ADF: Bridging the Gap Between Neo-Paganism & Polytheism

June 10, 2015 at 12:23 am 2 comments

Initially when I began exploring Paganism, it was from talking to a friend and checking books out at the St Paul public library like Drawing Down the Moon, and books on feminist theology (Christian, Jewish & general Goddess-y goodness alike) at Hamline University, which my mother at the time was attending. The Internet, while available was a lot smaller at the time, and when you searched for “goddess” in Netsuck, you’d come up with more porn sites than pagan ones (Though I suppose in some cases they could be both!) Witchvox was the hub of the English-speaking Pagan internet, and I also hung out a lot on the Cauldron Forum, Beliefnet fora and Yahoo groups. A lot of Pagan organizations, websites, internet forae and such have come and gone, merged and split since those days. One that is still around after all this time, chugging along is ADF.

After going to this retreat, and thinking about all my experiences with ADF- both offline and on, I find myself shaking my head at this supposed conflict between Pagan and polytheist “movements”. The Pagans are wild & crazy hippies that only care about partying at Renfests & casting spells that invoke cartoon characters and the Polytheists are snooty elitists with a Holier Than Thou attitudes. Other folks have different impressions of what these words mean that are just as misleading It seems to be that ADF has been doing things as both pagans & polytheists, that each supposed “faction” thinks the other incapable of!

Regardless of how “recon” others consider us to be, people in ADF have probably done more to promote good scholarship to the general Neo-Pagan masses than any single group of polytheists in the United States at least. For some, ADF is a gateway to other types of polytheism and Druidry, and certainly a better gateway than pop Wicca!

We have room for both scholarship and personal inspiration.

We have a standard ritual structure that people can recognize wherever they visit an ADF grove or protogrove, which each grove has a unique style, and regional cultus.

We have a well-developed clergy training program, while still keeping a healthy debate about the role of clergy in and outside of ADF, as well as other training programs (Dedicant, Initiate, Liturgist, Bard, Warrior etc.)

We have people of many political viewpoints, while maintaining inclusivity of race, sexuality, gender identity, class et al. religious freedom, and conserving the environment- exactly *what policies* an individual ADF member supports in regards to these values is up to them!

Our rituals are polytheistic in practice, and we have certain principles and values we hold in common, but individual members have a variety of personal theologies. Monistic Goddess-worshippers, Liberal Christians, archetypalist Pagans and duotheistic Wiccans might attend our rituals but so long as they don’t make theological proclamations in the middle of things we don’t really care!

We use words like “worship” and “piety” that some people complain are “too Christian” but we refuse to cede those concepts to Christianity alone. Honoring the Kindreds (Ancestors, Nature Spirits & Deities) is the main focus of our rituals, joy, communal fellowship, aesthetic pleasure, and magical workings are aspects as well.

While you have to seriously win the geographic lottery when it comes to managing to find another Slavic, Hellenic, Norse or Celtic polytheist who is willing to play well with others within decent driving distance of where you happen to live (even sometimes in a big city!) by founding or joining an ADF grove, you can pool all these people together into one big Indo-European family! I’m not saying this is a perfect solution for everyone, and I know some people will prefer specificity even if it means solitary practice over compromising for the sake of having a community. But many folks who assert this often state that they are capable of and enjoy doing much of their own research and writing their own rituals and figuring out most things for themselves or happen to be loners or introverts by nature.  But not everyone has the skills and resources, and whenever I see a polytheist proclaim that they want polytheism to spread and replace monotheism, and then see them snark & condescend towards people looking for basic resources I kind of wonder how they expect this to happen! Most people are busy with their jobs and families, and they might be willing to pitch in to help put together a community but they can’t all be Super-Scholar/Liturgists of Awesomeness.

I live in one of the largest Pagan communities in the country, and I still ended up joining a UU church, mainly because it gave me more stable social & emotional support than I could get from Pagan groups I could find, though it is spiritually far more general than ADF. Still I have great hopes for ADF in this region!

So to all my fellow pagans, polytheists, Heathens and Druids- in ADF and outside- keep being awesome and figuring out what is your way of doing things, share with others and support new folks (regardless of age and path)


Entry filed under: Pagan Communities. Tags: , , , .

Heathen Round-Table for June Getting Started in Various Polytheisms

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. G. B. Marian  |  June 20, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    First, I just want to say that I apparently unfollow some people accidentally whenever I access WordPress through my iPhone. (My fingers are too big.) Apparently I accidentally unfriended you and have totally been missing everything you’ve posted since whenever that happened! Oh well, I’m glad to see you’re still around.

    Second, I just don’t get the whole “Neopagan vs. Polytheist” business. Things are often said on both sides that just make me shake my head. I think I’ve probably said it before, but I compare it to how I interact with other Seth folk. Sure, I totally disagree with almost everything Kenneth Grant or Michael Aquino ever wrote, and I’ve had some debates with people who follow their examples. But just because I disagree with them doesn’t mean I hate them or that I reject them as fellow Seth folk. They just have different ways of doing things, is all; what do I care? I extend this principle to how I interact with the rest of the entire Pagan community, as well. I guess it’s one thing if you really don’t like the word “Pagan” and choose not to identify yourself as such. But it’s quite another when you want to argue that other people aren’t Pagan because they actually believe in Gods, or because they don’t believe in Gods at all. I just think there’s way too much isfet going on in our world today for us to waste any time flinging poo over that stuff.

  • 2. caelesti  |  June 21, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Thank you! Yes, whenever I see someone’s “checklist” of “Pagans are like this, polytheists are like that” regardless of what “side” they are on, there’s stuff on both columns that I identify with, as well as things they don’t include in either that fit too. We need to focus on building up what we are doing as individuals & groups, not tearing each other down. I’ve learned lots of things from many of the “wrong” kinds of Pagans (Now I’m imagining a gang in leather jackets in an alley, wearing pentacles!)- experimental/chaos magicians, nontheistic Pagans, pop culture Pagans and often when I disagree with people, interacting with them- civilly as possible, it helps me figure out why I believe or practice certain things, why I have certain reactions and so forth.
    (Not familiar with the term isfet- is that like the opposite of ma’at?)


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