Planning For Our New Nemeton

I have a few things on my mind that I thought might be worth a blog post, but one of them would be better discussed after Pantheacon is done, so I’ll aim to cover that one next week.  In the meantime, I’ll share a post that I wrote for our Grove mailing list and FB and G+ pages, just in case one of my four remaining readers didn’t see it there.

Oh, I’ll also throw in here: Assuming that we wasnt to keep this blog going in some form, what other blog sites would folks recommend?  The main features I’d be concerned about would be (a) free (duh), (b) the ability for other folks to post from their own accounts if I gave them permission, and (c) having an easy way to import the entries from the blog.  Of course, those of you who have volunteered to help out with the Grove’s Web presence, volunteering to copy all of the posts manually would be super helpful, and fairly easy (if mind-numbingly boring).

So between my night class and preparations for Imbolc, I’ve somehow managed not to share the biggest Grove news of the winter: We’ve found a new site for our outdoor rituals!

It’s at Cavallo Farm, a horse farm in Superior Township, and just barely in the Huron watershed. Actually, only part of the property is in the ‘shed, the border with the Rouge watershed crosses through the property. The place where we want to set up the nemeton is just on the Huron side. Talk about liminal space! You can see the site here:

We’re going to put the nemeton just northwest of the northernmost point of the circular drive. The property does include some of the wooded area to the west, and the owner says that we can clear out a circle and a path to it in the long term, but for now it will be faster and easier to set up the nemeton in the open area.

Sadly, I have no experience in building a ritual space from scratch, since I didn’t join SLG until a few years after the Botsford nemeton was built. And I’m not exactly an expert on landscaping in general, either. At the business meeting this week, we came up with our best guess of what we need to do to make it into a working ritual site:

* The grass probably needs to be mowed at some point. I don’t know whether the owner of the site has one. I would assume that she does. Still, if someone has a hand-mower they’d love to use!

* The three standard Druidic altars required for any ADF rite:

The bile’. The owner does have a powered post-hole digger, so that part will be easy. Is there any feasible way we can get the old bile’ moved from Botsford to here? If not, are any of us good enough at woodworking to make a new one? There are fallen trees on the site which should be big enough. Keep in mind that if we can’t get this done right away, we can still use the “porta-bile'” that we use for our indoor rites, though if we go that route, a Maypole dance at Beltaine is out of the question.

The fire. How does one make a safe, permanent fire pit? Rodney says he has plenty of stones for this.

The well. No, it doesn’t have to be a functioning well, a two-foot pit will suffice. But we’ll definitely need some kind of covering for it so people (and horses) won’t trip in it.

* We’ll probably want sawhorses or some other kind of barricade to place between the ritual circle and the driveway.

* We’ll also need to set up a gathering area for socializing, someplace away from the ritual circle. We’ll want tables and chairs that we can store on-site, if possible.

So, all that said, I’d like to set up a work day on a Sunday in April (earlier would be better for my stress levels) to get the site ready, assuming that the labor part can be done in one day, which I’m guessing it could be. Any expert advice from experts out there would be appreciated.

This will obviously be one of the biggest projects our Grove has ever worked on, and hopefully the prologue to the many wonderful stories we’ll create there through our rituals and our community!



The Warmest Imbolc Ever (But Not The Smallest!)

I think I’m about to set a new record for “latest blog entry about a ritual”, thanks to my new night class which will hopefully result in me getting a programming job again, and finally having enough money to go to festivals and have some small chance of convincing women to go out with me and all of the other fun stuff I did back in the 90’s when I made programmer money.  But now that the weekend is here and I’m caught up on all of the other ADF things I was behind on, here it is!

After last year’s sudden blizzard that left us with only ten people in attendance, the warm and sunny weather predicted for the weekend had me feeling some relief.  I was sad that only Gen showed up for the fire lighting (Rodney was feeling ill), but Gen did a great job making a new dress for our corn dolly, and the Bríd crosses I made from chenille sticks actually came out looking much better than my usual efforts with straw.  I'[m just sorry the rest of y’all missed out on the peanut butter cookies I baked.

Preparation went smoothly the next morning, with a quick stop for copying and a faster-than-expected stop to get hot wings from Mr. Spot’s, which I promised to bring after realizing Imbolc was going to be on Super Bowl Sunday.  (One down side of moving rituals to Sunday that we should have seen coming, but didn’t.)  It was sunny and 40 degrees (and felt warmer to me) when I got to the Ed Center.  Rodney was there soon after (and feeling better) and we were set up in plenty of time.  Other than a few people wandering in looking for the Ann Arbor Food Co-Op meeting and leaving in confusion (and I later confirmed that yes, we did indeed have the whole building reserved, and those folks didn’t), everything went smoothly and we actually got started a little earlier than usual.

Sadly, the gorgeous weather outside didn’t help attract folks as I had hoped (or maybe everyone decided to play outside instead), and we had a whole eleven people this time around.  My memories are definitely proving to be a problem with staying in this Grove for so long.  Did you know our second highest attendance for a High Day was 65 people at an Imbolc?  Do you remember when Bríd practically had her own cult within our Grove?  Sadly, I do, and I’m still stressing out over dealing with the new reality.  The meditation I wrote for everyone to meet Bríd before the ritual?  Far as I know, only one person besides me even tried it, and her experiences were, well I can’t details share because of clergy confidentiality, but not good.  And I know that several of our members have personal issues with her, to the extent that Gen walked out of the ritual as soon as we called to her.  Well, feh.  For now, I choose to treat this as an opportunity for the dedicated among us to share community on her holy day.  But damn, I miss the big ones.  Having dozens of people honoring her with song and craftwork was an amazing experience, and I hold out hope that we’ll get there again some day.

(Also, yes, we wont schedule it on Super Bowl Sunday again.)

But enough of the complaining.  The ritual itself was actually pretty good, and in some ways exceeded my expectations.  Since this was our first Imbolc at the Ed Center, this was the first one we’ve ever done without candles, and while I found it sad, it wasn’t as distracting as I’d feared.  The song I wrote for the Portal Opening actually went pretty well (don’t worry, I’ll post the lyrics someplace public at some point) (and don’t worry, I’ll save it for special occasions, assuming anyone wants me to do it again), and the new, non-kneeling way to call Bríd into the room was good.  The offerings were good, the omen was, well, eventually good (Perthro – Lagu – Hagalaz, Gebo drawn to clarify the third rune, so the gift of protection), and our concept of the three altars for Bríd (blacksmithing, writing, and herbs) went well.  There is indeed something satisfying about pounding metal with a hammer!

And once the rite ended, we got to the aspect of a small ritual that I can actually get behind.  There were three neat dishes in the potluck, and they weren’t all completely devoured before I had a chance to get them!  More amazingly, folks stayed long enough to help us get everything cleaned up by 5.  If the day was a smaller honoring of our goddess of community than I wanted, at least it was a good orthopraxic one.

The one part I still have to ponder was the pre-ritual meditation I wrote ad sent to everyone for the week before the rite.  I was hoping it would be a good way for folks to prepare, especially those who might not have as much experience with our Grove’s deities, but there definitely didn’t seem to be much interest in actually doing it.  Then again, I’ve already noted the issues some of our members have with Bríd.  Also, I’m not the type to give up on something after one attempt.  So we’ll definitely do it a few more times at least.  Being the Senior Druid of this Grove has always been a perpetual balancing act between amazement at what we can accomplish and disappointment at what we don’t, why would I expect that to change now?

I hope that everyone had a good Imbolc, whatever you did to celebrate!

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