Organized sports never suited me. But wrestling with my faith? Someone should give out trophies. I would have a garage full.
When I left for the Eight Winds Festival, the first ADF gathering I’d ever attended, I was concerned that I may not be able to invest myself fully on account of a little religious indiscretion I had with the Cosmic Christ (if you didn’t hear about that, read this or this). I thought there was some need to resolve the conflict I experienced after reading Jesus Through Pagan Eyes in order to fully participate in the rituals, workshops and fire-side chats. To my delight, however, Jesus did not cockblock my weekend.
I spent four days firmly planted in polytheistic soil, surrounded by some of the brightest minds and the warmest hearts I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I talked about the gods, talked to the gods, made offerings to the gods, and did so without any hesitation or reservation. And, I found that discussing my history in Christianity was welcomed by my fellow ADF Druids, in so much as it could provide a context for my perspective about liturgy, ritual and church structure. One need not dismiss what came before in order to value what is happening now, I learned.
If you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, you’ll know that from time to time I’ve been undecided about whether ADF or OBOD is best suited to my temperament. I’ve had many conversations online with others who go back and forth about which expression of modern Druidry is right for them. For some, this in-between spot suits them well, and I respect that. For me, though, after a weekend of Druidry, ADF style, I’ve realized that ADF provides the kind of religiosity that makes sense to me.
One festival attendee, Elizabeth, summed it up quite perfectly when she said,
“ADF intellectualizes spirituality, and spiritualizes the intellect.”
The intellect is a tool which can enrich so much of religious practice. You don’t have to suspend your critical thinking skills in order to engage with your religiosity as a mystic. There is a time and place for everything, and I appreciate how much ADF Druids value the mind.
I used to be concerned that ADF might lean too much toward scholarship, and by doing so make it difficult to originate anything new or spontaneous within the religious practice. I’m not a Reconstructionist at heart. But I now think that ADF’s approach to religion creates an amazing tension between the scholarly, and the intuitive, creative approaches to Pagan religious practice. As Ceisiwr Serith told me during his presentation on ritual theory,
“If you want to be a jazz musician, you better learn your scales.”
And that’s the whole point of ADF’s emphasis on the study of Proto-Indo-European cultures. It’s the reason that ADF suggests that Pagans look with a critical eye at any claim of “unbroken lineage.” Something does not have to be ancient to be relevant, but if you’re going to claim that it’s ancient, you better be able to cite some sources.
One’s own experience, their personal gnosis, should play a prominent role in their religious practice. Your intuition, your imagination — these things are valuable components of your growth as a mystic, a magician, or even simply as a Pagan. Ours is a tradition that allows each of us to be our own priest to the gods, whether that be expressed in private at our home shrine, or in public at open rituals.
ADF, I’ve come to believe, is a Neopagan Religion that is broad enough to include the mystic, the intellectual, the musician, the artist, and the priest. ADF provides a framework that can unite Pagans who feel drawn to many different ancient cultures, and it allows for enough autonomy for it not to feel like a dogmatic religion. ADF — if you can’t already tell by my gushing — is really floating my boat right now.
There is more to unpack, literally and metaphorically, but I’m not going to rush it. Many seeds were planted during the Eight Winds Festival, and they need their time to take root.
As Uncle Isaac used to say, “Fast as a speeding oak.”