Building Community Part 3 – Comparing and contrasting two group organization models: tribe and congregation

For years I have seen folks in the Celtic and Germanic/Norse
reconstructionist communities refer to themselves as tribal and I assumed what it mean when compared to groups that functioned more as congregations.  During recent discussions on organization I thought that maybe I and others didn’t really know what was meant when people said they were tribal or said they used a congregation model.  So I did
an informal poll, interviewed some folks I know, and asked folks on FB to tell
me how the tribe model is different to the congregation model based on their
own understandings of both.  The results
were interesting and contradicted my own perceptions of the deep divide between
the two models of organization.  
Once I completed the poll, interviews and wound down the FB
discussions I was able to put together a list of traits that each model
held.  In order to find common traits
among the various responses I had to be very general in the descriptions as I
did not want to get into the minutia of how these groups implemented the traits
else I would have too many versions of a tribe or congregation to make the
conversation even possible.  

Let me first list the common traits among the groups that
identify as using a congregation model.

  • Holds public and/or private religious events.
  • Holds public and/or private social events.
  • Culturally specific.
  • Shared values; ethics, religion
  • May or may not seek legal and tax legitimacy.
  • Membership goes through some sort of screening process that requires approval
    of other members/leadership body.
  • Attempts to foster close ties and connections among the membership.
  • Is not attempting to reconstruct ancient social structures.
  • Does not identify itself as a tribe or tribal group. 

Pretty generic, straight forward and all together boring as
far as lists go.  Now let’s look at the
common traits held by the tribe model.
  • Holds public and/or private religious events.
  • Holds public and/or private social events.
  •  Culturally specific.
  • Shared values; ethics, religion
  • May or may not seek legal and tax legitimacy.
  • Membership goes through some sort of screening process that requires approval
    of other members/leadership body.
  • Attempts to foster close ties and connections among the membership.
  • May or may not be attempting to reconstruct ancient social structures.
  • Identifies itself as a tribe or tribal group.

I hope you are as surprised as I am with the results.  There are just two differences between the
two models and only one that is concrete.   I do feel that as obvious as they are, the
differences should be explained as I chose the language of each trait carefully.

During these discussions and interviews I found instances of tribes trying to rebuild ancient social structures such as roles in society (druid, brehon, fili, etc), and fostering, adoption or marriage into the tribe. But I also found tribes that did not have any desire to reconstruct ancient societal structures though they may use terms such as chief for the leader.  On the flip side none of the folks using congregation as a model were interested in making such a reconstruction.

The last line is the concrete difference between groups are tribal in nature and those that are not.  The wording is such because groups that do not identify themselves as tribal may or may not
identify themselves as a congregation though they look like one functionally. 
This could be because they want to avoid using the term due to immediate Christian associations, didn’t really
understand it’s meaning in context of the discussion, or just never thought about what model they were using.  In any case what did stand out is they
specifically do not consider themselves to be a tribe, so that is how I worded
the common trait. 
The point of this was to identify how the two models
differed, and while it succeeded in doing so it shows more how the two models
can be so similar that the only thing different between them is whether or not
they identify themselves as a tribe.  I
will admit my assumptions have been shattered and when someone says they
support a tribal model, I will have to ask more questions before deciding to
run the other direction.
NOTE – There are some exceptions to everything.  For the sake of demonstrating the exception there is a tribe in Florida that is NOT culturally specific but has sub-groups that are culturally specific.  The tribe itself has created it’s own unique common language and culture to account for the varied groups and bring them together.

Lá Lúnasa Ritual

Wanted to get this out BEFORE the festival date this time. 


Lá Lúnasa
participants gather the following offerings 
River Goddesses
Mac Lir
of Place
de Danaan

to the ritual the participants should light the flame, fill the well with fresh
water, and place whatever tools are needed on the altar.  
A bell
is tolled three times calling the folk to the nemed.
May the rains sweep gentle across the fields,
May the sun warm the land,
May every good seed planted bear fruit,
And late summer find us among fields of plenty.

D1: Close your eyes clear your
mind and focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly visualizing the
spiral of the cosmos around you.
D1: We are at the center of An
Thríbhís Mhór.            
D1: Inhale and
as you exhale visualize your feet firmly planted on the earth.
D1: We stand firmly upon the
Sacred Land.
D1: Inhale
again and as you exhale imagine you are surrounded by the great calm ocean.
D1: The Eternal Sea always
surrounds us.
D1: Inhale and
exhale seeing the great blue expanse above you.
D1: The Endless Sky spreads
itself above us.
D1: Inhale
while visualizing the great spiral around you, with you at its center.
D1: We are at the center of An
Thríbhís Mhór. 
D1: And
breath, open your eyes when ready.

the Local Land Goddesses
D2: We honor the Five Rivers, the goddesses of the land;
Potomac, Patapsco, Susquehanna, Gunpowder, and Patuxent.  Givers of life
that flow from the mountains and form estuaries of the Chesapeake
honor you and make this offering to you in gratitude for your waters that
nourish this land.
D2: makes an offering and says: Mighty
goddesses of the land accept this offering.
of Purpose
Imagine if you will it is The
Second Battle of Moytura, Lugh has slain his grandfather Balor of the Baleful
Eye and now he and his men have found the vile King Bres who wished to
negotiate being spared.
Bres said: ‘It is better to give
me quarter than to slay me’.
‘What then will follow from
that?’ says Lugh.
‘If I am spared the cattle of
Erin will always be in milk’.
‘I will ask our wise men of this”
, says Lugh.
Hence Lugh went to the brehon,
and said to him: ‘Shall Bres have quarter for giving constant milk to the cattle
of Erin?’
‘He shall not have quarter’,
saith Maeltne; ‘he has no power over their age or their (offspring) though he
can milk them so long as they are alive’.
Lugh returns to Bres saying:
‘That does not save you, for you have no power over their age and their
(offspring) though you can milk them’.
‘Is there aught else that will
save you Bres?’ asked Lugh.
 ‘There is in truth. Tell your brehon that for
sparing me the men of Ireland shall reap a harvest in every quarter of the
Said Lugh to the brehon: ‘Shall
Bres be spared for giving the men of Ireland a harvest of corn every quarter?’
‘No, this will suit us, the
spring for ploughing and sowing, the beginning of summer for the strengthening of
corn, and the beginning of autumn for reaping of it. Winter for consuming it.’
Returning to Bres, Lugh says: ‘That
offer does not rescue you, but less than that may,
 ‘What?’ says Bres.
‘How shall the men of Ireland
plough? How shall they sow? How shall they reap? After making known these three
things thou wilt be spared’.
‘Tell them’ says Bres ‘that their
ploughing be on a Tuesday, their casting seed into the field be on a Tuesday,
their reaping on a Tuesday.’
With that, the men of Erin learned
So now comes the harvest and we
tell this story as a reminder of the magic that is the cultivation of food and
how man had to learn to harness the power of the land and the sun.  We give thanks to the gods for the guidance
in making the harvests possible.
the Sacred Grove
Hearth Fire
I make
sacred the fire,
The first fire born of lightning
from which all fires are lit.
The hearth fire which warms our homes
and binds our people.
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,

Let the flame be the hearth fire,
Lets the water be the Well of Knowledge       
Let the tree be the bile,       
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,

D1: puts oil on the fire, then
I light
the sacred fire of inspiration.  Sacred fire, burn within me.
Well of
Druid 2
I make
sacred the well,
From which the five rivers flow,
Salmon swimming, hazels hanging high.
Bubbling brightly Segais, source of wisdom,   

I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,
Let the flame be the hearth fire,
Lets the water be the Well of Knowledge       
Let the tree be the bile,       
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,
D2: taps the well then says:
In the
depths flow the waters of wisdom. Sacred waters, flow within me.
Druid 3 says:
I make
sacred the branch/tree,
Towering high, hanging heavy with hazel,
Spanning and connecting the Three Realms,
The mighty bile of the grove,
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,
Let the flame be the hearth fire,
Lets the water be the Well of Knowledge       
Let the tree be the bile,       
I stand in the grove at the center of the realms,
D3: dresses the bile, then says:
the depths to the heights spans the world tree. Sacred tree, grow within me.
D1: raises arms
D1: With the Flame of the Hearth,
the Well of Knowledge, and the Sacred Bile the grove is erected and hallowed.
the Mists
D1: prepares an offering for the
gatekeeper and says:
D1: says: We honor Oirbsen
(orib-sheen), Manannan, Patron of our tribe, Lord of the Mist, Ruler of
Tir na mBan (
teer na man), Guardian of the gate of the Otherworld.
 Oh Lord of the Otherworld, bearer of the silvered apple branch, hear us
this day and aid in the passage of the ancestors through the misty veil.
D1: makes an offering and says: Manannan
mac Lir, accept our offerings and gratitude as you part the mists.

(mah-nuh-nahn’ mak leer)
D1: Let the mists be parted!!
All: Let the mists be parted.
the Gods and Ungods
D2: Mighty dead, you who have come
Ancestors of our blood,  Heros of our people
We offer you this gift with love and loyalty and invite you to witness this
D2: makes an offering and says: Ancestors,
accept this offering.
Aos Sí
D1: Great nature spirits, you who
frolic in the wild world,
Spirits of this place,
We offer you this gift in friendship and invite you to witness this rite.
of family and the people that came to this land from faraway lands.
We offer you this gift in friendship and invite you to witness this rite.
D1: makes an offerings and says: Aos
Sí , accept this offering.
Gods of
the Tribe
D3: Great gods, you who are
mightiest in all things,
Deities of my faith,
We offer you this gift with reverence and honor and invite you to witness this
D3: makes an offering and says: Gods
and goddesses accept this offering.
D1: Lugh,
Master of all trades, King of the gods
You who slew Balor and defeated Bres.
You who through victory brought us ploughing, sowing and reaping.
Hear us.
Mighty Lugh we give thanks for the gifts you have given mankind
and come with an offering of the fruits of our work.  We bring you this harvest, from our own
fields and the fields of our community.

D1: makes an offering and says: Lugh
accept this offering.
Seer: Ritually washes their hands
then forms the left hand into a tube and blows through the tube then says:
over me, gods under me,
Gods before me, gods behind me,
I am on your path oh gods.
    You, my gods, are in my steps.
I am
going within
To the doorstep of the sí
in the name of Finn
Stronger in sight then all.
augury made by Finn to his men,
That Bride blew her palm,
Did you see the augury gods of art?–
    Said the gods of art,  they saw.
of truth without a message of falsehood
That I myself shall see
The semblance, joyous and mild
Of all that is hidden to me
spirits and gods of my people,
Give me the sight to see all I need,
With vision that shall never fail, before me,
    That shall never quench nor dim.
Seer: then takes the omen,
interprets it, and records it.
the blessings of the Gods and Ungods
D1: raises the blessing plate/cup
high and says:
de Danaan
Aos Sí , (ees she) and An Sinsear  (en shen-shoor), we have praised you
and made a sacrifice. A gift calls for a gift, and we pray to you and ask that
you give us your blessings.  Make sacred these apples and infuse them with
your vitality, strength and inspiration.
Lo, the
blessings of the Gods and Ungods are upon us.
D1: Slices and eats the blessed
apple and passes it around.
the Gods and Ungods and Closing the Mists
D1: We have called upon the Gods
and Ungods and they have answered.  With love and loyalty we carry the
blessings into our daily lives.  As we prepare to depart let us give
thanks to those who have aided us.

D1: {more praise for Lugh}
D3: Tuatha de Danaan, gods of our
tribe, we thank you for your presence and blessings.  
D1: Aos Sí, these are your lands
and here you shall remain.  We thank you for attending and accepting our
offerings of peace and respect.         
D2: Mighty Dead, thank you for
attending and accepting our gifts.  Pass back through the mists and return
to the Otherworld.  .
D1: Manannan, today we celebrated
you and gave you praise and offerings.  We thank you for your attendance
and parting the mists.  We ask that you allow the mists to fall as our
ancestors pass back into your realm.    
D1: Let the mists return and the
veil be whole.
D1: Mighty Rivers, these are your
lands and here you shall remain.  We thank you for attending and accepting
my offerings of peace and respect.
down the Sacred Grove
D1: We came and honored the
Gods, the Spirits and the Ancestors and now the Sacred Grove must be taken
down. We honor the Hearth Fire and restore it to flame.  We honor the Well
of Segais and restore it to water. We honor the bile and restore it to branch.
 All is as it was and the Sacred Grove is dismantled. The ritual is ended.

All: Biodh Se!    (bee-shay)

A Féinnid Training Program – A Link

Preparedness for anything is a key feature of the modern féinnid, and to be prepared you have to train.  Working with the ADF training material with additional material specific to the féinnid, I have put together a training program for a proposed Order within ADF.  While this Order is being discussed by the leadership I can’t share the training material but with a select few who have influenced its development.  However being a blog about being a féinnid, I think it important to share training material with the readers and I have just learned that another féinnid has just posted her training outline.

I invite my readers to head over to the website Shadow of the Hooded Crow and check out the training program written by Saigh Kym Lambert, “Outlaw Warrior Path Training“.  If you do like her work let her know, make a donation, and please respect her intellectual property.

Opening the Gates / Parting the Mists

Just a quick something to start off the month…


In ADF rituals there is a section in which a gatekeeper is called to open the gates between the worlds.  In the version of Gentlidecht I practice we do the same, asking Manannan to ‘part the mists’ between our world and the Otherworld.  Despite the similar practice the reasoning and even the mental visuals of the practice are very different.

The most common understanding of the ADF practice appears to be that they are opening triple gates between the worlds via the hallows which is most commonly a tree, well and the required fire.  The opening of the gates allows the various beings to move freely and the free flow of energy.  I have seen some state that the opening the gates is what makes the ritual sacred by opening the space to the realms of the gods, spirits and ancestors. This is not how we Genti understand things nor is it what we believe.

In Gentlidecht the Otherworld is something that exists along side ours.  Access to it can be via the sea, though doors in mounds, by entering caves, or even by passing through a magical mist.  In the legends it is where the gods and spirits live, and the dead go after physical death and that it has more than 70 names.  The legends also tell us that the gods and spirits can come and go as they please without any need for a guide or for someone to open the door for them.  There is not much said on the subject of the dead, except that at Beltaine and Samhain the veil between our world and the land in which the dead reside is the thinnest and that the dead can walk freely among the living during these periods implying that they can’t open the ways between the worlds on their own. As if the legends alone are not enough, experiences have taught many that the gods are imminent and that the spirits of nature are always around us.  So inviting them to witness and accept our worship would not require any gates to be opened at all, except for the ancestors.

Leading us to the reason why in Gentlidecht we ask Manannan to part the misty veil.  He is aiding in making it possible for the ancestors to come into our world.  Visually you can imagine a thick mist that stands between the Otherworld and ours, what I call the Cloak of Manannan, being blown by wind and thinned making it possible to see into and eventually cross through.  When the veil is thinned or parted the ancestors are able to move freely between the worlds.  Of course it is not necessary for Manannan to part the mists at Beltaine or Samhain since during those periods the veil is already so thin the ancestors can come through on their own.

What is interesting to note is that there is no Indo-European precedent for this practice or belief.  In fact there is a story in ADF that the reason they do it is because the organizations founder saw the gates being opened in an Afro-Caribbean ritual and thought it would be a good addition.  As a result there are Celtic Reconstructionists that do not include a section to ‘part the mists’.  Despite the lack of evidence within Indo-European rituals there is enough folklore in the Irish material hinting that the ancestors are unable to move freely between the worlds (except at Beltaine and Samhain) so we will continue to ask Manannan for his help with the ancestors.

If you have another perspective on the ‘gates’ in ritual please post it in the comments section of this blog.


Note – For purposes of the blog I am clearly differentiating between ADF and Gentlidecht.  The reality is ADF Druidry is not a monolithic belief but each grove and individual within ADF can have very different beliefs and practices.  Five Rivers Protogrove, ADF is an ADF grove that practices Gentlidecht, meaning we use the ADF ritual structure but our understanding or reasons for doing certain parts of the ritual may vary from the more common understandings published on the ADF website.