So this is an assignment that I’ve been putting off for a while now, because it is the area where I feel the greatest disconnect to ADF as an organisation, and the Dedicant Path specifically.
ADF has as its central focus the deities of pre-Christian Pagan cultures. They are described in Our Own Druidry as “the objects of our highest worship”. Ian Corrigan states: “our Druidry tends to adopt a theology that views the million Powers described in tales and lore as independent, living entities. We reject, in general, theories that view the Powers as projections of our own minds, or as thought-forms created by human worship or as archetypes in the collective unconscious”. One of the stated purposes of ADF ritual is “to serve the gods and goddesses”.
Within ADF, these deities are referred to by many names, including “Shining Ones”, “First Children of the Mother”, “Eldest and Wisest”, “Great ones” and so on. ADF liturgy aims to “form bonds between ourselves and the gods that involve a system of reciprocity and blessings” (Dangler). The deities worshipped in ADF come from a wide range of Indo-European Pagan cultures from Celtic to Norse to Vedic and everything in between. They are deities of place, of ancestry and of heart.
In my personal path, I do not believe in the existence of literal gods that I should serve or worship. Dangler states: “There are many theories held by ADF members about the nature of the gods…our liturgies refer to the gods as real things, things that exist outside our heads, taking a stance often referred to as ‘hard polytheism’. In actual practice, some members agree with this, others do not. ADF does not require you to accept deity as ‘real’ beyond your mind. That’s just how we deal with them ritually”.
Despite this, there is a sense that ADF is an organisation of and for literalist polytheists, and article 5 of the ADF Constitution explicitly bars at least some atheists from membership. Taking a non-literal view of deities as poetic and mythological personifications of powers of nature and aspects of human experience sets me apart from much of the life of ADF and its ritual structure. The belief in literal gods existing out there somewhere and acting on the world through some supernatural force, often confidently asserted without any compelling evidence, seems to me to be quite naive and does not fit with a modern, scientific understanding of the world.
My view is similar to that of Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, the chief priest of Asatruarfelagid, who said: “I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet. We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”
When I connect with the gods in ADF ritual, I do so to honour and invoke the qualities they represent and reflect on how I can manifest those qualities in my life, such as Thor’s strength or Odin’s wisdom. For some Pagans, this is tantamount to blasphemy, but for me it is the best and most intellectually honest way that I can honour the gods of my ancestors while remaining true to my own beliefs.
ADF. Our Own Druidry. ADF Publishing, 2009.
ADF. ADF Constitution. [Online: retrieved from https://www.adf.org/about/org/constitution.html 06/02/2016].
Corrigan, Ian. The intentions of Druidic ritual. [Online: retrieved from https://www.adf.org/rituals/explanations/intentions.html 06/02/2016].
Dangler, Michael J. The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year. Garanus, 2010.
Hilmarsson, Hilmar Orn. Quoted in The Guardian, “Iceland to build first temple to Norse gods since Viking age”, 2015. [Online: retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/02/iceland-temple-norse-gods-1000-years 06/02/2016].