The “No Smoking” Signs Don’t Include Our Bel-Fire, Right?

Our attendance at the very first ever Michigan Mayfest required much frantic preparation. In addition to tracking down all of our merchant table items, divided between three homes until Friday night, we also had to provide our own tables and chairs for our ten-foot-by-ten-foot space in the pavilion. Fortunately, our Grove members came through, and after an early morning stop by Dot’s house on Saturday, we had five tables to work with. (Yes, the merchants who paid more had tables and chairs provided, but we got our space comped for providing a ritual and a workshop, more on those later.)

I got there at 7:35 AM, yes, now that I have a car I’m getting places early again. The doors opened a bit before 8, and the event organizers hadn’t arrived yet, but thankfully they’d e-mailed a map of the merchant area, so I unloaded my car in the right space. Liz and Rod got there around 8:45, and while Rod went back to Ann Arbor to pick up some ritual items he’d forgotten, Liz and I got the tables ready. It was weird seeing all of the old items we’d bought in preparation to sell at Lughnasadh so many years ago, back when we held it at Emrich, and hadn’t seen since then. When the doors officially opened at 10, we were ready, or close to it.

I went outside in the almost-drizzle to attend the opening rite led by Crossroads Tabernacle Church, which was very Wiccan but I somehow survived. >8) Actually, some of what they did was pretty interesting, like drawing the alchemical symbols of the four elements on their altars during the invocation, but the whole “raise energy to separate this space from the rest of the world” still bothered me as much as it usually does. Sometimes I think that if ADF hadn’t come up with its Core Order of Ritual, I would have been forced to come up with something like it for myself or go insane.

Not long after I got back to the table, Gen showed up, as did Rodney and Barbara, who he’d driven from Ann Arbor. Gen rearranged the table to her tastes (which I fully expected) before going to work, then Barbara, Rod and I got the ritual site ready. We were told to set up closer to the pavilion in case of inclement weather, but the rain had stopped and the clouds thinned enough to let some sunlight through, so we set up in the bigger ritual space and hoped for ninety minutes of dryness. Nancy stopped by and dropped off her handmade hats for the table as well.

We were ready a whole two minutes before our 1 PM scheduled start, but this being a pagan event it still took people ten minutes to show up for it, even after the announcement. We had a total attendance of fifteen, and it says something about our Grove that I felt like that was a small attendance! A few of the attendees had been to our rites before, but most hadn’t, so I made sure to talk about what we were doing at every step of the rite, hopefully not being too boring in the process. The festival program didn’t include the order of service that I’d sent them, so nobody knew the song lyrics, so only a few people sang, which come to think of it is a lot like or High Days lately. We’d planned to pass a May Basket and burn it in our brazier, but I’d forgotten to bring a basket, so we just had everyone pour olive oil into the fire instead. The omen was good (Wunjo – Peorth – Uruz) and as a return blessing, we walked through the smoke of the fire. (I’d been worried about not having enough wind to blow the smoke away from the brazier, but that was far from a problem that day!) So a very good rite, even if there weren’t as many people there as I’d have hoped.

After packing up the ritual area, I went back to the table, while other folks went to the Maypole Ritual being done by Shadow Phoenix Coven. Fortunately the Fairgrounds had wifi so I could amuse myself between customers! Anne arrived, and Gen got back around 4 and brought flowers from work to decorate the table. Two of the young girls who bought recorders from us went up to the main stage and played them without quite knowing how to play them, yes everyone, that was our fault.
Around 6, everyone else headed off to the local Chinese buffet (one of my favorites, since I’d grown up in the area) and left me at the table to prepare for my presentation on Ana. Again, wifi helped.

