thoughts on Druidry and Celtic Reconstructionism


Last October I rejoined ADF after a long absence and a series or realizations. Well, I never mentioned it here, but my association with the local ADF grove only lasted about a month and a half. I left the group after realizing it wasn’t a good match for me. The main issue I have is that the group (called a grove) is pan-Indo-European in their focus, with most of the members being Hellenists. I feel that this is just too broad a scope and eventually I would view the long drive to their rituals a meaningless effort if they were only going to do a Celtic ritual once every blue moon. There were other issues complicating the matter- power struggles between members, political stuff and drama. When the only other Celtic-oriented members of the group quit, I decided I just wasn’t going to fit in and I quit too.

I’m still in the dedicant program for ADF. I guess I’m hoping that by the time I complete it, another ADF grove will come along that’s Celtic focused. I learned from my short stint in an ADF grove that those who haven’t completed their dedicant program don’t have any say in writing rituals. I understand why that is- ADF wants to be sure that those who are writing the rituals have a solid understanding of the cosmology and everything. The dedicant program takes a minimum of a year to complete. I’ve gotten some things done on it- the book reports are really hard to push through. Sometimes I wonder if some of this is wasted effort, and I remind myself that I will be glad I got it done if I do get involved with a grove again.

I think I’ve said it before- Celtic Reconstructionism is the closest match for describing my spirituality, but as far as I have found, it is pretty difficult to find CR groups to have ritual and community with. As far as cosmology, scholarship, and much of the ritual structure goes, ADF is pretty close to Celtic Reconstructionism. There’s one thing though- instead of focusing on Celtic/Gaelic Paganism, they are inclusive of all Indo-European pantheons and traditions. I understand that in doing so, they have made themselves the largest Neopagan Druid group in the US- it makes sense in that way. But can one be a Hellenist and still call oneself a Druid? Everything that I have read says that the Druids were Celtic.

I read about a group that broke away from ADF mainly for this reason- the Henge of Keltria. I looked into this group, but was disappointed to find that in creating their form of Druidism, they changed too many things from the way they were done in their parent group. For instance, they made ritual even more elaborate than ADF’s– my tendency is toward KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). More steps were added to the rituals, and an elaborate system of ritual tools was created. They also made the groups initiatory and closed instead of public and open.

Surprisingly, British Druid groups, like the OBOD, are based on 17th century scholarship and uses the ritual trappings of the western mystery tradition.

So as far as Druid groups go, it’s looking like ADF is still the best match for me. I’m thinking that a compatible (Celtic) ADF grove will reach my neck of the woods before a CR Pagan community does. I don’t really think of myself as training to be a “Druid” though- a community of Celtic Pagans is what I‘m looking for, not a priestly title. But it would be handy to come up with a shorter, more elegant label for myself besides “Celtic Reconstructionist Householder and Ozark folk magic practitioner”.


10 responses »

  1. I learned from my short stint in an ADF grove that those who haven’t completed their dedicant program don’t have any say in writing rituals.

    ADF has no such rule. However, the Grove you were in might have had one like that. Your reasoning, though, is good – it does help to understand what we’re doing when writing rituals. But we have folks in ADF who have been writing and performing rituals for years that have not done the DP. Just a thought. (grin)

  2. Interesting. I find that much of what people do in pagan or neopagan systems is very rigid, and yet it is based on someone’s imagination of what the old ways were. I hope that you find something suitable for you. Here is a link to my website, which you might not be interested in because it is basically pan-indo-european, if you like, but it shows the relationship between the various forms, so that one can see which forms are appropriate and which might not be suitable for some individual or group. Certainly, the Indo-Europeans were flexible!

  3. Thanks for the link. I certainly don’t have everything figured out yet, and probably never will. But I feel that I may be getting closer to finding what is a good fit for me.

  4. I’ve participated in Keltrian and ADF rituals over the years and find them to be remarkably similar with little departure from the basic ritual flow. Keltria ritual does center around primarily Irish Celtic traditions but otherwise is not extraordinarily complicated or detailed. As with the rituals of either group, there are areas that can be “grove’s choice” where extra information or focus aids the working. I like both groups for their openness, friendliness, scholarship and magical emphasis while I prefer Keltria because of its focus on Irish Celtic materials.

  5. I’ve gone back to Celtic Reconstructionism since writing this article (surprise surprise!). My brand of CR is *much* more simplistic than both ADF and Keltria. What I know of Keltrian rituals is only from their Book of Rituals. I have the ADF dedicant materials and have been to one ADF ritual. Compared to other Neopagan rituals I’ve been to, ADF seems to have way too many steps IMO. Compared to the kind of rituals I do now, everything previous seems elaborate.

  6. Wonderful post Tressabelle,

    I would find it odd that an ADF grove would only allow members who have finished their Dedicant studies able to write ritual. But it looks as though Kirk has already set the record straight on that…

    I also find myself walking the line between a very liturgical ritual form and a more whimsical off the cuff kind of experience. One of my pet peeves is showing up to a rite and being handed a ritual program…which happens quite often. In my opinion if a rite needs a program, it’s too complicated.

    I feel the same way about the ‘Druid’ title as you mentioned in the final paragraph, and I think a number of folks involved in Druid based groups feel this. It’s not about being a priest or adding a label to your spirituality. ADF mainly gives me a format in which to practice my faith, and a group of folks with whom I can practice.


  7. My thoughts exactly when you said “if a rite needs a program, it’s too complicated”. I tried to make ADF work for me, but while I really like the philosophy and such, the riual format is too complex and my local ADF community isn’t even Celtic.

  8. I’m in ADF too- and I kind of agree with you that the ritual structure can seem a little too complex. I prefer to take ideas from them (and other sources) and create my own way of doing things.
    I attend rituals with a grove that broke off of Keltria, their rituals are quite similar, things are just in a somewhat different order, and a couple things are added like the four directions (a la Settling at the Manner of Tara)

    CR rituals I have seen tend to be fairly simple, and really very by individual & group. Maybe you could try starting a Celtic Pagan/Druid study group in your area?

    P.S. I suspect the “to write ritual you must be a dedicant” may also be defacto- the leaders & more active members are more likely to have done the DP.

  9. But can one be a Hellenist and still call oneself a Druid? Everything that I have read says that the Druids were Celtic.

    If you’re trying to be a “Druid” in the sense of the ancient Celtic priestly caste, then arguably no, you can’t be a Hellenist and a Druid.

    But if you’re trying to be a “Druid” in the sense of the Revival Druid tradition, then absolutely you can be a Hellenist and a Druid.

    Is it confusing to have the term “Druid” be used to mean at least two different things (more, if you count, say, D&Dcharacter classes)? Yes, but unfortunately that’s how language works. The same words typically have multiple different, overlapping meanings and connotations. You can hate it, but it’s just reality.

    And you can argue that the Revival Druids should not have appropriated the name “Druid,” but that ship pretty much sailed centuries ago–Revival Druids, inspired by but clearly not identical to the ancient Celtic Druids, have been calling themselves “Druids” for significantly longer than there has been a United States of America. You can argue that Europeans never should have settled the Americas, but here we are, we’ve been here since the 15th century, and we ain’t going anywhere.

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