Beltaine Ritual Summary

Beltaine Ritual
May 1st, 2016
Deity of the Occasion: Aren
Offerings:  flask of oil
Omen: Thurisaz – Fehu – Mannaz
Return flow: juice, fire jumping
Attendees: 25


I’ll keep this minimal, as it’s still unpleasant for me to remember some of the details of this day.

The ritual itself actually went quite well, the Maypole dance was about as smooth as it ever was, and the young people from the local UU church seemed genuinely happy to be taking part in it.  And the omen was good.

But we also found out that the owner of the land had sold her property to avoid foreclosure, and would be leaving in a few weeks.  And the nasty neighbors we’ve had to deal with – the ones who stole our Epona statue and vandalized the nemeton over the winter – were emboldened enough to shout obscenities at us during the rite, and then come by after the rite to shout some more and also threaten to send their dogs on me.  After years of being in the Ann Arbor area, a community that has been overwhelmingly supportive of us, this reaction to our Pagan ways was a cold dash of water, to say the least.  I won’t say that I have full-blown PTSD or the like because of it, but the fact that these people committed crimes against us – actual criminal acts – and will get away with is still bothers me.

But I look to our Ancestors, who were nomads once upon a time, and were occasionally driven away from their homeland by external invaders, not entirely unlike what we’re doing through now.  (Except that none of us have actually been killed.)  They found a new place to like and to honor their gods, and now it’s our turn to be like them and do the same.  My mother had offered us the temporary use of her farm for our rituals this year, and now we begin the search for a new site for our nemeton.  Our Grove has been together for nearly twenty-three years now, and as long as we support each other and work together, we’ll be here for another twenty-three, even if it’s not in the exact same place.

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


What The Outdwellers Did For Winter Vacation

Have you heard the old Pagan saying about Nature being our cathedral, the trees of the forest being its pillars, and the golden rays of the sun being the candlelight on our altar?  Yeah, well, as it turns out, our cathedral can also be attacked by the barbarian hordes.

Since the very first year of our existence, our grove had worked in a permanent nemeton set up on somebody else’s property.  First Don Botsford, and now Lyn.  The problems with having our nemeton on someone else’s land have always been apparent, as when Don passed away and we had to find a new location, but our members and guests alike have always felt a strong connection to the land where we’ve dug the Well and built the fire circle and made offering to the Kindreds.  When we lost our access to the Botsford Preserve and I suggested that we might have to start holding our outdoor rituals in public parks or rented indoor spaces (reality check: this is where most ADF groups do their public rites), the disapproval was universal.  We lucked out in finding a space at Cavallo, spend a year doing ritual in the field building our relationships with both the land spirits and the landlord, and then we found a clearing in the woods that we could turn into a nemeton, and that’s where we’ve been for three years now.

While the property owner loves us and the energy we bring (her tenants at the stable comment on it a lot), her neighbors aren’t quite as thrilled.  They aren’t brave enough to come up to me and tell me they have a problem with me, though apparently one of them loves telling our folks who walk to and from the bathroom that they “don’t like strangers”.  For a while, that was the extent of it, but then the signs we put by the road started disappearing (along with Gen’s LED light we were using to illuminate it), and one was torn and left in pieces.  Any doubts I had as to who was doing it vanished at the next rite when one of the neighbors drove out to the road, saw Rodney sitting next to the sign, and turned right around and drove home.

So having someone keep an eye on the signs was as much as we needed to worry about until February, when Lyn called to ask if any of us had been to the site, which of course we hadn’t because we do our winter rites indoors.  She said it looks like the Epona statue was gone, and that it looked like things were missing from the circle but she wasn’t sure what.  (She loves having us there, but she doesn’t attend the rituals and really couldn’t be expected to know what shrines and such we have set up.)  I asked the Grove officers if they could stop by the site and see what, if anything, had happened, but nobody could manage to get there during daylight hours before our regularly scheduled nemeton work day last weekend.

When Gen and I got to the nemeton that day, Rodney confirmed it.  The Epona statue that Candy painted to honor the horses of the farm was gone, though the support stones were still there.  (And having carried that thing back when I still had my own feet, I know that it weighed over fifty pounds.  That they removed the statue but not the other things still seems hard to believe.)  Our Kindred altars, the herm, and the bricks of the Well had all been thrown from the circle into the woods.  (We managed to find all of those, save one brick.)  And what firewood we had left last year was gone.  Rodney had put everything back; in hindsight, we should have at least gotten photos, and probably filed a report with the police.  After that, we did our usual raking and firewood gathering and made offerings to the Kindreds, just like every other nemeton work day.  As we left, Gen put one of the Epona statue’s support bricks on tops of the other to make an impromptu altar, and gave a grain offering to Epona.

epona stone

Was it the neighbors?  I can’t prove it, but I have no other suspects.  Whoever it was has committed trespassing and vandalism, at a minimum.  And I have no reason to think they haven’t gone right back and done it again.  I’m not too worried about the shrine stands, those can be replaced easily enough, plus we can do a ritual without them if we need to (other than marking the Well so people don’t step into it).  If there was any risk of harm to the people attending our rituals, that would concern me, but the cowardly nature of these acts make me think that they will never confront us directly.

Will we be looking for a new site to hold our rituals?  Of course not.  If these people think they can motivate us by making us afraid, then they don’t know us and our practices.  They think that fear will motivate us because they themselves are motivated by it, and that’s a shame.  But I will not act out of fear.  We have the legal right to be in that place, we have worked hard to make it our sacred space and to build good relations with the land, and I don’t give up on my relationships so easily. A statue can be replaced, as we Pagans were reminded last year, but we still have each other and the blessings of the Kindreds, and no pathetic trespasser can take those from us.

How do I honor the Three Kindreds in this matter?  Not hard: I honor the local Land Spirits by continuing to make offerings and ask for their blessings; I honor my grandmother by following her advice about never giving a bully what they want; and I honor my patroness Athena by honoring the laws of the land and working within our legal system to bring these criminals to justice.

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

Rob Henderson’s Trip to Minnesota, April 2nd – 4th, 1999

(Seventeen years ago this weekend, I made a trip to Minnesota to visit an ADF Protogrove and help them hold a ritual near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  When I registered for the upcoming ADF Upper Midwest Retreat last week, I remembered this article I wrote about that earlier trip (complete with photos taken with a non-digital camera), and thought that I should repost it here.  Enjoy!

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

How do you wake up a sleeping lake in Minnesota? You get a Druid from Michigan to help you! That’s what Roy and Laura Shoemake (of Song of the Hounds Protogrove, ADF) told me, anyway. I’m their grove mentor, as part of ADF’s Grove Organizing Committee, and they asked me to attend their first public ritual on April 3rd, 1999. Obviously it wasn’t a small request, since I don’t head out to Minnesota all that often, but I talked it over with my gods and ancestors, and they thought it was a good idea. So off I went! (Some would say I was off already, of course.)

On Friday, I navigated Fritz (my Ford Festiva) though the holiday airport traffic, barely found a parking spot, and went in. I got checked in and got to the gate a mere fifteen minutes early – whew! Then the plane was half an hour late. Oh well. The flight to Chicago was smooth. It was my first flight in about twenty years, but I loved flying as a kid, so I knew I wouldn’t be upset now, and I was right.

I was flying into Chicago at night
Watching the lake turn the sky into blue green smoke
The sun was setting to the left of the plane
And the cabin was filled with an unearthly glow
In 27D I was behind the wing
Watching landscape roll out like credits on a movie screen
(Liz Phair, “Stratford-on-Guy”)

After resetting my watch to Central time, I walked about halfway across O’Hare (and realized why everyone who flies frequently tells me that Detroit Metro is an ugly airport: because it is, and O’Hare isn’t) and just barely made my connecting flight to Fargo. After flying for an hour and a half (and seeing nothing but blackness through the window), we landed. Laura was waiting for me, and we made the hour and a half drive to their home, passing by what seemed like several hundred of Minnesota’s Ten Thousand Lakes on the way. (I usually touch my finger to my forehead to acknowledge the spirits of the lakes and rivers I pass when I’m in a car, but that got real old real fast. >8)

The next morning, Jack and Sheri Rector had arrived from Mankato to help out with the ritual. Everything was pretty much ready, except for one little thing: the script. YIPE! Roy and Laura had been busy all week, and hadn’t written any invocations down, and of course they weren’t experienced enough with ADF ritual to improvise. Fortunately, I had just finished working on a solitary adaptation of SLG’s Imbolc ritual, which was chock full of good invocations. (Most of them written by our own Kami Landy. Take a bow, Kami!) Within an hour, the ritual text was ready.

It was about a two-hour drive to Lake Itasca, and we passed by another few hundred lakes on the way. In defiance of Pagan Standard Time, we arrived well before 3 o’clock, to discover that only one of the entrances was open, and only one of the ranger stations was open to sell permits. After driving for another half hour (and another hundred lakes), we made it to the meeting place right on time. Whew! There were about fifteen folks from Orenda North, the eclectic pagan group from the nearby town of Bemidji. (Yes, there’s a real town named Bemidji.)

A few of us went out exploring for a good ritual site. We wandered down a hill, then crossed a small bridge over a stream about twenty feet wide. Could it be…? Yes, it was the Mississippi River. A few minutes later, we were at the headwaters, where the water from Lake Itasca pours out over a bridge of stepping stones and becomes the Mississippi. Most of the lake was frozen over, but the rushing waters were very liquid. (And very cold!)

headwaters_zps8d51eac1The headwaters of the Mississippi

signpost_zpsc24a360bThe marker: “Here 1475 ft. above the ocean the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on its winding way 2552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico”

We wandered further and uphill to a picnic area with firepits and lots of trees, and behind a hill which protected us from the wind. Perfect! We went back to gather the others, then somehow managed to get all of the ritual gear and potluck food back to the spot. Actually, it wasn’t all that difficult to move the ritual gear, since Song of the Hounds hasn’t built up a huge stash of statuary and altar items like we have. The food took up far more weight. I change into my blue chiton and sandals, but left on my shirt and jeans, as a concession to the cold. (Without the wind, it was in the 40 to 45 degree range.)

jacksheri_zpsd0b45b2aJack and Sheri try to stay warm

Once we had the minimal altars set up (including my Athenian owl, the one personal altar item I’d brought along) and poured water from three sources (the Huron River, the Mississippi, and the lake by the Shoemake’s old home) into the well, we got the ritual started. I’m not used to doing group ritual with a script, so it felt a little awkward, but it seemed to work well. We called upon Brid to warm the waters and the land, and passed around a drinking horn to toast her. (I had a grape soda, and shared it with the kids.)

roylaurahorn_zpse6b1aa38Roy and Laura making an offering

roylauracard_zps4d410c60Roy and Laura taking the omen

After the usual post-ritual socializing in the cold, we packed up and headed home. We stopped by the headwaters again so I could fill up a 3-liter soda bottle with water, then I poured some water from the Huron into the Mississippi and said a quick prayer to the two rivers.

After the drive home was finished (and we nearly lost Jack and Sheri to a wrong turn on the Minnesota country roads), we stayed up way too late looking at Sheri’s beadwork and yapping. (Don’cha know?) And I reset my watch for Daylight Savings before going to bed.

The next morning was Easter Sunday, and Tim and Garrett (and Lady)went questing for hidden candy. It had snowed overnight – maybe that spring ritual didn’t work! Not to worry, though, it all melted by noon. We had breakfast and watched a video (Get Shorty, which I’ve wanted to see for ages), then spent some time discussing the ritual and how they could do it better next time. (Writing the script more than four hours in advance would be a good start. >8) Then we packed into the car and went back to Fargo. And I actually got to see the lakes this time!

The earth looked like it was lit from within
Like a poorly assembled electrical ball as we moved
Out of the farmlands into the grid
The plan of a city was all that you saw
And all of these people sitting totally still
As the ground raced beneath them thirty thousand feet down
(same song)

The flight to Chicago was a lot nicer this time, as the sun was up and I could actually see the ground. Which wasn’t much to look at, really, except for the Mississippi, which was a lot wider this far south. Lots of farms, several hundred more lakes (with lots of houses circling them, and few houses anywhere else), and the occasional cumulus cloud casting a shadow over them. The flight to Detroit was uneventful, except for having to set my watch ahead an hour when we went back to Eastern time. (Three time changes in one weekend! My head was spinning!) The only downer was getting back into my Festiva to listen to the radio stations of my native city, and discovering that my favorite station had changed formats from alternative rock to classic Motown while I was gone. “Huh? Did I take the wrong plane and wind up in some city that plays Motown on 105.1??? And if I’m in the wrong city, how did Fritz get here?”

All in all, it was a great experience, and I hope to do it again. Preferably during a warmer month.



Spring Equinox Ritual Summary

Spring Equinox Ritual
March 20th, 2016
Deity of the Occasion: Ana
Offerings: eggs
Omen: Eta – Psi – Lambda
Return flow: water / blessing of the seeds and tools
Attendees: 14


My ride service got me there later than I’d hoped for, but Rod and Virginia had already started setting up, so we were ready in time.  Many new people were there, about half of the total, so we did run through all of the songs before the rite, which felt like it took forever and now I remember why I don’t like us doing that.  (Worth noting: Even though we went over the seed blessing song before the ritual, I forgot to use it during the rite, and no one seemed to notice.  Given how difficult it is to sing and how it doesn’t IMO mesh with the calling for blessings portion of the rite, I think it’s time to retire it from circulation.)

We had our usual egg hunt, for which I brought 18 colored eggs, Rodney brought 24 colored eggs, and Gen brought nine colored eggs – and they were *all* hidden outside for us to find.  We should not have done that.  We shouldn’t have put more than twenty out.  Anything beyond that should have been potluck food.  A bowl of fifty eggs is heavy and unwieldy (just ask Cool Hand Luke) and difficult for our attendees to pass around the circle.  I don’t mind people bringing spare stuff for offerings, but the flow of the ritual should be a priority.

Once the basket of eggs was passed around for the individual praise, I told the story of Ana, then we offered the eggs as the main sacrifice.  Rod had to use my Greek Alphabet Oracle app for the omen because he’d forgotten his runes, but even though he’s unfamiliar with the system, I think he did well with it.  The return flow was water (this is the only rite in our year wheel where we actually do the traditional ADF Waters of Life thing) followed by blessings for our seeds and various tools.

After that was a fairly active potluck (the new folks had plenty of questions), and cleanup went smoothly.  Since wheeling myself around a tiled floor is way easier than wheeling myself around the dirt of the nemeton, this was my last chance to actually be useful for that.

All in all, other than the excess of eggs, a very good ritual and a great way to honor our river mother

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

Imbolc Ritual Summary

Imbolc Ritual
January 31st, 2016
Deities of the Occasion: Bríd
Offerings: storytelling / woven yarn
Omen: Tiwaz – Lagu – Fehu
Return flow: bread
Attendees: 9


As with Yule, it was unseasonably warm on the day of the ritual, with temps in the 40s. Things didn’t get off to a great start for me personally, as the cab driver dropper me off on a large patch of wet ice, and I couldn’t get enough traction to move my wheelchair. Fortunately I got there early enough that the last few folks leaving the event before us were able to push me to drier ground.

Once Rodney arrived, we got things set up quickly enough. One advantage of the indoor site is that I can be semi-useful with setup, as linoleum tiles are a lot easier for me to move myself on than dirt!

We did the same central portion of the rite as last Imbolc, with each of us telling a part of a story while tying pieces of yarn together. This time, Gen found a large spool I could wind the completed cord onto, which I thought added an oomph to the process that we didn’t have last year. Hopefully it looked as good as it felt.

The return flow was bread that was incredibly solid and needed to be perforated with a knife for any of us to be able to tear off a piece. Next year we need something softer!

The potluck was quite good! The reuben-flavored and gyro-flavored potato chips got mixed reviews, which is better than I was expecting. (As I expected, I liked the gyro but could not get into the reuben.) No raffle this time as there were so few of us.

Next up will be our equinox ritual to Ana. I’ll be interested to see how many people who attended my river goddess workshop at ConVocation decide to attend.

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

Rob’s Sonic Spiral Gate Opening

(An idea I’ve been toying with for a few years now, as an attempt to use sound to move the energy and the participants’ ritual focus around the circle to aid with the Opening of the Gates without requiring anyone to run around the circle waving a stick and accidentally knocking things over. Not that I’ve ever seen anyone do that.)

The Opening

(D1 D2 and D3 should be positioned evenly around the circle, with D2 to the left of D1 and D3 to the right of D1 so the motion of the sound is clockwise. Lines should be read slowly at the beginning, then with gradually increasing speed as the lines get shorter.)

D1: When the rays of the sun wander down from on high
The leaves store the light and the heat of the sky

D2: While the deep and dark waters are swirling around
And slowly seep up to the top of the ground

D3: And the root drinks the cool and the leaf draws the heat
The tree is the place where those opposites meet

D1: The Fire sends out sacred light
And smoke to touch the heavens’ height

D2: The Well moves water through the earth
To join the realms of death and birth

D3: The Tree attaches every world
With root grown down and branch unfurled

D1: The Gods are in the light

D2: The Dead may join our rite

D3: The Realms we now unite

D1: Open the Fire

D2: Open the Well

D3: Open the Tree

D1: The Fire

D2: The Well

D3: The Tree

D1: Fire

D2: Well

D3: Tree

D1, D2, D3 together: Let the Gates be open!

All: Let the Gates be open!

The Closing

(D1 D2 and D3 should shift around so the motion of the sound is now counterclockwise. Start with fairly quick speech, then slow down as it progresses. Or not, I can see a case being made for either. Experiment on your own and let me know how it goes!)

D1: Now we close the Three Portals connecting our rite
To Land, Sea, and Sky, and the dark and the light

D2: May the Kindreds accept what we offered this day
The blessings of *ghosti- will show us the way

D3: May the magic and wonder we’ve worked in this place
Resound through the Gates and across time and space

D1: The Fire joined us to the Sky
Our prayers it carried up on high

D2: The Well connected to the Sea
To help us see what we can be

D3: The Tree aligned us with the Land
And all the worlds where allies stand

D1: And now we close the Fire

D2: And now we close the Well

D3: And now we close the Tree

D1: Close the Fire

D2: Close the Well

D3: Close the Tree

D1: The Fire

D2: The Well

D3: The Tree

D1: Fire

D2: Well

D3: Tree

D1, D2, D3 together: Let the Gates be closed!

All: Let the Gates be closed!


Yule Ritual Summary

Yule Ritual
December 13th, 2015
Deities of the Occasion: Danu and Bel
Offerings: wreath, nuts
Omen: Othala – Isa – Ingwaz
Return flow: fruitcake cookies
Attendees: 15


This was our first Yule since we officially ended the pre-ritual indoor fire lighting ceremony. I’ll miss doing them, but nobody showed up to any of them last year, and I’m well past the point of pretending that something is a Grove tradition if I’m the only one doing it. At least we’d decided not to do Yule tree ornaments, the traditional activity for the Yule fire lighting, so we didn’t have to find another time to do those. And there are worse things than staying at home with a Yule tree and drinking tea.

I got to the site at 1:20, expecting to see the Friends still cleaning the basement after their event, but the place was completely empty and the light were out. I had enough time (and nobody begging me not to overexert myself) to get most of the tables. Rod brought the ritual gear fairly early but had to head back home for the raffle tickets, so I ended up directing the setup.

The ritual went smoothly enough. We passed our usual greenery wreath for the individual praise, but this time it has a bowl built into the center so we could place offerings of nuts into it. Rodney did get his group praise snowball fight despite the 50 degree temperatures outside, thanks to an artificial snowball set. The return flow was fruitcake cookies, which tasted surprisingly good!

After the potluck and the raffle, we had our usual gift exchange, then managed to get the place cleaned up well before the next group arrived. December is a busy month for just about everyone, including the Friends.

Despite the ridiculously warm temperatures, I thought it was a good ritual, And now begins the quiet time of the year, when Danu’s snow-free but still kind of dark and wet presence covers the land, and we turn our thoughts inward, to the home and to indoor activities.

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