Yule on HuffPost and the Question of Decentralization

Reflections, by Camil Tulcan
Reflections, by Camil Tulcan

What a week this has been.

The SDF liturgy is live, and the response has been tremendous. I don’t have any way of knowing what the perspective is from every person participating, and I kind of prefer that for the moment. It may seem that I’m coordinating some massively social endeavor, but there is still a need to preserve and make space for the solitude in my own personal practice, as well as in the practices of the SDF participants. The not knowing how everyone else thinks requires us to focus on our own experiences for the time being. I like that.

In addition to the SDF liturgy launch, I’ve done a ton of writing. The Wild Hunt piece went up on Tuesday, and today I published a piece about Yule at HuffPost Religion titled, Yule: Be The Light Of The Returning Sun.

I hope that the Yule piece inspires some discussion and dialogue. As I write in the post, I’ve really had a challenging time preparing for the High Day, even with all of the work I’m doing for SDF. I hope that the messages offered in the post, as well as in the forthcoming discussion, lead to some deeper understanding.

And, as if this flurry of writing weren’t enough to keep me busy, I’m going to be serving as the Bard in the Yule ritual for a local ADF Grove, Silver Branch Golden Horn. My friend, William Ashton, who is the Grove Organizer for the upcoming Mountain Ancestors Protogrove (more details to come), has been asked to lead this Norse observance of the Solstice, and William asked me to sing. It’s been an interesting experience to hold the space between a very solitary-centered work and a group ritual. The two have been living beside one another, and I can’t tell if they are discordant or not.

There’s also been a good bit of talk on Twitter and Facebook about how the Solitary Druid Fellowship is somewhat peculiar because its website is missing the hallmarks of Internet interactivity (i.e. the forum, the open comment thread, etc.). I’ve heard people’s thoughts, and tried to hold them up against my original intention behind this choice: I believe that there should be moments in a congregation – even a congregation that exists in the form of an unseen bond created through shared practice – when we should be silent; when we should withhold our opinions, and even our questions, or at least allow for them to live in our minds for a while before airing them to the world.

I believe this is valuable, because my experience has shown me that allowing ideas to gestate in solitude can lead to unexpected revelation.

True, online forums can invite a great deal of dialogue, and this dialogue can inspire to new ways of thinking as well. But my intention has always been for the Solitary Druid Fellowship to use the time we commit to dialogue and discussion for a very focussed and clear purpose.

At first, this purpose will be for those who use the liturgy in their practice to come to the SDF blog and share what that experience was like for them. This, I hope, will be a space where people feel safe to express what worked and what didn’t, and to try and unpack why. In time, there be more moments where it makes clear sense to open up spaces for dialogue, and I’d like to do that deliberately and with intention.

(For those who want more consistent conversation with solitaries, there is the ADF Solitaries SIG (Special Interest Group). It’s open to ADF members, and I’ve recently been nominated to be the SIG Coordinator. I’d like to see some synergy between the SIG and the Fellowship, while at the same time allowing certain spaces to remain silent, still, and free of active discussion.)

Perhaps it won’t be long before my not knowing takes a turn. I’ll start to know more about who the SDF is, what they appreciate, what they long for. I know I can’t please everyone, but I am certainly open to understanding the minds and hearts of the solitaries who wish to open up on the SDF blog.

What do you think?

Have you found that the decentralization of the SDF communication (i.e. the talk that takes place on Twitter and Facebook) to be a good way of keeping the SDF site as a clean resource (which is a term I’m just trying out)? Bishop In The Grove has clearly been a place where dialogue has thrived, but do you see there being a valuable reason to keep some spaces comment-free?

If those questions don’t get your brain churching, why don’t you pop over to my HuffPost piece and see if there are ideas there that resonate with you.

And, from my heart, may you have a blessed Solstice and a Happy Yule!


17 responses to “Yule on HuffPost and the Question of Decentralization”

  1. Scott Schumacher Avatar

    I’m really enjoying the reflections in solitude that The Solitary Druid Fellowship offers. For many of us, our Druidry is a craft derived from our direct experience with Nature, and our direct and personal reflections, free from chatter, influence, or external dogma. Solitaries are an eclectic mix. I love the feeling of participation in solitude while not having to be a member of ADF or other “structured” organization.

  2. Kilmrnock Avatar

    And good luck with this , i truely hope it succeeds . I just hope you don’t run into the pagan herding cats dilemma.Those within ADF , that understand it’s structure and porpuse will have no problem . Free thinking diliberatly unstructered Wiccans and others i’m not sure . I wish you the best of luck with this endevour , the SDF.

  3. Kilmrnock Avatar

    Happy Midwinter , Yule to you . Teo , my freind . Kilm

  4. Dave Avatar

    Happy Yule, Teo

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      And to you, Dave. Thanks for being a part of the dialogue here. It means a lot to me.

  5. Rob Henderson Avatar

    My first reaction is that people like to communicate with each other, especially about shared experiences, and that not providing a place for them to do so openly isn’t going to go over well. Case in point: ADF didn’t have a general discussion group on Facebook until one of our members created one without permission because he thought we needed one, and now we’re stuck with it. And I seriously wonder how long it will be before some of the SDF mem-, er, participants set up their own discussion group somewhere because they think they need it. And as others have noted elsewhere, sometimes letting people talk about their experiences generates more interest and activity. I may be wrong here, and I’m quite content to let the experiment proceed and see how it goes, but this definitely goes in the “well that ain’t how I woulda done it” category for me.

    I say “openly” up there because I do know that you’ll allow people to comment on some of the blog posts on the site, but I find myself wondering whether people will speak as freely in a thread with the group leader’s name in large font hovering over it, as opposed to being able to state what’s on their mind in their own posting.

    Between restricting comments on the site and restricting access to the liturgy to those who request it (an odd choice, IMO, for a group that claims not to have members or any concept of membership), it’s coming across to me as very controlling on your part. And given that I’ve spent the last sixteen years enthusiastically devoting myself to an organization that prides itself on openness and public access to our rituals, and now the biggest recent project that the org has undertaken appears to be the exact opposite of that, I admit that I’m worried about what I see. Again, maybe this is what solitaries need, and maybe they’ll love it. I’m willing to wait and see. But it’s definitely not something that I would choose to take part in.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for your comment, Rob.

      Have a wonderful Solstice.

    2. Dave Avatar

      Hi Rob,

      I can appreciate it seeming oddly undemocratic to restrict communication and access to resources. If I’m interpreting Teo’s intentions correctly however, the purpose is not to install himself as the final authority on what this project should be. I am reading his intent as trying to give a more formal structure to what is necessarily a decentralized group. This formality should not be read as hierarchy but instead as a call for active, direct participation. On the internet we are used to anybody with an internet connection being able to come on, say their piece, and move on. What Teo is attempting to do here is get people to take a moment to really consider the ideas that have been presented and engage with them purposefully. This project is in its infancy and currently Teo is the driving force behind it, so it makes sense that his ideas and his voice dominate its landscape, for now.

      That having been said I’m not unsympathetic to where you’re coming from but I would differ by arguing that informality is not the same thing as not controlling. In my experience with ADF there is very much a prevailing view point which is openly and publicly available to all to be a part of, or get lost. I know the need for structure, organizational identity, and tradition in the face of pressure to change. I really do get it. At the same time I would question not whether ADF can be all things to all people, she can’t, but whether she is being everything she can be to the people she has. Obviously, only time will tell if Teo’s project will be something that handles that task more ably than ADF currently does, but I’m hopeful not just that SDF has that capability but also that ADF does too.

      As to whether any of this has any popular appeal to the average Pagan mentality that sees any structure as oppression, any silence as censorship, and any formality as spitting in the face of diversity?

      Your guess is as good as mine.

      1. Rob Henderson Avatar

        Thanks, Dave! Just to clarify, I’m not opposed to structure or hierarchy, nor do I think most folks in ADF are. It would be very odd for me to think that while walking around with the title “Senior Druid”, which has hierarchy written all over it. >8) But in ADF as a whole, and even more so in my Grove, I’ve always wanted us to be as open access as possible, and certainly not to restrict communication between our members, My early days in Paganism were very much influenced by my activist tendencies, and that has carried through to the present day. As with just about any new thing that ADF tries, I’m sure some people will love it and some won’t. I’m still glad that we’re willing to try new things, even when I’m on the “won’t” side of that equation.

        1. Dave Avatar

          Hi Rob, thanks for clarifying your position.

          I wouldn’t suggest ADF folks aren’t comfortable with at least a degree of hierarchy, I mean just look at her as an org! Fallible or not “Arch-Druid” is not the most humble of titles, not that that’s a bad thing necessarily. Amusing nevertheless. 🙂

          It’s interesting to me to consider your activist influence on your desire for open communication in all circumstances. Personally, I think that you’re probably right and that a forum for SDF will be established out of a desire for its participants to communicate openly and freely. Again, I don’t believe this is counter to Teo’s intentions for the main site itself, but I can see how the unusual nature of such a move could make some people understandably uncomfortable.

          Honestly, I don’t really appreciate a lot of the motivations that activists have. Activism is very popular with many of my students and I know my research assistant is very passionately outspoken in several political movements. It may, perhaps, be hard for me to relate to because coming from a nomadic culture politics, in the sense of government involvement and direct action, was never something that was given much importance to me when I was a boy. I understand it on an intellectual level, just not emotionally I guess you could say.

          Glad to get more of your perspective, Rob. Happy Yule.

          1. Rob Henderson Avatar

            I blame the activist leanings of my youth for promoting a general mistrust of any authority figure who tells you to do what they say without being willing to give a reason. Even when (especially when) the authority figure is me.

          2. Lauren Fotiades Avatar

            I’m sure I have seen Teo give the reasoning for why he turned off comments on most of the SDF postings. If I remember right, the idea is to encourage contemplation of the ideas by shutting off the immediate response reaction that most of us have now when reading something on the internet.

            I definitely did think it felt weird at first. And since the site is new, it cuts down on the time it takes to read through everything when there’s not a comment thread after each post! But as the SDF ages, there will be more content, and I think there could be value in not having those comment threads. It’s definitely weird for me when I find a new site for me, and am really moved by some post that’s, oh, two years old – I want to share my thoughts, but it feels awkward to do so when everybody else had the conversation two years ago. Sort of a feeling of “Oh, I’m late to this party; guess I can’t play. :-/”

            So I think that I like the idea of having comments cut off on the SDF main site. I’m not sure if I would frequent a forum for the group or not. I’m just not sure that that kind of discussion is what I’m looking for with my SDF involvement. Of course, I’m commenting here, so maybe I would.

            Also, Rob, I’m sure you’d never tell anybody to do what you say without giving a reason. O:-)

        2. Jeffrey Avatar

          Rob, your comments here are quite nicely stated, and I think the thoughtful conversation you and Dave are having is exactly the sort of discussion about a #solitarydruid that may be valuable to have. Granted, Teo is working through his thinking on this, and while there is a nice discussion happening here as a result, it is (ironically) about everything else except for the new liturgy that Teo shared and how it is practiced. To this point, it takes time to get into a rhythm of some sort, especially with something new. Perhaps now is that period of time, though Yule has come and gone and still no discussion of how it went, what people did, and what people plan to do moving forward. Perhaps this speaks to a project that calls for a small community (hope that is not a dirty word here!) to shepherd or facilitate? Perhaps it is not the right time for this as well, though at this point we should remember that this is Teo’s project, and in that way there is only so much others can suggest before the suggestion of “Good idea! Have you considered creating your own community to do it?” can potentially come; after all, these things take a lot of resources to create and implement (and facilitate in an ongoing way for inclusion and engagement).

          One other point you made has me scratching my head. I am wondering how much one is expected to be a member of ADF to participate or use all this. I am not a member, and am starting to sense that this is a formal ADF outreach, and is thus intended for ADF solitary members only (otherwise, come join). Again, not a problem as somebody has to fund and oversee this, though just wondering about it as I have not really seen anybody else mention it.

          To all this, may you all have a happy season of Yule, and may it help to usher in a kinder and more tolerant world.

          1. Teo Bishop Avatar

            Hi Jeffrey. Thanks for joining in the conversation.

            A High Day dialogue post was published this morning on the SDF blog. I’m looking forward to hearing what people’s experience was like using the liturgy. Here’s the link: http://www.solitarydruid.org/blog/winter-solstice-dialogue-2012/

            To speak to your head-scratching point: I have no expectations for anyone to be a member of ADF in order to participate in the SDF shared practice. You don’t need to be an ADF member in order to take part in the dialogue around the High Days posts, either. SDF offers this shared practice to all who wish to take part in it.

            (And, incidentally, while this project does have a degree of oversight from ADF leadership, it is completely unfunded by the organization. This is a labor of love, and a completely volunteer effort.)

            Thank you again for your comment. It was, after all, your tweet about decentralization that led to this post! Blessings to you!!

  6. Eran Rathan Avatar

    In the words of John & Paul, Let it Be. Here Comes the Sun.

  7. Daniel SnowKestral Avatar
    Daniel SnowKestral

    A Blessed Mean Geimrhide/Mid-Winter/Yule to you and yours, Teo. May the wealth, wisdom, wonder, health, joy, love, light, and life of this Season be yours. And so may this tend you and weave about you tendrils of wintry magic.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you, Daniel. Blessings to you as well!

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