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