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.

Publicity and preparation

I had been thinking there has been something I wanted to post about, but could never remember when I went to write here.

Yesterday morning, as I reviewed the interested emails regarding our Midsummer Eve rite last night, I remembered what it was — an article on the local Pagan community (warning: PDF; bottom of the page) in Voices, the local alternative newspaper. I come in part-way through, with a picture of me engaged in ritual. They asked to take a picture, and after contemplation I figured that a picture of me being a public Pagan was better than a photograph of Art, public Pagan.

The photography for Voices was done spur-of-the-moment to fit their publication deadlines, and involved me grabbing appropriate items (including my personal shrine’s oil candle in the hope it would stay lit better in a breeze than tea-lights) last-minute. Despite this, I arrived with everything I wanted in-hand and improvised my way through ADF’s Core Order of Ritual without a hitch. Doing rites during the week has a similarly frrantic feel to me. On the day of, even with advance preparation and my noticing that everything is going as-expected or better, I’m still anxious. The last weekday rite involved me wondering why I was so wound up when everything was already packed the night before.

Midsummer Eve last night was the same way — everything went just fine. Still, the feeling of stress remains. In the future, I think I’ll try to take the days of weekday rituals off, to give me more time for calmness — and allow the focus to sit on the High Day rite itself.

Or encourage more weekends, in the modern Pagan fashion.

Beltane, and the turnout is surprising

Beltane is not one of my historical top-form group rites. Beltane in my hands is often not as well-planned. There are a number of reasons for this. It comes right on the heels of Trillium, so it’s easy to forget how soon it is and just focus on Trillium. It’s also in the time of year when the weather truly tilts towards reliably nice to spend time outside. The rain stops being low-effort sleet, so being caught in a cloudburst a few miles from the car isn’t such a big deal. Also, the allergens start, so it’s not all positives on my side. It also isn’t as big a deal locally as it is other places for one major reason: Beltane comes right at finals time at PSU. Professors and students alike stress over the completion of the semester, and don’t have time.

Given all of this, I did not go into this year’s Beltane with specifically high hopes. Email advertising had gone out late, and I felt like I was racing to the rite without the preparation needed.

Until the day before, when I discovered I’d somehow gotten on-target with getting the needed offerings together, had a workable rite, and found myself picking up three people from the State College area to carpool to an undisclosed rural location (i.e. Pennsylvania Furnace). Of the three, one was a UU regular; one was someone from my Pagan Meetup days who had developed an interest in ADF; one was a student athlete who had only experienced rites as a family thing.

So we drove out to Pennsylvania Furnace, and met a fifth. I was reminded of the one thing I’d forgotten: sunset comes early. The brief amount of pre-ritual socializing grew long because I felt ahead of the game — I’d picked up three people from scattered State College locations and rolled in well in advance of the start time — so we abruptly hurried out with less of a pre-ritual briefing than I would have preferred.

This year was an improved version of last year’s Gaulish Beltane, drawing on the work of Three Cranes Grove but with the general structure I’ve been using in State College. Sirona and Belenos were honored — this year I had some fine jewelry for Sirona, to ensure things went well. The rite flowed well — a few minor hinks with the cueing, but that’s not unexpected. To my surprise, everyone had a Praise Offering.

Then it was time to draw the runes for acceptance of the offering, and I pulled Nauthiz, Need. That’s a No in my book. I was flummoxed, as I thought I’d planned well, so I asked what was needed and pulled another rune. Kenaz, Torch. Something needed to burn.

One person put more wood on the fire, as I scrambled to see if there was anything left of the oil. There wasn’t, but I discovered something was missing. As part of the turn from Winter to Summer, I had a red candle shaped like an autumn oak leaf to give during the Prayer of Sacrifice. I had forgotten that it was specifically there for that purpose, and it had hidden itself underneath things. I pulled it out, placed it in the fire, and drew another rune for acceptance. Raidho, Wagon. I interpereted this as a positive, but an incremental, moving forward one.

I then drew runes for each of the three Kindreds. The Ancestors gave Ansuz (the God Odin), Ehwaz (Horse), and Laguz (Lake). I saw this, in context, as a journey to the underworld to communicate with the ancestors, or perhaps the need to be flexible in our communication and journey. The Nature Spirits gave us Jera (Year), Dagaz (Day), and Sowilo (Sun). I interpreted this as powerful growth over the next year. Then it was time to ask the Gods and Goddesses, and I pulled Othala (Ancestral Lands), Uruz (the wild Aurochs), and Thurisaz (Thorn). I said this was a blessing with the power of our birthright, but a warning to avoid using it hostilely. This runecast seemed to evoke positive feelings.

After the rite it was time for a potluck, which unintentionally came out as Mexican food. Much discussion was had but the student needed to prepare for finals, so I drove the three that came with me back to State College, with some discussion as we went.

As I drove home, I reflected upon the pleasant surprise of the rite. Beltane in a historical context has aspects of purification, and in a modern context fertility is highlighted, but perhaps both of these things are actually renewal.

Whoops!

I started this site separately, in part, to feed traffic to the main site for Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF.

Let’s try doing those searches I mentioned again…

If I search Google with state college” druid I don’t see Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF — but I do see another, related site in position 7.

Likewise, “state college” pagan doesn’t point to Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF — but that same related site is in position 9.

Which site would that be?

This one.

Maybe I should have just done this blog right on the PG site…or perhaps I’ll put together a thinly disguised post to help the situation.

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.

Finding your group

Back a bit, Eric Sink wrote How would you reach YOU? It was about marketing software, but the same question is applicable to any small modern religious group, Pagan or otherwise.

For me, the fact Hemlock Vales is linked from ADF’s main site is enough, as I was interested in ADF after finding out about ADF through Isaac Bonewits’ website, which I learned about from, of all places, Steve Jackson Games when they republished Authentic Thaumaturgy.

But what if we assume a hypothetical Arthur who didn’t get that link set? How would he find Hemlock Vales?

A first answer would be Witchvox. And, indeed, Witchvox has an entry set up for Hemlock Vales Protogrove. Okay, let’s go further. Assume this hypothetical ur-Art doesn’t know about Witchvox.

Okay, let’s go to Google. Other search engines may be equally important, but Google is the most known/best-analyzed.

“state college” druid — click in three pages, don’t see anything relevant

“state college, pa” druid — The fifth link down will get them there via ADF’s main site. Not bad, not great.

It gets worse if you change out “druid” for “pagan”. But there is a bright spot: Try “penn state” or PSU with pagan…and you see the student group’s home page.

Perhaps I’ll ask them for a link.

And I’ll seek out other ways of improving my link-fu. (Let’s be honest, this blog is one of them.)

This is, of course, all about online marketing. What about offline? It seems harder in some ways, yet effort there can yield results. The easiest route is, obviously, word-of-mouth. I’ve had a number of referrals from the UU regulars of other UUs interested in finding a more Pagan-focused group locally. It hasn’t usually panned out…but it’s worthwhile. To get good word-of-mouth, though, requires a positive impression.

Another major offline option is flyers…which I think are best saved for later.

Location, location

I need to find another place to have Yule.

Wait, let’s back up. One of the reasons I felt truly secure starting a Protogrove was having an indoor location for cold weather with a nice, sliding payment scale — well, actually donations — at a local co-op market. I’m not exactly certain how much everyone else donated, but I think it was about $40 total per High Day.

Said co-op market went out of business in October. So, back to needing to find another place to have Yule.

One of the regular attendees is elderly, and does not deal well with the cold. So outside is out.

Other places I’ve used before have their own issues. The local UU fellowship seems to be full up with books for the annual “Book For Every Child” campaign during most of that time frame, though I need to pore over their schedule carefully to be sure there isn’t a convenient gap; the 22nd, which is the solstice proper, is free, but I know at least one regular would be unable to make it. There was an issue with scheduling when I rented the Friends’ School two years ago for Yule that disinclines me to return. Finally, there was the business function space I was able to get for free for Samhain — but I’m reluctant to risk using that favor up. I also only found out later from a mutual associate that the person who let me use it was more weirded out than they let on.

So, I need to locate an appropriately public and affordable space that can reasonably have a High Day celebration in it. This is the part of being a Grove Organizer I feel I’m worst at — but I know if I want Hemlock Vales to grow to be big and strong, I can’t shy away from it.