After my ponderings in last week’s entry about our failure to get anyone to participate in our Brídeog processional again this year and whether we needed to look for a new hearth goddess for our Grove, I wasn’t sure what to expect from our Imbolc ritual this year. A good omen, or a bad omen? A truly inspiring presence among us, or the building catching fire in the middle of the rite? And I was more worried that we really hadn’t come up with any great ideas at our first Liturgists’ Roundtable meeting, and I couldn’t be at Coffee Hour to talk about it because I was out of town. But our second Roundtable went fairly well, even if Rodney and I were once again the only people who showed up (I can never tell whether that’s from apathy or that my Grovemates just trust us to be able to create good rituals without them), we had a few good ideas that would change things up from last year, and so away we went!
Friday night’s Fire Lighting wasn’t anything spectacular. Our Yule and Spring Equinox pre-ritual fire ceremonies involve making ornaments or dyeing eggs for the rite, so there’s always a lot of crafty stuff to get done, but for Imbolc we really don’t have anything like that. Barbara and Liz went outside to lay the Bratach Bríd outside on a bush for the night so Bríd could bless it during her wanderings, and then we all sat inside and talked for a while. No, it’s not high energy or life changing, but not every ritual needs to be!
The next morning, I took the bus into town early, and since there’s a yoga class that uses the space every Saturday morning, I didn’t want to arrive too early, so I went to Pinball Pete’s for a while and played pinball for the first time in ages. (“Attack From Mars” was always a favorite of mine!) I timed it so I would arrive at the Friends Meeting right at 12:30, when they yoga folks are usually leaving – and the parking lot was deserted, and nobody was in the basement. Hmm. A bit odd, but it gave me plenty of time to relax before the rite. Rod and Liz arrived a bit after 1 with the ritual props and we got everything set up with plenty of time to spare.
So 2 o’clock rolled around, and then 2:15, and we had all of eleven people in the basement at that point. Given how sunny it was outside, I was surprised by the low attendance, since driving conditions wouldn’t be a concern for anyone used to Michigan winters, and the rite was indoors so cold wouldn’t be an issue either. Then folks started showing up, and by 2:45 we had our usual crowd of over twenty. It’s like everyone just got there half an hour later than usual.
So we got started way late as well (after 3), but things went fairly smoothly, no huge errors in the ritual performance, and the 8-month-old crawling around the circle didn’t come close to doing anything dangerous. For our focus object, we passed one of the Bríd Crosses that we’d made at the previous weeks An Bruane, which we’d intended to give out at the Brídeog, but I think I already said how that went. >8) After singing “Way to the Well” and offering the cross to our Bríd dolly, Rod took the omen, and it was good (Wunjo – Kenaz – Ansuz? I may be misremembering that last one). For our return blessing, we’d set up three altars around the bilé, one with a knife for folks to hold in a candle flame (for her smithing aspect), one with a mortar and pestle for folks to crush lavender (for her healing aspect), and one with two sheet of handmade paper for folks to write or draw on (for her bardic aspect). We also gave out pieces of the cloth we’d left out the night before, for folks to sew into their clothing or whatever other use they want to put it to.
After that, we closed things up, and had our potluck (just about everyone brought something with cheese in it, we need to diversify next year!) and our raffle, and Sean helped the kids make edible bird feeders out of bread, peanut butter, and seed. Most folks stayed long after the rite ended, and when I left at 5:45 because my ride was there, I think about half of the crowd was still there!
So all in all, it was a great ritual, and I think we all felt a special connection to Bríd and to our Grove and our community because of it. Yes, it’s frustrating sometimes to try to organize community-oriented things at a time of year when most people are more inclined to stay at home by themselves, and as I said in the statement of purpose, it’s always going to be a challenge for us to adapt what was a household ritual in ancient Ireland into a holiday for a large group of people who live all around southeastern Michigan, but we in ADF are usually up for a challenge like that, and the rewards can be wonderful.
(But I’m still looking forward to spring!)
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF