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Course Description
Kindling the Sacred Hearthfire is a Home Study course comprised of nine monthly lessons beginning on 21 November each year. Each lesson is divided into three areas of study and practice: Lore / Endeavors, Hunt / Projects, and Tribes Cycle Myths / Contemplation. The coursework is supplemented by material drawn from the ADO website and The Book of Tribes, and is tutored by Elders and Lifetime Members. As circumstances permit, Elders may also invite members who are actively and consistently practising and participating in our cyber community to lessons supporting these studies. ADO members who successfully complete the course are also prepared to act as tutors to new Aspirants, providing encouragement and guidance (but not answers) to them as they embark upon their own journeys.
The course provides many insights into the life and worldview of ancient Avalon, while also preparing members for life in Avalon as she is honoured in ADO today. Despite being for newcomers, it is challenging and, for those able to truly enter into our cyclical worldview, is intended as a continuing guide and template for personal spiritual practice.
As a condition of Lifetime Membership in ADO, all members must successfully complete (pass) the Kindling the Sacred Hearthfire course, and commit to volunteering as tutors to new or returning members. Aspirants who do not successfully complete this course, maintain contact with the Order, who do  not follow-through as tutors, and who have not been granted a Leave of Absence, will be removed from the Aspirant course and denied ADO membership. Seekers may reapply to retake this course up to a maximum of two (2) times provided all terms, conditions and course requirements have been met. If after three attempts a Seeker has not succeeded in passing this course, s/he will be denied membership without possibility of reapplying in future.
Coursework is evaluated by the Elder Council (or its designated authority) and is assessed on a pass/fail basis according to the following criteria. In order to pass, you must:
  • Submit monthly progress reports on assigned Endeavours on time.
  • Successfully complete each phase of the Hunt on time.
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the Tribes Cycle and related myths.
  • Demonstrate a basic, but growing understanding of the literal uses and symbolic meanings of each object hunted as they are known and understood within ADO Tradition and teachings.
  • In word and action, show a willingness to allow ideas to evolve (and truths to reveal themselves) over time.
  • Show an affinity for learning ADO spirituality in a traditional ADO setting (i.e. you must demonstrate an appropriate attitude toward both the work and the form of instruction).
  • Be demonstrably ready, willing, and able to work independently and also with others, in community (as measured by forum participation and interaction with tutors and other Aspirants and members).
  • Demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Elder Council, both a desire and an aptitude for living ADO spirituality and following ADO traditional teachings.
[Temporary Leaves of Absence will be granted to those able to document a genuine, ongoing health and/or family crisis necessitating time away. Each eligible Aspirant will be granted one Leave, limited to one membership year. Aspirants on Leave will be required to complete the course during the membership year following the year in which Leave was granted.]
It is neither expected nor desired that members seek some 'ultimate right answer' to the challenges placed before them; all that is required is that you be willing and able to demonstrably earn the titles you expect to claim, and to fulfill one of the prime functions of Druids everywhere to be good Lore Keepers (i.e. members must pass on our Tradition as taught by our mentoring Elders). We must all be willing to extend a helping hand to those just entering our community.
There are many 'diploma mills' where one may buy the title 'Druid' for the price of a book, a membership fee, or slip of certificate paper. ADO is not amongst them. For us, there is a difference between being a Druid (or a member of a Druid community) and playing a Druid. We are here to become members of a Druid spiritual community. Take these requirements to heart and you will find ours a congenial gathering... or... engage in the futile struggle to force Avalon and ADO to be what they are not. One is the heart's calling, the other is the illusion of ego: only one will lead you to Avalon and earn you a place at our hearthfire. Which one you choose is entirely up to you.
Final Assessment of Coursework
At the close of nine months (21 August), the work you have submitted to date will be assessed and evaluated by members of the Elder Council (or its designated authority). No late materials will be accepted for consideration. Members who successfully complete the course will be approved as full Lifetime members, contingent upon meeting all other member rules and requirements as set forth here and in the Order's governing documents. Assessments will be completed and members will be notified of the results by 21 September, or thirty days after completing the course. The decision of the Council on all member determinations is final. By applying to join, you affirm that you have read and accept all terms and conditions of membership, including those pertaining to traditional mentoring, tutoring, coursework, and such other member requirements as the Council or Band of Guardians may impose from time to time.
All new ADO members who successfully complete Kindling the Sacred Hearthfire will be approved to attend the mandatory three-hour 'traditional tutoring workshop' that will prepare them as traditional tutors. Workshops will be offered annually on three different dates from 1st to 21st November. New members must attend one (1) of these three sessions in order to be approved as tutors. Lifetime Members who have not been assigned as tutors during the past twelve months are expected to attend one session as a refresher prior to resuming as tutors.
The main job of a Tribes tutor is to provide encouragement, guidance, and to set a good example to new members attempting to complete this course. The time commitment for tutoring is about one (1) hour per week, including all required correspondence. Tutors may volunteer more time at their own discretion. The same Covenant and rules apply to tutoring as apply to mentoring, with the following exception: members must, as a condition of membership, tutor or perform other duties within the community as assigned by the Elder Council. Again, we recommend that all members print and keep handy a copy of this Covenant.
Time, date, location, and media (email, or chatroom) for tutoring meetings may be chosen according to mutual convenience; however, tutors must provide a meeting schedule in advance to the assigned Council Elder(s) and arrange for her or his attendance if and when s/he chooses. Tutors must also copy all tutoring email correspondence and/or chatroom logs to the assigned Council Elder(s), along with any additional tutor comments and observations, as part of the Council's ongoing assessment process.
Please remember that failure to adhere to the Covenant or to submit copies of course-related correspondence  can complicate assessments for your assigned Aspirants and fellow members, and may endanger your own membership standing. We've worked hard to ensure that the demands on our tutors remain reasonable. As an independent study, course tutoring requires little time or energy and is almost paperwork free. We feel sure that tutors will find it a simple but satisfying way to connect with fellow members and keep a finger on the pulse of our spiritual community. It is also excellent preparation for those considering possible future service as ADO officers or Druids. Wherever in Avalon your interests lie, we bid you welcome -- and enjoy!

