After the fuss about having to move our Beltaine ritual back a day because of a scheduling conflict, and then super-cold weather for the last two weeks, plus long term forecasts ranging from sun to thunderstorms, I really didn’t know what to expect for the ritual weekend! Friday afternoon went smoothly enough, especially since I didn’t have to pack my car for the ritual, indeed I couldn’t pack that early in case I needed to drive people to the Dawn Rite. I gave Barbara a ride to the site, where we somehow got the fire going with wet wood. Gen, Rod, the Kellers (driving straight from Grand Rapids) and newcomer Brent joined us, and after blessing the fire, we talked about the royal wedding that morning (what else?) and other things. As it had been for the last few weeks, it was way colder than usual, and even I needed a jacket.
I slept in my car from 11:30 to 4:30 or so, then managed to get everyone who was still there awake for the trip to Big Lake. We got there around 6:10, which would have been dreadfully late if we’d been canoeing out to the center of the lake to make the offerings. But with no canoe (and withy Fox being a farmer now, not much chance of anyone bringing a canoe), we used the “throw the offerings as hard as you can” technique, and were standing by the oak tree with the bowl of water in plenty of time for sunrise. I sang the blessing song (and we really need to write a new song, beyond me being the only one who knows it, it’s way too difficult to sing that early in the morning), then the Kellers headed home (only twenty miles from the lake, apparently) and I took Barbara back to Ann Arbor. I stopped by the preserve to collect the flame and make sure the site was clean for the reggae festival, then went home and slept.
Saturday was definitely an odd day. The flow of “Fire Watch then ritual then home” was disrupted, and I was working on the order of service and getting the car packed in… the evening before the rite? Dinner at Conor O’Neil’s with my mother was fun, at least, and more of an Irish touch than I usually do before ritual. (Not that I consider our Grove *that* Irish!) I also stopped by Botsford to visit the reggae festival and confirm that the music was way too loud for us to have tried to do ritual.
So Sunday came, I actually slept in, and still got going in time to get copying done and get to the site at 12:15. The mess left from the reggae folks was worse than I’d hoped, but plenty of people arrived early, and not only did we get things cleaned up, the ritual area was set up by 1:20. A chance at getting the ritual started on time? No, because Gen called to say she had a flat tire and wouldn’t be getting to the site until 2:30 – with the ribbons for the Maypole, and the cookies for selecting the May King/Queen. So we relaxed for a while as folks arrived. The sun came out at around 2:15 and almost blinded me, but that was a good sign, as this made the weather for Sunday better than it had been on Saturday at that same time. Moving the ritual was now undoubtedly a good thing.
Eventually Gen did arrive in her sister’s husband’s car, and we got the Maypole set up and were ready to go! Richard drew the green-dotted cookie and led our processional to the nemeton. After the usual openings, I called Aren as the deity of the occasion, and we passed a flask of oil (I should have gotten a bigger bottle of olive oil to fill it with) for individual offerings. For the group praise, we did our usual “Dance of Transcending the Boundaries” (which I won’t ruin for those of you who’ve never been to our Beltaine), and then the Maypole dance. Six stragglers showed up just before the dance began, proving the adage about someone always showing up late for the rite. The dance was, well, low energy even by our standards. I was the only one singing the song, and I’m thinking next year I need to bring a cattle prod or something to get other people to sing too. Back in the old days, EVERYONE sang the song during the dance. I do thank Paul for a good job of drumming along with me, or I expect the dance would have been even slower and lazier than it was.
After pouring the oil onto the fire, Richard bravely jumped the fire himself, forgoing his option to pick someone else to do it. Rodney took the omen (Ansuz – Kenaz – Sowilo), and since it was good, we blessed the May Wine (and sparkling pomegranate blueberry juice, which I loved) and then all had a chance to jump the fire. (Including the other five stragglers who showed up after the Maypole but before the fire – again, just a weird weekend.)
And after closing up the ritual, we returned to the fire circle for food and the raffle. A few of us returned to the nemeton to dig up the terra cotta pigs we’d buried at our mini-Thesmophoria back at Samhain. Gen had small bags that she put pieces into, and then we handed them out for folks to put in their gardens. And it stayed dry and mostly sunny until we left, and I managed to get home in time for… The Simpsons? Sunday rituals are weird. Then again, we got $100 from donations and the raffle, and a total of 36 people in attendance, so we may need to seriously consider doing more of them. I’ll get used to it. >8)
Have a joyous Beltaine season!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF