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