the draw to druidry (Bardic Course – NOD)

When presented with the question, “What drew you to Druidry?” I have a hard time pinpointing the moment. I feel as though I’ve always been drawn to “Druidish” things, whether it be in the sense of a pull towards Irish myth and culture or in the sense of a connection with the land, sea and sky that can only be explained in the words of Irish poets. In part, this is because I grew up in a family that values nature. I remember learning about pollution in our rivers and streams at an early age, and feeling absolutely puzzled as to why someone would poison nature. We camped a lot. And my dad was fond of spending time sitting outside, watching animals and the passage of the seasons. So perhaps it was inevitable that I’d be drawn to Druidic practice.

Early childhood

One of my earliest memories of Irish lore comes from Disney. That’s right, Disney. Of course I know quite a bit more now, but I know that Disney’s “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” made an impression on me. I’d never heard of a bean sidhe until then, of course, and my knowledge of leprechauns had been limited to the mascot for Lucky Charms. A precocious reader, I moved towards fantasy novels that had a strong vein of Celtic mythology in them. I collected my grandfather’s maps and National Geographic magazines that had anything to do with Ireland. And when my grandmother shared our genealogy with me, and I learned that we were descended from Irish and English stock. Later in life, I discovered that this is true of my paternal side on both sides. My maternal side also has several English ancestors, with a smattering of German ancestors for variety.

These forces were strengthened by my family’s penchant for camping and hiking. Some of my earliest memories are in the woods, and I can recall many conversations with my dad about pollution and balance in nature ­ the latter often discussed in relation to hunting and human encroachment. I often “pretended” to be a Druid or a Witch while playing outside ­ which was where I spent any time I had that wasn’t occupied by reading. I developed an interest in herbalism early on, and this was fed by my grandfather’s firm belief that there are herbal remedies for many of life’s smaller ills.

Adolescence

As I hit my teens, my draw towards all things British, Scots or Irish was widened by music. My favorite artists were mostly from the UK and Ireland, and with it being the 80’s, they were vocally socially progressive. I did several reports in high school based on their relation to these places that I knew were the birthplace of my ancestral soul, on topics ranging from the roots of religious strife in Ireland to the witchcraze that followed European settlers to Puritan America. I was a voracious consumer of media that related to anything from the British Isles, from music to fashion (I splurged babysitting money on imported magazines) to actors to film to television and on and on.

I had recurrent dreams of being a Witch, but in a time way back. I was surrounded by green hills and rocky fences. In retrospect, it felt a lot like Scotland or Ireland. At the time, I felt the same. I was mostly alone in the dreams, but occasionally there would be another person. I had other dreams during this time, as well as active experiments with lucid dreaming and astral projection. My interest in the occult was broad, from astrology to tarot to dream interpretation to mythology.

And when I was 16, I found out that Witchcraft and Druidry existed outside of novels. While I wasn’t raised in any faith, I had ­ of my own accord ­ pursued membership in several Christian denominations. I couldn’t find a home. I was too feminist and too interested in spiritual philosophies and practices that most flavors of Christianity strictly forbade. I had a book by Erica Jong called, appropriately, “Witches.” That book has since gone out of print, but it was full of lore and practices and was hugely influential, as was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Inheritor” (“Mists of Avalon” didn’t enchant me until much, much later) and a series of books about Druids by a children’s author that I can’t recall or find, much to my chagrin. This love of books, in fact, led directly to my first real “adult” job as a bookseller in a SF Bay Area mall bookstore.

Adulthood

So that first job included assigned sections in the bookstore, and I was assigned to the Occult section. Our store had a check-­out policy that allowed us two books out at a time. I read like a mad woman that summer, and the first book I picked up was Scott Cunningham’s “The Truth About Witchcraft Today.” The cover featured a normal-­looking career woman, dressed for 80’s success, walking with purpose. I felt a little giddy taking the book home. And later, as with so many others, Scott Cunningham mapped out my first real experience of integrating spiritual theory with practice, against a backdrop of mythology and culture. I considered myself a Wiccan (or Witch, if I trusted the company not to freak out about the word) from that point forward.

While I worked at the bookstore, I took liberal advantage of the reading and special order opportunities I had. While books focusing on Druids and Celtic spirituality were scarce in those days, I dug up as many as I could and read and read and read. The next influential books included Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance” and “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler. I had a group of women friends with whom I had my first group ritual experience in the summer of 1992, and that experience’s outcome was a fertility charm that had me pregnant within about a week.

I continued casual practice while raising my children through the next several years. My first daughter, Jasmine, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 15 months. That consumed my life for the next 10 years, but in that same time, my spiritual practice deepened and grew. My second daughter came in 1995. By that time, we were living in Northern Arizona, attending university. And that’s where things started to come together.

I started a study group while at university living in family housing. The goal was to find people to practice with as I felt like I’d gone as far as I could on my own. That study group had about five women and was the first experience I had specifically studying and practicing the religion of general Wicca ­ “general” as in no particular tradition or cultural emphasis, though as always, I maintained an interest in Irish myth and paganism, as well as Druidry.

In the late 90’s we moved from Flagstaff down into the Phoenix metro area. There I had my first experience with a Druid group. While the actual experience I had was good, I quickly learned that the group had some serious problems at the leadership level, problems involving the welfare of children. I couldn’t stay, and the more I looked, the more I realized they were operating from a poisoned well, despite having many great people involved. I continued my search for an active group or teacher ­ because I was very aware that it was time to move from reading to practice and challenge ­ and I lucked out on Witchvox. The crazy part is that the person I found there ­ a 3rd degree British Traditional Wiccan high priestess ­ had also been the graduate assistant in my plant biology course!

From 1998 ­- 2000 I worked with Boudicca through my 2nd degree in the BTW tradition, ultimately founding a new Wiccan tradition with her ­ the Cassandra tradition. I had joined Ár nDraíocht Féin in 1999 and also dabbled a bit in Celtic Reconstructionism. I loved the scholarship, but the dogma and the anti­-Wiccan attitude of many members turned me off. That, plus I couldn’t find anyone to practice with, and in particular, no one who was interested in Irish myth. That said, when Boudicca and I put Cassandra together, we incorporated bits of Druidry into our lore and practice, with a strong emphasis on scholarship and the importance of cultural foundations for practice.

In 2000 I also attended my first Reclaiming tradition witchcamp. Reclaiming is a tradition that was formed by Starhawk’s community back in the 70’s and 80’s. Their witchcamps are week-­long spiritual intensives that are built around a central theme or myth. The tradition has a distinct ritual style, with ecstatic, improvisational and participatory experiences up front. This became the third thread that we wove into the Cassandra tradition ­ the ritual style I learned in the Reclaiming tradition.

So the three strands in Cassandra are the structure of British Traditional Wicca, the scholarship and cultural focus of Druidry and the ritual style of Reclaiming. For the most part, this has become my own practice for the last decade or so, though I’m occasionally pulled further to one corner of the triangle than the others.

Timeline: Training & Memberships

  • 1991­-94 Exploratory Reading, women’s spirituality group – Chico, CA
  • 1994­-96 Solitary Practice, Formed & led Study Circle – Flagstaff, AZ
  • 1997-­2000 With HPS Boudicca, Circle of Light, BTW, Dedicant – 2nd deg
  • 1999-­2000 Boudicca and I created the Cassandra tradition, which was modified by Prairie Fire Coven (2002-­2004) and Spiral Path (2005­-2006) and will continue to be modified by The Circle of Land, Sea & Sky
  • 2000 Reclaiming Witchcamp, California (completed core class Elements of Magick)
  • 2001-­2005 Diana’s Grove Mystery School (service work, ritual participation/planning, formal spiritual leadership training – most active year in terms of in­-person participation was 2002, the Labyrinth and the Minotaur)
  • 2003 Reclaiming Witchcamp, Missouri
  • 2002-­2004 CIRCE – Central Illinois Reclaiming Community (organized and taught classes, planned and participated in public ritual)
  • 2002-­2004 Reclaiming Core Classes – Iron & Pearl Pentacle (organized and attended)
  • 2002 Co-­taught Elements of Magick, Illinois
  • 2003 Poem published Reclaiming Quarterly, Autumn’s Dance to Dream
  • 2004 Reclaiming Witchcamp, Texas
  • 2005 Reclaiming Witchcamp, California
  • 2001-­2004 Co­Founder, Co­HPS/Prairie Fire Coven
  • 2005­-2006 Co­Founder, Co­HPS/Spiral Path Coven
  • 2007-2014 Personal practice, no coven or other group
  • 2014 -2015 Graduate Student, Woolston­-Steen Seminary (was working towards a Masters in Divinity, but decided less formal, less Wiccan-­specific training was what I wanted)
  • 2014 ­ Present Founder, Land, Sea & Sky (a public group on the NW Oregon Coast, offering open public ritual on the quarters, as well as classes and social gatherings)
  • 2016 Co­Founder, HPS/Circle of the Land, Sea & Sky
    Entered NOD Bardic Program

Additional Info

  • Studied, devoted to and worked with the Morrighan, Brighid, Lugh, Dionysos, Ariadne, Isis, Osiris
  • In depth study and ritual/thematic use of Arthurian, Greek and Irish mythologies
  • Self­-study with ADF and other Druid traditions (OBOD, Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids, NOD)

Currently…

This all brings us to now. Whew! I’m currently continuing the Cassandra tradition with my local group, but I am pulled to deepen my Druidic studies. While I appreciate the art and craft of being a Witch, I find I want a deeper Druidic focus in my practice and I want to go deeper still with my education on Irish mythology and culture. I maintain a patron/matron relationship with Brighid and Manannán mac Lir, as well as the Morrígan. I am hoping that my newfound relationship and studies with NOD will help me along this path. I suspect that much of this work will also help me to get going on my ADF dedicant studies, which have been sorely neglected these many years!

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