The Bus To Cleveland, And Other Oddities

I have two Clergy Training Program courses with a deadline of Wednesday, so I won’t write anything too huge this week. (Besides which, I imagine at least a few of my five readers are still trying to get to the end of last week’s behemoth!) Actually I’m probably further ahead of schedule than I have been the last few times I’ve had CTP deadlines to deal with, I only need to redo 600 words for Indo-European Language I, and of the two 1500 word articles I need to do for Research and Composition, one is almost completely done (it’s an adaptation of my blog article from a few weeks ago about that awful awful terrible awful Hades episode of “Clash of the Gods”) and I’m just about done with the reading for the other one. So it looks like I’ll be an official First Circle ADF Clergyperson in a matter of days. It’s hard to believe that after working up my official completion plan (with deadlines) last October, that I’ve made every deadline so far (which I was genuinely worried about) and that it’s nearly over!

Speaking of clergy things, it looks like I’ll be attending my first ever Clergy Retreat this coming weekend! They’ve been held at Ian and Sue’s home in the Cleveland area in early October for the last few years, but my work schedule and general poverty and prevented me from attending before. This year, I decided to take the loss of wages and get the days off, and it looks like the Clergy Travel Fund will cover a bus ticket there and back. So my first retreat, my first trip ever on Greyhound, and except for Michael and Jenni, the first time I’ve seen any of my fellow Clergy Council members since 2002. And also the first time in decades that I’ve been out of the state during the Wolverines/Spartans game! Assuming that I’ve recovered from the trip, I’ll report on the experience week.

I’ll also note that I was very happy to see so many people at Coffee Hour this past Friday, and if you have Nancy friended on Facebook, you should definitely check out her profile picture to see what Jude knitted for her while we were there!

Go Blue, and I’ll see you next week!

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

PS – If you’re in the area, don’t forget that we’ll be making a trip to the Manannan Shrine on the 6th, and everyone is welcome to attend!

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The Fall-Body Workout

It was a busy week for us at work, and I didn’t get my usual Wednesday off because I had to take Saturday off for the ritual, so I didn’t get a chance to stop by the Huron River and commune with Ana, as I usually do before I lead a ritual in which she’s the Deity of the Occasion. I did manage to get home after work and pick up the Grove Flame directly from the candle on my stove, rather than just bringing an unlit candle to work and lighting and reblessing it at Botsford, as I had to do for the last few High Days. That also gave me a chance to pack up the ritual items in Gen’s car so I could unload them during Fire Watch, freeing me up to take the bus to Ann Arbor the next morning instead of waiting for Gen to get up and hoping I could get all of the pre-ritual errands done. On the drive from Ypsi to Botsford I played Gen’s ABBA CD on the car stereo, which thankfully didn’t seem to have any effect on the flame!

I think there were about eleven people at Fire Watch, at least while I was there. The weather was quite nice, the conversation was good, and nobody died. (Well, at least not while I was there!) Kestrel and Nancy passed a mead horn around the circle several times, and while I don’t drink, it did smell good! Gen and I left around 11, and after planning out my route for the morning commute, I got to bed a little earlier than usual.

Fall-Body Workout, Step One: Swimming and Flying (Or At Least Watching It)

So up at 8 AM, I grabbed the last few items we needed for the rite, and took the 8:45 bus to Depot Town in Ypsi so I could visit Ana at Riverside Park, a favorite place of mine. But on the way there, I remembered that the old train station has a small farmers market there on Saturday morning that I hadn’t been to in years. I stopped by and found small pumpkins – actual pumpkins, not just the tiny gourds we usually get – and four for a dollar, so I bought twenty, plus some blueberries, and toted them in my Puzzle Pirates canvas bag. I walked to Frog Island Park to visit the giant elm there (definitely the biggest elm I’ve ever seen), and then to Riverside Park, where I sat in the shade of a willow and watched several ducks swimming around and dunking there heads in search of food, and taking off from the water so they could fly upstream a bit. I’d forgotten just how silly ducks look when they take off from the water! Then, in quest of the Altoids I usually keep with me during rites but had run out of a few days earlier, I went to the party store in downtown Ypsi, and realized that they aren’t open at 9:30 in the morning. So I went to the Latino market instead, and found… pomegranate-flavored Orbit gum? Could such a thing really exist? Is pomegranate a popular flavor among Latinos? No clue on the second one, but the first was very true, and very tasty. Buoyed by this happy discovery, I went to the bus station and crowded into the bus with some of the many Eastern Michigan students on their way to the football game in Ann Arbor. I stopped off at Arborland for…

Fall-Body Workout, Step Two: The Hundred Copy Dash

Since one of our quarterly newsletters was due for this High Day, I didn’t have any chance to get the copying done earlier in the week, but in doing my research the night before I remembered that there was an Office Max right on the main bus line I was going to take anyway, which meant no need to switch buses two or three times. They had no place for me to print from my laptop, as I usually do at Kinko’s, but I’d made sure to get the files onto my flash drive, so no problem getting the newsletter and orders of service and election ballots printed and copied. Since I had to wait an hour for the next bus anyway, I had time to prepare the ballots, and buy a few two-liters of soda at the gas station. Lugging three bags onto the bus, I began:

Fall-Body Workout, Step Three: Weightlifting While Walking

At downtown Ann Arbor, I stopped off at the Farmers Market by my flower store to get cider and donuts for the return blessing of the rite, then I happily borrowed a sturdy bag from my boss at the store so I wasn’t juggling five things, then back to the bus depot for the 12B to Miller Rd. I walked from the corner of Maple and Miller to Botsford, which was a lot more pleasant in June when I wasn’t carrying quite so many bags! But I got to the fire circle at about 12:50, which is a little later than then 12:30 arrival I prefer when I’m leading ritual, but way better than the 2:30 or 3:00 if I’d waited for a ride from Gen! After getting the publications table set with freshly printed newsletters and orders of service, Dylan and I hid the pumpkins and other harvesty goods around the nemeton. Rodney and Liz got there early, but then Rod had to run home for something, but even so we had the nemeton set up before 2. Many folks arrived, Gen got there around 2:15 (you see why I didn’t wait!), I trained our Stag Dancers in our sacred traditional dance that apparently only I can remember from year to year (I now know why memorization of the lore was so important to the ancients), and we got the ritual roles assigned. So then, down to the nemeton for…

Fall-Body Workout, Step Four: Dancing!

Paul was creative enough and kind enough to write us a new Unity Chant for this rite, which we liked, though I think I heard at least four distinct tunes being sung. Well, it’s definitely good enough to use again, so we’ll learn the right tune for it at some point. We’d chosen to honor both Ana and the Nature Spirits this time around, as Deity Plus Kindred of the Occasion. Before the individual praise offerings, I sent everyone out to find the life within the land in the form of the pumpkins, blueberries, huts, herbs, corn, etc. that we’d hidden earlier, along with helpful red paper ribbon tied to the trees where they were hidden, so we didn’t spend an hour trying to find them. We put the harvest into our huge cornucopia and passed that around for the individual praise, then folks decorated the pumpkins (and some of the apples, there were 27 of us there and only 20 pumpkins) while the stag dancers snuck off to our secret hiding place. Once the crowd started singing “Hoof and Horn”, we waited for them to stop singing and start clapping, but apparently Rodney told everyone to just keep singing, so in we went.

We first created out Stag Dance back in 1998, based loosely on the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance from England (which you can search for on YouTube for some interesting videos), and we’ve been doing it at every fall equinox rite since. I wore the wooden Stag Head that Fox carved back when he was Senior Druid, and the other three dancers held deer antlers over their heads – well, two of them did, we lost our third set, so Dylan got to play “baby deer” and go without – and we did our pretend prancing and charging before leading everyone in a circular dance around the bilĂ©. (My one regret about all the walking I’d done that morning was that my legs were just too tired to lift up as high as I can usually manage, for the jumpy hoppy parts.) Once that was done, we offered up our decorated harvest goods back into the woods as a sacrifice. We took the omen, which was good (Raido – Jera – Gebo, “moving through the year together, we give each other gifts”), and so we drank the cider and ate the donuts (mostly smashed from my carrying them in a canvas bag for so long, but still tasty) as the return blessing. With no new members (Matt never did show up, did he?), closing things up went quickly and smoothly.

At the circle, there was much talking and rejoicing, a fair amount of planning (we may well have both a local Bardic Guild and local Artisans Guild again by spring), and at the raffle I won a copper cloak-pin (and I’m blanking on the proper word for it) that Nancy hand-hammered herself! And young Jan did not start crying two minutes after I started holding him, as he usually does, but instead decided to play with my beard, a common hazard for pogonophiles like me. Cleaning up the nemeton went smoothly with many hands helping, the weather stayed clear the whole time, and nobody died, so all in all, a good ritual. Actually, there really weren’t any noticeable mistakes, this time around, even by my standards. (I wasn’t personally thrilled about having “Hoof and Horn” sung during the dance, as it’s not my favorite chant, but it worked out well enough. We just need to have a better song for next time.)

So now I have a week of frantic CTP writing ahead of me, and hopefully I’ll see many of you at Coffee Hour on Friday!

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

A Bright Bard Might Corner The Market On This Year’s God

I was very happy to see that Cedarsong Protogrove in Lansing officially became Cedarsong Grove this past week! Not only does this provisional charter show their dedication and hard work in building a strong ADF presence in their area, it also means that in one year they no longer have to put up with me being their Grove mentor. >8) When I’m car-capable again later this fall, I hope to attend one of their rituals, work schedule permitting. On their e-mail list, they’ve been excitedly discussing their decision to honor Baltic deities at their upcoming equinox rite. I personally haven’t been to a Baltic rite since, um, ever, now that I think of it!

This definitely got me thinking abot the way my own Grove does things, since we consistently work with the same seven deities throughout the year for our High Day rites. All seven are ones we’ve contacted through meditation and trance work throughout the years, five identify with traditional Irish deities and two are “local deities” who we’ve worked into our cosmology and liturgy. I’ve always felt that working with the same deities repeatedly helps to build a relationship with them, in a way that the multiple-culture Groves in ADF (and I’m pretty sure they’re in the majority at this point) don’t do, or at least have a harder time doing. Not that I would ever tell another Grove how to address their members’ spiritual needs, of course. If working with different cultures works for them, it works for them, and all that means is that we can compare notes at Wellspring and further analyze The Grand Experiment That Is ADF.

If we do keep our deities the same year after year, though, we are at least willing to look at the traditions of the other ancient Indo-European cultures for new ideas on how to honor those deities. Sometimes it doesn’t work out (anyone besides me remember the Kupalo doll we burned at Summer Solstice a few years back?), sometimes it works out brilliantly (the Ukranian egg-hunt tradition works so well for our spring celebration of Ana’s saving the land that I can’t imagine getting rid of it now), and either way, it’s a chance for us to figure out which of the ancient ways still works for us, and which don’t.

Sometime when people find out how few of our members consider any Celtic hearth culture to be their personal hearth culture, there’s a bit of shock. “Wait, your Senior Druid’s hearth culture is Hellenic, the Assistant SD’s is Norse, the other officers include another Hellenic and a Vedic, and the new officers you’re getting next month are both Roman?  Don’t you feel left out by not having your own gods honored at you High Days?” And truthfully, well I guess I can only speak for myself, but truthfully for me, no, not at all. I honor my Hellenic deities here in my home, and I honor the Grove deities when doing work for the Grove. There’s some overlap, I do keep a statue of Lugh on my altar since he’s the Grove’s tribal father god and I’m the Senior Druid, but no, I really don’t feel any need to force my chosen culture’s practices on anyone else. Our two-day festivals – Lughnasadh, and starting this year, Samhain – give me more than enough opportunity to do a Hellenic rite in a public context without changing the actual High Day rite, and other folks with non-Celtic hearth cultures can do the same.

It’s funny, now that I think about it, if I had to move to another area for whatever reason and joined a Grove there, and they were one that worked with different deities every High Day, I’d probably be a little weirded out by it.  Between the thirteen years I’ve been working within the SLG context and my own strong opinion on the dividing line between personal practice and group practice (heavily influenced by my study of how things worked in ancient Greece), I wouldn’t quite know what to make of it. But I guess that would be my problem! (Maybe if that happens, I’ll actually finish writing the Elvis Costello song parody that’s been bouncing aruond my head for years, about “This Year’s God”.)

But for the true weirdness: I had this article all planned out days ago about how everyone loves working with our Grove deities and folks don’t feel the need to change up cultures for our High Days – and this afternoon I got a phone call from one of those aforementioned Roman practitioners wondering if we could do Saturnalia nistead of Yule this year. Shows you how much I really know about what my Grovemates are thinking. >8) Looks like we have one more topic to be covered at the Liturgists’ Roundtable on Tuesday! (Which as always is open to the public, please feel free to join us if you can, 7 PM at 263 Larkspur in Ann Arbor.)

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

On Healing And Blog Topics

This must be the first Sunday in over a month where I haven’t had some grand topic burning away at my brain for days before  started to write for this blog! It’s funny to look back at my original blog plans and remember that I figured I’d only be doing two new articles every three weeks, relying on “reruns” for that third week. It didn’t work out that way, did it? My last repost of an already-written article was on (checks the archives) March 8th?!? Wow. I guess I have more on my mind than I anticipated.

I also thought I’d be doing more explaining of ADF’s ritual structure and SLG’s own cosmology and Grove gods, but it didn’t work out that way either. I’m not sure why, granted with only five readers actually posting any responses here it’s hard for me to figure out what my audience actually wants to read. Even my articles about atheists’ misconceptions about us, and that gods-forsakenly bad Clash of the Gods show, have gotten zero responses, and those were exactly the kind of controversial topics that I’d expect to generate at least a few “right on” or “you suck” comments. If not for the occasional private e-mails from readers, I might think that nobody read this blog at all. Then again, that never stops 90% of the other bloggers from writing, does it? >8)

One thing I didn’t expect to cover very often, and which for the most part I haven’t, is the work of ADF (inter)national, our Grove’s parent organization, since other blogs cover that topic, and I wanted to do something different, that folks couldn’t read about elsewhere, hence the focus on what my Grove does rather than what ADF does. Given the recent resurgence in concerns that ADF leadership doesn’t communicate well with its members (which has always been a concern to some extent, far moreso before e-mail got popular in the mid-90’s), maybe I should rethink that decision?

Well, for this week’s short entry at least, I will indeed discuss something that ADF is doing, more specifically the ADF Healer’s Guild. For a few weeks now, members of the Guild have organized a weekly remote healing session, where those who want to participate visualize the ADF Sigil and send healing energy to those who have asked for it. It’s an interesting idea, I’ve been very happy to take part in it myself, and I’m very glad to see the (inter)national Healer’s Guild reaching out to help others. If you would like to add yourself or a loved one to the list of those we send energy to, contact Irisa at fairydreams2007@yahoo.com .

Next week, we’ll see if another amazingly burning topic comes my way!

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