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Let me try to explain how I’m feeling right now.

When I exhale, my breath shakes a little. Not the crying kind of shake, but almost the laughing kind of shake.

My fingers are cold, which is partly on account of the freezingness of Colorado (and I’m using that word, regardless of what the auto-spell says), but they’re not so cold that I can’t type. A candle is burning on my desk, lit from the candle on my shrine, and I’m smiling.

I’m happy.

The first Solitary Druid Fellowship liturgy is now available. I just published it.

I suppose this feeling is related to nervousness, but it isn’t exactly that. It’s more like a nervous/pride/relief cocktail.

Photo by StrangeTikiGod

Photo by StrangeTikiGod

I didn’t know if this day would come. I didn’t know if this out-of-the-box approach, this new form –which even for me is an experiment– would live. For a while there, mostly through the months of September and October, I was a wreck about it. It was like I was living in suspended animation, unable to really move forward in any of my projects.

But once the approval from ADF leadership came, everything opened up. And now, just a few days out from the Winter Solstice, there are the beginnings of a shared practice.

I am chugging this cocktail.

All of what SDF is doing is necessarily incomplete. It is not a finished product, because it isn’t a product. It isn’t a thing that’s being sold. It’s a service that’s being shared, and it will necessarily evolve as we move forward and get a better sense of what kind of service truly needs to be provided.

So far I’ve been fortunate enough to get the support of two ADF members to post to the SDF blog, Kristin McFarland and Rev. Michael J Dangler. There are other writers on board whose upcoming posts will include reflections on the solitary practice for an ADF noobie, what resources a solitary Druid might seek out in order to deepen her practice, and [CALLING ALL ADF SOLITAIRES] how people from different hearth cultures incorporate their cultural idiosyncrasies into a solitary practice.

There has also been discussion about creating some kind of daily practice. I love this idea, and I haven’t really wrapped my mind around it yet. I almost think we’d need to develop several different kinds of daily practices to suit the needs of different solitaries. There could be a more formal liturgy for daily practice, which might be slightly  longer (say, 10 to 20 minutes). We could also have a brief, 3-5 minute liturgy, or even a series of brief prayers. There are already wonderful resources for prayers, like A Book of Pagan Prayer and A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book [Fields Bookstore links], but even the author of those books encourages us to write new words that resonate with us.

The long and the short? There’s a lot more to come.

About a dozen people have received the liturgy as of writing this post, and more keep coming. It’s surreal. I hope that they like it. And I don’t say that because I hope that they like me. I just hope that it resonates for them, and that it’s useful.

One last bit:

I’ve made the choice to keep SDF a mostly comment-free site. There will be posts where dialogue is invited, but there is also a desire to keep some of the pages and posts streamlined and clear of conversation. I think this allows for certain information to remain true to its published form, at least on the site itself, so that newcomers to SDF will not feel so much like they are walking into a conversation that is already taking place.

That being said, I’m a big believer in dialogue. If you’ve read my blog for any period of time you know that.

So, if there is anything that you’d like to voice about SDF that you haven’t been able to on SolitaryDruid.org, please feel free to open up that dialogue in this post. I’d love to hear from you.

Then, pop over and get your copy of the first Solitary Druid Fellowship liturgy!

*sips cocktail*

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  • http://twitter.com/mam_adar Mam Adar

    I have already gotten my copy and quickly read it through. I am impressed! It will take very little tweaking, I think, for me to use it.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      That’s wonderful to hear, Mam! My grin just got a tad bit bigger.

  • Derek_anny

    Do you mind if curious outsiders take a look?

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Mind? Not at all! In fact, I feel that this project, this shared practice is open to all. Please get a copy of the liturgy, read through it, see if any words resonate with you. If you feel inclined to use it, wonderful. If not, that’s perfectly fine, too. No pressure!
      Thanks for the comment, Derek.

      • Derek_anny

        Thank you, but I’m just being nosy. The Wheel of the Year has no relevance to my religion. That said, I really like your Closing of the Gates.

        I’m personally stuck though, with a line from your Initiating. “May they be with me in this rite.” I understand why it’s there, but I’m seeing it as a mixed message. On the one hand, you’re trying to establish unity through shared practice, so being all together in some form is understandable. On the other hand, it implies an identicalness of approach to the Holiday that I don’t see. Not only when you look at northern/southern hemispheres, but also climate differences within a hemisphere. People in Calgary and Florida experience the seasons differently. I see both sides as almost equal considerations, but place slightly more weight to the local weather. Not surprising from one whose polytheism includes local-focus.

        There. Now you have my 2cents, along with the long winded receipt.

        • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

          Thanks for the 2 cents, Derek.

        • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

          One more thought:

          I think if you take a step back and consider what the language might inspire in the person speaking the words — the sense of unity, the feeling of congregation in solitude — it might make more sense why that language is placed where it is. I don’t think it in any way implies some need for identical approach. The diversity of experience is still preserved, even while there is an awareness of all those using these words.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.fotiades Lauren Fotiades

      *g* I’ve been counting on him not minding that.

  • Kilmrnock

    The daily practice information may also be use to ADF grove members . After all we are all solitaries in our daily practice . Kilm

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      That’s a great point, Kilm.

  • http://about.me/paganwebmaster Peter Beckley

    In my limited experience, there are no bad times for cocktails, there are only bad cocktails sneaking into ones good time. Thank you for all your do, I am grateful for the gifts of your courage.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Thank you, Peter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.fotiades Lauren Fotiades

    The ending is especially beautiful. I think I’m going to try to put it to use this weekend.

    I’d love to see some daily practice liturgies. I don’t know if I’d be able to use them, but it’d be a starting point.

  • Davin Raincloud

    Teo. I’m trying to say this diplomaticlaly without sounding too angry, or being too negative. Can you please stop using inclusive language like us and we, if you fully intend to exclude or ignore the Southern Hemiphere. As far as I know it’s not in your charter or ADFs to ignore half the planet. (So I know this is NOT intended by you, however I feel you have forgotten that we exist because there are so few of us). At least have a line that says: “At this stage we are not accomidating 50% of the planet’s seasons at this time, or Southern Hemisphere Druids”. I understand things will be different once you have all the liturgies done, and we can go back to swapping them around as 95% of Facebook talks about the Northern seasons and acts like we don’t exist. LOL I simply can’t be on board yet with all the back slapping and high fives. As you can understand, because let’s be real, if it was reversed, you would not like to be excluded either! Now I’ll get back to my summer celebration in Australia, as people put up plastic pine trees and sing “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Hi David,

      I haven’t forgotten that you exist. It isn’t a matter of neglecting you; it’s simply a matter of limited resources and time.

      I’ve never had the intention of actively excluding anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact. This whole endeavor has been a volunteer, relatively solitary effort at providing people who traditionally do not have a great deal of structural support, with a useful too.

      And, to make sure that I’m clear, when I say this this is a “volunteer” and “solitary” effort, I mean that I am doing the majority of work by myself. This project is supported by ADF – yes – but not in a logistical, hand’s on sense. Not at this point, at least. Currently I am the website designer/maintainer, the editor of the blog, a contributor to the blog, the creator of the newsletter, and the liturgist.

      So, while I appreciate that you feel a little left out right now, maybe you could go a little easier on me. You don’t have to back slap or high five, but a little patience and understanding would be appreciated. I will do my best to create a second set of liturgies as soon as I can.

      Thanks.

      Teo

      • http://www.facebook.com/kargach Rob Henderson

        “Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing.” (me)

        • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

          I want that tattooed on my arm.

    • Nicky Gill

      Maybe I am being naive, but you could not simply use the the same liturgy and simply “switch” some things around? Rather than rewriting the entire liturgies why not simply add additional areas/inserts or footnotes that would pertain to those on the other side of the globe? Would that be a feasible option?

      • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

        It might, Nicky. That’s a good idea.

        Part of what I’m doing in the beginning of this process is seeking to find what language can be used in every liturgy. I’m looking for both that common, every-High-Day language, and also the language that is specific to the season.

        I think in time it will be clearer what parts of the liturgy remain the same, and what parts can be easily customized based on location as well as hearth culture.

    • Lori F

      Collect and save the liturgy for the correct season, or alter what is available.

  • Dave

    Initial thoughts:

    It is evident that you put a lot into this both of yourself and of your time. For that I say, thank you. Not many people would take that big of a risk.

    The rite as it is written feels more like a unity rite than a high day rite. Substitute a few words and you could be celebrating any other high day.

    Likewise the cultural elements are left up to the individual, leaving the impression that they are optional. On the plus side its very inclusive.

    Personally, I’d have to rewrite the rite in terms of the language used. My lack of belief in ADF orthodoxy is the reason why I can’t participate in grove life.

    My question:

    Are you leaning more towards one set of largely interchangeable rites or are you eventually trying for multiple sets of highly developed rites?

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Thanks for the comment, Dave. Glad to get your thoughts.

