OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering 2015 – A Few Thoughts of My Own

As I sit here this morning, listening to some Santana and drinking a cup of coffee, I am still trying to sort the wild rush of emotions that I am going through. I attended the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering over the weekend, held in Louisiana. Having never attended an OBOD gathering of any sort — I had no idea what I was going to be encountering and experiencing. Having been a solo-practitioner for so long, I was not even sure what to expect for ritual. So, in essence, I was going in with no reasonable degree of expectations. What I encountered has made an impression on me that will change a lot of the aspects of my solo-practitioner life.

And as I sit here and try to sort out what I want to say in this post, and the order I will try and present it – there was a prevailing theme throughout:  new beginnings. This was the first Gulf Coast Gathering that OBOD has had. Highland Oaks Nemeton did a wonderful job of pulling this together. There were schedule hiccups throughout, but to be honest, I never really noticed these. The transitions in dealing with the hiccups were marvelous, smooth, and well done, in my opinion.

Ed Van Hook - my father

Ed Van Hook – my father

There were other aspects of the new beginnings theme for me. I was doing some recording of talks at the event – a very different way of working with things for a podcaster who has spent a majority of his podcasting life just talking into a microphone. And then on Saturday, I found yet another aspect of that change for myself. My sister called me out of the blue to inform me that our father had passed away. Some of you may recall that my mother had passed away six months earlier. Surprisingly, I was very calm about the news – and when I realized there was nothing I was going to be able to do (my father had already setup his final plans a few months earlier), I opted to remain at the gathering. From that moment on, I felt a sense of calm and peace and continue to do so now. As I had mentioned to a few folks at the Gathering, I was in the right place with the right people to receive the news. Family does not necessarily have to be blood related.

Folks, I have been in my Bardic Grade studies for the last seven years. For those seven years, I believed that I could struggle through the material on my own. I rarely asked for help from my tutor/mentor, and stepped back and forth constantly as life had set into time requirements. At this gathering, I opted to have a Bardic Grade initiation – and I am glad that I did so. It has changed my perspective so much. I had the chance to talk with other Bardic Grade folks, as well as my fellow initiates, about their experiences. And I found out that I was not alone in those moments. Furthermore, one of the guests was Susan Jones, the Tutor Coordinator for OBOD. She held a session with all the Bardic Grade members to discuss pitfalls, and various other aspects concerning the course. Listening to other people discuss their experiences helped me to realize that our journeys may be unique to one another, but there are some aspects that are similar. For anyone currently in their Bardic Grade studies, I cannot stress how much help is actually available to you. You just have to reach out and grab it! There is your mentor/tutor, the discussion board, your own grove or study group (if one is near enough to you), as well as other folks within OBOD who are taking their Bardic grade or have already been through it.

I have attended a few conferences for work, all of which move at a frenetic pace. Workshops feel like you are drinking from a firehose – tons of information being thrown at you, and very little time to assimilate any of it. Gulf Coast Gathering was nothing like that. In some respects, the workshops had a similar feel to those that I have attended at work conferences. But the information was not presented in a manner where it felt like material was rushed past you, and you grabbed at it as you could. Presenters moved at a measured pace, and covered the material that they needed to. And each one was available afterwards to discuss their material with you. Perhaps, I was more “ready” to receive the information and just didn’t “feel” like I was rushed. Or perhaps, there was a magickal moment of the time and space located there that allowed for a more relaxing atmosphere. Regardless of what it was, trying to define that aspect is not really a necessary thing.

The other guest to the gathering was Dr. Brendan Myers. His two talks were not only informative, but felt more like a discussion rather than a lecture. I got the chance to sit and talk with him at lunch on the last day – mostly about “shop” stuff. He teaches at a college, I work at a college (and used to teach as well). It was truly awesome to connect with him on that level. It was also nice to connect with him face-to-face on the return of a copy of “Dangerous Religions” that I had come across and mailed back to him because of a statement and signature within it. It was rather nice to connect with the person that I had been conversing within Email a fair few months back.

AwenThere are so many more things that really interconnect and make my time at the Gathering so magickal. But the real take-away for me is the connection with the people. The Alban Eilir ritual was an incredible feeling of “tribe” — I was The Herald in the ritual and everyone had a role as well. We were all being eaten alive by the hordes of mosquitos that were there, but all of that was outside of what we were doing together — honoring that moment in time. It was a moment we shared together, just as the Bardic Grade initiation that I was a part of was a shared moment between all of us as initiates.

Leaving the gathering on Saturday night, I have truly found where I should be — within OBOD. I have found people I can readily connect with (and already have). There was a moment of sadness that occurred, the passing of my father. But rather than being treated as something to be avoided or not discussed, several people came up to me and talked with me about my feelings. The true measure of family, in my opinion. I truly understand where I belong now, and can see the Path far easier than before. For me, it was a “new beginning” with so many layers to that statement. Some of those layers are far newer than others…

A big thanks to Highland Oaks Nemeton for putting on such a marvelous gathering.  A big thank you to Susan Jones, your talks have really helped me understand how I should approach my studies from this point – and your talk on Making the OBOD Bardic Grade Your Own” round-table discussion was the absolute highlight of my entire weekend. Brendan Myers, you have a gift, sir. You can take any topic, present it in a way that is fun and interesting, and have the listener walking away without realizing that they had just learned something until far later down the line. I only wish I could teach like you do.  🙂  And to all my fellow OBOD Gulf Coast attendees:  if I could give you a big group hug through the screen, I certainly would. My family just got a LOT larger.  🙂

May there be peace in your life, and peace throughout the world….

Tommy /|\



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