Have You Hugged Your River Lately?

Alas, I know I promised an article about the nature of the “Pagan community” and my (and our Grove’s) role in it, but I’m not feeling up to it right now. Maybe I went and picked a topic that was way too big and ambiguous – which would be ironic, given that that’s going to be a major point in said article! I’ll aim to have that one posted here next week. In the meantime, with spring nearly here and my thoughts turning to being outside and visiting Ana, I’ll repost this article that I wrote absolutely ages ago for the Seeker Journal. Enjoy!

When I was a child growing up in Sumpter Township, I was lucky enough to live a mile away from the entrance to the Lower Huron Metropark. This put me within easy biking distance of the Huron River. On many a summer day, I would go out and spend time sitting by the river, just watching it flow quietly by.

I ended up going to the University of Michigan, which felt like it was far away from my childhood home. But it wasn’t, because that same Huron River went through the Arboretum, just off of campus. Any time when I was feeling cut off from my past, I could go sit on one of the huge rocks by the river’s edge and see the water flowing by, on its way to the Metropark, and my home.

I’ve lived in several different houses and apartments since I graduated, and every one has been within a mile of the Huron. At one house, I had to walk over a bridge crossing the river in order to get to the laundromat and wash my clothes. There were a few times when I thought, if I could just use a washboard here, I could save myself some walking! The apartment I live in now is just a few hundred yards from the banks of the river in Ypsilanti, and I often walk out to visit.

Back in 1995, I attended a Shining Lakes Grove ritual for the first time. I knew next to nothing about the group, and the ritual structure was not what I was used to. I didn’t think that I had much in common with them! Fortunately, I did stick around and ask questions, and I found out that one of the deities worshipped by the group was Ana, the goddess of the Huron River. Wow! After all this time, I had finally found other people who felt the same way I did. Since then, I’ve been finding new ways to develop my relationship with the Huron, from doing environmental work for the local watershed council, to traveling to the river’s source and meditating, to simply tapping my forehead whenever I drive over the river, my own way of saying hello to Ana.

I know that not everyone who reads this lives in the Huron’s watershed, but you probably have some river or lake nearby. If you don’t already do so, I recommend that you get out there and spend some quality time with it. Clean up the litter, if there is any, or splash around on a summer day, or just sit quietly and commune. Remember that without water, there can be no life.

(If you’d like to contact the Huron River Watershed Council, you can reach them at 734-761-5123 or lrubin@hrwc.org . If you want to find out what watershed you live in, contact your local EPA office, or visit http://www.epa.gov/surf/ )

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

P.S. – Since I wrote this article, the HRWC had gotten itself a Web site: http://www.hrwc.org/ . The EPA site has a new URL, but the old URL up there will point you to it.

I’ve Brought You Some Roses Mistaken For Lilies

No huge, grand article this time around. Those of you who know me personally know that I work for a flower shop, and that I’ve just managed to survive three fourteen-plus hour workdays in a row, which didn’t leave me a lot of time to write, or even think about writing. Those of you who don’t know me personally, well now you know at least that much about me!

One amusing thing did happen last night that’s worth noting here. My very lastest delivery of the day was to one of our local hospitals. I did the usual, went up to the room, knocked on the door, went in, and found an older woman lying in bed with her family seated around her. I asked her name to make sure I was in the right room, asked where she wanted me to put the flowers, put the flowers down in the appointed place, and turned to leave. “Wait,” one of the family members said. I turned back to them, a bit puzzled. One of the seated women asked me, “Aren’t you the pastor?” I was tempted to say, “Well I am a sort of pastor, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the pastor you were waiting for!” I just said, “No, I’m the flower guy” and left. So there you have it, even wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and carrying flowers around, I apparently still look like a clergyperson. The real question is, the next time I make a pastoral visit to a Pagan patient, will they mistake me for a florist?

For those of you who will be at ConVocation in a few days, enjoy! I won’t be able to attend myself, but many of my Grovemates will, including Rodney Cox who will be giving a few classes. I’m still hoping that with a little planning and a lot of donations, we can have some kind of official SLG presence there next year. In the meantime, since I can only be at ConVo in spirit, I’ll write an article in the spirit of that community and consider the nature of joint efforts between pagan groups.

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

Bríd, Bríd. Come To Our House, Come To Our House Tonight!

(I apologize in advance for any typoes this time around, my desktop PC decided not to reboot after I did MS updates last week, so I’m forced to use my laptop, which does not favor my huge fingers. I’m still hoping I can get the desktop functional again soon, if not I so have to buy an adapter so I can use a real keyboard on this thing.)

So the weekend started off with a typically unattended Fire Lighting Ceremony at Rod’s house. Not that I can’t blame folks for missing this one, the Yule and Spring ones have fun craft projects to draw people in, but this one doesn’t really have a super special activity for folks to take part in, beyond putting the Bratach Brid outside for the night, which took a whole thirty seconds. Memo to self: Come up with a group activity for next year’s Imbolc fire lighting. Even if it involves group meditation. >8)

Saturday arrived, and after a brief stop at work, I managed to get to the ritual site at 1:20. Fortunately I’d gotten the Kinko’s trip and ritual prop buying done early, so I was about as relaxed as I could possibly be when getting to the ritual site only forty minutes early. >8) Rodney was already there and getting altars set up, so that went fairly smoothly. Kestrel got there around 1:30, and then nobody else for there before about 1:50. “So much for the publicity push”, I was thinking to myself. I’d added Grove presences to Live Journal and MySpace and Facebook, and also posted to the various local pagan e-mail lists, plus WitchVox and Motor City Pagans and the places we usually post to. I figured, if this was a ritual for our goddess of community, we should make an extra effort to get people to show up. So some might worry about having three people at the site ten minutes before the scheduled starting time. But I’ve been around long enough to know better. Twenty minutes later, we had about twenty people there. Huzzah! Asking the folks who I didn’t recognize, some of them found us from WitchVox, more saw our posting on the local e-mail lists, and LJ, mS, and FB got us a combined total of zero attendees. Ah well. At least it didn’t cost us anything!

So we got started at our usual 2:45-ish. At Kestrel’s suggestion we turned off the overhead lights and turned on the lamps that had been places around the space. The opening went smoothly, everyone who volunteered knew what to do and the energy flow was smooth and mellow, just as I like it for a public rite. Unfortunately I had to do the Brid invocation and also get the corn dolly from its hiding place, so we didn’t exactly pull off the amazing “make the dolly appear while nobody is looking” feat, but then after not having a Brídeog this year, that may be appropriate. I’ve always associated that reveal and having everyone chant with our Grove’s Brídeog, but that may just be me. Anyway, once the dolly was in her place of honor, the individual praise offerings went well, we got quite a few nice things said out loud in the ritual space, it wasn’t just me this time!

For group praise, we did the same thing as last year, passing a nice solid loaf of Italian bread and a knife, and having everyone cut a piece for themselves, as a celebration of Bríd’s smithing and housekeeping (baking) aspects. Kestrel let us use a knife that she got during her years in California, and it was quite pretty and a lot sharper than I was expecting. No injuries though. >8) As the main sacrifice we offered a Bríd Cross to the dolly, to be place in the river later. Rodney took the omen: Uruz – Hagalaz – Jeran, so “strength will help us overcome difficulty this year”. A good omen, and we had four return blessings to take. This was the part of the rite I was worried about, logistically speaking. Passing things around the circle too many times is seldom a good idea. The first part was easy, everyone ate the bread they had already cut. No object passing required! Next we took turns holding the knife over the candle flame on the Bríd altar and asked (silently or aloud) for blessings on our own personal projects for the coming year. Then we used the water from the Well to bless items we brought, I’d suggested candles in my e-mail, but I think I was the only one who brought any. We had a few spare candles which we handed to folks who wanted them. Both of those return blessings ran fairly smoothly, people either did or didn’t want to take part and weren’t hesitant about it, so that worked well. The final return blessing was cutting up the cloth we’d laid outside the night before. Dot was kind enough to cut it into pieces, and I decided to go ahead with the community announcements rather than wait and let everyone stare at Dot for ten minutes. Yes, it’s sort of fooling with the ritual order, but I’ve never thought that boring people honored the gods. The flow of the ritual through the return flow actually went better than I’d expected. Good stuff!

After the ritual, folks stuck around for a good ninety minutes before most of them dispersed, I don’t know whether we can claim any grand coup for that, but at least we didn’t scare them off! Many of the new folks came up to me afterwards and said how much they liked the ritual, so I’m glad our Druid “way of rite” is being well received. As I said during the ritual’s statement of purpose, it’s always a challenge trying to adapt an old Irish holiday that was centered around household practices and apply it to a modern Neo-Pagan public ritual, but I think that our efforts on this High Day produced both a good ritual and, in the long run, a stronger local pagan community. Praise Bríd!

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

No Title Comes To Mind

No amazingly brilliant subjects to cover this week. Of course,m after being up late Friday night/Saturday morning getting one of my Clergy Training Program courses written before the deadline, I’m not really in a mood to type much now. >8) I cancelled the Brídeog because only one person signed up for it. I’m at least heartened that a lot of people told me they wanted to take part but that there were scheduling conflicts, so at least there’s not a complete lack of interest in continuing this tradition. Hopefully we’ll pick a better date for next year, and maybe this will give us a chance to re-examine the Brídeog and see if we can make it better serve our community. Not that I personally have any problem with it, but when we’ve been doing something the same way for ten years, we should at least be asking ourselves if we need to do something different.

I just got back from watching thr Super Bowl with Gen’s family, and I continue to think that this is as close to a Roman civic ritual as our culture currently has. The eyes of the world upon it, the color guard and fighter jet flyover, the President calling the winner on the phone… I wonder, if the ancient Romans had lasted long enough to have televisions and communications satellites, would they all be holding huge parties in their households to watch the big chariot race?

Anyway, I’ll have something longer and more inspirational for this blog next week.

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

PS – If you’re in the area, don’t forget that our Imbolc rite is next Saturday! Yes, everyone is welcome to attend, and if you’re reading this, you are by definition a part of “everyone”. As always, check http://www.shininglakes.bravehost.com/schedule.html for our full schedule, and click on the location of any event to get directions.