Beltaine Blessings

As Three Cranes comes off a wonderful Beltaine celebration, with 78 participants, 91 canned goods collected, and an amazing drumming circle, it’s clear that there are some lessons learned.

We weren’t expecting to break new records today with the number of participants, though we were expecting a slightly larger crowd than usual. Our last-minute change of location also complicated matters, moving us from a traditional site for our Beltaine rituals to one that none of us had ever been to before this morning.

Despite that, our Grove has always (unofficially) operated on the Boy Scout motto: “be prepared” is a statement that we have taken to heart, often leading to excesses of ritual gear that we don’t need being brought along. Today, though, it led to our Grove having not only enough Waters to go around for the blessings, but also being able to offer each person the chance to drink the Waters, instead of aspersing the blessing across the entire crowd.

Because of the way the ritual space was set up, with tables and benches located in the middle of where the Folk would generally stand, most people ended up sitting at a table, so we ended up with a large crowd of parallel lines that sat almost perpendicular to the Sacred Center. When we were distributing the Waters, it was more like pouring drinks for a party in a crowded bar than a solemn, ritual atmosphere.

This, of course, suited Beltaine just fine.

We also chose a Fool by lot to lead our procession out through the purifying fires and back into the ritual space. Our fires stayed lit throughout the rite, and the nine sacred woods we burned in each fire purified and again blessed the folk who had joyously partaken of the Waters. Our method of Fool selection was originally designed by Anna Banana, who last year had us pick M&M candies out of a jar, making the Fool the one who chose the red candy. As we drew these lots this year to the sound of drumming and clapping, our Senior Druid began to chant:

    I want my M and M’s!

The immediate response was:

    Jim wants his M and M’s!

And this call-and-response was repeated several times until, as the one united and sacred Grove that we were, we simply couldn’t stop laughing in the collective joy we experienced.

In all, as Beltaine celebrations go, this was a wonderful one. We had many new faces and a few old ones that we hadn’t seen in a very long time. The Grove did a wonderful job of leading the rite and maintaining the space, but the thing I took home from this ritual is that our rituals thrive on the energy of the participants far more than on the energy of the sacrificers. Each person who comes to our rites adds spice to the experience and the joy of doing public worship.

And it is this spice our guests provide that makes us grateful to each and every one of them.
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

Honouring the Center of our Rites

What a group focuses its rituals around says much about what is important to them. While our Grove’s sacred center certainly is made up of the Fire, Well, and Tree, and while we always have an altar set up, looking spatially at our ritual space shows a very interesting aspect of our liturgy.

Over the last several years, we have moved our central focus of ritual away from the center that we always speak of, and made the Fire, Well, and Tree (and particularly the altar) peripheral to our actual focus in ritual: the members of the congregation that gathers to honour the Kindreds.

While the Fire, Well, and Tree are never outside our focus and center, we show with every ritual that what we are concerned with as a Grove is the well-being of the others who have gathered, physically and spiritually, in our space.

Most of our prayers and evocations take place in front of the altar, at the center of the Grove. Our Fire is often in a fireplace or grill, the Well is often on the altar, and the Tree is often further away from the folk than either of these other two centers.

What our rituals do is bring our members and guests together, without barrier, with the Kindreds and Spirits in ritual. We meet and converge in the same point, directing our focus away from the center of the folk only long enough to make an offering, locate something on the altar, or do a working or make a Praise Offering.

Our center truly is a shared center, with the Folk and the Kindreds coming together and standing shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm. It is a powerful place, this Center of the Folk, and we are all welcome within it.

The festival season within ADF has also begun, with the Trillium Spring Gathering happening last weekend. The Groves that put on the festival were amazing hosts, and the weather was incredible: warm and dry!

For those interested in future ADF festivals, view the events page on the ADF site! And remember, Three Cranes Grove, ADF, is sponsoring the Summerland Festival this year, so please come out for it!
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

Edited to add: Apparently, this entry was “saved” rather than “published,” which explains the fact that it’s showing up on Monday but time-stamped on Sunday. Sorry about the delay!

And Silver we Bring

Each Imbolc, our Grove deposits our previous year’s offerings in a bog near our ritual site for that High Day. As the amount of material offerings have grown, we have come closer and closer to not having enough room to make it through the year in the box we used for the past 5 years. We outgrew our box this year.

Rather than simply start again with the same box (that was clearly too small), we sunk the entire box in the bog this past Imbolc. Since then, we have been “making due” with what is available to contain the offerings deposited in three rituals since. Today, a new box was drafted into service.

This box is larger than our last box by several cubic inches and hand made (I just finished the outer form a few moments ago). It has interior art and will have art on the top as well once the box is completely finished.

And next Imbolc, we will sink this box into the bog as well.

I would very much like to see us creating or decorating boxes for deposit in the bog over the next few years: it resolves the issue of the items within refusing to sink, and gives us the chance to start to develop a ritual action to go along with the disposal of the Trove.

I have always enjoyed that moment after ritual when a new member will wander by the altar as we’re cleaning, look into the box that keeps our Trove, and say, “Wow! You’ve collected a lot of offerings!” The Trove really is a physical representation of how deeply we love and honour the Kindreds in our Grove: we give so many gifts to the Kindreds that have such deep meaning to us, and each offering is its own prayer, thanks, or concern that our Grove feels and expresses.

In many ways, looking into the Trove is like looking into a year of laughter and tears and emotion. And there is so much that is special about that connection.
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

Three Cranes along the Scioto River

It has been a very busy and rewarding week for the Cranes here in central Ohio. We started the week producing the Grove’s new book, The Fire on Our Hearth: A Devotional of Three Cranes Grove, ADF, which has been a blessing and a joy to work on (and the feedback has been amazing). As we make plans to bring this book to various festivals and create further work, we see a lot of promise for the future in this project. Look for expansions in our publishing efforts soon!

On Saturday, the Grove went back to the trail we have taken responsibility for. This trail is the most visible foot and bike path in Columbus, running along the river straight past downtown and into the parks south of the city center. The day was full of wonderful fellowship and many surprises.

Our Senior Druid, Seamus, offered this description:

We began the day with a blue heron on the water to our right, and as he took flight across the water we began in earnest the hike though down town. As we walked and talked we filled our bags with trash, our hearts with joy and our minds with the memories of fellowship. We were visited by ducks, geese, red wing black birds, crows, gulls, a rabbit and pirates! As the long trail was winding down, we cast our gaze across the water to see one beautiful white crane on the distant shore. . . no wait: there is a another. . . and in perfect harmony, a third one blessed us a little further up the shore line. . . that has to be a good omen. . .

Indeed, the omens are very good along this stretch of land. Every time we walk this path along the Scioto River, we feel the pain of the Earth Mother, and her joy at our efforts to heal her. As Druids, we cannot simply seek to heal her through magic in ritual, but we must also seek to heal her through the magic of our hands and the work we do in the physical realm, as well.

It prides me that eight members, new and old, came out to show they share in that vision and love of the Earth Mother.

This week will certainly bring more joy and fellowship. We are fortunate, indeed.
   -Rev. Michael J Dangler