A brief account of each High Day ritual attended or performed by the Dedicant in a twelve month period. High Days attended/performed might be celebrated with a local grove, privately, or with another Neo-pagan group. At least 4 of the rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style. (100 word min each)
June 21 – Summer Solstice
I celebrated Summer Solstice with Three Cranes Grove on June 20th, 2010. This rite worked with the Vedic Pantheon, specifically with Savitar, the deity of Solar Light and often of Healing. The ritual itself was particularly interesting because rather than having a Fire, Well, and Tree we instead had three fires; the hearth fire, the sacrificial fire, and the fire of Agniras (the priest for the gods). I took the role of aspersing for this rite, cleansing the folk as the entered the sacred space. Some of the main forms of offering for this ritual were oil and ghee. I brought summer tea and spices to offer to the Kindreds. I don’t feel any specific connection to many Vedic deities, and so I wasn’t sure how I would feel during the ritual, but there was some connection. It was much more like a first introduction to someone you’ve never met, rather than a meeting between old friends, and this makes sense as I’ve had little connection to Vedic gods before.
Our omens for this rite were taken via fire scrying, which our grove has not attempted before. MJD did a wonderful and poetic job. A flame of green accepted our offerings as “songs of praise are heard as our words transcend the boundaries.” The Kindreds offered the grove joy and dance in return as the flames spun in circles, danced and leaped, flew apart only to touch and dance again. The Kindreds require offerings and sacrifices of us, forever and always. The fire is ever hungry “seeking out with nine tongues silvered and buttered with ghee.” I like the way our grove has taken to infusing the Waters with the blessings of the Kindreds using either toning, chanting, or song. We used the “Power of the Spirit” chant to bless the Waters.
During the working portion of the ritual, we honored the fathers, in part because the rite happened on Father’s Day. This was especially moving for me. Missy started out by praising an honoring the father’s of modern paganism, and of our druidry, our past and present leaders in ADF, the clergy of ADF, and then her own personal father figures. We then went around the circle of folk and each person was given a chance to offer praise for their father figure. Hearing of others connections and struggles was emotional and unifying.
August 1 – Cross-Quarter (Lughnasa)
Three Cranes Grove did our Lughnassadh ritual at the Dublin Irish Festival this year. It was a huge honor, and a very different experience from most of our other rites. I didn’t like it nearly as much as our smaller rites. To me, it felt more like being at a Christian church, because we were set up in rows due to space constraints. There were more than 300 people that we had to get to fit in our allotted space. It was set up so that just a few members of the Grove were standing up on the stage and doing the ritual as the rest of us watched. There wasn’t nearly as much connection for me, being in the audience. Usually in our rites we’re all standing in a big circle and surrounding the altar, or having the altar as part of the circle. This set-up just wasn’t ideal for me. There were also time constraints. In our usual rites there is a big praise offering section where people can come up and make their offerings both to the Kindreds and to the Deity of the Occasion. In this ritual though due to time the Grove priests made offerings on behalf of the folk. The whole ritual had a very different feel to it. Not as much music, not as much participation, no procession in. We didn’t drink the waters of life, but rather were aspirdged with them. So, while I’m very pleased that we were welcomed to offer a ceremony alongside the various Christian ceremonies, there is still a lot of adjustments that I think can made to this ritual for next year to make it feel more like one of our normal Druid rites, and less like a Druid rite stuffed into the clothes of a Christian ceremony.
September 21 – Autumn Equinox
The big happening about our Grove’s Autumn Equinox rite is that it is our anniversary rite. We have Grove poem that we add a verse to each year, describing the big events that have happened through out the past year. It tells the story of our Grove and its history. The whole poem is read aloud during this rite when we honor the Grove’s patrons: Garanus Crane as our namesake and Gatekeeper and Teutates as the Guardian of the Tribe.
I was on Timmy patrol for this rite, which meant that I wasn’t as involved with what was actually going on, but was instead supervising the children during the rite, specifically Timmy (Missy’s autistic son) so that others could more fully participate in the rite without having to worry about their children running off. I still came up to give my offerings, escorting the few children who had brought their own special things to give the Kindreds. It is very moving all on its own to experience a rite with the children; going up to the fire with them to give their offerings.
November 1 – Cross Quarter (Samhain)
On the 5th day of the month of Boedromion, Genesios is celebrated. It is a feast to honor the dead, the ancestors. Originally the plan was to celebrate this feast with the Delos, but since moving it’s been difficult to drive up to Columbus as often as I’d like. So Thom and I decided to celebrate here at home. He’s been a real sport with the Hellenic rites, since I know he doesn’t feel much from the Olympian Gods; he’s much more in tune with the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Tonight Thom and I did our first Core Order of Ritual by ourselves. It was very brief in and of itself. I asked Hermes to be the gate keeper since he can function as the guide of souls. I don’t usually work with him, though I have felt a relationship just beginning to bud recently. The omens I took asked for advice from the Ancestors. I pulled Xi, Khi, and Iota. I interpreted it to mean that the Ancestors were reminding us that in order to succeed we must put in the work. We need to plan and labor, but we will have great success if we do. One of the reasons our rite itself was so short was because in feasting with our Ancestors, we wanted to go back downstairs, so we breezed through the main part of the rite. I think my phrasing was something like “Ancestors, we’re here to honor you tonight, to socialize and tell stories, and to introduce you to another member of the family, however, we don’t want to burn the house down, so we’re gonna tie up this portion of the ritual and we’ll meet you downstairs for food and alcohol.” It was kind of silly feeling, but also seemed like the smart thing to do, and the family didn’t seem to mind.
The plan that Thom and I had was to each pick an ancestor and tell a story about them, and then introduce them to the other. We ended up telling stories for nearly an hour and sharing in the memories and good company. It was a lot more emotional that I was expecting, though I think I should have expected it. I offered ice cream to my grandpa, and Thom offered beer to his. We each met some of the other side of our new family, and learned some things about one another that we didn’t know before.
I definitely want to keep doing rites at home with Thom. Though we occasionally frustrate each other in these situations, it is also very bonding and healing. I think I would like having some time set aside for us where we can continue to visit with our Ancestors, and begin the process of introductions and co-mingling. All in all, the rite went well, and I’d do it again.
December 21 – Winter Solstice
I was the Druid in Charge for Three Cranes Grove Winter Solstice celebration this year. My team and I decided to do Heliogenna, a Hellenic rite honoring Helios and the return of the Sun. It is a time of rebirth and renewal, and getting rid of the things from the past year that are no longer needed, or that were negative and detrimental. Some of the notable parts of the ritual were an inclusion of Hestia, the hearth Goddess of the Greeks. In Hellenic ritual she is always honored first an last, so we put her in the line-up on the “outer parentheses.” She was honored both before and after the Earth Mother (who we addressed as Gaia). We also placed the omphalos as part of the recreation of the cosmos. Emerald was visiting from Sassafras and did a wonderful job with that. She also did the omen with the Greek Alphabet Oracle. Some of the other little things we did to add a Greek flavor to rite were to use Greek names for the Kindreds. The Shining Ones were Theoi, the Nature Spirits included nymphs, dryads, oceaneads, etc, and the Ancestors we made sure to include the Hereos.
One of the things that struck me the most about this ritual is how little I remember of it. I was told by friends and members who were there that it was brilliant, and it was as though the Gods were speaking through me and the others who had speaking parts. For me, it was as though I was merely a vessel for the Gods to send their words down. I remember nothing of what I said. I had written out my own speaking parts, as a I usually do, but even though I have these I normally just stick them in my back pocket in case I completely blank on what to say. I had absolutely no need for my back up writing this time. The muses were flowing through me and I just spoke from the heart. I did the invocation to Helios, and during the working section, a chant just popped into my head. The folk picked it up almost immediately and the chant raised power as it continued throughout the working section. It is a type purifying working. The plan for before the rite began we had slips of paper that pre-ritual folks were instructed to write down what they wanted to get rid off, what they wanted Helios to burn away, for the coming year. When the working portion of the ritual came around, Missy would carry a basket around and collect the slips of paper and we would burn them. Missy did a wonderful job. It was a very strong energy working, and she was carrying around everyone’s negative energy in a basket and held strong.
February 1 – Cross-Quarter (Imbolc)
Imbolc is one of the rites that our Grove has a tradition of doing with Brigid every year. The ritual keeps most of the same things from year to year, with minor adaptations and new people taking the parts each year. This year I took the role of acknowledging the Outdwellers. My biggest impression regarding that was that it was cold. The rite was inside, and I actually went outside to acknowledge them and to offer them beer as a peace-gift.
The other parts of the rite that we’ve done for the past several years are the lighting of 20 candles for Brigid (the last candle is the same as the first), the communion with the Brigid doll and basket, and the annual offering of the well’s contents. I really like the way we’ve done the candle lighting and calling out to Brigid. The poem that is read, which talks about different things relating to Brigid, is cut into strips. Each pair of people is given a strip and then during the working they are read to Brigid by one person of the pair while the other lights the candle with the flame of Kildare. I like it because it allows a whole bunch of people to be involved in the rite, leading to a feeling of more connection with the gods. The bit that we do with the basket and doll is to have whatever children are at the rite carry the Brigid basket around. In the basket is a doll made to represent Brigid and as it’s taken around each person gets to spend a moment alone with Brigid.
The annual offering of the well contents is where we’ve taken all the offerings from the past year and cemented them into a jar. We then sink the jar into the pond that is outside the shelter where the ritual is at (we use the same shelter every year for Imbolc). Sometimes it’s really funny because the pond is almost always frozen over so we have to chip out a hole in the ice to sink the jar. In past years that jar has shattered on the pond, but this year it actually sank.
The working this year was different than in past years because the Grove made a healing quilt this year. Last year pieces of cloth were passed around during the working to be blessed for the making of the quilt. I was involved in the actual sewing of the Brigid Blanket or Crane Quilt. It was finishe by Imbolc this year and so it was passed around for each person at the rite to help charge with their energy to aid in the healing of others who request it from the Grove.
March 21 – Spring Equinox
I always tend to like our Spring Equinox rites because it is often the first one that we can do outside after the winter. This year was no exception. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining and everything was bright. One of the interesting things about this rite was that everyone who had a drum was encouraged to bring it. There was drumming through the entire rite. It never stopped. It got quieter for the speaking parts and grew and strengthened during the offerings and the working. The whole energy feel to it was really amazing; it was a constant pulse of energy that kept building and building through the rite.
My part in the rite was to call to Eostre, the Norse Goddess of the Springtime. I tried to do a lot of research before hadn to help me rite my invocation, but there was almost nothing I could find on her that was even remotely scholarly. So I ended up taking what little bit I could find, mixing it with some of the popular neo-pagan beliefs based on what I felt resonate with her when I was in the process of writing the invocation. Anna Gail asked me to leave my hair down and loose for the invocation (which I did) because Eostre is a maiden who’s desribed as having long, flowing hair.
I tend to the like the way the omens were done for this rite. Instead of asking the three questions from all the Kindreds (Were our offereings accepted? What gifts do the Kindreds offer in return? What more do the Kindreds require of us?) instead one rune was pulled for each Kindred. The Ancestors offered us algiz for protection and guidance. The Nature Spirits offered us isa, contemplation and rest after a hard winter. The Shining Ones offered us Sowilo, the sun, success.
May 1 – Cross Quarter (Beltane)
I was on the ritual team for Beltane this year, and we did a rite to Aphrodite and Pan. It was during the Many Ways Spirit Gathering, so a lot of audience was pagan, but not necessarily familiar with ADF rites. One of the things that helped worked well in this scenario was the Irisa and I (the two key members of the ritual team) held a workshop shortly before the ritual where we basically introduced the Greek Pantheon to the people at the mini-festival, and then explained how things fit into the Core Order of Ritual. We both had people tell us after the ritual that the workshop before hand really helped them, and made it easier for them to feel connected to the gods during the rite itself. Its something we feel made such a difference that we’d like to try it for before every ritual from now on. We’d like to add it into our Grove’s social hour prior to the ritual. I know I’ve often had feelings of unconnectedness when I’m unfamiliar with the pantheon that we’re working with in a rite.
Something that was new for me in this right was that I was representing Aphrodite. I had never channeled a Deity that wasn’t a patron before. It was a very strange experience, and not one that I’m entirely sure I want to repeat. I have a hard time grounding, so that combined with the feeling of having a goddess be a backseat driver was very strange.
In the Beltane rite I was in charge of doing the Omen and raising energy for the working by leading the dancing of the May Pole. I used my Greek Alphabet Oracle for the Omen, and the disks I drew were amazingly fitting for the rite we were doing. When I asked for what gifts the Gods were blessing us with I drew Epsilon, which means “The gods desire to see the offspring of righteous marriages.” The folk ended up laughing hysterically, and the three clarifying disks I drew following that (tau, xi, iota) explained that it would take hard work, but that what we were working towards would be accomplished. The gods still require us to trust them when times are difficult and for us to know that they are guiding us on the right path. For the working we were raising energy to send to Japan for recovery from the earthquake. Nick pulled omens for the working and they all said that the act was an overflow of great generosity.