Journeys: Thoughts from a Druid Path

Journeys through the world around us, from a Druidic perspective.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Back to Basics

Greetings! Since my last post, I have been installed as Archdruid at ADF and it has been a busy six weeks. There has been a lot of discussion about what ADF is and what ADF isn't, so I thought I would go back to basics and discuss, over a series of posts, the Vision of our Founder (or Flounder depending upon your point of view) Isaac Bonewits.

I think it is safe to say that Isaac was a visionary, and his thoughts on Neo-paganism are as valid today as they were when they were first uttered three decades ago. I adhere to Isaac's vision and I think it is the organizational foundation for what ADF is today and will be going into the future.

Here is a bit from Isaac: "In ADF we believe that excellence in scholarship is vitally important. The Goddesses and Gods do not need us to tell lies on their behalf, nor can we understand the ways of our Paleopagan predecessors by indulging in romantic fantasies, no matter how "politically correct" or emotionally satisfying they might be. So we promote no tall tales of universal matriarchies, of Stonehenge being built by Druid magic, nor of the ancient Druids originally having been shamanic crystal masters from Atlantis. We do not whitewash the occasional barbarism of our predecessors, nor exaggerate it. We use real archeology, real history and real comparative mythology -- and we're willing to change our opinions when new information becomes available, even if it destroys our pet theories. This approach is rare in the history of Druidic revivals and the neopagan community."

Over the years, claims were made by various people about experiences and beliefs that they espoused based upon things that they had experienced outside of the realm of our normal reality. While we welcome the Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG) that we sometimes experience, Isaac wanted us to build a religious organization around actual historical thoughts and structures. ADF is Indo-European-based and our hearth cultures stretch from Ireland in the West to the Indus River valley in the East. For some of our hearth cultures, like the Greek or the Roman, there is a wealth of historical material about how these people (the Greeks and Romans) lived and worshiped. For some of our hearths, like the Tocharians, an Indo-European people of the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang, China, they have left us scant evidence of their culture and practices. While Isaac stated that we would never know exactly how people worshiped in the past, the desire was to take the information that we could find in the historical record and use this as a basis for moving forward. Therefore, while one might not know exactly how the Irish worshipped in pagan times, one could use the information available in the historical record (hopefully from primary and/or secondary historical references) to use as a basis for the next step.

While we may wish for an unbroken lineage of followers back to an indefinite past, the fact of the matter seems to suggest that at some point, these lineages were broken with the advent of invasive religious and political movements and phenomenon. Ancient religions were without a doubt affected by incursions made by Abrahamic religions. These new religions changed the face of Paleopaganism so dramatically, that with very few exceptions, no unbroken line of culture and worship extends from the past to the current day. We therefore cast a skeptical eye at claims of long-standing lineage back to a misty past or of claims, such as the ones which claims that Druids built Stonehenge, that have no basis in fact.

We look to move polytheism and Neopaganism in the modern day. We would like to maintain as many structures as possible from before which have value and purpose in the modern age. Some of the values of the past, such as slavery, blood sacrifice, and cattle-raiding have very little practical application for neopagan Druids and should remain in the past. In fact, many of them would put us at odds with the societal norms and laws under which we live. While we are skeptical of such claims about the past, we are also careful with new claims in the present. Unverified Personal Gnosis may belie some powerful individual experiences, but when those experiences are not easily verifiable or recreatable, they belong to a sometimes fragile realm of belief. This is not always a bad thing. Many of our experiences of the Kindreds, the Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Goddesses and Gods that we are drawn to, are the result of such experiences. Yet, it is when we hang our proverbial hats on the story of one's own personal experiences that we also move forward with some skepticism. While it surely doesn't invalidate our experience of that phenomenon, it brings into question the broader application of that experience. As we like to say, your mileage may vary.

UPG has had a powerful effect on my life. I teach a workshop about hospitality that talks about my encounters with my Lares, my household spirits, at my last residence. While the UPG in that instance was also shared by another person, my workshop is about helping people set up devotional practices while finding and working with their own Lares, their own household spirits, and not necessarily mine. We live in a world full of spirits, after all.

So, we begin this review with scholarship and skepticism, both healthy choices for a trip to the Neopagan smorgasbord. We are blessed in that our own personal experiences often compliment that which our predecessors had or, in some cases, what we expect that they may have felt or done. Other experiences may lie outside of the bounds of a Paleopagan or even Neopagan context and merely be an instance of one person reacting to any number of thoughts, impressions, or stimuli. Let us walk carefully forward, therefore, with sources in one hand and experience in the other as we move ourselves ahead in our Way.

Last modified on
I am a long-time pagan and charter member of ADF, Ar nDraoicht Fein, a Druid Fellowship. I am a Senior Priest in as well as the Arch Druid of ADF. I am a Druid of the Third Order, RDNA; Druid Grade, OBOD; and a Second Degree Druid Companion in AODA. I love Druidry!  


Additional information