ECG Leftovers — Solo Practice Thoughts

I have been back from OBOD’s East Coast Gathering in Pennsylvania for a little under a week now. I cannot get the sights, sounds, and conversations that I encountered throughout that weekend out of my mind. I was not really involved with too many of the conversations, as I had chosen to be in the background of most things, such is my nature as a solo practitioner. But there was a single moment that still sticks in my mind.

Yes, that moment in time was Cerri Lee’s talk as I had mentioned previously. There was a lot that she talked about where ritual was concerned – the logistics, the mannerisms towards making ritual a much more robust experience. But then, she started discussing how public rituals – as well as gatherings like ECG – served another purpose for those solo practitioners: providing the experience of being in a group.

Now, I am a solo practitioner – I am really beginning to detest the term “solitairy” – by choice. I have several Pagan and Druidry groups around me. I could easily join one and get the “group experience” that many Pagans enjoy. But I enjoy being a solo practitioner – able to choose my direction from a moment’s thought, and explore. And not have to be tied at the ankle with someone else, who may not be wanting this same direction of exploration at the time. My rituals for the Wheel of the Year are done by myself with no one else involved. These are impromptu as well — utilizing the OBOD ritual schematic as a framework, but weaving in what seems and feels right at that moment. Sometimes spoken, sometimes not — its a manner and style that works best for me.
But these public gatherings provide a different element for me. I am able to watch and observe others in ritual. See how they encompass the roles they are provided. During the Alban Elfed ritual, the Queen of the Harvest strode into the center of the circle, shrugging her cloak off with an effortless motion, and strode forward with a bearing that suggested she was the Queen. Her bearing was incredible — and she had me envisioning her as the Queen. She sold me on her part in that role. And I watched and observed, seeing how she not only played her part – she channeled it. She was the Queen, the physical embodiment of that role. I watched others as well – the fluid, easy-going manner that some had. As if ritual was a natural part of who they were – whether they were in the circle or not. Their bearing was the same inside the ritual circle as it was outside. In a way, I could observe them anywhere and see their Druidry in action. Sitting at a table discussing something as mundane as a Science Fiction television show, or something as deep and personal as their observation on what the Gods and Goddesses mean to them.

Cerri Lee also made the comment that “lone wolves were few and far between.” At first, I disagreed with this comment – after all, I am that Lone Wolf that she was discussing. However, in thinking further and deeper on that – she has a valid and important point. I can definitely remain in my aspect as a solo practitioner. However, at some point in time, I need to rejoin with people that are like me:  Pagans and Druids – and not necessarily those that are also solo practitioners. After all, OBOD has become my family. My tribe. My brothers and sisters. At Gulf Coast Gathering, we all cautiously sniffed at one another – trying to get a feel for one another. At East Coast Gathering, it was like a family reunion. My tribe.

My tribe. As a solo practitioner, the idea feels a little strange to me. As someone who has been on my Bardic grade for a while, I had never really noticed that before. And it showed in the way I went about my studies. I kept looking at some of the lessons in terms of solo work, and never added in the elements of working with others or others figured into what I was doing. Now, my studies have changed somewhat – I look at both aspects, and a lot of what I was not “getting” is starting to feel natural to me. But again, as a solo Pagan, it can sometimes be a little odd feeling for me.

In a manner of speaking, its a lot like living in a third-floor apartment of a forty-floor building — and being the only person living there. Once other people start moving, you start to understand the needs of being in a community. There’s the degree of protection, but there’s more in the spirit of fellowship as well. Of knowing that if you get stuck somewhere – you need only ask for help. And as I start to truly understand all of this, as I start to realize that respect, compassion, and truly loving and caring about others in a group can be possible — my ability to respect others, to have compassion for those in need – and even those who have no respect for me — I can feel my Path changing. Expanding. Growing. And all of that brings so much more meaning into every single moment in life for me. Each moment is unique. Everything around me is changing in each moment. Some at more rapid rates than others. All of them affecting and exchanging energy with others to varying degrees. And the depth of that thought is amazingly deep for me to contemplate.

Such deep, deep waters indeed.

waterripples

Finally Home (Travel Day Returning From East Coast Gathering)

Finally Home (Travel Day Returning From East Coast Gathering)

Compared to the fiasco of trying to make it to East Coast Gathering — making it back home was a fairly uneventful time. That, in itself, was a major relief. There truly is nothing more frustrating than missing your flight. But than – that’s certainly life with Trickster Gods. Thanks Crow. Thanks Coyote. I hope ya’ll had a few laughs at my expense.  Yes, you taught me to be more composed in the face of events that go sideways. And to be better prepared for the unexpected. Yeah.

The entire East Coast Gathering was fun – but things picked up a ton when the Bardic grade folks got together during breakout session. I have never seen so many folks tossing out such excellent ideas, and it really opened up everything for great discussions amongst us all during the lunch. And yeah, the bunks were hard and totally sucked for trying to get some sleep. But there was so much more there than the sleep.

But now, I get to come back to earth, just a bit. Tomorrow morning, I have to make two house closings. The house I am purchasing up in Lindsay, Texas (near the Oklahoma border), and the one I am selling here in Corinth, Texas (just north of Dallas, south of Denton). After that, its all about moving. By Thursday afternoon, everything in this house has to be moved out and the keys handed over to the buyers. So life is about to get very hectic and topsy-turvy over the next few days.

I will be transporting all my rocks up to the new house on Tuesday, and setting up my two (!) stone circles. One will be for Kokopelli. The other….well, there will be a blog post about that one. Added to all of this, I will be trying to incorporate aspects of the Comanche spirituality – what little there seems to be known about it. After all, I will be living in their ancestral lands…there’s a connection to be made there. There’s a connection to be explored there as well.

So, speaking of packing – I have some of that to do before I tromp off to bed. Only three more nights at this house.

East Coast Gathering – Day Three

The motel that I wound up staying at – The Red Carpet Inn – is only six miles from camp in the town of Milford. Not a spectacular place, but the beds are certainly a far cry better than the small, hard bunks we were sleeping in. We started into camp to make Gail Nyoka’s session “Communication in Ritual”. Her session was quite informative, and a lot of fun. She will be the featured guest at the 2nd annual Gulf Coast Gathering next year, and I am looking forward to her storytelling sessions there.

Shortly after that, I managed to corner Bran for an interview for the podcast about his album, and all his demos and singles he has available for download as well. He is not only a great musician, but he and his wife Susan are two of the coolest people I have ever met. Very down-to-earth, extremely friendly people who enjoy discussions, and sharing the gift of laughter. What a wonderful pair they are… Look for Bran’s interview on the upcoming episode of Upon a Pagan Path.

 Breakout sessions for each grade, allowed me to meet several very interesting, and nice folks from all along the Eastern states. Some folks whom I had along talked with via Facebook (Tom!!!  I mean Santa Claus!!!), and this faded into lunch. And thanks to Malbren, I was introduced to the other podcaster at this event – some giant of a guy named Damh. It was a pure joy to get a hug from Damh…who is one of the easiest individuals I have ever had the chance to talk for a few moments with. As I had noted before, I was really trying not to be intrusive to him – but thanks to Malbren, she brought him over to meet me. It was seriously an awesome moment for me. And yes, I did fan-boy a slight bit on him.

After lunch, we all prepared for our roles within the Alban Elfed ritual was completely exquisite. We Bards did a piece on being irreverent. Not sure how that really played out – though a few people complimented several of us shortly after our gift had been presented. It was still a lot of fun presenting this gift to the entire circle. And we had a lot of fun composing it and putting it together.

While its not terribly hot (81F) there is the additional aspect of the humidity to consider. Which essentially wilted both Pam and I – and we headed back to the motel to rest and cool off. Then we headed back for the bonfire. Once again, I held back from the bonfire, and sat in the dark of the pavilion watching and listening to the sounds of the entire camp being alive, in conjunction with the sounds of the animals as well. That particular moment, just shortly before the bonfire had been lit – was magnificent. A pure moment of Awen being placed with my lap.

Here in the Darkness

In the darkness I sit
And hear the cicadas’ call
Mingled with the laughter
The conversations in every direction
The sounds of the camp coming to life

Then, the sounds of drumming
Up by the bonfire
On the rise of the hill
The rhythmic clapping keeping time
The whooping and yelling of the ecstatic energy

Down the hill at the smaller fire
The sounds of the children and adults
Gathered around their smaller blaze
Ready to roast marshmellows
And singing a song of Yule-time

And in the darkness, I sit
Quietly drinking all this in
These are my people, this is my tribe
Their joy and wonder fills their energy
Wrapped around the camp like a blanket

And as I take my leave
Queitly in the dark of the late night
Huge hugs as I make my way to the car
I know that the departing is only for now
For we shall all meet again and again

East Coast Gathering – Day Two

And the second day of East Coast Gathering comes to a close – at least for me. Pam’s back was not going to survive another night on those hard bunks located in the camp cabins. So, for the sake of not having a cranky wife on the way back to Dallas – we left the camp and went offsite to a motel. But that’s just a small setback for the day – and one I will gladly trade off, if it saves issues with her back.

  The end of yesterday’s camp happened after yesterday’s blog post was finished – so I guess I will start there. Just across from the cabin, a huge fire had been built up – and nearly everyone in camp came for the lighting of it. Nearly everyone, because there was at least one person not there – me. I eschew large crowds, so I stayed back at the bench in front of the cabin and meditated as the light began to dim in the sky. There was ritual drumming for lighting the fire – so I grounded, centered, and let the sound of the drums and the crowd carry me along. And eventually, Damh the Bard came out with his guitar and played at the fire. From where I sat, I could hear him clearly — and marveled at his stage presence, even around a fire. Over the course of the last two days, I have wanted to approach him and say “hello” — and I’ll get back to that in a few moments.

Damh played several songs that I enjoy, but eventually he came to my favorite song: “Green and Grey”. As he sang the song, I found myself breaking into singing along with him as well. It was a moment that was as surreal as it gets for me. Sitting in the dark, watching Damh singing at a nearby fire, and singing the lyrics to my favorite song with him. Even with my supremely terrible singing voice, its a moment I will cherish in my memory of that particular moment.

The night was quite cool – cool enough that my extremely thin blanket was not enough to keep me warm. I woke up several times over the course of the night. Eventually, the light of day started to stream through the window – but I lay in bed, shivering and trying to get warm. The light grew even stronger, and I could soon see throughout the cabin without straining my eyes. And then I heard it.

Caw. Caw.

Damnable crows. Found me again. Like a world-wide game of hide-and-seek. But the reality is that it was a refreshing, and very reassuring sound for my ears.

The first talk of the day I went to was that of Damh’s lovely wife Cerri Lee. Cerri’s talk was on “The Art of Ritual” and many of her salient points were spot on for me. As someone who enjoys ritual with a flair for the extemporaneous and spontaneous, I completely grokked what this lady was bringing across. Plus, her notation of how the flair for a touch of the dramatic can really add oomph to a ritual element – I found myself literally hanging on her every word. She apologized quite a bit about being a terrible speaker (she was not at all), and going off on a tangent constantly — but I found her talk to be charming, wonderful, and quite possibly one of the very best I have ever heard on the topic. I could seriously listen to this charming lady ramble all day about whatever topic she wanted to speak about. 

The second “talk” was “The Bardic Voice” with Damh the Bard. And I could really describe this as a sing-along with Damh. Damh ran the entire group through several chants, while he beat the rhythm on a wonderful sounding drum and lead us through several rounds of each chant. Perhaps the best moment, at least for me, was when he divided the group into three and had us sound the Awen at three different notes to make a chord. That moment sent shivers down my spine. Not only was it an awesome sound – it had that magickal resonance that just cannot be described. You literally have to feel it to understand.

The third talk I went to was that of Kris Hughes. Kris spoke on The Ritual Legacy of Iolo Morganwg. He even had us speaking a simple Welsh phrase as part of his recreation of a ritual that Morganwg had done (and documented) from back in the 1700s. I didn’t have a pad and pen with me, so I am unsure of the dates. To be honest, a lot of this was hard to follow along, because it is part of the history of Druidry that I am not entirely familiar with. But Kris Hughes made it, not only informative, but a lot of fun as well. The man is a very engaging speaker.

It was shortly after this talk, that we decided to head out in search of a motel – which is apparently hard to find in these parts. Or at least, hard to find one that is not completely booked. It took an hour of internet searching, but we eventually found one. Which is where I am typing this particular blog post from.

So…for now, I head off to bed.  Time to get some sleep. Tomorrow, I will orner Bran Cerddorion with my digital recorder in hand – as well as any other individual that I can get on microphone for the podcast.  🙂

Oh yeah….about not coming up to say “hi” to Damh….

I have been really reluctant to come up and just “fanboy” all over Damh. I am quite sure he gets enough of that from other people. Plus, I would rather come up to him, say “hello” – shake his hand, introduce myself, and chat with him like anyone else in camp. I really wish I had that kind of connection with him – just so I could treat him like any other bloke I happened to come across. Having run into my own moment of noteriety during this trip, I can only imagine the way that I felt being magnified an untold measure as I am sure has happened for Damh. I certainly don’t want to wind up being one of those people that just follow him around everywhere because he is “Damh the Bard” or “The Pendragon of the Order” – I’d rather be the guy that sits down with him and talks Iron Maiden albums or shoots the breeze with him over football or rugby matches back in the UK or discusses the nuances of the latest Dr. Who episodes. So, thus the reluctance to come by and just be the crazy fanboy…but then, I am reminded of how Lauren handled this same situation in February of this year, when she sat down next to John Beckett and myself at ADF Hearthstone’s Imbolc retreat. Perhaps, I need to take a few notes from her graceful approach….