Discuss the origins of RDNA, and the influence of Isaac Bonewits, and the founding of ADF.
RDNA stands for the Reformed Druids of North America, which happens to be the oldest and perhaps the largest of the Neo-Pagan Druid organizations in the US. Their information website states they currently have “3 branches, 34 Groves, with 4500+ members” (Mike). They were originally formed in 1963 at Carleton College in Minnesota as a protest against the religious observance requirement of the college. Isaac Bonewits states on this site that “… even after they had won their protest, many of the Druids wanted to continue the movement” (Bonewits, The Reformed Druids of North America and their Offshoots). This perhaps explains the
ir lack of dogma and loose organization. They were, and
still are, an extremely eclectic tradition, pulling from whatever sources they
feel benefits and promote their “wry sense of humor.” The one major theme that
can be found throughout all of RDNA is their Earth Mother centered worship and
creation. The interesting part of their development came in Berkeley,
California when they began to see themselves as Neopagans. It was during that
time, when Isaac Bonewits was a part of RDNA, which many of the groups and
members began to become known as NRDNA or the New Reformed Druids of North
America. If the organization had one dogmatic belief it was “1. Nature is good!
And the second is like unto the first: 2. Nature is good!” (Bonewits, The Reformed Druids of North America and
It was this vague structure that allowed for each Reformed Druid to be
responsible for his or her own path and learning. The organizations of the RDNA
groups were called “groves” which were completely independent entities
operating under its their own “flavor” of Reformed Druidism. This fluid
structure and independence allowed for many varying types of Druid Groves to
exist, even when it might seem to be contradictory to what we term as modern
Neopaganism today. It is worth noting that RDNA is a completely and uniquely
American phenomenon. RDNA had a publication known as The Druid Chronicles,
which were mostly written by Isaac Bonewits. In 1974 Bonewits tested the waters
of change by presenting a letter that would have had RDNA define more
definitive ideas, become organized, and over all become a “marketable” product
of Neopaganism instead of the Mesopaganism which it currently reflected. To say
that this proposal was not taken well is putting it mildly. (The Reformed Druids of North America)
Though Bonewits had been a priest in RDNA since 1969, he wanted to try for something more, something that was lasting and would take full advantage of his experience and knowledge as a Neopagan Druid and Priest. Isaac had received many contacts from people who felt the same as he did in having this desire to create a structured tradition to train Neopagan Druids. In 1983, Bonewits wrote a letter to those he believed would be interested in creating a more formal structured “reconstructionist” tradition of Druidism. This was seen as the beginning of ADF’s public existence. The ADF Study Program was developed to create a “credible, knowledgeable Neopagan clergy; actual druid priests and priestesses, who would be able to fulfill all the roles of modern clergy for other Neopagans, such as birth, marriage, and funerary rites.” (Wikipedia Foundation) The first “public announcement and membership sign-up took place at the first WinterStar Symposium in 1984 at Burr Oak State Park in Glouster, OH” (Wikipedia Foundation) On April 18, 1987, the Articles of Association were signed by all the Trustees. The organization was incorporated in 1990 as a U.S. 501(c)3 non-profit organization by Isaac himself.
Much like RDNA, ADF’s local congregations are named “Groves” and are not to be limited by a great deal of dogma. However, to obtain the goal of an open public tradition, some rules were put into place. The first was that the groups must be open to the public, welcoming all those that were interested in the tradition. The second was the liturgical structure, which all ADF Groves had to follow making the organization an orthopraxic tradition instead of an orthodoxic one. The only other major regulation that was to be placed on ADF Groves was that they had to fall within the Indo-European cultural family of traditions. This was to give each Grove a large amount of freedom while still being able to provide a structure which would allow any member to attend a rite within an ADF Grove and still know the basic ritual format and culture framework.