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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?

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  • Mam Adar

    My first thought was that it sounds a lot like the Daily Office, which can be said by oneself or with others. *g* My second thought is that it’s a great idea and I hope the ADF leadership really supports it.

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

      Yes — the Office made a mark on me. It’s so functional, so practical. Plus, it’s beautiful.

      I guess those are the things I’d like for the SDF rituals to be.

      I hope they continue to support it, too, Mam. It challenges the traditional model, but I think it could really serve a lot of people.

  • pancake

    This is great! I think this will add to our private family celebrations.

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

      How wonderful! Thank you for the comment, pancake (and for making me smile as I thought about pancakes).

  • Valerie LaVay

    What a fantastic idea! As someone who is a nature based solitary practitioner, I would love the opportunity to experience this. Your idea is very in keeping with the times and the spirit of communing with nature, which for me is most satisfying when doing it alone.

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

      Thanks, Valerie. I’m glad you’re going to take part, and thanks for bringing up the perspective of a solitary Druid doing ritual in nature. I’ll make sure that the language of the ritual isn’t rooted in any one kind of place (ex: a room, a house, a field, etc.), but that it focusses more on the place that exists within.

      Blessings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/herumori Kallel Peterson

    This sounds awesome, Teo! Honestly, I’ve been a little intimidated as a Solitary in looking through the Dedicant requirements, particularly with the rituals (the nearest grove is a 2 1/2 hour drive away and on a college budget that’s tough) and the journal. I’m headed over right now to sign up for the page’s notifications.

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

      Right on, Kallel. I’m glad to hear that you’re interested in it.

      I understand your feelings of intimidation. I’ve felt that, too. But finding a way to celebrate the High Days (not to mention develop a daily practice) is so valuable. It takes an intellectual religious tradition and makes it an *embodied* tradition. It brings it home, you know?

      I hope that the SDF rituals help serve your needs, and empower you to develop your own regular practice.

      Blessings.

  • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

    Awesome stuff, Teo. I wish I had ideas ;)

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

      Oh, whatever Dash — you DO have ideas! Great ones!

      Now, getting a group to move in a single direction around any ideas, especially group of Pagans, is like… what’s that old saying about cats?

      • Derek_anny

        You set yourself up for it. There’s a reason Christian bishops carry a shepherd’s crook.

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

          Oh, I was thinking about your work to organize Pagans around interfaith work. You need a crook of your own!

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Work is all well and good, but progress makes a person feel pretty good. I’ve had too much of a cloudy day at the moment, so it’s time to walk my dogs!

      • Jason White

        Heh. After spending two years running a college pagan group, I’ve come to the conclusion that organizing pagans is nothing like herding cats. If you want to herd cats, just grab a can of tuna and slowly walk away; they’ll follow you. I think a more apt metaphor is herding ferrets. Short attention span, easily distracted by shiny things and loud noises.

        Though to be fair, I don’t know if that pattern continues into the wider community :D.

  • MeganIsHere

    If anyone can do it right, it will be you! I’m pretty shy as well as monstrously busy, making travel difficult, so I signed up for the launch.

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

      Thanks, Megan.

  • Jamie Goodwin

    I was involved in the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a UU congregation of isolated and solitary UUs, for many years. One of the reasons I chose to leave that group is because we had no shared spiritual practice. As an ADF sub-group the shared liturgical practice is essential. So kudos to that.

    When we have spoke about this kind of thing before one of the major issues was that many people chose to be solitary because their practice drifts away from ADF practice. I know my own as quite a bit since becoming solitary. I also find that a lot of ADF resources for Solitaries often become dominated by in-Grove members. While the support of everyone in the org is much appreciated I find a lot of the conversations about solitary shared practice goes something like this “I am thinking about doing *this*” and the response is “my grove does it *this* way” it CAN (but not always) become confusing and frustrating for Solitaries because it feels like sometimes we are not given the opportunity to explore, learn, and grow on our own. Don’t get me wrong, the intention behind people wanting to help is amazing.

    A question, will the Fellowship be something one “joins” like a Grove or Protogrove? And if so will only non-Grove affiliated members be able to join? (for instance you cannot be a member of two ADF Groves, but would one be able to be a member of an ADF Grove and the Fellowship?).

    Sorry that was a bit babbley, I do support this, so much that I am debating now to rethink my plans to allow my ADF membership to expire.

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

      So grateful for your support, Jaime. Thank you for this comment.

      When I conceived of the Protogrove idea, I imagined that one could be a fully-fledged member of the Protogrove simply by joining ADF and affiliating with SojoPro. However, just as with land-based groups, anyone could partake in the shared liturgical practice (which is what made the rituals like the “open” land-based rituals).

      Since the Fellowship is not going to be a Protogrove or Grove, there’s currently no membership component. Anyone can participate, regardless of ADF membership or Grove affiliation. As I see it, the Fellowship provides tools for solitaries, and that can even include Grove members who wish to spend some time working in solitude. It serves everyone.

      • Jamie Goodwin

        Thanks. I would love to help out in any way I can. Just let me know.

  • Niniann

    I would very much like to see this kind of liturgy. I love the rituals the groves have published on-line but they are too complicated for one person. What I really want is something that follows the ADF Core Order of Ritual but is simple enough for me to do alone in my garden in the woods.

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

      THIS!

      I’m so glad you posted this comment, Niniann. I can’t tell you how much this affirms what I’m doing. Thank you.

    • Renee Dashner

      I, too, feel this way about the COoR. It just doesn’t fit well into a solitary ritual.

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

        I think that there the COoR, while longer than a simple meditation or chant, has a lot to offer in the way of solitary worship. It is a commitment, indeed, to take on a longer form ritual, but I think it can really pay off.

        Many of the rituals on ADF.org print out to be well over a dozen pages long. That’s a lot to keep track of, and a lot to handle in ritual by one’s self. My hope is to craft a ritual that is more in the way of around 5 printed pages, and that begins to create a body of liturgical language — using phrases common to ADF — that can become easier to internalize by solitary practitioners. That way, in time, the language will feel like second nature, and the form of the COoR might not seem so daunting.

        It will be a learning process, and hopefully improve with each new ritual.

  • cigfran

    Would participation in High Day rites coordinated by this fellowship count toward DP completion requirements, or will that be impossible unless it is acknowledged as a Protogrove?

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

      That’s a great question, Cigfan.

      According to requirement #8 from the DP Manual’s “Required Documentation” page:

      “High Days attended/performed might be celebrated with a local grove, privately, or with another Neopagan group. At least 4 of the rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style.”

      All of the Fellowship’s rituals will be based in ADF’s Core Order of Ritual, so if you choose to participate in our shared practice, doing your rituals in solitude, you will be fulfilling the requirement listed above. So, in short — yes.

      [And, so that it's clear and transparent, the SDF rituals, while crafted primarily by me, will be reviewed by several senior clergy members to insure that they are in line with ADF's ritual form.]

  • http://www.facebook.com/leona.oigheag Leona Oigheag

    I think this is a great idea. I had the idea of doing online rituals with the Solitary SIG, but shared liturgy might be better.
    Would it be okay for folks who are members of groves or protogroves, but who also practice alone, to join?

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

      Thanks for the comment, Leona.

      Yes, anyone can participate in the shared liturgical practice, regardless of grove/protogrove affiliation. Even grove or protogrove members may find something useful about the SDF liturgy.

  • Bree

    This is an excellent idea. Thank you! I’ve already signed up.

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

      Glad to hear it, Bree!

  • Soliwo

    This is a great initiative, but one think remains unclear to me. Is this fellowship only available to ADF members or isn’t it?

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

      Hi Soliwo. Thanks for the comment.

      The Solitary Druid Fellowship’s rituals will be available to all, regardless of ADF membership. The rituals will be ADF in structure and form, but one does not need to be a member in order to participate in the shared liturgical practice.

      • Soliwo

        Awesome. I look forward to joining. I need more structure, and I love the idea of sharing a language of worship … it excites me more than shared theological belief … And I think it can create a very real sense of connection.

  • http://foodponderings.blogspot.com/ Heather J

    Fantastic idea. I am drawn to ADF, but several issues have stopped me. One is distance from a working grove while the other is that I mostly work with Greco-Roman-Egyptian deities. But it’s ADF’s style that draws me. So I will sign up and anticipate what comes from this.

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

      Glad to hear it, Heather!

    • Jason Hatter

      Heather, in case you didn’t know, there is a sizeable contingent of Hellenes in ADF (Oi Asproi Koukouvayies: White Owls Kin). Doesn’t do much for the Eyptian part, per se,but there is a presence.

  • Arthur Turbyfill

    While I am not currently active in ADF, most of how I developed my approach to liturgy and practice I derived from my study of ADF resources. I would be interested in making this journey with you. Can I come along?

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

      Of course! All are welcome.

  • SauleKarklas

    This sound fantastic Teo!

    Though not technically a solitary, I am by ADF standards. I feel my solitary practice could use some work to supplement my groves work.

    I’m glad you already are casting an eye towards the niche of those in groves who may be looking to have more solitary work.

    Though I don’t know what I could contribute if you need any help give a shout. I am ADF though I meddle in OBOD too, but I’m not very visible in either organization these days.

    Brilliant idea though and it seems to have a lot of support, I hope the ADF leadership gives it proper attention and isn’t weirded out too much by the different approach.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tumakhunter W Keith Baldwin IV

    This is a great idea, Teo! thank you. I am hoping that by joining in, it will help me to kick my practice back into gear, and eventually lead me into organizing a group locally (again). ^_^

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

      That would be wonderful!

  • WhiteBirch

    *surfaces from busy life momentarily*

    This sounds lovely, Teo. I’m not sure for me, personally, I’m ready to give up on my wonderful new adventure of hand crafting my own liturgies… something I’ve never felt I had the tools to do before… but I might sign up to follow the project as I think it’s one that’s entirely worthwhile and needed.

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

      That’s great, WhiteBirch. This is by no means an across-the-board substitue for other practices — it’s one of many. I’d love for you to follow the project. Perhaps some of the reflections on solitude, or even the rituals themselves will be useful to you.

  • Daniel SnowKestral

    This is an absolutely wonderful idea! The egregore of solitary praxis and the emergent properties of a solitary congregation (the journey within, etc) creates an existential connection not just with ourselves, but others, and All-That-Is in the context of a personal, diverse, and experiential connection with the Holy Powers. Most of my orthopraxis is and has been solitary, with limited experience in group settings. I would like to check this out!

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

      Thank you for this comment, Daniel. You’re right on point.

      • Daniel SnowKestral

        You are more than welcome, Teo! This will be an interesting venture into the realms of finding a constructive context. May the Mantle of Brigit (Bhrat Bhride) grace all of your endeavors. I am excited and look forward to this.

  • Joe – SNW

    I really like the idea and am looking forward to joining in. I am drawn to ADF’s ideals and style of doing things although I have not yet joined. Mostly because I was not able to find a grove located near where I live. This could be just the stepping stone I need to move forward. Thank you for your work, great ideas, and trying to bring people together, in a manner of speaking. Keep it up and I will happily keep reading!

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

      Thanks for the comment, Joe. I’m glad this idea speaks to you, and I hope it will serve you in your solitary practice. ADF has a lot to offer, especially in the way of education and training. New membership gets you some great tools, and I’m using some of these tools to create the rituals of the SDF.

      But regardless of your decision on membership, I hope that you find something valuable in the shared liturgy of SDF.

  • Renee Dashner

    I would very much like to be a part of this. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, although I don’t post much. I’ve struggled for a while to find a way to build my faith as a solitary druid, and between your insights and those of Kris Bradley, I have finally found a way to enhance my personal faith and feel I am growing more. This fellowship would definitely be a way for me, and many others, to take it to the next level.

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

      Thank you for this comment, Renee. I’m glad the blog has been meaningful to you, and I’m equally glad that you are interested in taking part in our shared practice.

      I’m curious, have you worked at developing a simple daily practice? I find this helps to ground me, and at the same time open me up.

  • Ruadh

    Love your idea, Teo! As a long, long, long-time solitary, I think it would be very useful to have common practice with others. To have the feeling of fellowship and “community” is something for which I have searched for many years.

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

      I’m so glad to hear that, Ruadh.

      I think it’s important to begin conceiving of this experience of fellowship and congregation as something we approach by engaging more fully with our experience of solitude. It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but I think it’s key. Rather than this project being one that creates yet another online forum/e-mail list/social network, the Fellowship will seek to make one’s solitary practice the real heart of the work and to provide a shared context for that solitude.

      I pray that you are well served by this, Ruadh. Thank you again for your comment.

  • KarenD

    I’ve signed up because I’m curious to see what you do with this. I’m a long time member of ADF, who’s been solitary for most of that time. There’s a grove about an hour away, but I’m low on funds these days, so I haven’t been able to attend their events as often as I’d like. And while I don’t generally warm up to group activities for solitaries–if I wanted to be in a group that badly, I’d have founded a protogrove–this sounds like an interesting idea.

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

      Thanks for the comment, Karen. I’m glad you’re interested in the Fellowship, and I hope that the shared practice and reflections on solitude serve you well.

      Blessings.

  • Strider

    Teo,

    I was so effected by seeing this post. I really gives me hope when I see someone like you, with all the integrity and dedication you vibe, take on a project like this that helps unite and inspire. When I look over the broad spectrum of paganism right now and see people like you really putting their soul into their work and serving fellow pagans I am heartened to put more into my own work.

    I wish you all the best with this project Teo and hope that you will keep us informed of how things progress!

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

      Strider,

      Thank you so much for this comment. You’re very kind and complimentary. I do my best, and I hope that this project does provide people with a valuable service.

      Yes – I most certainly will be writing about this process. At this point, it’s pretty central to my life!

      Peace,
      Teo

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

    Would there ever be anything from the Fellowship regarding a daily practice? There are too many thoughts swirling in my head right now to pick how to elaborate so I’ll just leave the question at that.

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

      Hi Lauren,

      I can imagine the Fellowship offering liturgy for a daily practice, yes, but I haven’t set to writing any yet. Thanks for the question, though. It’s got my gears moving!!

      Blessings,
      Teo

  • Jason White

    When I saw your name in the TOC for Oak Leaves 59, the first thing I did was flip to your article – I really do love your writing, and (to use your words) feel like you “wrestle with the core stuff” of modern paganism.

    I’m very much looking forward to following (and using!) this project as it matures. Keep up all the fantastic work you do!

  • ken

    Sounds like a great idea. I’m excited to give it a try.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wldlf.biol Fear Na Sléibhte

    Hey Teo? I’m in…all in! I have hovered around the fringes of ADF for 10+ yrs, yet only recently (May of this year) have I finally gone and ponied up the ducats to join…the nearest grove is about 3hrs away from me (if you look at the member locations, I’m the dude in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Fresno ;) so solitary practice is out of necessity rather than desire…I love your idea of distilling the liturgy (COoR) into something more easily memorized yet follows the standard format while allowing for inspiration…I have signed on to be notified when you launch and greatly look forward to the fruits of your efforts! Beir bua agus beannach my Brother! /|

  • Kevin Faulkner

    Yes! My long-term deep group work is with folks spread all over the world so we don’t get together as often as I’d like, but the fact of some shared liturgy and practice is helpful for syncing up and developing shared language and experience. An angle like this feels very helpful to me; having been a solitary pagan in the rural US so long has taught me to value the extreme worth of wholesome, supportive community… I think some folks who’ve been “spoiled” to live in places with more community action underestimate the value of the sort of work you’re creating here for those of us without that access.

  • Elizabeth

    Teo, you are my hero. I need a service like this, and without a doubt so do many others! I am facing the possibility of my own grove folding, which in addition to being heartbreaking throws us all into the solitary life. May your efforts be blessed and fruitful, and many thanks!

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

      Thank you, Elizabeth. I pray that SDF bring you into a deeper, more present level of engagement with your solitary life.

  • Brighde

    My first thought was that maybe this is the next step on my journey. I like my Grove very much, but I’m weary and my energy is waning. I just don’t have the oomph any more for as much active participation. The more essential need is to cultivate a genuine, more consistent personal practice in my life. Too easy to just go to the high day rituals and call it a sabbat done. Pagans experience the same kind of accidie (spiritual sloth; apathy; indifference) that any other spiritual path does. Not to be confused with the dark night of the soul which, however, can lead to accidie. I find myself in this state for many months now. I hope the SDF will help me find my way back into communion with the Kindred.

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

      And I do as well, Brighde. It warms my heart to know that you are a part of this.

  • Celtic Moon

    I Would Very Much, Like to Learn more, About Solitary Druid / Pagan Ritual’s That I can Use in my Everyday Life. As I find Alot of the group Ritual’s Don’t Work Well With The fact that they incorperate More than One Person. Also . Any Help You Can Offer Would Be of Great help, As i Am Still On A very Young Path, of This Wonderful Journey.

  • Jerome Brownell

    Most awesome idea.