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A year ago I wrote about feeling ashamed at Pagan Pride.

The circle was to blame, I stated.

On Saturday, to my surprise, I found myself standing in a circle at another Pagan Pride, but this time I was helping to facilitate ritual. I was “West,” to be specific.

I stood in a circle, one that, when uncast, would close out the Salem Pagan Pride Day festivities, and — thankfully — I did not feel ashamed. (In fact, I can scarcely remember feeling so affected by the experience last year.) Instead I felt like I was participating in a community gathering that meant a great deal to this group of people.

I felt humbled, I think.

cieciel10_ Crochet Circle

Standing across the circle from me was a young girl, perhaps in her mid-teens, and I swear to you she was so present in that circle. When everyone turned from direction to direction, thanking the elements (which is a part of OBOD ritual but very much not a part of ADF ritual), this young girl put her whole body into giving thanks. She was participating in the theater of the event in a way that reminded me of the most pious Christians in church, genuflecting before moving through the pew and bowing their heads as the cross made its way to the altar.

This girl was doing her religion hard.

And I found that heartwarming.

It wasn’t my experience, though. I stood amidst a few OBOD members, all students of the Bardic grade, and a smattering of eclectic Pagans and I had no clear idea of what all this meant to me in a religious or spiritual sense. But looking at that girl reminded me of myself at some other point in my life. It reminded me that there was a time when I participated fully in my religion; eyes closed, hands clenched or opened wide to the sky, heart full of wonder, or mystery, or gratitude.

That was me once.

And it could be me again.

This girl gave me hope, which was something I hadn’t expected to feel when I went to the Salem Pagan Pride day event. I went with as few expectations as I could, and I was resolute not to pick aspect the event as I had last year.

Showing how something is flawed is not necessarily a constructive act, nor is it always the kindest thing to do. I’m working on being more kind.

Last year I was genuinely affected by the circle but this year it seemed benign. I wonder how much my experience in Denver was characterized by my belonging to ADF and my adoption of ADF’s ritual practice.

The Druid Fellowship is not anti-Wiccan in any way, but it does a great deal to make clear how the two trads are different. There’s a pamphlet passed out at most ADF festival booths which explains the distinctions (how ADF does not cast circle, how it sees the gods as distinct beings rather then emanations of the God or Goddess, etc.). The organization isn’t hateful toward Wicca in any way, but there was always the sense that it was important to identity how ADF Druidry, unlike OBOD, works hard to remain distinct from that tradition.

OBOD’s approach to Druidry is much more similar to Wicca, and as I consider starting up with my Bardic studies again — perhaps even working my way through the Ovate and Druid grades — I have to reconcile that this “simple shape” which “introduces our early minds to geometry, to symmetry, to physical and social design,” and that was held to blame for my feelings of shame last year might end up becoming a bigger part of life.

/enter_humility

natura_pagana - Humility

I have a lot to learn. I feel like a beginner again, like I haven’t spent the past two and a half years being some kind of Druid. As I make introductions into the Pagan community here in the Willamette Valley, I have to soften my edges a bit. The ways in which I’ve been hard and jagged no longer serve me, and I don’t think they’re all that helpful in the process of community building (however gingerly I approach that process).

So I’m considering the circle again. I’m asking it to forgive me for being so harsh before. I may have used it to make a point about othering in a way that was unfair to the event organizers. When I said the casting of circle turned us Pagans into The Church I was taking too big a leap. Clearly others thought so, too.

This is my 200th post on Bishop in the Grove, and yet it could just as easily be my first. I am still a beginner, and about that I am not in any way ashamed.

 

Photos by cieciel10 & Diego da Silva
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  • Lupa

    This was really heartwarming to read. I’m so glad it was a good experience for you, and that it brought forth these thoughts. Good to have met you, too, along the way.

  • Brighde Indigo

    So well said, Teo! I have never been able to relinquish my Craft circle imprint and always feel a bit alienated in the ADF ritual format. There are, however, so many things about the ADF system that I cherish and value—especially the focus on the Virtues, and the Fire/Well/Tree construct—that I have made my peace with integrating the two practices as my personal religion: the horizontal on Earth Mother(Craft), and the vertical, rooted in Earth Mother and reaching to the heavens (ADF). Paganism certainly lends itself to personalization and yet in our diversity we share a common language if not interpretation.

    • David Crawford

      Brighde, I think you hit on the post important part. ADF Druidry does make a defined difference between our Public Rites and our private practice. I know a lot of ADF Druids who in their personal practice cast circles. Even in my magical practice I do as well.

  • I’ve always really enjoyed the animal imagery we use when we call the elements and say thanks & goodbye to them when we’re done. One of the things I love about OBOD is that it IS so welcoming and open to everyone. None of this nonsense of predicting dire consequences for telling secrets or Doing It Wrong or leaving the path at some point, a lot less of the cult-of-personality of HPs or Grand High Muckety Mucks, lots of “Go read stuff! Anything you want! Really! Go read! And visit other folks too!” The Bardic course is a lot more Jungian psychology-oriented and gender-essentialist than I would ideally have liked (I don’t think I’m giving too much away there…), but there’s a whole lot of good stuff in there too. Enjoy the journey!!

  • Denise Huttig King

    Beautiful Teo! I hope your new home brings you joy and peace and the ability to continue learning!

  • Beautiful, heartfelt, and — frankly — very much the Teo I know and love.

    “I feel like a beginner again, like I haven’t spent the past two and a half years being some kind of Druid.”

    You’ve spent the last 2-1/2 years being a 2-1/2-year Druid: that’s precisely the kind of Druid you’ve been; it’s the only kind of Druid you could possibly have been.

    I’ve been on this path for eight years (holy cow!), and I am only beginning to understand a little of what it’s about. It’s about going from a 2-1/2-year Druid to a 3-year Druid, and from there to a 4-year Druid, and from an 8-year Druid to a 9-year Druid. It’s about changing: I don’t like the freighted term “transforming,” but that too. It’s about seeing the world with different eyes. Better eyes, I hope, and believe, but certainly different.

  • Wytchfawn

    Why you never leave anything behind you connect with… that is not being true to your SELF. Glad you are figuring this out.

  • David Crawford

    Teo very wonderful post! I know that when I first came to ADF I struggled for a while with the simple beautiful shape of the circle and the sphere. I even found a weird ‘numbing’ feeling when I was in a situation where one was cast for a long time. But then I found a way which I didn’t have to leave my spheres behind, at least in my personal practice.

    I think in the end we are all beginners, always throughout this life, and when we think we are not longer beginners but masters, the Kindred remind us we are merely children learning in this life.

  • Chef Ette

    “This is my 200th post on Bishop in the Grove, and yet
    it could just as easily be my first. I am still a beginner, and about
    that I am not in any way ashamed.”
    We are all beginners when it comes to life in general and in our religious practices…we are learning each and every day. And that is nothing to be ashamed of. Blessings on your new exploration. May you always find happiness in what you do.

  • Crystal Blanton

    This post is one of the reasons I just adore you. It is ok to have a differing experience, it is ok to think differently… and it is even better to show to others when we have had an experience that expands our understanding. Not that you, or anyone else’s experience was wrong, but that our ability to relate to others is something that is a process. I so honor when we reach that point in the many areas of our lives, and it is so good to read others process. It helps me to examine myself when I read what you write.

    Thank you.

    And I am glad that your new local community gave you some sense of hope. That is always so very important.

    Blessings my friend.

  • Daniel

    I had to reconcile myself with the idea of the Circle years ago when I went beyond the Wiccan (I was a “Celtic” Wiccan for a number of years) mode of ritual praxis. The Circle, though, has always felt right to me, even beyond the Wiccan model…the archetypal symbol of the Circle stayed with me because it has always felt right, especially in the Ancestral sense (being of Tribal heritage via knowing about the Medicine Wheel, for instance).
    It was when, in my Celtic practice, I read about the Settling of the Manor of Tara, with the sacred orientation of the four directions, I felt like I had “come home.” In my prayers, in my Circle-making, and honoring the greater cycles of the many Circles around me, meditating on the four directions (Blath, Seis, Fios, Cath, Fliath) that Fintan the Wise discusses, there was a “now you got it” feeling in that extended itself into my ceremonial praxis.
    The more I studied how, in folkloric magic, that walking sunwise around a sacred well three times in prayer became a beneficent magical workings for healing, the better I felt (is that, perhaps, because I felt a sense of carrying on some kind of participation in the cultural egregore of Celtic consciousness?).
    Whether Wiccan, OBOD, the Tara model, or the Mide Medicine Wheel, the concept of the Circle with the ideas of sacred orientation, has a myriad of deepening languages that enriches spiritual belonging according to the imprint model of practice.

  • Martina

    Interesting perspectives. As someone who is just beginning to seriously devote herself for exploring druidry (I’ve been reading here and there for a few years), one of the things I sometimes waffle on is whether to do the ADF or OBOD coursework as a starting point, so I I am particularly interested in the differences. Sometimes I think I worry too much about it and have to remind myself to instead focus on being open and listening for where I’m drawn. One of the great things about being a beginner (even a re-beginner :-)) is the excitement of having a kind of clean spiritual slate where there is so much to learn and everything is fresh.

    Great blog and nice to see you are in Portland. It’s a lovely area and I do hope you enjoy it here.