Some folks have asked me why I never attended the one and only ADF festival that’s been held here in my home state of Michigan since, well, since our Grove stopped doing our big Lughnasadh in 2002. Sadly, the nswer was pretty straightforward: utter lack of money and car, plus a job that wouldn’t let me get a Saturday off easily. (Getting High Days off for Grove rites eight times a year was hard enough!) Much the same reason I never attended Wellspring or Summerlands or any other festival during the last eight years. But with a new job and a working car this year, I finally had a chance to drive up to Bellaire for the Midnight Flame Festival, cosponsored by Grove of the Midnight Sun and Grove of the Twilight Flame, Michigan’s northernmost ADF groups. Flip (Senior Druid of Midnight Sun) owns the Chain O Lakes Campground there, and this late in the season, there’s plenty of room for a festival. And even better, the cure for the one thing I dislike about most festivals: cabins! No need to tent!
I drove straight there after work on Friday (the festival started Thursday night, but I can’t afford to take a day off for it, I’m not making THAT much more money) and got there shortly before the 9 PM rite to Nerthus started – or would have, if my GPS had taken me to the right location. The golfers staying at the Chain O Lakes Motel did know where the Chain O Lakes Campground was, though, so I got there at 9:15 or so – and discovered that this was the only festival I’ve ever been to where things start on time. And since I had no clue where the nemeton on the site was, and they weren’t making enough noise for me to find them, I explored the campground as best I could in the dark until they were done. Ah well, yet another opportunity for me to totally not connect with the Earth Mother. I’ve sold my spirit to my local river, that’s for sure.
After some small amount of socializing with everyone by the biggest fire pit I’ve ever seen, Deb did manage to get me into a cabin so I could get to sleep at around midnight, which doesn’t sound like much unless you know that my current work schedule has be going to bed around 10 most nights. After sleeping in until 7:30 (yes, for me that’s sleeping in) I had breakfast (they actually make breakfast for everyone!) and then attended Barbara’s trance workshop and Kirk’s voice and movement workshop, a shortened version of his long workshop on using theater techniques to improve our ritual performances, good stuff! And after lunch and a nap (the soft rain plus not being stuck in a tent made that very appealing) I sat in on Skip’s workshop on getting in touch with local land spirits, and added to and corrected a few of the things he said about what SLG had done. (The source of the Huron is in the mountains? I don’t think there are any mountains within 300 miles of Big Lake. Fox, what did you tell him exactly? >8)
I then changed into my white chiton and got materials for my Apollo ritual from Flip. I’d been planning on a trip to the supermarket to get the barley, olive oil, and wine that I needed, but with Flip also being Chief of the Brewer’s Guild, he actually did have barley there! I did my presentation on Hades and Persephone and correcting some misperceptions about them (based on an entry I did here last year, and hopefully to be on the ConVocation schedule this year) which was well attended and well received, and then we went outside (it had stopped raining) for the rite, which I’d adapted from the Neokoroi’s Noumenia rite. I’ve done plenty of full ADF COoR Hellenic rites before, and wanted to try a more traditional, stripped-down one instead, and I liked how it went. I was surprised that 17 of the 25 or so attendees were there, maybe there really is some interest in Hellenism from the non-Hellenes of ADF!
We had dinner after that (fresh cooked ham and turkey!) and then did the Sumbel, which was more mellow than most of the Sumbels I’ve been to, but I think that better suited the mood of this festival. I didn’t stay up too long after that, between being tired and the usual rule about the dramatics at a festival never starting before midnight. (Though I suspect there wasn’t much drama after midnight at this particular one!)
The next morning I visited the petting zoo section of the campground with Melissa and her daughters, then stayed for the Upper Midwest regional meeting (apparently everyone wants us to do a suite at ConVocation again, which I guess I expected) and a visit to the site’s nemeton (in case I show up late again next year, I’ll now where to find everyone!) before the closing rite and the saying of goodbyes. I stopped at a local disc golf course (memo to self: if you play disc golf on a course at the top of a ski slope, the wind will do many wacky things to your throws) before driving back home.
So what was the bestest thing about the festival? Running a workshop and ritual that people like is good, of course, and so was the petting zoo, but I think the best part was just getting to talk to people I don’t get to see very often, and the chance to meet so many of the other ADF members of Michigan who I only knew through Facebook. And while this was one of the least attended festivals I’ve been to, I really think that this worked in its favor, giving people a chance to take part in everything that was going on and getting to interact with everyone else who was there. Which is not to say I don’t hope there are more people there next year, of course, especially if I can get more Hellenes up there to do a bigger ritual. >8) I’m only sorry that I missed the first three years of this Michigan ADF tradition, and I hope that I have no obstacles to returning for many years to come.
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF