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