High Day Celebration Accounts

I just want to preface this section with a brief observation of how my practice grew and developed over the year I recorded these rites. While I had to significantly shorten the report I wrote of each account, it delights me to see just how I learned with each High Day. I’ll treasure this section as a sort of scrapbook of my spiritual evolution.

Blog note (as opposed to submission note): The following accounts were shorted from write-ups I initially provided on this blog. I will link in each account to the original write-up, so you can see the work I had to do to shorten each report.

Yule 2010

I celebrated the Solstice by my lonesome today. It was my first High Day celebration and my first full ADF rite, and, to build up the pressure even more, I conducted my first oath (not the required Dedicant oath) during the rite.

It wasn’t fantastic, but it was pretty okay. Everything went smoothly—except when I realized I’d forgotten a tarot deck for taking an omen and when I had to smoosh the slice of orange I’d brought as offering for Sulis into the cup I use for offerings—and I felt good about the whole process.

I stole a  Solitary Yule rite  from Rev. Michael Dangler and worked the first oath into it after the return flow. The two went nicely together, I thought, partly because Yule/Christmas has always been a special holiday for me and partly because the energy of a full High Day rite added a little more weight to the first oath.

I haven’t clearly coalesced my thoughts into any solid conclusions, so I think for now I’ll just list a few observations.

  • I love tarot, but it just doesn’t seem to ‘gel’ that well with the ADF rite. At least not for me.
  • I think I might actually enjoy writing my own rites, which I wouldn’t have expected. But there was a distance between me and the words I spoke, and I think speaking my own words would solve that pretty easily
  • I need to work on memorization. Reading from a script is just… well… reading from a script.
  • My altar space doesn’t feel like home to me yet. It feels like a start, but it’s definitely incomplete.

Omens (taken as suggested for first oath):

Ancestors: The Star. Hope, inspiration, and serenity.

Nature Spirits: Three of Wands. Foresight, exploration, and a journey.

Deities: Seven of Cups. Dreams, fantasies, and wishes. (This one needs some thought.)

The lunar eclipse last night was stunning, and felt like another good omen.

I definitely need some more practice to get the hang of the full COoR.

Imbolc 2011

It’s very cold here, by far the coldest day we’ve had this winter, and, the day after Imbolc, all of northern New Mexico lost natural gas, and thus heat—and thus water, too! But the snow that’s on the ground will melt into the lakes and rivers, and will–in a few months–become the life-giving water here on the edge of the desert. Nearby, the Santa Cruz river flows on beneath its crusted, icy surface, the snow hardly an impediment to its force. Somewhere underneath the frozen earth, too, life is stirring. We may not see it right now, but it’s there, and Brighid’s fire will draw it forth.

This was not a perfect ritual. I spilled ale all over the floor, I broke the cork on my well-water bottle, and I repeatedly drew bad omens from the ancestors… But in spite of my little mishaps, I think the ritual went well. I made offerings of fresh homemade bread with local honey and a poem I wrote for Brigid, and I think she was pleased. My Irish stew I cooked in the slow-cooker wasn’t finished, but we lost our gas that night, so it fed us for several days when we had no other way to cook! Drew pointed out that maybe Brigid had a little something to do with that.

For my ritual, I combined pieces from “A Solitary Imbolc Ritual” by Rob Henderson and Kami Landy, “A Personal Ritual for Imbolc” by Robert Lee (Skip) Ellison in  The Solitary Druid, and other miscellaneous sources, including  The Standard ADF Liturgy  and  Ancient Symbols, Modern Rites. I used a Two Powers meditation for grounding and centering, honored a “general” Earth Mother and Manannan mac Lir was the Gatekeeper.

Although I received fairly negative omens from the ancestors, I used the time to “chat” with them through the tarot, and I think I’ve started some positive movement there. The omens from the Nature Spirits and the Deities were good, though.

Spring Equinox 2011

I used A Solitary Spring Equinox Ritual by Amanda Lynne Orcutt as a template for what will (hopefully) be my very last solitary ritual! We’re moving to Bloomington, Indiana, and I hope to join up there with Black Bear Grove. I saw from their online write-up that they had snow and a waterfall at their ritual—I’m a little jealous. I spent this one in my bedroom once again.

My ritual (not quite like the script listed above) honored Persephone and Demeter, an odd change from the typical male-female pairings for deity of the occasion. I love Persephone, though, and felt a little cut up at not having her in my (Irish) hearth culture, but I like to keep her in the periphery of my worship. Gaia was the Earth Mother and Hermes the Gatekeeper. Everything went fairly smoothly—I offered fresh flowers to Persephone and slices of apple to Demeter. I received positive omens (the two of wands from the deities, which seems appropriate for a move!), and I feel like spring is evident all around me, even at the edge of the desert.

One thing that troubled me with this ritual is that, aside from Persephone, I didn’t really feel a connection with the deities of the occasion, perhaps because I’m actually starting to feel connected with my Irish hearth culture and deities. That will be something to keep in mind for future rituals: I think I need to spend time getting to know the deities honored in a given ritual before I perform the ritual.

Note from 2012: I’m sad to admit I kept very poor records for this ritual. Because we were moving, I just couldn’t keep up with my blog at the time—all I have is the printed out script of the ritual with omens jotted in the margins, and a few notes from my handwritten, general journal. I quite literally packed up my altar and put it in the five days after this ritual!

Beltane 2011

I attended my first full grove ADF ritual on Saturday, May 7.

To my surprise, I had a part: honoring the Earth Mother. The grove regular scheduled to do it couldn’t make it, so I volunteered. I made up and memorized a very nice little speech before the ritual, then promptly forgot it when all eyes were on me. I spoke from the heart, though, even if I didn’t speak all that eloquently.

The ritual leader then invited Brigid for Bardic Inspiration. Our senior druid invited the spirit of the Black Bear, the grove’s patron animal spirit, to act as Gatekeeper. The deities of the occasion were Cernunnos and Aine. The grove members who invoked them were so impressive — they’d either memorized what they said before or are just better extemporaneous speakers than I, which wouldn’t be hard! I realize now, though, the importance of performance in ritual.

After we made personal offerings, one of the full grove members took an omen by reading the fire. He told us the fire reminded us that everything changes constantly, and what is lost is consumed to make the new. He said the fire was pleased with our work that day, and we had done good work.

After the waters of life, we danced a maypole! We wove our hopes for the growing season into the streamers, and after we were finished, we cut the end of our streamers to take home to our altars.

Sadly, I spent a lot of time feeling awkward. This was my first public ritual, and I didn’t know the conventions. I was also a little troubled because technically Aine is Irish and Cernunnos is Gaulish! They both fall under the umbrella heading of Celtic, but it’s still mixed-and-matched.

I had a wonderful time, though, and we did good work.

Summer Solstice 2011

I celebrated with Black Bear Grove on Saturday, June 25 and had a wonderful time.

For the celebration itself, we did an ADF-style ritual in a Norse hearth culture. The deities of the day were Mani (the moon god) and Sol (sun goddess). The Earth Mother was Nerthus, whose representation was covered throughout the ritual and set sail on the lake after we were through. The Gatekeeper was Hermod, and the god called for bardic inspiration was Bragi.

For our group working, we danced the sun on her way with a free form dance around the fire, stopping after each repetition of a chant to represent the solstices:

Sun is the shield of the clouds
Shining ray, destroyer of ice
Sun is the light of the world
Burn away the dark, burn away the dark.

The omens were  Gebo (gift), from the ancestors; Mannaz (mankind), from the nature spirit; and Ingwaz (fertility) from the deities. The seer for the day interpreted these as an excellent omen: Our sacrifices were accepted, the kindred are communicating with us, and we will see a good harvest from what we have sown in the spring.

I felt that this ritual went much more smoothly (at least for me) than the Beltane ritual did. I felt more confident and more comfortable, and it was so well-organized that it was almost seamless.

