OPED – Dissolution of Five Rivers Protogrove, ADF

Yesterday I announced on Facebook that my ADF grove is dissolving.  Specifically, as of January 31, 2017 the ADF Protogrove called Five Rivers is dissolving.   I am also allowing my membership in ADF to lapse for reasons that are not earth shattering nor  to be made public.  Sometimes, relationships just don’t work.

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OPED – Celebrating the Frost? Let’s not.

Yesterday a man died. That man advocated for ritual initation of post-pubescent minors into his brand of Wicca via sexual intercourse. He never backed down from this position. While never charged with a crime, the very advocacy of this particular crime makes him a disgusting individual that should not be honored.

We should not be celebrating this mans life. He died.

Time to forget him.

Good riddence Gavin Frost.

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.

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.

The Trouble with Wicca a /rant

So the title got you here but for full disclosure let me say right off the bat there is no trouble with Wicca.  In fact, the trouble seems to be with folks who are not Wiccan but make a point of denigrating Wiccans at every turn.  The following is a bit of a rant on the reality of people denigrating Wiccans or wiccanate (Generic Neopagans who tend to follow a Wiccan model of ritual and belief) folks.

/rant on

If you have followed this blog for even a day, you know I am not Wiccan or even wiccanate.  I am and have been a dyed-in-the-wool Celtic Reconstructionist for 20+ years.  Like most people my age, I got my start in Wicca, Seax Wicca to be exact, but within a few short years I became a polytheist and left Wicca behind.  Like my leaving the Catholic Church the break was undramatic, so I didn’t develop any anti-Wiccan sentiment until I became entrenched in the CR community.

Even being in the online company of folks who did not like Wicca did not really make me think ill of that religion.  I just never voiced my concern of the sentiment and allowed myself to be dragged into the discussions about how Wicca did everything wrong from a CR perspective.  Some foolishly even went the route that somehow CR was better because our faith was based on what we knew of the pre-Christian people, meanwhile Wicca was made up by a ‘dirty-old-man’.   Seemed just as odd then as it does now – that a group faiths that are totally fabricated using archeology, history, mythology, ect. could think it was any better than one created using folklore and ceremonial magical systems.

Since then, I have moved way beyond the idea that a reconstrucitonist faith is better or that there is something wrong with Wicca.  In fact, Wiccans and those of a wiccanate faith are the hero’s of Neopaganism and should be treated as such.  They have broken ground in every aspect of Neopagan civil rights and lead the rest of the community in all organizational actions to support and enforce religious freedom for all Neopagans (and yes, reconstructionists are also Neopagans.)  Three groups that stand out are Sacred Well Congregation (Neopagan circles on military bases), Circle Sanctuary (lawsuit to get the Pentacle on VA headstones) and Covenant of the Goddess ….all of them Wiccan and all of them in the for front of fighting for religious rights or bringing Neopaganism out of the closet.  Of course there are others but these three come to mind as the oldest or most successful.

So why then do I still see non-wiccanate people making disparaging comments about Wiccans?  I am not just talking a random reconstructionist on Facebook but community leaders who should be doing outreach with other Neopagans, Neopagan churches and even interfaith organizations.  When suggested they get in touch with a certain well know “Big Named Pagan” the response is, “Oh, I just don’t want to deal with those Wiccans.”  Seriously??

Yes…seriously.  Seriously get over yourself…and get over whatever it is that has caused you to think you are somehow better than Wiccans.  Whether you are a reconstructionist voicing an opinion on social media or the leader of a Neopagan church – without Wiccans paving the way for the rest of us, we would not be able to be so vocal.

Anti ANY other religious group has no place in Fénidecht or Gentlidecht.  In fact, it is these wiccante groups and pan-Neopagan festivals where one would most likely function as a féinnid during ritual.

Guarding the boundaries between the worlds for ALL is what being a Féinnid is about.  So let go of your biases, accept that you will not agree with every faith, and get over yourself just enough to work with others who may be a little ‘lighter’ than yourself.

/rant off

*story slightly modified to maintain anonymity of the individuals being referenced.

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 😉