(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.