When Ian Corrigan created the Dedicant Program for ADF, he created a jewel of spiritual growth and learning. Not only would Dedicants learn of the history of Druidry and Neopaganism, we would also be exposed to mental discipline, the Nine Virtues, our Kindreds and others of our ways, traditions and rituals. Taking the time to complete this program, step by step, is a wonderful exercise in Piety that can only support our spiritual needs.
The DP is the basis of much that we do in ADF, and is required before any other study programs may be started. But since doing the Dedicant Program can take up to a year to complete, we sometimes get 'target fixation' on the outcome. "As soon as I'm done, I'll be able to go for Clergy!" "As soon as I'm done, I can finally start the Warriors Guild program!" "As soon as I'm done..... done.... done...." People say this as though finishing the DP were actually an ending of some kind - but the opposite is true.
Completing the Dedicant Program is really a beginning. For now the ADF journey of spirit truly continues. Are you brave enough to keep going? Virtue - Why not Courage?
The Dedicant Program teaches us self discipline and the basic skills that we will need to grow our religion and our spirits, to form relationships with the Kindreds, and to empower personal growth. But should we stop our DP practices after completing the program, we might slow down our spiritual growth, and even run the risk of falling backwards and losing all that we have gained. Virtue - Why not Vision?
Take meditation as an example. Beginners often complain that meditation is really hard or even impossible. Quieting and disciplining the mind is a big job at first, and it can take a long time to finally get the hang of it. It's so easy to sit and day-dream with our eyes closed and so hard to be merely present. But after 5 months of practice, as the DP requires, most of us begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The silence comes more easily and the world begins to look a little different. But if we should stop meditating, just because we've completed the DP and don't 'have' to meditate any more, we may lose the silence and our self discipline, and much personal growth may stop there.
In meditation, the end is not what matters. Rather it is the journey itself. Suddenly, when you can find that silent place within yourself at will, visualization becomes easier and more vivid, trances become deeper and more textured, and your magic becomes more powerful. Another plus is that finding that quiet place will enable you to stay calm in the midst of the dramas of the people around you - their drama just doesn't penetrate as easily. The more we meditate the better all these things become. The past is all about regret and guilt. The future is all about the unknown and fear. Meditation allows us to be in the moment, that place where joy resides. Virtue - Why not Wisdom?
Occasionally we all have epiphanies, those moments when we suddenly, for a moment, see the 'truth' of something in our lives or spirits. Usually, we lose them soon after experiencing them. But a deep, meditative practice will open you up to the point that they will actually begin to stick. Virtue - Why not Perseverance?
The DP also requires Dedicants to explore a personal or Grove-centered spiritual practice. To this end, we perform rituals and learn the ADF ritual order, making offerings to the Kindreds and beginning the process of forming relationships with them. Our religion is based on the principle of reciprocity, of giving to the Powers that we might receive in return. Virtue - Why not Hospitality?
By continuing our practice of rituals and sacrifices, our relationships with the Kindreds will strengthen and deepen. Great good can come from our spiritual relationships. Growth, joy, comfort and even great change are possible. Virtue - Why not Fertility?
To let go and stop practicing our rites could see those relationships falter and deteriorate. Regular practice will come more easily, and relationships are more sure. Paganism is about 'doing'. It's about consciously opening ourselves to the possible. And it's about stepping into the Otherworlds. Attendance at High Days is good. Weekly or daily practice at your Home Shrine is even better! Virtue - Why not Piety?
Another Dedicant requirement is to work with nature and honor the Earth. In ritual, in song, and in deep meditation we may feel the pulse of this planet. As the ancients did, we may see spirit in every rock, tree and stream. We may see divinity in a thunderstorm and in a gentle rain. With constant practice we may see, feel, hear and even taste and smell the divine. But as a people we are damaging the world's environment. Perhaps by feeling the pain of the Earth we can cut back and make things better. Virtue - Why not Moderation?
When I started the Dedicant Program I had recently returned to Paganism after an absence of over thirty years. I had much catching up to do. The reading list helped me become aware of the changes in scholarly thought which had occurred since the 1960's. The search for information on the High Days led me to distinguish between ancient practice and modern invention. The meditation requirement opened new doors for me and led me to the world of spirit. Even those of us who have been practicing Paganism for years have benefited from this program. We have learned more about ourselves and about our ways.
There is so much out there to experience in the worlds of the Kindreds. By living our lives and keeping the old ways in our hearts, minds and hands, we may grow in spirit and open ourselves to the universe and to new and wondrous things. Through discovering ourselves inside and out, through embracing our Fellowship as much as we can, and through practicing our religion with an open heart, mind and spirit, we can touch the Gods and glimpse behind the veil. This is the stuff of our Virtue of Integrity, and this would be a life well lived.