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 bilé. (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