Refreshing Waters and a Cold Spring (So Far)

Even by my start-work-at-5-AM standards, the week before our Spring Equinox ritual was hectic, between going to downtown Detroit for a They Might Be Giants concert (the music was not too loud for me, so my ears suggest that I’m not too old for it; but the following day, my back suggested that I might be too old to stand for four and a half hours at a general admission concert) (if I bring my camping chair next time, would that be too nerdy even for a TMBG concert?), the fire ritual at Fox’s home the night after that, and the usual pre-ritual prep work of buying supplies and raffle items and getting e-mails sent out and the order of service printed, and then combine that with the various online classes I’m taking which are even more of a time-drain than playing Facebook games, but I did get the certificate for the database course so that may actually help me get a computer job again…

Well, it’s no surprise that I didn’t have time for my usual pre-ritual visit to the Huron River that I always do before our ritual for Ana, until the day before the ritual when I stopped off at Island Park on my way home from work. I was way short on sleep and needed to get my place ready for the fire lighting, but still managed to stay awake long enough to both listen to the end of the basketball game (Go Blue!) and spend time communing with the river, near the same place where we did our stonefly sampling back in January. It was a lot warmer this time. I sat on the bench on the smaller of the two islands, seeing the water flow past (about average level, since there’d been some rain but no massive snow melts that week) and lots of quiet ducks and noisy geese. I was reminded of Fox’s description (given at the fire ritual) of Hindu rituals held in large noisy cities where they ring bells to define their sacred space with sound. Were the geese defining their own sacred space on the river with their honking, to drown out the sounds of traffic passing nearby? And a pair of ducks wandered around the island I was on and then swam around it to bob for (I assume) fish. Very much worth the time spent.

Which is good, because that gave me all of an hour to nap before getting my place cleaned up and getting the egg dyeing accoutrements and snacks all prepared for the people who would attend the pre-ritual indoor fire lighting there. Which ended up being… nobody. Which was disappointing, but nowhere near as depressing as everyone who commented on my Facebook post seemed to think I was finding it. I’ve spent sixteen years dedicating myself to the concept of open public ritual, and that fanatical devotion is a big part of what’s kept me active, and happily so, for all that time. And sometimes, open public ritual means that you do the prep work and nobody shows up. As Fox and Kit used to remind us, that was how nearly every meeting for the first severl months of Shining Lakes Protogrove’s existence went: the two of them went to a public space they’ve rented out for a meeting, waited, nobody showed up, and they went to dinner by themselves, where the discussion topic was usually “why are we bothering, and should we stop?” Obviously, people did eventually start showing up. But if they’d given up that early, and SLP had gone defunct before becoming SLG, how much poorer would all of our lives be now because of it? That’s what goes through my head when folks don’t show up for something. Not depression. Really. I blessed the ritual flame myself, which still counts.

Though I admit it was a little sad having to get up early enough the next morning to dye all of the eggs for the ritual by myself. Mainly because I’m not very good at dyeing eggs, and also because I got a cheap dye kit that barely tinted them, even with the vinegar I used. At least the red egg was vivid, since I used actual food coloring for that. I got the car packed up (couldn’t do it the night before because I don’t want the bottle of blessed water to freeze), got the flame into the car, and drove to Ann Arbor to get the order of service and newsletters printed, then diverted to Lily’s Garden to pick up the pine cones for the children’s activity, and still got to the Friends Meeting at 1:20, way too early given that the Friends were still cleaning up from their activity in the basement, but Candy and Serena (who got there before me?) and I helped them get everything done so we could set up. Once Rodney got there, the space was mostly empty, and with everyone helping, our circle was set up quickly enough. The kids (and some of the adults, I think) put peanut butter and seeds on the pine cones to make bird feeders, and I got the ritual roles assigned, and Sean sold raffle tickets, and we were ready to go!

The openings went smoothly enough. I did flip a few of the opening steps around, but it wasn’t disastrous. I was a little sad that I didn’t have our usual flowers to offer to Ana, but Gen couldn’t be at the rite, so no floral offerings for anyone. Our traditional egg hunt, symbolic of finding the life returned to the land, went quickly (motivated by the just-barely-above-freezing temperatures, I suspect – and no, nobody complained that we were doing a spring ritual indoors) and then I managed to tell the story of Ana pretty well, despite my relative lack of preparation for it. (Drum suggested that one of us tell her story at Wellspring. I don’t know that I’m up for that, but I don’t know that any other SLuG would be up for it either, which means I get to do it.)

For the main sacrifice, we offered the eggs to Ana, and Rodney took the omen (Perthro – Ingwaz – Isa) which was deemed good. For the return flow, we blessed and shared water (common among most ADF Groves, but unusual for us) and also sprinkled the blessed water on the various tools and seeds that we had brought, including the emmer wheat, einkorn, and barley seeds we’ll be attempting to grow this year. (Which reminds me, I need to get those wheat seeds started soon.)

After we closed things up, the eighteen of us had our usual potluck, with Candy, Serena and Dylan smashing cascarónes on everyone’s heads. Which meant that cleaning the site up took longer than usual, and nearly two weeks later I’m still finding confetti on my clothing even after washing it, so thanks guys! >8)

And so ended the last of our indoor rites for the season. Personally, I’m very glad that we managed to get back to the Friends Meeting for our rites. As nice (and free) as the Ed Center is, there’s something about working with a real flame, properly blessed and tended through the night, that LED tealight candles just can’t match. Adequate parking makes thing easier, too.

Eleven days later and it’s almost warm enough to feel like spring is here. Soon, we’ll be meeting at our outdoor site, and throughout the summer we’ll be constructing a new nemeton in the woods behind the current one, and no doubt I’ll be complaining about the heat. But for now, I’ll enjoy the green coming back to the grass, the buds on the trees, the birds chirping while I’m trying to nap after work in the afternoon, and all the other signs of spring. (Speaking of which, don’t forget to read my article in the latest issue of our newsletter!)

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