Outsiders as Moebius Strip:
The outside is the inside is the same side....

by Edwin Chapman, (in Oak Leaves Outsiders issue, 2006)

This issue of Oak Leaves is devoted to Outsiders: those that dwell outside our comfort zones, those that might mean harm to our rituals, or even our lives- those our Gods “fought against,” as some of the old ADF liturgies put it. I have seen groves banish outsiders, I have heard them called “twisted, mishapen ones who stood against the Gods,” I’ve seen various people wave swords and knives at them.

In Grove of the Other Gods we “make an offering to honor the outsiders.” This involves taking them a bit of the same stuff we’re offering to the kindreds- waters, flowers, whatever- and taking it outside the ritual space and pouring some out and waiting to see if they’ve accepted it, thus sealing a contract between us and them: here’s something for you, now don’t screw around with us too much as we try to honor the kindreds and the Gods. Or, more colloquially put, here’s a dollar, go see a movie and don’t bother us for a while. Sometimes our outsiders will not only take the offering, but the offerer as well, and on more than one occasion we’ve had to retrieve a grove member from one of the local bars where they were “hangin’ with the outsiders.”

We make our ritual outsiders offering just after the gate opening, as the outsiders we’re most concerned about are more likely to come through spiritual gates than physical ones. I’ve seen groves do it before the gate opening to clear the space, and that works too.

But I beg you- do not threaten, rage at, rant at, or promise harm to the outsiders.
Our religion is one that values reciprocity, and we are all outsiders at some point.

Our very Gods and Goddesses are outsiders in the predominantly Judeo-Christian-Islamic society we live in. And, best believe it, there are people who threaten, rage at, rant at, and promise harm to our Gods and Their followers.

Are we to do the same to the Gods of the pantheons preceding the ones we worship? Giants, Titans, Fomori... who are these but older Gods than ours? Don’t we owe them some respect? If you read the old stories with an honest heart and mind, you’ll see that the outsiders frequently are, as one of our members puts it, “the Gods who were here first, before our Gods kicked them out.”
And, sometimes, we are outsiders, ourselves, on this land.

Are the outsiders that you’re banishing in the woods the spirits that own the place? Are you the real outsider, coming in with your ritual and your grove stomping around someone else’s home?

GOG did a Beltane ritual in a park we had used once before, but it became increasingly apparent as this ritual progressed that WE were the outsiders on that land. We hadn’t greeted the land properly when we arrived. We hadn’t blessed it. We hadn’t asked for its consent to stick our maypole... where we stuck it.

And so we wound up, unexpectedly, the outsiders in our own ritual. When we honored the outsiders and asked them to wait outside, we all had this strong urge to get up and leave. It was a good lesson. Since then, we’ve learned how to honor that land, we’ve learned what it wants, and all our subsequent Beltanes there have been blessed by the spirit of that land. Sometimes, with a little work on both sides, outsiders can become insiders.

What about outsiders that really mean you harm?
Can you banish them by waving a sword? Ya gotta put that sword away sometime.
Yet, most of us have protective sigils, circles, or wards around our houses, our sacred sites, sometimes even our cars. What are we protecting them against? Outsiders. Those who would do harm to those things, or to ourselves or our loved ones. Malevolent spirits, perhaps, but also thieves and vandals and worse. I can hear hard-core outsider banishers asking, “Can you make an offering to honor a rapist and ask him to leave you alone?” Fair enough.

But is it really wise to wave a sword around your street and call out to all the thieves and vandals and worse and challenge them not to bother you? Wouldn’t it be better to simply stick a “Protected by Alarm” sticker on your door? There’s a certain way of walking in a city that says you belong there and are not to be messed with. You don’t stop in the middle of the street and announce loudly to all the world that you’re going to do people harm if they screw with you- while most people would think you were merely nuts, there are a few in my neighborhood who might take that as an invitation.

In our cities, we live with outsiders around us all the time. Maybe that’s why GOG deals with outsiders differently than most groves. We’ve got a lot of homeless people in town. We also had a multiple rapist in our neighborhood for several months- before he got caught. We try to make sure our grove members don’t walk to their cars by themselves at night. This is more sensible than challenging outsiders, or seeing the universe as inherently hostile.

Also, if you make an offering to some outsiders- give a little change to a homeless person, for instance—they just might watch out for you when you’re alone. When my wife, Norma, fell on the ice at the bottom of the hill by our train station, the homeless guys made sure she was all right and made sure she got home ok. Outsiders.

Outsiders can have a different view of things and sometimes something to tell you, or give you.
The outsiders in the city are also Pan’s children- and the children of prophecy. They live in liminal spaces and have access to knowledge that can help you. While it’s probably not good to get too close to them, if you’ve made offerings in good faith they might have a deal they might want to make with you at some point, for something you might want. In one instance (among several), we found a homeless guy sitting on our front steps, and when we stepped past him to go inside, he told us that for a dollar he could change the weather. The next day was the grove Beltane, and it was supposed to rain buckets. I fished around in my pocket and found fifty cents. The outsider told me that it would take a dollar, so I went upstairs and got him a dollar. The weather turned out to be beautiful.

And then there are outsiders that are inside.

In a Grove of the Other Gods outsider offering, we frequently ask people to set aside the outsider in themselves: their tensions, their worries, stresses from driving to get to the ritual and then meeting all these weird people, their anger, their fears, and particularly their scepticism- for these are also outsiders in a Druid ritual. And we remind people that they can still pick up all their scepticism, stress and anger on the way out- our grove is in New Jersey, after all, and you need those things to survive here.

I’ve been in circles where people have declared that they were going to “banish all negativity.” I sat and waited for positrons to spin loose from their counterparts and the entire fabric of the universe to become unraveled, and while I can only conclude that they were unsuccessful in banishing all negativity, I have to admit, it did make me want to leave the circle. We’ve all got a bit of outsider in us, sometimes more than a bit. Rather than banish it, you could recognize it, honor it, and make an offering to those parts of yourself. If nothing else, it’ll make you more of an honest person.

We’ve talked about outsiders in GOG a lot- and the ideas floating through this essay (and several complete word-for-word sentences) are the product of the minds of many grove members over many years.
This rumination on outsiders was inspired by Mercury- specifically the Mercury who sits atop Grand Central Station in New York. That big important Roman God is an outsider. Most people look up at Him and just see a mythological symbol of an abstract concept: time flying, fast trains moving, buses speeding along highways like winged shoes.
Yet, he presides over the crowds, day after day. And, furthermore, I think He’s happy to be an outsider. An overtly “religious” sculpture of Jesus or a saint (say, Saint Christopher*) would probably have incited protest and been struck down (literally) by the courts as a violation of this country’s long tangled history of separation of church and state.
As mere mythological symbols, Mercury and His kin can hang out on public buildings keeping an eye on things and doing all sorts of wonderful works. Themis looks over courthouses. Athena keeps watch at university libraries. In some ways, outsiders get to have their cake and eat it too.

*Actually, I’ve heard that Saint Christopher has been decanonised by the Catholic church and is now an “outsider” too. The person who told me this also told me that she still talks to “Mr. Christopher” when she’s getting ready for a long trip.