Matthew Len Hilliard-Pinkston 1966 – 2012

Matt (pictured right) was an early leader of Awen’s Light Grove (2007, 2008). One of the originals, he helped us to form a solid ritual presence. His understanding of energy, nuance and his solid Earth feel gave a grounded presence to every circle he was a part. He was our ‘standing stone’. That presence in the North anytime we performed Wheel of Year rituals.

He was a personal mentor to me, helping me integrate my ritual practice and understand how to work those energies. Matt was not the type to ‘join’ something like ALG, he was a consultant. Staying with us just long enough to get our kinks worked out and one of the last words before he drifted away from the Grove was ‘You have enough ritual to last the Grove a long time’, which was a statement of how well the Grove had stepped up to good meaningful ritual thanks completely to his efforts in training us.

I had lunch with him a couple of years ago, hadn’t heard from him since. Though he’d just had his surgery when the Melanoma was just diagnosed, I remember a solid positive attitude, just like you’d expect from a standing stone.

So to you Matt: “In the name of the great bear of the starry heavens and of the element of earth, we thank the powers of the North.”  Blessings of Star and Stone, your service to the Grove will not be forgotten.

Matt crossed over June 11th 2012.
http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/06/17/2142464/matthew-len-hilliard-pinkston.html

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Druid Camp 2012 Recap

I want to thank everyone for a wonderful camp this year. We had a big turn out, about 13 – with a few day campers too. Next year we may have to find a bigger group campsite to get us all in. We had a great program, everyone learned something new to fit into their spiritual practice, and the topic was geared this year to Druidry and Shamanism.

We enjoyed the blessing of Water in the form of a deluge Saturday night.. Wow.. 2 days before, 10% chance of rain, to 100% chance of rain and over an inch fell on us. We stayed dry though – sort of. The camp drained well and we all have a fun story to tell. The rain waited till the end of our day program, which has been the typical synchronicity of our druid grove.

Beltane ceremony and Bardic initiation was observed Sunday morning in a large clearing near our camp area. The rain had subsided, and the location was a beautiful place for ritual. We had wonderful ceremony with 7 OBOD Bards accepting the first EVER initiation by Awen’s Light Grove.

After totaling up the expenses, we’re still short about $200 though. I’d like to make up about half of that, and our Secret Druid Patrons will cover the other half. So, if your heart and wallet are in alignment, please go to the website, hit the ‘donate’ link and pitch in for these expenses. Some of you have already provided extra, both on Paypal and in person, and I give you a BIG druid blessing and an organizer THANK YOU!

We had great quality speakers for both last year’s camp and this year. We also have Pagan Pride Days coming up, and we’ll have expenses with that coming too. Your contribution keeps us ‘out there’ in the world, growing our cause and spirituality and makes for a group that is active, contacted and whole. 🙂

UNC opens to the spirit of Druidry

I had the wonderful opportunity to be Guest Lecturer last week at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I had an audience of 22 students in the art history seminar class ‘The Druids’ who have been learning about classical druidry (what we know of it) and their professor wanted to give the students an opportunity to get a modern perspective of how the druid inspiration lives on today in the 21st century.

Though I’ve spoken at a few Pagan Pride Day seminars and visited with countless interested people on druidry, I found this particular engagement to be quite challenging. This was the first group of people who a) were all between the ages of 18 and 20 years old; and b) not necessarily interested in modern druidry or spirituality at all.

I didn’t want to just talk history (yawn) and plus their professor had covered that thoroughly. I wanted to bring the ‘nature’ to the nature spirituality and I wanted to impress the magic available to them in a wonderful universe of mystery and discovery. I knew I’d first have to dispel the misconceptions – prep the canvas of sorts, before I could paint a new picture.

If the audience had any preconceived notions, they were being too polite to voice them. I started with my ice breaker, sharing a triad and asking when they believed it was written. A front row student guessed ‘during the early days of Christianity’ and I got a mercy chuckle from a girl at the back of the room when I said that I had wrote it myself last year.

We went through the druid path and I’m sure I painted a masterpiece that challenged the senses, rational mind and spirit deep with in them. We danced through augury, magic and herbal medicine; we even talked about ritual, ceremony and wheel of the year. It was wonderful, albeit silent.

After my lecture, the professor and 3 students came along for lunch and more discussion. I found this delightful that after an hour and 15 minutes, they hadn’t had enough. We talked more on their backgrounds and thoughts, celtic history and more nuances of the druid path that I had saved for the truly curious. It was a great experience and I was taken back by the politeness and attentiveness the entire group afforded to the subject and me personally.

The mark of a worthwhile discussion like that is if anyone gets something from it. In the end, opening minds, making things ‘main stream’ or less foreign is the goal. And with such young minds, only a couple degrees of refraction can create a rainbow of colors.

ALG Druid Camp 2011

What a weekend!

I’m still just buzzing from the energy. We had a great turn out of folks at the camp on June 18th ‘011, 17 for the entire day with 9 staying over for the fun overnight. We had great lectures/seminars by Mike, Christina and 3 great subjects covered by Phaedra Bonewits. I think around 8 people got readings from Phaedra during the day and were able to buy a couple of her books too. We opened to a short meditation and Druid’s Prayer.

As everyone may have noticed in the pictures, we had our grove familiar (aka mascot) ‘Hoot’ the bobble-head owl overseeing the camp. Stephanie furnished the camp whistle in which he wears around his neck.. Mike was the first to raise awareness in his lecture of the crow connection in our camp.. we were receiving a few signs from the natural residents that were uncanny. I imagine that the critters, including squirrels were a little skittish having Hoot watching as well :-))

Phaedra illustrated that a) your energy body is ‘something’ and also can be easily felt through basic exercises, and b) that you can manipulate that energy body by actually detaching it from the physical. I have not had the energy body demonstrated quite that way and it made for a very interesting experience with alot of  ‘now, what can I do with this’ thinking.. especially in regard to ritual. The quote of the day was “Your mind can practice what it knows physically, but the reverse is not true” which simply means that actually DOING ritual work is incredibly powerful and you can meditatively do it after you’ve developed the experience. But how many of us read through the gwerse and say we’re doing the ritual in our ‘inner grove’ and taking the shortcut of not actually doing it for real? Powerful insight in basic magic…

The grove had lunch and relaxed with conversation, setting up tents etc. I tested out a dehydrated backpack meal.. Tasted ok, but only if you are without anything else.. Didn’t take me long to dig into all the other food that Steph, Ione and Marsha brought for the group!

In the afternoon we started with Christina who gave us an astrological overview of the energies we are experiencing. The peak of this energy is due to be at full force in early July – be sure to manage this and transmute it for a force of good in your life, avoid trying to bottle it up, as its a bit too powerful for that and may ‘pop’ out elsewhere if not handled with care!

Phaedra went through her next seminar on magical implements. This was really good in that it helped to ground our thinking on why we use and for what purpose – the focusing of the mind around 4 basic archetypes. Wands, swords, cups and shields – we matched them to natural occurring items and it made me more comfortable with them.. alot less foreign to the mind.

Everyone went for a swim in the lake to cool off – great sand, all the way out into the water… Wonderful camp area with easy access to the lake. Dinner was accompanied by heavy thunderstorms blowing into the area. We had heavy wind and I had a pine cone hit me on the head.. I need someone to interpret that for me please… and we scrambled to get items protected before rain hit. The wind died down and as we watched on an iPhone, we realized that the storm split and went around us to the north and south..

We got a few sprinkles during Phaedra’s ‘Life and Times of Isaac Bonewits’ talk around the fire pit. This was a moving biographical piece from Phaedra full of interesting pagan history, Isaac’s role in it and the tragic illness that Isaac went through before his death last year. The sprinkles of rain toward the end were very fitting and I dare say that they whole episode of a blustering entry of heavy winds, a knock on my head and the tears at the end made for a drama that only Isaac would have had the flair to devise! We had a great grill going that evening and by 8pm we were listening to celtic music by Tommy, Elaine and Tom. We got the fire going, went swimming a few more times to cool off and had a great drum circle. And I mean a great drum rhythm too! I think Awen’s Light Grove has figured out how to get a great drum circle happening and it would be worthy to polish that in over the coming months as we do our ritual work!

If you haven’t seen Tommy perform his songs, you’re missing out – we have some really great music talent and Tommy is definitely our Pendragon of Harmony.. Camp quieted down by Midnight, with the air cool and the Scotch gone. The s’mores all eaten (ask us about ‘s’more scotch’ its a new drink..) we hit the tents. Luckily Tom set a wake up call for 7.30am and we were all up to the sound of his car alarm.. :-)) We cleaned up, broke camp and ventured again into the world.

Solstice Blessings of Star and Stone to our Grove, the Community and the World.

Sundruid
Awen’s Light Grove

/|\

Truth

We live in this world but we are not of this world
The trees blow in the wind swaying together
They do not ask to be part of anything else
Pain they know not
They are one with the truth
Be as a tree firmly planted
And though you may bend you will not break
There is a pathless land not of this world
Where true peace holds all together as one
Where silence is our essence
And love is all we are

Catherine Brown Morell

CNN Blog Post — My Take: So who are the Druids, anyway?

Editor’s Note: Philip Carr-Gomm is a writer whose books include What Do Druids Believe? and The Book of English Magic and Wild Wisdom Meditations.

By Philip Carr-Gomm, Special to CNN

The Druids have hit the headlines in the recent days because religious charity status has been granted in the UK to The Druid Network – a group set up to foster Druid values and projects.

This has caused excitement in a number of circles. Many Druids and pagans see this as a major triumph. Others are upset because they don’t think Druidry is a religion, they feel it is a philosophy or a way of life.

And it’s worked at least one journalist into a frazzle. In The Daily Mail, Melanie Phillips revealed her disrespect and ignorance for many cultures and groups of people by writing such nonsense as “without the Judeo-Christian heritage there would be no morality and no true human rights,” in a column about Druids.

While one journalist is flustered, most are simply bemused because – they don’t really know much about the Druids.

I’ve  written books about Druidry and help to lead the world’s largest Druid group (The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids) so allow me to give a whistle-stop tour:

About three hundred years ago, a revival of interest in the pre-Christian religion of the Druids occurred in Britain, and this gave rise to three distinct movements.

One emerged out of the growing pride in the Welsh language, was entirely cultural, and involved the use of Druid ceremonial to dignify ‘Eisteddfodau’ – festivals of literature, music and performance.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has been inducted as such an honorary Druid, as was Queen Elizabeth in 1946.

Another movement evolved as a form of fraternal association, akin to Freemasonry. At its height this Druid movement had over a million members spread across the Commonwealth and included Winston Churchill.

So much for Druidry being ‘weird’ – it has been part of mainstream British society for centuries.

The third kind of Druid to emerge has been the ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ druid, as opposed to the cultural or fraternal.

From the late 1980s this much smaller group of people has grown exponentially. The established religions were failing to speak to a new generation who longed for an approach that reverenced the Earth and Nature, and Druidry became at the turn of the century a ‘green religion’ that now has perhaps 50,000 or so followers around the world.

One of the intriguing aspects of Druidry, which gets even Druids confused and excited when they talk about it, is that it doesn’t behave in the way most religions behave. For starters, it combines effectively with other spiritual approaches: it’s non-exclusivist and universalist. I’ve met Christian Druids, Buddhist Druids and Hindu Druids.

It has no saviour figure, is light on dogma, and strong on ethical behaviour. Most religions have a magical seam running through them (if the eucharist isn’t magical I don’t what is).

But the established religions separated from both science and magic a long time ago, and relegate an interest in magic to the forbidden realm of ‘the occult’.  Druidry, by contras,t is an openly magical path – a spirituality that sees life as essentially magical and each of us as co-creators in this magic.

As such Druidry is not the recent invention of Romantics, New Agers, or Hippies, but stands in a long and historically linked line of magical schools that stretch back in time via the Victorian magicians of the Golden Dawn , the Cunning Folk of popular magic, the alchemists and Anglo-Saxon wizards to – yes – even the ancient Druids.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Philip Carr-Gomm.

National Association of Earth Religions?

Most organizations collect together under an association to help manage public image, speak with one professional voice, lobby for rights and offers assistance with the media by pooling resources and a cohesive message.

Except for Earth Centered Religions.

This has become painfully apparent after the breaking news of Christine O’Donnell and her mis-characterizations of Wicca. Though I’m sure that the media has been deluged with thousands of  Wiccans reaching out (representing a small group of the estimated over 1 million in the Earth Centered religion population) the movement is lucky that the press didn’t go off on a tangent of just printing any retort that has most likely been sent to them.

Wicca has come a long way, battling against the slurs of ‘witch’ and other innocuous terms that are now levied in a tone of judgement, to the Pentagram symbol being an accepted on Arlington cemetery headstones for service members. The press for the most part is letting this die rather quickly and many interviews – even from her Democrat challenger, Chris Coons – said that the ‘revelation’ doesn’t matter.

But the question remains “is anyone really able to respond to this outrage for the community from any authority of representation”?

What do you think?