Imbolc in Texas Hill Country

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My festival season is most of the year. I attend festivals representing ADF from February through November and it is a task I gladly undertake and enjoy. This year, I looked forward to attending, once again, Hearthstone Grove’s Texas Imbolc Retreat, held at the U-Bar-U Ranch in the Texas Hill Country near Kerrville.

I flew into San Antonio because it is the closest airport to Texas Imbolc and it is a smaller, cozier airport. I landed, picked up a rental car, and headed out on the road. I arrived at the turnoff a little over an hour later and the journey began.

The road to the U-Bar-U is very, very hilly and some parts must be taken with caution. Going down these roads too quickly would cause a person to bottom out and to most likely incur some damages along the way. I took my time, I watched the scenery, and I slowly started to relax into the serenity of the land.

This view outside of my window was dry and arid, with many rocks and goats and gnarled trees along the way. The spaces between places were wide and vast and almost empty. I followed the road until it ended and then took a left turn. I followed the slow, rocky path to the U-Bar-U ranch and my adventure began.

When I first attended this festival – five years ago, I believe – there was no bunkhouse. There were two large rooms with bunk beds in the lodge proper and everybody slept in one or the other. It was very “cozy”, but not very private.  Two years ago, a new bunkhouse opened that is just beautiful and that has modern facilities and fewer people per room than before. The design of the bunkhouses is such that it blends fairly well with the local scenery and is in no way an eyesore.

The first thing I always notice upon arrive is the stillness of the land. There is often a breeze that blows, but it is more like a whisper than a shout. There is a beautiful stone fire pit and there was already a fire burning when I arrived. I was greeted warmly upon arrival – as always and as everyone is.

I saw many familiar faces: the Hearthstone Grove, the Nine Waves Grove, and the Blackland Prairie Protogrove, even the faces of the U-Bar-U staff were familiar. I saw John Beckett, ADF members, mystic Old Testament Christians, Wiccans, heathens, and a wonderful cross-section of folks and friends. While this is distinctly an ADF festival, it really is a lot broader than just that. Or perhaps ADF is broader than just that.

The opening rite was a great way to start a festival. Nine Waves Grove gave us a ritual to remember: well executed, effective, and welcoming. I was very impressed. It was a good omen for the weekend to come.There was a really interesting and beautiful Slavic Ritual that wasn’t ADF Core Order, but it was it was nice to see something quite different from what I have experienced before. At one point in the ritual, an apple was passed from person-to-person, touched to the next person’s forehead, and then passed along. I thought that was a gentle way to share a sense of community.

This was the story of the weekend. An easy information flow from presenter to audience with a sincere desire to inform, to entertain, and to help. The food was good, the company was better, the weather was so pleasant, and people came together and shared. Isn’t this what festival is about? The original festival movement in the latter part of the previous century was centered around the exchange of information and the joyful discovery that there were other people out there that not only had the same interests as other people, but a similarity of practice as well. This weekend was no exception.

One of the other benefits of the weekend was for people to meet face-to-face to talk. While this is not always possible, this is an ideal way to exchange thoughts and ideas that reduces the chance of misunderstanding and increases the possibilities of really communicating. It makes a difference when a person can see the other person and I hope that such encounters can continue at the U-Bar-U for years to come and that these events, more and more, can either be videotaped or broadcast live to people who did not have the ability to attend.

The Core Order of Ritual was the structure used for the opening, main, and closing rituals. As I have noticed time and time again, the Core Order is broad enough to allow people from different traditions to worship together while allowing room for individual expression and tailoring, especially in the personal offering and workings section of the ritual. The Pre-Ritual Briefing remains a powerful tool in helping people to know what to expect and to understand any local variations that might occur.

I want to thank everyone who attended for their attentiveness in the workshops, rituals, and general times of sharing. The weekend passed by all too quickly with a minimal amount of drama and a great deal of understanding and patience.

I spent a lot of times outdoors at this festival, relishing the beautiful weather and the land that made me feel timeless. The liminal times of the day were so still and so powerful, with that slight breeze blowing, the sound of wind through branches, and a brilliant dawn and dusk. The Full Moon was a beautiful gift to a peaceful sky, out amidst the stones and the trees. Venus shone like a bright beacon and it slid slowly towards the horizon as the night overtook the remnants of the day.

I stood outside and I listened. I closed my eyes and let the Sun dance on my face and the breeze tell me stories that it had told before, would tell again, and would re-tell, even if no one was there to hear. The Hill Country moved slowly through time, and I moved slowly through them both, as though my life was Tai Chi and my religion was that dance. I felt as though I could be a tree under that sky. I would open my soul and be like a rock or a goat or better yet, a tree. The wind from the West would tell tales. And I would listen.

 

 

 

Beltaine Blessings from Brazil, Part II

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We gathered together for our Brazilian Beltaine Celebration on a quiet morning during the first weekend of November. We drove to a city park in Curitiba and grabbed our gear and began our walk to the celebration area. I was told that this particular park was off the beaten path and that the area was fairly primitive. The walk through the park was very quiet and the striking beauty of the trees and the silence of the morning were a powerful counterbalance to the work that was to be done.

Upon arriving at the location, we were asked to gather whatever firewood we could find and to clean up any garbage that had been left by previous visitors. I thought this was an excellent idea to not only gather what was necessary, but to start our work by making the area better than it had been left to us.

The first thing that I noticed was the sound of a small, rushing stream. I walked over to the border of the area where we were setting up and there was this narrow but rapidly moving stream. It sounded so melodious and, with the absence of many urban sounds, it was the one thing that I heard at the edge of my consciousness. I walked over to it and watched in wonder as it made its way past us and onwards to a larger and perhaps wider purpose.

I was given a beautiful white tunic to wear and it really put me in the ritual mood. As we gathered brush and picked up stray things here and there, it felt as though I was quietly spiraling in towards the ritual mind set that we so often look for. We were joined by several more members of Fine na Dairbre until we had all of the members of the Protogrove, including Shaz Cairns, the Asia-Pacific Regional Druid, and myself. The surrounding natural are now cleaned, the efforts were now focused on clearing out the fire pit, which was the center of the ritual experience. Ample wood was gathered and stacked to last for the entire ritual and mention was made that everything that wasn’t used was to be returned to the Earth.

offerings-curitiba

At the very beginning of the rite, we were instructed to go out into the ritual field and find a place to center ourselves and to commune with our spirit guides and animals. I had never heard this expressed in quite this way and it was an great experience for me. Ever since I had arrived in Brazil, I kept coming across ants, formida, at just about every place I looked in nature. When I was just about to close my eyes to center myself, I looked down, and I saw an ant sitting on me. It then struck me that the reason they had seemed so ubiquitous was that they were trying to give me a message – they were now one of my Spirit Animals. Then, as I closed my eyes and let my conscious self sink into the sounds of the location, I once again heard a very familiar and insistent sound – that of the nearby stream. I questioned myself: could a spirit guide be something other than an animal of some sort or an insect? Could it be the movement of something like water? Upon reflection, the answer was given to me: yes. I discovered, along with my ants friends, that moving water, such as in a stream, was also a spirit guide. Here, on the other side of the equator, I discovered a new spirit guide and one that had been with me for a very long time. I felt very fortunate and gave thanks to my totems and the spirits of the place.

The ritual began with an acknowledgement of the Outsiders. Two of the ritual participants went to their designated location for Outsider offerings and the made acknowledgements and left offerings for the Outsiders. Next, everyone was welcomed and the purpose of the ritual was discussed. It was really interesting to listen to the Portuguese parts of the ritual because Portuguese is a very melodic and lyrical language and the sounds seemed so very much in harmony with the surrounding that we were in. Next came the purification, and this was a real treat.

Purification was done in two steps: with fire and with water. Purification by fire was done with a stick or branch that had a type of cloths wrapped around the end and for each person, the branch was lit and the fire was waved near the head, for purification of thought, near the chest, for purification of the heart, and near the solar plexus, for purification of the soul. Purification by water was done by the presentation of a bowl of water, and each person dipped their fingers into the water and then anointed their head, the heart, and the soul (as in solar plexus). The repetitive nature of the blessings in Portuguese was not only soothing but also had a compelling rhythm to the words.

One of the features of the Fine na Dairbre ritual was the use of an amphora to a) call the spirit of the Earth Mother into; and b) to use later on for the sake of the omen (using an open system of divination). The amphora was filled with herbs, if I remember correctly, and with red wine. The Spirit of the Earth Mother was honoured and welcomed into this vessel and the amphora was placed onto the altar.

Bardic Inspiration was called and my recollection was of the silence of the area punctuated by the meanderings of the stream, as if the Nature Spirits had the last word in the matter. The Hallows were called to and offered to and the gates were opened with the help of Manannan mac Lir. We had done a previous rite to Manannan mac Lir earlier in the week, and with our numerous visits to the ocean, Manannan mac Lir seemed very close at hand. Offerings were then made to the Kindreds – the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Shining Ones – and I remembered observing with glee and reverence that when the Nature Spirits were called, two dogs came out of the forest and stood near us as the rite progressed. The Nature Spirits were called; the Nature Spirits arrived.

tree-curitiba

The deity of the occasion for Beltaine was An Dagda and his offering was a meat porridge which was deemed an appropriate gift for this deity. The pot of porridge was held aloft and the offering was made upon the ground. Once the Dagda was called into the rite, individual offerings were added by each person in attendance and  I have to admit that I enjoyed watching each and every individual make offerings and listening to their prayers in Portuguese. For me, it was if the individual words disappeared and the offerings that fell from each person’s lips were sweet songs that painted the rite in such resplendent colours that the area seemed to glow with music. During these offerings, I noticed that one of the Nature Spirits had come over and was enjoying the Dagda’s porridge that was set upon the ground and I looked at the other Nature Spirit and I noticed that she must have just had pups – they had previously made their own offerings to the Earth Mother and we were blessed, celebrants and Kindreds, communing together. After the Dagda’s feast was consumed, the two Nature Spirits lay on the grass and eventually went to sleep. In this way, these sacrifices had been accepted.

post-offerings

The Prayer of Sacrifice was offered and then it was time for the omen. This is where the amphora and an open system of reading was used. The amphora, filled with wine and the spirit of the Earth Mother, was put into the fire as an offering. There was perhaps 250ml of wine in the vessel and once the wine heated to sufficient temperature, the wine overflowed onto the outside of the white amphora. The omen was read by looking at what the wine did on the vessel itself. Someone commented that the on one side of the amphora, it looked like the head of a wolf, a large black wolf and, lo and behold, a large black dog came out of the forest and walked around the area in which the Outsider offering had been placed. The person reading the omen decided that this was indeed a good omen and that the offerings had been accepted. A little while later, someone called to my attention that there were two ogham on the inside of the amphora and indeed there were. These two ogham are Ohn and Ur. In any event, I found these ogham to be benevolent signs and also concurred, albeit later, that the offerings had been accepted and that direction had been given by the Kindreds and An Dagda. We then feasted, with our canine Nature Spirits sharing a part of the feast, and we unwound the ritual as usual. All offerings not used were either poured upon the ground or offered to the fire so that nothing would remain. We would leave the area as we had found it, less some wood that we had gathered for the fire.

 

As we packed up and left, we walked the distance back to the gate, accompanied by our canine friends. They walked with us to the metal gate which served as the way in and the way out, and stayed behind as we walked back into the mundane world of the parking lot. I looked back to take in the beauty of the park again, and to say goodbye to our canine companions. I would be leaving Brazil the next day, and I was sad to leave this behind.

I apologise for the long delay between Beltaine and this writing, but I have played the events of that trip, of that journey, of that day, over and over in my head and it remains a pivotal and important journey, not just because of the miles traveled or the people met and remembered and the beauty seen and experienced. It gave me a chance to see a different way of worshiping and the knowledge that I had found some other totem beings to help in my travels. I came away from Brazil with longing for rejoinder with that place and with those people, but I also felt that my understanding of the Earth Mother and especially the non-linear nature of Her way was to become much more important in how I looked at my Druidry and the world on both side of the Equator. More about that soon to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beltaine Blessings from Brazil, Part I

las-bruixas

The Blessings of the Earth Mother to one and all!

I was fortunate again this year to be able to celebrate both Samhain and Beltaine within the same week. It is so very interesting how different the world is just across a single divide. Having travelled between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres for two years now, I have come to believe and understand that there just isn’t Samhain and Beltaine, there is actually Samhain/Beltaine and the Earth Mother expresses herself as both seasons at the same time.

I still find myself looking out the window here, in North America, thinking about what I saw and experienced there, in South America. I surely will never forget the beauty of the incredible scenery, rich plant life, and beautiful ocean that was just within reach. The hospitality of my hosts, the members of Fine Na Dairbre Protogrove, was something I will cherish for a long, long time.

I vowed to visit members in Australia last year, which I did to coincide with the wonderful Mount Franklin Festival, and then this year to visit with our Brazilian members, at Fine Na Dairbre Protogrove. I wanted, first and foremost, to show people that ADF has many faces and that mine is one of them. I wanted people abroad to know that ADF is more than just the e-lists or the Facebook pages that bear the name “Ar nDraiocht Fein”. I wanted members to understand that we truly are an international organization, an international Druid Fellowship, and most of all, an international church.

While I know that some people dread the thought of a long airplane flight (14 hours LAX to Melbourne or 10 hours DFW to Sao Paolo), I have grown to view it as a rebirth in a way, from my old life in some airport in the United States to a new destination in a foreign land. Not only am I reborn into a new place, but I am reborn into a new season, a total 180 degree turn from where I was. It is probably the closest I will ever come to a Tardis.

I arrived in Sao Paolo (and eventually in Curitiba – pronounced Curichiba) rather unprepared. While I had spent time studying syntax and the history of the Portuguese language, I was totally unprepared for any conversation in this language. I am fluent in French and can understand and do fairly well in Spanish), but Portuguese not only is a very different language, it sounds very different. I loved listening to the lyrical and musical quality of this beautiful language, but when I first arrived, I couldn’t understand a word. I was lucky that my rather rusty Spanish was enough to get me to the right baggage area and then onto my next gate. This was all part of the rebirth-transition that was built into this trip. While I was never really able to hold a conversation in Portuguese, I did eventually arrive at the ability to understand parts of what people were saying.

After a long layover and a good amount of delicious coffee, I was on the flight to Curitiba and the welcome arms of my hosts, Marina, Alessio, and Erik. What better way to arrive any where than to find smiles, open arms, and warm hearts. I knew, upon arrival, that I was blessed. We drove back to Curitiba, rather speedily by my slower, North American standards, and I was feted with delicious food and intriguing conversations. Each of my hosts spoke English and I have vowed to learn Portuguese for my next trip back there. (Yes, I will go back; yes, I must go back).

Conversation quickly turn to ADF, not surprisingly, and I was asked what was next for ADF and I gave them a brief outline of my vision as an extension of Isaac’s Vision. A rather long discussion ensued and after a while I decided to return the favour and ask them what they thought about ADF – a totally opened ended question. I was about to learn a few things.

I was told that since we tell people that we are an international organization that we should act like one. Wow. While many of our members are from North America, we are experiencing growth in countries outside of North America. It is easy to forget that life goes on outside of our national boundaries, but it does. There are certain words and concepts that we use over and over again and we assume that everyone knows what they mean – this is not the case. Here,in some of our posts, we discuss political issues and often refer to liberals and conservatives, or left and right wings. These mean different things in different places and we need to learn to use these terms more wisely. In Australia, the Liberal Party is really the more conservative of a number of political parties and it is the Labour Party which is really more what we would call “liberal”. In Brazil, left-wing denotes communist or socialist and these terms may or may not be positive terms in the ears of the listeners. The concept of “Freedom of Speech” is not a universally observed. While we take it for granted and while people here often say whatever they may please because they feel they have the right to do so, this sometimes takes people abroad a little by surprise.

One suggestion that was made was to use ADF Discuss or the General Discussion ADF page to discuss general questions about ADF and not necessarily about politics or other issues that may not be of interest or germane to a foreign (or domestic) audience. While we may have pressing social issues here in America, those issues may be seen totally differently abroad or may be viewed in a broader manner such as poverty or environmental issues. I think it is important to remember context and immediacy. After all, 13% of our membership lives outside of the United States.

In speaking with one of the Protogrove members, I was surprised to discover that they had let their membership lapse.. When I questioned them about it, I was told that an ADF Priest had told them that if they didn’t believe in a particular way (and this was not about religion), that they shouldn’t renew their membership. To say that I was flabbergasted is an understatement. I explained to this newly-renewed member that just because this person is a priest, does not indicate that they speak for the membership or leadership of ADF. No one in leadership should ever tell another member not to renew because of a difference of opinion: we are orthopraxic and not orthodoxic – we won’t tell you what to believe. And, more importantly, we will never tell you not to renew. I would not consider that telling a person not to renew is a leadership statement from a priest. In fact, it is quite the opposite. As Archdruid and as a member of the Mother Grove, I apologized to them all for this particular incident.

Finally, I was told that the Dedicant Manual needs a definite revision and I tend to agree. I am going to run this proposal past the Mother Grove and the ADF Preceptor for comment. I have often told people that the Dedicant program is a series of 11 assignments packaged into one large submission. I think perhaps a review of the presentation and some of the verbiage might be in order.

Next in Part II: The Beltaine Rite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Question of Balance

imageA Question of Balance

It is not hard to sense a lack of balance in the world around us from time to time. Even close to home, balance may seem illusive and it appears, at times, as though there is an effort to unbalance things in general from the world without.

It is in time like these that we look to ourselves for balance. It is when one looks within to ground and center and attempt to rediscover or to rekindle that balance. Winter and summer are an example of that balance. In one hemisphere we have the longest day or the year; in another we have the shortest day of the year. Somewhere, in some barrow or mound, the rays of light are finding their way down some long-ago constructed passage way to show the treasures and wisdom found therein.

Now that our inner chambers have been enlightened, it is time to DO something as opposed to just finding our center and holding it. While one may assuredly do a Core Order of Ritual to celebrate the High Day, what about the other 55 days in between? I have a suggestion which might help and may be easier that a Core-Order-Ritual-a-Day: how about devotionals?

Devotionals are really all about balance. We make offerings to an entity because we are a) devoted to that entity, and b) devoted to our practice. An entity, to define my terms, may be an Ancestor, a Nature Spirit, or a Shining One. The divisions thereunder are many and varied.

Devotionals are meant, in my opinion, to be daily events. By building a daily practice, we get better acquainted with the spirits that we work with. Household spirits are a good place to start, in my opinion, because we share a space with them on a daily basis. I consider them to be spirits of nature and certainly spirits of the place.

At the end of this post, you will find a devotional addressed to Manannan mac Lir. This is something I use of a daily basis and I wanted to present it as an example that everyone can do, solitary or non-solitary alike. I feel devotionals such as this may help keep a member’s interest and practice piqued between High Days. I know that many of our Solitary members feel isolated or alone out there. The use of devotionals, especially as summer and winter bring long days and / or long nights, is a great way of developing relationships and keeping the ADF work alive in our lives, today and everyday.

I hope this devotional brings you closer to Manannan Mac Lir and the to balance we all seek.

A Manannan mac Lir Devotional

Hail to you, Manannan mac Lir,

God of the Irish Sea,

Lord of the Isle of Mann,

He who walks upon the waves.

 

There are rocks that jut from the water, my Lord,

Please protect me from them;

There are eddies that form along the shore, my Lord,

Please protect me from them;

There are pitfalls and traps along the Way, my Lord,

Please protect me from them.

 

As I begin my journey this day,

Please stand with me, my Lord;

As I continue my journey this day,

Please walk with me, my Lord;

As I near my destination,

Please consul me as to the path ahead, my Lord.

 

Help me to walk with wisdom today,

And every day,

Let me walk the Narrow Way,

The Watercourse Way,

And set me true to my course.

Accept this offering my Lord:

 

I honor and I thank you,

Manannan mac Lir.

 

 

 

 

The Practical Value of Devotion

I have often talked about the importance of daily devotionals. We, as ADF Druids, often state that by making offerings one builds relationships between the Kindreds, the Earth Mother, and almost any deity or spirit one may think of. We feel that this is the case; we believe that this is the case. It is fundamental to how we worship: we give so that the Kindreds/Earth Mother/deities/and spirits may give back in return. “May” is the functional word in this statement. I believe that the powers-that-be may chose to or not to return the blessings to us.

Garden1

I discovered sometime ago that one may find unusual results when devotional practices are combined with everyday, practical undertakings. When I was taking one of the courses in the Brewers’ Guild Study Program, one was asked to make up a prayer – or a devotional – when making one’s brew/mead/wine. I wrote a separate song for each batch and I asked the Dagda to not only bless what I was making, but to help make it a successful undertaking. I not only prayed to the Dagda in song, I devoted the fruit of my work to Him.

The various wines/mead/metheglen that I made turned out well, and I felt, in my own mind, that the Dagda had blessed my work. The metheglen that I made even won 2nd place in a people’s choice award at an ADF Festival. I felt that the work that I did was blessed and was also an offering so that whenever someone drank one of my creations, they were also honouring the Dagda by drinking what had been offered to Him.

Garden2

When I was running in races – a few years ago – I used to always begin the race with a prayer. I would ask for strength, stamina, speed, and endurance. For each mile that I ran, I would repeat that same prayer. While I never did finish in first place, I felt that the prayer and the rhythm of the prayer were instrumental in my doing as well as I did. Since I ran races every week, this was  an activity that was carried out repeatedly with what I considered to be positive results.

In this case, the practical value of devotion was that it became internalized as a part of my running regimen. It wasn’t separate in the least. Running and the prayer that accompanied it were integrally intertwined. The devotion and the activity became one, naturally and organically.

Garden3

I have been gardening for years. I find it healthy and therapeutic. My father has been growing tomatoes from seed for years, so every year, he would plant his tomatoes seeds in February, on the first quarter or sixth night of the moon, and then he would nurture those seeds until they became seedlings and then he would give me a lot of them. My father’s tomatoes have flown on airplanes with me and have been grown in many states. They are fabulous tomatoes. I consider them not only a gift, but a legacy.

My father turned 95 this year and this was the first year in my memory that he did not grow his tomatoes. I did what he used to do last year, which was to keep the seeds, label them, and get them ready to be planted in February, on the sixth night of the moon.

When I plant seeds, or when I plant seedlings, I say a prayer to the Earth Mother for each one. I thank her for the gift of potential and say that I plant this plant in Her name, and that the bounty will be in her honour. I then place the plant in the ground, arrange the soil nicely around each one, and then wait. As time passes and as the seeds and seedlings grown into hearty plants, I am always amazed at the transformation. The prayer that launched the plants is repeated again when the vegetables and fruits are harvested. For each tomato, for each leaf of basil, for every gift of the Earth Mother, I thank her for her bounty. When we plant something, we expect it to grow. Water, fertilize, care and more water, and we expect results. It is perhaps the expectation of agriculture. Yet, for a person who reveres the Earth Mother and the Spirits of Nature, this is an example of the laws of hospitality. We make offerings, in the form of seeds and/or seedlings and prayers. We continue to make offering through out the growing season. As the season matures, as the plants mature, they produce food for us and also exhibit the miracle of growth. When the fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest, we gather these gifts that have been given to us from the Earth Mother herself and the Spirits of Nature and we give thanks for that which has been given.

In a way, the waters that we give as offerings provide a tremendous gift in return. To the unknowing or to the unaware, this is merely the planting of seeds, the watering of the garden, and the picking of fruits and vegetables. Yet, to a child of the Earth Mother, it is really so very much more. It is an observance of a cycle that is as old as the world itself, that demonstrates the bounty of nature and the miracle of growth and harvest, and the exchange that happens right in our very own garden. We offer water as a practical gift of devotion, of the work that is to be done, and we gather the great gifts from the Earth Mother Herself. It is the practical side of devotion that finds the mundane, transforms it through offering and practice, into something sacred, through our belief, through our practice, through the harvest of the work that we have done. How fitting that we touch the earth when we gather the harvest: one hand on the plant, one hand on the Earth Mother, and the cycle is complete.

 

 

 

 

This Collection of Three

I was looking at the ADF website the other day, and a few things stuck out for me. I would like to share them with you.

From the ADF By Laws: We are dedicated to the preservation of our Holy Mother Earth, the full achievement of human potential, the revival of the worship of the Old Gods in a modern context, and the creation of a world of peace, love, freedom, health, and prosperity for all intelligent beings.

Our vision is that the Gods and Spirits are served in the modern world through:

  • Public temple worship with a skilled priesthood
  • Accessible religious training for all
  • A spiritual relationship with the Earth
  • Sustainable Pagan institutions
  • A flourishing family and community Pagan culture

We value:

  • Commonality of ritual practice
  • Honoring the Earth Mother
  • Scholarship and research
  • Reciprocity with the Gods and Spirits
  • Respect for others through living our virtues
  • Service to the community, land, and the Gods and Spirits

A few things out of this collection of three stood out to me: while these things apply to everyone collectively or individually, I wanted to focus for this moment on the ones that speak to individuals, the individuals that make up ADF.

The preservation of the Earth Mother and a revival of the worship of the Old Gods in a modern context is really what drew me to ADF in the first place and perhaps many others as well. The practitioners of an Earth-friendly religion would probably find the preservation of the Earth, our Earth Mother, as something desirable. Bring back the Old Gods? I think every one of us is called to this vision and the reality of making-it-so. In fact, this is something each and every one of us can do. I also see it akin to the “A spiritual relationship with the Earth” provision of our vision and the “Honoring the Earth Mother” part of our values.

Our values go on to mention the “commonality of ritual practice” and “reciprocity with the Gods and Spirits”, which are the hallmarks of what we do – that is our practice as is reflected in the use of the Core Order of Ritual and the practice of *ghosti, or reciprocity through offerings with the Gods and Spirits.

We also talk about “Accessible religious training for all”. This typically means the Dedicant Program and the various other study programs that stream from that first effort. Yet, here is an interesting idea and pathway that extends from this collection of three: you don’t need to be an ADF Dedicant to find the commonality of ritual practice and reciprocity with the Gods and Spirits. Folks that have or haven’t completed the Dedicant Program can be equally capable ADF Druids in practice and in relationship to the Kindred(s) that we honour.

Yes, yes, we would like for people to do the Dedicant Program and the other study programs that we offer free of charge. By doing so, one will experience the Eight High Days that we acknowledge. One will learn of the virtues and read some books that encourage scholarship, and make your altar, and do all the things that a Dedicant can do – but you may not desire to do so now – or ever. So how can we offer this “accessible religious training for all”?

For those people who are members of or attend worship services and/or other activities with Groves or Protogroves or Worship Groups, one may easily watch and learn at each of the public High Day observances. They are open to the public and I will guess that a good explanation of what is about to happen and why will precede each ritual. By doing so, one can take that ritual work that is observed and put it into practice for one’s self, whenever the need arises or the desire to reach out and make offerings to the Kindred(s) is felt.

Yet, not everyone has access to or membership in Groves, Protogroves, and Worship Groups – what then? Well, that is where some of the rest of us can help. This will take a little bit of searching, but not too much. First, consult the Liturgist Guild Yearbooks, in the member’s section of the ADF website at https://www.adf.org/members/guilds/liturgists/yearbooks/index.html. This has a list of ritual, prayers, and devotionals that were submitted to the Guild over a number of years. Many of the full rituals are in Core Order of Ritual (COoR) format and would be a good way to learn one’s way around the Core Order. If the rituals aren’t help enough, reach out to a priest – they are well versed in ritual and I predict will be very happy to help with ritual form. We have 33 priests currently – along with two more priests that are retired – and they would be glad to help with your ritual or offerings questions. I am one of those priests, so please feel free to reach out to me as well. Here is a link, under “Clergy”: https://www.adf.org/about/leaders/index.html

I would expect that while people may find a diversity of expression within a ritual context from our priests, one should also find a commonality of practice as far as the Core Order of Ritual goes. There are a number of articles on the ADF website about the Core Order, but why consult an article when you can talk to a priest instead.

As a priest, I have an understanding and am experienced with the practice of the Core Order of Ritual. Yet, as an ADF Druid, I can also make offerings to the Kindreds on a daily basis and help build my relationship with them every time I do so, Core Order or not. The building of relationships is what drives me onwards as an ADF Druid because I believe that it works. I feel the Kindred(s) in my life, sometimes forcefully, sometimes, quietly, but by doing, I feel more attached to my practice and also to that of ADF and its members as well.

