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ADF Structure, Customs, and Policy; Requirement 7

Describe ADF's utilization of Dumezil's "tripartition" and its affect on ADF's structure, study programs, and the religion of ADF members in general. (200 words min.)

Early on, ADF worked to base itself in deep scholarship regarding the Indo-Europeans, feeling that if we started with deep roots, we could reach high into the sky. The work of Dumezil, particularly his work on tripartition (or the division of societies into three main groups: priestly "first functions," warrior "second funcitons," and herder-cultivator "third functions"), was very influential, since it implied a sort of "class" for the clergy¹ (or, more often, a "caste" in earlier parlance). This gave clergy a clear place in society, and by working with this sort of idea, ADF would always have a place in Neo-Paganism as its "clergy."

ADF has always recognized that not all our members would be priests, however, and so we set about training the folk for other "functions." This is pretty clear, back as far as 1997, in that ADF was actively seeking to train people outside that Dumezilian "function" of Clergy.² The idea here was to specialize people into functions, to help create a more full-fledged "society" within ADF. That has changed over the course of the years, and now some study programs rely very little on the "generalist" training we had envisioned for all subgroups, and rely very heavily on their "specialist" training. Interestingly, as Dumezil is questioned in academia, we tend toward some of his ideas more strongly because they seem to work for us.

Perhaps the most visible notion of the trifunctional ways our members work, however, is in the way Dedicants learn to parse the Dedicant Path work. Here, dedicants divide the Nine Virtues ADF promotes into functions: three priestly virtues, three warrior virtues, and three producer virtues. Also, we find the Guilds line up along functional lines (dating back to their development as "specializations" within the Study Program): Liturgists and Magicians (among others) are first function, while Warriors are second and Naturalists and Healers (again, among others) are third. Sometimes, I wonder how deeply this goes into our members' ideas of their own religion.

ADF doesn't push the trifunctional analysis as strongly as it once did: we talk about it, question it, and have generally decided that it's a lens that makes sense to use to look at some things in the ancient world, but we're not as tied to it as we once were. The vestiges of it are clear, but less important to us religiously than they are scholastically.


¹ - Indo-European Paleopaganism and Its Clergy - Isaac Bonewits, originally published in Druids' Progress #1.

² - Vision of the Study Program, first published in Oak Leaves #2, 1997.


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