I started writing this as an insert into the “About” page while I was updating and editing it, but I decided to make it its own blog post, instead.
I either am, or have been and will be again, a member of several religious organizations. I’ll list them here partially because it can be hard to find blogs by people in specific religious organizations, and, on the other side of that, because sometimes my membership in an organization does not mean that I am practicing within the framework of that organization, and I don’t want to deceive anyone.
AODA (Ancient Order of Druids in America) – This organization is the one I’m a member of that has the most impact on my religious practice (though overall most of the influence on my religious practice does not come from specific religious organizations). I really like the focus AODA has on ecological study, and the adaptability it has to function well with various different beliefs. They have (I believe recently) come up with adaptations for disabled people, which is a tremendous help. Before that, it was definitely a barrier to being able to participate fully in their training program for myself, and probably for others. While it is not a secret, and I believe they have said it themselves, I want to be clear for anyone unfamiliar with AODA that, despite the name, they are neither Ancient, nor do they restrict membership to the Americas.
ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship) – I initially joined ADF approximately one year after joining AODA. I joined because I wanted more structure and more community than AODA could offer me, particularly at the time, and because I liked their focus on extensive scholarship. However, I realized fairly quickly that ADF was not right for me. I half-heartedly hung in there for a long while hoping I was wrong, because there was a relatively local group near me and because there were a lot of special interest groups and educational programs within ADF that I would have liked to participate in and learn from. But it just doesn’t work for me. I knew fairly soon that I could not honestly and in good conscience take the Dedicant Oath (so I didn’t), which is required to complete the Dedicant Path, which is a prerequisite for other courses of study in ADF. I am greatly paraphrasing here, but at the time, the Dedicant oath required mentioning Druidry (and I believe specifically ADF, though possibly not – it’s been a long time, and I don’t remember) as either the main part of your religious path, or at least as a main part of it. It looks like that may no longer be required as part of the oath, but I’m not sure. And there are other ways in which ADF and I are not well-suited to each other, so I probably won’t investigate it. At this time I do, however, plan on remaining a member, even though I don’t plan on going through their training program. I believe it’s generally important for Pagan and polytheistic people and groups to support each other when possible, and ADF also has quite a few useful resources that are only available to members (though they can be harder to find, since their website redesign). Additionally, there is a particular exercise and phrase unique to ADF Druidry that has a considerable amount of meaning for me.
Hellenion – As I type this, I am not currently a member of Hellenion, though I was in the past, and I plan on rejoining. Most of the Gods I currently have relationships with are not Greek, but if you totaled up the Gods I’ve prayed to over the course of my life, I think the majority of Them are. A Goddess Who I particularly love is from that pantheon, and I was and still am interested in adding more reconstructionist elements to my practices (though I will probably always ultimately land more on the side of revival in my personal solitary practice). Additionally, at the time, there was a Hellenion-affiliated group that – while not exactly nearby – was within the realm of possible travel for me. Eventually, I would really like to go through their Basic Adult Education, Continuing Adult Education, and Clergy Education Programs, though they are not my priority at this time, as I have other areas of religious study I need to prioritize now.
The Troth – When The Troth was deciding on whether or not to remove their Loki ban, I wrote to them and said that if they removed their ban on worshipping Loki at their events, I would happily join their organization, and stating that their ban was the reason I had not joined previously. Their membership had the most say in whether the ban was removed (which is as it should be) and I never heard back from them, but they did remove the Loki ban and I did join their organization. Like ADF, I plan on remaining a member of The Troth, but like ADF, it is not really part of my path. While Loki is no longer banned, I believe several other Northern European Deities are, which bothers me tremendously. I am not Heathen, and the (very few) Northern Tradition Gods I’ve prayed to or made offerings to so far are all related to Loki. I do like that The Troth explicitly takes a firm stand against racism, though.
UU (Unitarian Universalism) – Along with AODA, UU is one of the only two religious organizations I’m currently involved with that isn’t exclusively Pagan or polytheistic in Nature. I’m also not technically a member of UU at the present time, nor have I been, however that is due to circumstances and not desire. And despite that, it is the organization out of these that I have been and am the most involved in community with. At the present time, I do plan on officially becoming a member of a UU congregation. I’m currently a member (recently) of a few sub-groups within UU, and there are others that I plan on joining — especially CUUPS, a collection of Pagan individuals and sub-groups within UU. I am aware that many Pagans and polytheists cannot practice as UU’s, and I understand many of their reasons and share some of their concerns. However, I find that for me personally, the benefits enormously outweigh the detriments.
I wish there were organizations like Hellenion and The Troth for Irish and Gaulish polytheism that did not require you to be exclusive to them because I would be happy to join them, too. But there are none that I know of for Gaulish polytheism. Of the two that I know of for Irish polytheism, one is now defunct, and the other requires its members to focus exclusively on Irish polytheism (though they allow their members to attend other groups for the sake of community). I can completely understand that studying any one polytheistic religion can be a lifetime’s worth of work and study, and I can also understand the merit in devoting yourself exclusively to one path in order to go into more depth, commitment, and understanding of it, and to not get confused. But any group that requires me to not worship any of my other Gods in order to be a practicing member is not a group I am willing to join.
That’s the full list of religious organizations I am or have been a member of as of today, as I write this. My long-term partner who lives with me is also Pagan, and I have Pagan acquaintances, but despite all of that, I am primarily a solitary religious practitioner at this time, and may remain so.