This a prayer to Sequana, Gaulish Goddess of the River Seine.
This a prayer to Sequana, Gaulish Goddess of the River Seine.
Times of Uncertainty
We find ourselves today in times of uncertainty as the Covid-19 pandemic reaches out to touch all our lives. We call to the Kindreds to protect us in these times.
There are certain, practical things that we can do to protect ourselves: limit our exposure to others, washing our hands, being aware of the potential for contamination in the world around us. Practical hygiene will go a long way in protecting us in an immediate sense.
As people with relationships to the spirits and Kindreds, this is an excellent time to call to them daily to ask for their help and protection and to thank them for the blessings we already have. I truly believe that they listen and even an offering of “thank you” is an offering, nonetheless.
As a leader and as a priest, if I can be of any assistance, please feel free to reach out to myself or any of the Mother Grove and / or Clergy Council for assistance. If we cannot help you directly, we will find someone who can.
Rev. Jean (Drum) Pagano
I am running for a second term as Archdruid of ADF. I want to have a forum where I could list my bio, my list of accomplishments, and the answers to questions that were attached to a member’s personal survey.
Here they are, for your review:
I first joined ADF as one of the very early members in 1984. At that time, ADF was still a vision of what was to come. I have followed that dream for 35 years, sometimes as a member of a grove, and others as a solitary member. I have devoted much of my life to this organization. Outside of ADF, I have several degrees in Philosophy, as well as a degree in Computer Science. I live in Ohio, but spend much of my time travelling to meet our membership.
I am proud to be an active part of the leadership of this organization. Being part of leadership gives a person a unique perspective and I use that perspective to try to make ADF a better place for everyone. I have served as a member of the Mother Grove for a number of years. I have represented our membership as Chief of the Council of Regional Druids, Vice Archdruid, and now your current Archdruid. I have been honored to serve with a number of skilled and dedicated Mother Grove members who have made the process of improvement better and more interactive.
During my first term as Arch Druid, we have made many positive changes in ADF, many of them based on suggestions that we have received from the Folk. We have opened avenues of communication, offered a Consent Culture course to our leadership and Clergy, and have plans to extend that training to our Senior Druids this year.
As Archdruid, I have spent about 30 weekends a year on the road representing ADF to both our members and other Neopagans, wherever they may be. I have built bridges to with other organizations and offered rituals and workshops in the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, and Europe. I work hard to make sure everyone knows that ADF is an international Druid Fellowship and not just a regional organization.
Additionally, I have completed many of the ADF Study Programs, and completed courses in many others. I believe the Study Programs are some of the great hidden treasures that are available to our membership and I want to experience them for myself to be able to share those gifts with others. I think the Dedicant Program is an excellent introduction and want to make it accessible to more people.
I am a Senior Priest and an Initiate. I am also an ADF Master Bard and have published four books since earning that title including a book of devotionals for the Earth Mother that includes Philip Carr-Gomm and Damh the Bard of OBOD and Kristoffer Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order. My most recent books, Saule and the Sunrise and Saule and the Sunset were published by ADF Press in 2018. I also write blogs for Patheos Pagan and articles for Oak Leaves and other publications.
I have partnered with various other Druid groups through membership and interaction. I have appeared as featured speaker for festivals and gatherings around the world, giving me the opportunity to tell people about ADF and our practices.
I want to continue my work for the membership of ADF by pledging to:
I believe in the Earth Mother, the Spirits of Inspiration, the Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Shining Ones as real entities worthy of offerings, sacrifice, and devotion. I will continue to bring my hands, my heart, and my head to the work of ADF and ADF’s works to the neopagan community. I wish to thank all of those who have been a part of the ever-expanding experience that is ADF. I ask for your support in this election to continue the work that is ahead.
I believe Archdruid is a verb, not a noun. The title you receive is far less important than the action you take while wearing it, and I am proud of the active role I have taken as head of ADF.
List of Accomplishments
Accomplishments as Archdruid
Instituted a new, shortened election process that begins in February and ends in April as opposed to the old method which ran from Dec ember through April.
Met with Philip Carr-Gomm of OBOD and Kristoffer Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order and discussed Druidry and our commonalities.
Started the tradition of Clergy Council High Day rites published on You Tube with the expert help of Rev. Amber Doty.
Met with Solitary Members in Texas, California, and Illinois.
Completed a Leadership Program with the approval of the Mother Grove.
Became the first Archdruid to attend the OBOD Summer Gathering. I presented a workshop on ADF to Druids gathered for this meeting.
Met with solitary members from Wales and England.
Ordained our first European Priest in a ritual in Germany. It was a joy to celebrate this ordination with the remarkable collective of individuals representing their paths.
Headlined Chrysalis Moon Festival.
Participated in a new Unity Rite where individuals represented all the various Groves, Protogroves, Prison Worship Groups, and our Solitary Members.
Acquired an AED to be used at ADF festivals in the event of an emergency.
Was the Guest of Honor at Sacramento Pagan Pride.
Presented workshops and ritual at Starwood.
Was instrumental in the passing of the new Continuing Education Program for the Clergy Council.
Presided over the funeral of long-term member and beloved priest Earrach Canali (Earrach of Pittsburgh).
Published “A Tree for the Earth Mother”, a book of devotionals including work by Philip Carr-Gomm, Damh the Bard, Kristoffer Hughes, and other ADF members.
Named our first Human Services Specialist.
Held the first December Mother Grove Retreat at my home in Toledo.
Began using an organization-wide appeal for positions to fill needed positions in ADF, a suggestion brought to us by the Folk. Positions filled included Human Services Specialist, Public Relations Director, Office Manager, and Election Officer.
Approved along with the Mother Grove that the Mother Grove, Clergy Council, and Regional Druids all take Cherry Hill Seminary’s Consent Culture Course. I personally paid 25% of the cost borne by ADF for this undertaking. This also included about a third of the Senior Druids and Grove Organizers.
Asked that the first course/workshop at every ADF Festival be dedicated to Consent Culture.
Enrolled ADF as a Corporate Sponsor of the America Forest Foundation without using organizational funds for this project.
Met with Solitary members in Nebraska.
Created the ADF Annual Report to streamline the Annual Reporting Process at the Annual Meeting and to list our accomplishments in one easily readable format. This cut down the time of the Annual Meeting considerably.
Met with Solitary members in Michigan and Ohio.
Created a new ADF Study Program course, Nature Awareness 3.
Published two new books through ADF Publishing: Saule and the Sunset and Saule and the Sunrise. These were produced as e-books.
Headlined Pan Pagan Festival.
Attended a multi-faith ritual and series of meeting with Druids, Asatru, and Wiccans at Coyote Ridge Correctional Center.
Became the first Archdruid to visit the maritime provinces in Eastern Canada. I presented public workshops and was interviewed on a radio program.
Presented workshops in Ottawa, Canada for assembled Druids and neopagans which were recorded and posted on You Tube.
Participated in a Zoom Ritual at the Clergy Retreat which included not only distance attendance but distance participation. I hope this to be a model for the future.
Created (with the Mother Grove) the position of Project Manager to guide the Website Upgrade project.
Met with Solitary members in Tennessee, Indiana, and Florida.
Sat on a Druid panel with Kristoffer Hughes of Anglesey Druid Order and Dana Wiyninger of OBOD.
Answers to Rev. Jan Avende’s survey
What do you consider the role of AD to entail, and how are you uniquely qualified to fill it?
The role of the Archdruid is to act as the head of the Mother Grove, the Chief of the Clergy Council, and the spiritual leader of the organization. From the corporate perspective, the Archdruid is the Chairman of the Board.
As the head of the Mother Grove, it is my job to review and process suggestions that we receive from both internal and external sources, and present those items to the executive committee or the board for discussion and decision making. While the Archdruid is the head of the Mother Grove, they are only one of the nine voting members. It is important to work with the entire Mother Grove as a team, and to be sure that everyone’s voice is heard, whether they are a voting member of the board or not.
As the Chief of the Clergy Council, the Archdruid works with the Clergy Council Officers to process tasks and changes much in the same way that the Archdruid interacts with the Mother Grove. I believe it is important for the Archdruid to be creative and innovative, developing new ideas and methods of practice, both for clergy and members alike. One example of this type of innovation that I have displayed during my term as Archdruid is the Clergy Council High Day Ritual videos. The Core Order of Ritual is fundamental to our practice, yet many of our solitary members have never seen it in action. Creating videos gave our Clergy the opportunity to demonstrate this practice for the folk, giving a resource to our existing members, and acting as a form of outreach to others in the community.
Another idea that I pioneered is the retirement of priests. It was inevitable that there would be a need for this to happen as our organization and leadership ages. I also think it is important for the Archdruid to talk about important religious topics like the Kindreds, our practice, and personally, the use of devotionals. I have created workshops, blogs, books, and other resources about these topics and others. The Archdruid is also instrumental in supporting priests, whether they came through Super Druid, were sanctioned by the Mother Grove, or came through the Clergy Training Program. Each of these categories of priests are real priests and all are valuable.
I am uniquely qualified for this position because of my love and dedication to this organization. I have invested 35 years of my life to practicing and serving ADF. I have been honored to serve as Archdruid for the past three years, as well as Vice Archdruid for two terms prior to that. I have been a part of the Executive Committee for seven years. I have fulfilled all of my terms, without lapse, while continuing to travel across the globe to meet with our membership. I am available 24/7 and my contact information is available for anyone who feels the need to reach out. I have also previously served on the Board of Directors for White Oak Order and Cherry Hill Seminary.
In addition to my extensive experience as a member of a board of directors, I also have served in leadership in many different roles within ADF, including time as an officer of the Clergy Council, the Bardic Guild, the Naturalist Guild, and many other subgroups, as well as listmaster. I made it a priority of my leadership to reach out and get to know to our members, wherever they may be. I want our members to know that their leadership is someone who is kind, welcoming, and concerned about their well-being. The most important part of leadership is service to the folk and I have endeavored to help any and all members as often as I can.
Do you have any “day-job” qualifications for the position, and if so what parts do you use most often/benefit ADF the most?
I work in the Information Technology industry in my “day-job”. In my professional role, it is important to be able to collaborate and work with a team on a daily basis, while also being willing and able to perform individual tasks to keep projects on track. This balance of working with others, while also making sure your tasks are completed is a valuable tool as Archdruid. I am comfortable working with a group and setting aside personal differences to pursue a common goal that benefits everyone. Every undertaking requires a number of people working together so that everyone feels included and so that the individuals involved feel that their voices are heard and that their needs are met. I also know it’s important to follow through with tasks that are specific to the role of Archdruid.
