What is a Learning Circle?
We come now to the reason that many members will likely have joined ADO: to find others of like mind with whom to share the practice of our spirituality. A Learning Circle is any group of ADO provisional and/or lifetime members who are not already a chartered body within the Order, and who gather for the purpose of sharing ADO spiritual contemplation, observances, and community projects. It is our preference that at least one member of every Learning Circle have some prior ADO experience, but it is not a requirement. There is no additional cost for facilitating or joining a Learning Circle. During its lifetime, a Learning Circle receives guidance similar to that provided to Groves, the principle differences being required time and energy, and opportunities for formal training. In a Learning Circle, you may expect to explore such themes and projects as:
- Aspirant Study: Tribes & Early Welsh Myths
- Tribal Arts: Exploring traditional visual motifs, simple musical forms, etc. through various projects
- Tribal Life Skills: Hearth & Hunt, traditional food, customs (including Guest Laws), and garb
Meetings are held twice each month and on each of the Calends (Cross Quarter Days), and are mandatory for all Circle members. A record of attendance and participation is kept for review by the Council and will be used to assess eligibility should the Circle apply for Charter as a Grove at year's end. Only applications from Circles (and Circle members) that consistently meet all requirements will be accepted. We realize that it may be upsetting to be refused, but maintaining these standards is necessary to upholding the integrity of our spiritual community. Please consider carefully whether you will be able to fulfill these requirements before joining, and be willing to reevaluate and make adjustments as you go along. This will make both your experience and ours more productive and satisfying!
The purpose of Learning Circles is threefold: to:
- Offer members the opportunity to discover whether Avalonian spirituality is right for them, whether they are compatible with this spiritual community, and whether they are compatible as a group;
- Test out whether they will be able to make space for this commitment in their lives; and to
- Allow our mentors time to assess whether the Circle members demonstrate the necessary commitment and the group has the necessary cohesiveness to make and 'grow' a strong Grove.
While Groves may be the most effective and inexpensive way to learn the Tradition, they are time and energy-intensive for everyone (both members and Mentors) and it is important that we all be realistic from the outset. Learning Circles help us to better understand the commitment expected of us and to explore the potential for forming an ongoing group.
"Life" of a Learning Circle
By definition a Learning Circle has a limited life, as it is expected either to revert to individual members or be Chartered as a Grove after a year and a day. If after that time you choose not to Charter, you remain free to "Moot" ('meet') informally for casual conversation about and explorations of our shared interest in Avalon, but Grove resources and mentoring will no longer be provided should your Circle dissolve instead of being chartered. In the past, ADO has seldom troubled to list our Learning Circles, since by their very nature they often come and go very quickly as the real commitment becomes evident to Aspirants and members. However, We now ask that members forming Learning Circles inform the ADO Midwife or Members Liaison immediately, so that we may include your Circle's name and general location on this page. This encourages new Circles to form and enables contacts with members of existing Circles for potential advice. It also alerts us to those needing extra mentoring in the year to come, establishes a timeline, and ensures that you receive feedback from the Order on your progress toward become a Grove.
What is a Grove?
A Grove is basically a Learning Circle that has made a long-term mutual commitment to continue consistent study and practice, and who are engaged in deeper studies and more advanced spiritual practices as a result. Charters are reviewed annually for compliance with our Bylaws as a prerequisite to renewal. Please see the Bylaws web page (via "Join ADO" page) for detailed information. Groves are expected to provide for the ongoing training of their members by sending at least one representative to the Order annually for formal training. Since the member sent must agree to return and share their discoveries with their Grove mates, it is not uncommon for Groves to share the burden of any related expenses. This makes advancing our spiritual practice quite easy and affordable for everyone!
Types of Groves
There are three basic types of Member Groves and one Elder category, in ADO:
- Novice Groves: All Groves are first Chartered as "Novice" Groves and must successfully complete a probationary period to attain full Charter. The Elder Council may revoke a Grove's Charter or demote its current status for chronic noncompliance or member conduct issues.
- Maiden Groves: Those Groves whose members are demonstrably working at an intermediate level of proficiency and understanding, but which have no fully trained Druid to officiate or facilitate at rituals.
- Mother Groves: Those Groves a majority of whose members are demonstrably working at an intermediate to advanced level, and have at least one fully trained Druid approved to officiate rituals. These Groves may be called upon by the Elder Council to preside over regional events and training.
Learning Centers: Mother Groves whose officiating Druid(s) provide primary regional mentoring for the Order may be appointed "Regional Centers" by the Elder Council. Where the senior Druid(s) must travel extensively or devote considerable time to meet these goals, the Elder Council may designate these Groves as 'Teaching Hubs" for the Order. In consideration of these additional responsibilities, both Learning Centers and Teaching Hubs are exempt from minimum Grove membership and open events requirements. The authority, oversight, and integration of such Centers is under the auspices of the Elder Council.
You must have a minimum of three members to Charter a Grove: one Grove Head, one Scribe, and one Warden (treasurer). Once your Grove is established, it may be maintained by demonstrating consistent progress in member training and preparation for a spiritual life in the Tradition, and submitting all required reports by the published deadlines. The Order provides guidance via mentoring at the Grove section of our Forum, and direction through the medium of The Book of Tribes and The Grove Book. Liturgy is available to Maiden and Mother Groves who meet the requirement for in-person training through the Book of Ritual, which provides many examples of Avalonian ritual and ceremony. All books are PDF format. (Additional charges for some texts may apply. Please see your assigned Elder or Mentor for more information.) There are two levels of Grove membership:
- Tribes ('congregational' members who are not pursuing intensive Druid training)
- Druids (Tribes members who are ADO Druid Novices, Apprentices, or Druid clergy)
Tribes members are required to attend lessons at least twice each month, and to attend and assist with all Grove events as directed by the Grove Heads and/or Druid trainees. All Learning Circle requirements apply. Repeated failures to follow through may result in termination of the Grove Charter or of individual Grove membership, or in individual reassignment of membership from Druid to Tribes focus. Overall, the life of a Tribes person is rich and relaxed, and can bring a lot of pleasure and satisfaction to those willing to participate in activities and follow through on agreements. The life of a Druid is another matter ...
The Grove's 'Druids-in-training' (Novices and Apprentices) will have successfully completed all Tribes level work and distinguished themselves through reliable service in the community. Novices and Apprentices meet once each week for Druid study, twice monthly for Grove study, and at all Feast Days (called by others the Calends, the Albans) and Observations (the Feast of Age and the Feast of Remembrance), as well as personal, lunar, and solar observances. Members of Groves serving as Teaching Hubs must also assist with training events while continuing their own studies -- all of which represents a substantially increased level of commitment for those wishing to be Druids. To enter a Grove as a Druid candidate is truly to be reborn to a new life in Avalon. (If you are a new mother or a college student we strongly recommend completing your remedial training and other important commitments first, as your Druid training will leave you little time for other studies or pursuits.)
Of course, all of this implies a relatively stable home base from which to practice; but what of those who lead more nomadic lives? We do as the ancients did. Even employment travels tend to follow a pattern. Make note of the places you visit regularly. If there are other ADO members willing to meet with you along your route and you can make the time to see them, you may be able to have a 'Roving Grove'. A Roving Grove follows the same basic requirements except that its members simply live or work in different locations along a route. By nature, Roving Groves meet less often; but as long as you can establish relative regularity (meeting no less than once every two months), you can maintain a Learning Circle. If the Learning Circle works, the Grove should too, at least at a Tribes level. This will help you and other members enroute who might otherwise be working in solitude. Or you could arrange to have irregular, informal Moots and at least connect with others walking your spiritual path!
Who, What & Where?
We've made as many viable alternatives for our members to connect and share the process of learning and ceremony as tradition and creative adaptation allow. Now it is up to each of you. If there is not a Circle or Grove in your area, you have a clear choice:
- Work on your own and through cyber resources supplemented by tuitioned, face-to-face training (however, aspiring "Hedge Druids" will need to be more inventive in finding ways to serve the larger community).
