Archdruid Blog

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 ADF Archdruid
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 ADF Archdruid
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.
ADF is, in many ways, a virtual church. Many of our members have no grove or protogrove connections, and their only contact with other like-minded ADFers comes through the Internet, or in the pages of this journal.But what happens should the web go down? Many scientists predict that there will be occasional systematic failures in the ‘cloud’, and even solar flares could disrupt the flow of the Internet (and even our power distribution systems). While there is not a high risk of this happening any time soon, it is inevitable that our virtual world will face disruptions in the future.The idea of being cut off from our iPhones and Blackberries, our computers, tablets and iPads, even our electricity, is a sobering one. Our culture has become used to being constantly connected, and the possibility of becoming isolated from each other, even for a fairly short time, can be unsettling.This is where our religious and spiritual practices come in. As orthopraxic Pagans, our praxis, or practices, are what make us who we are. Meditation helps us find our centers as well as discipline our minds. Daily devotionals keep us in touch with our Kindreds and our inner selves. Full rites, conducted alone, with our families, or in our groves bring us a connection with Spirit, a give and take that can sustain us in difficult times.So when all else fails, we may always fall back on our usual practices to provide a quiet and stable foundation in our lives.
At the Equinox, we were reminded of the balance of all things, of the careful and holy interplay of Order and Chaos, and of how both are necessary to sustain life. The last few months have been terrifying, with floods in Australia, earthquakes in New Zealand, and both earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan. We Pagans know that we do not hold dominion over the Earth, and that we are but a part of the great dance of existence. We know that the Kindreds are not all-powerful, and since they, too, are a part of the Cosmos, sometimes even They cannot change events. When disaster strikes, it means that the Earth is finding Her own balance, and it is our job to feel compassion, lend aid, and support our fellow creatures that they may survive this terrible time and regain wholeness. And it is also our job to prepare ourselves to survive should disaster strike us in turn. But most of all, we must strive to live our lives to the fullest, to remember that this life is the one that matters, and let any afterlife take care of itself. We live as though each day is our last, and let every day be a blessing. And now as we head into a new season, may the seeds of our compassion, planted in our response to the world’s recent traumas, grow into wondrous fruit, replacing destruction with new growth. And may the Kindreds bless us in all that we do.
It’s been a chaotic and terrifying few months. Floods in Australia, an earthquake on New Zealand’s South Island, damaging an historic city, and then a terrible earthquake and tsunami in north western Japan – folks could hardly be blamed for thinking that the Earth is taking some terrible revenge on humanity. At the Equinoxes, we are reminded of the balance of all things, of the careful and holy interplay of Order and Chaos, and of how both are necessary to sustain life. But we, as Pagans, also know that we have not been given lordship over the Earth by some distant deity, to do with Her as we please, but rather that we are only a part of Nature, living under the same rules as everything else in existence. ADF does not teach that the Gods punish us for imagined transgressions. In time, death comes to us all. The Kindreds, or Numina, if you will, are not all powerful. They, too, fit into the pattern of the Cosmos, the *artus, rta, or wyrd. They are far more powerful than we are, yes, but sometimes even They cannot change events. When disaster strikes, it means that the Earth is finding Her own balance, and it is our job to feel compassion, lend aid, and support our fellow creatures that they may survive this terrible time and regain wholeness. And it is also our job to prepare ourselves to survive should disaster strike us in turn. But most of all, we must strive to live our lives to the fullest, to remember that this life is the one that matters, and let any afterlife take care of itself. Live as though each day is our last, and let every day be a blessing.
This has been a difficult and snowy winter for many of us in the northern hemisphere, while the Southern has had a warm summer. But here in the North, the Land has slumbered as we coped with the weather, the long, dark days slowly growing towards the light, while memories of our winter festivals and High Days begin to fade from our minds. But now Spring is upon us, the days grow longer, and hope fills the Land! The dark months, however, are an excellent time for getting things done. Though winter sports and other activities may grab our attention on occasion, the winter can be a productive time with fewer distractions. ADF has taken advantage of this time with a flurry of activity. While we have long talked about background checks for our clergy and Mother Grove, now the process is well underway. Many of our study programs have seen a burst of activity, particularly those of the Bardic Guild, the Generalists, the Initiates and the Clergy. New Protogroves have been seeded in New Zealand and the USA, including one in New York City, a place where a truly urban Paganism flourishes. This teaches us that the worship of the Kindreds can thrive anywhere, that the Gods can be found as easily in the hum of modern urban life as They are found in the silence of a forest glade. And soon the summer festivals will begin – events like Trillium, Desert Magic, and Wellspring are coming up! These are wonderful opportunities to put a face to a name you have seen on our lists or on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. For grove members and solitaries alike, our ADF festivals are worth the effort to attend, to get to see old friends and meet new ones, to come together to worship the Kindreds in beautiful settings, and to be part of the community that is ADF. May the blessings of new growth, hope, and opportunities shower down on us all!
The death of our Founder, Rev. Isaac Bonewits, on August 12, 2010, while not unexpected, was still a great shock to many of us. He had battled cancer since last autumn, undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but even with all that discomfort he kept his sense of humor and general orneriness to the end. He shall be truly missed. ADF honored him with a Memorial Service at the Summerland Festival near Yellow Springs, Ohio, on the following Thursday. It was filled with song and eulogies, and was quite touching and uplifting. We managed to get the rite video taped, and segments from it are now available for view on the ADF website. I want to thank all the people who helped with this, particularly Karen Clark of 6th Night Grove, the main organizer of the festival, who went out of her way to make the service possible. I also wish to recognize all the folks who participated, such as our three lady bards, Emerald Bronowicz (the ADF Bard Laureate), Melissa Burchfield (current holder of the Wellspring Bardic Chair), and Maria Stoy; the clergy of ADF; and all the volunteers who stepped in at the last minute to make this happen. Isaac’s death is the end of an era. One of his main goals was to start a religion that would grow, thrive, and outlast its founder. After Isaac became ill in the 90’s and had to resign as Archdruid, he wisely stepped back so that his creation would have to stand on its own two feet. ADF went through some rough patches, but Isaac can now look back at us from the Otherworlds and know that he succeeded. May Isaac continue to care and watch over us as a great ancestor, and may the Kindreds bless us and keep us and help us thrive. So be it!


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