Liturgy is Sexy to *this* Druid

Here’s why ADF is awesome: The Core Order of Ritual.

There are other reasons, too, but the Core Order of Ritual (or COoR) tops my list at the moment.

The COoR is the key liturgical framework for ritual that unites the Druids of Ár nDraíocht Féin, regardless of what Hearth Tradition they’ve adopted for themselves or for their groves. Each group can make subtle variations to the language of the ritual, paying homage to the Gods with whom they are in relationship (Celtic, Vedic, Norse, etc.), but the basic form is always the same.

The COoR is to ADF Druids what the rites of the Book of Common Prayer are to Episcopalians. Both are blueprints, which, if followed, can create for the practitioner a deep, enriched spiritual and religious experience.

As I’ve written before, liturgy is important to me. I find comfort in its structure, consistency, and rhythm. As I return to my altar this week, I need not have resolved all of my questions of belief in order to enact my ritual, for my ritual has a form which is independent of my state of belief or faith. The form allows the rite to function, and through fully engaging with the form I become open once again to something divine.

It’s amazing, really. It works.

Full disclosure: I was hesitant about ADF at first. I found Druidry through OBOD, the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, which is based out of England. The British Druids, led by the eloquent and satiny-voiced, Phillip Carr-Gomm, were attractive to me for their emphasis on inner work and psychology. Theirs is not a strictly liturgical, religious Druidism, but rather a philosophical model which can be applied (in their experience and perspective) to a wide variety of religious traditions. Plus, OBOD emphasizes the re-enchantment of the world, and I believe that’s a concept with which all Pagans should concern themselves.

ADF, on the other hand, felt very much like the religion that I was leaving. ADF is public about being non-dogmatic, but at the same time they affirm a very particular viewpoint on the nature of the Gods (hard-polytheist, by and large), the paramount importance of historicity, and a religious identity that sets itself very much apart from the Abrahamic traditions. If you read any of my November and December writing (which can be found in the Post Archive page), you’ll know that I go back and forth on Christianity, and on setting up your identity in opposition to another religious tradition.

I didn’t think I needed another religion after Episcopalianism. That wasn’t what Paganism was going to be for me. Religion, with all of its rules and guidelines, felt counter-intuitive; counter-Pagan, if you will.

I’ve bounced back and forth between OBOD and ADF for a couple of years now, undecided as to which kind of Druid I should be. I listen religiously to Dahm the Bard’s excellent podcast, Druidcast (which I highly recommend for its production value, creative contributions, and the glimpse it offers into what British Druidry looks like today). I also continued to revisit the audio lessons from OBOD’s Bardic Grade correspondence course. The information contained in them may conflict with the perspective of the more reconstructionist-minded Druids of ADF, but I liked it just the same.

But, as I wrote about in my last post, there is a special place in my heart (and on my altar) for the founder of ADF, Isaac Bonewits. He may have spoken against some of the very practices and beliefs held by OBOD that resonate in my heart, but he’s still an important figure in my spiritual formation.

And now I am rediscovering the value of the COoR, and in the process reconciling myself to the fact that I am, indeed, a religious person. I need the form. I flourish in the form. Religion, as I’m experiencing it as a Solitary Druid, can be a fresh fire, rekindled every morning I return to my altar. Religion need not be the enemy. Religion is just a tool; a system. In truth, I needn’t even spend too much time thinking about this practice asreligion. It’s my ritual. My personal practice to honor the Cosmos and all of its divine creatures.

There’s reason, I think, to be at peace with the back-and-forth-ness. I’m rarely just one thing. I float, I drift, and then I plant my feet on something firm. I engage in ritual, and remember something about myself. The process is a sacred one, even in the more difficult moments.

What a pleasant discovery.

So what of it, my friends and loyal readers — how do you experience ritual? Do you share with me this love of liturgy, or are you more freeform? Does your personal practice resemble something religious, structured and blueprinted, or is it mystical and abstract?

Liturgy works for me. What works for you?


16 responses to “Liturgy is Sexy to *this* Druid”

  1. Phoenix Grove Avatar

    I’ve a loose affiliation with OBOD and ADF as well, but I’m going to go with Ambrose Bierce’s definition of liturgy, in the form of “Rite, n.  A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it.”  Great way to do magic with the unwitting servitors in the pews…not so much to get them to the truth of Nature, as a mediated and synthetic experience.  Compared to the lack of any practice, it’s going for a trail hike compared to staying in the city.  Compared to the root of religion – mysticism – it’s going for a trail hike compared to seeing what “nobody” has ever seen before in a wilderness.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      This is poetry, Phoenix. Thank you for painting this picture for us.

  2. Chris Godwin Avatar

    I contest with you about ADF’s affirmation of  “a very particular viewpoint on the nature of the Gods (hard-polytheist, by and large), the paramount importance of historicity, and a religious identity that sets itself very much apart from the Abrahamic traditions.”

    Please listen to BT Newberg’s interview of Michael Dangler who states that ADF, “by and large,” doesn’t prescribe any such beliefs to its followers. However, within ritual… we act as if the Gods are local deities (hard polytheism), and act as if their nature is affirmed, because, we do as our ancestors did, however our beliefs are personal and we are free to prescribe ourselves those articles of faith are our own.

  3. Tony taylor Avatar

    Nice commentary.  As a Keltrian Druid, ( which has historical ties with ADF, we find that liturgy is an extremely important aspect of our practice. As a practice that originated within a Grove structure, redefining the ritual process for solitaries is always a challenge.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks, Tony. I’m glad that you joined the conversation here at BitG.

      I don’t know much about Keltrian Druidry, although I remember it coming up in a book or two — possibly the Druidry Handbook? In any case, I’m interested in how, exactly, liturgy plays out in our tradition. Do you have a set form of ritual? Is every rite structured?

      If there’s too much to share, perhaps you might direct us to a link that unpacks some of this.

      Again, thank you for your comment. Bright blessings to you!

  4.  Avatar

    I grew up in the spare world of white-bread Protestantism. We would have “communion” once a month, tiny sugar-cube-sized bits of Wonder Bread served on offering plates that were passed down the aisles of the pew by the ushers, and watered grape juice served in little half-ounce shot-glasses fitted in a special offering plate with holes in the top that held the glasses. The center of every worship service was really the sermon, which was invariably long, hypnotic, and utterly boring. The preachers surely loved the sound of their voices.

    I didn’t encounter “smells-and-bells” liturgy until I went off to the East Coast for graduate school. The white-bread Protestantism of the West is almost impossible to find in the New York area — but you can find plenty of high ritual. I fell in love with it then, and still love the high ritual.

    To take this completely out of the realm of religion: when I worked for a small company in Fort Collins, we would get together for beers on Friday afternoon, almost without fail. After we’d been doing this for a couple of years, I started to notice something: most nights, it was pretty dull. On an off week, we’d meet, down the beer, and take off in separate directions with scarcely a how-do-you-do. Most weeks, it was okay, but nothing special.

    But every once in a while — maybe three or four times a year — some magic would happen, and then we had some of the best gatherings of my life.

    I think that applies to liturgy as well.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for sharing this, Themon. Smells and bells — I love that. Couldn’t be more true. And your example does tell us something about the value in keeping routine and regularity with our practices. We create the space in order for extraordinary things to arrive, and sometimes we are blessed with them. But, the space must come first.

  5. Ian Phanes Avatar

    So what of it, my friends and loyal readers — how do you experience
    ritual? Do you share with me this love of liturgy, or are you more
    freeform? Does your personal practice resemble something religious,
    structured and blueprinted, or is it mystical and abstract?

    All of the above.  Really and truly,  I *need* to have formal liturgy and spontaneous improvisation and stark minimalist ritual and sacred silence and mindful walking and a bunch more in my practice.  Any one of those is not enough to meet all of my needs.

    To me, it feels like you’re asking something like “What do you eat–proteins, carbohydrates, or lipids?” or even “Do you prefer food or water?”

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I love this response, Ian. It speaks to a kind of holistic religious practice that I would like for myself. My tendency, I think, is to weigh heavily on one side of things or the other — or even to speak of each part of my practice as thought it could *possibly* be independent of the other. The food analogy helps me a lot. Thank you for sharing it.

    2.  Avatar

      I was trying to come up with a good way of saying the exact same thing, Ian.  Thanks.

  6. WhiteBirch Avatar

    I adore liturgy. I soak it up. I really enjoy the sense of connectedness that comes from participating in something that has ties every other practitioner of the liturgy. It’s like the vine I grow on, it roots me into the past, grows into the future, and spreads across the earth to touch everyone else I’m in sync with.

