Those The Gods Have Joined…

As I mentioned earlier, there’s not a whole lot of Grove activity to comment upon in August. I’m just happy that September is finally here, and that the minutely lower temperatures (and noticeably lower gas prices) should bring people to our events once again. Between our own Fall Equinox rite, our leading someone else’s high day rite in Wyandotte, and the HRWC‘s River Roundup and Bug ID Day, I hope everyone in the area will be able to take part in one or more of them.

So what did I do this week that was pagan-related? I sat around and complained about how no pagan events in August get any attendance, as I always do. No, not really. Even if I were like that in real life, I have plenty of better things to do with my time. But more so this week, as I actually did have a pagan ritual of a sort to attend. It was a wedding, and I was the one officiating it!

I don’t want to go into great detail here, out of respect for the couple who got married. A wedding ceremony is probably the most intensely personal ritual that anyone will ever take part in, and sometimes people want to share that with everyone, and sometimes they don’t. And since I don’t have explicit permission to share, I won’t. (If they decide that they really do want to share, I’ll add a response to this post.)

But I will say that it was a beautiful day out, it was a lovely ceremony, and I’m very happy to have been involved with it. Every human culture in human history has had some kind of wedding ceremony, and officiating the rituals that continue this ancient tradition of lifelong union, of escaping the evil and finding the good as the ancient Greeks said, makes me connected to the priests of old in a way that nothing else has done. Even leading a High Day rite seems ephemeral in comparison, I mean, Indo-European rites have only been around for a few millennia now. Even though I’ve not yet been married myself, I’ve seen how powerful a commitment it can be, and it still awes me.
Anyway, I hope everyone has a fun Labor Day weekend! I will be doing more work on the ADF Clergy Training Program, in part to make sure I can continue performing wedding ceremonies in the future.

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

P.S. – Yes, I’m legal to perform weddings in Michigan, if you’d like me to perform yours, contact me!

P.P.S. – Yes, I’m quite willing to perform commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, as long as you know that I can’t legally marry them in Michigan, much as I’d like to. Here’s hoping that that law will be changed within my lifetime!


Hidden Wonders of the Rivershed

(Yep, it’s a repeat.  I have “In Search of the Indo-Europeans” on interlibrary loan right now, and that has to take precedence in claiming my ready/writey time tonight.  I was thinking of posting a blog entry with some amazing new insights about the Three Functions in modern life, then I decided it would be easier to write that entry after I wrote my IE Studies I coursework.  This is reprinted from the Fall Equinox 2001 issue of Shining Lakes News, and if folks would like me to organize another trip to the headwaters and/or the Mannanan Shrine, let me know!)

It’s raining outside as I type this, and I see some of that water running down to the creek a few hundred feet from here, and I see some of the water going into the ground, to flow out into the stream later on. Even as our human lives seem to be in chaos, the water cycle continues to keep us all alive, plants and animals alike.

This time around, I thought I’d write about some of the local places that maybe most of our current Grove members haven’t had a chance to visit before, places that are within the Huron rivershed and are important to our group practices.

The first one is the obvious one: Big Lake, the source of the Huron River. From this lake in western Washtenaw County, the Huron begins its journey to Lake Erie, starting out at only about five feet in width. This is the place where we first contacted Ana, and where we still do our annual dawn rite on Beltaine. The lake has many houses built around it now (as do most of the lakes in that part of the state) but on Beltaine morning, the windows of the houses are still dark, the mist still rolls up from the lake, and you can still see herons and swans and ducks and geese flying overhead. It’s a beautiful place.

A little closer to Ann Arbor (but not much) is our Mannanan Shrine. During the Spring Hunt in 1998, our intrepid hunters found a place on the shore of Island Lake, with a semicircular peninsula jutting out into the water, and a ring of trees forming a circle around the peninsula and part of the land. Since Mannanan is associated with liminal (boundary) spaces, this seemed the perfect place to honor him. At an An Bruane session we went out and asked the local land spirits for permission to use the site, and we got it, provided that we offered food for them every time we came out. We hung an SLG necklace from one of the trees, and found a flat rock that makes a good altar space. It’s a good place to visit, especially at dusk, when you can hear the cries of the herons who live there.

The last place I want to mention may seem odd. Many of you have probably driven by it hundreds of times and barely noticed it. A few of you may remember it as that big nondescript building that was right by the Fireside Cooperative, back when they were still open. The building at 416 West Huron in Ann Arbor is actually very important to the story of our relationship with the Huron, though. Why? Because in the early 20th century, before there were refrigerators in every home, that building was the warehouse for the Ann Arbor Ice Company. Every winter, they would go out to the Huron, remove huge blocks of ice from the frozen surface of the river, and bring them back to fill up the warehouse. When winter ended, the people of Ann Arbor would use that ice in their iceboxes to keep their food cold for the rest of the year. Of course, the need for ice disappeared, and the warehouse has been converted into an office building of sorts. (Grex, the public access computer system I used to volunteer for, has its hardware located there, which is how I found out about the building’s history.) The next time you’re driving down Huron, you might pull into the parking lot and have a look at it.

For those of you who would like to have a look at the other two places, I’ll be leading an expedition to both sites on the afternoon of October 6th. We’ll meet at Botsford Recreational Preserve (3015 Miller, Ann Arbor) at 1 pm and depart from there.

One thing that religion can do is help us connect with the past, our own and that of our Ancestors. I know that a lot more folks have been attending church services of late, though I wish it didn’t take a disaster to cause that! I think that visiting the sacred sites our Grove has found during the years will help us stay in touch with the past practices of our Grove and those who have been a part of it through these eight years, and through that, to stay in touch with the ancient (and not-so-ancient) ones who tried to make this world a better place for our sakes.

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

With The Putter Selection And The Fountain’s Reflection, I’ll Be Golfing With Myself

Not much to talk about this week, as I mentioned in an earlier entry July and August are the slowest period of the year for SLG.  Today was our scheduled social event for the summer, an outing to the local miniature golf course.  Many folks warned me ahead of thime that they couldn’t attendm, because of various previous commitments to other summer social events, so I wasn’t expecting many people to be there.  Sure enough, I was the only one.  Ah well, there are worse things than minigolfing by oneself.  (I got a 39 and a 47, for those keeping score, which I assume is none of you.  >8)  At our business meeting this week I’m going to seriously propse just not scheduling any events between Lughnasadh and Labor Day next year.  (Maybe leave Coffee Hour just in case.  We’ll see how many attend this week.)  Plenty of other churches shut down during the summer (my dad’s former Unitarian church did) and I’m sure I could be doing something more useful with my time than being the only one at an event.

On the brighter side, or at least the more active side, we’ve once again had an article published about us in a local magazine!  You may remember my entry on our Summer Solstice rite where I mention a pair of reporters attending the ritual and suffering through the rain alongside the rest of us.  Well, the City Guide was published last week, and our article is indeed the one and only article in the Religion section of the Guide.  (You can see our listing here, under “Neo-Pagan”, but the article doesn’t appear to be online.)  It’s a decent article, which spend more time talking about the details of what actually happened at our rituals than the background behind ADF and our ritual format, but I’m sure that makes a better article anyway.  Intriguingly, there’s no mention of the rain at all.  Maybe it wasn’t a big deal after all.

If you’d like to see the article, stop by any Coffee Hour between now and next July.  It’s a yearly publication, and Borders does carry it all year.  And you know you want to join us at Coffee Hour, unless of course it’s August.  >8)

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

Ancient Flames On Modern Screens

It’s that time of the every-four-years once again. The time when I’m going to stay up way too late every night for two weeks because there’s just so much to see and it never ends, and even if the American station isn’t showing anything interesting I can still watch whatever the Canadians are showing instead. (Living near an international border is great for television watching!) Yes, the Olympics have returned again.

So what do the Olympics have to do with ancient Indo-European culture? Wait, I don’t really have to answer that, do I? The Olympics were one of the four quadrennial games of ancient Greece, and while these modern Olympics can’t be considered to have an unbroken lineage from those ancient games, well, we in ADF don’t claim an unbroken lineage to any of those old cultures either. But just as we in ADF do our best to learn about the Ancients and adapt their ways into something that is meaningful to us, so the Olympics try to fill the role of those ancient games in the modern world. Some of the changes would shock the ancients (“What, they’re letting women watch the games? What, they’re letting women COMPETE in the games???”), as I’m sure some aspects of our rituals would shock them as well. (“What, they’re inviting the dead and the gods at the SAME TIME???”). But seeing the countries of the civilized world (at least we hope that every country at the games is civilized!) come together in the spirit of unity and competition, I think that they would appreciate our continuation of their tradition, even if we don’t explicitly call upon the Greek gods any more.

Of course, being a Hellenic neo-Pagan myself, how can I not love the opening ceremony and the lighting of the Olympic flame? Yes, yes, I know the running-with-the-torch thing started off as a Nazi propaganda piece, but if the Nazis can steal the ancient pagan symbol of the swastika and make it their own, I say the modern world can take one of their symbols and make it something good. In Greece, the initial flame is kindled by focusing a mirror onto a torch, using the rays of the sun. How cool is that? I’d consider trying to kindle our Grove Flame using a mirror, but very little sunlight reaches our fire circle in May when the leaves are on the trees. And then the flame is taken around the world and is used to kindle a cauldron at the site of the games. It’s like a pagan ritual is being broadcast on television to billions of people and they don’t even realize it! Or, well, maybe they do and they’re not terribly concerned about it. Which is also cool.

I hope you all get a chance to enjoy some of this year’s modern Olympic celebration, at least in the virtual TV-watching sense, and I’ll see you here next week.

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

Related Reading:
A Tour of Ancient Olympia:
The Olympic Flame and Torch Relay:

Sunday Lughnasadh Programming = Epic Fail!

So I just got back from Lughnasadh, well from visiting Gen’s family after Lughnasadh so please do excuse the lateness of the post, as well as the brevity because I really don’t want to stay up super late to write this. >8)

Friday night went well, we had 19 people total who made beeswax candles and ten attended a wonderful first public rite from Cedarsong Protogrove to honor Lugh and Tailtiu. And I’m thinking, wow, our steadily increasing turnout to High Day rituals is continuing!

Saturday, we had 15 folks on the site throughout the day, most of them had been there on Friday as well. We started in the afternoon rather than the morning, because I was pretty sure people didn’t want to show up in the morning just to here me drone about SLG history. There were only twelve folks at the main rite itself (and the weather was lovely all weekend, so I’m quite certain it wasn’t a fear of rain this time around!) and the ritual itself went well. The omen itself was a little hard to interpret, Rodney finally decided that Lugh and Ana were asking us to do a guided meditation so we could get in better contact with them. I’m not big on doing guided meditation of any sort during a large group ritual, but when that’s what the omen asks for, that’s what we do. After the meditation we got a much better omen, so that was good.

In the evening Jude did a presentation on labyrinths, and yes I did set up the portable labyrinth I talked about last time, and it was well-loved enough that we’ll probably set it up for our next High Day as well. Then Gen did a workshop on salt dough sculptures, and I made a snake for my home altar, and I’ll paint it as soon as I get it back in baked form. Gen and I then let a Hellenic-style ADF rite for all nine of the folks who were still on the site. We all made oaths to our gods and asked for their help in completing them. Some of the folks who worked with salt dough made tablets and wrote their oaths on them and offered them at the herm in our nemeton, a very Greek way to do it! Well, offering the tablets to the well might have been more traditional, but then the local deer wouldn’t have been able to eat them once we left. Call it a modern adaptation.

And then I came back on Sunday to do a few more workshops and a guided meditation, and… Nobody came. Just the folks who had stayed the night before. After so many people told me last year that they would have attended on Sunday if we had any actual Sunday events, I convinced the Grove leadership council that we should add a day. Apparently I shouldn’t have bothered. Ah well, Lughnasadh is perhaps the trickiest festival to schedule, with so many other things happening (I myself was invited to a pig roast on Saturday), and I know we’re not the absolute top priority for anyone who isn’t me. Even the folks who want to attend our rites only have so much time to devote to them, I can hardly expect everyone to want to spend two or three days there. We’ll call it a learning experience, and next year when we close up the festival on Saturday night, I won’t feel even a twinge of worry about people missing out on it.

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

Related Reading:
Salt Dough Sculpture: