Skip is a past Senior Druid of Muin Mound Grove, ADF, one of our oldest and most vibrant Groves.
My name is Rev. Robert Lee Ellison, better know to all my friends as Skip Ellison. I'm the immediate past Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF). I was elected in May of 2001 and served until May of 2010.
What was your first Pagan impulse? Does it go back to your childhood?
Well, I was brought up as a Baptist, born-again as a Baptist when I was 17, and then after that the religion just sort of died away, because the more reading I did, the more I realized it just wasn't true. There were more things out there than what they were telling people. So I started looking for Wiccan groups back in the early sixties, and couldn't find any, and then put it on hiatus for awhile. Then in early 1981, I saw a small blurb in one of the local underground newspapers for a study group that was forming and got into that and was initiated into the coven in 1982. I worked with the coven in several positions and then in the fall of 1990, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop presented by Isaac Bonewits on ADF at Earth Camp in Harriman State park.
What was it that you saw out there that the Baptists weren't telling you about?
I disliked the idea that I had to believe everything that was written in one book when there were more manuscripts available from that time period that disproved it, or talked about other things that weren't even in the book. The more reading I did in history, and on archaeological research that was being done, the more I resented that I wasn't being told the entire story by the Baptists. I started getting books and reading them. I belonged to the Psychic Book Club. This was in the 1960s and I found that was more in line with what I was looking for. But I've always been interested in nature and the woods and hunting.
And to have a religion that accepts all of that, that embraces nature and makes your lifestyle part of your religious experience isn't something that most monotheistic religions do. There's starting to be a few ecological Christian groups coming up now, but they're really heretical in what they're saying within the Church.
What was it about Isaac that impressed you?
His workshop interested me enough about ADF that I joined the organization soon after. I was mainly impressed by Isaac's vision of a religion that would be open to everyone, public and that, some day in the future, would have groves and temples in every city. He impressed me with what he was trying to do in getting Paganism out to the general public at large as compared to small scale Wiccan covens and felt it was time for something like that to be done. As long as it needed to be done, I wanted to join in and do it!
How did you become involved in ADF?
I was the organizer for a grove near my home in Syracuse, NY in 1991 and then became its second Senior Druid, a position that I held until August of 2001 when I stepped down due to becoming Archdruid of the International organization.
Within ADF, I've served on its Mother Grove, the board of directors, since being appointed by Isaac in 1992. Over the past nine years, I've held the positions of Registrar, Scribe, Vice-Archdruid and now finally, Archdruid.
During the time I've been with ADF, I've had the pleasure of working on the revisions to ADF's Study Program. When the Magician's Guild was reformed from the old Magic Guild within ADF, I was elected as its first Chief and held that position for several years before stepping down.
How do you spend your time outside of ADF?
In my personal life, I'm a retired industrial electrician and spend my time now traveling around the US, Canada and Europe attending festivals to talk about ADF and present workshops on a variety of subjects. In my free time, I have a little over 17 acres of land that needs to be tended with many gardens to be worked in.
I've created and maintain a web site located at Dragon's Keep Farm, where more information about the workshops I teach and online versions for all of them can be found. Further information about my books can also be found on my web site.
What is your personal vision for ADF's future?
I see us as spreading more to areas of the US that are under represented. We'll be getting out much more through our net presence, and should have a larger impact at festivals. Our message is one that responds well with people, and the more we get it out so that people can hear or see it, the more people will join us.
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(Photo credit: Ava Francesca)