Archdruid Blog

I would like to comment on the massacre of satirical cartoonists and journalists at the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. My feelings are complicated. We are all extremely appalled and horrified that anyone could believe that their interpretation of religion would justify the cold-blooded murder of 12 people. This was the apparent justification used by the murderers for the outrage we have just witnessed. While words (and cartoons) can truly hurt our feelings, they certainly can’t physically harm us. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, the magazine takes on all religions in the long-standing tradition of French anti-clerical feeling, and they have offended many believers in France over the years. But until this week, no one had retaliated in such a murderous manner. Freedom of speech (not to mention religion) is the bulwark of a free, liberal democracy. Without it we must descend into tyranny and oppression. Without these freedoms we, as Pagans, would not be allowed to practice our religions in most of the world. Examples of the religious repression of minorities can be seen in the Middle East, Russia, China, and much of Africa. For us, these freedoms are essential to our very existence. Religious extremism is at the root of much terrorism and oppression. Its causes are many, and include actions by nations, individuals, corporations, and social prejudices. When a people feel powerless they will respond in whatever way they can. Perhaps the answer here is one of mutual respect? Our freedom of speech in the western world is practically absolute and we must ensure that it remains so. There are religions that attempt to justify the subjugation and defilement of women, gays, minorities, and those who are not of that religion. We must be vigilant to oppose these discriminatory ideas held by our own religious extremists here at home as well as those abroad. As Pagans, and in the spirit of reciprocity, can we show respect for the beliefs of others? Certainly, we Pagans have been at the receiving end of some pretty noxious comments and actions over the years. Does it really help us to respond in hateful or violent ways? Would it not be better to model who we are and what we believe in? Respect is a two-way street. As we grow in our spiritual practices we should honor and respect those of others, and in return they may learn to honor and respect us. I offer my condolences to all those who have been affected by these terrible events, and I pray that we all may all grow together in understanding and mutual respect.  
We in ADF have been watching the unfolding of events in the USA lately with sadness and distaste. Excesses abound in this country, from shootings and chokings of the members of racial minorities to calls from religious fundamentalists for the extermination of gay people. Such behaviors are despicable in the extreme. Prejudices are a form of limitation, where people refuse to see that we’re all in this together and try to limit the humanity of others. And these limitations can be expressed through excesses of force and through extremism. The glorification of excess and extremism is not just an American failing, it exists all over the world. And ADF is unwilling to contribute to it. Our Constitution (and before that our Bylaws) have always stressed that ADF Druidry is open to everyone. Our values emphasize balance. Balance through wisdom and moderation, through courage and perseverance, through integrity and hospitality. These values may be expressed through reciprocity, which is more than just the Golden Rule. Reciprocity is the basis of relationships, without which we cannot exist as a society. We all uphold each other, and should these bonds loosen or break then we all will suffer. Only by strengthening these bonds, and by creating new bonds between people, can we ever hope to thrive. Only by finding balance through reciprocity can conditions improve for everyone. Balance also implies restraint, on all sides. Ages-old prejudices are no excuse for any behavior, and must be examined. None of us are totally innocent, and none of us are totally guilty. We must all look deeply inside ourselves to root out prejudices we have been raised with that linger in the dark. Only then can injustice end. Only then may we all live in peace.
This is a short talk (they called it a sermon) that I gave on Monday night at the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service held at the United Methodist Church in White Salmon, WA as a fundraiser for the Mt. Adams Ministerial Association, of which I'm a member. ******************* We who live here in the Columbia Gorge and near the slopes of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood are incredibly fortunate. Not only do we have the mighty Columbia rolling majestically past us, but water falls from the sky here and snows blanket the mountains, feeding the streams and rivers that flow down to the great river and out to the sea. Thanks to this plentiful rainfall, our Mother Earth is generous with her bounty. Orchards and vineyards fill our valleys and cover our hills. Organic dairies fill Trout Lake valley, and salmon and trout swim in our rivers and streams. Flowers bloom everywhere in the spring, and forests of pine, fir, cedar, and oak cover our hills and mountains, providing habitat for wild creatures and wood for our logging industries. It’s so beautiful here that I wonder if we all don’t take it a bit for granted. In Druidry we value reciprocity as a virtue. I give so that you may give. You give so that I may give. It’s a two-way street. And Mother Earth gives us so very much. She gives us the land where our plants may grow and our livestock may graze. She gives us the rain and the snow to water our land that all may thrive. She gives us the wood of the forest that we may build our houses. She gives us the fish of the streams that we may eat. She gives us the air that we may breathe. She gives and gives and gives. Tonight we are here to give thanks. This is the time of thanksgiving, after all. But since we receive so much, perhaps we need to give back more than just our heartfelt gratitude? Perhaps we should imbue our words with action? At the great macro-economic scale of things, we could give back by promoting renewable energy over coal, oil, and gas. We could reforest the Amazon Basin since trees take so much carbon out of the air. We could stop denying that Global Warming and Climate Change are real, and substantially caused by human activities. But these great issues are bigger than each of us. Short of some great political upheaval they are out of our hands. But what can we as individuals do to give back to Mother Earth? Many of us are already doing these things. We can compost our organic matter and spread it on the land to make it more fertile. We can continue to recycle as much as possible and cut down on the packaging we buy. Just taking our own shopping bags to the market instead of using their plastic bags means a lot. We can support homeless shelters and food banks for those less fortunate than ourselves that they, too, may partake of the earth’s bounty. In our every day decisions we can make a difference, and show our thanks to our Mother Earth. For Thanksgiving is not just about families and feelings. It is also about doings. I am very thankful to be able to live where I do, on an organic farm in Trout Lake. I am thankful for the Earth and Nature and all that They give to us. As we Druids say, the Earth is our Mother. She upholds us and supports us. For without the Earth we cannot live. I pray that we may protect Mother Earth from our own excesses. I pray that we may continue to be supported and upheld by Her. And I pray that She will still be the ‘warm, moist earth’ for our grandchildren that she has been for us. For no matter what happens in the future, She will thrive, even if we do not. So in the weeks and months and years to come, let us all give our thanks for our Mother Earth. So be it.
Margot Adler, 1946-2014 The world received very sad news this morning about the death of Margot Adler today, July 28, 2014. We are all in shock and mourning to hear of her passing. Her seminal book, “Drawing Down the Moon,” arrived on the pagan scene back in the 1970’s, with updates made to it over the following decades. Her documentation of the early pagan scene is still a fascinating and amazingly useful book for anyone who wants to understand where we came from and how we got to be where we are today. It is still a primary resource for members of ADF who are pursuing the ADF Dedicant Path. I only had the privilege of meeting Ms. Adler once, when we served together on a panel at the Sirius Rising Festival at Brushwood Folklore Center in New York State a couple of years ago. Her energy was enormous, as was her presence. She had the ability to see right to the core of an issue, and was obviously a prodigious intellect.  With her death, modern paganism has lost a strong, passionate, and intelligent advocate and chronicler. She will be greatly missed. Rev. Kirk Thomas ADF Archdruid
The pagan community was shocked recently to learn about the recent arrest of Ken Klein for crimes against the most precious and innocent among us, our children. Although Mr. Klein was not in any way affiliated with ADF, we wish to state that the safety and well being of all our members, children included, is one of our primary concerns. ADF has a zero-tolerance in regards to sexual abuse of any kind. We perform background checks on our clergy and the members of our governing board. We also have developed policies on child abuse and sexual misconduct within our church. We pray for all victims that the gods may heal them and keep them safe. -The ADF Mother Grove
We have perpetual flames burning in ADF. They are kindled at the Spring Equinox (Autumn Equinox in the southern hemisphere) through friction, and after purification, rekindled at the same time the following year. This is the Hearth of ADF. In ancient Rome, the perpetual fire of the goddess Vesta burned under the care of the Vestal Virgins, and was considered the Hearth and center of the city. All sacrificial fires were lit from Her flame. Priestesses of the Goddess Brigit (and later the nuns of the saint) maintained a perpetual fire in Ireland that was only extinguished by order of the Church in the Middle Ages. Many cultures had rites where the Fire would be ritually extinguished once per year and then relit to give it new life. Depending on the culture, this could take place in November, Spring Equinox, or even the Summer Solstice. ADF now has such a Flame. Several, in fact, kindled in Washington and Michigan and maintained there. Other flames have been taken from these initial flames, and the custom spreads. In March they will be extinguished, the hearths purified, and the flames rekindled through friction, as in ancient days. We call these flames the Hearth of ADF, and they are flames of the unity of our folk. And as a form of Unity, we invite everyone to magically connect their ritual fires, be they candle flame or bonfire, to the Hearth of ADF, that we might all join together for all our rites. And you can do this by chanting the following charm while lighting your fire:   Kindled from the Great Flame Kept by prudent skill, Join with our common Hearth That these flames be one!   May the Kindreds bless us all as we grow together in unity as One Folk, striving to preserve our Mother the Earth and our relationships with all beings, mortal and divine. Bright blessings, Rev. Kirk Thomas
This year, ADF has something to celebrate! At a Samhain rite at the Winterstar Symposium held in 1983, Isaac Bonewits, a scholar, visionary, and teacher, announced the formation of a new religion, Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF). Issac's idea for ADF was revolutionary for its time. His path-making vision was to see ADF certified clergy in every major city and be recognized as a true world religion. The letter that announced the forming of ADF and what it was all about was written it the first "Druids Progress." In it, he outlined his concept of ADF as a fluid and dynamic religion, evolving and adapting ancient Pagan faiths in a modern context for his generation and continuing to evolve with the ones to follow.  This Samhain marks our 30th Anniversary! Today, ADF is thriving, as generations of members grow up in the path, and are passing it on to the next generation. From it's humble beginnings, there is now a solid core order of worship. There are currently 26 certified ordained clergy; 74 groves (congregations) in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Brazil with members on 6 continents; and numerous festivals held all around the United States and Canada every year. Happy Anniversary, ADF!
