Sacred Fire at Detroit Pagan Pride

Back in May, I was intrigued by the online updates from the pan-Pagan Beltania festival in Colorado from the Rev. Bill Ashton, ADF’s clergy member in Boulder. He spent the entire four days of the festival tending the ritual fire and assisting the festival attendees with making offerings or doing other workings. That sounded like an amazing way to share ADF’s practices with the rest of the community, and one that I might want to try locally. Well, not for four days, but for some decent amount of time at a public event.

A fire at ConVocation would be out of the question, of course, because of its indoor setting, and I knew the Michigan Pagan Festival already had a weekend-long flame that somebody else took care of, so I suggested the idea to the organizers of Detroit pagan Pride Day, and once we got the details of how big the fire would be, they agreed!

Drum was kind enough to transport, me, my wheelchair, and the brazier and other supplies to Hazel Park, and Jeff from Cedarsong Grove brought firewood. We had a location next to a large oak tree which gave us shade for the first few hours of the event, at least (pesky moving sun) and got the fire going easily enough, given the stiff breeze that kept trying to put out the firestarter sticks. Once the fire was burning on its own, I added the nine sacred woods provided by Rhiannon, said the blessing prayer, and settled in.

Given how well I usually do in the heat of August, it actually wasn’t too bad sitting outside all afternoon. I was also surprised at how easily I could move my wheelchair around on the grassy surfaces. I only needed a few breaks, and Jason from Cedarsong helped out with that, as well as Rose and Rob from Oriental Rose, and Kestrel stopped by late in the afternoon. Other than a few restroom visits, the only break I took was for the raffle, where I managed to win a Terry Pratchett book.

And people came with offerings. I had brought olive oil in case people didn’t have anything to offer (two people used it), and I also brought a bowl in case people wanted to offer things that weren’t safe to burn (nobody did). Some people wrote things on paper and burned those, others brought offerings from home, and a few apparently offered things they had just bought from the vendors. My estimate is that we had around twenty people make offerings throughout the day. As I’d hoped, it was a good way to share the *ghosti- experience with non-ADF members without actually having to prepare a workshop or anything.

At around 6:30 I let the fire die down, and we managed to put it out with water from the coolers the kitchen staff had been using. Rose kindly offered to pour the wet ashes into one of the grills in the park, which was as safe and sacred a place to put the ashes as I could think of. And Drum and I packed up and he drove me home.

All in all, it was a great experience, even if I didn’t get to participate in any rituals or workshops, and I would definitely do it again next year, possibly with a presentation on sacred fire in Indo-European traditions. That would mean more advance work for me to do, of course, but compared to organizing an Ann Arbor Pagan Pride event, it should be very easy. Speaking of which, I’m one of the organizers for Ann Arbor Pagan Pride, and we hope to have our first event in September of 2015, but I’ll go into more detail about that later, when we have any kind of detail to go into.

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

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