Renewing a Commitment in Light of Charlottesville

Graphic with the 3CG logo in the center, surrounded by runes and the words: "Runes have no room for Racism: No matter your background, skin color, or identity, all who come with a good and open heart are welcome at our good fire. Learn more about inclusive Druidry at threecranes.org"

When we watched what happened in Charlottesville, VA, over the past weekend, there was a lot that stood out to us, not the least of which was the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered when a young man rammed individuals counter-protesting against white supremacy.

Our Grove put out a statement the following morning, and a couple of graphics for easy sharing. You can find them on our Facebook page:

We wanted to talk a bit today about the crafting of that statement: why we did it, how we discussed it, and how we hope to improve on it as we go.

As racism evolves and changes, it tries to hide behind new phrases and symbols. One of those symbols we saw in the footage from that horrible weekend is one that is both simple, and (for us) seems very out of place in white supremacy: the rune Oþala.

The Othala rune
The oþala rune, the final rune in the elder Futhark.

This rune has within it no racist notion, no idea of “whiteness.” It does not imply any supremacy, or any notion of “race.” It only implies an ancestral lineage, but anyone who has looked at basic genealogy will tell you that ancestry has nothing to do with “purity.”

If anything, it is a rune of the homestead, of ancestral land and property; and this in particular makes it a strange choice for people asserting their bond and heritage as connected to the land.

The land America is built on, after all, is not part of any European heritage, and its soil is not tied to European blood. We are all guests here, at best.

The runes are, at their most basic, an alphabet. We use them on occasion in ritual as a divination tool, and as a magical tool, and so you will sometimes see us write in or post runes, or we may chant a rune name as part of a working. Seeing a rune on a banner over a march of hate told us one thing for certain: in order to be welcoming, we need to address this.

It is not a new thing, that Norse and Germanic symbolism is co-opted by fascism: we’re all familiar with other symbols that have been taken and smeared with the stink of white supremacy (one hardly needs to mention the swastika). This isn’t even the first time runes have been taken; two suwilo runes decorated the necks of the SS in World War II.

But here, we are on the front end of something: people are being exposed to symbols for the first time, and it’s happening in a different context. It’s happening here, and it’s happening very publicly.

And so, it’s important to us to state, unequivocally, that our use of runes is not tied to race, skin color, or even ancestry: it is tied to the magic that unites us all in this cosmos. There is no room for racism in our runes.

There was no context for us to pull from: no statement from ADF, and no statement even from other groups like us at the time. We also didn’t feel like we could wait to post something: already, we could see people hurting, and grief and shock are not things you can put off until the next day. While we would have preferred to share an ADF statement, we did not know if one would come, and we could not wait to see. So we created this graphic:

Graphic with the ADF logo in the center, surrounded by runes and the words: "Runes have no room for Racism: No matter your background, skin color, or identity, all who come with a good and open heart are welcome at our good fire. Learn more about inclusive Druidry at ADF.org"
ADF & our Grove makes use of some symbols we saw carried in Charlottesville; we need to talk about that.

Our Priests, Rev. Avende and Rev. Dangler, went back and forth over the text and the space. It wasn’t enough, Rev. Avende said, to simply decry the usage of a symbol: we have to be explicit about being welcoming as well. It was difficult to navigate these waters, and we created about five different versions before finally settling on the version we put out on Facebook.

Another ADF Priest, Rev. Melissa Hill, posted about the lack of response from ADF as well: on her DandelionLady blog on Patheos, she called on ADF to make a statement, and she was clear about the kinds of statement she wanted to see. She particularly decried the lack of response from our mother church, and the fact that her Groves and Solitary members were left to raise their own voices without ADF’s aid.

ADF members responded to both our post and to Rev. Hill’s on personal blogs and on Facebook, describing their anger, fear, and frustration, but also their hope. In many ways, these items gave a lot of people a way to talk about what was going on, and it helped them approach the situation from a place of spiritual comfort.

There was some backlash, as well: we’ve had people decry other groups instead of placing the blame on white supremacy, which suggests an anger both Rev. Avende and Rev. Dangler agree is misplaced. We’ve seen doctored/debunked images and accusations of “everyone being wrong in this situation” (which, again, we disagree with).

As a Grove, we serve people all across the political spectrum. At the root of our work here is simply that we wish to be clear that:

  • We care about how we are perceived, because we want to welcome anyone seeking a spiritual community that is open, diverse, and public in our love of the Earth Mother, and we want people to know we are that welcoming.
  • If there are questions or concerns about any symbol we use, we want to have a conversation and address them.
  • That there is no place in our Grove for racism. We are not a safe space for white supremacy or hate.

When a statement finally came from ADF’s leader, our Archdruid, it was disappointing to us in many ways; there’s no need to rehash them here, because Rev. William Ashton has already done that in a thoughtful, competent way that echos many of our own thoughts.

Edit to add: ADF has released a formal statement since this article was written.

At the end of the day, though, we can’t rely on others to speak for us, especially when there’s so much at stake. As Rev. Avende said during our discussion, and Rev. Hill echoed in her post, “Silence is not an option.” And so our work does not end with a single social media post.

We’ve already started planning additional steps: our Priests are working on a statement that is actively inclusive (not simply non-discriminatory, which we already have) for presentation to our membership. We’re looking for ways to showcase the diversity we have, and to invite additional diversity into our Grove. We’re looking for welcoming work to all with that open heart who want a place by our fire.

There is so much more work to be done, but as I end this post, I want to say, clearly and honestly: we are working to be better, and we want you to be a part of that.

Come to our fire, friends.

-Rev. Jan Avende &
Rev. Michael J Dangler
3CG Grove Priests

The Light of Brigando

Livestream cover image, with our altar from Imbolc 2017

This year marked our 14th Imbolc rite using essentially the same script as the first year we did it. It’s an interesting thing, running the same rite over and over, and we’ve been able to improve many of the technical points over time as we’ve had new members come in, offer new ideas, and build a process that works more efficiently through time.

One of the things we updated for this year has to do with the poem we speak as our main offering. In the past, we’ve set people in pairs: readers and candle-lighters. This year, we had people go up and read for the candle lighter who was going prior to them. We also instituted a lazy susan beneath the well so the process of moving around the ring of candles was easier, and this worked out really, really well.

The whole process ran far more smoothly and actually more beautifully than it has in the past. This particular working has suffered from some general logistical challenges in years past, and initially, it sounds like this might be our model going forward to improve that.

Also new this year, we decided to live cast the ritual, which we’ve done for Samhain and Yule before. This changed a lot about how we decided to have the ritual flow, and created some new challenges. It continues to be exciting to learn how to navigate the waters around live casting.

Our omens were interesting for this rite. Our seer saw Huath, Muin, and Saile: Hawthorn, Vine, and Willow. Summarized briefly, they are foreknowledge that arms us; inspiration that forms; and intuition that guides.

The omen from our Imbolc 2017 rite.
Our Omen, in summary: Taken together, these omens  might suggest: We are at the front edge of the storm, the world darkens. It is time to prepare our positions and to make ourselves ready for what is to come. Let us use the Beauty all around us to inspire us, and to show us what is important. In our gut, we “know” the right from the wrong; we “know” which path is life afirming, and which is not. Let us prepare to weather the storm inspired by beauty and with the inner resources of inspiration and intuition. These are good omens! ~Shawneen

It’s worth noting that the first omen is actually Beith, the birch (new beginnings). We’ll be discussing what the misidentification means at our next liturgy meeting, but for now, “the seer sees what the seer sees,” and the lessons are no less pertinent.

If you’re interested, you can watch the full ritual, including the pre-ritual briefing, on our Facebook page, as it was recorded live. We’ll update with a trimmed-down YouTube video later.

Thanks to everyone who joined us, in person or virtually!

Blessings of Brigando upon you & yours,
   ~Rev. Michael J Dangler

Kindling a Flame of Hope, and Tending It With Passion

The Flame of Hope at the community altar at The Magical Druid

Not everything we do as a Grove is directed by the Grove; some things happen spontaneously and sort of fall out of the blue. This is one of those things.

This past winter, there have been many people who feel that the light has gone out, that darkness has crept in, and that hope has been lost. We’ve noticed that feeling, as a community.

Our Grove serves marginal communities particularly: those who cannot find a place in “mainstream” society, who feel like outsiders and are often rejected for everything from who they love to who they are. There’s room for everyone in our work, and our circle of trees we call a Grove is stronger because of them.

In particular, those communities have been the ones who have felt most like the dark has settled in.

We want to support those communities, because they and the people who inhabit them are important.

I’ve been describing this idea as “something that fell out of my head and onto Facebook” for a bit, and that’s still the best way I can describe it. As it grows, it’ll get some definition, but here’s the thing:

Sometimes, the least of things you can do is the brightest: starting at noon on Friday, January 20, 2017, I lit a candle honoring hope at an altar, the first of four years’ worth of daily candles. 1,461 candles, in total. Here’s what that it looked like (with some explaining of the background) when I lit the first one:

The idea, of course, is to create the light that people need in their life: something to banish despair and bring in hope, no matter how small the light is.

The response has been amazing. People who felt marginalized by recent events feel like someone has noticed them. Members of our community who have felt scared have lit their own candles. Overnight, 250 people “liked” the Facebook page.

In addition, other Priests from other Groves have gotten in on the work, kindling a flame of Hope in their own ways. Rev. Melissa Hill, from Cedarsong Grove, ADF, published this post at the same time I was lighting my candle:

It’s been both surprising and gratifying to see the number of people who have stepped up and said, “Yes, I will light a candle with you.” It’s been amazing to see the number of people who feel that this work benefits them directly as well. I was not expecting the outpouring of support or meaning that I’ve experienced here, and I’m glad to be a part of that.

The work we do as individuals within the Grove can have wider ripples: our tradition of work is public, which means that part of our aim is to bring the work to others as we do it.

I feel blessed and honored that a some have found that the small light I have kindled has brightened their life, and I look forward to continuing to brighten the world in my own way, joined by so many others.

You can join the work, too, on Facebook: TendingTheFlameOfHope is the page.

Bright blessings,
-Rev. Michael J Dangler

Introducing the Grove through New Media & Accessibility

Featured Video Play Icon

One of the big things that our Grove has sought to do is improve how we reach out to people who might be interested. It’s no secret that we’ve been building our online presence with different sorts of media: as a public tradition of Neopaganism, letting people know when our rituals are, and who we are as the celebrants of that religion, is vitally important.

Social media has made the process of walking the fine line between “telling people we’re here” and “proselytizing” much easier to walk in many ways. It not only allows us to create content of use, but to distribute it easily as well.

There are a few reasons that we create content that’s varied, sharable, and targeted to our members and the people we think are interested. Primarily, it’s because we think that everyone deserves to feel like they own, belong to, and are valued by our Grove.

Varied Content Brings a Feeling of Ownership

The creation of content that is broad in type and varied in topic shows that you’re not a “one trick pony” in the digital world, and it helps you reach out broadly to people with a variety of interests. Not everyone likes videos, newsletters, email lists, or Twitter, but most people like one of those types of things. If you can provide content across a few different platforms, you’ll find that you create a varied community filled with people who want to see more of what you can do.

If your organization offers “just one thing,” whether that’s a podcast, a member newsletter, a YouTube page, or a blog, it doesn’t really offer “enough” for most people to come and “like” your Facebook page. For people to feel invested in your work, you’ll need to offer more.

If there’s one true thing about this Druidry thing, it’s that “we’re all in this together.” We want to create things that help people feel like they’re part of the group. Meeting them where they are and fitting their ecosystem is important to that. It lets people feel like they own a portion of Our Own Druidry.

Sharable Content Brings a Feeling of Belonging

Sharing a post isn’t just about finding something funny or insightful; often, it’s also about feeling like the content belongs to them and reflects their worldview.

Sharing is the easiest part of activism: you can share a status to show solidarity. A lot of folks look down on this level of activism because it is so simple. What they discount, though, is that sharing is a form of empathy and a way of understanding the world that helps form an initial connection with a cause, person, or group.

Don’t look down on people who “just share a post.” They’re working their way toward belonging in a community. There’s no rush. Make it easy for them, if you can, and you’ll find that in the long run, more people feel like they “belong” with you, and that you “belong” to them than you ever thought possible.

Targeted Content Brings a Feeling of Being Valued

Content that speaks directly to what people are talking about is very important. Listen to the conversations going on in public in your social media circles and create content that’s relevant to that.

Late last year, we created a graphic that reaffirmed that we are a safe space for anyone who needs one after seeing a number of people in our social circles express concern and fear as minorities.

A statement of diversity for our Grove. In essence:

Our Grove created this graphic to give voice to individuals who felt frightened by current events. It was so popular, we created branded versions for several other Groves who asked as well.

The one caveat to “listening to your social media circles” is the same rule I have for public prayer: if you’re talking to just one person, it’s not for public consumption.

Let’s talk a little bit about why we create graphical and other content, and what it means to be accessible in the digital arena.

Why Create Graphical Content?

A simple sigil of the cosmos, with two curved lines designed to suggest a tree, and a hole in the center. At the top, a fire, and on the bottom, water. A line divides the center with arrows that imply balance.
The Cosmos in balance: the Fire of Heaven and the Waters of the Earth. Content need not be complicated to be useful.

Simply put, graphical content is sharable content. This isn’t because it’s “easy,” but because it’s friendly and meaningful.

Humans seem to enjoy sharing things that move them. Text, such as poetry or a list of omens taken in a ritual, is useful, but not visually interesting.

It’s easy to create text and share it, but a lot of people scroll through their feeds and entirely skip over text posts (I know I’m guilty of it myself; you likely are, too). Photos and pictures provide a richness of information it takes us time to parse if we have to read it.

ADF rites also have a key advantage regarding the review of rituals: simply snapping a picture of the omens after the rite can give you a picture to help generate content. Take the picture, add your interpretation, and you have a pretty complete blog post and ritual review built in.

An illustration of an omen image from one of our Druid Moons, with runes in the foreground and an interpretation in the background
You can create images like this right on your phone with several free apps…including Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. This one was created in Adobe Spark Post.

Even if you don’t have the technical know-how to put words on a picture, adding a picture to your post will go a long way toward getting people to notice and share it. Find something copyright-free (or Creative Commons licensed) or take a picture with your phone and add it to your post.

It does not have to be complicated: see the sigil above for just how simple a graphic you can create. It’s reasonably clean, concise, and simple, but adding an image to a post goes a long way toward making it more visually appealing, as well as conveying your point better.

Media Ecosystems

It’s not just images that make a difference: video, eBooks, and websites are vital to creating an experience that helps people feel connected to you. Smartphones have been incredibly valuable in making this sort of technology accessible.

It has, in fact, gotten to the point that if you aren’t creating several kinds of media, you’re simply not using the available resources to the best of your ability. We highly recommend adding on to whatever you’re doing with some additional work.

Each piece helps you get your ideas out to more people, which will help you get the word out that you offer public ritual, and bring more people to your rites.

Set a plan in place to build additional kinds of content, and do what you can to talk to other Groves who have gone before on this. Almost everyone is happy to help in a lot of different ways.

If you choose to engage in this, I’ll recommend doing it like Three Cranes did: one step at a time. Create a YouTube page, a podcast, a Twitter account, or a Facebook page. Build it up for a while, and then use it as a springboard to advertise other services as they come online. Your audience will follow you if you show them you value them.

Creating Accessible Content

ADF’s founder, Isaac Bonewits, was on point when he wrote in our founding documents: “Neopagans are going to need publicly accessible worship, teaching, counseling, and healing.” (from “The Vision of ADF“).

One of the key things that we’ve been focusing on is the creation of media that isn’t just for people without disability: it’s for everyone who comes to Druidry, no matter how they arrive there.

What that really means, in the context of this post, is that no matter what you create, you have to take an extra step to make it accessible to as many people as possible. Images must have “alt” tags that describe what they are to a screen reader for blind individuals. Videos need closed captioning for hard of hearing or deaf individuals. Podcasts need transcripts uploaded to go with their audio content. Membership newsletters that are done in print need to be provided in accessible eBook or .pdf versions as well as the physical print.

There is, occasionally, an assumption that “someone else will take care of that,” that content will eventually be made by people “other than me.” This simply isn’t the case: we need to create accessible content from Day 1, in all of the things we make, and we need to continually go back and update stuff we made before we came around to understanding this.

Our Grove has started to add Closed Captioning to short videos as part of the process of posting them on the Internet, for example, and place longer videos into a queue to create CC files as we go (including our back catalog).

This has also extended itself into some of my personal work: at The Magical Druid, a store I also run here in Columbus, we put together a set of ogham using Braille for the names of the trees, and raising the symbols off the wood (as opposed to burning them into the wood).

Ogham tiles that have Braille names of trees written on them
Accessibility requires us to think outside our usual boxes. These Braille oghams came about when an ADF member asked about accessible divination. Check out the blog entry on this set.

I encourage everyone to seriously think about accessibility because, frankly, it’s a human rights issue, too: if you believe that everyone deserves equal access to all media and information, then you agree with me. You may just not have thought about it in this context before.

Other Reasons to Create Accessible Content

It’s entirely possible that “You should create accessible content because it’s the right thing to do” isn’t persuasive (I’ve met plenty of people who continue to argue “it’s too hard” or “it should be someone else’s responsibility”). For you, I have additional reasons.

Above, you’ll see a video we did with Closed Captioning added into the video. This has a hidden advantage: on nearly every social media service, video plays first without audio. Displaying Closed Captioning provides additional visual information about what’s going on, and makes people more likely to watch the entire video.

If you have an option to upload a CC sidecar file (and you can create them after uploading a video to YouTube pretty easily, actually, with just a little bit of training). You can then take the sidecar file you generated with YouTube and import it to Facebook… and now you have native content on two services with Closed Captioning.

Alt tags on images make them more searchable for your key terms, as well as improving their search results in Google. If you upload two pictures of your rituals onto the internet, and one has an alt tag that describes what’s going on, not only will it be ranked higher because accessible content is ranked higher, but it will be ranked higher because the “Google Robot” that reviews your website will know what it’s about.

An eBook is superior in accessibility to a .pdf in many ways (responsive text height and flow, screen reader accessibility, and ease in editing and creation are just some of the ways). If you create a newsletter or book, you should start designing for the eBook first. It’s far easier to design for accessibility than it is to create it later.

And both eBooks and .pdf files have a huge advantage over flat print: you can add in slide shows, do full color images, and even add videos. Today, any publication that designs itself as “print first” is missing out on audience. You should design for “print last,” if only because your print version is the least accessible, least dynamic option you have for getting your ideas out there.

That set of ogham I mentioned above? I still consider it the most beautiful, functional, and amazing set I ever created. The fact that it’s more accessible is cool, but by far not the only cool thing about it.

At the end of the day, the real joy of providing accessible content is that accessible content is richer, more vibrant content than a flat, single-use file could ever be. Seek greater possibilities, and help us live up to a world where modern Paganism and magic are accessible to all.

Broadcasting Live Rituals: Some Lessons Learned

Isaac Bonewits, founder of ADF, wrote in his “Vision of ADF:”

“We see globally televised Samhain rites at Stonehenge, and Beltane ceremonies attended by thousands in every major city.”

Times have changed since he wrote those words, and television is not the same “global force” it was in 1984, but today we have many more tools at our disposal, including live streaming on the Internet, and this article is about the joys and challenges of that experience as we dip our toes in.

At our last two rites, Samhain and Winter Solstice, Three Cranes Grove, ADF, has experimented a bit with live streaming of our rituals. This has been a fascinating experience, one very different than we expected.

On the one hand, the entire process was really quite successful: it brought our rituals to a very diverse and far-flung audience that usually would never get to experience a rite of the size and sort we put on here at 3CG.

On the other hand, it also added new concerns into the discussion of what it means to be “public” in our rituals, which we’re working to address.

A little history and context: We get about an average of 60 people to our rites, depending on the weather and the season, and our cameras have been pretty obvious for some time now (probably about 5 years with consistency, and on occasion before that). We mostly got into this game with an eye toward providing a view of what a really high-churchy Paganism could look like at our Dublin Irish Festival rituals (which get around 250-300 people on average: check out our most recent recording of a DIF rite on YouTube).

Of course, then we had the tech to record all our rites, and so we started setting up the camera more and more often (why use an investment of that size once per year when you can use it 8-15 times per year?). Over the last few years, we’ve put a lot of money into Grove-owned technology (plus some individually-owned tech), but we started with a $100 point-and-shoot camera that wasn’t even high def back in 2010. The Grove now owns five video cameras and a small mess of peripherals to go with them.

Our Grove has come at this from a perspective of, “We can extend our public ritual invitation to people in an immediate sense.” What we’ve so far aimed to do with our live streams and video is to let you have a window into our ritual space, to experience the joy of community and the blessings, no matter how far you are from us. To that end, it’s been very effective, and even though our interaction with viewers is small, we feel their presence in ritual in a way that’s hard to describe.

Do you want to do this with your Grove? Here are our (initial) tips on how to manage the process:

Equipment:

Here’s my short list of required equipment to stream live at this point:

  • Your smartphone/tablet
  • A tripod
  • A tripod mount for your phone/tablet; I use one of these two:

You must have a tripod or some way to steady the shot, honestly, to get a decent shot. If you don’t, you won’t be happy with the video, not really. So, with a $25-$50 investment for the cheapest tripod and mount you can find, your Grove can also start streaming.

Really, that’s all you need to get started. I’m serious.

Streaming Platforms

Platforms are the key to both reaching your audience and connecting. At this point, we’ve tried two distinct platforms that I want to give you the pro’s and con’s of: Periscope and Facebook Live.

Platform 1: Periscope

At Samhain, it was a very “spur of the moment” decision to go live. I hadn’t done any research into this, I just knew that Periscope was an app I could use to stream stuff (one of our Grove members had been using it and turned me onto it). Having never in my life run a live videostream before using this service, I just turned it on and away we went.

You can watch a recording of that rite on Periscope, and get a notion of the streaming experience  (Spoiler Alert: it wasn’t great).

Despite all of that, we had 167 people tune in during the broadcast. 167! Literally the only announcement that took place was that it popped up on Twitter when we started, got shared to my personal Facebook, and shared to the Grove FB. With zero warning, we had 167 people join the 55-or-so people in the room. Periscope can also notify its users when someone goes live in their area, so we had a few who had no idea what was going on tune in (you can see their comments on the stream; it’s kinda amusing).

Here’s what I learned from that:

  1. Only use a service that allows you to save your broadcast to your device if possible. Periscope offers that, but I didn’t save it (because I hadn’t done the research to start with). The video I have been able to save after-the-fact is one step up from unusable garbage… and I’m glad I didn’t have to use it. If I had been able to save it to my device, I think it might have looked pretty awesome.
  2. Bandwidth is king for quality. At your pre-ritual briefing, you gotta tell people to shut off their wifi on personal devices so your signal remains strong. I had issues connecting to the wifi at the site, particularly in the first position I set up for the camera, and so I had to move the camera nearer to the hotspot to get it to even turn on and go.
  3. All streaming products use their own proprietary apps. Periscope does as well. I figured you could just watch without an app, but on iOS and Android, it prompts you to watch on the Periscope app instead of in your browser. I found that terribly annoying as a content creator. When it’s something like FB or YouTube, which virtually everyone owns, it’s not a big deal, but asking people to download an app they don’t have is a bridge too far for many.
  4. There’s a serious thirst for content out there. If you build it, even without warning and requiring people to download an app to see it, they will come.

So, with Samhain behind me, I decided to get a bit more proactive on the research front, and started looking into options. Unfortunately, another opportunity to test wasn’t far behind: after Thanksgiving, The Ohio State University community was attacked by a guy who rammed some students and started slashing them with a knife. Jan and I got together at The Magical Druid to open up the community altar since we’re just a bit down the street. We decided on another impromptu livecast, but this time (unhappy with the experience with Periscope), we went with Facebook after realizing that YouTube wasn’t an option for livecasting from their app.

Platform 2a: Personal Facebook Live

You can watch that video from our impromptu Livecast on my personal Facebook page:

Now, I ran this one on my personal page on FB, which (in hindsight) was a mistake, but I left it public. We had about 52 people log in to view during the event, I think, and since then it’s been viewed about 500 times. That’s not bad for 3PM, on my personal page, also unannounced.

Things I learned from this:

  1. If you think you ever might want to livestream, get good at it before you need to. Seriously, practice with the thing you’re going to use. There are a lot of options when it comes to streaming, and each service is different.
  2. If you stream on FB, do it from a Page, not from your personal account. Heed this warning (more on it later). Right now, if you broadcast via a personal account, you get a 400×400 square video, and up until about a week ago, you couldn’t download the video in anything better than that. That’s virtually useless for saving, and it *only* looks okay on mobile. In addition, the framerate is awful. I tried to import it for editing and… well, let’s just say it’s nowhere near 30 fps. It was so bad I went back to edit in another camera angle, and I had to drop it to well under standard definition. You can see the result on YouTube. But the most damning thing about not doing it on your FB Page? NO ANALYTICS. Once you have analytics, you’ll wonder why you didn’t go after them sooner.
  3. Picking a good location, sound-wise, and good framing are really important. This was something I didn’t fully understand until I went back to look again. If you watch the YouTube video, you’ll see that the framing is just… well, it’s awful, from both camera angles. In addition, the street noise is an issue: the shop is on a very busy street, and a lot of times, you’ll hear automobile and truck noise over the dialog.
  4. Facebook actually does promote native content better than imported content. If you want your FB friends to see that you’re broadcasting, or if your community has a heavy FB presence, broadcasting via FB live is (I say this with grudging honesty) really the way to go. More on this when I talk about Yule, too.
  5. It’s okay if livestreamed ritual is “messy.” The background noise, the toddler nearly knocking over the camera and chattering during the rite, and not really knowing what to say has advantages over polish in something like this: people don’t log in looking for a perfect experience, just a real one. The comments on the video bear that out.

Platform 2b: Stream Live From a Facebook Page

At Yule, we decided to go another step and let people know that we were going to stream in advance. This put some pressure on to get it right, so we did some preliminary testing. I put up an empty Facebook page I could do livestream tests on, and then I started trying to figure out how it was going to go. I’d record a video live on my phone, watch it on my computer, and see what worked, then delete the video.

At the rite, I got there early enough to check the wifi (and decide it wasn’t strong enough to broadcast, so I switched to cellular data on my phone), set up a decent frame for the video, and this time I paid attention to the camera somewhat carefully. Once I started the livestream (during the pre-ritual briefing), I made it a point to welcome people “attending remotely,” I kept the work in the frame during the ritual, and I acknowledged people watching at home in the rite. It was, really, an excellent presentation of the work we do in our normal rites.

When I ended the transmission, FB notified me that over 500 people had seen the live video feed during the rite. Analytics showed we could claim about 350 people “virtually attended” the rite because they’d interacted with the video in some way (FB measures how many people turn on the sound, go full screen, or even click the “more info” button on the description). Since then, as of this morning, we’ve had nearly 1,000 people watch the video on FB and YouTube (we edited a second version with multiple camera angles and better sound).

You can view our Yule event on FB (as originally streamed) or on YouTube (edited after the fact).

Things we learned at Yule:

  1. Streaming from a Facebook Page (the Pages App allows this) is way better than doing it from your personal page. You get a 16:9 ratio frame, the people who you want to see it will see it (not just the people friends with you), and FB will automatically promote the content (you’re not even allowed to pay to “boost” the stream while it’s live) based on the number of interactions it receives. You can also download a HD version of your stream in case you forget to save the video (N.B.: always save your video to your device at the end of the stream, which is an option on FB streaming: quality is always going to be better if you do that… 720p vs. 400 pixels wide, last time I tried).
  2. I streamed for a bit over an hour, and the final file was just under 1 GB when I saved it to my phone. I assume that it uploaded all that content on my wireless data plan (I’ll find out for sure later this month, when my bill arrives), so… make sure your data plan can handle it if wifi doesn’t work out. But if it really was 1 GB, that’s not nearly as bad as I’d feared, size-wise.
  3. You need some way to check that you’re not having technical difficulties. I popped my computer up in the back and checked to make sure the darn thing was still going once or twice. We haven’t had it happen yet, but I can imagine that it would be very annoying to have your stream drop halfway through and not notice until the end of the stream. We did all we could to mitigate potential issues, including plugging my phone into the wall before we started, checking on it a couple of times during the ritual, and having a person (me) assigned to figure out what to do if it broke down.
  4. It’s clear we’ll need to improve the audio. Of all the comments I got back, no one complained about the picture, but the audio got comments. I don’t think it’s a long-term solution to rely on a built-in microphone in your smartphone or tablet, though you can totally do it to start. I have a new mic to try next time we live stream, so we’ll see how it goes. Having the camera across from the bards and not next to them was very helpful, though: a drum right next to the camera can kill your audio.
  5. A bit of stage lighting goes a long way. I put a little diffused light on the bards at Yule and it really helped them not get lost in the shadows, or washed out by the sunlight that came in the window at one point when the rest of the space was dark.

In relation to point 1 of these things we learned at Yule, I will ask: if you see a 3CG live video come across your FB feed, do us a solid: like it, unmute it (if even for a moment), click for more info, and maybe even share it out. You’ll be promoting ADF content, and if you interact with it, FB will spread that promotion out while it’s live. I’ll happily return the favor.

Conclusions

Livestreaming isn’t for everyone, or every Grove, but man, it’s gotten easier and better really fast. You, too, can provide a lot of this content and work. It’s pretty amazing, actually.

Anyway, I hope this post is helpful. I’m seriously thinking about doing a video of our process for folks to get a better handle on how to do this.

And, of course, I’ll ask that if you want to see how this develops, subscribe on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/3cgvideos and follow us on FB at https://www.facebook.com/threecranes/ and yadayadayada. But seriously, I’m excited, and no matter what, we’ll be producing more stuff.

