The Earth Gorsedd (say GOR-seth) is a ritual that I created with the help of various conversations with fellow Druids about the importance of acknowledging our grief around environmental destruction. A gorsedd is a ritual that focuses on Bardic performance. In an Earth Gorsedd, the performances of the Bards are about the Earth, the environment, grief and healing. I describe it in my book Belonging to the Earth but I did not explain the specifics of the ritual. It is also something I am presenting on at the upcoming Australian Wiccan Conference and I wanted to make the ritual available to anyone who would like to use it. So here it is. I hope that it can bring some healing to you and your community. It is meant to be a group ritual as the important aspect of it is coming together to share our feelings, experiences, and insights and find solidarity and hope to move forward.
Spoken words are written in italics. These can be changed to suit where you are and your situation.
The ritual circle is marked out with stones or twigs, a rope, a line, or an understanding.
Set up a central altar space that has representations of Land (I use a stone), Sea (a bowl of water or a shell) and Sky (incense or flowers) and any natural decorations that are sustainable eg gathered twigs, bark, leaves, plant cuttings from trimming, flowers, seeds, sand, stones etc. A candle to represent the ancestors can also be used if conditions allow, so don’t use a candle or incense if there are fire restrictions in place.
Parts can be shared out between participants who are familiar with this style of ritual for the Acknowledgement of Country, Round of Amergin, Call for Peace, welcome spirits of Land, Sea and Sky, and welcome the Three Ancestors. See my book Australian Druidry for more information on these parts of the ritual. It is best if these parts are spoken from the heart, in the moment, rather than read off paper, but do what you need to do.
Before the ritual:
Any Bards hoping to perform should prepare songs, stories or poetry for the eisteddfod part and let the ritual leader know of their intent to perform. Performances should be no longer than 3-4 minutes. There should be space for up to ten performances if they are kept short. The theme of the performances should be around the environment, connection to the earth, hope, healing, creating change, etc. and may have arisen from an experience in a previous gorsedd.
Find out what country you are on and check that the place you are holding your ritual is acceptable to local elders.
The Earth Gorsedd Ritual:
The space is cleansed with smoke cleansing eg fresh gum leaves on a fire or home grown herbs. Avoid plants that are not sustainable. Sprinkling with water on gum leaves is an alternative in fire season.
Participants enter from the west, and move sunwise to form a circle.
Acknowledgment of country: We stand today on the lands of the ___________________ people. Land that was never ceded. We pay our respects to the _________________ people and the elders past and present, and those yet to come. We extend that respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who are joining us today. We acknowledge the deep and abiding connection to this land, its waters and skies, its stories, songs, dances and ceremonies. It is land that has been sung for countless generations and it is with gratitude and a shared love of this Country that we meet here today. (Or similar)
Silent grounding into the space: Let us all take a moment to just be in this place. Let’s use our senses to connect with the Earth, feel the air, listen and look at the world around us.
Round of Amergin (3 times around for a small group. Once around for a larger group). Each person speaks of one thing that they have noticed in the silent contemplation with the words “I am”. Some examples:
I am the soft earth beneath our feet
I am gentleness of the cool breeze
I am the kookaburra laughing
I am the wattle tree blossoms
I am the water flowing in the creek
Call for peace – a person in each direction, or one person who moves to each direction one at a time. All face the direction as the call is made. Raise the arms and the group repeats after the speaker:
May there be peace in the North
May there be peace in the South
May there be peace in the West
May there be peace in the East
(All turn back to the center)
May there be peace throughout the whole world.
Welcome to the spirits of Land, Sea and Sky – Either one person can say all three, or three people can say one each:
We welcome the sprits of the Land, the Earth, the planet, the soil, the trees and plants and all the animals which reside on the land. Bless us with knowledge, groundedness, truth, knowing and presence. Hail and welcome.
We welcome the spirits of the Seas and all sacred waterways, the creeks and streams, the rivers, lakes and oceans, the sacred rains and magical mists. Bless us with the ability to flow, to create, to change, to move, to feel and to love. Hail and welcome.
We welcome the spirits of the Skies, the sun, moon and stars, the constellations, the planets and all the mysteries they hold. Bless us with spiritual awareness, the experience of magic, the wonder of beauty, life and aliveness. Hail and welcome.
Acknowledging the ancestors of the the bloodlines, the inspirations and the land – Either one person can say all three, or three people can say one each:
We acknowledge the ancestors of our bloodlines. Those who have given us life, passed on to us through countless generations back to the beginning of time and life on Earth. We hold their life and stories within us, for better or worse. These are our stories to hold, to heal or to release.
We acknowledge the ancestors of our inspirations and our traditions. Those who have shown us truth and wisdom and been teachers to us, passing on knowledge so that we can be who we are today and pass that knowledge on to others.
We acknowledge the ancestors of the land. The First Nations people who have been in this place for countless generations, and all those who have left their footsteps here in recent years. We acknowledge the stories of their lives in this place. For better or worse, they are acknowledged so that all can finding healing.
Call of intent:
This gathering for the Earth Gorsedd is a time for acknowledgement of the Earth, the ancestors and the spirits of place. It is a time for refection on the spirit of this point in space and time, and the needs of the Earth at this time and into the future. It is a space in which we will honour the Earth, ask for guidance, and the Bards will speak their inspirations through the voice of Awen. The Earth will be heard. The Awen will connect us. (Or similar)
Go around the circle and share what environmental concerns each person has. What are people grieving? What is causing them concern? Keep the focus on the topic of the ritual. Share for only a few minutes for each person. Other participants should not respond, but just listen. Using a talking stick/silver branch can be useful if needed.
When you have gone around the circle, take ten minutes for the group to wander the area and look for a message from the Earth. Natural objects can be picked up if they don’t cause damage and brought back to the ritual area. At the right time someone might bring people back with soft drumming or another instrument. When you return, one person says:
What wisdom has the Earth spoken to the people?
People come forward one at a time to place their natural objects on the altar and speak a few words about the wisdom they found in it. Eg. This seed spoke to me of hope. This flower made me think of the delicate balance of life on earth. Etc.
When all have spoken, one person says: What more can be done?
Another replies: Let the Bards speak of change! Let the Bards be heard. Would the Bards step forward for the blessing of Awen, and with it may all be blessed.
All the bards who are planning to perform step forward to the center of the circle and face out.
All others join hands around them and chant three Awens.
If all participants are performing, just chant the three Awens together facing the center and adjust words accordingly.
Performances are made. 3-4 minutes each. Stay to about 30 mins max in total.
Invite any others to speak from the heart if they feel moved to. If there are no performances offered, this can also be an option. Another alternative to bardic performances is to sing a song as a group and create some art together, eg. a mandala with leaves and other natural items.
Bread and mead are libated in gratitude to the health of the earth, the rains, the sun and the people. They are then passed around for the blessing.
Grounding meditation. Process what has been heard.
Share any announcements and news. A time when protests, petitions, or other activist work can be mentioned. Then it’s time to close the circle. These can be similar to the beginning parts, with “Hail and farewell” instead of “hail and welcome”. Or you might like to make them shorter. It is important to do, even if if is shorter.
Thanks to the ancestors
Thanks to the spirits of Land, sea and Sky
Thanks to the spirits of place
Acknowledgement of the traditional owners again.
Thanks to attendees for coming along.
This ritual can be quite moving even though it is so simple. Be aware that participants may need grounding with water, good food and some rest. If any participants are significantly distressed by what comes up for them, they should seek professional advice.
For more information on rituals in Australian Druidry and rituals around environmental grief and healing, please see my published books, Australian Druidry: Connecting with the Sacred Landscape, and Belonging to the Earth: Nature Spirituality in a Changing World.