- Ár nDraíocht Féin
Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, Inc. (otherwise known simply as ADF) is a non-profit religious organization dedicated to the study and further development of modern,
Ár nDraíocht Féin (pronounced /IPA|a:rn riːəxt fe:n/) means "our own Magic (Druidism)" in Modern Irish. ADF, also known as A Druid Fellowship, was founded in 1983 [ [http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usny&c=trads&id=3209 Isaac Bonewits (2001), "The Origins of Ár nDraíocht Féin"] Witchvox website, accessed
27 January 2008. ] and incorporated in 1990 as a U.S. 501(c)3 non-profit organization by Isaac Bonewits. The organization's first public announcement and membership sign-up took place at the first WinterStar Symposium in 1984 at Burr Oak State Parkin Glouster, OH. ADF is a neodruidic organization practicing a unique tradition of Neopagan Druidryand is mostly U.S.-based, with members and groups in most states and in several other countries as well. [Jade, (1991) "To Know: A Guide to Women's Magic and Spirituality." Oak Park, IL: Delphi Press; pg. 93.]
Despite the Gaelic name, ADF Druidry actually encompasses all Indo-European religions, which means that while most of the organization is focused on
Celtic practices, there are also Norse, Hellenic, Roman, Slavic and Vedic religious practices in ADF. In that sense, ADF uses the term Druidas "a member of the Indo-European intelligentsia, especially of the clergy" or even more broadly as "a worshipper of Indo-European gods and goddesses". Strictly speaking, members of ADF are not only "druids" (a term which refers specifically to clergy of ancient Celtic religions), but are also members of related Indo-European religions which may have other terms for people in such clergy roles (e.g., godhi for clergy of ancient Norse religions).
Isaac Bonewitsfounded ADF with the goal of "researching and expanding sound modern scholarship about the ancient Celts and other Indo-European peoples, in order to reconstruct what the Old Religions of Europe really were." Isaac wanted to focus on scholarship as a reaction to more revisionist types of Neopaganism, such as those claiming direct descent from a "Great Matriarchy" of pre-historic times (see James Frazer's The Golden Bough). The works of Georges Dumézilon Indo-European social structures and mythologies were especially influential in Bonewits's thinking.
Related to the focus on scholarship, Isaac started the ADF Study Program with the goal of producing credible, knowledgeable Neopagan
clergy; actual druid priests and priestesses, who would be able to fulfill all the roles of modern clergy for other Neopagans, such as birth, marriage, and funerary rites. Similarly, ADF's official motto of "Why not excellence?" is an expression of the desire to create a "bona fide" religious tradition, rather than a small group that few would take seriously and which would not be around in a few years. ADF's unofficial motto, "As fast as a speeding oak," is meant to remind members that excellence takes time.
ADF was also a reaction to many of the cultish pseudo-religions (Neopagan or not) with which Isaac was familiar and (in a few cases) had experienced [http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html] . Therefore, one of the first "
dogmas" he promulgated was the "Doctrine of Archdruidic Fallibility", which states that everyone, even the Archdruid, can make mistakes.
ADF promotes a
neo-druidismin which worshipers perform rituals honoring three kinds of entities: gods and goddesses, ancestors (honored dead), and nature spirits. Examples of gods and goddesses worshipped include Lugh, the Morrigan, Thor, Freya, Apollo, Athena, Vesta, Ceres, and many other ancient, pre-Christian, Indo-European deities. Ancestors usually refers to the direct blood ancestors of the worshiper, but can include other honored dead (friends, mythological heroes, etc.), too. Nature spirits includes general animal ( totem) spirits as well as whatever spirits are present in the place of worship, such as a local river spirit. Most ADF rituals occur outdoors.
In ADF terms, the triad of deities, ancestors, and nature spirits is called the "Three Kindreds". There are other triads in ADF practice, such as the "three realms" of the Underworld (associated with the ancestors), the Heavens (associated with the gods), and this world (associated with the nature spirits); these are similar to the three worlds of the
Celts, and to the Norse realms of Niflheim, Asgard, and Midgard. There are also three parts to this world; the Land, the Sea (including saltwater and freshwaterbodies), and the Sky.
All of these triads are based on the common and pervasive theme of "threes" attributed to ancient Indo-European (and particularly Celtic) cultures. Similarly, ADF uses the common Indo-European themes of a sacred tree (e.g. the Norse
Yggdrasil), a "gatekeeper" or opener of ways (e.g. the Norse god Heimdall, the Celtic god Manannan mac Lir, or the Hellenic god Hermes), and a treaty with hostile entities (e.g. the Norse Jotunsor the Celtic Fomorians). In these ways, ADF practice is an attempt to reconstruct earlier Indo-European beliefs and practices by using the records we have of ancient Indo-European cultures, and looking for commonalities among them which can then be applied to current spiritual practice.
ADF practice straddles the difficult middle ground between pure reconstructionism (attempting to recreate ancient practices as exactly as possible) and a less exclusive form of
Neopaganism(an umbrella term for the loose agglomeration of pagan-based religions which arose in the early to middle 20th century, the most popular of which is Wicca). Thus, it attempts to be as authentic as possible given the realities of modern life. For example, ADF forbids any form of blood sacrificein its official rituals, because even if it were appropriate in relation to one's ancestors (who may have lived in agrariansocieties that regularly killed their own food), it is not considered appropriate in modern society.
Local ADF congregations are known as "groves" (like groves of trees), and while group rituals are often regarded as more powerful than rituals performed individually, ADF also has many solitary members; some by choice, and some because there are no groves within easy traveling distance. There are also ADF "protogroves", which are usually one or two people who would like to start a bigger grove. By forming a protogrove, they are able to appear on the list of ADF groves in the organization's online and printed literature, and so attract potential new members.
One of ADF's cornerstone principles is the notion that it is a "public" form of
Neopaganism. Again, this was partly a reaction to the secretive religious groups Isaac was familiar with, such as closed covens which were limited in size to 13 members, or Masonic-style societies. In addition to promoting cult-ish behavior, such secretism in a larger sense was seen as unnecessarily promulgating the "underground" ( occult, hidden) nature of Neopaganism. By making ADF a public tradition, Isaac hoped to both prevent ADF from ever becoming a cult, and to further Neopaganism's acceptance in broader society as a credible and sane family of religions.
As a result of these principles and intents, ADF groves are required to have open-to-the-public rituals on or near the eight "High Days" of the common Neopagan calendar such as
Bealtaine, Lughnasadh, and Samhain(the holidays of the Wheel of the Year). ADF groves are also required to perform some kind of public service on a quarterly basis (cleaning up parks and other ecological activities are popular).
An annual national meeting of ADF is held at an event called the
Wellspring Gathering, held at Brushwood Folklore Centerin Sherman, New York in late May. This meeting originated as part of the Starwood Festivalin 1988 at Bear Creek KOA in East Sparta, OH, but became a separate event in 1991 at Brushwood, the same site the Starwood Festival is now held at annually. ADF still maintains a presence at the Starwood Festival, holding meetings and offering classes and rituals, and often has more members attending there than at the Wellspring Gathering.
Anyone may join ADF, as membership is open to the public.
Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids
* [http://www.adf.org Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, Inc.]
* [http://www.neopagan.net Isaac Bonewits' Website]
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