Tag Archives: Druid gathering

OBOD East Coast Gathering 2013 – Review

The ECG logo (one of my own pieces!)

The ECG logo (one of my own pieces!)

This is the fourth year of the OBOD East Coast Gathering, (which I have reviewed before on this blog) and if anything can be said for certain, its that a tribe has now been firmly established. In the four years that I’ve been attending the gathering, I’ve watched us grow from a group newly formed to a community with rich traditions, rituals, and kinship. Coming to the ECG this year, after a very difficult year for me in particular, was coming home. This is beyond friendship, beyond family, reaching something deeper and more meaningful than most other relationships.  We are a tribe, we are kin, we are brothers and sisters in a sacred tradition honoring the land and supporting each other.  At one point in the gathering, the question was raised–is the gathering more “real” than what we were all returning to?  Which reality is reality?  These are things worth considering, and certainly, as we all spend substantial time in “readjustment” as we return to our jobs and hectic lives, the tribe that is the ECG will continue to hold the events of this past weekend in our hearts and minds.  In this review, I hope to capture some of the highlights of our gathering.

The Spirits of Place. I am always amazed by the welcoming nature of the spirits of the land of

Camp Netimus. They are serene and welcoming, whimsical and witty, and willing to share their knowledge.  From the fairy mounds and moss-covered fairy pathways deep in the forest and the stone cairns that seem to have grown out of the earth herself to nearby babbling brooks and our forest circle, the land holds us, cherishes us, and nurtures us as we gather. We had fewer acorns than last year (which was a shame, I was finally prepared with good buckets for harvesting them) but that did prevent the usual three or four acorns knocking you on the head during the gathering.  Our weather, for the most part, was sunny and cool.  We did finally receive a good storm or two on Saturday evening–but druids welcome all weather!

Story and Song. One of the highlights this year were our UK visitors, Damh the Bard, OBOD Pendragon; Cerri Lee, Pagan Artist; and Susan Jones, OBOD Tutor Coordinator. Damh gave us a wonderful concert on Thursday evening by our fire, where he sang some of his greatest songs, including two personal favorites of mine, “The Green and Gray” and “Sons and Daughters of Robin Hood.” If you haven’t yet had a chance to listen to his music, I strongly suggest doing so–his work resonates deeply for many of us. Damh, furthermore, is wonderful in person–I have listened to the OBOD Druidcast for many years, but seeing Damh in person was a rare treat.  In addition to the concert, each night our fires were home to bardic arts of many kinds–stories, songs, poems, dancing, and drumming.

Damh the Bard Concert (Photo by John Beckett)

Damh the Bard Concert (Photo by John Beckett)

Learning from One Another. Our gathering also had a fantastic line-up of workshops this year, including Fairy Houses with Denise Caron, Ogham and Druid Tree Magic from Damh the Bard, Survival Skills 101 with David Morrison, The Cauldron in Druidic Lore by Cerri Lee, Working with Animal Guides by Lorraine Soria, and the Journeyman and Hermit-Ways to Sacred Places with Susan Jones.  Each workshop helped deepen our understanding of the living and spirit worlds, and all were meaningful.  I especially enjoyed Susan’s historical discussion of the journeyman and the hermit and Damh’s discussion of how he does tree magic using the ogham.  Simple, yet profound, the knowledge gained from these workshops will continue to be transformative both within and without.

Raising the banner!; I am holding the banner in green. (Photo by John Beckett)

Raising the banner!; I am holding the banner in green. (Photo by John Beckett)

Ritual and Initiations.  On Saturday night, we initiated 3 druids and 12 ovates, for a record 5.5 hours of initiation (this is not something we set out to do, but we ended up having many more initiates than we had expected to have).  Despite the long hours, it was exciting to see so many new–and old–faces during our initiations.  We also initiated 14 new bards into the order–welcome new bards, and congratulations to those of you who entered new grades this year!  In addition to the initiation rituals, we had a lovely opening and closing ceremony, an Alban Elfed ritual, and a ritual dedicated to the Lord of the Forest, Cernunnos. During our Alban Elfed ritual, the community received gifts from the bards (a very entertaining and moving act), gifts from ovates (a discussion of apples and the rich earth, among other things), gifts from the druids (anointing of ash and oil from our fires and chanting of ogham), from the children (a fairy house and numerous caterpillars from the children), and our guests (a gift of good hospitality).  The Cerrunos ritual was particularly powerful–we processed deep into the forest to blazing fires and drumming, and summoned the lord of the forest to music and drumming.

Ritual Banner Carriers! (Photo by John Beckett)

Ritual Banner Carriers! (Photo by John Beckett)

It is the hour of recall….The hardest thing about the gathering is going home.  I have a hard time thinking about how long it will be until another gathering comes–a full year will pass, and with it, joys, sorrows, and so much more.  But if there is one thing I know, is that there will be another gathering, another time for our community to share, grow, and learn.  I am very excited to see what our 5th year looks like, and in the meantime, I’ll honor our kinship and community by closing with the OBOD Vow, a vow we say at the end of each of our rituals, “We swear, by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand to hand.  Mark, Oh Spirits, and hear us now, confirming this, our sacred vow.”  With a community like ECG, this vow becomes more than just words–it shows the power such communities can hold.

*Special thanks to John Beckett for letting me share some of his photos! I was very busy organizing the Alban Elfed ritual and forgot to take any photos of my own!*

OBOD East Coast Gathering 2012 Review

“Breathe deeply and enter through your heart’s door

Where Stag and Salmon leap; where Hawk soars o’er the tor

Where Starry Bear journeys from dusk till dawn.

Spiral the heavens! Time Untime lingers on.”

Fire altar with stone carins in main ritual space

                                              –Barb Pott (Crescent Birch Grove, MI)

The above message, burnt into a panel of wood, was placed upon stone cairn gateways which we used throughout the weekend to enter our main ritual space.  Such a poem is a fitting way to open a discussion about an experience that is difficult to convey with the written word.

In Druidry, all good things come in threes, and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) East Coast Gathering‘s third year was no exception!  From the north (Canada, Michigan) and the South (Alabama, North Carolina, Louisanna, Maryland) to the east (Vermont, New York) the West (California, Colorado) we came.  From across the sea (United Kingdom, Netherlands) to just down the road (Pennsylvania), 103 druids, family, and friends gathered to celebrate and commune with one another and the living earth.  Our gathering was nearly double the size it had been the two previous years; this was in no small part due to our special guests, Phillip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm (Chosen Chief and Scribe of the OBOD) and John Michael and Sara Greer (Grand Archdruid and Archdruid of Water in the Ancient Order of Druids in America, AODA).

Connecting with the Land
The spirits of Camp Netimus have always been welcoming to our camp; embracing us with open arms and whispering many tales of old in our ears.  From the gentle knock of the acorns as they hit the earth (or a druid’s head) to the peaceful nature of the clearings and swaying grasses, we are bid welcome.  Several miles away, Ramondskill Falls is a majestic sight, a cascade of water dropping over 160 feet and surrounded by hemlocks, birches, gentle patches of wintergreen, and thousands of wild grape vines.  During the gathering, carfulls of druids can be found making their way to the falls to bask in their majesty and commune with the spirits of the water.  On the grounds of our camp, a moss-covered fairy pathway leads to a babbling brook deep within the trees.  Moss-covered stones tell their tales of old as the fae folk frolic behind the underbrush.  Hawks and turkey buzzards flew overhead, looking down upon our field.  At night, the great bear of the starry heavens and a crescent sliver of a moon provided gentle light. A hidden circle, the storyteller circle, is a place alternatively filled with quietly meditating druids, initiation rituals, or enriching workshops.

Raymondskill Falls

Raymondskill Falls

Connecting with the Spirit Realm & the Arts of Druidry
This year’s theme was “The Arts of the Seer” and many of our workshops and meditations focused centrally on that theme.  John Beckett discussed responsibilities of seership, Dean Easton presented on the Cauldron of Rebirth, Will Melnyk presented on Ogham, and Wanda Stalbaum on basic grounding and protection. Each morning, Phillip Carr-Gomm walked us through a simple meditation that connected us in meaningful ways. Other workshops included mead making presented by Derek Batz and Richard Abbott.

Two of our honored guests, Phillip and John Michael, gave a fascinating series of workshops and discussions. One highlight of the event was Phillip and John Michael’s  open discussion of all things druidry, where they examined druidry’s legitimacy, history, the differences between US and UK political and social situations for practicing druids, and their experiences with running the two orders.  Phillip recorded the talk and said that it would appear on a future episode of Druidcast (so keep an eye out for it–it was a fabulous talk!)  Phillip also discussed philosophies on druidry and being in place and time in his address, while John Michael lead two fabulous discussions on Druid Body and Reclaiming Natural Science (which I will be posting more about in the future!).

In addition to learning from each other, we also enjoyed ritual and festivities.  Our main Alban Elfed (Fall Equinox) ritual, which took place on Saturday, was a wonderful experience.  The groves and seed groups brought their colorful banners, and we marched to the sound of flute, drum, and strings as we made our way to the ritual circle. As part of the ritual, each of the grades presented a gift.  The bards gave the gift of dance and song, singing “”We are the Future, We are Inspired ones.We are the singers, we are the Song. We are spiraling into the center, the center of the Grove” as they danced the spiral dance in our circle.  They also left us with inspirational messages for when we left the circle at the end of the ritual.  The Ovates taught us about the hawk, the stag, and the oak, giving us many lessons from the natural world.  The Druids gave us the gift of being still in the present place and time.  It was moving ritual, and all felt blessed at its conclusion.

Phillip and JMG in discussion

Phillip and JMG in discussion

This year was a big year for initiations, with 24 Bards, 7 Ovates, and 3 Druids undergoing initiation–this was our largest number by far!  We welcome all of our new Bards to the order, and congratulate the Ovates, and Druids as they continue on their forest path.

Connecting with the Tribe
As I’ve written about in previous blog posts, an opportunity to be away from technology and simply enjoy each other’s presence and skill in the bardic arts is one of the most enriching things about the ECG. Our first two gatherings were times for us to connect, grow, and learn from each other.  But this year something powerful and magical happened–we became a tribe. And as we said our closing words, swearing by peace and love to stand heart to heart and hand in hand, the chant worked its magic upon us.  More than just friends or fellow druids, we developed a sense of kinship and family that transcends time and space.  We became united.  As we look forward to returning to Camp Netimus next year, those tribal bonds will keep us ever close as the days turn shorter and the long nights hold their sway once more.