Becoming a Member
The Three Paths into the Tribes
Everyone comes from somewhere else. The origin stories of native peoples all describe how their far ancestors came to settle in the places they now call "home"; stories that continue to grow and evolve as people move and settle in new lands. One becomes a native of a place by living there; places become ancestral ground the moment an ancestor is buried there. The ancestors' memories are our memories, living on through us in our mitochondrial DNA, but if we could travel back in time to rejoin an ancestral community, would we find ourselves eternal outsiders?
In the distant past, there were three ways to become a member of one of Avalon's Nine Tribes: by
- Birth: Being the child of a Tribeswoman;
- "Marriage": Long-term, intimate partnership with a Tribes member (not applicable today); or
- Fosterage: Being 'fostered' or 'adopted' by Tribes parents 'or 'sponsored' by a Tribes member and accepted by the community as an adult.
However different the process may appear, these remain the only ways to become a Tribes member today -- with some minor differences, in consideration of our very different societies and cultures. The ancient Tribes held the bonds of fosterage as (or even more) sacred than the bonds of blood, and they could count on any fosterling sharing certain assumptions about the nature of reality and the ways to show proper respect for ancestors and Spirits of Place. They could count on community members to put the Tribe's welfare first, no matter the situation. These assumptions no longer hold true today. Loved ones may not support our chosen spiritual paths, and even the most loyal Seekers often put other considerations before their own spiritual welfare or that of their spiritual community. Different areas of our lives often make conflicting demands upon us, and who can say with perfect confidence how one might choose until the moment of choice arrives? The answer to these and other seemingly "unique" challenges, even as regards so simple (and "modern") a process as joining our membership, lies in Tradition teachings and customs.
The Ways of Birth and "Marriage"
Whenever possible, ADO hosts family events, where ADO members ("the Tribes") and their loved ones and close friends who are not ADO members can meet and learn more about us without feeling pressured to "convert" or "join". While they are not 'member events', they do provide special access to spouses, families, and friends. Through inclusion, we hope to relieve loved ones' concerns for us while offering them a more natural, Traditional passage into the membership, should this be their choice. It is our way of honouring the paths of birth and marriage. Family events also represent opportunities to reintegrate our fractured lives, bringing the most important elements together while still respecting each person's right to make their own choices. The Order supports members in staging such events by providing sample planning timelines, handouts, schedules, advice and final approvals on content to ensure the continued integrity of our Traditional beliefs, customs, teachings, and practices. Whenever possible, Core ('senior') Members attend, so that families may pose questions or state their concerns to us in person. Family events are designed, planned, and carried out by local ADO Learning Circles and Groves, and it is they who determine their frequency, scheduling, and locations.
The Way of Spiritual Fosterage
By far the commonest way for modern people to become ADO Tribes members is by Spiritual Fosterage or sponsorship by an ADO Lifetime Member. This is the process we now call "Aspirancy". Aspirants are provisional members who are exploring the Tradition and working to assimilate to life in the ADO memberships (Avalon's modern "Tribes") before making a final commitment to join as Lifetime Members. In time long past, when finding Avalonians was easy, the usual route to Aspirancy was by approaching local Tribes members with requests for sponsorship. Today, our Tradition (like Avalon herself) is still re-emerging from the mists, and local members and groups are often hard to come by. So for the present, most Aspirants discover us through this website. As the main point of contact with Seekers, the ADO cyber community is thus the primary source of new members for the Order, and a vital resource for members hoping to establish local Learning Circles and Groves. Thus, all members are expected to participate in it.
