Summer, It Turns Me Upside Down

Hey, is this thing still on? I haven’t gotten a notification of a spammer trying to post a response here for over a month! (Actually, it looks like Bravenet has improved its spam blocking. Props to Bravenet!)

So summer is very much with us now, bringing with it the longer daylight hours, the heat, and the discussions of when exactly summer actually begins. And last weekend brought our solstice ritual, a few days before the actual solstice, but as always I’m more concerned with large group participation than with obsessing over the exact timing of astronomical events. I was definitely worried about the weather reports, though, which were giving us a 60% chance of thunderstorms during our scheduled ritual time on Saturday, and only 30% on Sunday. But Sunday would be Father’s Day, and how many people wouldn’t be able to attend the rain date because they already had plans?

That’s what I had to ponder as I lit the ritual fire on Friday night, at about 8:40, well ahead of sunset. (I honestly do think of this High Day as the only one where I can finish watching Jeopardy! before leaving for Fire Watch.) Friday night was cloudy, but no rain fell as the ten of us sat around the fire that evening. The big challenge was finding enough wood to keep the fire going, since Don Botsford (owner of the site) had been sick for a while. Don’s son-in-law came down to the fire to let us know that Don had had a stroke on Monday and was still at U of M Hospital, his condition slightly improved. Don had also forgotten to tell anyone that we were supposed to be there this weekend, but we managed to get that sorted out easily enough.

I left at around 11 and went to bed not too long after getting home. Since this was our first non-mandatory Saturday at work since January, I actually got to sleep in rather than spend five hours at work before the rite! Even better, the forecast had changed overnight, and the rain wasn’t going to hit at all until after 7 PM. The satellite images showed the storm front headed directly toward us and then just veering to the southeast instead.

I went over the new newsletter that Gen had e-mailed me, and got my ritual items packed into the car. I went to Kinko’s – er, FedEx Whatever It Is This Month – for copying and Kroger for potluck sodas, and still got to the site about an hour earlier than I’d planned. Well, more time to set up! Rod arrived before 1, and I think we had the nemeton set up by 1:30. Always good for keeping the ritual leader’s stress levels low. The complete absence of clouds helped, too. And yet it wasn’t overly hot, one of the advantages of being surrounded by very tall trees.

People arrived steadily up to the appointed time, and if we hadn’t had those issues with firewood and getting the nemeton fire going, we might well have started by 2:30. Still, 2:50 was early enough, all in all. Rodney suggested we do the Outsiders offering before the processional, because “that’s what all the other Groves are doing these days”, an argument that almost never works on me but I humored the request. >8) We processed down and (per Rodney’s suggestion just before we started) had the ochre purification before entering the nemeton, then once everyone had stopped processing, had the incense and water purifiers move around the circle (one inside and the other outside) to do those purifications. While this was happening, we did the “By the might of the waters and the light of the fire, let this Grove be made whole and holy” chant that I’m pretty sure Ian Corrigan wrote. Yep, yet another of Rodney’s new ritual ideas that he suggests after coming back from a big festival, in this case Wellspring. Did it work? Personally, I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t feel like it belonged either. I’m not sure whether that’s because I don’t go for big loud litanies like that (at least not that early in the rite) or because I associate it so strongly with someone else, as opposed to the “close your eyes and visualize the Kindreds joining us” technique that Kirk recommended last year, which felt new and original.

Opening up the space went just fine (now that I think of it, the ritual was pretty much free of screw-ups) and I called Bel and Danu to join us. Being our primal father and mother deities, they can often seem a bit more, I don’t know, remote? than our other Grove deities, but always kind and caring. There’s a reason we think of them as the grandparents of the Grove. We passed the sun wheel (made by Gen the night before, and I’m sorry she couldn’t be there for the rite itself) for the individual praise offerings. Looking at the working altar, I didn’t see our usual bag of flax seed for the group praise, but fortunately I’d brought a bottle of olive oil down earlier, so we made do and took turns pouring that onto the fire. We then did our traditional “Sun Litany” and Dylan threw rose petals into the air when the crowd cheered the sun and the water. I burned the sun wheel as the main sacrifice, and then Rodney took the omen (Dagaz – Ehwaz – Isa, the day acts as a bridge between Bel and Danu, and between them and us) which was good.

So then it was time to burn the request sheets we’d written back at the fire circle before coming to the nemeton – except I’d completely forgotten to have everyone do that. Between that and the missingf flax seeds, we apparently didn’t need any Outsiders to throw us curveballs, we were doing an excellent job of it ourselves. But since we were about to do the return flow anyway, I just had everyone think of what rhey wanted to bring increase to in their lives, and hold that in their minds while we asked for the gods’ blessings to enter our sacred lemonade, and to heal our loved ones, most notably Don Botsford. (If you can’t ask for healing for the owner of the site where you’re doing the ritual, who can you ask them for?) And so the Lemonade of Life was passed and drunk.

We closed up the ritual without incident, and the twenty of us present headed back up to the fire circle for the potluck and raffle. (Memo to self, buy a lot more raffle items for next time. We’re way short.) We did have a few new folks, who said they enjoyed it a lot, they were more familiar with OBOD-style rituals but ours didn’t seem too bizarre to them. And we had the place cleaned up by 5:30, and managed to leave before the rain came! Actually, I don’t think it rained at all on Saturday or Sunday. But once we start scheduling our rituals on Sundays in the fall, I know I’m going to get way more stressed about not having the rain date option. But that’s part of the Grand Experiment That Is ADF, right?

And so begins the summer blah season for the Grove, when attendance drops because people are out of town for vacations or festivals. Hopefully we’ll get a good turnout for the picnic on July 10th that Kestrel is graciously hosting for us, and that will probably be the next entry on this blog. See you then!

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