Keep an eye out for it, friends.

Brightest Blessings,
-Rev. Michael J Dangler

A Yule Rite For (All) the Ages

Rev. Dangler and Rev. Avende dance the gate open with a number of children

This year’s Yule rite was pretty awesome. Despite chasing kids around, running a lot of video cameras, and generally being exhausted at the end of the day, there were some serious highlights.

  1. The live-stream went phenomenally (see our next blog post for details). By the time we’d finished, it looks like over 500 people had viewed the stream (we’ll know more when the analytics arrive and give us a solid idea of how many people were tuned in). Since then, nearly 1,000 people have watched the event on Facebook, far more than I would have ever expected (and 2/3 the total membership of ADF, which also says something about the reach of this sort of work).
  2. The Gate Opening was weird and fun and I want to plan it with way more kids. I was attending without my wife, and with my twin three-year-olds. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do my part without them hanging out with me, so I worked them in. I’m thankful to everyone who helped spin the kids around, especially Rev. Avende.
  3. I was able to leave someone else in charge. Mike B.’s first rite went amazingly well. Cool, controlled, and with good stage presence, he ran the rite like he’d been doing it for years. Kudos to him. I couldn’t have asked for a better ritual leader for our first really successful live-stream.
  4. The working was powerful for those involved. Several folks took home bulbs from the rite to turn into something that blossoms in their lives. From start to finish, this working was perfect for the rite, both in theme and in execution. It even looked good on video.
  5. My daughter has a new “book.” This morning, as I dropped my kids off at school, my daughter refused to let go of the ritual program from last night, saying that she wanted to take her “Crane Book” in for show-and-tell. I can only imagine the conversation going on at this moment.

The Gate Opening, with kids spinning the Gates open, I think, as I reflect on it, is what makes me happiest about the entire rite: the fact that we live-streamed the event, plus got to really push the kids into the work and highlight a method of inclusion, was pretty huge for me.

It’s easy sometimes to forget that kids make up the next generation of our work, that including them in ritual is really very important (my own feelings on kids in ritual have transformed since the first time I had to deal with them in ritual back in 2003, where I immediately gave them a part). It’s chaotic, crazy, and they don’t really lend themselves to a “calm, meditative experience,” but honestly, I get enough of those sorts of experiences, anyway.

What including kids in ritual does do, and I think this is very important, is it continues the work of making our rites open, accessible, and joyful to all involved.

Watching them “twirl the Gates open” is an experience I won’t soon forget… and that I hope to get to repeat very soon, with even more kids joining the dance.

Watch the Livestream for yourself on Facebook:

Bright Blessings,
-Rev. Michael J Dangler

Guided Meditations, and Diversity

Guided Meditations and Diversity header graphic. Grove logo and Tribeways logo inclusive

Wanna skip the discussion and go straight to the meditations? Visit our Meditations Page!

Earlier this year, we began the process of recording (or, in some cases, re-recording) guided meditations with the aim of putting them online. Quickly, we noticed we lacked something particularly important: diversity of voice.

In early February, we thought we were ready to go live. Then, I took a good look at the page and realized: on the entire page, there was only one (less than 10%) that had a female voice leading it. I promised myself that I wouldn’t release until we hit over 50% female-voiced representation on the page.

So, today, on May 1, 2016, I am proud to say that we have just over 50% of meditations on our brand new “Meditations” page as being led by female voices.

(I counted any meditation with both men and women leading as a fraction: 15.3 out of 30 meditations, as of this writing, are female-led.)

Most meditations in the world of modern Paganism and New Age religious movements are read by men. Upon realizing that only 10% of our meditations had female voices, I reviewed the ADF website, thinking, “Surely, we must have a good representation there!” Alas, I found only a single, lonely meditation that was voiced by a woman on the entire website.

How was this possible? On both the ADF website and the 3CG website, we would only have one female voice each?

I have a lot of speculation on why men dominate the voice of guided meditations, but that’s neither here nor there. Today, I want to talk a little bit about why it’s so important to both notice it, and correct it.

Why should we notice a lack of diversity? Simply put, because it isn’t true. While Druidry may have a clear image in the minds of many people, that image is one of old, white guys in long (potentially fake) white beards, and long (very real) white robes. It’s not an inclusive image at all. And yet, our membership is broad and diverse, and we need to find ways to ensure that our Groves do not suffer the long-term effects that Roman writers and the masonic druid orders have saddled us with.

Our Grove is, like many ADF Groves (and ADF on the whole), predominantly female in membership makeup. Most of our members who identify with a particular gender identify as female, and it strikes me as unfair that the representation we sometimes have on our website doesn’t make that a bit more clear. It also strikes me as subtly unwelcoming to have such abysmal representation of the majority of our membership.

Why is it important to correct a lack of diversity? A deep reason for an ADF Grove to go out of our way is that we are, first and foremost, a public, welcoming tradition of Druidry. Our job, as an ADF Grove, is to ensure that everyone has a place to honor the Spirits, to come before their gods in a comfortable environment, and to go out of our way to be both good neighbor and welcoming host to all who wish to come to our fire with good intention.

We cannot provide a comfortable place at the fire for people when we are not showing, in our works, that we value our membership and give them equal access to the outward-facing aspects of Our Druidry.

So, what does this mean for 3CG? First, it means that our Grove needs to take a bit of an inventory of our online presence and see where else we might need to improve our game on the diversity front. It also means that we need to actively work at this. It’s important to note, diversity does not happen on accident. It has to be worked at, and built intentionally. There’s no way to stumble into it. It’s important to note, too, that you can’t get there too fast, but you can get there too slow, so our social media projects are going to have this as a focus going forward.

Most importantly, though, we’re not going to stop asking diverse voices to represent our Grove on our website, and as part of Our Own Druidry.

We will, in fact, be going out of our way to ensure that Our Druidry is Diverse Druidry. And we’ll take stock of what our voices sound like more often, too, just to be sure that when we say “Our Own Druidry,” we really mean that it belongs to all of us.

