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Posts Tagged ‘rituals’

A mandala painted on a stone from Lake Ontario and gifted to my husband. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

For me, the Summer Solstice is a time of endings and beginnings. Vacation begins for me and many others in my field. Students go home. Several of my students moved on and I may never see or hear from them again. That was a hard pill to swallow as I had grown especially fond of some of them. We got to know each other over several years, and they were such good kids. The kind of youth that give me hope for the future. I’m so proud of them, and they taught me just as much as I taught them, I’m sure.  Such is the nature of working with kids in any capacity – they grow up and we must stand back to watch them fly.

“Rent” for Manannan mac Lir.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.


My routine changes over the summer. I suddenly have more time and energy. While teaching is in my blood and very much a part of my Druid identity, a long vacation definitely gives me time for other things that I am equally passionate about. My family feels up to taking more walks, and we have more daylight in which to do so. We spend more time playing outside, working on the garden, and visiting beloved mountains, rivers, and lakes.  I start meditating more – deeper, longer meditations that bleed over into trance states.  Just thinking about it makes my heart beat with anticipation.

Our Summer Solstice bonfire.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

Of course, there was, and will be, plenty of ritual involved. We had a bonfire Summer Solstice evening. It was just very casual, although I did sing as I kindled the flame. Later today, I’ll gather with my grove for a larger, more formal celebration. We’re once more honoring Manannan mac Lir and thanking him for the blessings of water.  The summer brings more opportunities for gathering with like-minded people to laugh, sing, and dance around fires.

Last night marked the New Moon. The omens for the day focused on change and, later, working with my own wildness to make me and my community a better person. I was struggling with some confidence issues earlier in the day. In transitioning from work-me to free-time me, and in the stress of all I had to accomplish to pass that threshold, I got a little goofy acting and put my foot in my mouth. I regretted it later, feeling foolish. I often worry how others see me. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what that means, how I want to be seen, and how to be true to myself. I did some midnight magical work in the garden to help me grow as a person.

I call my blog “The Ditzy Druid” for a reason. I can be a little quirky sometimes. It’s part of who I am. I don’t take myself too seriously.  After seeing “Moana,” I told my husband that I want to grow up to be like her grandmother, the self-professed “village crazy lady.” Despite her eccentricities, she is respected and loved. I think I usually maintain that balance, but we all know that our energies ebb and flow. I was a bit hyped up on all the new beginnings and got a bit silly. That said, I feel much better after my working last night, and sleep, the blessed medicine. The old saying is true: “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Be you.  (But I also keep thinking about the words of Aaron Burr from Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.”)

(For a little more on celebrating you and growing in confidence, I highly suggest you check out my friend Jen Rose’s blog entry on wearing what makes you feel amazing.)

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In my last post, I briefly mentioned that the ADF group I founded a few years ago grew into an official Grove.  I’m so proud of my grovies.  We have all worked so hard to get to this point.  I definitely could not have done this by myself.  Whenever I lead rituals, I make a point to have multiple people in major speaking parts so it’s not just me.  I love when grove members step up to lead rituals or workshops.  I love how we have taken turns coming up with activities, sharing supplies, making favors, leading magical workings, hosting private gatherings, offering extra eyes to keep track of kids, donating art and time…  Despite some occasional bumps and growing pains (which are inevitable), we’ve continued to grow intellectually, spiritually, and we grow closer as a Druid family who truly love and support each other.  I look forward to many years with my beautiful grovies. Hail to Northern Rivers Grove!

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Our info table at the 2016 FAE Fest.

Last weekend, my Grove participated in the 3rd annual Faery and Earth Festival in Watertown, NY.  Originally scheduled in August, organizers moved the date to October 1st due to stormy weather.  This “sun date” was a great success!  It was a perfect early autumn day.  Northern Rivers Grove, ADF, had an info table, offered hospitality to workshop presenters, built our ever-evolving Earth Mother shrine, and lead the closing ritual for the second year in a row.  It’s a lot of work, but very rewarding to take part in.  The closing ritual, in particular, is a great way to showcase the ADF tradition, our own ritual skills, and our grove character.  Just as last year, we received a lot of positive feedback.

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A view of our Earth Mother Shrine.  Many of our artisans have contributed pieces over the last three years.  It continues to evolve into a beautiful devotional space.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Personally, this was an opportunity for me to grow closer to the local Pagan community outside of my grove.  I’ve become one of the FAE Fest organizers after volunteering to coordinate workshops.  One of my favorite parts of the CNY PPD are the many educational opportunities, and I felt that the FAE Fest needed that extra bit of magic.  However, I knew that the founders were spread thin (reserving space, organizing art and food vendors, and paying entertainers…) so I stepped up to help make it happen.  I’m a big believer in volunteering when I see a need!  It was a challenge, for sure, and I learned a lot on the way, but it was worth it. We had workshops on a variety of topics – British fairy lore, herbal tea, tarot, deepening your Pagan faith, hoop dancing, belly dance, and the Native American medicine wheel. Education is important to me as a Druid, so it fits into my spiritual calling.  I was so happy to help, and I look forward to doing it again for 2017.

Reaching out to local Pagans to offer workshops gave me an opportunity to reconnect with dear friends and teachers, get to know acquaintances, and meet other Pagans with different backgrounds, traditions, and skills.

It’s funny.  I founded Northern Rivers years ago because other local groups weren’t meeting my needs.  I wanted something specifically focused on Druidism – the ADF tradition in particular.  I was younger then, and perhaps I said or did things that created distance between myself and the other groups in the area.  I reflected on this after I was invited to take part in CUUPs’ main ritual and help call the quarters – something I hadn’t done in 7 or so years!  Through my involvement with the FAE Fest, I’m finding that I’m working with other groups, other Pagans, who come from different traditions and experiences.  Sometimes very different.  I’m building bridges, focusing on our commonalities, and that’s the way it should be.  PPD and the FAE Fest is about coming together and celebrating our diverse community.  It’s interesting to me that Northern Rivers, a group that is more polytheistic and recon-oriented, matured and became an official Grove as I have also matured as an individual with regards to working with other, often very eclectic, NeoPagans.

Groups won’t always appeal to everyone.  We all have different needs.  The local Pagan community is like a forest – it is dynamic, with many different species.  Each is linked in some way, but all are required for the health and vibrancy of the forest.  When we come together, we celebrate each other – our beautiful similarities and differences.  We will support each other, our right to exists in an environment that is at times hostile to alternative religions. We are stronger together, and I’m so proud to be a part of that community building.  Hail to the local Pagan community!

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There’s been some discussion on ADF’s Facebook page about how to include children in public rituals. Many people with more experience have already offered some excellent advice. I absolutely have to point you towards Rev. Melissa Hill’s article on the topic.  My daughter is now a toddler, and Northern Rivers is only a little older than her.  We were founded just before my pregnancy, and our protogrove has grown up with the intent to be family friendly.  Now we’re about four years old, and in addition to my tot, we have different members who have a six-year-old and a six-month-old.  We also have regulars with kids between nearly 2 and 10, with an occasional teenager.  We’ve actually gained regulars because of how family-friendly we are.  I won’t say that we are experts at including children in public rituals.  Plenty of other groves have been doing it for longer*, but it’s part of ADF’s fabric.  My tradition was founded with the intent to offer public rituals, and since much of the public includes children…well, there you go!  Considering that my job is in the educational sector, I also take it very seriously.  The Druids of old were teachers, after all, and including the next generation of tree-hugging dirt-worshipers is valuable, in my humble opinion.  Even if they do as I did, and convert to something else, I think providing a foundation is important.

Here is a humble list of suggestions given in the form of our Nine Virtues.

The fire from Northern Rivers’ first members-only Bonfire Night.  Kids were there, and nobody died in the process!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

 

    • Wisdom – First of all, please keep in mind that, once more, we are still learning ourselves.  Also remember that all children are different, so there is no  one-size-fits-all approach.  In addition, all parents and parental situations are different.  I come from a place of privilege in that my husband is always there to watch my daughter, allowing me to lead most of Northern Rivers rituals, and to engage in the headspace I need for spiritual activities.  Listen to your own wisdom.  What are you able to do as a guardian?  What does your child really need at this time?Aso, a discussion of wisdom would not be complete without mentioning safety.  Most ADF rituals involve active fire since it’s a central part of our cosmology.  Northern Rivers always includes a bit about fire safety in our pre-ritual briefings.  Whether it’s bonfires, candles, or incense, young children are supposed to stay with their parents and only approach fires while holding a hand.  We always warn before pouring spirits into a bonfire.  (Kids often get excited about this since it makes the fire go poof!)  Finally, as an adult, model your own wisdom as you engage with fire and other ritual elements.

 

    • Vision – A grove or protogrove must first strive towards being family-friendly in order to start that journey.  Even if you don’t have children but hope to one day, start thinking about what kind of environment you’d like to create for your own children.  Actively engage with the rest of your group when planning liturgy.  Plan your bylaws with kids in mind.  Encourage and support other parents in your group when they express needs or want to try something different that could engage kiddos.  Don’t forget the adults in the process, though.  Open rituals are for everyone, so take adult concerns seriously too.  Perhaps plan some adult-only events once in awhile for “deeper” work such as trance or group initiations.  (Hint: a group Pinterest board can be a great way to brainstorm activities for future events.  Here’s Northern Rivers’ group board.)

 

    • Courage – Related to vision, don’t be afraid to try new things.  Northern Rivers experimented with having potluck before ritual so that we did the bulk of our cleaning before, then we could leave a little earlier.  This meant kids could go to bed sooner.  While this worked for Bealtaine, which was a day-long event in conjunction with the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center’s Labyrinth Walk Day, a majority of the group (including parents of young children) decided that they would rather do potlucks after ritual.  Hey, we had to try it first!It’s also important for the group to have courage when dealing with behavioral issues.  Our work towards creating a family-friendly space has been largely successful, but there were a couple of stressful times when we had to put our collective feet down because of major behavioral issues.  The result was that the voting members created a policy on including children.  You can see it here.  I will be the first to admit that this meant a couple people could not return because they didn’t have baby sitters during rituals.  That made me sad, however we had to consider the needs of the many in the group.   Sometimes being a grove organizer is hard, but that’s a post for another time…

 

    • Piety – Encourage the kids who attend to join the adults in keeping the old ways!  We don’t have an alternative play activity during our rituals.  They are meant for everyone who comes.  Many of the traditions are already kid-friendly.  For Imbolc, the kids carried in the Brighid doll while we sang.  Our protogrove tradition for the Spring Equinox is drumming to wake up the Nature Spirits; kids love it.  Maypole for Bealtaine, of course, but be prepared for chaos and imperfection.  Embrace it.My number one piece of advice for parents who want to bring their kids to our rituals is to start including their kids in their home practice.  In my twelve or so years of experience I’ve observed that children who are brought up Pagan are better-behaved at group rituals because they are used to it.  They know there are quiet times.  My toddler can do age-appropriate meditation (very short, focusing on breathing and using imagination).  It prepares kids for larger activities.  Depending on the age, they wont be able to engage in the same way as adults, but they start to understand what it means to give offerings.  Bee loves to give offerings to Nature Spirits, the Ancestors, and Brighid, for example.  She gets excited about it.  The six-year-old in our group loves to help her mother give offerings.  She pours while her mother speaks.  Older kids are ready for smaller ritual parts, and teens may be ready to take some major roles.  Include kids in your piety, show trust in the older kids, and they will get excited to attend ritual.

 

    • Integrity – Going back to the other virtues, you have to know what is best for everyone.  You must strike a balance, but it starts with you and your own values as a parent and/or group leader.  Look to the virtues.  What do you need?  What do the children need?  What does your own child need?  What do the adults in the group need?  Compromise must happen to meet those needs, but work to maintain that balance.  If something (or someone) makes you or the group uncomfortable or unable to engage with activities, have the integrity (and wisdom and courage) to speak up about it.  Sometimes it means making some very hard decisions.  If your child has special needs, then be honest with the group.  A couple regulars have been very up-front about their kids having autism, for example.  We have much to learn and I hope that we can continue to improve and meet their needs as best as we can, but we can’t start that journey until other parents are honest about it.  If you, as a guardian, decide that a group is not working for your child, please have the integrity to tell the group why.  You may not be able to return to the group, but they could learn from your perspective, at least.Though you can’t please everyone all the time, trust your instincts and do what works for the collective, young and old, most of the time.

 

    • Perseverance –
      When Northern Rivers first started, child attendance was sporadic.  Facebook RSVPs are not always accurate.  I would plan activities for kids, then those families wouldn’t come!  It’s totally frustrating, but I valued having the activities, so I kept planning them, though simplified.  Coloring pages may not be educationally valuable or creative, but it’s easy to have them and a pack of washable crayons on hand no matter what!  Now that members are parents, we always have something, even if it’s bringing a basket of dinosaurs for them to play with while we talk about a book.  Once you continually have children in attendance, don’t forget that kids will be kids.  Not every ritual or activity will engage all kids. I’ve planned what I thought were fun things only to have most decide they’d rather kick a soccer around instead.  I didn’t let that stop me from trying other things.  (And now my husband always brings a soccer during the green half of the year and is prepared to kick it with the kids so there is adult supervision.)  Keep trying, and stick to your vision.  Support other parents when they or their kids have a bad day.

 

Ring Around the Maypole. Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

 

    • Moderation – Returning to the idea of balance, remember the adults.  Perhaps a ritual totally directed to pre-schoolers is nice once in a blue-moon, but that will not appeal to most adults every High Day.  (I’ve heard of some larger groups having a pre-school appropriate ritual before or after the main ritual, but smaller groups will likely struggle with that due to the amount of prep required.)  Instead, approach your rituals the way good teachers approach lessons.  There should be variation.  Don’t rely on too much talking and listening.  Encourage group participation with chanting and “call and response” of important phrases (“Let the gates be open!”  “Nature Spirits, be with us!”).  Include movement, even simple gestures such as raising arms or  waving spirals over the Triple Hallows.  I’ve started to include movement in our Two Powers meditations.  Basically, I incorporate simple yoga moves but leave it really open-ended so people who prefer to sit can participate**.  We bring drums, sticks, and egg shakers to our circles so that everyone, young and old, can make music in addition to or instead of chanting.  In that way, we have small periods of quiet/listening, and then small periods of movement and noise.  We encourage everyone to make praise offerings at a certain time, and allow people to express themselves according to their own styles (as long as it’s respectful to everyone and the Earth). Before rituals, we try to mix up our workshops.  Sometimes we have social time, sometimes we have guided discussions about Druidic topics, sometimes we practice new chants, do seasonal arts and crafts…  This year, we did  an egg hunt for the Spring Equinox.   We play games and swim for Lughnasadh.  It does require planning, so delegate, delegate, delegate!  I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.  I’ve found that I get burnt out if I am planning the ritual and the activities before.  In the end, just strive so that everyone can engage with the ritual in some way.

 

    • Hospitality- When advertising your events, emphasize that you strive to be family-friendly.  Make sure that your rituals are in safe locations.  Some groups feel able to offer open rites at their homes, and that can be nice if the home is already childproof.  However, our group has decided that we don’t want strangers in our homes out of safety concerns, hence why we rent space at the Yoga Center.  We’ve found that many people are comfortable attending a public place that also has some privacy, and it gives us a neutral area in which to meet with prospective members who may one day come to our private gatherings at our homes.  In the meantime, the yoga center is mostly accessible (their stone circle is not easy to get to with a wheel chair), is heated in the winter, has a kitchen, and a bathroom.  In our pre-ritual briefings, I always make sure parents know that they can come and go from the ritual space as they or their children need.  In the winter months, we have our rituals inside because it’s just easier (and safer) for the little ones and their parents. It can get downright bitter in Northern NY.  We also make sure everyone knows our events are pro-breastfeeding as we are also pro-good health, pro-the Earth, pro-positive sexuality, and pro-positive body image.  It just makes sense and is part of our collective integrity.  If, for some reason, your group is not comfortable with open breastfeeding, at least make sure you have a quiet room for mothers that is not a bathroom.Also make sure that everyone looks out for the group to maintain the safe space.  I don’t know about you, but Northern Rivers Protogrove is a spiritual family.  I definitely don’t want to leave my kids with a stranger, and we don’t have a babysitting area during our rituals so everyone is included, but we all keep watch.  Other adults will step up if a kid approaches the fire and the parent isn’t close or looking.  We will intervene if a guest acts inappropriately around children. Many of us who are full members are such close friends, that we will hold babies for bathroom breaks, or lead an alternative activity during workshops that is near enough for comfort.  As I mentioned, we have a policy for children and the behaviors we do and do not accept.  Reciprocity is a two-way street.  If kids and parents can’t return our kindness (not to mention the hospitality of the property we rent), they have to stay home until they are mature enough to celebrate with us.Oh, and don’t forget that kids love to snack.  Having healthy munchies around in addition to potluck fare for later can go a long way towards improved behavior!  Hungry kids are cranky kids.  (Works for adults too!)

 

    • Fertility- No, I’m not going to tell you to start making babies to populate your groves.  I am going to encourage creativity (fertility of the mind) to engage with the children who will inevitably find their way into your groves.  Returning to vision, don’t be afraid to try new things.  Sometimes the best ideas come out of perceived failures (such as our ever “imperfect” Maypoles that are laugh-out-loud fun for everyone in attendance all the same).  Sometimes they just happen, like my spontaneous but fun “ring-around-the-Maypole” dance which is sure to become a tradition.  Hold true to your virtues, and your family friendly protogrove will grow!

 

Best of luck in making your own groups family-friendly.  If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments.

* The first grove I belonged to, Muin Mound Grove, always had children in attendance.  Seeing their successful inclusion showed me that it could be done long before I was ready to have kids myself.

** Yet another post for another time!

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Here are some highlights from Northern Rivers Protogrove’s recent Bealtaine celebration. It was magical!

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The Airmed banner I made for our ritual.  I’m very proud of how she turned out!  I really enjoy making appliqué flags.  Photo by Annette, 2016.

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Bealtaine is one of my favorite holidays.  One reason is simply because, unlike the Spring Equinox, Bealtaine truly brings the warmer weather to Northern NY.  Another reason for my fondness is that it’s basically my unofficial Pagan anniversary.  I don’t know exactly when I started the conversion process, but my first experiences with two Pagan groups that shaped my practice occurred on two separate Bealtaines.  I get really excited about the High Day.

 

A small coven invited me to celebrate with them this weekend, but that didn’t work out for health reasons.  My husband and I contemplated visiting our friends at Muin Mound Grove, but we ultimately decided to stay closer to home and rest.  A marathon Bealtaine would have been fun, and would have taken me back to my college days when such a feat would energize rather than exhaust me.  Nowadays, I’m a little more subdued, and my daughter keeps me so busy that I’m worn out before we even leave the house!  I know many Pagan families with older children who are able to take long trips in order to attend multiple gatherings or festivals – I look forward to doing that again down the road.

