Spring is here, and festival season is in full swing! Something that occasionally takes place at an ADF festival is the ordination of a new priest, and these have taken place over the years at Trillium, Wellspring, Summerland, and Desert Magic, to name a few, for we in ADF have always performed our clergy ordinations in public.
Some of you may also have noticed that our ordination rites have changed a bit in the last few years, with the addition of a ‘charging the stole’ element after the new priest has spoken the oath.
What does this mean? Why is this important?
The stole is a symbol of the priest’s responsibility to the members of ADF, to their Patrons, and to themselves, all of who are present at the ordination. Someone carries the stole around the ritual space, holding it high for all to see. We ask the people in attendance to charge the stole and fill it with their blessings and good wishes, but more importantly, to fill it with the weight of the new priest’s responsibilities. We want our priests to be reminded of their oath to the Folk and to the Kindreds every time they place that stole upon their shoulders. It is a burden, not a sign of privilege. It marks out the priest as someone ‘different’ for the duration of a rite, someone performing public sacred duties, and also announces to the world that this person has had at least some verifiable training, just as Isaac always intended us to have.
Many of our priests who have undergone this part of the ordination rite report that after the charging, when the stole is finally placed upon their shoulders, they can actually feel its great weight, filled with responsibility, which is far greater than the weight of the cloth alone.
Spring is here, and festival season is in full swing! Something that occasionally takes place at an ADF festival is the ordination of a new priest, and these have taken place over the years at Trillium, Wellspring, Summerland, and Desert Magic, to name a few, for we in ADF have always performed our clergy ordinations in public.Some of you may also have noticed that our ordination rites have changed a bit in the last few years, with the addition of a ‘charging the stole’ element after the new priest has spoken the oath.What does this mean? Why is this important?The stole is a symbol of the priest’s responsibility to the members of ADF, to their Patrons, and to themselves, all of who are present at the ordination. Someone carries the stole around the ritual space, holding it high for all to see. We ask the people in attendance to charge the stole and fill it with their blessings and good wishes, but more importantly, to fill it with the weight of the new priest’s responsibilities. We want our priests to be reminded of their oath to the Folk and to the Kindreds every time they place that stole upon their shoulders. It is a burden, not a sign of privilege. It marks out the priest as someone ‘different’ for the duration of a rite, someone performing public sacred duties, and also announces to the world that this person has had at least some verifiable training, just as Isaac always intended us to have.Many of our priests who have undergone this part of the ordination rite report that after the charging, when the stole is finally placed upon their shoulders, they can actually feel its great weight, filled with responsibility, which is far greater than the weight of the cloth alone.
A few years ago, when Skip was Archdruid, the Mother Grove got an odd request from a legal firm to buy our Internet domain name, adf.org. It came as a surprise to us, and we wondered just who it might be who wanted to buy it. We went online and had a look. We were pretty sure it wasn't the Australian Defense Forces, and there was no reason why the American Dance Festival would insist on keeping their name secret from us, so the only likely candidate had to be the Alliance Defense Fund (who have since changed their name to Alliance Defending Freedom).
According to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a non-profit group dedicated to keeping church and state separated in the USA, this other ADF is an Arizona-based right-wing organization promoting a Religious Right agenda which “attacks church-state separation, blasts gay rights, assails reproductive freedom and seeks to saturate the public schools with its narrow version of fundamentalism.” (Church and State, vol. 65, no. 9, October 2012)
My, my. It’s true that we occasionally get information requests that are obviously not meant for us, and even the occasional donation! We can use the money and I don’t feel any obligation to pass it on – the other ADF has revenue of $35,145,644, according to the IRS. It really must burn them that folks looking for them find, instead, a Pagan Druidic church.
In any case, we turned down their request by asking for a million dollars for the domain. When they again contacted us this year we just said no, and I very innocently suggested that they find a new name with different initials. Cheeky, I know.
Happily, however, the rest of the Pagan/Heathen/Polytheist world knows who the real and original ADF is. And we are they.
As we approach the Solstice, it feels as though the nights are closing in on us. As the ancients did, we lift our spirits with bright lights, decorations, and fellowship, enjoying ourselves as we wait for the return of the light.
But no amount of colored lights can compensate for the shock, sadness, and fear we all felt when we heard of the dreadful events in Connecticut, where 20 little children, with their lives fully ahead of them, were mowed down by a young man who, we assume, was mentally deranged. Who else could do such a thing, we ask?
Some folks see this event as the result of some prince of evil running amok in the world, but others, including us Pagans, have a different view. For Druids, there is no all-good god and all-evil god fighting over our souls. Rather both good and evil exist in us all, and in all of nature. What is 'good' for me may be 'bad' (or evil) for you. Life is like that - many shades of grey, and not black and white. And this means that we all have to take responsibility for our own lives, and support the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors.
