Last weekend I spent at the Asha Centre, in the beautiful Forest of Dean where Druid grade members of The Order held their annual Gorsedd. The Centre is based in a converted Mill Owners house at Gunn Mill. You can just see the mill in the picture, wrapped in scaffolding behind it.
It was lovely to see so many old friends and to greet some people I had heard of but never met! We had a wonderful weekend working on the theme of Connections, and I can feel it’s effects percolating through my life as I’m sure it will do for some time to come. The wonderful thing about these weekends for me is that they are so spiritually invigorating and energising, even if they physically knock me for six for days afterwards!
Friday evening we chilled out after our arrival and after dinner ceremonially opened the Gorsedd. There was one hilarious moment in the lounge where Brendan leant back on his chair which suddenly leapt into recliner mode and looked like it was trying to swallow him. Fortunately, he had just put his mug of tea down, otherwise it would have gone everywhere. The thought of that Chair Of Doom has been making me smile all week.
On the Saturday between working on Connections and preparing the central part of the ritual we took a walk up the road to St Anthony’s Well. This is an ancient well which has been altered by the local Chapel -they built a large pool with steps leading into it for the purpose of total immersion baptisms. There is a huge volume of water coursing from the well which is a contrast to our local well up on the Edge which is fed by water slowly seeping from the rock.
St Anthony’s Well is said to be good for the cure of skin complaints, although we couldn’t find anyone to volunteer for a bath. From here, some us more hardy people set off to climb the nearby Iron Age Hillfort, Welshbury. The fort is set in woodland and has a series of deep and impressive ditches which would have been truly spectacular if the hill had been just grassland. Inside the ramparts was a yew tree which was obviously well loved – it had an old wall around it and a couple of offerings and then further along the crest at intervals, were three very ancient beech trees. The rest of the planting included oaks and limes at the top and then lower down birch and alder. At one end there was a fantastic hillside of bluebells which must look spectacular in May. The fort is managed by the Forestry Commission but was being damaged by their machines so that now any felling is carried out with the use of horses.
On Saturday evening after the ritual we had the traditional eistedfodd, with lots of singing, dancing and jokes. We really do need that Druid songbook we keep talking about though, as there was quite a lot of la la la-ing going on!
On Sunday we were lucky enough to have Philip and Stephanie to join us for a while,and they brought us up to speed on the Order’s news. Lots of exciting things in the pipeline! It was then time for a final reflection on the weekend and the closing ceremony. I felt completely mentally and physically drained but at the same time spiritually renewed and dare I say it, reconnected!