The Eight of Cups has always haunted me. Its image: A traveler headed toward the hills, lit by the full moon, cloak unfurled and walking stick in hand. Behind her, a stack of shining goblets, beautiful in the moon’s light. Perhaps they are full, perhaps empty. That doesn’t matter anymore.
The image and its meaning sound a bell in the heart: Knowing when the path calls you on, when all your past accomplishments dwindle in meaning like so many empty cups. There is a weariness here, a sadness, but also a determination: To find a new place, a new focus, a new purpose.
I don’t need to draw a Tarot card to know that this is a time for the Eight of Cups, for both me and my husband. My husband’s case is more secular: A decision to retire from his career. Mine is spiritual in nature: A decision to bow out of the Henge of Keltria and return to ADF.
I’m not sure if I’m truly leaving Keltria, or if Keltria is leaving me. I had one of those deal-breaking conversations with my mentor and, by proxy, the Archdruid — one of those times that caused me to look hard at my personal values, and whether they were being served by the organization that I had worked so hard to serve in turn.
In short: I value human diversity. I truly love and honor the Kindreds — the Gods, the Nature Spirits and the Ancestors — and want to make sure that any others who are called to this path feel welcome, regardless of ability or disability, socioeconomic circumstances or differences in perspective. I won’t go into the specifics of the argument right now, as I have mixed feelings about doing so publicly; honoring one’s teachers is also a virtue to me.
I’ve had difficulties before, earlier in my tenure. (I’m bad with time, but I think it’s been a bit more than 10 years since I left ADF for Keltria.) I decided to stick it out, to dig the deeper well, and let my devotion, willingness to work and my knowledge do any convincing of authority if such convincing was required. I made it through their Initiate’s program, and the Rings of Birch and Yew. I’ve written multiple articles and put together the newsletter. I was named Vice President when the previous office-holder bowed out. As of now, I’m about a year out from the highest initiation: the Ring of the Oak. And if I just sat here and shut up and toed the line, I could have made it.
But it feels wrong — profoundly wrong — to do that in a spiritual context, to lie about my deepest values and what I, in fact, believe under the surface. I can understand doing so to keep a paying job, or to keep together a flesh-and-blood family. But ultimately, spirituality and religion are two-fold: They are choices, and they ought to be a true reflection of your deepest principles. The practice of integrity calls for that.
The Gods don’t care whether I remain with Keltria or any other organization; they’ve told me as much themselves. So, it comes down to the basics: do you follow your principles, or do you alter those principles to stay with the group?
Being who and what I am, there really wasn’t much of a contest. That being said, this has been a rather stressful experience overall.
When I renewed my ADF membership, I just felt … welcomed, in a way I never did with Keltria. Maybe it’s just “the grass is greener” principle, but when I received that form letter with its hearty welcome, I felt like I belonged. I signed up for their Facebook groups, and people welcomed me wholeheartedly.
I was invited to join a study group in Ithaca! Who knew there were Druids so close? I deeply look forward to it — to no longer being alone on the path, to recapturing the joy and connection I felt when I was with Grove of the Other Gods, back in my home state of New Jersey.
I plan to start on the Generalist’s study program; I completed the Dedicants’ program years ago, although I plan to attend Ithaca ADF’s Dedicants program discussion group to get back in the swing of things.
I know ADF has its problems, and some of the folks I had issues with back in the day are still there. That’s surmountable, though, and conflicts of this nature are a part of all churches. And in ADF’s defense, I was an absolute twat in my 20s, for which I apologize. Overall, I plan to stay away from the Mother Grove and the bureaucratic functioning of the organization, to focus on my own path and the involvement in the local group — which, truth be told, is all I ever wanted anyway.
It’s worth remembering that the Eight of Cups is followed by the Nine and the Ten — enjoyment and the happy family, respectively. Hopefully, I’m on my way. This blog will, as always, invite you to walk alongside me.