We are now at the half-way point between the equinox and solstice, those places that the ancient Celts thought of as the hinges of the year. In the north, the dark increases as we celebrate the November Cross Quarter High Day (called Samhain by the Celts), while in the south, the light increases as we celebrate that same Cross-Quarter High day, but which is called Beltane by those self-same Celts. Two strikingly different holidays, celebrated at the same time but in different hemispheres. How can we possibly feel like one folk, we ask, when our holidays don’t even match! How can some of us celebrate the return of summer and green and light while the rest of us celebrate our sacred dead while we look forward to the return of the sun in our darkening skies? Not hard, as the Celts would say. Time is cyclical, following the wheel of the year through the seasons. There is no beginning or end of time but rather continuing cycles – birth-death-rebirth, and spring-summer-autumn-winter-spring being the most obvious ones. And what things may these cycles hold in common? Balance is one of these. And the entire cosmos seeks balance. Life is balanced by death. Dark is balanced by light. Male is balanced by female. We all hold these opposites within ourselves, to varying degrees. And in our seasons, summer is balanced by winter, and autumn by spring. These things are all parts of a harmonious whole. So when we have the beginning of winter in the north, we have the beginning of summer in the south. Without one we cannot have the other. Our members in the south help balance out our members in the north, so that we may all be part of a harmonious whole. And we, the folk of ADF, personify part of that harmonious whole. As we stand between equinox and solstice, let us ask our Kindreds for Their blessings upon us all, that we, as one folk, may live well in balance and harmony with the Earth and each other. So be it!
The Waters support and surround us The Land extends about us The Sky stretches out above us At the Center burns a living flame                            -- Ceisiwr Serith We in ADF have long venerated our Sacred Fire, that flame burning at the Center of the Worlds. The Fire transmutes and transforms our offerings, carrying them up to the Gods. It is the light of Heaven, the Hallow of the Sky, bringing order to chaos. And we love to gather around it within its light where we can feel its warmth. This year Archdruid Emeritus Rev. John Adelmann (better known as ‘Fox’) did extensive research on sacred fire, and one result of this was the creation of our own Sacred Flame. In ancient times this fire would be stolen from the Gods, as it were, and created through friction (and later, though use of flint and steel, or with mirrors). Each year at the same time it would be doused, purified, and re-lit using the same methods. And it would be maintained through the course of the year with careful tending, and not allowed to go out. On Spring Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere) Fox, in Michigan, and I, in Washington State, lit our Sacred Flames at the same time with friction using a bow drill, and these fires have been maintained ever since. We are able to travel with the flame if we are driving somewhere, and Fox brought it to Trillium and Wellspring, where it was used not only to ignite our campfires, but also for use in ritual. This is still early days for the concept of the Sacred Flame in ADF, and the whole idea is still somewhat experimental, but it is also a wonderful way we can harken back to ancient times. Maintaining a Sacred Flame requires a fireproof location, organization, and effort, and this work certainly isn’t for everyone. But we hope that we may be seeing the beginnings of a new tradition for ADF.
The Waters support and surround us The Land extends about us The Sky stretches out above us At the Center burns a living flame                            -- Ceisiwr SerithWe in ADF have long venerated our Sacred Fire, that flame burning at the Center of the Worlds. The Fire transmutes and transforms our offerings, carrying them up to the Gods. It is the light of Heaven, the Hallow of the Sky, bringing order to chaos. And we love to gather around it within its light where we can feel its warmth.This year Archdruid Emeritus Rev. John Adelmann (better known as ‘Fox’) did extensive research on sacred fire, and one result of this was the creation of our own Sacred Flame. In ancient times this fire would be stolen from the Gods, as it were, and created through friction (and later, though use of flint and steel, or with mirrors). Each year at the same time it would be doused, purified, and re-lit using the same methods. And it would be maintained through the course of the year with careful tending, and not allowed to go out.On Spring Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere) Fox, in Michigan, and I, in Washington State, lit our Sacred Flames at the same time with friction using a bow drill, and these fires have been maintained ever since. We are able to travel with the flame if we are driving somewhere, and Fox brought it to Trillium and Wellspring, where it was used not only to ignite our campfires, but also for use in ritual.This is still early days for the concept of the Sacred Flame in ADF, and the whole idea is still somewhat experimental, but it is also a wonderful way we can harken back to ancient times. Maintaining a Sacred Flame requires a fireproof location, organization, and effort, and this work certainly isn’t for everyone. But we hope that we may be seeing the beginnings of a new tradition for ADF.