And Most Ancient Greeks Didn’t Live In Ancient Greece Either, They Lived In Tacoma

While I do watch a fair amount of television, somehow or another I’d managed to miss every episode of the History Channel‘s new “Clash of the Gods” series. I’d heard about it from Gen and a few other folks in my Grove, and a few people on the e-mail list for ADF’s Hellenic Kin had mentioned it, with mixed opinions. Well, “mixed” until the airing of the episode about Hades a few weeks ago, which prompted Gen to send me a message at 1:30 AM containing more obscenities than I’ve ever heard out of her in one sitting. And the other folks who had liked the earlier episodes were a lot more hesitant in their praise for that one. So I sat down with my laptop at work (after the deliveries were done, of course – watching videos while driving is not on my list of fun things to do!) and saw it for myself.

I’ll say a few nice things about it: Despite what I was expecting, I kinda liked the effect of the weird contact lenses on the actors playing the gods. They’re often described as having shining eyes, and I thought that worked. The “voodoo doll” description was accurate, check out Fritz Graf’s Magic in the Ancient World if you want to learn more. And this bits about Orpheus were decent, though I’d have preferred a little more discussion about what happened to Orpheus *after* the Eurydice thing, and the existence and importance of the Orphic cult in the ancient world.

But man oh man, the scholarship on this was terrible. Over the years, I’ve heard very mixed reviews of the History Channel’s accuracy in its programming, and now that I’ve suffered through this episode, I can see why. From least annoying to me, to most:

“There were no temples to Hades in the ancient world, because they were so afraid of him.”

Close to true. Hades certainly wasn’t the most popular kid in the metaphorical Olympus High School, and wouldn’t have won any popularity contests. But there was at least one temple to him and Persephone that we know of. (Hek, it was easy enough for me to find on Google: see http://gogreece.about.com/od/weirdgreece/ig/Nekromanteion/ or http://www.greeceathensaegeaninfo.com/destinations-greece-nekromanteion.htm) (Also see Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 114-115) As for how they felt about Hades, I’ll return to that a bit later.

“The Greeks never made offerings to Hades or Persephone.”

Wrong-o. In addition to the temple mentioned above, many temples had altars for making offerings to them, often the grave site of a hero. (Burkert, p. 202) And since Hades was ruler of the earth, he had dominion over the metals and gems found within, so artisans who worked with those substances would make offerings to those gods for help with their vocations.

“The myth of Persephone staying with Hades for three months was the Greek’s way of explaining why they couldn’t grow crops in the winter.”

That would work out great – if this was a myth from northern Europe. In Greece, as in most of the Mediterranean, crops are planted in the fall and grown in the winter, otherwise the summer heat would damage them. (Burkert, p. 160) I suppose you can try to justify it as an explanation of why they couldn’t grow crops in the summer, but then the show’s visuals of wind and snow wouldn’t make a Hek of a lot of sense.

“Most ancient Greeks didn’t practice infanticide, so that’s why Kronos eating his children was so abhorrent to them, because infanticide was abhorrent to them.”

A-bu-wa-HUH??? I literally rewound the video file to make sure I’d heard that correctly. A woman named Kristina Milnor, apparently not just a professor at Barnard College but head of the Classics Department there, said that. And I’m spent much time since seeing that wondering how anyone who thinks that has a degree, never mind a professorship. (Maybe they recorded the piece on “Opposite Day”?) The only more incorrect statement she could have made was, “Most ancient Greeks didn’t speak ancient Greek.” Of course the Greeks practiced infanticide! The Spartans actually had their city council vote on whether a newborn baby would be allowed to live, and the rejects either became slaves or just got thrown into a pit called the Apothetai, “place of throwaways”. The Athenians left that decision to the father, who had up to seven days to decide whether to let their child live or die. Those who were thrown away were left out in the wilderness outside the city, where the Fates might spare them by letting someone save and adopt them. Zaidman and Pantel, Religion in the Ancient Greek City, p. 64-65) This tradition of infant exposure features prominently in many Greek myths, including one about an obscure character names “Oedipus”, presumably one that Professor Milnor has not learned about in her extensive studies. No, folks, the eating of children was abhorrent to them because it’s cannibalism, not because it’s infanticide. Indeed, I can think of no better way to refute Milnor’s claim that to quote:

The historical Greeks considered barbarous the practice of adult and child sacrifice. However, exposure of newborns was widely practiced in ancient Greece. In Greece the decision to expose a child was typically the father’s, although in Sparta the decision was made by a group of elders. Exposure was the preferred method of disposal, as that act in itself was not murder; moreover, the exposed child technically had a chance of being rescued by the gods or any passersby. This very situation was a recurring motif in Greek mythology.

Yep, folks, that’s right. Wikipedia got it right, and Milnor didn’t.

Even more frustrating to me personally, though – and I know that not everyone will agree with me on this – was the constant references to Christianity throughout this episode (and the other episodes in the series, according to Gen and others I’ve talked to). Why do they have to keep comparing Hades to Satan? Why oh why do they actually cite the Book of Revelations and claim that it applies to Greek Gods? And I’m told that in an earlier episode, they claimed that the worship of Zeus was kind of like monotheism, and prepared the Greeks for the coming of Christianity. ‘Scuse me? Even the Greeks didn’t think that Zeus was omnipotent, being subject to the will of the Fates – and yet Zeus could occasionally thwart their will to save a mortal. (see http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Moirai.html) Nobody’s really omnipotent in this worldview.

And yet some of my fellow Hellenic Kin members said on the mailing list that even if the content was somewhat – or wildly (no infanticide???) – inaccurate, that it’s just good that the stories of our gods and our Ancestors of Spirit are being shown on TV. With respect to my Kinmates, no. No, it’s not good. I don’t worry much about what other people say about my gods, I figure that the gods are powerful enough to take care of themselves, and if they’re not, then I need to go find some new gods! But spreading such lies and half-truths about the ways of the ancients doesn’t honor them, and it certainly doesn’t help us modern Neo-Pagans who are trying to explain our ways to our families and friends and neighbors. Yes, I know I complained last year in this blog about people overreacting to a comment from Kathy Lee Gifford. But nobody thinks that Kathy Lee Gifford is an expert on classical studies. Lots of people will trust what professors on a History Channel program say – seriously, no infanticide in ancient Greece??? And I really think that this harms our ability to practice our tradition and share it with others. If we’re lucky, people will tell us that they believe these lies, and we can try to tell them the truth about what the ancients did and believe. If we’re not lucky, they won’t ask and they’ll go right on believing that Hades was universally despised by the ancient people that told his stories and honored him and, yes, built temples to him.

While I don’t consider myself a particular devotee of Lord Aidonius (one of Hades’ many names), I’ve always found it fascinating that the Greeks could envision a god who was both Olympian (brother of Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Poseidon and Zeus) and Chthonic (master of the depths of the earth and all within it) at the same time, combining within himself something of each kind of deity. As Burkert notes on p. 203 of Greek Religion: “The contours of the everlasting Olympian figures provided a standard and a sense of direction; and yet in the reality of the cult their dark counterparts were retained in such a way that superficiality was avoided.” In trying to understand Hades and his place in the ancient world, we modern practitioners may find a better sense of how the Greeks viewed their gods, their gods’ place in the cosmos, and their own place in the world, and in so doing learn something about our new tradition and about ourselves.

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

PS – No infanticide in ancient Greece? Seriously? Did nobody at the History Channel check on this?

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River of Consciousness

The Summerland festival was this weekend, which I missed yet again due to lack of funds. I did quite enjoy the last one I went to, back in 2000, though I assume it’s changed at least a little since then! I know all too well how much of ADF’s actual work gets done at festivals, not to mention actually having fun and all that, and again I feel like I’m letting “festival reality” pass me by. Well, maybe next year. In the meantime, I eagerly await hearing the reports of the festival goings-on come to me through ADF’s e-mail lists, slowly wending their way toward me like a boat on a river…

…from the source of the river in Ohio, it flows north, toward the colder weather…

…At least it was pleasantly cool this weekend. Even if the rain kept me from going outside and reading as I’d hoped, it was at least pleasant to get the housework done. I know that the end of the summer is either the Autumnal Equinox in September, or Samhain (literally “summer’s end”) in November, depending on who you ask and in what context. Still, it feels like my least favorite season of the year is on its way out, to be replaced by my favorite season, with outdoor temperatures that I can actually stand for more than a few hours, and football, and my birthday, and my Grove’s Fall Equinox and Samhain rituals, and so many other good things coming around the bend…

…and as the boat meanders around a bend in the river, the course branched out into multiple streams, some flowing freely toward the ocean, while others lead into the swamps, where lurks the Hydra…

I’ve several times before used the Hydra as a symbol for what I feel are the worst aspects of the pagan community, in particular our seeming inability to work together in meaningful ways. My first use of it specifically satirized the efforts of several people/groups in the Detroit area to start their own pan-pagan groups at the same time, each feeling that they couldn’t work with the folks in the other groups, and defeating the purpose of a “pan-pagan unity group” right from the get go.

Those times have passed, but lately I’m feeling like I’m staring into the face of an even larger yet more subtle Hydra: the creation of lots and lots of online forums and other pages which want to put just as much of a drain on everyone’s time as those old attempted groups did. I’m all in favor of people starting up their own social networks, and I get that people won’t always be comfortable with what other people set up. (I freely admit to being annoyed at the one “pagan” page I signed up for which lists the members as “Fellow Witches”. I am NOT a f***ing witch, and my group is NOT a coven.) But I also worry that having too many options will only dilute our ability to work together and know what’s going on in the greater community. Facebook isn’t the perfect Web site, but you have to give it credit for making itself the site the everyone uses, and I hope that some single pagan variant (or even two or three) can establish itself as the place to be, but knowing what a contentious lot we are, I’m probably hoping for too much…

…and through to the wider river now, but now the boat is caught in a pool of somewhat stagnant water on the banks, but it’s easy enough to paddle out again…

…Of course, many folks throughout the years have suggested that I and/or SLG should have our own public forums on the Web. We have a member-only e-mail list which doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic, but I’ve very deliberately avoided creating any discussion area that’s open to the public, as I would rather drive rusty spikes through my brain that moderate such a forum. There are a lot of stupid and/or insane people out there in Internetland, and I already get too many messages from them at the Grove’s e-mail address without encouraging them. I also freely admit to just not liking Web-based forums in general. My dialup connection and graphics-intensive Web sites don’t mix well, and when the graphics are just flippin’ pictures of people to go next to their message, and then I have to download every message in the thread just to see the one or two new ones at the bottom, this equation equals “very unhappy Rob”. It’s even more bizarre to realize that the forum software I used back in 1986 was entirely capable of just showing you the new responses in just the threads you wanted to read, but as far as I can tell 2009’s forum software seems incapable of doing this. Well maybe if somebody creates a forum where I can do everything via e-mail, read new threads and check personal messages and so on, without ever having to log on to the Web site itself, maybe I’d actually participate in that one.

In the meantime, this week begins the process of updating our own Grove’s web site in terms of look and feel. I very deliberately designed it to look plain but information-rich as a counter to the flashy, substanceless Geocities sites that were all the rage back when I first created the site in 1997. But now that Geocities is officially dead, it’s probably time to make the site look only five years out of date instead of the twelve years it currently appears. Paul Kershaw has proposed some good design changes and I’ll be going through them this week, before fall comes and I actually want to do things outdoors instead…

…and finally the mouth of the river, where the ducks seem to be… racing?…

As we prepare for our Fall Equinox rite and my thoughts turn to our river goddess Ana and our celebration of the harvest, I think of the Heritage Festival, which was held here in my home town of Ypsilanti this weekend. Each year, the festival ends with a “duck race”, where several hundred numbered rubber ducks are dropped from the Cross Street bridge into the Huron River, where they float past Riverside Park (where the festival is held) and over a thousand cheering onlookers, to the collection net where the first fifteen to finish win prizes for the folks who wagered a dollar on their number. I’ve never won anything, but Gen’s dad did win a gift certificate a few years ago. Given that we associate ducks with Ana, this seems like the perfect activity for a big festival here in the Ann Arbor area, if we ever have one again. Then again, with thousands of people focusing their energy on ducks in the river, maybe the race itself is a pagan celebration, or at least a celebration of nature? That’s duck food for thought.

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

Or We’re All Wrong, And God Is A Giant Penguin Named Filbert

I’ve definitely gotten to like being on Twitter, at least I like the feeds I’ve chosen to follow. A few friends (most of whom don’t feel the need to tell me what they had for lunch or what particular bit of housework they’re about to attempt), a few celebrities who can actually be clever in 140 characters or less, and some news feeds. One of the pagan news feeds I’m on passed along a URL from the About.com section on atheism, which surprised me a little until I actually went to the article. (You can follow along at http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/religion/blrel_theism_poly.htm)

The article by Austin Cline starts out nicely enough, the writer is being polite (something I’m not used to from atheists who feel the need to debate, like Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher), and for most of the article I’m pleased at how accurate it seems to be. “Most cultures throughout history have been polytheistic”, well that’s true. “Polytheists tend to be more tolerant of the beliefs of others”, also true, though I don’t like to go around bragging about it. Yep, I was actually very happy with it – until I got to this:

If there really were different, independent gods in charge of all the different aspects of reality, then we shouldn’t necessarily have a set of natural laws which are common to all parts of reality. The laws of physics would not need to apply to chemistry and the laws of chemistry would not need to apply to biology, and so on. Scientific order would find no basis if multiple gods were working at potentially cross purposes.

(blink) Um, what? I think the author is making quite a logical leap here. I’d say “capable of helping with” rather than “in charge of”, but even going with his phrasing, “in charge of” does not mean “omnipotent”. Yes, I suppose that atheists who’ve never actually talked to a polytheist might try to apply the definition of monotheist religions to us, but they shouldn’t. Let’s be clear about this: Most polytheists do not believe that our gods are omnipotent. Powerful, yes. More powerful than us, well I sure hope so. But omnipotent? Hardly. Even the ancients didn’t think so:

“Chorus : Who then is the helmsman of Ananke (Necessity)?
Prometheus : The three-shaped (trimorphoi) Moirai (Fates) and mindful (mnêmones) Erinyes (Furies).
Chorus : Can it be that Zeus has less power than they do?
Prometheus : Yes, in that even he cannot escape what is foretold.”
(Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound)

One could then argue that the Fates were omnipotent, but we also have legends of Zeus saving men from their power (see http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Moirai.html) so even the most powerful of the gods could be thwarted once in a while.

The About.com article concludes:

A modified polytheism might be theoretically possible, however, if we imagine a committee of unknown gods created the universe and somehow managed to agree upon a set of common standards, and then all separated to take over their respective departments. This analogy to the human experience of committees and management, however, causes polytheism to lose much of its original attractiveness – the idea of the universe being created and run in such a manner is enough to incite nightmares.

I agree on that last point, it sounds like being trapped in an episode of Bewitched. (And not even one of the good episodes!) But again, most of us don’t believe that our gods created the laws of physics or other universal constants, nor can they change them at will. We believe that they do exist in our universe, and work within the laws of nature (even if we humans don’t fully understand them – Hek, the gods themselves may not completely understand them), and that working with them brings both honor and happiness to us and them.

I don’t consider myself much of a pagan philosopher (I’ll leave that to Ian Corrigan and other better thinkers), and I don’t pretend to know exactly how the gods work. They may be as real as I am (which I guess could still be argued!), or only as real as Santa Claus (partially real because we choose to make him partially real and perform physical actions on his behalf), or they may be utter figments of my imagination. (If I don’t at least keep that possibility in mind, then I really will be the idiot that the atheists think I am.) I do believe that they have some kind of reality outside of my own head, and I enjoy working with them, and ultimately that matters more to me than what anyone else thinks of me. I do hope, however, that those who disagree with my beliefs can at least disagree with my actual beliefs instead of the ones they make up for me. As Mr. Cline points out in another part of his About.com space:

You can’t have a meaningful and productive discussion if the two of you define key terms differently. You cannot evaluate their arguments and claims unless you know exactly what they mean by “god,” so you have to start there.

Amen to that! Er, I mean, “esto” to that! Here’s hoping that we can all have a little more understanding, if not acceptance, of the thoughts of others.

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

The Gigantic Tarp, The Corpse In the Foyer, And Other Weekend Oddities

So I was all set for Lughnasadh weekend this year, and earlier than usual! I had the order of service written up (well with a few minor mistakes as it turned out), I had an actual script for my Hellenic ritual ready a few days early, we actually had all the schedule slots filled this time, I went out early Friday to unload the raffle items and the t-shirt boxes and the other ritual items I keep at my home, and got the signs planted by the side of the road hours in advance! My only worry was the weather report that said it might rain Saturday night, but not until then, so maybe my Greek rite would be a little wet. Sadly, the weather report had even more errors than the order of service, but more on that later.

