A lovely article by Elizabeth Hewitt on VTDigger about the unique and much loved Ivan McBeth…
WORCESTER — The weekend Ivan McBeth died, the bonfire burned 24 hours a day.
After the EMTs left — unable to revive McBeth — his wife and friends tended to his body. They prepared it with gauze and essential oils. They dressed him in his favorite clothes. They painted his fingernails, which he kept colored in life, a favorite shade of dark blue.
Thus adorned, McBeth lay for three days in the northwest section of the megalithic stone circle he built in front of his house. That quadrant, in McBeth’s druid tradition, is where death lives.
Ivan McBeth was a druid in the order of bards, ovates and druids. He founded a druid school in the foothills of the Green Mountains in Worcester a decade ago.
The site of his home and school became a gathering place for Vermonters interested in exploring druidry, a pagan way of life rooted in ancient Celtic tradition from the British isles that centers on spiritual connection to nature. There is no particular dogma, nor a particular scripture. McBeth — a buoyant, larger-than-life spirit with a white beard who stood more than 6 feet tall — was a well-known and well-loved figure within that community.
Some 30 people were already at Dreamland, the name McBeth and his wife, Fearn Lickfield, gave their home, on the day the 63-year-old died. They were there for a previously planned weekend gathering of druids, witches and faery seers — members of complimentary pagan traditions. No one left after his death.
McBeth’s body was placed on a cot, and a tent was erected above him; tapestries and decorations, a set of butterfly wings, hung around him. Candles were kept lit, splashing beeswax in the grass.
Friends, family and students kept constant company. Bonfire smoke and blends of incense perfumed the early autumn air. Some dry ice was brought in and placed under McBeth’s cot to prevent decomposition. People took turns sitting with him. Some spoke to him and listened to him, sang songs, recited poems, performed music on guitar and pennywhistle.
While some workshops and events went on as planned, there was always a contingent staying with McBeth, keeping the fire burning.
The morning after McBeth’s death, Jeanette Bacevius, his friend and sometimes student, went to Dreamland to join in a sunrise meditation. Then they danced, she said, a fitting celebration. Ecstatic dance had been one of McBeth’s passions.
For those in attendance, it was an intimate experience with death.
“The first day he just had this big smile on his face,” Lickfield said. “As time went on, the smile changed a little bit, but his face sort of softened and settled a bit in a way that he looked very much like a leprechaun,” she added with a soft laugh.
On the third day after McBeth died, they held a requiem service. The man who led the ceremony, a fellow teacher, elevated McBeth to the status of a saint. Then his body was taken to a crematorium.
“It was the death of a king. It really was,” Lickfield said. “It was so beautiful and powerful and so, so honored by so many.”
On an early November afternoon, Lickfield sat at a picnic table on the large wooden porch of the round cordwood house she built with McBeth. A bouncy shepherd mutt, Brinkley, lounged near her feet.
Minute bluish insects floated lazily in the unseasonable late-fall warmth. Most of the trees in sight had already dropped their foliage, save for a hardy apple tree near the top of the clearing still clinging to emerald leaves and two golden-tinged tamaracks at the far edge of the field. They stood near the pond where McBeth deposited a third ring after his and Lickfield’s wedding ceremony — symbolizing their marriage to the land.
Scattered across the large clearing leading down the hill from the house are pieces of the kingdom Lickfield and McBeth created at Dreamland: a yurt, a vegetable garden, a cluster of ribbon-wrapped maypoles, the stone circle.
Dreamland is home to the Green Mountain Druid Order, the school of druidry McBeth and Lickfield built up beginning in 2006.
The training, guided by McBeth, is a three-year endeavor that guides students through three grades of druidry: the bard, the ovate and the druid. Students at each level spend six weekends of the year at Dreamland as part of their training.
McBeth and Lickfield settled on the 70-acre property north of Montpelier a decade ago.
Before purchasing it, they lived nearby and often visited the spot, which then belonged to a family in Texas who camped there in summer. Lickfield and McBeth fell in love with it and eventually bought the mostly wooded lot.
From the beginning, a fire pit on a small plateau at the top of the clearing was a gathering space. They held ceremonies and classes there. Eventually the spot became the site of the stone circle McBeth constructed.
About a dozen jagged megaliths salvaged from spots around the state, including a couple of pieces of Barre granite, make up the circle. Each is carefully placed to align with points on the earth. The circle is a recognition of a spot already considered sacred, and the stones enhance its energy.
McBeth was already a master of stone circle construction by the time he led the project at Dreamland. His lengthy resume included the Swan Stone Circle, a monument on the grounds of the popular British music festival at Glastonbury.
Initially McBeth and Lickfield envisioned creating the circle entirely using stones found at Dreamland. They began with a substantial megalith in the woods not far from a stone well on the edge of the clearing. Moving it was an ambitious project, Lickfield said, but not out of character for her husband.
“Ivan had a large stone appetite,” she said…(To read the entire article click here).