In just a few days, I will be ensconced among Druids for the first time in over two years. I’m excited, nervous, and calm about the entire concept – all at the same time. I haven’t seen Pagans since Austin WitchFest back in 2020, right before the specter of COVID had risen. Life was far different back then. Far different indeed. Since then, Life has calmed down a bit more. Less chaos means better focus, at least for me. The coming of Gulf Coast Gathering also means a return to some responsibilities that I promised myself to hold.
Gulf Coast Gathering is where I initiated into the Bardic and Ovate grades. Its also where I intent to initiate into the Druid grade (if possible). The folks that run this event have become extended family for me, as have several of the attendees. There are always opportunities to participate in the rituals and initiations. My typical attitude has always been to volunteer for this before camp is even brought of the cars and vehicles to be setup. I’ve always tried to be faster than Katniss Everdeen volunteering as tribute for her sister. To me, its not just a responsibility to be helping out…for me, it’s a requirement.
True, others might not see things in that manner. There are some that might see this as a chore – something that pulls them away from socializing. There’s no harm in any of that. Socializing is a huge (and important) part of camp. It draws people together and creates strong bonds that have the potential to last lifetimes. But for me, participating in the rituals and the initiations (the ones I am allowed to participate in) is something I owe to my collective Druidry. Its an offering of the Self to those who are crossing their thresholds into their grades. In the ritual, its an offering to the collective community that is gathered there, as well as to the Spirits of Ancestor and Place – and even to the Gods.
When I started down my road in Paganism, I was always reluctant to take any participative role in a ritual. I didn’t want to be the one that was fumbling through my lines. I didn’t want to be the one whose lighting method didn’t work for the candle at my assigned quarter. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight for anything that would go wrong. I was new to Paganism. I just KNEW I was going to find some way to fuck it up. Even after I had been “trained” in how to handle a role within ritual, I still didn’t want to have that spot. I just didn’t want to be THAT part of the ritual that gets remembered. My teachers, at that time, were quite stern with me over my reluctance. I was told that my apprehension might be a suggestion of this “not being the Path for me.” Frankly, looking back, this may have been a major catalyst for why I’ve been a solo individual in my Pagan and Druidry perspectives.
Within my Path of Druidry, my attitude towards ritual started to change. I started to see the errors as “adding flavor” to what I’m doing. The slip-ups, the goofball moments added a touch of laughter, and removed some of the tension that had been building. Stumbling over words from another language became a place to stop, draw a deep breath, and try again. There was nothing terrible over these stumbling moments. What changed my attitude? The interest of two Trickster Gods. Coyote and Crow have been instrumental in learning some humility over my stumbling and trip-ups. I have learned that even the most solemn moments will contain these “rips in the time=space continuum.” Its ok to make mistakes. Everyone does it. Granted some people are gifted with solemn grace to move on from those moments. Others, like me, have to take a moment to giggle for a second – and another to get their composure back.
Being a participant in a ritual, particularly at a gathering, is a momentary sacrifice of yourself for all the attendees. Sometimes, that comes with comedy. Sometimes, it doesn’t. But it’s the spirit of remembering “why” you are taking place in the ritual. You are honoring the Gods. You are honoring the seasons. You are setting yourself in the place of being the ritual for those who have gathered. You are giving yourself over for others. In a manner of speaking, you are giving back. Others stood in the roles within my initiation, to make that moment special and unique for me. They did so in love and respect. I owe the same to my brothers and sisters in Druidry when they cross those thresholds too. I’ve been there. They will be there soon enough. I owe it to the future of Druidry to be there too. What? A bit too dramatic? Maybe, but it’s the truth. I stand in rituals to provide depth and experience for those who attend. I stand in initiations to celebrate Druidry as it moves forward within those initiates.
I’m not part of any Druid grove. I’m a solo Druid. My approach is singular. That is my choice. It’s the way that my Druidry works for me. However, just because I am solo doesn’t mean that I do not understand the importance of players within rituals or the need to welcome initiates as they cross the threshold into newer, deeper, more profound experiences. Nor do I diminish the significance of my being there. I am there because those moments are important. I am there because I should be. I understand the role, the significance, and the responsibility associated with it. Giving is a part of what I am as a Druid. I give my time and my energy freely, as others have done for me.
To the future…