In ADF, our Indo-European paganism is divided into factions based on our chosen “hearth” culture. This has led to a lot of confusion and feelings of isolation for folks, including me, because much like our chosen family, we, as pagans, get to choose with whom we build relationship as allies among the Kindreds.
If you look around the Prairie Home, you will see shrines to Brighid, Freyja, Hekate, Thor, Persephone, and Sky Father…not to mention the amazing depiction of the Earth Mother above the community shrine. This is what our Hearth Practice looks like.
We each have our chosen allies with whom we walk through the world in reciprocal relationship for the benefit of us all whether they be human, Deity, Ancestor, or Not-God. We have a say in who gets to join us at our Hearth and for how long they will walk with us on this journey through life.
As many of you know, Rev. Sara and I are in the middle of a class at Cherry Hill Seminary entitled, Pagan Consent Culture. The very first article in the book for the course by the same name is a piece by John Beckett on the notion of Personal Sovereignty. In his article, “Culture of Consent, Culture of Sovereignty,” Beckett (2008) discusses our individual “right to rule” ourselves AND the “obligation to rule rightly” (p. 2).
Though I am not typically a fan of Beckett’s work, there is merit in this statement:
We have a right to rule ourselves and the obligation to rule rightly.
We have a right to rule ourselves. Our personal sovereignty gives us the right to make decisions on our own behalf. We get to choose who comes into our homes, we get to decide what we want for dinner, we get to choose what we are going to wear.
We also get to choose whom we date, to whom we lend money, and to whom we offer hospitality. We even get to choose whether or not we will hug someone, regardless of how many times we’ve hugged them before.
We are each the bosses of ourselves which shows the importance of consent. Our society has us in the habit of making decisions for others without their input or permission. Consent is the only way we can truly respect the personal sovereignty of those around us.
Now, we also have an obligation to rule ourselves rightly. What does this mean? It certainly doesn’t mean we will be perfect. I will be the first to admit that I have made mistakes—a LOT of them, but each one holds a lesson that helps me to keep from making that same mistake again, each time, treating myself with self-compassion.
Self-compassion, suffering with the self (Latin com-together, pati-to suffer), builds a practice of learning how to give compassion to others, suffering with others. From there, I can truly build a practice of consent (Latin con-together, sentire-to feel), of learning how to feel with others before suffering takes place.
Seeking consent leads to healthy relationship dynamics. This practice is what will aid me in maintaining my personal sovereignty without diminishing the sovereignty of others.
Being in right relationship with those around us includes being in right relationship with ourselves. Right relationship with ourselves is the “Home” part of the Home and Hearth.
Home is where the heart is, inside of each of us, and at our center burns the living flame around which we build our hearth of chosen family and allies.
In short, Personal Sovereignty is being in right relationship with ourselves that we may build right relationship with those with whom we choose to share our journey. This, for me, is the essence of Home and Hearth.