Footprint In The Stone

Yep, it’s a “rerun” of sorts, since I’m way too tired to write anything coherent right now.  This was originally printed in the most recent issue of Shining Lakes News. It goes into more detail about the installation ritual than my Wellspring blog entry did, and since it was actually edited by someone else, it’s probably easier to understand. New article nest week, I promise!

For the first time in nine years, ADF has a new ArchDruid! Rev. Kirk Thomas took office at Wellspring this spring, and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this year and take part in his installation ritual. It was actually my first one, since Fox’s installation was done just before I joined ADF, and Skip’s was done in 2001, the only year I didn’t go to Wellspring between 1997 and 2002. So I had very little notion of what to expect.

Which was also true of Kirk, since he didn’t even join ADF until after Skip’s ritual. When I arrived at Brushwood, Skip mentioned that Kirk was off doing secret pre-ritual stuff. But when I went to the main building to change into my white chiton and red himation, who should I find standing by the men’s room door but Kirk! He’d been told to wait there for further instructions on his prep, and thought I might be the one bringing the instructions, which I totally wasn’t. As I was changing, I heard him being told that he needed to do a ritual purification shower (no big secrets being revealed there, I’m sure; ritual bathing or washing is pretty standard Indo-European stuff.)

We gathered shortly before dusk, to ensure the ritual would take place during that liminal time of day, the perfect time for any ritual involving a change from one thing to another. Carrion Mann gave a simple pre-ritual briefing, since just about everyone there was experienced in ADF-style ritual. We then processed to the nemeton, where we saw Kirk sitting in a chair to the side of the circle, giving off a radiant glow—wait, no, that was an electric light shining from the other side of the circle, so the videographer from California could get footage for his documentary. Well, he still looked impressive!

We began the formal ritual, with the ADF Clergy Council members doing the various ritual roles. Since I’d been listening to Sir Ian McKellen’s reading of the Fagles translation of The Odyssey on the drive to New York, I jumped at the chance to do the Invocation to inspiration (the Bardic Invocation), given here as best as I can remember it (and without the flub of call him “soundless,” which I did correct): “Sing, Muses, of Homer, sightless storyteller of the Ancient Greeks, whose words survive to this day, and tell us much of the ancient ways: how they saw their gods; how they honored their gods; and in turn how they honored each other through hospitality. And in turn, inspire us to speak well in this rite, to help us honor the gods and each other, and to make the tales of this ritual great enough to be told and retold for many years to come. Inspire us, oh Muses! Esto!” (Hey, I’m the only Hellenic on the Clergy Council as far as I know; I have to represent my hearth culture as best I can when I’m doing CC things!)

The other invocations and offerings were all well done. If you haven’t seen an ADF ritual being performed by people who are really well-practiced at it, it’s an amazing sight, and worth a trip to any festival to see. It’s kind of like watching a professional sports league’s all-star game, only the players actually care about it.

And then Kirk was brought forward to make his own offerings to his own Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Deities. There was much burning of food and smashing of shiny things. Anyone who knows Kirk knows that he’ll never skimp on his offerings! He finally offered a large bottle of whiskey to ADF itself, for everyone to drink after the rite.

Then, he placed his foot on a stone which was newly added to the nemeton, with a footprint etched into it. This stone will be used for ArchDruid installations from now on, and we consider the one standing on it to be standing in a line with those who were AD before. Those familiar with the Lia Fáil of Irish lore know it was the stone that would roar with joy if the rightful High King put his foot on it, or scream with rage if anyone else did, depending on which version of the story you’ve read. I can’t say I heard a roar or a scream while Kirk was standing on it and taking his oath of office, but he sure did look impressive!

After Kirk aspurged us with the waters of life, we closed up ritual space and waited in line to hug Kirk and get whiskey. Well, Rodney and I didn’t get whiskey, but you know what wacky teetotalers we are. Later that night I stopped by Kirk’s tent where he was entertaining visitors. Skip had mentioned a special treat sent by Kozen, Kirk’s partner: light and dark blue M&Ms with Kirk’s face and various ADF terms on them. Wow. Who knew that eating “Nature Spirits” could be so sweet?

And so begins the tenure of Kirk Thomas as the ArchDruid of ADF. Given his commitment to serious research (he’s currently earning an MA in Celtic Studies) and spirituality, I expect many great things from him in the coming years—hopefully including some visits to ConVocation so the rest of you can meet him too!

Yours in service to the Kindreds and the Grove,
Rev. Rob Henderson, Senior Druid

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I’ve Seen Fire, And I’ve Seen Rain (But Mostly Rain)

One good thing about being car-capable again is not having to spend hours on the bus riding around town the week before a High Day rite trying to get all of the prep work done. Yes, I would love to live in a world with ample public transportation to be environmentally friendly and stuff, but for now I’ll happily go for convenience and actually being able to get stuff done *and* get adequate sleep, and hope that we can get good electric cars and enough solar and wind power to fuel them. So I did get the ritual supplies and other errands done early, plus writing the order of service and the newsletter article and calendar and everything else finished by Thursday evening.

So even though I had to work late on Friday, I was headed to Fire Watch with the Grove Flame in my car well in advance of the 9:15 sunset, when the radio said that a severe thunderstorm was in the southwestern part of Michigan and heading east and slightly north, due to hit Washtenaw County between 9 and 10. Uh-oh. I got the first started as soon as I arrived, and had it going strong before the storm hit. Rod, Liz, Barbara, Esty and Gen all arrived at Botsford before the rain did. The wind making the huge trees in the preserve sway like grass didn’t scare anyone off, but the lightning bolt hitting the transformer by the road sent everyone but me and Gen scurrying to the shelter of the preserve’s tepee. Gen went to the car to work on the sun wheel for the ritual, and I waited under the woodshed’s roof and tended the fire through the first hour of the storm. The wind and the lightning did make for quite a show! When the rain eased up, Gen and I did the fire blessing (the others were still hiding in the tepee) and headed home. Since Barbara and Esty said they’d stay the night and I knew the Kellers were on their way, I was confident that the fire would last the rest of the night after surviving the hard part.

I had to get up early to go to work for a few hours, but that still gave me enough time to get the newsletters and orders of service copied before heading back to Botsford. The fire had indeed made it through the night, yay! I got the red tablecloths and publications and such ready (which I would happily have done the night before if I hadn’t known they’d get soaked!) and, once Rodney got there, we got the ritual area set up in plenty of time. I’d asked Rodney to bring the Igloo with some drinking water in it in case it was beastly hot, but it didn’t get too bad. Better safe than sorry, though! I also made sure we had 3 by 5 cards out for folks to write their requests for things to increase for the coming year, for the return flow of the main rite.

Even though the forecast said their might be scattered showers before 2 PM, we saw nothing but sunshine and the occasional puffy cloud in the skies above the nemeton all afternoon. In a way, it actually seemed more appropriate for the ritual this way: since we honor both Bel as a sun god and Danu as a water goddess, it was good to have both strong sun and strong rain during the ritual weekend. I was still worried that attendance might be low because of the forecast, though, and we did only get twenty people to attend, though summer solstice hasn’t been a hugely attended ritual in recent years anyway. Call it the beginning of the summer attendance lull. Still, small isn’t necessarily bad, especially for a lighter and funner ritual like this one. We processed down from the fire circle to the nemeton at around 2:50, and for the first time in years, nobody showed up after we started! We moved the Outsiders offering up to right after the processional ended, and Dylan did a fine job of it. As I mentioned in last week’s entry, we separated the offerings and the openings for the Portals, using the Portal Song for the offerings, and having Rodney do a more formal magical opening invocation for each one. I thought that went really well, too, though I haven’t heard any comments from anyone else.

For the main part of the rite, we did our usual Summer Solstice workings for Bel and Danu, passing the sun wheel around the circle as a focus object for the individual praise, and throwing flax into the fire and doing a call-and-response litany for the group praise. For the main sacrifice, we offered the sun wheel and what was left of the whiskey from Beltaine into the fire. The omen was very good (Berkana – Nauthiz – Ingwaz) and so we burnt our request sheets in the fire (which finally got the fire going bright and strong) and we blessed and passed around… the Lemonade of Life!  (Behold the Lemonade of Life!) I’d bought both regular and raspberry flavors of Simply Lemonade, in case we had a large crowd and needed both, but with just twenty folks there we just used the regular one. (Not that I needed to worry, the raspberry one was devoured quickly at the potluck.)

Socializing after the ritual was fun, if shorter than usual, since I needed to be somewhere by 7 we got the nemeton cleaned up a little early. Still, the raffle actually brought in more money than last time. and with fewer people and far fewer items. (Next time I may just put out two sticks of gum and a broken crayon and see what happens.) We were all a little startled to hear that transformer from the previous night come back to life, especially those who hadn’t been there the night before! And after everyone left, I drove up to Fox and Janet’s farm to pick up my mom’s vegetables, since her power was out and she couldn’t store them. My fridge now has more leafy vegetables in it than at any point since I moved in.

And that would be the end of the entry, except that I did manage to drive up to Lansing to visit Cedarsong Grove for their solstice rite. I’d hoped to get up there last time, but after staying all night at the fire, then going to the dawn rite, plus an evening at Fox and Janet’s, I was so not up for it. No worries this time, though, and I managed to find the site easily enough and in plenty of time. I volunteered to do the ochre (Land) purification, which is a lot harder than I thought when the ochre is dry and people don’t have water on their foreheads from the water purification. I’d have thought that being across the street from a gun range and having constant gunfire within earshot during the rite (no, really) would have been more of a distraction than it was, but they managed just fine. Actually, being at an ADF ritual where I wasn’t running things was quite a nice change of pace, even if I did feel compelled to purify the latecomers with the ochre. Hey, I’m Hellenic, we take ritual purification seriously. And it was good to see Melissa take her Dedicant Oath. (Now if only I could get a few more of my own Grovemates to finish up the DP!)

Next week, as the summer lull officially hits the Grove, I being my struggle to find things to write about for the next few months. Maybe the ethical question of whether swatting mosquitoes at an ADF ritual counts as a blood sacrifice? And if you don’t kill them and they bite you, isn’t that a blood sacrifice anyway?

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

Switching Things Up

It’s become something of a routine over the last few years at our Liturgists’ Roundtables. After attending a festival, Rodney mentions that he wants to do something differently at our next ritual, and Gen and I look at each other and think, “Uh-oh.” Which is not to say that it’s a bad thing to attend festivals and see how other people do ritual, of course, that was one of my real joys in attending Wellspring a few weeks ago. But it’s also true that our Grove has been around for sixteen years now, and we’ve developed our own ritual style over that time that works for us, and major changes done suddenly tend to throw us off. Readers might remember our attempt at a “high ritual” Fall Equinox a few years ago, which I didn’t think worked all that well. Formal language in ritual can be great, but it just didn’t feel like one of our rites. And some of the more energy-intense techniques, like Kirk Thomas’ (admittedly impressive) gate opening technique, would probably either fall flat or elicit laughter with our crowd.

So when Rodney uttered the dreaded “I think we should change a few things for Summer Solstice” at our Roundtable a few weeks ago, I was, well, not worried, but, well yeah, maybe a little worried. >8) But the suggestions he made were actual very small ones, and might not even be noticed by our celebrants unless they either knew the ADF Core Order of Ritual very well, or if they read this blog. And since nobody reads this blog, that limits the odds considerably.

The first one was one that I’d actually been considering myself, after seeing it done at most of the rituals at Wellspring: moving the Outsiders (called “Outdwellers” by nearly every other Grove out there, and a sign of just how long we’ve been around) offering to the beginning of the rite. I always thought that doing the offering in the middle of the rite, after the Gate openings, seemed a little off. Why wait for it? Why not try to forestall the bad stuff that they might bring to the rite? At our Beltaine rites, we’ve always done the Outsider offering first, as a nod to the topsy-turvy nature of the season, and it felt better there. So we’ll move it there for next weekend’s rite and see how it goes. One thing we do need to do differently from the Wellspring rites, though, is waiting until everyone is at the nemeton before doing it. Standing outside the circle and making the offering works great when everyone is within thirty feet of the person doing the talking. With the long and twisty tree-lined path we walk during our processional, anyone more than ten back in the line wouldn’t hear a thing. And doing the offering up at the Fire Circle before we leave it for the processional is just inviting trouble. “Hey, great ritual… wait, is that smoke coming from the Fire Circle? Do I smell something burning?”

The other change is one I hadn’t considered for us, though I knew that some other Groves do it this way: splitting the offerings to the Portals and the opening of them into two separate actions. Since I can remember (granted, only fourteen of our sixteen years), we’ve always done the offering and the opening for each Portal at the same time. We usually let anyone who volunteers make the offerings, with me and Rodney and anyone else with experience handle the magico-spiritual task of the opening as the offering is made. Seeing it done the other way at Wellspring, with the three offerings being made first and then the openings performed, didn’t strike me as a super-better way to do it, but it definitely wasn’t bad either, and I’m more than willing to try it out and see how it works for us. (Actually, note to self: Remind everyone who helps with the openings to wait this time. That could get screwy.)