- Find an existing Grove nearby and visit it regularly.
- Start your own Learning Circle -- which could lead to founding your own Grove.
There's little point in reinventing the Wheel (though it might be a fun Tribes project ...) so the first question on everyone's minds will likely be: Where are the current ADO Groves and Learning Circles located? At present, we've just completed a time of substantial change and our membership is intimate. As we reopen to new members we anticipate a time of deepening and slow growth. The directory shown below reflects this new beginning and shows the direction of its progress. You may contact the Grove or Circle Heads by clicking on the specific group's name (Note: Groups with inactive links are not taking new members at this time).
It is important to remember that whenever a Grove accepts a new Grove member the energy and even sometimes the direction and focus of the group changes as well. If you are all to work and grow together harmoniously, it is of prime importance that all members be compatible with one another. This is not just a matter of personality, but of keeping a balance energetically, and of respecting the limits of the individual Grove Mentor's abilities.
Energy Imbalances: Energy imbalances hold everyone back and ultimately result in members becoming frustrated and leaving. It is true that there is no "empirical proof" of someone's energy; but belief in the power and influence of different energies is intrinsic to our spirituality; thus all prospective members are required to accept individual energy assessments as a partial criteria for inclusion in a group's spiritual work. Groves and Grove applicants are admonished to:
- Keep a close balance between basic types of energies amongst members. Let the nine elements guide you in making your assessments. Groves must reach consensus to approve new members, but applicants must remember to ask whether the Grove is right for them as well. When the decision is made, let each side have equal time to state its choice and to hear why the choice was made.
- Be mindful of potential contaminants (foreign entities or life forms accompanying or attached to the human aura). Even 'allies' from other paths are not to be brought into Avalon or into our gathering space. It's a matter of basic spiritual hygiene not to be ignored. (Groves and/or Grove members needing further guidance on this issue should contact our Pathwalkers for assistance.)
- If your request (or invitation) is declined, please be prepared to extend others the benefit of the doubt. While the decision may be disappointing, it was likely made with everyone's best interest in mind -- including yours.
Tests of Compatibility: A Grove Head may use questions, tests, energy scanning, divination, or other means to determine whether your personality, intention, and energy complement those of current Grove members. The Grove may choose to meet you in person, test your knowledge and experience, ask for a copy of your natal chart, perform a group meditation for guidance, or use other intuitive methods to learn whether you are right for each other. While these methods may not be acceptable in the wider society, they are very much within traditional Avalonian protocols and beliefs and all prospective and current ADO members are expected to accept them as part of the standard criteria used in making membership and other determinations.
The Candidate's Tests: The decision, of course, does not belong solely to the Grove. You should devise your own inquiries to test the Grove's appropriateness for you. What will it feel like to adapt your way of working to fit within the fabric of the group? What if your Avalonian ideas or methods are not considered *correct* or do not mesh with the group's way of working? Are you ready to face these challenges or are you invested in "needing a certain outcome"? While the Grove will be working through similar questions, we must each also answer them for ourselves for relationships go both ways. We must all know our own truths and greet whatever comes with good grace and honour.
[Note: ADO recognizes the potential for misuse in all forms of criteria. If you genuinely feel you were unfairly discriminated against (i.e. denied on the basis of a different criteria than is applied to other applicants), please contact the Members Liaison. Our Pathwalkers will first explore any concerns reported. Depending on their findings, they may refer the matter to the Voices of Justice for further investigation or they may approve the Grove's decision. Wherever possible, anyone whose energy raises concerns will be referred to outside specialists.]
Reasonable Limits of Mentoring: Grove members are admonished to remember that mentors, tutors, and facilitators are not professional public speakers or paid instructors. They are fellow members who have taken formal ADO training and volunteered to share what they've learned with you as best they may. The limited 'traditional mentor training' we provide is not a 'traditional teaching degree' and cannot compensate for not being raised in a native culture. Each individual will have different limits and abilities with regard to how many people they can effectively tutor at one time; limitations which may change with personal circumstance. What is possible for one person is not always possible for another, so again, please be compassionate in making your assessments. None of us is perfect and generally the person who's disappointed you really is doing their best.
