My goodness, how times flies. Some things diminish with the passage of time, others, blessed with a Proustian resilience, stay fresh and vibrant for long after the fact. I recently travelled to Germany to ordain our first European Priest, Rev. Elen Schibli-Lazzaro, and this is one of those events that is indelibly etched in my memory.
We are an offering religion, offerings based on the concept of *ghosti, or hospitality. I am always touched when I find myself in a new or unusual situation and am met by spontaneous hospitality. It renews my faith in humanity and also in my religion.
I recently traveled to Europe to meet with Druids and to ordain our first European priest, Rev. Elen Schibli-Lazzaro. What I found as I hopped from Luxembourg City to Frankfort and then to Padenborn was a different country and a different people. From the air, I saw wind turbines everywhere I looked and interesting stone formations every here and there. I was impressed with what I saw from the air. I was met at the airport and while I had spoken to Elen on Facebook, email, and the telephone, I did not know what to expect when I arrived. What I was soon to learn about my hosts was their kindness and hospitality. I found this to not only be the case with my hosts, but with every person who passed through their door.
Over the next few days, I was made to feel very welcome. On the day of arrival, we did some sightseeing and saw some amazing sights. We went to the Externsteine, which is a sandstone formation in the Teutoburg Forest. There were carvings and grottos, altars and enclosures, things of great beauty and age.
The topmost photograph was a small carved-out area that has an altar-like area within it and I was drawn to the circular opening in the rock on a location known as the Höhenkammer, or High Chamber. I have to wonder what that looks like with the Moon shining through, perhaps even on some solstice or equinox. The bottom photograph is known as the Sargstein or tomb stone. This type of structure is called an Arcosolium and I must say that laying in it was a moving experience. The cool temperature of the stone and the depth of the carving generated a very calming and grounding feeling. The vault overhead echoed when sound was made and I would think that this would be a powerful place for a funeral or initiation. It would make for a profound all-night vigil with the stone overhead, the mountain and grottos behind, and the water very near to the side. The length of the enclosure is approximately 2 meters.
One of the other features of this place is a medieval carving known as the Kreuzabnamerelief or Christ’s descent from the cross. It is an image of some complexity, but there is a component on the sculpting which suggests the Irminsul of the Saxons, although there is no archeological evidence to indicate this site’s use during that period. In this image, Nicodemus is standing on the bent-over Irminsul, although his legs have been missing since the 17th century.
Our next excursion was to the Doernberg area. The Doernberg is an elevation of 396 meters upon which were reputedly found the remains of a ring wall site from La Tène times. A Celtic fort was to have been located on the highest point of this area. It is an area of stunning views and a great place for quiet reflection. I felt that the wind that has blowing here had many stories to tell. There was a stone formation upon which one could recline and it gave me a feeling of deep peace and grounded-ness. I could feel the Earth Mother’s presence everywhere around this location.
There was also a small labyrinth located on the site which we walked and given the location, the subtle wind blowing, and the general feeling of peace that surrounded the entire area, I found the walk to me quite moving.
Being treated to such interesting and historical sites was a wonderful gift from my hosts. There were many more instances of hospitality for me to experience. On the day of the Ordination, people from different parts of Germany arrived. They were so very different and such good guests (from the guest perspective that I enjoyed). They weren’t here to celebrate ADF per se, but the ordination of one of their own, a new German and European priest. People spoke German, French, English, and probably a few other languages. People wore different attire, clothing which represented their traditions, their philosophies, and perhaps even their locations. Many people stopped to speak with me and I was very pleased to speak with people who spoke English so well. I had a fascinating discussion with a philosophy student concerning his views, especially some interesting thoughts about gift economies. The concept of a gift economy is especially interesting to people who follow a path of hospitality.
As a participant in the ordination rite, I was honoured to be a part of this historic occasion and pleased to see the progress that this priest had made. I am very encouraged by our European presence and especially excited about the first of what I believe will be more priests. As an observer in the ordination rite, I loved to see the various people and their presentations, both is clothing and in attitude. Everyone made me feel welcome and I felt a kinship to these wonderful people. I felt like a novelty at this event, but these people, these kind people, made me feel like one of them for an afternoon.
As the ceremony ended and the celebrations began, many people stopped by to say “hello”, paused to talk, and openly shared their thoughts and joys at the days events. I was like a sponge, absorbing the wonders of the days, and holding on to this feeling with a great desire to make it last, in my recollection, and in the workings of the future, both in Europe and around the world.
I had a dream of seeing ADF grow in Europe and that dream was solidified by this ordination event, this priestly and personal success for Elen, and this gathering of peoples to see her become an ADF priest. Our ritual was celebrated in the shadow of a medieval fort, high on a hill. It was like the past was looking down on us in silence and in a gentle, reverent observation. Our many robes of many colours were like flowers in a garden that was blossoming in the late spring. Each observer, each participant was seed, carried to the winds with their departure. This garden became their garden became a patchwork of hopes and good works.
The hospitality I experienced from my hosts is difficult to express because of the breadth of caring and sharing that came to pass on those few days in the green fields of this green land. As I walked into the airport and then flew high over the land, I saw the many windmills that stretch across Germany and I thought about the seeds in the garden in Hessen planted by and planted in a group of people, scattered in the winds by the windmills that dot the landscape, borne about by the sunshine of hope and beauty that community bring. We are so much greater when we link hearts and hands in the work of the future.
To these people – I will call them friends – I look back and pledge never to forget and I pray that I may return again, like the Nature Spirits remind me each year. I take those seeds and I plant them as words in this story. Please, give them water and sunshine and treat them like a cherished guest, as I was.