Our Own Mother Grove

After the Summerland Festival this year, The 6th Night Grove, ADF, approached the Druids of Columbus, OH, to see if we would be interested in helping to host the festival next year. After all the work we have put into the meal plan in the past, and the number of people who attend the festival either as part of the Grove or with the Grove, we seemed like an ideal option to lend a hand to 6th Night.

More importantly, though, this is our chance, as a Grove, to really help to give back to the folks that we consider our very own “Mother Grove.” For those unaware of our history, Three Cranes Grove is a direct decedent of 6th Night: I was a member there before I there was even a thought of planting a Grove here in Columbus, and it was the encouragement and support I found in 6th Night that made me believe that I could plant and help nurture something that would grow into something truly great and meaningful.

In short, without 6th Night, there would be no Three Cranes.

When the opportunity arose two years ago to do something to help make 6th Night’s lone fundraiser a success, we jumped at the chance to work the meal plan for them. Working the meal plan has helped to bring our Grove closer together, and strengthen the bonds of kinship that we feel. It has also helped us feel closer and more supportive of 6th Night, too.

The chance to partner with 6th Night on the planning and implementation of the festival itself has already begun to foster a deeper feeling of closeness and support for our “Mother Grove.” After meeting with Ansara (the Senior Druid of 6th Night) on Friday to begin planning, we’re back to where we were five years ago: sitting at the feet of our elders and wondering what amazing thing they will teach us next, and hoping that we can live up to their expectations and make them proud of us.

Summerland is August 21-24, 2008. Mark your calendars: we hope to see you there!

Also of interest, you can find a short mention of the Grove in this week’s Outlook Weekly paper (Dec. 27-Jan 09), on page 15. It seems that our outreach is working for us in some very positive ways.
-Rev. Michael J Dangler

An Ancestor Box Devotional

It is a long tradition in our Grove that we keep a box, a treasure-trove of memories and physical things that remind us of our Ancestors. This box is opened only once per year, during Samhain. It contains a little bit of every Grove member’s family, something that reminds us of a story, or a smell, or a loving smile that we once saw on the face of an Ancestor.

The Ancestor Box travels separately from the rest of the Grove’s ritual gear. It is treated with a deeper reverence than our other altar supplies, for unlike most of them, the Ancestor Box retains its sacredness far beyond ritual. Instead of being stored in our (now trademark) big blue bins of ritual supplies, it is given to the person who will lead our next High Day ritual, and it is their job to take care of the box.

While discussing what this Box means to the Grove, our Senior Druid, Seamus, and I realized that we need to recognize this sacred status while the Box is traveling. The Box cannot simply be taken home; it needs to be given attention, to be a living part of the next Officiant’s life.

We decided on creating a devotional ritual, with the focus on the Ancestors of the Grove, and a small ritual kit that travels with the Box. The devotional would be done weekly by the person in charge of taking care of the Ancestor Box.

Today was my first opportunity to do a devotional of this type. I spent some time re-working my altar space to ensure that there was space for the Box, and then placed it, a candle, and a well next to it. And then I simply began speaking from the heart.

I first began to pray, to speak to the Ancestors of the Grove, telling them that they were not forgotten. I promised that the work I have done in creating a devotional rite would continue with their guidance, and asked that they help me in the upcoming Druid Moon Rites and the Imbolc ritual that I’m leading.

Then I placed my hands on the Ancestor Box and breathed deeply, and I felt the presence of the Ancestors.

It was then that I decided that this sort of devotional is not only a good thing for the Grove, but a needed addition to the Grove’s spiritual life. While I feel the need to state that we should look at what we’re getting into (there is a lot of trust involved by stating that the future Officiant will do these weekly rituals, since life intervenes and sometimes throws our schedule for a loop), I can also tell that this is something we should have been doing all along.

This is a tradition I hope will grow and deepen over time. The Ancestor Box is a way to invite the spirituality of the Grove into your own life for six weeks and to connect with the rest of the members on a deeper level. It also increases the responsibility of the person officiating our rituals, making them responsible for the *ghos-ti- relationships that the Grove keeps.

This devotional is a wonderful addition to the Grove’s spiritual work, and I hope that it will bring out the best in our members by distributing some of our responsibility as a Grove to each person.
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

The Voice of Three Cranes

While all birds, of course, have a voice, the voice of the crane,¹ is unique. Our Grove is no exception.

Recently, the Grove began collecting prayers, devotionals, and meditations that we have done through the years. A long-term project has been to put together some sort of resource for the Grove that details what we have done in the past in ritual, and to have that available so that our members, when presented with the opportunity to take a part in ritual, would have a place to go for inspiration.

In the process of reviewing, collating, and writing short introductions for many of them, I have come to hear that the Grove has a definite voice. It’s a voice that speaks clearly through all the work we have done, changing a bit from author to author, from Crane to Crane, but always the voice is strongly present and definitively a part of Three Cranes Grove, ADF.

I can’t even say that this voice is ADF’s voice: it is more unique than that. Sure, you might read these sorts of prayers, rituals, or meditations anywhere within ADF, from Oak Leaves to a little mention on the ADF website. The version we Cranes use might even be derived directly from those sources.

But what I have found is that our Grove has deeply rooted itself in tradition, almost by accident (as this was certainly not by design!), and begun to speak with a unified voice that is decidedly different than the rest of the voices in ADF.

This difference in voice does not make our Grove better or more polished than other Groves (though we might like to pretend that it does). It is not a difference in content so much as in manner of speaking. We are not saying different things from the rest of ADF, but we are saying the same things differently.

Much of this has to do with the way we began doing ritual: our Grove has provided new members with something of a standard script that they have the option of utilizing in whole or in part, should they feel they need it. Most new members have taken us up on this, and so they begin by learning this basic language. At least, that is how our Grove used to pass on its language.

Now, the Grove has grown into a new manner of passing down our language. Over time, fewer new members have requested scripts, but have simply learned the liturgical language at ritual. On top of that, instead of using ritual language only during High Day rituals, we work it into our daily lives.

As an example, our Grove always prays before business meetings. Generally, we use a prayer Ceisiwr Serith wrote:

The Waters Support and Surround us
The Land extends about us
The Sky stretches out above us
At the Center burns a living flame.
May all the Kindreds bless us.
May our worship be true,
May our actions be just,
May our love be pure.
Blessings, honour and worship to the Holy Ones.

This prayer seems to really be what brought out the voice of Three Cranes. We all learn it, mostly from listening to others in the Grove speak it rather than by receiving a written copy and being told to memorize it. It tells us about the cosmos, informing us of our place in it, and reminding us of what right action is.

We have also started to use key ritual phrases as ways to settle ourselves before daily devotions, to turn our minds back to the Kindreds when the day becomes rough, and to offer comfort to ourselves and others when needed. Ask any Crane, for instance, how they pray, and you will receive the same answer from all of them. No one in the Grove needed to tell our members these things: we have just picked up this voice in our time with the Grove.

Perhaps most importantly, we have gone back, time and again, to our mission statement and our inception statement. These two items have found a renewed importance in Our Druidry, as practiced within this Grove.

This voice that the Cranes speak with is not something simple: I can’t describe it, and you can really only hear it when you speak to one of us. But it’s there, and it’s consistent. It’s a voice full of tradition, mysticism, and hearty belly-laughs. It is the voice of Three Cranes.

    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

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¹ – 2.62 MB .wav file: From Freesound user dobroide.

To Pray with a Good Fire

There is a saying that has grown within our Grove: “Let us pray with a good fire.” It comes from a translation of the Rgveda, RV 1.26.8: “For when the gods have a good fire, they bring us what we wish for. Let us pray with a good fire.”

In many ways, it is a statement of how we wish to pray, but it is also a statement about the fire we have kindled: we will pray at this good fire. In a way, we are informing the fire of its status, and transforming the fire with our words.

The phrase “let us pray with a good fire” is an exemplary Indo-European phrase, conjuring images of not only a fire of piety within us, where we ignite that religious or spiritual fire, but also of the physical fire before us, to which we make offerings.

All fires are sacred, and our religion, if it could truly be defined beyond “earth-based religion,” might best be called a “fire religion” because of the central focus that fire serves for our rituals.

By “praying with a good fire,” we recognize both the fire within and the fire without, the piety of both our belief and our actions: we do not come before our gods empty-handed, nor with empty words.

So let us pray with a good fire; let it burn brightly within us all when we speak words of praise to the Kindreds, and let it burn brightly before us when we pour out sacrifice to them.
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

A Weekend of Service

Each ADF Grove is required to commit themselves to a level of community service. The requirement is not difficult: it is simply one community service activity per quarter. That means that once every three months, we need to do something to maintain our Charter.

As one of seven Fully Chartered Groves of ADF, and as the Grove with the fourth largest membership in our church, Three Cranes has always felt it was important that we should take a lead in providing community service within ADF. Our full community service activity can be found on our Service page, but today, I wanted to mention what the Grove did most recently.

This weekend, we set our feet along a new trail in our community service work: The Lower Scioto Multi-Use Trail. This trail runs from the confluence of the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers, past the central business district of Columbus, Ohio, and down to State Route 104. It is one of the most visible trails in Columbus, and it incorporates much of Columbus’ history and community.

The trail is just under 5 miles long, and a small contingent from the Grove said a short prayer to the Spirits of Nature, then set out at about 11 AM on a cold December 1st morning, and picked up as much trash as we could.

As our trashbags became heavier and the day grew brighter, we found ourselves laughing and enjoying the time together. We felt the Grove growing closer, as it always has and will during our service. We are a Grove that walks in service.

Halfway through the cleanup, we saw a blue heron standing in the waters of the Scioto River. We stopped for a moment to watch him, and then continued on our way, feeling more blessed and more certain that we had made the right choice in this stretch of trail.

While there were areas that we simply did not have the ability to clean thoroughly, we made a promise to return with more help in order to clean some of these areas in particular. Each of us removed about 45 lbs. of trash from the trail and the banks of the Scioto.

Later that night, the Grove participated in an interfaith service for World AIDS Day, with our Senior Druid, Seamus, and our Grove Scribe, Shawneen, reading names at a candlelight vigil in the Topiary Gardens downtown, and I participated in the service itself, issuing a call to community and awareness to people of all faiths.

ADF Groves have never been only available for public worship. It may be our primary focus, as offering public sacrifice to the Kindreds will always come first; but it is vital that our Groves remain part of the community, and that we be there when the Folk need us most. Our service and our outreach are the fruits that each Grove must produce in order to survive. When we are out in the community, tasting of these fruits, it is then that we know just how sweet they are.

And when we embraced each other as a Grove and as friends, those fruits tasted sweet indeed.

May we grow in our service, and may we serve the Kindreds when we serve each other.
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler