as Moebius Strip:
The outside is the inside is the same side....
by Edwin Chapman, (in Oak
Leaves Outsiders issue, 2006)
This issue of Oak Leaves is devoted to Outsiders: those that dwell outside
our comfort zones, those that might mean harm to our rituals, or even our
lives- those our Gods fought against, as some of the old ADF
liturgies put it. I have seen groves banish outsiders, I have heard them
called twisted, mishapen ones who stood against the Gods, Ive
seen various people wave swords and knives at them.
In Grove of the Other Gods we make an offering to honor the outsiders.
This involves taking them a bit of the same stuff were offering to
the kindreds- waters, flowers, whatever- and taking it outside the ritual
space and pouring some out and waiting to see if theyve accepted it,
thus sealing a contract between us and them: heres something for you,
now dont screw around with us too much as we try to honor the kindreds
and the Gods. Or, more colloquially put, heres a dollar, go see a
movie and dont bother us for a while. Sometimes our outsiders will
not only take the offering, but the offerer as well, and on more than one
occasion weve had to retrieve a grove member from one of the local
bars where they were hangin with the outsiders.
We make our ritual outsiders offering just after the gate opening, as the
outsiders were most concerned about are more likely to come through
spiritual gates than physical ones. Ive seen groves do it before the
gate opening to clear the space, and that works too.
But I beg you- do not threaten, rage at, rant at, or promise harm to the
Our religion is one that values reciprocity, and we are all outsiders at
Our very Gods and Goddesses are outsiders in the predominantly Judeo-Christian-Islamic
society we live in. And, best believe it, there are people who threaten,
rage at, rant at, and promise harm to our Gods and Their followers.
Are we to do the same to the Gods of the pantheons preceding the ones we
worship? Giants, Titans, Fomori... who are these but older Gods than ours?
Dont we owe them some respect? If you read the old stories with an
honest heart and mind, youll see that the outsiders frequently are,
as one of our members puts it, the Gods who were here first, before
our Gods kicked them out.
And, sometimes, we are outsiders, ourselves, on this land.
Are the outsiders that youre banishing in the woods the spirits that
own the place? Are you the real outsider, coming in with your ritual and
your grove stomping around someone elses home?
GOG did a Beltane ritual in a park we had used once before, but it became
increasingly apparent as this ritual progressed that WE were the outsiders
on that land. We hadnt greeted the land properly when we arrived.
We hadnt blessed it. We hadnt asked for its consent to stick
our maypole... where we stuck it.
And so we wound up, unexpectedly, the outsiders in our own ritual. When
we honored the outsiders and asked them to wait outside, we all had this
strong urge to get up and leave. It was a good lesson. Since then, weve
learned how to honor that land, weve learned what it wants, and all
our subsequent Beltanes there have been blessed by the spirit of that land.
Sometimes, with a little work on both sides, outsiders can become insiders.
What about outsiders that really mean you harm?
Can you banish them by waving a sword? Ya gotta put that sword away sometime.
Yet, most of us have protective sigils, circles, or wards around our houses,
our sacred sites, sometimes even our cars. What are we protecting them against?
Outsiders. Those who would do harm to those things, or to ourselves or our
loved ones. Malevolent spirits, perhaps, but also thieves and vandals and
worse. I can hear hard-core outsider banishers asking, Can you make
an offering to honor a rapist and ask him to leave you alone? Fair
But is it really wise to wave a sword around your street and call out to
all the thieves and vandals and worse and challenge them not to bother you?
Wouldnt it be better to simply stick a Protected by Alarm
sticker on your door? Theres a certain way of walking in a city that
says you belong there and are not to be messed with. You dont stop
in the middle of the street and announce loudly to all the world that youre
going to do people harm if they screw with you- while most people would
think you were merely nuts, there are a few in my neighborhood who might
take that as an invitation.
In our cities, we live with outsiders around us all the time. Maybe thats
why GOG deals with outsiders differently than most groves. Weve got
a lot of homeless people in town. We also had a multiple rapist in our neighborhood
for several months- before he got caught. We try to make sure our grove
members dont walk to their cars by themselves at night. This is more
sensible than challenging outsiders, or seeing the universe as inherently
Also, if you make an offering to some outsiders- give a little change to
a homeless person, for instancethey just might watch out for you when
youre alone. When my wife, Norma, fell on the ice at the bottom of
the hill by our train station, the homeless guys made sure she was all right
and made sure she got home ok. Outsiders.
Outsiders can have a different view of things and sometimes something
to tell you, or give you.
The outsiders in the city are also Pans children- and the children
of prophecy. They live in liminal spaces and have access to knowledge
that can help you. While its probably not good to get too close
to them, if youve made offerings in good faith they might have
a deal they might want to make with you at some point, for something
you might want. In one instance (among several), we found a homeless
guy sitting on our front steps, and when we stepped past him to go inside,
he told us that for a dollar he could change the weather. The next day
was the grove Beltane, and it was supposed to rain buckets. I fished
around in my pocket and found fifty cents. The outsider told me that
it would take a dollar, so I went upstairs and got him a dollar. The
weather turned out to be beautiful.
And then there are outsiders that are inside.
In a Grove of the Other Gods outsider offering, we frequently ask people
to set aside the outsider in themselves: their tensions, their worries,
stresses from driving to get to the ritual and then meeting all these
weird people, their anger, their fears, and particularly their scepticism-
for these are also outsiders in a Druid ritual. And we remind people
that they can still pick up all their scepticism, stress and anger on
the way out- our grove is in New Jersey, after all, and you need those
things to survive here.
Ive been in circles where people have declared that they were going
to banish all negativity. I sat and waited for positrons to
spin loose from their counterparts and the entire fabric of the universe
to become unraveled, and while I can only conclude that they were unsuccessful
in banishing all negativity, I have to admit, it did make me want to leave
the circle. Weve all got a bit of outsider in us, sometimes more than
a bit. Rather than banish it, you could recognize it, honor it, and make
an offering to those parts of yourself. If nothing else, itll make
you more of an honest person.
Weve talked about outsiders in GOG a lot- and the ideas floating through
this essay (and several complete word-for-word sentences) are the product
of the minds of many grove members over many years.
This rumination on outsiders was inspired by Mercury- specifically the Mercury
who sits atop Grand Central Station in New York. That big important Roman
God is an outsider. Most people look up at Him and just see a mythological
symbol of an abstract concept: time flying, fast trains moving, buses speeding
along highways like winged shoes.
Yet, he presides over the crowds, day after day. And, furthermore, I think
Hes happy to be an outsider. An overtly religious sculpture
of Jesus or a saint (say, Saint Christopher*) would probably have incited
protest and been struck down (literally) by the courts as a violation of
this countrys long tangled history of separation of church and state.
As mere mythological symbols, Mercury and His kin can hang out on public
buildings keeping an eye on things and doing all sorts of wonderful works.
Themis looks over courthouses. Athena keeps watch at university libraries.
In some ways, outsiders get to have their cake and eat it too.
*Actually, Ive heard that Saint Christopher has been decanonised by
the Catholic church and is now an outsider too. The person who
told me this also told me that she still talks to Mr. Christopher
when shes getting ready for a long trip.