Friday evening came, and I got to the ritual site a bit before 8. I hadn’t had the chance to go home and get the Grove flame (we somehow got twenty deliveries at work on a day in August, a month when we generally average five or six), but I’d brought a candle that had held the flame the night before, so a match, a bit of cinnamon oil and a prayer later, I had a flame to work with again. By the time I’d gotten the fire going and was ready to do the formal blessing, we had about fourteen people there, a most impressive turnout! After the fire blessing and a few more arrivals, Rodney took about fifteen of us down to the nemeton to demonstrate the new form of energy/trance/motion work he’d been given by the Norse goddess Sif. It was very interesting, and I hope he manages to get a video of it online at some point, trying to learn it from a written description would be difficult at best! Kestrel phoned me to say that she’d be late, so we went back up to the fire and I gave a brief history of meso-pagan Druidry and the RDNA and ADF to those bored enough to sit through my storytelling. Once Kestrel got there, we went back down to the nemeton to do a brief Norse rite to Freyr. Even in the dark, Kestrel’s war hammer looks impressive in action! I’m told the mead used was very good, but since I don’t drink, I’ll have to take people’s word on that. Gen and I and a few others left the site early, and the ones who stayed behind had quite a fun drunken time, so they told me the next morning, the ones who were awake when I got there anyway. >8)

Saturday morning brought a brief stop at work, and I took out a few early deliveries since the back-up delivery guy generally doesn’t show up before noon. One was to a funeral service at the nearby Catholic church. I got there, entered the foyer (or is it a vestibule if it’s in a church? I know it’s not a narthex, that’s just for cathedrals) and saw that the early mass was still happening in the sanctuary, and found many people dressed in black waiting in the foyer. I saw flowers off to the right, so I went to drop off the plant there – and found the open casket sitting right next to them. Yep, no matter how badly anything at Lughnasadh turned out, it would not be the saddest thing I saw that day. The corpse who had to wait in the foyer for his own funeral was the saddest thing I saw that day, no doubt of it. It may seem odd for me to mention this in a write-up of a pagan weekend, but any time I’m in close proximity to a dead body before a ritual, it reminds me of the taboo the ancient Greeks had about a priest or priestess conducting a ritual after being in the same room with a corpse. They believed that any taint of death, even second-hand, would be abhorrent to the gods and they would refuses to take part in the rite. I think it was seven days that they had to wait, plus additional purification rites, but don’t quote me on that until I actually get that Robert Parker book from the library. Fortunately, we moderns aren’t quite so death-phobic, and I’m not required to exactly copy the ways of the ancients, so there was no issue for me being able to lead two rites that day.

At least, there was no issue about the miasma of death preventing me from doing the rites. The weather had its own ideas. It rained all morning, and eased up only slightly around noon. The fire circle had some small tarps hanging from the trees, so the people who stayed the night were still in good shape, but the nemeton was going to be a problem. Rodney brought out an enormous tarp (I’m guessing fifty feet square?), and we spent around an hour setting it up with what few small ropes we had available to us, but it did work! I even texted a tweet to let everyone know that we were going ahead with the main rite – which Twitter got around to posting about 22 hours later. Hmph.

So yep, after it rained all morning and most of the afternoon, the rain let up right when we started the main rite at around 3:30. After nineteen people had joined us the previous evening, we had all of 15 there that afternoon. A few people thought that doing the ritual at the same time as Detroit’s Pagan Pride Day might have cut into our attendance, but having driven to and from Hazel Park a few weeks earlier, I really doubt that many would have driven that far for us even if our events hadn’t conflicted. (Still, I hope they move next year’s PPD to a nowhere-near-a-sabbat date so we might actually have a chance to attend!) No, I’m sure it was the rain that scared folks off, maybe not many, but I think we would have had at least 20 if it hadn’t rained, or if people had been a little braver. >8) Still, much as a love big rituals with lots of people, small rituals of dedicated people can be excellent as well, and as far as I was concerned, everyone who had showed up in the rain to do ritual had proven their dedication.

