Or, as we celebrated it, Vinalia Rustica — slightly belated.
I’ve been MIA for awhile, I realize. My grandmother passed away the last week of August — and the very same week, my fiance’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. A funeral and then a week with my future in-laws to help them out post-mastectomy, followed by a sinus infection and bronchitis, and, well, I haven’t done much of anything for awhile.
Anyway, I did make it out last Saturday (September 17) for the Black Bear Grove fall equinox celebration. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but I’ve enjoyed each celebration with this grove more than the last one.
We had tentatively planned to celebrate an Etruscan hearth culture (How cool would that be?), but upon learning that a true ADF priest would be attending our rite, we opted to celebrate the Roman early harvest/wine festival Vinalia Rustica, which honored Jupiter and Venus. Those were the deities of the occasion, with Pomona as Earth Mother, Bacchus as Bardic Inspiration, and Silvanus as Gatekeeper.
I’m going to skip the blow-by-blow this time in favor of describing a few parts of the ritual in detail.
For my part, I invited Bacchus. Our druid in charge really wanted to make a good impression on the visiting ADF priest, so she asked us to go all out in our roles… I did. I dressed as a maenad and literally shouted when calling Bacchus. This is unusual for me, because I’m typically petrified with stage fright, and I had written no words prior to the ritual. I gave myself to the moment. I called Bacchus, asking him why he had led his devoted follower to this strange wood, to these strange Romans who were most oddly dressed. I told him they needed bardic inspiration, and then, at his behest, I “initiated” them into the cult of Bacchus by showing them the mystery.
The mystery was a turkey baster painted as a phallus and filled with honey. (Oh yes I did.) “May your tongue be honeyed,” I said, and gave them all a drop of honey. “And may your words flow like wine.” I gave them a cup of wine to wash down the honey. I also gave them a circus animal cookie to rend with their teeth in lieu of rending a living animal (or human!) as a true maenad would.
It went over quite well. I got a few laughs and loosened everyone up, which was the goal after all. Bardic inspiration is, in part, being relaxed and letting the magic of the ritual flow through you. I’m not sure the ADF priest approved, but my grovemates did, and that’s what matters.
I also want to discuss the group working, which was truly something else. The druid in charge for this ritual is… well, she’s special. I’ll say that. A truly remarkable person. She’s about eight months pregnant, and she invoked the Earth Mother. I helped her get set up on a blanket under a cliff at the site, and she sat up there and called us each to her individually. As Earth Mother, she presented us each with a grape and reminded us that though the seasons change and the darkness comes, we now harvest the fruit of our efforts, and the warm riches of the summer will sustain us through the winter. She had us each draw a stone as a personal omen, which we then kept as a gift from the Earth Mother.
Mine was blue lace agate, a stone of tranquility, protection, and spiritual communication.
This ritual was utterly uplifting.
About 14 people attended, which is huge for a smallish grove. We had a lot of visitor participation, as well, which is always heartening.
In short, I feel blessed this harvest season. And really excited for Samhain.