Having read Euripides‘ Bacchae back in college, and hearing that the attendance at the first ever ADF Hellenic Kin Retreat would be five women and me, I was understandably concerned about what might happen to me there. Well, maybe not being literally torn to pieces, but it’s not often that I go to spend the night at someone else’s house with a bunch of people I don’t know that well. Actually, I don’t think I’ve done that since, um, ever. But Columbus isn’t that long a drive from here, and I certainly wanted to be involved with it. I was head of the Hellenic Kin for several years, but lack of money prevented me from attending festivals or doing much of anything with it beyond online activities. So any chance to see a real-world offshoot of the group I’d been with for so long was very appealing!
Although the retreat began on Friday, I had to stay in Ann Arbor for our Grove’s Coffee Hour that night, so I didn’t leave until Saturday morning. The drive to Irisa’s home in Columbus was uneventful, if hot. (Still better than working outside in those conditions, though!) When I got there, Jan, Janet and Irisa were making clay disks with Greek letters for use with Michel’s Greek Oracle system. I didn’t want to muck around with clay, but I may well do a craft workshop at our Lughnasadh for folks to make wooden disk versions.
While some of the folks went out to buy supplies, I took a nap, and did manage to wake up shortly before Anthony from Silver Falls Grove arrived, making me no longer the only man present and therefore safe from the being torn apart that surely would have befallen me that evening. We made some incense (and each got to take some of it home), then had dinner before the main ritual. Well, for me, since I missed the Hestia devotions the night before, it was the only ritual!
The rite itself was a small group version of the Panathenaea Festival, to honor Athena. I’d brought some of my altar items to place on Irisa’s hearth for the rite, as did some of the others, and I brought olive oil from my kitchen as an offering. It was definitely an unusual experience for me, to be doing a rite for my patroness where I wasn’t the one leading the ritual! It went very well, I didn’t even mind the energy work and grounding and centering stuff (I generally don’t mind them as much for small private ritual as I do for big public rites), and the omen was good and nobody died.
After the rite I tried to get to sleep, but couldn’t quite manage, so I went back downstairs just in time to not be able to join everyone in the hot tub because they all came inside when they saw lightning. (This is shaping up to be “The Year Without A Hot Tub” for me.) We stayed up late and talk for a while instead.
Sunday (this) morning, I got up earlier than everyone else (no surprise given my work schedule these days) and had breakfast and played Facebook games until everyone else was up. We did a quick closing ceremony before I headed back north to negligibly cooler climes. Odd to think that it was only a four hour drive, but I was still the one who had traveled the farthest for the Retreat!
So as far as I know, this was the first in-person retreat specifically for any of ADF’s Kins (not counting meeting at larger festivals), and I certainly hope it won’t be the last. As good as being in an online group can be (and that’s certainly better than nothing), nothing can compare to the work we do at in-person events, both in terms of a satisfying experience and of inspiring us to continue doing the work in our own homes and with our local Groves. I know that when I’m doing the Greek-themed events at our Lughnasadh in a few weeks, I’ll be thinking of the powerful experiences I had this weekend!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF
PS – Don’t forget the “Rolling Coin Ritual” planned for tomorrow (Monday the 26th) to help Isaac and Phaedra’s Bonewits with his medical expenses! More details can be found here.