Q & A – Part 1
The following questions and answers were a part of an interview for a Podcast on behalf of a US Pagan Radio station in 2016 – sadly the Podcast was never recorded – however we feel that as an opening to our Q & A Blog thread – it is an interesting place to start!
- Can you tell us a bit about the history of Sunwheel Grove and what your roles in the Grove are?
G – I am Glentaowen the Gate Keeper – I am the Guardian and caretaker to the Grove and head of maintenance and gardening!
MT – I am Mylo Tup – A Bard to the Sunwheel Grove – I am also a member of what I like to call ‘The Planning and Maintenance Department’ (for writing purposes) – we are a small group and tend the Grove with Glen – we are the seasonal maintenance organisers and gardeners for the Grove and its Ceremonies – I keep a record of life at the Grove in the form of the ‘Grove Diary’ – I also submit poetry in a looser form – to other blog titles and pages on our website!
G – Our Grove all started with the Sunwheel Calendar drawn up by Morien Ravenstone!
He also drew up the maps for a modern Pilgrimage to Avebury via a Mountain Bike trail using various ancient roads – trackways and of course the Ridgeway!
A small gathering of like-minded friends got together and congregated at our local Stone Circle – The Rollright Stones! – We then set off on the 45 miles or so with heavy laden bicycles for a week’s adventure with our camping gear!
When we reached the Ridgeway at Uffington – White Horse hill – we carried on a couple of miles or so and stopped for lunch at Wayland Smithy!
MT – It was here that the beginning of an idea formed and over the years with repeated trips we found friendship and a common bond and the idea of the Sunwheel Grove was born!
Our visits became a regular annual pilgrimage to Wayland Smithy for the Summer Solstice where we would camp in the woods and meet up with friends and their families!
We believe that unlike – other more structured and mainstream religions – Paganism and Druidry gives your own personal belief room to breathe – and it is our similarities and understanding that bring us together in unity as we follow our path!
We gather to share our knowledge – experience and understanding – expanding our knowledge and personal belief – we also believe in the power of the strength of the inner self and inner peace and encourage the comfort – strength and wellbeing of personal creation – from the seed of an idea – the flow of thought that comes as it grows – right through to the excitement of fulfilment with the completion of your chosen project – whatever it may be!
- How does your Grove view the Ancestors? How do they guide your work?
MT – The Ancestors and the threads of our family trees are very important to us – it was the drive to find somewhere to honour and celebrate with the Ancestors that led to us finding and forming the Sunwheel Grove!
G – The Ancestors are an integral part of all our Ceremonies and Celebrations!
- Does The Sunwheel Grove have a particular view of deity? – If so, could you tell us about it?
MT – Deity is seen as being a more personal thing – meaning different things to different people!
G – We don’t refer to the Sun or Moon or the Goddess and such with or using ancient names – this again is all down to personal interpretation and belief!
- You begin your year on the Winter Solstice. Some Pagan traditions consider Samhain the beginning of the New Year. What’s the significance of beginning the year with the Winter Solstice?
MT – Our Grove and its Calendar revolve around the yearly life cycle of the Sun – our year starts with the re-birth of the Sun after the longest night of darkness – it is for this reason we gather for our Annual Druid Council in conjunction with the Perihelion and the closest point between the Sun and the Earth!
We follow the flow of the seasons – throughout the yearly phases – of the life cycle of the Sun – the Earth – the Moon and their influences!
G – When the yearly cycle is closest to the world of the Ancestors – we gather for Samhain and honour and celebrate with the Ancestors and give thanks for our blessings!
After Samhain we enter a period of contemplation with the dying of the year and the completion of the life cycle of the Sun and the course of our year!
Our year ends with the final Sunset of the year before we enter the night of the longest darkness at Winter Solstice – as dawn breaks with the birth of the new Sun-wheel – we enter our New Year!
- On your website you mention that the earth, sun and moon have particular influences on us all. Does your grove have particular traditions or rites associated with the earth, sun and moon?
MT – At times there can be quite a modern – scientific and mathematical approach to our thinking – we live in a very modern world – some might say too modern for its own good!
G – We also go back to basics and honour the Triad of the Sun – Earth and Moon because we wouldn’t be here without them – and they are the foundation stones of our Grove and our world – as part of our 9 Ceremonies they are honoured for their seasonal influence!
- Ancient Druids believed in reincarnation. Does your Grove have a position on the transmigration of souls? – If so, could you share it with us?
G – We believe that we are spirits of the Earth – we are like Apples – we come from the Earth – we live and grow – extending our family trees – before returning to the Earth and the spirits of the Earth – sharing in the life and the power of nature – you could call it reincarnation and a life of lives!
- Are your ceremonies open to the public? – If so, what might a visitor expect when attending one of your rites?
MT – Our Ceremonies are not open to the public – they are open by invitation – our Grove is in a discrete corner of countryside and was never intended for large numbers – our original idea was to give and encourage like-minded people the opportunity to share our knowledge – experience and structure to build their own Groves and work with and in their own local environment!
The idea is that they would eventually become like a collection of Seed Groups – who would eventually meet up at Summer Camps and gatherings to celebrate and get together!
They would then be given the opportunity to follow the structure of the Sunwheel Calendar and the Grove and have access to copies of our Sunwheel Ceremonies!
G – Our Ceremonies are written by Hawk Elderin our Herald and have expanded over the years since we first began – there are now two sets of 9 Ceremonies – the Full Ceremony (for up to nine participants + audience) and the North & South Ceremony – a smaller version designed to be used by two people!
They both start with The Herald – followed by The Opening – The Rite and then The Closing!
MT – Our robes are traditionally made by our robe maker – out of plain unbleached cotton and our Ceremonies are held in our circle of local Cotswold Stone surrounded by a circle of Silver Birch where we assemble before the Sun – Moon and Earth and sentinels move to work around a triangular wooden central table with a central fire!
G – Each Ceremony is individually set up depending on the season and will usually last from an hour to an hour and a half – and we toast with Mead – Apple Juice and Spring Water!
Each Ceremony takes place on the given day of The Sunwheel Calendar!
- What do you see as similarities and differences between British Druid and North American Druidry?
MT – This is an area that is very subjective – I don’t know much about North American Druidry but to me – I don’t see it as being very different really – to me – a Druid works with the land and the energy of the Ancient Ancestors of that land – I imagine that you would work with the native plants – Trees and energies as we do – using the same influences as they would have done in the past!
It’s all about living in harmony with nature and the seasons of energy and life!
G – If I were to move to North America or Australia – I would feel the need to work with the land as the ancients did – as I do now – to me – I couldn’t see how my English / British / European history would fit with a foreign land – I would have to start again and understand how that land worked for the Ancestors and approach it from there!
I would have to look into how the Shaman and the Native American Indians worked with the land – it would be the same with the Aboriginal beliefs in Australia!
If you can find a balance with how the land and its energies have lived and worked in the past – with a modern understanding – I’m sure you could find your peace and sense of belonging in that land and work together!
- Here in the United States youth and vigour seem to be favoured over old age and wisdom. Our Order has occasionally encountered difficulties, being an Order that honours the Ancestors and the Elders of our tribe. Have you had similar difficulties with your Grove?
MT – Isn’t that more about the impatience of youth and the youth of today thinking they know everything – why listen to the wise and the knowledgeable when you can get a dodgy answer on google – whether it is right or wrong – after all understanding comes with age and experience!
G – Thankfully – it’s not something that we have found issue with – let’s hope it stays that way!
- Your website mentions shamanism. – Does your Grove teach shamanism?
G – Shamanism is something that has become part of our Grove in more recent times – with the presence and influence of new members and friends!
MT – We have discussed the possibility of teaching in a variety of fields over the years – maybe as we expand this is something we shall look at in the future!
- Would you say your Grove is more Revivalist, more Reconstructionist, or a blending of both?
G – To be honest – I would say we would be more Modern Druidism and looking to the future – there seems to be an awful lot of Wiccan influence creeping into Druidry – when it comes down to it – the Ancient Druids didn’t write anything down and certainly didn’t keep records – more’s the pity – just because something is old or sounds it – it doesn’t mean any more than the feeling you have in your heart for what you believe to be true – if you can at least work with nature and find your peace – that’s got to be worth believing in!
MT – It’s not about invoking spirits and asking for stuff – it’s about accepting what you have and learning to appreciate it!
- If someone would like to learn more about Sunwheel Grove, how would they get in touch?
G – We can be found at – www.sunwheelgrove.co.uk
MT – Or you can e-mail either of us or the [email protected]@sunwheelgrove.co.uk