Traditions: An interview with the ADF Archdruid (Part I)

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In the first of a two-part series, the current leader of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), Archdruid Jean Pagano who goes by Drum, sat down with The Wild Hunt to discuss ADF, its work and its future. Ár nDraíocht Féin (modern Irish for “Our Own Druidry) is a Pagan religious organization based around the concept of Druidry as Proto-European religious practices.

Drum shared his thoughts about ADF as an organization, what it is, his vision for it, plans for ADF and upcoming works. We also talked about how ADF views rituals and working with what ADF calls the kindred which are the ancestors, the nature spirits as well as the Fair Folk, and the various deities of the Proto-European pantheons.


PART ONE

Michael: Drum, welcome to The Wild Hunt. Let’s start with ADF. Give a 30-second elevator speech on what ADF is.

Drum: ADF is a Neopagan Druidry religious movement. We are an offering-based religion. We make offerings so that we can build relationships with the spirits and allies in our life. We call those spirits kindreds: Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Shining Ones. 

We are attempting to bring the old ways back into the modern world in a modern way. We are neopagans.

Michael: Would you say just any old gods and goddesses and kindred or anything specific?

Drum: We are Indo-European based. So, anywhere from Connacht in the west of Ireland all the way to the Indus River Valley in India. Any place where the Indo-Europeans crossed: so western hearth cultures, eastern hearth cultures, anything in between, Hittites, Avestans, Vedics, Baltics, to name a few. 

Michael: So, what would you say are the differences and similarities between the other Neopagan groups, especially other aspects of Druidry?

Drum: Well, I think we all are nature-based, that we are all keen on nature, and we keep an eye on the lore. OBOD spends a lot of time looking at the lore. The Anglesey Druid Order does the same. The British Druid Order does the same. We have our common basis in that in Western European mystery traditions in a way, not necessarily in that case. Our rituals are a little bit different than theirs, but I think we all look to nature with a certain amount of sacredness and we look to our gods and our people whatever they may be. I think in ADF, we’re a Neopagan and the other organizations may not be that way. We are nature-based. We are Druids. We care about nature. 

Michael: So you mentioned ritual. What is the situation with ritual when it comes to ADF when it comes to other groups?

Drum: Well, our rituals are grove rituals, our high day rituals, are open rituals that are open to the public. They are also permeable. So, we don’t cut ourselves away, we recreate the cosmos in the center of all worlds. So we build relationships, we make offerings as do so, we make a final sacrifice as sacrifice brought the cosmos into being. We take an omen to see some insights into the offerings and sacrifices made. And then we share waters amongst ourselves. So I think that sharing entity, we call it the waters of life, other people call it cakes and ale, or whatever the case may be, that sharing is common to us all. We’re offering based and our rituals really revolve around that–making offerings and building relationships with the kindreds.

Michael: So, you’re the Archdruid. What does the Archdruid for ADF do and what is your vision for ADF as the Archdruid.

Drum: Well, the Archdruid is a couple of things. The Archdruid is kind of the chairman of the board of the Mother Grove. The Mother Grove is our board of directors. We have nine directors, and I’m one of them. The Archdruid is the one who is the head of the Clergy Council and also spells out the religious vision of the organization. So, the board of directors, head of the Clergy Council, and I think I try to move forward with our vision of ADF that we’ve expressed. 

For myself, I think that I want to keep the work we’ve been doing going. I think we have been in existence for 36 years, and we’re in our 37th year. I think we’ve made a lot of progress along the way. 

We honor the kindreds in our world, and I think that as we build, as we continue to make offerings and build relationships between our kindreds, we understand them better and they understand us better as well. 

My vision for ADF is really to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve made some real progress in the past few years. We’ve offered a statement of inclusion to say that we welcome everybody into our organization. We’ve tried to open up positions for everybody in our organization. We post those positions. We’ve tried to look at ourselves and see where we can make room for improvement.

For myself, I talked to people about doing daily devotionals, about developing more devotional practices, and bringing the religious practice that we talk about into their every day lives. These are things that are important. We have many different ideas and many different places in ADF: guilds, kins, sigs, and orders. These are things that we are trying to grow and have people have a better understanding of the work that we are doing. Because there are many different visions of what we do. I mean the organization itself has a vision, but I think that we are all trying to move in the same direction. 

Our foundation is the Earth Mother. That’s where our rituals begin. We have a great honor and respect for the Earth. We work on building relationships. That’s really the work that we do.

Rev. Jean (Drum) Pagano, Archdruid of ADF, (photo courtesy of Pagano)

 

Michael: If someone was curious about joining ADF, what would you recommend them to do before joining besides reaching out to their local grove.

Drum: Well, over 50% of our members are solitaries; there may not be a grove nearby they can reach out to. So, I would always say first and foremost to go to our website which is actually undergoing a revision. We are just about to get into the testing of our website. There’s a lot of information there: rituals, history, lore, and all kinds of things out there. If people have the curiosity, I would say go out there and take a look. Look to see what our website has to say. 

Reach out to people who are on the Mother Grove or you can find out who are in positions of leadership and reach to them to ask them. Ask them for some guidance and direction. I don’t think there’s anyone in leadership that wouldn’t be willing to help someone out to find their way or to answer questions.


Next Sunday, we conclude our conversation with Drum. In the second part of the interview, we talk about advice he would give to those curious about ADF, about those who are trying to work through the coursework, creating a better connection with deities, and how to better understand what ADF is about.