The ancestors considered birth, marriage, and fosterage formal, intimate, binding relationships not with individuals, but with the entire Tribal community. 'Suitors' (or Aspirants) were set a number of impossible seeming tasks to test the depth of their desire to belong, their willingness to adopt Tribal ways, and their reliability and fidelity when faced with challenges or danger. Elders and Sponsors suited their tests to the unique character of each candidate. The petitions of those who passed these challenges or tests were generally granted. Because we cannot meet and closely observe each Aspirant in person in order to devise unique, individualised tests, our tests of character are presented through (and during) 'the Hunt'; a pre-Celtic form of spiritual quest. Today, the terrain of the Hunt encompasses the Aspirant Course, online Lessons, Learning Circle (where available), and active participation at our Forum. Those who successfully meet these challenges, are approved by the Council of Elders and accepted by the Ancestral Tribes, and take the Membership Oath, become Lifetime Members of our community.
Beyond a few articles of clothing and dedicated ritual tools, the Tribes did not recognise the concept of personal ownership. Most things were communally provided and held. When new people came into the community, they assumed an equal share of labour in exchange for an equal share of community resources. In recognition of the fact that there would always be some lag during the transition from being an outsider to being a Tribes member, 'suitors' paid a dowry -- not to individuals, but to the whole community by gifting the communal "fund". Today, this dowry takes the form of an "Aspirant (Service) Fee", which helps to offset community operating expenses.
Aspirants may choose to pay this Fee upfront or wait until they become Novices. Those choosing to defer payment receive the coursework as a self-study without tutoring or access to cyber resources, Learning Circles, Lessons, or Leaves of Absence. ADO Members may provide guidance on a voluntary basis to Unpaid Aspirants who post requests for assistance to the ADO Forum. Those choosing to pay the Fee upfront receive the coursework, access to ADO cyber resources and Learning Circles (where available), and are assigned a Tutor who may sponsor them within the Order. Tutors provide guidance and advocate for them during the assessment process when the Elder Council is deliberating about whether to affirm them as Lifetime Members. The Tutor is the Aspirant's guide through community life and spiritual practice, and they retain this role to some degree for the life of the member. All Aspirants may receive The Book of Tribes (Part One of our Members Manual) upon successful completion of the Home Study course.
The "Honeymoon" Period
The term "honeymoon" derives from the custom of giving new couples enough honey mead for one "moon" or "month", making the first month of 'wedded' life the sweetest. The "mead moon" was originally the community's gift in acknowledgement of the unique talents that new members, through their knowledge and participation, bestow upon the community. We still exchange the priceless gifts of our time, our effort, and our labours today. Then, as now, the first month of membership is often sweetest, for we are living out our dreams and time has not yet sullied them with the cares or tedium of daily life. But any lived spirituality must eventually become everyday life, which is why we must each learn how to make everyday life sacred again. This requires a drastic shift in habits and worldview.
We imagine we know what it means to change, but change doesn't limit itself to what we feel prepared (or even willing) to do and often comes in forms we never imagined. Most of us hope to change the world while we remain the same, yet change always demands, at the very least, that we sacrifice who we were in order to become the person were meant to be. The honeymoon ends when we are forced to face our unrealistic expectations and our resistance to change. We must each choose whether to walk away or enter into more satisfying relationship through a deeper level of commitment. As with all intimate relationships, the benefits of making a full commitment are not always immediately apparent. Sometimes it requires a leap of faith, and in order that you may make a better-informed leap we encourage you to talk with members who have faced these challenges. We are all 'walkers between two worlds', straddling the mainstream and the Dreaming world of our spiritual community. The more questions we ask, the more ideas we will likely have about how to negotiate our own journeys.
There are as many reasons to join Avalon Druid Order as there are people in the world. Some join in hopes of finding a local group of like-minded people, others to find a teacher and share their experiences in a community setting. Still others desire only to explore our nine-month Home Study, "Kindling the Sacred Hearthfire" to learn about a little-known spiritual tradition. A few join as a way of supporting something they feel may be of benefit to everyone (i.e. something they deem to be "a good cause"). All of these very special people become part of ADO's "tribal community" as it is in this time and in this moment.
There are many benefits to membership, including:
- Access to members-only services, events, and publications
- Fellowship of like-minded people drawn to a native Avalonian ancestral ('Faery') form of Druid community
- Opportunities for continuing training throughout your life as a member
- Experience of authentic early Avalonian Tradition rooted in family and spiritual kin-based community
- Guidance & Support in starting or joining an ADO Learning Circle and/or Grove
Ultimately, one's experience of any Path or Druid Way is only what one makes of it. Your membership will be most enjoyable and rewarding when you actively practice and take part, sharing your unique experiences of our spirituality with others in our community.
Who Can Join?
ADO has an international membership. To become and remain a Lifetime Member you must: (1) Be of legal age (or submit a signed, dated, and notarized parental consent or COPPA); (2) Be proficient in spoken and written English; (3) Submit a completed Member Application-Aspirant Course Enrolment Form; (4) Successfully complete the required orientation course within the appointed time; (5) Be approved for membership by the Elder Council and be accepted by the Ancestral Tribes; (6) Abide by all ADO member requirements, now and in future; (7) Support and serve our spiritual community as defined in our vision (or 'mission') statement; (8) Tutor new Aspirants; and (9) Actively participate by engaging in community-wide work and dialogue at our Forum (or equivalent media), attending chat lessons and gatherings, and actively volunteering in local and cyber ADO spiritual community.
Requirements of Spiritual Fosterage or Aspirancy
Like all religions and spiritualities, ADO requires all members to know and to follow its beliefs, tenets, articles of faith, laws, customs, and spiritual practices and be compatible with our beliefs, values, spiritual practices, and community purpose and goals as a spiritual community. Because the underlying assumptions that inform our spiritual beliefs and practices are no longer part of the mainstream worldview, new members lack the proper context for understanding our beliefs and teachings. Thus, we are obliged to provide this context through training before they enter our community as Lifetime Members.
For this reason, both new applicants and returning members must pass the required nine-month orientation course to be considered for Lifetime Membership.* Paid Aspirants may write to request one (1) Leave of Absence (for one coursework cycle), and all Aspirants may submit a request to withdraw in writing at any time. Aspirants who are under the age of majority (i.e. "minors") must be at least thirteen years old and have the written consent of both parents or legal guardians to enroll (see "COPPA" form). Children of members are held to the same standards when applying to join; however, they may request that the Home Study course requirement be waived if they are able to demonstrate to the Elder Council's satisfaction that they already possess the knowledge, skills, compatibility, and discernment which the course imparts. Waiver requests are approved at the sole discretion of the Elder Council or its appointed representative(s). * NOTE: Aspirancy is a form of provisional membership granting short term, limited, conditional access to specific member resources. Aspirant Fees are nonrefundable, but Aspirants may retake the course up to two (2) more times, if necessary, at no additional cost. A payment plan is available for applicants in need who wish to pay at the time of application. Failure to remain current on Lesson assignment submissions and comply with all ADO member requirements (including the Codes of Ethics and Conduct) may result in early withdrawal from coursework, denial of access to member resources (including remaining coursework), and denial of your membership application. Lifetime Membership is granted contingent upon your continued compliance with all ADO member requirements, both present and future. Assessments are made by assigned tutors and the ADO Elder Council on the basis of Lesson assignments (progress reports), compatibility, and active, appropriate participation within our spiritual community. The ADO Elder Council determines a candidate's progress and attainments using both objective and subjective (intuitive and esoteric) criteria. ADO reserves the right to refuse any applicant (or to revoke Lifetime Membership) based on submission of unverifiable or false information, failure to pass the required introductory course, and/or apparent incompatibility with its beliefs, customs, laws, community, spiritual practices, and/or purpose. Your application and/or request for reinstatement constitutes your affirmation of this process as valid, your acceptance of the authority of the ADO Elder Council to make such determinations, and your agreement to abide by its decision. Aspirants are responsible to know and to follow all current requirements of membership (including Bylaws, Codes of Ethics and Conduct, Philosophy, and Site User Policy & Agreement) as published at the ADO website, Forum, and in ADO studies and publications. The Elder Council retains the right to test Aspirants on their knowledge of these requirements as part of reaching final determinations on candidacy for membership. Changes to these terms and conditions will be announced and posted to the Member Forum and / or sent by email or as a letter to Aspirants and members by post. Your choice to remain an Aspirant or Lifetime Member constitutes your legally binding agreement to adhere to these requirements. Aspirancy and / or Lifetime Membership may be canceled at any time by either the Aspirant / Member or the Order without prior explanation, notice or warning. Leaving the membership does not absolve Aspirants or members of their legal, moral, or ethical obligations with regard to confidentiality or ADO copyright and intellectual property or terms defined in the Site User Agreement.