Additionally, the IT world has come a long way in the last 35 years. Technology is now common in our everyday lives, through both websites and social media. As Archdruid, I recognize the need for our organization to better utilize those tools and have worked to improve our access and usage of both. Finally, technology is a world that requires flexibility and adaptability each time things change, which is often in IT. That adaptability is important as the needs of our organization, and our board members change. Having IT skills is fundamental is today’s electronic world. The internet and opportunities that are available through electronic media make our outreach and connection with others even more important.
I am fortunate because I also have I have the benefit of experience in the job of Archdruid. I have been in this role for the past three years, so I have practical day-to-day knowledge that comes from doing the work. I view ADF as my second full-time job, and it’s a job that I hope to be able to continue.
Describe your leadership style and why it makes you a good choice for the position.
I consider my leadership style to be a combination of democratic, team, and visionary leadership. The Archdruid is alone in their leadership and much try to reach consensus whenever possible. For tasks and decisions that come to the Mother Grove, I always engage the other members in the decision making process. The Archdruid is only one of the nine votes in any matter. I find that engaging everyone in the decision making process gives everyone ownership in the solution. I consider the Mother Grove to be a team, gathered from different communities, working together to fulfill our mission and our vision and support our membership. No member of the Mother Grove is less than any other. I consider this team to be peers and I treat everyone as equal participants in the process. We are elected by the membership to represent them and we must leave personal agendas aside as we move forward together. I have a vision as well, as I believe an Archdruid should. I feel that ADF is a world-wide organization, and seeing people practice on four continents has shown me that our actions transcend nation, regional, and linguistic boundaries. Our discipline, our Core Order, and our Devotion to the Earth Mother and the Kindreds are a unifying force that allows us to offer a similar and powerful experiences no matter where we are located. My encounters have shown me that when people see what we do, they are interested. I believe that by following our vision, we can touch members and non-members alike worldwide. The Earth Mother is understood and experienced in so many different places and different ways.
Why are you seeking this office? Why do you love ADF enough to devote substantial time and energy to the organization, and what do you see as the limits and boundaries you would have to place on your involvement?
I have dedicated the better part of my adult life to being a Druid. After 35 years in ADF, it is not only my home, but it is a way of life. When I first joined the Mother Grove, I did so to make a difference and to help bring my long experience as a member of ADF to use, hoping to benefit both Solitary and Grove members. I was a solitary for over 20 years before joining a grove and I understand the challenges of practicing alone and being distant from other members. It was my practice that kept me active within ADF and I want to share my devotional practices with other people. It’s also that unique insight that makes me so dedicated to reaching out and being available to our membership.
As I’ve said before, I view ADF as my second full-time job. I dedicate between 20 and 40 hours a week to ADF, not including travel time or attendance at festivals and gatherings. I am willing to give as much time as is necessary to do the job the right way. As the Archdruid, I must be ready for engagement wherever and whenever the need arises. One cannot just step away. I am very fortunate that my wife Rhiannon understands and support my work as Archdruid as a partner and as a member of ADF. The Archdruid must be able to dedicate large amounts of time for the organization and must get out and meet the Folk, whether it is at festival, one-on-one, or at long distance. Archdruid is not a spectator sport – it requires active participation. I have done this over the last seven years, even prior to becoming Archdruid, and will continue to do this into the future. It’s important to me and our members to see the leadership in action and feel like they have been seen as well.
How will you promote & grow ADF’s commitment to a culture of consent?
The Mother Grove decided last year to send all priests, Regional Druids, and members of the Mother Grove to Consent Culture training through Cherry Hill Seminary. I have been and continue to be very supportive of our leadership receiving training in consent culture. I personally provided financial support for 25% of the cost of ADF’s consent training last year, along with paying for my own and several other members as well. I believe in right action, and felt this cause was worth the investment in our leadership. We were very fortunate that a number of the individuals who received training were also Senior Druids or Grove Organizers. However, we have budgeted for the remaining Senior Druids and Grove Organizers to receive a consent culture course this year.
I have asked Cherry Hill Seminary to if they could develop an on-demand Consent Culture course that we could provide, not only leadership but membership in general. We have also asked our Human Services Specialist to develop some resources for our membership. Additionally, last year I requested that the first workshop at every festival be dedicated to Consent Culture. This request was implemented at many events and the workshops were well observed and attended. I am committed to making ADF a safe place for everyone and am dedicated to continued offerings of Consent Culture training.
Share your thoughts on the ADF saying “fast as a speeding oak” and why roots are important to you and to the org going forward.
Fast as a speeding oak is a phrase that meant deliberate and steady progress would yield results over time. In the early days of ADF, where communication was done entirely via “snail mail”, the pace of progress was very slow. Yet from those early days, we have progressed from being a small regional phenomenon, to a national organization, and then the international organization that it is today.
ADF relies on a lot of volunteer energy to run Our Own Druidry. Since we rely on volunteers, some things may take a little longer than if we were able to pay for full time staff. This is not an excuse for moving forward slowly but an explanation that some things are a process and not just an event. Larger organizations have larger budgets and weekly or occasional collections that take place at local services. We do not have this luxury. Most of the funding that is collected locally remains local and we look to membership to be generous in their donations to the international organization.
“Fast as a speeding oak” also suggests that slow and steady growth yields a firm foundation. I believe that this is the case in ADF. It is our membership base, whether they are long-term, mid-term or new, that add to the diversity of people and experiences that makes ADF unique. I have been a member since 1984 and have seen a lot of different thing over those years and learned along the way. Some events are lightning bolts, some are gentle, nourishing rains. Our long-term members are those deep roots that anchor the organization. It is our traditions and practices that strengthen us. It is continuing and new members that bring us their experiences and insights and move us forward. The true test of change is sustained change over time. “Fast as a speeding oak” speaks directly to this sustained change.
Do you believe the axiom the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)?
It would be nice if we as ADF could always achieve consensus, but with 1300+ members from all walks of life, this is nearly impossible. We can develop situations where we can satisfy the needs of most of our members, but there are always those who do not agree or choose to follow. In binary situations, where a choice must be made one way or another, it is unlikely that consensus will occur. Elections, like the one we are approaching now, are one of those binary choices where we must choose one over another. This is not a weakness, but a feature of certain situations.
As leaders, we hope to meet all members’ needs, but invariably, there will be times were choices must be made and decisions rendered. This is not said gleefully or without knowledge of consequence, but it is the way things are at times when people are involved.
What efforts will you take to improve outreach & engagement for solitary members?
As part of my last campaign, I pledged to reach out to and visit solitary members and have been fortunate enough to do so throughout my term. I have reached out to members to see if they wanted solitary visits and for many of those members I have met with them, either in their communities or at gatherings and festivals. I specifically designed the Clergy Council High Day Ritual videos as a way for people who were not physically close to groves to experience Core Order of Ritual rites and to see our Clergy in action. I created the Clergy Skills and Strengths page to allow members to find priests with certain skills. In our most recent Mother Grove meeting, we discussed the creation of a database with members’ skills and services. I think every member is valuable with unique skills and experiences that they may be able to share with others.
Several Groves have pioneered streaming rituals, such as Three Cranes Groves. This allows members to experience rituals live and spontaneously. I would like to encourage other groves and Protogroves to let the world see what you do for ritual. I have made some of my workshops available via YouTube so that members anywhere can attend workshops without having to leave their living room.
I have made liberal use of Twitter and Instagram to put out prayers, devotionals, and bardic works for others to use in their own practice. I would like to encourage more people to complete the Dedicant Program. As part of that, I would like to allow members to submit one module at a time instead of the whole program to give them a sense of accomplishment and the ability to watch their progress as they learn about ADF.
I am excited about the work being done with the Hearthkeeper Program which will allow members everywhere to establish a hearth practice independent of any study program. I am a solitary member as well and much of what I do is at my home altar. I want others to feel not only comfortable in doing so, but have an idea what to do. I also want them to know that they are not alone in their practices and experiences. To support that idea, I am happy to continue visiting solitary members upon request. If you aren’t able to get to a place where you can meet others, I am happy to come to you.
How will you support those solitaries working through the DP by strengthening the mentoring program or establishing a virtual grove?
Our DP mentoring program needs retooling. We once offered training for people who wanted to be DP mentors but that has not been offered in some time. I want to see this revitalized. I think that the mentor pool is rather limited and I think we need to put a call out for volunteers to take up this task. We have lots of capable people who may be willing step up in this role. We also have international members who wish to offer their DP services in foreign languages and we should be enlisting these members and advertising far and wide that we can review the DP in other languages than just English. I have done two DP reviews in French and we have German and Portuguese-speaking members who could step up to this task or have already expressed a desire to do so.
I once thought the idea of a virtual grove was the way to go, but our current reporting structure for groves isn’t flexible enough to make this happen. I supported the idea of the Solitary Druid Fellowship and while there was some good liturgy created, this idea did not pan out. If we can find a way to make a virtual grove work, I am all for it.
At the most recent Clergy Retreat in October at Tredara, we used Zoom to offer a virtual ritual to priests who could not be in physical attendance and not only did they attend, but they also participated. The paradigm is there – we just need to bring it forward. Perhaps this is a challenge that we overcome. I will gladly participate and I am sure many others will as well.
I first did online rituals in the late 90s and it worked, although it was challenging just typing. Now, with products like Skype and Zoom, live participation is accessible to any member connected to the internet.
With more solitary ADF members, supporting them in their practice may be the most important tasks we face if we want to keep them as well as get new members. What will you do to fix the Mentor program so that it can become a robust source of help for anyone who wishes to join ADF, but who is not local to an operating, healthy, teaching grove?
I believe that I have answered this question in the preceding paragraphs, but I will offer some further thoughts. I recently had the idea that when we send out a new member letter/email, we can also include the first question in the DP, as a lesson, in, for example, the Virtues. Therefore, for those interested, they will have the lesson in hand; for those not interested, they need do nothing more. By offering a fully expanded lesson instead of something self-researched, and the ability to submit a module at a time, we may find more participation in the program.
As far as mentors go, we need to train them, offer a balanced system of assignment of mentors and encourage international participation. Finally, while it is not desirable, not all members that come to us as new members decide to stay. Most of the feedback that we get from members that leave is that they have decided that this is not their path. For those who do wish to stay and have interest, we should help them at every opportunity.
What sorts of efforts and contributions do you plan on making to the organization if you do *not* win this election?
I have built many relationships and bridges throughout the years. ADF is an integral part of my life. Since I am a Senior Priest, I am dedicated to service and serving others. That will not change. ADF is my life. I want it to live and to live in it. Service will help this come to pass. My active participation with our membership would not change.
What is your Vision for ADF for the next 3 years? For the next 6+? How do you plan to articulate and act out this Vision?
I am a member of the committee that is currently working through the SWOT analysis. This will give us a number of tasks to work toward in the next 3 years. I expect that once this SWOT is completed and reported, we will look to do another one in three to five years and begin this process again. We will begin an organizational review at the end of this year to help us get a better understanding of where we are and where our vision will take us.
I’d also like to see more membership involvement, better membership access, and community building within ADF, as well as connections with other Druids. I think it is important to enlist the help of our own members in this process and also to enlist the help of professionals to keep this process independent, transparent, and fair. This should be ongoing. I have worked hard to make ADF the international organization that it is and intend to continue to build bridges with members abroad and with other Druids throughout the world. Most of all, I want ADF to be and remain an inclusive organization where people feel safe and welcome. It is a part of hospitality.
My vision for the next six plus years is to continue the process of evaluating ourselves while remaining true to the work we have done and where we find ourselves. We have an offering-based religion that honors the Earth Mother and the Kindreds and this is a path that we should remain true to. The Earth Mother comes first in our rites and should also be part of our practice. We need to review our programs of study to make sure they are up to date and solid and that people are utilizing them. If we change programs and no one takes those courses, then we haven’t engaged the people we are trying to reach. We must also evaluate the groups we have created and see that they still are valid and viable. If they need help, we should help them; if they are no longer needed, they should be retired. We need to encourage members to get involved in these subgroups if we want to breathe new life into them.
I also want an ADF that understands that it has a place in the international community and as such must alter its focus on strictly domestic matters and understand that we must embrace a spirituality that applies globally. When I first entered leadership, I found elements of intolerance for other beliefs and paths. I found this rather unsettling and vowed to myself to change this if I had the opportunity. I have tried, in my time as Archdruid, to be open and welcoming of other paths and people. I like to think that all people of good intention are welcome to share our hospitality.
Are there any specific goals you’d like to undertake, and what is your plan of action?
Our new website, after a number of false starts and lost traction, is getting the attention it desperately needs. We just had a successful fundraiser to raise money for the development of the new website and the Mother Grove has budgeted additional funds to make this a priority. We are discussing the update as this is written. This has been aided by the addition of a new project manager to our team. She has an eye on process, schedules, and delivery.
Our new Project Manager has recommended a number of pursuits that will help our outreach: monthly newsletters that highlight positive happenings in ADF. News from the Mother Grove, other groves, and solitaries, collected together and shared through this letter and other media outlets. We are currently discussing bringing in a professional developer to finally tackle our long-term problem with our website. It is long overdue.
I think it is important to offer training to specific positions, most especially the Member’s Advocate. Our new Member’s Advocate should have a transition period with our existing one and be offered training to help understand what it takes to do a great job for ADF.
I believe we need procedural documents for our other positions so that there is a clear understanding of the work to be done and the methods that we expect to be utilized. I would like to see all of our organizational documents updated to use more relevant and appropriate terminology when describing individuals. In order to accomplish this, we will solicit volunteers to work together in reviewing all of our documentation and making suggestions for improvement. I would like members of the Mother Grove, especially Non-Officer Directors, to sit on these committees.
Our Human Services Specialist is an important position in our organization but there is a LOT of work to do and a lot of documentation to create. I would like to find some skilled volunteers to help share the workload for this crucial job.
We need to continue our global outreach to other members and organizations that complement the work that we do in a neopagan world. Our European and Asia-Pacific Regional Druids have done great work but they oversee such large areas that we need to devise methodologies to help them extend their reach. Sharing venues with other Druids like OBOD, ADO, AODA, and RDNA may help us to better understand other Druids and explore and celebrate our commonalities. I am a member of many of these organizations and I welcome the exchange that we have experienced with them.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment of your previous term as AD?
I don’t think there is a single accomplishment that stands out, but there have been many successes along the way with myself and the Mother Grove. Some of the accomplishments that I am very proud of are our Annual Report, presented as a document for the last two years, so that we have a written record of what we have done the previous year and that we can proudly present to others. An organization like ours needs this. Our Statement of Inclusion presents a powerful statement from ADF leadership to the members and to others in the neopagan community. I am very proud of the work that the Mother Grove did on this. I am happy to have ADF be a corporate sponsor with the American Forest Foundation. This was a Mother Grove project two years ago and was my project last year. I am proud of our first European priest and have encouraged others in Europe, South America, and Australia to join the Clergy as well. I am proud of how quickly we were able to get a large part of our leadership through consent culture courses and am glad that I was able to contribute monetarily towards that goal. I am also glad that we are finally upgrading our website after talking about it for so long.
I have been fortunate to be able to spend so much time on the road to talk to members and non-members alike about ADF. I have traveled to Australia, South America, Europe, and Canada to meet with members and share in their experience of ADF. I will continue to spend as much time as possible reaching out to our membership in person.
What do you consider your most significant failure in your previous term, and how do you plan to avoid a similar issue going forward?
I think I will answer this by saying that there are occasions when we, as a Mother Grove, receive complaints that cause a lot of hardship and pain to the people involved. For some of these that we experience, I wish that I could have reached a happy medium where Moderation resulted in resolution. Sometimes, this is not the case. I will continue to try to reach a middle ground with the parties involved in the future. I think that a lot of negativity was encountered when we had our Facebook groups open to the public and I believe this caused us a lot of hardship, internally and externally, and a loss of some members because of it. Bringing the Facebook group to members-only was a positive solution to that situation. In both of these instances, communication was ultimately the issue. I will work harder to try to foster better information sharing and better information flow in the future.
In what ways will your term be different from your previous term? What if anything would you do differently?
Working with other members of leadership is critical to the success of any administration. However, every leader is an individual with their own thoughts and desires. There have been many issues that we have faced in the past three years, and personal differences between leaders have made working together difficult at times because there is often a sense of impending conflict. I have started to try to rectify some of this by inviting the Mother Grove to my home for each December for a meeting and retreat. This has allowed us to build cooperation between the Members of the Mother Grove and allowed us to sit across from each other and enjoy each other’s company, while we work together as a team. The Board of Directors need to work together and not at cross purposes. I will continue to serve, be of service, lead by example, and try to foster a sense of common purpose and collaboration.
What do you think needs to be done to improve the “spiritual” needs of the congregation and how might you meet that need?
The congregation needs to understand our practice. I believe it is the job of the Clergy and leadership to serve in this manner. We also, above all, need to be accessible and listen to our members when they have a need. We have to stand beside our members and not stand apart or at a distance from them. A handshake can go a lot farther then an email or a text message and if we are able to reach out personally, we should do this and encourage others to do so as well.
Hospitality is our greatest virtue and we need to be hospitable always. We need to seek out the best in others and look to communication with others in as positive light as possible. Hostility raises barriers and causes conflicts; hospitality leads to understanding and a removal of obstacles. Let us be hospitable always.
How will you engage the full membership to be a part of the major changes that affect everyone in the organization?
Engagement is achieved through communication. We can put out information to everyone and we can ask for information in return. I expect that a member survey will follow soon as a part of the SWOT process and I expect this approach to continue in the years to come. Meeting with people, either in person or in virtual communities is the best way to learn what is on their mind and communicate what is in ours. It is critically important that the communication be open and not hostile. We have seen many instances where discussions are shut down by angry responses which immediately shut down the flow of information. We must develop standards and practices that do not tolerate hostility so that we can hear other voices, even when they may not agree with ours. Listening and understanding are key.
As part of this, I believe we need to better utilize our resources, both through our website and our social media. We can provide a wealth of information to people if we are willing and able to use these tools to our advantage. Creating images, text, video, and audio resources that relate to Our Druidry gives our membership the opportunity to engage with us and each other, while also making us more accessible to people who may be outside of our organization.
Do you believe in cultural appropriation of indigenous practices to be a real and valid concern? If so, how do you navigate that within our religious structure and community?
As an Indo-European community, there is always the danger of cultural appropriation and the improper use of indigenous practices. ADF was built on the practices of the ancient Indo-European people and I think it is critically important to be mindful and step lightly in these paths. I know that I learned a lot from speaking to Brahmans about the Vedic hearth culture and how certain things that we might innocently include in our practices would be offensive to those from which we took them.
We need to gain a better understanding of the pitfalls of cultural appropriation. This is not a matter to be decided in an afternoon and requires deeper research and reflection to gain a better understanding. The creation of a task force to look at our own practices might be a good place to start.
As AD, you would be the visible head of the organization. Do you plan any interfaith outreach to non ADF organizations or people?
Outreach has been one of the priorities of my tenure as Archdruid. I have opened doors with many different groups, both Druidic and non-Druidic. I believe that the Archdruid should have dialogue with leaders and members of diverse religious traditions so that we can learn and better understand each other. My book “A Tree for the Earth Mother” includes selections from Philip Carr-Gomm, Damh the Bard from OBOD, and Kristoffer Hughes from the Anglesey Druid Order, as well as members of ADF. I have spoken to diverse groups of individuals and heard them speak as well. The exchange of ideas is made possible through Hospitality and is furthered by the same. Let us be good guests and good hosts in our beliefs and our practices.
I have been blessed.
I recently returned from a wonderful trip to experience Beltaine with the Druids and other neo-pagans of Australia at the Mount Franklin Festival, Australia’s longest running neo-pagan gathering, now in its 34th year. I was hosted by an amazing group of ADF members and welcomed by witches, Wiccans, Druids, neo-pagans, and nature spirits alike (Hello, Rosie!).
I left the US as preparations for Samhain were under way. It was feeling like Samhain: a change in the air, a change in the trees, a change in the colour of the Sun. The end of one spin around was calling, beckoning, insisting that its time had come. Then, as if some miracle of the collision of worlds, I stepped onto an airplane and into another world, another green world.
I have been wanting to visit Australia for sometime. ADF has members in Australia and I thought it would be nice to visit them AND see Australia at the same time. Through the intersection of desire, days off from work, and most especially an offer of hospitality from one of our members in Melbourne, I was able to put together a trip that not included fellowship, outreach, and rest and relaxation, but also provided me the opportunity to attend one of the premier (if not THE premier) pagan gatherings of the Southern Hemisphere, the Mount Franklin festival, now in its 34th consecutive year.
Coming into Melbourne was such a marked contrast to the Midwest that I had just left. Where trees were losing leaves, the trees here were newly in bloom; where the days were getting shorter back home, the days were getting longer here; where the last harvest was growing close with the approach of Samhain, here, the season of growth was coming up fast.
The Mount Franklin Beltaine festival is held in the bosom of the Earth Mother, in the crater of a dormant volcano about an hour from Melbourne. Upon approach, the non-native pine trees reached high into the sky, setting this sacred space apart from the rest of the rather flat landscape.
I spent five days nestled in this protected space. This land was sacred to the aboriginal people, and after listening to the winds whisper and watching the sun climb over the tree line, I can understand why. I feel that the sacred, often like forgotten Gods, lay dormant until it or they are reawakened by a thought, a prayer, or an offering. And offerings were made: spirits, grains, and prayers were given and given in a delightful plenitude that was proper to the place. The kookaburras, the parrots, the trees, the people, all gathered together to make it a Beltane to remember, especially for myself.
Silver Birch Grove offered a fantastic main rite and it was truly beautiful to see 100+ people gather together to honour the Kindreds and their own spirits. I was blessed to offer the omen and the omen was good: look within to heal, use the old knowledge to help in that healing process, and look at what has been accomplished. Quite a bit has been accomplished, really, whether it be Samhain or Betaine or anything at all. Neopaganism, like the Beltaine season, is on the rise, not only in the Southern Hemisphere, but everywhere. The Reformed Druids of Australia were formed. Magic happened!
I celebrated Beltaine and left that secluded crater and went back into the world. My days continued and I visited the Southern Ocean at the end of the world, where I made offerings to the Earth Mother, to ADF, and important private offerings as well. The wind told stories the old as time and the waves insisted that everything ebbs and flows, like the seasons. Like Beltaine and Samhain.
I returned to these shores and gave thanks in my own Samhain rite to the Earth Mother and to all those that made my journeys possible. I remembered back on seeing the Full Moon, that wondrous orb, looking upside down, but, in reality, it was still the Moon, and it was I who saw things differently. I stretch my hands across the waters to my new friends, my new continent, my new recollections, and to a new season dawning, bright, just over the tree line.
I was wrong.
ADF has a prison ministry and I really believed that there wasn’t much value in investing time and effort in providing services to people behind bars. They didn’t really attend services, although they held their own. They really didn’t do some of the work like the training programs, although some had. They really didn’t contribute much, although some had contributed to causes during crises. They were barely seen, yet they were those liminal beings that one could see out of the corner of one’s eye, every now and then.
I had occasion to review several prisoners’ materials and I was struck by how well done it was. I had to send items back, via the postal service, and it was slow and it worked. Once a few of these prisoners wrote to me and I to them, I thought “Hmmm…they aren’t that much different than regular folks”. But they were prisoners.
Our Arch Druid, Kirk Thomas, has been working with a prison group in Washington State called the Frog Stone Circle Prison Worship Group. He visits with them for High Days and has been their mentor and spiritual advisor, for lack of better terms. He has always spoken highly of the men there and I figured that this was a special project much like we all have special projects.
ADF has a program called the Traveling Clergy Program and it is used to send ADF Priests to Groves, Protogroves, Worship Groups, and even solitaries upon request. Several months ago, one of the prisoners wrote and asked if I would consider visiting. I mulled over the thought: while I was critical of our outreach work in prisons, I had actually never been inside a prison before. Having nothing to fear and really having no frame of reference, I said “Yes”.
Fast forward until this month, and I was standing in security at the airport last Friday night, flying out to the prison to visit with the prisoners at an all-day prison get-together the next day. I wondered to myself what I was getting myself into.
I was met at the airport by Kirk and one other ADF Priest, Rev. Missy Burchfield, and we were resolved to be at the prison at 7:30 the next morning. By the Gods, this was real. We arrived at the prison, emptied our valuables into a locker, and went through a metal scanner and all of our items were searched. We were advised beforehand what we could take in and what had to stay behind. We could wear only certain colours, bring in only certain items, and we were told to be mindful of our environment. We were given badges and the journey inwards began.
Crossing from one set of doors to another, I was struck by the barbed wire and rolls and rolls of concertina wire at fence tops. Doors were metal, strong, and they did “clang” behind us as we went through. One more door, and I was all the way in.
I wasn’t really prepared for the almost lunar landscape that greeted me: few if any plants; architecture that was almost Soviet (I described it as neo-Chernobyl); and no one about other than a prisoner with a dog, and a number of security personal scattered from place to place. It was a very sterile environment, to say the least. This prison was a combination medium security/ minimum security prison.
We went to the building where we were to meet with the men and there was a guard who waited with us. Looking around, there was a prisoner’s bathroom with no door and a large glass window. Privacy was a rare commodity in this place.
The men, all nine of them, along with a media/camera man, filed into the room. I didn’t know what to expect, but each man was wearing grey pants, a t-shirt, and a name badge. I looked at each of the men and they looked just like: men.
As they filed in, they shook my hand and introduced themselves and the first part of the day was introductions and brief conversations. The first workshop was mine, a combination of hospitality as the greatest virtue and a look a purification of the waters, both odd topics for a group of people in a situation of limited or strained hospitality and not much leeway for purification.