This year, we’d decided to focus on the bravery aspect of Lugh’s story, facing down Balor and defeating him to earn his kingship, and in our own Grove cosmology, the right to marry Ana, our local river goddess. So in a way, the rain emphasized that for us, having all of the participants overcome their own (admittedly easier than defeating a monstrous warrior) challenge to be there. We held the ritual at the fire circle instead of the nemeton, and didn’t set up any of our usual ornate altars, just keeping it to the Fire, the Tree (the pole holding up the ginormous tarp), and the Well bowl, plus our “Balor” made of a balloon, cardboard tubing, and cloth, and the spear brought by Barbara to defeat him. (If our usual rite is like a big rock concert, this one felt more like a small jazz combo in a dark club!) Before the rite, we wrote down things that we feel oppose us in our lives, and attached those to Balor, and also wrote down the strengths that we bring to the community, and tied those to the spear as we passed it around during the individual praise offerings. Since we hadn’t brought down our usual purification gear, we started out the ritual by aspurging everyone with our blessed water and a small oak branch, typical for many ADF Groves but not something we in SLG usually do. Allison sang a lovely song in Spanish about her trip to Costa Rica and thanking Bel, Danu, and the Bardic Ancestors for both the experience and her safe return. And I really hope she publishes it somewhere in translated form so someone besides me and the gods can understand it! >8) As the group praise, we sang our Grove’s own version of the Lughnasadh Dance, and for the main sacrifice, former Grove Champion Rodney designated Barbara to defeat Balor with her spear, and Sean (having done the Outsiders offering) held Balor aloft. When the balloon head was stabbed, rose petals exploded all over the circle, making an even grander effect that I’d been hoping for! The omen was good (Berkana – Sowilo – Algiz), and we toasted Lugh and Ana with mead and sparkling fruit juice as the return flow. And of course, at the end of the rite, the sun came out. All those people who chickened out and didn’t show up because of the rain will never know what they missed!

After the main rite, Nancy showed us how to make dog/cat toys from strips of cloth, I gave a brief history of SLG and also discussed how to write traditional Greek prayers, and then we did the Hellenic rite to Mnemosyne and the Muses that I had written. We did it by the Fire Circle again, and we did it a few hours earlier than I’d planned on, so my lovely nighttime fire offerings were done in broad daylight. But it went pretty well, not as well as the one Gen led last year, but I was happy with the rite and with the prayers that folks had written and read aloud during the rite.

Once that was done, we packed up early and some of us headed home, while a few others stayed the night. I’m saddened to report that Serena’s graduation pictures went missing last night, and even after calling everyone who packed anything up last night, nobody seems to have found them yet. I’ll be going back to the site tomorrow to get the last few of my things that wouldn’t fit into the car, so hopefully I can do some hunting around for them. In the meantime, everyone’s prayers to help us track them down would be appreciated!

Oh, and the food drive we did for HARC was, um, not as spectacular as we’d hoped, given how few people showed up. I’ll hold off on delivering for a week, if you have any donations you can bring them to Game Night on Saturday, or e-mail/phone me and we can arrange a drop-off time.

Gen suggested that we organize our Samhain in a similar fashion to Lughnasadh, i.e. doing workshops and an extra ritual during the overnight and morning in between Fire Watch and the afternoon rite. I think that would be an excellent idea, provided it doesn’t rain. If you thought August storms made the preserve cold, watch out for the November ones! >8) In the end, yes, I’m sad that we didn’t get more people there, but very happy with the experiences I shared with the ones who were there. But I still want a big turnout at the Equinox! I wanna rock!

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

Happy Lughnasadh – A Day Late Or Five Days Early?

A few quick and mostly Lughnasadh-related data bursts this week:

Lughnasadh is next weekend! Well, okay, for most of you reading this it was probably this weekend, because that’s what all the pagan textbooks that ripped off Starhawk have listed as the official date for Lughnasadh, or “Lammas” for the folks who prefer to use Christian names for their pagan holidays. Nah, I’m sure it sounds like I’m being harsh, but if folks’ traditions say that the holiday is August 1st, then the holiday is August 1st for them. But between the “halfway between solstice and equinox” date being August 5th, and not wanting to compete with everyone else’s celebrations, I’m very glad that we’re doing our next weekend instead of this one. Indeed, a few Grovemates on Facebook mentioned how happy they were to be able to attend the local Highland Games *and* our festival, so maybe we should plan it this way every year. We’ll see how our attendance is for this year.