Returning members must meet all the requirements of an Aspirant, in addition to:
- Repaying any outstanding debts to the Order or to other ADO Members to the satisfaction of all parties;
- Satisfying the Elder Council that all outstanding disciplinary actions and / or violations of member requirements have been fully resolved and will not recur; and
- Resolving to the Elder Council's satisfaction any known and / or suspected safety concerns (e.g. confirmation from an appropriate medical or spiritual professional completion of treatment for any drug or alcohol dependence, potentially harmful auric / aethereal contaminants or intrusions, or other safety issues identified by the Council or its designated authority).
About Lifetime Membership
Avalon Druid Order (ADO) is a registered nonprofit religious charity founded for the purposes of learning, sharing, and perpetuating our specific Druid spiritual tradition or faith as members of a living spiritual community or 'Order'. Members make a long-term commitment to each other through ongoing participation in our spiritual community; the Order makes a long-term commitment to provide the basic resources necessary to attain these goals. To share this commitment we must first share certain assumptions in common, such as definitions of terms, beliefs, spiritual practices, customs, ethics, social mores and community guidelines. To achieve this is a lifetime's work; thus we have instituted a lifetime membership.
Free Lifetime Membership is awarded to those who take and pass all currently required introductory coursework and are approved by the Elder Council as possessing attitudes, ethics, values, goals, and beliefs appropriate to and compatible with those of the Order. Aspirants and members must be proficient in English. Membership, once awarded, is maintained by continuing to following the spiritual tenets of the Tradition, actively participate, and meet all current ADO member requirements. There are no guarantees. Membership is a relationship between you and the Order, in which each party remains free to end the arrangement any time it proves untenable. For those suited to the rigours of our spirituality, Lifetime Membership provides a place in a stable community of like-minded people who are all embarked upon the same Path, in pursuit of the same goals. Active Tribes Members are our most precious resource, giving life to our Druid Way, meaning to our endeavours, and purpose to our ancestral legacy.
Upon taking oath as an ADO Lifetime Member you may proceed with further studies at your own pace and in a traditional manner of your own choosing. Members who defer payment of the Aspirant Fee must accept that their access to ADO resources and benefits, including training and certain activities and events, will remain limited. Paid members join Learning Circles and Groves and participate our e-community, where we share and explore ADO spirituality through study of Avalon's Sacred Year and Story Cycles. The skills learned from basic practice also provide a basis for the more advanced, Druid studies. Yearning for a more intensive immersion in Avalonian belief and culture? Consider tuitioned group study (workshops, intensives, or immersions) or customised individual training under an ADO Elder. Though Avalonian Druidry is demanding, the spiritual toil is made sweet by the company of others who share the Way. Spiritual continuity and disciplined practice help us to hone the discernment and skill required for powerful, profound, and magical spiritual work.
Thus, to accept Lifetime Membership is to enter into an intimate relationship with Avalon through the bonds of spiritual community: the deeper the roots of your commitment the stronger your spiritual tree; the stronger your tree, the sweeter the fruits it will bear and the better it will endure a sudden frost. Ours is not a Path for solitaries; for even as the tree draws strength from the grove, so we believe that our Druid Way grows stronger and deeper through collective and collaborative expression. If you do not live near an existing circle, we encourage you to consider founding your own; the Way is much easier, and more satisfying and pleasurable when followed with others. Lifetime Members are eligible for member discounts (where applicable) and to attend ADO member moots, gatherings, and Gorseddau (cultural celebrations) locally and around the world. You may even connect with other members or Groves when you travel. The opportunities to meet and explore Avalon with other members are limited only by your own imagination and your willingness to go forth!
What Do Members Do?
What members do depends in part upon three things: (1) the individual, (2) the collective of members with us at any given time, and (3) the needs of Tradition. The landscape of modern spirituality is a restless one with many drifters, dabblers, and observers passing through it; factors which make for an ebb and flow in our membership. Gain or lose even a few members and you change the whole group experience. We cannot tell you how our community will feel at any given time; we can only say that it will be whatever you help to make it. We hope you will help to make it a fascinating, satisfying, and inspiring experience!
Our community thrives on action and reciprocity, so the ideal ADO member is someone who is a dedicated, disciplined, and active participant. Active participants enjoy many opportunities to strengthen spiritual bonds with other members. These experiences are deepened through shared study and spiritual practice. There are three aspects to life as a member of an Avalonian Druid spiritual community, and each is equally important:
- Personal: Encompasses the private aspects of our daily spiritual practice. We keep our personal spiritual practice active by observing daily spiritual ablutions, breathwork, contemplation, and study of Avalonian myths (story cycles) and songs.
- Local: Encompasses group experiential study and activities in Learning Circle and Grove. We keep active locally by attending and participating in circle studies and activities.
- Collective: Encompasses experiential study and activities within the international ADO membership community. We do this by attending annual Tribes Gatherings and training, through correspondence, and by regularly participating in the ADO cyber community (currently chat lessons and the ongoing explorations at our member Forum).
Active participation means keeping current and active on all three levels of our spiritual community. Members co-mentor one another as a way of staying grounded in our spiritual beliefs, customs, and practices.
(Provided based on member participation and mentor availability)
Without personal understanding and experience one cannot follow Avalon's Druid Way. As a branch of Faery Druidry we prefer to attain this wisdom through traditional modes of learning: via the spoken word, direct observation, and personal practice. Aside from the required Home Study and the continuous training provided within its Groves, the Order does not promise free training to every member. Mentoring Elders invite members to apprentice with them based on their own availability and the member's demonstrable readiness. Readiness is measured by knowledge of ADO beliefs and spiritual practices, consistent particiation (locally and in the wider, cyber community), and through regular community service (e.g. volunteering). Whenever feasible the Order offers online chat lessons, but the onus for study and learning remains with individual members. The option to join or found a Learning Circle or enroll in tuitioned studies is ever there for you, should you choose to avail yourself of it.
Traditional modes of training do not give us 'answers'; they teach us by laying down a sequence of questions that direct our attention down paths of inquiry that have proven to be fruitful. Whether you succeed in following the questions to your answer(s) will depend upon you; it is your journey, and your answers will arise from your own efforts (and not ours). To benefit from traditional training you must be able and willing to see and experience it as "a compassionate provocation to discovery", rather than as a struggle for power or authority. It is not enough to know this in your head; it must come naturally to your heart. If not, you may not experience the spiritual healing and self-empowerment that is the heartwood of all branches of the Avalon Mystery Tradition. To better understand, we encourage you to make a thorough study of the information at the links below. It is important to us that those who join are those for whom our Tradition will be most beneficial and satisfying. Be assured that if you follow your intuition the right path will find you. Consider your feelings at this moment: Is anxiety already creeping into your belly? Are second thoughts whispering in your ear? If so, honour them. There is a reason for your discomfort and it should be respected. But if you are a good independent learner, enjoy solving puzzles, are not intimidated by being asked questions for which you cannot possibly have real answers, do not resent occasionally hearing hard truths, relish meeting personal challenges, and feel your sense of excitement and adventure being kindled by the possibilities our Tradition offers, then this path may be perfect for you!
Ready to Continue? ...