(Fayetteville, Arkansas) The ancient practices of the Druids have been told throughout history. The stories of travelers, healers, and those who call upon the spirits and Gods around us have been chronicled for hundreds of years. One group in Arkansas has claimed these ancient ways for their practice and have provided the services of knowledge, fellowship, and worship.
The Ozark Druids – Protogrove located in the lovely North West Arkansas region is a member church of the Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). According to the Ozark Druids’ website, ADF “Is a Pagan church based on ancient Indo-European traditions.”
ADF international is a nonprofit organization dedicated to provided services and protections for those who follow the faith. Founded by Rev. Isaac Bonewits (1949-2010) in 1983, “ADF is working to combine in-depth scholarship with the inspiration of artistry and spiritual practice to create a powerful modern Paganism,” explained Rev. Jeffry Wyndham. The ADF looks beyond fantasy and uses research and modern scholarship to form and resurface ancient beliefs in today’s modern world.
Grove Organizer, Tress Disney, said she began the local chapter of the ADF because she “didn’t have a local group specific to [her] particular brand of spirituality”.
A former member of the Unitarian Universalist fellowship, Disney was acquainted with fellow Pagans, but still was in search for a connection with fellow ADF believers. “So, I started a discussion group at a local coffee shop,” Disney explained.
The coffee shop became the hub for conversation and fellowship in 2012. It served as a simple discussion group until a few years later when they became an official Protogrove. “When we became a Protogrove, we began having rituals,” said Disney.
Each grove has their own flair when it comes to rituals, rites, and traditions. This is organic, one trait that is held in high regards in the ADF. However, basic ritual order and some guidelines are required. For example, leaders must be “those who describe Pagan Druidry as their primary religious path,” explained Wyndham.
The NWA Protogrove follows an orthodoxic, or hard polytheistic world-view. “The polytheistic model of ritual encourages diversity,” Disney revealed, “This is one of the reasons that ADF can be common ground for many kinds of Pagans.”
To step into an ADF ritual is to enter an ancient world. Practices that are commonly found in NeoPagan rites, such as casting a circle or calling quarters, will not be found in these rituals. Gifts and offerings of fruit and drink are given to the Outsiders (Chaos Spirits), “so they’ll leave us alone,” Disney admitted.
Disney offered an overview of the ritual. “We bend down to pray to the Earth Mother at the beginning of our rites. We do a Three Realms (Land, Sea, Sky) meditation. We experience sacred space as emanating out from a sacred center of Well, Fire, and Tree (the Three Hallows). We call upon a Gatekeeper deity to ‘ward’ our space, and we make offerings to a group of beings we call the Three Kindreds (Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Deities). We take an omen for the coming season (usually with runes). We share the ‘Waters of Life’, which is usually mint-infused water. There are two times during the ritual in which folks may come forward and participate more fully; the first time is for individual offerings, and the second time is for anyone who wants to activate individual magickal workings in the ritual fire. We have some call and repeat and unison phrases, and a lot of singing. We always have a potluck feast afterward,” explained Disney.
This ritual has become more than a rites to connect with the Gods and spirits, but has become the sacred grounds of theological evolution. These Ozark Druids have taken theology into their own hands and through dedication and continual growth in self and as a group; the practices have become their own creation.
Druidism is a live and well in NWA. A sense of the ancient whispers and timeless rituals echo throughout the rolling hills and beacon the curious traveler. This truly is the time of the ancients.
For more information on the Ozark Druids – Protogrove, visit http://ozarkdruids.webs.com/
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