I Love My Grove

Have I mentioned that recently?

I. Fucking. Love. My. Grove.

Friday we started brainstorming for opening and closing rituals at East Coast Gather. There was mind-mapping, spitballing, chocolate tasting, silliness, synchronistic moose, and the burn of Awen across our tongues and minds.

Saturday the work continued (though I wasn’t there). Hammering of details, wordsmithing, logistics, and costuming lists furthered the process. Friends coming into their own, growing so beautifully.

Today was editing, polishing, tweaking…followed by a fabulous evening at one grovie’s paint bar. And again the Awen flowed.

Not everyone is suited to group work. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be near a community that fits them all the way to the soul. If you find your tribe, hold fast, nurture it, love it deeply.

In this I am fortunate, and I count these blessings every day.

Dark Moon Tests

7294830668_6ac2134bab_kSeek me in the pine grove, if you would know who I am.

Almost a fortnight ago, I took her at her word. Hufflespawn was with his father and the night was clear, if a bit cool. I grab my druid bug-out bag and head down the back steps into the orchard. With every step her presence grows heavier, and her wishes swirl thickly in my mind.

Pick a sprig of mugwort.

No hands in pockets. You need to feel the night on your skin.

Cover your head.

No light until you cross the hedge.

I scramble my way up the hill to the gap in the stone wall which marks the beginning of the trail. I pause for a moment, feeling fear scamper up-and-down my vertebrae as acorns crash to the ground. Though I had walked these woods many times during the day, I have never ventured into them at night. Reciting the Druid Prayer for Peace, a penlight in my hand, I make my way down to the brook.

My footsteps are too loud. Stealth was one of the many gifts that I set aside in order to make others more comfortable. The relearning is slow and far from perfect.

I miss the first switchback. I nearly end up in a blueberry farmer’s barn. The LED casts a grayish light and my mind wants to make every stump into a crouching figure. The crown of a newly fallen tree blocks the path and requires quite a bit of ducking and wiggling to navigate. I scoot over the first two log bridges easily enough.

9041878957_2b958d0ecd_kBut some jackass has pried half the boards off the third bridge.

I could try to balance on the slick rounded log that remained. I could continue on the path up to the wider, well-maintained bridge. I could use a tool to steady myself.

Choose.

I’m a thinker. I don’t have a lot of physical guts, especially when it comes to stunts involving heights and falls and being soaked to the waist in mid-October on a moonless night.

“If you want me, Lady, you’re getting a tool-using human, not an unthinking berserker.”

I cast around until I find a fallen white pine limb.

Yes.

The branch sinks a good foot into the mud each time it steadies my way across the “bridge.” I thanked my makeshift staff and lay it at the roots of Gog and Nagog as I greet them and make my way into the Grove.

At the triple crossroads I stop and let my light blink out. Lighting the small beeswax tea light from my ritual kit is a struggle in the cool breeze. Dogs howl in the dark beyond the ridges of the valley, and night birds warn each other of my presence. After long moments and not a few curses as wax drips on my hands, the flame catches. And holds.

I call to the spirits of the land. I call to the guardians of the Order. And I call to the Lady who had guided me here. I take stock of my crane bag, fat and distended as an infected gallbladder after 5 years of serving an Ovate who might well be part magpie. What I could no longer use I portioned out as a sacrifice.

Good. Take up your staff.

Surprised, I make my way back to the twin giants and pick up the white pine limb that helped cross the bridge. My hands are already fragrant and sticky with sap. I return to my circle, and thank the Lady for her gift.

“But before we go any further,” I say, “there are some things I want to make clear. I will not do anything that takes me from this land, my home. And I will not do anything that takes me from my son, or harms him or my relationship with him.”

Apparently, that wasn’t what she wanted to hear. She said nothing for the remainder of the ritual, nor did I feel her at the edges of my senses any longer.

However, I did feel the warmth of the forest surround me, and an ease in its presence that I had not experienced before. With her silence, it was almost as if a crowd had gathered, watching to see what would happen. I took my knife and trimmed up the staff in order to get it home, thinking hard on what had just happened and easing into the nighttime forest rhythms.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sorely disappointed.  I had been hoping to finally find out who this Lady was, to finally have some answers to my questions about her and what she wanted from me.  It wasn’t the ritual experience I was looking for, but it was certainly the one I needed.

The fact is, you stick me in the middle of the woods, and I will start making things. It’s what I am. I’m not a warrior, though I once tried very hard to be. I’m not an activist, and I’d rather be in my garden then tilting at windmills on the Internet. I am a decent crafter, a sporadic writer, and a determined mother. If that’s not what you’re looking for, then you’d best find someone else.

Still, as I crested the ridge on the way home, I heard

Turn out your light.

And so I did.

Samhuinn 2014 Redux

Just when everyone is sick of Halloween posts in the blogosphere…here we go!

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Samhuinn and Alban Arthan are the two holy times that last more than a single day in my personal practice.  I’ve written about my extended Alban Arthan celebration before, but Samhuinn has been developing more slowly.  This year feels like it finally settled into a nice seven-day festival of ancestors and witchery.

October 30th: Pumpkin Night. Yeah, haven’t figured out a better name for this one yet. Basically it’s ritualized decorating and laying in supplies for Samhuinn itself. However, I’m much more likely to do it if there’s ritual involved! We have a small, tight knit neighborhood, so several household provide baked goods (even gluten free, dairy free versions!) for Halloweeners.  Definitely something I’d like to do for next year.  But this year was ritual prep, the brewing of Fire Cider against winter colds, dipping dried mullein in beeswax for tapers, and the annual Carving of the Pumpkin (which weighed more than my four-year-old).

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Big kitty, bigger pumpkin.

October 31st: Hunt’s Night. (And trick-or-treating if you have wee ones who engage in such shenanigans.)  After the kiddo is in bed, then the witchy fun begins!  The 31st begins a week of Wild Hunt work.  This has also been Cerridwen’s festival in my liturgical calendar for the past couple of years, but since Hekate has reasserted herself (as has the weird Rhiannon/Macha hybrid I’ve been wrestling with of late–more on that later), this may be the last time that I honor Taliesin’s mother at Samhuinn.  I’ve spent a year brewing the Awen under her guidance at the full moon, and I will likely continue with that devotional pattern.

November 1st: Ancestors of Blood. (Also, this year, group OBOD ritual.) Ruth Davis Bumgardner. George Hagen Bumgardner. George Ade Bumgardner. Vernida Bumgardner. Gerald Bumgardner. Ulysses S. G. Bumgardner. Robert McDonald. Catherine McDonald. Donald McDonald. Tom Hyde. Anne Corbet. This is when I try to do a dumb supper as well.

November 2nd: Ancestors of Spirit. Kent Redmond. Doris Redmond. Madeline Huber. Charles Huber. Les Eisner. Hildegarde von Bingen. Jeanne d’Arc. Bouadicca. Robert Graves. Bridgette of Kildare. Carl Jung. Karl Kerenyi. Seamus Heaney. J.R.R. Tolkein.

November 3rd: Ancestors of Place. Wachusett. The Nipmuc people. Brewer Brook. The Assabet River. Rice. Corn. Salmon. Pig. Lamb.  Also performed a release ceremony, shattering the tea pot that I gave my ex-husband at our wedding.

November 4th: Ancestors of Tribe. Ross Nichols (Nuinn). Iolo Morganwg. Margot Adler. William Stukeley. Gerald Gardner. William Butler Yeats. Bear. Stag. Hawk. Salmon. Taliesin.

November 5th: Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night. The last night of lighting the jack-o-lantern–he goes in the compost heap or chicken run on the 6th. It’s also the last night of “official” Wild Hunt work for this season.

I left Samhuinn feeling very anchored in myself and my practice.  Which is a damned good thing since the next night was the full moon and the last part of the Cauldron Born rite that I started back in November of 2013. That, dear reader, is a tale for another time.

9 Things I Love About My Grove

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  1. Our rituals are always outside. Always.
  2. Diversity. There is an incredible variety across age and economic level. Our youngest guest is 4, our oldest in her early 70s. There are doctors and potters,  IT folks and landscapers. We also have a great deal of religious diversity, shaman to christian, atheist to polytheist. We all come together to honor the earth and the turning seasons.
  3. Creativity. Good gods this Grove is blessed with an abundance of Awen. We have poets, potters, musicians, quilters, liturgists.
  4. Camaraderie. These are folks with whom I get together in between the high days. Sharing a cup of tea or a pint after ritual is always a joy, but seeing friends for the sake of just seeing friends is invaluable.
  5. Learning. Our members have such a wealth of knowledge, and are so generous in sharing it. It’s easy to gorge oneself on music, myth, art, divination, botany–almost any topic you could choose.
  6. Food. We have some amazing cooks. Eisteddfod feasts are not to be missed.
  7. Consistency.  The Grove has been holding eight rituals a year since the autumn of 1992. The familiarity and certainty that this creates is not only comforting, but provides a real and solid anchor for Druid work.
  8. Support. Everyone has rough patches, but not everyone has a community who is able to help them through it. People get divorced, lose jobs, become ill. The Grove has been there each time, not only with energetic support, but friendly practical advice.
  9. Experimental. There is no one set liturgist, and we’re not on the quest for the “perfect” ritual. Whomever is moved to write the rite is encouraged to do so, with much support from the senior members. Ritual style reflects the changing seasons, and always feels fresh and dynamic.

Earth Web and Chestnuts

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Yesterday was the third day of global rituals led by The Warrior’s Call, a group of pagan dedicated to the eradication of extreme fossil fuel extraction like fracking.  October 4th’s Earth Web ritual was designed to create a world-wide network of protection against fracking via a sigil net.  While my land is not yet threatened directly by fracking, it is being threatened by a possible gas pipeline in the near future. Our town has been fighting this on a local level, but I figure adding a bit of mojo to our efforts wouldn’t hurt.

After completing the ritual, I strolled under a chestnut tree. Looking down, I spied dozens of glossy nuts (some having been sampled by squirrels) and popped five relatively unchewed ones into my bag.  I was also lucky enough to find one whose outer shell had only partially opened. The chestnut became my touchstone, a ritual anchor, holding the memory of the Earth Web rite and feeling the return flow of blessings from the Earth as we fight to protect her.  As a symbol, it personifies the defense of valuable resources.  Feeling its spiny husk in my hand, I thought about some of the prickliest people I know, and how they are much like a chestnut–pokey and a bit rough on the outside, but sweet and slightly nutty once you get past their defenses. Those spikes are there for a reason, the flesh within being too tender to defend itself.

Humanity has bored its way past the Earth’s natural defenses, though her rocky skin to tap the black blood of a million years’ sunlight. She doesn’t have another way to defend herself.  It’s up to us to become the spiky hull and stop the reckless extraction of fossil fuels, be it though protests, lifestyle changes, or magickal acts. It’s so easy to become discouraged and apathetic, but we can’t afford that luxury any more. Stop passively absorbing the horror of the inevitable decline we now face. Yes, be informed, but do not become paralyzed. The smallest amount of action, no matter how imperfect, reaches further than reading a hundred blog posts or listening to a thousand pundits.

“The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?”
Zhuangzi

Be the chestnut. Save our world.

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Bardic Initiation

S. lighting the way for the initiate. Used with permission.

Wednesday night a few of us Grovies gathered to initiate B. into the Bardic Grade, or more specifically to reignite his journey on the Druid path. The site which watched over us is one the Grove has been using for many years, and you can feel the openness of the place, and the welcoming breeze to our work. A beaver splashed noisily as we set up the circle, which entertained my son no end.

I love our Grove for so many reasons: the camaraderie, the pool of knowledge, the creative spirit…but most of all I love the humor and kindness that all of our Grovies possess. We can pull of sober when it’s required, but if someone flubs a line, it is always smoothed over with a smile and some fancy word-work.

This was my first time acting as Grove Mother, with my friend A. as Head Druid. Part of me feels like I should have been nervous, but most of me was just excited to give B. the best initiation experience that we could. I think we met that goal.

Each of the Grovies had a gift for B. once the ceremony was completed. Mine was a set of meditation beads set up around nines and threes. The center bead was a “thunder egg” aka geode, the large rounds were banded agates, the counter beads were petrified wood, the start/end bead was ceramic, and the three tail beads were red jasper. Our initiate was a Pisces, so I hope this brings some Fire and Earth to his studies.

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Geode, red jasper, banded agate, petrified wood, ceramic, glass, silk.

Afterwards, we did as all good Druids do: we hit the local pub for post-ritual noms. Grounding and centering never tasted so good! May B. complete his Bardic journey with the love of the gods, goddesses, and all goodness.