Merry Meet and Welcome!
We are delighted to have you here, and we’d like to share with you the story of our Spiritual Home. It began with a wedding.
When we were planning our wedding for the summer of 2004, we could think of no better place to hold the event than in the woods on the four acres of land that was our home in Manassas, Virginia. We chose a beautiful place for the ceremony itself, at the bottom of a hill between two oak trees with a winding creek as our backdrop. But a wedding needs more than a place to hold it, and so we spent a year preparing the land, building a new deck to be the dance floor, adding stairs to the steep hillside, landscaping, and creating a welcoming place for our loved ones to share our most special of days.
What we couldn't have seen coming was that in the middle of our preparations, Hurricane Isabel hit the east coast, and took down the largest oak tree on our property. Magically, fortune or fate ensured that as it fell, it did not damage any of the things we were building for our wedding. It was almost as though the tree was aware of the sacredness of our preparations, because it landed just so; falling to the side of the deck we’d built, missing the stairs on the hillside, and coming to rest in a way that protected the tiny pine sapling we'd transplanted before excavating the space where our dance floor would stand. And so, we chose to honor that fallen tree by making a section of its trunk into the altar for our marriage ceremony.
The wedding was everything we hoped it would be, and once it was done, we spent the first days of our honeymoon just reveling in the beautiful space that we had built for it. And we began to wonder: what will we do with everything we've built now that the wedding is over? It was too special a place to keep to ourselves. We decided we should find a way to share it.
At the same time, we were looking for like-minded people, people who followed the earth paths as we did, because though we had each practiced individually for years, and later together, we thought it would be nice to have others we could celebrate the turnings of the year with. We'd attended a Sabbat here, and an event there, but nothing really felt like it was our spiritual home. Part of the reason for that was because the events we had attended were held in whatever spaces the hosts had available: basement rooms, back yards next to busy roads, even parking lots. But even in the more magical of spaces, these events lacked a sense of hospitality. And it occurred to us that what we had built for our wedding would be a perfect place for people who followed the paths of nature to come together to practice and celebrate in a safe, welcoming space. So, we decided that that's what we would do, and the concept of ShadowGrove was born; we built a sacred circle out of stone, in the space where our wedding ceremony was held, moved our wedding altar into place as the altar for the sacred space, and so it was ready. But we had only a few people we knew who would want to be a part of it.
The universe has a way of providing, however, and soon after we made the decision to create ShadowGrove, a new spiritual shop opened up not far from our home. The shop was a magical place, full of peace and welcoming energy, and the two women who ran it held tea nights every Wednesday evening, so that people could come and spend time together getting to know one another. We began attending these tea nights, and became friends with several of the regulars. Samhain was the next major day on the calendar, and so we invited people to join us on our land and in our new circle. There, we held our first of many ShadowGrove gatherings, and it was a magical as we had hoped.
It was never our intention to be leaders in this new-formed group; we expected to be among equals, and caretakers of the place and the land. But as the wheel of the year turned, it became clear that many of the people who were regularly attending ShadowGrove events were looking for leadership, and were looking to us to provide that leadership. So, we began studying with various groups and programs, attending seminars, and working with established leaders in the Pagan community, in order to prepare ourselves to provide what the people of ShadowGrove were asking of us.
As ShadowGrove's community continued to grow, we continued our studies and personal exploration and growth. The number of regular attendees became large enough that the initial circle we had made was now too small, so we consecrated a new space on the peninsula between our two creeks, built a bridge across one of the creeks to allow access, and moved the circle to that new space. And in October of 2005, we were ordained by the Earthwalk community in the very first ceremony ever held in that new circle.
In the years that followed, the Grove continued to grow. New people came, and learned what the community had to offer. Some chose to stay and be a part of that community. Some of the people who had been a part of the community for a time decided that it was no longer for them, and moved on to participate in other communities. Some few who were a part of things at the beginning are still here, and there are many new faces as well.
In 2008, in an effort to help build a broader Pagan community in the region, several members of ShadowGrove, including the two of us, founded Fertile Ground Gathering, a Beltane event that takes place in a national park every year (though it has been virtual/online in recent years because of the pandemic).
In the summer of 2015, we came to the realization that although the land where ShadowGrove met, which had been our home for many years, was sacred and magical, the house on that land was simply not capable of meeting our needs anymore, especially considering the amount of space we wanted to keep dedicating to the Grove and its members. We began a search for a new home, and that August we found a place that seemed too good to be true: more land, more seclusion, more usable space, and a house that was a far better fit for our lifestyle, as well as for the needs of the Grove community. We made an offer, the seller accepted, and in October 2015, we moved from Manassas to our new home in the rural farmland area of western Stafford County, Virginia.
During the first Samhain at the new place, the Grove community held a ritual that encompassed the entire ten acres of woods and grass that make up the group's new spiritual home. Later that year, we built a new circle of stones, some of which came from the circle at the previous place, and some of which were new, to symbolize that the Grove itself is always a combination of those that have come before and those who have just joined.
Since that time, this new land that we have come to call Wilder Grove, has become more magical with each passing year. The spirits of this place have awakened, and have welcomed us as kin. We care for this land as an extension of our love for one another. And we are honored to be its caretakers.
Throughout the years of ShadowGrove's operation, we have worked to continue the process of developing and refining the Teaching Tradition that is the basis of practice for the Grove and its community. In 2019, we ordained a third member into the clergy team, to bring additional perspective and insight into what the Grove has to offer to its members.
Most ShadowGrove activities went into hiatus in early 2020 when the pandemic began to take hold, but now that restrictions are lifting, the Grove is once again holding in-person celebrations around the year.
ShadowGrove has been a labor of love for us for nearly 20 years, and we are honored to have been able to serve such a beautiful community for so long. Now that we're re-opening our doors, we are also welcoming in prospective new members. We'll be hosting open house and meet-up events to get to know those who are interested in learning more about the way our community works. And we would love to see you there sometime!
Brightest Blessings to you all
Liz* and Cael