Note – what follows is entirely fictional. I know very few druids and no AODA’ers in the area, so I don’t think I could get together enough people to support the kind of structure I’m outlining below. It’s something that has been on my mind, though, so I thought I should write it down – you never know what might happen. I have tried to integrate AODA practice with my own preferences and with lessons I’ve learned from past group work.
Mill Creek Grove
We meet for each of the eight seasonal festivals of the Sun Path. Our ritual will take place on the weekend day nearest to the date of the festival. Everyone is also encouraged to do their own private observations on the day of the festival, alone or in smaller groups. However, the main ritual should not be neglected in favor of private practice.
We meet once a month, on a date determined in the previous month’s meeting, for a group meditation. The date is flexible here so that schedules can be accommodated. These are Moon Path meetings, and all respect will be paid to the phase the moon is in at the time, but I have found that restricting the date to a particular moon phase results in awkward scheduling problems. All phases of the moon have value and can be honored, so there’s no need to proclaim one particular phase as the correct one. The goal here is for as many of us to be able to participate as possible.
We also meet once a month, in a separate meeting on another night, as a study group. All members are encouraged to come but the study group can be considered optional – two and sometimes three meetings a month can be onerous for many people, especially those with children, and the goal here isn’t to place a burden but to give opportunities to those who want it. Study group members should be earnest and committed to the topic of the evening, doing reading and giving serious thought to the subject before coming to the group. Do not come to the study group if you have nothing to contribute – this is not about one or two people hearing themselves talk, but an exchange of ideas. If any one Grove member is particularly knowledgeable about a subject, that person is encouraged to step up as a discussion leader.
This is the basic foundation for the grove. Other activities, such as community service work, may come up in the course of things. I can also see sub-groups forming of those working the various Spirals – if two or more people are working on the same spiral, they should get together to compare notes and practice together. It would be wonderful to have something like a “Spiral Night,” where the poets could read their poetry, musicians could play for us, diviners could do readings, that sort of thing.
All activities should be conducted outdoors as the weather and circumstances permit. While no Druid should be particularly bothered by cold or damp weather, especially in a seasonal festival, it is obviously going to be more difficult to focus on meditation or a discussion topic in heavy rain, extreme cold, or oppressive heat. It’s also often difficult to find private outdoor space in an urban area, and I for one have a hard time conducting ritual if I feel like a public spectacle. My backyard is one option if we can get a fence up but the subject of location is one that needs further discussion. Any location has to be accessible within reasonable walking distance of public transportation – I don’t own a car and I don’t want anyone to be limited as to participation by transportation issues. My living room is open for meditation and study but I would prefer it if we found some other, more neutral space for this.
Leadership – founding members and any who have regularly attended Sun and Moon gatherings for more than three months have access to leadership roles. I am a strong believer that anyone who has something to contribute in this way should do so, but I have also seen what happens in the absence of strong leadership, which is chaos. Consensus is encouraged but can only get us so far. I see my own role as a sort of master of ceremonies – composing, opening and closing rituals, leading guided meditations, and making any final calls on decisions when consensus cannot be reached. This leads many other leadership roles. We need someone to be an organizer – figure out where and when we are meeting, and communicate this information to everyone. We need leaders for study groups, which I imagine as being passed around to various individuals as they have areas of particular expertise. I would refer to JMG’s “Inside a Magical Lodge” for descriptions of various roles within a lodge environment – while we are not quite creating a lodge here, the lodge system has some tried-and-true methods which we would be smart to emulate. I would encourage all members to read this book. A system of officers such as a lodge employs would eliminate so much of the disorganized confusion that I’ve seen in other circles.
This is all set up with an AODA structure in mind, and I’ve used terminology particular to that group here. I don’t know if AODA membership should be required – honestly, it’s hard enough to drum up participants for this sort of thing without adding yet another requirement. Also, I don’t have the requisite credentials to start an “official” AODA grove, so it seems a bit much to ask that of people. I would gently encourage it, though. If this were to happen in real life, I would check with the Archdruid for his thoughts before proceeding.