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Posts Tagged ‘AODA’

I was a member of the Ancient Order of Druids in America for over five years. I attained the First Degree of three. I sweated and procrastinated and flailed a long time, wondering why I couldn’t get myself organized to study for Second Degree. I am no longer a member of the Order.

I have been a member of Ar nDraoicht Fein for a year three or four different times. I procrastinated and flailed some more, wondering why I never got my feet on the street and went to one of their High Day rituals, seeing as they had a permanent grove location not far off a convenient bus route. I’m not a member of ADF any more.

I’ve wanted for two decades to join the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, but joining means subscribing to their correspondence course, and I’ve always been put off by the cost.

I have books I treasure by members of AODA, ADF, and OBOD. My druid practice looks like the unlikely offspring of AODA and ADF as reared in the forest like Percival by OBOD. I am grateful for all that I have learned from these disparate organizations and their traditions. But I practice alone.

Maybe that was the idea all along. Maybe I should have known. Ever since I discovered Julian of Norwich in my late teens, I’ve dreamt of the solitary religious life. I have often thought that if I hadn’t met my husband at the right time, I might have become a nun, or that if he died suddenly, I might enter celibate religious life rather than looking for another spouse.

I’m not so sure about that any more, but I am finally sure of this: I am a druid, and I am a solitary. I do best practicing alone, following my own path through the forest. Perhaps others will come behind me and use the path that I have cleared; if not, I know that when I return from my grove to the town, the fruits of my practice will be the gifts I have to give the world.

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Hello, new subscribers! A number of people have subscribed to this blog while I wasn’t posting. I shall begin to rectify that now.

To whet your appetite, here’s a list of Revival Druid groups:

Druidic Dawn: “If you’re a practising Druid, interested in what Druidry or associated Pagan beliefs is all about, you’re more than welcome to browse our site, or become a member and join within the active forums, events, and discussions.  Not only does Druidic Dawn have the biggest online global resource about Druid beliefs, practices, organisation, locations, and historical information, our members have submitted their poetry, music, visual imagery and art, which illustrates the diversity of what Druidry encompasses.”

New Order of Druids: “Welcome to the New Order of Druids, where the Ancient Wisdom of the Druids meets the new world of today, for the age of Druids and magic are not our past, they can be our future…”

Druid Gorsedd of the First Circle: “The Druid Gorsedd of the First Circle is an independent group of eclectic, self-styled Druids. We are neither a reconstructionist, nor a revivalist order. We seek to learn all we can about the historical Celts and their Druids, while maintaining our connection to the present age. It is our goal to apply ancient wisdom to modern knowledge and modern understanding to ancient knowledge.”

Druid Order of the Three Realms: “We are a community of Druids walking personal paths. We have a vital relationship with the Earth, our mother. We celebrate the Sun and its sacred days. We hear the call to the inner life, and we are weaving a wisdom that is both personal and communal. We each have special work that we do, for ourselves, for others, for our community. We find our balance in the three: the sky, the earth and the sea.”

Ar nDraiocht Fein, a Druid Fellowship: The home page of ADF, a pan-Indo-European organization founded by the late Isaac Bonewits which practices a religious druidic path based on comparative religious study and offers public ritual and individual study and training.

Ancient Order of Druids in America: “Founded in 1912 as the American branch of the Ancient and Archaeological Order of Druids, AODA is a traditional Druid order rooted in the Druid Revival of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, offering an opportunity for modern people to experience the teachings and practices of Druidry in today’s world.  AODA understands Druidry as a path of nature spirituality and inner transformation founded on personal experience rather than dogmatic belief. It welcomes men and women of all national origins, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and affiliations with other Druidic and spiritual traditions. Ecological awareness and commitment to an earth-honoring lifestyle, celebration of the cycles of nature through seasonal ritual, and personal development through meditation and other spiritual exercises form the core of its work, and involvement in the arts, healing practices, and traditional esoteric studies are among its applications and expressions.”

Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids: The eldest among revival druid groups with a spiritual focus, probably the first to hive off as a spiritual rather than fraternal or cultural organization, with a highly-regarded correspondence course.

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After what seems to have been a long hiatus, I find myself in the middle of the woods, like Dante–but not Dante’s dark wood of lost purpose and mid-life confusion, rather, the light-filled, ever-changing wood of druidry. (With perhaps a bit of lost purpose and mid-life confusion thrown in.)

It was almost four years ago that I gained the rank of Druid Apprentice in AODA, but I haven’t gotten far with any attempts to gain the second degree of Druid Companion. Why is that? I’m not sure. Part of me, looking at my current experience with learning and practicing yoga, would like to say, “Because you thought the requirements were too hard, you wuss.” The degree requirements in AODA are hard, in a way; they don’t give you easy answers, or a form to fill out, or even a checklist of things to read and do every day. You have to build your own structure of study, meditation, and practice.

It was that very openness and flexibility that drew me to the Order in the first place. I think I’m ready now to toughen up and approach those (new! improved! well, recently revised) Second Degree requirements. If I can do Downward-Facing Dog, I can do anything, right?

My first task is to pick up the work of the First Degree curriculum where I left off. This includes regular contact with nature, urban nature in my case; meditation on druidic topics, for which I’ll be going back to our Grand ArchDruid’s excellent book The Druidry Handbook; getting into daily yoga as my movement meditation; resuming a daily ogham divination; and celebrating Lughnasad, the upcoming holy day.

There’s another, recently published book on druidry that is proving to be a big help in finding my way through the forest again: The Path of Druidry by Penny Billington. Billington is a Brit and a member of OBOD who takes a wonderfully practical, practice-based approach to druidry. Each chapter has three different types of activities: exploring nature, studying and doing inner visioning, and creating relationship, which Billington relates to Dion Fortune’s principle of the Three Rays of nature mysticism, occult knowledge, and spiritual devotion.

Once I feel like I have a stable druid practice again, I can look into the requirements of the Companion degree afresh, both the older and the newer versions, and see what it is I really want to pursue.

I’ve tried being a Tibetan Buddhist. I didn’t find a permanent home there, but I learned a tremendous amount, and it has permanently changed my outlook. I was shaped by the Episcopal Church as a child, and there are still many things I love about Anglicanism that are important to my druidry, but I’ve realized that, as the famous novel tells us, you can’t go home again. Strangely enough, it is druidry that seems to me to be the most grounded in the here and now, in my actual life as it’s lived, of any religion or practice I’ve tried. Not an imagined or reconstructed druidry of the ancient Celts, but a revival druidry constructed and elaborated for the last three hundred years by people living in an increasingly urban and industrialized Western society, with the dual history of Christianity and Classical Paganism behind them as well as the mysterious history written in megalithic monuments and magical legends. It has room for yoga and Buddhism and stories about Jesus and stories about King Arthur and everything I seem to want to have in my spiritual life. And it comes from my people, people like me–those eighteenth-century eccentrics who looked at traditions that their culture had pushed aside.

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I heard the cooing of a mourning dove while walking to work today, for the first time in months. It’s one of my favorite sounds, hollow yet intimate, distant even if it’s right outside your bedroom window. The voice of the turtle is heard in our land, as it says in the Song of Songs–“turtle” meaning “turtledove” in this case.

Crocuswatch 2009 has begun; I am scanning my neighborhood park and other patches of earth for the first signs of yellow, white, or violet flowers. It’s warm and humid today, with forecasts predicting temperatures in the seventies, yet the weather this weekend is expected to be chilly again. That’s Imbolc-tide in my part of the world; if “spring” is what happens between Imbolc and Beltaine (as it is in my definition), then spring in Maryland is a series of short sharp shocks, fire and ice, snow and crocuses, wooing pigeons and slippery streets.

Lent is approaching, looming into my awareness because I am once again singing in a church choir. We have already begun to rehearse the austere, crisp-textured Tudor anthems which we pull out every year–“Hide Not Thou Thy Face from Us, O Lord” and “Call to Remembrance” and William Byrd’s tour de force “Bow Thine Ear, O Lord,” with its low E in the alto part and its ever-shifting repetitions of the phrase “desolate and void”. I have seen an etymology for the word “Lent” that connects it with “lengthen”; the days lengthen even though the cold deepens and the snows come, and the sunlight burns blindingly across iced-over ground. I have also read that the Lenten fast and the Mardi Gras consumption of pancakes came out of the realities of medieval life, that winter stores of food were running out just as the Church’s season of repentance and purification rolled around, that people fasted partly because they *had* to, until new milk, butter, herbs, and vegetables became available.

With the surge of energy that came to me at Imbolc came a fresh surge of insight and resolution: Yes, I really am a Druid. Back in late December I wrote decisively that I was finished with Druidry, that the path of AODA was not for me. Gentle readers, never believe me when I say I have renounced something or given it up. When I say that, you may be sure–even if I have forgotten–that I am on the verge of embracing something and committing to it in my life.

My good friend in AODA, Oakmouse, gave me a piece of advice (requested by me) that solved most if not indeed all of my problems with my Druid path: She reminded me that progressing through the degrees of the Order is not obligatory. If I don’t feel like working on Second Degree or starting a study group, I don’t have to. It’s perfectly all right to be a solitary First Degree, or even to remain just a Candidate, and progress on one’s own. And for all my occasional longings to be a ritual leader, a teacher, an Authority Figure, I think solitary work is my true calling.

I am a Druid of AODA. And a Buddhist, a Hermetic magician, a polytheist, a monist, a Neopagan, and even an Anglican. And a writer, musician, and friend of birds. I’ve resolved that for Lent, I’m giving up giving up things. I’m renouncing renunciation. The Druid hermit shack and webcam is back in business.

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