Some of the founders of Sun Mountain Spring met while practicing together in February of 2010 with Colorado Springs’ Irish Reconstructionist group The Tuatha. By September of 2013, all of the Grove’s official founders had come together, with backgrounds in Paganism including a collective of over 70 years in Druidry, Wicca, Celtic Reconstructionism and Heathenism. The founders came together independent of any other groups, to celebrate familiar Northern European seasonal festivals, hold women’s circles, and to share in community with their families. The Grove established an official name at Bealtaine of 2015, invoking the qualities of Land, Sea and Sky as well as the local landscape, referring to the primary spiritual anchor within that landscape – known to the original people as Tava, the Mountain of the Sun. The founders drafted the Grove’s Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and initial policies in 2015 and 2016. Click here for more About Us.
In this and other areas of our website, “pagan” without capitalization refers to non-religious people of the land and to the use of the term by the Romans during their conquests of Europe. When capitalized, “Pagan” is used to refer to members of the Neopagan spiritual movements who generally claim the term.
Paganism in Colorado
Sun Mountain Spring is part of the Pagan spiritual movement, categorized as part of the New Age movement. Pagans in the United States make up approximately 0.3% of the population, but in Colorado, where Sun Mountain Springs is located, Pagans and Wiccans make up 1% of the population (Pew Research Center). This is equal in numbers, in Colorado, to Orthodox Christians, Jews, or Buddhists, as well as greater in number than Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Hindus, Native American religions, Unitarians, or “Other World Religions.” Breaking down the sects of Christianity, there are as many or more Pagans in Colorado as there are Methodists, Baptists, or Lutherans.
Sun Mountain Spring recognizes that not all common people of the land, as the term “pagan” refers, use the term to describe themselves, nor does the grove require members to do so. Many traditions of Pagans today are cultural practices thriving in a variety of religious contexts. The term “pagan” comes from the Latin paganus, meaning a country or village person, used as a derogatory term during the Roman invasions to refer to the uncivilized people of the land, still worshiping old gods and living in old ways instead of subscribing to the then-modern Roman ways.
More recent Pagans adopted the term because it well reflected their resolution to practice old ways that revered the cycles of the land and to live a life not based upon the destructive patterns of the upper echelons of society. As such, many Pagans subscribe to philosophies of relationship with the world that are very different than those modeled in modern conventional society, and the array of beliefs are broad enough to encompass most available options, including omnism, animism, pantheism, athiesm, polytheism (hard and soft), agnosticism, and others.
The primary mythological systems utilized by Sun Mountain Spring stem from the stories and practices of the Irish and culturally Celtic peoples of Central, Western and Northern Europe prior to the Roman conquest at the turn of the 1st millennium CE. We draw from what we know as these people’s philosophies according to documentation, archaeological evidence, studies of folklore and folk practices before and after conquest, and the speculations and conclusions one can attain through the study and exploration of these both academically and in spiritual practice. We also integrate our own histories and personal experiences into our personal practices.
Spiritual practices of Pre-Roman cultures of mainland and Northern Europe involved organized religion, as seen in the Druids, with their elaborate processes of education and attainment in society, folk beliefs and practices, and otherworld workings including healers of physical and spiritual ailments through their training by human and spirit teachers. The student of European history, folklore and shamanism will certainly find fertile ground for exploration in these topics, as will the spiritual practitioner and the artist. Students of mythology and folklore often disagree on the perceived nature of the deities and spirits revered, honored, feared, and petitioned in rites and ceremonies of these ancient peoples.
Certainly much was lost in the Roman conquests and the migrations from the northeast, shifting many populations in that part of the world and resulting in the destruction of the Druid colleges, with affects upon the spiritual and cultural practices of the people, including a merging of many Roman ideas of the divine onto those of the Celts. This was not a perfectly smooth matching of ideas. In addition to the anticipated differences in concepts of the divine by diverse people living in different landscapes, the Celts were said to not understand the Roman idea of gods easily represented in human form and idolized in statues. Folk practice tended to live on during this era, as the main target of the Roman Empire was the political and religious class of the Druids, ignoring the fairy doctors of the common people and the other practices of what the Romans called paganus or pagans.
Many of the northern migrations brought Germanic peoples into Celtic lands, with higher pressures than previously seen. It is during these migrations that we see the introduction of Germanic solar festivals being juxtaposed with the Celtic agricultural festivals within Germano-Celtic lands.
As the holders of the Celtic traditions longest after conquest, Irish folklore and mythology hold more traditional insights into pre-Roman and pre-Christian philosophies for these regions, showing perspectives of the land, spirituality, ancestry, kinship, the character of humankind, and virtuous characteristics that are more true to former philosophies than in areas that were more thoroughly Romanized or experienced more significant migration pressures and cultural merging at that time period.
Philosophies attributable to pre-Romanized European peoples can be explored and experienced in Paganism in renewed ways that fit our modern lives, challenges and landscapes. The origins of modern Celtic Paganism can be traced back into the spiritual shifts of the 1960’s, when multiple groups began to organize in the United States and in England to explore Druidry and pre-Roman Celtic ideas as spiritual practices. Until then, the term “Druidry” was largely known only as an English fraternal order and a Welsh cultural arts movement. This was occurring at the same time as the creation of Wicca. Sharing common origins and inspiration, Druidry’s larger focus on Celtic folklore and mythology is the major difference between most modern Wiccans and Druids. The common parent of these two paths was in the Universal Bond, a turn of the 19th-century path promoting “Druidism” as spiritual, teaching many of the philosophies presented by the Theosophical Society and the Order of the Golden Dawn. These spiritual Druid movements arose from the 18th Century’s interests in Celtic studies, art, poetry, folk practices and beliefs and a revival in national pride for people of Celtic ancestry. Paganism today includes many groups, including Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Reconstructionists of various cultural backgrounds and others. Because of the derogatory use of “pagan” and other prejudices and oppression dealt by some members of mainstream religions, it is important to note that Pagans, as a spiritual group, do not include those who do not self-identify as being within this category. Many people of different religious and spiritual backgrounds may have family or cultural practices that are similar to modern Pagans and not belong to this spiritual movement.
We are grateful for the first peoples of this Land for the stewardship and sacred relationships they held and continue to hold with this place and for so often reminding the Euro-Americans of their ancestral relationships to the Land. We are grateful to our spiritual, scholastic, artistic and experiential predecessors who have paved the way and given us words and tools to explore a spirituality that offers a sense of relationship with the Land, with the human spirit, with the spiritual, and with each other. We are grateful to the Land, to the people we find as our kin, and to the inspiration and influences that upset the balance enough to cause the seasons to change and growth to occur.
May it not matter whether or not we are “from” a place, but whether or not we are “of” a place, of the earth and the waters and air, kin to it all, kin to Her kin.
~Tina, Priestess of Sea
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Carr-Gomm, Phillip. “The History of Modern Druidism.” The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids.
Excerpted from What do Druids Believe, Granta Books, April 2006. Sourced on January
19, 2016. http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/what-druidry/brief-history-druidry/history-modern-druidism
“Druid.” Wikipedia. Sourced on January 19, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druid
Kondratiev, Alexei. The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual. Citadel Press: New York. 2003.
Art: Twilight Aspens by Nancy Graham