In ancient times, Sacred Groves were places of sanctuary and worship for the Druids. Like a temple or chapel set within the natural world, they were places of spiritual refuge: places to calm the mind, refresh the spirit, and give comfort in times of distress. Druids today continue this tradition of seeking tranquil clearings in woods and forests, in which to meditate and hold ceremonies. And in addition, many contemporary Druids are creating new sacred groves – in their gardens, on their farms or on public land.
In 1988 The Order began the Sacred Grove Planting Programme – offering support and advice to members of the Order and members of the public who wanted to create new sacred spaces across the world. As a result, thousands of trees, and hundreds of groves have been planted around the world. These groves form a network of woodland sanctuaries – that radiate peace, and offer refuge to both wildlife and humankind.
Many of these groves are small private sanctuaries in members’ gardens, using trees native to the land they are planted in, or – where appropriate – sacred trees from Celtic tradition. But there are other kinds of groves that can be planted too: as community projects, in schools, as ones that encourage endangered tree species, or that are woodland sanctuaries dedicated to Peace, or to those who have died.
We would like to invite you to join in this project. Even if you have no land, no time or money, there are many ways you can help to create this network of sanctuaries across the earth.
A Grove can be a natural clearing in a forest, or it can be created by planting at least five trees in an oval, circle, horseshoe or cauldron shape. If you would like to help with this project, by planting one or more groves, here is what we suggest:
1 Commit yourself to this project. If you join the Order we will send you a copy of The Sacred Grove– a booklet which gives practical instructions on tree-planting, ceremonies to use when planting trees, and much more. If you don’t want to join, but would still like to see the book email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Read the Sacred Planting Programme booklet we send you in the first package of the Bardic course (or email the office and we’ll mail you one), which tells you how to go about planting and caring for your grove.
3 Invite friends to help – make it a party! Together, decide where you want to plant the Grove. You don’t have to own the land. You can offer to plant one in your local school or park, as members have already done. If you contact your council, they will be more than happy to help you plant trees, often helping towards the cost of purchasing the trees too.
4 If you feel you need expert advice on which trees to plant for your local environment, ask the experts at your local garden centre, or for this and any further support, contact one of the following groups who will be happy to help you:
UK: British Trust For Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), The Tree Council, The Royal Forestry Society
US: National Arbor Day Foundation (One of the benefits that comes with their membership is they will send 10 seedlings appropriate for planting in the member’s geographic area. They also have tree care information available.)
5 Plant your trees. Create your own ceremony to welcome your trees and to help nurture them, or use the suggested ceremony in the book. The Grove is more than just a great environmental addition to your landscape – it becomes a new ‘sacred site’ that you have helped create.
6 Visit your Grove regularly. Planting your Grove is the beginning of a relationship of trust and care. Your trees will need lots of water, mulching, hand weeding and observation for squirrel, deer or human damage. And create ceremony there. This is your sacred space, one you have created, and it will need love and attention. You can add a stone circle to your grove, you can celebrate handfastings and namings there, and you can add trees later – perhaps to commemorate a loved one or to mark a special occasion.
See sacredgroves.com for an example of how such a place can become a focus for celebrations and ceremonies.
In the Order’s training, we learn how to work in an Inner Grove: we create a place of beauty and safety in the world of Soul and the Imagination that becomes our own personal sanctuary. The Grove, then, is the hallowed heart of the Druid, the place we create in the Otherworld – a place of learning and wisdom and peace. But the Grove also needs to exist in the Apparent world, for without it there can be no inner Grove. only the physical Grove can teach us the aromas, the sounds, textures, visions, flavours and ambience that we might find in our own inner Groves.