2018 marks the first time the Assembly has been held in New Zealand. Hosted by Grove of the Summer Stars, the Assembly will have many New Zealander and Australian OBOD members in attendance, along with OBOD Chief Philip Carr-Gomm, Scribe Stephanie Carr-Gomm and newly chosen Chief Eimear Burke.
The Grove of the Summer Stars is based in Pukerua Bay, north of Wellington on New Zealand’s north island. The Assembly itself will run for six days in Manakau, a suburb of Auckland, but attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Grove during a “magical mystery tour” on the Saturday.The physical space is a true grove of native trees (such as te kouka, kowhai, horoeka, kawakawa, ngaio, mahoe, horoeka, karaka, whauwhaupaku, and pohutukawa) set in a natural bowl in the land.
“The physical location of our Grove is important.” The Grove of Summer Stars say on their website. “We cleared it of gorse and rubbish and clothed the Grove herself and the walk in with many varieties of native plants to provide a place out of space and time where we could hold our rituals.”
Highlights of the Assembly programme include bardic, ovate and druid initiations; a forum with Philip Carr-Gomm and Eimear Burke; a full moon eisteddfod for peace; a workshop on pilgrimage and the Grail myths by Australian storyteller Michael Vlasto and writer Danuta Raine; a talk on herbal medicine with community pharmacist Linda Caddick; and relaxation sound sessions with Earthsounds NZ’s Rosemary Filleul.
“I’m excited to go as the Grove of the Summer Stars is quite a large and long-standing Grove and I’m looking forward to learning from their experience and wisdom.” Brett told The Wild Hunt.
Brett will be running a workshop discussion with New Zealander Richard Self. The session will focus on encouraging the group to share their experiences working with the Wheel of the Year within their own diverse landscapes.
“I am very interested in the adaptation of Druidry practice to lands outside of the British Isles, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to see how this is done in New Zealand, which has a significantly different land, and native culture to both Britain and Australia.” She explained. “I am curious as to how New Zealand’s close connection with Maori culture influences their practices, as well as the important local sacred sites, plants and animals, and seasonal changes. It will be a wonderful opportunity to see how others are adapting their practice to make it more relevant locally.”
Australian musician Kacey Stephenson will be offering a workshop on the Cauldrons of Poesy. working with the concept of “the cauldrons within ourselves”, relating this to Nwyfre and the flow of Awen/Imbas and relating the cauldrons to the threefold cosmos – land, sea and sky, and the four elements.
This will be his first time travelling outside Australia.
“I joined the Order when I was 19, and it offered me a grounding and stability in my spiritual and magical life which I hadn’t found at that time.” He told TWH. “I was yearning for something close to earth, close to nature, and for an approach to Paganism which was more philosophical, contemplative, and more mystical in its understanding.”
“When I went to my first Assembly in 2014 and met [the OBOD community], I felt that I had found my path, a foundation of spiritual nourishment in Druidry.”Stephenson considers the trip to New Zealand a great adventure. “I look forward to many conversations, ceremonies and workshops at this year’s assembly,” he said.
Julie Brett said she was excited to meet druids from other parts of the world. “Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm… have given so much to the Druidry community, and to Eimear Burke who will continue the position of Chosen Chief after Philip retires from the position. It will be wonderful to share this time with them all, as well as many wonderful friends from OBOD in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The 18th annual Southern Hemisphere OBOD Assembly takes place from January 17-22 this year. At the closing ceremony, the responsibility will be passed on to OBOD’s Melbourne Grove, who are set to host the event in 2020.