(brushing a bit of the dust away, has it been three weeks already?)
Long-time readers of this blog may remember our two-person two-household Brídeog from three years ago, follow by two canceled Brídeogs because we got absolutely no volunteers to go from house to house, the first leaving me saddened, the second kinda pissed off. I was quite prepared to just not schedule one this year and let this particular Grove tradition fade into the past like Bardic Night and the Lughnasadh Games. But when we discussed it at An Bruane in December, Gen (probably the most unlikely Grove member to stand up for Bríd) made a suggestion. Go ahead and schedule a Brídeog, she said, but require anyone who wants their home visited to send someone on the trip. Fair enough, I thought, that will either get us some volunteers or at least make me feel better about canceling it. So that’s what the announcement in our Yule newsletter said.
And lo, we got two volunteers right away, and then one a week before the date, and then one more two days before the date. (It seems to be a rule that someone always waits to ask until one or two days ahead. And it amuses me that the people who ask early seem to think I’m being cruel to them by not telling them exactly where we’re going until two days before, as though I had a choice other than refusing a goddess’ blessings to someone who didn’t meet a deadline!)
So in the late afternoon, the corn dolly and I went to Ann Arbor to get Barbara, then Pinckney for Kestrel, and then we made the long long drive to Oxford (longer than it needed to be, thanks to my GPS’s apparent disdain for using M-59) and Sean and Kris’ home. Then all of us drove to Ferndale for Paul and Val’s home, where the Oxford crew left us because they’d made evening plans. (One of the problems of going years without a Brídeog: people may not realize that it’s always been an after-dark thing!) From there it was a straight shot down Eight Mile with Val following in her car to get to my home, where we blessed not only the house but the barn. (The mules seemed only mildly interested in us.) From there, we all somehow fit into my car to get to Kestrel’s, then we left Kestrel there and the three of us went to Barbara’s, which was far and away the smallest home we visited. (In twenty years, I’d forgotten just what college housing looked like!) We got back to my place around 11, which was a lot earlier than I’d expected to finish, though none of the homes had the huge spreads of food and drink that used to keep things slowed down during earlier Brídeogs.
For each home we visited, we sang our boisterous barging-through-the-door song, followed by the Bríd invocation, and then I carried the Bríd dolly around the house while Barbara read the House Blessing poem. After collecting our offering of food to be donated to Food Gatherers and giving a Bríd Cross in return, we sang the boisterous song of leaving as we, er, left. Much as in our previous Brídeogs. (Do we need to rewrite any of these? Thought for next year.)
The driving was a little tricky since there’d been snow earlier that day and not every rod was clear, but it was still manageable. If the blizzard that hit us on Wednesday had come four days earlier, we would likely have had to cancel yet another Brídeog, so that worked out. And with three days to go until the ritual, and a prediction of only light flurries on Saturday, I knew the Imbolc ritual itself would be fine too.
But sometimes we don’t always know what we think we know. Since I had to work in the morning, I only had a short drive through the early part of the snowfall, and Rodney got to the site at around 1, so we had the place mostly set up before we realized that this was a good deal more than a light flurry coming down. And then I started getting the phone calls from folks who weren’t going to risk the roads just for a ritual. Thoughts of postponement might have flitted through my head at that point (as many other Imbolc activities in the area did get canceled, I found out later), but with the ritual space completely set up and no guarantees that we could get that space reserved for a later date, I decided to go through with it. If Rod and I were the only ones doing the ritual, so be it. The work would be done.
Happily, a few other folks did arrive, mostly from within the Ann Arbor city limits so the drive wasn’t as intimidating. We also got a family who had never attended a pagan ritual before but read about us in the Ann Arbor Observer sand thought it sounded interesting. I thank them both for their spirit of adventure and discovery, and also for bringing our attendance up to ten, continuing our sixteen year string of double-digit High Day attendance. >8)
The ritual itself was nice. I definitely prefer rituals with more people in attendance, as there’s definitely something about a big group joining together for a ritual that a small group can’t match. But there’s also an appeal to knowing that even with the obstacles placed in our way by the weather, we still had a group there who had overcome those obstacles just to continue our tradition and honor one of our gods. During the Manannan invocation, those of us on the far side of the room could clearly see the elevator door in the back room open and close by itself, although one would assume that Manannan wouldn’t need to use the elevator, so we’re still debating who or what decided to join us at that point.
At the ritual planning session, we’d decided to focus on the more household-centric aspects of Bríd, instead of her grander aspects of healing and inspiration and such. It’s always been a challenge to adapt a traditional Imbolc celebration, very much a family-oriented household rite, into a large public group rite, and I thought that shifting the focus of offerings and return blessings to the domestic would work. And I think it did, even if only a few folks were there to see it. I’d love to try again next year and see how it works with more in attendance, assuming no massive snowstorms next year. We passed a pitcher of milk as the focus object for individual praise and the main sacrifice, and for the return we blessed and shared sheep cheese (actually a mixed sheep/goat cheese, I couldn’t find any pure sheep cheese), bannock bread provided by Gen, and candles, all useful household items to help a family get through the winter.
After the rite, we got the place cleaned up super-fast and were on the road by 5. It’s not that we didn’t socialize, it’s just that we got it done faster than usual. >8) The new folks had many questions which Rod and I answered, so if nothing else we got some public relations/education done that day. Raffle proceeds were non-existent, but that was to be expected at that point. Hopefully we’ll get decent attendance for the equinox, or our bank account may come close to bottoming out.
And speaking of financials, it looks like we finally did manage to get the money to pay for our suite at ConVocation, and only two weeks after the deadline! If you attend the convention, please stop by and visit us in room 202 (last year’s convention hospitality suite), where we’ll be doing a ritual and at least a few workshops, and providing hospitality throughout the weekend. (I’ll also be doing my workshop on Hades and Persephone as part of the official convention programming, which I now see has been moved from 11 AM Sunday to 9:30 AM Sunday, so apparently there will be even fewer people there than I was expecting!) And if you’re not there, check back here in three weeks for my write-up of our experiences that weekend, not to mention my decision on whether or not to continue this blog. Either way, see you then!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF