Before I published Tuesday’s Bi-druidical post, I checked with ADF Archdruid Kirk Thomas to make sure my memory was correct. It was: ADF updated their Dedicant Path in 2005 and began the Initiate Program in 2009. Both of those were after I made my decision to join OBOD in 2004.
In the conversation, Kirk mentioned he was faced with the same decision I was: OBOD or ADF. Like me, he saw advantages in both orders. But there was an ADF protogrove in Kirk’s town and that ended up being the deciding factor for him.
This makes for some interesting speculation with a wider relevancy than which orders two Druids ended up joining.
If there had been an ADF grove or protogrove in the DFW area in 2004 I almost certainly would have made the same decision Kirk made. But I’d like to go back a year to 2003 when I realized I had gone as far as I could go on my own and I needed a group. There were no Druid groups in any order near me and I didn’t want a Wiccan coven. I had heard about CUUPS – the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans – and I figured it would be a safe place to start. I went to Denton CUUPS for Imbolc 2003 and I never left. It was there I realized I needed some formal training and that led me to join OBOD a year and a half later. I’m very happy with the way things worked out.
If there had been an ADF group nearby in 2003 I never would have gone to Denton CUUPS. That would wipe out the experiences I’ve had with them, the close friendships I’ve made, the speaking opportunities I’ve had in UU churches, and the leadership opportunities I’ve had in both CUUPS Continental and the Denton UU Fellowship.
Without all that, would I have ever started this blog? And without the blog, would I have met the Pagans and polytheists who have become my good friends, and whose thoughts and practices influence my own?
Without Denton CUUPS’ first Egyptian Summer Solstice ritual, how would my concepts of the Gods have evolved? ADF is a polytheist organization so I assume I would have gotten to devotional polytheism sooner or later, but it’s hard to imagine how that would have happened.
Without Denton CUUPS and OBOD, last year’s trip to England, Wales, and Ireland wouldn’t have happened.
I could go on and on. It’s easy to see the experiences and friendships I would have missed if I had the opportunity to join an ADF grove at the beginning. It’s much harder to see what would have taken their place. It’s safe to say I’d still be a polytheist Druid, but beyond that is only wild conjecture.
I have friends – and they are my friends – who would say my choice of CUUPS and OBOD was destiny. There was work that needed to be done in those organization and there were things I needed to learn through that work to prepare me for what I’m doing now, so my choices were directed by the Universe or the Gods or the Fates. I respect that thinking, but I don’t share it.
For one thing, it’s overly complicated. I don’t question that this work needs to be done – if I did I wouldn’t be doing it. But while I believe in the agency of the Gods and I’ve experienced Their activity in this world, there are simpler ways to insure all this work got done and continues to get done.
It overestimates my importance. Pop culture likes to talk about how we’re all special snowflakes. There’s no one like you – or me. That’s true to the extent that there’s no one with my particular combination of skills, interests, and personality. But there’s nothing about the work I do that requires my exact makeup. There were leaders in CUUPS, at Denton UU, and in the wider Pagan world before me, there are other leaders now, and there will be more leaders after I move on.
I’m a very good Coordinating Officer for Denton CUUPS. But there are four other officers whose leadership is essential, and a core membership of 15 or so who make our group a strong, deep, public presence of Paganism in Texas. To say Fate brought me here undervalues the work they do and overvalues me.
It minimizes the impact of using what’s available. In 2003 it would have been easy to say “I’m a Druid, there are no Druid groups in this area, so I’ll stay solitary.” In 2008 it would have been easy to say “60 miles is too far to drive to Blackland Prairie ADF, so I’ll stay solitary.” Lots of people make similar decisions – I assume they’re the right decisions for them.
But I needed a group. Denton CUUPS was available and so I went, participated, joined, and took on leadership roles. Because CUUPS is a non-creedal organization (i.e. – not devoted to a specific Pagan tradition) and because Denton CUUPS has always had leaders and members who took the Gods seriously, I’ve been able to practice my particular flavor of polytheistic Celtic Druidry. I’ve also been able to learn from folks with connections to the Egyptian, Norse, Greek, and other traditions.
It’s been a lot of work. It’s still a lot of work, as some of us are trying to develop even deeper relationships with the Gods, ancestors, and spirits of Nature. But I read the Pagan internet and I talk to a lot of Pagans and polytheists around the world. Other groups are bigger and better known, but the work we’re doing here compares well with the work anybody is doing anywhere. All because the core members have decided to make what we can out of what’s available instead of doing nothing because exactly what we want doesn’t exist.
It devalues the importance of sticking with something. When Denton CUUPS was down to four members in late 2003 it would have been easy for me to say “this isn’t going to work” and walk away. When the Ovate grade got particularly challenging in 2008 and I got word that an ADF group was forming in the area, it would have been easy to say “maybe I need to try a different order.” When my polytheism got harder and more devotional, it would have been easy to say “I need to find a polytheist temple” (easy to say – very hard to do).
You can say I stuck with it because it was my destiny to do this – I suppose you might be right. But that approach devalues all the work I did and that many others did. It devalues the sacrifices of time, treasure, effort, and at times, sheer frustration that I’ve put into my spiritual path and my spiritual homes.
I don’t expect a gold medal for doing what I was called to do… and to be honest, what I wanted to do. But I also want everyone to recognize that what I’ve learned and accomplished as a Druid and what we’ve built at Denton CUUPS isn’t because Fate presented it to us on a silver platter. It’s because we chose to grab what was available, make the best of it, and keep working at it through good times, bad times, and in-between times.
I think there’s a “moral of the story” in there somewhere.