Hello, I am a member of 3 Druid organizations (including this one), 2 of them are nationally based in America and an American OBOD Grove but OBOD is nationally based in the UK. I’ll give you a brief overview of MY experience with each of them. I don’t speak for anyone else and as the saying goes, ask 3 Druids one question and you’ll get 9 answers. Also my experience is limited as I’ve only been with these organizations a few years so you’ll have to look to members who have been in longer. Sorry this is so long but I was where you were and posts like these really helped.
I’m still new to the AODA, but I like it for a number of reasons. The first is as far as Druidry goes AODA is more focused on “modern” Druidry such as learning science or modern day musical instruments for example. The training for AODA challenges us as Druids to incorporate Druidry into our lives in ways current with our time period. If that’s a challenge your looking for, then consider the AODA. Sadly, AODA is the smallest of the 3 so expect to be solitary unless your lucky to find a local Grove.
The next is Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, and as far as American Druid organizations go it’s considered the largest (OBOD is larger but it’s not considered an American group because it’s in the UK). ADF at the lower levels is open to all but as you move up it differs from the AODA as it becomes more theistic pagan Druidry. ADF’s Training is more scholarly in the realm of how Druidry actually was (and no one knows for sure but ADF does really try to piece together what we know from historical record). ADF’s training for its Dedicant and Initiate program is like getting a degree specifically in ancient theistic pagan Druidry where AODA is like getting a degree in something that relates to the three Druid paths like a music degree for Bards, natural or earth science for Ovate, and philosophy for the Druid path. More importantly AODA offers more freedom in what you do, where as ADF is fairly strict that all Druids working within ADF’s framework all practice the same. Don’t get me wrong, if you truly love Druidry, you shouldn’t have a problem with the framework and outside of ADF you can do what you like.
Last but not least is the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids aka OBOD. This is the largest Druid group in the world (unless this has changed since I read it last) and as you probably already know they are based in the UK. The good news is OBOD has Groves all over America and theres a good chance there’s a Grove that’s a road trip away. The training for OBOD is very romanticized meaning it’s skewed to how they WANT to view the ancient Druids. The chief Phillip-Carr Gromm also incorporated a lot of psychology into the training to help people with mental issues that weren’t serious. Because of that I think that’s why while some Druids don’t like how they view the ancient Druids because it lacks scholarly research it does help people mentally. The other reason OBOD shines is because it’s the least restrictive of all 3 and builds communities faster than ADF or AODA.
So to sum up each organization:
AODA is somewhere in between ADF and OBOD overall, but is still unique and modern.
ADF is the most historically based Druid organization and the most religious.
OBOD is the least historically based and least restrictive but builds communities fast and has the most people.
Also I’ll also sum up pricing for each.
AODA is the most cost effective, you pay a one time fee for each level you achieve (a total of 4 levels) and you get a lifetime membership for each. I believe the fees are around $50-$150 per level but check the webpage for exact amounts. This doesn’t include Grove fees, becoming Clergy, this is only for a basic solitary membership with the National Organization.
ADF is a yearly fee of $30, you can pay an extra $20 for its quarterly magazine subscription but that’s up to you. Again that doesn’t include other fees like becoming Clergy or Grove fees.
OBOD is the most expensive of the 3 and the reason I included this extra section. Training for OBOD across its 3 levels, Bard, Ovate, and Druid is roughly $30 per month for a year for each level. I haven’t checked the exchange rate or the cost for OBOD in a while so I could be off as the price will vary often with the exchange rate. The good news is, even if you just buy one month your a lifetime member in OBOD, the bad news is it’s difficult for most people to afford a monthly subscription to OBOD. But once you finish the Druid level you can, with another Druid who has also completed the Druid level, start an OBOD grove. The great thing about OBOD is their Groves do tend to build communities fast. Also, this doesn’t include any Grove fees. OBOD doesn’t really have Clergy because they prefer for it to be more spiritually about everyone instead of an individual (like a priest).
So that’s my take on each but check out their websites, ask around, and learn for yourself. I’m a member of all 3 because I think each offers me something that helps me walk my Druid path.