9: Three Kindred Essay
At the very core of ADF druidry is the importance of building relationships with the Three Kindred. The Three Kindred, collectively known as the Kindreds, are different groups of spirits consisting of the Shining Ones (Deities/Gods and Goddesses), The Noble Ones (Nature/Land Spirits), and the Mighty Ones (Ancestors). In ritual there are three objects or representations that connect our world to the world of the Kindreds; a fire to the Deities, a well to the Ancestors and a tree to the Nature Spirits.
While these representations are simple earthly things, a gatekeeper is called during ritual to walk between the worlds/realms of the Kindreds and open the gates to those worlds so that we may commune with them. These mundane objects are made sacred portals that act as a conduit to the three realms by his magic combined with the ritual performer and/or guests. The fire is the portal of communication up to the realm of the Gods and Goddesses, the well becomes the portal of communication down to the realm of the Dead, and the tree becomes the portal of communication to the Nature Spirits of earth.
The Gods and Goddesses are associated with the sky realm and offerings are given to the sacred fire to rise up through the smoke and flames to the deities above. In days of old there were elaborate temples and areas of worship erected for many of the Indo-European gods and goddesses and other many other more primitive sacred sites but the average ADF devotee cannot travel or relocate to Europe so it is tremendously more accessible to hallow a fire in ADF fashion to communicate to the gods and goddesses.
Understanding and connecting to the deities involves some research and spiritual connection unique to the devotee. Offerings to them can vary depending on how different each one is or what is asked.
When meditating to the gods and goddesses I do a lot of guided trance work to connect to them individually. It’s the most effective way I have found to genuinely visualize them and commune without the distractions of my earthly life. When using the ADF Two Powers meditation the Deities are reflective of the electric sky power of the Sun/Moon/Stars, of passion and of a sense of drive drawn down into your being to mix with the cool waters and wisdom of the Ancestors. I often have vivid dreams about the deities that I work with closely.
When I think of the gods, I think of them as both ancient answers to life's challenges and also personification of specific characteristics put into human form. There are exceptions to the human-form idea but for the most part I see the Gods as spirits, that when spoken about in modern times, are kept alive and their power is kept strong.
I believe the gods I work with the most take an active role in my life. I honor Brigid when I am in good spirits and ask her for healing and strength when I am in need of assistance. I speak to Brigid at my shrine daily and often see her as a maternal guardian almost always at my shoulder when called to. I also honor the Morrigan sisters and many times I feel them at my side speaking into my ear. Sometimes I see her/them in the mirror beside me and feel her/them resonate inside me as my own personal shadow. I don't see my gods as locked into a location but more as free moving spirits that come and go as needed or at their will. While I often call to Brigid, the reverse is true of The Morrigan, she calls me when there is reason, often times against my own enjoyment or will.
The Ancestors, the Mighty Dead, are associated with the earth power, and offerings are given to the sacred well to flow down through the waters into the earth to the ancestors below. Wells were sacred to many Indo-European cultures to carry messages to the ancestors. Wells were places of magic and of reflection, of wisdom and growth. While travel to European sacred wells is not accessible to most Americans, the well portal that is hallowed during ritual serves in similar fashion as the mouthpiece to the Ancestors of blood, bone and spirit.
Blood, bone and spirit are some of the ancestor’s referred too in ADF druidry. They are the ancestors of your blood, those whom you are connected to by family ties and bloodlines. Ancestors of bone are those of the bones in the earth around you. I see these as the indigenous people of the American land. They are dead, but not forgotten for their sacrifices and I honor them to keep their memory alive. The Ancestors of spirit refer to those dead that we turn to for inspiration; public historical figures of significance, heroes we look up too.
When using the ADF Two Powers meditation the Ancestors are reflective of the cool waters of earth power, of change, wisdom, and mystery, drawn up into your being to mix with the warm electric power of the sky.
After several public rituals with my local grove, I found myself struggling to connect to the Ancestors on a personal level. Death, has avoided my tiny close family thus far and I see no ancestors of blood in my mind and heart when it comes to offerings to Ancestors.
Ancestors of spirit; people of the past that inspire me, historical figures, famous people passed on also leave me feeling disconnected. I can imagine people in the news who have been lost to violence, tragedy or accidents, but it all feels...lacking in personal connection. I wanted to feel more.
I decided to explore the Ancestors of the land and a whole world of emotions flooded through me. Remembering that the Native peoples of this land thrived thousands of years before European contact and how they worshiped the land in similar ways that I do now. How their polytheistic religious structures are similar to my own beliefs and how easily forgotten these people have become. This is the sort of connection and respect I had been missing with the Well. I sacrifice with respect to keep their cultural history alive. I decided to explore deeper into American Pre-history and actually decided to take a college class on the subject and week after week I found new meaningful respect for the ancient peoples of this land. This class ended up being one of the most valuable classes I have taken both academically and spiritually.
The Nature Spirits kindred is associated with the world tree portal, the axis mundi between the realms and offerings are given to earth spirits at its base, trunk or branches. This is the Kindred that is most accessible to all druids as it is not completely centered in Indo-European cultures, it is everywhere. This kindred relates to the spirits that walk/grow/thrive on the earth, no matter were you live. In the Two Power meditation, the tree, the connector between the sky and earth powers, represents the nature spirits. When the powers sky and earth combine within you you become the world tree, tall and strong, connected to all.
I work with the nature spirits far more than the other Kindred. It is actually my connection to the nature spirits that lead me to Druidry to begin with. The magical side of Wicca never quite seemed to fit but the connection to stones, plants, animals, and nature have always been where I have felt true sense of belonging and spiritual connection. As a child, I would spend hours reading novels while sitting perched in trees avoiding most humans. I am an avid hiker and pause often to admire the complexity of a fern, or the shape of a flower, or watch salamanders and snails for long periods of time. Nature has always felt, quiet, and perfect. No matter how stressful my every day modern life is, I can step outside and lose myself in the elements (no matter what they are; rain, snow, wind, heat, etc). I spent my childhood living in the country on a farm, refusing to wear shoes so I could feel the grass and soil between my toes. I grew my own food in a garden that I tended, and I always felt a spiritual presence and connection there.
I've thought for years that there is magic in nature, not magic as in spells, but magic as in energies. Each element of nature, each plant, each animal, has a spiritual connection to me. I talk to trees, I talk to animals, and I talk to the wind all the time as if they are standing beside me in human form. I feel their spirits swirling around me and through me. I feel my place among them as a child of the earth, another animal on this planet, connected to this spiritual web of life.
My relationship with the nature spirits is one of reverence, respect and friendship. Often my offerings are vocal praise/invocation, water, offerings and building little shrines out of sticks and stones while focusing loving energy around me. I have also offered songs, dance, and food to the nature spirits or to the soil. I try and learn the names of plants so that I can get to know them. I learn their leaf shapes and do my best to help them grow and thrive.
I have a regular spot that I spend time in throughout the year and in this spot I have seen the seasons change. The landscape has changed as the seasons have with the trees losing their leaves and growing flowers, with the soil being frost covered to it dry and cracking under my feet. Often times I will pause to take a moment to connect with the nature around me, taking in all the sounds and smells with my eyes closed, feeling the wind and just being present. Occasionally I find myself preforming a modified Two Powers meditation, connecting me even more to the Earth power and the Sky power leaving me charged and rejuvenated.
The three Kindreds, are a central focus of ADF Druidry and they are the most important element to me in my spirituality on this path. I appreciate the emphasis on all three without suggesting that one is more important than the other. Working with the Kindreds has not always come easy to me, in some ways it has been challenging to build those relationships, but throughout this process, working through the Dedicant Path I have learned new techniques for personal growth and connection. The there Kindred; The Gods and Goddesses of the Fire, the Ancestors of the Well and the Nature Spirits of the Tree walk alongside me always and I honor them with the deepest respect.