Good-bye AODA and fare thee well! The picture on my side is a large painting of a Shoshone I began recently
After walking the Druidry path as part of the AODA, we have decided to amicably go our separate ways due to apparently irreconcilable differences. I do feel it was primarily just a "poor fit" from the get-go, on both sides, though I feel we could have avoided the poor fit if AODA was clearer about its lodge-style hierarchical structure. I am no longer a member of AODA but wish them well. I wish I could change my subheading of this blog, for both our sakes, but I apparently cannot make LiveJournal do that. If you can tell me how to do that, please leave a comment below.
I had always been attracted to knowing more about ancient European beliefs, from my earliest childhood, looking at the various mysterious faces amongst the foliage on the cathedral's columns, and being raised in our indigenous Native American ways. The original "Wicker Man" movie resonated with me, not the killing of poor Sergeant Howie, but the rich beliefs and rites of that place that tuned in to nature in order to survive. Being of light skin, I was always questioned by others about my Indian identity growing up. So I decided to explore my European ancestry as well.
I discovered the Druids were famous for their wisdom and knowledge, worshipping nature spirits, trees, and strange gods in their ancient groves of oaks in Roman times. But also that they were basically destroyed by the Romans. There were some contemporary people who wore white robes and went to Solstice rituals at Stonehenge, which was cool, but that was far away and I knew nothing of them (this was all long before the Internet).
I read John Muir, Edward Abbey, and John McPhee's "Interview with the Archduid." So I came to believe that the modern form of being a Druid was essentially a European parallel to our Native American ways of worshipping the Creator in honoring nature, sort of being a religious deep ecologist that actually believed in the reality of nature spirits and the holiness of trees.
I read a few of John Michael Greer's books, such as Monsters, and enjoyed them very much as a nice blend of lore and practices. When I learned he had his own Druid order, I thought it was something I should look into and maybe join. When you are interested in "weird stuff" it is always heartening to talk to other weirdos ;-) I had looked at OBOD and ADF, which are both reconstructionist polytheistic Druid groups...but although I enjoy reading the myths and legends, I already had a God/Creator to whom I owed sole worship, the same in both in my Catholic and Native American ways. By my baptism I had made that promise. I had no intention of changing that to run after strange gods. And from what I read, AODA did not require it, only requiring civility and tolerance. So I decided to join AODA and find kindred spirits who held nature sacred and learn more of the old European ways.
I became a member of AODA in May of 2006 and then became an official Candidate. After a year of study and practice, I attained First Degree (Druid Apprentice) in November 2007. There's lot of very worthwhile things to be learned. Although, over time, I ended up butting heads with some people (Email is a blessing AND a curse!) that perhaps in real life I might never have had any problems with. In real life, we might have been good friends. Virtual life is its own animal entirely, and I offer my apologies for any hurts I may have inflicted, as anyone who knows me knows I might be gruff at times, but I am too much of a softie for my own good. After a long period of mishaps and problems, I just decided to cut the cord to save all our feelings. I was looking for something I couldn't find I guess. I guess despite all my tries, I am a terrible "joiner."
So this might be a good time and place to give my own sense of what Druidry really is, the modern day version anyways, and the little I have learned of the various larger branches. This is all of course, MY OWN OPINION! ;-)
AODA is an excellent fit for those looking for membership in a revived and respected Revival Druidry organization drawn up according to a masonic lodge-style hierarchy, which determines what is or what is not acceptable, including style/routes of communication, conceptions of deity, etc. For those who do fit in, it seems to work very satisfactorily. Some members have other paths such as Buddhism or Wicca, or are exploring other paths, mostly polytheistic, pantheistic, or monist, after finding Christianity unsatisfactory. If you are one of these folks, it might well be a very good place to belong. John Michael Greer is an outstanding gentleman and scholar, and the other archdruids and officials bring their own talents and abilities to the benefit of AODA and its members.
If you are a self-described "recovering Catholic" or dissatisfied Christian, or if you are attached to Gnostic Christianity, it will be congenial as long as you don't bring up Jesus Christ in polite conversation, not in an orthodox sense...as long as you have divested yourself of any attachment to orthodox belief, you will be ok for the most part. If you still are attached to Jesus Christ in an orthodox sense as the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, etc. you will find it polite for a while but chilly and eventually you will go elsewhere. In other words, you can talk about Lugh as a god, or even Thor or Kali, but not Jesus. It's good to know before you find yourself smacking your head against a brick wall trying to figure out the pattern of why you are being subtly encouraged to exit ;-)
I think AODA probably should be more explicit on its philosophy the way that ADF is. AODA should be more explicit on what/who it is NOT looking for...and screen aspirants a little more strictly to avoid "poor fit" monotheists such as myself. Just a suggestion on this informal "exit interview." I would never join ADF (nor would they have me!) as I am not personally a polytheist...that would be a "bad fit" for both of us.
OBOD seems nice enough, but again it is polytheist in approach, and the required learning program (top notch in production) is rather spendy, a couple of hundred dollars for their very nice package. All you have to buy for AODA is the basic book (see AODA.org for the meat and potatoes) for under $20 and if you like what you read, then apply to be a member.
[OOPS! Edit added 01/31/09: A Druid friend corrected me in my misperception of OBOD...so I stand corrected and here is the correction! "OBOD is not a
reconstructionists druid group, and it does not require belief in a
pantheon of deities. OBOD does in fact allow for those who believe in
multiple deities, Christians, no gods at all, etc. It is really very
much a revivalist group, and allows its members to consider Druidry a
philosophy, a religion, a spiritual path, etc."]
It is odd indeed that neopaganism and all its associated groups are often quite unstable in membership, as in "high turnover". I think what happens is that the originators of most of these groups have a vision of what they want, and in these PC-times, promote themselves as bastions of tolerance. However that tolerance is often quite shallow for those that do not subscribe to their views in toto. So those who cry out for tolerance are often the same ones who end up building their own walls of intolerance.
The problem seems to be a variety of the Utopian flaw, that is, perfection cannot be planned, but only inched towards...one step forward and two back. Personally I LIKE the idea of multiple "Druidries," and let history and natural selection do the weeding out!
So farewell to my AODA comrades, may your path be shining and fare thee well! :-)
Don't forget your curmudgeonly mostly-orthodox-and-always-struggling Roman Catholic animist brother!
This is a painting of Jesus Christ I am doing for my room. I've been working on it on and off for a year or so, when I feel so moved. It's not quite done. I have been doing it through applying multiple glazes. The painting combines iconography of the Sacred Heart and Divine Mercy.