The first of August – or somewhere very close to it is celebrated by many Pagans, inspired by the Celtic festival of Lugnasadh and the Saxon festival Lammas. Yesterday Elen Sentir posted some great articles about that, so if it’s unfamiliar to you, do look at her words.
For a good seven years now, I’ve celebrated festivals as part of a Pagan community – there have been a few – open gatherings run by Hedd Wyn’s Grove in Birmingham, the Bards of Caer Abiri at Avebury, a closed group in Redditch, and the Bards of the Lost Forest open gorsedd near Birmingham. It’s been a big part of my life. Yesterday the Lost Bards were out, and I was not. Too far away, and too tired to handle either the journey, or the physical and emotional demands of spending several hours dealing with a lot of people. I missed them, and the sense of connection ritual gives me.
Ritual, for me, is primarily about community. It’s the point when we meet up to jointly express belief and honour the cycle of the seasons. It’s a chance to share inspiration, insight, philosophy and the fruits of our creativity. While large rituals are often hard work, they are also nourishing.
Walking with James yesterday, we talked about how we would handle the absence of a ritual group, and what we would do about festivals for now. It would be technically possible to do ritual just the two of us, but we were neither drawn to the idea. Rituals with one, two or three adults who are very close can work well, but ritual for a child is even more about the social, communal aspects, the songs, cake and spending time with likeminded souls.
We have agreed to there being no ritual. For now, the focus of our Druidry will be the walking, as he learns this land and its stories. Walking brings us into contact with the cycle of the year, with plants and creatures. It is our way of connecting with nature, and our space for talking about values, ethics, philosophy and so forth.
I am missing the contact, the sharing and energy of ritual. Its absence leaves a hole in my life. It’s one of the many, treasured points of reference I’ve been obliged to give up and I feel cut adrift without it. People are meant to exist in a context, and our faith communities are part of that for many of us. It’s not a thing to do at the weekend, but an aspect of self. I still have my own Druidry, which informs how I interact with the world. Shared celebrations are a tiny fraction of that, and yet they leave a disproportionate gap. There are dear souls at Bards of the Lost Forest I might never see again. People who have inspired and encouraged me over the years. People I have watched grow, and cared for. I hope I will be able to share with them again.
Thanks to The Druid Network, I have contact with likeminded folk in this part of the world as well, there will be new things in the future, I have no doubt. Today, there is no ritual, and that feels very strange indeed.