Sadly, they stayed way late at the restaurant (apparently they were talking or some such nonsense) and didn’t come back with my food until 7:25, giving me all of five minutes to eat anything before I went to the workshop area. Not that I should have worried, once I saw that the Urn concert had started at 7, I knew that nobody would show up for my thing. Not to mention that the program didn’t include a class description, and that I’d been put in “Psychic Corner”, so I was worried that people would show up to “Finding the River Goddess” expecting me to lead a guided meditation on discovering one’s inner feminine water principle, not how our Grove actually contacted our river goddess. A few people did show up, all of whom had been to our rites already and knew perfectly well who Ana was, but we talked for a while and at least I felt like I justified getting comped for a merchant table by making the attempt.

After that, we got no more customers at the table (blame the concert again), and when literally every other merchant had started packing up at least an hour early, we did the same. With four of us still there it did go pretty quickly, at least. I stopped by the ritual site for the closing ceremony, but the altars were gone, so I assume it was done earlier than scheduled.

So how was this first attempt at a pan-pagan spring event in our area? A good first attempt, I think. There were certainly some organizational problems, like the programs arriving late and then not having our order of service in them, but it’s a learning process. And there weren’t as many people there as I’d have liked, but then again, I say that about nearly all of our High Days, don’t I? It was also super annoying that the one food vendor (plus some of the other vendors) just plain didn’t show up, but at least the organizers were sane enough to lift the “no outside food” rule when that happened. The biggest problem was just the lack of attendance, which I’m going to blame on the cover charge. There really wasn’t enough going on to justify paying $20 at the door, and I know that only one of my Grovemates who wasn’t comped to be there actually came and paid to get in, and that if the price had been $10 there would have been several more SLuGs in attendance. Sometimes lowering the price does get you more money overall, and if Mayfest happens again next year, I hope that they’ll do that.

So now that Mayfest is over, I can relax for all of, oh, a day before the frenzy to get ready for Beltaine weekend begins. Wait, that was today, wasn’t it? Blast. Okay, where did I put the spools of ribbon for our Maypole?

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

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Planting And Planning For The Summer

So I had hoped to go up to Fox’s farm to help with planting this weekend, but the scheduling didn’t work out, and anyway I’m been almost constantly exhausted since starting my new job, so it’s probably all for the best. I did at least manage to plant my seeds from our Spring Equinox rite, and those have already sprouted, so that’s something!

This week looks to be very busy for me Grove- and ADF-wise, between my Clergy Council journey work on Monday, Beltaine ritual planning on Tuesday, nemeton cleanup on Thursday, Coffee Hour on Friday, and then the big one, Michigan Mayfest on Saturday, and of course all the preparations I need to do for that one. The ritual outline is set, but I do still need to get my notes ready for my presentation on Ana, not to mention sorting out all of the Grove merchandise here in my apartment and getting it loaded into the car, and getting all of our publications ready for the table as well. And somewhere in there I have to work, and get two minor dental surgeries. (At least I should be able to talk by Saturday, wouldn’t that have made my Ana presentation amusing!) Hopefully we’ll be able to share our ritual stylings and our spiritual workings with a large audience of interested folks at the festival, and maybe raise some funds at the same time.

Looking ahead to the summer, now that I have a working car again, I can think in terms of attending events outside of Ann Arbor for the first time in eight years. Wellspring is my highest priority, of course, but what else? Midnight Flame up north in September is tempting. (And before my two readers from Ohio mention Summerlands, that’s the same weekend as Detroit’s Pagan Pride Day, and if I have to choose, I really need to go to that one.) And I want to visit my grandmother in Maryland at some point during the summer, so a stop by one or two Groves on the way would be good, and maybe a side trip to Nashville so I can finally see the Parthenon there, something I’ve wanted to do for decades now. And on a similar theme, I’d love to go to the Mt. Olympus amusement park in the Wisconsin Dells and get my picture taken with Zeus and Poseidon, hee! I’m sure I won’t be able to do all of these things, not on my (admittedly slightly larger than it was) income, but it’s good to know that I have options.

And of course, if any of my six readers, have any other ideas of places I should visit this summer, let me know!

Rev. Rob Henderson
Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

The Arguments Against Clergy

Ah, spring has truly been here for a few weeks now, as I’m now uncomfortably warm enough to be sweaty. And it’s evening here. Where did I put that fan?

A few weeks ago I wrote a brief article on why I think we need trained Pagan clergy, but since the article was getting long by this blog’s standards, I left off my responses to the Pagan folks out there (and there sure are a lot of them) who think that we don’t. I give the statements they’ve given me, and my responses to them. If anyone out there has more arguments against, please do post them here. (Make me feel like somebody reads these!)

“Pagans don’t believe that a priest is necessary as an intermediary for interacting with the Gods.”

I agree. I’m very much a “Protestant Pagan” in that sense, and I’ve known very few “Catholic Pagans” (those who think they do need someone else to intercede with the Gods on their behalf) over the years. I would never argue that Pagans should be required to have a clergyperson help them create and run their rituals, or build their home shrines, or anything else. If you don’t think you need someone to help you with that stuff, then you don’t.

Keep in mind, though, that not everyone feels the same way you do. Some people are comfortable with their personal spiritual life, but think they can improve it. Some people actually like getting advice on such things. And some people are very insecure about their techniques, and really believe that they need the help. Should we refuse to give them someone to turn to for assistance? Wouldn’t our Pagan traditions and their members be better served by at least giving them the option of people with special training to help?

“Anyone can perform their own rituals if they really want to.”

A slight variation of the first argument. My response is pretty much the same: If you feel that you can perform all of your own rituals, you probably can. I’d argue against performing one’s own wedding or a family member’s funeral, though, as the emotions involved can be very intense, and even the best ritualists may have trouble performing under the circumstances. After the many weddings I’ve officiated, I’ve learned that one of my key roles is simply being a calm voice when everyone in the wedding party is on the verge of panic. (I had one where they literally forgot which side the bride’s and groom’s friends/family were supposed to sit on. And this was the day after we’d gone over it at the rehearsal.) Oh, and performing your own wedding is illegal, too, can’t forget that. >8)

But there are plenty of people out there who want to have Pagan rituals of all sorts who either don’t feel they’re good enough to do the rites themselves, or they have other things on their minds and just don’t want to have to deal with it. Again, should we deny these people access to trained clergy to help out?

“Authority breeds corruption, and if we have clergy, then they’ll start committing sexual abuse against other Pagans.”

No, really, I had someone tell me that on Facebook. Literally.

I’m certainly not going to argue that Pagan clergy should be treated in a way that their actions are not questioned. Especially their illegal actions. But we Pagans are a freethinking-enough lot that I just don’t see that happening, certainly not in my lifetime. We should make sure that everyone out there knows that they should report sexual abuse to the proper authorities, whether it’s being perpetrated by Pagans or not.

(And I would add that I was in this Grove when we had over $4000 dollars stolen from us by our Treasurer, and he wasn’t clergy. You don’t need to be clergy to be corrupt.)

“We can’t afford to pay them.”

Sad but true. I’m sure that our Pagan religions have lost many talented potential clergyfolk to other religions for that very reason. (I know we had one ADF member who wanted to become clergy with us, but ended up leaving us for the Unitarians because, as he put it, they actually care enough about their religion to spend money on it.) I’ll be very surprised if ADF manages to have paid clergy in my lifetime, but I still think it’s a good goal to shoot for. I feel like we’re a small-market baseball team in constant danger of losing our best players to the Yankees, and it’s getting frustrating.

That said, Pagan clergy doesn’t have to be paid, and at the moment it almost never is. If idiots like me are willing to do this for free in our limited spare time, after spending even more of that limited spare time in training, then I’d hope that people would let us do so.

“Christians have clergy, and we don’t want to be like them.”

Oh.

My.

Gods.

Really? You want to base these decisions on the theological equivalent of “Opposite Day”? Christians have rituals, too, should we stop doing those? Or should we have rituals every day of the week except Sunday? I’d accuse this idea of being straight out of the works of Lewis Carroll, but that would be an insult to Lewis Carroll. At least his bizarre ideas were entertaining.

I doubt that any of my readers would agree with that particular argument, but just in case: Let’s worry less about what other religions do and worry more about what *we* should do to address our members’ needs.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Next week, I’ll talk about planting, planning, or both.

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

Something I Posted Someplace With More Than Five Readers

(I didn’t have time to do a proper article about reasons why people think we don’t need Pagan clergy of some sort, and why I disagree with them, and I’m sure the topic can wait another week or two. Since I’ve discovered that my ISP is finally allowing Yahoo Groups mail into my inbox for the first time in (literally) years, I’ve actually been reading all of those groups  signed up for so long ago, and discovering how very bad most of the posts are. But one caught my eye this morning, and I decided to respond, and then I thought that my response would make a decent enough entry here. Justine has given me permission to post her part of it.)

(As an aside, anyone know of any decent Pagan discussion mailing lists out there? Non-fluffy is far more important to me than traffic volume.)


At 09:00 AM 4/4/2010, Justine wrote:
>Recently I have run into some confusion with my paths. I am still learning and asked someone about druidry as I wanted to learn more. It seemed a path (i know it is a way of life…not just a religion) that I would want to follow

Definitions are tricky and personal, of course, but some of us do think of a religion as a way of life,  So’s ya know.  >8)

>but when I asked I was met with scorn as they said the druids are dead and you have to a Celt to be one. Okay, fine…so I dropped that because it was too much but I am still confused as to why it met so much scorn. Can anyone explain druidry in itself and druidry today (if it exist)?

There are even more definitions of “druidry” than there are of religion.  I’m a priest in ADF, which by some definitions makes me a Druid, but my chosen hearth culture is Hellenic (Greek), and many in ADF are non-Celts.  No current Druid group can make a serious claim of an unbroken lineage to the Ancients, the oldest active ones in Britain are all of two centuries old.  Sorry to end with a non-answer, but you’ll have to decide for yourself what is or isn’t “Druidry”, and whether what you’re doing is or isn’t part of that.  (For my part, I always describe myself as an “ADF Druid”, and if the person I’m telling it to knows what ADF is, then that’s a good description, and if they don’t, they can either ask me or just go “oh he’s a Druid” and leave it at that.)

>Also, (yes, more questions) I have always defined as a Celtic pagan because I shared the beliefs and always felt as though it was my …snip…
>… if we aren’t accepted by these gods and goddesses because we aren’t “this” or we aren’t “that”, then how can we worhsip?

I’ve never believed that genetics are the only way to choose one’s religion.  I’m not at all Greek, but the Greek gods are the ones who first called to me, and the ones I feel the most comfortable with, so that’s my hearth culture.  Why should we be forced into a relationship with particular gods just because of our ancestry?  Better question: I had a friend in college who was adopted and had no idea what his genetic background was, although he suspected he was Belgian based on a few things.  Should he be forced into atheism or agnosticism because of it?  How about folks who find out, thanks to the marvels of genetic testing, that the guy they thought was their father really wasn’t?  Should they be forced to convert?

>I mean, all the gods are from someplace. Do you have to be Indian to worship Budha/buddhism?

If so, I can think of several hundred million Chinese people who are in trouble.  >8)

>If we cannot worship these gods then what gods do wiccans worship? Is there a wiccan god/goddess (as far as I know there is not) or does each wiccan discover their own? When you join a coven would you be “given” a god or goddess or do you decide your own?

I’m no Wiccan, so I only know a little of their ways, but it depends on the coven.  Many covens do honor a Great God and Great Goddess over all others, but some don’t, and many do have one or two specific gods their group focuses on.

>Lastly, can you just define as just an electic pagan and leave it at just that? You don’t have to tell everyone every little detail of what your study anyway but I want to know if that is an actual path.

Lots of folks do.  Don’t let it worry you if a few semi-racist pagans out there tell you you’re doing it wrong, if your relationship with your gods is good, what others think of you is irrelevant.


Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF