A Pilgrimage Complete, Solstice and the Druid Gathering.

It has been a goal for me for quite some time to travel to all of the ADF Groves in the Western Canadian region in which I live. I’ve wanted to do this in order to feel a sense of community and kinship with some fellow Druids. At times it feels as if I’m the only Druid in the Okanagan. I wanted to see how other Druids who follow a similar tradition practice and celebrate, and of course, engage in some stimulating conversation.

My girlfriend and I had previously visited Oakstone Protogrove in Vancouver BC for Ostara. My Pilgrimage was completed this Summer Solstice when we traveled to Alberta and met with the great folks from the Beaver Hills Protogrove, and the Protogrove of the Ancient Ways. These two Groves, Awen Grove and a few other folks hosted this years The Spirit of the West – Druid Gathering.

It was quite the adventure there and back, driving all the way from Kelowna BC to Pigeon Lake AB. Many hours of music, podcasts, good conversation, and far too frequent fast food. It took us two days to get there, and we camped along the way in a road side camp site. Between the noise and the lumpy ground, it didn’t offer much in the way of rest.

We arrived Friday, on time, and even a bit early. We set up our tent and had a bit of time to look around and relax before most folks started showing up. The campground was nice, for Alberta. Nothing in Alberta east of the Rockies can compare with Beautiful British Columbia. Yes, I am biased, but you know it’s true. During supper in the evening Dr. Brendan Myers, the guest speaker for the event, decided we looked like interesting people to sit with. We were both quite flattered, and quickly engaged him in conversation. The evening ended with most of us gathered around the fire sharing in kinship.

Saturday our first workshop was with Dr. Myers about Ethics. This workshop was based on his book called The Other Side of Virtue. He draws on classic texts from pagan societies of the past in order to see how they found meaning and purpose in life, and what qualities a person should embody in order to live the good and heroic life. He brings these pagan virtues to our attention and encourages a fresh outlook for modern folks wishing to live a more meaningful life that is more in tune with the values of our pagan ancestors. Most of the workshop was repeat information, as I had heard him speak on this topic in numerous podcasts, and I had had time to peruse his book before leaving BC. We did manage to get him sidetracked a few times, which resulted in some amusing tidbits.

I don’t remember where this fits into the weekend, but since it falls under amusing tidbits, Ill put it here. I asked Brendan about his thoughts on creating a form of Canadian Druidry and its future; instead of falling into the rut of being too focused on the European landscape, embracing our Land and our Time. There was much discussion, and many other Druids also seemed to feel the same need to grow in this direction. I remember a discussion arising about the Ogham trees that don’t grow in Canada. We voiced ideas of reworking the Ogham for ones on local in which they live. There was a fair bit of discussion on the Maple tree. Brendan suggested that the Sugar Maple be the Canadian Druids’ World Tree. As much as this seemed to be a popular idea, there was talk about the need to understand the symbolism of the Maple and the World Tree, and the need to work with the tree to see if it is even suitable. The Sugar Maple is on our Flag, true, but it does not grow across Canada. Although I do think there is some form of maple that grows in most parts of our country. I want to do more thinking and more work in this direction. I believe we need to localize our Duidry. I also believe we should not rush into anything, just for its own sake. You can read Mr. Myers’ contribution to this discussion here.

After lunch, Awen Grove leader, Athelia Nihtscada offered a workshop on the links that bring Druidry from the past and connects it to the Druids of today. Many points were raised both in the presentation and through the discussion of the participants as to how Druidry today is a valid path, and how it does have roots liking it back to the Druidry of the ancient Celts. I wont go into too much details on these here, for one because this post is going to be long enough, and two, because I plan on writing a post that incorporates these ideas into it in a later post.

Next we had everyone’s favourite workshop, Mead Making with Aracos. A Master Mazer, Aracos went through a lot of the basic info for beginners who had an interest of the history and making of mead. I could tell that some were bored and could not wait for the tasting portion of the workshop. The tasting was great! A few others had brought mead they had made themselves, and we made short work of the sacred brew. Delicious! I am inspired to make some of my own. Aracos and his wife were kind enough to offer handouts sent via email. I shall make good use of them. Thank you!

The ritual was lead by three Druidesses from the Protogrove of the Ancient Ways. I always thought that Druid liturgy was best when lead by a group of three. These awesome ladies did not disappoint. I was most impressed with their poise and oratory. The liturgy seemed like fairly standard ADF style. I had never been to an ADF rite quite like this. I defiantly came away with a few things I would like to try next time I host a public ritual. I did also find that some of the things we have been doing with the Druids’ Hearth rituals speak to me much more than the standard ADF formula. Another change that I enjoyed was the drumming and the dancing. Because I am not as much a Bard as I would like to be, and am not confidant in my dancing abilities, I know my Druids’ Hearth rituals need more merriment. Mostly it was the ladies dancing, and then I saw only one guy dancing with his lady. I decided I wouldn’t let him be the only guy with enough courage to be seen dancing. So I joined in. I enjoyed myself. Who wouldn’t? I offered some Scotch Whiskey to the Kindreds, and a fine cigar to Manannan Mac Lyr.

Supper time. The food was quite good. The chef was a champion among women. She worked her @$$ off all weekend, seemingly from sunup to sundown. Well done, thank you. Oh what luck, Brendan sat with us again, and he sat with us at every meal. We felt a bit guilty for hogging the guest speaker, but many joined us for some good conversation. He’s got to sit somewhere, may as well be with us. I never ran out of questions, and Brendan seemed to take quite the shine to Juniper. Big surprise. She seems to have a way of seducing Druids. Must be that wicked Hedgewitch magic. Rev. Kirk Thomas was enchanted too when we visited Oakstone one time; although Rev. Kirk was much more the gentleman. Brendan never seemed tired of talking. I don’t think he ever go the chance to finish one of his meals. Oops, sorry Brendan.

After supper most of us were around the fire again for some bardic fun. We went around the circle with almost everyone sharing songs, stories, or poems, sometimes even some adult jokes after the kids had gone off to bed. Brendan, Juni and I dipped into the left over Scotch, sharing a cup while sitting by the fire. It seemed as if the three of us had become friends. I would have been willing to share some Scotch with more folks, but I was unsure if everyone would look so kindly on our drinking. There should be nothing wrong with socially responsible drinking at a Pagan event. We had much mead after all. So to anyone who’s reading this, and is feeling left out, sorry.

Sunday morning came far too soon. Over already? Dam. Our last workshop was on Druidic Living Every Day with Judy. The attendance for this workshop was lacking. Most folks were off in various groups visiting. I can’t blame them really. I stayed at the workshop out of respect and in hopes to learn something I’m sure I did, but I’ve forgotten it now. I know there were some good insights shared about what people do in their personal practice to make the everyday more sacred. It will come back to me when the time is right.

We packed up, said our good byes, and swapped contacts with a few new made friends. Brendan invited Juni and I to meet him and Chris (the Senior Druid for Beaver Hills Protogrove) at a pub in Calgary called the Druid. We graciously accepted. Juni and I wandered Calgary for a few hours until the arranged time. One of Brendan’s friends who had not been at the gathering met us there. The five of us stayed eating and drinking for far too long. In retrospect we should have declined the invitation. We had a long drive ahead of us and we were both very tired from the busy weekend, and the not so good sleep we got sleeping in the tent. I had forgotten that it doesn’t get dark in Alberta the same way it does in BC. We got a very late start on our way home. We drove until we could barely keep our eyes open, than found the nearest hotel. The next morning we felt much better, having had our first full shower and our first nights sleep in real bed in what seemed like ages.

Driving through the Rockies was so beautiful. I regretted that we didn’t have more time to stop, hike, and camp and just enjoy the wild wonder of the place. I want to take a camping trip specifically to the Rockies in the near future.

Making the Pilgrimage was well worth the time, money and energy. I’m happy to have had the best traveling partner one could hope for on these adventures. I enjoyed almost every minute, but being back home in BC felt good too. I love BC. I love my home. I love Juni too.

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~ by Solaren on July 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “A Pilgrimage Complete, Solstice and the Druid Gathering.”

  1. Wonderful, thank you for sharing this Solaren.

    Looks like you had a wonderful time in the woods with many great and intelligent ADF Druids. And a chance to discuss Pagan Ethics with one of the pagan communities rising scholars…what fun!

    I’m one who believes in the power of the pilgrimage, wish I could do more of them. I’m curious if you find that these sort of pilgrimages, in and of themselves regardless of destination, can be a sort of sacred journey, or if they’re important in some other way? I get the sense from your post that you do..I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Also I found this pic on the website for the gathering…does the location have any significance that you know of? Just curious.

  2. Yes, I do believe the act of the pilgrimage is more important than the destination. The effort and sacrifice of the journey somehow brings out the blessing and appreciation of the destination. At least in my mind.
    No, the photo does not a special significance. I do recall the location vaugely. It looks like a nice spot. I probably walked past it once or twice. 🙂

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