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

Earrach to ISAAC

---------------(( August 2009...

I know you receive tons of email so i hope you do find this soon.

There's a thread or two this week on ADF-DISCUSS of folks talking
about a couple of the main ADF customs and how they find them
difficult, particularly the calendar obligation and how it doesn't
mesh with their personal or grove "hearth-culture". I was wondering
about your feelings on this since ADF does shift its focus on some
topics slightly with time and such changes are felt most
dramatically (I think) by some of us "old-timers".

The commentary of mine below involves much of the rhetoric I find
myself using on the lists and elsewhere. Particularly my insistence
on what I perceive as being one of ADF's basic design principles:
an ADF grove is to be a service to its local pagan community, not a
group with all of its attentions turned inward. I feel that this was
what we hoped for "back-when" and it's what I cultured into my grove
to be, and it comes out in their conversations when they're talking
shop with folks from other groves. In a number of ways I find myself
referring to my grove (Sassafras) as an "Orthodox" grove.

Below you'll see me saying "The problem with setting up a
single-hearth grove is that in doing-so you have turned your back on
over 2/3rd of your local pagan community..." - This, in so many
ways, seems to me to be the crux of the matter.

Yours in The Work,
- EARRACH of Pittsburgh
Sassafras Grove ADF, Pittsburgh PA www.sassafrasgrove.org
PS: A present for the Master of the Neologism himself:

Recently I've been saying...
" I'm a Post-Reconstructionist (Pagan)"
      - or,
" I'm an Eclectic Reconstructionsist Neopagan "
( -heh, that just about ought'a make their heads explode...)
Date: Tue, 4 Aug 2009 15:27:39 -0400
Reply-To: Ar nDraiocht Fein Discussion list
Sender: Ar nDraiocht Fein Discussion list
From: Earrach of Pittsburgh
Subject: 8 High-Days vs. Hearths (was High Days and Piety)

Melanie Achen-Ball
wrote 4 questions...
Q 1.) How long have you been observing this calendar?

Earrach replies:

By "this calendar" I'll assume you are referring to the annual cycle of
Neopagan Holydays on which the Eight ADF High-Days grove-requirement is based:

     December Solstice;     February Crossquarter;
     March Equinox;           May Crossquarter;
     June Solstice;              August Crossquarter;
     September Equinox;    November Crossquarter

These calendar dates were, in varying degrees, celebrated in the ancient
world yet it is unlikely that all 8, or 4, or even 2 were celebrated
consistently by any culture annually during the same period of their
history. This seems true for even the Celts having not always been
celebrating the 4 commonly attributed to them.

I'm 55 years old and had been observing these dates personally as a
druid-ish Neopagan since my twenties and have kept them in the ADF
public-rites fashion since I founded our grove (www.sassafrasgrove.org) in
1992. This past Sunday we completed our 136th public high-day rite and I
have been at every single one of them. So yes, keeping the Rites of the
Wheel is central to my personal sense of Piety.

Q.2) Has it become an integral part of your spirituality?

Earrach replies:

Absolutely (see above). I would say that for me the process of keeping the
eight (in a cycle of several different hearth cultures, not just one) has
become the most profound (external) form of my spirituality.

Q.3) Would you feel wrong if you missed a holiday?

Earrach replies:

Well, according to Mircea Eliade, the cultures who behave in this way arrive
at the assumption that World may come to an end if the rites are not upheld,
and I'm starting to clearly understand what that means.

Q.4) Have you ever felt wrong because you were unable to find a personal
meaning of the festival for yourself? What roles do hearth cultures play?

Earrach replies:

IMO, "Hearth Cultures" are both the answer and the problem here.

The notion that a person grown and inextricably entrenched in Western
Culture can simply take-up a handful of customs allegedly from some ancient
culture and soon be referring to their spiritual practice as "being" of that
ancient culture is just nonsense. What they're -saying- is nonsense, what
they're -doing- is not. Nonetheless, they aren't really Celts, Norse,
Hellenics, etc., they "are" Neopagans. I consider Neopaganism to be our
primary and inescapable Hearth Culture, to which all other hearth-choices
are necessarily secondary.

Being from what I'd might call the "Old-school / Orthodox-Bonewitsian" style
of ADF, I have always defined an ADF grove as a service to one's local
Neopagan community; our rites and much of our other activies are open to
everyone, not just members. In this perspective, a grove primarily serves
its community, not its membership. Therefore, a grove is a "team", not a
"club". I feel that what Isaac was hoping-for originally was to create a
highly flexible and highly functional open-door "church" for (almost) all
Neopagans. The only exclusion was to be the IndoEuropean-only boundary and
that was (imo) intended to screen out all the BBM (Bible-Based-Magic) systems
that were keeping Neopaganism so muddled-up thematically as well as being
full of wishful-thinking, half-truths and downright bad info.

The problem with setting up a single-hearth grove is that in doing-so you
have turned your back on over 2/3rd of your local pagan community. This
becomes apparent as soon as you think of the high-days. You see, there are
some NP high-days that lend themselves well to certain seasonal celebrations
and there some hearth-date combinations that seem downright "lame" in
comparison (hence your own quandary).

Reconsidering your question (Q.4) again though, I'd have to say that over
the years one of the most wonderful outcomes of the Work I've found in
designing and carrying-through a grove high-day are the discoveries you make
in developing a cogent living-theme for a rite from exploring the ancient
material and folkways and weaving them into a ritual experience which pays
honor to the OldWays, the season (very important), and the deities, creating
a truly transformative experience for the attendees, rather than just
dutifully checking off the steps of the COoR, step by step.

- EARRACH of Pittsburgh
Sassafras Grove ADF, Pittsburgh PA

-------------------- ISAAC's RESPONSE:

From: Isaac Bonewits
To: Earrach
Subject: Re: ADF: Neo, Recon, Eclectic, Orthodox?
Date: Aug 7, 2009 2:33 PM

This may or may not come as a shock, but I agree with your remarks
below (both the quoted text and the cover email) 110% -- and you can
quote me on that!

And I really love "I'm an Eclectic Reconstructionist Neopagan." :)

bright blessings,
* Isaac Bonewits: writer, teacher, *
* songwriter, curmudgeon *
* *
* *
* "Snailmail" to: P.O. Box 1010, *
* Nyack, NY 10960-8010 *
* Please use BIG fonts in your email, *
* my eyes are getting old! *

For updates on Isaac's legacy check his wife Phaedra's blog...

Sadly, as our organization grows, a widening sector of our membership has never heard Isaac giving a presentation. Isaac was a masterful public speaker and fortunately ACE and others did amass a significant body of his work on both audio and video formats - - unfortunately most of which is not currently available for purchase or download.

This is an example of Isaac explaining our work, and to me it has some moments which really show the depth of his vision, his power as a communicator and yes, I'll say it, his wisdom...

To hear Isaac explaining ADF and the parts of an ADF ritual,
see these two podcasts at OBOD:
(A.) http://druidcast.libsyn.com/druid_cast_a_druid_podcast_episode_20
(B.) http://druidcast.libsyn.com/druid_cast_a_druid_podcast_episode_21

Here's a really fun piece:
Isaac and others on a full-length video of a 1974 Tom Snyder Show at Halloween: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V20a4B_tw9s

= = = 

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