Lo, We Call Upon The (zzzzzzzzzzz)

The mostly sunny skies tempted us with the possibility of our first completely rain-free outdoor rite this year. The people were gathered, the nemeton was set up, the dancers had actually gotten some practice in so they wouldn’t look completely ridiculous… The stage was set for us to try out something new!

As I mentioned last week, Rodney had proposed that we try out some more formal invocations for the opening part of our rite. In order to make surer that we kept things consistent, Rod and I performed all of the ritual roles ourselves, except for the Purifiers (difficult for two of us to do three roles at once, even as wonderfully talented as we are) and the Stag Dancers (same problem but with four roles at once, and I doubt I’ll ever convince Rod to dance at a ritual). I planned out what I wanted to say, but didn’t write any of it down, while Rodney wrote everything down but then spoke from memory. The invocations were good, I thought. Mine were only a little more formal than I usually do them. Rodney’s were much more involved than his usual, and very good, and I hope he posts some of them as a comment here. >8) Folks talking to me afterwards were very impressed with his Outsiders offering in particular.

And yet, it didn’t feel quite right to me. The words were good, but they felt like a square peg in a round hole, or vice versa. The energy of the circle stayed low, so low that I actually had us do a wave chant to start off the individual praise. (And those of you who know me personally and know how much I prefer low-energy ritual can appreciate how low the energy must have been for *me* to worry about it.) Once we got the praise going, things got better, everyone seemed to enjoy the gourd painting, and the Stag Dance went off as well as usual. And as Rodney always says, the omen was good (Ansuz – Sowilo – Perthro), and nobody died. Really, there weren’t even any major flubs, or even minor flubs, in the course of the rite. We didn’t even need to send anyone back to the fire circle because we’d forgotten something up there, and that happens to us at darn near every ritual.

So why the issues at the beginning of the rite? I’m tempted to blame the fact that we did it during the first half of the football game when the Wolverines fell behind 19-0, which must have cause a huge wave of negative energy to engulf all of Ann Arbor. If only we’d done the rite during the second half! Why couldn’t it have been an early game? No, seriously, after talking it over with people after the rite and thinking about it, I’m sure it’s the combination of two issues:

1) It’s the Fall Equinox rite. Nobody ever gets excited about the Fall Equinox rite. It doesn’t have any great, grand associations with ancient traditions (heck, the Wiccans named their version of the holiday after a Welsh mythic figure who had nothing to do with autumn), nor any real correspondence to any current holiday. Even Spring Equinox at least has some Eastery associations for us moderns. Only 18 people showed up for the rite this time, and that’s more than we usually get!

2) More important, I think, is the big change we made to our liturgy. Not the wording of the invocations, but the participation factor. Our Grove has always been one to encourage everyone to take a part in the openings and closings, and shutting everyone out of that had a dampening effect on everyone’s enthusiasm. Until the praise offerings got going, people weren’t involved in the rite, they were merely watching it. I can’t think of any good way to have gotten around that and still done the more formal invocations. (I’m sure having everyone read from scripts would have been just as bad, if not worse – we are so not a script-using Grove.)

Afterwards, Rodney pointed out that his aim in doing the formal stuff was to inspire people to put more thought into how they handle the ritual roles, to show them that their words can be a little more focused and eloquent. I hope that it had that effect, and time will tell. But even more than that, it’s shown me how important it is to have everyone in the rite participate in the ritual roles. It’s up to all of us to make our workings good, to honor the Kindreds and keep our tradition going forward.

(And if you want to perform a ritual role but you don’t know what to say, we do have some standardized ones written on notecards than you can use. We don’t expect everyone to be an improv expert. >8)

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

PS – Our new newsletter is online if you just can’t get enough of our writing!

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Invite to the Fall Formal (Casual Attire Allowed)

I call upon you, o Readers of the Blog, to pay witness to this tale of experiment and of wonder! I ask you to read this most humble exposition of the plans for the coming weekend, and if it please you, to bless this Blog with a comment…

At this past week’s An Bruane, we decided to do something a little different for our High Day rite this time around. Rodney, having attended several festivals during the last month and seen how other Groves do ritual, wanted us to try to use more formal language and a more formal tone of voice in our invocations. So we decided to try it out for Fall Equinox. Rodney and I will handle all of the Invocations ourselves, so our Grovemates don’t have to worry about me pestering them to take ritual roles, except for the three Purifiers. (For those who want to make offerings or give thanks during the Individual Praise section of the rite, don’t worry, we’re not changing that at all.)

Through the years we’ve developed a more casual attitude toward our invocations, and it does seem to work for us. Indeed, the word “ritual” itself does rather imply a consistently repetitive method. >8) But I look forward to trying something new in the context of the Grand Experiment That Is ADF. Worst case, it doesn’t work for us, we learn that it doesn’t work for us, and we don’t do it again. But maybe we’ll discover something new and interesting.

Check back here next week to see how it went!

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

Leaves, Fruit, Power Lines, Everything’s Falling!

Well, it’s been quite a day! Rodney and I traveled out to Trenton to lead the fall ritual for FOCAS, which went pretty well. There were a few problems early on, both of which were entirely my fault: I sang the wrong song for the processional, and started off with the wrong words for the Unity Chant. Lesson to be learned: Since most of the people thee had never heard those chants before, if I hadn’t printed up song sheets, nobody would have noticed that I did anything wrong. After that, the ritual went very well, with Rodney and me handling all of the speaking parts. The light rain that started mid-ritual wasn’t as annoying as the rain that drenched our Summer Solstice rite, indeed I actually liked the cool feeling it brought to the circle. We managed to keep a fire going in the brazier for the entire ritual, using a starter log that Rod picked up, and offered a wheat bouquet (filled out with some of our Grove wheat heads) to Lugh Samildanach, and asked him to bless us with his many talents and skills in our lives. Lots of the FOCAS members told us how much they loved the ritual, which made me fell a lot better, I always worry how folks not familiar with our ritual format will feel about a rite with no quarters called, no energy work, and so on.

After the ritual, the rain increased, and Rodney’s car decided not to start up. The battery was fine, so I’m betting that some part of the electrical system got too much moisture in it. I got a ride home while Rod waited for the tow truck. (A recent e-mail tells me that Rod got home but his car didn’t. Prayers for Rod’s car are encouraged.) Not that my day was without electrical issues, though – shortly after I got home, a power wire snapped loose in front of the house next to mine. No, I didn’t go anywhere hear it (how stupid do you think I… no, don’t answer that) but the bright orange sparks gave quite a show for the whole neighborhood. Our power was back on within minutes but the cable TV is still out, and six hours later there are still DTE trucks outside with people working on it. So yes, quite the odd day since the ritual ended, and I’m still not sure what to make of that, if anything.

I did realize on our way to the ritual site today that I really haven’t said much in this blog about our own Fall Equinox rite, now only a few weeks away now. This was never a big holiday for the ancient Irish, and it’s not one that members of our Grove have ever felt strongly about. Indeed, other than Yule (when people tend to have a lot of other events to go to), it’s probably our least attended High Day. Logically I suppose one of the High Days has to be the least attended, but it’s always surprised me a little that the autumn rite has taken that mantle. Interest in Grove activities always goes up noticeably in early September, at least in terms of how many phone calls and e-mails I get from our members and from interested new folks. And fall is the time of year when it’s finally cool enough for me to be comfortable spending a lot of time outdoors, ,away from the protection of fans or air conditioning. But I guess the temperature issue is more my personal issue. >8)

In past years, we’ve used our Grove’s fall rite to honor the Stag God, who we considered to be the untamed spirit of nature. You may be wondering how or why we can honor an untamed spirit who is by its very nature (ha ha) detached from human society, and, well, in the last few years we’ve wondered that as well. Very few of us ever felt a connection to the Stag God, and so at an An Bruane session a few years ago, we decided to devote the holiday to our river goddess Ana instead. Since we consider her the one who brings life to the animals and plants of the local rivershed, it made sense to honor her at the time of the fruit harvest. Last year’s ritual to her went very well, so we’ll be continuing that new tradition this year.

One holdover from the Stag God days, though, is the Stag Dance. Based loosely on the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance, the ritual leader and three other people willing to mimic animals do an elaborate – well, elaborate by our standards – dance around the ritual circle, kind of like a Morris Dance but by people who can’t really dance. Still, it’s fun, and the Gods seem to like it, so we’re continuing to do it.

This year’s Fall Equinox Ritual is on the 27th, 2 PM (yes it’s a football Saturday so try to get there early if at all possible) at Botsford Preserve (3015 Miller Rd. in Ann Arbor), and anyone reading this is welcome to join us! (Anyone not reading this is also welcome to join us, but somebody had better tell them about it.) And shameless plug time, anyone can sign up for our event announcement list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/slg-announce/

Next week, a report on the amazing new incredible stuff we’ll have discussed at this week’s An Bruane.

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

Related Reading:
The Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance: http://www.soulcakers.com/AB2001/ABBOTTS_BROMLEY.HTM

Saturday’s All Right For Rites (For Everyone Else)

The Wheel of the Year keeps on turning, and autumn is here, with all of the signs of its coming. The air is turning cooler, the streets of Ann Arbor are packed with students wandering about with no regard for traffic, the Lions have lost their first game, and people are calling and e-mailing me about the Grove again. August is over, and people want to devote their time and energy to being Pagan again! Yay!

Another sign that summer is over is that festival season is over. Right now there’s an ADF festival taking part here in Michigan – well, it’s probably over by this time of the day, and people are headed home – but there was a festival this weekend, and once again, between my work schedule and lack of money, I couldn’t go. I have vague memories of back when I had a job as a computer programmer and could afford to go to Wellspring and other festivals, but it seems like a lifetime ago. And lately I’ve been wondering if I’ll ever be in a financial position to do the festival thing again. (Of course, this Grove used to have its own festival right here in this area, but it’s going to be even longer before we have the money to make that happen again.)

On a similar note, the wedding I officiated last week reminded me how little contact I’ve had with any local Pagans outside of my Grove lately. Well, we can argue whether the northern suburbs of Detroit counts as “local” to Ann Arbor, and I honestly don’t know of any other open Pagan groups that are close to Ann Arbor, and I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. >8) (Any other open Pagan groups in Ann Arbor should feel free to contact me and tell me of their existence, really.)

And with a job that requires me to work on Saturdays, a lot of the area events I could otherwise attend are closed to me. Pagan Pride Day in Detroit this years sounds like it will be good (the planned display of multiple altars sounds fascinating), but it’s on a Saturday, so no Rob. The Jackson area Unitarian church has invited me to an event where various religions will give workshops and such, but again, if it’s on Saturday no, Rob. Heck, I can’t even get every SLG High Day off from work, usually I have to go in and work in the morning, and believe me there are better ways to mentally prepare to lead a ritual than going to work.

Of course, being the Senior Druid of my Grove, I’ve always felt that my main responsibility is to the members of my Grove, and I don’t have enough time and energy to tend to my Grove’s needs and go gallivanting about around southeastern Michigan visiting everyone else. Heck, I’m how far behind on redesigning our Web page, or even adding the last few rituals? Not to mention those eleven remaining courses I need to write up in order to maintain my ADF Clergy status… But now this is sounding all dark and brooding, and that really wasn’t my intent. I’m just a little sad that I can’t do more for my Grove and my community, but until they start paying me a salary to be a Druid priest, I have to make do.

However – and here’s where the article gets a little happier >8) – once in a while, someone actually does schedule an event on a Sunday rather than a Saturday, and I can actually manage to be there. The good folks at FOCAS (the Federation Of Circles And Solitaries) invited us to lead their “Mabon” ritual next Sunday, and we’re taking them up on it. (Step One: Telling them all why we don’t call the ritual “Mabon”. >8) If you’re in the Wyandotte area next Sunday, please do stop by and join us for the ritual. I’m definitely looking forward to doing a ritual by the banks of the Detroit River, seeing some old folks I haven’t seen in a while, and meeting some folks I don’t know yet. I’m sure it will be worth the trip!

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