A Grove is a group of people who come together to honour deity, land, culture, heritage, ancestry and each other within the Druid tradition. Essentially they are run by Druids local to an area, and because they take their inspiration from the locality, each is consequently and appropriately different.
How the Grove is run entirely rests on those who facilitate it; theirs is the time, energy and inspiration that enables it to be. Because of the limits on their time and energy, some Grove leaders choose to limit the number of members, and once this level is reached they can’t accept more applicants, although they are usually happy for people to approach them for advice on Druidry. In practice, when a grove has reached its limit of members, usually someone will leave to form a new Grove and so Druidry continues to grow.
There are some Groves who choose to be closed to new members. These Groves are usually comprised of close friends who are studying together a particular area of Druidry and do not have time to facilitate an open Grove or facilitate the learning of newcomers to the tradition. Again these Groves are willing to give help and assistance to anybody who approaches them; this may be in the form of individual teaching offered, or by directing the enquirer to another local Grove or to organisations like The Druid Network who can offer a high level of assistance.
As said previously, all Groves are different, but again there is identifiable commonality of practice. The celebration of the year’s cycle of festivals, moon phase rituals and the rites of passage mentioned previously are in some form universally celebrated.
Hierarchy of The Order of Druids
Speaker – These are the Grand Masters of the Order of the Druids. The commune with the elements of the Three Houses. There are always eight Speakers.
Archdruid – This is the leader of the Order of the Druids. He is always in the fortress, leaving it only when a great force threatens the land. He has never been seen by any non-Druid. He wears an elaborate mantle. His Magick has never been seen, but is said to be greater than all. There is only one Archdruid in a grove at any given time.
Sitter – Of all the members of the Order, the position of Vector may be the most honorable. They will serve until their life ends. They are advisors to the Archdruid, and will never leave him. They, like the Archdruid, are almost never seen. But it is known that the Spirit protects them, leaving them invulnerable to all harm. There are only two Sitters at any given time.
Guardian – The aptly named Guardians of Nature are charged with maintaining balance throughout. They, along with the Sitters, make up the Ring of Nature, the Council of the Order. Although not as esteemed as the Sitters or Archdruids, the Guardians are very honored within the Order. There are only three Guardians at any time.
Walker – This is the basic member of the Order of Druids. They are called to service, and will serve their lives in service to Nature. Walkers are eligible to become Guardians. The only Druid ever seen by the people is a Walker. There may be a limitless number of Walkers at any time.
Acolyte – The Acolyte is a Druid in Training. He will be taught by a Walker of the Druid life and traditions. There are four ranks within Acolyte: Weed, Grass, Flower, Sapling, in order of lowest to highest. Once they have achieved Sapling Acolyte, they will be looked at by the Walkers, and if accepted, they will become one. There may be only as many Acolytes at one time as there are Walkers.
The Seven Gifts needed for Acolyte to become a Walker.
The first gift is a Philosophy: which emphasizes the sacredness of all life, and our part in the great web of creation. It cares passionately about the preservation and protection of the environment, and offers a worldview, which is ecological, geocentric, pragmatic, idealistic, spiritual and romantic. It does not separate Spirit and Matter – it offers a sensuous spirituality that celebrates physical life.
The second gift puts us back in touch with Nature: with a set of practices that help us feel at one again with Nature, our ancestors, our own bodies, and our sense of Spirit, by working with plants, trees, animals, stones, and ancestral stories. Eight seasonal celebrations help us attune to the natural cycle, and help us to structure our lives through the year, and to develop a sense of community with all living beings.
The third gift brings Healing: with practices that promote healing and rejuvenation, using spiritual and physical methods in a holistic way to promote health and longevity.
The fourth gift affirms our life as a Journey: with rites of passage: for the blessing and naming of children, for marriage, for death, and for other times of initiation, when it is helpful to ritually and symbolically mark our passage from one state to another.
The fifth gift opens us to other Realities: with techniques for exploring other states of consciousness, other realities, the Otherworld. Some of these are also used by other spiritual traditions, and include meditation, visualization, shamanic journeying, and the use of ceremony, music, chanting and sweathouses, but they are all grounded in specifically Celtic and Druidic imagery and tradition.
The sixth gift develops our Potential: Druidry as it is practiced today offers a path of self-development that encourages our creative potential, our psychic and intuitive abilities, and fosters our intellectual and spiritual growth.
The seventh gift of Druidry is the gift of Magic: it teaches the art of how we can open to the magic of being alive, the art of how we can bring ideas into manifestation, and the art of journeying in quest of wisdom, healing and inspiration.
Seasonal Days of Celebration:
Druids, past and present, celebrate a series of fire-festivals, on the first of each of four months. Each would start at sunset and last for three days. Great bonfires would be built on the hilltops. Cattle would be driven between two bonfires to assure their fertility; couples would jump over a bonfire or run between two bonfires as well. The festivals are:
Samhain (or Samhuinn) Literally the “end of warm season”. November 1 marked the combined Feast of the Dead and New Year’s Day for the Celtic calendar. It is a time when the veil between our reality and that of the Otherworld is most easily penetrated. This fire festival was later adopted by the Christians as All Soul’s Eve, and later became the secular holiday Halloween.
Imbolc (or Brighid) Literally “in the belly”. February 1 marked The Return of Light. This is the date when the first stirrings of life were noticeable and when the land might first be plowable. This has been secularized as Groundhog Day.
Beltaine (or Bealteinne). May 1 was the celebration of The Fires of Bel. This was the peak of blossom season, when domesticated animals bear their young. This is still celebrated today as May Day. Youths dance around the May pole in what is obviously a reconstruction of an earlier fertility ritual.
Lughnasad (or Lughnasadh, Lammas). August 1 was The Feast of Lugh, named after the God of Light. A time for celebration and the harvest.
There were occasional references in ancient literature to:
the winter solstice, typically December 21, when the nighttime is longest
the summer solstice, typically June 21, when the nighttime is shortest
Rites of Passage
It is also common within Druid practice to celebrate important points along life’s path, and it is at such times that we acknowledge the growth, change and release that are integral to an individual’s path. Some points that may be celebrated are:
Children’s Rites – the welcoming of newborn babies, naming ceremonies, starting school and their successes are all important points that may be celebrated within the community.
Weddings, often called Handfastings.
Rites of Passing that may include funerals, memorials or honouring of the dead.
Rites of Separation – acceptance and release are important. Breakdown of any relationship should be acknowledged.
Rites of Elderhood – these occur for men and women between the ages of 55 – 70, acknowledging their changing place in society with retirement, menopause or the arrival of grandchildren.
Dedication – for some it is important that they declare their dedication publicly. This may be a dedication to their God(s), their work, their community or any other important areas of focus.
The main elements of druidic belief are . . .
Sacredness of all life: A philosophy which deals with the sacredness and divinity of all life in which all life is equal in value. Therefore, humanity is on the same level of importance as plants and animals.
The Otherworld: A place of existence beyond our physical senses. It is a place we are supposed to go to when we die but can be visited with the help of meditation, altered states of consciousness, visualizations, chanting, hypnosis, and shamanic trances.
Reincarnation: Ancient Druidic practices taught a type of reincarnation in which the soul went to “The Otherworld” between incarnations, which could be in human or animal forms. Most modern Druids hold to this as well.
Nature: It reconnects us with nature, our ancestors, and ourselves, by “working with plants, trees, animals, stones, and ancestral stories.”
Healing: It brings healing using holistic means for both body and spirit.
Journey: Life is a journey from one stage to another; birth, marriage, children, death, etc.
Potential: Developing one’s potential for the development of our creative, psychic, intellectual, and intuitive abilities.
Magic: Where ideas are brought into manifestation and divination is used to predict the future.