A wonderful Samhain weekend!

Once again, our Grove has gathered for Samhain, to remember the blessed dead and honor the deities who take care of those who have gone before. It has been a wonderful and full weekend for all of us.

On Friday night, the Grove co-hosted A Witches’ Ball with Fly-By-Night, which was a wonderful evening of costumes, music, and social time.

At our Samhain rite this year, we honored Hades and Persephone in an Hellenic rite, while the folk brought remembrances of their family, friends, and teachers who are no longer with us.

The rite was solemn, moving, and a bit chilly, but it always is: this is the last ritual of the year that the Cranes hold outdoors, with the next outdoor rite (or, more correctly, the next rite without electric heat) at Spring Equinox. The dark half of the year finds us seeking halls and good company with one another in the enclosed spaces that make our gatherings bright and cheerful.

Our omens from this rite were particularly good, espeically when we consider we were using the Greek Alphabet Oracle, which is known for its somewhat negative outlook on life.

When asked if our offerings were accepted, the gods responded with Alpha: “The God Apollo says you will do everything successfully.” This is a resounding yes; perhaps the best “yes” that could be gotten.

Following this wonderful omen, we asked questions of the Kindreds: The Ancestors brought us a blessing of Epsilon: “You desire to see the offspring of righteous marriages.” The Ancestors ask that we think about the ideas we’ve been considering and work on bringing them to fruition. We should make use of their added knowledge and blend our creativity together. The Spirits of Nature brought us a blessing of Theta: “You have the helping Gods of this path.” There will be aid along the path we are taking. The gods brought us a blessing of Zeta: “Flee the great storm, lest you be disabled in some way.” Be wary and cautious of what you take on and who you interact with. Ignore the drama that may spring up around you, and don’t let it distract you from your path and your tasks.

Taken together these may mean that we should each focus on taking those things we’ve been putting off and start working on them again. We will have new inspiration and the help of the Gods. But we must be wary on this path of who and what we let distract us from our goal, lest we never finish.

Then, the Powers asked of us Upsilon: “The affair holds a noble undertaking.” The Kindreds want us to complete the tasks we’ve put aside. They offer us the gifts and knowledge to complete the tasks, and now just ask that we do so.

Monday the 31st brings a rare ritual for us: Antaranos, the intercalary moon ritual that happens about once every five years on average, re-setting the lunar cycle to the solar cycle. This year, it’s all about the fire and ice, and the recreation of the world.

As we look toward the dark half of the year, there is more work to be done, and there are challenges ahead. Fortunately, we are well equiped with these blessings to meet them full-on. Esto.

    -Rev. Michael J Dangler

Harvest Nights Festival

Over the weekend, I drove out to Otis, MA, for the Harvest Nights Gathering, the inaugural festival for Charter Oak Grove, ADF. They’d requested some ADF Priests via our Traveling Clergy Program (ADF Member’s only link), and I was one of the lucky ones able to make it out. I have a couple of things to say about the drive:

  • The first thing to say is that the drive up was spectacular: the weekend chosen was clearly peak color in the foliage department, and I spent a lot of time just enjoying the scenery.
  • The second thing to say is that it’s a pretty long drive: at 12 hours (not including time being lost; more on that later), I’m not sure I’ll do it again without breaking it up a bit more.
  • The third thing is this: I got lost, and I can sum it up in just a few short thoughts: “Lost. In the dark. In the rain. In Massachussets. Very Lovecraftian.” I had been to MA before, twice upon a time, and noticed that the Berkshires are just like the rest of MA in the dark: full of cyclopean, eldrich horrors that you’re positive are waiting for you in the shadows.

But, all that said and done, I arrived, only about an hour after I was supposed to arrive, thanks to Robin, who came out to lead me back to the place where light and warmth were.

The space they’d chosen was amazing: it was a large lodge with two fire places, plenty of sleeping space, full facilities, a gigantic kitchen, and an outdoor fire ring that was steps from the front door. The only thing the site lacked was WiFi, but honestly, I’m okay with that.

I spent the evening chatting with folks and Drum built a fire. We talked about hearth cultures and a few ritual points. While we probably didn’t talk about everything the folk wanted to, I hope we got enough in to answer a good number of questions.

We started Saturday morning off with a dawn ritual, which just threw the schedule into chaos: things were supposed to start at 8:30, but with dawn around 7 AM, everyone was up and things started nearly an hour ahead of schedule. This gave us plenty of space to work through things, including Kirk’s “Basic Ritual Skills” presentation and Rob’s “Crafting Invocations” presentation. We had lunch, and then came my scheduled workshop on trance skills. Word of advice to organizers: trance and meditation workshops right after lunch are a recipie for sleepy druids to get some sleep. But the feedback was good, and I only caught one person really dozing off!

That evening, we did ritual to bring the folk of Charter Oak into alliance with the spirits of the land there, so that they could build a connection that would grow and blossom as time went on. We also did a small healing working for an ADF member as well. I took the omen at the rite, and it was:

Have our Sacrifices been Accepted?
Berkano – the birch – New beginnings, fertility, and strength in flexibility.
What blessings do the Ancestors bring?
Fehu – cattle – Wealth that is tempered with generosity: we will have, but we must share what we have.
What blessings do the Spirits of Nature bring?
Wunjo – joy – the outpouring of joy and togetherness.
What blessings do the Deities bring?
Pertho – the dice cup – gaming in the hall, community, and togetherness again.

In the context of the work we sought to do, I think that we received a wonderful omen, and the Spirits clearly wanted this relationship to grow and develop over time.

Following the ritual, we had a night sky workshop, where we learned about all sorts of constellations and the way the moon and sun work. It was actually terribly informative, and I thought I knew a good deal about the way the moon and stars work. Then, we had an evening of discussion and we all rolled into bed shortly thereafter.

On Sunday, there was a smaller crowd for a dawn ritual, which again succeeded in throwing off the rest of the day’s schedule. I napped through the nature walk because I knew I had 12 hours of driving ahead of me (and I wasn’t feeling so hot by that point), then packed up and faced the long drive.

All-in-all, it was a remarkably relaxing weekend, considering I spent 24 hours of it driving. I am already looking forward to next year.

A couple of things stood out from the weekend:

  1. I have never been to a festival so kid-friendly. It was great to get to see the kids so well taken care of.
  2. Charter Oak will feed you until you’re full, and they’ll keep feeding you! Wonderful hospitality!
  3. MA is just fine in the sunlight and starlight. It’s just the rain that makes it feel all tentacle-y.

Seriously, if you have the chance, consider going for the weekend next year (especially if you have kids). It’s an excellent little festival, and I hope I get to see you all there!

-Rev. Michael J Dangler

Cantlos, the song moon, and our Ancestor Box

This month brings us the Cantlos Druid Moon, also known as the “Song Moon,” which we have in the past celebrated with such bad (but oh so fun) ideas as Druid Karaoke and “singing a really hard song no one has ever tried to sing before.”

This year, it brought us Missy, working on her Bardic Study Program work, singing several pieces through the rite, and teaching us several as well.

This rite included a number of chants, including:

  • “Sing Through My Voice”
  • “Mothers and Fathers of Old”
  • “Fur and Feather”
  • “Gods and Goddesses”
  • “Hymn to the Ancient Wise”
  • “Fire in my Heart”

Before Missy arrived and became our Grove Bard, I admit, we sang like cranes. If you’ve never heard a crane sing, you can hear a crane “Unison Call” on the “Bring Back the Cranes” website (more calls on this page). Really, it was pretty bad.

But our intrepid Grove Bard never gave up, and she worked with us to almost make some of us sound great sometimes. I have hope for the future of our own vocalizations.

This rite went very well, and the omens were good:

What should the Groves path be?:
Luis, The Rowan – the groves path is one of being magically blessed and protected while we magically bless and protect!

Upon what should the Grove focus until the next Druid Moon?:
Beith, The Birch – The grove should focus on the new beginnings it has initiated or will be initiating.

Upon what should each individual focus until the next Druid Moon?:
Idho, The Yew – The individuals of our grove should focus on surrendering those elements of our lives which no longer serve us well, those things which have outlived their purpose. This must be done so that the new beginnings we have initiated can begin to manifests themselves.

Taken together these might suggest the following: The Grove and its individuals are called upon to begin new works of blessing and protecting of each other and our communities. To undertake this, we must first begin by surrendering those things which have outlived their purpose. Only by emptying our cup of the holdovers and dregs can we truly have room to begin the new manifestations. The universe awaits and supports our new awesomeness!

I always look forward to Cantlos (I even did when we could not sing well), because it is the time that we open the Ancestor Box. The Ancestor Box is a Grove tradition, where we place items within the box that remind us of our family and friends that have gone before us. The box is sealed each year at our Samonios rite in November, but for a full lunar month (two lunar months this year, since there is an intercalary month between Cantlos and Samonios), the box remains open and available to the folk to visit with their ancestors again.

This is important because it allows us to build a sense of community around our shared ancestors: as our ancestors, no matter where they came from or who they were in life, are introduced to the ancestors of others in our Grove, we become more closely entwined as a community. The Box, then “creates” a shared ancestry that everyone in the Grove can look upon and remember.

As we work toward that ritual at the end of the month, Samhain, having our Ancestors with us is a wonderful thing.

    -Rev. Michael J Dangler