Remembering our Ancestors

As we approach Samhain (the night of October 31, of course, is the traditional beginning of Samhain, as the Celts are said to have begun their days on the evening prior rather than at dawn), it is proper to think on our Ancestors, those who came before us and who show us the way.

The ancients believed themselves descended from a single ancestor: Cæsar referred to this being by the Latin name Dis [Pater], meaning “rich father.” This title may sound somewhat odd, but the image it conjures of the Otherworld is of a place ruled over by a king who was once the first human. Their reverence for this ancestor stems from many things, including the fact that he taught us to sacrifice and the fact that as the first human (and the first to die), he is the one who can show us how to walk the paths to the Otherworld.

One of the primary deities that can be identified as a possible candidate for the “Dis” of the Celts is Cernunnos, the antlered god. Rather than a god of animals, he is a god of opposites and wealth. Perhaps he is the king of the Otherworld, or perhaps he is the psychopomp. In nearly all depictions, he is shown pouring out the wealth of the underworld, and holding apart the opposites: material wealth and hoarders of wealth; domesticated animals and wild animals.

Understanding the deities who know the ways between this world and the next, who holds them apart, and who stands at the doorway between them is vital to understanding the Ancestors themselves, for they had to pass that way and travel those roads.

This is just one way that the Kindreds interact with one another within our cosmology: the Guide of the Dead and King over them has his position by being the first among the Dead. We cannot understand one without building a relationship with the other.

And so at Samhain, we honour both: the Antlered God who knows the ways between the worlds, and the Ancestors who have traveled them. As they have gone, so shall we, and their example will be our guide.
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

Enjoying a Liturgy Meeting

With Samhain coming up, this is always a busy time of planning. This year is no exception.

When we got to the liturgy meeting this week, though, we worked pretty quickly through the upcoming ritual. As we did so, we found ourselves simply enjoying each others’ company as a Grove. This was a really wonderful feeling.

At times, the work of building a liturgy gave way to jokes and fun: we wound up discussing all manner of odd things, and really enjoying ourselves in the way only friends can do.

It’s a beautiful thing when you can accomplish not only what your meeting set out to accomplish (in this case, managing a ritual), but also a more ephemeral goal of coming a bit closer as a Grove.

Today, there was a journey workshop led by Anna Gail that I was unable to attend, but hope went very well, also.

Also this week, we’ve received the first proof copies of our 3CG membership guide, and let me just say, it has come out beautifully. I hope to have more to share about them in the very near future!
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

Reviewing a good harvest

After last week’s Druid Moon (and the ADF Clergy Retreat, which I somehow forgot to mention), there’s a sense of renewed vigor within the Grove, with new interest being shown in our Dedicant study group and the number of events in general starting to wane, there is much to be happy about in what we have harvested in this year.

This year we planted much as a Grove: we increased our already impressive levels of community service; began a serious partnership and co-sponsorship with The 6th Night Grove, ADF, of the Summerland Festival; welcomed many new members; and worked hard to add 12-13 moon festivals to our calendar.

All of this seems impressive when laid out upon the page like this, but what it came down to was that our members were strongly committed to building and growing this Grove. They’ve done a marvelous job, whether new to the Grove or old hands.

This Grove has a long way to go, and we’re taking steps in the directions we know we need to go: increasing our advertising, opening more doors to service (and each other), and deepening our connections to the Kindreds.

I hope to see this Grove build on the vigor that we have at this time, and I know that it will. We are, after all, guided by a Gardener whose touch is gentle yet firm, and who has a plan for us.
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

Opening the Ancestor Box

In a tradition we began in 2004, our Grove keeps a box on the altar at all our rituals. Within this box are mementos of our Ancestors: the ones we remember, the ones we may not know as well as we’d like, and the ones that above all, we love.

The act of keeping this box has brought us closer as a Grove, too: the box is taken home by the person in charge of the next ritual, and devotions are done to the Ancestors of our Grove by that person for the six weeks or so until the next High Day. This has helped us to maintain the connection each of us feels toward the Grove as a whole, as we find our shared Ancestors helping us and moving with us through the years.

This year, we opened the ancestor box with some new Grove Members and Friends of the Grove at our last Druid Moon of our Grove’s year: Cantlos, the Song Moon.

It’s hard to describe what happened that night, with each of us gathered around the box, telling stories of our ancestors and explaining why we felt such kinship with them. Harder still to describe is what each of us went through as we remembered our own ancestors, and what happened to each person when the Ancestors of the Grove spoke to them individually.

Tears of joy and sorrow are hard to separate sometimes, but the knowledge that we remember those who went before stirs our hearts each time we re-open this box.
    -Rev. Michael J Dangler