- a collection of essays on Neodruidic Studies
- a journal of Post-Reconstructionist Neopaganism

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Square Pegs vs. Round Holes.

( UPDATE Nov 22, 2013: The post below, and others relating to Teo, seem to have become fairly irrelevant due to recent developments (see article HERE). The folk of ADF wish him well... )

Recently, Teo Bishop,  a very well known pagan blogger and enthusiastic promoter of ADF reconsidered his earlier confidence in ADF as an appropriate path for his spiritual work and then subsequently declared to what may have been one of the largest pagan audiences on the net today (his blog followers,) that he was leaving ADF(and Paganism). In so doing, he was very fair to ADF and albeit as much as his parting was quite public, it was true that he had tried to do so as amicably as possible. Regardless, although we felt sad for losing him, I fear many of us felt sadder for its effect on ADF’s reputation. We had all been excited to have the web-wide praise of a real celebrity (Teo Bishop, a.k.a. Matt Morris, a pop-rock performer and songwriter for many top recording stars including Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Cher. Uh, yes, you heard that right...). Independent of the factor of his fame, Teo’s blog-writing is popular in itself, being consistently inspiring yet intensely personal.  Having such an eloquent voice and speaking so glowingly of our organization, Teo ended up exposing throngs of folks to our stuff who may have never considered it otherwise.

During his time with us but unable to participate consistently in a local grove (to a degree this is my unverified assumption,) Teo had found much solace in the Dedicants’ Program as an individual practitioner and, at length, the mode in which he came to see himself best working within ADF was as a guide and organizer for ADF’s population of solitaries.

“An organizer of solitaries”… ? At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I can't help but suggest that “an organization of ADF's solitaries” to me always sounded a little too much like an apple-orchard made up of orange trees. An organization to serve the solitaries, maybe. But an organization "of" solitaries begs the question... As much as I hoped it would work out, well, I suppose it was just a matter of time...


Yes, we do have a significant number of solitaries in our organization and some of those have stayed with us for a long time. If, for personal reasons, you’re not going to become involved in the work of a local grove or simply cannot do so because of your work schedule or great distances, ADF still hopes to have your support and will work to see that you feel welcome. Nonetheless this does not change the fact that ADF is essentially about public paganism. Consequently, in the long run, you may find yourself continually perplexed and challenged about how you fit into the overall scheme of things.

I say this now as a ten year ADF Senior Priest on the far side of having been a grove-founder, organizer and 17 year-stint Senior Druid of one of ADF’s most vibrant and talented groves; and alas, I am now a solitary myself. 

Don’t worry, I still love my grove and attend all their high-days, but functionally now, no longer as an insider.

Again, I must stress that ADF is an organization, and it is meant to be a service-group. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the largest and oldest pagan organizations in Neopaganism, right up there with COG, CUUPs, Asatru, and CAW. Actually most of those outfits are “federations”, linking largely autonomously practicing groups together, most of which are not nearly as liturgically unified and regulated by the degree of shared praxis that ADF groves operate within.

ADF is about public Paganism. It was originally supposed to be about serving one’s local pagan community, “openly”. With all the attention these days given to grove “hearth cultures”, study programs and clergy training this may seem a little less obvious than it once was. ADF groves were meant to be fundamentally EPC’s: Event Planning Committees; “teams”, not “clubs”. It was definitely not supposed to be about creating local cliques of liturgists creating works largely for the use of themselves and their grovemates because their larger pagan community considers them so inwardly-focused, both socially and spiritually, that they no longer seem approachable.

Yet, if this is (or “should-be”) such an important issue to ADF groves; this fundamental identity predicated on their success as a public event production team, what relevance can it have to ADF’s solitaries? Can the inadequacies of a single grove actually be responsible for it being the nexus of an extended geographic “cloud” of unaffiliated members functioning as ADF solitaries rather than participating? This cannot be blamed exclusively on a grove, certainly; often the groves involved are far better off without the active presence of many of those individuals, but it still serves as a litmus for the organizational strengths of the group.

Funny. Twenty five years ago when I first began applying my energy to creating some kind of sense of pagan community in our area, one of my founding principles was a motto I had coined with the hope of cajoling folks out of the woodwork to assuage their sense of loneliness yet still respect their severe need for a sense of uniqueness, it went like this... 

“We are ALL solitaries”.