It’s that time of year again, when the champagne corks pop and the Times Square ball drops, and everyone shouts out, “Happy New Year!” It’s the time of the changing of the year, when Old Man 2015 gives way to the new baby 2016.
The year is changing. The change of the seasons at our High Days is something that we’re all used to and look forward to. We know that time is circular from the Wheel of the Year and that change is a normal and natural part of the year’s progression. But change is also a normal and natural part of living. We welcome in some changes and spurn others, but change will happen. Indeed, the only thing in life that any of us can truly count on is change.
Change can bring joy, but change can also bring grief. We go though many changes in our lives, and change can be scary. Even if our circumstances are not all that wonderful, at least we’re used to them and know how they work. Change means stepping into the unknown, and that can be frightening at even the best of times. But change also brings with it hope and new opportunities. Change simply is, and by maintaining a strong devotional practice while living in the moment we can navigate these uncharted waters, be they big or small.
ADF is strong, very strong. While once we depended on the fortunes of one man, we now rest on the firm foundation maintained by us all. We will change over time but we will survive and thrive.
It’s almost that time again for the annual ADF elections process to begin. Our bylaws say that the call for nominations should go out on or about December 10, and that’s next week.
In preparation for this, I need to announce that I will not be running for a third term as Archdruid this year. I’ve been mulling over this decision for months, and now is decision time.
I think that it’s been a good six years, and it has always been my intent to serve ADF well, but it’s time for me to move on. I shall, of course, remain highly involved in ADF, and perhaps even hold some minor leadership roles in the future, but I shall also be taking more time for myself.
Of course, may current term runs until the beginning of May, and I will also be at Wellspring to install the new Archdruid. I intend to continue to attend festivals and clergy retreats so you’ll still see plenty of me in the future.
In terms of nominations for Archdruid in the upcoming election cycle, the Bylaws are very clear. The candidate must be an active member of our Clergy and may be nominated by one of three groups (the MG, the Clergy Council, and/or the Council of Senior Druids) or by a petition signed by at least 50 voting members.
I want to thank everyone in ADF who has supported me in my journey as ADF Archdruid, and I know that ADF shall continue to grow and thrive in the future. May the Kindreds bless and keep us all!
Rev. Kirk Thomas
The ADF Constitution, and before that, the ADF Bylaws, have long prohibited discrimination against our LGBTI brothers and sisters. It has also prohibited discrimination against people on the 'basis of race, ancestry,' and 'color'. ADF Paganism has been available to anyone of good will since Isaac Bonewits' vision became a reality in the 1980's. And I'm very pleased to see the United States begin to catch up!
Today the US Supreme Court finally upheld the principle that our LGBTI members are full members of the community and no longer second class citizens. By upholding marriage equality they have held that anyone may marry anyone else, regardless of gender. Of course, the fight for true equality is not yet over. Opponents of equality will continue to mount rear-guard actions in an attempt to get around this decision, but I am confident that they will fail in the long run.
The whole controversy over the Confederate Battle Flag is also something to behold. Many Southern Americans see it as a symbol of their heritage and independence, while others see it as a symbol of racism. When the members of a prayer group in Charleston, SC were gunned down for purely racist reasons recently, it turned out that lots of folks were uncomfortable with what that flag could stand for, and even Southern politicians began to change their minds and remove it from their capitol grounds. Whether we believe that the flag is a racist symbol or not, the conversation that has been started about institutionalized racism in the USA can only be a good thing. It's been a long haul since the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution and the passage of the Civil Rights Act and I'm glad to see the conversation continuing. It's about time.
The Supreme Court also upheld the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) by a wide majority. While this act has lots of problems, and even though the atmosphere in the Congress is too toxic to actually fix any of those problems, the very principle that poor Americans should have access to health care has been upheld. I understand that some of us believe that the market could do a better job of achieving this, and others believe that the best route would be a single-payer system, like those that much of Europe have, but the important thing is that the principle of equal access still exists, even in a flawed form. To have thrown out Obamacare over some unfortunate wording would have sent the entire US health system into chaos, and that wouldn't have helped anyone.
So all in all it's been a good week for America. And a good week for American Pagans! I thank the Gods and Spirits for Their support and love, and may Their blessings continue to come to us all.
So be it!
Tough times come to us all.
It's a fact of life that our financial resources ebb and flow for many, many reasons, and it can be a terrible experience for our members to find themselves cut off from full participation in ADF. Of course, there is nothing to stop anyone with good will from attending grove rituals, or to pray daily at our own home shrines, but membership in ADF is required to participate in the various study programs and to be a member of our subgroups. This is why we have a Compassionate Membership (CM) program. And it's one that has existed for many years now.
It's true that sometimes a member has to be declared sacer and be cut off from the rest, usually due to bad behavior, but everyone else deserves a break. Compassionate memberships exist for new members, and for up to two more renewals (though we will usually ask such CM recipients to do some form of community service, in the spirit of *ghostis, in return for the help). But there is something about CM's that many people don't realize - they aren't free.
ADF needs its members to join and renew their memberships to keep the wheels turning, the website humming, and our services going. This isn't cheap. The CM Fund exists to pay for each compassionate membership the Mother Grove approves, so that ADF can award as many as needed without breaking the bank. But when the fund runs dry, the compassionate memberships stop.
The CM Fund is a donation fund. It only exists as long as people are willing to make donations to ADF to keep that fund afloat. And so I'm making an appeal to our membership to help out here. Reciprocity, the guiding ideal of our church, is not a quid pro quo - we give so that others may give back in return. Who knows if we will someday need to tap that fund ourselves? In the spirit of *ghostis it makes sense to donate for others, so that someday, should the need occur, they may donate to help us.
So I call on everyone to think hard and dig deep into their pockets and donate to this and all of our special funds. You can do so online at https://www.adf.org/donations, or you can mail a check to the ADF Office at:
ADF Donation Funds
PO Box 84
Wickliffe OH 44092-0084
Be sure to specify which fund you want your donation to go to.
Together, with common care and concern, we can help all our members of good will to join with us in community, to worship the Gods, our Ancestors, and the Spirits of the Midworld. So be it!
It is with great apprehension and concern that we in ADF have learned about a new exclusionary religious policy at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.
Apparently, the policy of allowing civilian minority faith leaders to lead services when no uniformed leaders are available has been discontinued. This has happened even though Navy regulations specifically allow for such activities. These civilian volunteers have been providing religious services for years and now they have come to an end, with only a small room for reflection and contemplation provided to the trainees instead.
We strongly support the US Constitution’s provisions for religious freedom and suspect that the current rule change is based upon an exclusive religious belief. We are concerned that this new interpretation of the regulations will not allow our service men and women to actively practice their faiths, with services now only available for the traditional Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
We call upon the Navy, the Commanding Officer, and the Chaplain at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station to reconsider their actions and allow civilian minority faith leaders to once again provide spiritual and religious support for all those who follow minority faiths.
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
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