An American Druid in Glastonbury:
Musings of an American at the OBOD Summer Gathering
Click here for the PDF version as it appeared in the Aug 2010 issue of Touchstone.
On June 11, 2010, around five pm I walked into town hall in Glastonbury not knowing what to expect. Chairs were already in position, and people were hanging banners. I announced Hi, I am John Michael from Nashville, in the US, can I help with anything. I was told that setup was mostly complete, but I was welcome to get coffee or tea in the side room and introduce myself to those standing around. I was made welcome by Ann and Tia of the Sylvan grove, and several others, and even invited to join them at the pub for food and a pint. The thing about this first meeting that stuck in my head was the casual curiosity about the fact that I came from Nashville all the way to Glastonbury to be at this gathering, so I thought I would put some of my motivation and impression of the gathering into words to try to answer the initial questions I was met with upon my arrival. I must admit, one of the motivations was the fact that I would actually have the opportunity to not only stand on, but to celebrate a ritual among the stones at Stonehenge with a small group of 100 rather than 20,000 revelers. It hit me why this motivation was so strange to those there on Sunday morning when we arrived at Stonehenge and Tia explained to me that her father had brought her there as a small child and that she had been there many times. For me it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, although I already feel the stones calling me back, and hope to return someday. For many Americans, especially those of us that are druid, Stonehenge is a place of myth and Arthurian legend hidden from us behind the mists of Avalon. It is a place out of time for us. In the US we do not have any ancient sites as obvious and grand as those stones of Wiltshire. Many Americans do not even know that there are other standing stones throughout the British Isles so for us, it is the only place on this planet like it and holds strong magic. Although I know there are other magical places, I was struck by the energy I felt as we formed the circle inside the henge. I held my arms out toward the ground, palms open, and opened my mind up to feel the presence of the place. I felt my arms rising, being pushed up by the energy there. The way my arms were being lifted, I got the impression I could fly. Then I looked up and saw a solitary crow atop one of the lintels that topped to of the great stones eyeing me. He appeared more of a guardian than a denizen of this place, reminding me to learn from the past, but not to hold to tightly to it. I was brought back to the apparent world from the wanderings of my mind by the start of the ritual and someone taking my hand. It felt good to connect this place to my nemeton back home where I have shared many times with my druid kin there the prayer that unites all druids and the confirmation of our sacred vow by peace and love to stand The familiar words of the ritual immediately formed a magical thread from this otherworld place I stood that day to that little spot of land were I said those words so many times before. After the ritual ended, I kissed the ground, and whispered greetings to the place from a friend back home who had asked me to bring her greetings to the place. As I wandered the stones, hugging them, putting my back to them, extending my energy body into the ground, I felt amazingly warm for a 9?C morning, especially for one wearing only a linen robe with my bare feet directly on mother earth. As everyone left, and I turned to say good bye to the stones, a hare bounded across the henge as an omen or reminder that I had been transformed by this place with a knowledge that is still hidden in the realm of intuition. That experience alone was enough to make the trip worthwhile, but the other thing being at the summer gathering did for me was to deepen my connection to the Order. Our seed group in Nashville is very young and very small, and although I have a few druid friends here and a couple in Scotland from trips there, I still felt like a step child or orphan. One might ask why an American would feel a strong need for this connection. For me, it is because I am very aware that I, and many Americans, am the seed of Albion. I am the product of natives from the land in which I live, which are in a sense an endangered species, with much of our history and culture decimated by the events in the US 150 years ago, and those who are also your ancestors. I have done all I can to connect with my ancestors from this continent (North America) and need to know the other side of my family better. That is one of the things that druidry does for me. The same thing that drew the druid revivalists of the 18th century to put off the trappings of the classical Roman culture and seek out their own spiritual roots and history draw me to see the sites and experience the place sacred to my ancient linage, as well as meet those in the land of my ancestors on the same path. I drank from both the red and white wells of Glastonbury, both literally and spiritually and feel less of a bastard son of Albion, and more like a member of the family of Celts from which I descend. I met some wonderful people, some that I hope will be lifelong friends and members of my tribe.