Field of Dreams Syndrome

Protogroves in ADF have three years to apply for Provisionally Chartered Grove status, or go defunct. Extensions are available — and routinely granted. Hemlock Vales will reach that three year point around the Ides of March this year.

I do not plan to askĀ  for an extension.

Why? I have many reasons, but perhaps the foremost one is realizing I’m suffering from “Field of Dreams Syndrome.”

“If you build it, they will come” — mysterious voice in “Field of Dreams”

As I submitted my Grove Organizer’s Survey, I had met at least fifty local Pagans personally, and there were more on the county Pagan e-list I ran. There was a student group on Penn State’s campus, reasonably popular with the students and some post-students but without large townie involvement. With this base, I thought I could coax a few out to be part of the Protogrove.

Indeed, I had a few supportive regulars, but their interest was more in regularly held rites than in ADF rites. Some irregular visitors were put off by the structured ADF order of ritual, preferring to be able to do things as they were moved at any point. People would post excitedly to group e-list and then not show up. Many of the local Pagans I knew had outed themselves just to me and were unwilling to join an e-list or

Going back to “If you build it, they will come,” the “they” I sought were other ADF members willing to help not just with rites, but also with all the other aspects of running a Grove. To be Provisionally Chartered, a Grove needs to have three ADF members (among other requirements). I suspect most Provisionally Chartered Groves have more when they apply. I now suspect that waiting to start a Protogrove with two others is a good idea in an area with a small Pagan community, rather than starting a Protogrove in the hopes of finding others.

In hindsight, I should have looked to find interest in ADF first. My regulars, helpful as they have been, would have been fine with open Wiccan-esque circles; they had no attachment to ADF. I had already been running open rites, and being on ADF’s site was not the advertising coup I imagined.

I will continue to hold open rites after the Protogrove is no longer; it is important to me to make these rites available to others. I lose advertising via ADF’s site, the direct support of the GOC and GCC, and the need to file reports — not the ability to hold rites.

So, then, what of this blog? I anticipate writing a bit more about other mistakes — and perhaps taking it in a new direction.

ADF’s Mottos

ADF as an organization has two mottos, one of which I feel gets more press than the other.

The one that I feel gets more press is “Why not excellence?” A noble sentiment, and one I admire, though I also feel is asserted too vehemently at times.

The other one seems very separate, but very related to the discerning eye: “As fast as a speeding oak tree!” We know where we want to go, but sometimes progress becomes glacial. It might even be the fault of the first model, per Voltaire’s comment that “The best is the enemy of the good.” Excellence as a target can cause inaction, even though, ironically, it may be necessary to make 49 bad attempts to make one good one.

This blog as a project, and to a much lesser degree the Protogrove, have both been hit with a bit of paralysis, and I found myself uncertain how best to restart. The Protogrove is still running — we did have a Lughnasadh rite, and there will be an Equinox rite — but I found myself unable to write a restart. So many things to cover — Lughnasadh, a workshop/simple rite for the local college group, etc.

The answer is to just start back up, and back-track as needed and relevant. Even if it is as fast as a speeding Oak tree. Now to set myself a schedule for updating regularly.

Nine Virtues of Grove Organization

As I work to get my Dedicant Path (DP) documentation ready to submit, it occurs to me that it might be interesting to give brief thoughts on each of ADF’s Nine Virtues as they apply to being a Grove Organizer (GO, the title for the person officially running the Protogrove). I’ve reordered them a bit to closer match the flow of their relevance to group formation. Note that I’m actually skipping other obvious meanings; there is a lot to be said, for example, for how one’s virtues — or their lack — reflect on the organization as a whole.


The very act of forming a group requires a vision of what that group will be.


There is a reason that some writings on the ADF site refer to “planting” a Grove — it is very much a creative endeavor.


There are many fears one will face when organizing a group. Fear of harassment or ridicule, fear of performing a rite badly, fear of being unable to produce a viable group, and even fear of success. These fears must be faced.


The actions of a Grove Organizer will help shape what the group becomes. When one acts as a leader, actions gain greater consequence, and must be considered well.


Do what you’ll say and say what you’ll do. Don’t break promises of what your group will be doing. All too many Pagans have horror stories about group leaders abusing their power.


The obligations of running a group must be kept in balance, neither starved for lack of effort nor devouring the rest of one’s life.


You will be welcoming both other people and the Kindreds, and should be hospitable to both.


A group does not form overnight. Even when starting with a group of interested people, there is no guarantee a group will coalesce immediately. A setback is not the end, but a cue to press on.


