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