I Have Thirty-Two Colors And Then Some

(This article was originally published in Shining Lakes News, Vol. 20 No. 2, this past March.  Hence the many references to spring!)

The Botsford Recreational Preserve was an incredible place for us to hold our rituals for seventeen years, no doubt about it.  “Grandpa Don” put a lot of work into that site throughout the years, making it an amazing place to visit for anyone who wanted to spend time in nature, surrounded by old growth trees and Ann Arbor’s  most diverse collection of plant species outside the Matthei Botanical Gardens.

At this time of year, though, I think of one feature on the site that Don had no involvement with, that I’m pretty sure was there before he even bought the property.  There was a right-of-way for the power lines that crossed over the driveway just beyond the entrance, which was probably the only section of the preserve that didn’t have any trees on it.  And if at sunset you stood in that open section around the time of the equinox and faced west, you could clearly see the sun setting in between the trees on either side.  The summer half of the year, the sun would set noticeably to the north, and similarly to the south during the winter half of the year.  But every September and every March (this was back when we still tended the fire at Botsford the night before our indoor rites), when we arrived for Fire Watch, we could see the balance between day and night, laid out right there in the sky above us.  The stone circles of Europe were laid out to give their builders that same kind of experience, and we just lucked into it because of a decision that Detroit Edison made long before our Grove was formed.

And that’s just one of the many experiences related to our Grove practices that has become a part of my own personal religious practices throughout the years.  Every High Day comes with its own natural events and symbols that resonate within me, that make me realize that the holiday we’re celebrating right now is connected in time with the rituals of our Grove’s past, the rituals of our future, and the rituals of other ADF Groves and members as well.  May apples and trilliums mean it must be Beltaine, and with them come all of the merriment and topsy-turvy of that season.  Walking into spiderwebs built between the trees?  It must be Lughnasadh.  Ice on the river?  Probably Imbolc.  No more ice on the river?  Probably Spring Equinox.

Spring Equinox in particular seems to have more of these associations for me than any of our other High Days.  Maybe it’s for the obvious reason that I’m just more likely to be outside by choice when March arrives, or maybe it’s because I always visit the Huron River during the week before the rite to commune with Ana.  But the crocuses and snowdrops bursting from the ground, the sunsets happening later and later (even knowing how much Daylight flippin’ Savings has to do with that), the rushing waters of the river, all put me into that frame of mind where I remember all of the other spring rituals, the many different versions of the story of Ana that we’ve shared, our egg hunts where we’ve put a physical form to finding the life returning to the land (and managed to find a cell phone once – if only it had been a working phone, that would have been awesome!), the blessing of the tools and seeds that we bring, all coming together to reinforce the connections that I feel to the Kindreds and to my Grovemates.

One thing I don’t ever think about at the equinox?  The balance of lightness and darkness within me.

This is you, and this is your badness level. It’s unusually high for someone your size.  We have to fix that.  – Lilo Pelekai

I certainly don’t have a problem with balance in general.  I love walking upright as much as anyone.  And I think that everyone should try to live a balanced life, especially in terms of maintaining good relationships with the Kindreds and with other humans.  (We used to call it “eudaimonia” in the Dedicant Path manual, but I don’t think it uses that word any more.  Long Greek words can be scary.)  A balanced diet is a good idea too.  Moderation in all things, including moderation, is a good way to live your life.

My objection to the “light and dark within us” view is two-fold.  Firstly, I’m just not a fan of dualism in general.  Even back in the early Nineties when I thought of myself as Wiccan, duotheism never quite worked for me.  It felt like we were just swapping out the good/evil dichotomy of the monotheist religions for a slightly different one, and even if we weren’t automatically defining one of them as the “bad” one, people were still likely to identify with one over the other and set up a potential conflict right from the get-go.  I’ve never been a fan of gender-segregated ritual, even knowing full well that the Greeks and other ancient cultures loved them.  I’m not even a fan of ADF’s own Two Powers Meditation for this reason, preferring the tripartite “Bone Breath and Blood” trance induction technique instead. 

But as with most aspects of our practice, this is a personal opinion, and I know lots of folks disagree with me, and that’s cool.  What concerns me more is this apparent choice people are making to view themselves as only containing two kinds of essence within themselves.  Maybe this makes sense from a monotheistic or duotheistic viewpoint, but if we honor lots of deities and lots of other spirits as well, it would seem more appropriate to view ourselves as having elements of many of those spirits and forces within ourselves.  We humans are amazingly complex beings, and it makes no sense to me to reduce or limit our self image to a binary encoding system.  We’re not computer software.  (Remember, I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science.  If you were software, I could probably tell.  I know how to apply a Turing Test.)

I myself am not made of only black or white or any number of shades of grey.  I am made of the steely grey of Athena’s eyes, the deep red of the blood of my Ancestors, the hunter’s green of the leaves on the trees in June, the orange and yellow of our Grove Flame, the dark brown of the bottom of our Well, the cobalt blue of the sky during a solar eclipse, the wine-dark color of the sea, the beige of the oats on the offering plate of my home shrine, and gold and silver and purple and more new colors that I discover every day as I continue my Druidic practices.

I hope the arrival of spring will help you find the colors within your-selves as well!

 Yours in service to the Kindreds and the Grove,
Rev. Rob Henderson, Senior Druid