Friday, December 31, 2010
I have often joked that "Wicca is to neo-paganism what beer is to drug use, it's the entry drug of paganism". her hidden children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America only confirmed that idea in my head. First off I want to say that this book is excellent. It is well written and easy to read, yet it is well documented and noted through out. Never was I left with the feeling of "where did she get that from?" as I have with other authors. Hidden children really lined things up clearly for me that were foggy and nebulous before. Specifically the way that Wicca and paganism came to America from England. Though I have long heard the name of Raymond Buckland in the neo-pagan world, never did I realize that he was the direct priestly link between America and Gardner. The author Chas S. Clifton also made me come to understand how only having one official Gardnarian witch in the U.S. led to the problem of not being able to initiate enough people fast enough. One thing that the Clifton didn't mention, that occurred to me as well that fed into this problem is the geography. The British isles are not nearly as big as the U.S. in land mass, and it is conceivable for people in the British isles to drive reasonable distance for initiation. However, it is far more difficult for some one on the west coast to get to the east coast of the U.S.
Clifton goes on to describe how this in ability for people to get access to a coven and specifically the Bucklands, led to many people to strike out on there own, particularly on the west coast. At first this was met with resistance from people who had been "initiated" in Gardnarian Wicca. It would seem however that Mr. Buckland eventually saw the inevitability of it and published a self-initiation ritual. People on the west coast did much more then just self-initiate but they made some pretty radical changes, or just flat out created their own systems of paganism or witchcraft.
The nature of nature religion
Clifton does an excellent job of explaining how Wicca and by extension neo-paganism came to be conceived of as a nature religion. Clifton points back to the the first Earthday in 1970 as being the key point in time when Wicca began to be described as a "nature religion" by various authors. I really liked the authors point that Wicca could be described as a true indigenous religion of the British isles (though I think even this is a bit of stretch), however that was not true for neo-pagans in the U.S. So it was that with America's historical and often romanticised, love of nature, combined with the awakening environmental movement that a good way to describe Wicca was as a "nature religion" or "earth religion".
Another thing I would add here is that describing Wicca as a "nature religion" helps to do away with the connotations of the word "witch" or "witchcraft" and puts it more into the same realm as the beliefs of the first nations (Native Americans) thus making it much more palatable for the main stream. Clifton points out that none of the British Wiccan authors of the early 1970's described Wicca as an earth religion, but American authors were, thus the idea of Wicca being a nature religion is an American adaptation.
The war of words
Clifton does a really good job exploring how Gardner and the authors to follow had to face the up hill battle of redefining terms such as "witch", "witchcraft", and introduce the word Wicca. A battle that is still going on. Clifton also talks about the rhetoric that Gardner created to help push his agenda and find acceptance in the main stream. Ellis, in his book "A brief history of the Druids" talks about how druids thought of themselves as seekers of truth. Though they meant the great truth of the universe, it also applies to the little truths. As a druid I think it very important that the rhetoric created by Gardner be exposed, and gently washed away to find the real truths it covers up. Wicca does not need an artificial history to make it worthwhile. I found the part in "her hidden children" where Clifton discusses the origin and meaning of the word Wicca to be very interesting. The author concludes that Wicca does not mean "wise one", as Gardner had proposed, nor "one who bends" at all, but in fact is simply old English for "witch" and carries with it all the old negative connotations it always has had. I suspect that this etymology is going to "bend some wise ones" all out of shape.
Wicca and pop culture
This was an interesting chapter, though over all I felt the author could have taken it up to more modern times discussing such films as the "witches of eastwick", "Practical magic", and "the craft". Not to mention "Buffy", "charmed" and lets not forget "harry potter". I know of at least one witch personally who came to Wicca through reading Harry Potter. The point that was made on me however was that Wicca and the redefining of the "witch" has had an affect on pop culture all over the world.
Clifton lumps all the other non-wicca neo-pagans into one chapter at the end of the book. Druidry's bit was well done if perhaps a bit shallow at times. Still I got a good sense of where ADF roots were, and the circumstances in which they grew. It wasn't made up. It wasn't glamorous, or particularly inspired. There was no lightning bolt, or the decent of a shining god or goddess. There were no prophets or much of anything rally. It was an organic grass roots movement of sorts. Just the way a druid organization should start.
My interview was looming in a few hours and I decided it would be a good idea to follow up stags help with some divine blessings in the hopes that it will help me land the job. I felt that the time and need were right to do my first fill druidic ADF style blessing. I began by gathering the offerings I would need. Ground flour for the earth mother (we didn't have cornmeal). Olive oil mixed with sandalwood and dragon's blood essential oil for the gods. I didn't have mead or whisky on hand so I used mulled apple cider as offering to the ancestors. Incense sticks for the Sidh. As I was doing this indoors at my alter, I used an offering bowl. I felt the working went very well. I did forget to state my clear intention of the right after my prayers to the earth mother and call for inspiration. Still by the time I got to the point when I drink the blessed cup, again I used the mulled apple cider, I could really feel the blessings flow through out my body. It was a pretty intense sensation, and I truly felt "power-full". The Deity I called to for aid was lugh. Those who have read my posts will know that he has been a strong influence in my life in the past year, and I still feel that. When I was living in Oregon, it was Cernnernos who was the most active. I can't help but feel that where I live now is ruled over more by Lugh and the place I was before more by Cernnernos. Or, it simply could be that the change is more within me.
Sorry I digressed. I went to the interview with confidence and friendliness. There were three of us applying for two positions. I should know by the end of the day.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Times have been tough for me financially of late. It's been a struggle ever since I moved to the desert and my attempt to start my massage practice over flopped. I have been going back to school and working when and were I can. Recently it's gotten even tougher. Medical bills, and the grant I was doing my teaching aid under ran out. I have been turning in Resume's and applications like crazy, but no bites. Not even an interview scheduled...until today. Yesterday I had a deep meditation and a spirit-journey. I met with various guides and gods. At the end of the journey, I suddenly felt inspired by the story of Lon Milo where he sends his first Goetic demon summoned to help him find work. He gave the Demon an hour to get the ball rolling, and it did and Lon got a job by the next day. I don't work with Goetic spirits, but I do have my totem. I usually am not the commanding type, but this time I commanded Stag, my totem, to find me a job that I would like and is compatible with my schedule. He had one day. By 6:30pm that night I had a call for a job interview to one of the many jobs I have applied for. The interview is today at 8:15pm. I am very excited and it fits the criteria I gave Stag. I am really excited about this for several reasons. If nothing else it is confirmation of my "magic". I still have to interview for the job, it's not s sure deal. As they say in turkey hunting "Roosted ain't roasted".
Magick will be employed. ;)
Friday, December 24, 2010
Recently I was involved in a discussion about land spirits. As the discussion progressed it touched on what I feel is a very important issue to us druids living in the Americas. That being, land spirits are more often then not, tied to the land and thus couldn't come to us from Europe, and thus how do we treat with the spirits of this "new" land? The natives of this place have a long and good history of working with the land spirits here. Sadly, in most places, and certainly here on the west coast of the lower 48 the natives are almost completely gone. This is a very sad thing, but not the focus of this post. The question is, can those of us of European descent summon, honor, call, and treat with American land spirits? It was suggested that the spirits here are used to being summoned with certain type of ritual, that being those of the local natives. That the land spirits here have native names, and should only be addressed as such. ok...what if the name is not known, and can't be learned? And what of the idea that they can only be summoned with native American style evocations? Where does this leave the modern druid? Even if I were able to learn, say the dances of the Umpqua Indians to summon the spirit of the Umpqua river, that would most likely be considered cultural appropriation and that's just not P.C.
I have been tumbling these thoughts over in my head for several days now, and here is what I have come up with. First off, spirits are as individual in personality as people are. What might be ok with one spirit won't be ok with another. How do we find out? I vote for good old fashioned trial and Error. Go out there and do what druids do in the way druids do it. If the spirit doesn't like it, I am sure it will let you know, if you bother to listen. Let the spirits be our teacher. I think and feel with but a few exceptions so long as the spirits are approached with offerings, respect and love they are not going to be over critical if you said the right name, pronounced in the correct native dialect or be upset if you didn't dance in the native way. Using a name the spirit is familiar with would be very helpful in treating with it, but not critical. So those druids that are inclined to work with such spirits, I say do your homework and get out there and get to know your spiritual neighbors!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Yule finds me in two places this year it would seem. On the 18th the purple witch lead our intrepid tribe in a eclectic wiccan ritual. Though she's been a witch for some time, this was the first time she's lead a ritual for any one else. The ritual was uniquely her, and for being her first one, very well done. So my critiques of the ritual, well the alter, though a fabulous representation of the woman leading the ritual didn't work for me. Much much to cluttered with things. It reminded me more of a place one set their "nick knacks" rather then an alter. This also caused some delay. There was no pattern or rhyme or reason I could see to the alter lay out. There was no welcome speech or declaration of why we had gathered before the ceremony started. One thing the purple witch did right, was to talk to the quarter callers and explain to them, even demonstrate, what it was exactly she wanted them to do. During the portion that was a guided meditation, the purple witch, due to nerves I think, read through the meditation way to fast. Speaking of reading, she read the entire ritual, however, she did a very good job of that. She didn't speak with a monotone voice, and put life into what she was saying, especially at the end. One thing that caught me off guard and surprised me a little was that there must have been a miscommunication, as the purple witch dropped doing what I thought was an important part of the ritual due to being indoors. Again I think that can be explained by her nervousness, which was great. As part of the yule/solstice ritual each year we do a Sumbol to each other. It's a chance once a year when we get to brag on another's achievments within the group. It was great last year and this year was no different. There were happy tears shed, perhaps the most moving was when two young ladies expressed to their father just how much they loved him and how happy they were he had found love. The purple witch handed out new paganized lyrics to old Christmas songs, and we sang. By the Gods we were awful! But everyone had smiles. The closing was a bit scattered, but in the end the purple witch managed to tie it up and close the ritual with a high.
The festivities started at 2:00pm with wreath making. This was fun. we got the greens for free from the Christmas tree lots. We had more then enough to make all the wreaths people wanted to make, and to outline the circle. As it turned out for the first time in three years I was going to be forced to do a ritual indoors due to rain. That's really nothing to complain about considering where I come from and how much it rains there. Once the wreath making was done, everyone helped to get the room ready for the ritual. As I said the ritual was pretty good and I think folks enjoyed it. After ritual we had potluck and feasting as we always do at the sabbots. It was a smaller group then usual, but the food was good. We had made plans for everyone to go to a light show at the local animal park, but that was canceled due to the heavy rains. I guess there's always next year.
The following day I got in my car and drove 11 1/2 hours to spend this week with my children. It has been a fantastic week and we are having a lot of fun. Anywho, on the 21st, I stood in the back yard next to the mighty river that I grew up on, and performed a simple, short ritual honoring the rebirth of Bel, the celtic sun god. I didn't do a full ritual as I did not have all my materials. I had my crane bag and in it just the baisics. I did not ask for blessings or any of the like. I also gave thanks for bring me to my old home safely.
I have been sitting here wondering how I am going to incorporate what I learned in "A brief history of the Druids" into my spiritual practice. Looking at it right now, I see the things in this book as forming the unseen "roots" and "enriched soil" of my tree of practice. It's the parts of a tree that are so important, but usually completely overlooked by those who gaze at the beauty of such things. We see the trunk, branches and leaves. Maybe we notice the bark, and some sharp eyed folk see a birds nest or the like. Few go digging at the roots and earth. Yet these are vital aspects to the beauty of the tree for without it they would not exist. What I am trying to say is that this knowledge will form the ground work from which my spirituality can find solidity and history. It helps me to feel courage as I pick up this torch and carry it into the future. I have a better sense of who my spiritual ancestors are and who it is I am offering to. Last but not least, there is a folk song I love to listen to. In it there is a repeated line that says "son, you don't know where ya are going if ya don't know where ya been" This rings true with neodruidry and neopaganism.
Growing up, my first introduction to "Druids" was through Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. They were portrayed as some sort of priest of the forest. I now understand why after reading A Brief History of the Druids. This is an excellent book of scholarly work. I learned so very much from it. It's not to difficult to read and the Author, Peter Berresford Ellis, does a good job of pulling guiding the reader through his thought process and explaining his interpretation of the supporting or refuting evidence. His style of writing was very readable and is not "text book". I know because I never found my mind wandering while reading his book, unlike when I read my Anatomy and Physiology book. One of the things I liked about this book was how Ellis is sure to first give an overview of what we know about Celtic culture. This is important to know so that one can understand druids more fully. They did not exist outside of their culture, but were integral to it. Ellis looks at all that has been written in the classical world of the druids via the Greeks and Romans, then not taking anything as truth looks to substantiate their claims by finding what corroborating evidence he can find from within Celtic cultural sources, such as Celts writing in Latin or Greek, or from the Gaelic languages. I find it fascinating all the similarities in language and culture that the Celts and Druids share with Vedic culture.
Ellis gives female druids their own entire chapter. He could have simple proved that there were in fact female druid, of which there is plenty of evidence, and left it at that. He expounded on the idea though, and went on to theorize about how woman were viewed in Celtic culture and some of their roles. He gave some great stories that I had never heard before, and a quote that I won't soon forget. After killer her Roman capture and rapist, Chiomara says "Woman a fine thing is good faith. A better thing only one man be alive who had intercourse with me." I can't say I fully understand her meanings, but I get the jist.
One of the most striking things I learned was about my wife's heritage. It was a joyful surprise to find my wife's family name talked about a good bit in the book. Though my wife knows a lot about her history, we both learned things. Namely that it was her family that started the tradition of handing out Torcs as rewards for bravery in battle. (On a side note my wife has decided that she needs a Torc. I told her I EARNED a Torc. When she asked why I told her it was because I was brave enough to marry her.)
It was in the 8th chapter "Wisdom of the Druids" that the book bogged down for me. Some of the info was new, some not so much. Much of this I had already learned in previous studies and if felt a bit tedious. Here is also where we run into one section that I question the ideas drawn. That is Ellis uses early Celtic Church philosophies as a basis for theorizing what druid moral philosophy would be about. Though I find the idea insightful, and intriguing, I have strong reservations about making any such correlations. Again the written Christian material came LONG after the druids were gone. I am not saying that it should not be done at all, but that it must be taken with a serious pinch of salt.
The author finishes up with a discussion on revival druidry. I found his work accurate and insightful and in line with other such information I have read.
I really enjoyed this book and took away so much from it. I learned a great deal that will give me insight into the Celtic gods, spirits, and ancestors, and not least of all myself. I would recommend any serious student of Druidry to give this book a read.
Friday, December 17, 2010
snnnniiiiiiifffffff! ahhh! The lovely tingly scent of Douglas fir fills my nose and home. It's scent sends me on a mental trip of days spent running through the forests of my home as a child, with my trusty golden retriever "Regal" beside me. Times making forts, and spying on the local wildlife. Times not so long ago, of silently slipping like a shade through the grey early morning light on my birthday, bow in hand. It was raining, and being my first hunting season I was completely unprepared for the weather. Soaked to the bone through a few layers of Cotton Tshirts, all I could feel was the heat of the hunt. I had stumbled into a heard of deer in the woods taking shelter. I found myself for the first time with the very real possibility of killing a deer with my bow. My heart pounded and adrenalin rushed. It came to a point near exploding when I drew down on the calm and unsuspecitng doe. I'll never forget the wet slap of the feathers as they whisked by my face. In the end the only thing I ate that night was "tag soup", still I was hooked, no more then just hooked, I was a willing lover of the bow hunt. My wife's lovely voice calls me back to reality. How does one describe to another these things when she asks "why do you love Douglas fir as yule trees? over the noble fir?".
So tomorrow is our little pagan tribe's winter solstice celebration and ritual. We have a lot planned. Starting at 2:00pm we'll have wreath building. 3:30-4:30 will be ritual. Following the ritual will be Potluck till about 6:30. The festivities will end with a trip to the local light show at the zoo. I won't be leading the ritual this time. Another witch from the group will be doing that. She has never done a group ritual before, but I have looked over what she has come up with and I think it's pretty good. Interestingly, we have had rain the last couple days and they are calling for more rain tomorrow. I hope it will hold off long enough that we can do this outside. If not we will bring it inside. If that is the case I can say that it will be the first time I have had to do an indoor sabot in 3 years. Living in the desert does have some advantages.
On Sunday I head back to my hometown, my parents, and mostly my kids. I miss them like I miss the smell of Douglas fir. I miss them as I miss a part of who I am. Yet I hate being away from my b'loved wife too. These trips are filled with bitter sweetness both in the coming and the going. Perhaps someday the holy kindred will see fit to bring these two parts of me together.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
So here they are! The first picture is my alter with the world tree representation I made. I got the inspiration from a picture in Ian's book. I am sure if he sees this, he'll know which one I am talking about. The second picture is the Bell I got at Good will and the stand I made for it. It makes a beautiful sound that goes right to my soul. There is some magick in that old bell, I can feel it.
Yesterday I memorized a simple dedication ritual from ADF and the nine virtues. You can expect to see some thoughts about the virtues in the not to distant future.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
This week has been AWESOME when it comes to things learned and done. I have begun building a symbolic world tree for use on my alter. I got the idea from a picture from Ian's book. It's assembled, today I will stain it. I also made a stand and frame for a beautiful sounding bronze bell I got from Good Will. It is also assembled and needs staining. Pictures to come so stay tuned!
On Monday I got the chance to attend a 3 hour lecture on "southern Conjure" by Orion Foxwood. I have attended a lecture once before by Orion at Pantheacon. This time we were lucky enough to have him come to our home town. Though I am not strongly interested in this type of magick at this time, the knowledge and history I learned were great, and Orion is very much an entertainer when he lectures. I highly recommend others to take the time to attend some of his lectures.
Also on Monday I got the first of the books in on Druidry that I ordered. This one is "A brief History of the Druids" by Peter Berresford Ellis. This book is amazing! I am learning so much it's hard to even put into words. As I read it I feel like I am soaking up each word and meaning. The stories are great! In fact I even learned a whole lot about my wife's ancestors. Things even she didn't know, and she knows a good bit! It's cool kinda feeling when reading a scholarly work such as this book and see your wife's ancestors discussed and written about. As Robert said the other weekend to me "if you had half a brain in your head you'd marry that woman." (the joke being that he was AT the wedding).
I have pretty well mastered ADF ritual format, or at least Ian's version that he writes about in Draiocht. There are still a number of other "smaller" or shorter rituals that I want to memorize, and I am no working on those. Things like cleansings, simply hallowings, short dedications and the like. One thing I found interesting listening to Orion was that some of the types of spells he mentioned southern conjurers do are also in Ian Corrigans book. It was cool to see the cross reference. I Am not sure if this is because Ian himself pulled these spells from southern conjure, or if it is from the cultural mixing of magic that happened in the Appalachians and American south that Orion spoke of. Specifically I am thinking of the "uncrossing" spell. Also I am really enjoying the meditations and visualizations in Ian's book. There is a strong melding of JMG's druid magick system and ADF/Ian's system going on in me these days. Fitting the two together hasn't been difficult.
Ok, enough talk, time to get back to my books!
I just discovered that one of my spiritual teachers growing up has a blog! If you have the time, I'd like you to head on over there and poke around a little. His magick is different them what most of my readers are accustomed to reading about, but I'll let William's blog do the talking.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Down the road a ways from my home, there is a "Frosty King". It's a Dairy Queen knock off. Thing is, in my town there is only one Dairy Queen and it's a LONG ways away from me, there are however several of these Frosty kings. The one near my home I noticed some time ago had a broken window. The kind of break that would indicate some one threw something through it. This struck me as a bit odd, as its not located in a "bad" area of town. Still there are homeless about and perhaps a ticked off customer. What really struck me as odd was when the window was fixed only to be broken again in a matter of days. For a long time the owner simply put up some plywood. Can't say I blamed him either. I never went there. No reason why I didn't...just didn't. Well last night after attending my wife's bosses 40th anniversary dinner, I decided to go through the drive through of the Frosty king. Might as well give it a try. When we got to the service window I was pleasantly surprised to find a young woman, probably 14 or 15, wearing a attractive shawl over her head. That's right, she was Muslim. What I am assuming was her younger brother also showed up in the "picture" and he too was obviously of middle eastern heritage. Then in a flash the broken windows suddenly, and very sadly, made sense. This restaurant was owned and operated by a Muslim family. Though it's not located in the "bad" part of town, it is located near the "white" part of town. The window was the repeated victim of hate.
Suddenly, I was grateful that I can choose to be like the fox, and blend in and hide my pagan beliefs if need be. These fine folk didn't get that option.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Phew! It has been a busy week. Started off with a final in my Microbiology class. Another easy A. The classes I had this term were not very challenging. Not like the last couple terms. I usually have at least one class that has me doing spells to help me get the grades I demand of myself. Not this time. With the illness that my wife has gone through that's probably for the best. I thank the holy Kindred that they guided me into the classes they did.
The last few days I have been working at the local new age/occult store. It's been fun, if a bit slow. My friends like to come and hang out and chat with me and I enjoy that. I recently signed on with ADF and I received the book that is a guide to their ritual format and the "dedicant's path" study program. Maybe I am crazy as fox in catnip, but I get all tingly inside thinking of all the fun I am going to have studying and writing and learning...or maybe I am just a druid at heart. I am excited about this new system of magic for two reasons. First off, after reading through the material I believe this work will bring me closer to the divine, that is, the gods. I also believe that this work will up the power of my magic significantly. Already things that were hazy in my mind are clearing and crystallizing. I am finding understandings that I was unsure of before. Today I ordered the books I'll need to finish the Dedicant's path.
So where is this taking me? I believe to better health, wealth, and wisdom. To wisdom, love and power. At first I was wondering if all the work I have done in JMG's druid magic handbook was going to jive with this new system and in most ways, I think it will. Yes there are some differences, but nothing so much as to be a huge inconvenience.
The pagan group I am leading is coming along nicely. Recently we have had a influx of people new to the pagan path and as such those of us in the leadership decided that it would be a good idea to teach the basics of doing solo rituals. For now we are teaching a very "wiccan" style ritual. It feels a little "skitso" to me at time to do that as I am learning a very different system, but I know that most the people in the group are wiccan based and that is the material most new pagans have access to.
Last but not least I got the chance to mentor one of the pagan group members tonight. I am really proud of how far she has come over the months. She has a lot of "stuff" on her spiritual path to deal with, and so far she has done a beautiful job of it. It's not easy stuff, but today she showed a lot of intelligence and insight in seeing what was going on, with a little help from me pointing a few things out.
The holy kindred are good.
Magic is good,
and I too am good.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Last night I had a birthday party. That's right, is old and wise druid turned am amazing 36 years old! wow right?! no? oh well....ok so I am not ancient and all wise, but I am working on getting there. My age, though is not the point of this post. I love story. More then movies, more then reading a book, a well told story is truly a form of magic. It's unlike anything I have ever felt or experianced and I love the feelings. I can't find words for it, how it makes me feel, the sense of being wrapped up in the magic of a story. I just know I like it. So for my party, I asked the guests to have a story to tell and share. It could be a well known fairy tale, or something they made up. It could even be a true story, but I also reminded them to never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I was a bit nervous if people would do it. Would they really take the time from their busy lives to memorize a story to share with me and the others? would they get shy? I am glad to say, I was NOT dissapointed. Though not everyone brought or shared a story, most did, and the stories were fantastic! Stories of Tigers, and foolish travelers, of modern day wizards down on their financias and the comical demon summoning that came of it, of a funny uncle who pretended to be native american as he guided people down a rafting trip, and perhaps the most powerful of all was the story told by my b'loved wife. She told her story not just with words, but also in sighn language. It was poetic with out being a poem. It was about me and her, but no one else would have picked up on that. It brought a tear to my eye. (hold on, I have to go put a bucket under the leak in my roof...back!) It was the best birthday I have had in a very very very long time. I did not get many material gifts, and that was just fine, for the gifts I got were far more precious. A story told is a gift of the inner self. A gift of wisdom, humor, drama, and much more. It is a gift of the soul and of the spirit. I will never forget this birthday, nor the gifts given, or who gave them.
The story of my magical and spiritual path goes on as well. I am still working on learning the ritual format laid out in Ian Corrigan's book Draiocht. The more I read it and memorize parts the clearer it becomes. I feel at times the meanings are some how hidden but then slide into me brain like as snake through tall grass, suddenly I just "get it." Ian's book made me take another look at ADF and after watching the video's of the Ceremony for Bonawits, I decided to join ADF and learn their system as well. Also, on friday I finished the last Gwersu of the Bardic grade from OBOD. It felt good, and I learned a lot, yet I have chosen not to go on with their Ovate grade program for a couple of reasons. First and formost, I simply can't afford it. Second I fell that most of what they have to teach, I can learn else where and less expensivly. Lastly, it has come to my attention that OBOD is not a church or nonprofit organization. It is run by 4 people who's positions are appointed not voted, and there is no transparency as to where the money goes. Now don't get me wrong here, I am not saying they are fakes, and the quality of the materials thus far have been top notch. Perhaps some day, when I have the money to spare, I'll invest in their Ovate program.