In September of this year, I submitted an application to start my own ADF protogrove for solitary Pagans. I planned on calling it, Sojourner’s Protogrove.
Protogroves are the precursor to fully-chartered groves within the ADF organization, and their main responsibility (as with groves) is to provide public rituals for each of the eight High Days of the year. These open rituals are a hallmark of ADF’s approach to Neopagan religion. Allowing the rituals to be open and available to all was a central tenet of Isaac Bonewits’s vision for the Pagan church.
Sojourner’s Protogrove was to be, in many ways, just like any other ADF protogrove. In ADF’s system, the Protogrove Organizer has the freedom to organize their group around whichever of the Indo-European hearth cultures associated with ADF. Some groups are Celtic, some Norse, some Hellenic, and there are even some which mix and match their cultural influences (i.e., the eclectics in our midst). Sojourner’s Protogrove — or SojoPro, which I was fond of calling it — was to use the pantheon and mythology of the Pan-Celtic cultures, as those are the deities and stories that most speak to me.
But there was one way that SojoPro would not be like the other ADF protogroves:
SojoPro’s free, open rituals would not require solitary Pagans and Druids to meet in a shared, physical location. Instead, SojoPro would create congregation in solitude by providing to all of Pagandom (via the protogrove’s website) a common liturgical form.
In short, we would become united through a shared liturgical practice.
The ADF leadership had mixed reactions to my application, but they were unanimous that this couldn’t be a protogrove. The physical component was too important, too fundamental, it seemed. They gave the project a tentative approval, but with conditions. I’d need to have more clergy oversight, and I’d need to call it something different. So I came up with this:
The Solitary Druid Fellowship.
I wrote about my vision for the Fellowship in the most recent edition of Oak Leaves, ADF’s quarterly magazine. Here’s an excerpt:
Liturgy is an underutilized tool in the service to solitaries. Liturgy, when organized around and synchronized with the Wheel of the Year, is a way of uniting solitaries in a shared practice that does not simply mirror the experience that one can have in a Protogrove or Grove; it does something altogether different. Solitaries joining other solitaries in a shared liturgical practice makes possible a transcendental experience of congregation.
The one becomes the many.
This is where the Solitary Druid Fellowship enters in. The Fellowship, as an extension of ADF, is organized to provide solitary Druids, as well as any solitary practitioner in the general public, with an opportunity to engage more deeply with their ritual practice by adopting a shared liturgical form. This form is unique to the Fellowship, just as the rituals designed within Protogroves and Groves are unique to them. But, the form follows the COoR (Core Order of Ritual), and is in keeping with the traditional ADF rite.
From High Day to High Day, SDF will help transition ADF solitary members and non-member participants through the changing seasons. There is a blog on the Fellowship’s website, SolitaryDruid.org, and on this blog there are weekly posts which reflect on the seasons, on the meaning of solitude in the lives of solitary Druids, and on various aspects of Pan-Celtic culture, mythology, and religious practice. These posts are not instructive so much as they are reflective, and they will help create a contemplative environment in which solitaires can prepare for the coming High Day. Additionally, these posts will be written by other ADF solitaries, as well as solitary Druids and Pagans of other traditions who have insights to offer on the experience of solitude.
On the week of the High Day, SDF distributes our shared liturgy through the Fellowship’s website, and solitaries celebrate the High Day in solitude. On the following week, participants will be called upon to reflect on their experiences of shared, solitary worship, and the cycle begins again as we move toward the next High Day.
By taking part in this communal, albeit private practice, we join in a kind of long distance fellowship; in a shared celebration of our gods, our ancestors, and the spirits of the land on which we live, using many of the same words, invocations, and prayers.
All of this through liturgy.
There’s a lot of work to do in preparation for the launch of the Solitary Druid Fellowship, and even a few hoops yet to jump through. I’m considering how to write liturgy that is not exclusive to the Pan-Celtic hearth, but that opens up ADF’s liturgical form to any and all of the Indo-European hearth cultures of the tradition. In theory, ADF provides the tools for this already. I just need to craft something relevant for solitary use, and meaningful within a solitary context.
If you’re interested in joining us, visit SolitaryDruid.org and sign up for notification of the site launch. I’m hoping to have it up in time to offer a liturgy for the Winter Solstice.
What are your first thoughts in learning about the Solitary Druid Fellowship?
If you’re a solitary Pagan or Druid, do you think it would be useful to you to have a common practice with others, one that you could customize around your own relationships to the Kindred?