Mentoring the Membership
While our primary focus relates to seeding and maintaining a traditional spiritual community, ADO is also a teaching Order within the Druid Branch of the Avalon Mystery Tradition. Druids are self-directed, life-long learners and we offer limited guidance to all members working toward establishing a personal spiritual observance on this Path. Aspirants and members both share in the annual exploration (or Home Study), "Kindling the Sacred Hearthfire", and all are encouraged to read, study and practice the exercises provided in the Book of Tribes (Tribes Handbook), which offers more information on a living Avalonian Druidry than any other print resource known to us. Groves and learning circles are potentially powerful modes of free face-to-face learning for members fortunate to live near others of like mind. There is also tremendous potential in the members e-community, where Elders and their apprentices gather to share the fruits of their studies and spiritual experiences of Avalon. All are unique and powerful resources for the self-motivated Avalonian Seeker. As with all else, they are what you make of them. As an oral Tradition, all ADO modes of study diverge from those of "mainstream" society. Study and practice are not linear, but follow the ever-spiraling natural Cycle. If you enjoy conventional academia you may find this difficult, even frustrating; but while the older ways may feel like "going in circles," those who follow them may learn more in six months by this circuitous route than in years of linear study. Nor should this surprise us, for is it not faster to swim with the current than against it? Does it not make sense that when our learning moves with the Cycle our progress will be greater than when it moves against or across currents? It seems so to us. Yes, it takes patience, study, and practice. You must be willing and able to do much on your own, and be prepared for every single aspect of your life to change in ways you could never expect... but your education here shall be ample. If you doubt, ask other members. Those who have been actively studying and practicing the our spirituality may make their own attestations as to these claims. It can sometimes seem difficult to perceive our progress in Avalon, for in Druidry the roles of "teacher" and "student" are reversed; it is you who must tell us the answers your "Hunt" reveals. If you do not Hunt, we cannot help you. It is not our way to "tell" you or anyone what to think or believe or do; our role is to provoke a deeper exploration through which members may themselves discover the questions leading to their own Truths or "answers." When an aspirant takes a wrong turn, a Mentor is there to nudge them gently back on track. Thus, aspirants are expected to be self-motivated, self-directed,and follow a mainly independent course of study within the guidelines and context provided by the website and other member resources. You must do, and you must communicate what you do, if we are to help guide you. Our spiritual explorations lack the usual academic signposts: There are no tests, no "pop quizzes", no grades, few indicators at all but our own results as we practice our spirituality, and the feedback on our sharings from other members in our spiritual community. There is no "right" or "best time" to complete a spiritual study. Having once completed the "Hearthfire" course, we each move at the pace that is best for us. For those accustomed to red checkmarks and final grades it can be rather daunting to trust ourselves, following our own intuition, and think for ourselves first, when much of modern life prepares us to do just the opposite! It can be an unsettling experience; one that we all must face. It never really gets easier, just deeper... It is not a path for everyone. For some people, a tribal way of learning in a "bottom line", results-oriented world is just maddening. But it is our way, and will be our way for as far as our Dreamers have seen of the time to come... Only you can say whether it will work for you. Only your own heart can tell you. We counsel you to meditate on this question before coming to join us at the Hearthfire. Some Seekers are confused when we say that member mentoring is free, pointing out that we each paid a fee to join. This is true. But the fee covers only ADO's expense for maintaining physical resources and current services (website, e-community, and associated hardware, software, and services; newsletter; Kindling the Sacred Hearthfire member orientation course, and Book of Tribes). It does not cover training. Our Mentors are volunteers who are free to invite, refuse, add or drop students at will. To provide intensive traditional mentoring to all ADO members would require many more qualified Mentors than we can presently provide. Until more members elect to become Mentors, mentored study will remain limited. However, members may supplement their ADO studies by enrolling in approved, tuitioned courses (see "Hedgerow School" page for a list of ADO-approved programmes and teachers). The choice of whether to enroll in such studies is entirely up to you. Beyond the "Hearthfire", we each progress at our own pace and according to our own unique abilities and needs. We must each decide for ourselves what priority to give Avalon in our lives. It is not for us to dictate the need of another's heart. While using volunteers has its limitations, it also keeps ADO more inclusive and accessible by making some guidance available to everyone without pushing members fees out of reach. There is a price for everything in this world, and if the price of inclusiveness is a slower pace... well, the world is hectic enough, isn't it? For those who long for the heady rush, the total immersion, and the bearing down of sheer momentum, there is always tuitioned coursework; but perhaps it is not such a bad thing to linger over the smell of a rose, or the rush of energy from a healing spring. Perhaps a few more moments communing with the Faery realms is not such a bad thing. We must each inquire of our own hearts in these matters and trust that where they lead us is exactly where we most need to be.
