Bealtaine Blessings

Bless those minding cattle,
And those minding sheep,
And those fishing the sea
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.

* A combination of two traditional Irish poems.

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 😉