Grove membership is potentially the single greatest benefit of joining ADO for those ready to face its challenges with good humour and a happy heart. Be sure, you will be challenged and confronted, and your trials will be as easy or as hard as you, by your thoughts and responses, make them. Being together brings out many personal issues. As Grove members, we must adapt and learn to address issues respectfully as they arise. If we don't, we may expect to be confronted by those whom our Shadow is affecting. Those who cannot accept this, who refuse to work respectfully toward peaceful resolutions, or whose behaviour repeatedly undermines Grove relations and efforts, may face having their Grove and/or ADO Lifetime Memberships revoked. This too is tradition, but it is also necessary for the Grove (and our membership community) to function in a healthy and positive manner.
Ours is a loving but challenging spirituality. It is forgiving, but demands results; compassionate, but requires our honesty and willingness to forego excuses. It nurtures, but demands excellence. Its lessons come in whatever form we most need, though not necessarily in the forms we most want or that modern society has taught us to expect. We may be comforted or harrowed, according to what our own actions reveal about our real needs. We are all co-tutors and seekers, surrounded by supportive people ready to offer guidance; but our Groves and community are not substitutes for professional counselling or therapy We may find friendship here, but it is not a 'social club'. Groves and Circles are working groups exploring and actively developing the necessary understanding and skills to practice Avalonian spirituality within a Traditional community setting. Our spirituality is all-pervasive. The choices we make, the things we do, all have real consequences carrying real responsibilities that we must accept and deal with.
For those able and willing to confront the truth and change, Avalon is always a place of spiritual peace, security, fulfilment, strength, and Harmony through inner balance. Those who are not ready may experience Avalon in her guise as the Isle of Glass; a mirror reflecting back to us our own illusions. Ynys Witrin unsparingly reflects back to us the ego and Shadow issues we have refused to recognised and forces us to confront them. Although her lessons may be more bruising to the ego, She still offers us the experience of enlightenment; She merely offers it in the form our behaviour and attitudes demand. If we stay on the Path long enough, we are each likely to meet this face of the Holy Isle, so it is wise to respond compassionately when witnessing others' experience. Each of us may find ourselves on the Isle of Glass at any time, and in any place; for Avalon is everywhere we go. The landscape initiation may unfold more slowly and subtly in other locations, but it occurs nonetheless. It is part of our evolutionary journey through the Earth plane. In choosing Grove members (or in choosing to become Grove members), we are choosing the people with whom we wish to make this journey; those who will see us at our best and at our worst, and if we cannot trust them with both, then perhaps we should take this as a sign that our path lies elsewhere. It is seldom we are granted the chance to choose our own family members. Once accepted, they become part of our life, for better or for worse, unless circumstances or conduct should part us. The other Grove members can make Grove life into a blessing or a curse, so choose carefully, wisely, and well.
It is useful to remember that refusing or being denied Grove membership does not necessarily mean one must leave the ADO membership. If there are no other Groves nearby, and if starting your own Grove is impractical or impossible at present, you can still participate on your own through our cyber community. It requires a bit more self-discipline and determination to keep family and other obligations from usurping time and energy for spiritual study and practice, but one's efforts are still richly rewarded.
May your time in the Wood bring your Heart to what it Seeks.
DIRECTORY NOTES: Click roses or text links to contact corresponding Learning Circles or Groves. Sites with inactive text links
have placed a hold on new members or are pending final approval of the Elder Council. Any inquiry sent will be forwarded
and you will be contacted if/when approval is granted. Approvals are granted at the Samhain and Beltane fire portals. If one portal
has just passed, please wait until the next to check your status with active Site(s). "Future" circles are those currently planned by existing
senior members and which are expected to open soon.
Rose Images - Learning Circles, Novice Hearths, Henges & Groves
Brown Tree Images - Full Maiden & Mother Groves
Black Tree Images - Mother Groves of the Three Noble Houses
(Founders & Core Members' Groves / Regional Centers & Hubs)