For myself, I was painfully nervous. I volunteered to call Mani, and wrote and memorized what I would say ahead of time, but I have such terrible stage fright that my knees were trembling before my part came. But in spite of my nerves, I spoke my part smoothly and confidently.

I’m starting to really feel at home.

Lughnasadh 2011

I celebrated with Black Bear Grove again. We honored Lugh and his foster mother, Tailtiu. The gatekeeper was the gatekeeper of Tara encountered by Lugh, and the bardic inspiration was the Dagda.

This ritual was special because druid in charge completely flubbed the core order of ritual. He got so wrapped up the statement of purpose and the story of Lugh that he went directly into our group working, calling on Lugh to bless the various tools we’d all brought, and skipped, well, everything else. We went on to establish the sacred center, call the Kindreds, and do our personal workings. I think the DIC was embarrassed to have made a mistake, but as another grove member pointed out, we had gotten into such a great groove and raised such potent magic already that it didn’t matter that it was all out of order. The COoR is great, obviously, but I saw today that the magic exists outside of the COoR, and when it takes over, it’s best to go where it takes you.

For my part of the ritual, I honored the Earth Mother and Tailtiu. I’m starting to feel more comfortable speaking in front of others. I didn’t have time to memorize anything this time because of a family illness, but I’m starting to see the value of speaking spontaneously. I’d done my research, planned more or less what I wanted to say, and I let the energy of the ritual do the rest.

After the ritual, the grove held its fifth annual Lughnasadh games, which included spear-throwing, trying to strike Balor in his eye with a slingshot (which I actually did, and won that contest!), throwing of heavy things (at which I failed dismally), and “quest,” a race to build a fire of a certain height.

Autumn Equinox 2011

We celebrated the Roman harvest/wine festival Vinalia Rustica on September 17 for the Black Bear Grove fall equinox celebration. Jupiter and Venus were the deities of the occasion, Bacchus was Bardic Inspiration, and Silvanus was Gatekeeper.

Our druid in charge wanted to make a good impression on a visiting ADF priest, so she asked us to go all out in our roles. I dressed as a maenad to call Bacchus and literally shouted my invocation. I asked Bacchus 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 mystery cult of Bacchus.

The “mystery” was a turkey baster painted as a phallus and filled with honey. “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 instead of rending a living creature as a true maenad would. I got a few laughs and loosened everyone up, which was the goal. Bardic inspiration is, in part, being relaxed and letting the magic of the ritual flow through you.

For the group working, the eight-months-pregnant druid in charge portrayed the 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. We each drew a stone as a personal omen and gift from the Earth Mother.

Mine was blue lace agate, a stone of tranquility, protection, and spiritual communication.

Samhain 2011

Black Bear Grove celebrated Samhain on November 5. It was, as usual, amazing.

The deities of the occasion were Donn and the Morrigan, the Gatekeeper was Manannan Mac Lir, and the Bardic Inspiration was Brigid. Seven people attended, including myself.

For bardic inspiration, a friend of the grove played a song and read some poetry. To attune the grove, a senior druid had us join hands and sing, one by one, around the circle, “I am, you are, we are one.”

For my part, I called Manannan (my patron!) as the Gatekeeper. I led the group in a meditation, asking them to imagine themselves on a misty seashore, facing west. I asked them to feel the presence of a lost loved one across the veils. I then had everyone pour a bit of saltwater, simultaneously representing their tears of grief and the waters of the ocean, into the well. After that, I called Manannan and we sang him across the “ocean” with a chant.

For the Morrigan, a friend of the grove led us in a meditation on the Great Queen and her power as warrior. She drew war paint—unique for each of us—on our faces. She also did an interesting bit where she dedicated her heart’s blood to the Morrigan (using wine poured over her hands), and washed it away, symbolic of the Morrigan’s role in death and  rebirth. A crow called all through her invocation and ended up in our World Tree—very symbolic, I think.

As the grove working, we had an ancestor altar with personal offerings and candles lit for loved ones. The druid in charge then led us in a detailed omen for the year going forward, as well as looking back at the previous year—and we received great omens.

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