      I understand why you’d need to rewrite the rite. For some, the ADF framework (I’d avoid the word “orthodoxy,” personally, but I can see how it can become that) was necessary, just as each Grove Organizer is required to have their public rites be based in the COoR. That said, I think there are other valid ways of framing things.

      There is a “unity rite” quality to the liturgy, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I did seek to find language that creates a sense of congregation in solitude, and it clearly comes off that way. I count this is a plus. And as for the idea of substituting a bit of language and the rite is usable on any High Day, I also think that’s a positive thing, and I’ll try to explain why.

      Some of the language in the liturgy will become relatively fixed. For example, the beginning passage:

      I am one and we are many.
      Fellowship, in solitude.
      Here I bring my offerings
      To celebrate the Kindred Three.

      In my mind and in my body,
      I hold space in solitude
      For all of those who walk alone.
      May they be with me in this rite.

      Here before the sacred fire,
      Sacred well, and sacred tree,
      May we all be purified.
      And may the fire burn within.

      I can imagine this being the same in every SDF liturgy. It would be appropriate, and perhaps even effective in the creation of what ADF calles “group mind.”

      As for the cultural elements, my original intention was to make the cultural elements more fixed. That was when the idea was to create a Protogrove. But now, making any cultural elements fixed inevitably alienates someone. Truth be told, the cultural elements are somewhat optional (I know people, for example, who’s heart is “American,” and they have no real connection to any of the PIE cultures listed in the DP book), but I also try to make it clear that there are appropriate places for the hearth cultures to be represented. In time, I’d like to have more of the SDF blog posts focus on bringing the hearths into a solitary practice.

      And to your last question, there are parts of the liturgy which will remain the same in every liturgy (as I described above), and parts that will change out per holiday. My hope is that through the conversation at the SDF blog I will get a sense of how the language resonated with people, and that will, in part, inform what language becomes more fixed.

      I hope that helped to answer your questions, and thank you for your comment. I appreciate your kindness.

      • Dave

        Hi Teo, thanks for your detailed and kind response.

        I feel like I have a much better understanding of your intentions for SDF liturgy. In light of that understanding I’ll offer a few more thoughts:

        Your usage of the COoR framework makes perfect sense to me. As an extension of ADF all is as it should be in that regard. That having been said, when I referred to ADF “orthodoxy” I did not mean the COoR framework or the liturgical assumptions that it relies on.

        I realize that use of the word “orthodoxy” as a lot of baggage for a lot of people, it was not my intention to invoke any pejorative connotation and I apologize if that was not clear. It has been my experience of ADF that her leadership, organizational structure and culture, and her general membership all fully support diversity of belief in general. I have never, ever felt unwelcome at any ADF event or on any ADF site on account of differences of belief in general.

        That having been said I personally feel that when you have an emphasis upon orthopraxy a parallel orthodoxy is necessarily not far behind. One of the greatest strengths of ADF is that this emphasis is not extremely strict, which contributes to the aforementioned tolerance, but neither is it very liberal.

        When I speak of ADF “orthodoxy” I am referring to my experiences of ADF scripted and enacted rites as reflecting a deeper, more specific interpretation of what is and should be going on than the initial assumptions of the COoR provide. It has also been my experience that the ADF leadership (especially clergy), and to a lesser extent general membership, advocate for this “orthodoxy” and against competing views.

        I personally feel that the initial assumptions of the COoR are open to a wider degree of interpretation regarding what is and should be happening spiritually speaking. While I do not expect ADF to conform to my expectations I feel alienated by and cannot participate in rites which rely upon the “orthodox” view of what ADF spirituality should look like. It feels inauthentic.

        Further, I have been told by ADF leadership that the correct way to practice ADF liturgical standards is with what I call the “orthodox” view of spirituality in mind. I have also specifically been told that my interpretation of what should happen spiritually speaking and the intentions I approach ritual with are wrong. The result is that I practice as a solitary “heretic”.

        My question for you, with all of that in mind, is this: is there room for unorthodox interpretations of ADF spirituality in SDF? On the one hand I want to practice authentically and on the other I’m desperate for genuine religious community. I feel like ADF can be that home for me. Is there a place for me in SDF?

        • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

          My first reaction is, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

          I’m not really that concerned with orthodoxy or orthopraxy, to be honest, at least not in my own personal practice. I recognize its place in ADF, and I feel like I’m still having an internal dialogue about how much of the “ADF orthodoxy” (which I’d love for you to unpack further, perhaps in less public an environment if you’d like). Sometimes I necessarily push up agains the prevailing viewpoint, and I recognize, in some mystical sense, that there are many other ways of understanding the mysterious world of Spirit.

          That may sound too New Age to some people, but I think it’s true.

