For years now, I’ve thought that the holidays that Northern Hemisphere residents have developed for the winter solstice have been a way to battle the depression that comes with the lack of sunlight. Between obsessing over light and having as much of it around as we can, and customs that require us to run around shopping and decorating and visiting family, we’re sufficiently distracted from the growing daily darkness until the daylight starts to grow once again, and only then do we allow ourselves to withdraw into our homes and be quiet and alone.
Of course, when you’re the Senior Druid of an ADF Grove, the period right before any High Day is a hectic one, no matter how much sunlight you have to work with! I did manage to get my newsletter article written well in advance, so all I had to deal with on Thursday was packing my robes and other ritual items, and then buying ornament-making supplies on Friday before the Fire Lighting ceremony. (Made more challenging by a late phone call from Gen and a second trip to Joann’s, an hour after I’d already been there, but it worked out.) It was just me, Rod and Liz to start with, and I twisted chenille stems for candy cane ornaments while they assembled the candle ornaments for our return blessing. Gen arrived later and helped Rod and Liz thread cranberries. Not content to get home as early as 10, I decided to go to the annual Saturnalia at Paul and Val’s house, and ended up getting home at 1:30. And if that wasn’t enough, Gen hadn’t managed to fill out the newsletter, so I was up for yet another hour taking care of that.
I slept through my alarm (probably to be expected by that point) but still managed to be out the door at 10:30, to get copying done, buy sodas and chicken wings for the potluck, and stop by English Gardens to get a small live tree. I got to the Ed Center by about quarter after noon, giving me plenty of time to carry things in from the car. Rod showed up a bit after 1, and the ritual space was set up by 1:40 – and nobody else was there. Panic time? Nah, even I wouldn’t panic over that. People do tend to run late in the winter, and soon enough, folks were arriving.
By the time we started at around quarter to 3, there were fifteen of us there, not our best turnout but about average for Yule. (We probably shouldn’t have set up so many chairs, though, we ended up with a huge gap where nobody sat.) We processed upstairs and did our usual openings, I was glad that most of the ritual roles were taken by people other than me this time! We called upon Danu and Bel, and passed the wreath (made by Gen) around the circle, where I was shocked to hear Kris promise to be a Biddie next month. Will we actually be able to do a Brídeog this year? After that, we decorated the tree, and did a very lopsided version of Danu’s Wave of Power. Then we offered the wreath, Rod took the omen, which was good (Algiz – Isa – Ingwaz, protection through the winter to bring us fertility), and we handed out the candle ornaments. As is usually the case with Yule, it wasn’t an intense rite, but it was a pleasant one, and with as much of a frenzy as everything else becomes in December, I think that’s exactly what we need.
After welcoming Rob Steiner as a new member and blessing his necklace, we went back downstairs for potluck food, socializing, the raffle, and the gift exchange. (I got metal ornaments.) Cleanup went fairly quickly and I was on my way home by 6, tempted to stop by Mr. Spot’s for hot wings but deciding that I probably needed sleep more.
Next week, I take one of the oldest, most commonly asked questions about ADF, and try to turn it on its ear. Can it be done? Do arguments have ears? We shall see!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF