend it wholeheartedly!

Update on working harder

This is only a minor aside, but I’ve been trying to process the omen from Ceres, and the idea that a good work-ethic might be a form of worship. (Gods know that my work-ethic is spotty).

Today, on a purely secular note, I ran my monthly 5k for time, and, as I was pushing myself, the thought that developing the willpower to work hard might be a way to honor Ceres was one of the factors that kept me going.

Maybe I’m just overdoing it with paganism at the moment, and will return to a more normal level after tomorrow’s ritual.

Omen from Proserpine

omen proserpine
Omen from Proserpine

My Samhain ritual is written. Or, a solid draft of it. I didn’t want to consider it finished until I had time to do the last thing on my list: take an omen from Proserpine. She’s one of the beings of the occasion and has been the only deity I feel even remotely talking to.

When I saw on the back of the card that I’d drawn a reversed card, I was pretty nervous, but I think that this one makes sense in the context of my ritual. Here’s what the book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom says about the Three of Wands reversed:

Here we find one of Waite’s best formulas; ‘Surprise, wonder, enchantment, trouble, and fear.’ All of these terms together describe someone jumping directly into new experience. When we leave behind safe situations and past success to enter the unknown, we liberate so much emotion and energy that we cannot avoid either the wonder and enchantment or the fear that goes with it.

I think this makes sense in the context of the ritual — we’re celebrating, or marking, her departure for the underworld — and it’s the first ritual I’ve written that includes me doing any workings. That’s new territory.

Because I don’t see the omen as a reason to change the ritual I’d written, I’m going to declare the preparations finished. And it is a feeling of fear and wonder.


Omen from Ceres

Omen from Ceres

This was the part of the preparation for the Samhain ritual that I was most dreading. When I added a Ceres leaf to the tree on my altar, I got my first ever negtive-ish omen: a reversed Seven of Pentacles. Which I took to mean that the goddess was not really satisfied with the kind of relationship we have.


So, it seemed logical to make strengthening that relationship a priority in the Samhain ritual, as this was traditionally a time (more or less) when her mysteries were celebrated.

Today, I took the omen and I got the three of pentacles, reversed. Another negative-ish omen.

This is from Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, on the Three of Pentacles, reversed:

Mediocrity: the work, physical or spiritual, goes badly, often from laziness or weakness. Sometimes the meaning extends to a general situation in which little happens: things continue either getting worse or improving, at a slow steady rate.

There’s not a lot to try and interpret there. I don’t have all the answers at hand, but, as I contemplate what it could mean, I understand that there are a lot of things that I wanted to do — both for my spirituality and more mundanely — that I haven’t been doing.

Part of me is focusing strongly on the fact that Pentacles are the suit of the mundane world and of ‘real’ (as opposed to spiritual) work. I’m wondering if I should focus on the physical actions I can take.

It will bear considering more.

Connecting with the Earth Mother and reflections on the omen from the ancestors

So, I had really intended to get out and sit in silence with the Earth Mother. However, I live in Germany and we had a pretty bad storm over the weekend and, while that didn’t mean I couldn’t get out, it meant that, when I had a chance to get out, it was wisest to take my kids with me.

It wasn’t a big deal. I like getting outside with my kids. Following the omen from the ancestors that I took in preparing for the upcoming ritual, however, it seemed almost like a sign.

Outside, seeing the changes wrought by the storm, it seemed pretty easy to see how the storm was part of an all-suffusing Earth Mother, that returns branches and at least one entire tree, to the soil. It became easy to see myself as some part of the same system, and the kids, too.

It’s hard to convey it now, but it seemed like I could sense how I was just a bundle of resources temporarily assigned a tiny speck of will. And, in the moment, it felt meaningful, and like I had some kind of obligation to make the most of the weird coincidence which saw my own particular bundle of water and minerals saddled with a bit of will.

Walking with kids who were happily picking up mistletoe (there was so much mistletoe on the ground!) and finding runaway kites, I reflected a lot on how hard it will be for me explain what “making the most” of it might mean. However, I re-pledged myself to try to take the fewest resources, as it seems logical I’ll have to achieve less to be proud of what I’ve done with the little bit allotted to me.

The Tree

My altar
A current photo of my altar

I feel like this exercise in thinking more about the altar has mostly taught me that I need to think a lot more about my altar. After each of my posts on the well and the fire, I felt like I was more deeply appreciative of the meaning of the things on my altar.

So far, I haven’t been able to get that feeling out of the tree. I recall asking the local proto-grove leader if I could just use a picture on my altar as a tree and she strongly counseled against it. So, for the first year or so, the tree on my altar was just a stick from my anchor tree.

The symbolism of the tree

The tree is symbolic because it is rooted in the Earth, nourished by the deep waters, and reaches for the heavens, drawing energy from the heavens. It’s a symbol of what we can be. And, to be honest, I like the two powers meditation a lot, in which the practitioner imagines being a tree.

So, the symbolism of the tree is potent, and I often find myself envious of mature trees. (Though, really, your average sapling doesn’t have great chances of getting to reach the point where I might envy it… That’s not something that gets pulled into the symbolism.)

The tree as gate

Here’s where I begin to struggle: when we (re)create the cosmos in ADF ritual, we offer to the well in order to open the gate to the ancestors. And that dovetails very well with the Roman Hearth tradition of the ancestors living in an underworld.

And, we offer to the fire in order to open the gate to the gods. That’s also pretty easy to understand: fire was used since times of old to sacrifice to the gods.

The thing is that the tree, as a gate, is a bit harder to wrap my head around. We offer to the tree, in order to invite the nature spirits to take part in the ritual. Seen that way, the tree is a portal between this realm and the very same realm.

Do you see where it’s hard for me to get?

An abstract gate

I neglect the nature spirits. I mean, inasmuch as my outdoorsiness is part of my paganism, it’s how I relate to the Earth Mother. Perhaps it’s easier to relate to the ancestors and the gods because they’re so distant. The nature spirits, however, often so poetically referred to as “spirits of wing and fur, or stone and stream” surround us all the time.

So, perhaps, the tree can be seen less as a portal than as a lens which we turn to in order to see that which is in front of our noses.

That’s how I’m going to approach it in my ritual.