Advice to would-be Grove facilitators :
There are far too few Druid Groves and despite Druidry being a solitary path, far too many Druids who would like to gather every so often with like minded people but say they cannot do so because there are no Groves.
So why is this?
As in all walks of life, there are those few who are willing to put the time and effort into leading an activity and the majority who are happy to participate if the activity is organised for them. But if you feel you would like to form a Grove, here is some advice. ..
Do not underestimate the effort required to form and run a Grove.
What starts out as a gathering of a few friends and like-minded acquaintances will develop into a gathering where crowd control and mass catering facilities will be essential. If you open the door, don’t be surprised by the rush!
Finding the first Grove members – there is no doubt that this is the most difficult task facing a new Grove facilitator. You may know a few people locally who might be interested. Ask them. You may belong to OBOD, BDO or some other Druid Order which may have an online forum. So advertise. There may be a Pagan moot held regularly in your area (check with the Pagan Federation online) so attend it and chat. Various local shops that sell “New Age” style items may have a notice board. Remember that just one other like-minded person and yourself makes a Grove – as they say “from tiny acorns mighty oaks grow”. Social media is an option and particularly Druid forums such as Facebook Groups. But be cautious. Just because a person belongs to a Druid forum does not mean they share your good intentions.
Do start small. Deciding to form a Grove is one thing but holding the first Grove gathering can be fraught with worry for the unprepared.
Have you ever performed public ritual before?
Are you confident about standing in front of people and leading a rite?
Not many of us are born with those skills. They have to be acquired through practice. A small friendly audience is always better than performing for the first time in front of a crowd. And make sure you have everything with you that you and the Grove needs for the ritual.
Find the nearest Druid Grove which welcomes all-comers. No matter how far away it is, attend a gathering. There are a number of reasons for doing this.
Most people’s experience of public Druid ritual is from the TV or Youtube perhaps showing gatherings at Stone Henge and the like. What you will have seen looks very formal and organised. That is not ‘real-life’ in most Groves. Actually attending a Grove gathering will teach you a lot about how Groves really work.
Do chat to other attendees at the Grove gathering.
Why do they attend?
What are they seeking from the gathering and has that gathering fulfilled their need?
How far have they travelled?
Are they regular attendees or Grove ‘butterflies’ flitting from one Grove gathering to another – ask them why?
Think about what you liked and did not like about the gathering. Learn from the experience. Do not poach other Grove’s members – it’s very impolite! And if you can, chat for a few minutes to the person running that Grove. Be open and honest and explain why you are there and what you are planning. Most Druids are friendly people and happily offer good advice. And most Druids have a network which may well include other Druids in your area.
At your first Grove gathering, remember you are not the Chief Head Archdruid of the World! Be humble. Take advice. Keep it simple.
A short simple ritual involving everyone present will have more impact and meaning than any complex rite and will encourage people to gather again. Remember you serve the Grove, not lead it. Your task is to meet all the ritual needs of all the members without offending any of them.
Every new member will bring a different perspective of what Druidry is and which Deity must be central to all ritual. You must adapt. Conversely, seek common ground. Keep the ritual simple and short. Any Grove gathering is 40% ritual and 60% chat. The more time Grove members have to socialise the more they will tell you that they loved the ritual.
Select the Grove meeting place with care. Private, close to Nature, central to the location of Grove members, near parking facilities and accessible by disabled members.
The place should be surrounded by trees (Oak if possible) and close to a stream or lake.
A few Standing Stones would also be useful.
The place should be large enough to accommodate up to fifty people but feel homely and intimate with five or six.
Such places do exist and Grove members will tell you about them.
Have fun exploring to try to find them and be happy when you always end up in a bog.
What about a Grove in a city?
This does present challenges to a new Grove. Even an early morning gathering in a local Park can attract unwelcome attention.
Back gardens are fine but how will the neighbours react (the owner of the back garden has to live with those neighbours thereafter)?
Of course there are local halls and civic centres where a room can be hired but we Druids like to gather in Nature. So what to do?
I would look to the outskirts of the town or city for a small wood or open country area. Even a beach. Joggers, cyclists and dog walkers are always a consideration but there will always be private places off the beaten track if you search for them.
Ask the Grove members to look.
It does mean travel and perhaps public transport if it is available. Car share should be considered.
Most Groves will only gather for a few hours just eight times a year usually on a Saturday or Sunday. So travel to those few events will not be a big imposition.
Don’t be surprised that everyone will tell you how to run the Grove while of course expecting you to do all the work.
Do be surprised by the considerable satisfaction and pleasure to be found in running a Grove and do be grateful for the very occasional thank you and hug.
Always publicise gathering dates early and remind everyone several times – human memory is fallible, you are not allowed to be.
I send out between three and four emails to every Grove member for every gathering with date, time, place of meeting and any request for members to bring something to the gathering. I publish the same information on our Facebook Group and our website. I also publish the dates for all gatherings during the forthcoming year on the website and send the list annually to Grove members. I include the date of the next gathering on the script which each Grove member receives at each gathering.
Around two days before a gathering I will receive queries from Grove members as to whether we are gathering and where and when it will be. This is normal!
Robes. Love them or hate them, you must wear them. You are the focus of the Grove and everyone will look to you for direction and for advice on everything from which direction is North to what are the best bargains in the local supermarket.
So you need to stand out.
Grove facilitators are not allowed to hide behind the nearest tree or Standing Stone.
Never rely upon your memory for ritual. Write it down.
Write down the parts for other participants and never be surprised by what they actually say when they read the script.
Have an encyclopaedic memory for names. People do not react well to cries of “Oi, you”.
Even if a person only turns up once a year, you must not only remember their names but also the names of every member of their family and friends.
You must also know the name of every local wild flower, tree and inhabitant of the local Forest and Meadow. A working knowledge of medicinal uses of such denizens is helpful and may be needed. An infallible method of deterring mosquitos and other biting bugs is essential.
When people bring food to share at a gathering, always compliment them on it – you can seek medical help after the event. Never rely upon anyone who assures you they will bring all that is necessary for the ritual and the sharing of bread and mead. People forget. Attempts at bread making end up in the dustbin when even the local birds refuse to eat them.
Always take everything the Grove will need for the ritual but keep them hidden as sometimes against all odds others do actually turn up with the necessities. Always thank such people and treat their contributions with wonder and respect. You can laugh or cringe when you get home.
Every year we have a Grove picnic at our Lughnasadh gathering. Bring and share. In one of my rare moments of wisdom at our first Lughnasadh, I asked one member if she would bring along some basics to ensure we at least had a few nibbles. A small monetary collection at the Solstice gathering ensured she had enough to buy them. Of course only she did so. The next year we had enough to feed the nation! People are odd that way!
No matter how often you remind people, some will forget.
Conversely, at our last Winter Solstice gathering, I asked if anyone had any mistletoe which they could bring. Of course no one responded but on the day, anyone out for a walk through the forest would have been greeted with the sight of vast bushes of mistletoe strolling through the forest apparently propelled by nothing more than pairs of Wellington Boots!
Weather is unpredictable. Every official weather forecast will guarantee a balmy dry and sunny day for the gathering. The Weather Sprites will agree. Even the seaweed hanging outside your door will be crisp and dry. They will all be wrong.
Obtain as many umbrellas and water-proof coats as you can and always take them with you to every gathering, even in high summer. All the Grove will blame you for the unforeseen deluge and if you are lucky may even return the umbrellas and coats at the end of the gathering. But at least the gathering will take place.
And finally you will regularly want to scream in frustration and become a hermit on the highest most isolated mountain available. If you must scream and beat your head against a wall, do so at home and in private. No one else will understand or sympathise.
Remember you always have around six weeks between gatherings to recover your sense of humour. Console yourself with the knowledge that the Grove would not exist without you and that you bring meaning through ritual to others. It is fun. It is hugely satisfying. It can be a pain in the neck. But you will keep on doing it for as long as your health permits.
A Grove Druid /|\