So, staying home, I focused on the home.  I cleaned it as best as I could, although I admit it’s never entirely clean.  There’s always something in progress in my kitchen… I’m very hearth-centered, so I suppose that makes sense! I cleaned my altars, which Bee found fascinating as it gave her a chance to look at everything.  We decorated our family altar with symbols of the season.  We even made a little May bush with fallen birch and apple branches.  We each picked colored ribbons to tie to the branches.  It looks very festive!

In addition to making dinner, I made some scones on Bealtaine eve.  We offered some to the Good Folk.  This morning, I made pancakes as my mother told me my grandmother always made pancakes on the first of May.  I love learning about and continuing family traditions, especially when they somehow line up with my High Days!  Of course, an offering of said pancakes was made.

We did a little ritual the night before in which we gave offerings to the Kindreds and the Good Folk.  We jumped over our altar candle for blessings and purification.  Bee thought this was great fun.  She wore the flower circlet I crocheted, a tutu, and her new ballet slippers – she’s quite the performer!  This morning, it’s raining, so I just collected the rain water for purification and healing work.  I made offerings to the only flowers blooming right now – lovely purple ground ivy – and picked a few sprigs to offer to the Good Folk on my doorstep.

Simple and sweet, but certainly inspired by tradition and full of fun and meaning for my family.  Now we will look forward to the big protogrove celebration next weekend!

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The beautiful silver charm and box created by our talented Tan.  Also pictured is the beeswax candle used in the blessing.  Photo by Cassandra, 2016.

About six months ago, I performed my first Mother Blessing for my friend and grovemate Cassandra.  During my protogrove’s Spring Equinox rite, I had the honor and pleasure of leading a baby blessing, or saining, for the bundle of joy who arrived around Imbolc.  I performed the blessing as one of our magical workings.  It was largely inspired and informed by the saining Rev. Skip Ellison performed for my daughter.

I blessed the baby in the name of the Kindreds – by fire, well, and tree.  As I recited the prayer, I circled the child, held by her mother, with a beeswax candle.  Then placed some of our blessed water upon the baby with a silver charm handmade by one of our grove artisans, Tan.  Next, I placed my oaken wand against the child.  Finally, as I recited a translated charm from Carmina Gadelica (page 192 from the CJ Moore edition), I sprinkled the baby three times with “wavelets” from our holy well. This resulted in much squirming from the wee one, and chuckling from the circle of onlookers.

Next I presented the child and mother with a quilt the protogrove put together.  Secretly, I reached out to our members near and far, asking for bits of fabric representing the baby, her family, and protection.  I received such a variety, and some of the personality of the group came through.  I practiced using my growing needlepoint skills, Bee scribbled on some with fabric marker, there were fluffy foxes, whimsical owls, fireflies, spirals, a Goddess symbol, and several runes.  It was the biggest thing I’ve ever quilted, and although it challenged me, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out!  We passed it around the circle, touching in and putting our love into the blanket.  Charged with care and protection, it represents the safety, love, and guidance of the community.  Muin Mound presented a similar quilt to my daughter at her saining, and I loved the idea of a communal quilt as a sacred object – a child’s first magical tool.  When feeling sad or scared, the child can wrap up in the blanket and feel the support pour in.  As my protogrove grows, we develop our own special traditions.

After taking an omen for the child, I moved on to thank the Kindreds.  I don’t think I planned the end of the working all that well, but my grovemate seemed moved and very happy with the working.  Perhaps I should have some sort of musical signal, or a final exclamation?  I also wish I had thought to set aside a special chair ahead of time, as I had to awkwardly find one right before initiating the magical working.  As always, I’m growing and learning as I go along!  Serving my community is such an honor.  There’s definitely a pressure in that I want to do it to the best of my abilities, but it’s extremely fulfilling.

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Tanya's crystal workshop at a local park.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Tanya’s crystal workshop at a local park.  We sat in the shade of a pavilion, put all the materials on picnic tables, meditated together, and enjoyed a feast. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Planning the location of a group ritual may be as simple as “inside or outside” for some, especially if they rely on utilizing each others’ homes, but not everyone is comfortable with that.  Furthermore, not everyone has enough space to accommodate more than a few visitors. Traditions like Ár nDraíocht Féin emphasize public rites, so that can further complicate things.  There are many Groves and Protogroves that meet at one or two individuals’ private property, but that seems rare.  If you’re thinking about starting an ADF study group or protogrove, but you’re worried about having an unknown number of strangers in your home, you may want to look at other options.  This may seem overwhelming at first, but you have a variety of paths to explore!

    • Public Town or City Parks

      This is an obvious place to start.  Scout out local parks with accessible bathrooms (very important), shade, and a variety of shelter in case of inclement weather.  Pavilions may even have power outlets if you’d like to have crockpots or kettles plugged in for a potluck following the ritual.  Call the appropriate city or town office to look into a reservation if you’re concerned about having tables or the possibility of shelter from rain.  My group, Northern Rivers Protogrove, rented a small pavilion at one of the largest parks in the area.  All I had to do was look up the park office online and contact them.  They required a $15 fee (which I paid by check with group funds) and asked for some basic information, including a reason for the reservation.  If you’re nervous that a park will reject you for wanting to have a ritual, you could simplify your explanation.  For example, you could say that you’re having a fall celebration while maintaining your integrity.  A ritual and a celebration are the same; it’s just word choice based on audience.   Do check with local and state laws.  I’ve heard from some in other states that parks don’t always allow religious activities.  Looking to save money?  Just meet at the park and find a free place, but be prepared with a plan B in case others beat you to all the sheltered areas.

 

    • State Parks
      Altar to Manannan at a State Park along the St. Lawrence River- Photo by Jacob, 2015

      Altar to Manannan at a State Park along the St. Lawrence River- Photo by Jacob, 2015


      Northern Rivers Protogrove recently had a ritual that we called “A Feast for Manannan mac Lir” at a local state park along the St. Lawrence River.  For a group named after the local rivers, it seemed important that we arrange this and “pay the rent” to Manannan!  The information about city or town parks also applies to State Parks, but there may be additional concerns about what you bring in and take out.  For example, a park on a protected lake won’t be an appropriate place to leave certain offerings out of environmental concerns.  Other state parks are more developed.  The location we chose had newly renovated bathrooms, a clean beach with lifeguards on duty, marina, campgrounds, pavilions, and a huge playground.  It was also more expensive to rent a pavilion here ($60), and every car had to pay a $7 parking fee, but the park is immaculate and the pavilion we rented included clear signs as well as garbage and recycling receptacles.  Since the group made a day of the event, it was worth it in my opinion.  We’re about three-four years old now, so we can afford this from time to time, but smaller groups just starting out may want to to save a bigger park for another time if there are high fees.  Also consider the accessibility of the site.  Since ADF rituals are supposed to be open, having events in a more rustic park that might not be handicapped accessible could be a bad option.  You just never know who will show up!  Look for parks with wide paths, ramps, and accessible bathrooms.

 

    • UU Churches
      Parks are great places, and of course many Druids and Polytheists want to gather outside as much as possible, but if you live in a climate with four seasons, shelter and plumbing become very attractive amenities!  This is especially so with open rituals since some people may not want to (or be physically able) to attend rituals in inclement weather.  Think the handicapped, small children, the elderly, and pregnant women.  Many Pagan groups utilize Unitarian Universalist churches.  In the past, when I lived in Utica, I belonged to an eclectic group that often rented space at the UU church for rituals, workshops, and even a couple Pagan Pride-type events.  However, this was made possible because a few of the group’s leaders were already active members of the UU church, so they were trusted with the keys.  When my protogrove was seeking ritual space, we decided to look at other options because the UU church nearest us already has a CUUPs group, and none of our members went to the UU.  Without the connections, and with time and space already needed by the CUUPs group, we decided not to pursue that option.   Having said that, if you are already active in a UU church, you should look into using that space.  You’ll have access to bathrooms and, usually, kitchen space.  Depending on the specific church’s policies, and your involvement, there may be a fee, and you may need to coordinate with another person who has a key.  Scheduling in advance will be important here due to other programing.

 

    • Metaphysical ShopsIf you’re lucky enough to live near an established magical shop with enough space, you may be able to have some rituals there!  Back in Utica, there was a shop that hosted bimonthly gatherings, and they were opened to having other groups utilize the space.  This may be a good option for new groups that don’t have an established “home base.”  It could also be a winter solution for groups that usually meet in parks.  Here in Northern NY, a few metaphysical shops have informed me that they would be happy to have us should we ever need space.  They either have a set rental fee, or merely ask for a donation.  One shop even said those who rent a space will get a special discount the day of the event.  You’ll need to consider scheduling in advance because other groups, readers, or presenters may be using the space.  One big plus is free publicity! Many people will come to your group simply because the shopkeeper knows who you are and that you’re already meeting there!

 

  • Yoga and Holistic Centers

    The stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center, frosted with December snow.  Photo by Weretoad,  2012.

    The stone circle at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center, frosted with December snow. Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

     

    Northern Rivers Protogrove’s base is at the beautiful Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center.  Not all Yoga centers will be an appropriate choice for NeoPagan groups to approach for ritual space, but don’t rule it out.  Ours is not just a studio space in a building – it’s a whole property that includes a yoga studio, kitchen, bathrooms, barn, labyrinth, nature trail, gardens, and a fire pit surrounded by a stone circle.  That last point, as well as the location’s monthly drum circles, encouraged me to ask.  This path is for those who are patient.  I didn’t have an established relationship with the center at the time, and their board wanted to know all about us.  I supplied them with links to ADF, explanations on modern Druidism, and a step-by-step guide to our rituals so that they would see that we’re working with positive energy and not trying to do any harm.  I think my openness and insistence that we are an Earth-centered path really earned us some trust.  We’ve never used the space without their live-in VP in attendance, but he’s very open-minded and loves to take part in our workings.  Our relationship with the yoga center continues to grow and improve, and in the spirit of hospitality, we try to give back when we can.  We always pay a rental fee, often giving more than required when we have highly-attended rites.   We’ve helped with yard work, painting, and occasionally attend their other functions, including fundraising to update the facilities.  We also promote each others’ activities.  Just as with the other examples, you’ll have to do a lot of cleanup when you leave in order to maintain the trust you’re building.  Northern Rivers is lucky in that we have several dedicated members who stay until the floors are cleaned, the tables and chairs put away, and the dishes are done.  We also have to schedule a year’s worth of rituals in advance because they have many other programs beyond their yoga classes.  If you’re lucky enough to live near such a facility, and have the energy and/or funds to give back, I encourage you to explore this option!

The moral of the story?

It would be nice if each Pagan group could have an established temple that meets all their needs, but new groups should spend their energy establishing themselves and having group rituals where they can.  Whether you’re starting a group, or you’re looking for a new ritual space to meet your growing needs, I encourage you to look around your community and think about what’s available to you.  Don’t be afraid to ask, and never forget the virtue of hospitality when exploring these possibilities.  In fact, emphasize that virtue, letting others know that you will clean up at least, or help in other ways if possible!  Renting spaces for ritual will often bring up the question of money and how groups obtain it, but that’s a post for another time.  For now, I hope those thinking about starting a study group or protogrove will find this encouraging.  If any of my readers have found other solutions for open group rituals, please comment so those seeking options can get more ideas!

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