Animal Wisdom | Dream Work | Gods and Goddesses | Green Living  | Meditation Ogham Rites of Passage | Shamanism Wheel of the Year

The Sun Path is about our relationship to the divine and to the spiritual. The triad of the Sun Path consists of the Wheel of the Year, the Gods and Goddesses, and Rites of Passage. The Wheel of the Year consists of the eight High Days celebrated by Druids and most other Pagans. The Gods and Goddesses are the way we allow divinity and spirit to work within us. Rites of Passage are events in which we celebrate the important transitions of our lives. Together these make up the Sun Path of the Way of the Druid.The Sun Path of The Way of the Druid is about our relationship to the divine and to the spiritual. The triad of the Sun Path consists of the Wheel of the Year, the Gods and Goddesses, and Rites of Passage. The Wheel of the Year consists of the eight High Days celebrated by Druids and most other Pagans. These High Days are:

Samhain (November 1)
Alban Arthan (Yule or the Winter Solstice)
Imbolc (February 1)
Alban Eilir (Ostara or the Vernal Equinox)
Beltane (May 1)
Alban Heruin (Midsummer or the Summer Solstice)
Lughnasadh (Lammas or August 1)
Alban Elfed (Mabon or September 1)

The Gods and Goddesses are the way we allow divinity and spirit to work within us. Rites of Passage are events in which we celebrate the important transitions of our lives. Together these make up the Sun Path of the Way of the Druid.In many Western cultures, time is seen as linear; but in The Way of the Druid, time is seen as cyclical. In The Way of the Druid and many other forms of Paganism, the cycle of the year is divided up into eight Sabbats, or High Days. These High Days are often celebrated with feasts and rituals. They constitute the Pagan holidays. These eight High Days consist of the solstices and equinoxes and the midpoints between each solstice and equinox. The summer and winter solstice, combined with the spring and fall equinoxes, are called the Quarter Days. The midpoints between each are referred to as the Cross-Quarter Days.The beauty of this arrangement is that the High Days are evenly distributed throughout the year, with one occurring approximately every 45 days or so. Each High Day had a special meaning and significance for those who lived in a pre-industrial society, but they also have an inner spiritual meaning that is significant for Pagans today, whether or not they live in an agrarian community. For example, the Feast of Mabon (the vernal equinox) celebrates the harvest of first fruits as farmers begin to bring their crops in from the field, but it also symbolizes an inner, spiritual harvest as we gather the gifts of the spiritual seeds we have sown throughout the year.The eight High Days of the Wheel of the Year are often depicted in graphic form as a wheel with eight spokes. This wheel is sometimes called the Wheel of Taranis. Taranis is the Celtic Thunder God, responsible for the weather and seasonal changes. An earlier variation on the Wheel of Taranis shows a wheel with four spokes representing the Quarter Days, without the Cross-Quarter Days. This leads some scholars to believe that originally only the Quarter Days were celebrated. The astronomical alignments of many of Europe’s Pagan holy sites would tend to confirm this hypothesis.In modern times it is easy to miss the significance of the Wheel of the Year. We get our food from supermarkets and fast food restaurants, and most of us don’t depend on agriculture and animal husbandry for our well-being. In an agrarian society, though, not knowing the proper times to plant and harvest could literally be a matter of life and death. So it is only natural that our Pagan ancestors gave the Wheel of the Year a central place in their spiritual and religious practices.For today’s Druids, each High Day on the Wheel marks a different phase of spiritual development.

Taken altogether, the Wheel of the Year is symbolic of the cycle of birth-death-rebirth found throughout nature, and within an individual’s spiritual and personal grown. The circular nature of the Wheel reminds us that all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. The teaching of reincarnation is a theme in many of the surviving epics of Ireland, and the Wheel serves as a living representation of this concept. On another level, the Wheel can be taken as a metaphor for life’s journey. The Wheel tracks the Sun as it waxes and wanes throughout the year. With sunrise on the Winter Solstice, the days begin to grow in length, reaching their peak at the Summer Solstice. From there, the days begin to get shorter and shorter until the next Winter Solstice. So the period from Winter Solstice to Vernal Equinox represents youth, the period from the Vernal Equinox to the Summer Solstice represents young adulthood, the period from the Summer Solstice to the Autumnal Equinox represents middle age, and the period from the Autumnal Equinox to the Winter Solstice represents old age.

Further symbolic meaning in the Wheel of the Year can be seen in the balance between light and dark. The brighter months of summer give way to the darker months of winter, and then the cycle begins anew. This can be seen as a metaphorical representation of one’s own life journey. We all have periods of darkness and periods of light. When in a period of darkness, it helps to remember that the light will come again. Also, when in a period of light, it helps to remember that darkness will come again.The Greek philosopher Aristotle created the concept of the Golden Mean. He conceived of the Golden Mean as a balance between two extremes. This idea is often expressed as, “Everything in moderation, nothing in excess.” For example, overeating leads to obesity, and not eating enough leads to poor nutrition and therefore poor health. So the balance between these two extremes would be to eat enough to stay healthy without gaining too much weight. Another example would be seen in the extremes of emotion vs. reason. To be ruled by emotion is to be tossed upon the wind by the storms of life. On the other hand, to live totally by reason is to live a cold, unfeeling life. True wisdom is found in emotion tempered by reason.Of course, we all have times when our feelings get the better of us. We also probably have times when we stray too far into emotionless rationalism. But eventually, if we are mentally healthy, we return to stability. The Wheel of the Year illustrates this idea as well. As the Sun moves into the winter months, the days become darker, only to return to the brighter days of the summer, just as when we are experiencing our darker moods, we may look forward to brighter times.

The Wheel of the Year incorporates Aristotle’s idea of the Golden Mean by depicting the tendency in Nature to strive for balance between extremes. Scientists call this idea “homeostasis.” Homeostasis is the concept that a system, when out of balance, tends to correct itself over time in order to restore balance.The number three is sacred to the Druids, and this is reflected in many triads in Druid practice. One of these triads is Underworld, Middle Earth, and Sky/Heavens. Humans live on the surface of the Earth, balanced between the Earth below and the Heavens above. To many modern Druids, water represents the forces of Chaos, and fire represents the forces of Order. Looking at the triad of Underworld, Middle Earth, and Heavens, we find that the Underworld is saturated with the waters of Chaos. Just as water poured onto the ground will seep into the Earth, so the forces of Chaos seep into the Underworld. Likewise, the fire of the Sun represents Order. Without the Sun, plants could not grow upward from the chaos of the Earth. Humans and animals live on Middle Earth, the plane that is balanced between the forces of Chaos and Order. From the Druid perspective, the ideal life is one that strives for a balance between these forces. In my tradition, many rituals end with the phrase, “Between Heaven and Earth I find my balance.” This indicates that we always seek to balance Chaos and Order in our daily lives.

To live a life ruled by Chaos is to live without direction and purpose. On the other hand, to live a life ruled by Order is to become obsessive about everything. Finding balance allows one to live a life of purpose without engaging in compulsive, controlling behavior.The psychoanalyst Carl Jung conceived the ideas of Shadow and Persona. Jung believed that all human beings contain within them the potential for all behaviors, both “good” and “bad.” According to Jung, the Persona is the mask we wear in our everyday lives. It is the face we present to others. The Persona represents who we think we are, and who we would like to be. The Shadow, on the other hand, represents all those traits we wish to suppress in ourselves. All our anger, fears, and negative emotions and behaviors are pushed down into the Shadow and denied expression in the Persona.Jung believed that the key to mental health was a process called individuation. Simply put, individuation involves striking a balance between the Shadow and the Persona. The Shadow represents the forces of chaos and darkness within an individual, and the Persona represents the forces of order and light. While the Shadow contains all of our darker and more negative emotions, it is also the seat of creativity. To deny the existence of one’s Shadow is to deny one’s own ability to be creative. However, allowing the Shadow to rule one’s life creates a situation where the individual is ruled by the forces of chaos and darkness. Psychoanalysis is the process by which we balance light and darkness within ourselves, thus achieving Individuation.Some moral, religious and ethical systems try to deny the existence of our darker impulses. These systems focus solely on the Persona: The face we present to others. The more such systems suppress the darker impulses in the Shadow, the more unbalanced the individual becomes. In such a case, the Shadow becomes a pressure cooker with no means to release the pressure. In extreme cases, the pressure cooker blows, leading to dysfunction and even psychosis.

The Way of the Druid and many other Pagan systems recognize the need to balance Persona and Shadow. By acknowledging our darker impulses, we open the door to creating this balance, leading to Individuation. Unfortunately, many people think that acknowledging our darker impulses means having to act on these impulses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Suppose someone has done something that leads you to be angry with that person. Your first impulse might be the desire to retaliate in some way by returning anger for anger, or by hurting that individual in some way. Those who focus only on the Persona would attempt to suppress and deny this impulse, even though the desire to retaliate is a perfectly normal reaction to being angered. The angrier such a person becomes, the more he tries to suppress that anger, until he reaches boiling point and reacts explosively to the situation.

A Druid, on the other hand, would seek to restore balance by acknowledging this impulse. Instead of swallowing her anger, a Druid would recognize it as a darker impulse. But instead of returning anger for anger, a Druid would strive to express that anger in positive ways; perhaps by confronting the source of the anger and saying to the person, “You know, what you said/did really made me angry. I don’t want to be angry with you. What can we do to resolve this situation?”So what does all of this have to do with the Wheel of the Year?

As much as we might sometimes like to think otherwise, we are not separate from nature. A huge body of research confirms that our environment and the seasons affect our moods and behavior. If you think about it for a moment, you will probably find this to be true for yourself as well. Do you find yourself becoming more contemplative and introspective during the winter months? Do you become happier and more outgoing in the summer months? Does a walk in the woods improve your mood? If so, you are not alone.The rites, rituals and celebrations of the cycle of the seasons allow us a tangible symbolic representation of these inner states of being. Just as the seasons move back and forth between cycles of light and darkness, so our own moods and feelings cycle between lighter and darker times. Celebrating the Wheel of the Year allows us to acknowledge both our lighter and our darker impulses in a sacramental way. By acknowledging them, we restore balance to our lives and to our spiritual journey.When celebrating any High Day on the Wheel of the Year, the first and most important goal is to ask yourself what your intention is in doing so. By focusing on the intention of the ritual, you avoid the trap of just going through the motions. If your rite or ritual is purpose-driven, you enhance its capacity to speak to you in meaningful ways.

Inspiration from the Wheel of the Year

To summarize the purpose of the celebration of the Wheel of the Year, one could say that by honoring the High Days, we seek divine inspiration in our lives and in ourselves. Since Druids seek inspiration through the imbas (or “awen” in the Welsh tradition), no discussion on the Druid perspective of the Wheel would be complete without an elaboration on the concept.“Awen” is a Welsh word roughly translated as ‘divine inspiration.’ The word is Indo-European in origin and comes from the root “-uel,” which means “to blow.” In this sense, it could be seen to mean, “that which takes one’s breath away.” In other words, the awen is that which is awe-inspiring. Iolo Morganwg created a graphical representation of the awen that consists of three descending lines, in this manner: /|\. The most basic interpretation of this symbol is three rays of divine light descending to the Earth, bringing inspiration. It is one of the most meaning-rich symbols in most Druid traditions. It can represent balance between Chaos and Order, or Earth-Sea-Sky, or the triple nature of the Goddess, or the Triads, or any of dozens of other interpretations. The word “awen” comes to us from the Welsh tradition of the Druid Revival, let and inspired by Iolo Morganwg in the 18th century. Since that tradition has an almost 3 century headstart on other forms of Druidry, the word “awen” is the one most commonly used for “divine inspiration;” however, since our Order also incorporates Scottish and Irish traditions, One interpretation of the imbas that is especially significant is as a representation of the Wheel of the Year. This representation, known as the Triad of Sunrises, works as follows:

If you place a stake in the ground, and use it to mark the progression of the Sun across the sky in the Northern hemisphere, the line on the right will mark the Sun’s westernmost position at the Vernal Equinox. The middle line will represent the Sun’s position at the solstices, and the left line will represent the Sun’s easternmost position at the Autumnal Equinox. These lines will be represented by the shadows the stake casts upon the ground at each of these points. These three shadows are a graphic representation of the imbas or awen symbol, which looks like this:/|\ .The concept of the Triad of Sunrises is that Nature herself writes the imbas upon the Earth every year. From this perspective, the imbas is the means by which we seek the divine in our own lives, and the Wheel of the Year is the living physical embodiment of that divine inspiration, written upon the Earth. So the celebration of the Wheel of the Year is the celebration of our path of seeking divine inspiration.In the following sections we will examine each High Day of the Wheel of the Year, focusing on the Gods and Goddesses associated with each, their corporeal, spiritual, and ritualistic significance, and symbols and rites associated with each. There will also be a suggested liturgy/ritual format for each High Day. These liturgies are offered merely as suggestions. The ritual you ultimately choose should be one that gives you meaning and helps you to seek the imbas.Although we will focus primarily on the Celtic pantheon when discussing Gods and Goddesses, an exclusively Celtic-based pantheon is not a requirement for any ritual in the Order of the Druid. There are Druids who focus on a particular pantheon, and there are Druids who are eclectic in practice, drawing their inspiration from the Gods and Goddesses of many traditions. If a particular Gods or Goddesses speak to you, don’t hesitate to call upon them in your ritual practice!

The Wheel of the Year in Nature

The Wheel of the Year is the Pagan celebration of the cycles of the seasons as the Sun waxes and wanes on the horizon. The celestial events of the heavens have become a metaphor for the cycle of life on Earth. Most Pagans express this concept with the phrase, “As above, so below.” This metaphor is especially apt when applied to the life cycle of human beings.In the Wheel of the Year, the period between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox represents childhood. Just as the Sun is born again at Midwinter, and the days begin to grow longer, human children are born and grow to adolescence. This is the period of “quickening.” As an infant grows into a toddler, then into a pre-adolescent, that child becomes first aware of itself as a separate individual, then as a part of the world.The period between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice is seen as a metaphor for youth and adolescence. The flora and fauna of the Earth are growing to full bloom, and reaching maturity. Likewise, children are leaving behind their childhoods and growing to become members of society. It is a time for gaining independence from their parents and finding their place in the world.The period between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox is reflected in the human life cycle as the period of maturity. After the Summer Solstice, the plants begin to give their fruits, and soon harvest time will be near. As humans mature, they marry and have children, the fruit of their love. They also make their way in the world, and begin to enjoy the fruits of their careers and education. The period between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice equates to the period of old age in the human life cycle. The fruits we have planted are being harvested and put away for the winter. Our investments are paying off, and it is a time for quiet contemplation of the seasons that have gone before. And just as the trees shed their leaves in preparation for winter, many people begin deciding how to shed their possessions by preparing wills and inheritance agreements. Likewise, as the trees drop their nuts and berries onto the ground, and these become the new trees and plants in the new spring, older humans may drop their seeds of wisdom upon the fertile soil of the minds of the younger ones who are willing and able to receive them.

Why Celebrate the Wheel of the Year?

Off and on, I have spent many years as a solitary Druid, then as a lone Druid. When I moved to a new town and left my first Grove back in the early 1980s, there were many years where I no longer engaged in a ritualistic observation of the Wheel of the Year. At the time I didn’t see any point to performing a ritual if there was no group to share it with. Over the years, as I’ve talked to many “newbie” Pagans, I’ve found that this attitude is prevalent among many. The thought seems to be that if one of the points of a ritual is to raise group energy, how can that be accomplished if there is no group?But as I’ve grown over the years, I’ve come to realize that there is comfort in ritual. If human beings find themselves in a situation without a way to express themselves through ritual, we tend to spontaneously invent our own rituals. If you’ve ever watched children on a playground, you know this to be true. There is something within us that seeks the security and stability of doing things in a familiar pattern. Over time the best parts of our rituals become traditions. If a tradition becomes widespread enough, it can be reassuring to know that people all over the world are engaging in the same practice at the same time. For example, if you visit any Pagan community in the world for the Winter Solstice, you can be assured that they will probably be celebrating the rebirth of the Sun in some shape or fashion. Even if you are in solitary practice, ritual can be useful and edifying. It’s easy to neglect performing ritual when you’re alone, simply because there’s nobody else there to help you or to participate with you. Even so, I would recommend that you make some effort to perform some sort of ritual for each High Day and for other significant rites of passage in your life, even if it’s only a five or ten minute meditation and offering. By doing so, you include yourself in the circle of Pagans and Druids worldwide who are engaging in the same practice at the same time. Knowing that you are part of something larger, even if you are alone at home, is an empowering thought. As discussed in the previous chapter, the celebration of the Wheel of the Year is one of the ways in which Druids seek the imbas. If you find that your ritual practice has become empty and meaningless, and you feel you’re just going through the motions, then the time has come to re-examine how you approach ritual. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to perform a ritual, as long as it has meaning for you. If your ritual practice is meaningless, then take a look at what you’re doing and find ways to replace the uninspiring portions with more meaningful symbols. Also remember to focus on the intent of the ritual itself, so that the meaning doesn’t get lost in the details.The following sections will examine some of the elements of Druid ritual. This list isn’t all-inclusive, but it will give you a good place to start when crafting your own ceremonies. If something not listed below has special significance to you, don’t hesitate to incorporate it into your own ritual practice!

Elements of Ritual

Before discussing the elements of a Druid ritual, we should first talk about what makes a good ritual. There are several components that can be used to enhance the effectiveness of any ritual. Some work better than others, and some are only for specific occasions or specific groups. Some work better in solitary practice, and some work better in larger gatherings. Each of these elements has its own characteristics. It is ultimately up to you to decide how to best blend these elements into your own ritual practice. When choosing, select those elements that enhance the purpose and meaning you have chosen for your rite.

Music
Music is the language of emotion. The addition of music to any ritual creates another layer of meaning not easily accessible by mere spoken words. The Celtic Bards were well-known for their musical abilities. It is said that a well-crafted bardic song could stop armies in mid-battle. We’ve all had the experience of being deeply moved by a well-written piece of music or poetry. As Paganism has grown, we’ve begun to develop our own collection of favorite Pagan songs and chants. Many of these are recognizable worldwide, and they have become popular additions to many Pagan circles. If you choose to incorporate music into your ritual, first think about the mood you’re attempting to create. Obviously, a somber occasion like an Ancestors Vigil for Samhain wouldn’t call for lively, up-tempo music. Neither would you want a somber dirge for a Beltane celebration. Tailor your music to the season. Next, if you are planning a ritual for a group, consider whether or not you would like the whole group to participate in the musical portion. If you expect everyone to sing, do they know all the words? If you expect everyone to drum, do they all have drums? A little planning ahead of time can eliminate a lot of confusion during the ritual. Be aware also that many first-timers at a ritual may be shy and hesitant about singing in a group, so they may need a little more encouragement. During most rituals there is a time for quiet contemplation, and a time for more active participation. When choosing music, the tempo should reflect the mood of the next segment of the ritual. The human heartbeat is around 60-80 beats per minute. Music with a tempo below 60 beats per minute tends to be relaxing and soothing, while music with a tempo above 80 beats per minute is exciting and rousing. If you are entering a meditative portion of a ritual, you don’t want to precede that segment with a fast tempo song. Likewise, if you are about to call for active participation, maybe a Spiral Dance or other physical activity, you wouldn’t want to preface it with a slow-moving song. You should pace your tempos to your moods.

Perhaps one of the best ways to include everyone in the music portion of a ritual is through the use of chants. Most chants consist of only one or two short verses or couplets with a simple melody. The stanzas are usually sung over and over again for a prescribed number of times, or until a signal is given from the facilitator of the ritual. The advantage of using chants is that they are easy to remember, and they make attendees active participants instead of passive observers. As our voices unite, individuals are brought into the group mind, sharing energy.

Another way to encourage group participation is through drumming. If you’ve ever attended a Pagan event, chances are you’ve seen plenty of drum circles! One of the reasons for this is that almost anyone can play a drum. All that is required is a rudimentary sense of rhythm and a drum of your own. Pagan music has become a cottage industry. A quick Internet search or a visit to your local Pagan bookstore will demonstrate just how much Pagan music is available out there. Many Pagan chants have become standards easily recognizable by Pagans everywhere. If you are organizing your own group, you might ask participants to share a few of their favorites. Some of my favorite songs and chants were first given to me by friends and members of my own Grove. And if you or any other member of your group has any composing skills, ask them to write a few chants or songs for your next ritual. Used properly, music can create a deep emotional experience for all those attending your rituals. As you gain practice with creating your own rituals, your skill at choosing the proper music will grow.

 Tools of the Druid
There are many tools that a Druid would use to create a successful ritual. These tools are rich in symbolic meaning and energy. Some seasons call for specific tools for specific purposes, while others may be used at any time. Some of these tools are discussed in greater depth in other sections of this book, but a brief overview of some of these tools, as well as a description of their uses, would be as follows:

  • The Bell Branch: A branch cut from a tree that is sacred to the bearer. It is covered with bells. Each bell represents a significant event in the life of the person who carries it. Taken altogether, the Bell Branch is a living representation of the life of its owner. The Bell Branch is used to open and close rituals, and to purify sacred space.
  • The Staff or ‘Spirit Stick’: A staff, usually made of ash and marked or carved with symbols that have meaning to the bearer. Used to mark out sacred space, to measure, and to consecrate. The Staff can also represent the Tree of Life when no tree is available in the ritual space.
  • The Sickle: Ancient authors like Pliny the Elder describe the Druids harvesting mistletoe using golden sickles. Today, many Druids have a sickle that they use to gather herbs and plants. This sickle has been consecrated for that purpose, and should never be used for any other purpose.
  • The Robe or Hooded Cloak: Ancient Druids are often depicted wearing white, hooded robes. Many Modern Druids have continued this tradition. The white color represents the nwyfre, or ‘life force.’ When wearing a white robe to a ritual or rite, a Druid is ‘putting on the life force’ and gathering energy.
  • The Wand: In its most ancient meaning, the Wand is a phallic symbol. It is used in ritual to invoke fertility and growth.
  • The Druid’s Egg: This is an egg-shaped stone used for protection and divination. In the Druid’s Egg meditation (see the Moon Path section), the Druid’s Egg is held in the hands as a focal point while performing the Druid’s Egg meditation.
  • Few Sticks/Ogham: A set of fews. Each few is typically marked with a letter of the ogham alphabet. Used for divination and omens.
  • Bowl/Chalice: Used in ritual to represent the Sacred Well from which life and inspiration flows.Cauldron: Represents the Cauldron of Cerridwen, the Goddess of Inspiration. It is also indicative of the womb. Celtic people referred to themselves as ‘cauldron born;’ meaning born of Cerridwen’s magic cauldron. The cauldron is used to represent female fertility and divine, poetic inspiration.
  • Candles: Representative of the “fire in the head” that was said to be the source of Celtic wisdom. Used in ritual to represent knowledge and wisdom.
  • The Sacred Fire: The Cross-Quarter Days of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh are considered Fire Festival days. Fire is sacred to Brighid, the Goddess of hearth and home. The Sacred Fire is used as a focal point for a circle. Omens may also be read in the flames, smoke and ashes of the fire.
  • The Crane Bag: A bag worn around the waist. This bag contains a few sacred possessions of significance to the wearer. Many carry their rune sticks in this bag. It is similar to the medicine bag carried by many Native Americans.
  • Drums, Flutes and other musical instruments: Though not a requirement, such instruments can greatly contribute to an effective ritual. Both drums and flutes are relatively easy to learn to play.
  • Herbs, plants, fruits and vegetables: Used as votive offerings to the Gods and Goddesses, and for decoration to set the mood for a given ritual.Incense: A well-crafted ritual engages as many of the senses as possible. The sense of smell is the one most closely associated with memory, so using incense in your rituals can create associations that form pleasant memories of the ritual experience. A word of caution: before using incense in a group ritual, first ask if anyone present may have any allergies!

Sacred Space and Sacred Place

The original meaning of the word “sacred” is “set apart.” Therefore, sacred spaces and sacred places are places that are set apart for contemplation of the divine.While Druids hold that all places are sacred, we also consider that special places have a power to facilitate meditative states and contact with the divine realm. An example would be the Sacred Circle. Traditionally, Druids don’t wear watches or other timekeeping devices inside the Sacred Circle. This is because the Sacred Circle is a place where time has no meaning.Druids have always believed that time and space are not separate things. The stone circles in Europe were aligned to mark the passage of time. In these places, time was measured in sacred places. The perception of time is therefore linked to space.One tradition that many Druids celebrate is the marking of sacred places. If you’re out walking in the woods, you may come upon a place that calls to you. Stop there and meditate for a while. If this place is particularly meaningful for you, you may mark it for others by making a small pile of stones. Traditionally, nine stones are used.From a psychological perspective, setting aside a sacred space allows you to enter that space, step outside of time, and do your own work of contemplating the divine within. If you have a special place set aside for this activity, and only for this activity, then entering it puts you in a special state of mind. Psychologists call this “situation-specific learning.” If your sacred space becomes associated in your mind with relaxation, meditation and contemplation, then after a while simply entering your sacred space will put you into a meditative state.If you don’t have access to an outdoor place to create your own sacred space, you can create one indoors.

Set up a small altar table somewhere in a corner of your home. Cover it with things that help you to achieve a meditative state. You may use candles, incense, house plants, or pictures of nature scenes or loved ones. You can use anything that might help you to connect with the divine within you.This might be a good time to talk about the concept of prayer, and what it means to a Druid. Prayer in the way it is usually understood has no meaning for a Druid. What others might call prayer, a Druid would consider communion with the divine. There is no need to make petitions or requests, as an omnipotent deity would already know what you need. For Druids, there is no need for prayer in the traditional sense, because we already know what we need as well. To a Druid, prayer is more of a meditative state that allows us to seek the imbas; that harmony of Wise Mind that comes when Emotional Mind and Rational Mind are in perfect balance.In this meditative state, we come to know that there is no separation. We are all one at the Center, and we are all part of the divine, or that which some choose to call “God.”There are places unique to each individual that would help to achieve the meditative state necessary to find the imbas. These places are sacred spaces and sacred places.If you are fortunate enough to own a parcel of land in a rural or semi-rural setting, you can mark out a sacred space for your own rituals. Stone circles mark sacred places all over Celtic Europe, and many modern Druids have continued this practice by erecting stone circles for their ritual space. You don’t have to build another Stonehenge. A circle of small stones, big enough to accommodate the members of your group, should be sufficient. If you don’t have access to stones, you might mark the sacred space in another way. I have a friend who uses bales of hay, and he refers to his circle as “Strawhenge.”

If you are in solitary practice, you may still create your own space. If you have access to an appropriate outdoor space, you may make it your own by adding your own personal touches. Perhaps an altar, or a small pile of stones, or a statue will help to make your sacred space special to you.My Grove has created a tradition that has helped to define a sacred space. There is an oak tree near our ritual circle. Every year at Beltane, each member of the Grove brings a bell or a wind chime to hang from the tree. Before the Beltane Rite, we each hang these bells from the tree in a brief ceremony. As the wind blows through the tree during the Beltane Rite, we remember all the friends and family who’ve hung bells on the tree.You may choose your own variation of the Hanging of the Bells, or you may come up with some other ceremony that helps to make your sacred space special to you and the other members of your Grove. The ultimate goal is to create a space that has special meaning to you and to anyone whom you invite to use it. Create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility that makes it possible for one entering the space to relax and seek peace and inspiration.