The cult of individuality has taken strong root in the western world. In the United States, the lone stranger is an enduring motif - he may be the loner, the man who rides into town and saves the day. He is the Individual who attends to his own needs and cuts himself off from the community. In days gone by, folks didn't behave this way. Instead they all looked to help one another, concerned with promoting the health and safety of the group as well as the individual. And while these ideals still exist for many, the pressures of our busy and crowded lives tend to make us blind to what may be around us ("it's not my problem!").
Tragedies, such as the Connecticut school shooting, will not be prevented by banning guns, or by turning our schools and malls into fortresses. They can only be prevented by reaching out to each other, by paying attention to our friends and neighbors, our groves and solitaries, and by caring. This may be a time of looking for tolerance and acceptance of everyone, and of not isolating ourselves or others.
So as the sun begins Her return this Solstice, let Her arrival bring us new hope and new commitment to our communities. Let us all remember that none of us are in this life alone, that we are all in this together. And together we shall succeed.
May the healing blessings of the Kindreds enfold the survivors of life's tragedies, granting them peace and comfort. Our heartfelt condolences and blessings go out to all who were touched by this sadness. And may these blessings enfold us all, showing us how we may help ourselves by helping others.
Bright healing blessings,
Rev. Kirk Thomas
Winter can be a time of contemplation, when we are less inclined to spend time outdoors due to the short days and long, cold nights. Once the solstice season is over there are few opportunities to celebrate until the February High Day, at least in the northern hemisphere. Long nights seem made for good books, and for reflection on our lives.
As I write this, the air is filled with smoke from a forest fire burning on Mt. Adams. It’s been a dry summer and autumn here, something that has occurred over much of the world in the past few months. Bizarre weather seems to have become the norm. The climate of the world is rapidly changing.
Perhaps now would be a good time for each of us to take stock of our lives, to actually understand our impact as individuals and as a group on the Earth, our Mother. As Druids, we claim to follow a religion of nature and the natural world, but how many of us are actually doing that in practice? How many of us recycle, cut down on electricity use (or better yet, generate some of our own electricity), and conserve water? How many of us have any idea of what our carbon footprint may be?
How many of us even think about these things?
It’s true that a single person can have little impact on the environment, but a group can have a tremendous impact. Foolish politicians deny the changes that are happening, and people stick their heads in the sand. Life goes on as normal, as if climate change were just an illusion.
We, as Druids, can change our own behaviors. We can be politically active, we can recycle and reuse, we can educate ourselves about the coming changes.
And the long nights of winter are a great time to start.
We’re halfway through festival season and many of us are preparing to attend one, if we haven’t already. Some of us have even attended a few of them. They’re a lot of fun and a great opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.
But the most important thing about festivals is that they give us a chance to come together as one folk, to make our offerings jointly to the Kindreds, to join with each other in fellowship, and to truly feel that we are a people united.
Unity is something that we in ADF have that must be cherished and nourished. We share many things, from our Order of Ritual to our interactions on the lists and forums, through email and Facebook. Many of us have made friends across groves and with solitaries. Attending an ADF festival can be like a great family reunion.
But what of those members who cannot attend festivals, or even join into public grove High Day rituals? While they may make friends on-line, what could we do to help them feel a part of ADF?
This could be a tough nut to crack. The Clergy Council has discussed this over the years, and one solution might be to hold simultaneous, or near simultaneous, Unity Rites, where folks can hold their own rite at home, or together in a grove, while a larger, public rite is held at a festival somewhere.
In time, what I really hope to see is an on-line, streaming Unity Rite that anyone with a broadband Internet connection could access in real time. Barring that, occasional Unity Rites could be recorded for playback on YouTube with people watching at a specific time that was advertised in advance. While a bit difficult technically, both of these options are possible.
And I think Isaac would be pleased.
Summer is finally here, and festival season is already in full swing! As folks arrive at festival campgrounds, faces are filled with anticipation, joy, and even glee. Tents are set up, the beer is rolled out, and festival clothes thrown on. Old friends meet, new friends are made, and for many, sex is in the air.
We Pagans are a lusty lot, and why not? We know that our bodies are not separate from our souls, that life is made for living, and pleasure is indeed a joy of the spirit. The ADF virtue of Fertility almost ended up being called the virtue of Sensuality, and we rightly celebrate our bodies.
But all this freedom does not mean that anything goes. Freedom does not automatically mean permission. For something to be sacred it must be ‘cut off’ from the ordinary, profane world. And for something to be ‘cut off’, it must be bounded.
Boundaries are the price of freedom – my freedom ends where yours begins. Boundaries may only be moved, or removed, by mutual consent, and only when both parties are legally permitted to do so (i.e., when they’re old enough). There are other issues involved here, of course, but this is the bottom line. No only means no.
ADF has recently enacted policies church-wide that address these issues. One is specifically about Child Abuse, and the other is about Sexual Misconduct. These new policies have been distributed throughout all of ADF’s leadership (and thereby to our groves), and may also be seen on our website on the public side, under ‘About’, and then under ‘ADF Organizational Structure and Documents’.
May everyone have a fabulous, fun, and safe festival season!
The Equinox is in our minds now as the seasons change once again. And this time is a time of balance, when the days and nights are of equal length. And it’s as though the Earth is holding Her breath for a moment before sliding headlong into the new season. And at this time of balance, it might be fruitful for all of us to take a moment in our busy lives to examine ourselves, our hopes and desires, our intentions, and our shortcomings. Where are we going? What are we doing? Have we become so caught up in our lives that we haven’t taken the time recently to experience the (real) world around us?
We live in an age of electronic communication, where we can reach out and touch someone instantly, and as a result, many of us have become tethered to our computers, smart phones and tablets, texting and surfing and living on Facebook (or similar sites). We find ourselves living in a virtual universe. When was the last time any of us spent an entire day without turning to our electronic devices? When was the last time we allowed ourselves to just ‘be’?
The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau claimed, “The more ingenious and accurate our instruments, the more unsusceptible and inexpert become our organs: by assembling a heap of machinery about us, we find afterwards none in ourselves.”
I challenge all of us to take a day in the very near future and not turn on any of our electronic devices. Don’t even turn on the TV or the radio (OK, you can turn on the coffee pot if you like). Take a walk in the country or in a local park. Listen to the wind, to the birds, and other wildlife. Listen to the Mother Herself, and feel Her heartbeat in the Land. Re-connect with the Gods and all the Kindreds once again.
I guarantee that you’ll be smiling all day long.
On the magical front new things have been happening in ADF. People may remember that some years ago the Clergy Council began creating alliances with the Ancient Wise, a group of Sacred Dead who are willing to work with all of us as advisors in our efforts to bring back the ways of old. Many of our members have begun working with these Spirits since then.
Now, at Summerland Festival last August, Rev. Jeff Wyndham (better known as Ian Corrigan) and his wife, Rev. Sue Parker-Wyndham (Liafal) organized the beginnings of a new set of alliances for us all. In ritual, the Court of Brigit was invoked, and the lesser Spirit helpers of that Goddess who might be inclined to work with us were invited to show up and form alliances. Many of us present were approached by these new (to us) Spirits, and They have agreed to aid us in our works. This is exciting new stuff, and it’s also just the beginning.
This Spirit Arte is a new direction for ADF. While some of our members have been doing things like this for years (think of our various Spirit Allies – mine is a black jaguar, for instance), these are our first church-wide efforts made in a long time, if ever.
We in ADF love our liturgy and our scholarship. We also love our fellowship in Groves, at festivals, and on our e-lists. And we have long valued unverified personal gnosis (UPG) as a way to fill in the gaps in our scholarship and knowledge. But as an institution we have never really taken advantage of the many spiritual possibilities that UPG, backed up with scholarship, can bring to our spiritual selves. These efforts at the formation of Spirit alliances are a welcome new step that will enrich our lives.
Rev. Kirk Thomas
In the United States, this is the time of the Thanksgiving holiday (Canada has theirs in October and Australia will be having theirs in May). Christians (and most Americans) use this time to thank their god for all the blessings that they have received while they eat a huge turkey and carbohydrate meal, complete with cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. And let's not forget that half of the folks at that first Thanksgiving in 1620 were Pagan Native Americans! We modern Pagans celebrate with great abandon, thanking the Earth Mother and Land Spirits for the blessings of food and family, of plenty, and cherished loved-ones, eating just as much as everyone else. And then there's American football!
And despite these difficult economic times we do have plenty to be thankful for. Most of us have enough to eat, and if we don't have jobs at the moment the governmental social safety net is still in place. We have our families and our Grove families, our e-mail list friends, our religious practices, and our gods. And we find joy and peace in our lives.
This time of year reminds me of the Gaelic story of Eochaid Bres, "Bres the Beautiful". During the devastating First Battle of Moytura, Nuada, the king of the Tuatha Dé (Tribe of the Gods), lost his hand in combat, and since he was no longer perfect, he could no longer be king. The folks settled on Bres to be their new king - he had knowledge of agriculture (something the Tuatha Dé lacked) and being half Tuatha and half Fomoire, he might be able to bridge the differences between the two peoples.
But Bres turned out to be stingy and unwilling to share - he forced the gods to perform hard labor, and when they went to his house, "their knives were not greased and their breaths did not smell of ale." A terrible state of affairs, to be sure.
Only through a hand replacement, a satire, a new champion, and another fierce and bloody battle would things be put right. And in the end, Bres traded the secrets of the seeds to Lugh in return for his life, giving Ireland the blessings of plow and harvest.
So even when times are rough we can laugh and celebrate. When we need to fight for what is right and just, our knowledge and wisdom will go a long way in aiding us. And if we keep focused and determined, strengthen our divine relationships, and hold our dear ones close to us, we will find joy and peace in both the best and worst of times.
And these are blessings, indeed!
Rev. Kirk Thomas