Brightest Beltaine Blessings,
-Rev. Michael J Dangler

Earth-Along Day 3 Liturgy

Today we focus on the theme of “Grateful *ghos-ti with the Earth.” *Ghos-ti is about creating and maintaining a relationship of reciprocity – We give that we may receive. Today, celebrate with all gratitude and generosity.  What can you do, or are you doing, to give to the Earth, and to the community that supports the Earth? Today, go on a nature walk and pick up trash, or work in your garden, or find a group planting trees for Earth Day, or take some time to consider how you give to the Earth and she gives to you.

The liturgy for today’s Earth-Along focuses on the Earth Mother, and the ways we work in *ghos-ti and harmony.

 prayer card for the "prayer of offering" on image of green flowing river bed

 

Beginning Signal
***Ring Bell (or other sound) 3 times***

 

Attune to Purpose
***Focus on your connection with the Earth Mother & Take 3 cleansing breaths to ground and center***

 

Prayer of Welcome
***Kindle your Good Fire (whatever form it takes)***
 
It is fitting that we honor the All Mother;
She from whom we have all emerged,
She who sustains us, She to whom,
In the fullness of time, our bones will return.
Come, Blessed Goddess, and hear our prayer;
We ask that you support and surround us
For this rite, as you do for all rites,
For this day, as you do for all days.
Eldest of all beings, crowned with every grace,
We give you honor, and we give you praise;
Yours is the joy of the rain, and of every sacred thing.
We honor you best when we walk in balance;
We honor you best when we make our footprints light;
We honor you best when we become your true champions.
All Mother, Our Mother, ignite your spark within us
That we may know ourselves to be truly human,
Truly holy, and truly part of the web of life.
Join us in the warmth and light of our Good Fire.
Earth Mother, be welcome here this day.

 

Prayer of Offering
Great Mother, creator and destroyer,
you are where we begin and end in the eternal circle of life.
You bring us forth from your starry womb, and provide for our every need.
We wend our way through the days of our lives, tending and toiling,
planting and harvesting, praying and playing,
sharing in the blessings you pour out upon us to sustain us.
As the fruits of our labors come to fruition,
they will be our service and sacrifice unto you.
And, in the fullness of time, we also return to you
to contribute to the next turn of the wheel,
becoming part of that which sustains you, and those who come after us.
We come to celebrate this unbreakable and unshakable relationship
that is our *Ghos-ti bond – the reciprocity of unconditional love.
We endeavor to gratefully provide our service and sacrifice,
as you support and sustain us, that we may return an outpouring of blessings to you.
 
***Make your Offering (give your gift, then say this or do what suits you)***
 
Blessed is she whose vital essence brings life to all the land.
Blessed is she whose lifeblood wells up and flows out to the sea.
Blessed is she whose gentle breath whispers of love across the sky.
Blessings to the All-Mother!

 

Prayer of Blessing
***Call the Earth Mother’s Blessings into your Water or Incense***
 
O come Blessed Goddess, and listen to our prayer,
Make the increase of your bounty thy constant care;
We ask that you support us, and let your blessings flow,
Praise to you, Sacred Mother, for all that you bestow.Beloved Ancestral Mother of prosperity and plenty,
From whose starry womb the green earth springs,
We have offered freely, with our heads and hands and hearts,
Bring forth now your blessings that we may take them in.Pour out the blessings of the Cup of Inspiration!
Send down the blessings of the Spring of Renewal!
Infuse us with the blessings of the Well of Wisdom!
Behold the beauty and the bounty of the gifts the Mother brings!
 
***Take in the Blessings: Drink, sprinkle, anoint, waft, or whathaveyou***

 

Prayer of Gratitude
As it began in your honor, let it end in our thanksgiving.
Earth Mother, we are ever grateful for thy bounty,
For your presence in our lives, and in our rites,
For your support in our work, and in all our days.With gratitude for blessings received, we carry forth
The gifts bestowed upon us to share with all the world;
Blessed Goddess, wellspring of potential, we honor you;
Through the fruits of your labors are we made whole, and holy.
Earth Mother, we thank you!

 

Ending Signal
***Ring Bell (or other sound) 3 times***

 

Earth-Along Day 2 Liturgy

Today we focus on the theme of “The Earth Sustains Us All.” All that we use comes from the Earth:  for our sustenance, for our labors, for our creative endeavors. Today, honor those resources and ways we make use of them.  What can you do, or are you doing, to acknowledge the ways in which the Earth Mother supports us and nurtures us? Today, sing praises to the Earth Mother, or make offerings, or take some time to take a walk or observe the nature around you, and reflect on how the we are all part of the Earth together.
The liturgy for today’s Earth-Along focuses on the Earth Mother, and the ways she provides for us.
 prayer card for the "prayer of offering" on image of redbud tree and green and yellow leaved ivy

 

Beginning Signal
***Ring Bell (or other sound) 3 times***

 

Attune to Purpose
***Focus on your connection with the Earth Mother & Take 3 cleansing breaths to ground and center***

 

Prayer of Welcome
***Kindle your Good Fire (whatever form it takes)***
 
It is fitting that we honor the All Mother;
She from whom we have all emerged,
She who sustains us, She to whom,
In the fullness of time, our bones will return.
Come, Blessed Goddess, and hear our prayer;
We ask that you support and surround us
For this rite, as you do for all rites,
For this day, as you do for all days.
Eldest of all beings, crowned with every grace,
We give you honor, and we give you praise;
Yours is the joy of the rain, and of every sacred thing.
We honor you best when we walk in balance;
We honor you best when we make our footprints light;
We honor you best when we become your true champions.
All Mother, Our Mother, ignite your spark within us
That we may know ourselves to be truly human,
Truly holy, and truly part of the web of life.
Join us in the warmth and light of our Good Fire.
Earth Mother, be welcome here this day.

 

Prayer of Offering
Great Mother, sustainer of all creation,
from you flows all that we need – to live, to work, to love, to play.
Your blessed waters are a joy to behold, not only do they slake our thirst,
but also do they provide us nourishment, entertainment, transportation,
and beauty in their very existence.
From the smallest creek-let to the largest ocean,
your liquid blessings are truly “The Waters of Life!”
Your vast expanses of land, from verdant meadow to windswept crag,
are home to countless creatures, great and small.
You support and surround us with the means to feed and clothe ourselves,
and to provide  all we need to feed those other parts of us as well –
pigments for painting, clay for sculpting, wood and stone for carving,
fibers for crafting, and all that allows us to build community and conduct business.
The winds of your sacred breath that blow across the plains and the fields,
that swirl among the clouds, carry the seeds of new life,
lift us up like birds on the wing, sing the songs of a myriad voices,
and bring back the blessed waters in the endless cycle of the pouring out of your blessings.
 
***Make your Offering (give your gift, then say this or do what suits you)***
 
Blessed is she whose vital essence brings life to all the land.
Blessed is she whose lifeblood wells up and flows out to the sea.
Blessed is she whose gentle breath whispers of love across the sky.
Blessings to the All-Mother!

 

Prayer of Blessing
***Call the Earth Mother’s Blessings into your Water or Incense***
 
O come Blessed Goddess, and listen to our prayer,
Make the increase of your bounty thy constant care;
We ask that you support us, and let your blessings flow,
Praise to you, Sacred Mother, for all that you bestow.Beloved Ancestral Mother of prosperity and plenty,
From whose starry womb the green earth springs,
We have offered freely, with our heads and hands and hearts,
Bring forth now your blessings that we may take them in.Pour out the blessings of the Cup of Inspiration!
Send down the blessings of the Spring of Renewal!
Infuse us with the blessings of the Well of Wisdom!
Behold the beauty and the bounty of the gifts the Mother brings!
 
***Take in the Blessings: Drink, sprinkle, anoint, waft, or whathaveyou***

 

Prayer of Gratitude
As it began in your honor, let it end in our thanksgiving.
Earth Mother, we are ever grateful for thy bounty,
For your presence in our lives, and in our rites,
For your support in our work, and in all our days.With gratitude for blessings received, we carry forth
The gifts bestowed upon us to share with all the world;
Blessed Goddess, wellspring of potential, we honor you;
Through the fruits of your labors are we made whole, and holy.
Earth Mother, we thank you!

 

Ending Signal
***Ring Bell (or other sound) 3 times***

 

Earth-Along Day 1 Liturgy

Today we focus on the theme of “Being of Service to the Earth.” What can you do, or are you doing, to be of good service? Today, make an effort to get out there (or get scheduled) to do something to care for or give back to our Mother Earth.


The liturgy for today’s Earth-Along focuses on the Earth Mother, and the ways that we tend her.


Great Mother, bringer of life, it is our quest to serve you well. We gather in your fields and forests to clear and to plant; we tend our gardens with loving care; we clean up your highways and waterways; we honor you in our rites. We give to you freely and with glad hearts, knowing that each act of service and sacrifice, whether great or small, serves to strengthen the strands of the web that connects us all. You pour out your many blessings upon us, too great to measure, and it is our solemn duty and joyous obligation to bring all our gifts to fruition in returning those blessings to you.


Beginning Signal
***Ring Bell (or other sound) 3 times***


Attune to Purpose
***Focus on your connection with the Earth Mother & Take 3 cleansing breaths to ground and center***


Prayer of Welcome
***Kindle your Good Fire (whatever form it takes)***
 
It is fitting that we honor the All Mother;
She from whom we have all emerged,
She who sustains us, She to whom,
In the fullness of time, our bones will return.
Come, Blessed Goddess, and hear our prayer;
We ask that you support and surround us
For this rite, as you do for all rites,
For this day, as you do for all days.
Eldest of all beings, crowned with every grace,
We give you honor, and we give you praise;
Yours is the joy of the rain, and of every sacred thing.
We honor you best when we walk in balance;
We honor you best when we make our footprints light;
We honor you best when we become your true champions.
All Mother, Our Mother, ignite your spark within us
That we may know ourselves to be truly human,
Truly holy, and truly part of the web of life.
Join us in the warmth and light of our Good Fire.
Earth Mother, be welcome here this day.


Prayer of Offering
Great Mother, bringer of life, it is our quest to serve you well.
We gather in your fields and forests to clear and to plant;
we tend our gardens with loving care;
we clean up your highways and waterways;
we honor you in our rites.
We give to you freely and with glad hearts,
knowing that each act of service and sacrifice, whether great or small,
serves to strengthen the strands of the web that connects us all.
You pour out your many blessings upon us, too great to measure,
and it is our solemn duty and joyous obligation
to bring all our gifts to fruition in returning those blessings to you.
 
***Make your Offering (give your gift, then say this or do what suits you)***
 
Blessed is she whose vital essence brings life to all the land.
Blessed is she whose lifeblood wells up and flows out to the sea.
Blessed is she whose gentle breath whispers of love across the sky.
Blessings to the All-Mother!


Prayer of Blessing
***Call the Earth Mother’s Blessings into your Water or Incense***
 
O come Blessed Goddess, and listen to our prayer,
Make the increase of your bounty thy constant care;
We ask that you support us, and let your blessings flow,
Praise to you, Sacred Mother, for all that you bestow.Beloved Ancestral Mother of prosperity and plenty,
From whose starry womb the green earth springs,
We have offered freely, with our heads and hands and hearts,
Bring forth now your blessings that we may take them in.Pour out the blessings of the Cup of Inspiration!
Send down the blessings of the Spring of Renewal!
Infuse us with the blessings of the Well of Wisdom!
Behold the beauty and the bounty of the gifts the Mother brings!
 
***Take in the Blessings: Drink, sprinkle, anoint, waft, or whathaveyou***


Prayer of Gratitude
As it began in your honor, let it end in our thanksgiving.
Earth Mother, we are ever grateful for thy bounty,
For your presence in our lives, and in our rites,
For your support in our work, and in all our days.With gratitude for blessings received, we carry forth
The gifts bestowed upon us to share with all the world;
Blessed Goddess, wellspring of potential, we honor you;
Through the fruits of your labors are we made whole, and holy.
Earth Mother, we thank you!


Ending Signal
***Ring Bell (or other sound) 3 times***