Vision for the Future:
Despite being an "international organisation", at present the ADO is more like a small family of dedicated members working mostly at a distance from each other to build a solid foundation and core for a lasting spiritual community. We're growing our community slowly and carefully; selecting members who are willing and able to commit to putting the community first, and their own spiritual ambitions second. In a time in which it is deemed 'cool' to affect cynical alienation from commitments of every kind, such members are hard to find, but we feel they are well worth the wait. Because the kind of community we are building is not your typical 'church community', whose focus is fundraising and building new facilities for an ever-dwindling congregation; it is real foster-kinship of the kind the ancestors believed in, the kind whose bonds are "stronger than bonds of blood". To achieve this, every member must be fully invested in the ancestral worldview which informs our Age and Archetype (or 'Branch') of Avalonian Tradition. Most Seekers simply aren't prepared to make this kind of commitment, so we expect growth to proceed slowly for the foreseeable future.
To claim to have working Sister and Brotherhoods at our present size would be pretentious and disingenuous; but it only takes nine women and nine men who have advanced in ADO training and spiritual practice to the point of potentially becoming Druid Novices to establish them. That day can never be far off, and so we lay out our vision for these limbs on our Branch of Avalon's Mother Tree.
The Avalonian Order of Ninefold Sisterhoods (AONS)
As with everything in ADO, the purpose, structure, and function of the Sisterhood conforms to the template established by our far ancestors, the Braithion, as our oral tradition teachings describe them, and as they are depicted (directly or by implication) in later Celtic myths, lore, and legends. Therefore, what follows is a description of the Sisterhood as it was, and as it will be.
All biologically female members of the ADO are Sisters in Spirit and spiritual foster kin. We all share the work that is laid to our hands by the community, collaborating and performing tasks together, whenever possible. As women, the enchantments we perform centre on wild-crafting, brewing, cooking, healing, remedy-making, spinning, dyeing, weaving, and sewing, basket and net-making (or their modern equivalents), and of course child-rearing ... The very tasks eschewed by modern feminists as 'demeaning', because mainstream society seemingly places little value on them, we see as empowering, because by defining our relationship with the Three Realms (and thus, Sovereignty), and shaping the minds and hearts of future generations, they define the future of our people. The ancient Tribes saw and valued the differences between women and men; respecting the fact that both are absolutely vital to our future survival. Our first task then, as Sisters, is to reclaim that respect ourselves and learn the limits and implications of our own duties and powers.
As Druid Novices and Druids, we apply these understandings to the Great Mysteries, and the Great Work. Secure in our identity as women, and as Sisters, Mothers, Daughters, and Lovers, we come before the Goddesses ready to understand and accept their guidance from within the context of the ancestral worldview. We learn how to establish and maintain self-empowerment, how to embody Sovereignty and allow Her to inform our words and deeds, how to serve the Eternal Flame and the Sacred Well, and how to act as Initiators, Challengers, and Empowerers to each other, and eventually, for the men within their Mysteries.
The Druid Brotherhood of Iona (DBoI)
Like the Sisterhood, the ADO Brotherhood
conforms to the template established by our
Braithion ancestors and remembered in lore and
legend. This is important, because the Braithion
did not define 'manhood', 'fatherhood', or
'brotherhood' as they are defined today, so
our first order of business must be to discover
how they did define them, and adopt their
definitions as our own.
All biologically male ADO members are
Brothers in Spirit and spiritual foster kin, sharing
the work laid to our hands by the community.
Building, hunting, scouting, defending against
threats to the community, and child-rearing are
Traditionally included among our duties. While
the women mind the infants and teach the
young girls herbcraft, healing, and women's
skills, the men take the boys with them to teach
the skills of hunter, scout, and guardian. As
Brothers, we are not rivals and competitors, but
companions and collaborators working towards
common goals. As Fathers, we are not punishing
judges, but nurturing protectors and teachers.
This shift in attitude is one of the hardest
things for modern Tribesmen to achieve and
maintain. It runs counter to all of our social
conditioning (and the assumptions that go with
it). Yet it may be the most necessary to adopting
the ancestral worldview.
As Druid Novices and Druids, we apply these understandings to the Great Mysteries and the Great Work. Secure in our identity as men, and as Brothers, Fathers, Sons, and Lovers, we come before the Gods ready to understand and accept their guidance within the context of the ancestral worldview. Here, we learn how to maintain self-empowerment, how to embody the Sacred Guardian-Consort, how to serve as Huntsmen and Stewards of the Wildwood, and how to act as Initiators, Challengers, and Empowerers to each other, and eventually, for the women within their Mysteries.
The Mysteries of Union: The Grove
Just as Women's and Men's circles come together within the circle of Tribes, so Hearth and Henge come together in Grove. As Tribes, the issues which we have striven to address within ourselves in isolation must be addressed as they manifest in the presence of the opposite sex; otherwise they will just lie dormant until events or interactions reactivate them. The Tribal values we believe we've adopted and integrated are tested in the environment most likely to activate any remaining mainstream conditioning, where any cliché stereotypes or benighted behaviour which emerges in the presence of the opposite sex can be finally confronted and transformed. It is a transformation the two sexes can only complete together, and it radically redefines the way we relate to each other. This creates the basis for the Druid level work.
The work of the Grove is to collaborate with the Council to forward the spiritual evolution of the community; to help identify its physical, emotional, and spiritual needs (i.e. that which must be brought to light), and the unhealthy ways it is trying to meet them (i.e. the group Shadow), so that more positive, healing, productive approaches and directions may be found. A community has many spiritual needs, and foremost among these is the need for a safe and uplifting living and working environment. Given that the Council works primarily at a distance, the Grove is chiefly responsible to ensure that this need is met. Cultivating an open, honest, compassionate, mutually trusting relationship between members is essential to the Grove's success. But the Grove's greatest spiritual work lies in the Mysteries of Union; the joining together (or reuniting) of opposites, which reconciles the polarities, granting direct access to the Source or Wellspring of Life.
Traditionally, with few exceptions, Grove rituals served just one purpose: to perform the Great Rite or 'Sacred Marriage' (Gk. ἱερὸς γάμος, ἱερογαμία: 'Hieros gamos' or 'Hierogamy'; "holy marriage") in which the polarities were reconciled through the union of the Goddess and the God, as represented by their designated Druid Priestess and Priest. This 'reconciliation' resulted in the healing and renewal of the Earth Mother, and of the people's bond with the Sovereign Goddesses of the Three Realms. It demanded that participating clergy maintain complete control of the metaphysical aspects, while giving themselves completely to the ecstatic power of the act; channelling the power of the rite through the moment of sexual climax. Only in this way could humanity facilitate the healing and renewal of the Earth Mother. One can imagine the self-discipline (and mutual trust) such an act would require, especially when performed encircled by Hearth and Henge members in the open air at the centre of a sacred site. What one probably cannot imagine is having the full support of everyone in the greater community for the performance of such a rite.
However beautiful and healing the rite could (and should) be under ideal circumstances, today's social climate neither encourages the appropriate attitudes nor provides the necessary psychological support to perform such rituals without risking significant emotional fallout, and potentially devastating social backlash. Consequently, the Great Rite has been redefined in purely symbolic terms: the cauldron representing the Divine Feminine and the Druid Priestess of the Goddess; and the Staff representing the Divine Masculine and the Druid Priest of the God. Everything that would formerly have been enacted physically, must then be achieved through purely imaginal and energetic focus and effort. Unsurprisingly, modern attempts seldom achieve sufficient focus and power to fulfil the rite's original purpose. So, while it remains the dramatic centrepiece of Neopagan and Wiccan rituals, the Great Rite is seldom performed in Avalon except by the most highly trained and experienced adepts, and nearly always, in private by Druids who are already couples. What, then, is the focus of a typical ADO Grove ritual?
There are historical precedents originating in the Celtic period for rituals intended to protect and defend tribal lands from invasion by hostile groups, and in the pre-Celtic period, for rites intended to heal plagues and other widespread threats to the Tribes' survival. Given that our world is literally under siege at the moment, with famine, drought, and plague afflicting large regions of the planet and the sixth great extinction already underway, these rituals have taken on new importance for us. We also see great healing potential in bringing members face to face with both the Goddess and the God--and with each other--in ritual circle. While integrating the exalted opposite energies and reconciling the polarities within ourselves and our community in this way has more limited potential than does the Great Rite, it does help to lay the foundation for greater works in future. Hence, these are the usual focuses of the Grove's ritual work.
(To be continued ... )