Different Mothers Than Others?

Apologies for posting a day later than usual again this week, the getting-the-basement-apartment-unpacked efforts went into high gear this week with the arrival of new bookcases so I can actually get things out of boxes. Hopefully I can get back to Sunday posting next week, though with a charity walk and a trip to our Manannan shrine both scheduled for that day, maybe I should keep my expectations a little lower!

Oh, by the way, I’m doing a charity walk next Sunday, and you can still donate money to it. And we’re having a Manannan shrine visit later in the day, which I highly recommend to anyone who can attend! You can read about last year’s trips here and here.

Anyway, last weekend I went up to Lansing to attend Cedarsong Grove’s High Day rite, since it wasn’t on the same weekend as ours, which always makes attendance easier. In addition to having a good time there and seeing many people I like but don’t get to see very often, it makes an interesting case study to the liturgist in me. I seldom get to see how other Groves do their rites. I do get to see the big rites we do at festivals, sure, but those are a very different experience. ADF’s regular rites, done by our Groves out there across the globe, with non-ADF folks in attendance to experience public ritual, that’s where the real work of ADF and Isaac’s vision happens, IMO.

On big difference I see with, well, just about every other Grove out there, is the call to the Earth Mother at the beginning and end of each rite. “But wait”, I hear the ADF folk saying, “isn’t that a required part of the Core Order of Ritual that we’re all supposed to be using for our High Days?” And that’s true. But we in SLG do it a bit differently, in that we honor our River Mother, Ana, instead. “Well, that’s the same thing. right?” I hear many of those same folk saying. And it’s an acceptable variation in ADF’s eyes, sure. But it always feels so different to me. Working with a local goddess of place has certainly skewed my senses of such things, I’m sure. But there’s an immediacy to working with a local goddess that I’ve just never felt with the Earth Mother. I’ve heard the argument that even if the Ancients did honor local goddesses of place, that our modern consciousness thinks in terms of the planet as a single place, especially now that we can see pictures of the Earth from space. But it still seems too distant for me to really feel that connection, and I’m betting most of my Grovemates feel similarly.

But in the end, in this Grand Experiment That Is ADF, I’m glad that we have more than one way of viewing our relationship with nature and the land, and I’m very happy for those who honor the Earth Mother in their rites. Well, except for the one it that always strikes me as silly: Why do we need to bend down and touch the earth during the invocation? If we do that to “strengthen our connection” with her, doesn’t that imply that we’re not really connected to her the rest of them time? Or that touching her with our feet doesn’t count? And even if I didn’t have those concerns, I guess there’d be no good equivalent for honoring a river mother by bending down and touching something, unless we were standing in the river at the time. We could pass a bowl of river water around the circle, but that would take way too long and violate our “try not to pass things around the circle more than twice” rule of ritual design.

And then there’s the issue of what to do with Hellenic rites – since the Greeks honored Hestia first and last at their rituals, should we consider her a Fire Mother and use her in place of the Earth Mother? Nah, I kid, I kid. A fire deity as a connection to nature would be tricky to implement, at best, and hearth goddesses are so strongly identified with our human community that I don’t think it could be done.

Well, whichever way you honor the space you’re in, may you be blessed by it!

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

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One thought on “Different Mothers Than Others?

  1. (Comments from the original post on our old site:)

    Posted by Melissa:
    I’m glad you came up! It’s always nice to get feedback from you on our rituals :) We’ve been working with the concept of earth mother writ large versus local land goddess. More and more we feel the need to connect with local spirits or goddess or something or other. Maybe you could pass us along some pointers? Oh, and by the way, the Greeks aren’t the only ones who honor a fire goddess first, The Balts honor Gabija with salt and bread very first. We do too when we do Baltic style rites, before the ritual even starts, when we’re starting the ritual fire.
    Monday, October 4th 2010 @ 9:14 PM

    Posted by Rob Henderson:
    I didn’t know that about Gabija, maybe the Fire Mother idea has some merit!

    Re local land spirits and goddesses of place, a few links to look at on our site: http://www.shininglakes.org/deities/nsallies.html and http://www.shininglakes.org/deities/seekingana.html . Given your Grove’s name, the Red Cedar seems a better river to start with than the Grand, but you might go out to both to do meditation and see what happens. Intriguingly, the source of the Red Cedar seems to be only two townships over from where I live now!
    Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 6:53 AM

    Posted by melissa:
    Thanks for the ideas Rob, I’ll take a look at the links, and you’re spot on with our name, the Cedar in our name comes from the Red Cedar river.
    Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 11:59 AM

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