I want everyone to be able to build relationships with their Kindred(s). In doing so, I believe that folks will feel their presence in their life and that the experience will enrich their lives. I hope, by the same building of relationships, that our members, and especially our solitary members, are able to build this relationship with the Kindreds and also with the organization that represents the work that we do. There is a beauty in practice. There is a beauty in practice with a group of other people. Yet, even if I am by myself, there is a beauty and value in practice that I can take with me wherever I go. One need only to step out doors or look out the window to see and/or feel the Earth Mother. One need only know that each and every ADF Druid, regardless of where they are, stand on that same Earth Mother and find themselves equally supported by her – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This, at the most fundamental level, we have in common: however, with practice and through practice, we have so much more.

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Solitary Thoughts

Summerlands1

What to do about our Solitary Members?

When I first joined ADF in 1984, I was solitary for the better part of my first twenty years. I relied heavily, in the pre-internet days, on Druid’s Progress (the magazine) and News from the Mother Grove (the newsletter). In the rare instances that I would run into folks from ADF, I would try to glean as much information from them as I could: who, what, where, etc.

Once the internet became a major force, it was easier to find out things because of chat rooms or email lists. It was the next step in the process of getting information but one thing did not change: I was alone.

When I moved to Michigan, I hooked up with Shining Lakes Grove of which I am still a member. It was really a change of life for me. There are some solitary members who are solitary because they want to be, but, the great majority of solitary practitioners are solitary out of circumstance. Roughly 55% of the ADF population is solitary and I feel there is a need to find a way to make solitaries feel that they are part of the greater family of Druids. How does one do that?

I have often written to members when they joined to welcome them to ADF and let them know that we do not take their membership for granted. I am not sure that this practice was overly effective, but it was an attempt. Yet, that takes care of one day in the ADF life of a member and that is just not enough. So the question remains: what is to be done.

I have a couple of ideas.

I travel a great deal for ADF, mostly to see various groups or collections of people and I am often fortunate to see whatever solitary folks  are able to make it to festivals, gatherings, or Pagan Pride days along the way. I have an idea to do a little bit more. I would like to propose that once a month, myself and someone else from leadership or clergy venture to a different state and try to find a central location where solitary folks might be able to gather and  get to talk to some folks from a representative group from ADF. This might be something like a meet and greet followed by a ritual. Why a ritual some may ask? One of our ADF brands is our Core Order of Ritual which defines whether a ritual is an ADF ritual or not. It is one thing to read about it, it is another to see a ritual on You Tube, but it is entirely different to see it in person and to be a part of that experience. I guess this would be an ADF Road Show in a way. An activity like this would be fairly effective in smaller states, like Delaware and Rhode Island and probably a lot more challenging in larger states like Florida, Texas, New York, and California to name a few. I am sure the methodology would have to be developed and refined, but it would be a good way to meet the people who have either been members for a short amount of time or a long period of time and have rarely seen anyone from the organization.

I have also spoken to some folks in the gaming industry that have some definite ideas about creating an online experience that might be interactive, vital, and allow folks to share time and experiences together. This will take some time to develop and to recruit talent to help with the process, but the internet is the one place that we can come together and meet with relative ease. We have found success with chats, Google Hangouts, and other meet-up methodologies, especially when they are targeted to certain interest groups.

I would also like to invite and engage our clergy to get involved with offering ritual services online, so that if folks want to ask questions about ritual practice or actually try out some ritual practices with someone else, folks will be available to look, listen, and learn. Clergy is just a starting point – we have many Senior Druids or Grove Organizers who are talented with ritual and ritual construction. I would like to see online locales set up as test beds where people can try things out and get some gentle and guiding feedback from the folks mentioned above.

Finally, I would like to see our regional leadership, like Regional Druids and their deputies to contribute their experiences as well. Our regional folks are out there meeting people all the time and they may have found approaches that are vital as well.

There is nothing  like the immediacy of being with and interacting with people in person. I am hoping that by trying these ideas and also reaching out with monthly gatherings that we can not only let solitary practitioners know that they are not alone, but also help them feel more connected to the whole.