Trials under the Oak

If you read this blog, you noticed that I left ADF a few years ago, chronicled here: Updates, Memberships, and Resignations. What you may not know is that I joined again in June 2015.  I rejoined because I found myself still thinking and practicing as an ADFer, using the same format for my daily devotionals and seasonal rites.  I lived with my decision to leave for a year, thinking through my decision,and making sure that rejoining was a positive choice.

I rejoined just after a horrible decision to consolidate the power of the organization at the ‘top’ in a vote that came from the very people the bylaw was changed to benefit.  I can no longer be part of an organization that fails to live by it’s own established set of virtues.  Clergy that would undermine the membership the way they did deserve to have the title of Clergy revoked.  I can no longer be a member of an organization that is morally and ethically empty.

A very good summary of the events can be found here: Nerdy Druid: Community before Clergy

Many members have left over this decision and honestly I would have never returned had I known of this Bylaw change. The Archdruid, under whose hand this Bylaw was passed will go down as the worst AD in the organization.  He splintered the organization, created a Hierarchy that mimics that of the majority religion, and caused groves and members to leave out of protest.  ADF is now an organization that ignores its membership and rules with a heavy hand from the Mother Grove:

From the Sixth piece of business of the February 2015-April 2015, Mother Grove Minutes –

   Point was raised that by making the proposed changes to the positions of AD and VAD, by a board of mostly clergy members, this would look like the clergy protecting themselves. 

  It was pointed out that adding the requirement of clergy would shrink the pool of candidates to approximately 30 people, that are their own gatekeepers to whom gets into the group without any input from the membership. 

These statements point to the fact that concerns were raised by MG members and Clergy in attendance, but were summarily ignored.  The change to the organization was done anyway…virtue be damned.  Let’s be clear, this ruling limits the highest offices to a sliver of the actual membership.  It limits the office of the AD and VAD to members who have the time to dedicate to the pseudo-Academic training of the organization, training programs with little to no oversight.  And the vote came from those having the capacity and resources to attend MG activities and festivals…

It’s one thing to join an organization that already has this type of Bylaw on the books, it is another to ask members to remain following such a fundamental change to the organization they’ve been part of for 10/20/25 years, a change without vote or member consideration or notice.

If ADF’s plan was to institute a Caste System similar to that of the ancient Indo-Europeans it has succeeded, there is now an “Us” and a “Them” within its circles and groves of worship.

I for one can no longer be part of such an organization.

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Updates, Memberships, and Resignations.

The biggest thing on my mind lately related to this blog is my standing with ADF at the moment.  Not that the Org cares so much, but I’m deeply considering my place within it.  I am burdened by questions that do not have easy answers.  ADF has been a big part of my life for almost a decade…This post has been a long time coming, a few years I would say.  I have long pondered whether being a part of this particular Org is a benefit and this post is about choosing not to ignore the questions that have arisen.

After having detailed some of my concerns with the study programs to those who oversee them no reply came.  It’s not this alone that is upsetting me about my affiliation with ADF these days, but it certainly does not help.  My overall concern is that ADF is, or is becoming, the very thing I depise in large Orgs of this sort.   Eventually the Office and Overseers of large Orgs don’t care about the average member.  Is paganism perhaps not well represented by large Orgs?…I’m beginning to think that the idea of Orgs built to hold Pagans beneath an immense canopy of relateable philosophies is an erroneous endeavor.  Perhaps Paganism is best understood locally and via small personal cells of like-minded persons.

But then I also ask myself if Pagans do better when affiliated with a large Org.  Do we need the power of a large Org to protect and further the goals of Paganism in our modern day?  Does the meer existence and membership with Orgs as large as ADF insure a political power that Pagans may be without otherwise?  Does my membership in ADF say anything of relevance?

Another post of mine Contemplation of Continuance had me writing a bit about what thoughts cause me to re-up my ADF membership every year.  I’d thought I’d ask those same questions again in light of my current mindset…

This post tends to be tough on ADF.  And I don’t necessarily mean it to be that way.  I’m not ranting on what ADF is or has become, merely on my place within it and where I am on my Pagan path these days.

Have I grown as a religious person because of membership?  I can honestly say No here.  I have not been challenged by my activity and membership for a few years now.  Does there need to be a constant state of growth…no, but what good is being a part of something if it’s only my money that an Org has.  Being that ADF cannot get it’s act together in terms of Study Courses, I see no other way to answer this.  The bigger question should be if I think ADF should even try to better it’s programs…this is one of the things I’m wrestling with.

Is ADF an organization that does good? Um..I’m not sure.  The Groves within ADF certainly address the local Pagan communities need in a way.  I’m not sure that it’s doing good by being so obviously elitist in it’s theology and ordination process, however.  I’ve had the sense from the very beginning with ADF that it was the home of snobbish academics (I perhaps fall into this category on occasion), even experiencing it directly…and that feeling has only grown through the years.  That’s not to say that I’m not proud to be a member (or past member) of an academically rigourous Org, but it has its place. So I think I’m on the fence with this question.  I think perhaps the philosophy of ADF is good; Open ritual, academic honesty, reconstructionism curbed by modern culture.  Is it enough to keep me passionate about my membership?

Have I learned?  I think I’ve learned in spite of belonging to the Org.  Not good…not good at all.

Is ADF fun? No.  It’s getting to be a chore.  This very debate that I’m having with myself about the benefits of being or not being a member is an example of that.

I’ve heard stories of other members having a rough time of the programs as well and leaving to pursue other avenues of study and ordination.  For me it’s not ordination at all cost, or by the easiest means possible, and this is by far not the be all end all reason for thinking of moving on and out of the Org.  I’ve been a Pagan for all of my adult life, and I’ve never thought that an Org can declare a person clergy…that is up to the Community itself not to an Org thousands of miles away.

In the time it took me to type this up and ponder what my ongoing affiliation with ADF means I’ve come to the realization that perhaps it is time to sever my time with ADF, that maybe I have learned all I can during my stay and that I am actually excited by the prospect of being out from under it’s canopy.  I’ve thus sent an email to the ADF Office resigning my membership and await confirmation.

sigil

 

 

Morning Everyday Practice

My daily morning practice:

-Sit or Stand before Shrine/Hallows/Altar/, My tradition calls for a representation of the Sacred Tree, Fire, and Well.

“I come this day to keep the ways of my Ancestors,
To keep the ways of the Aesir and Vanir,
and to keep the ways of the Gothi and Gothar.”

-Light Candle-

Well

” Today I sit beside the Sacred Well, waters of life,
Of first wisdom and chaos.”
– Drop coin into waters.
” May the waters of the well rise this day in this Grove and Ve.”

Fire

” I sit beside the Sacred flame of living and life,
beneath the great sun and immortal sky and the fires of reason, power, and passion.’
-Drop a pinch of spice or incense into flame-
” May the fires flame here this day in this Grove and in this Ve.”

Tree

” I sit beside the Sacred Tree, great Yggradisil,
holder of all worlds,’
-Smudge of oil onto Tree representation-
” May the Tree rise here from earth to sky, from chaos to reason this day, in this Grove and Ve.”

Brief pause for reflection on Well, Tree, and Fire

” Fire , well , and Sacred Tree
Grow and Flame and Flow in me.
I Stand between the Earth and Sky,
Rooted deep and crowned high.”

-Dip fingers into Well and aspurge area-
” May the Waters of Well open as a gate, that my words may resound within.”
-Hold hands over the flame to feel the warmth of the flame or light incense-
” May the fires of the Flame open as a gate this day that my words may a-light within.”
-hold staff or touch Tree icon-
” May the great Tree open as a Gate that this day, that all worlds may know my words and deeds.”

Brief pause for reflection on opening of gates.

At this point I conduct any work I have planned for the morning. This could be silent meditation – offerings to gods, beings, ancestors – Stadhagaldr (Rune yoga) – Blessings or Workings for health/prosperity or the like on behalf of relatives or myself.

Once the work is finished I close the devotional

“I go this day warmed by the Fire, refreshed by the Well, and sheltered by the Tree.
With Joy, Beauty, and Compassion in me.”
-This is said while feeling the warmth of the flame, touching the tree, and touching the waters.
Address any beings offered to and dismiss with love and honesty or Contemplate the brief devotional and what has occurred.

“By Will and Right, Troth and Might, finished this day is this Rite.”
-Blow out candle and wait for smoke to dissipate before leaving room, altar, or harrow.

 

Yggdrasil
Yggdrasil

Contemplation of Continuance

My ADF membership is up next month.  I’m going on eight years of membership with the organization known as Ár nDraíocht Féin, but I’m not a joiner by nature and when confronted with the request to update my membership I pause and reflect.

Me (gray shirt)+ the Grove Organizer of EDPG @ ADF/Grove info booth PPD 2009

Have I grown as a religious person because of membership?

The short answer is yes.  I have been challenged by the organization and I think I may have challenged it along the way.  My practice is more focused and deeper because of my stay with the ‘Druid’ organization.  I am more pious, more devoted, and more fruitful in my practice.

Is ADF an organization that does good?

If I’m a member of something I damn well feel that the org should be good.  And I mean that in every aspect…It must be good for the membership as a whole and it must be good for the person.  More importantly it must be good for the religious community and not just the ‘Pagan’ one.

I have found ADF to be overall good.  There are always those who rock the boat, who place self above  the whole, and who may seek ambition in spite of the general good…but overall my experience with ADF has been positive, and I do believe that its members seek the highest good and progress for others.

Have I learned?

Yes.  I completed the Dedicant Program a few years into my membership.  In my mind the DP is one of the best learning programs in the ‘Pagan’ sphere of education.  ADF does not seek to bolster it’s own hypothesis of  what ‘Paganism” should be, instead it presents courses that require academic and scholarly brashness.  Certainly there is a bit of ADF attitude involved in the programs – it’s liturgy is somewhat specialized, but it is also an example of the academic evolution one sees in the organization.  The honesty of the training and the work involved in accomplishing ADF’s offered courses is stellar and comparable in my mind to college level research and course work.

My plan was and still is to continue my studies with ADF – moving toward clergy or initiate status when time permits.

Is ADF fun?Copy of adf-roots-enc

ADF holds the ideal of openness in ritual and grove conduct.  This allows for gatherings of friends and strangers alike.  Like our ‘Pagan’ ancestors ritual is open and calls the people of a community to worship and renew bonds between people, the land, their gods, and ancestors.  In this case ADF excels in bringing people together and also therefore in respecting the fellowship and differences that can be highlighted by such ventures.

The rites I first led were ADF inspired within a small grove, in fact some of the largest rites I’ve attended were ADF rites under a blue sky in the light of mid-day.  I was proud to be a ‘Pagan’ in those rites, and I still am because of ADF’s need to serve the community in the open, not arrogantly displaying their faith but honorably devoted to ancient truths and wisdom once again explored and acknowledged.

Yes or No?

In the end I will rejoin.  Though I don’t call myself a Druid, ADF is more about honestly looking toward the Indo-European mindset and practice.  It is not beholden to it however, and the organization does allow for the wisdom that modernity has given to humanity.  I think it does good, and I think there is more to learn within the organization that perhaps I would not learn outside of it.

What I’m up 2

Ian Corrigans “Cosmos Sigil”

Currently I’m thinking about renewing my Clergy studies within ADF.  Before beginning I may inquire about some possible changes that can be made to how the material submitted can be reviewed.  Right now Clergy related material is reviewed, upon submission, by one person.  I see this as flawed. Certainly material that has been presented to the Mother Grove, and diligently worked on by the Member, should be given the chance to be seen by more than one individual – Doesn’t it demand the opinion of more than one person before receiving a nay or yay?

That’s my main beef with ADF’s programs.  The work is rigorous, it is not easy by any means, and it is expected to be academically sound.  So shouldn’t the work then be overseen by more than one individual?  What if the person reviewing the work doesn’t like the submitter, for whatever reason?  What if there is a bias concerning a topic of study?  We are human, and humans have opinions, habits, mindsets, and reading preferences that may conflict with anothers.

I’ve also just come from seeing a friend in the hospital, she is also an ADF member, and a fellow grove member.   It angers me to see that Pagan Clergy are nearly unheard of in such settings.  We had a very serious discussion about this, and about how in times like these Grove members constitute Clergy for each other.  Which I don’t have a problem with…but shouldn’t we as Pagans have Clergy on the Hospital Clergy list alongside Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists?  Maybe someday that will happen….

Getting ready for summer semester at school..Being an older student really makes me accept the University experience as a gift, and I remind myself of this daily..it makes it easier to get back to the books.

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Listening to: Clannad – [Atlantic Realm #09] Under Neptunes Cape [foobar2000 v1.0.2.1]
via FoxyTunes