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