So with those two small changes this time around, we continue the Grand Experiment That Is ADF, and we hope that you can be there on Saturday to help us with it, and if you can’t be there then, that you can join us at some future date. Our schedule of events can always be found at http://www.shininglakes.org/schedule.html

Rev. Rob Henderson
Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

Get Me To The Greek! (festival)

I mentioned in last week’s entry on my Wellspring trip that I found out about Alexei Kondratiev‘s passing while I was at the hotel in New York. I had been thinking about him during the previous few weeks, well not just him but many of the people I remembered from my earliest days in ADF that I hadn’t seen since then. Remembrances of Wellsprings past had set my mind down that path, which made the news even sadder to hear. I never met Alexei (I’m told he was even more allergic to festival camping than I am), but I certainly remember his e-mail messages on some of the lists I was on, and several of my Grovemates read his book The Apple Branch. His opinion that we modern Neo-Pagans should study modern Celtic language and culture in order to better understand that was of ancient Celtic pagans struck a chord with many of us, and this definitely influenced our Grove’s early development of our cosmology and practices. When I look at the various Imbolc traditions we developed in the ’90’s, or our old tradition of throwing lit embers of our fire into our wheat field at Summer Solstice (which I hope we can do for Fox’s farm in a few weeks), I definitely see some of Alexei’s influence there.

Having a Hellenic hearth culture for my personal practice, I admit that the particulars of Irish and other Celtic traditions aren’t quite as attention-getting for me, but I certainly agree with the basic notion of looking at the modern cultures that descended from the ancient ones that we study. It seems silly to me that we would express such serious concern for the Native American tribes who lived in this land before us and devote our time to learning about their history and practices from their modern descendants, but completely ignore the modern descendants of those Ancients we study for our own practices!

So with that in mind, I went to the Ya’ssoo Greek Festival in Ann Arbor today. The last time I went, a few years ago, the festival only ran on Friday and Saturday, but the additional Sunday stuff gave me a chance to attend on my first actual day off in two weeks instead of dragging myself there after walking ten miles at work. I can only imagine what it must have been like there last night when the thunderstorms and flood warnings were rolling through the county, but at least they had tents over most of the area. I did finally get to do part of the church tour, and it’s definitely a beautiful sanctuary, even if they haven’t gotten the funding to finish fully decorating it yet. (Hey, they *do* have something in common with our Grove!) And there was lovely Greek food and pastries (I bought the sampler box and brought it home), and live music and dancing by local Greek groups/troupes. Seeing the random children dancing in front of the stage while the bands were playing reminded me a lot of the concerts at Wellspring last week.

Sadly, there weren’t as many paganish things for sale in the merchant area. Last time, there were so many potential altar items and other things with deity images on them that I actually had to pick and choose which ones to get. This time, other than a few small statues, all they had were some small hand-painted vases and bowls. I did get a nice small (like one inch diameter) bowl with two handles which should be very nice for altars. Now if only I wanted some images of Greek Orthodox saints on my altar, I’d have been all set!

So did I get any brilliant insights into the ways of the Ancient Hellenes? Can’t say as I did this time. I definitely enjoyed the food and the music, and I think we need to use those more in our modern Hellenic rites. (Not just feta, either, much as I love it I know that not everyone can handle it.) But doing the church tour was a definite reminder that when a Christian church is running the show, only so much Pagan influence is going to come through. It’s a pity there isn’t a more secular Greek festival in the area (and you’d think there might be one here in my home town, which is actually named after a Greek guy!) where it might be easier to see more of the culture that descended from that of Homer and Hesiod and Socrates. Still, even a little bit of real-world exposure to that culture is better than none. And with the Midnight Flame Festival coming up and me still pondering what kind of Hellenic ritual proposal to submit, anything that gets me into a Greek mood is a good thing. (Gee, maybe I should have bought some of those Greek-language Disney DVDs after all!)

Next week, back to the realms of Celtlandia and a few things we’ll be doing differently for our Grove’s Summer Solstice ritual.

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

Has It Really Been Eight Years?

In preparation (and trepidation?) for my first trip to Wellspring – or any ADF festival – in eight years, I spent Thursday evening doing laundry and packing the car. I had been considering renting a car for the trip to save wear and tear on my own, which I need for work, but after having $400 of work done on it on Monday, I decided (a) I couldn’t afford a car rental on top of the hotel room I was getting, and (b) the car had better be in good enough shape for a road trip after I put that much money into it!

The trip to Brushwood was quite uneventful, the only problems I had at all were about ten miles from my house, with a construction zone I didn’t know was there because I so seldom go southeast from my house any more. During the trip, I finally started listening to the book-on-CD of Robert Fagle’s translation of The Odyssey read by Sir Ian McKellen, which got me into a good Hellenic polytheistic mood.

On arriving at Brushwood, the first thought that struck me was: there are a LOT of people here already. Like twice as many as I expected. I probably should have had higher expectations, since ADF has roughly doubled in size since the last time I was there, and of course the installation of a new ArchDruid does tend to bring more people. Skip was the only person I saw right off who I recognized, and he told me that Kirk was off undergoing his secret AD preparations.

I went out to the hotel – why a hotel for Wellspring? because nobody has yet convinced me that I bring honor to the gods by sleeping on the ground and screwing up my back – to check into my room and go online briefly. That’s when I got the weird and sad news that both Alexei Kondratiev and Gary Coleman had passed away. (I’ll say more about Alexei in next week’s entry.) I also discovered that the hotel did not, in fact, have wireless Internet in any of the rooms, but it did have a USB cable that I could plug into the wall and into my laptop, making me think that I had hit a time warp and that it was 2001 all over again. I also discovered that many of the items in the hotel room had single words printed on them: the pillows were labeled “firm” and “soft”, the body wash just said “scrub”, the shampoo was “clean”, and the conditioner was “tame”. That last one got me pondering the viability of a hotel where every amenity was named after a Pixies song. Think of it! The clock radio would have “Planet of Sound” written on it, the coffee pot would be “Where Is My Mind”, the Gideon Bible would say “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, and of course, the condoms would be labeled “Bone Machine”.

Back to the festival site, where I finally found the SLuGs’ campsite, and Rodney dragged me around the festival to meet everyone who had been in ADF for less than eight years and thus had never met me. I also talked to Carrion, who had been tasked with getting all of the Clergy Council members not otherwise involved with the ritual preparations to handle the opening roles. I was assigned the Inspiration invocation, which suited me well since I’d been listening to the Odyssey on the trip and was in a Musey mood.

I went up to the main building to use the men’s room to change into my white chiton, and was startled to see Kirk standing by the entrance! “Er, am I supposed to see you before the ritual?” “I don’t know, are you the one they sent for me?” “Er, huh?” It turns out the clergyfolk handling his preparations had told him to wait there for further instructions, and he thought I was the one bringing them. After assuring him that I wasn’t, I hugged him and left him to his wait while I changed. I think he was in the shower when I left, but I was too polite to look.  >8) It wasn’t too long a wait until the rite, and I planned out my invocation in my head. (And my thanks to Irisa for pinning up my hymation, which Gen usually does but she wasn’t with me this time.)

Dusk came, and we gathered at the crossroads before proceeding to the nemeton. Kirk was seated off to the side, looking like he was in a trance. We stood about three deep all around the raised circle of the nemeton – yeah, this was DEFINITELY more people than I’d ever seen here. (Before anyone asks, no, I’ve never attended Starwood or Sirius Rising. That’s just too many people for me to be comfortable around.) Obviously I didn’t have long to wait before my piece, and despite my stumble in calling Homer a “soundless storyteller” instead of a sightless one (though in fairness he’s also been soundless for several centuries now), it went well. I’m told that as I said “Esto!” at the end, the grouping of Hellenics on the other side of the circle squealed. Apparently I now have a fan club. The rest of the ritual went well and was very powerful, even if a few steps were nearly forgotten (but pointed out by Kirk, thus proving that he deserves to be the AD). After the rite ended, we SLuGs waited in line to hug Kirk and to have some of the whiskey he brought as a gift to the assembled folk – well, Kestrel and Liz had some, Rodney and I don’t drink. I wandered around the camp for a bit before returning to the hotel at 11, trying to honor the “if you’re in bed by midnight then you won’t get into any drama” warning that seems to apply to all festivals.

After stopping by Findley Lake to buy candles and garden decorations from the store that used to be the Ladybug Cafe (*sniff*, how I miss them), I arrived in camp at around 10:30 the next morning, in time for the ritual to establish a Fallen Warrior shrine in the nemeton. Lots of emotion in that one, as you can imagine, and I’m very glad to have been there. (And definitely looking forward to the addition of an Athena statue to the shrine!) After that I hung out at the Warrior Games area and got some practice in, then I attended the Healer’s Guild ritual, which went well. I got my scores in for the Games – I could have spent more time on the archery (my best talent at such events) but I didn’t want to spend the whole afternoon on it. Sadly, I didn’t get to attend any of the workshops that afternoon, nor did I hear any of the Bardic Competition works except for what the wind carried from the pavilion to the games field. But I’ve organized enough festivals in my life to know how it goes, and I’d rather have too many wonderful things going on than too few.

After a trip to Sherman to buy groceries and snack on some excellent hot wings at the local tavern, I got back in plenty of time for the potluck, which, like everything else about this Wellspring, was a lot more huge than I was expecting! After that, I watched the concerts by both Revelry and The Mickeys, which were both great, and then back to the hotel. (Should I have stayed and used the hot tub, since it was actually cool enough at that point? Nah, avoid the drama…)

Sunday morning, I left the hotel later than I wanted to and nearly missed the beginning of the National Meeting, which would have been just tragic. >8) Actually, this one moved along pretty smoothly and was actually semi-informative, plus we got to see Kirk promise to let people slap him if he ever referred to the ADF Store as “Regalia” again, which he then did about thirty minutes later.

After that came the time slots where all of the Guilds and Kins schedule their own meetings, which of course overlapped and I ended up missing the Liturgists’ meeting (the only Guild in which I’m currently an officer) to attend the Hellenic Kin ritual. That ritual was great, and it was good to work with the other ADF Hellenes and just be all Hellenic and stuff. I’m glad I brought my water from Delphi with me, Michel used it to help him prepare for the omen taking. (Obvious use for it, really, why didn’t I think of that?) I stayed in the nemeton for the super-secret Clergy thing, then back up to the main campground to buy Reg-, er, stuff from the ADF Store, including two shirts (yes, I’m one of the ones who bought a SolSIG shirt!), some pouches, a new runestone set, a few books, and a small plush Druid made by Grey. Then I attended the Clergy Council’s open discussion, consisting of the Clergy Council and three observers. Well, don’t say we don’t try to be open about what we’re doing. >8) Mainly it was Michael discussing his proposed changes to the Clergy Training Program, which ADF members can read here. (And somewhere in here I finally met Jamie Goodwin, whose Protogrove I mentored, but he was only at the site briefly. Aww.)

After a quick trip to Findley Lake for dinner (which I shouldn’t have done, apparently the leftovers from Saturday’s potluck were more than enough for a meal for everyone at the site), I changed into my black robes for the Symbel. Rodney managed to set up the Grove banner for our table, so the four of us plus Sharon Smith sat together. The toasting of the gods and the boasting of personal achievements was limited to one per table, which kept things moving nicely and kept the energy levels good. (I don’t attend a lot of Symbels, but I’ve heard plenty of stories about how bad they can get when everyone feels the need to talk for five or ten minutes.) I toasted Lugh and Ana (and thought about mentioning Zeus Teleios as the god who holds people to their oaths, since there was oathtaking coming up, but decided against it, next year maybe), and boasted of our successful rental and management of our suite at ConVocation. (Thanks to Kestrel for suggesting that, otherwise I’d have just said that I passed the First Circle of the CTP, decent but a little self-centered for my tastes, even for a boast.) (Second and Third Circle, I’ll boast.) Stone Creed had platters with bread, grapes, and excellent cheese at every table, a first for any Symbel I’d attended. (Not that I attend many, as I said.) Since I was only drinking water, driving back to the hotel was no problem.

I packed up and checked out early on Monday morning, and stopped by Brushwood for the closing rite and to say my goodbyes to everyone there, most of whom I had only met in person a few days earlier. Rod, Liz, Kestrel and I stopped off in Erie on the way home at Quaker Steak and Lube so I could have, yes, more hot wings, and then we caravanned home, at least until the downpour in Ohio that cut visibility so much that I lost sight of them. Well, other than that the trip home was uneventful.

So, wow, after eight years without, it was quite a rush to experience all of that again. And back then, I knew most of the other people who were there, this time it felt like everyone was new. (And young. Way younger than me.) Taking part in seven rituals in three days was pretty heady stuff, too. I hadn’t really understood how much I missed it until I went back. I hope that everyone reading this who hasn’t been to Wellspring before has a chance to do it some time in their lives.

Now all I have to do is find a way to get to Midnight Flame in September…

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