I was going to write something about my trip to the Midnight Flame Festival last weekend. Then I saw various articles in the blogosphere about both 9/11 and the DC40 nonsense, and I decided to go right ahead and write about Midnight Flame. If you want the stronger stuff, then no worries, the 9/11 thing will be the topic of my newsletter article next week, and the DC40 will be a blog topic sometime in the next few weeks.
Kestrel and I traveled up together, and got there on Thursday just before sunset, quite a change from my late arrival last year when I was ten minutes late for the main rite. After the opening rite and dinner, there was some socializing before I went to bed. I had a cabin this year, but instead of being alone, I shared it with Kestrel and Rob (who showed up on Friday evening). The weather was great throughout, sunny but not too hot, which was different from both the cold of last year’s festival and the rains that hit southern Michigan during this year’s. It was very odd to see “rain” on my laptop’s Web browser and sun in the sky!
One difference from last year was the addition of the dawn rites, at Michael and Drum’s suggestion. (Actually there may have been dawn rites last year, but if there were, I surely wasn’t up early enough to see them.) I set my alarm early enough to attend all of them, because like our own Beltaine dawn rite, this was a unique chance to do a ritual in a way that I don’t usually do ritual. Actually, since we did it three times over the weekend, “unique” is the wrong word, and maybe I should only have attended one. Well they were beautiful. I called upon Eos each morning, of course, and the others who managed to stagger to the fire circle that early called upon the dawn goddesses of their own hearth cultures. Still can’t help but think that when Michael said, “Dawn greets the pious and lets the impious sleep”, what he meant was “Dawn hates the pious and denies them the healing peace of sleep”. I am so not a Vedic.
During the day Friday, I was – well, most of us were – fascinated with the products Michael displayed on behalf of his new store, The Magical Druid. I can honestly say I’d never seen runic dreidels before. I got a set of runes on wooden discs (my current set is stone, but I’m feeling like wood would work better for me), silver-plated discs for offering (apparently intended for use in belly dancing costumes), and the Cranes’ prayer book, which I hope we in SLG can also do in some format. I also got a package of nine woods that Drum was selling, not sure what I’ll do with that yet.
Friday afternoon (and into Saturday afternoon), Flip spent his ample free time in the middle of the festival he was hosting by finishing his Dedicant Path documentation. Since several of the attendees are still working on their own, it made for an odd sort of workshop, but hopefully a useful one.
Friday night brought the main rite, and yes, I did manage to get there on time for it this year. About twenty-five hours early, in fact! This one was special for me because we – meaning “everyone present but me” – charged my new clergy stole and presented it to me. Hearing and feeling the toning that put the energy into the stole, and having it placed upon me, was an amazing experience. So amazing that I managed to not read one-third of the Groves’ names during the Unity Rite portion! No, not for that reason, but because two of the blasted pages stuck together and in the dark I didn’t notice until it was too late. We decided to read the omitted names at the next night’s sumbel, So all of you Groves who were founded between 2003 and 2009, you had twenty-four hours to invoke non-Indo-European deities, or call quarters, or whatever! Too bad we didn’t let you know that at the time. >8)
After staying up way too late talking and getting up way too early for the dawn rite, Michael led a workshop on sacred fire, and then the afternoon was spent mostly in socializing and staring at Flip while he worked on his DP some more. Kirk wrote his press release for 9/11, and I was honored that he asked me (and the other clergy present) to help him with it.
Saturday night was the Sumbel, even more impressive than most given the size of the fire (I do think it’s the largest fire pit I’ve ever seen), where we toasted the Kindreds and each other, most notably Flip for finishing and getting approval for his DP work. I think many people were impressed by Dylan’s toast to his unknown patrons, I’ve spent most of my Pagan life looking forward to seeing children who were raised Pagan being all Pagany in ways that most of us couldn’t because we were raised in other faiths. I look forward to seeing them share the many new things they will discover because of this.
After being up late again (remember, I’m usually in bed by 11 because of my current work schedule, 1:30 AM for me is like 3 AM for everyone else) and another dawn rite, we closed things up pretty early on Sunday morning. Kestrel and I were on the road at 11 and back to our homes by 3:30, giving me enough time to visit Borders Store 1 in downtown Ann Arbor on the day before it closed. I can’t say that I bought many of my early books on Paganism there (that honor goes to the still-open Crazy Wisdom) but those of you who have seen all those Doctor Who and other science fiction books that I still have, you can blame Store 1 for most of those. If I ever have anything resembling a disposable income again, I know I’m going to have a hard time bringing myself to buy books anywhere else. (Of course, the books I own but haven’t managed to read yet should last me at least ten years, so maybe I can delay that for a while!)
One last note on the weekend is how surprised and impressed I was by how many members of my Grove were there, nine of us all told, making us about one-third of the attendees. I’d always felt bad for not being able to attend Midnight Flame before last year (the three chief reasons being money, money, and money), and last year I think I was the only SLuG to go (and I will die of embarrassment if I’ve forgotten someone who was there), so this was the most of us I’d ever seen at a festival since Wellspring of ’98. (Not counting our own Lughnasadh festivals back in the day, of course.) Much as I love spending time with people from other Groves, there’s a certain kind of pride from seeing my own Grove being so active in something non-local, and I hope we can keep on doing it. (Six of us at Wellspring next year, or will that be expecting too much of us?)
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF