Archdruid Blog

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 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.
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.
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 ADF Archdruid
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.


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