Spring Equinox 2014

March 23rd

Deity of the Occasion: Ana

Offerings: group singing / collected eggs

Omen: Berkano / Ehwaz / Fehu

Return flow: seed packets

Attendance: 11

 

Notes:

The high temperature was 25 degrees, once again very glad to be doing the spring ritual indoors.

With all of the last-minute things that happened that weekend, plus my inability to visit the river, I was definitely not in the best possible headspace for leading ritual. Hopefully I didn’t screw things up too badly.

Serena told the Story of Ana this time, and did a great job! The props really did help, as did the green hair (never an option for me).

My demonstration of my relearned walking skills did not get the huge reaction I was hoping for.

The newsletter wasn’t ready in time, so now I’m updating the article I sent and also writing a second one about my experiences at the clerk’s office on the one day that same-sex marriage was legal.

Next time, the first Beltaine at the new nemeton, and the double challenge of getting myself down the hill to the circle, and setting up a Maypole on a live tree.

 

Blessings,

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

Imbolc Summary

Imbolc 2014

January 26th (so as not to conflict with Super Bowl Sunday, or the even more widely celebrated Groundhog Day)

Deity of the Occasion: Bríd

Offerings: group singing / silver into the well

Omen: Hagalaz / Ansuz / Mannaz (gods and humans working together to overcome adversity)

Return flow: apple slices / passing the flame

Attendance: 11

 

Notes:

Honoring Bríd as a goddess of inspiration instead of our earlier focus on her hearth/community aspects seems to be working well.

Good turnout given the snowfall and bad road conditions.  I know that at least seven more people wanted to be there but couldn’t.  If ADF allowed its Groves to skip one High Day per year and have the Grove members just celebrate at home, I’m betting most Groves would choose this one.

Wheelchair accessibility made this ritual a lot easier on me than Yule was.  Hopefully by the time we’re outside again I’ll be good enough with my new legs that we won’t need to do the “carry Rob and his wheelchair down the path” thing again.

I’m a bit sad that I couldn’t get a seven day candle to place in the well bowl for a combined well/fire altar.  Maybe next year.

No flubs, major or minor, during the ritual.  How’d we manage that?

Blessings,

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

Yule Summary (exciting, isn’t it?)

Yule 2013

December 22nd (originally scheduled for the 15th, date changed due to snow storm)
Deities of the Occasion: Danu and Bel
Offerings: wreath / Danu’s Wave of Power / paper snowball fight
Omen:  Ansuz / Raidho / Fehu
Return blessing: Danu’s meditation / mulled cider

(A quick post for folks who need it as a reference.  I hope to return to writing full reports on our rituals after Imbolc next weekend.)

Blessings,

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

Lughnasadh Stats

SLG’s Lughnasadh Ritual
August 4th, 2013
Number of attendees: seven
Deities of the Occasion: Lugh and Ana
Omen: Sowilo / Berkano / Gebo

Obviously I’m disappointed in such a low turnout for the High Day that honors our Grove’s patron deity, but I can take away at least one good thing about it.  We had two new folks attend, and they found out about us from our listing in the Ann Arbor Observer’s calendar section, pretty much the only non-Internet place where new people find out about our events these days.  If we had tried to change the date of our Lughnasadh after, say, the beginning of July, then it would have been too late for us to tell the Observer to remove the listing.  And I could have done all of the online “we’ve changed the date” updates to every one of our online calendar listings, and those guys would never have seen a one of them.  And they would have shown up on the 4th, and nobody would have been there, and they would have gone home convinced that we were just another flaky pagan group that can’t deliver on its promises.  However badly I think our ritual turned out with so few people and so little “juice” involved, we at least brought honor to ourselves and to our gods by keeping the promise we made to serve the Ann Arbor community.

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes grove, ADF

A Solstice Ritual Made in the Shade

For our Summer Solstice rite, my week of ritual preparation began slightly more than a week before the ritual date, with a work day for our new nemeton. We (by which I mean everyone who actually attended the May work day, since I spent that afternoon delivering flowers in my vain attempt to earn money to go to Wellspring) had already cleared a path from the driveway to the clearing, so all we needed to do was get the actual nemeton functional enough for a ritual. Which, arguably, the folks who were there in May had already done, but I wanted to make sure we did a blessing rite before using it for a High Day, because, y’know, I’m a priest. First we did some brick-laying around the well and the fire pits, pulled some poison ivy, and brought over the items from the old nemeton that we wanted to keep using, like the herm and the Ana stone. Once that was done, we did a simple blessing and offering rite, and that was that. Our new shade-covered nemeton was ready for formal use!

 photo firepit_zps88852333.jpg photo tree_zps59961c27.jpg photo well_zps2dd6fdbc.jpg

The pre-ritual week was more of a challenge than usual this time around, since I was officiating a wedding on Friday. Weekday weddings are a little unusual, but the couple wanted to get married on the official day of the solstice, and it did mean that I was available instead of telling them that I had a ritual to run. The wedding went well and I managed to get home early enough to get adequate sleep for work the next day.

Saturday night arrived, along with a whole lot of people for Fire Watch! Several folks from Cedarsong Grove in Lansing joined us, and we had a total of twelve people there during the night. Quite a change from the lonely fires I tended last year! There was much socializing and food and drink. (Well, so I’m told. I don’t drink.) There was some confusion as many of us thought the Kellers would be there early in the afternoon, but they didn’t arrive until much later. (Keep this in mind. You’ll be hearing this a few more times.)

I came home (without having to bring the flame with me yet again, thank the gods) to sleep and to print out the newsletter so I could get copies made before the ritual. The newsletter wasn’t in my inbox yet, so I went to sleep, got up mid-morning, and… still no newsletter. Got dressed, loaded the car with my ritual gear, and… still no newsletter. I waited as long as I could, drove to KinkyFedWhateverItsCalledNow, checked my e-mail from the PC there… and still not there. I hated to go to the ritual without the newsletter, but I didn’t have much choice, so I made copies of the order of service and headed to the site, arriving at around 1:15, much later than usual for me, ,and expecting to find the ritual site already set up…

…Except that Rodney wasn’t there yet. Well, he’d been there earlier, but had to return the chainsaw to the store. He’d wanted to get that one hanging dead tree down, but the chainsaw he had rented was not terribly functional, especially without oil. So those of us who were there got the ritual items set up, and we were ready to go only about fifteen minutes later than usual. (And this was three days before Mercury went into retrograde!)

Fortunately, once things got started, everything went just fine. While it was close to 90 out in the field, the shade of the trees surrounding the new nemeton kept it much cooler for the seventeen of us there. We honored Bel and Danu as we usually do on the solstices, along with the sun litany and “the Lemonade of Life” as the return flow. There are times when I worry that we repeat ourselves too much, and there are other times when I remember that ritual is by definition going to be somewhat repetitive from year to year, and also that if we’ve worked out a good liturgy and nobody wants to change anything, we should stick with that. Anyway, the omen was good (Eiwaz – Raido – Gebo, read on the new brick addition to the side of the fire pit) and nobody died.

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Folks stuck around for longer than usual (except the ones who had spent the whole night), quite a contrast from the “gone in fifteen minutes to escape the blazing sun” scenario of last year’s solstice ritual. I said it during the praise offerings, and I’ll say it again here: I am amazed and proud of my Grovemates for taking a building project that I expected to last for six months and getting it done in two. Hail Nemetona! And hail a Lughnasadh in the shade!

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senor Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

I Have Thirty-Two Colors And Then Some

(This article was originally published in Shining Lakes News, Vol. 20 No. 2, this past March.  Hence the many references to spring!)

The Botsford Recreational Preserve was an incredible place for us to hold our rituals for seventeen years, no doubt about it.  “Grandpa Don” put a lot of work into that site throughout the years, making it an amazing place to visit for anyone who wanted to spend time in nature, surrounded by old growth trees and Ann Arbor’s  most diverse collection of plant species outside the Matthei Botanical Gardens.

At this time of year, though, I think of one feature on the site that Don had no involvement with, that I’m pretty sure was there before he even bought the property.  There was a right-of-way for the power lines that crossed over the driveway just beyond the entrance, which was probably the only section of the preserve that didn’t have any trees on it.  And if at sunset you stood in that open section around the time of the equinox and faced west, you could clearly see the sun setting in between the trees on either side.  The summer half of the year, the sun would set noticeably to the north, and similarly to the south during the winter half of the year.  But every September and every March (this was back when we still tended the fire at Botsford the night before our indoor rites), when we arrived for Fire Watch, we could see the balance between day and night, laid out right there in the sky above us.  The stone circles of Europe were laid out to give their builders that same kind of experience, and we just lucked into it because of a decision that Detroit Edison made long before our Grove was formed.

And that’s just one of the many experiences related to our Grove practices that has become a part of my own personal religious practices throughout the years.  Every High Day comes with its own natural events and symbols that resonate within me, that make me realize that the holiday we’re celebrating right now is connected in time with the rituals of our Grove’s past, the rituals of our future, and the rituals of other ADF Groves and members as well.  May apples and trilliums mean it must be Beltaine, and with them come all of the merriment and topsy-turvy of that season.  Walking into spiderwebs built between the trees?  It must be Lughnasadh.  Ice on the river?  Probably Imbolc.  No more ice on the river?  Probably Spring Equinox.

Spring Equinox in particular seems to have more of these associations for me than any of our other High Days.  Maybe it’s for the obvious reason that I’m just more likely to be outside by choice when March arrives, or maybe it’s because I always visit the Huron River during the week before the rite to commune with Ana.  But the crocuses and snowdrops bursting from the ground, the sunsets happening later and later (even knowing how much Daylight flippin’ Savings has to do with that), the rushing waters of the river, all put me into that frame of mind where I remember all of the other spring rituals, the many different versions of the story of Ana that we’ve shared, our egg hunts where we’ve put a physical form to finding the life returning to the land (and managed to find a cell phone once – if only it had been a working phone, that would have been awesome!), the blessing of the tools and seeds that we bring, all coming together to reinforce the connections that I feel to the Kindreds and to my Grovemates.

One thing I don’t ever think about at the equinox?  The balance of lightness and darkness within me.

This is you, and this is your badness level. It’s unusually high for someone your size.  We have to fix that.  – Lilo Pelekai

I certainly don’t have a problem with balance in general.  I love walking upright as much as anyone.  And I think that everyone should try to live a balanced life, especially in terms of maintaining good relationships with the Kindreds and with other humans.  (We used to call it “eudaimonia” in the Dedicant Path manual, but I don’t think it uses that word any more.  Long Greek words can be scary.)  A balanced diet is a good idea too.  Moderation in all things, including moderation, is a good way to live your life.

My objection to the “light and dark within us” view is two-fold.  Firstly, I’m just not a fan of dualism in general.  Even back in the early Nineties when I thought of myself as Wiccan, duotheism never quite worked for me.  It felt like we were just swapping out the good/evil dichotomy of the monotheist religions for a slightly different one, and even if we weren’t automatically defining one of them as the “bad” one, people were still likely to identify with one over the other and set up a potential conflict right from the get-go.  I’ve never been a fan of gender-segregated ritual, even knowing full well that the Greeks and other ancient cultures loved them.  I’m not even a fan of ADF’s own Two Powers Meditation for this reason, preferring the tripartite “Bone Breath and Blood” trance induction technique instead. 

But as with most aspects of our practice, this is a personal opinion, and I know lots of folks disagree with me, and that’s cool.  What concerns me more is this apparent choice people are making to view themselves as only containing two kinds of essence within themselves.  Maybe this makes sense from a monotheistic or duotheistic viewpoint, but if we honor lots of deities and lots of other spirits as well, it would seem more appropriate to view ourselves as having elements of many of those spirits and forces within ourselves.  We humans are amazingly complex beings, and it makes no sense to me to reduce or limit our self image to a binary encoding system.  We’re not computer software.  (Remember, I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science.  If you were software, I could probably tell.  I know how to apply a Turing Test.)

I myself am not made of only black or white or any number of shades of grey.  I am made of the steely grey of Athena’s eyes, the deep red of the blood of my Ancestors, the hunter’s green of the leaves on the trees in June, the orange and yellow of our Grove Flame, the dark brown of the bottom of our Well, the cobalt blue of the sky during a solar eclipse, the wine-dark color of the sea, the beige of the oats on the offering plate of my home shrine, and gold and silver and purple and more new colors that I discover every day as I continue my Druidic practices.

I hope the arrival of spring will help you find the colors within your-selves as well!

 Yours in service to the Kindreds and the Grove,
Rev. Rob Henderson, Senior Druid

It’s Still May, So This Beltaine Report Isn’t Really Late Yet

The week before any of our High Days is always a busy one for me, but the weekend before our Beltaine started off my busy period a few days earlier than usual. The fundraiser at Olga’s Kitchen plus our usual Coffee Hour on Friday, then our rescheduled-due-to-bad-weather work day for our new nemeton plus a stop by Gen’s house for Game Night on Saturday (I ended up heading home at 7, but given that I’d been up since 2:45 AM, I’m semi-impressed with how long I lasted), and then on Sunday my first Bug ID Day with the Huron River Watershed Council in many years, and thus died any chances of me getting any decent rest before the week began.

And then I spent Tuesday getting the raised garden bed reassembled in the back yard and filled with topsoil, just in time for our An Bruane session that evening where we transplanted the emmer wheat seeds I had started, along with some of the barley seeds we blessed at the equinox ritual. Dirty work, but someone has to do it. We also planned the opening ritual we’ll be doing at Michigan Pagan Fest in June. (And if you non-members wonder what we do at An Bruane, yeah, this one was fairly typical.)

My usual ritual preparations proceeded as normal (and thank the gods we only do the newsletter at the solstices and equinoxes these days, not having to write an article or compile the calendar makes getting ready for the “big four” High Days a little bit easier) and so by Saturday evening, everything was pretty well set for Fire Watch. Except for the same problem we had at four of our five Fire Watches last year: That nobody would actually be spending the night with the fire. I still got the fire started, and gen, Molly and I blessed it, but once we were all ready to head home, I had to put the fireout and take the flame home with me via candles. Well, I was going to bring the new flame home with me anyway, but now there was no chance of trying again the next day if the candles went out.

The alarm went off early (but not as early as usual for me on a work day) and I met a few new folks, Lynne and Sheila, at the park and ride nearest my house. I had already decided not to repeat last year’s experience of driving back to the ritual site in case anyone showed up there, so I’d sent out an e-mail telling people, hey, if you’re still interested in doing the dawn rite, call me, or I’m just going there straight from my house. (Given that, unlike at Botsford, we can’t just leave a fire burning unattended at the ritual site, we may need to rethink the whole Dawn Rite process for future Beltaines.) But I did get a late call from Lynne and Sheila, so we met at 5:30 and headed up to Big Lake and did the ritual on time. We’ve never had fewer than three people attend it before, even the one in 1998 with the torrential downpour that led to our only ritual postponement ever. Still, if I’d had to do it on my own, I would have. Sometimes part of my job is keeping our traditions going.

After stopping by the headwaters of the Huron (and almost losing Sheila as she wandered the trails there), I stopped by the house for a few hours more of sleep, then drove with the flame to the ritual site. (With a quick stop at Kroger for supplies, and hoping that nobody noticed the candles in the car and freaked out.) Getting the fire restarted was fairly easy. Getting my pavilion was not, as it was missing one plastic connector piece, but it did provide me with a long enough pole to grab the plastic grocery bag that had gotten stuck in the middle of the small marshy area. (Yay for being in a tool-using species!) I set up everything I had as best as I could with only one small table, and eventually other folks arrived. But with no tables. (We need to invest in a permanent picnic table or two for the site.) Fortunately, my big red dropcloths made an adequate picnic blanket for the potluck food, and my card table was enough for the raffle items and the “sacred propaganda” and donation chest.

As usual for a Beltaine, the tricky bit was getting our bile set up as a Maypole. We lost one of the two prongs at the top when we couldn’t quite bring it down slowly enough, but it still looks good. The other problem was that we couldn’t get our usual wide ribbons, so we made do with crepe paper, which held up to the wind, um, better than I had feared? Only one of them broke before the ritual began. A flawed appearance to begin, but people tell me the gods prefer an imperfect-looking Maypole dance. (Personally, I’ve seen professional dancers do a Maypole dance at our local Renfest, and if the gods think our version looks better, then I disagree with our gods.)

Everything else went fine with the setup, and the weather was, well, less hot than last year. The joys of doing ritual in an open field nowhere near anything that provides shade. But even I thought it was comfortable, and given my temperature sense, I assume everyone else was okay with it. Before the ritual began, we passed around the cookies that Candy had brought, and Molly ended up with the marked one, making her the May Queen for the year.

So seventeen of us processed to the circle playing “Follow the Leader”, and did the usual ritual openings without too many problems. (I did forget to have Noal do the Outsiders offering before we processed, but we apparently got by with it.) Our deity of the Occasion was Aren, our locally contacted god or love, beauty, and freedom, who I invited into the ritual once the opening were done. For the individual praise, we passed around a flask of olive oil, and in addition to my usual offerings, I placed some movie theater popcorn at the Ancestors altar for Roger Ebert, whose inspiration to get me writing more is one of the reasons this blog exists at all.

For the group praise, we did our traditional “Dance of Transcending the Boundary”, followed by the Maypole dance, which actually didn’t go too badly considering the relative weakness of the crepe paper (only one more strand broke during the dance). Serena shared a video of the dance on our Facebook group, and even I have to admit that my singing wasn’t awful. (We still need to get Richard to come to more rituals, though.) And as the randomly-selected-by-sortilege representative of our community, Molly jumped over the fire as our final group offering. And I offered the oil from the flask ijto the fire for our main sacrifice.

We then took the omen, which was, um, odd. As Rodney summarized it for me via e-mail:

The omen was Thurisaz, Hagalaz, and Nauthiz. Normally this would be a really bad omen. Thurisaz is typically very destructive. Hagalaz is disruption and Nauthiz is need. But I really wasn’t feeling bad things from Aren. I decided to pull a rune for clarification and got Kenaz, torch which I took to mean inspiration. Thus the reading was while we had disruption in our lives (Hagalaz), and were in a state of need (Nauthiz) we needed to find a way to over come this and that we have Divine help (Thurisaz, as Divine power acting in the physical world). It is a message of hope to overcome adversity.

I was obviously concerned after seeing those first three drawn, but part of our unwritten Grove social contract is that if I approve you to be the Omen Taker for the ritual, I go with what you tell me, whether I read it that way or not, and whether it’s good or bad. So, the omen being a good one, we blessed the mead (kindly donated by Gen, because I forgot to ask for someone to get May Wine early enough) and sparkling fruit juice and drank them. And then I almost forgot to give everyone jump the fire for blessings, but at least I remembered before we started closing up the ritual space! Serena posted a video of this too, and I will unequivocally state that my jump looked terrible. As GLADoS would say, it was majestic, like an eagle… piloting a blimp.

Once the ritual was over, folks stayed around and socialized for longer than they usually did last year, probably because it wasn’t baking-hot in the field. Between the raffle and donations, we got $66, not quite enough to cover the $80 site rental, but better than we ever managed last year, if I remember rightly. I also took folks back to the site of the new nemeton, well-shaded and probably going to be a lot more pleasant for ritual on hot days. Clean-up didn’t take long, and I was on my way home at 6.

So, a later write-up than usual, but hopefully I covered everything folks would want to know about our Beltaine. And hopefully our new nemeton will be ready for use at the solstice, and hopefully I’ll see many of you there!

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF