East Coast Gathering 2012

East Coast Gathering 2012 September 17, 2012

Now that I’ve told my big story I want to share my impressions of the rest of this year’s OBOD East Coast Gathering. This was the third year for this event and the second year for me attending.

The big difference this year was the size: 103 people were registered and I think actual attendance wasn’t much less. Word is getting around the OBOD community that this is a good event and the presence of two “Big Name Druids” was an added attraction. There were people from all over the East Coast (as far south as Florida), the Midwest, Louisiana, Texas, and California, plus one from the Netherlands. And of course, two from England.

Philip Carr-Gomm gives the Chosen Chief’s address

Philip Carr-Gomm gave a Chosen Chief’s address that was more conversation than lecture. Many people expressed the intuition that “something big is coming” – being a UU Pagan as well as a Druid, I added “yes, and it’s our job to help create it!” Philip talked about the major crises of our world and how Druidry is a response many people are finding helpful. He also emphasized OBOD’s religious inclusiveness: there are Pagan Druids, Christian Druids, Buddhist Druids, atheist Druids, and the growing Spiritual But Not Religious Druids. I am undeniably a Pagan Druid and my primary interests are religious, but I agree we should keep our tent as big and as open as possible.

John Michael Greer prepares to demonstrate a movement exercise

John Michael Greer led two sessions. The first was on “The Druid Body,” a discussion of how society’s standards of health and beauty are neither healthy nor beautiful. It covered much of the same ground as some of the online discussion back in July on Pagans and fat, and the basic message (to me, anyway) was “get outside and DO something.”

John’s second session was “Reclaiming Natural Science.” His message was that if we claim to love Nature, then we should learn something about Nature – first-hand, not by watching the Science Channel. I think his best line of the gathering was “Science is like democracy. More people want to consume it than produce it, so we have a shortage of both.” John advocated participation as “citizen scientists” and doing things like cataloging all the living things in a small square of your back yard.

Chosen Chief and Grand Archdruid.  That’s a recorder in Philip’s hand, not a taser.

For me, one of the highlights was a dialogue between Philip and John on Saturday afternoon. For almost two hours, they went back and forth discussing their backgrounds, approaches to Druidry, the differences in attitudes in the US and UK and a variety of other topics. The good news for those of you who weren’t there is that Philip recorded that session and at least a part of it will appear on a future episode of DruidCast.

I can’t say enough about how down-to-Earth both Philip and John are. Sit by them in the dining hall and you don’t feel like you’re talking to the heads of two of the largest Druid orders in world. You feel like you’re talking to your next door neighbors. Your very intelligent, very articulate, very spiritual next door neighbors. Philip in particular was in great demand, but I never saw either of them be anything other than gracious, friendly and patient with everyone who wanted to talk. I had a similar experience with John at the House of Danu Gorsedd in 2009.

unwinding the circle after the Alban Elfed ritual

The Alban Elfed Ritual was good, especially the gifts from each of the three grades. I led a workshop on the Ethics of Seership, while others led workshops on grounding and protection, working with the Cauldron of Rebirth, working with the Ogham, and mead making. There was drumming, dancing, singing and storytelling around the fire – and unlike last year’s drenching, we were able to have a fire every night.

I think my favorite part of whole gathering was the conversation. People shared their spiritual journeys, talked about their projects and their ideas, their hopes and fears for the future, discussed the nature of the gods and what comes after death. We talked about our groves and seed groups and for a few of us, our CUUPS groups. We had the kind of conversations we’re reluctant to have in the ordinary world for fear of being seen as odd or nuts or worse.

There is nothing like immersing yourself within your tribe.

We performed initiation ceremonies for each of the three grades: 25 Bards, 7 Ovates, and 3 Druids. The Ovate initiation was held on Thursday night. I had been up since 4:00AM, flown from DFW to Philadelphia, driven to the camp, made a stop for some stuff I forgot to pack, arrived just barely in time for the start, unpacked, led the Ethics workshop, participated in the opening ritual, had dinner, changed into robes and tried to get myself in an initiation frame of mind. We did each candidate individually and well before we were ready for the last one, I was exhausted.

And then through the fatigue, it hit me. At that point in time, there was no place in the world I’d rather be. That’s a phrase that gets thrown around rather loosely, but in this case it was literally true. I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be and anything I’d rather be doing than in the woods, with a bunch of Druids, performing an initiation ritual that introduces Bards to the mysteries of the Grove of the Ovates.

My legs still hurt, but my soul was chanting awens.

Thanks to everyone who made the gathering so meaningful and so much fun: Lorraine and her minions, the ritual leaders, the musicians and mead makers, the workshop leaders, Philip and Stephanie, John and Sara, and everyone who participated in all the conversations. It was wonderful and I will be there again next year.

What is Druidry?  This.  And a lot more, but first of all, this.

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