As of August 5 I am officially bi-druidical – a member of two Druid orders. I finally joined Ár nDraíocht Féin.
ADF was my first introduction to modern Druidry. I had done some reading on the ancient Druids and I identified as a Druid, but when I was asked to lead a Druid ritual for the first time, I didn’t know where to begin. I found Isaac Bonewits’ website and from there I found the ADF site. The ritual I led for Denton CUUPS’ Summer Solstice 2003 was about 90% ADF and 10% things I added from our local traditions. It went very well.
Isaac founded ADF to be a Pagan, polytheist church. I wish he had picked another term, but “church” makes his intentions clear: ADF is a public religious order, not an occult esoteric society. ADF places a strong emphasis on public ritual and I definitely agree with that. They emphasize good scholarship to understand our ancient ancestors and their ways, which in turn builds a good foundation for a meaningful Pagan practice here and now. Their basic liturgy focuses on forming and strengthening relationships with the Gods, ancestors and land spirits. They don’t tell you what to believe about the Gods, ancestors, and land spirits – just honor them. ADF’s goals and methods align very closely with my own.
When I went looking for Druid training in 2004, I had a difficult decision to make. There were no Druid groups in any order in North Texas – that meant I was going to be learning via correspondence. While I preferred ADF’s approach and their costs were significantly lower, everyone I talked to said OBOD’s training program was better. So I joined The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and the rest is history.
ADF’s Dedicant Path has been substantially upgraded since 2004, they now have Guild Study and Initiate Training Programs, and ADF’s costs are still substantially lower. I have no regrets about my choice and I often recommend OBOD to seekers, but if I was choosing a Druid order for initial training today I’d have a much harder decision.
Now there’s also a local group. Blackland Prairie Protogrove was founded in 2008. I’ve been to a few of their events, but they meet in Arlington which is about 60 miles from where I live. That’s not an impossible distance in North Texas, but it’s hard to do on a regular basis.
Of course, as of a week ago there’s also an OBOD seed group in North Texas: River of Stars Druid Fellowship. It’s not close to me either, but it’s close enough to participate occasionally. I’ll have more to say about River of Stars in a couple weeks.
If I had unlimited time I’d love to work through the Dedicant Path, the Initiate Program, and the Clergy Training Program. Just looking at the outlines on the public ADF site shows there’s a lot there to learn. But I don’t have unlimited time, I have several initiations, and I’m already ordained. While I never want to stop learning, I have the training I need to do the work I’m called to do here and now – I just need to do it. Pursuing another initiation and ordination would keep me from that work. So I won’t be doing the ADF training programs. This also means I will not be seeking leadership positions within ADF.
So why join ADF if I’m not going to dive into the deep end of the pool? Because I believe in its mission. I support its goals and methods. I’ve benefitted from its structures and its heritage. I’ve participated in its events. I have received from ADF, so by the principle of reciprocity it’s time I gave back to ADF, even if all I can give is my annual membership fee and my name on their rolls.
At Many Gods West I talked about building institutions for the polytheist future. ADF has been doing this since 1983. In particular, they’ve built a priesthood and they’ve built a strong public presence. There is much that current and future polytheist groups can learn from their experience. This is an organization worth supporting.
I’ve long advised aspiring Druids to look into ADF, OBOD, and other orders. Check out their websites, talk to people who are members, read some of the books they recommend, then decide which order best fits you and your situation.
But I’d like to add that if there’s an organization doing good work, support them. Even if it’s not exactly what you want, and even if you can’t fully participate in them, support them.
I’m happy to be a member of ADF.