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.
Pagans love their symbols. I gave a workshop not to long ago on Tarot, after the short work shop was over a participant asked what a specific symbol meant. My answer, which was not appreciated, was to say that it could mean many things, it all depends on what books you’ve read and what Religious/Magickal/Cultural system you’re working in.
Those who have been involved in Magickal/Mystical/Faith research for many years understand that symbolism is a tool, and there are no sure meanings for anything, especially symbols.
There are really two main symbols of modern Druid practice and philosophy. The Druid Sigil and the Awen. Are there more, yes…but this is not meant to be an all inclusive historical blog post, merely my insights on the two that I use most often.
The Druid Sigil
This symbol was the invention of the Reformed Druids working from out of the Carleton College Druid group. This symbol resonants for me, and always has. I think its power is in the fact that it has no true meaning. One can contemplate its two lines and circle for years and come up with several working paradigms for reflection and utilization. One question is why this symbol came out of the mind of a NeoDruid in the first place – that in itself is a thing worth contemplating.
There are several ways that I utilize the Druid Sigil; As a symbol of meditative contemplation, a Gate symbol, a symbol of blessing, and as a symbol of consecration/hallowing/purification. When working acts of Sorcery I invoke it prior to whatever work I’m planning as a way to hallow an area and separate it from mundane space. I’m not one for outbursts or directional declaration so I simply trace the figure and extend it out into the area I’m working. A mental image of peace in all spheres of existence and all directions may follow the invocation of the symbol, but it’s not a hard and fast ritualistic affair.
Being that the symbol itself has no set meaning it is an apt sigil for the nebulousness of Druidry and it’s philosophy. I like the fact that it is probably a completely post-modern creation, that because of that it addresses the mystery of Druidry and modern pagan faith expressions. Like Druidry the Druid Sigil reminds those who consider themselves Druidish that they practice a philosophy/faith/cult that is itself a mystery demanding to be scrutinized and understood through the lens of inspiration, practiced with a hint of academic obfuscation. After all the history of modern Druidry is a complex thing, sometimes serious and at other times silly, I like the fact that the Druid Sigil is a very serious/non-serious symbol of ‘who-knows-what’.
The Awen is symbol I don’t utilize to much, but it has it’s place in my practice. The symbol is also a modern creation, but one with an ineresting past. Essentially, according to the inspired mythos put forward by Iolo Morganwyg the Awen represents the knowledge attained by a giant (the first being) from the All/God/Creator. I won’t rehash the mythology, but it is certainly a myth that easily fits with those who study and implement Indo-European mythology and cosmology into their practices.
I see the Awen as symbol of inspired lore. Usually it is used to mean Inspiration and is intoned to reflect this idea. For me it is a reflection of the wisdom and meta-language of Rune wisdom. It’s rays coincide with the three Aetts and it’s story – that it is fundamentally a matrix of lore of all existence, and that it was given to Einigan ( a giant or Jotun) and then discovered by another traveler (Odin) after the Giants destruction. I’m not saying that the Awen is actually the Rune row, but it is a mental association that I have come to utilize and may be helpful to others that incorporate a Revival era Druid knowledge into a Heathen religious practice.
More fundamentally, for me, the Awen also represents three tenets of Druidry that I think are important: Peace, Knowledge, and Power or Truth, Illumination, and Will or The Gods, Ancestors, and Nature. These symbols are powerful and as you can see, personal.
Last week I created a labyrinth in my backyard. It’s a simple three circuit labyrinth, very small and simply placed. I haven’t outlined the whole thing, and I’m not sure if I will or not at this point.
I merely placed large stones at the major points and turns, and hope to be able to ware the grass away where the path has been formed. So far it’s working out great and I should have a nicely seen path very soon. My experience walking it so far has been calming. I find it a very reflective process and even strangely liberating.
Doing research on labyrinth myths and folk beliefs leads one to believe that labyrinths were used not just for meditation and reflection, but also as a way to purge oneself of worry and evils. In the folk history of nothern europe one finds that these stone labyrinths were used to insure good fishing expeditions by trapping trolls or beings/spirits not conducive to such endeavors. Literally people would walk a labyrinth to trap a following negative spirit in the center…seems a bit metaphoric doesn’t it. They can also be, according to some sources, related to seasonal changes, that walking them may have emulated the awakening of the earth goddess in spring and her ‘greeting’ of the sky-god. This interaction would have been ritualized with a young woman being placed in the center and a boy walking the labyrinth in order to find and claim her to enact the drama of spring.
Again, the benefits of labyrinths seem pretty clear to me; They offer a time of reflection, a time to put aside worry, a time of meditation, and a time of focused seperation from anything and everything else in your life. It’s no wonder that one finds labyrinths all over Europe, in churches and at sites thought to be sacred to pagans. Whether or not pagans were using labyrinths prior to Christians in Europe or just alongside them is anyone’s guess, but certainly in the Mediterranean labyrinths were being discussed and utilized well before the Christian era.
I’ve been doing tons of soul searching these days about this Druish (Druid) thing – Is it important to have in my life? And why? And what does that mean?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it is important in my life and not in the way that it has been previously. What does that mean? Well, it means that for me Druidry is not a Religion in and of itself, at least not to someone like myself who practices a very Heathen/Norse Religion. For me Druid/Druish goes beyond any kind of specific tenet or dogma or even mythology. It carries with it a history of Nature, Truth, and Mysticism that has a definition hundreds of years long through many varied changes, organizations, and minds. It’s difficult to say for me that any particular era in that long history is any more relevant than another…
I’ve been trying on the operations and rituals of a few different Druid groups. Most have very Wiccan-esque, Golden Dawn inspired aspects that just don’t sit well with me. I mainly stick with a Fire, Well, Tree composition as the basis for much of my religious work, which stems from studies of Indo-european mytho constructs. I’m just not well suited to a Hermetically inspired religious framework I’m finding, so most of the revival era Druidisms are not cutting it. More than anything I’m personally finding that Druidry is not a central focus of my practice but an addition. My practice is not going to change drastically and if you’ve read my Morning Devotional posts you’re more or less familiar with it. I am very happy with my Religious practice as it is and I’m not going to pepper it with components that don’t jive with it such as directional honorings or elemental correspondences or cabalistic craziness. I’m still working on a personal definition of Druid – but Nature, Truth, Mysticism (a definition that sat well with me some 10-15years ago) pretty much sums it up, though one of Peace, Knowledge, and Power sounds good too. Those definitions don’t contain a ‘this is how Druids do ritual’ or this is what they believe slogan, it merely holds a philosophical outlook.
So where does that leave me. I think it leaves me with RDNA, or it’s like; A non-hierarchical, non-dogmatic, and a very non-specific form of Druishishness that is not Revival based, but is Reformed and open. The one thing I didn’t like about ADF is that it calls itself a Religion ” ADF will be a Neopagan religion..,” in the words of it’s founder, Isaac Bonewits. I can respect that vision, but it’s not what Druid means to me.
I’m left wondering still if I need to belong to or support a Druid organization or if my current practice is enough. Druidry does not modify my practice but energizes it, it is not a practice in and of itself but a mindset…in the end perhaps it really doesn’t matter one way or another.
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.
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.”
” 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.”
” 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.”
” 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.