As I spoke, I looked around at each of the men. I was amazed at the level of ease and comfort between them and the discipline that they exhibited. I figured that discipline was a dish that was served often here. What I came to understand was that it was a dish they prepared themselves. This group of men worked together like a fine, oiled machine, each in seeming lockstep with the other. These men, these members of my group, were well-acquainted and well disciplined. I was slowly beginning to be impressed. I saw some of the art that these men had created, using the limited items that were available and I was amazed, truly. I saw beautiful artwork that was done with bedsheets, delicate flower creations made from Jolly Rancher candies, and devotional items which were so finely crafted. All these things, dedicated to Kindred, made by men of talent and made with the simplest of materials.
After my workshop, we went outside for our ritual workings. We were to stay outside for several hours (almost three) and I was impressed with the ritual area that the prison had set aside for the men. There were four areas: one for Native American practice, one for Wiccans, one for the Asatru, and one for the Druids.
This ritual area was a circular area, clean and grassy. The was a tree/pole, brought in by Kirk, a fire pit, cast in concrete and decorated with spirals, and a truly beautiful well, made within the prison, decorated as well. Due to the lack of materials with which to do work, when the grass was first planted (by hand) and watered (by a five-gallon bucket and a cup), the grass was kept at a suitable length by cutting it with sharp stones that could be found at hand. I was touched at this devotional approach that once again used what was at hand for the glory of the Gods.
The men gave us all parts and we had a Dedicant Oath performed by one man and another man had a number of parts to do as the newest member. This particular person recited, from memory, or Mission Statement and our Vision Statements. I was impressed. I couldn’t do that. I am not sure that many could. We conducted a beautiful ritual, with offerings galore, under the sun and sky and watchful eye of the guards in the tower. When it came time for me to give the Earth Mother offering, I asked which vessel to use and I was pointed to a bowl with oats and used all of the oats for an offering. As others did the offering, I noticed that people used offerings sparingly, because supply and demand is a much different beast within this enclosure. I was learning: further offerings would be less generous.
I watched a series of men do a ritual that was so very well-practiced and delivered; it could have been done by any of our Groves and Protogroves. I will venture to say that the men did as well or better than some Groves and Protogroves that I have seen. After a long time in the Sun, we took off our robes, and we went back into our building. Missy did a really nice workshop on Bardic offerings and then we had lunch with the men. I was informed that at three o’clock that the men would talk to us, basically about their perception of some of our policy decisions that dealt with prisoners and it occurred to me that perhaps my presence here wasn’t strictly by chance and perhaps it was by some design.
In putting together policy and discussing prisoner relations, I was definitely against the effort, as mentioned earlier, and took a very hardline approach of dealing with prisoners after they get out of prison. My goal, at the time of discussions, was to assure the safety and protection of our members, to which I am dedicated. After spending some time with these men, it occurred to me rather quickly, that these were members too.
When three o’clock came around, the leader of the group stated that they were concerned about what would happen to their spirituality as individuals, when they would leave prison and try to hook up with a local group. They didn’t want to have to find more doors in their way than they were already going to experience. Then it hit me: these weren’t just scattered prisoners from prisons here and there, this was a tight knit group – probably tighter than a lot of groups on the outside – and they were afraid of the cohesiveness of their group here and their own spiritual togetherness once they stepped foot outside. They weren’t just concerned: they were scared.
I asked if I could speak, and this is what I said: “I was wrong.” I told them that I was one of the people who were most against prisoner programs and that I was one of the people who drafted a strict prisoner policy once they came out, because I – and the people who elected me – are concerned about prisoners in our midst. Regardless of how well I was received by these men, I still cannot forget that there are victims somewhere and that they too have things to work through. Yet, I had never taken into account the humanity of the people who were sitting in front of me. Never before had I seen a group of people in less than ideal circumstances rise to the occasion and make a better life for themselves, for their fellow Druids, and for the prison community in general. These men had earned the things that they had brought into being. These men, here, now, and today, exemplified the virtues that we hold dear. These were our members.
I told them that I would carry their message forward. I told them that I would tell others about the good work that they had done as Frog Stone Circle. I told them that I would work with each of them individually as they reentered the outside world to make sure that they have a spiritual place to fit into. That particular promise may not be the easiest to keep, but I will give it my best. The one thing I didn’t tell them is that I would be back again sometime. I was impressed and I would like to visit them in this prison again.
Later that evening, at the end of the night, ADF Master Bard Missy Burchfield played a slow, bluesy rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues”. In some ways, it was a nice way to end our visit. I know our members in Frog Stone Circle all look forward to the time when they can be “farther down the line”. We went our way and they went theirs. They went back to their regimented and structured lives and we were swallowed up by the American night. The next evening, I heard someone else play “Folsom Prison Blues”, and I turned to the person next to me and said “I heard that song played in prison last night.” I did get a strange look.
We left that evening, and I think I left a little bit of myself behind those walls. That which was left behind was best left behind: it wasn’t needed anymore. Perhaps that chrysalis was my real offering to the Earth Mother. That and the words “I was wrong”.
Jean (Drum) Pagano is a Senior Priest and the Vice Arch Druid of Ar nDraoicht Fein, a Druid Fellowship. He fancies himself a Bard and a Journeyman Priest. This is his first blog entry.