Schedule wise, we’re about as late on finalizing the weekend schedule as we usually are! Kestrel is definitely doing a Norse ritual involving Freyr and bread, but that’s as much detail as she had last I talked to her. This puts her way ahead of me and Gen, who haven’t even chosen a deity (or deities) for the Greek ritual on Saturday night, though I’m leaning toward the muses at this point, based on the review of my CTP submission a few days ago, more on which below. We’ll be finalizing plans for the main rite at our planning meeting on Tuesday, other than getting some kind of “Balor head” constructed between now and Saturday, I think that’s pretty much set. (When I asked on the Grove’s e-mail list about borrowing a spear for the rite, I had three responses within twelve hours. Only in paganism or SCA!) The workshops will likely be about what the Web site says they are now, I did get the canvas labyrinth laundered and bleached but the stains didn’t come out (on the bright side, the paint didn’t come off either), but I’ll go ahead and bring it if I can find room in the car.

And I went through our old box of Lughnasadh supplies, dating back to when we did it over three or four days at a conference center and had people from all over the country join us. I do miss that time, then again I don’t miss the several hundred dollars of losses we had nearly every year. Some day I hope we can do a big festival again (though nowhere near a high day, I’d prefer April or October), but our more recent Lughnasadhs at Botsford have been a lot of fun, and very spiritual, and not forced anyone to shell out their personal savings to keep us out of court, so I’m quite happy to keep doing it this way for a while. Not to mention that going through the box is like doing a mini-archaeological dig, seeing how our festival changed throughout time. We still have the walkie-talkies, which are pretty much no use to us on the smaller site we use now. But the security whistles still come in handy, and of course flashlights are good at any overnight outdoor event. Oh, and the croquet balls we used back when we did our Championship Games! Maybe we can bring those back if we ever get any young fit people to join! >8) Better still, I found the big box of toys we used to bring every year, after losing track of it last year. I have no clue whether any children will be there, but knowing our crows, the adults will probably get plenty of amusement out of them too.

Oh, if you are coming this weekend, don’t forget that we’re doing a food and dry goods drive for the HIV/AIDS Resource Center, the same folks who invited me to speak at their event last December. For details on what to bring, and the current (soon to be final) schedule, visit: http://www.shininglakes.bravehost.com/lughad.html

And finally, the unrelated note I hinted at above: I’m two courses away from being an official ADF First Circle Priest! My submissions for Magic I and General Bardic Studies I were due Friday night, I had them done Friday morning and they were both approved within hours. (If anyone on the Clergy Council deserves a salary for the amount of work they do, I’m sure it should be Michael Dangler.) So now all I have left is a rewrite of Indo-European Languages I (which I could probably do tonight if I felt like staying up a little late, after getting two 3000 word papers done in three days a single 600 word paper shouldn’t be an issue) and Research and Composition, which is pretty much just “write two 1500 word articles on anything and provide proper citations”. Well, technically there is one restriction, one has to be expository and the other argumentative. I’m sure they’re both doable, but after going through ten courses with explicit exit standards, the open-ended nature of this course is gonna be weird. Like the difference between boating down a river versus an open water crossing. Still, I’ve got two months before my self-imposed (and oath-taken) deadline, so the only real concern is getting the proper reference materials through interlibrary loan on time. Oh, and choosing the topics. >8) I’m leaning toward a study of ancient Greek purification and miasma concepts for one of them. Burkert and Zaidman/Pantel have some content that I can use for that, if I can get a copy of Robert Parker’s book on the subject I should be set.

Also, I went ahead and entered the Second Circle CTP courses into the wiki I’ve been using to track my progress (WikidPad is my friend!), and wow. One of those courses is gonna be about 12000 words, and the others are still bigger than the 2500 to 3000 word requirements of most of the First Circle courses. But I really didn’t expect the requirements to get any easier for the next rank up!
So have a great week, and hopefully I’ll see lots of you on Friday and Saturday!

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

PS – Almost forgot, if you’re on Facebook, the Huron River Watershed Council (one of the groups we regular do volunteer work for) now has a page there! Visit: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Huron-River-Watershed-Council/99590498013