Guidelines for Members & Mentors
Mentoring is a non-binding agreement between members in which one assumes the role of "sage" (or "mentor") and the other "student" ("aspirant'). It is assumed that all members know that these roles must and will reverse many times in the course of following this path, so that it may not always be easy for one unacquainted with the situation to know the Mentor from the Aspirant. In the assumption of these roles are many Shadow issues, nearly all of which one may expect to encounter immediately -- and repeatedly -- during study. In ADO, we see these emerging Shadows as opportunities for change and growth; but to profit from them we must first recognize, and then act upon them with respect and (hopefully) good grace. To aid this process, we offer the words of our own teachers, shared upon first meeting, when our own naive enthusiasm had not yet apprehended the enormity of our undertaking. Though the words are new, the promise is ancient. We trust you will find them as helpful as we did... The "circle" of which we speak is not a flat disk; it is round and full as the apple, and strong as the oak, whose branches and roots mirror one another above and below, curving toward one another. Through the trunk flows the light of the sun, moon, and stars, and the nourishment of the earth, and in every part its life-blood. It has no beginning and no end; no top and no bottom. Its sap does not run from just one point. Whenever in Avalon's name we gather and the circle forms, there too is the Tribal tree. Around this tree are the Nine Tribes constellated and wherever members commune and meet the spirit of Avalon's "family (or Faery) tree" is evoked. Therefore, wherever we gather in Avalon's name we abide by these rules, in honor of this Truth:
Rule of Consent
- All members shall be informed what to expect before the circle is closed or any ceremony or lesson begins; and each shall have the right and chance of refusal (i.e. to withdraw before the work of circle continues).
- The right of refusal shall be respected and honored by us all; however, those who invoke this right shall not linger as "observers," but remove to a location out of sight and hearing of the gathering until its work is done.
- All members will be honest, open, fair, and forthright in all their dealings with one another.
- Members agree not to use what is learned in gatherings to compel any other person or diminish anyone's dignity or free will.
Rule of Privacy
- Members shall arrive on time or as agreed by prior arrangement with the presiding instructor or facilitator. Members who are more than 15 minutes late without such prior consent shall not be admitted or allowed to participate.
- Members shall avoid wandering in, out, or through the circle once it is closed.
- The circle shall be protected from interruption and intrusion (i.e. members shall use secluded sites and secure them by wards and by the vigilance of Guardians).
- Proceedings shall be kept private and confidential except by the specific prior written consent of each member, and as provided by ADO guidelines.
Rule of Cloaking
- The space shall be cleansed, cleared, and warded, the circle closed, and the Guardians called in the traditional manner before beginning or continuing any event, activity, working or observance.
- The wards shall be raised, the Guardians released, and the circle opened after ending or (at need) to allow passage across.
- Members shall conduct themselves with mutual respect and courtesy, without malice or ill will toward anyone; those who cannot do so must leave or be removed from the circle. The fitness of any individual to participate will be determined by the circle members.
COVENANT OF MENTORING
As both you and your Mentor enter into this agreement freely and by mutual consent, all parties agree to uphold the following principles, as well as all other Avalon Druid Order [ADO] member requirements, including our current Site Policy/User Agreement:
- The member (aspirant/student/member) acknowledges the right of all Mentors to assess progress in Circle, but retains the right to refuse or cease study, or to request different mentorship upon written notification to their Mentor(s) and to the ADO Elder Council. Assignment of new Mentors will be at the sole discretion of the Circle of Mentors.
- The Mentor (sage/teacher/elder) retains the right to choose whether or not to volunteer, and may add or remove students from their roster at any time at their sole discretion. Mentors may also set additional terms and conditions for mentorship on a case-by-case basis, provided that these do not violate any current ADO member rules or requirements. Use of provocations in mentoring must be approved in advance by unanimous agreement of the Mentors' Circle.
- The Mentor's Circle shall be comprised of all current Mentors and shall be the equivalent of a traditional "faculty". (Past Mentors and the Founder shall serve as ex officio advisors; input may also be solicited from current tutors.) The Mentor's Circle will discuss and evaluate each member's progress as observed in different aspects of individual and group training in order to collaborate and create unique environments to serve the perceived needs of individual members. It shall be answerable directly to the Elder Council.
These rights are sacrosanct and may not be overruled by another authority. The Mentor and member further promise, one to the other, before the ancestors, Elders, and members of the Order:
- I will abide by the rules of membership, mentoring, gathering, and circle.
- I will ask no more than you can give.
- I will speak to you -- and of you -- with respect and courtesy. / (Member) I will not compete with you or attempt to challenge or undermine your authority. If the Mentoring Elders agree that by my words or actions I appear to do so, I shall withdraw from training until I have better mastered the community's customs and codes of conduct.*
- I will listen without assumption or expectation.
- I will not expect you to read my mind, but promise to speak my Truth.
- I will not hide from you my limits or gaps in my knowledge; if I do not know, I shall tell you so.
- (Mentor) I will lead with questions and describe as best I may what to do, but not why. / (Member) I will trust that in doing, the reasons will become apparent. If I cannot, I will invoke my right of refusal until I can.
- I will not push beyond my ability or willingness to proceed. If I feel unready, I will tell you.
- I will resist the temptation either to dominate or to become dependent.
- When I doubt the lore, I will hunt for my own verification.
- If I cannot lay aside my doubt, I will lay aside study and practice until the needs of doubt are met, and I may proceed in trust.
- I will not use any proposed method, perform any exercise, or follow any spiritual philosophy or belief that feels "wrong" or dangerous to me, whether or not I can explain or justify that feeling in the moment.
- Ours is an oral tradition: when the lore's merit is tested and verified, I will honor and defend its power and verity above that of other histories.
- If I have questions, I will ask. If I do not understand, I will say so.
- I will not blame you for my failings or take out on you my frustrations with my progress or with the traditional process of training.
- I will not mix or mingle into our traditional teachings, methods, philosophies, beliefs, or practices deriving from other sources, even where such inclusions may seem to improve methods, clarity, and/or understanding of our spiritual practices and endeavors.
- If I need a break, pause, or suspension in our studies and/or spiritual practice I will say so, and grant that you may do the same.
- I will not hide or deny to you my Shadow when it arises or expect you to be without your own; neither will I use being in Shadow as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Should we disagree, I acknowledge the Mentoring Elders' authority to determine the extent to which our Shadows have influenced each of us.
- I will afford you the same consideration and compassion in moving through healing to wholeness as tradition teaches me to afford myself.
- I acknowledge that there will always be those ahead of me and those behind me on the Path; thus we are all students and mentors, and the role we take is a matter of circumstance.
- (Mentor) What I receive freely and without cost I will also freely give, and ask recompense only for what I have paid to receive. (Member) As I receive, so I in my turn shall give of my guidance to others within the Order.
- I will not use my position to gain unfair advantage over, or to manipulate, others. Should I directly observe such behavior, I will report it to the Members Liaison.
- As I can, I will teach and learn from you in turn.
- I understand that our time together cannot be foreseen and know that we will each do our best to fulfill our promises and agreements. When, by circumstance or preference, I can no longer do so, I will tell you and release us both from further commitment.
- By embarking on this path, we each become Avalon's ambassadors in the world; therefore, I shall conduct myself at all times in a manner befitting Druids of Avalon. To this end, I shall strive to exemplify these qualities in all of my dealings, within the Order and without:
Love without "need"
Truth without apology
Trust through discernment
Dignity without conceit
Wisdom with humility
Self-respect without self-indulgence
Compassion without weakness
Confidence without arrogance
Power without oppression
Safety without aggression
These things do we mutually promise to uphold or go our separate ways. Through this agreement, may our journey of discovery be made better and more nurturing for us both.
[NOTE: Please print a copy of this Covenant and display it wherever your study and spiritual practice may take you meditate on each of these promises from as many perspectives as possible before beginning. In this way, you may better understand the subtleties of the agreement you will be making, your feelings about it, and any issues you may have with it. Please feel free to contact the Members Liaison with any questions you might have.]
Plumbing the Depths
It has become popular to define the meaning of "art" (and poetry in particular) as being whatever we subjectively wish it to mean. But it was not always so, and this does more to stroke the egos of image-seekers than it does to improve the quality of our culture. For most of recorded history, what we call "art" has had a specific definition and an objective criteria for assessment, based on a consensus of learned opinion. Since these definitions and criteria relate directly to the work of the Singer, let us pause to consider them in their most basic form. In order to earn the title "art," a work must:
- Have something important and specific to say.
- Say it in a manner that can be understood by most people.
- In its expression, achieve technical excellence without becoming a "private language".
- Transcend the ordinary (i.e. carry us into a cathartic, transformational experience, a sublime dialogue between the observer, the "artist," and the higher Self or Spirit).
There is no one "right" way or style of meeting this criteria and the final judges are the observers themselves. As originally defined, art is universal and so must speak to the spirit of average people everywhere. If it does not, it is not "art." It may still be a wonderfully creative expression and many people may still enjoy it, but what does not touch the "Universal" must remain in some respects "local." It cannot be "Universal" without applying to everyone, everywhere. Such distinctions may seem trivial, but they were and are of critical importance to those who call themselves "People of Art." They know, if we have forgotten, that the Universal is the key by which we may each know our connection to the Source and all Creation. Considered from another perspective we may begin to see how vital such criteria really are, even in "mundane", everyday life.
