Have you heard the old Pagan saying about Nature being our cathedral, the trees of the forest being its pillars, and the golden rays of the sun being the candlelight on our altar? Yeah, well, as it turns out, our cathedral can also be attacked by the barbarian hordes.
Since the very first year of our existence, our grove had worked in a permanent nemeton set up on somebody else’s property. First Don Botsford, and now Lyn. The problems with having our nemeton on someone else’s land have always been apparent, as when Don passed away and we had to find a new location, but our members and guests alike have always felt a strong connection to the land where we’ve dug the Well and built the fire circle and made offering to the Kindreds. When we lost our access to the Botsford Preserve and I suggested that we might have to start holding our outdoor rituals in public parks or rented indoor spaces (reality check: this is where most ADF groups do their public rites), the disapproval was universal. We lucked out in finding a space at Cavallo, spend a year doing ritual in the field building our relationships with both the land spirits and the landlord, and then we found a clearing in the woods that we could turn into a nemeton, and that’s where we’ve been for three years now.
While the property owner loves us and the energy we bring (her tenants at the stable comment on it a lot), her neighbors aren’t quite as thrilled. They aren’t brave enough to come up to me and tell me they have a problem with me, though apparently one of them loves telling our folks who walk to and from the bathroom that they “don’t like strangers”. For a while, that was the extent of it, but then the signs we put by the road started disappearing (along with Gen’s LED light we were using to illuminate it), and one was torn and left in pieces. Any doubts I had as to who was doing it vanished at the next rite when one of the neighbors drove out to the road, saw Rodney sitting next to the sign, and turned right around and drove home.
So having someone keep an eye on the signs was as much as we needed to worry about until February, when Lyn called to ask if any of us had been to the site, which of course we hadn’t because we do our winter rites indoors. She said it looks like the Epona statue was gone, and that it looked like things were missing from the circle but she wasn’t sure what. (She loves having us there, but she doesn’t attend the rituals and really couldn’t be expected to know what shrines and such we have set up.) I asked the Grove officers if they could stop by the site and see what, if anything, had happened, but nobody could manage to get there during daylight hours before our regularly scheduled nemeton work day last weekend.
When Gen and I got to the nemeton that day, Rodney confirmed it. The Epona statue that Candy painted to honor the horses of the farm was gone, though the support stones were still there. (And having carried that thing back when I still had my own feet, I know that it weighed over fifty pounds. That they removed the statue but not the other things still seems hard to believe.) Our Kindred altars, the herm, and the bricks of the Well had all been thrown from the circle into the woods. (We managed to find all of those, save one brick.) And what firewood we had left last year was gone. Rodney had put everything back; in hindsight, we should have at least gotten photos, and probably filed a report with the police. After that, we did our usual raking and firewood gathering and made offerings to the Kindreds, just like every other nemeton work day. As we left, Gen put one of the Epona statue’s support bricks on tops of the other to make an impromptu altar, and gave a grain offering to Epona.
Was it the neighbors? I can’t prove it, but I have no other suspects. Whoever it was has committed trespassing and vandalism, at a minimum. And I have no reason to think they haven’t gone right back and done it again. I’m not too worried about the shrine stands, those can be replaced easily enough, plus we can do a ritual without them if we need to (other than marking the Well so people don’t step into it). If there was any risk of harm to the people attending our rituals, that would concern me, but the cowardly nature of these acts make me think that they will never confront us directly.
Will we be looking for a new site to hold our rituals? Of course not. If these people think they can motivate us by making us afraid, then they don’t know us and our practices. They think that fear will motivate us because they themselves are motivated by it, and that’s a shame. But I will not act out of fear. We have the legal right to be in that place, we have worked hard to make it our sacred space and to build good relations with the land, and I don’t give up on my relationships so easily. A statue can be replaced, as we Pagans were reminded last year, but we still have each other and the blessings of the Kindreds, and no pathetic trespasser can take those from us.
How do I honor the Three Kindreds in this matter? Not hard: I honor the local Land Spirits by continuing to make offerings and ask for their blessings; I honor my grandmother by following her advice about never giving a bully what they want; and I honor my patroness Athena by honoring the laws of the land and working within our legal system to bring these criminals to justice.
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF