It’s been five months now since I started writing this blog, and I’m not sure what to make of things so far. I’m happy with the quality of most of the articles I’ve written so far, and satisfied with how few times I’ve needed to run an old article of mine from another source instead of coming up with something new. This pilgrimage into a new region of the Internet seems to be progressing smoothly, and yet the blog gets almost no comments. Then again, I don’t read many blogs so I don’t know how many comments I should really be expecting.
I’ve been thinking about online paganism a lot this past week, because of one blog entry I read from someone who’s considering leaving ADF because she thinks the people on the mailing lists are too mean, and also from one ADF mailing list where people were being mean to each other. The Fates have given us a greater tool to help us build Our Own Druidry than any of the Ancients could have imagined, but apparently we haven’t yet learned the skills to use it properly.
My advice is, was, and will for the foreseeable future be: ADF is not the mailing lists. Or, the lists are not ADF, if that sounds better. ADF is about doing research and learning the ways of the ancients and performing rituals and honoring the gods and getting together with others to share in these joys and experiences. Yes, our e-mail lists can be used for the “sharing” part, but you need to be doing the other stuff in order to share it, right? If the lists are the only part of ADF that you’re experiencing, or even if you consider them the most important part, then as the LoLcats say, “ur doing it rong”. And if you’re getting something meaningful out of our rituals and/or our study program, but if the mailing lists aren’t helping you, then sign off of the lists. No, really, I did just say that. Being on an ADF e-mail list just isn’t important enough for you to endure suffering. (Unless you’re an officer within the organization, in which case, you knew the risks when you signed up for that job. >8)
I would add – and this is useful for people who aren’t in ADF and will never be on our mailing lists, as I think it applies to just about all computer-mediated communication – Disagreement does not constitute a personal attack. When we communicate with other human beings, the experience consists of lots of different aspects – tone of voice, facial expression, body language – that don’t come through when we use a text-only medium. And it seems to be human nature to fill in those gaps as best we can, only we don’t seem to be very good at it yet. If someone posts an unconfirmed personal gnosis like, to take a real example I was once told, “Bríd told me that she likes bees and wants a beehive-shaped candle on her altar”, and I respond, “I’m not aware of any documented research that Bríd was into bees”, then that’s what I mean. I’m not aware of any documentation. Not “you’re an idiot” or “you’re worshipping Bríd wrong and she must hate you for it” (and that’s a divine can of worms that I’d never open in any case) or “you don’t belong in ADF”, no. Just that I’ve never seen or heard of that view before. (And it’s not like I’ve read every book on paleopagan practices ever written, for all I know there really is an ideas that the ancients thought the same thing!)
Remember my earlier article about the Grand Experiment That Is ADF? Keep in mind, part of that experiment is comparing notes and seeing where our experiences and opinions match, and where they don’t. Nobody said we were always going to come up with the same answers, and it would be boring if we did. (I’d mention the parable about the blind men describing an elephant, but I kinda hate that one, to be honest.)
And yes, for you solitary-types out there, I know it’s harder for you to have those non-online experiences when you’re working alone, and you rely more on e-mail for your ADF experience. Being a solitary is a lot harder than being in a Grove, I know, and I won’t tell you otherwise. But if you’re already willing to put in the extra effort to do your own rituals and prod yourself in your studies , I hope you’re also willing to put in the teeny bit of extra effort to understand the nature of e-mail and not take offense when none is intended.
Well that’s enough pseudo-lecturing from me for one week, I’ll come up with a happier topic for next time.
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF
 Then again, I’ve been prodding my Grovemates to finish the Dedicant Path for about ten years now, and a grand total of one of them has actually done so. Being in a Grove isn’t exactly a cure-all for inertia. >8)