    One of my greatest regrets about leaving Catholicism was giving up their great, ancient and huge liturgical heritage. I actually have joined a tradition that lets me be solitary, yet still have that framework and shared network, kind of similar to how I understand ADF solitaries work (yes?). There are rituals that are practiced by every tradition member, in near unison, both the covens and the solitaries and I’m hoping (I am not yet an initiate) that it will give me some of that rootedness I lost when I left the Catholic Church.

  7. Kilmrnock Avatar

    I am not a solitary , so i work within an ADF grove , we use the ADF ritual form , modified to work in a Celtic focus . Since that is my heritage this form works quite well for me . Now when i do my daily devotion i do a more free form Meditation . Usually sitting on the edge of my bed ,right after i awake , and gather my sences, many times i even do a meditation ,devotion b/f bed at night to settle/center myself . As many of you know , especialy nowadays the stress of everyday life can leave you a bit frazzled. A bedtime meditation /devotion allows me to sleep easily.But to get back to the origonal point , i too love ritual and litergy . Altho i must admit i am only comfortable in smaller groups with people i know and trust .I personaly have problems w/ riuals at large gatherings that are done w/ strangers and unfamiliar ritual form .I also personaly prefer ADF style rituals due to the fact they are based on honest , true , pagan ,well researched academic material.The OBOD idea that Druid concepts can be used w/ any religion sounds odd to me , but different strokes for different folks …… they say.We all need to find what works for us. And atleast in the celtic mindset the world is quite enchanted , our beliefs take into account all the celtic legends , the fay, earth spirits , the banshee, all of it . Also as i may have mentioned b/f i also follow the Sinnsreachd path which fits in quite nicely w/ ADF Celtic Druidry. Sinnsreachd , is also recon and takes into account the tribal ways of Celts and how to incorporate these ways into modern life .In my ADF grove we also consider ourselves a tribe , a second family.Kilm

  8. John Beckett Avatar

    I agree with Tuhina – I love liturgy.  I didn’t have that growing up in a “low
    church” environment and it’s always fascinated me.


    Though I have great respect for both, I chose OBOD over ADF.  I was looking for personal development to
    help me in my primary position as a leader in my CUUPS group.  And like you, I was drawn by their
    re-enchantment of the world.  I think I
    made the right call.  OBOD’s links to the
    Western Mystery Tradition and its history of close contact with Wicca (Ross
    Nichols and Gerald Gardner were members of the same naturist society; Philip
    Carr-Gomm wrote a book called “DruidCraft”) have been very helpful in creating
    and leading rituals for a Pagan group with a wide assortment of backgrounds and


    But out of that emphasis on personal development and
    re-enchantment has come a liturgy of our own. 
    The credit is far from mine – we’ve borrowed from Wicca and OBOD, and
    ADF, to a lesser extent.  Other members
    of the Denton CUUPS group have brought their own ideas and liturgical
    elements.  Over time, we’ve developed a
    standard liturgy we use as the foundation for everything we do (except for our
    Egyptian Summer Solstice, which is based off the Pyramid Texts and Coffin
    Texts).  It provides structure and
    familiarity, plus we know it works! 


    In my personal practice, I do some formal liturgy and some
    freeform devotions.  There is nothing
    quite like walking outside, looking up at the Sun or the Moon or the Stars, and
    opening yourself to them.  No script and
    frequently, no words.  It’s simple and beautiful
    and powerful.


    On the other hand, I struggled with both depth and
    regularity in prayers and devotions until I developed a short-but-formal
    liturgy.  The structure of the liturgy helps
    me translate my intention into action.

  9. Tuhina Verma Rasche Avatar
    Tuhina Verma Rasche

    I freaking *love* liturgy. I grew up with a faint sense of ritual when praying with my parents at home growing up, but there was a disconnect. As a vicar, I feel this deep connection to the ritual of liturgy. I feel a connection with those who have worshiped generations before me, and I feel a connection with those to come in the generations that will come when I am gone. Within the nursing home ministry where I serve, I also see the importance of liturgy for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Even though these medical conditions can hamper a person’s connection with the here and now, many are, in an almost primal way, connected with the ritual of liturgy, particularly with prayer, sharing of the peace, and Holy Communion. I would love to pick your brain further on liturgy!!!

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I love that you love it, Tuhina. And I love what your experience offers us in this conversation. The “ritual of liturgy” is powerful in ways that we aren’t even aware. I’d never thought about how a person with Alzheimer’s would respond to a religious ritual from their past — fascinating!

      We should do some brain picking, indeed.