2007 Lughnasadh Gathering a Success!

by Ceridwen Seren-Ddaear


Druids and Witches and Pagans, oh my!

They came from as far north as Oregon and as far south as Los Angeles - numbering in the mid-20's - to gather in the majestic beauty of a secluded Redwood Grove in the Avenue of the Giants in Weott, California.

It was a warm, sunny Friday afternoon and spirits were high as people began to arrive and hunt for the best camping spots in which to settle for the weekend. Many had never been to this particular area before, and there were many "oooohs" and "aaahhhs" as they would look up and see the amazing verdant canopies above their heads. In fact, there are so many redwoods in this park that - everywhere you stand - you are beneath a canopy of green...

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...and the trunks of the trees are so large that it takes many people holding hands to surround them. These magnificent beings seemed to welcome our quiet and reverent presence - as if they could sense that - although we came in all shades of Druid, Pagan and Witch - we were all joined by a common bond...the honouring of Nature...

There were at least three kinds of Druids present: OMS/RDG, ADF and OBOD. There were also Witches and other types of Pagans from our local networking group - Sequoia Pagan Alliance - and some of their friends and families. It was quite an eclectic mixture for sure!

There was a full itinerary planned for the weekend, and much preparation to do, so we wasted no time getting started. The ritual area was marked off, as was an area for the next day's labyrinth workshop, and firewood was brought to the big barrels where one could have a safe fire - an important consideration for this time of year. The food tables were also cleaned off and loaded with the beginnings of the night's shared feast. Much gaiety and joy abounded, as old friends reconnected and new friends were finally able to put a face to their online connections.

Friday night's planned activity was a Bardic Circle after the meal, and we asked our resident "pyro afficionado" and favourite "firebrand", Wade, to stoke up the source of heat and light for the evening, which he started just before dusk and continued to feed well into the night...

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...and we had some live music by our dear friend and the "Official Bard of OMS", Chris from Oregon - who played his mandolin and bouzouki while a couple of our "crone" friends bellydanced for our entertainment...

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After the "show", everyone sauntered off to their tents to rest up for the next day's many activities...

Saturday morning, after breakfast, we held a meeting to schedule the workshops and assign some of the roles for the "Formal Ritual" to be held later that night (bear in mind that many of the folks were not even up yet, so this meeting mostly consisted of the "early birds")...

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It was decided that the first workshop of the day would be "How to Build a Labyrinth" by Gillian Brown ( http://www.mithrilstar.org/MysticalRecommendations.htm ). She lives in Redway, CA, but travels back to her native Britain each year, where she leads her Mystical Tours. She was kind enough to take time out of her very busy schedule to share her wisdom and experience with this fascinating subject.

While a large portion of the group decided it was too early to leave their coffee pots and breakfasts, the more ambitious of us gathered in the clearing. After some historical background and instruction, Gillian had us gather all the downed redwood sticks of a certain size that we could find and then proceeded to show us how to lay out the 7-layer pattern - starting with a cross in the very center. From there each circuit took shape, and when it was finished, we slowly and meditatively "walked" the labyrinthine path - which was incredibly moving and fulfilling! We left the labyrinth together for the rest of the weekend - in fact, we decided to leave it there for the park rangers to find and ponder over...

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After a bit of lunch, a number of us gathered for an "Aromatherapy" workshop presented by Aigeann Lus - the Archdruid of the Triple Horses Grove (co-sponsors of the Gathering). She brought many fine samples of various oils and scents for us to play with and learn about their various uses, and some were sold, with the money being donated to the OMS/RDG to help cover expenses. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot...

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Next those of us studious types who were taking in all the workshops decided we needed some socializing time, so we hung out with each other for a while...many new bonds were formed, and many old ones were strengthened and renewed...and some of us just rested!

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Before we knew it, it was time to set up for the Formal Ritual, which would be lead by the main officers from both OMS/RDG and ADF (Aigeann and Richard are also RDG's Medford Branch). This is the one time we actually use scripts, as we had virtually no time before hand to memorize all the lines, once we blended the different ideas into a cohesive whole.

Many people made new robes for this occasion, and brought items to place on the altar. We figured out where we'd have to start from for the procession down to the clearing and ritual space, and we had everyone practice the OMS/RDG hymn, " Sequoia Sempervirons ", which would be sung during the procession.

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In the meantime, Wade stoked up another fine blaze for the ritual, and those of us with "roles" went over them with each other, while others meditated and grounded themselves...

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Then, finally, the ritual was performed...the procession was walked, the anthem was sung, the deities were invoked, the waters of life were shared, the holiday was honoured...

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...ending with our traditional Reiki healing session for those who felt the need for it...

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El Arseneau - our Archdruid - looking relaxed and happy after the ritual...

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Saturday night was the main feast - and interestingly, there are no pictures of this, as everyone was busy warming up food and stuffing our faces! But then, we stoked up the fire once again, and hung out while the musicians were setting up for the final event of the evening...

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...THE CONCERT!! Our friends - Anwyn & George Leverett from Oregon - who are also the "Official Bards of the RDG" - put on an amazing and magickal show for us, lit only by fire and candlelight, which consisted of Medieval and Celtic music on harp, hurdy gurdy, guitar, bodhran and wind instruments; and there was the telling of ribald stories and amusing anecdotes. We were even taught the chorus and invited to sing along with some of the songs!

There were moments when more than a few of us saw some faeries and devas in amongst the trees and lurking around the shadows at the edge of the fire-lit circle...in fact, some of the pictures have "orbs" visible on them if you look closely! It was certainly an awesome and memorable experience for all...

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After the concert, the crowd gradually melted away to their sleeping places - remembered strains of music playing in our heads as we settled down for the night...to dream...

Early the next morning - after a shared breakfast and the beginnings of packing up our stuff (we would need to leave by mid-day), some of us followed George down to a secluded grove for his Harp Workshop. George was generous with his time, and answered all our questions - and taught us all the basics of playing the harp.

He brought many harps that he made himself, so we each had one to practice on - and he also brought a bowed psaltry he also made. After some instruction, he passed around some sheet music and had us all pick out a song to practice. Soon we were making beautiful music...

He even ended up selling a harp to Sarah, who has been wanting one of his harps for years! He gave her a special discount, and she was blissfully floating around after that - having had her dream come true! This was the last activity of the weekend, and we just didn't want it to end...

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Some took one more walk down the hill to the Eel River (and a couple brave souls went skinny-dipping)...and on the way they found these critter tracks...

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The beautiful Eel River...

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Alas, all too soon, it was time to go. May tearful farewells were said, and there was much hugging and promising to stay in touch. We all agreed that it was really nice to have experienced such a fine example of what a Pagan Community can be like - there was complete harmony and enjoyment - with none of the "drama" that sometimes accompanies this type of event.

This was only our 2nd Gathering, and already we can see much improvement - with limitless potential for more as years go by! The Archdruid and I discussed the event on the way home, and got lots of great feedback from others over the ensuing weeks (perhaps I'll post them in the next Druid's Egg once I get them all in writing). We decided that - weatherwise - it seemed to work out much better to have the Gathering at Lughnasadh instead of Mabon, so we'll probably do the 2008 Gathering in early August as well...

Will YOU be there next year? Help us turn this into the best festival ever. After seeing all the above pictures, how can you resist? :)

Special thanks to those who sent me your pictures!!!