Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Ár nDraíocht Féin is, according to Wikipedia, "a non-profit religious organization dedicated to the study and further development of modern neodruidism." Which is certainly correct, but not very helpful for this discussion.
So let's go more in depth. I originally stumbled onto ADF via a link on a blog. I was familiar with OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) from contact with a grove* in my local area. So when I stumbled upon a blog detailing the authors experiences with another form of Druidry I was fascinated. What really got me was one particular quote, "ADF intellectualizes spirituality and spiritualizes the intellect."
I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools for seven years. One of the defining traits of a Catholic education, right after masses that go on forever, is an absolutely brutal approach to scholarship. You can't just regurgitate facts and pass a class. You are expected to learn how to think and do independent research. One of the formative experiences in my life was a year long research project we were required to do in sophomore year. I titled mine "Something Wicca This Way Comes," because inadvertently stealing from Harper's Bazaar, and using bad puns, is fun.
Anyway, long rambling story short, Christian Brothers schools don't let you out unless you have a functioning mind. They probably thought they were going to have to keep me for decades when I started my freshman year.
The idea of fusing spirituality and intellect struck a chord with me. One of my first experiences with a "Pagan teacher" was frustrating for me because of how often my questions were met with "you're over-thinking it." It's not that I can't let go and just experience when it's appropriate, but when I'm learning about the basics of a new tradition or religion I'm going to have a ton of questions.
Where did it come from? What is it based on? If it's reconstructionist in any degree what sources of information were used? What elements of ritual and belief are based on remaining knowledge of ancient religion and which on modern thought and practice? Which culture? Which Gods? Why? Why? Why?
In reality I feel bad for anyone who has tried to teach me anything and couldn't just send me off with a book to read. So I was excited by even the use of the word intellect. I followed the link over to the ADF website hoping to find other people looking to combine historical study with spirituality and couldn't have been more pleased.
Recommended reading lists on Indo-European culture and religion? Articles explaining cosmology gleaned from research into ancient ritual and belief? Yes, thank you; I'll take two please.
I won't say I'm a scholar at heart, but at my core I'm certainly a student. Give me books and history to learn and I'm happy. Give me a system of ritual and daily practice that sounds awesome on top of it and I'm ecstatic.
ADF contains everything I'm drawn to. Their Dedicant Path requires you to do the research to set up your spiritual practice, they don't just throw a bunch of rules at you. Their core ritual may seem elaborate or confining but it seems to leave a huge amount of room for personal touches and even improvisation. This is what I'd been searching for. A liturgy that allows you to modify it to your needs within it's own structure. Yay for well constructed religion.
The other thing I love is that ADF is a church. Not a "go in here sit and pray" church, but a gathering of individuals of similar belief utilizing the same structure to reach a common goal. I know some people can be brought down by too much "sameness," but for me the image of hundreds or thousands of people doing the same ritual, calling on the teachings they hold in common is immensely powerful.
That's why ADF. I wanted to talk about the power of liturgy in this post, but realized that I need to actually take time to write out several different ideas and look through them. I don't want to end up with a post that essentially reads, "Yay pretty poetry and clothes good." So next time.
Till then be happy and blessed.
* A grove, as far as I can tell, is a group of Druids who work and socialize together. I'm perfectly capable of being wrong though.