The Book of Tribes
The Book of Tribes is the first volume of our Members Manual.  It provides information on membership requirements, but also serves as a manual of studies and exercises designed to supplement the teachings offered in the required Aspirant/Orientation Home Study.  At nearly 300 pages, it is the first comprehensive overview of Avalonian Faery Druidry on offer anywhere.  It is provided to Aspirants free of charge as a PDF download upon completion of the Home Study course and acceptance as new ADO members.  As a members-only resource, it may not be used for non-ADO work or with nonmembers.  Please do not allow it to fall into the hands of those who might "borrow" from it to forward their own agendas outside of the Order.  It is provided to support members in their ADO studies and practices, and to make our community stronger, and your use of it constitutes your agreement to use it solely for these purposes.
It is difficult to explain just how different the experience of Traditional training is from our conditioned expectations. The classrooms and lectures that most of us grew up with have prepared us to expect the teacher to provide "the answers" for us to memorise and recite on tests and quizzes. We are seldom asked to think about things deeply; mainstream schools mainly exist to perpetuate the mainstream culture. They have a vested interest in our not pondering too deeply. Traditional training demands that we ask the questions that will lead us to our own answers. This does not mean that "anything goes", and no matter what we come up with it will be "right for Avalon, the Tradition, and the Order"; if that were true we would hardly need tutors. We would be inventing a Tradition, not joining one. Tradition asks that we regard our studies as we might if we were to enter a strange forest.

Imagine that we've gone into the forest looking for a place to call "home". We already have an idea of the sort of place we're looking for, so we would probably look first for a path. (It might lead somewhere worth visiting, and walking an existing path is a lot easier than fighting our way through the underbrush.) Realising that any path we take might lead to a dead end or to a place that's unsuitable, we know we may sometimes have to double back. Since few of us can survive long in the forest alone, keeping to the path would very likely be a matter of life and death. A guide would be very helpful, but even if we're kucky enough to find one we would still be wise to remember the landmarks along the way, in case we should come across other, similar paths and have to travel this way again alone. Our hope would be to find an existing settlement; one that is welcoming and close enough to our ideal to make a good home. We have no idea how long our journey will be or how many places we will leave behind before we find the right spot.

As we explore, we ask our guide about the area. Since we're planning to live here, we want to know about the other life that will be sharing our home. We also want to know the story of the land, its history, to get a feel for how we may or may not fit with the landscape. As we travel, we keep our purpose clearly in mind. Because our purpose is clear, the questions we need to ask are obvious to us. Eventually, we come across a settlement that has a nice feeling about it. The people are cautious, but friendly and hospitable. We are invited to guest here awhile. This is a great opportunity, for as a guest we may learn many things about the community and experience its customs by participating directly in its day to day life. Our experience will inform us better than any second hand account about how we would feel were we to stay and make this place "home". As guests, we are responsible to be respectful, courteous, and unobtrusive. We are offered everything, and are expected to refuse it, but we know that we will still receiev the best of that our hosts have to offer. We will be expected to help with chores, as requested; a community like this cannot survive long if all work stops anytime strangers appear. We pitch in gladly, knowing that this is one of the best ways to learn about community relationships and life. As part of courtesy, we learn and follow local customs, and start learning what we can of the language. This helps us get along each day and pleases our hosts. Already, friendships are starting to develop. Already we are thinking about our life here tomorrow. Our travels on the forest path seem like another lifetime.

As the day flow onwards, we lose ourselves in the rhythyms of life here. We forget about the path we were travelling until one day our guide appears and tells us it is time for them to go back to their own life, their own people. They ask us whether we will stay, and it is only then that we realise that these people have become our people: we are home.

