A Solstice Ritual Made in the Shade

For our Summer Solstice rite, my week of ritual preparation began slightly more than a week before the ritual date, with a work day for our new nemeton. We (by which I mean everyone who actually attended the May work day, since I spent that afternoon delivering flowers in my vain attempt to earn money to go to Wellspring) had already cleared a path from the driveway to the clearing, so all we needed to do was get the actual nemeton functional enough for a ritual. Which, arguably, the folks who were there in May had already done, but I wanted to make sure we did a blessing rite before using it for a High Day, because, y’know, I’m a priest. First we did some brick-laying around the well and the fire pits, pulled some poison ivy, and brought over the items from the old nemeton that we wanted to keep using, like the herm and the Ana stone. Once that was done, we did a simple blessing and offering rite, and that was that. Our new shade-covered nemeton was ready for formal use!

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The pre-ritual week was more of a challenge than usual this time around, since I was officiating a wedding on Friday. Weekday weddings are a little unusual, but the couple wanted to get married on the official day of the solstice, and it did mean that I was available instead of telling them that I had a ritual to run. The wedding went well and I managed to get home early enough to get adequate sleep for work the next day.

Saturday night arrived, along with a whole lot of people for Fire Watch! Several folks from Cedarsong Grove in Lansing joined us, and we had a total of twelve people there during the night. Quite a change from the lonely fires I tended last year! There was much socializing and food and drink. (Well, so I’m told. I don’t drink.) There was some confusion as many of us thought the Kellers would be there early in the afternoon, but they didn’t arrive until much later. (Keep this in mind. You’ll be hearing this a few more times.)

I came home (without having to bring the flame with me yet again, thank the gods) to sleep and to print out the newsletter so I could get copies made before the ritual. The newsletter wasn’t in my inbox yet, so I went to sleep, got up mid-morning, and… still no newsletter. Got dressed, loaded the car with my ritual gear, and… still no newsletter. I waited as long as I could, drove to KinkyFedWhateverItsCalledNow, checked my e-mail from the PC there… and still not there. I hated to go to the ritual without the newsletter, but I didn’t have much choice, so I made copies of the order of service and headed to the site, arriving at around 1:15, much later than usual for me, ,and expecting to find the ritual site already set up…

…Except that Rodney wasn’t there yet. Well, he’d been there earlier, but had to return the chainsaw to the store. He’d wanted to get that one hanging dead tree down, but the chainsaw he had rented was not terribly functional, especially without oil. So those of us who were there got the ritual items set up, and we were ready to go only about fifteen minutes later than usual. (And this was three days before Mercury went into retrograde!)

Fortunately, once things got started, everything went just fine. While it was close to 90 out in the field, the shade of the trees surrounding the new nemeton kept it much cooler for the seventeen of us there. We honored Bel and Danu as we usually do on the solstices, along with the sun litany and “the Lemonade of Life” as the return flow. There are times when I worry that we repeat ourselves too much, and there are other times when I remember that ritual is by definition going to be somewhat repetitive from year to year, and also that if we’ve worked out a good liturgy and nobody wants to change anything, we should stick with that. Anyway, the omen was good (Eiwaz – Raido – Gebo, read on the new brick addition to the side of the fire pit) and nobody died.

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Folks stuck around for longer than usual (except the ones who had spent the whole night), quite a contrast from the “gone in fifteen minutes to escape the blazing sun” scenario of last year’s solstice ritual. I said it during the praise offerings, and I’ll say it again here: I am amazed and proud of my Grovemates for taking a building project that I expected to last for six months and getting it done in two. Hail Nemetona! And hail a Lughnasadh in the shade!

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