Sweeney Ridge


What’s in a name? Last Sunday I hiked up Sweeney Ridge, a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area I had never visited. It was a beautiful, if very windy and chilly, day; very clear. The deep purple Douglas iris was blooming, and countless other flowers. Rabbits and ground squirrels were out.


This is the heart of Druid practice, I feel: walking on the land. From high up this ridge so much land can be seen, and water too—from the ridge top, both the bay and the ocean are visible, a rare event. Besides the immediate surroundings, the growing vegetation, the wind sweeping through a grove of eucalyptus, stretches a vista that reveals how dynamic, even at times violent, this land can be: the reservoirs that mark the San Andeas Fault shimmer below. There is history here—this is where the Anza expedition first realized there was a huge bay here. And deep ‘history’ too; I look down on the bay, surprisingly blue on this sunny day, and think of that catastrophic flooding that occurred at the end of the Ice Age, an inundation which drowned a huge valley, and filled it with the waters that today we call San Francisco Bay. The land holds history, memory of prehistoric events, and more recent stories.


I’m bearing my own stories up here also. For I find myself thinking of Mad Sweeney, Suibhne Geilt, a figure beloved from Gaelic lore. This is a common name, so it of course has nothing to do with him, the mad poet living in the wilderness. And yet, I feel it makes perfect dream logic to associate this place with him. On the ridge top in the buffeting winds, I think of him hungry, foraging for berries and greens, blown about, as I look over the ubiquitous coyote brush and ceanothus, and imagine him flying back after a day of foraging into that grove of huge eucalyptus, their bark peeling, hanging lose, and swishing in the wind.


I pay my respects to the spirit of Sweeney and continue on. The land holds more history. Up ahead is a ruinous Nike station (interesting how the US military named these after a Greek goddess of victory). The buildings are covered in wild graffiti and the roofs are half collapsed. In one building a huge Parry’s Nolina grows, the land reclaiming these archetypal Cold War installations. I grew up in the Cold War. I feel personal history resonant in this pace, my mother worked for an aviation company… The passage of time, the past clasped in the present, the land rolling away in great waves down to the ocean far below and the shimmering of the Pacific. The Land, the Sea, the Sky.

Lanuvium West Rite


I know it’s been quiet here for a quite a while. I’ve just been very overworked. But a week ago we had a lovely Antinous devotion rite in a local park. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus visited from Washington, another devotee came up from the South Bay; it was great to do ritual here in a place I often do solitary stuff.  This in Diana’s grove,, a place where devotees of the goddess have long worshipped. I really enjoy seeing statues in public places that have offerings regularly and are obviously foci of contemporary pagan devotion.

I call this spot ‘Lanuvium West’ after a town near Lake Nemi in Italy that had a (funerary) club dedicated to both Antinous and Diana in Roman times. They shared a temple in the town. Members of the club met for feasts and contributed money to a pool for burial costs. The place here is on a bluff high above the ocean in a park, which is the former garden of Adolph Sutro, a 19th century mayor of San Francisco who had many classical sculptures installed in his garden, which were open to the public. Diana is the only survivor. The main entryway is flanked by two huge lions.