Traditional Druid Nature Spirituality For Today
AODA Study Program

The following study program has been adopted by the Grand Grove of AODA for all members effective 21 December 2010. The window of time for members to complete studies under the old curriculum closed on 21 December 2012, with the sole exception of Third Degree projects approved by the Grand Grove prior to that date. Please note: the curriculum given in The Druidry Handbook is the old curriculum.

First Degree Curriculum

The following requirements have been established by the Grand Grove for advancement to the First Degree of AODA, the Degree of Apprentice.

The Earth Path

1. At least once each week during your Candidate year, spend fifteen minutes or more in direct contact with the natural world. This may be in a wild place (such as a forest or a seashore), in a place recovered by nature (such as an overgrown vacant lot), or in a place created by humanity and nature together (such as a garden or a park). Part of your time in nature should be spent in the practice of stillness, which simply involves sitting, keeping your mind empty of thoughts and distractions, and being wordlessly aware of everything around you. Part should be spent in the practice of focus, which involves detailed attention to some specific thing - a tide pool, a wild plant, the living things in a six-inch-square patch of grass, or the like.

2. Read at least nine books on the natural history of the local ecological region in which you live, learning about the living things, the natural ecosystems and biotic communities, the patterns of weather and water, and the natural transformations of the land over time. Relate as much of this information as possible to your own experiences of nature. (Please note: the point of this requirement is to learn about your local ecological region itself, the land, its biomes, and the nonhuman living things that inhabit it. Books on general ecology or environmental science, without a specific focus on either the local ecological region in which you live or a slightly larger area which includes your local region, don't satisfy the requirement; neither do books about human peoples and cultures, or books about human impact on the environment.)  For most people, your local ecological region will extend no more than 100 miles from your home, and may extend a shorter distance; any major ecological shift (woodland to prairie, mountains to plain, desert to grassland, hardwood forest to softwood forest, etc) marks the end of your local region.

3. Make three changes in your lifestyle in order to take less from the Earth and give more back, and maintain those changes through your Candidate year. Different people lead different lives, and a change that would be easy for one might be difficult or impossible for another; Druidry also affirms the need of individuals to make their own choices, so the choice of changes to make is left up to each candidate. Whatever you choose should be something you're willing to keep doing for an entire year; a small change you can sustain is better than a larger one that proves unworkable.

Some things that would meet the requirements of the Earth Path include buying locally grown organic food, even when it costs more; using public transit, bicycling, or walking to work, every day or at regular intervals, instead of driving; decreasing your household energy use by, for instance, replacing an electric appliance with a hand-powered one; replacing toxic cleaning or yard  products with ecologically safe ones; composting your kitchen scraps and yard waste; and so on. Donations and the like supporting political or environmental advocacy organizations do not qualify. The Earth Path requires you to change your own life, rather than trying to make other people change theirs.

4. Plant at least one tree during your Candidate year, and water and tend it until it is well established. Should you be unable to plant a tree outside, please contact the Grand Grove for permission to plant and tend an indoor tree of some kind, such as a bonsai.

The Sun Path

During your Candidate year, celebrate a cycle of Druid holy days. In the AODA the two solstices (approximately December 21 and June 21 each year) and the two equinoxes (approximately March 20 and September 23 each year) are traditionally celebrated and should be a part of your Druid calendar. Many members of the AODA also celebrate the "cross quarter days" of Imbolc (February 2), Belteinne (May 1), Lughnasadh (August 1), and Samhuinn (November 1), while others choose different days based on their own spiritual and cultural interests.  You are free to do either of these, or to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes alone.

The holy days may be celebrated alone or with others, using a ritual you create yourself or one drawn from other sources. Participation in community celebrations qualifies, so long as your role in the celebration is not simply that of a spectator. Write a detailed account of each celebration in your Druid journal, and write at least nine pages on the place of seasonal celebrations in your own Druid path and in the Druid tradition in general.

The Moon Path

Practice some form of meditation regularly during your Candidate year. While any form of meditation that involves focusing and directing the attention will qualify, the particular method taught in The Druidry Handbook, which is called "discursive meditation," is particularly recommended. While many people who are new to meditation need to work up to daily practice, daily meditation should be part of your life by the end of your Candidate year. In addition, the Sphere of Protection ritual should be learned and practiced daily during your Candidate year.

Ovate, Bardic, or Druid Exploration

The work of our Order has three aspects, reflecting the threefold division of the ancient Celtic Druids. The Ovate branch focuses on the natural and earth sciences related to the natural world: ecology, zoology, botany, geology, hydrology, limnology, oceanography, potamology, vulcanology, astronomy, meteorology, climatology, phenology, paleontology, glaciology, ornithology, entomology, ichthyology, mycology; some fields within general biology, chemistry, and physics; and systems theory as it relates to one or more of these sciences. ("Ecology" is defined here in its proper scientific sense, as "the study of whole systems in the living world.")

The Bardic branch focuses on the arts and crafts: painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, and other visual fine arts; music; poetry; dance; weaving, spinning, knitting, quilting, embroidery, and other fiber arts; fine joinery, woodturning, wood carving, and whittling; pottery; glasswork, including glassblowing and the making of stained glass; smithcraft, including bladesmithing, fine blacksmithing, whitesmithing, silversmithing, and goldsmithing; calligraphy; and bookbinding.

The Druid branch focuses on Druid philosophy, religion, spirituality, magic, mysticism, divination, and ritual.

 

Members who pursue the Second Degree are required to choose one, and may choose more than one, of these branches of Druid practice to pursue. In the First Degree, we require simply that you choose and carry out an activity that introduces you to some aspect of one of these three branches that you do not already know or practice.

 

Examples of activities that qualify as Explorations for the First Degree include the following:

  • Taking a series of classes on a relevant subject, such as painting or bird identification
  • Enrolling in a correspondence course and completing it satisfactorily
  • Doing volunteer work in a relevant field, such as habitat restoration or arts therapy
  • Designing and carrying out a personal course of study in a relevant area

If you have any questions about the appropriateness of an activity as an Exploration, please contact the Grand Grove with the details. Your Exploration should involve at least 20 hours of work on your part in a single subject, and it must be in a subject that is new to you. If you are already a guitar player, for example, taking further classes in playing the guitar will not count as an Exploration, nor will taking up another stringed instrument. On the other hand, taking a class in a radically different musical instrument, such as the clarinet or the bagpipe, would qualify; equally, taking a class in painting or poetry would qualify. The point of this requirement is to encourage you to expand your horizons.

Please note: as of December 2010, history, folklore, languages, and other cultural studies do not count for any of the Explorations, although Third Degree candidates working on a program approved by the Grand Grove prior to that time may continue their approved course of study and work. The material in The Druidry Handbook which suggests folkloric studies is no longer current. As of December 2012, healing modalities no longer qualify for the Ovate Exploration, although anyone who received Grand Grove permission to study a healing modality prior to the end of the grace period in June 2013 may still continue in their chosen course of study. Human sciences (anthropology, sociology, medicine, human ecology, etc.) do not qualify for the Ovate Explorations; the point of the Ovate work is to study the earth and its systems, not to study humanity.

Your choice of an Exploration in the First Degree does not limit your choice of a direction in the Second—thus you can do a Bardic Exploration in the First Degree, for example, and go on to become an Ovate or Druid Companion in the Second. Your choice of an Exploration will, however, determine your title as an Apprentice, for you will be initiated as either an Ovate Apprentice, a Bard Apprentice, or a Druid Apprentice. You may, if you wish, do an Exploration in more than one branch of our Order, and receive more than one title at your Apprentice initiation.

Your Druid Notebook

During your Candidate year, you should keep a running account of the work you do in each of the three Paths and your Ovate, Bard, or Druid Exploration.  The notebook may be kept in any form or medium from a three ring binder, through a handmade and handbound book, to a computer file.  The notebook is entirely for your own use, and you will not be expected to show it in its entirety to anyone else, but you will need to copy down material from it in order to pass the examination at the end of your Candidate year, and you will find that the more complete you make your notebook, the more valuable of a resource it will be to you later in your Druid path.

 

Second Degree Curriculum

The following requirements have been established by the Grand Grove for advancement to the Second Degree of AODA, the Degree of Companion.

Continuation of the First Degree Paths

As the First Degree is the foundation of the Second, so the essential work of the Second Degree includes a continuation of the fundamental practices you learned in the First:  the Earth Path, Sun Path, and Moon Path.  Thus you should continue your weekly time in nature, and pursue additional steps to make your life impose fewer burdens on the Earth’s biosphere; you should continue to celebrate a cycle of seasonal rituals, including the solstices and equinoxes, along with any other festivals you find appropriate; and you should continue to practice meditation, preferably discursive meditation, and the Sphere of Protection ritual on a daily basis.  These should be continued throughout the two years you spend as an Apprentice, in preparation for initiation as a Companion.

Core Curriculum in Druid Philosophy

In addition, your preparation for the Companion degree will include close study of the following seven books, which will provide you with seven distinct perspectives on the underlying ideas of Druid philosophy and their expression in AODA:

Ralph and Mildred Buchsbaum, Basic Ecology

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Three Initiates, The Kybalion

Anonymous, The Mabinogion

Ross Nichols, The Book of Druidry

John Michael Greer, ed., The Druid Revival Reader

Ancient Order of Druids in America, The AODA Grove Handbook

The first triad of these books present three ways of thinking about whole systems—one scientific, one philosophical, and one occult; the second triad present three ways of looking at Druidry—one from the standpoint of legend, one from the standpoint of tradition, and one from the standpoint of history; while the last book sets out the traditional ritual and organizational forms AODA created out of these sources. Each of these books, in its own way, is about the same thing—how to live a spiritually meaningful life in harmony with the cycles of nature—but each pursues this goal in its own distinctive way, and there are important disagreements between them.

It is important that you not merely read these books, but grapple with the ideas they present, including the points at which they disagree, and come to your own conclusions about the value—or otherwise!—of those ideas.  Discursive meditation that takes concepts from these books as themes for exploration is perhaps the most valuable tool for doing so.  AODA will also host a discussion list where members pursuing their Second Degree studies can discuss these books, and the ideas they contain, with other members following the same path and with senior members of the Order.

In preparation for your advancement to the Second Degree, you will need to write an essay of at least 5,000 to 7,000 words on one or more themes drawn from one or more of these books, discussing your personal reactions to the theme or themes, and how it relates to the Druid path that you are creating for yourself. This essay will not be judged on its literary merit, though we encourage you to write it as clearly and creatively as you can; rather, we are looking for evidence that you have taken the time to understand what the books in the core curriculum have to say, have thought about their ideas, and have come to meaningful conclusions concerning them.

If you would prefer to express your personal insights and reactions to these ideas in some form other than an essay—for example, in a work of art—this is also an option.  In this case, however, you will need to contact the Grand Grove in advance with details of your proposal, and have it approved before you begin work on it.

Bardic, Ovate, or Druid Work

The threefold division of the ancient Druid path into Bardic, Ovate, and Druid studies applies also in this degree.  You may pursue your work in one or more of these three paths, and you may do so in two different ways.

The first way is to complete the following requirements:

  • Establish a personal practice as a Bard, Ovate, or Druid.  This may include, for example, taking lessons and engaging in regular practice of a musical instrument, as a Bard; pursuing ecological or scientific studies, as an Ovate; or practicing a particular system of Druid magic or spiritual practice, as a Druid. You will need to inform the Grand Grove in detail about your personal practice, and provide ways in which the Grand Grove will know you have actually done what you claim.
  • Study and practice the AODA Solitary Grove opening and closing ceremony. You should plan on performing this ceremony at least once a week for at least the minimum period of two years you spend preparing for the Second Degree initiation. In the process, you should commit the ceremony to memory, and explore its uses as a framework for other activities, including those of your Bardic, Ovate, or Druid path.
  • Study and practice the AODA Candidate initiation, until you can perform the entire ceremony for another person skillfully and with effect. If at all possible, commit the entire initiation ceremony to memory.
  • Design an original set of activities for a yearly cycle of Druid holy days, drawing symbolism and themes from any appropriate source; the ecology and natural history of the area in which you live are particularly recommended. Those activities may be artistic or musical, if you are pursuing initiation as a Bard; scientific or environmental, if you are pursuing initiation as an Ovate; or ceremonial, spiritual, or magical, if you are pursuing initiation as a Druid.
  • Spend at least 20 hours helping other people with their spiritual development in a Druid context. Among the activities which would qualify for this requirement are one-on-one mentoring, leading a discussion group, and teaching one or more classes or workshops on Druid spirituality or related subjects. Keep detailed notes on these experiences.

Please note that this first option is REQUIRED if you intend to apply for a study group charter once you have been initiated as a Companion, and if you intend to apply for a grove charter once you have become an Adept.

The second option, for those who do not intend to lead a study group or grove, is to design a personal curriculum of in Bardic, Ovate, or Druid study and practice, involving at least two years of steady work. This curriculum should include some means by which the Grand Grove can assess the aspirant's achievements. Apprentices who choose this option must present their proposed self-designed curriculum in advance to the Grand Grove, which may accept it as given or request changes. Once the curriculum is approved by the Grand Grove, the aspirant needs only complete its requirements to qualify for the Second Degree. Please contact the Grand Grove if you need more information or assistance putting together a self-designed curriculum of this sort.

Those who intend to pursue more than one of the three branches of the Druid path may do one of them by way of the first option, and any others by way of the second option, and qualify in this way for a study group charter.  The requirement is that the first option be done at least once by any prospective study group or grove chief.

 

Third Degree Curriculum

The following requirements have been established by the Grand Grove for advancement to the Third Degree, the degree of Adept. This degree has no fixed curriculum in the normal sense, as each aspirant to this Degree must go beyond the ordinary and blaze a new trail through the Druid forest.

This is done by designing and completing a major project in some field directly relevant to your work as an Ovate, Bard, or Druid. This project should take you several years of hard work, and push your talents and personal vision to their limits and beyond.  Professional levels of skill and competence are normally required in such a project.  The effect of your project should be to convince the Grand Grove that you are an Ovate, Bard, or Druid Adept already, and the conferring of the Third Degree by our Order is merely a formality.

Your project must be approved by the Grand Grove before you begin work, and it must be submitted to the Grand Grove for final approval when you are finished

Should you desire to receive the Third Degree in more than one branch of the Order, you may do so, but a different project must be presented for each branch.  You may not combine Bardic and Ovate work in a single project, for example, and request initiation as a Bard Adept and an Ovate Adept on the basis of that one project. To become an Ovate Adept, a Bard Adept, and a Druid Adept thus requires the approval and completion of three separate projects, each of which measures up to the same high standards.  Those who do qualify for initiation as Adepts in all three branches shall receive the additional title of Ollave.