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

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

    Posted by Sarenth:
    I hope that you submit these thoughts as suggestions to the organizing committee or board or what-have-you. The cost was prohibitive to me and mine as well. Thanks for putting this out there. ^_^
    Monday, April 26th 2010 @ 12:46 PM

    Posted by Rob Henderson:
    The organizer has read this article and discussed it with me already. >8)
    Monday, April 26th 2010 @ 8:23 PM

    Posted by Aine:
    Heya! Thanks for linking to us! I’m glad you liked the elemental altars, that sort of collaborative altar/art is an idea of which I’m particularly fond. I’m sorry we didn’t make it to your ritual, I had *really* wanted to go. Sadly, I didn’t hear any announcements and by the time I noticed you guys were doing your thing, it looked like you were well underway. I didn’t want to be rude and disruptive. :( I’m glad to hear it went that well! Will you be running anything at Paganfest this weekend? If so, I’ll try to be there if it’s not conflicting with one of the ATC groups’ things. :)
    Tuesday, May 4th 2010 @ 1:54 PM

    Posted by Rob Henderson:
    Thanks for the kind words! Remember that our ritual space is defined differently, so coming and going during the rite isn’t an issue for us. If Paganfest weren’t being held on Mother’s Day weekend, I might go ($35 though, really?), but work demands otherwise. Have fun!
    Tuesday, May 4th 2010 @ 6:38 PM

    Posted by Áine:
    Oh, I know how Druids deal with ritual space, it wasn’t a question of that, it was more a matter of common courtesy. ;)

    We’ll miss you at Paganfest! I hope to be able to make it out to Ann Arbor for one of your events soon, I really am quite curious about American Druidry!
    Tuesday, May 4th 2010 @ 11:23 PM

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