It may be obvious to say, but the idea of a Protogrove is to grow into a group that holds regular, public celebrations of the High Days.

(Note: Lest anyone get the wrong idea, analysis of the above virtues rather than agreement with them is what is required for DP documentation.)

Why ADF?

This was originally going to be about flyer design, but I think that’ll wait until later. What I’m in a mood to talk about today is: Why Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF)? Why did I join, why have I stayed, and why did I want to start a group?

My initial hesitancy to join ADF has been documented elsewhere, and I was just talking about how I stumbled upon ADF, but there is the question of where my interest came from. I’d been curious about ADF for a while, ever since stumbling upon them years back. I hadn’t figured out how it all fit together even with all the resources on the web site, and while I had managed to attend a grove rite there was so much going on I didn’t get it. On top of that, my attempts at solitary “genero-Wiccan” ritual hadn’t left me feeling much; it works for many people, but not for me. So my eventual thought was that if I joined, I could learn whether or not ADF was for me. The wide range of Indo-European cultures was a bonus; I wasn’t “locking myself in” to a single-culture practice. On top of that, I was joining for about the same as it would cost me to buy two books.

So I joined — but why did I stay?

The first reason was all the resources that seemed to open up. ADF’s online members-only offerings can be a bit difficult to find the bits you want at first, but my investment of effort paid great dividends. Looking through the sitemap on the members’ site, joining every list of even passing interest, and wandering about the wiki were all useful, as was plugging any concept I didn’t get into the members’ site search. In addition, the large number of people ready to discuss various concepts on the lists helped enhance the offerings for me, as I eventually gave up on trying to manually save all of the worthwhile emails.

The second reason was that ADF’s “system” worked for me. I started walking the Dedicant Path in early 2005. By the beginning of August I found I had made tremendous progress in making it work for me. I had begun to truly feel contact from the Three Kindreds, and I had found interest in a hearth culture that surprised me. I find the cosmology, centering around the idea of a sacred center, truly appeals to me.

The third reason was my view of ADF’s vision. Those who know more about my personal practice know I follow a Norse hearth culture. If I’m doing that, why not just go pure Asatru? From the group perspective, I think it’s important to highlight ADF’s orientation toward public worship. The generally private orientation of Asatru kindreds has its advantages — anyone who has been in a tight-knit group probably could enumerate them. At the same time, meeting new members is made more difficult, and there tend to be more tensions when the group is explicitly made to be family. Additionally, ADF’s wider range of Indo-European cultures interests me, as much from a group standpoint as a personal one — a chance to experience both the differences and commonalities of various I-E Pagan cultures.

Then what made me decide to start a group?

The first part would be my local vision of ADF’s larger vision. A significant part of ADF’s vision is local congregations that Pagans can attend without having to be full-on priests in their own right. Indeed, while ADF’s liturgical format can be said to have roots in Indo-European cosmology (and the RDNA), the format has obvious differences from common Pagan practice that I feel makes it work better for public rites. (The lack of an impassable circle while the rite is going on, for one.)

So, I wanted to help bring this vision to reality through starting a local ADF congregation. While I talked earlier about finding a group…I know, to a degree, it’s much easier to stumble upon a local group than a national one. I started off doing public ritual without being a protogrove, and I began to realize it was important to me personally to provide a local outlet for celebration of the High Days that anyone could attend.

Additionally, I will admit there is a social aspect to my religious impulses. It is easy in some ways to be solitary, but for me, it can be lonely, even with online community. I wanted to try to find others local to me that ADF ritual works for. I can’t say I’ve quite found it, but I do find the discussion post-ritual to often be much more interesting to me than my previous attempts at more general get-togethers (via Meetup).

In the end, this is a way I can give a gift for a gift. I was inclined towards a more public reconstructionist approach, and willing to give the Indo-European cultures as viewed through ADF’s lens a try. Having found it works well for me, I now work to make it available for others, whether they are “lay pagans”, veteran practitioners, or, as is most likely, from the middle ground between.

Starting up

Sometimes, it’s as much a matter of knowing when to start as when to stop. This blog is about bringing Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF into existence.

It doesn’t take much to start an Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF) Protogrove, you see.

You need to join ADF.

You need a PO Box.

You need six months to pass.

You need to not be a complete ogre.

You need to fill out a Grove Organizer Survey.

But this level of “starting” isn’t the same as actually founding a Protogrove.

That difference is what this blog is about.