Suppose, for instance, that the world were on the brink of war and we could send just one diplomat to prevent catastrophe. Obviously if they are to persuade all sides to lay down their weapons and negotiate peace, whomever we send must have a gift for languages. Who would be most persuasive, someone able to transcend the boundaries of society and culture or someone who could only be understood in their own area? And by what criteria would we choose such a person? How would we know we had the right candidate for the job?... The person who can transcend "local boundaries" is the person who can express themselves universally -- the same person whose skill may reach the level of "art."
Since we know from Tacitus and other classical sources that the ancient Druids acted as ambassadors for peace in their world, the bridge between a criteria defining "art" and that which defines a Druid's attainments becomes more clear. There are of course differences between the artist's intention and the Druid's. The artist works on an expressive level, the Druid on a metaphysical level. The artist seeks to provoke specific inner states in the observer in hopes of inspiring a revelatory moment; the Druid seeks to support a natural balance between disparate forces (Harmony) for the highest good of all. The artist's work requires a public; the Druid's may be done in total solitude. However, both the artist and the Druid work from a basis in natural laws. Both must have a mastery of form, flow, resonance, feeling, and effect, and use them to effectively express complex and unfamiliar concepts, situations, and relationships to ordinary people. Each, in their own way, intends their work to inspire others, helping them to transcend the mundane and see through the dark glass and gaze into eternity's bright blaze.
Keeping the above criteria in mind, we invite you to explore Avalon's secrets and to study her effect through hearing and retelling her Sacred Story Cycles (and for aspiring Druids, through Colloquy). What images, memories, or feelings do they evoke? What associations do they bring to mind? You may find that your opinion of its meaning changes much with each year and this is as it should be, for any good riddle takes some puzzling. Wrestle with it, tug, pull, and shake it. See what comes loose and what sticks. When you have done, and you feel you know every part of it start again from a completely different perspective. For a Druid can see situations from every perspective and angle and, if we would claim the title, so must we.
Rebirthing Ourselves as Members
Any spiritual / religious organization must have some means of indoctrinating members into the basic tenets of its faith. In ancient times, we learned our spiritualities from the communities into which we were born, from like-minded people who all shared the same beliefs, customs, laws, culture, and society. For the ancestors, Spirit permeated everything and could not be separated from daily life. Later, the effort to stem the tide of widespread religious intolerance led to a separation of church (spirituality) and state. While this separation did provide some universal protections for human rights, it has cost us our perception of reality as an integrated whole. Our modern amalgam of disparate faiths, cultures, and practices is held together by purely economic considerations. Economics is about obtaining 'power' by controlling vital resources; it has no spiritual aspect. Perhaps when we are all ready and willing to practice tolerance for beliefs and cultures different from our own, a holistic worldview will be more attainable. Until then, the challenge of how to follow a holistic path and live sustainably in a divided, fractured world remains before us.
In ADO, we do not believe in keeping Druidism separate from the rest of our lives. We do not believe one can walk a path without a deep understanding of the well from which it sprang; nor do we believe that such understanding can arise from 'donning the veil' a few minutes per week. Instead, we seek for ways to incorporate our beliefs into every aspect and moment of our lives. The easiest way to do this is within the context of a like-minded spiritual community, where we will constantly be reminded whenever we step out of thinking (and acting) with a 'Druid Mind'. But having lost the common bond enjoyed by our ancestors, and having been raised in cultures and conditioned in schools foreign to both Druidism and to Avalon, we face the unique challenge of re-establishing spiritual and social commonalties between members of disparate backgrounds, cultures, and temperaments. It is a modern problem for which our lore remembers no ancient solution; but using our Tradition as our guideline, the way to meet this modern challenge may yet be illuminated.
Over the course of the past several years, as our Elders have laid the foundation for a modern ADO spiritual community, we have explored various methods through which members might voluntarily learn the basics of our spiritual path. Initially, there was no fee imposed for training. Unfortunately, this approach only encouraged people to believe that traditional training was an 'optional' feature of ADO Druidry which could be 'reinterpreted' or 'reworked' according to personal preference. Whatever the intention of such actions, their effect is to destroy tradition, not to 'create' or 'improve' it. A Tradition is something learned, lived, and passed down in the same form and manner to others. One cannot pass down what one does not know. Without new practitioners, the open form of our Tradition will die with its present wisdom keepers and revert to a purely hereditary practice. And so the Elder Council faces a dilemma: how to remain true to traditional oral teaching methods and sensitive to modern demands on time, while also ensuring that all active members know, practice, and are willing to pass on our basic spiritual tenets and philosophy as taught in ADO.
In seeking to meet this challenge, we feel we have created something truly exciting and original, yet rooted in ancestral methods and worldviews. For those who successfully complete and follow its teachings, and who make the journey to attend a gathering, it will prove an essential guide -- not only in our first years of membership, but for many years to come.