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Copyright © 1983, 1996 C.E., Isaac BonewitsJust as interesting historical documents, here are (1) the original open letter that began ADF's public existence in 1983, with interjected material from the rewrite that appeared in the first issue of The Druids' Progress, published the following year, (2) the rest of the "What ADF Will and Won't Be," article from that first DP, and (3) a few current notes.Part 1: The original open letter from Isaac BonewitsThis announcement is going out to all the people who have written to me wanting Neopagan Druid literature, training and/or fellow Druids with whom to worship. After a great deal of soul-searching, I've decided to try once again to see what I can do to create a form of "reconstructionist" Neopagan Druidism.As many of you may know (perhaps from reading my book Real Magic or Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon), I 've been a priest of the Reformed Druids of North America since 1969. I've led groves (congregations) in Berkeley and Minneapolis, and founded others elsewhere; published newsletters (both Druidic and general Neopagan); and wrote most of, edited and produced The Druid Chronicles (Evolved), (the closest thing to official scriptures the R.D.N.A. has). I'm also a priest and elder of the Craft, and I've been a Neopagan magician and occultist for nearly twenty years.I've studied, practiced and written about many different forms of magic and religion over the years, yet always I find myself going back to Druidism. Many people have written to me to tell of similar spiritual histories, of their knowledge that they are meant to walk the Druid Path. Yet what can we, who wish to worship and to grow as Neopagan Druids, do for fellowship? The Masonic Druids have much to teach us, yet they are not Neopagan. The "Druidic" traditions of Wicca are interesting, but they're not really very Druidic. The members of the R.D.N.A. have no interest at all in being organized by anyone, nor in recruiting and training would-be Neopagan Druids. There doesn't seem to be any organized group of people trying to reconstruct what the Paleopagan Druids actually believed and did, nor trying to apply such knowledge to creating a Neopagan religion fit for the Space Age.What can we do? We can do it ourselves! Thanks to the researches of such scholars as Dumezil, [Ross,] Gimbutas, Piggott, Duran and others, we now have a sizable amount of realistic data about Indo-European Paleopaganism and its clergy. But how do we apply this knowledge to creating a modern Neopagan religion? What does it mean to be a Druid in the 1980's? Using accurate information as a starting point, how do we create rituals and fellowship, art and music, polytheologies and lifestyles that will give meaning to our lives and those of others?Well, of course, I have my ideas and my visions. I see Druids as being artists and intellectuals, magicians and clergy, holders of the highest wisdom their cultures (or subcultures) have to offer. This is what they used to be, and what they could be again.The purpose of this letter is an announcement of, and an invitation for your participation in, the creation of a new Neopagan religion: Ár nDraíocht Féin. The Irish words [pronounced "arn ree-ocht fane"] mean "Our own Druidism," and that's what I have in mind -- a brand new form of Druidism, not just Pan-Celtic, but Pan-European. [By this latter term, I mean to include all of the European branches of the Indo-European culture and language tree -- Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, even the pre-Classical Greek & Roman.] Paradoxically, this would resemble the original Paleopagan Druidism far more than any efforts of the last thousand years. It would be based on the best scholarly research available, combined with what has been learned [about art, psychology, small group politics and economics] through the theory and practice of modern Neopaganism, and my own knowledge of [the polytheological and practical details] magical and religious phenomena.I've already started this project, through the organizing of my notes and the beginning of a new book. The purpose of ["The Druid Handbook"] will be to enable anyone who has a copy to start up their own Druidic grove, or to practice as a solitary Druid. Everything necessary will be included: history, polytheology, liturgy, legal structures, art and music, calendars and customs, etc.This is where you come in. I would like to make sure that what I am creating will fulfill genuine needs in other Neopagans. So I'm going to need feedback, advice and research help from many people in order to make this project work. Unfortunately, I'm also going to need some sort of minimal financing in order to devote the time necessary to do this right (I'm talking about 10-20 hours a week for 2-3 years). Otherwise I simply can't do the huge job of coordinating the research and writing the book in anything less than 5-10 years.What I have in mind is this: despite my experiences with Pagan publishing in the past, I'm willing to produce a highly irregular, nonscheduled Druid publication. This would come out four or five times per year, and would simply consist of xeroxed sheets of dot matrix type like this letter. Issues would include selections from the work in progress; research materials (advice, requests and reports for and from the readers); scholarly, liturgical and polytheological debates; Druidic rituals and guided meditations, and anything else that looked interesting and Druidic around publication time.Now Druidism is not everyone's cup of tea, so I'm not expecting a large response to this announcement. Professional journals for specialized interest groups charge as much as $50 per year, but I'm willing to mail out this stuff to people donating $20 or more per year (depending upon what each supporting subscriber honestly feels they can afford to contribute to the project). That won't be enough for me to "earn a living from my religion," but it could enable me to devote the time and energy needed without my actually losing money.If you're interested, send your donation to me with a clearly printed or typed name, mailing address, zip or postal code, home & work & message phones (optional) with hours you can be reached at each, areas of expertise (languages, arts, research background, etc.) and areas of special interest (what you want to see published). Postdate your check or money order to March 1st, make it out to "P.E.I. Bonewits," and enclose a (larqe) self-addressed stamped envelope. If there aren't enough people who are enthusiastic about the project, the envelopes will be used to return the money of those who have responded. Otherwise, I'll use them to mail out the first issue.With a little bit of luck, the blessings of the Gods and a great deal of hard work, we can create an authentically Druidic Neopagan religion our ancestors would be proud of.Bail o na Deithe ort... Blessings of the Gods on you!Isaac Bonewits, Archdruid, Ár nDraíocht FéinPart 2: Original Declarations of "What ADF Will and Won't Be"ADF is an idea I have been wrestling with for years: a Neopagan Druid Order whose members would not be ashamed to honestly compare themselves with the original Druids. This requires mature, dedicated and talented people who are willing to invest both time and energy over a long period (remember, the original Druids took up to twenty years each to be fully trained, and they had an intact tradition).At this point in the birthing process, details are in short supply, but the general outlines are becoming increasingly clear. I can at least give you some specific ideas as to what Ar nDramocht Fiin will and won't be:ADF will be a Neopagan religion based on solid (but imaginative) scholarship in the fields of linguistics, Indo-European studies, comparative religion, archeology, anthropology, Celtic & Norse & Baltic & Slavic studies, history, musicology and polytheology. The scholars we will be basing our research on include Georges Dumezil, Mircea Eliade, Anne Ross, Stuart Piggott, G. S. Littleton, Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, Proinsias MacCana, Myles Dillon, Nora Chadwick, etc. We will not be accepting Lewis Spence, Margaret Murray, Robert Graves, Merlin Stone, H. P. Blavatsky or Iolo Morganwg as scholarly authorities (although some of them may provide poetic inspiration now and then). If we have to fill in gaps in our knowledge with our own imagination, spiritual visions and/or borrowings from non-IE sources, we will go ahead and do so, but always in full awareness of what we are doing (and with full documentation of the process).ADF will be developing a slow, careful and steady system of training for Druidic clergy, equivalent to that gone through by professional clergy in other religions. We will not be in any hurry to initiate people (though we [did] create and publish self-dedication rituals for the first level of participation), since an obsession with rank and titles is usually counterproductive to actual spiritual, artistic and scholarly growth. A correspondance course has been suggested and I'm willing to give it serious consideration, once we have the basics figured out. [It never happened.]Although our primary focus will be on the beliefs and practices of our Indo-European ancestors, and on how these can be adapted to modern circumstances, we will not tolerate racism or nonsense about "Aryan blood." The Indo-Europeans were a motley assortment of tribes speaking related languages -- not a "race." All of our ancestors are of mixed blood, and most of the black people in America have (however involuntarily) some European genes. So anybody, regardless of their race or color, who is sincerely interested in participating in ADF will be made welcome. Similarly, the IE peoples are known to have had both male and female clergy, and those tribes influenced by shamanistic practices frequently had clergy who were ambiguous in their gender identification. For these historical reasons, as well as the fact that ADF is a Neopagan religion, we will not tolerate sexism nor restrict membership or rank on the basis of gender or affectional preferences. Having said all that, let me add that I have no intentions of letting extremists of any persuasion use ADF for purposes not in keeping with our original goals.We will have a carefully structured hierarchy, based on actual skills and knowledge obtained and demonstrated, with both upward and downward mobility. The training system will involve the setting of specific standards in all the areas necessary for functioning at the different levels, and these standards will be published in the Handbook and widely disseminated throughout the Neopagan media, in order to prevent false claims of rank. Our primary approach is going to be the attainment not just of competency, but of excellence. Democratic safeguards will be built in, but we do not expect everyone in ADF to be qualified for (or even interested in) attaining the rank of clergy. After all, the original Druids were only a small percentage of their Paleopagan communities, and not everyone has (or needs) a clerical vocation. Nor will rank in other Neopagan organizations guarantee equivalent rank in ADF, since we have no way of knowing what standards other groups are using, nor how strictly enforced they are.The Ancient Druids were polytheists rather than mono- or duotheists; so our main approach will be a pluralistic one. We are not going to promote any One True Right and Only Way of Druidism, merely whatever happens to work for us. This means, among other things, that we intend to maintain friendly relations with as many other Druid organizations as possible, and will encourage our members to investigate these alternate Druid paths.We are going to take our time putting the whole system together. Based on solid research and a knowledge of the mistakes made by other Neopagan groups in the past, we can create something magnificent. But like an oak tree, it will take time to become strong, and we have no intentions of trying to force its growth. Within two to three years we should get the primary seeds planted. Then the results will be up to the individuals who have heard the trees whispering in their ears, and who know that they are meant to walk a Druid way.Part 3: The view from thirteen years laterMembers of ADF who have been around a while will find parts of the original open letter amusing indeed. The 10-20 hours per week turned into 40-50, the 2-3 years into 13, and the single "Druid Handbook" into multiple publications! As for managing to do it without it actually costing me money... well, let's just say that I (and several others) have poured thousands of dollars into keeping ADF growing -- and I, for one, would do it again in a heartbeat.Most of the promises about basing what we were doing on serious scholarship were kept (although only a handful of members did the research that everyone else used), as were the nondiscriminatory ideals. We never did do a correspondance course, which may be just as well, since they require a huge investment of time to administer. Our clergy training program was indeed ambitious and was published to loud howls of outrage from other Neopagan groups -- some of whom quickly copied it. We managed to stay pluralistic within our declared boundries, annoying both the Celtophiles and the Newage Wannabee Indians alike.ADF sprouted new branches, planted many groves, and has been a proud and vigorous member of the American Neopagan community for over a decade. No doubt it will continue to grow and evolve as time goes by.To keep up with ADF's evolution, visit the ADF website.Copyright (c) 1983,1996 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number (if any) is retained and this notice is included. If you would like to be on the author's personal mailing/phone list for upcoming publications, lectures, song albums, and appearances, send your snailmail and/or your email address to him at PO Box 1021, Nyack, NY, USA 10960-1021 or via email to "ibonewits@qed.net".
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I've been thinking.There's a spider building a web in the corner of my hearth. I've been watching her work. Occasionally, she stops to examine a section of weaving, decides that it is all wrong, and busily takes it apart to be rewoven to her satisfaction. I read somewhere that a spider's line contains the strength of a bridge cable, but it's her inner strength that interests me.Last week I accidentally caught her web in my feather duster. By the next morning she had woven a new one. She never shows frustration; she's simply determined - and patient. She's amazing - so patient and perfecting in her creation - so patient in waiting for her food. If only I could learn such patience; but I fear I am destined by nature to have a finger in every pot. There is always a small pile of books stacked at my bedstead, markers indicating where I stopped in my reading. Does everyone read books simultaneously like this, grabbing at words as if there will never be enough time to devour them all? I dash from task to task, from this idea to that, and in between, I am lost in some reverie of the moment.This frenzy of thought and activity has become my work, and I take it very seriously. Soon the hot southern sun will be high in the sky, and my garden will beg to be watered and weeded, tidied and admired. Birds will call from the great oak in the yard for their daily sprinkling of seed.Squirrels will chatter for their corn. There's laundry to be done, but the computer and my novel-in-progress calls. There's a border of brambles and berries waiting to be hung in the bedroom, and the pencil cactus begging to be repotted since he's growing like a lanky teenager, all elbows and knees.And my cat begs to be held and petted. These things - the house, the garden, my mind, are my work. Not, perhaps, the stuff of high industry, but meaningful nevertheless - and satisfying. I have been lucky in my life to have work that satisfies. When my children were very young, I had first college and then my free-lance writing, and, of course, them - a job of negligible pay but just rewards. Later, I had a dozen gratifying years of teaching.Yes, I have been very lucky. Work should create value in our lives. To get involved, to do something well, and to find meaning in what you do, to be satisfied- these things make work sacred, even if we are participating in mundane tasks like cutting the crusts off the bread and pressing a cookie cutter into what would otherwise be an ordinary peanut butter sandwich for a child. Ordinary, everyday, but never humdrum. Never boring. When everything we do is art and everything we do provides satisfaction, then our world bursts with the meaningful - like the spider's. If we approach our lives with joy, even the smallest task is infused with meaning, and we are fulfilled. Americans, especially, have been brainwashed to think that it is only our peak experiences, our greatest accomplishments that have meaning. We tend to live our lives waiting for life to "happen" to us. If we never reach the mountaintop, we despair, say the climb was "all for nothing."What if we're very wrong?What if life is not lived at the top of the mountain?Once you get there, after the shouting and the initial thrill have gone, what is there really to do, after all, but climb down again?What if life- life with meaning and purpose and satisfaction- were actually lived, not at the peak, but on the sides, in the struggle and in the climb?What if we stopped often to pick wild flowers from a sunny crevice and string them in our hair, to watch the clouds change and the weather come, to notice the shape of the most challenging rock face and wonder at its creation?What if we live every day as if we will die tomorrow?What would happen then to crime and anger, jealousy and hatred, petty hurts, abuses? What if we approached all of life with a steadfast calm, no matter how difficult the problem?What if we said, "This, too, shall pass," to every hardship?Who would we then be? And how much of the sacred would each day hold?What if every day we spun our web and had it swept away by the broom, only to spin it again with infinite patience and a new design?What if we sat back satisfied at the end of every day, knowing that we had accomplished?Would you be different in your spider-self?Would I?
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The Reform Druids of North America is a classic example of what can happen when creative, yet generally rule following, college students are forced into a situation that goes against their own moral understandings of the world.In 1963 at the small Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota, there was just such a rule. It required that all students attend a church service of their choice (Bonewits 84). Those who did not have a declared religion were expected to attend the service at the chapel on campus. Those whose needs were better met at a religious organization off campus were permitted to do so. This small group of creative people did not agree with the rule. This was a secular and technical college; they did not understand or agree that the college had the right to demand its students to attend religion services of any kind.One of the members, a young man named David Fisher, of this small group had some knowledge of the Ancient Celtic Druids and perhaps of some knowledge about Fraternal/Revival Druidry as well. They called themselves "Reform" as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Reform Christian and Jewish churches and organizations and also to make it clear they would not be performing blood sacrifices (Bonewits 84-5).Over time these services became more and more popular. Many students enjoyed the playful spirit and meaningful meditations. Since day one the religious services of the Reform Druids was meant to be a sarcastic look at organized religion but unwittingly the founders created a meaningful and heartfelt spiritual system that appealed to many more people than they ever expected.Also unexpected by the founders, the protest worked. After two years of the Reform Druid rituals Carleton College quietly dropped its requirement of religious service attendance. Perhaps even more unexpected by the College, and the founders, even after the rule had been dropped many people wished for the Druid rituals to continue. Many found that it had become an important part of their religious lives (Bonewits 86-7).As members of the Reform Druids began graduating and moving around the country some of them took their Reform Druid ideas with them forming more groups along the way. One such was Robert Larson who found himself in Berkeley California and met a young man who was already considering himself a Neopagan, Isaac Bonewits. Larson introduced Bonewits to the RDNA concepts and they formed a Grove, a Druidic term for congregation, that combined the ideas of Neopagan expression and RDNA spirituality. Some other members of RDNA were not fond of their Reform being understood as expressly Neopagan and took exception to the methods Bonewits was using. To them RDNA was a philosophy or way to look at the world and not a Neopagan religious expression.Isaac Bonewits was very adamant. As he writes in his book Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism "I took one look at the group and said to myself ‘Self, they are worshipping the Earth-Mother, singing hymns to old gods and goddesses, and doing rituals out in the woods. Sure looks Pagan to me!'" (89). In 1974 Bonewits and Larson created the New RDNA which was an organization with clearer Neopagan expression than the original Reform Druids (Bonewits 89) and later Bonewits formed the Schismatic Druids of North America that was distinctly Neopagan in expression.Eventually Bonewits became frustrated with Reform Druidry. Many members continued to reject the concept of Reform Druidry as a distinct form of Neopaganism, for many Reform Druidry was a philosophy or world view but not a separate religious outlook. Bonewits left the organization in 1982 (Bonewits 99). RDNA continued and has raised and lowered in popularity throughout the years. About 40 groves continue to today (Bonewits 87).Some years later Bonewits decided, at the urging of friends, to try again, this time from scratch. He had been inspired by an Irish language teacher who had turned him on to scholarly works about the ancient Celts and other Indo-European cultures. He started with an APA (amateur press association) specifically about his visions for a future Druidic movement and invited others to join in the discussion. This APA was called The Druids Progress** (Bonewits 109-11). In time a proper organization was formed and Bonewits served as its Archdruid until failing health forced his resignation in 1996 (Bonewits 111). This organization was, of course, our much beloved Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship otherwise known as ADF.In ADF we continue the traditions of the Reform Druids in many ways; honoring always the Earth Mother near the beginning of our rites, partaking as a people of the waters of life, and our reverence for the natural world. Some aspects of our liturgy can be attributed to the RDNA as well; the procession of the folk into the ritual space and the singing of songs and chants in our rites for instance.I wonder at times what those few, creative college kids would have thought of to learn how their small and fun-filled protest would lead to one of the largest Druid organizations in the world and inspire thousands along the way.Now these are the records which have been made to the glory and honor of the Earth-mother. Praise be to the Earth-mother for the beauty which is in her in the earth and in the sky; all the birds of the air and the animals of the ground are a testimony to her excellence. Even as the dawn of the new day brings new light, is there new hope. – Verse 10, Chapter the SEVENTH, The Early Chronicles, "A Reformed Druid Anthology"Peace!Works Cited: Bonewits, Isaac. Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism. Citadel Press Books: New York, 2006* "A Reformed Druid Anthology" can be found in its entirety at: https://orgs.carleton.edu/druids/ARDA/ ** ADF members can read past "The Druids Progress" at: /members/publications/druids-progress/index.html
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Making the gods part of our everyday lives is simpler than we often think.We come home from ritual energized, connected, inspired, and determined to keep up the relationship with those who dwell in Otherworlds. Then we look around. No nemeton. No bonfire. No well. No knowledgeable ritualists to guide us through the process. No time! Oh well, there's a ritual about once every six weeks. Wait a minute! That's not all there is to life or even to our Pagan religion. You don't have to have all the lovely trappings, you may not even always want them. So, what can we do at home, in those few minutes here and there that busy people can steal for themselves?To start, let's look at physical structures. We have a pretty elaborate ritual setup. Do you need a whole nemeton at home? It's nice if you plan to do that sort of formal ritual, and can make a lovely meditation spot, but you don't actually need it. What do you need? How can you approximate the various shrines and altars in your own home? First I'm going to describe something that will work best for a person who is in their own home. Later, I'll mention some adaptations for a dorm or room in a non-Pagan household.We need the basic ritual elements that define sacred space; a "center", a fire and water. The center is the central axis, the roof tree. If you don't have a central chimney, there is probably a staircase somewhere near the middle of the house. This is your bile, the roof tree which holds the whole house together and enables you to go up and down freely as our "world tree" enables us to pass between worlds freely. As such, you might want to decorate that wall with a tree of life picture or stone carving or a quilt of that name. You can put an incense (or better, sweet oil burner on a shelf or side table under it.When you come down in the morning, go up to bed at night, or first return from a trip, use your roof tree to foster your awareness of our constant movement between the natural, human and spiritual worlds. Let the simple act of walking up and down stairs, or of touching the side of your chimney, become a meditative reconnection with all the levels at which we exist. No, you probably can't do it every time you go up and down stairs, there are kids to yell at and missing tie-tacks to find while running madly about, but once or twice a day will help you to remember who you are.What of the fire? We can't very well keep a sacred fire burning in the house, can we? Or can we? What is the pilot flame on the water heater, furnace or cook stove if not an eternal flame? Now, it lacks something of atmosphere to go down to the basement for worship, although there is historic precedent for it. What is the "hearth and heart" of your home? If you have a fireplace, you're home free! Look at the Scottish tradition of smooring the fire at bedtime; it's a lovely, quiet, meditative moment to focus on the sanctity, security and permanence of your home.If you don't have a fireplace, look to the "fire" you use most for domestic tasks, the stove. Doesn't everyone seem to gravitate to the kitchen, anyway? Since it's probably prohibitive to light a whole bonfire in the kitchen, how about a nice little cast iron brazier, especially if it's cauldron shaped, which can live next to the stove? Light it as you begin to cook a meal, briefly giving thanks for the use of this powerful force for our daily needs. Do you or the kids do homework at the kitchen table? It can also be a fuel of inspiration. You might hang a Brigit's cross or com dolly above it, or even a sun face.Where better to think of sacred water, flowing water, than the bathroom. I think that indoor plumbing is well worth our reverence! Seriously, it's not hard to create a little fountain or sculpture of river rocks and shells to place beside the sink or in a corner of the tub. When you are in there for your own daily ablutions, pour a cup of water over this small shrine so it cascades down into it's own "pool", perhaps a china or even plastic bowl. Ask for the continuing presence and goodwill of that goddess or spirit who keeps the water in your house or in the land under it.If you feel moved to offer a gift of silver or nuts or a charm in the form of something you need, you can place it there until you are able to put it in a nearby stream, lake or pond. Try not to offer your best ring down the drain unless you're really in need! Once again, as the connection with fire reminds us of our ability to harness that wild power, so this moment of contemplating water reminds us to be still and deep, to listen to the flowing forces within the earth.In our rituals, after we have opened these three portals between worlds, we welcome three kindreds; the gods, the beloved dead, and the spirits of nature. How shall we attend to them at home? If you have a personal patron deity, you can determine the proper place for a shrine based upon who he or she is. A shrine to Brid belongs in the kitchen or by the fireplace or near your desk for inspiration. A shrine to Manannan might be pan of your water focus, or might be at the front door since he is a guide between worlds and is found at boundaries. A shrine to Cernunnos or Flidais might look awfully like a hunting trophy on the wall, or be a small circle of trees in the yard. Lugh might like to be remembered at your work or in the "seat of authority" to which you retire after a long day. The Dagda can be found in the bedroom or the kitchen or your comfy chair. And so on.If you want a general work-altar for honoring all the gods as you need to, then you will want to put aside a corner as your "temple space". Mine lives between the computer and my desk and is put away most of the time, the icons or tools being used for "decorations" atop a shelf or tucked safely into a drawer, since the space is often needed by the kids or the person at the computer. Take your time finding out what works for you. The gods are patient and they sometimes give hints. Don't forget the shrine in your car. Where else do you have so much time for contemplation, privacy to speak aloud, and need of protection?I believe that ancestor worship belongs in the home. Powerfully. Constantly. Simply. Make a collection of photos, mementos and favorite items. from previous generations of your families. Put it where the household gathers, in the dining room or living room for example. You might make a pretty dish or .incense burner a part 01 the display, so that you can offer food from your feasting when you have a traditional or old favorite dish.You could also burn a special scent of incense in this shrine. Did Grandma always wear rosewater? Did Great-grandpa smoke a pipe? Did Great-uncle Harry travel to China and bring back a sandalwood box? Smell carries memory more than any other sense. On special occasions be sure to include those family members who no longer have bodies. Tell stories about them. Remind the children which days were a favorite holiday or a birthday or anniversary. Keep it simple but reverent, and they will surely be there to help when you need perspective, patience, wisdom, or solutions to thorny problems.And what of the sidhe? Ask the kids. Is there a fairy mound or fairy wood nearby? Go out walking when the moon is full and bright and bring them gifts of feathers, brightly colored things, milk and honey, or a tot of whiskey if they prefer. There are those who point out to us. that the land spirits here are those whom the Native Americans knew, and they prefer com meal or tobacco, berries, shiny things, but never alcohol!The nature spirits are the spirits of plants and animals, as well as the spirits of place and the sidhe-folk. Your bird feeder can become a place of offering to them, especially if you can put a deer-lick, or the like, nearby. H there is an interesting rock in your yard, make an altar of it and leave pretty things or food offerings there for the critters. Some of your food leftovers can become offerings for the nature spirits, who will accept them in their form as ravens or crows or starlings, squirrels and cats and raccoons. Why not? Do we not share meat with the gods, offering them the parts of a meal they can "eat" but consuming the flesh on their behalf?Do not forget the Earth Mother. Without her we wouldn't exist. Where should her altar go? Everywhere! Your worship of the Earth can be expressed through recycling, turning off lights, cleaning up the neighborhood, asking permission before planting or harvesting a garden, and so on. This is easy worship to teach our children, who will remind us again and again. But how and where can we focus our devotion? You could put a table by the recycling bins, with gifts the earth has given you and which you give back to her; first fruits, goddess-shaped rocks or holed stones, and so on. There might be a special rock or tree in the back yard through which you connect most powerfully with the earth. Water it lovingly. It could also be located by the kitchen sink, or by your bed, or wherever you feel most connected with the land and its cycles.And, how will you reduce, contain and make manageable the chaos toward which the universe tends? Why not show the outsiders a place, as we do in ritual, with a gargoyle at your front gate or at the bottom of your drive. You could even impress the neighbors with a pair of protective stone lions or dogs. The doorway itself provides a barrier as well as a passageway. Folklore is full of protective charms; a horseshoe, a rowan tree or yarrow plant, a knot of string or a drawing decorating the entry way to confuse those who would cause harm, etc. Personally, I've never felt a need for such protection, trusting those to whom I give honor to protect the space I have made theirs. The advantage to saying to the many beings of our pantheon, "My house is your house", is that they will help to protect its peace and security, and generally will remember not to fight or track mud inside.Thus, your entire house and the land around it become your nemeton, your sacred grove. If you live in an apartment you might have to be a bit creative, but reasonable substitutes aren't hard to find; a picture of a gargoyle on your mailbox if that is your outer boundary, or else on your apartment door, replaces the stone one on the walk. There is surely a tree or bush nearby, or a. window box garden you can create and a bird feeder you can hang to honor the spirits of nature.And where is the center for you? Probably not the elevator shaft, even if it's the center of the building, but perhaps the point of demarcation between public space (the living room) and private space (the bedrooms). You can place your remembrance of the vertical axis at that doorway. Again, dorms are a bit harder; often no fire is permitted, you haven't your own source of running water, and the roommate might not share your religious beliefs. These concerns make it all the more important to surround yourself with simple reminders that you are not alone in the universe.A bonsai tree with a dish of water at its roots and an incense burner or little electric night light nearby make a lovely altar containing the central axis or world tree, the sacred fire and the well of wisdom. Pictures that remind you of the three kindreds surround your bed, and you can still find places outside to offer a dish of milk to the animals who convey your caring to the spirits of nature. Place a rock that feels particularly solid and old on your desk or under the head of your bed, and on the door, a picture that seems protective to ward off unwelcome chaos.You can still take the time, morning and evening, to touch and meditate on these items, to change the water and the incense (or scented oil rubbed on the light bulb). Offerings to your gods and ancestors might come in the form of things you can thumbtack below their pictures; pictures of the things you identify with them, colored ribbons, etc., rather than things which need to be burnt or dropped in a well or which get messy.So, with a general sense of sacred space set up around you, worship and magic become ever more a part of daily life. You needn't go away from home to find the gods and spirits, but rather live in well-worn patterns of devotion which you join with your community in celebration on the high days.BibliographyBell, Catherine; Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice; Oxford University Press, 1992.Glassie, Henry; Folklife in New EnglandGlassie, Henry; Irish Folk History; University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.Ross, Anne; Every Day Life of the Pagan Celts (now The Pagan Celts); GP Putnam's Sons, NY, 1970.Webb, Mary; Precious Bane; Penguin, Books 1985 (fiction with Strong reference to folklife in East Anglia, first published in 1924.)
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BryanPerrin's picture
(Originally published in Druid's Progress 11)Surprised by the first frosts of autumn, I was unprepared for the chill. Overwhelmed by the sudden falling of leaves and the crunch of deadlines, I found myself confronted with the unexpected loss of a life and, also, a memory of my first Pagan impulses.Our groves' autumn equinox ritual had been preceded by a sleepless night and failed efforts to save a family pet. Elroy the ferret had taken ill the evening before, and he died in our arms as we were rushing to the veterinarian.At first, death seems like a simple pause in breath. How can these same eyes no longer see? How can this same heart no longer beat? Even with his body buried, I see his familiar face in a house that seems hollow.I had felt this loss before, as a child, when my parents prepared my pet for a burial -- that I insisted be accompanied by a funeral. It was then that I was told that the Bible teaches that animals have no souls, no heaven and no savior. I thought: if God's heaven didn't allow animals then I didn't want any part of it!If the Bible teaches that humans are the only form of life with spirit, then the Bible is wrong. It was then that I tossed the book aside and went to the source -- the Earth, the Mother of All Life.Flowers and simple cairns of stones mark offerings from the hearts of children in yards and parks all across the world, and they stand as a testament to the truth of our faith. The monuments may not be large, but they are many, and they are sincere. The practice has been carried on by children, Pagans and people true to their hearts since there has been love and loss. The spirits of nature have a home in my heart and my religion as kindred spirits of the Earth.
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Cigfran's picture
How to Be a Nature-Worshipper When You're Surrounded by ConcreteA recent change to the Dedicant program is the inclusion of a section about "Nature Work." While on the surface seeming quite easy, some of us were soon scratching our heads-how do we get in touch with nature if we live in the city?For some of us originally read the nature work requirement as two-pronged: vague notions of communing with nature" combined with becoming a walking Audubon guide; however, I've come to realize that the nature requirement is much more than that, but actually encourages a deep understanding of our world and our place in it as organic beings.While it is certain that being a Druid is more than being a "tree-hugger"--for the classical Druids were judges, doctors, artists, lawyers, the true "professional class" of the Celts--it is usually agreed that the natural world is an important one for the modern Druid.But how does one connect to the natural world when she lives in the city?How can one feel as connected to nature as, say, a farmer, when she's surrounded by glass, steel, and concrete all day, when her lighting source is not the sun, but flourescent tubing?Is it even possible to feel close to the natural world when living in an urban environment?You'd be surprised.Western society seems to have preconceived notions of what nature is--giant redwoods, mountains, lakes, deserts. However, if we are ever to truly understand the world around us, to fulfil our need for connection to the earth, our understanding of "Nature" must be revolutionized. We must move beyond the polarized concepts of the pastoral, which pits the "purity" of the natural world against the "corruption" of civilization, as if these were two completely separate realities. Instead, we must recognize that the word "nature" refers to the whole of the earth, wherein the city and the country are intimately connected to one another in terms of resources. Moreover, we must realize that just because a certain environment has a higher population density and evidence of human development, doesn't mean it exists in some sort of unnatural, sterilized bubble. The druid realizes that nature is everything, that nature defines our plane of existence, even in the supposedly artificial environments of the city.It's a mistake to view the natural world as somehow absent in the city. The natural world isn't only a rural or primeval environment - the "natural world" is the entire world that we inhabit - it is the daily cycle of the sun and stars, the monthly cycle of the moon, the yearly cycle of the earth and its seasons. Being a city-dweller, I admit I'm not present at the farm where my food comes from, or the reservoir of my water. When I was younger, living in the country with my parents, we grew our own vegetables, and drank well water.Today, I buy vegetables at the supermarket and drink city water. But the fact is that I'm aware that I still depend on the natural world to support me, to grow my food, to supply me with water, with air.The seasons are still present in an urban environment. As a city-dweller, I am as much aware of the fact that it's winter as the country dweller is, though in different ways. Try waiting at a bus stop in Philly at 7 am in the middle of January-the fact that it's winter doesn't escape me. I notice the days growing longer, then shorter, then longer again, and so on in the well-known cycle. I notice the temperatures changing in accordance. I notice the leaves budding, falling, budding again. The cycle of the year is not lost, despite being in the city.The point is that part of nature work is observing and experiencing the world around you-being in touch with the reality of existence in such a way that you cannot ignore that the artificial cycles we live in-the 9-5 day for instance-are only as real as the natural cycles-day and night, etc.Now, let me say that part of this awareness of the environment is knowing the plants and animals native to the area (and it also doesn't hurt to know the plants newly introduced). The conscientious Druid has a thirst for knowledge in all areas, and knowledge of the earth and its inhabitants is no small part of this. I do believe that the city-dweller should have knowledge of the organic elements of the environment, be it knowing the few stars of high magnitude we can pick out among the skyscrapers, the weeds that pop up out of the sidewalk, the types of birds that live along rooftops, or the animals that you may have to avoid while walking under, say, I-95 (an unfortunate experience of mine involving rats). The important thing is to be able to integrate your knowledge of the urban environment with that of the surrounding countryside.I live in Philadelphia, which, while certainly lacking in prestige, isn't lacking in vacant lots and busy streets. But Philly is a city of trees, from Fairmount Park (the largest municipal park in the world), to the numerous smaller parks throughout the city, to the fact that many of the main streets downtown are named for trees (Chestnut, Walnut, Spruce, Pine, etc.). Nearly every street, particularly in the part of the city I live in, is lined with trees and flowers. Once acknowledging this, I saw how I could take this environment and turn it to my advantage. The abundance of trees, even downtown, gives me a chance to get acquainted with different types of trees on my own time without having to leave the city for the state parks out in the suburbs (not that I wouldn't do that anyway, but it's a question of having the time, and frankly, I'm conserving gas this way).Being an Urban Druid can make you intimately aware of humanity's impact on the earth. One specific way is through the use of automobiles, for example, another advantage of living in the city is that I have public transportation, meaning that I can drastically cut back on using my car-and so cut back on air pollution, wasting gas, etc. On nicer days, I can ride my bike and so even eliminate using the bus and subway. And cities often have recycling programs, which also allows the urban Druid another way to participate in taking care of the earth.There are a number of community gardens in the city, wherein a city block is transformed into a number of small, outdoor gardens suitable for growing flowers and vegetables, formerly only a luxury of suburbanites. If, like me, you find yourself too busy to take care of an entire outdoor garden, you can do as I did and start an herb garden. Though I live in an apartment, I have my own small container garden in the kitchen; I'm growing parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (a little joke from my aunt), and basil, which I'm able to use in cooking.And so one can easily be aware of nature and a defender of nature, even while living in an urban environment. If anything, the urban Druid is forced to recognize how her own life is tied into the greater web, not only in her neighborhood, not only in her city, but in the surrounding countryside, where her food is grown and her water is purified in reservoirs. Living in the city should never be an obstacle to connecting with the natural world.
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IsaacBonewits's picture
Originally published in Druid's Progress #1Welcome to the first issue of the Druids' Progress. Some of this Report will be familiar to a few of you, since I'm combining materials from several previously published articles with the contents of the first announcement letters about ADF. I'm doing this so I can send out this first Issue to new Inquirers and give you all the data you need at once. Please note, however, that only supporting members of ADF will be guaranteed future issues. This whole project is being run on the proverbial shoestring... and the original Druids apparently did their rites barefoot! Let's start with the original "Open Letter" that planted the first seeds:This is going out to all the people who have written to me wanting Neopagan Druid literature, training and/or fellow Druids with whom to worship. Copies are also going to various Neopagan publications, as well as a few folks who have indicated interest in the general topic of Druidism.As many of you may know (perhaps from reading my book Real Magic or Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, I've been a priest of the Reformed Druids of North America ("RDNA") since 1969. I've led groves (congregations) in Berkeley and Minneapolis, and founded others elsewhere; published newsletters (both Druidic and general Neopagan); and wrote most of, edited and produced The Druid Chronicles Evolved, (the closest thing to official scriptures the RDNA has). I'm also a priest and elder of the Craft, and I've been a Neopagan magician and occultist for nearly twenty years.I've studied, practiced and written about many different forms of magic and religion over the years, yet always I find myself going back to Druidism. Many people have written to me to tell of similar spiritual histories, of their knowledge that they are meant to walk a Druid path. Yet what can we, who wish to worship and to grow as Neopagan Druids, do for fellowship? The Masonic Druids have much to teach us, yet they are not Neopagan. The "Druidic" traditions of Wicca are interesting, but they're not really very Druidic. The members of the RDNA have no interest at all in being organized by anyone, nor in recruiting and training would-be Neopagan Druids. There doesn't seem to be any organized group of people trying to reconstruct what the Paleopagan Druids actually believed and did, nor trying to apply such knowledge to creating a Neopagan religion fit for the Space Age.What can we do? We can do it ourselves Thanks to the researches of such scholars as Dumezil, Ross, Piggott, Duran and others, we now have sizable amount of realistic data about Indo-European Paleopaganism and its clergy. But how do we apply this knowledge to creating a modern Neopagan religion? What does it mean to be a Druid in the 1980's? Using accurate information as starting point, how do we create rituals and fellowship, art and music, polytheologies and lifestyles that will give meaning to our lives and those of others?Well, of course, I have my own vision of Neopagan Druidism. I see Druids as artists and intellectuals, magicians and clergy, holders of the highest wisdom their cultures (or subcultures) have to offer. This is what they used to be, and what (with sufficient hard work and dedication) they could be again. A number of people have told me that they share my vision and approve of the wars in which I think it could be accomplished. So, after a great deal of soul-searching, I've decided to try once again to see what I can do to create a form of "reconstructionist" Neopagan Druidism.The purpose of this letter is an announcement of, and an invitation for your participation in, the creation of: Ár nDraíocht Féin. The Irish words (pronounced "arn ree-ocht fane") mean "Our own Druidism," and that's what I have in mind -- a brand new form of Druidism, not just Pan-Celtic, but Pan-European. (By this latter term, I mean to include any of the European branches of the Indo-European culture and language tree -- Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, even the pre-Classical Greek & Roman.) Paradoxically, this would resemble the original Paleopagan Druidism far more than any efforts of the last thousand years. It would be based on the best scholarly research available, combined with what has been learned (about art, psychology, small group politics and economics) through the theory and practice of modern Neopaganism, and my own knowledge of the polytheological and practical derails of magical and religious phenomena.I've already started this project, through the organizing of my notes and the beginning of a new book. The purpose of the druid handbook will be to enable anyone who has a copy to start up their own Druidic grove, or to practice as a solitary Druid. Everything necessary will be included: history, polytheology, liturgy, legal structures, art and music, calendars and customs, etc.This is where you come in, I'd like to make sure that what I'm creating will fulfill genuine needs in other Neopagans. So I'm going to need feedback, advice and research help from many people in order to make this project work. Unfortunately, I'm also going to need some sort of minimal financing in order to devote the time necessary to do this right (I'm talking about 10-20 hours week for 2-3 years). Otherwise I simply can't do the huge job of coordinating the research and writing the book in anything less than 5-10 years.What I have in mind is this: despite my experiences with Pagan publishing in the past, I'm willing to produce a highly irregular, nonscheduled Druid publication (that's what you're reading now). This will come out three or four times per year, and will simply consist of xeroxed sheets of dot matrix type. (I'm deliberately going to keep the format as simple as possible, so as to avoid falling into the common Neopagan pit of spending increasing amounts of time and money on improving the physical appearance of the publication, when I should be concentrating on content). Issues will include selections from the work in progress; research materials (advice, requests and reports for and from the readers); scholarly, liturgical and polytheological debates; Druidic rituals and guided meditations; and anything else that looked interesting and Druidic around publication time. (And since more and more people are wanting ADF to turn into an active Neopagan religion as soon as possible, I'll be including organizational materials and advice as well.)Now Druidism is not everyone's cup of tea, so I'm not expecting a large response to this announcement. Professional journals for specialized interest groups charge as much as $850 per year, but I'm willing to mail out this stuff to people donating $20 or more per year (depending upon what each supporting subscriber honestly feels they can afford to contribute to the project). That won't be enough for me to "earn a living from my religion," but it could enable me to devote the time and energy needed (not to mention the expense of paper, postage, computer disks, printer ribbons, phone bills, etc.) without my actually losing, money on the project.If you're interested, send your donation to me with a clearly printed or typed name, mailing address, zip or postal code, home and work phones (optional, with hours you can be reached at each), areas of expertise (European languages you can read and write, artistic skills, research background and resources, Neopagan training already received, etc.) and areas of special interest (what you would most like to learn and what you think would be most useful to publish). Make our your check or money order to "P. E. I. Bonewits", and enclose a large (manila 9"x11" or 6"x9") self-addressed stamped envelope. If there aren't enough people who are enthusiastic about the project, the envelopes will be used to return the money of those who have responded. Otherwise, I'll use them to mail out the first issue sometime this Spring. (Obviously, the response, though small, was enough to encourage me to go ahead. If you're receiving this issue in response to one of ADF's ads, then you don't really need to send in envelopes with your donation, unless you want to help out with the mailing costs on your future issues.)With a little bit of luck, the blessings of the Gods and a great deal of hard work, we can create an authentically Druidic Neopagan religion our ancestors would be proud of.ADF is an idea I have been wrestling with for years: a Neopagan Druid Order whose members would not be ashamed to honestly compare themselves with the original Druids. This requires mature, dedicated and talented people who are willing to invest both time and energy over a long period (remember, the original Druids took up to twenty years each to be fully trained, and they had an intact tradition).The response to a rather small mailing of the Open Letter has been remarkable. About ten percent of the recipients have replied, and among them are a dozen linguists (who speak/read/write French, Spanish, German, Irish, Welsh, Russian, Czech, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Anglo-Saxon, Gothic, etc.). Several people who come from families that have always considered themselves Druidic have written, as have a few folks who are already students of Indo-European and/or Celtic studies. I expected a high proportion of Ph.D.'s and self-taught scholars, since they are common in the Neopagan community, but the actual proportion is amazing! Many have written to say how unsatisfied they have been with the scholarship and technical skills of other Neopagan traditions, and of how they have been looking for a group that rook these matters seriously.I've also had contact from poets, healers, and people who just talk to trees -- and ADF will need these types just as much as we will need scholars (though there is a large overlap, of course). I haven't heard from very many traditional musicians, singers or dancers yet, but I hope we'll able to recruit some. We also need participation from folks who are active in various ecology and conservation groups; therapists willing to help train Neopagan clergy in pastoral counseling techniques; people from Celtic and other cultural revival movements, and so on.At this point in the birthing process, details are in short supply, but the general outlines are becoming increasingly clear. I can at least give you some specific ideas as to...(See ADF's original Articles of Association)
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IsaacBonewits's picture
© Isaac Bonewits Originally published in Druid's Progress #2ADF will be a Neopagan religion based on solid (but imaginative) scholarship in the fields of linguistics, Indo-European studies, comparative religion, archeology, anthropology, Celtic & Norse & Baltic & Slavic studies, history, musicology and polytheology. The scholars we will be basing our research on include Georges Dumezil, Mircea Eliade, Anne Ross, Stuart Piggott, C. S. Littleton, Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, Proinsias MacCana, Myles Dillon, Nora Chadwick, etc. We will not be accepting Lewis Spence, Margaret Murray, Robert Graves, Merlin Stone, H. P. Blavatsky or Iolo Morganwg as scholarly authorities (although some of them may provide poetic inspiration now and then). If we have to fill in gaps in our knowledge with our own imagination, spiritual visions and/or borrowings from non-IE sources, we will go ahead and do so, but always in full awareness of what we are doing (and with full documentation of the process).ADF will be developing a slow, careful and steady system of training for Druidic clergy, equivalent to that gone through by professional clergy in other religions. We will not be in any hurry to initiate people (though we may create and publish self-dedication rituals for the first level of participation), since an obsession with rank and titles is usually counterproductive to actual spiritual, artistic and scholarly growth. A correspondence course has been suggested and I'm willing to give it serious consideration, once we have the basics figured out.Although our primary focus will be on the beliefs and practices of our Indo-European ancestors, and on how these can be adapted to modern circumstances, we will not tolerate racism or nonsense about "Aryan blood." The Indo-Europeans were a motley assortment of tribes speaking related languages -- not a "race". All of our ancestors are of mixed blood, and most of the black people in America have (however involuntarily) some European genes. So anybody, regardless of their race or color, who is sincerely interested in participating in ADF will be made welcome. Similarly, the IE peoples are known to have had both male and female clergy, and those tribes influenced by shamanistic practices frequently had clergy who were ambiguous in their gender identification. For these historical reasons, as well as the fact that ADF is a Neopagan religion, we will not tolerate sexism nor restrict membership or rank on the basis of gender or affectional preferences. Having said all that, let me add that I have no intentions of letting extremists of any persuasion use ADF for purposes not in keeping with our original goals.We will have a carefully structured hierarchy, based on actual skills and knowledge obtained and demonstrated, with both upward and downward mobility. The training system will involve the setting of specific standards in all the areas necessary for functioning at the different levels, and these standards will be published in the handbook and widely disseminated throughout the Neopagan media, in order to prevent false claims of rank. Our primary approach is going to be the attainment not just of competency, but of excellence. Democratic safeguards will be built in, but we do not expect everyone in ADF to be qualified for (or even interested in) attaining the rank of clergy. After all, the original Druids were only a small percentage of their Paleopagan communities, and not everyone has (or needs) a clerical vocation. Nor will rank in other Neopagan organizations guarantee equivalent rank in ADF, since we have no way of knowing what standards other groups are using, nor how strictly enforced they are.The Ancient Druids were polytheists rather than mono- or duotheists; so our main approach will be a pluralistic one. We are not going to promote any One True Right and Only Way of Druidism, merely whatever happens to work for us. This means, among other things, that we intend to maintain friendly relations with as many other Druid organizations as possible, and will encourage our members to investigate these alternate Druid paths.We are going to take our time putting the whole system together. Based on solid research and a knowledge of the mistakes made by other Neopagan groups in the past, we can create something magnificent. But like an oak tree, it will take time to become strong, and we have no intentions of trying to force its growth. Within two to three years we should get the primary seeds planted. Then the results will be up to the individuals who have heard the trees whispering in their ears, and who know that they are meant to walk a Druid way.
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Ian Corrigan's picture
This short article is an effort to outline some of the basic concepts of Pagan theology on which ADF's work has traditionally been based. These ideas were developed be early Pagan reconstructionist thinkers, including Isaac Bonewits, and have been the basis of the work of our leaders and Groves through the first decade of our history. These ideas are instrumental in the development of our religious work, and I feel it is important to state them clearly for our newer members.ADF's goal has always been to create religious systems that actually resemble those of ancient Paganism. In order to do that we have had to look past the conceptions brought from more popular Pagan systems, from the hermetic systems, from Qabala or Theosophy or New Age philosophy. Instead we try to examine the remnants of Pagan lore directly, and discover patterns therein that can be distilled into a few simple teachings.The results of that examination have led us away from some of the more common Pagan theological positions. Our experience in applying those results has taught us that the positions we've arrived at are both scholastically accurate and spiritually functional.Of course I do not present these ideas as prerequisite for membership or involvement in ADF, or as dogmas to be accepted with unthinking faith. But they are the results of our best understanding of the Old Lore, and have been proven to be workable and useful by more than a decade of practical application, and we hope our folk will give them serious consideration.1: The Nature Of The GodsNeopaganism is, at its base, an effort to restore to post-European society the worship of the many Gods and Goddesses that sustained human beings for untold generations before the Christian era.The names and forms of these Divine Powers have their origin in unknown ages, long before the known tribes and nations of Iron Age Europe. As our memory of lore fades into the mist of pre-literate history, we find our selves presented with a fait accompli. The God/desses come to us full-grown, with their tales, symbols and histories partially known and partially hidden. We share with the ancients the pleasure of philosophizing on the origins, nature and meaning of all of existence, including that of the Gods and Spirits, but we can have very limited concept of their ancient origin and development.The very idea of speaking of the 'origin and development' of the Gods bespeaks a certain attitude toward their nature. It suggests that through the human scholarship of history, folklore and mythography we can understand the truth of the Gods' and Spirits' nature.In ADF we pursue this path of scholarship, but not exclusively. While we seek an intellectual understanding of the history and cultural context of the many Powers of Indoeuropean Paganism we don't stop there. We also try to take the Old Religions at their face value to practice within the assumptions apparent in the lore.By every bit of this old lore we are convinced that paleo-Pagans believed their Gods to be independent, self-willed, individual entities. They did not think them to be unified in will or intention, but supposed that the Gods and Spirits might be in conflict or in accord, as nature or as humankind may be. The Gods are not always shown as images of moral perfection; they are neither all-knowing nor all-powerful. They sometimes need humankind to help them accomplish their goals, and to need the worship and offerings of mortals to support their very existence. In exchange for the worship and offerings of mortals the Gods use their power to make human life better and the human soul stronger. They play a vast role in determining the way the world goes forward, and may pay greater or lesser attention to humankind, but humankind, and all other beings, are also part of the Way of the World, and can become Powers themselves. Humans, animals, non-animal nature and the many kins of spirit beings all dwell together in the worlds, in patterns of interrelation and mutual benefit.That said, the Gods are clearly understood as the Mightiest, Wisest and Best of the Spirits. The relative positions of Gods and Mortals varied widely from culture to culture. In some of the early cities of Sumer and Egypt humans were considered the slaves of the Deities, created by them to provide food and service in their temples. But even in such an extreme case the labor and cooperation of mortals was needed to maintain the Deities' existence.2: Rejection of DuotheismMuch of the Neopagan world has accepted the maxim "All gods are one god, and all goddesses one goddess". This theological maxim was first expressed by early 20th century magician Dion Fortune. She based it on the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the patterns of the Hermetic Qabala. The assumption at that time was that the esoteric teachings of that system could be used to 'explain' all other religious and magical traditions. They taught a system that was, at its heart, monotheistic even as they gave more honor to the Many Gods than previous generations of Christian magicians. While the ideas and techniques of the Golden Dawn were an important inspiration to our movement, some of their theologies don't stand up to the measure of scholarship.There is simply no evidence of a Pagan culture that conceived of the many Gods and Goddesses as aspects of a single pair of higher Deities. The Powers are truly multiple, really a large (if debated) number of different entities. Attempts to resolve all the figures of the many Powers into cosmic generalizations fail to do justice to the Deities' multiple potential. It is in the relationships between the Powers that their mysteries lie, and relationship happens only within multiplicity.So ADF's rites and meditations address the Powers as individuals. We don't address entities known as 'The Lady' or 'The Lord', or symbolize the many Powers as aspects of a 'greater' single being. Instead we give each Deity the honor that is their due.3: Monism and MonotheismPagan Indoeuropean philosophers have often explored the question of whether all individuals in the universe, whether physical beings, spirits or Gods and Goddesses are, at their root, unified in one system or even in one being. The many cultures that share the Indoeuropean heritage have conceived many answers to that question. Some mystical systems have taught that the only Truth in the spiritual cosmos is ultimate and undifferentiated Unity. Others find that the human soul can rise only near to the divine, and that in the end souls are separate though related. Some find Unity in relatedness - teaching that every being and every action are parts of one great weaving, one great dance made of separate individuals.One notion that does not seem to have a Pagan basis is that the Cosmic Unity is in some way a single being, with a single will and intention. That idea comes only through the monotheistic religions and their influence on Pagan cultures. That influence has been very great, and of course the incessant assertion that 'God is One' is still hard to escape in our modern culture. It can be difficult for Westerners to conceive of 'God' or 'divinity' as anything but single, or at most, dual. Modern Pagans will often feel a need to rationalize our polytheism by holding to the idea that each God or Goddess is 'only an aspect' of a greater whole, which is what is truly being worshipped.It is clear that the ancients felt no such need. While some Pagan philosophers posited the existence of a kind of 'God behind the gods', the idea clearly never gained popularity among the people. There are no temples to a unified 'God' found in any Indoeuropean culture, and simply no lore to suggest that the God/desses are other than independent persons. Of course they are persons of such vastly greater intelligence, consciousness and ability that their essential nature is beyond any certain common human comprehension. We can only look to what we are taught by the Old Ways to guide us, and the Old Ways make it clear that the philosophical idea of a Unity had no real impact on Pagan worship and spirituality.So in ADF's worship and magic we do not commonly address our worship to any single Divine source, or Unity, or any 'God beyond the gods'. Since there is no evidence that our Pagan forebearers felt a need to make such a concept part of their religion, we see no need for us to do so. There remains a lively debate among our thinkers about the place of monism and Pagan models of cosmic unity. Many feel that the idea has great potential for personal spiritual work, while others find the entire concept a concession to monotheism, with no real place in our Pagan religion.Ar nDraiocht Fein is fully committed to the Pagan movement. We are building Pagan institutions that we hope will serve our own members and the larger community. But ADF is not wide open, eclectic Paganism. We have a small list of traditions and practices that we feel are definitive of Our Druidry.Again, it is not our intention to tell anyone what to believe. We encourage our members to go to the sources and to test our conclusions in light of what they find there. In the same way we encourage our members not to accept the common doctrines of the Neopagan movement unquestioningly. We think that an unbiased examination of the evidence will lead to conclusions very similar to ours.For the past 15 years ADF has done research into what the Old Religions were really like. We have applied that research experimentally in an evolving religious system of ritual, meditation and devotion. The results have convinced us that these few doctrines can be broadly applied across the many Indoeuropean cultures. We are also convinced that by applying these doctrines to our work we are helping to grow Neopagan religions that more closely resemble the ways of our Pagan forbearers.
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Earrach's picture
"I AM A POWERFUL DRUID PRIEST OF THE OLD WAYS! [or insert any other tradition here...] I WAS (RE)BORN INTO THIS WORLD TO SERVE THE GODS AND TO RENEW AND REVITALIZE THE LOST WISDOM OF THE ANCIENTS!!" (Yeah yeah. Yadda yadda yadda. Get real....)Why do the rites at all? Well of course, there are many reasons; perhaps as many different reasons as there are people involved in the process. Perhaps also we might find that there are many reasons, unsaid and unarticulated, which are more significant for us than any of the pompous internal assertions of our pseudo-mystical personae.Eliade and others show us that the functions of public/tribal calendrical ritual were largely pragmatic: the rites were not considered optional, they were considered to be essential for the health and safety of the people. The rites were also considered to be essential to the very continuity and integrity of the World Itself; the rites neglected, the World-as-we-know-it could very well come thundering to an end. Is this all so very primitive? Really?In my writings and public speaking I often find myself suggesting (projecting?) that many of the aspects of our Neopagan personalities are simply dishonest. Innocently and without malice of forethought, but still... we are dishonest. We are all far, far too wrapped up in the way we would like to be thought of and the kind of person we would like to think of ourselves as and the way we would like to live our lives... than we ever could justify through real action in real life at all. We can't expect to relate to others about the true motivations behind our spiritual identities if we can't manage to be honest, internally, with ourselves. This dichotomy between the false self image and the ordinary but pure self is the theatre of the medicine of religion. True religious activity is that which seeks to rectify our relationship with the World: the relationship of our true selves with the true World.The Old Ways that the anthropologists of religion describe to us were not legislated at some synod of ecclesiastics and then carved in stone; no, no... they grew. Over generations of practice, repetition, and trial and error, they grew, were molded and evolved organically; more truly coming to fit the needs of the people and their world. For all the machinations of the governing priesthoods of thousands of years, that simple living process defiantly survives, and again and again shakes off the ash and rubble of the collapse of artificial, unnatural and inhuman cultures and their false, unnatural and inhuman religious systems. People are by nature religious creatures and they need religious activity that touches their lives in a direct and honest way; it does not need to cater to our fantasy selves, it needs to speak to our souls."Finding comfort" in the ritesPaganism, as a modern pursuit, often attracts those seeking the unusual, gothic, or titilatingly different. Those folks quickly tire of the hard work and actively spiritual participation demanded of them by group religious practice. We are not in the business of entertaining the curious, but it is incipient upon us to work hard to meet the needs of those who attend and willingly put themselves 'on the line' by attempting to participate. Yet, to meet their needs, we must be able meet our own also.There is a pendulum that swings through our lives... or, perhaps I can be more clear if I speak of my own personal experience: there is a pendulum which swings through my life which finds me drifting alternately from a clear and integrated relationship with the world to that of a self which is work-weary, media ravaged, fragmented and basically schizoid in its distorted, false notions of the world and my place in it. The need to govern this ever pulsing rhythm, swinging from competence to failure, from knowledge to doubt... is what sometimes calls me to return to the woods or to go out under the stars.Here perhaps we can find one definition of the spirit of Druidism: answering the call of Nature; not to be wild, but to be healed by the Wilderness. The Wilderness bears within it that which we periodically come to lack: truth.There is a great pattern of undeniable natural truths in which we live our lives; it is the Great Wheel of the Seasons, and for us living in this part of the North Temperate Zone, we are blessed with the grand four-fold symmetry which has shaped our cultures and languages and cultural consciousness for tens of thousands of years. As far as we may stray from the ordinary facts of existence, the Seasons always bring us back to the truth. No amount of air conditioning, roofing or central heating can support our fantasies substantially enough to escape the fact that we are not in control here. The World is not the Mall, nor is it School, nor is it Work... no matter how much it seems that way to us at times. The World has more to do with that tree you touched the other day than all the tax forms and magazines and dollar bills we print on the flesh of its kin, yet we constantly lose sight of this; well, I do... don't you? Perhaps it is time to call upon the definition of a term I have been developing for some time now:"Reconciliation"Rx for having fallen from grace with one's sense of wonder... a bringing back of the individual's sense of self into an appropriate, correct, or more sanctified relationship with certain "facts of existence"; unlocking the sanctified relationship with the world-as-it-is and thereby moving away from (or being cleansed-of) the world-as-we-imagine-it-is.The need for this function is often due to the individual's natural propensity for ‘back sliding' or becoming somehow progressively distanced from one's own set of ethical, religious or aesthetic principles (or various other attitudinal predispositions). In a sense, during extended periods of distraction by either some singular concern or simply the the increasing demands of everyday life as one ages, one's reflective capacity can become slightly or significantly schizoid in its relationship with the components of one's personality which matured or integrated during a period of life that was far richer on a reflective level. It is possible to functionally ‘de-evolve' at the reflective level; leaving one a "stranger to one's self". This is the schizoid dilemma which calls out for rectification: the current ‘dull' self must be brought to terms with the earlier ‘enhanced' self -before one's standards become lowered beyond retrieval. Is this Psychology or is it Religion? I believe the answer to that question is: "yes."Remembering the SeasonsReconciliation with the World through the process of honoring the Seasons, the connecting and coming to terms with the gentle passage of time through our lives, is one of the most important single reasons for celebrating any calendar of religious observances. The more that the mythos and theme of an annual feast is integrated with the grand seasonal pattern above and around us, the more valid, powerful and profound the religious mysteries are commemorated therein. Too often, when developing some complex or even simple symbolic or traditional theme, the content of our observances become artificial, too human and out of step with our basic need to become personally reconciled to the season. The season simply must be remembered in the process of a rite or one of our holiest duties will have been neglected.
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BryanPerrin's picture
(Originally published in Druid's Progress 14)Our yearning for belonging extends beyond the spiritual to the practical. What groups do we identify with? As an American I believe in freedom of religion. I am inspired by life and the natural world. This, combined with my reverence for the earth as our Mother and my fascination with ancient religions has led me to identify myself with a group calling themselves NeoPagans. Many people may share NeoPagan beliefs, but few actually call themselves NeoPagans. There are many reasons for this. The independence that we value in our spirituality and thought don't make us natural joiners. Fear of religious persecution or public ridicule can prove a substantial obstacle to many. Many more don't know that such a thing as NeoPaganism or NeoPagans exist. For those of us that identify ourselves with these beliefs, we find ourselves constantly searching for ways to strengthen our bonds with them. To feel at home with your beliefs is not the same as feeling at home with a group of people that share those beliefs.Most NeoPagans are solitary practitioners. They take comfort in their personal relationship with spirit and a direct sharing that is vital to our belief system. Our religion does not require our coming together to accept a common path to salvation. Yet religion is by nature a sharing of spiritual practice and belief. It is not enough to recognize our religion and give it a name. If we are a group, we must manifest as one. Through workshops, study groups, gatherings and festivals NeoPagans get a face to face view of their community. A large portion of our community know each other from correspondence, computer, publications or phone. Obviously some NeoPagans find comfort and joy in sharing their NeoPagan experiences with others. On the other hand, combining ones spiritual experience with a social one can be very frustrating. We value our common relationships and our individual freedom.How did you come to associate yourself with Druids? Those of us that belong to a Druid organization have chosen to support a shared concept, belief or identity as Druids. My own experience with ADF drastically changed my practice as a Druid. ADF identifies Druids by their role in the community. Consequently my very personal, self-serving spiritual path transformed into a public expression of my group's beliefs and practices. The religious beliefs of ADF are not exceptionally different from other Druids or NeoPagans. Its emphasis on serving the community and building a NeoPagan tomorrow has made my Druid experience very different from that of a Druid in an initiatory mystery school. Although various Druid groups promote their own truths, ADF's foundation isn't in ancient mystery but in establishing a responsible and credible service for our community today and tomorrow. I thought it was a wonderful idea when I joined and I still do, but I didn't realize how much work was involved. A big part of that work has been recruiting and organizing volunteers.It's easy to get people to agree that we should provide this service or that, but without volunteers joining together to make it work, it just doesn't happen. You can make a difference, and it's up to YOU what kind of difference you make. Oddly enough, joining a group doesn't mean your individual identity is lost, quite often it is nurtured and challenged. Your choice to join a particular group or effort is itself an act of self-definition.
Category: 
IsaacBonewits's picture
Originally published in Druid's Progress #3 Revisions by Anthony ThompsonOne of the many reasons why people join organizations and movements is to gain a sense of belonging, of having a family of others who share their worldview. To this end, most groups use certain images as signs of membership. These shared symbols of identity help to create the psychological, social and psychic connections so necessary for effective group action. Provided that these images are used as positive signs of inclusion, rather than as negative signs of exclusion, they can only be of benefit to us.So what are the signs and symbols of being a Druid, at least in ADF?The official ADF Logo is shown on the cover of every issue of DP. Some folks have asked about the history and symbolism of this design, and fortunately, it's fairly simple. The basic idea comes from the badge for the Scottish clan of Mac Eoghainn or MacEwen, which shows a new branch sprouting from a tree stump (and which I used ten years ago for a card in my unpublished neotarot deck). The symbolism is obviously that of survival and revival. The axe marks in Jim Odbert's magnificent rendition make it clear that the tree is recovering from deliberate efforts to destroy it. I'm not sure what species of tree the MacEwen badge is supposed to represent, but ours is definitely an oak. Jim added the touch of interlacing to show that, although ADF is Pan-Indo-European, "We have Celtic roots."So far, this has appeared only in black and white, although Pat Taylor did a wonderful leather carved banner of it for PSG. A colored version of it is being done for an appliqued cloth banner (on white Irish linen) by some folks I met at PSG, from whom I hope to hear soon (please?), so Jim and I have had to begin thinking about appropriate colors. My first thoughts were these: The heavy lines of the roots, stump and branch should be black or dark brown, with the outside stump lines fading into dark green on the horizontal line, which in turn could fade into dark blue as it rises into the circle. The oak leaves would naturally be green, the inside above-ground perhaps sky blue, with the inside below-ground light brown. Jim wants to work out a way to use some of the old Indo-European color associations, especially in the interlaced knots of the roots. About 108 of you have a background in graphic arts, so if you come up with any additional coloring ideas, let us know. We'll decide on a standard set of colors to use this summer and with luck we may have some iron-on logos for t-shirts and instant banners by next fall.In terms of jewelry such as rings, pendants, etc, this design is complex enough to require photoetching or some such process. I have met one craftsman who said he would be willing to make pendants out of brass or bronze sheet for $10-15 each, provided enough (ten or twenty?) people were interested. If you are, let me know, and I'll tell him to start making them as soon as we have enough potential orders (but don't send money yet!) I do expect buttons of the logo to be available far sooner.A symbol that's far less complex, and thus open to even more creative variation, is the Druid Sigil, most often rendered as a circle with two vertical lines passing through it. Frequently this is drawn, painted, embroidered, etc., as a wreath of leaves with two staves (or spears for the warrior types). Several years back, a ceremonial tabbard was made with a tree in full foliage on the front and the Sigil on the back with its wreath and stavewood matching the species of the tree. Textile artists among us could experiment with making vestments that follow this pattern, using different types of trees for different ceremonial functions or occasions. Pat Taylor also did a gorgeous carved leather version of the Sigil for the cover of the notebook in which she keeps her copies of DP.As far as jewelry is concerned, currently the Druid Sigil is available in the form of silver rings, thanks to well-known Pagan jewelers Fred and Jill Buck. These have either 7/8" or 1/2" diameter circles (for $12 or $10 each), in the full range of standard ring sizes. About a dozen of us are wearing these now, and they do look rather nice. If you're interested, they can be ordered directly from me.Where did the Druid Sigil come from? Nobody knows for sure. It first became associated with Druidism in modern times by the founder of the Reformed Druids of North America, David Fisher, twenty years ago. He claimed that it was a symbol of Druidism in general and the Earth-Mother in particular. Some think he may have gotten the design from a picture in Piggott's book "The Druids," which showed the foundations of an old Romano-Celtic temple. Others think he may have gotten it from a Mesopagan Druid organization to which he may have belonged. (On the other paw, while writing this essay, I happened to be browsing through a dictionary of alchemical symbols and found one very similar to the Sigil listed as the sign for "oil"...) Regardless of its historical origins, I think that it is a quintessentially female symbol, in both the Freudian and the Jungian senses, and is thus psychologically powerful. For political and metaphysical reasons, I think it's important for members of a religion that many folks assume is male dominated to have a constant reminder of the eternal power of the female forces of Nature. As a magical sign, I've used the Druid Sigil for over fifteen years as both a blessing and as a banishing sign. It is fully as powerful as a pentagram, seal of solomon or cross, and meditation upon it will provide many insights.What about signs of rank in ADF? Well, I'm not too sure it's a good idea to encourage them, but they seem to be a universal human need. Perhaps the best idea I've came up with so far (based on a suggestion from Sally Eaton) is that we could use narrow bands of interlace or similar designs (Celtic, Norse, Slavic, Greek, etc.) climbing up the sleeves and hems of our robes. We could use the colors associated with the old IE castes: black/brown/green for First Circle members, red/blue for Second, white (with green & blue outlining?) for Third. Perhaps silver and gold colored threads for Fourth & Fifth?One idea I did come up with at the beginning of ADF seems not to be too popular, that was for only those intending to work their way into the Third or higher Circles to wear full length white robes, and for others to wear tunics or other premedieval garb. Apparently this makes the others feel like second-class citizens, so we'll drop it. However, I am going to stick with the rule that hoods on robes must not completely cover the face, especially in groves south of the Mason-Dixon line.Further ideas for Druid costume and/or identity symbols are very welcome! So send them in!
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Member-33's picture
(Originally published in Oak Leaves 2, April 1997)As the NeoPagan community grows and matures, the expectations change. Fifty years ago, Witchcraft (Gardnerian type) was an extremely secretive religion. At present, there are numerous public contact points and a few Wiccan and other Pagan groups holding public religious services. In another fifty years the expectations will have again changed. Most likely many NeoPagan groups will be offering religious meetings that anybody can attend. Not only will anybody be allowed to attend, but the group will offer most of the activities and services that current mainstream churches offer. To fulfill all of these commitments, these NeoPagan groups are going to have to raise money and have full-time paid NeoPagan clergy. As an active member, fifty years from now, of my local NeoPagan church, I'm going to expect certain things from my now-mainstream NeoPagan religious organization.I'm going to expect religious meetings. I'll expect that the rituals will start on time, and happen on a regular and recurring basis. This could be every Saturday night, or every new and full moon, as long as it is regular. I should be able to predict when the ritual will be without having to get on a mailing list or call the priest each time. I'll expect a regular place to worship, not hiring a different hall each meeting, or a different person's house. The ritual could be inside or outside, but each outside ritual is on the same piece of land, and inside rituals in the same building. Nor will my home be the expected meeting place for routine public worship, despite having the largest yard, largest living room or a swimming pool. How the ritual is done, or its style is very important. The style of the ritual is in a large part based upon the religions cosmology. The clergy need to have been primarily trained to do the rituals of the church to which they have been assigned, hired by or founded. If I want Wiccan ritual, I'll join a church whose focus is Wicca, like Earth-Spirit Community. If I want Druid ritual, I'll join ADF or NRDNA. I don't mind if the clergy can do other ritual, but the training program that produced them for this job should focus on the religion of the church that pays them.I'm going to expect religious training for myself and my kids. My children need to be taught how we worship, and to a lesser extent, why we worship the way we do. The organization should provide the materials, resources and lesson plans for the program. I have no problem paying for my kids to attend, but I shouldn't have to buy every reusable textbook that my kids will use only once. My schedule is very busy, so my kids should be able to be attend classes, without me staying with them. Adult courses should be offered so I can learn more about my religion, but not with the exclusive goal of becoming clergy.I expect the clergy person(s) to either lead, organize or do various rites of passage for me and my family. When a child is born, I expect a saining ritual. This might be in my house or at the local Grove. Of course I'll provide a feast or party afterwards. I expect help in doing or planning a coming of age ritual as the kids become adults. If it is appropriate, the priest might do the coming of age ceremony. When the kids get married, I expect the priest/ess to perform the marriage in the Grove, (assuming the kids want it and are members). The marriage should be legally binding as done by the clergy person(s) and not have to be re-done by a town clerk. When a member of the Grove dies, I expect the priest or priestess to know and perform the appropriate funerary rites.I expect the clergy to be well trained to help me in time of spiritual or emotional crisis. When a family member, friend or Grove member dies, I expect help in working through my grief. I expect help in dealing with other short term emotional problems. If it is going to be a long term therapy commitment, I'll see a full time therapist, or pay extra to the priest or priestess (who hopefully also accepts insurance). If my Pagan brother-in-law is in jail, I expect that the local Druid clergy person will visit him and help him, just as any other mainstream clergyman would.The priest or priestess has to be able to supervise volunteers. The volunteers can do most of the work, but it is up to the clergy person to ensure that projects get completed. She might reasonably delegate specific projects to members, but the priest or priestess still has to check on them.I expect the clergy person to be a decent administrator, or the Grove to have a non-clergy office manager/treasurer. This person needs to be able to present a budget to the Grove and then stick to the budget. She has to be able to balance a checkbook and pay the bills in a timely fashion. Her other jobs might include printing newsletters and ordering supplies.My fellow Grove members and I expect to be kept informed about what is happening. This means regular communications. This means open records, both financial records and meeting minutes. As Grove members, we might or might not have a vote or say in how the Grove is run. We do have an expectation of knowing about decisions and why they were made.How much input is permitted at the Grove level depends upon the type of church government chosen. There are three types of church government (that I'm aware of). The first is Episcopalian. Episcopalian government is where the clergy person is in charge of the Grove. The clergy may be hired by the Grove or be appointed by a higher national body. The second type is Presbyterian. Here, a small group of elders from the congregation run the Grove. The elders can be elected regularly, or can be appointed by any other means. They hire the minister, and can fire him or her. The third method is congregationalism. In this form, the church is run by the members of the congregation. They often form committees to research specific topics (like a minister search committee), or to handle regular activities, (such as presenting the budget for approval). The first form, Episcopalian, requires a national body to recognize local groups. The other two forms can either have a national body who approves local groups, or can have totally independent groups. Most NeoPagan groups run towards the Presbyterian model, with the Elders being selected for life by the other elders, or having founded the group.What I Offer to My ChurchAs a very busy employee, I don't have a lot of time. I work long hours during the week, and have to spend at least one day during the weekend doing things around the house. I have a couple of hours most nights to do things, but can't commit to meetings in the evening. I have time to read newsletters, and write replies to my e-mail. On the other hand, I earn a decent amount of money.I attend worship services every week, and on the High Holidays. When I attend, I like to sing. I'd be in the choir, but I can't make rehearsals unless they are right before, or right after, worship services. If the clergy person thinks I'm good enough, I'll sing or play a solo, or be lead or backup for other people, I doubt I'll ever write any songs, but if I do, I'd be honored to have them used. I won't demand that my works be used.I willingly and joyfully participate in ritual as a member of the congregation. I consider it to be an honor to help in running a ritual. If asked or nudged, I'll occasionally lead a standard ritual. I doubt I'll have the time or knowledge to write rituals. Since our tradition encourages people to volunteer praise offerings within ritual, I'll usually have something I can recite, sing or read.After the ritual, I'll volunteer to help with the social by providing food, preparing it and helping with the cleanup. If something has to be done around the Grove, and it won't take more than a hour or so, I'll help after the service. I would volunteer to teach the children if the Grove supplied the materials and lesson plans. Given sufficient lead time, I'll occasionally assist with field trips.Since the Grove has a paid clergy person, I'll donate that crucial ingredient to overall success, money. I'll donate from $200 to $1,000 per year to the local and/or national organization. I could do this as a regular (weekly, monthly), annual or one-time fee. I could make those offerings at the ritual or discretely through the mail.My children have more time than I do. I'll encourage them to participate in Grove-organized activities. These activities could include litter pickup, tree planting or other community service. If the Grove puts on a play, they'll help if they are capable.Author's Note:After I posted the above article to ADF-Discuss and ADF-Religion, about 100 messages were generated, almost all of them talking about paid clergy, or paid clergy vs. spending money on something else.My responses to these discussions are:1.) This article takes place 50+ years in the future, so issues of should we build up the organization vs. paying clergy vs. buying land should be considered to be moot -- all of them have or could be done by then. There is plenty of money, but not an unlimited amount. By definition of being mainstream, the organization is in place, and if the membership wants real estate, they have a mortgage.2.) There is no mention of HOW the clergy will be chosen or WHO (local or Mother Grove) will control the money or where it will specifically come from. I did point out the various possibilities. I stated that the clergy will be well trained to carry out the jobs expected of them. It doesn't say HOW they will get the training. We could continue as we are (Study Plan), attach to an existing college, or start our own. Which one is done is irrelevant to the article.3.) Most importantly, it is written from the viewpoint of a parishioner, somebody who has NEITHER the time nor desire to be clergy. This parishioner is active in the local Grove though, and is religious. This person works a 40+ hour week, 5+ days a week, year-round.
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KirkThomas's picture
This odd looking word, *ghos-ti, is the Proto-Indo-European word which refers to the reciprocal relationships of hospitality. In fact, the English words "guest" and "host" both come from this root (the * at the beginning of the word just means that it's a word reconstructed by linguists and not attested in literature or archeology). Our religion in ADF is based on this idea, that we can form relationships with the Powers by making offerings to Them, with the expectation that we may receive blessings and wisdom from Them in return. Well, we've invented a new use for it!At the Desert Magic Festival recently, during the closing ritual, this word suddenly became a spontaneous cheer or toast. Everyone ended the rite with a resounding, Ghosti!, which felt just right. Other cheers we've heard at the ends of rites, such as Hurrah! or Huzzah! or even (dare I say it?) Woof! just pale in comparison! So don't be surprised if you come across a group of ADFer's all happily cheering each other with this new toast:Ghosti!
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IsaacBonewits's picture
© 1984 P. E. I. Bonewits Originally published in Druid's Progress #1, 1984The term "Pagan" comes from the Latin paganus, which appears to have originally meant "country dweller," "villager," or "hick." The members of the Roman army seem to have used it to mean "civilian." When Christianity took over the Empire and continued it under new management, the word took on the idea of "one who is not a soldier of Christ." Today, the word means "atheist" or "devil worshipper" to many devout monotheists. But those who call themselves Pagan use it differently; as a general term for native, natural and polytheistic religions, and their members.The following definitions have been coined in recent years in order to keep the various polytheological and historical distinctions clear: "Paleopaganism" refers to the original tribal faiths of Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Oceania and Australia, where and when they were (or are) still practiced as intact belief systems. Of the so-called "Great Religions of the World," Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto fall under this category."Mesopaganism" is the word used for those religions founded as attempts to recreate, revive or continue what their founders thought of as the (usually European) Paleo- pagan ways of their ancestors (or predecessors), but which were heavily influenced (accidentally, deliberately or involuntarily) by the monotheistic and/or dualistic world views of Judaism, Christianity and/or Islam. Examples of Mesopagan belief systems would include the Masonic Druids, Rosicrucianism, Spiritualism, Crowleyianity, and the many Afro-American faiths (Voudoun, Macumba, etc.)"Neopaganism" refers to those religions created since 1940 or so that have attempted to blend what their founders perceived as the best aspects of different types of Paleo- paganism with modern "Aquarian Age" ideals, while eliminating as much as possible of the traditional western dualism. The title of this section should now make a great deal more sense. So let's look at the state of Paleo- paganism in Europe prior to the arrival of Christianity.It's important to remember that a lot of history happened in Europe before anyone got around to writing it down. Around 4000 B.C.E. ("Before the Common Era") the tribes that spoke Proto-Indo-European began to migrate away from their original homeland, which was probably the territory around the northwest shores of the Black Sea. Some went southeast and founded the Armenian, Iranian and Indic cultures. Others went south to Anatolia and Palestine, and became known as Hittites and Mitanni. Those who went southwest to the Balkans became Thracians and Greeks. Others who went west and north established the Celtic, Slavic, Germanic, and Baltic cultures.All this migrating around took many centuries and involved a lot of bloodshed. Previous inhabitants of a given piece of territory had to be persuaded, usually at swordpoint, to let the newcomers in -- and there went the neighborhood! The pre-Indo-European cultures in Europe (which were not necessarily "peaceful matriarchies") were all still in the late Neolithic ("New Stone Age") cultural era, with only stone axes, spears and knives with which to defend themselves. The invaders had bronze weapons and armor with which to fight, plus bronze axes with which to clear the great forests that covered the continent, bronze plows to till the soil, etc.The impact of this superior technology can be judged by the fact that, by the time of the Roman Empire, nearly every language spoken in Europe (except Basque, Lappish and Finnish) was a member of the Western branch of Indo- European. Everything west of the Urals was pretty much dominated by a loosely interlinked conglomeration of related cultures, each of which was a mixture of the PIE culture and that of the previous holders of its territory. The largest group of cultures north of the Roman borders was that of the Celts, and the second largest that of the Germans (some scholars consider the Germans to be so closely related culturally to the Celts as to be practically a subset, at least in archeological terms).Thanks to the work of Georges Dumezil, James Duran and others, we are beginning to have a clear idea of the social, political, magical and religious functions of the priestly "class" in Indo-European Paleopaganism. I use the word "class" deliberately, for the Western Indo- European cultures seem to have been built on the same fundamental social pattern as that with which we are familiar in Vedic India: clergy, warriors, and providers (farmers, craftspeople, traders, herders, etc.) In fact, it appears that a close to exact correspondence can be made between the religious, political and social functions originally performed by a Latin flamen, a Celtic draoi, or a Vedic brahman.The Indo-European clergy basically included the entire intelligentsia of their cultures: poets, musicians, historians, astronomers, genealogists, judges, diviners, and of course, leaders and supervisors of religious rituals. Officially, they ranked immediately below the local tribal chieftains or "kings" and above the warriors. However, since the kings were quasi-religious figures, usually inaugurated by the clergy, and often dominated by them, it was frequently a tossup as to who was in charge in any given tribe. The clergy were exempt from taxation and military service, and in some cultures are said to have spent decades in specialized training.They seem to have been responsible for all public religious rituals (private ones were run by the heads of each household). Public ceremonies were most often held in fenced groves of sacred trees. These were usually of birch, yew, and oak (or ash where oaks were rare), depending upon the subset of deities or ancestors being addressed, as well as the specific occasion. Various members of the priestly caste would be responsible for music, recitation of prayers, sacrificing of animals (or occasionally human criminals or prisoners of war), divination from the flames of the ritual fire or the entrails of the sacrificial victim, and other minor ritual duties. Senior members of the caste ("the" Druids, "the" brahmans or "the" flamens as such) would be responsible for making sure that the rites were done exactly according to tradition. Without such supervision, public rituals were generally impossible; thus Caesar's comment that all public Gaulish sacrifices required a Druid to be present.There are definite indications that the Indo-European clergy held certain polytheological and mystical opinions in common, although only the vaguest outlines are known at this point. There was a belief in reincarnation (with time spent between lives in an Other World very similar to the Earthly one), in the sacredness of particular trees, in the continuing relationship between mortals, ancestors and deities, and naturally in the standard laws of magic (see Real Magic.) There was an ascetic tradition of the sort that developed into the various types of yoga in India, complete with the Pagan equivalent of monasteries and convents. There was also, I believe, a European "tantric" tradition of sex and drug magic, although it's possible that this was mostly the native shamanic traditions being absorbed and transmuted.Only the western Celtic clergy (the Druids) seem to have had any sort of organized inter-tribal communications network. Most of the rest of the IE clergy seem to have kept to their own local tribes. Among the Germanic peoples, the priestly class had weakened by the early centuries of the Common Era to the point where the majority of ritual work was done by the heads of households.We don't know whether or not any but the highest ranking clergy were full-time priests and priestesses. At the height of the Celtic cultures, training for the clergy was said to take twenty years of hard work, which would not have left much time or energy for developing other careers. Among the Scandinavians, there seem to have been priests and priestesses (godar, gydjur) who lived in small temples and occasionally toured the countryside with statues of their patron/matron deities, whom they were considered to be "married" to. In the rest of the Germanic, Slavic and Baltic cultures, however, many of the clergy may have worked part-time, a common custom in many tribal societies. It's also common for such cultures to have full- or part-time healers, who may use herbs, hypnosis, psychology, massage, magic and other techniques. Frequently they will also have diviners and weather predictors (or con- trollers). Midwives, almost always female, are also standard and, as mentioned above, there is usually a priestess or priest working at least part-time. What causes confusion, especially when dealing with extinct cultures, is that different tribes combine these offices into different people.At the opening of the Common Era, European Paleo- paganism consisted of three interwoven layers: firstly, the original pre-Indo-European religions (which were of course also the results of several millennia of religious evolution and cultural conquests); secondly, the proto- Indo-European belief system held by the PIE speakers before they began their migrations; and thirdly, the full scale "high religions" of the developed Indo-European cultures. Disentangling these various layers is going to take a very long time, if indeed it will ever be actually possible.The successful genocide campaigns waged against the Druids and their colleagues are complex enough to warrant a separate discussion. Suffice it to say that by the time of the seventh century C.E., Druidism had been either destroyed or driven completely underground throughout Europe. In parts of Wales and Ireland, fragments of Druidism seem to have survived in disguise through the institutions of the Celtic Church and of the Bards and Poets. Some of these survivals, along with a great deal of speculation and a few outright forgeries, combined to inspire the ("Mesopagan") Masonic/Rosicrucian Druid fraternities of the 1700's. These groups have perpetuated these fragments (and speculations and forgeries) to this very day, augmenting them with a great deal of folkloric and other research.These would seem to most Americans to be the only sources of information about Paleopagan Druidism. However, research done by Russian and Eastern European folklorists, anthropologists and musicologists among the Baltic peoples of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia indicates that Paleopagan traditions may have survived in small villages, hidden in the woods and swamps, even into the current century! Some of these villages still had people dressing up in long white robes and going out to sacred groves to do ceremonies, as recently as World War One! Iron Curtain social scientists interviewed the local clergy, recorded the ceremonies and songs, and otherwise made a thorough study of their "quaint traditions" preparatory to turning them all into good Marxists. Ironically enough, some of the oldest "fossils" of preserved Indo-European traditions (along with bits of vocabulary from Proto-German and other early IE tongues) seem to have been kept by Finno-Ugric peoples such as the Cheremis. Most of this research has been published in a variety of Soviet academic books and journals, and has never been translated into English. This material, when combined with the Vedic and Old Irish sources, may give us most of the missing links necessary to reconstruct Paleo-pagan European Druidism.The translation of this material, along with some of the writings of Dumezil (and others) that are not yet in English, is going to be an important part of the research work of ADF for the first few years. And we're going to see if we can get copies of some of the films...But there are some definite "nonfacts" about the ancient Druids that need to be mentioned: there are no real indications that they used stone altars (at Stonehenge or anywhere else); that they were better philosophers than the classical Greeks or Egyptians; that they had anything to do with the mythical continents of Atlantis or Mu; or that they wore gold Masonic regalia or used Rosicrucian passwords. They were not the architects of (a) Stonehenge, (b) the megalithic circles and lines of Northwestern Europe, (c) the Pyramids of Egypt, (d) the Pyramids of the Americas, (e) the statues of Easter Island, or (f) anything other than wooden barns and stone houses. There is no proof that any of them were monotheists, or "Prechristian Christians," that they understood or invented either Pythagorean or Gnostic or Cabalistic mysticism; or that they all had long white beards and golden sickles.Separating the sense from the nonsense, and the probabilities from the absurdities, about the Paleopagan clergy of Europe is going to take a great deal of work. But the results should be worth it, since we will wind up with a much clearer image of the real "Old Religions" than Neopagans have ever had available before. This will have liturgical, philosophical and political consequences, some of which we'll be discussing in future issues of "The Druids' Progress".
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none's picture
A Beginning From An EndThe Beginning of Ár nDraíocht FéinCore Ideas in Druid TheologyOn the Symbols of Druid IdentityWhat I Expect from My ChurchThe Necessity of Doing Public RitualI-E Paleopaganism and its ClergyWhat ADF Will and Won't BeSacred Work, Sacred LifeDefining 1s SelfA MeditationThe Origins of ADFOn the Value of PolytheismIs ADF Dogmatic?Why Do We Druid?Taking it All HomeGhosti!A Tale of Sound and FuryUrban DruidrySee also the research paper Pathways To Druidry: A Case Study of Ár nDraíocht Féin by Michael Cooper.
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IsaacBonewits's picture
ADF has only three dogmas, which I announced during my tenure as the first Archdruid: The first is the Doctrine of Archdruidic Fallibility (all members are required to believe that the leadership messes up from time to time). The Second Druidic Dogma is that there are to be no more dogmas. The Third Druidic Dogma is "No, we really meant it, there are to be no more dogmas!"Somewhat more seriously, there are important differences between doctrines and dogmas. Every religion has doctrines, which are merely formal statements of belief or disbelief. A doctrine becomes a dogma when some institution has the power to literally or figuratively destroy your life for disagreeing with the doctrine.ADF does resemble structured churches in some ways because it was designed to be a mainstream religious institution someday and we didn't think it made sense to reinvent the wheel over and over again. Many things that mainstream religions do are sensible and harmless. You may have noticed the lack of religious murders among American Buddhists, Quakers, and Unitarian Universalists, even though those groups all have bylaws, customs, buildings, fund raising activities, etc.Strong beliefs rooted in a common vision are not dogmas, even if membership in a group may depend upon accepting those beliefs. Refusing to allow others to have strong beliefs, however, may border on the dogmatic.ADF is, among many other things, a complex game we have all agreed to play according to a set of rules. Insisting that the rules be honored is no more doctrinaire than insisting on football being played with footballs rather than baseballs or soccer balls.American Pagans in particular often have difficulty with organizational structures and methods, since our mainstream culture glorifies individuals and denigrates communities. In ADF we try to balance the needs of both individual members and of the organization as a whole. To do that balancing act often requires making rules and enforcing them, not to mention a constant tinkering with the rules to improve them.ADF isn't for everybody. Fortunately, there are many other backyards and balls, and people are free to chose their favorites so they can play the games they want to play.
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IsaacBonewits's picture
© Isaac Bonewits Originally published in Druid's Progress #2For what reason is it that ye sit here under the oak? Why is it that ye have come together out under the stars? Have ye come that ye might not be alone? If so, it is good. But verily, I say unto you: Many there are who have come together, yet remain alone.Do ye sit in the open that ye might come to know Nature? If so, it is good. But verily, I say unto you: Many there are who have sat for hours and have risen up knowing less than when they sat down.Rather, in your coming together seek to know in what way ye may help the one who is next to you, and strive to act justly. And in your sitting down in the fields of the Earth-Mother, open your minds as well as your eyes. Let your meditation grow and branch out as the oak which is over your head. Except that ye have done these things, your sitting is in vain and coming is futility.And why is it that ye do stand up before others and speak unto them? Do ye teach them the ways of the Ancient Druids? If so, it is good. For they had their wisdom, and that is oft forgot. But verily, I say unto you: In their day, even they also were young in their traditions.The wise are not constrained to learn only that which they are taught. Yea, even as there is a time for talking, is there also a time for not talking.In the silence of your being shall ye find that which is not of your being; and in the Earth-Mother shall ye find that which is not of the Earth-Mother; in Be'al shall ye be made aware, and your awareness shall fill you.Ye shall be like the morning sun which has risen and whose brightness is already full, but whose path is yet ever upward, and the light of your awareness shall sweep before it all the shadows of your uncertainty.Then shall ye need wait no more; for this is the great End and all else is but Beginning.This is from the old Reformed Druids of North America, and was written around 20 years ago. In the RDNA's polytheology, the Earth Mother is the personification of the material world, and Be'al (i.e., Bel, Belenos, etc.) is the personification of the abstract essence of reality. Despite the psuedo King James writing style, I have always liked the meditations and poems in the old RDNA scriptures, and will share some of them with you from time to time.
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Ian Corrigan's picture
From its founding, Ar nDraiocht Fein has chosen to approach divinity and spirit through the traditional models of Indo-European polytheism. We have taught that the many gods and spirits are individual persons, and not simply 'aspects' of some greater single 'God', or of any pair of deities, male and female. We find no evidence that the ancients believed that all goddesses are aspects of one Great Goddess, or all gods of one Great Horned God. Rather the Powers (i.e. the god/desses and spirits) were worshipped individually, each given their proper honor.In our effort to rebuild the Old Ways we encourage students to adopt this approach to divinity. To some it will seem perfectly natural, while others may find it a bit jarring at first. Most Pagans come to us from modern cultures in which the divine is almost universally described as a single thing. This common assumption is the result of many centuries of deliberate effort by the missionaries of monotheistic religion.The Victory of Monotheism.Beginning, perhaps, with a pharaoh of ancient Khemi, followed by the prophets of Israel and Judea and the Magi of Zoroaster, a small group of ancient peoples came to believe that a single divine person, omnipotent and omniscient, was the creator, owner and operator of the universe. They taught that the god/desses of other tribes were at best delusion or minor spirits, and at worst demons. They used military power to destroy ancient ways, razing the holy places, slaying their men and raping their women. They proselytized in the Graeco-Roman world, and monotheism gained control of the Roman Empire, pursuing a systematic effort to destroy Pagan religion. Eventually the new religious movement known as Christianity was enforced throughout Europe by the cultural descendant of the Empire, the Roman Catholic Church.In the following centuries monotheistic belief spread through the world. Carried by merchants and missionaries in the in the Christian world, as well as by military force, monotheist ideas spread among traditional religions. Perhaps the final phase of that ideological expansion was the European colonialism of recent centuries. Using military and economic power, European nations ruled much of Africa, Asia and the New World. They did whatever they could to destroy traditional religions wherever they found them, and to impose monotheism.The social Darwinism of the colonial era taught that there had been an 'evolution' in society and religion, and that European Culture and monotheism were the natural flower of human history. In this way they justified their economic and cultural domination of third-world peoples.As a result of this long history of cultural imperialism, most of the intellectual world that the only 'civilized' concept of divinity is the monotheistic notion of a single universal being. Modern monotheism isn't limited to religious orthodoxies. They may be influenced by late Hindu philosophy, and may reject the Hebrew tribal Deity of the Mosaic tales in favor of a much more abstract principle. But among intellectuals, polytheist notions are far too often dismissed as 'primitive superstition'.So it is not surprising when people bring monotheistic assumptions to their efforts to rebuild Paganism. That trend is supported by the strongly monotheistic trends of in much of so-called New Age thought. This modern esotericism combines Hindu and Buddhist doctrines with mystical strains of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The New Age often seeks to create a kind of universal religion, attempting to reconcile differences and applying novel interpretations to traditional symbols and ideas. This trend often restates the notion that humanity is undergoing a spiritual evolution from 'primitive' notions of many gods and spirits to a more 'sophisticated', unified understanding of divinity.This version of spiritual evolution is not really less insulting to the ancestors coming from New Agers than it is from fundamentalists. It devalues the spiritual traditions of tribal and traditional religions, and asserts that western technological society is developing the 'true' new religion to supersede those of the past.Unity and DiversityADF has largely rejected the idea of uniting the world's religions into one coherent whole. Examination of both the means and the goals of the world's spiritual paths makes it clear that there are several very distinct kinds of religion in the world, and a huge selection of subsets and sects. It is fashionable to deplore that situation, and to blame many of the world's conflicts on our inability to unify our beliefs. Both orthodox and New Age monotheists have suggested that if only the world could come together under the banner of Divine Truth, our petty divisions and conflicts would end. From a polytheistic perspective that expectation appears deeply flawed.When we look at nature and the world we do not find unity or conformity. Instead we find a riot of diversity, an infinite blooming and combining of forms. A constant flux of birth, a vast divergence of life-paths, and an equally constant reflux of death takes every object through its physical existence, with a smaller number of more constant forms, such as sun, moon and the land.As Pagans we take the reality of natural systems as one of our primary models of spiritual reality. So we find that the spiritual worlds and their inhabitants are also diverse, multiple and decentralized. Just as a physical ecosystem is composed of many different beings and processes, we understand the spiritual worlds to be the same. To assert that all these many things are under the exclusive rulership of a single mind, no matter how great, seems to run counter to the plain order of the world.To continue an ecological metaphor, the many religions of the world provide a spiritual 'species diversity'. To attempt to unify them would be like breeding all the world's beasts into one generalized beast. Science teaches us that there is greater gain to be had from encouraging diversity, even if it requires special effort to contain conflict.It is, however, unlikely that polytheism and its cultural implications are more likely than monotheism to cause social or cultural conflicts. The history of efforts to impose monotheistic religions on the world is, alone, enough evidence of that. Even in principle, the tenets of monotheism so directly contradict the order of the natural world that they must inevitably cause conflict. The human species is naturally of such diverse opinion and belief that any attempt to fins universal agreement on spiritual specifics must inevitably trample on the ways of many groups.To put it simply, the desire for unity far too often, perhaps inevitably, becomes a demand for uniformity. When a belief system teaches that there is a single Divinity that humans are striving to discover, that system will inevitably produce conflict, because individuals and groups will always arrive at different conclusions about what that divinity is. Systems such as Christianity and Buddhism have found themselves mired in these difficulties, as varying sects proclaim that theirs is the 'true' version of their truth, and work to discredit one another.By contrast the polytheism of Hinduism has produced many sects which have most often coexisted with each other. Those sects, though not without internal conflict and disagreement, hold to a set of mutual core beliefs, and recognize one another as on the same path, even as they keep their distinctive traditions. It is precisely the acknowledgment of multiple deities that makes this possible.Polytheistic ConceptsWith no mythic image of a being that is either the ruler or the sum of the cosmos, polytheistic philosophy is free to pursue real diversity, real tolerance. We assert that the Cosmos is intrinsically multiple in expression, whether as chemicals or as the stuff of spirit. The best attempts to depict Cosmic Wholeness might be mandalas - patterns made up of the dance of an often vast number of distinct persons and things. No single symbol, or being, can express the totality of Cosmos.When we take up polytheism, we are plainly rejecting the claims of some religions that their God is the creator, owner and operator of the Cosmos. But we are also granting that the worship of every Spirit is valid and honorable. We are saying that every people, and even every person, may have their special spirits, their private ways and worship, and find acceptance. We reject the notion of the 'jealous God'. In polytheism all the god/desses worship one another, and their worshippers are seldom restricted to a single deity or form of worship. It is always proper to honor the gods of one's neighbors, and to expect them to honor one's own. We affirm that different life-ways, different paths, lead to different places. The Gods, the practices, even the morality of the farmer is distinct from that of the artisan, the merchant or the warrior. So we teach ourselves not to measure the world against our own standards, and to remember that there are many ways.In the same way, polytheism promotes a wide variety of choices for the modern individual. Each person will in time develop a very personal set of god/desses and spirits to whom she gives worship Personal ancestors and local spirits of the land combine with the gods of one's labor and skill and the general worship of one's community to create religion with unique combinations in every household. We learn to extend tolerance not only to those outside our conceptual villages, but to our immediate neighbors and kin, with their special ways.Polytheistic religion offers the individual a truly personal spiritual path inside an accepting community of spiritual principle and practice. It offers families a way to build spirituality into heir homes. It offers communities a way to come together in acceptance of one another. It offers the world a return to a more realistic relationship with the goddesses, the Gods, and all the Spirits.In closing I pray that all those ancient Powers of the Elder Days will continue to reveal themselves to us, and draw closer as we worship them.
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Member-33's picture
(Originally published in Druid's Progress 9)It was asked in an issue of News From the Mother Grove, whether an ADF ritual needed to be done at festivals such as Starwood. I believe that we must do ADF rituals at major festivals, especially when ADF has a large presence on-site. This is especially true at Starwood, where the yearly members' meeting is held. Some of the factors to consider when deciding whether or not rituals should be done are: burnout, only two High Days during the heaviest part of the festival season, the need to "show the flag" and the need for ADF members who aren't members of local Groves to attend and participate in an ADF ritual.I understand that doing the same ritual repeatedly can lead to burnout. I don't know if this is because newcomers need to be taught the ritual every time or because the same people are doing the same ritual every time. A couple of alternatives are available to help with this problem. If it is because the ritual is so much the same each time, the solution is to have more styles; a Proper, a Common, and as many more styles as can be designed. If the sameness of the ritual is boring, maybe the entire structure needs to be looked at. I don't feel that this is the case.If teaching newcomers the ritual format is a problem, delegate. At festivals where other members are present have somebody else lead the ritual and pre-ritual meeting. This moves an experienced Druid into the position of "Druid/flamen/brahman." He/She would attend the meeting to make sure it goes according to the outline and to field questions from the people leading the ritual. This also would give aspiring ADF clergy a chance to show their stuff.The majority of the Pagan festivals take place from mid-May to late August. This makes sense since the weather is pleasant and most people get their vacations during that period. During that time, there are only two High Days, Mean Samradh and Lughnasadh. According to the Grove Organizers' Handbook, each Grove is to meet at least twice a month. A ritual is not required at these fortnightly meeting. However, it would be useful to have examples of what to do for twice monthly ritual. A shortened form of the liturgy is one recommendation. Festivals that occur at other than High Days are a good chance to show off these alternatives.One important objective that needs to be achieved at festivals is to show the flag. This means more than two or three workshops about ADF. Again, it is better politically if other members of ADF get a chance to run the show. This would help dispel the idea that Isaac runs ADF as a petty tyrant, albeit an enlightened one. Besides lectures on Druidism, the ritual, to me, is the major drawing point at festivals. This is where non-members get to see the organization at work and get a feeling for the aesthetics. It is all well and good for people to read about our format, but experiencing it is a major step beyond that.The final point is giving members who are not part of a local Grove a chance to attend ADF rituals. I met one member who had belonged to the association for two years and had never seen an ADF ritual. When going to a festival where ADF is present officially, especially Starwood, one expects to attend an ADF ritual. At present, I believe most of our members do not belong to ADF Groves. Festivals are a chance for them to get together and be active in an ADF ritual. One of the points of having a standardized liturgy is to allow a small group of people, basic strangers, to sit down and put a ritual together very quickly and still have it work. It also allows people to attend a ritual and know what is going to happen without attending a major planning meeting.Like it not, we need to do rituals at festivals, even if the festival doesn't fall on a High Day. We need to show that ADF is more than an irregular newsletter for most people and is an active system/tradition.
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Member-1136's picture
Deciding to follow a nature-based religion if you live in the midst of a city can be a challenge. Druids who live on farms or in woods, or even in the midst of suburban greenery can often step outside and immediately be in contact with the Earth. But those of us who are surrounded by concrete and live shoulder to shoulder with neighbors must make a conscious effort to ignore the pressing humanity and feel the rhythms of the Great Mother pulsing through our days.When I first began reading works by pagans about the path, I was drawn to works that focused on their relationships with nature. Books that advocated cordoning off a corner of a room for meditation, or working indoors with candles, mirrors or pendulums were of little interest to me, precisely because escape from my room was a fundamental attraction of paganism for me. It was the gulf I felt, between my daily life and the rhythms of the Mother Earth, that spurred me towards our religion. It is perhaps why I was drawn first to Druidism rather than Wicca or other goddess-based religious practices.So I turned to books that taught me how sit beneath a tree, how to notice the habits of animals, and those that spoke of vision quests in the wilderness. Many of them suggested that I plant a grove of trees in my yard, or grow my own food, or take long walks through the woods. All of them assumed that I lived deep in the forest, had leisure to spend weeks out in nature, or, at the very least, possessed a fair sized yard that could handle these great works of horticulture that I was supposedly developing. But few of these suggestions are practical, or even practicable, if you live in the city. I've never been much of the church-only-on-Sunday type and my hopes of getting to the wilderness proper to practice my "new" spirituality on a regular basis were few and far between.Despite living in one of Washington, DC's most urban neighborhoods, I am fortunate enough to live close to what I consider one of the District's most impressive "monuments": Rock Creek Park. From my door, you can walk 4 blocks into a small patch of trees known locally as Klingle Woods. It borders Piney Branch Creek, which cuts through an old Indian quartz quarry and runs directly into Rock Creek. While the Park Service has been kind enough to carve out and laboriously maintain an asphalt bike and jogging path along the banks of what was once a mighty creek, it is the numerous small dirt paths that first gave me the connection I needed to the Earth.There are many things I have been able to do and learn in this "urban" park that I never would have thought possible inside a city. I've sat beneath an oak tree and used it to plot the path of the sun over the course of the year. I've wandered over the hills, finding vistas where one can see only an occasional house, and imagining how Washington was in the days when the land was owned by the wind and the rain. I've found a meadow that is made for sun-worshipping in the depths of December and I've clambered through Piney Branch in search of quartz and the hoped-for Indian relic. And I've seen animals: eagles, hawks, deer, raccoons, and —once— a red fox. I know the paths through the forest almost better than I do the streets surrounding my neighborhood. So I am more fortunate than many urbanites– I do have a private wilderness that I can find any summer evening or early morning before work.Despite my bond with this particular piece of landscape, there are large swathes of my day in which my longing for a bit of wild earth makes me impatient of the manicured tree boxes and flower beds of downtown. It once depressed me utterly to think of the way in which nature has been trapped, stuffed, and mounted for urbanites to "enjoy." The flowers seem little more than an architectural extension of the buildings at whose feet they sit and the trees reach their lonely arms across concrete and asphalt in a vain attempt to touch one another. I would walk on my lunch hour and wonder how the Earth would ever survive the indignities our species hands to her.One week, deep in the grey depths of winter, I created a visualization or meditation for myself that I first practiced on a tiny triangle of green, pinioned between K Street, I Street, and Vermont and 15th. It is a tiny park with large oak trees, a statue of some random war hero and plenty of winos and sleeping bums. In the summer the place is covered with squirrels stashing away the leavings of lunch patrons and the air is filled with car horns and the occasional bubbly laughs of secretaries who have shed their shoes and are wiggling their toes through the grass. In winter, it is given over to the bums and hurrying walkers on their way to and from work.The visualization I tried that first day went something like this:Ground yourself, feeling your roots reach down into the earth, down below the concrete, down through the earthworms and decaying matter, down until you feel your roots drawing up the energy of the Earth. Then reach out to the tree nearest you with those roots, feeling its roots reaching towards you as well. Feel these roots pushing up the concrete, reaching below the buildings, connecting with other roots of trees, flowers or other plants. Look at the landscape around you and feel the thin covering of concrete over the power of these roots. Imagine what the landscape will look like centuries from now, if humans have abandoned the site. See the way in which nature will reclaim the landscape. See the vines tugging at the bricks, the grasses pushing apart the sidewalks, the roads springing with great trees and flowers. Feel the march of the ants carrying away refuse, piece by infinitesimal piece. Then look in the air. Notice the birds and the bugs. Watch them alight from tree to tree, connecting downtown with park with suburb with wilderness. Feel the cleansing power of the wind, the scouring of the rain, the melting of the sun. Imagine them working slowly, inexorably, to erode the structures around you. Imagine the Earth as a vast body upon which the structures of humans sit as a thin crust that will vanish the moment we give up our vigilance.I still often swing between fear for the Earth and joy in her strength. And there are times when I forget to notice life being lived, regardless of the works of humans. But I've found this picture of roots and crumbling structures to be one of the most powerful for connecting me to the Earth in almost any surrounding. I've begun to understand my city in a new way. Instead of seeing concrete and glass, I notice the weeds along the road. I look out of my window at work and see, not the skyscrapers of Arlington, but the marshy tides of the Potomac. I notice the sun and the clouds, the moon and the stars. It is the minute traces of nature that the urban druid must track to plot the pulse of the Earth. And though it has been far from easy, my struggle to see life through the eyes of the Earth Mother has, for me, transformed this city of concrete and steel into a lifecelebrating, sacred wilderness.Ancient Mother, blessings and welcome.This article originally appeared in "What's Brewing," Mugwort Grove's newsletter.
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