Lughnasadh has always been an odd High Day for our Grove. From 1996 (when I joined the Grove) through 2002, we used to hold a huge festival at a conference center that drew people from all around the continent. It was fun, it was intense, and it required months of planning – and many hundreds of dollars. Of course, in the ‘90’s, we had members with good paying jobs and got enough in donations to keep the festival going. Once that ended, we had a few Lughnasadhs at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor, which I kind of liked, but I know that some others felt the venue was a little too public. (I’ve seldom been concerned about being too public a Pagan!) So from 2005 on, we’ve been doing it at our usual outdoor ritual space at the Botsford Recreational Preserve, which isn’t as huge a space as we used to have (our attempts at holding Championship Games in the preserve were, er, a bit sad) but certainly some place we can do ritual.
Unfortunately, compared to our earlier Lughnasadhs with sixty to a hundred people in attendance (having an ArchDruid in one’s Grove does help convince people to show up), our recent attendance has never been huge. Blame it on the heat, when even the outdoorsiest of Pagans think twice about spending a whole day outside. Blame it on vacation time, when people are out of town to visit relatives or sightsee or even attend larger festivals in other parts of the country. (Like everyone used to do for ours!) It’s not a problem unique to Pagans: my dad’s Unitarian church shuts down completely for six weeks in the summer because they can’t get enough people to justify running the air conditioning. But it sure is frustrating to spend just as much time on this High Day – actually more, since we do workshops and extra rituals as well as the main rite – and have half the attendance and half the donations to cover our expenses.
Maybe the worst part is that everything actually ran pretty well this year. Fire Lighting went fine on Friday night. The only other event on Friday was Gen’s Aphroditre ritual, which I can’t say anything about because it was for women only and I don’t self-identify as a woman, even if that means I don’t get to attend a Hellenic ritual. I think they got started a bit after 10, and I wanted to stay until they got back to the Fire Circle, but right around midnight and after falling asleep a few times in my chair, I said “forget this” and headed home.
The next day, I got to the site a bit before noon to do setup. The trustee of Don’s estate had me sign a contract so we could use the site (apparently he woke everyone up at 8:30 demanding to know where I was, and that must have been so much fun for them to experience), much different than how Don ran it, but hey, at least we still get to use the site. Rod arrived early as well, so the nemeton was set up in plenty of time. Rod did a workshop on divination, plus some readings for the attendees, at least in part because he needed to do divinations for others as part of his ADF Initiate Program work. Sean was going to do a children’s craft project, but other than Dylan, there were no children there, so that didn’t happen. (A pity, the cloud windsock things looked very good.)
So with the eight of us who’d been at Fire Watch the night before (not counting Gen, who was still at work) plus three more folks who’d arrived that afternoon, it was ritual time. The rite went very well, I thought, with good offerings from us, another impressive display of our chosen Champion defeating Balor with a spear – well, a pointy stick – and a good omen (Hagalaz – Tiwaz – Kenaz, the defeat of disruption (Balor) through honor bringing us inspiration) and good mead/juice for the Return Blessing. A good time was had by all who were there. But when you’re used to twenty-five people coming to your rituals, eleven can’t help but feel like you’re doing something wrong.
The rest of the evening also went well, with Gen joining us and bringing hot dogs for the potluck. (Thank the gods, all anyone had brought were sweets and potato chips. I seriously thought I was going to have to go out for Chinese or something.) Sean talked for a bit about his brewing techniques, and then I led a Hekate Deipnon ritual so we could bless the food that we’d collected for HARC. The rite took like ten minutes, which is about right for what is traditionally a small household rite, but after the two hour plus ritual the night before, I felt like I should have stretched it out or something. Anyway, getting done an hour before sunset did give us plenty of time to clean the site without having to return in the morning to finish up, so that worked out.
So what to make of our teeny tiny Lughnasadh this year? Actually, an attendance of twelve is exactly the same as we’ve had the two previous years. And the money we got this year was around $50, which sadly is more than we usually get for this one, even though we have to pay $80 for the site rental. Obviously we can’t just not do Lughnasadh: besides being the High ay for our Grove’s tribal father god, there’s also the matter of ADF bylaws requiring us to do a holiday around the beginning of August. But unless something very unusual happens in the next year, I think we’ll just have to move this ritual to a site that doesn’t cost as much as Botsford. Sure, whether it’s a public park or someone’s back yard, it won’t be as nice as our nemeton in the old growth forest, but if we can’t get people to come to anything we do in August, then we need to make adjustments accordingly. I want this Grove to still be running long after I’m gone, and we can’t do that by losing money that consistently.
Anyway, so I don’t end this on a down note, check back next week when I’ll be reporting on my trip to Ohio to attend Three Cranes Grove’s Druid Service at the Dublin Irish Festival. Over three hundred people were there last year, and I can’t wait to see what an ADF ritual of that size looks like!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF