Druids in the Redwoods

A year ago, at Midsummer, I went on a personal, spiritual retreat in the ancient redwood forests of Humboldt County, California. I went for silence, for prayer, for healing. I went to take from the forest — as so many humans regularly do. Loggers take lumber. Tourists take photos. Fishermen take salmon. Spiritual seekers take their ease.  Many of them leave trash in their wake. Few leave evidence of gratitude for the many gifts they receive from the redwood forest.

The Humboldt County Redwoods at Summer Solstice

While hiking through forest, near the Founders Grove, I passed this spot…

The Humboldt County Redwoods — A Splintered, Fallen Giant

…and was struck by a sudden vision, vivid and clear: I was to organize a gathering of Druids in the redwoods, to sing to the trees, to study the ecology, and draw attention to the beauty and power and importance of that place through various works of artistic expression. As Druids, it was our role to begin giving back. To build, and role-model an appropriate reciprocal relationship to that ancient forest, a forest that had been there, giving of itself, for more than 50 million years.

The trees even gave me a song, while I walked among them, which I transcribed upon my return: “Gifts of Awen

And so, I organized. I located a lovely little grouping of cottages at the edge of the redwood forest in which to stay, to enjoy meals, and to host a few workshops. I scouted the area for good places for ecological studies and performing rituals. And I invited Druids from far and wide to attend. I have just returned from our first official Redwoods Gathering, delighted with the entire experience, and wanting to share a bit of our journey.

Six druids (and one young druid in training) attended our inaugural Redwoods Gathering, which began on Friday morning with a guided nature walk through Founders Grove.

Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Francisco’s Guided Nature Walk

As we roamed the forest after Francisco’s talk, our group happened upon the spot where I had originally received my summoning vision. And if anyone was still wondering whether we were truly welcome to celebrate in that forest, or if anyone had a question regarding the most appropriate spot for a Midsummer ritual, the trees themselves offered up the answer — an answer discovered by Thea, as she rounded the very next bend in the path…

Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Discovering the Giant Awen
Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Druids receive an invitation from the Giants.

The question remained: now that we knew where we would be celebrating, what would a wildcrafted Midsummer ritual look like? Seasons in the redwood forest are not at all like seasons in other places  on Earth. A lot happens there in autumn and winter and spring, but come summertime, not much happens except for the influx of summer visitors — both humans on summer holiday, and birds chasing the insects that come to escape the dry summer heat. So, our focus became the visitors, and how we might re-enchant the forest for those visitors, on behalf of the forest. We thought about how we might work to change the energy of a popular hiking trail, to encourage people to have more mindful connections with the forest, rather than the disrespectful, flitting, consumption-oriented attitudes typically found among modern tourists, bent on Instagramming themselves with the largest/oldest/tallest trees.

Also, since North, South, East and West have so little meaning in the middle of the redwood forest (which runs along meandering river valleys, and whose landscape varies by distance from the river’s waters and distance from the very rare canopy gaps, sliced open by falling giants), we decided to use a Land/Sea/Sky approach, with liberal application of nature connection meditations, offerings of gratitude, and songs of praise. The energetic nature of rituals is really difficult to convey in mere words, so I will simply share a few images (taken by our Dragon), while we worked our Druid magic.

Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Requesting Permission & Growing Our Roots
Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Procession to Re-enchant the Trail
Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Greeting & Thanking the Spirits of Place
Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Singing to the Trees
Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Cleaning the Forest
Redwoods Gathering 2019 – Closing Tree Meditation

Rounding out the weekend were a delightful series of shared meals, BBQs, and marshmallow roasts, games of horseshoes, swimming in the Eel River, workshops on plant communication, and ritual wildcrafting, as well as plenty of time to work on arts and crafts, and simply shoot the breeze with other Druids. Everyone had so much fun, that we decided to do it again, next year! I am already counting the days.

“Gifts of Awen”

My latest musical composition, which I now sing as part of my daily devotions:

I have not yet added back up instrumentals, as I typically sing this while walking the land, after morning prayers. With that in mind, this one might forever remain a simple vocal tune. I will consider adding layers at a later date.

If you like the song, and would like to download a copy of the sheet music for your personal, private, non-commercial use, you may do so here:

“Gifts of Awen” by Larisa Ananda White

Enjoy!

First Rains Dance

Darned inconvenient when the First Rains arrive in the very wee hours of the morning, when singing and dancing loudly out-of-doors will get you reported for disturbing the peace. So, we waited for first light, and tried to sing quietly, and muffle our laughter and squeaks of joy, as we danced in celebration of the healing power of Gwyar…

Today, we dance
The Return of the Rains,
Quenching the fires,
Cleansing the panes.
We dance for the hope
Blessed Simurgh has brought,
With the flow of clear water
Her magic has wrought.

Praise Simurgh, Spirit of Transformation,
Breaker, re-maker of all creation,
Bringer of Holy Wisdom and growth,
Endings, beginnings, despair, and hope!

Daily Devotions

(Pause at the edge of the ritual space to quiet the mind, ground the body, and open the spirit to the presence of Divinity. Open the altar cabinet doors OR step out into the garden, at dawn.)

I enter the Sacred Grove with reverence.
I enter the Sacred Grove in peace.

(Visualize the Sacred Grove, materializing.)

(Light the gold candle OR greet Dyéus in gesture.)

Praise Dyéus, Father of Law and Light,
Source of inspiration and sight,
Lord of the shining celestial sphere,
Master of Life and Spirit, here!

I thank you for the blessings of Nwyfre.

(Light the green candle OR greet Matria in gesture.)

Praise Matria, Mother of manifest Earth,
Churning power of heat and birth,
Builder of landscapes, shaper of seas,
Keeper of hearths and constancy!

I thank you for the blessings of Calas.

(Light the blue candle OR greet Simurgh in gesture.)

Praise Simurgh, Spirit of Transformation,
Breaker, Re-maker of all creation,
Bringer of healing, wisdom, and growth,
Creativity, awe, and hope!

I thank you for the blessings of Gwyar.

In the union of these Three
Powers of Divinity,
Are born the Kindred, we jewels of life,
Who fill the world with blessings bright.

(Light the white hearth-candle OR bring hands to heart.)

Awen!

(Visualize a stream of golden energy emanating from the Heavens — filling my body with light, shimmering, starshine, as if my body were turning into a body of sunlight.)

Awen!

(Visualize a stream of green energy emanating from deep within the Earth — filling my body with earthy weight and stability, as if my body were becoming a mountain.)

Awen!

(Visualize a swirling stream of blue energy emanating from the vast, roiling Seas — filling my body with a sense of the immanent power of creativity, adaptability, and change.)

(Allow the three energies to mix within me, creating a shining ball of white light, which expands to fill the Sacred Grove.)

(Open hands to the wider world, allowing that energy to radiate outwards, showering blessings upon all Beings in the Realms of Land, Sea, and Sky.)

Blessed Land, and Sea, and Sky:
I thank you for the peaceful night,
And thank you for this precious day,
Another chance to learn and play,
Another chance to do good work,
To build my world, to write my book.

Holy Powers, help me stay
Upon the trail that you have blazed.
Help me use my moments wisely,
Choosing joy and shining brightly,
Caring for the gifts you gave,
Until my rest at close of day.

Sing: “Gifts of Awen”

Deep within the still center of my being, may I find peace;
Here, within the quiet of the Grove, may I share peace;
Gently, within the greater circle of all life, may I radiate peace.

(Salute the East.)

Peace and greetings to the East,
Birthplace of the rushing winds,
Where the golden eagle soars at dawn,
With gifts of vision, scent, and song.

(Salute the South.)

Peace and greetings to the South,
Pathway of our brilliant star,
Whose soothing warmth and plays of light
Encourage us and bring delight.

(Salute the West.)

Peace and greetings to the West,
Wellspring of the mighty Sea,
Whose fog banks and rain clouds, rivers, and tides
Cleanse and refresh us, and nourish all life.

(Salute the North.)

Peace and greetings to the North,
Homeland of the ancient trees,
And patient, radiant Shasta Mountain,
Teaching us to simply be.

May there be peace within the Grove;
May there be peace throughout the World.

Awen! Awen! Awen!

Sing: “Gifts of Awen

(Morning nature divination & meditations.)

Dyéus, Father of Inspiration;
Matria, Mother of all Creation;
Simurgh, Spirit of Transformation;
Spirits of Nature, one and all:

Thank you for your steady presence, and guidance in my life.

I depart the Sacred Grove with gratitude;
I depart the Sacred Grove, in peace.

(Allow the Sacred Grove visualization to dissipate. If at altar, snuff the candles and close the altar cabinet doors. Depart the ritual space, slowly, returning to the normal course of the day.)

Prayer to the Kindred

Hael, my Kindred of the Land,
From jagged peak to silty strand!
Hael to the mosses and lichens that grow,
Turning rough, barren rock into soils, below.
Hael to the flowers and food plants and glades,
And old growth that offers up shelter and game.
Hael to the animals, teachers and friends,
And fungi who work to recycle all ends.

Hael, my Kindred of the Sea,
From mountain spring to ocean deep!
Hael to the seashore, its currents and tides,
Its wetlands and fishes, and seaweeds and fry.
Hael to the snowfields, and rivers that flow,
Cleansing and shaping the landscape below.
Hael to the wellsprings, and soft-falling rains,
Which nourish all life, and soothe all our pains.

Hael, my Kindred of the Sky,
From puff of cloud, to starry night!
Hael to the sun and its rich, golden dawn,
Its brilliant noon sunshine, and comforting warmth.
Hael to the songbirds, and sweet-scented breeze,
To rainbows and sunsets, and shade from the trees.
Hael to the glittering planets and stars,
Who teach us and guide us by lighting the dark.

Kindred Spirits of Land, Sea, and Sky,
Thank you for sharing, and blessing my life.
Spirits of Nature, here on Earth,
Be welcome at my Sacred Hearth!

Awen! Awen! Awen!