“Sing, Dammit!”

I’m finding it very hard to write much of anything this week, when my thoughts are three hundred miles away, thinking of Wellspring and wishing that I were there.  The first one I attended was in 1997, but now I’ve not been at all since 2002.  Usually it’s for financial reasons, though this year I actually could have afforded it but couldn’t get the time off work.  Next year, unless I totally fail in my efforts to complete the First Circle of the Clergy Training Program, will likely be my best chance for an actual Ordination Ritual, so I’d darn well better find a way to be there.  In the meantime, here’s a tale of a journey I made to visit another ADF Grove a few years ago, originally printed in the Imbolc 2006 issue of Shining Lakes News.

“Let me see. Bríd dolly, puppets, song sheets…” This would be the first Brídeog I’d done outside the state, so I wouldn’t have the luxury of popping back home if I forgot anything.

“Basket for food, basket of Bríd crosses.… Should I print out one of my old Imbolc offerings and sing it? Nah, it might not go over that well with another Grove.” And then the Vibe pulled up, I got in, and we were off.

In the tradition of sporting bets between mayors and governors, I had made a bet last November with the Senior Druid of the ADF Grove in Columbus on the Ohio State game. If we won, he would come up to our Lughnasadh festival to do a workshop on Belenos, one of their Grove deities. In turn, I got Bríd’s permission to offer them a Brídeog if they won. In hindsight, maybe she wanted the chance to visit another Grove, and actually helped the Buckeyes? (It sure wasn’t like that in the Iliad…) [Gen’s note: Actually, it sounds exactly like the Iliad!] Or maybe I just picked the wrong year for it, with the Wolverines finishing with their worst record since 1986, when I was actually a student there. Or maybe Gen is right and I’m an idiot. No matter now, I was headed to Ohio, with Rod and Dot volunteering to come with me.

The Brídeog itself went just fine, and I got to meet Michael (their Senior Druid) and lots of other new folks, and spread the blessings of our goddess to a strange land. (Hey, there may be a book title in there…) We then stayed for their Imbolc ritual, which was held in a lodge at a local metropark. During the pre-ritual briefing, I started to feel a very strong sensation in my head. It didn’t take long to figure out. I was being told to sing one of my Bríd song parodies—and I didn’t have any with me. While Michael told everyone what was going to happen in the rite (not that I needed to pay attention; I’ve probably been to more ADF rites than he has), I ran through the songs in my head, trying to decide which one I could remember the most lyrics from. The Barenaked Ladies song? Light and sweet, but I couldn’t even muster five lines of it. The one from Damn Yankees? I couldn’t even remember five lines of that one. Jan and Dean? Nope. The only one I could remember most of the lyrics for was the bad one. The naughty one. The punk one.

And even then, I was seriously considering just not doing it. Singing punk rock songs as praise offerings isn’t something that’s done in most Groves. Or anywhere else, really. Divine compulsion or not, that’s a heck of a risk to take. And then the praise offering section came, and Megan came forward and sang an old Irish ditty about a woman buying a chemise.

I had first met Megan in her dorm room that afternoon, where we had sung another song parody of mine to the tune of “Hail to the Victors”—within earshot of several OSU students. And if I hadn’t been worried about that audacious performance, I now thought to myself, why should I be worried about this one? Then to confirm my thought, Megan said that she sang this offering to Bríd particularly because it was difficult for her to do.

Well, that settled it. I stepped forward, gave an explanation of the song’s origins, and sang a half-sized version from what lyrics I could remember. And the people there loved it, and the omen was good. Huzzah!

What lessons can we learn from this? Well, first, I need to print all of my songs and bring them with me when I visit other Groves. But more importantly, it’s important to make those praise offerings when you get the chance, be it in our ritual or elsewhere. Too often people tell me that they won’t speak up during our own rites because they don’t know what to say or do. And we end up with a quiet rite, instead of banging our heads and feeling the noise—er, I mean, feeling the divine within ourselves.

Well, let me be an example for you here. I’ve been doing this for nearly ten years, but it’s still not always easy for me to do. But if I can overcome that “stage fright” to honor the gods, you can, too.

I won’t speak for the gods in this matter, but personally, I’d rather hear a silly praise offering than hear you silently keep your praise bottled up.

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

Links of Interest:
Punk Rock Bríd lyrics: http://www.shininglakes.bravehost.com/prb.html
Three Cranes Grove, ADF: http://www.threecranes.org/

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And We Don’t All Have White Beards Either

So after a lovely afternoon session of discussing ADF and SLG over overpriced Chinese food with a few interested folks, I’m back here at home ready to type this week’s blog entry, only nothing pressing comes to mind to write about. So I think I’ll address a few misconceptions people out there may have about us. None of this silly “we’re not Satanists” misconception that so many pagans think they need to address, because honestly, if you’ve read out Web site and you still think we’re Satanists, nothing I type here is going to change your mind about that anyway. But I have noticed through the years that people sometimes bring their own assumptions about what our Grove is like. Well, heck, pretty much everyone brings some kind of preconception about us, and some of those are right and some are wrong. I can at least hit some of the more common “wrong” ones here.

“Your Grove has lots of members.”
“Your Grove doesn’t have very many members, does it?”

Obviously no one person can hold both of these misconceptions about us. >8) And size is relative, of course. Folks who remember use from ten years ago when we had a membership of over seventy will look at us now and think that we’ve shriveled away to nothingness, while those who have only ever been in small family groups will think we’re enormous. For the record, our paid membership has been hovering around twenty for the last five years. Small compared to what we were, sure, but we’re still one of the largest Groves in ADF.

“You own your own ritual space! That’s so cool!”

It would be very cool, only we kinda sorta don’t own any land. We do have a permanent ritual site set up on a private nature preserve west of Ann Arbor, but we don’t own that land. And the guy who does own it isn’t a member of our Grove, and he does charge us rent to use the space. This is only fair, of course, and we have no issue with the concept of land ownership. But one of the ironies of running this Grove, from a business sense, is that we almost always get more money donated to us at our indoor rites during the winter than at our outdoor rites in the summer, even though the indoor spaces cost us less to rent and we get fewer people showing up to make donations. Talking it over with folks throughout the years, it’s become apparent that new folks give more at the winter rites because it’s obvious we don’t own those buildings, but they assume the outdoor rites cost us less to run because we own the land. Well, let the word be spread far and wide: We don’t own the land, and those rites cost us more. We understand that sometimes folks don’t have the money to donate (especially if they’re paying the current price for gasoline to get to the site), and we’ll never ever ever charge people for our high day rituals, but please don’t hold back because you think we don’t need the money. We do. >8)

“I want to join your coven!”

We’re not a coven. “Coven” is a Wiccan term, and we ain’t a Wiccan group. We call ourselves a Grove. Like a group of trees, only we’re not actually trees, even if sometimes that’s how quickly we get things done. (Ha!) I would also argue that “coven” implies a group with much stronger interpersonal ties between all of the members, like having several different significant others at once. And if you like being in that kind of group, hey, good for you. One significant other is about all I can cope with, and I’m quite happy being in a Grove of friends rather than a coven of intimates. (Hmm, I wonder whether “A Coven of Intimates” would make a good book title? It would have to have a vampire in it, of course. All new books these days seem to have vampires in them somewhere.)

Anyway, those are a few thoughts for the week. Those of you who are going to Wellspring, enjoy! I’ll be staying here working on the Clergy Training Program, and working at the flower store of course!

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

Related viewing:

The nature preserve where we have our rites doesn’t have a Web site that I can find, but here’s a picture of one of the treehouses on the site, which the owner will happily show off if and when you attend one of our summer ritals!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vox/40896197/

Twenty Druids Walk Into A Room…

(Those of you who expected new material this week either forgot where I work, or forgot it was Mother’s Day.  If you forgot it was Mother’s Day, shame on you.  >8)  This is reprinted from our most recent issue of Shining Lakes News.  I’ll have a new article next week.)

(Oh, and if you’re new to Our Own Druidry, or want to learn more about it, make sure you sign op for my Modern Druidry class this coming Sunday afternoon.  Registration info and ur schedule can be found here.)

Another High Day is here, and if recent High Days are any indication, we’re going to have dozens of people crowded into the Friends basement for the rite. Many offerings and much praise to the gods, lots of interacting with each other, lots of happiness. And then we’ll all go our separate ways to our homes, and a few of us will see each other a few times during the next six weeks, but except for Coffee Hour, no Grove event between now and Beltaine is likely to have more than four people attend. There are worse things than having a Grove with lots of people come to High Days and nothing else, sure. But as Senior Druid, it’s my job to expect more of us.

Once upon a time, when the surface of the world was still molten and dinosaurs roamed. . . No, wait, it wasn’t that long ago. It only seems that way to my ancient eyes. But back in the earliest days of the Grove, we used to have these special events called “intensives.” It was a chance for everyone in the Grove to spend a few hours together and talk about, well, whatever was on our minds. We’d vote on a couple of topics to cover, about what direction we’d like the Grove to go in, or what was bothering us about what we’d been doing. In the days before most of us had e-mail, this was the only good opportunity for all Grove members to tell the officers what they wanted the Grove to do, where they wanted our focus to be. (And I’m told that most people aren’t comfortable using e-mail for that sort of thing; my being a computer geek means that’s never been a problem for me, but I do know the limitations of the medium.) But now the flow of the discussion, when it manages to flow at all, is more like slow molasses than Ana’s rushing headwaters.

This is one of the great disadvantages of having so many Grove members not living in the Ann Arbor
area. I remember when I lived in Ypsilanti and my home was one of the furthest from the middle of Ann
Arbor. Now I live in Ypsilanti again, and my home is one of the closest. I’m certainly happy that we have so many people who have chosen to be members of our community, but I know this means that we just won’t have as many people attending our events as we did in ye olden SLuGgie days. Guild Day is on hiatus because people just weren’t attending, and the same has happened to our ADF Dedicant Path study group. Certainly the price of gasoline is a factor here (and one that’s only going to get worse this summer), but I still think that if we can figure out the one or two events that people would make the extra effort to attend, we can actually have meetings that get a regular attendance of more than four.

To that end, I’d like to propose that we schedule an intensive for some time this fall. (Summer gas prices and people’s travel schedules would make an earlier one unworkable.) With enough lead-time, hopefully we can pick a time and place where we can actually get a good turnout. Please do let me know what days of the week and times would be better for you, and maybe we can get the waters of inspiration flowing faster once more.

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

Partly Cloudy With a Chance of Ritual

Only once in our Grove’s fifteen year history (is fifteen years long enough to call it ‘history’?) have we postponed a High Day rite for rain. It was Beltaine of 1997, and it rained heavily all night, and at the Dawn Rite it rained heavily, and when we went home and checked the Weather Channel it said the rain wasn’t going to stop until after sunset. So we sent out the word via e-mail and phone, and we did the ritual on Sunday instead. We had about 15 people show up, and back when the Grove had 95 members, that was pretty sad. Heck, that would be a sad attendance now.

I’ve kept that say in mind every time the weather looks bad for one of out rituals. I don’t want anyone to get sick or hit by lightning, obviously, but I don’t want to hold a ritual with five people in attendance either. If heavy rains are predicted, I’ll postpone the ritual until the next day, but if the forecast is only for scattered showers, I always opt to go ahead with the ritual and hope for the best.

Such was the case this weekend. The forecasts I saw on Thursday night said lots of rain Friday night and Saturday morning, but only scattered showers for the afternoon. We’ve had rain at our Fire Watch and Dawn Rite before, so I wasn’t too worried about those. At least it’s relatively easy to stay warm at Fire Watch. >8) A thirty percent chance of showers meant a seventy percent chance of no rain, and an even better chance of not a lot of rain, so I made the decision: We’re goin’ for it!

So how did things turn out? I spent the night at the ritual site, then we went to the Dawn Rite at Big Lake, and then back to the ritual site, where I stayed all morning. Not a drop fell from the sky that whole time. It was clear enough to see stars through the treetops through most of the night. The sky at the lake was clouded over the whole time we were there, so our “hold the bowl of water up to the sun’s first rays” was more of a guesstimate, but we weren’t going to wait six hours for the clouds to get out of the way! And once we were back at Botsford, the clouds actually parted long enough to pure sunlight to reach us beneath the trees. I even got two phones call asking if we were postponing the ritual for rain, while I was standing in the sunlight. I guess the scattered showers were scattering themselves to other parts of the area.

So ritual time finally arrived, and still lots of sun, but also some clouds. We had thirty-nine people at the preserve, including the latecomers, so I assume not too many folks decided to skip the ritual because of the weather. We were joined by Gen’s niece and nephew, 2.5 and 5.5 years old respectively, and I was a little worried that they would get bored and fussy during the rite, but they were both fine, as were all the other children who were there. (Did we really have nine children at one ritual? Do we need a children’s program in place again?) The ritual itself went very smoothly, far moreso than the average Beltaine rite, which by its very nature seems to encourage chaotic happenings. I sang one of my songs during the individual praise, and two other people actually sang too, I can’t remember the last time that happened! And during one of Fox’s songs, yes, it started to shower a little during one refrain. And the sun came right back out during the next chorus. Later in the rite, we did the not-Celtic-but-still-a-Grove-favorite Maypole dance, and it showered again briefly , but that was it. It was sunny and bright for the rest of the rite. the omen was good (Uruz – Raido – Jeran), and we jumped over the fire and/or drank mead for the return blessing. As Rodney always says, the omen was good and nobody died, so it was a good ritual!

And my advice for those who worry about doing an outdoor ritual during a rain shower: wear a hat. >8)

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