Tuesday, January 30, 2007

20 Years Of The Wellspring Gathering

20 Years Of The Wellspring Gathering Image
More exciting to me is the 20th anniversary of the Wellspring Gathering, Stone Creed Grove ADF's annual Druidic festival and retreat. In our efforts to create lasting Pagan institutions, longetivity counts for something. I'll indulge myself in a reminiscence...

Stone Creed was founded in 1990 (earlier for the first meetings I think, but the first public ritual was Fall Equinox 1990)), and we were planning the first festival by winter of that year. Several of the first-wave members of Stone Creed had been Starwood festival organizers for a decade, and the whole thing had a natural "Let's have a show" feel to it. Starwood had just moved to what would become the Brushwood Folklore Center. Wellspring came right behind, hosting the first year there mid-may of 1991.

Wellspring was the first specifically ADF camping festival and it arrived at a key moment in ADF's growth. At that time ADF had maybe a half-dozen working Groves, maybe 10, and almost all of them came to Wellspring. Several interested parties came as well, including Skip Ellison, who would found Muin Mound Grove right afterward. Isaac Bonewits came, and Stone Creed Grove had been able to present the first ever (I think) unscripted presentation of a full liturgy. By a year after the first Wellspring we had grown to... maybe a dozen Groves. (Skip could produce numbers...)

Before Wellspring, the ADF Annual Meeting had been held at the Starwood festival, with limited success. ADF's membership was still mainly a mailing list, receiving an occasional publication, with a few growing local Groves. At the second Wellspring Isaac moved the national meeting to our event, where it has stuck ever since. With the draw of an actual ADF festival we found ourselves meeting face to face, and a new level of accountability as well as enthusiasm took hold.

In Isaac's plan he was to remain the autocrat of the organization for its first nine years, with the Mother Grove appointed purely by his choice. By about the time we began Wellspring the membership had demanded an elected seat, and the Member's Advocate position was created. In 1994 (if I count correctly) the first full Mother Grove election was held, with Isaac still Archdruid for life. The ballots were received on paper, or cast at Wellspring, and the count done by frantic volunteers in tents. While the present election system is vastly more organized, reliable and dry, I miss the big wait and the announcement of winners at the national meeting.

The first few Wellsprings were also a lot about solidifying and refining the liturgy. Isaac had produced one core script, and a number of articles supporting his model. As Groves implemented it, changes happened and reforms occurred. I hosted an annual roundtable for a few years called 'Deepening the Liturgy', in which Grove ritualists came together to discuss the things that became the Three Kindreds, the Hallows, etc. We experimented with group ritual, did good ones and... less good ones. I recall the dreaded Five Fires rite, spread out on the Brushwood hilltop, and the Fashion Show of the Gods, in which I attempted to meld 'Culhwch and Olwen' descriptive style with full trance vision. They can't all be gems.

Around the mid-90s the internet arrived as a tool of ADF organizing, and it was a whole new ball-game. Groves proliferated, and ADF festivals began to as well. Having the national meeting at Wellspring has helped to keep us in the middle of things, and one reason that the national meeting has stayed at Wellspring is that we have built the Nemeton at Brushwood.

I never get this right... Wellspring 2 or 3? saw the beginnings of the Nemeton, built under the direction of Bryan P, the First Nemeton was a simple mound with three offering pits making it into a triskel shape, with a central fire-pit, and a metal-sheathed (eventually) Bile in the center of the Fire. Bryan carved a marvelous tricephalus pole, which lasted for several years before burning through dramatically at a Starwood rite. Over the following years the mound has been enlarged, walled in stone, and is now the site of a fine woodland ritual space, filled with shrines and hallowed with ADF memories. The development of shrines and special dedications to the many Gods and spirits in the woods surrounding the ritual mound has added a wonderful flavor to this unique Pagan ritual space.

In early years Stone Creed made an attempt to create a program that would be a general interest pagan festival, with a focus on ADF. As the organization grew the national agenda just ate its way into that effort, until Wellspring became a mainly in-house event. It's a much bigger house, now, of course. Still we try to provide inspiring teaching and ritual, good hospitality, and plenty of opportunity to grow ADF's plans, dreams and programs.

This is just some meanderings... looking backward while looking forward... The list of people responsible for this is too long to even get after without making some awful blunder, so you all know who you are. On we go to 20 more years of building the Old Ways in our time.

You also may enjoy this free books:

Anonymous - The Prayers Of The Elementals
Aleister Crowley - Liber 002 The Message Of The Master Therion
Aleister Crowley - The Heart Of The Master

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