          Secondly, I think there HAS to be a place for you, and for all the other solitary heretics out there. That’s the point of this. I’m not attempting to bring anybody into one particular way of thinking or believing, and I’m also comfortable with people taking the liturgies I write and only using the parts that resonate with them. This is a little like open source code, you know? I provide the template, based on the paramaters set forth by ADF and also by what moves me, but as a solitary practitioner you should feel perfectly comfortable with using or scrapping whatever you like.

          In the end, the movement of the people always inform the movement of the organization. If there is a movement toward a different way of thinking, I say move there with passion, conviction, fearlessness. There’s no need for any organization, be it ADF or any other religious body, to restrict your creative and religious movement. Your way of engaging with spirit, your way of enacting your spirituality is yours. It’s valid, because the yearning to become in alignment with the spirit is a valid pursuit, no matter how it presents itself. We can be in dialogue about the agreements we make — the beliefs we hold dear, the assumptions and the inquiries — but I can never be an authority over your spirit, nor you over mind.

          So, welcome. Be here. Be a part of SDF in whatever way resonates with you. Engage with liturgies, but more importantly engage with the Kindred through the opening of your own heart.

          I completely support you in your quest for an authentic spiritual practice.

          • Dave

            Thank you for your support and your kindness, Teo.

            I think the conversation about orthodoxy needs to happen publicly so that other perspectives can be heard if so desired. That having been said I can only speak from my own experience and in that experience there is an orthodoxy in ADF Druidry.

            What exactly that orthodoxy is is harder to pin down. Part of the problem is that, in my experience when the orthodoxy is challenged the response is either to dismiss the challenge out of hand or to state that if the challenger doesn’t want to play by the rules then they don’t belong on the playground.

            The central frustration I have is that, in my experience, ADF liturgy is scripted and enacted solely as a spiritual technology where spirituality is defined as solely synonymous with extraordinary experience. A very particular sort of extraordinary experience that is held up above others as being the correct result of ADF Druidry as a spiritual discipline. The common refrain to “fake it til you make it” comes to mind.

            That this particular kind of experience should be held up as the necessary and correct result of ADF Druidry to the extent that you should engage in self-deception until you achieve it is to me, at best, profoundly disturbing. I have no quarrel with deriving spiritual meaning from extraordinary experiences, or even with finding it in the particular kinds of experiences ADF encourages one to have. But I cannot lie to myself that way.

            It is the insistence upon those kinds of experiences to the exclusion of all other kinds of experiences and the insistence upon building the religion around those experiences which I feel constitutes orthodoxy. I do not want to eliminate those experiences or understandings from ADF. I want to open the door to other understandings and experiences. I have been told that that door leads outside of the light of the fire of ADF.

            To my mind a religion does more than just enabling a person to have a spiritual experience. A good religion sees the world for what it is in one eye while seeing how it can be in the other eye. For me, Druidry is as much about living my values and finding meaning in life as it is about approaching what we hold sacred. If someone asked you to teach them to draw you would not stop teaching them after they knew how to draw a square.

            I have witnessed in ADF orthodoxy a preference for a narrow understanding of what is sacred often to the detriment of other approaches to what is sacred and also to the detriment of what is valuable and meaningful. To be clear, if I thought ADF lacked the capacity to regain that balance I’d be an apostate rather than a heretic.

            Nevertheless, that is where I stand on the issue based upon my own experience of ADF as she actually is. All that having been said I’m excited for SDF. I hope it will do what ADF, at least for now, will not do. Feel like home.

  • Beth Adele Long

    I am thrilled with SDF, and I can’t thank you enough for pouring your energy into this project. What you’re doing resonates powerfully with me. I passed through the Episcopal church on my way from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to paganism, and I always loved the richness of their ritual. I’ve been craving a liturgical container with some of that same feeling, but adapted to pagan practice. SDF couldn’t be more perfect.

    For my part, I’m not terribly concerned with orthodoxy; it’s the quality of the liturgy that matters to me, and you’re doing the work that I’ve been longing to see.

    Like others here, I’m enthusiastic to see daily liturgies. I agree that I’d like to see a variety. For example, at present I’d love to have a brief morning liturgy and a liturgy to transition from work into my evening, and also a different liturgy for days that I don’t work.

    Congratulations, thanks, and best wishes for continued growth.

  • Bree

    I really like the liturgy for Solstice and plan on using it this weekend. I did make some changes and incorporated some language from another ritual, mainly to make it hearth-specific. I would love to see some 3-5 minute daily devotionals as well as some prayers (especially for meals and bedtime). Thank you for doing this!