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