K is for… Keeping Oaths (OR Piety)

Three things from which never to be moved: one’s oaths; one’s gods; and the truth. – Triad, traditional

This will probably be a dull post. I want to explore why I’m reluctant to take the First Oath for ADF. You’re welcome to read along if you like. It is unlikely to make much sense!

I was baptised as an adult and, later, confirmed into the Church of England. Confirmation is a very serious thing (that I think too many young children are pushed into), and it took me until the age of 30 to be absolutely sure that I wanted to commit myself, for life, to that church.

And then, ironically, within a year I was researching Paganism and had decided that Christianity – of the standard, mainstream kind – was probably not for me.

I consider that I’ve moved on to Paganism (and Gaelic polytheism) from Christianity with the consent and blessing of the Christian god[1], and that we’ll always be old friends who visit each other occasionally. I am not a Christian anymore. But I will always, as a result of my confirmation oaths, be part of the Anglican church. Which is sort of OK with me – but it was a very serious commitment that I made. And committing to another church is an entirely different thing from committing to the gods (or to a vague idea of a ‘path’). I never made an oath ‘for life’ to the Christian god. But I did commit to a church. And ‘church’ is one way that ADF defines itself.

ADF is entirely clear that the First Oath is not a lifelong commitment to ADF. It’s a beginning. And really, ADF’s oath is not the one that’s on my mind here. It’s just got caught up in the ‘oath stuff’ that is on my mind. My gods asked me to make a very specific oath, a few months ago. I still haven’t worked out what it means (it was very cryptic), and I’m not sure I’m going to work that out until I commit. What they asked, essentially, was for me to take a leap. I’ve resisted that, just like I’ve resisted ADF’s First Oath. It sounds like work (or Work). And I don’t really want to do work. I especially don’t want to do Work.

As I’ve mentioned before, ADF asks its Dedicant Path students to look at nine virtues that are central tenets of the order. One of the most potentially-misunderstood of these is Piety. I’ve been trying to work out how to work with these virtues – writing about them is easy, but I’ve been finding it much more difficult to know how to put them into action.

ADF’s definition of piety reads: “Correct observance of ritual and social traditions, the maintenance of the agreements (both personal and societal) we humans have with the Gods and Spirits. Keeping the Old Ways, through ceremony and duty.” Compare with the dictionary definition: “Deep devotion to God and religion” (from the Collins English Dictionary – short and sweet). I suppose we could add an ‘s’ to god, and we’d be there, for Pagan purposes.

Some of this I agree with; some of it I don’t. The main thought I’m left with is that there’s little here about what piety is for. Otherwise, though, the bulk of what interests me, in these definitions, is the stuff that relates to the keeping of oaths. Because, once you take them, and enter a religion or practice or order or whatever, I think you’re bound by the requirement to keep those oaths and agreements – by piety. While the ADF definition of the ‘old ways’ is vague and a bit inaccurate, the sense of that goes back to the triad that I started with. Three things from which never to be moved: one’s oaths; one’s gods; and the truth.

This week, I’ve been working on a nine-day cycle of devotions to the Morrigan. She’s a goddess who’s usually in the background for me, but she’s *very* important, and one of my household gods, nonetheless. Initially, I was thinking about working on this for nine straight days. Then it was made clear that I needed to carry on until the new moon, and so I’ve moved down to every other day. This may have been an accommodation from the goddess in question, to help with my usual inclination to do everything EXTREMELY INTENSELY. Where some people will do three days of something, I always decide it’s important to do twenty-seven days. Then I collapse in a little ball of stress and go to sleep for about another month. This cycle is repeated in pretty much everything I do: work very very hard, burn out, ignore responsibilities for far too long, rinse and repeat. This is not piety. But it seems to me that I’m trying to get at something, in the process, that involves piety. I want to honour the gods, the ancestors, and the land spirits and aes sidhe. Just like I want to excel at everything – my PhD work, my teaching, my little creative projects – but I’m far too good at feast and famine with all of them.

For me, piety means consistency of worship and Work. And that begins with taking oaths and making commitments.

Because the most interesting things happen when I do do Work. So here I am, taking a leap. I’m going to do the ADF First Oath next week (I’ve plotted some ritual-writing time into my diary too). As for the ‘other’ oath… well, we’ll see. But I think I’m going to take a leap there too.

This week the letter ‘K’ has been brought to you by FlameKeeping, and by the phrase ‘Do the Work’.

And that’s it, really. ‘K’ has inspired more pondering than actual writing. We’ll see if ‘L’ is any more creativity-inspiring!


[1] Not really Jesus. Jesus was always more of an archetype for me, than an actual being – gnostic-style.

7 thoughts on “K is for… Keeping Oaths (OR Piety)

  1. This is very relatable. Early this year I tried following Kevan Manwaring’s excellent intro. to the Bardic Tradition ‘The Bardic Handbook.’ However one of the things I was asked to do early on was to make a declaration of intent to follow the Way of Awen and claim my Bardic Chair. It didn’t feel right and because I couldn’t go through with it in good faith I did not. Instead I ended up making a vow to one of my deities, which uncannily echoes the triad above.

    So far I’ve avoided joining a Druid Order, let alone a church. I find it incredibly tough to live by other people’s precepts. Which is possibly why I’ve ended up avowed to a deity who, aside from a certain code of honour, is pretty lawless.

    • Yep. No matter how much these orders say that they don’t have any doctrines, they *always* turn out to have cultural ‘ways’ that a person may end up finding it difficult to keep. This is already turning out to be true for me with ADF. I’m just trying to remember that no order will *ever* suit me exactly, and that finding the ‘perfect’ spiritual path is highly unlikely, for anyone. But still.

      • OK, I am going to really stick my beak into this, and I really do hope that I do not cause offence to either of you Ladies, That is not my intention, but I apologize now.

        And I am not Bashing the Druid Faith here, just once again point out a few points of Fact.

        The Old Irish/Scottish/Welsh or Native/Celtic/Gaelic Faith as it was pre-christian is not what Druidism is now. You have to make a commitment to yourself first, not the Order or Church, give what you can but not so much that you drain yourself, you are no use to yourself or your community if you are knackered, and thus no use to the Gods either.

        As far as I can tell, the Old Faith was not structured like today’s Faith, which is why there is so little information about what it was today. They never worshiped the 4 Wicca festivals which are at the Solstices and Equinox. Some Barrows like Newgrange are facing in that direction, but many more are not, more not a lot more. There really is no evidence of these festival being used as they are today by our Native ancestors.

        I have never had to give my Oath to the Dark Queen Morrigan, She has never asked me to. Nor has Creator Mother Danu, I give to them what I give and they are happy, but if they want more, they tell me and I see what I can do. One example was me coming on here in the first place to do my blog, it was requested of me in the strongest terms possible, but without the OR ELSE.

        The Old Faith was Based much like Shinto is in Japan, Local Spirits, Main Gods, Animal Spirits Et Al, But Shamanism works for me. WE are all local Guides to our communities,much as the Old Druids would have been, or the Medicine Men of the American Tribes or the Shaman of the Siberian People. Or even the Local Shinto Priests of Japan.

        I am writing this because I was told to, so I have, I am not a Church, not looking for Followers in anyway. Just to fill in a few gaps for you and any others reading this. ’tis your Path, You have to be true and Honour Yourself first before you can be true and Honour the Gods of our Ancestors.Do not change your path yet but instead ask Mother or Her Sister the Dark Queen for Guidance before you make any change to your Path. If you are not happy with your direction at this time, change. That is the only reason I am saying this to you to.

        Right I will get my beak out of it now, and if you need to tell me to keep it out, I give my word of Honour I will until you chose I do otherwise.

      • I’m editing my original response, as it was not befitting me. I’m sorry for snapping at you originally. Thank you for your input, although I do not share your path exactly, so I don’t agree with your words.

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