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

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

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

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