First Degree Curriculum

First Degree Curriculum Overview

NCGCover
The AODA’s New Candidate Guide

The following requirements have been established by the Grand Grove for advancement to the First Degree of AODA, the Degree of Apprentice. For details and specifics on each of these areas, see “Details” below. Please make sure you read and understand the details before beginning your druid journey with AODA. The First Degree is designed to be completed within a year.  However, you may choose to take as much time as you need.

The following study program has been adopted by the Grand Grove of AODA for all members effective September 22, 2021. We see our curriculum as an evolving document—the Grand Grove reviews the curriculum every 7 years and adapts it based on the needs of our members. If you started on an earlier version of the AODA’s curriculum (first or second degrees) you are welcome to continue to work on that version of the curriculum (see the archive here for a version of that curriculum). However, if you have joined since September 22, 2021, we ask that you do the current curriculum as it is presented here. Please note: the curriculum given in The Druidry Handbook is the original curriculum (used from 2003-2012).

All members receive a copy of the AODA’s New Candidate Guide which provides a thorough introduction to our curriculum.

The Earth Path: Developing Earth-Centered Awareness and Nature-Conscious Living

    • At least once each week during your Candidate studies spend fifteen minutes or more in direct contact with the natural world
    • Read at least nine books on the natural history of the local ecological region in which you live.
    • 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 studies.
    • Plant and establish a relationship with at least one tree or plant in the natural world.

The Sun Path: Aligning with Nature’s Seasons and Cycles

    •  During your Candidate studies, celebrate a cycle of Druid holy days.
    • Write a detailed account of each celebration in your Druid journal, and be prepared to discuss your insights on the sun path and Druid tradition in general.

The Moon Path: Deepening your Spiritual Practice

    • Practice some form of meditation regularly during your Candidate studies.
    • Learn and practice the Sphere of Protection ritual.
    • Keep a Druid Journal and reflect regularly on your druid experiences.

Bardic, Ovate, or Druid Exploration: Developing Your Unique Druid Expression

    • Choose a druid, ovate, or bardic practice and spend 20 hours exploring that practice during your Candidate studies.

First Degree Curriculum Details

The Earth Path: Developing Nature Connection, Nature Knowledge, and Nature Reciprocation

  1.     At least once each week during your Candidate studies, spend fifteen minutes or more in direct contact with the natural world. 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. Note: 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).
  2.     Read at least nine books or other substantive resources on nature and the natural history of the local ecological region in which you live. For this, we are asking that you make nature as a whole the focus of your study (rather than what nature does for humans). Given this, we ask that you choose books or other substantive resources that emphasize ecology, plant and animal communities, aspects of natural history such as geology, and so forth. Books and other substantive resources can include 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, such as your nature observations.
    • For most people, your local ecological region will extend about 100 miles from your home, and may extend a shorter distance; any major ecological shift (woodland to prairie, mountains to plains, desert to grassland, hardwood forest to softwood forest, etc.) marks the end of your local region. Some ecoregions have fewer publications than others; in this case, field guides or books covering a larger region that includes yours within it are also acceptable. If you are in North America, you can use the EPA’s bioregion resource to find out your specific bioregion: https://www.epa.gov/eco-research/ecoregions-north-america
    • When you have determined which books or resources you will use, fill out and submit the form here: https://forms.gle/5JVuYHeD1gxt84wz6 to ensure that you and the Grand Grove agree that the items on your list meet the requirements of the curriculum.
  3.     Make three changes in your lifestyle in order to reduce your negative impact on the Earth and increase your positive impact, and maintain those changes through your Candidate studies.
    • Different people lead different lives, and a change that would be easy for one might be difficult or impossible for another; Druidry affirms the need for 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; reducing the amount of electricity or other fossil fuels that you use by by lowering the temperature to which you heat your home or raising the temperature to which you air-condition it; and so on.
  4. Plant and establish a relationship with at least one tree or plant in the natural world.  Here are your options:
      • Plant a tree and water and tend it till it is well established.
      • Join a tree planting organization and plant at least one tree, tending it until they are established.
      • Assist in a community planting or installation of another plant-based area such as a wetland, rain garden, or native plant meadow.
      • Plant and tend a bonsai, a containerized shrub or small tree that spends all or part of the year within your residence
      • In addition to planting something, you should establish a relationship with it during your Candidate studies (which may include but is not limited to spending regular time with it, visiting it at a seasonal celebration, observation of its health and growth, bardic arts tied to your plant, etc.).

The Sun Path: Aligning with Nature’s Seasons and Cycles

During your Candidate studies, celebrate a cycle of Druid holy days.

    1.  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. Rituals are provided in the New Candidate Guide or you may develop your own.
    2.  Many members of the AODA also celebrate the “cross quarter days” of Imbolc (February 1), Beltane (May 1), Lughnassadh (August 1), and Samhain (November 1), while others choose different days based on their own spiritual and cultural interests and/or local ecology. You are free to do either of these, or to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes alone.
    3.  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.

The Moon Path: Deepening your Spiritual Development

  1. Practice some form of meditation regularly during your Candidate studies.
    •  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 studies.
  2.     Learn and practice the Sphere of Protection (SOP) ritual.
    •  Just like daily meditation, the SOP takes time and practice to learn.  By the end of your Candidate studies, the SOP should be a daily part of your life. A process for learning the SOP is included in the New Candidate Guide and also in The Druid Magic Handbook.
  3.   Keep a Druid Journal and reflect regularly on your druid experiences.
    • During your Candidate studies, you should keep a running account of the work you do in each of the three Paths and in your Ovate, Bard, or Druid Exploration.
    • In your Druid Journal, reflect at least monthly on your earth path, sun path, and moon path practices.
    • The Journal 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 submit your Reflection at the end of your Candidate studies. You will find that the more complete you make your Journal, and the more often you revisit and reflect on the material within it, the more valuable of a resource it will be to you later in your Druid path.
    • The Journal may be kept in any form or medium.

Ovate, Bardic, or Druid Exploration: Developing Your Unique Druid Expression

Choose a druid, ovate, or bardic practice and spend 20 hours exploring that practice during your Candidate studies. The work of our Order has three aspects, reflecting the threefold division of the ancient Celtic Druids.

  • The Ovate branch focuses on the sciences that are employed to describe the many aspects of the natural world.
    • This includes: ecology, zoology, botany, geology, hydrology, limnology, oceanography, potamology, volcanology, 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 creative artistic expressions.
    • Performing arts: including music, theater, dance, movement, storytelling, singing, acting, other performance-based arts, and the creation of performance arts such as playwriting and musical composition.
    • Fine arts: including painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, printmaking, multimedia, and other visual fine arts
    • Literary arts: including poetry, prose, fiction, creative nonfiction, non-fiction, and any kind of writing that requires craft and skill
    • Fine crafts: including fiber arts, metalwork or smithing, pottery, glasswork, woodwork, bookbinding, papermaking, leatherwork, and so on.
  • The Druid branch focuses on Druid philosophy, religion, spirituality, magic, mysticism, divination, and ritual.
    • This includes writing rituals, developing magical tools, working with divination systems, exploring magical practices, engaging in additional meditation or journey work, and much more.

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 focusing on a Bard, Ovate, or Druid branch 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

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.

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.

First Degree Reflection. When you complete your first degree studies, you will be asked to reflect upon your journey in each of the above areas and what you learned as part of that journey. Please write to the AODA office at info@aoda.org to ask us for the reflection questions. After completing your reflection, a member of the Grand Grove will read it and respond to you.