A History of Neo-Paganism and Druidry: 10 – Discuss the origins of the RDNA, and the influence of Isaac Bonewits, and the founding of ADF.

6 08 2017

Discuss the origins of the RDNA, and the influence of Isaac Bonewits, and the founding of ADF. (minimum 600 words)

The Reformed Druids of North America began as a protest at Carleton College. The students were protesting a rule forcing them to attend religious services. They formed the RDNA as a way to attend religious services without having to go to Church, and thereby undermine the requirement. The protest worked and the requirement was abolished in 1964. However, what was meant to be a bit of a joke, and much to the surprise of its founders, carried on and spread, and continues even today with around 50 groves.

The Reformed Druids of North America has two main tenets – 1) “The object of the search for religious truth, which is a universal and a never-ending search, may be found through the Earth-Mother; which is Nature; but this is one way, one way among many.” 2) “And great is the importance, which is of a spiritual importance of Nature, which is the Earth-Mother; for it is one of the objects of Creation, and with it do people live, yea, even as they do struggle through life are they come face-to-face with it.” These are usually shortened to 1) Nature is good, and 2) Nature is good!

The RDNA honoured the Earth Mother, Be’al (a non-material essence of the universe) as well as many other primarily Celtic deities such as Belenos, Taranis, Sirona, Llyr and Danu. They created the Druid Chronicles, written in biblical style language, as well as an Order of Worship. They hold ceremonies on the eight high days of year – the Solstices, Equinox’s and Cross Quarter days. The rituals also include the Waters of Life, which has been adopted into ADF. This involves passing around and sharing a drink (often Whiskey), “to symbolise the link between all things and nature.”

In Berkeley California, one grove included Isaac Bonewits. In 1969, he was a priest in the grove and he wrote “The Druid Chronicles” for the Reformed Druids of North America. He also played a major role in moving the RDNA towards Neo-Paganism. Bonewits started and then became the Arch-Druid of the Mother Grove of the New Reformed Druids of North America Berkeley.

Eventually, Bonewits realised that the RDNA did not suit him as it was much more philosophical than religious and so he decided to create Ar nDaiocht Fein as “an attempt to reconstruct, using the best scholarship available, what the Paleo-Pagan Druids actually did, and then to apply such knowledge to creating a Neo-Pagan religion appropriate for the modern world….It would create rituals and liturgy and would set up a complex training program to achieve excellence.” In 1983, he published a letter, which officially began Ar nDaiocht Fein and set out his aims. It would be Pan-European rather than just Celtic, i.e all the Indo-European cultures would be represented and looked to for inspiration. It would be pluralistic and explicitly polytheist, worshipping many deities. Bonewits wanted it to have a professionally trained clergy of both men and women and emphasised the idea of “why not excellence?” In keeping with modern attitudes, it would oppose any sexism, racism or homophobia. It would be unashamedly hierarchical (with Bonewits as Arch-Druid). The services would be public and open to anyone. The religious practices would be based on the best scholarship available (such as George Dumezil, Anne Ross and Mircea Eliade) to make it as accurate a reconstruction as possible, while being suited to the modern age (avoiding such things as animal or human sacrifice). It was a vision that would inspire many people, and over 30 years later, it is now the largest Druid organisation in North America and is growing internationally.



Ellis, Peter B. The Druids. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1998. Print.

Adler, Margot. Drawing down the moon witches, Druids, goddess-worshippers, and other pagans in America today. New York, N.Y: Penguin/Arkana, 2006. Print.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

Bonewits, Isaac. “Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo-.” Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “Frequently Asked Questions about Neopagan Druidism.” Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “The Origins of Ár nDraíocht Féin.” Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “What Neopagans Believe.” Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “The Reformed Druids of North America and their Offshoots.” Web.

Hopman, Ellen Evert. “The Origins of the Henge of Keltria.” Web.

Meith, Vickie, and Howard Meith. “The Origins of the Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids.” Web.

Thuin, Dylan Ap. “The Origins of the Insular Order of Druids.” Web














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