(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