Lá Fhéile Finn mac Cumhaill and Lá Fhéile Aibhneacha

In the article Gentlidecht Holiday Cycle I mentioned several possible additional seasonal events that Genti can include in their calender to flesh out the ritual year.    Two such events occur in September, with  Lá Fhéile Finn mac Cumhaill (or if you prefer the Hero-Feast of Finn mac Cumhaill) at the start of hunting season and Lá Fhéile Aibhneacha towards the end of the month around the time of the fall equinox.  Both are modern events created by genti to make offerings to specific beings that they consider to be special and worthy of devotion.

Lá Fhéile Finn mac Cumhaill is a festival that I propose should fall at the start of deer hunting season.  Finn is a hunter, warrior, outlaw, poet and seer; living off the land and protecting his people from outsiders. In a forthcoming article on him I will make an argument that he is a hunter god (representing both hunter and prey) but for the purposes of this article lets just call him a ‘god of the hunt.’  As such placing his special day at the start of a hunting season is perfect, I chose deer season due to his associations with deer in the names of his son (Oisín) and grandson (Oscar) and in the name of his warrior band ‘fianna’ being modern Irish for a herd of deer. 

There are two ways to handle this particular feast.  The first way is to do it as a celebration of the opening of hunting season and to make offerings to Finn for his aid in a successful hunt.  Another purpose would be to hold the feast after the first successful hunt and make offerings to Finn in gratitude.  In either instance the offering of prey meat would be the most appropriate, though you would have to have something remaining from the previous year if you did it as a season opening feast.  Other options would be pig, salmon or even mead…everyone likes mead. 

The second event of September is called Lá Fhéile Aibhneacha, the Festival of the Rivers.  In this instance the rivers are the deified river or land spirits of our local major water sources.  I chose the equinox for this one to give genti a ritual to celebrate the second harvest and to give thanks to the rivers that provide the life giving fluids to our crops.  Here in Maryland our offerings are to the five mountain born rivers that run to the Chesapeake, irrigating our fields, turning our turbines and providing the water supply.   Of course you should look local for your land goddess.

There really is only one offering to make to the land goddesses this time of year, seasonal harvest foods.  With all the farmers markets or even our own gardens this is a simple offering and makes the most sense since such crops could not exist without their life giving waters.

So, for us Genti the month of September can be a busy month.  With two opportunities for the community to come together to worship and feast.  In a coming post I will share my groups ritual for  Lá Fhéile Aibhneacha.

Gentlidecht: Outsiders/Outdwellers

In Part 1 of the Outlaw/Outsiders series, I talk about the mythological Fianna protecting Ireland from outsiders, this includes foreigners from other lands and Otherworldly beings bent on harming the people of Ireland.  In the stories these beings are not given a special name and by there nature, Otherworldly beings are ‘outsiders’ to our world so for purposes of this article and discussion the term ‘outsiders’ will only represent those beings that are hostile and/or disruptive to us.  In most ADF groves they include a section of the ritual where they make offerings to the outsiders as an offering to appease or make peace with them so they do not interfere with the ritual.  Others portray the outsiders as negative emotional baggage carried by the ritual attendees which is cleansed by the appeasement of the outsiders.  In the version of Gentlidecht
I practice we view the outsiders as beings not emotions, and we do not make offerings to them during the normal course of our rituals.

Among the various Irish Polytheist folk, treating with the outsiders is something that varies from group to group and the reasons for and against are also varied. My group of genti have chosen to not include offerings to the outsiders for a few of reasons.  Reason number one is that we have no evidence that I am aware, of the pre-Christian Irish doing such things.

Of course absence of proof is not proof of absence so that leads into the fact that in the legends such beings were dealt with by other outsiders, in Ireland’s case the Fianna lead by Fionn mac Cumhaill, not the members of society.  Trained specialists who could travel between the worlds to deal with the hostile forces in an effective, and deadly manner.  They did not bribe them, they defeated them. So reason number two is, it is not the place of the community to keep the hostile outsiders at bay, but the responsibility of the ‘friendly’ outsiders.

Finally we do not wish to call to them or attract them with goodies and create a situation of ‘blackmail’ in which we have to constantly provide for them.   This situation is not obvious to most but for those groups that have regularly made such offerings in the same space for a period of time, the area used begins to develop a ‘darkness’ about it that doesn’t go away without some serious work.

There is a way for those who wish to include some sort of acknowledgement of the outsiders to do so without creating a ‘hostile’ zone.  I have already pointed out that in legends there are beings whose job it is to defend against outsiders.  If you wish to include an outsider section in your rituals my suggestion is to make the offerings to a defender being and not the ‘hostile’ forces.  Two such beings would be Fionn mac Cumhaill and Angus mac Og who both have qualities of being an outsider or defender from outsider forces.  This way you are asking for the being to protect you from those things that are not friendly to what you are trying to accomplish.

During the development of Gentlidecht na gCuain we have chosen to not include a section for the ‘outdwellers/outsiders’ in our rituals for three clear reasons.  One is that we have no evidence that it was part of ancient Irish Pagan rituals, the legends show that it was other outsider beings dealt with outsiders rather than anyone within the community, and because anecdotal evidence shows that having a regular place where offerings are made to hostile outsiders develops a relationship of blackmail, bribery and an unfriendly space near the ritual.


Gentlidecht Holiday Cycle

In Irish legend there are only four documented feast days: Samain, Imbolc, Beltain, and Lughnasadh or Brón Trogain, as it is called in Tochmar Emire (Wooing of Emir.)  As a result many folks who identify as Celtic Reconstructionists of the Irish persuasion only celebrate those four days as their annual religious cycle. However, neolithic sites, folklore, and evidence in other Indoeuropean cultures show that something could have been going on at other times of the year and just not mentioned by the monks who wrote down the Tochmar Emire.  Further, being a modern religion there is no reason why groups or individuals can’t have feasts and festivals specific to their religious practice.  What follows are a few examples of feasts and festivals folks in the CR community have added to their ritual year with links so you can do further research.

March 17 – Hero-Feast of Cú Chulainn:  Promoted by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (PSVL) blog posts and a Facebook Page this Saint Patrick Day alternative is gaining popularity. 

March 25 – Latha na Cailliche: While the festival is Scottish in origin there is no reason why followers of Gentlidecht can’t also make offerings to her as she is found in Ireland as Cailleach Beara.  Being a goddess associated with the winter and storms it may not be a bad idea. Brian Walsh goes into some detail on his blog.

June 17 – Hero-Feast of Suibhne Geilt: Another feast day promoted by PSVL this one is for the legendary Irish king who was afflicted by the curse of a saint (one called Rónán), went mad as the result of being adversely affected by the spirits of battle, and then lived in the wilderness for many years, taking on bird-like characteristics, and occasionally uttering inspired nature poetry.

June  25 (or Summer Solstice)  – Midummer, Paying Rent to Manannan and Lá Fhéile Oirbsen (Law Ayluh Oribsheen) are all terms that can be applied to a holiday that many Irish polytheist have taken on to honor Manannan Mac Lir.  The practice comes from the June 25th Manx tradition of paying rent (in the form of rushes) to the first king of the Island so that he does not allow the sea to rise up and swallow the land.  Many examples of rent paying rituals can be found with a simple search.

September 20 (or Fall Equinox) – Lá Fhéile Aibhneacha (Law Ayluh Ow-wen-uch-ah) or the Festival of the Rivers.  This is a festival day I devised to give thanks to the local land goddesses during the harvest season. Just as the Boyne and Shannon are goddesses in Ireland, the rivers in North America are goddesses and we should thank them for the life they bring to our land.

Varied Sept – Nov – Hero-Feast of Finn mac Cumhaill: The third Irish hero feast proposed by PSVL’s blog. Now my placement and reason for this feast do vary from PSVL, and I expect to do a post about it in the future in some detail.  For now though, I place what I will be calling Lá Fhéile Finn mac Cumhaill around the start of deer hunting season in hopes for a good hunt.

Decmber 13 – Lá Fhéile Badhbh:  This feast is celebrated by Faoladh who has yet to fully explain it other than to say “it’s got to do with werewolves.”

In addition to the major feast days of, Oíche Shamhna (Eekhuh Hownuh), Lá Fhéile Bhríd (Law Ayluh Vreedj), Lá Bealtaine (Law Byaltinyuh), and Lá Lúnasa (Law Loonuhsuh), and any monthly feasts held,  genti could have a busy year of festivities that would be the envy of any other Neopagan religion.

If you are interested in developing feasts and holidays of your own, I encourage you to read the books listed below to get started.

Danaher, K. (1972). The Year in Ireland: Irish Calendar Customs. Dublin: Mercier Press.

Ó Súilleábhain, S. (1977). Irish Folk Custom and Belief. Cork: Mercier Press.

On the Modern Druid

Anytime one speaks of Irish religion it is expected that the druids would be discussed . Historically the
Druids were part of the social strata that would fall into the sacral function
of the trifunctional hypothesis . They were highly educated in mathematics, astronomy,
astrology, liturgy, poetry, law and many other areas that the common man, and
many nobles were ignorant of. They spent many years of their life learning what
they needed to know to be a druid. In today’s world anyone with a college
education has spent twenty years in school; does this make them a druid? Maybe
in a classical sense they would be, it’s up for debate, but for purposes of
being a druid in Gentlidecht, no.
I have waffled on this topic over the years.  Druids of antiquity are very much rooted in ancient Irish culture and were replaced by the educated sacral class of Christianity, the monks and priests.  The Druids had special schools they attended, held special status in the communities, and based on classical writers were very influential in inter-tribal politics.  To be honest we either have to reconstruct the social structures of the ancient world, or we have to adapt and modernize the function of the druid class.  These days I am very much a proponent of reconstruction of the religion and the religious structures in a modern context, so let’s look at how druids may look in 21st century western culture.
The modernization of the druids actually began with the incoming Christians.  While the monks and priests took over some of the functions, they allowed others to continue under other names.  The fili, the sacred poet is one such example of a druid under a different title.  This craft would have been taught in  rural oral tradition schools, known as hedge schools.  Hedge schools of various types survived unto the 19th century, including some for the purpose of teaching Irish bardic tradition or filidecht.  Today there are those who are practicing a reconstructed version of filidecht which is defined by Erynn Laurie as “the practice of sacred, ritual poetcraft in
early Irish and Scottish tradition.”  These folks could have a claim to the title of druid, but interestingly the individuals that I know do not do so.
Most of the other functions of the druids in ancient society are not considered sacral today.  Lawyers, judges, astronomers, teachers, or philosophers are all secular in nature.  Setting those aside as being ‘not druids’ in the modern context we are left with just a few functions for those who may have a claim to being druid, those who perform duties recognized as religious in nature; the priests.  For a moment we have to consider what this means in both a modern and historical context.  Priests of antiquity were not the pastoral counselors of today but strictly the servants of the gods. They fulfilled the roles of  performing all of the functions needed during religious rituals (ritual technicians) , they maintained the religious sites, and they may have advised kings and chieftains on matters pertaining to the gods.  Today most clergy are expected to perform the roles of the ancient priests but also act as advisers, counselors and therapists to those who come to them.  
Ancient priests required a specialized training for their jobs and we should expect our druids to have  specialized training for the religious functions they will fulfill.  For some functions this training will come through the organization or group to which they belong, such as the role of being a ritual technician and leading the religious services where rituals are to be done in a particular fashion.  For pastoral leaders they will have to attend specialized training courses and may even require a license from the government under whose jurisdiction they fall.  No role of a druid can be performed without some sort of education.  
None of this makes clear how one becomes a druid.  One can become a modern priest of some sort and, if their community accepts the term, call themselves a druid.  One can join any number of organizations that use the term druid for it’s membership.  One can be honored with the title of  druid by a community for services of a sacred nature to that community.  The fact of the matter no one can become a druid as the term is used in the Irish lore. 
In the tradition of Irish heathen practice I call Gentlidecht, a druid is simply one of the people who leads the rituals.  A temporary title for the purpose of performing a religious function for the group.  I expect and hope this will change one day when we have temples again and possibly full-time clergy but in the mean time this works well.

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.

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.

Outlaws/Outsiders Part 2 – A Personal Address

Having exposed ADF to the outsider/outlaw warrior the feedback has been interesting and slightly frustrating.  The basic concepts are all covered in the article Outlaws/Outsiders Part I – Fénidecht  but misunderstandings still exist.  They don’t understand how anyone would be drawn to such a status, how such a person would be involved in ADF or why ADF should even bother caring about such people.  The last is most problematic for me but I hope I can address each of these in turn.

People wonder “Why would anyone want to be an outsider?” and the answer is simple, in most instances no one asked for it.  Personal experiences have driven us to the outskirts of our chosen communities.  Be it negative experiences with the community-at-large or experiences unrelated to the community that makes us more unable or unwilling to take part in certain types of community rituals.  Sometimes, it is a foolish oath made in youth that forces us to be non-participator in certain situations.

The second question is of involvement.  Just as we may prefer to remain on the periphery in rituals, we also serve our communities from the periphery.  In a ritual context we may prefer to function outside of community rituals as guides and watchers, looking for safety issues, helping people find their way etc.  Some groups have incorporated us into the ritual structure by allowing us to stand just beyond, in the liminal area between the ritual space and ‘mundane’ space.  Socially and politically we tend to be very active in our communities, to include running for leadership positions.

This last one is problematic for me because it came from an ADF leader.  Mind you, these are not exact words but after several statements made this is the impression being given.  ADF is no place for people who ‘want to stand apart’.  The fact is we don’t always want to ‘stand apart’ and we don’t always have to do so and we are always looking for a community to which we can belong.  One that understands we won’t always fit in, or be part of the festivities and accepts us for what we are.  In return we would find ways to serve that community in ways that make sense to that community.

Being one who identifies as the ‘outsider warrior’ does not mean we will always stand apart.  That is the paradox of being an ‘outsider’ in the 21st century.  Sometimes we are very much the insider.  I myself am a Grove Organizer and so by default within the context of my grove I am the leader of a community and not on the periphery.  Yet, when I go to my next pan-Neopagan festival I will be taking all those things that identify me as a féinnid and function as such in relation to the tribe that will be brought together.  It is a fluid state of spiritual being in which I live and am comfortable.

Dear reader, you know people who fit this profile.  Please open your communities to them and come to understand them.  Like the wolves, once we become part of your pack we are loyal and fierce.

A “Hidden” Purpose of Imbolc

Back in 2011 and over on Patheos, an associate of mine wrote on article on an alternative purpose for Imbolc.  I have referenced it in a few of my blog posts but I have not yet really promoted the article as something related to the outsider warrior.  So today I attempted to re-blog the post for you but for some reason the code at Patheos is failing and so….all I can do is provide a link and say: “PLEASE, go read this article.”  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pantheon/2011/02/the-hidden-imbolc/

The reason I am posting this now, as opposed to January or February is that I am presenting this material at Pagan Spirit Gathering 2014…just a couple weeks away.

So again, go read this article AND come see me at PSG if you happen to be there.

Sorry I could not re-blog it but, a click is easy right?

Building Community Part 2 – A Gentlidecht group in ADF

This is the second part of a series on building an Irish Polytheist community.  I realized after writing the first part, that it did not include any real methodology but was simply a structure of the community not necessarily how to build it.  In this essay I will not only cover how typical ADF groves are structured, but how I can envision an ADF grove founded and run by people who practice gentlidecht may change the structure and what actual methods are used to bring in individuals and families to build a community of genti, around the ADF grove.

A few local folks who identify as Irish Polytheists have joined me in starting what is called a protogrove of  Ár nDraíocht Féin in the Baltimore area.  ADF at its core is a Neopagan church but due to its orthopraxic nature allows for many traditions to function within it at the local group and individual level.  What is most attractive to us was the longevity of the organization, an established ritual structure created using reconstructionist methodology, and a built in community at the national and international level.  Being a protogrove or grove of ADF also has the advantage of being an immediately recognizable body within the community, most Neopagans know that ADF is a druid organization, making the process of building a community a little simpler…name recognition goes a long way.

Organizationally, ADF requires that each Provisional and Chartered Grove have a Senior Druid, a treasurer (Pursewarden) and a secretary (Scribe), a Protogrove is only required to have a Grove Organizer.   The required duties are also defined by ADF, but outside of these requirements a grove can operate according to its own bylaws.  As we plan to remain focused on gentlidecht we expect to have some roles defined that are not found in other groves.

While not explicitly stated in any official document the Senior Druid is the expected leader of the grove as can be seen by the existence and function of the Council of Senior Druids. However, as Irish Polytheists we are considering having another role that is more of a secular leadership position that functions along side the Senior Druid.  The religious duties and those ADF expects would be handled by the Senior Druid, with as yet undefined responsibilities falling to the secular leader. 

It may even be possible to establish an ADF grove or protogrove and function in nearly the same way as the dearbhfine as described in Part 1. With the Conn Fine being the secular leader mentioned above and the Senior Druid as the spiritual leader and adviser to the Conn Fine.  Another poissble adjustment would be to only allow ordained ADF Priests to function as Senior Druid, as they are trained to lead ritual and be the spiritual leader of the group.  Mind you this is just an example as we have not yet even started to consider organizational structure of our future Provisional Grove, just want to give you an idea of how, as an Irish Polytheist, you can adapt to the ADF system and remain true to your identity. 

So now that you have decided that  ADF is the way to go, it only takes is one ADF member with at least 6 months membership to form a Protogrove…that means it only has to be you.  Even if you are the only CR person you know in your area forming a Protogrove is a good start to building community. It demonstrates that you are serious in your intent and again provides you with instant name recognition, and places your ‘group’ into the searchable ADF grove database. 

Now you have a “Protogrove, ADF” and it is time to start building that community.   To get started use social media to get word out that you are going to hold some sort of  meet and greet for folks interested in Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism or be even more specific, it is up to you.  In our case, we established a Facebook page for our protogrove and MeetUp site to advertise events.  Once the event is created use every means you have to get the word out – e-mail lists, social media, and online forums.  Hold the event – even if no one has RSVPed you should ALWAYS hold the event.  You do not know who will drop by unannounced.

Establish a schedule of events and be as consistent as possible.  As mentioned in Part 1, monthly meetings help foster community and ADF does require its groves to hold monthly business meetings and quarterly public service activities, so you may as well get into the habit.  You can change up the purpose of the meeting, the location even the time to give others an opportunity and reason to attend.  My protogrove is planning to hold monthly events that range from the simple “Meet and Greet” to classes on topics of interest to Irish Polytheism.  As an ADF grove we will also have classes specific to ADF, such as for those going through the Dedicant Path and general introduction classes on ADF topics.

The trick to building any form of community is commonality and communication.  Community members have something in common, in our case Irish Polytheism, and they have to be consistently informed of what is happening, the Facebook page and MeetUp.   Throw in consistency and you will find that the same people tend to show up time and time again.  When this happens you get to know them better and eventually, you invite them to be an active member of your small group.  Rinse and repeat and you will not only end up with a Chartered Grove, you will have an extended community outside the grove to whom you provide services.

End Part the Second.

Building Community Part 1 – The Aurrad Gentlidecht Structure

The topic of community is hot today so like any good blogger who doesn’t have a topic I will go with the topic of the day.  This will be a multi-part post though, because I have written two methods of building community; the first being a custom method for the gentlidecht tradition I once called Aurrad, and the second being the formation of a grove in ADF and how it may turn out a little differant than other ADF groves with less specific cultural foci.
This being part one is an excerpt from an unnamed manuscript on Aurrad.  It focuses on how I envisioned groups would come together and gives names to those groups.  The concepts come from the early 2000’s and I have not done much since then and may not use some of them today.  I share it here to offer it as one possible suggestion for building community, despite it not being the method I chose.
From an historical perspective, the Irish had a much defined
social structure, or caste system, based on land and cattle ownership. How a
person could move from one tier in the system to another was governed by the
laws of ownership and inheritance and thus a person could move both up and down
depending on their fortunes. For our purposes we are going to focus on the
familial organization, there were many other ways the Irish organized
themselves but the family is our focus.
The law texts describe family groups as kin through the male
line with a different term for each group depending on how many generations are
being traced. The indfine, íarfine, gelfhine,
are all kin groups through various generations of grandfathers,
with indfine being the male
descendents through the same great-great-great-grandfather through gelfhine being the male descendents
through the same grandfather. The fine
is less well defined, the family relationship is not as well defined due to
distances in between cousins, there could be as many as five or six generations
between them. Some researchers define the fine
as the basic family unit with the derbfhine
being the social unit that related finte
comprise while others say it is gelfhine.
The teaghlach is a household, a group
of people living under the same roof and is not discussed in the source used
for the other legal family terms but is useful for our discussion.
The law texts begin to get fuzzy on the higher levels of
organization. The differences between a cennel,
clan, and a túath, tribe or nation,
are not made clear and in some instances they are interchangeable. The common
understanding is that a cennel is a
group of related families that may also be a túath. A túath is most often defined as a politi
comprised of many derbfhinte living
in the same region and united for common defense and economy and answering to
the same nobles.
Jumping to the 21st century, unless people form
intentional communities the above system does not fit our society. Tribes don’t
exist outside of the First Nations in the America’s
or the various tribal peoples of Third World
countries. Clans have become romanticized in the American and European
consciousness to be people with a common last name, coat-of-arms and some idea
they are related. Family groups no longer live near one another and often don’t
even have the same political, social or religious values. So what are the
Aurrad to do?
Many folk in CR have debated how groups should organize or
even if groups should organize. Experience with the Asatru community has taught
us that there is indeed a requirement for organizing groups, getting the group
together and having a sound leadership within the group to help keep it moving.
The following few paragraphs describe a couple ways to organize Aurrad groups
to become a community that is happy and healthy. We want to avoid
cults-of-personality or the impression we don’t want to live in the modern
world, and most importantly to not appear to wish to adhere to an archaic
social structure that enforces the idea of one person being better or lordly
over another.
The individual is the most basic unit of any organization,
without the individual then nothing else can be built. From the individual we
have the family unit, household which we call teaghlach. The teaghlach
is comprised of family members living in the same home, though in the 21st
century roommates can make up a teaghlach
as well, the point is they all live together and are Aurrad or at least participate
in the Aurrad rituals of the household. The distinction is important, not all
members of the household need to be Aurrad to participate, we are family
focused so inclusion of others of our family in our practices is important. A teaghlach is lead by a head of household, traditionally this is the role of the
adult male but this is not a gender issue so each teaghlach can determine for itself who is the head of the house,
rituals can be changed to accommodate such determinations.
The next level of organization for the Aurrad is the dearbhfine. We won’t be tracing lineage to determine our dearbhfine, for us it is
simply the chosen extended family that gets together each month for communion
and feasting. Some groups call this level of organization the túath, kindred or grove when in fact
this should not be something as large as that. A dearbhfine should never really be
more than two or three dteaghlaigh
(plural of teaghlach) or about ten to fifteen adults. The member dteaghlaigh
of the dearbhfine should be carefully chosen as this will be the group
you interact with on a regular basis, at a minimum monthly. In other Neopagan
and Heathen faiths this equates to a coven, circle or kindred.
Leadership in the dearbhfine is simple enough; it is simply the
person who is seen as the leader and is called the Conn Fine. Every small group like this regardless of why they get together
usually has one or two personalities that are strongest and actually capable of
leading. It will usually be the head of the teaghlach that started to get everyone together in the first
place, but this does not have to be the case. Historically the Conn Fine was elected and this may be a
good way to deal with the situation but the fact is each group should choose its
leadership in any method they see fit so long as it keeps the group happy,
healthy and together. 
The largest organized unit of Aurrad will use the historical
word for the largest political and social body of pre-Christian Ireland, a túath. A túath is a temporary or permanent alliance of various dearbhfhint, dteaghlaigh and aurrad and even other non Aurrad based folk who are interested in
belonging to a larger community for a common cause. The alliance can come
together to build community at a festival or it might be a smaller group within
the confines of a festival. It could also be a legal organization put together
to represent its members to the general population, provide networking or even
Many examples of the first can be found at Neopagan
festivals and gatherings, where groups from all over come together to build a
community for a week or so such as Pagan Spirit Gathering by Circle Sanctuary
or Beltaine Festival held by the Binghamton Pagan Community. The second is less
obvious as no one would call such groups a tribe or clan, the English
equivalent for a túath, but would
usually call themselves and alliance, assembly or even just a manufactured name
to represent the organization such as the group Imbas.
Leadership in a túath
is a simple affair. If the túath is a
collection of dearbhfhint, dteaghlaigh and aurrad and is a permanent alliance then leadership is chosen by the
members through an elective process. If it is a legal entity then the process
is defined in the by-laws and the state statutes. If the túath is the result of a gathering, such as Pagan Spirit Gathering,
then the leadership is the person or organization that is hosting and attending
Aurrad follow the rules set down for the event.
How membership and leadership is chosen in any Aurrad group
above the teaghlach inevitably
falls to the group. There is no set method as many different methods have
worked for many different groups, from peer groups, to appointed leadership to
one person holding open rituals and allowing anyone interested to attend.  What you need to avoid is a system that
formants hostility among members, distrust and drama. Just remember that the
health of the community is the most important thing a true leader will be
concerned with.

End Part the First 😉