(some) History of my time with NROOGD

November 14, 2007

One of the founders of NROOGD, Adian Kelly has been spreading the word that he is working on a History of NROOGD – a book to be published soonish. It was to be the earlier history, which is the part he knows, but has been expanded to include everything up to the date of publication (basically). Folks with the more contemporary stories have been asked to contribute. I finally got off my duff and wrote up my thoughts! So.. .here in lou of more relevant content are my brief notes and thoughts on NROOGD.

Blessings,

Kate

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When did you help found/ join/ get initiated into the NROOGD?

I was first introduced to NROOGD in the fall of 1993 when Laurel O-M. invited me to be Brigid’s priestess for the 1994 NROOGD Imbolg ritual that she was doing. From there I began training with Laurel and the then recently formed DarkStar Coven. I received my white cord with DarkStar in the fall of 1996 or there abouts and my Red cord in late 2000.

What do you remember as being especially significant to you about that passage?

In many ways my passage into NROOGD was through the Brigid Ritual and the year or two of rituals I did with DarkStar prior to my initiation. While my white cord was a significant and wonderful experience, I was caught hook line and sinker by the power and beauty of the NROOGD Basic Ritual and the ways in which ritual could be done in a public setting for profound results.

Do you regard the (NROOGD version of the) Craft as your religion?

No, I don’t actually see the NRGOOD version of the Craft as my religion. I see it as my training ground and as a really good way to teach people the basics of craft. I am also cross initiated as a Gardnerian and have found my Gard coven to be my “home” religion and my spiritual “family” I love NROOGD and all the flavors of the rituals and ideas woven throughout the tradition, but it has never felt like “home” in the same way that Gard has.

How, by the way, would you define “religion”?

I think religion can be defined as a (sometimes loosely) organized collection of ideas about spirit and the nature of life, the universe and the divine which is followed by a person or group of people and which is expressed through ritual, prayer and dialogue.

What stands out most in your personal memories of the NROOGD?

Wow… ritual, ritual, ritual. 🙂 no surprise there, I am a ritualist and a liturgist by passion and design.

I remember meeting the NROOGD/Black Oak line quarter guardians as a build up towards initiation. In DarkStar the Gaurdians were Merddyn in the East, Prometheus in the south, Morgaine in the West and Gudrun in the North. I had the hardest time connecting with Prometheus and Gudrun at first, which I always found odd because I am such a fire spirit (Aries and all that) and I normally have trouble with Air, though I love water. In this case, I can distinctly remember meeting Merddyn for the first time. We had gone out to the marsh along Alameda near Park Street. It was evening, past sunset. We sat out on the boardwalk between salt sea, land and sky. Laurel led us on a meditation to meet Merddyn and I was *there* with him, and he was *there* with me. It was incredibly visceral and real. At the time I was using a paint brush for my wand and I could feel it in my hands, though it was back at home on my altar. Merddyn was quiet, but very very present. Thoughts passed between us rather than words and I knew that I was meeting a great teacher. Even today, the invocations of the quarter/elements remains one of my favorite parts of the basic ritual – and the words for those four guardians in particular will always call up the connection I now have with each of them as close friends and guides.

In late 1995 I talked a group of fellow NROOGDies and several Gard friends into forming a little company to do theatrical rituals. The group ended up founding Magical Acts Ritual Theater (MART) and for years the bulk of the company was made up of NROORGD and Gard trained folks. As the company grew we were able to attracted more folks from across the pagan community and add their ideas and training to the mix. Many of the early ideas about ritual and public works in particular came out of this blend of craft ideas rooted in large part in NROOGD training.

Several years after the founding of the company several of us found ourselves hosting a MART hospitality suite at PantheaCon 2001 (I believe). We were presenting what we thought was going to be the final performance of “the Oracles from the Living Tarot” created by fellow NROOGD initiate Catherine S. with the members of MART (little did we know the show would be revised not once but several times over the years!) and had attracted the attention of an old time NROOGDie – none other than LeighAnn Hussey of Black Oak. LeighAnn had been intrigued by this company of ritual performers and came by our suite to see what we were all about. Through the course of the evening we discovered that she had not realized how many covens had grown out of the training and work done by Black Oak folks or that there was now a so called Black Oak Line of NROOGD, of which most of us in the room that night were members. Much more talking and sharing of stories continued throughout the night to everyone’s delight. LeighAnn later joined MART in our first ticketed show – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” playing Bottom the weaver. She was an amazing performer and a terrific Bottom.

Prior to Midsummer, I had asked LeighAnn to be part of the crew for the 2001 Eleusinian Mysteries that I was producing for NROOGD with the help of Magical Acts. LeighAnn served as our Musical Director and the head of the chorus. The 2001 EM was the first NROOGD public ritual that I wrote and produced (with a heck of a lot of help!).

The EM is an interesting ritual with a long history in NROOGD. I have had the pleasure of being in the ritual several times, with several different approaches used to bring the material to life. I have also attended several NROOGD EM’s as a celebrant. So when it came time to tackle it myself, I had a lot of good material to work from. Along with reading through as many of the earlier versions of the ritual as I could find, I did a lot of research into what is known about the original ritual, which is very little, and what we think might have gone on when the doors were closed. I will admit, I made a fair number of changes to the script. And one of the main things I was looking for was how to make the Mystery relevant to a contemporary audience. As I wrote in the program for the event: “In the 21 Century, the myth of Demeter and Persephone, of winter and spring, of life and death, has become a story to tell children, and teach in Literature classes. We are told that science has taught us all about the rotation of the planet and the how’s and why’s of death and the changing seasons. That there is no longer any mystery to be learned; science has revealed it all to us.” One of the answers I went with was to put the choice of how Kore goes into the underworld in the hands of the people attending the ritual. They were given the choice to choose her fate, but did not know what they had chosen until they met Persephone in the underworld with her Hades. I also poured a lot of my research into the script, adding titles for the ritualists based on what we know of the temple structure at Eleusis; adding a procession from “Athens” to “Eleusis” along which the participants made offerings to the gods of the ritual; and footnoting the script damn near to death so we could see where older material was left intact, where pieces had been added from “The Hymn to Demeter”, and where new work had been added like the altered “Dance of the Feet” that Liadan and I created for the Priestesses.

Creating the 2001 Eleusinian was a turning point for me in my own magical and professional work. I found my passion and skills as a ritual writer. I can look back to day and see where my NROOGD training has played a deep roll in making me the ritualist I am today and I am proud of that training and grateful to the tradition and all those in it who have influenced me along the way.

Please describe whatever you think were important events for, or turning points in, or just good stories about, the nature and evolution of the NROOGD during its first 40 years.

I think the creative and magical work done by Black Oak, and the plethora of off shoots from that coven have had a huge impact on the tradition, even if that impact is “only” to create a very large off branch from the older, one might say, more traditional, form of NROOGD. Love it or hate it, the existence of Black Oak and her children has made its mark on the trad. Being off that line, I think it’s a good thing, but then I would, I have received great benefit from this work.

Aside from the Full Moon Coven (which I still have detailed info on), what other covens have you been active in and when? Exact dates would help, and if you have access to the Family Tree graphic, could you send me a copy of it?

DarkStar Coven as mentioned above and a coven, now defunct, in the Seattle area called Big Cats of the Serengeti.

RE: the family tree graph, I am attaching the verion I have which is dated August 2001.

How has your being in the NROOGD affected the rest of your life?

Through NROOGD and my training with Laurel and DarkStar in particular I was able to see an enormous variety of public ritual from both sides of the fence as it were. I was able to attend many Sabbats and learn about Craft ideas on the seasons and the gods along with how other people present ritual – for good or bad. As a member of DarkStar and as a trainee of the coven I was able to take an active roll in creating and presenting lots and lots of different types of rituals throughout the year. All of these experiences combined with the years I had spent previously working in theater productions and the two worlds naturally smashed up in my brain. The result was Magical Acts, and boy did that change my life!

Comparing the NROOGD to other versions of the Craft, what do you think is uniquely important about the NROOGD?

I think one of the great gifts of NROOGD is its openness as a system of magic. Without the layers of oath bindings that come with other traditions, NROOGD becomes a fabulous tool for teaching people the basics of craft theory and practice. NROOGD is not for everyone, but it is a great place to start and to learn and if more is wanted, then at least the individual has a good grounding to take with them on their adventures. I actually refer to NROOGD a great deal when I teach Magic 101 classes, because it does lend itself to public discussion and application.

I also think one of the powers of NROOGD is its flexibility and adaptability. As I learned NROOGD, it is a showcase for creative ideas and experimentation. Because of this openness to new ways, we have a huge bank of beautiful rituals written by some truly talented liturgists. I trained with one – Laurel O-M and had the opportunity to learn about the work of another – LeighAnn, and there are many other amazing ritual writers working in NROOGD thankfully!

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