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)
My discipline has changed many times since I first started with ADF. I have tried many different things, and done many kinds of workings through the years and I have found that even now, thirteen years later, I still am changing what I do. I will review a little bit of what I have done, and why I do or do not continue to do it to this day.
The first is the daily devotional and/or the daily divination. I have started and stopped doing this multiple times in my past, mostly because I was forced to do it through coursework. I do understand the goals of this kind of work, usually along the lines of deepening your connection with the Kindred or the divination tools being used. I have done this kind of work for stretches of multiple months a couple times. Never did I ever get any kind of deepening of my connection with whatever the focus of the daily work was focused on. What I always got out of the work was a feeling of obligation to do it and the rushing to find time to do the work. None of this is positive to me, and never was it fulfilling for more than a couple of days at a time. So, I have found that daily work does not work for me at all.
Along similar lines of work, I have tried doing the prayers at meal times and the blessing of my food. I do understand the idea of giving thanks for what I am about to eat as it was the sacrifice of some living being that allows me to survive. Rarely do I ever have a connection to what i am eating though. With the way things are in these days, where everything is so far removed and highly processed, I find it very hard to make any connection that makes any prayers meaningful to me. Without any personal meaning, I find it useless to do such a thing as it will ring out hollow and false. That being said though, when I brew my beers, wines, and meads, I do have a deep connection with them and I do prayers over them during the brewing process, and I do say a thanks to the brewers and Kindred when I do drink the beverages.
So, the question becomes what do I do?
I do keep the 8 high days every year, sometimes multiple times. I usually will do this with my grove, and take a leading role in our rituals. This usually means I am doing some of the more magical aspects of the rite, specifically the opening and closing of the gates, and making the prayer of sacrifice, although I will often do many other roles as needed. During the grove's grounding/attuning/meditation that happens at the start of the rite is the most common time for me to also do the clergy mound journeys as I rarely am in any kind of proper mindset or have the time to do them at the scheduled times.
Along with doing the 8 high days with the grove, I will periodically do personal high days at my house. The longest standing tradition I have is doing a feast with the dead or dumb supper for Samhain, on the night of October 31. This has been taking place for at least 6 years, possibly longer. For my own personal rites, this one is the most meaningful one for me, especially after the loss of a great friend in 2008, and the passing of Isaac in 2010. They make the focus extremely clear, and I am sure that I will have more names to add to this rite in the future.
I have also been fairly regular with doing a weekly personal blessing ritual. This is by far the best way I have maintained my connections with the Kindred. I do a full ADF style ritual, and I call on my patrons and, if I am focusing on something specific, the Kindred or specific being that I am working with. This has been extremely successful for me in getting to know a specific being that I plan on working with in future rituals, especially public rituals. It also has worked very well at fulfilling my personal spiritual needs overall. As a result, I have stuck to doing weekly personal blessing rites, with the occasional missed rites due to life, for the longest, and plan to continue these as my main personal practice in the future.
As for how my connection with the Earth Mother and Gate Keeper has changed. I really have had a strong connection with both from the start and I have really maintained that connection with both. I have worked more directly with the Gate Keeper in my practice though. Here is where I have experimented the most, and have tried many different beings and concepts for who or what can work in that role. As a result, I think I have a greater connection to and understanding of what all the role brings, an what a diverse group of beings can fulfill that role.
Reflecting back on my journals and omens is near impossible. I have only journaled or maintained records of my omens for the sake of coursework, and I have reviewed these in the specific courses. I am not one that gets anything out of journaling or keeping records of things like omens. I have looked back in the past on these things and got nothing new out of them upon retrospective analysis. This just does not work for me, and it is something that I realize up front.