Spring Equinox 01 Ritual Report: Green Man Grove

Edwin Chapman, Grove Scribe


3-20-01 Spring Equinox Day —
Méan Earrach, Tiu’s Day—

Stood in the cold North Atlantic and let 9 waves wash over my feet, collecting water from each into a mason jar; 3rd wave came up and put itself in the jar; 9th wave was large and dark. Point Pleasant Beach, sunny, cool wind; see your breath in front of your face.

We asked everyone to bring water to the ritual from their homes and sacred places, and plan to mix it with Manannan’s water from 9 waves and bless the resulting concoction. 9 waves was the traditional boundry of the island (outcasts were set in coracles beyond the 9th wave), and marks the space between the worlds. Manannan rides on 9 waves in at least one old story.

Buds on the hydrangea, daffodils and stuff coming up out of the cold earth.


3-24-01 Saturn’s Day —
Green Man Grove’s Spring Equinox Ritual at Portal of the Porcupine in Piscataway—

It had been misty, cool and drizzly on and off all morning. I had all the ritual stuff out by Sue’s fire circle (in the middle of the Jersey suburbs) when the cold rain really started coming down– about an hour before the ritual was to start– but as I was walking away it occurred to me that perhaps the rain merely wanted to get into the well. I turned back and made a deal with the rain: I’d be happy to take the lid off the well and let it be the first water in there– but would it please blow over for a few hours and let us do our rituals? I told it: You can come back later, of course, and rain all you want to– and I opened the lid on the well.

By ritual time, it had not only stopped raining, but the sun was starting to shine!
It stayed clear until Sue’s ritual finished later that evening, and it wasn’t as cold as it had been on Frigga’s Day, or on the day after the ritual.

Misty rain, very Manannanish... Al had set up the fire beforehand– he’d gotten to Sue’s before we arrived. We helped Sue clean up and pick up sticks... I felt that the mist and the light drizzle had been cleaning the space for us.
Ritual started as I chimed 3 chimes. Norma asked why we were here (“We are here to honor the Gods..”), and then Conny did the Earth Mother invocation.

Norma led us on a short meditation.

Celestina invoked the well, mentioning that there wasn’t a lot of water in it. I poured in the water from 9 waves. Erica lit the fire as Misha invoked it. The fire flared quickly, loaded with the last of the leftover greens from Yule. We chanted “fire, fire, fire; kindle our spirits higher...” The smoke and flame looked good in the chilly air. Erica tended the fire throughout the ritual, in keeping with her place on the borders of the worlds.

Hillary invoked the sacred tree– represented by Sue’s Mulberry tree. Hillary talked about trees in NJ appearing in the most unlikely places, and how cool it is to see them there... and I thought she was talking about all of us as well...

Norma invoked Manannan as our gatekeeper, as we always do, as we always have done. This is one of the reasons we did this ritual– Manannan is like family to us, and like family, we take him for granted. He’s been with us since the beginning of the grove, yet we’d never done a ritual especially for him. We thought that Spring Equinox, when the water is running high would be a special time for this. (And we’ll trek down to the Jersey shore on Nov. 10th, Manannan’s feast day, and run in the ocean barefoot to return his blessings to him. I’m surprised how many people want to do this!) Wandering Al began to swish the little colored beads inside an ocean drum, making sounds like waves. We’d dressed Al in a dark blue rain cape so he could personify Manannan. Al is a world traveler and slips back and forth between the worlds, so although I was surprised when Norma arranged this with him, it made a lot of sense . Wandering Al has been a member of Green Man since 1991 or 1992, on and off, when he’s in the area...

Norma opened the gates, and the gates slid open. Norma said to think of them like subway doors.

Erica made an offering to the outsiders, using the metaphor of a playground to describe to them why we needed them outside the space. I followed her to the edge of Sue’s property– a liminal place where her grove borders a gully full of trash opposite a parking lot– and I jumped up and down on a rusted coil of fencing like I was on a trampoline as Erica made her offering. I have no idea why I did that; maybe it was the playground metaphor. I was feeling frisky, full of energy. I didn’t know it, but Norma told me later that the whole circle was bouncing up and down with me– 35 or so people. I really felt that our outsiders– and Sue’s– accepted our offering with joy.

Wendy invoked Brigid– the perfect person to do that; Wendy’s a singer, songwriter, homemaker and copywriter and mother– and she thanked Brigid for the personal help the Goddess has given her and asked Her to inspire us. We sang “Brigid’s Jig (Fire Us Up!)”.

Then we got to the Kindreds- at this point we’ve set up the party and the guests are starting to arrive. That’s why we consider Manannan (and Brigid!) family: They help us set the place up, as much as Al setting up the fire, or me arranging stuff so it’s in easy reach, or others making food or working on their invocations...

Brenda invoked our ancestors– the sun was out, and I can still see the way the light was shining on her face: she was glowing. The energy in Sue’s grove was starting to buzz, and our ancestors began to gather even before she began speaking, but then sort-of coalesced around her. People began to call out the names of their beloved dead. We sang the Ancestor’s Song. Norma made an offering of water near the fire. She’d been pouring offerings for each invocation (except the outsiders).

Sean invoked the Nature Spirits and Spirits of Place– talking about how much he’d learned from animals and plants and places. This was very moving, and we moved right into “Fur and Feather”.

After Deb gave us a lovely and very personal Goddesses and Gods invocation, and we called out our Gods and Goddesses, and sang “Hail all the Gods”.

It was nice to hear Misha’s operatic baritone in harmony with Jenne’s beautiful operatic soprano. Jenne brought her mom, Madeleine, to meet us and see the ritual.

After the song, I invoked Manannan Mac Lir, Son of the Sea– actually less invoked him than described him and praised him. I didn’t have to invite him, he was here from the beginning of the ritual. I’d spent the weeks before reading stories about Manannan, and reading up on him in various books, and I’d written a description of him. When I described him at the ritual I had that description in my head, a little shortened, and I recited it from memory, mostly because I liked the first four lines:

“Sun-dappled Shining One,
Wind-kissed Enchanter,
Gray-eyed Instructor,
Salt-bearded Mariner...”

I also liked the description of his horse, “as swift as the cold, keen wind of spring,” from F. Marian MacNeill’s The Silver Bough. Manannan is a pan-Celtic Deity: although his home is the Isle of Man, he appears in Scottish, Irish, Welsh and British stories as well– perhaps he’s even a ghostly presence in the Arthurian legends as Merlin...

After I described him– most of the terms coming from old stories– I talked about how he’s helped us, blessed us with his magic, instructed us and inspired us. He really does walk with our grove. I don’t remember exactly what I said at this point, but I ended by saying “hear our praises and accept our offerings!”

And then we offered praise—
Erica started with some candy she’d bought at a store she used to go to as a kid when she was hanging our at White Meadow Lake– she offered it up in the fire. Jenne read a beautiful poem about the red buds on the trees in spring, Wendy danced around the fire and sang a springtime song. I recited “March Elegy”. Misha recited a wonderful russian poem– in russian and english. Bryan Van Horn recited something in a language that he may have made up, but translated it into “Spring Has Sprung!” We ended with “Walk with us Manannan”, sung to Al’s impromptu counterpoint of “California Dreamin’.” The main sacrifice: a crocus from Sue’s garden that closed up before Norma touched it with the sickle and dropped it in the fire.

Celestina shuffled the Celtic Tarot and Jenne, Conny and Debra each pulled a card and conferred on the meaning. Conny pulled Temperance, Jenne pulled the X of Staffs and Debra the IV of Cups... the conclusion our Norns came to: this is going to be a “working spring”, not a time to lay back and take it easy. There will be a lot of growth, but we’ve got to work at it to make it happen. Debra mentioned that she got the impression we shouldn’t be doing a ritual to Manannan out of guilt. She said, “Get over it, because He has! It’s not a problem.” It sounded like the message came directly from Manannan.
At that point we consecrated the waters in the old RDNA way, amended that with traditional Green Man hand gestures... Norma hit the jugs with the sickle and our “passers out” (Justin, Brenda, Erica, Celestina, Jack and Greg) distributed the waters.

Now that we were full of magic, we had the wherewithal to pour our collected waters into the well and, with Manannan’s help, bless the waters for the coming year. Norma and I brought out the big blue shiny cloth we’d found in the discount bin at the Rag Shop a week before and Rick, Josh, Chrissy and Greg held it over the well, billowing the cloth up and down like a wave of the sea. Each person making an offering had to duck under the wave and then go through it.

We went deosol around the circle, folks putting water in the well from all sorts of places– Howell NJ in the southeast, Randolph, NJ in the northwest, the Raritan, tap water from people’s homes, lakes and rivers and creeks and ponds. One woman, who’d just returned from Iceland, tried to bring water from where a glacier met a hot spring– but was thwarted by US customs. She spoke her offering into the well, as did a few others. Erica spoke the waters of Bath, England into the well, because that’s where Pattie was that day. When we were all done Norma had the group focus on the well, and counted “one, two– three!” and we consecrated the waters. I could see a kind of shiny glimmer inside the well over the top of the water.
Norma told folks to take a bit of the water home with them, enough to bless their homes or altars or wells– and then thanked all the kindreds, deities and Manannan himself. A bunch of folks went inside to eat, and Sean and Erica and I stayed out by the fire to talk.

I think this would be a nice ritual to do every year– blessing the waters and the well; consecrating the well for another year– perhaps using a bit of the previous year’s water for continuity and the power it contains.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing that water used in rituals for the rest of the year... then, on November 10th, Manannan’s feast day, we’ll pour most of the well water back into the Atlantic.