I always find it both fascinating and frustrating to realize how much our Grove’s attendance – and consequently our donation income – depends on the weather. Two years ago, we had decent weather and 24 attendees at our Yule rite. Last year, we had heavy snow the night before, and all of ten people showed up. This was one of the reasons I’d hoped to schedule this year’s rite on the 12th, but the site was already booked for that date, so we had to settle for the 19th.
As thoughts of moving next year’s Yule ritual to November 20th danced in my head, I went to Rod and Liz’s house on Friday night to do our Fire Lighting Ceremony, the indoor version of Fire Watch. Since we can’t have lit candles at the ICC Ed Center, the Yule lighting is more of a symbolic gesture, but it’s good to get together with folks in a more relaxed atmosphere than a ritual provides. (Except when Gen’s car gets stuck in the snow, as it did last year.) The Yule one also gives us a chance to make ornaments to decorate the tree during the rite, but since we weren’t doing the tree decorating this year, all we really had to occupy ourselves was making the ornaments for the return blessing, and eating popcorn. And seven folks showed up, and that’s what we did! (While I borrowed Liz’s computer to print the order of service out, and realizing that I’d copied the wrong file to my flash drive, had to re-edit it as well.) Part of me thinks we really need to come up with something more to do at Fire Lighting, and part of me thinks we don’t. Perhaps Imbolc will bring some kind of inspiration?
On Saturday morning, I took the bus early to stop by Office Max and get our copying done, and a quick stop at Dollar Tree for some raffle and potluck items. I got to the Ed Center at about quarter to twelve, happy to know that I could spend some time acclimating to the ritual space while using the high speed wifi connection with my laptop – and mildly angered to find out that the wifi there didn’t actually work. Hmph. Well, I did what I could to get the place ready by myself, and Rod and Liz arrived early with the ritual regalia so we had pretty much everything in place by 1:30. Val, who was bringing some of the ritual items, called to let me know that they’d be late, so we waited.
And since there was only a little snowfall that morning, the flood of people came pouring in! Noal and Julie brought some friend, Fox and Sean and Aidan came for the first time this year, and the Kellers and the student who e-mailed me a few weeks ago, and Chuck came to his first ritual in quite some time, and Matt Rindfleisch actually showing on time… You don’t really appreciate how small the ground floor of the Ed Center is until you have thirty people milling about!
Once Val and Paul and Jan got there, Val went upstairs to set up her ritual items. The crowd was very lively and talkative so I wasn’t too worried about the ritual starting late, but I didn’t want to push things too far, so we managed to get everything ready at about 3:15. Late, but not our latest start. >8) We processed upstairs to the ritual area and, after adding about ten more chairs to the circle we’d set up, got things started.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we decided to add a section honoring the Roman god Saturnus to the rite, since Val and Paul practice Roman religion in their home and they asked about it, and since we felt that Danu and Bel would be the most laid back of our Grove gods in terms of doing something experimental like that. So after the Ana invocation, and some impromptu handing-out of head-covering scarves, Val did a Vesta invocation. And then, after doing the rest of the rite as usual, I called on Danu, then Val did offerings to Saturnus, and then I called Bel. (And I really should have done Bel first since this is more Danu’s holiday and her call should have been closer to the center of the rite, but oh well. It’s not like Danu gets upset over such things!)
For the focus object, we passed a basket containing the offerings we were going to make during the group praise: mead for Danu; barley for Saturnus; and gelt (gold-wrapped chocolate coins) for Bel. During the individual praise, my lovely new cell phone rang, and I left the ritual area to take the call. Yeah, I know it looked like I had forgotten to turn it off, but in fact it was deliberate, I always leave my phone on when we do rituals at the Ed Center because it’s so hard to find and lost latecomers invariably call for directions, even a hundred minutes after the official starting time. (Those who were at 2007’s Yule may remember the same thing happening.) I hate to come across as rude in ritual space, but I’d hate it more if someone never got to the ritual at all.
For the group praise, we had everyone move in a circle around the bilé, where we had altars set up for the three Deities of the Occasion. Well, we *tried* to have everyone move in a circle, but with thirty people in that small a space, gridlock ensued. (One of my many Rules of Ritual: A ritual plan that works great for ten people won’t work for fifty. Or something like that, plug your own numbers in there to suit your taste.) But with a little prodding we managed to get everyone around the altars and make offerings to each. (My one big mistake of the rite – I forgot to lead us in our traditional Danu’s Waver of Power. On the other hand, it’s not like we had a low-energy crowd this time around. I’ll remember it next year, for sure!)
The omen was super- good (Fehu – Wunjo – Tiwaz), and so we asked the gods to bless the ornaments we’d made the night before, and passed them around the circle. And we had enough for everyone – except me. *sniff* Paul graciously gave up one of his family’s ornaments so I could have one.
After we closed things up, we adjourned downstairs for the potluck and the raffle, and more noisy boisterousness from the crowd. Once the crowd left, Rod and Liz and I managed to get the ritual area packed up, and they left while I waited for Gen to finish up at work and pick me up. We’d been hoping to go to a party that evening, but the road conditions had gotten worse so we just went home instead.
So how did the combination of cultures work out? Pretty well, I thought. The change in gears between the formal Roman invocations and our more free-wheeling improv style was a bit jarring to me, but I know that I care more about these things than our average ritual attendee. But it didn’t disrupt the overall flow or energy of the rite, and the omen was very good, so I’ll call it a success. Hopefully I can convince Val and Paul to do some specific Roman rituals at our multiple-day ritual weekends this coming year, so people can get a better feel for that particular ritual style.
And to all five of my readers, a blessed solstice, a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and anything else you want this holiday season!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF