ADF Initiation: Review
I find it striking that I went into the process of Initiation in ADF without knowing what would come of it, but finding that the path I was on was the correct one all along. It was very much like entering a dark forest that has never been mapped, but stumbling upon a well-worn path that leads to amazing things.
Over the past year and a half, my work life has taken over the other aspects of my life. I have worked hard and fought hard for my job, a job that is well worth the fight and effort to maintain. This has, though, left me in a place that is not as conducive to ritual and magical work as I would like: I no longer have as much time for personal correspondence, Grove projects, and ADF in general, and I find myself failing in ways that I am not overly pleased with.¹
This may be why the first lesson was so strongly powerful: Focus. I have this notion that I simply don't focus well enough on all aspects of my life, and that the increase in responsibility has been hard for me to keep up with. I mean, I make recommendations on the scale of millions of dollars now. . . and generally my recommendation goes through. I have had to decrease my festival attendance, and even when I'm at a festival, I have to check my e-mail and be "on call" if something happens.
What focus has come to mean for me, then, is a notion of understanding what is important and when it is important. It's getting the job done when it needs to get done, and prioritizing and ensuring that I'm doing the right thing at the right time. It's focusing on my friends and my family, my job and my religious life, my home and those beneath its roof. It's doing all of these things, in turn, and remaining focused on them despite the pressures that mount. It's clearing away those things that do not help or which distract me from the focus.
The Crane and I have been doing a lot of work, too: between the Grove and the ADF Order of the Crane work that has been so visible outside, this should come as no surprise to most people. It's the inner work, though, that has really brought me back around to focusing in on the second lesson: Center.
I have long spoken of the "center of worlds" as the place where we do ritual, the meeting place of all the Realms through which access to the Upperworld and the Underworld (or, alternatively, the Terrestrial, Atmospheric, and Heavenly worlds) can occur. What I found, though, was that this center starts within us all, that it rests in our hearts, which I have come to think of as the "Heart of the Crane." There is a notion of calm and patience that permeates this, and it was only through having the Heart of the Crane that I managed to pass the final initiatory test: when I was set free into this brightly-lit world, when I emerged from the darkness and was given new life, I felt alive and strong again, but it was the patience and centering nature of the Heart of the Crane that allowed me to remain in gestation long enough for the Initiate within to become viable.
So, this is my task, what center now means to me: in my life, I need to learn to call up that heart, to draw it forth in others, and to bring it out to the membership of ADF and beyond.
The final lesson, Joy, is of a different sort. When I entered the garden, I found myself understanding that there are things we must do to feed the soul, paths we must take simply because they are there, and songs we must sing because they well up in our hearts and burst forth.
In many ways, the work I do must be its own reward: there are no chores or annoyances when it comes to jobs done in service to your Church, and if you find yourself enumerating chores or annoyances, then it is time to re-evaluate the work you do in relation to your spiritual calling.² Over the years, I have changed my own roles often, and have generally stayed out of leadership roles that I did not feel fit to engage in. I have also worked hard to "keep my nose out" of the business of committees and councils I am not on (some days with greater success than other days). I expect to do more of that now.
Joy is not about making the world joyful, it is about participating in a world that is joyful by its very nature. I remember the way the trees in the gardener's grove sang their praises to him, the way they supported and sheltered one another, and the way the differences between them united them. I have seen that joy in this world, and I know I wish to draw it out in new and amazing ways, and to lead others to that grove of trees, wherever it may be found.
The lessons, then, were clear. What of the omens?
The omens are a different story: they are not clear, though they are positive. I remember listening to Kirk's omens and saying, "Man, those are awesomely positive!" This, of course, led me to wonder about my own omens and what they might be. I didn't wait long, and I heard the very different message.
It is not surprising that two different Initiates will have two very different omens, even if they work through the same work to get there and arrive at the appointed place at the same time. If nothing else, it is very interesting what those omens portend for different people. I'm actually not jealous of Kirk's omens: they wouldn't have fit my experience. But I recognize that I do have a long way to go, and that I will begin that path very, very soon. I actually believe I am already on it.
I have thought a lot about these omens: initially, I thought of them as "two positive, two less so," but recently, I have come to think more deeply on them.
The omens indicate that something will challenge me. Most indicate that it is a "snag" or a "tangle" more than something dangerous. The reading of Hagalaz as a "challenge" is somewhat out of place for my normal reading, but I can accept it (I have a tendency to trust my seers over myself). There is this notion of boundaries and the dangers of crossing them that also speaks to me.
What I have thought most about is that these omens speak strongly of bridge-building. I was reading a Grove member's description of the ADF Initiatory Path, who indicated that "The further I walk along this path, the more people I see that lie on the other side of the mists." I responded in a manner that really describes this notion to me:
Interestingly, when you travel through the mists and turn around, you can see that all the other people still walking through them clear as day. You can reach into the mists and guide them out with firm hand, because you already know the road.
This notion of boundary passing is not lost on me. I often think of our first ancestors who learned how to sacrifice, and in so doing taught us how. They died first and learned the pathways, and so we follow thier lead as we exit this world and enter the next. They received the first blessing, and pour out that blessing to us.
These omens read, to me, as if my Initiation is to put me on the path to do this sort of thing for other Initiates: to draw them along with firm hand and solid knowledge, to bring them out of the mists and into the light of the fire at the center of worlds.
And so it became in my oath, which set the precedent for other oaths from Initiates who will follow me:
This is the work of the ADF Initiate. This is my work. This is what this path means to me.
¹ - I am a member of two out of three groups that were specifically targeted with anger and outright loathing on the ADF lists just prior to my Initiation: the Web Team and the Clergy Council. It was painful to read about how useless some members feel these two committees are within ADF. In the end, I know that I bear a great amount of responsibility with those positions, and to be told (repeatedly) that we appear to not act in the Organization's best interest was very painful. Still, the skills I had learned in my Initiatory work helped me turn the very caustic and non-constructive criticism into two or three solidly useful projects, though I was amused to note that they are still generally unnoticed, even though they address specific requests.