The Old Ways

Tradition versus Conventional Wisdom

[Note: Since we are speaking from the viewpoint of our own Tradition here, we will use the term Faery to mean "native, indigenous, aboriginal", etc.]

As Mentors and Tutors, we are charged with holding firmly to the ancestral ways even with Seekers who stubbornly persist in trying to view the teachings from a "pre-validated" mainstream perspective. As an authentic, Ancestral Way, Avalonian Faery Druidry relies on indigenous modes of thinking, perceiving, and remembering that are mostly dismissed by mainstream society as primitive, superstitious, or even delusional. These attitudes, and the expectation that anything "real" can be quantified and measured in terms of absolute proofs very often inform new Aspirants and Member-Seekers' perspectives. In accordance with these biases, modern science has developed no methods for investigating the nature or function of Spirit or the phenomena that arise from, inform or surround it. For millennia, modern science's inadequacy has been held up as proof that Spirit and Spirit-related phenomena do not exist; a claim that has been widely accepted as 'fact' by mainstream society. Thus, demands for "evidence" of the validity of Faery teachings and practices may leave us and our Aspirants feeling uncertain and defensive.

However, recently mainstream society has been forced to acknowledge the validity of certain native cultures and belief systems, including Amerindian, Aboriginal, African, and Eastern Shamanic tribal cultures -- all of which share a basis with Avalonian Druidry and other native European traditions. Unfortunately, the same courtesy has not been extended to European ancestral traditions. While most people now concede (albeit grudgingly) the validity of at least some indigenous paths, European ancestral paths are excluded on the basis that they are "new" ("Neo-pagan"), rather than "native" traditions. This bias is based upon the assumption that native European traditions lack the uninterrupted ancestral lineage claimed by most indigenous paths. But Avalonian Druidry has an ancient lineage and shares the defining characteristics of world indigenous belief systems. The irony here is that most recognised "native" traditions have been reclaimed from the Dreamtime for exactly the same reasons as were their European cousins. Colonial authorities forbade conquered Natives from speaking their own languages, wearing native dress, or practicing ancestral spiritualities, forcing them to conform to the dominant culture -- just as the Romans did in subjugating the tribes of Europe. Native children were removed from their homes and sent to government "schools" where they were taught and lived colonial ways and were forcibly indoctrinated into Christianity. For most tribes the old ways were lost; they had to be rediscovered (reclaimed) from the Dreamtime and restored by elders who understood that a living ancestral custom is the key to an authentic spiritual identity. Therefore, knowing how ADO teachings and practices reflect accepted Indigenous Traditions provides substantiation for wider-spread validation of our Druid Way.

What makes a Faery (or "Indigenous") Tradition, native? Not hard: Worldview. What are the elements of Worldview? Not Hard: The assumptions that define our version of "reality"; our governing philosophy and cosmology... In other words, our core beliefs and assumptions.  Native cultures hold very different assumptions about how the world works, what is or isn't "real" or "possible", and the relationship one should have with the world and all the beings within it. We need to know specifically what is different in order to begin assimilating to these differences, and we have to assimilate in order to understand. Why? Not hard: Because we cannot understand anything that is foreign to our experience. We can only re-interpret or re-invent it in conformance with what we already know. Therefore, to become authentic members of a tribal community, Aspirants must first enter into an authentically ancestral worldview.

The following concepts, paraphrasing Tyson Yunkaport's "Indigenous Ways of Knowing", outline some of the major concepts common to the world's Faery ('native') cultures and differentiate native Ways of Knowing from those of  mainstream Western societies. Virtually all of these concepts apply to early Avalon. Since the original article focused specifically on education, this information may prove useful to ADO Tutors and Mentors seeking to gain a clearer understanding of ancestral and tribal modes of learning or who desire further verification for the authenticity of ADO claims for Avalonian Faery Druidry as one of our world's indigenous wisdom traditions. A link to the original article is provided at the "Nine Tribes" board of the ADO Forum on the "Avalon & Native Cultures" thread. We have paraphrased the information here, adding specific insights as regards Avalonian Tradition. (Phrases coined by Yunkaport appear in quotes.

[Note: As with anything obtained from outside sources, our source for this information may change or disappear; however, other Tutors/Mentors may have more current links or alternate sources. We advise you to check with them for more current information.]

Nine Native Ways of Knowing

What follows is by no means a comprehensive guide to Faery Ways of Knowing; these are broad categories contrasting Faery Ways with those of mainstream Western society in hopes of revealing the differences, complexities and advantages of Faery worldviews and cosmologies as they relate to Faery Avalonianism. To this end, we have added our own 9th Way of Knowing last to Yunkaport's eight. This 9th Way pertains specifically to Druidism, but the concept underlying it is held (under various names) by many indigenous belief systems.

  • Holistic Knowledge: In Faery traditions, all knowledge is inseparable from land, place, Spirit, language, kin, law, and Story. Because everything is integral to the whole, it is possible to read within the environment the signs of events unfolding (or likely to unfold) in other locations and times. Western reductionism breaks this integrated world into components and studies one element at a time, losing the deep knowledge of the whole in the shallow analysis of its parts. Most ADO members will recognise this Way of Knowing as central to the Faery Avalonian worldview.
  • Communal Knowledge: Knowledge is developed, retained, and shared by (and through) the collective. Group collaboration and sharing creates a more productive environment for innovative thinking and discourages the hoarding of knowledge for personal power by "specialists"; in contrast, Western societies see "knowledge as power", accumulating and jealously guarding it for personal gain as private intellectual property. In ADO, we experience this Way of Knowing through active our participation in the collaborative "laboratory" environment we use for wisdom sharing.
  • Ancestral Memory: Knowledge is perceived as a fluid, changing force that flows from land, Spirit and Ancestors (sometimes referred to in Faery Avalonian and Celtic Traditions as "Dana" energy).  This internal basis for knowing promotes learning an autonomous, independent, but intensely social orientation which is also the foundation of traditional child-rearing practices (practices deemed 'negligent' by many Westerners). Whereas the ancestral urge to learn arises from the inextinguishable wellspring at the centre of Being (within), the externally driven and validated definitions held in mainstream Western societies are disposable, supplanted with new theories by subsequent dominant cultures. The River of Knowing and the River of Forgetting are examples of this Way of Knowing as it is remembered in Avalonian and Western Mystery Traditions.
  • "Intellectual Biomimicry": Developing and drawing upon nature-based metaphors for deeper understanding of abstract concepts. "Webs" of logic mirroring complex natural patterns are better suited to effective problem solving than are mainstream society's synthetic chains of reasoning. Avalonian Cycle and symbolic (Dreaming) languages are examples of this Way of Knowing as it typically expresses in our Tradition.
  • Cyclical Logic: Cyclic views of time and processes allow us to return to the same concepts and systems to deepen our understanding of them, as opposed to mainstream reasoning which presents knowledge as a simplistic progression from one state to another. Linear logic ignores interrelated factors and creates a continuum of progressively exclusive knowledge ownership which can only be understood as hierarchies of knowledge. These hierarchies exclude and marginalize powerless groups and centralize knowledge to be owned, "amended", and disseminated by the dominant culture. Our work with the Tides is one example of this Way of Knowing as it manifests in Avalonian Tradition.
  • "Indigenous Pluralism": While Faery cultures draw knowledge down from many surrounding language groups, dominant, neo-tribal societies favour a monocultural that shatters native pluralism, along with traditional trade routes and Songlines. Faery peoples traditionally traded with other language groups, were multi-lingual, intermarried and adopted/fostered members across language groups, adapting and synthesizing foreign insights and technologies to create new innovations within established, native cultures and worldviews. In ADO, we see this in the lore of the Three Houses and the Nine Tribes that descend from them. We also see this Way of Knowing being supplanted by non-native, eclectic approaches during later periods in Avalon's myth-story.
  • Synergistic Knowledge: In Faery traditions when opposites meet the result is not conflict and destruction (as in mainstream societies), but a new creation. This Way of Knowing is supported by Laws (e.g. The Law of Opposites, "Opposites are the same in nature, but different in degree"; and the Law of Paradox "Conflicting and opposing facts may co-exist simultaneously and yet both be true"). This Way of Knowing can be used to overcome Western dualistic logic that demands adherence to one absolute "truth" and rejection of its opposite. In ADO, we know these as two of the Arcane Laws;  the ancestral Laws of Nature (Physics/Metaphysics) that form the basis of all spiritual and magical work.
  • "Deep Narrative": Ancestral stories are not fictions or childish fables, but the oral form of history, saturated with the accumulated wisdom of hundreds of generations. This oral "lore" is rich with deep knowledge about physics, geography, lineage, ethics, law, magic, healing, and more. The Dreaming stories of many Faery cultures show that the far ancestors knew the world was round millennia before colonial Europeans, and mapped planets and stars that modern science is only now "discovering". Narrative (story) and image (pictographs and petroglyphs) are the vehicles for all Ways of Knowing, containing more complex information than Western exposition, which fragments and separates knowledge from cultural, geographic, and social contexts. Avalon's "deep narratives" are the sacred Story Cycles of our Druids and Tribes. A profound understanding of these Cycle stories stands at the centre of all Avalonian spiritual practice.
  • Awen (Imbas): Divine inspiration which all people have the potential to experience in their lifetimes. To experience Awen (Imbas) requires one to step into the flow of the River of Being, attaining Oneness with All Creation. Without rigorous training and consistent practice, few modern people cannot summon this kind of inspiration on demand. Very few people consistently invest the necessary time and energy to develop and discipline this gift.  In Avalon, it is mainly associated with states and practices common to the Three Druidic Disciplines as observed by practicing Druids.

These are not the only concepts defining Avalonian Faery Tradition, but their importance to an authentically Avalonian worldview cannot be overstated. As we guide Aspirants in exploring them, we must remain mindful that any assumptions we initially make about what they mean will likely arise from, or be filtered through mainstream conditioning and not from an authentically "native" perspective. It is the task of tutors and mentors to ensure that Aspirants' statements are investigated with sufficient thoroughness to ensure that any conceptual discrepancies are caught and corrected before they become deeply engrained habits of mind. Therefore, we cannot simply accept Aspirant statements because they "sound" like they agree with the ancestral worldview; we must draw them out and encourage them to offer detailed explanations that illustrate exactly how they interpret the meaning of the terms they are using and the statements they are making. Any discrepancies may then be gently (but consistently) corrected until the Aspirant is able to make and maintain the shift into an authentically ancestral Avalonian perspective.

Even simple, obvious seeming terms can mask serious discrepancies in understanding. For instance, many modern Seekers mistake "Pluralism" for "Eclecticism" because, lacking the discernment to perceive fine distinctions, they interpret them as synonyms for "combining things from different sources". Their lack of discernment means that they fail to distinguish between 'syncretism' and 'synthesis', 'adoption' and 'adaptation', 'growth that enhances' and 'changes that redefine'. Working out how and why native ancestral Ways of Knowing differ from those of modern, mainstream societies comprises the greater part of each member's study and practice, yet Seekers will naturally cling to the first definitions they learned. It will be for you to compassionately confront and consistently correct their errors in this regard. The ultimate object is to attain an understanding that transcends the brain and immerses us completely the experience from which the ancestral  worldview arises; saturating every level of our beings so completely, and for so long, that it informs every minute of every day, persisting even when bombarded by mainstream views and perceptions. Only then may we honestly claim to hold an authentically Avalonian worldview.

When done correctly, the only changes will be those that arise from changes within the land itself, and not from definitions, systems, or attitudes imposed by (or arising from our conditioning within) the dominant cultures of modern industrialized society. These changes will be in the way of shifts in our perceptions of the power flowing within the land, rather than changes in belief, philosophy or methodology. For instance, portals that were open during the time of the Celts may since have closed and new ones may have opened; the functions or appearances of "stable locales" in the Otherworld (the map of Avalon's Dreamtime) may have changed since the time of the ancestors, etc. These things must be adjusted from age to age, but the foundations (the Laws, the myth cycles and the lessons they teach, the far ancestors, gods, Fae, the purpose, methods, values, ethics governing spiritual practice, and "right relationship" with Creation) of our spiritual practice remain the same. Even our customs will need little adaptation to conform to the needs of the present time. It is our imaginations that need liberating from the constraints placed upon them by modern conditioning, which occurs principally through the indoctrinating process euphemistically called, 'education' -- and it is here that we can make the greatest impact if we are willing to be vigilant in observing those we tutor and persistent in correcting misperceptions and errors. 

While this information provides some basic guidelines and verification for Avalonian Faery Druidry as one of many branches of the Faery ("native" or "indigenous") Tree, those of us who are educators may wish to know more specifically how indigenous Ways of Knowing differ from conventional classroom methods. Also, such a brief outline cannot address the finer points of how to approach traditional tutor/mentoring for the first time. For more in-depth information that is specific to our form of Avalonianism/Druidry, please continue exploring the following page(s). This information supports and supplements the experiences provided in the annual tutor training. Any further questions may be directed to the appropriate threads of the ADO Member Forum.

There can be few things as dissimilar as conventional academia is to Avalon's traditional learning environment. In nearly every respect, the two are diametrically opposed:

Conventional Academia       Traditional Learning Environment

1. Linear1. Cyclical
2. Literal2. Symbolic
3. Abstract, analytical  3. Concrete, observable
4. Intellectual   4. Mythical
5. Theoretical   5. Experiential
6. Scientific 6. Philosophical, Contemplative, Reasoned
7. Lecture, reading and memorization     7. Inquiry, exploration, and implementation
8. Uses fixed lesson plans  8. Adapts to individual need within Cycle
9. Taught by an 'expert' in a classroom   9. Taught by elder kin in kin-groups, 
   of strangers, in government supported      community-run (and supported) circles,
   institutions      Orders, and gatherings
    10. Valued for potential personal gain   10. Prized for value of self-actualized,
and power       spiritually aware individuals to community
    11. Requires immediate repeatability         11. Requires repeatability within Cycle 
    in same environment       in multiple environments
    12. "Authority" conferred by institutional    12. "Authority" conferred by
degree       acknowledgement of Tribes and peers
    13. Credentials can be "bought" by  13. Credentials earned by
the influential       demonstrations of skill to peers

Even this brief list of contrasts makes apparent the philosophical gulf between these systems, and the very different kinds and qualities of mind to which they give rise. Most seekers will come to us from conventional education thoroughly unprepared for the reality of traditional training. The unprepared may interpret the process of inquiry as being 'put on the spot' and come to resent their Mentors and ultimately the Tradition. Mainstream society encourages us in the vain belief that it is egoism to critically evaluate our work, when in fact it is the ego that makes objection. Seekers indoctrinated into this narcissistic system will often use every means at their disposal to wrest from the Order a status they have not yet earned. Such strategies cannot succeed of course, for the unready and unskilled cannot long withstand the scrutiny of qualified peers. Thus it is the Mentors' task to guide as best we may and to act in the best interests of the Tradition and the Order; and the seeker's to summon the time, will, desire, dedication, and disciplined effort to overcome such unfortunate conditioning.

The Gift of the Ancestors: The Ground on which We Stand

Fortunately, we have at our disposal a method of instruction whose enduring power time has not diminished. Recent anthropological studies of various indigenous oral traditions have found geological, astronomical, archaeological, literary, and folkloric evidence for an accuracy of transmission over periods of time as long as 30,000 years, possibly longer. How can this be? Firstly, in tribal cultures we live for as long as we are remembered; thus the sacred story cycle that is the history or continuing story of the people, is also the vehicle of immortality and the collective soul. If we stop the storytelling cycle we 'kill' the memory of our ancestors, who represent the very taproot of our own being. In other words, when the story of a people dies, their spirit dies with it. The empires of the world have long known this and have thus laboured long to eradicate the beliefs of those they have conquered; for a people bereft of spirit, without roots in their own culture, are easily manipulable. And yet even these efforts cannot eradicate this knowledge, for it is remembered in the very sky, sea, and land that sustain us. It sings through breath, blood, and bone. So long as there are people it will never be forgotten.

Though there are striking resemblances between the indigenous beliefs of every land, yet each was adapted to the specific needs of its local environment and people. As cultures shifted and changed, spiritualities adapted, evolving very different feelings and characters over time. We will speak here only of the methods remembered in Avalon, for these are the wellspring of our modern teaching methodology and it is important for our Mentors to understand not only our methods, but why we still adhere to them. For some this will come easily. Those who find these methods challenging may be tempted to try other ways. To them we would say only remember your oaths and what comes not easily you must work harder to master. To do otherwise is to diminish (or even to destroy) the power of our Tradition and to be forsworn. These may seem hard words, but the vanity of our time makes them necessary. The temptation to think we are accomplished enough to know better than the ancestors is one we will all face at some time. Those of us who succumb will eventually discover our error -- but at what cost to the Tradition, the Order, our students and ourselves? The entire integrity of our Tradition rests on this foundation. It is our inheritance from the ancestors and our legacy to the future: let us give it the full respect it deserves.


We come now to the actual traditional method of teaching. As one might expect, the methods of an oral tradition must be taught, in the main, in person; yet there are certain principles which might be conveyed through a written medium and provide some 'food for thought' for our Tutors and Mentors. It has been observed that there is much in Druid philosophy that resonates with Socratic and scientific methods, familiar to us from ancient Greece and modern science. This is true and the temptation to use these methods interchangeably will be great if the differences between them are not fully appreciated. Consider carefully the similarities and differences of the methods compared below:

Traditional (Contemplative)Socratic (Philosophical)Aristotelian (Scientific)

Underlying Assumptions:

Spirit manifests as aware Creation.     Spirit is perfect Mind. Matter is     Spirit is perfect Mind.
eternally perfecting itself. Truth sought     imperfect. Spirit expresses in Matter is imperfect.
thru Reason (science), Philosophy, and     perfected archetypal "Forms",Existence of Spirit cannot
Spiritual Contemplation, in context ofimperfectly manifest. be proved. Truth defined
oral lore.      Truth defined as changing with     as unchanging "fact",
Interpreted intuitively and tested by   times and changing environments.postulated by math-
verifying thru direct observation and  Tested by conceptualizing ematical formulae and
logical deduction.testable theories.scientific theory. "Proved"
  by repeatable, measurable

1. Assign Hunt (object of Inquiry)       1. Pose a "what is..." form of1. Pose a question
    and pose a question to set the      question
    direction of Inquiry                  2. Form a conceptually testable  2. Form an empirically 
testable hypothesis testable hypothesis

2. Use a series of related questions    3.Measure hypothesis against     3. Measure repeatability of
    to draw the Seeker towards a      logical deductions derived from    results in controlled
    general answer, testable by   imagined 'cases' or scenarios  laboratory setting

3. Corroborate through direct observation
    of natural cycle, Avalonian myths/
    folklore, spiritual contemplation, and
    verify by comparison with findings of 
    outside authorities

If refuted by testing, return to step 2; otherwise continue:

4. Accept results, but continue to4. Provisionally accept the    4. Provisionally accept
     question, adjusting and adapting     hypothesis or subject it to furtherhypothesis or subject it 
     perspective accordingly   further testing   to testing 
5. Share wisdoms in community  5. Act accordingly     5. Act accordingly

Clearly a historical progression might be said to exist in which the traditional learning and beliefs of certain cultures evolves into Socratic and Aristotelian thought and methodologies. All three begin with a question and proceed to methods of deduction; however, there are important differences in the processes through which they achieve their results. Traditional inquiry is founded upon a series of questions explored through a balance of intuitive, philosophical, experiential, folkloric, and physical sources. The object is not to prove or disprove 'facts' (all intuitive journeys are valid experientially), but to:

  • Discover the true nature of the world in which we live.
  • Determine the relevance of intuitive information and gain insight into its proper use.

So how does this work in the moment of practice?...

Typically, it is the aspirant (student) who initiates the process by bringing a question to the Mentor. The Mentor listens and asks the aspirant how they would define the answer, based on what they know now. In the student's response, the Mentor looks for clues that might reveal whether s/he is pursuing an Avalonian course of inquiry. If not, the Mentor will use a series of questions and 'provocations' (prompts) which, if pursued, may help reveal to the aspirant why this direction of inquiry was not 'Avalonian', and how to get back on track. If the student's chosen path of inquiry seems promising, the Mentor may ask questions intended to deepen or clarify what may be revealed. If the aspirant seems 'stuck', the Mentor will listen for clues as to the likely nature of the obstacle, and pose questions intended to reveal this to the student. It is up to the aspirant to bring the initial question and to formulate supporting questions, to pursue these (and the Mentor's) questions to their furthest possible ends, to research, and to interpret the results within an Avalonian context. Thus the burden of the work falls not on the Mentor (as in conventional education), but on the aspirant.

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