For several years the ADF Clergy Council has worked to create the ADF Initiate Program, a course of training into the ways of magic, seership and trance for ADF, and with it a current of spiritual initiation. This program would train students in the magico-religious aspects of the clergy program without the expectation that graduates would have to join the clergy (though they could go on and complete clergy training should they so desire).
The culmination of this training would be an actual ritual of initiation. Such an initiation would require some sort of spiritual current that the student could tap into – a current that would unify all ADF Initiates and help provide some of the ‘juice’ they would need for their work. So how could ADF, relatively young and new, start such a current?
As a part of the work of growing our spiritual current the clergy of ADF have been exploring an otherworldly locale and inner Nemeton where we have been forming relationships with beings we call the ‘Ancient Wise’, those of the Sacred Dead who were poets, magicians and priests, and who would be willing to join with us to help us all walk the elder ways. This has been done through the good offices of the two deities who we honor in every sacrifice, the Warders of the Ways, the Earth Mother and the Keeper of Gates.
The Clergy Council debated long and hard, but finally decided that our four Archdruids, Rev. Isaac Bonewits (ADF’s founder), Rev. Ian Corrigan, Rev. John ‘Fox’ Adelmann and our current Archdruid, Rev. Robert ‘Skip’ Ellison, should be the conduit through whom this current would be focused. The Archdruids would be the first to be ‘initiated’ or, more precisely, empowered; they would then be responsible for performing the first initiations in the system.
It seemed unfortunate (if not embarrassing) that there were no women in this mix, due to the vagaries of chance and history, and so it was decided that the rite to start this current flowing should be run by women of ADF, to bring gender balance to such an important and magical occasion. The four Archdruids would spend the time before the rite in trance, off by themselves, so that they could visit the otherworldly locale and invite the Elder Wise to aid us in starting this current. At the appropriate time in the rite the nine women leading it would bring the men into the light of the fire and together, with the aid of the Earth Mother and the Gatekeeper, everyone attending would help in building the energy needed to start the ‘juice’ flowing. This was also an ADF Unity Rite, so we would be joining all of ADF into this work.
This working arrived at the event as nothing more than an idea, and it was the skill and effort of many of us that made it happen. In the days before the ritual there was much activity in the camp. The Archdruids designed their private work to deepen their connections with the Patrons. The women were busy designing the main ritual and assigning the parts. And the rest of us were waiting in growing anticipation for what we could already sense would be a momentous occasion.
One Archdruid, Rev. John (Fox) Adelmann, had told us that he would not be able to attend. The others thought about how to have him represented in the rite, but nothing really acceptable could be found. And then at the last minute he appeared! He had realized just how important this rite would be and that he must be present, and so he dropped everything and drove all day from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to get there in time.
And at last that time came. I had been asked to lead the folk to the crossroads and there lead them in a grounding and centering while we waited for the messenger to arrive to let us know that it would be time to process to the ADF Nemeton there at Brushwood.
After the grounding, and while waiting for that messenger to summon us, I could feel a palpable energy coming from the Nemeton. I was suddenly rocked with emotion as though suddenly hit with a wave of seawater. Apparently the Gatekeeper was already there. I brought myself under control just as Morrigan, the young daughter of Raven and Carrion Mann, arrived to lead us to the rite. I knelt to her and gave her the box of silver that the folk had offered for sacrifice, and we all followed her to the Nemeton while singing ‘We Approach the Sacred Grove‘.
As we came to the bridge guarding the sacred precinct we could see the Archdruids off to the left, seated and deep in trance, while the women were on the mound around the fire, all singing a descant to our chant. Rev. Sue Parker was their leader, and the other eight women were Rev. Barbara Wright, Rev. Caryn MacLuan, Rev. Carrion Mann, Rev. Jessie Olson, Diana Paar, Leesa Kern, Selene Tawny and Karen Clark. They stood in a circle serene and poised – a truly arresting sight – as they sang.
Finally we had all assembled around the Nemeton and the rite began. The women performed a full ADF rite using the Core Order of Ritual, and made the central offerings to the Earth Mother, the Gatekeeper and the Ancient Wise, making serious and joyful sacrifice to all the Powers present.
The Omen was awesome. Three seers drew from three sets of runes. Leesa Kern, Rev. Carrion Mann and Diana Paar drew their runes:
Leesa said, “The Gatekeeper gives us Raiðo, the Journey – the Journey begun.”
Carrion said, “The Elder Wise also give us Raiðo.”
Diana said, “The Earth Mother gives us Hagalaz. The Journey is not easy. And there are many obstacles to overcome.”
Ouch. But this was appropriate for what we are trying to do. Journey modified by Hail – the way is there and ahead of us but there will also be bumps on the road – probably a very true description of the future for this current.
And then it was time to bring in the Archdruids for the Unity portion of the rite (tied into the Blessings section) and to establish the current. But this would not be as easy as it sounds. A young, female child led in each Archdruid, and then the women challenged them in turn. Only after receiving a satisfactory answer would they receive the charge and be allowed in.
Rev. Robert Ellison was first, led in by his granddaughter Rhiannon. Rev. Sue Parker gave him his challenge, “Before you set foot upon this path, what will you do to empower, to strengthen and to guide the initiatory path of ADF?”
Rev. Ellison responded, “I will do as I have done always in the past – anything that is needed.” The women consulted each other and decided that this was simply not good enough. “More,” they said, “We want more.”
Rev. Ellison continued, “I will give myself, my time, to bring forth the current, to bring the words of the ancient Mother and Father to the initiates, to let them journey to the place that I have been and to see what I have seen.” This the women accepted. And then Rev. Olson charged him with, “I charge you to make your words and deeds as one and fulfill this oath.”
Next the Rev. Ian Corrigan, led in by young Morrigan, was challenged by Selene Tawney, “What will you do to empower, to strengthen and to guide the initiatory path of ADF?” To which he responded, “I will do as I have always done. I will bring my wit, my words, and my strength and my skill, my heart and my hands to the service of our Druidry. I bring with me the spirit of wisdom from the Mound to the extent that I can bear it and I mount the horse for this ride for our Druidry.” Rev. Caryn MacLuan gave him the charge, “I charge you to make your words and deeds as one and fulfill this oath.”
Rev. Isaac Bonewits was next, led in by Artos’ daughter, Rowen. He was challenged by Rev. Barbara Wright, “Isaac Bonewits, what will you do to empower, to strengthen and to guide this initiatory path?” And he responded, “I will do as I have done. I will make the necessary sacrifices of my life, of my wealth, of my heart, of my soul. I will open the floodgates to let the teachings pass through me. I will open my heart to the love of the Earth Mother that Her love may flow through to all who will walk these paths.” This, too, was acceptable to the women and Karen Clark spoke the charge, “I charge you to fulfill this oath.”
And finally, Rev. Parker challenged the last Archdruid, Rev. John (Fox) Adelmann (led in by Rhiannon), “What will you do to empower, to guide and to strengthen the initiatory path of ADF?” Fox responded, “I bring with me the unseen connection from the Otherworlds to this World and this place. I will bring my heart and my faith and my commitment to do this work in this Order, to follow the commands to put things aside to heed the call as I did this day. I will be there.” Rev. Olson then spoke the charge to him.
The Archdruids formed a circle around the fire, holding hands. The women formed another circle around the Archdruids, also holding hands. We, the folk, held hands and formed a larger circle around them all. Rev. Caryn MacLuan led us in slowly ramping up the powers of heaven and earth within us so that we could send them to the women who would send them to the Archdruids – conduits to conduits to conduits. And when the powers filled us, we began to intone, sending these powers on their way. The effect of this built up stronger and stronger and became so powerful that the cosmos itself seemed to vibrate.
Rev. Parker announced, “Let it be known that in this place and in this time the ADF Initiatory Path has been born! So be it!” And our response was so great it reverberated through the trees.
With such power raised, the Archdruids then called for the Blessings and performed the Unity Rite. As usual, they read out the names of the Groves of ADF while pouring the hallowed water on to the ground, connecting the blessing with the roots of all the groves and solitaries in ADF, binding them to us for the work to come.
Now that the Initiatory Current has been born and is flowing through ADF, the time will soon come to begin further initiations. We have one student who has already completed the work with another one not far behind. Many more are in various stages of the program and soon we will have ADF Initiates in place to further and continue this work.
Let the work grow strong! Let the Elder Wise grant us wisdom! And let ADF prosper from what was done that day.
May the blessings of the Earth Mother, the Keeper of Gates and the Elder Wise be on us all.