Coming into our spiritual community and learning Avalon's ancestral Way is exactly like the moment of arrival at the settlement. The same things are required of us, and we should be approaching the experience from the same perspective. The community does not exist to serve us. It is in service to a greater good. If we join we also serve, for that is the nature of true, collaborative community. Therefore we are coming here not to "get" something, but to learn how to give something. We cannot know if we belong her without experiencing what it means to live here, and we cannot experience that by watching as an outsider, as we are accustomed to do in conventional classrooms. Avalon is not the mainstream world. It is within, but not of mainstream society. In this respect, joining our community is much more like moving to a foreign country than it is like enrolling at a college: we have to learn everything from scratch.

When we move to a foreign land, we expect to leave many people behind who choose to keep the life they have and follow the ways they know. However, much the same is true here, given that you are entering a belief system and culture that is foreign to mainstream society. The fact that this "far country" is not across an ocean does not make it any less foreign or any more appealing to the people now in our lives. However, the fact that we are not "moving away" creates some unique challenges. When we move away, those we leave behind go on with their lives -- and they let us do the same. But when we join an Avalonian group we seldom move away to do it. Because we're still *here*, the people in our lives tend to see our spiritual paths as "hobbies"; they expect us to stay the same, and to hold the same place in their lives. If we are truly following the ancestral Way we cannot stay the same, and our relationships with everyone we know will change, often in unforeseeable ways. The people in our lives seldom like this, and very often they will actively resist it. They may do this by expressing their "concern" that we may be involving ourselves in a dangerous "cult" or their anger that we are no longer satisfying their expectations or their fear that they might lose our friendship. If we are very unfortunate, they may decide to "save our immortal souls" by pressuring us to conform to their beliefs and expectations. However they choose to do it, it will be incomfortable, and often painful.

None of us comes to Avalon in order to lose the people in our lives. At the same time, few of us prepare our loved ones for the kinds of changes that may be coming. We don't often sit them down and say, "I am joining a religious order whose requirements are analogous to those of a monastery or seminary (although I won't have to move away to do it). If I succeed I will change in many ways, but I will also be happier and my life's purpose will be finding fulfilment. I am not asking you to adopt my beliefs, but I am asking for your encouragement and support as I make the changes in my life to accommodate this new path." Perhaps if we did, the people in our lives would feel less afraid and be less inclined to work against our needs and goals. We encourage you to have this talk with your friends and family as soon as you become an Aspirant. Encourage them to ask questions, and if necessary make plain that you are not asking permission; this is something you will do, but you would like them to remain a part of your life. They may be worried about how their relationship with you will change if you change. If they ask, we advise you to be honest. The truth is that certain aspects of your relationship(s) may change, but there is no way to anticipate which or how, so you will have to meet those challenges as you come to them.

Sadly, some people may refuse us their support, making demands or using guilt or other manipulative tactics to try to control our choices instead. Some of them will eventually accept our choices if we persevere despite their objections, but if we're to follow this path we may have to be willing to part ways with others. This is hard and none of us likes it, but the choice is whether to live our own lives or live as someone else imagines our lives "should" be. Losing part of our perceived support network can also be scary, especially if our lives leave us feeling isolated already. We each have to consider whether we are strong enough to make these changes.

Some of you reading these words may be thinking, "Why stir things up? I don't need to tell them." This would be true if the sum of your commitment was attending the Fire Festivals and doing the occasional moon ritual, but it's not. Every aspect of your life will change (albeit sometimes subtly). There is no way to "hide" this from the people you love without leading a double life, and leading a double life is antithetical to being part of a Druid community, rooted in Truth. Should you choose to "keep it to yourself", you will eventually reach a point where you cannot make any further progress without "outing" yourself. At that point you will be faced with revealing not only your choices, but the fact that you've kept them secret until now. This revelation may damage other people's trust in you. After all, they thought they knew you. Now they discover the person they thought they knew was a mask, and the only reason you're telling them now is that you've run out of other choices. Again, willfully damaging your relationships will not help you keep them. No matter how scary it may be, you are usually better off being honest from the start.

Once you've spoken with your loved ones, they may wish to know more about exactly what you are doing. You may refer them to the website (public pages), or to your Mentor or the ADO Elders if they wish to speak to someone from the Order, but you may not share with them information that is reserved for members only. The fact that we keep some information for members only makes some people suspicious, but there is nothing sinister about our requirements. The Shriners and the Loyal Order of Moose demand secrecy, require candidates to have a sponsor, and charge a fee to join. Many colleges have secret societies that include religious elements in their initiation rites, yet few people would think to accuse Quill and Dagger, Scroll and Key, the Skull Club, the Bee, the Pleiades Society, or Bohemian Grove (which closes highways and employs security to ensure that no one outside their membership sees their activities) of being "cults". This is because people instinctively recognise the power of belief, and its destructive potential when ungrounded or taken to extremes. The concern is valid and should not be restricted to minority faiths.