Most folks know that we work with a class of spirits called the Ancient Wise, a set of beings who include all those ancient pagan priests, bards, poets, seers, and other sorts (think Dumezil's First Function, the magico-religious class). We meet with them at certain times, typically once a lunar month, and seek out their knowledge and wisdom (and sometimes, just their friendship). New Priests are given a set of "keys" to the work when they are ordianed, and introduced.
Readers of iancorrigan's blog (over at Into The Mound) are likely aware that last year, we started doing some additional work with another class of spirits, the Court of the Sky. This work is pretty new to us (to understand the name, think about the heavens as a court of spirits: the Sun is the king, the Moon is his druid/bard/magician, the Stars are the innumerable warband, and the storms are the folk), so it's still a bit undefined, and though we sort of "got ahead of ourselves" and introduced all our Priests to these beings, originally we'd thought about providing the keys to this work to Consecrated Priests only, and introducing them to this deeper work at that point.
Then again, that may still happen: we tend to focus primarily on the Ancient Wise as a group. . . likely, this is because the Spirits of the Court of the Sky are rather weird. I use the word "weird" in a good way, but it's a pretty apt word to describe them. These spirits that we deal with exist in the realm between us and the celestial firmament, though that doesn't make a lot of sense unless I explain things a lot more, but think about it this way: rather than working with "the Sun," we work with the rays of the sun; rather than the moon, the rays of the moon; etc.
So, I got it into my head to do some work with a set of beings that sort of "fit" the progression. I thought about moving "down," but I had always thought that "down" would be "step 2," rather than "getting a bit higher," as it turned out to be. So not that we'd gone up a bit, maybe we should go "higher."
The obvious choice to me was those deities (because we'd worked with Ancestors and Nature Spirits) who are associated with cosmic order: gods who are way up on the top of the chain, the ones who deal in those same fixed stars, the progression of the sun, and the regularity of those scales that are too large for us to fathom as humans.
Helios rides into the heavens, and the planets dive into the sea
Image from Theoi.com
In other words, your Mitravaruna, Tyr-like Gods of Order. The ones who watch over oaths, ensure that the sun rises and sets at its appointed times, and fix the stars in the heavens. Part of this was a desire I had to understand what it is that being an ADF Senior Priest means to me: there is, after all, no instruction manual, no roadmap, and no obvious model for the job (not to discount our other Senior Priests, but we all do things differently and express our vocations with our own odd & personal touches, and we're not in the business of creating cookie-cutter Priests).
One thing worth noting: you'll see that I'm going "up" all the time here: from fire to sky to deep within the celestial firmament. Mostly, it's an accident of progression, but partially, it's also a result of the general direction I see us going as Priests: places of sacrifice, vision and oracle, and creating order all tend to fit that general theme.
The "down" options that I've experienced have generally been in connection with my Initiate work: there, I found myself below the fire, in a portion of the underworld. I like that there are places I don't generally go as a Priest, places that are "outside" that function: it gives the work I do as a Priest even more meaning, as well as the work I do as an Initiate. Both become special and different, deliminated from other responsibilities I have.
Anyway, back to these "Gods of Order" I've been dealing with, and the "why" behind it all.
One of the things that has been vitally important to me is to understand this role that we have as ADF Priests, how it is different than the roles of others within ADF, and how it is even different between an ADF Priest and an ADF Senior Priest. After all, if the role is not different, if we do not change with the ordination, consecration, and elevation, then we have done a grave disservice to ourselves and to the folk (who accepted us at those rites) by having those levels.
At our age (ADF is just about to turn 30 next year), I don't see an issue with not having those changes defined or spelled out specifically. But I do see an issue if we think that some other poor priestly schmuck will take care of it.
And so I began to experiment with this next sort of "logical" (to me at least) step in the progression: these Gods of Order who are so strange to us. And I began with the first thing that came to mind: would it make sense for our Senior Priests to have a geis to speak only truth?
Over the past year or so, I've experimented with this particular notion. I approached these deities with the idea, and they have been interested in my approach, but we haven't really gotten to the point of a geis. Where we are, though, is what is truly interesting to me: where I had expected an "all or nothing" approach from these deities, I instead encoutered an interesting "half-step:" I am deeply aware of the nature of the statements I make and their level of truth, which has pushed me toward an understanding of what it means to speak nothing but the truth.
And, while we are telling the truth, I haven't found any need to speak falsehoods (or lie through omission) since I started this work. It has made both my personal life and my professional life very difficult (particularly since I work in contract negotiation, a business where letting people assume things that are untrue can certainly get you ahead in life), but the rewards have been astounding, mostly in that I do not feel the need to question my own character as much as I have in the past, and I find myself more accountable for things that go both right and wrong.
An interesting thing has also happened, though, that I feel compelled to share: I say that I haven't found a "need" to speak falsehoods, but many folks will know that I love to tell stories, and that I'm of the "Jimmy Buffett School of Storytelling," which is best summed up in a song lyric (of course) written by Mac McAnally:
And they all run together and turn out to be
A semi-true story."
full song on YouTube
So yes, I like my stories to be told in the moment, and to be a bit exaggerated, and to be just as true in their telling as they were when they really happened. It's how I've lived my life and how I remember it: stories that just get better with the telling, that evolve and change and weave themselves into a mythical tapestry that we can look back on with both joy and pride. And one day, I was telling a story (completely true) and I exaggerated a detail for effect, because it made the story better.
And as I was telling the tale, I understood that this was something that was rife with problems. The words formed in my head and traveled to my mouth, and somehwere in between, I found fault with what I was doing. And there, right at that point, the change I knew this sort of work would bring to my life was very clear. It would change how I interact with people, change how I respond to criticism, and change the way I work. And it was frightening.
Remember, I've taken no oath not to lie, and I'm under no geis as I type this, even months later. This was just a, "Let's see what happens if I start thinking in these terms," sort of thing. I remember a subtle but noticable physical reaction, a slight nausea at the words I was speaking, that was not at all pleasant, and I remember wondering what it would be like if I had taken an oath to these deities.
Part of me wonders what a group of oathbound-not-to-lie ADF Priests might do: would it be good for us, bad for us, or would anyone even believe that we were capable of telling only the truth? I know I would be skeptical of others, if it were someone else reporting on such a thing. I see advantages in it (it could potentially increase trust in our Priests, for one small example), but I also see it as full of disadvantage, too: an unscrupulous person who believed that there wasn't anything to oaths (and we have them) could use the oath as a way to take advantage of others. There's also no more sparing of people's feelings: I tell it like it is these days. Fortunately, I've generally done that, anyway.
Of course, I also don't speak gossip at all, as talking about something you can't personally verify is just as bad as lying, I tend to think. This makes me not very much fun at parties, I'll wager.
So that's what I have to report, right now, about this work. It's rough and strange, and I'm no nearer to recommending it than I was when I started (perhaps I'm farther from doing so? I don't know), but it's certainly been an interesting experiment.