This past Friday night, we made a group outing to our permanent Manannan shrine, in the wild woods of the Waterloo Recreation Area of western Washtenaw County. Jude had suggested that a summer spiritual event would go over well, and despite my concerns about the insect population being a tad higher in July than in October (our usual shrine-visit month), I agreed. So six of us (me, Gen, Matt, Kestrel, Mike, and Rodney) drove out to Dexter and beyond, and after a few wrong turns, we found the lake. Oddly, Jude was quite absent and hadn’t called us. I assumed that she had made some weird deal involving offering our blood to the local mosquitoes, but the several insect repellent sprays that we brought along actually did a good job of holding them off.
For those who haven’t been there yet (which I assume is most of my five readers, so at least three of you), the shrine is a semi-circle that juts out into a lake, with a ring of trees forming a rough circle around the edge of this peninsula and the land behind it. We discovered it during one of our Fall Hunts when the troupe found a camping spot uphill from the lake and went down to get water. We thought the liminal nature of the site made it a perfect place to honor our Grove’s god of boundaries and gatekeeping.
As is our custom, we walked down the path (or the closest thing I could find to a path from where we’d parked) until we were directly uphill from the shrine area. I walked down and made a triangle out of sticks on the ground, then motioned the others to approach and make food offerings to the local Nature Spirits. Most folks hadn’t brought anything, but I had enough apples to cover everyone. We went back to the path (which we’d actually found by that point), waited for a sign of approval from the Nature Spirits, or at least an absence of any hugely negative sign, and after a few minutes of bird calls and frog croaks, took it as an affirmative.
We walked back down to the shrine, where we found the rock we used as an offering table still there, but could find the string of bells and SLG necklace that we’d hung from some of the trees. (We’ll need to bring new ones next time.) We made offerings to Manannan (silver from Kestrel, flowers from Gen, and more apples from me) and spent time looking out into the lake, and listening to the bird calls, and spotting a frog that thought we couldn’t see it because it wasn’t moving, and Gen pointed out a long series of spider webs coming down from one of the trees, a site we would never be able to see in October. It was also odd to be there well before sundown, the place was much more brightly lit than I’m used to, but the not-quite-sunset did look lovely. No cranes or herons, though, as we usually see on October. Was it too early in the daylight or too early in the year?
Anyway, after a little while we said our goodbyes to Manannan and the Nature Spirits, and headed back up to the path – where Jude was walking down toward us. Aww, it wasn’t an elaborate trick after all! She’d been kept late at work and, silly thing, didn’t think of calling us to let us know. Then again, calling might not have helped much at that point. Not only did my ancient cell phone not manage to get one bar, but Matt’s didn’t either. I was hoping to post the GPS coordinates of the shrine for those interested in seeking it out themselves, but it looks like the location will remain shrouded in Manannan’s fog for a while longer!
Speaking of such things, I was at least going to try to post a satellite photo from Google Maps, but figuring out the exact location isn’t easy with the resolution they have for that area. I’ve made my best guess here, based on what appears to be the path we walk to get there – but for years we’ve been saying that the shrine was actually on Island Lake, and this location is actually on the small unmarked lake to its east. I’m thinking that this must be the right one, because there are no houses visible from the shrine circle, but if we were on the southeast part of Island Lake we’d be able to see several. More of Manannan’s fog? Maybe part of the way we earn the right to use the shrine is just finding the darn thing in the first place?
After we all headed out, mostly bug-free, we went to the A&W in Dexter, but they closed two minutes before we got there, so instead we went to the New Garden Buffet in Ann Arbor (a personal favorite of mine) for Chinese food and conversation. We all said our good-byes to Mike, who will be heading to Arkansas this week for his new job, and headed home.
For those of you who missed out, I’m planning on using our October An Bruane for a return visit, to place a new necklace and new bells on the trees, and maybe collect some water for use in the evening Samhain ritual.
Next weekend, I’ll either write something deep and meaningful about the nature of paganism and working with other groups, or I’ll complain about how nobody showed up to Druidic Mini-Golf again. If my five readers don’t want to hear me complain, at least two of you had better show up! >8)
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF
PS – Rodney took many photos, when I have access to them I’ll post a comment here.