Thursday, May 25, 2017

Our Programs of Study in ADF

Ar nDraoicht Fein, A Druid Fellowship, Inc. (ADF), provides four distinct avenues for pursuing study in the practice of Druidry. The Dedicant Program is the introductory study program, consisting of analysis of the eight major holidays, three book reviews, a look at grounding and centering practices, and a mental discipline/meditation practicum. Upon completion, the student may enter a variety of additional programs designed for enhanced specialization. The Guild programs focus on specific skillsets: bardic work, brewing, naturalist practices, liturgy, or study of Indo-European beliefs regarding magico-religious and divinatory practices, to name a few. The Generalist Program is a full course of study that encompasses aspects of all of these specializations. Finally, there are two courses of more intense study that includes a dedication to service in the organization: the Initiate Path and the Clergy Training Program. The Initiate work is designed for individuals who wish to be of service without ordination. The Clergy Training results in full ordination and provides the polity necessary to pursue a Masters of Divinity through an accredited university.

ADF is unique in that there are not many neopagan/polytheist training programs based on such sound scholarship and practical materials. The programs themselves were developed as needed by the Elders and Founders of the organization. The current staff of reviewers and mentors is in agreement that we have lost our edge and are in need of updating our resources. Our marketing is minimal to the point of word-of-mouth, as is common in the greater polytheist community. There is stigma, often negative, attached to our practices, and there are many participants who study under a pseudonym.

It is because we are unique that we need the program. Although it is a perceived need, it is one of great import to those who hold it. When the program was being developed, there was nothing like it. Most of the folks who practiced an earth-based religion were in hiding and met under the light of the moon to protect their identities. We have known folks who were fired and even lost their children due to misconceptions and prejudices against non-monotheistic religious identities. Still, our founder, Rev. Isaac Bonewits, decided he was done being in the shadows. When he founded ADF, his sole purpose was to provide safe space for earth-based folks who just wanted a place to pray. The study programs followed almost immediately as folks wished to learn all they could about the various practices of the folks of ancient Indo-Eurpoean tribes.

While the initial programs were developed, there was no real data collection. We are currently in our third version of the Clergy Training program as we have attempted to fill the gaps we discover haphazardly in our training. Mostly, when the folk we serve tell us they need us to do a thing, we figure out how to provide it. It is not the most effective way to build a program, but so far, it has served us. Until now, that is. We have finally reached a point where improvements are needed beyond our ability to simply perceive them. ADF has grown into a complex organization over these 30 years.

As we move forward, we are in desperate need of modifications, but these must be made with care. Full analysis of the program in the words of those we serve as they describe their experiences will not only shine a light on the areas for improvement, but also provide data about what we are doing well. Great care must be paid to ensuring we preserve those parts that are worth preserving and change those things that are no longer serving the folk or the organization.