Last month I held my first Druids Down Under community ritual since moving up to the Blue Mountains. I have another one coming up in February and have been contemplating what the next one might be like and how to negotiate the unique challenges of holding circle in this new space. The main thing on my mind is the need for a ritual that is relevant to everyone who comes along, no matter where they come from.
I never know who is going to attend. It’s a public ritual, so I put out the call, usually with a Facebook event through the Druids Down Under page and group and just see who turns up. I’ve been holding rituals around Sydney for many years. It’s just since I have recently moved to the mountains that I’ve started holding them here. What is intriguing me for the next circle is the different kinds of seasonal changes that the different attendees are experiencing due to coming from different kinds of land. A significant difference I have noticed about the mountains is the lack of a Barkfall in the spring. Here the bark is only just now, at the beginning of January, considering cracking to shed, while in coastal Sydney this would generally happen in November. I’m wondering what differences there will be in the local Wheel of the Year here and which parts will prove compatible with the Sydney Wheel of the Year. There are potentially great differences that people in the group will be experiencing in their home areas while also coming together to celebrate the season.
In the past, the geographical locations attendees came from had slight differences, but on the whole we found a great deal of similarities in our experience. We tended to range from the Central Coast to the Southern areas of The Shire, and out towards the west and lower mountains. But holding the circle here in the mountains we now also have people coming to the circle from the western plains beyond the mountains. The people who attended the last circle represented both coastal and western Sydney, various elevations of the mountains, and also Lithgow and Dubbo which are a long way further west. It’s a wide area now represented with many differences in seasonal cycles.
So how do we work on coming together to celebrate when we are experiencing such different kinds of changes? I’m comforted by the fact that these circles are not teaching circles, but rather exploration circles, where we share our various experiences of the seasons and work out a ritual we will enact together to find alignment with the seasonal changes. There is no plan for the seasonal celebration – only a ritual structure and a bit of imagination. I’m confident that when we come together for the circle next month, any difficulties will be worked out during the workshop we do at the beginning of the meeting. In the last ritual we focused on various points that we shared: the peaking solar and lunar energy, the sense of stress over the looming holiday period, a need for cleansing and renewal and a recognition of the blessing of water. These were all things we could share as relevant to all our different areas and this sense of commonality is what allows us to come together as a group for ritual.
Finding these commonalities in our experiences helps us to perform rituals together despite geographical differences. I think this is an interesting idea to explore when considering things like our Druids Down Under National Gathering that is being planned for March 2018. We will have people coming to the ritual from all over the country and also from many different Druidry traditions. Considering the differences of our seasonal changes, as well as the similarities will help us in creating a meaningful ritual for us all.
You might like to try this as a thought experiment: consider your own area and how you have been experiencing the symbols of the present season, and then, next time you interact with a distant friend online about the weather or perhaps see a weather report for the country etc. consider what similarities there are, and what differences. How would a ritual you perform for yourself at this time of year, that relates to your own local cycles, differ from one which speaks to more areas and more people from those areas? What are the common stories of the Australian landscape? What brings us together? What makes us different?
Some things to consider while meditating on this are of course, the solar and lunar cycles, fire or flood, cyclones, ocean swell, plant growth, animal migration, light/dark balance, snowfall, wind, and humidity. Elements of our experience that affect larger expanses of land can bring together people within those lands, so considering large weather patterns can be helpful. Of course oceanic patterns will generally only affect those on the coast, just as snowfall will only affect those in areas where it occurs. This sense of different areas with different types of experience can help us with the formation of our rituals and celebrations. Even a quick look at the back of a packet of seeds can tell us a lot about the different climates of the different areas of the country.
Getting a feeling for commonality of different zones of the country is helpful: the mountainous regions have pockets of similarity, just as do the coastal regions, plain regions, tropical and subtropical regions, and deserts. These are almost communities of seasonal experience and there is a lot we can learn from people living in areas like our own for the purposes of developing more localized wheels of the year. As well as a great deal we can learn about our differences and similarities.
So, I’m looking forward to seeing what changes there will be in our next circle. The Sydney-siders will be coming into storm festival, and I am yet to discover the seasonal signs of that time in the Mountains. Despite the differences we are experiencing, we will find something that we all share and work with celebrating that. It is also always different to see the differences in our neighbouring lands. Just as each of us has our own personal journey to bring to the circle, so too, the energies of different parts of the landscape will also be acknowledged. It will be interesting!
If you’d like to share your experiences with exploring your local wheel of the year, feel free to do so in the comments. Or, if you’re on Facebook, I’d love you to share the experience with others on the Druids Down Under group.
If you’d like to come along to one of my Druids Down Under circles in Katoomba you can see the Facebook event details here and on the Druids Down Under page, or see more information here. There will be more information about the Druids Down Under National Gathering very soon. It’s not til 2018 so don’t panic 😉