This week over at Cat’s Druidy blog, she talked about names for pagans. http://druidcat.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/whats-in-a-name/ – it’s an excellent and rather funny post. It got me thinking about a parallel issue – how we name groups. When pagans cluster themselves together to do things, they tend to go for names, but finding the right name to muster under is not the easiest job in the world. So, how do you name a Druid gathering?
Many groups include a tag that says something of what they are, so here’s a quick rundown of those and what they mean, or might mean.
Order – in theory this is a big group with its own way of doing Druidry, likely to have member groves, formal membership. Think The British Druid Order, ADF, OBOD. Every so often someone with big ideas and a small following will call themselves an order too, even if technically they look more like a grove. This can cause confusion. In an Gorder, the founding grove may be called the mother grove.
Grove – a closed Druid group, usually has a defined membership, celebrates the cycles of the year and may meet at other times to study and socialise. May belong to an order, may be independent.
Seed Group – especially in OBOD, a group that aspires to be a grove but dooesn’t feel qualified yet.
Gorsedd – a ritual group meeting to celebrate, it may well not have a formal membership or gather outside of ritual. Again, may be part of something else, may not. Sometimes groves run gorsedd as part of their service.
Moot – a social gathering.
Learning circle – a study group, with a degree of equality and sharing, not formally led teaching.
Clan, tribe, circle – this kind of naming tends to denote a group with a definite identity who for whatever reason don’t feel the word ‘grove’ suits – they may be slightly eclectic, invite extended family, not want to seem to formal
There are other names out there, and they tend to reflect what the group is or does. It might use Bards, Ovates or Druids to designate it as Druidic.
Attached to your title, needs to be something to make the group individual. A significant number of groups will take the name of the geographical area they work in. They might name poetically, based on that, they might use a Celtic tribe name from their area, or something else that connects them to a place. Calling an old place ‘Caer’ is a tradition that certainly goes back to early revivalist Druids, so Avebury becomes Caer Abiri, Bath is Caer Badon – people in the know will know, it creates a dash of secrecy and mysticism.
Other groups draw on nature for their name, finding an emblem that resonates for them. These can be as simple, poetic or pretentious as anyone likes. Combining the two, gives you names like Clan of the Dancing Bears, Whispering Pine Grove, The Ancient and Very Serious Order of the Extremely Floppy Hats, (I may have made those up…).
Naming gives group identity, which is a great help when you’re trying to establish a group and give it a sense of self. It gives people a clue as to whether this might be the place for them. Equally, misnaming can create the wrong connotations, and draw the wrong people. A friend once described her first grove, named in a way that made people feel like it was a safe space that would hold them and mother them, which turned out to not be what she had wanted at all. If you invoke a deity, a creature or any kind of concept in your naming, that will inform the vibe of the group in entirely pragmatic ways, and you might also want to think about the kind of spiritual attention it could get you. Don’t invite other entities along unless you are sure you want them present.
Names matter. They create identity, and we pin a lot to them. It’s well worth taking the time to get them right.