The First Decade (and a half) Of Many

As with any High Day, the week before is a flurry of activity for me, Beltaine perhaps moreso since there’s so much more involved. Besides the ritual planning on Tuesday night, and getting my own personal offerings ready (given my former status as Grove Fool, I do set a higher standard for myself on this particular holiday), and trying to get a new issue of our parody newsletter put together (I have a few ideas, but probably not enough for a whole two-sheeter), and packing my bags for an overnight stay at Botsford, plus the increase in phone calls and e-mails that people tend to send right before the big holidays, well, it can be intimidating and thrilling all at once. Like climbing the first hill of a roller coaster. So no long article this week, but I will reprint the article I wrote for Shining Lakes News five years ago, to note our Grove’s tenth anniversary. This month marks the fifteenth anniversary of the creation of our nemeton, our first public rite, and our provisional charter from ADF. Even with as much work as we’ve put into this rand Experiment of ours, it still takes my breath away to realize that we’ve kept it going for so long. I hope that most of you can join us this coming weekend for one or more of our Beltaine-y activities!

May of 1994. The Chunnel was officially opened, connecting the lands where the ancient Gauls and Britons once lived. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first Black president of South Africa. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis passed away. And Michael Fay received his caning in Singapore. Okay, so not everything that happens in a particular month is of long-term importance. But one thing happened that may not have made as many headlines as the Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley wedding, but had a profound effect on my life, and probably yours as well. Shining Lakes Grove received its official provisional charter from ADF, and held its first ritual at our nemeton at Botsford Recreational Preserve.

Here’s how Fox, our founding Senior Druid, described the making and blessing of the nemeton and that first ritual:

Toward the end of April we began to gather enough regulars that we were able to start working on our Nemeton site. It is located just outside of Ann Arbor in the middle of a 20-acre mature forest. It is on private property and our landlord is willing to put up with such things as fires, drumming, nudity [not true any longer about the nudity, though, and no, I don’t know why!-Rob], etc and we can advertise its location. He does charge us a fee to use the site though.

Before we began any work to modify the site we held a ritual to claim the right to do so. (7 attendees) We had an extremely powerful ritual and seemed to have made very good contact. We consecrated the site, made offerings to the local land spirits, the spirits of the peoples who once lived there, and the Gods that they worshipped (in other words we used no Indo-European Godforms or ancestors due to the intention of the rite, this was probably the only time that we will work with these local spirits). We informed them of our intentions and asked for their acceptance of us in their midst. Our omen taker was so dumb-struck by the energies that we had contacted that he declared that there was no need to cast runes, we could all feel a strong sense of connection and acceptance from the land and the spirits.

We cleared the underbrush from the natural clearing where our site is located. We erected an 18′ , made a fire pit, dug an offering shaft, and erected a gateway using two 6′ sections cut from the top of the bilé (more on them later). The site has a large stone (about 2′ tall) sticking out of the ground on the edge of the clearing which became our Mother Earth Altar/Shrine. [This was before we had contacted Ana and were still using the standard Earth Mother concept.-Rob]

On 5/7 we held our Beltane ritual. It was a bit of a difficult affair because we were POURED on through most of the ritual. We built a large shelter over part of the ceremonial grounds and about a dozen brave souls carried out the ritual. We danced (sloshed) the May Pole (Mud Pole) and even had a mythological pantomime in the rain. I was kind of disappointed because things didn’t go off very smoothly but a few of the members seemed to get a fair amount from it. If nothing else it was a good opportunity to strengthen the bonds within the Grove through adversity and we gave birth to a new Pagan saying . . . So MUD it be!

And later that month at Wellspring, we officially received our Provisional Charter. Now here we are, nearly ten years later, and we just received our Full Charter. Fast as a speeding oak, right?

The first few local pagan groups I was involved with didn’t last their first year, so it still fills me with awe that this one has lasted so long. I really believe that we are blessed by our Gods, our Ancestors, and the Nature Spirits. And I feel blessed to have so many wonderful people in this Grove, through the years and right this minute, who have kept this Grove going through good times and bad. We’ve contacted our local river goddess and our tribal gods, we’ve done eighty public High Day rituals, and we’ve shared what we’ve learned with our local community and our remote friends on the Internet. May the Kindreds continue to bless us and our work for decades to come!

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

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