A few weeks ago, we had the Mid-Atlantic Gathering of US Druids (MAGUS 2023). This gathering has been going on since 2017, and it seems like every year gets better! Since the start of MAGUS, we have been experimenting with a large group chanting ritual that involves individual groups doing deep pre-work in smaller groups, movement, and chanting of ogham trees to raise energy for specific purposes. Our first “Galdr” (which is a Norse word for “chant” or “incantation”) was a Hemlock Healing Galdr to support the healing of the Hemlock trees. Our second was working to raise energy to re-establish lines of community across the land. This year, we were able to have our third Galdr ritual, a Mushroom Telluric Energy Ritual. Along with three other ritualists, I had the pleasure of creating and facilitating this amazing ritual. I wanted to share some of the details about this ritual in the hopes that it may inspire other groups or individuals to experiment and connect deeply with the fungi kingdom.
History of the MAGUS Chant-style Celtic Galdr
In late 2016, the idea of the Celtic Galdr was born when I approached the facilitators of the new MAGUS gathering with a desire to do some land healing for the hemlock trees at the location the gathering was going to be held; the hemlocks there were suffering from the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid infestation and I was hoping we druids could do something. The facilitators liked the idea but wanted to somehow incorporate some kind of chanting into the ritual. Thus, two of us (myself and Cat McDonald of The Druid’s Well) set out to create a chanting land-healing ritual for the hemlocks. The ritual was a resounding success and a very powerful experience, and we were excited at the possibility of continuing to explore this emerging ritual genre, in particular, for large-group rituals where everyone gets a chance to meaningfully participate.
Part of this is because a lot of large group rituals at gatherings and events can be really hit or miss. Sometimes, when there is a way to involve everyone, the ritual is great. But too often, these kinds of rituals end up being everyone standing in a circle and listening to a smaller group of people do stuff or read scripts. A lot of us in the druid community are working towards moving away from that model both individually, in small groups, and in larger groups. One of the reasons I really like the Galdr genre that we’ve been developing at MAGUS is that is a very involved ritual with different groups coming together, with everyone being active and participating, and with several different layers of work present. Each person is important and each person has their individual work to do, small group work to do, and of course, the large work of the gathering to do. This creates a very meaningful, layered ritual that can be impactful–and that reaches a wide range of experience levels (novice to expert).
Because of this deeper involvement with all people who are participating, the other thing we’ve found is that using our voices and sacred movement is incredibly effective at raising and directing energy for a specific purpose (healing, blessing, transformation). I offered many more details on the Galdr, how the magic works, and its origins in my first post from the 2017 MAGUS gathering, so I will direct your attention there. The Galdr chanting works well with a group of any size; with 60 druids at this gathering, we used the Galdr chanting in four separate groups to raise a tapestry of telluric connective energy. I’ll now share a bit about our specific ritual.
Telluric Energy, the Fungi Kingdom, and the Great Soil Web
This year’s MAGUS gathering theme was “Journey of the Seven Spirits” where we worked with the seven elements (earth, air, fire, water, spirit above/solar current, spirit below/telluric current, spirit within/lunar current). This is the same framework of elements used in the AODA tradition and the core rituals of the gathering included elemental attuments (the opening being for the four and the other three major rituals being telluric, solar, and lunar).
The Mushroom Galdr focused on transformation and connection with the telluric currents of the deep earth and spirit below. The Telluric energies are the deep energies of earth, the lines of energy that radiate through the land, and everything connected to the life on earth and includes a connection to the great soil web of life. Thus, the Mushroom Galdr focused on deeply working with the telluric currents and earth energies in four directions. Connecting with the fungi kingdom and connecting to the mycelial network seemed like a wonderful way to foster a connection with the telluric energies.
Another thing we’ve found about these galdr rituals is that whatever we may want to connect with requires permission, listening, and reverence. Thus, as with these other rituals, the four core ritualists co-created the ritual with the spirits of the fungi kingdom. This co-creation meant that the four of us who were the lead facilitators did extensive prep work including months of deeply connecting to the energies of the fungi kingdom for almost six months leading up to the gathering. Each of us connected to the mushroom kingdom in our own way–one of the things I worked on was painting images (such as the Amanita shown here) and also learning how to cultivate oyster mushrooms from coffee grounds and straw (which has been quite successful!) We met regularly to see how our own deep work with the mushrooms unfolded, and through that, the four key themes and groups emerged along with the ritual structure (shown in the image in the next section). Our four groups were:
- Cycles – Chant “Mukhomor.” This group focused on connecting with the cycles life, death, and renewal through exploring how mushrooms break down the old and recycle those nutrients back into the soil.
- Connection – Chant “Mycorrhiza.” This group focused on the fungi’ kingdom’s ability to form a web of life that communicates, moves nutrients, and connects many plants and trees to each other.
- Healing – Chant “Grifola.” This group focused on mushrooms as healing agents, both in terms of healing the human body but also in terms of earth healing through mycoremediation.
- Visioning – Chant “Amanita.” This group (which was my group) focused on the work of visioning for a better future, considering ourselves as becoming good ancestors, and putting a more positive vision into the world for the good of all. (I’ll also direct you to some of my previous posts on this topic: visioning through the bardic arts, visioning the future, and my own vision for the future).
I will also note that shared four aspects of the healing and transformation of the fungi kingdom already through a post prior to our event, so I have given only a brief overview above. These four themes weave through not only natural history but through human history, and seeing how deeply mushrooms have shaped our human development, human spirituality, and human foodways has been incredible. In sum, these four themes represent some of the major functions of the fungi kingdom, and they also help us have key pathways into the different kinds of relationships we can cultivate with mushrooms in a variety of powerful ways.
The Pre-Ritual Mushroom Workshop
To support the ritual, we offered a pre-ritual workshop, where we introduced the theme and overall ritual, had people attune with the mushrooms by drinking a Chaga and maple syrup-sweetened tea. After the attunement, they selected a mushroom charm of various colors, which placed them in one of our four groups for their deeper work. Then, each of the four ritual leaders led a smaller group of 12-15 people through various activities designed to help the group explore their theme and connect deeply with the work.
My amanita group talked about visioning and what it was, used a visioning oil I had made, and then did a guided journey to meet the spirit of the amanita mushroom (I will share this part in an upcoming post). The other groups did healing dance and healing movement, journeyed into the woods and surrounding land to seek out and connect with the mycelia, and also connected to the cycles of death and rebirth through journeying.
All groups also practiced the chanting and the movement of their part of the ritual, so we were prepared to enact the ritual. It was a wonderful time to connect in a smaller group, get to know each other, and begin the deep work of the telluric currents which carried forward into the ritual.
The Mushroom Galdr Ritual
The image below is the handout I created for the ritual. The ritual opened up with me doing a simple drumbeat in each of the quarters while everyone took their first position. Then, we began chanting in our individual groups, which grew in strength–sixty people chanting in four directions, holding hands and connecting with their group. What I love about the chant is that you can all chant together or you can cascade it–our Amanita group decided to do a sing-song kind of cascading chant, which turned out really beautiful! As we continued to raise energy, the Grifola/Healing group began to make their way into the center space, around the central altar, dancing and chanting deosil. Then, the other two inner groups moved around them, and the movement and chanting continued to intensify. The Amanitas spread out on the outside edge to hold the space to bring the energy of vision into the world. At the end of the ritual, again being led by the Grifola/Healing group, we all went to the ground to channel that energy into the mycelial web of life and become one with the web of life and the soil. Sixty druids, all laying on the ground or putting their hands into the soil wherever they happened to be, with the pulses of energy from the ritual flowing through them and into the nurturing earth. After a long pause, I once again closed the ritual by drumming in the four quarters. The work was done and it was done in a good way.
Every time we do one of these, the ritual takes on a life of its own. For us, I think that happened at the end of the ritual. The end goal was transformation, and we certainly did that. We raised a tremendous amount of energy. Everyone ended up staying on the ground a long time, being supported by the earth, and connecting deeply. After we closed the ritual, we got back into our small groups to talk, eat grounding foods, and drink. It was a wonderful moment to connect, and everyone stayed a long time, talking through their experiences, the healing moment, the visuals or messages that they received. After the ritual and during the rest of the gathering, many of us shared experiences as each person’s and each group’s experiences are unique. I don’t think it is a ritual or experience that anyone would forget. I certainly feel very blessed, honored, and transformed by this experience. It was nice to reach back into the dawn of history to our human ancestors and once again have the fungi kingdom present with us and help us facilitate ceremony.
Adapting this Ritual
In reading this, maybe you are inspired to work with the fungi kingdom or create your own mushroom ritual. You might choose to work with one of the themes through your own chanting, movement, and meditation. You could get a group together of four or more, with each of you taking on one of the themes. You can use these four themes for other kinds of deep work to connect to the telluric currents and get to know the realm of mushrooms just a bit better. Go out, seek the healing nature of the mushrooms–learn from their wisdom. Ask them to help us cycle and break down the old so that the new can emerge. Find the mycelium running through the land, and see what those mycelium have to share. Ask the mushrooms for healing wisdom so that we can create a better tomorrow. Find new themes
The sky is really the limit, and this provides a great framework for deep connection. Through this experience, many of us have had many deep experiences and joy connecting to the fungi kingdom and I hope this post inspires you to do the same!