THE DRUIDS KEEP
By, Wendell J. Gillespie
At the top of the hill stands a grove of old juniper
The trail is winding and steep
At the center of the grove lies the basalt stone flat
It is called, “The Druids Keep”.
I first stumbled upon it as a carefree youth
To self centered to appreciate its purpose
It was my fourteenth summer – I camped alone in the wilds
Living off the land with the rifle I’d purchased.
I had been hunting all day, and was looking to camp
The evening air was becoming cold
But this place that I’d chosen was barren of dead wood
I’d have to cut green limbs from the trees in the grove.
Night would fall fast, of this I knew
Tonight would be the new moon
So from tree to tree, I cut branches from each
I’d need a fire for warmth and light soon.
Thinking only of myself ñ How tired I was
I built my fire, ate, and then fell fast asleep
When the dream spirits came, they called me by name
They said, “Awaken boy! Rise to your feet.”
I stood there staring, and rubbing my eyes
Not believing what I did see
Around the basalt flat did stand, the spirits of the trees
And an old man with a staff stood in front of me.
He wore a forest green robe with the hood drawn back
He moved as if light as a feather
There was a holly wreath weaved in his long grey hair
On his feet there were sandals of leather.
His eyes barely shined in the smoky fire light
The wind in the smoke seemed to shift him
My knees grew weak; I could not move or speak
When I realized that I could see right through him.
The tree spirits cried out in their anger and pain
Citing the injuries and trespasses I’d caused
This ground is sacred, these trees are our homes
Of our laws, what rights have you to break them?
The old man stood with his hand raised for silence
The night became void of all sound
In his right hand he held the staff gripped tight
One end remained touching the ground.
He looked in my eyes, seeing right to my soul
I knew he was judging my worth
To the Spirits he said, “We can teach this lad
To honor and protect Mother Earth.”
At the decline of his kind back in ancient times
The Druid Elders had a wondrous vision
Through the world they sent Druid protectors like him
Starting groves and healing the land was their mission
The four directions they spread on different paths that led
To lands no European man had known
Steadfast in their task of holding on to the past
So to teach those of us in the present
The trees that grew on the place he did land
Were Juniper as no Oak would grow
The tree spirits were here, living in and around
They made Juniper trees their own
Natives he found they followed the herds
To nature they were deeply connected
They used animal totems; A familiar majick
Mother Earth and Creator they respected.
So for Three Thousand years he’s guarded this grove
A tired keeper of Druid majick and lore
Crossing over postponed by majick and mission
Of drui he might teach just one more.
To me he said, “You’re an arrogant boy
Always taking and never giving back.
I know your kind, always taking from the land
You’re wasteful, and your caring is slack.”
He created a vision in front of me
Of wars, of destruction, and of hate
How chemicals and pollution were killing the earth
How I was helping to hasten its waste.
I stood watching the future, tears stinging my eyes
Sobbing because I knew it was true
Then in a soft voice he said, “This doesn’t need come to pass
If you teach others what I’ll teach you.”
With a gladdened heart and a new purpose in life
I vowed to learn all he would teach
For nineteen years I would study the ways
Of this old man from The Druids Keep.
A decade has passed since my thirty-third year
The year that I earned a Druids staff
The old man has sent me a message on the wind
He says, “It is time to cross over at last.”
I am to meet him at the start of the lunar eclipse
In the basalt stone flat and come alone
To begin the ceremony that will see to his crossing
And end his tenure as guardian of the Grove.
For four nights and days we prayed and paid homage
To the Spirits, Mother Earth, and the Creator
And on the dawn of Samhain when the veil was thinnest
The old man departed this life and crossed over.
As he crossed through the veil his shadow did turn
And too me he pointed and said
“It is your turn now I’ve taught you all that I know
You must continue this life as I’ve led.”
The tree spirits cried out in unanimous approval
A decision of faith made with a leap
For I am now the Druid Guardian and Teacher
My home is the Juniper Grove called, “The Druids Keep.”