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