The Meta-Article, or, Blog on Blog

Even though Danu’s blanket of snow melted yesterday (we hit 61 degrees???), this is still a good time of year to be introspective, to take stock of one’s life situation and to make decisions about what to do next. And maybe even to make some resolutions.

So here we are, nearly one year after I began this experimental online presence. It was quite a year in non-pagan news, of course, between elections and economic crises, but this isn’t a political or financial blog. I talked about my Grove and our practices and my own take on a few paganish issues. People read the blog – well, maybe they did, it’s hard to tell >8) – but this still leaves the question of whether I should keep on doing it. I promised myself when I began that I’d do weekly entries for a year, and that year will be done in a couple of weeks. So should I continue, or should I formally end the experiment and do something else with my time instead?

I can’t deny that there are other things I could be doing with this weekly writing time, which might or might not be more important, depending on who you ask. I’m all too aware that every hour I spend writing these entries is an hour I’m not getting my Clergy Training Program work done, and getting that done is not only important to me, but as of October I’ve kinda sorta promised the Clergy Council that I would. Once that year is up, I haven’t promised anyone more blogging. And I suspect that my Grove would rather have me be an official ADF clergyperson than have a blog that most of them don’t even read.

Who does read this blog, then? If I’m going by the number of responses posted, it’s pretty much just Michael and Liz. >8) I kid, of course. I’ve been doing online conversations for over twenty years, and I certainly know by now that a lack of responses doesn’t imply a lack of readers. A lot of responses only means that the article in question was either controversial or whiny. (And that’s not a whiny request for replies to this article, but if you want to interpret it that way and actually post a response, go for it!) The intended readership I’ve always kept in mind were two groups: people in this area who don’t know much about what our Grove is and does; and ADF members from other parts of the world who want some insight into what our Grove is and does, especially those who are just getting their own Grove or Protogrove started. Sort of an inspiration to others, or maybe a warning.

So what options do I have now?

* End it now. A little sad, but it would free up my time to do other things.

* Stop doing weekly entries, but just post whenever I feel like it. Given my schedule these days, that would give the same results as “end it now”, but would be less honest. I don’t want people coming here looking for new stuff, finding nothing, and assuming our Grove is defunct or at least inactive.

* Do monthly posts instead of weekly. This would free up some of my time, but would people bother to follow monthly blogs? I don’t think I’ve even seen such a thing.

* Get someone else in SLG to write it. If anyone else had ever expressed any interest in writing posts for this blog, this might be a viable option. >8)

* Keep doing weekly posts, but make them shorter. Actually I like this suggestion (credit to Gen for it), the real question is whether I can keep my mouth, er, my typing hand quiet enough to do it. >8)

* Keep doing weekly posts as before. The big question for this one is whether I want to keep devoting that level of time and effort to it. The two other questions here being, (a) do I really have enough to say to do this for another year? And (b) what about the articles where I talk about our upcoming High Day, and our past traditions for that High Day? Do I just post last year’s article, or do I spend my time writing another article with pretty much the exact same content? I can see either one of those getting annoying.

And my decision… will be posted here in a few weeks. Be back here then!

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

PS – In a further effort to expand our online presence in the hopes of keeping our activity level semi-high between High Days, I invite my Grovemates and everyone else to follow me on Twitter, which I’m enjoying a lot more than I expected. I still hate instant messaging, but I like this less-intrusive system. I’m also open to suggestions on which social networking site, if any, to have a Grove presence on. I spend next to no time on social networking sites, between my lack of time for such things and my dialup connection, but I’d like to explore the possibility and would love to hear from the people who actually use them.

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The Little, Teeny, Tiny, Itty, Bitty, Weenie… Ritual

Friday night, after delivering flowers during and after the worst snow storm we’ve had so far this fall – yes, technically it was still autumn! – and not having any problems getting Gen’s car through the snow, Gen and I went to Rod and Liz’s house to make the ornaments for the ritual. We were the only ones who showed up, which was probably for the best, as we couldn’t get Gen’s car back up the slightly inclined but still snow-covered roads that led out of their subdivision. Rod and Liz helped us push the car all the way out of the subdivision, which took about an hour. The main roads were well cleared by that point, but then the car’s transmission started acting up, and it took as another hour to get home. Rod posted on his LiveJournal that he was worried about getting his own car out of the neighborhood with the ritual props the next day, and that he thought the ritual might actually be cursed. I replied that once we were actually at the ritual and got things going, everything would be fine. And yes, I actually believed it. >8)

I was concerned about attendance, of course, as I am every Yule. This is always our least attended ritual of the year, as people do have a lot of other things to deal with, and the Grove is never going to be the top life priority for most of our members, and that’s fine. But with the huge snow the day before, even knowing the roads in Ann Arbor would be navigable by Saturday afternoon, I knew that we’d probably have an even lower turnout than usual. But I’m the Senior Druid, and it’s my job to make sure the rituals to honor our gods actually happen, and I’ve always said that if I was the one and only person to show up for the ritual, then I’d go ahead and do the whole thing myself.

I did catch a lucky break Saturday morning. Chuck and Jude weren’t able to bring their usual donation of a Yule tree for the rite, but I had enough time in the morning to stop by English Gardens and find a pretty nice two foot tree for $20. If I hadn’t found that, we’d have had to use the Norfolk pine that we have at work, and that just looks way too much like a palm tree for us to use at a Yule rite! I got to the ritual site at about 1:35, way later than I’d have liked (especially for the one ritual we hold in a building we need a key to open), but I was still the first one there. Uh-oh?

No worries, Rod was there shortly after (his streets did get plowed at some point overnight), and we got everything set up. A few people did arrive, and we ended up with a grand total of… ten celebrants. Tied for the lowest attendance we’ve had at a High Day since I joined the Grove (and that was the one ritual we postponed to a Sunday due to rain), but I took it as a welcome challenge. I’ve always said that Danu’s blessing of snow during the winter was a lesson to us about slowing things down and spending more time indoors with friends and family, and here we were, friends (and one married couple so I guess we were family in the literal sense as well) gathered together indoors to celebrate. So what the heck!

The ritual itself was very nice. No, really. Yule is always one of our low energy rituals (even by our standards), so I didn’t find the lack of people a problem in that regard. We did the invocations, we gave our praise… And that’s the funny thing, out of ten people present, nine of them spoke during the individual praise. When we have thirty people at a rite, we’re lucky to get nine of them to speak up. Hmm. Small rituals might not be as bad as I thought? Anyway, then we decorated the tree with the ornaments that we’d made the night before and struggled so hard to get home. And the omen was good (Nauthiz – Laguz – Othala), and the ritual felt good. Not “powerful”, but I don’t think that’s the point of a Yule ritual. We were together and we were happy – and as Rodney adds, no one died – so other than a few more folks to share it with, what more could I want?

After the ritual, we had our usual potluck, and all good food too, mostly homemade stuff in crockpots, none of the usual everyone bringing cookies and chips. What do I have to do to get people to bring food this good to an outdoor ritual? Oh, right, we’d need an electrical outlet in the middle of the forest. Never mind. >8) Discussion turned to the auto industry’s woes, as it often does among those who live this close to Detroit, but still, the conversation was lively and good. Even the parts about how the Lions are doing this year. It was a great time, and I’m still sorry that so many folks missed it. Hopefully we’ll have better weather for Imbolc, and next December we’ll move the Yule ritual forward one week so hopefully it won’t conflict with as many holiday plans.

Next week – to continue this blog after one full year, or not to continue it? That is my question.

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

Interesting Interfaith Intermingling

Alas, I am home late, thanks to the annual work holiday party. It was fun (my fingers are still hurting from Guitar Hero) but this leaves me little time to get an article written.

I should at least briefly mention the little speechy thing I did at the Washtenaw Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network‘s interfaith service last Sunday. I was quite surprised to get the phone call from them back in October asking me to be a presenter, and even more surprised when they e-mailed me the event announcement saying that I was one of four speakers for a two hour event. Er, what? Was I expected to talk for half an hour??? One e-mail exchange later, I was relieved to find out that I was only expected to talk for five minutes or so. Phew.

Sunday came, and I was there, as were about eighteen other people. Oh dear! I was expecting a much larger audience than that! But I guess that’s a fair turnabout, after all the people who have come to Grove events expecting a hundred people at our rituals, or a few dozen people at Fire Watch, or eight people at our business meetings. (Ha!) I’m sure they wanted more people to be there, but with finals week looming, I’m sure most of the folks on campus had other things on their minds. At least the indoor event had more people that the outdoor candlelight vigil they did earlier that day, which I’m told lasted for all of ten minutes before the few people who braved the cold decided to head indoors.

And it’s a pity that so few people were there, not just because they missed my brilliant comments on a Druid perspective on compassion toward those with HIV (if I do say so myself), but they missed a lot of good stuff. There was a lovely gospel song to start us off, and then the rabbi in charge of the U of M Hospital’s chaplain service quoted the Torah, and a Hindu priestess quoted the Bhagavad Gita, showing that their holy texts called for compassion rather than condemnation. It was very moving and I’m very sorry there weren’t more folks there to experience it.

At the event, they were collecting food for the HIV/AIDS Resource Center, and I’m going to recommend to the Grove Leadership Council that we do one of our two annual food drives for them. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t lost any of my own friends or family to AIDS, but I know what a dreadful epidemic it has been, spiritually as well as medically, and I’d like to see us do something to help, even something small.

As for the contents of my speechy thing, I would share them here, but I’m saving them for my article in Shining Lakes News next weekend. Keep an eye out for it!

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

Here We Come a’ Ritualing

So here I am, getting ready for my five (thank the gods it wasn’t thirty) minute speechy thing at the WIHAN event tonight, and trying to look nice for it (today is the first time in over ten years that I’ve used an iron), and then I remember that I have a blog entry to write as well? This is what comes from working six days a week and then trying to get everything else done on Sundays.

Yule! Our Grove’s next High Day is less than two weeks away now. This is the one High Day of the year that we hold at the ICC Ed Center, a lovely space that has hosted many pagan and similar events throughout the years. The first public pagan rituals I attended were held there, sponsored by the (now long defunct) Ann Arbor CUUPS chapter. It’s also been the site for a weekly shamanic journeys group, which is apparently still running there after nearly twenty years! It’s a free site for us to use, which does have an appeal, but there’s no on-site parking, which lowers the opinions of just about everyone in SLG except for the Treasurer. The fact that we can’t use candles is also a concern, fortunately we have several LED and other electric candles which look good. But still, I don’t think this will ever be our first choice for a ritual site. The reason we use it for Yule is that the Friends Meeting (site of our other indoor rites) just doesn’t have a free Saturday in December for us to rent it out. Oddly enough, they actually have their own December holiday events that they like to use their space for. >8) (We actually could rent the Friends’ basement on most Sundays in December, but every time I bring up the possibility of having the Yule ritual on a Sunday, my Grovemates stare confusedly at me as though I’d grown a third head. So Saturday at the Ed Center it is!)

The ritual itself is fairly light. We honor Danu as our primal water mother, and honor her presence in the land as snow, which we almost always have for Yule. Be warned, Rodney has been known to throw snowballs at people as a form of votive worship! We also mention Bel, our primal sun father, as we honor him for his presence (weakened as it is this time of year) in the form of sunlight, and celebrate the knowledge that his strength and light will grow in the coming months.

Since much of our mainstream culture’s Christmas celebration uses symbols that were originally pagan, we take advantage of this and use these symbols in our rite. We bring in a small live tree and decorate it with ornaments, we sing “Deck the Halls” and “Here We Come a’ Wassailing”, and of course there’s our own special Yule custom, “Danu’s Wave of Power”, which is a closely guarded secret and only those who attend our ritual get to find out what it is. Heh heh.

The one kinda sad thing about our Yule rites is that they’re far and away our least attended rites of the year. The winter solstice wasn’t a huge holiday for the Celts, and with the busyness and distraction of the season that we all have to deal with (holiday parties and family gatherings and long hours at work for those of us in retail), a lot of our regulars can’t always be there. The bright side of this is, it’s the perfect time for Grove members who want to lead a ritual for the first time, since both the complexity of the ritual and the intensity of the energy flow are minimal. It’s too late for me to take a volunteer to run the rite this year, but if you’re interested in such things, keep it in mind for next year!

And that’s Yule in a nutshell. Next week, I’ll write about, er, something else.

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