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


One thought on “A Bright Bard Might Corner The Market On This Year’s God

  1. (Comments from the original post on our old suite:)

    Posted by Melissa Hill:
    Looking forward to seeing you at one of our rites! It’s funny, we’re in the opposite place you all are at with your hearth cultures. We were trying to branch out, and decided to keep working with the same deities instead.
    Monday, September 14th 2009 @ 9:51 AM

    Posted by Trish Deneen:
    I know I don’t show up often, but I really enjoy the consistency with your rituals. I honor Norse and Celtic deities personally, but I understand why others might want you to do something different. I hope you don’t start changing deities for every ritual, but of course, it’s up to you.
    Monday, September 14th 2009 @ 1:08 PM

    Posted by Rob Henderson:
    Wow, I feel like I was misinterpreted at the end there I personally don’t want to change the deities we work with at all! I’m hoping that we can find a way to address everyone’s wants and needs as best we can, but I definitely want to keep honoring Bel and Danu at Yule too. We’ll work something out, I’m sure.
    Monday, September 14th 2009 @ 4:45 PM

    Posted by Vikki:
    Hi, I contacted you a couple weeks ago. I was looking through the website associated with your grove, and i noticed the links to the three Guilds, but when i went to their pages, it seems like they’re a little out of date. should i take this to mean that the guilds have fallen from use among your grove?
    Monday, September 14th 2009 @ 4:59 PM

    Posted by Rob Henderson:
    The three guilds are inactive now (and those pages are on the list of things to zap when I install the new design this month), you can contact Rodney at uberrod@comcast.net if you want more info about them. And sending mail to me at robh@shininglakes.org is probably a better way to ask general questions than posting stuff in the archives here. >8)
    Monday, September 14th 2009 @ 5:38 PM

    Posted by Grey Whittney:
    Nice post.. Didn’t know you do it that way, and well done for mentioning “Don’t you feel left out by not having your own gods honored at you High Days? [snip] No!”, it’s something I’m starting to see with different people in our grove. Also, who’s to say people cannot offer praise to their Deities/Patrons/Patronesses at your rite? Odin in a Celtic High day, from the liturgy aspect is not good.. But from a praise offering aspect, Do you say you *can’t* make that sort of praise offering?. Just trying to see how best to fill the needs of the attendees. – Grey of Snow Water Grove
    Tuesday, September 15th 2009 @ 1:13 PM

    Posted by Rob Henderson:
    We make it very clear during the invocation of the Shining Ones that all are welcome to offer silent invitations to their personal gods (check the Orders of Service on our web site if’n ya don’t believe me >8) and we also make clear that during the individual praise offering section of the rite, people can call upon any deity they want. Even non-IE ones. Even Jesus. (Yes, this has happened a few times.) So at that level we have plenty of room for folks to honor their personal deities.
    Tuesday, September 15th 2009 @ 4:18 PM

    Posted by Trish Deneen:
    Hi Rob. Sorry if I misinterpreted. I didn’t think you were going to make drastic changes, and I have no problem honoring the gods the grove chooses to at their rites while doing my own thing too. I just meant to say that for me consistency is nice.
    Tuesday, September 29th 2009 @ 11:43 AM

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