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THE OBOD CELEBRATE! GATHERING

Exploring the Arts of Celebrancy

I’m recently back from a five day gathering of OBOD members and friends which we held at the Earthspirit Centre in Compton Dundon, Somerset, to explore the arts of celebrancy. There were forty of us from six different countries: England, Ireland, Scotland (Orkney), Spain, Belgium, and Mexico, and although we came from diverse backgrounds, we all had one common aim, which was to learn how we could improve our skills as celebrants – if we already had some experience of leading handfasting, naming or funeral rites – or of learning more about the subject if we felt drawn in this direction. Most participants had some experience, but a good number drew on a great deal, and were professional celebrants. We also came together for the sheer joy and companionship of spending time with others who shared the same interest. We had a third goal too – which was to participate together in creating a resource for others. And so we recorded our discussions and the presentations of the speakers we’d invited along to share their wisdom and stimulate our discussions: Caitlin Matthews, Peter Owen-Jones, Mark Townsend, and JJ Middleway.
In the evenings we joined one of three groves – Birch, Oak or Yew – to have a small group workshop with celebrant and voice coach Adrienne Thomas, or to have a workshop with celebrant and actor Belinda Murphy. For our ‘down-time’ we relaxed in Earthspirit’s garden, soaked in their hot-tub or baked in their sauna. On the last night we held an Eisteddfod, and a few days earlier Peter Owen-Jones led us to the ancient yew in the village churchyard, and explained some of the history and symbolism of church architecture in relation to rites of passage. JJ then led us on a walk to the beautifully positioned Lollover Hill, with its fine views of Glastonbury Tor and the surrounding hills.
To explore the way a wedding or handfasting can be celebrated, JJ planned a ‘mock wedding’ but with delightful synchronicity it turned out that the Mexican couple, Fernanda and Gonzalo, had been handfasted in Glastonbury only a few days earlier, and were happy to have a second rite. In the autumn sun we held their ritual in Earthspirit’s Sacred Grove, and showered the couple with golden leaves for confetti.

Sober headgear for a serious occasion!

Sober headgear for a serious occasion!

The bride's ring

The bride’s ring

The happy couple - Fernanda & Gonzalo

The happy couple – Fernanda & Gonzalo

The OBOD Celebrate! Gathering 2014 - Most of the group on the last day

The OBOD Celebrate! Gathering 2014 – Most of the group on the last day

The handfasting was blessed with Kirsten's music

The handfasting was blessed with Kirsten’s music

It was a big group, so we often broke into small groups for sharing

It was a big group, so we often broke into small groups for sharing

Mark Townsend demonstrates a technique for blessing

Mark Townsend demonstrates a technique for blessing

The Yew at Compton Dundon. You can't keep Druids away from trees!

The Yew at Compton Dundon. You can’t keep Druids away from trees!