Wodens Day, January 31st, before the ritual, Norma and I drove out
to Donaldson Park by the Raritan and I cut a few reeds with my sickle.
It really felt like spring, the river high and air not too cold. There
was a bit of green shoot in the base of the reeds I cut, a sign that spring
might come early. Brought the reeds home and set them down in the hallway.
Norma will make a Brigids Dolly to offer to Brigid in the fire.
We hung out a cloth with a green-red cross-weave pattern on the line outside
overnight for Brigid to bless. Burning beeswax candles from Shop-Rite.
Just found out that the Middlesex County College Wiccan Club would like
us to lecture Friggas Day on Imbolc traditions.
Imbolc sort of comes when it comes. Theres really no
traditional day for the fire festivals, they tend to be on different days
in different communities in Europe and the British Isles. A lot of it
depends on signs in nature, and what the community is doing. The old Druids
would not have relied on a calendar created by Julius Caesar modified
by a Catholic Pope. We had our grove Imbolc on Feb. 3rd, a Saturns
The Dedicants meeting before the ritual was very serious and focused
and intelligent: Norma, me, Erica, Hillary, Brenda and Bilé. We
read our papers describing what we thought of ADFs suggested Virtues,
and then talked about what guides us and makes us proud of ourselves
what we thought the virtues should be. Bilé argued that we shouldn't
even begin to talk about specific virtues until we researched the sources
of our ethical system, starting in ancient Greece and working our way
through Aristotle to modern ethicists. Others argued that you didn't need
to know the theory of electrons in order to wire your house, or replace
a light bulb; these virtues are like the rules of a game, a way to create
a society of people who respect one another and can count on one another.
Bilé responded that all he really wanted was to have the DP group
spend some time reading Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics (as Ian has already
referenced this work in the DP material) and a paper by Martha Nussbaum
on the nature of virtue-based ethics. The discussion left the dedicants
really focused for the ritual.
Folks began to arrive for Imbolc around 3pm. I had the grove Bilé
altar placed on the floor, the well empty, 9 candles arranged in a circle,
and an extra candle for the outsiders... sickle, water and cups, Brigids
dolly of broom and lace, Brigids brats in a basket... the Green
Man mask was hooked up to the curio cabinet with the reeds from the park
stuffed in back of it.
After the ritual we tried to make a list of who was here. We counted 32
people, but it seemed like more than that. Still, not bad. About the same
as Yule, not as many as Samhain, but Samhains tourist season...
At about 4:30 Norma started the pre-ritual briefing. She did it so well
that Pattie and Bill and I were looking at each other going Go
Norma! About 10 of the folks there had never been to an ADF Druid
ritual. She finished the pre-rit about 5:15 and gave everyone a pee break.
I changed into my robe and went outside and got some snow to put in the
After a short talk about the season, Mike Ream invoked the Earth Mother.
Norma assigned the parts at the pre-ritual briefing, so folks had about
40 minutes to prepare. Most of our grove consists of experienced Druids
and they know we rely on inspiration and eloquence rather than rote and
little pieces of paper.
The role of the Liturgist in Green Man I should say Liturgists
is to plan out the basic idea of the ritual and the focus of it
in this case the Druid Virtues and the usual traditional Imbolc customs
involving Brigid and to explain that clearly beforehand and to train
people to perform various elements of the ritual by teaching them the
reasons behind the invocations. The liturgist is also responsible for
keeping the energy of the ritual growing smoothly and to act as ringmaster,
ensuring the continuity of the thing. Norma, as Senior Druid, is also
responsible for the magical acts during the ritual: opening the gates,
the main sacrifice, consecrating the waters.
If a liturgist writes out the entire ritual and all the parts he might
as well go home and do it himself its not a grove ritual.
I dont need to know every time what my liturgist thinks of the ancestors,
I want to know what each person in my grove thinks about them.
Im mentioning this for a reason: because we rely on eloquence and
inspiration, we rely on Brigid a whole lot to help us out in a very immediate
way. Shes our grove Patroness and Bardic Deity.
In any case, after we honored the Earth Mother, and after Norma led us
in the Two Powers meditation, there was a loud knock on the outside door.
I went to answer it, and Erica escorted Brigid in. Erica was dressed in
a really snazzy tailored suit as Brigids escort for the evening.
As she returned to the room with the Brigid dolly, I got the sense of
a really large presence following her and entering the house much
larger than I ever pictured Brigid in my head, which was really startling.
A sort-of cloak-covered shape an orange and gold cloak and
so tall She had to duck through the doors to get into the room. I dont
know if Erica saw this. I saw it too suddenly and unexpectedly to call
it a visualization, although I should say as a disclaimer that I had a
pretty bad cold and taken some prescription-strength Sudafed before the
ritual, and I hadnt had much sleep the night before....
We all welcomed Brigid into the house.
I pointed out the four directions. I still dont see the rationale
behind the Druid Directions the way that ADF does them. Im
very uncomfortable with them. However, I think its a good idea to
point out whats around the ritual space in each direction so people
know where they are in a geographic sense. Most people get to rituals
driving on superhighways, and people dont know geography very well.
I think theres a need to remind folks of the oceans, rivers, mountains
and towns surrounding the ritual space, so we know were part of
a larger world, and that helps us to create the ritual space as the center
of all worlds. I usually end with any point in an infinite space
can be the center, any point on the outside of a sphere can be the center,
and were making this room, right here, the center.
Then Pattie came out of the kitchen to invoke the well and was alarmed
that it was full of ice and snow! just as you would be if you checked
your well outside this time of year. She recovered gracefully, and invoked
the well nicely. Hillary invoked the sacred fire, stretching up and lighting
the candle on top of the Bilé. Conny invoked the tree.
Norma asked Manannan to open the gates let the well be a gate, let
the fire be a gate, let the tree be a gate and we all shouted let
the gates be open. And they opened, very clearly and forcefully.
Erica acknowledged the Outsiders, reminding us of who the outsiders might
be and of the outsider parts of ourselves that might like to wait outside
the ritual space. I followed her out with the lit outsiders candle.
Even though the space was crowded, I think that everyone could see what
was going on. I was sitting by the Bilé where I could light the
candles for each invocation, and I could feel the energy of the ritual
emanating from that point, sort of like the heat from a fire.
I invoked Brigid for bardic inspiration, as we always do, asking her for
eloquence and ringing a small golden bell shaped like an apple. We sang
a really bluesy version of Peg Kaan Baumans song, Lady Brigid
of the Bards.
Lady Sue invoked the ancestors, and asked everyone to bring their own
ancestors into the room. Then we sang the ADF Ancestors Song.
Xuk invoked the Nature Spirits and asked us all to invoke our own
nature spirits and spirits of place, our sacred spaces, houses, cities,
totem animals, etc... Then he exhorted us, like a southern preacher, to
wake them up, and we all yelled three times, Wake Up!. We
sang Fur and Feather... Goddesses and Gods were invoked by
Deb. Although Debs been to a bunch of our rituals and is a Grove
member, shes never felt comfortable enough to stand up and invoke
anything. Her first grove invocation was beautiful, one of the best of
the ritual. It was personal and universal, well said, and she was relaxed
Then, we all invoked our deities, adding to the already crowded spiritual
space. Erica went outside the house and brought Brigid in a third time
for the main invocation. Erica had a bag of Brigid stuff that
she handed randomly out to folks: a hammer for smithcraft, a pen for poetry,
a candle for the hearth, a book of clip-art for artwork and web pages....
We sang Brigids Jig written by our former bard,
Brigid Bardette. Now the atmosphere in the room was warm a golden-red
glow, like a big apple and we began to offer our praises. In the
invitations to the ritual, everyone was instructed to think about the
virtue most important to them. Norma explained this again, and Erica passed
around an inflatable Earth ball. As each person got the world in his or
her hands, they talked about the virtue most important to them, or one
that they were trying to develop. At first I thought wed made a
mistake even my virtue, awe and reverence, took me a while to explain
and Erica and I looked at each other, like, Oh shit, how did we let this
happen? Yet, as people talked, it seemed the time flew by. Everybody was
taking this very seriously, and it was obvious theyd given the task
much thought. This also fueled many post-ritual discussions, getting strangers
together to talk about common virtues, or ones that they thought were
interesting or surprising. We ended the praises by singing Sues
song about Spring coming in, everyone singing the chorus.
Then I took the well out from under the Bilé, mentioning that the
ice was melting, and explained about burning Yule greens at Imbolc, and
I symbolically burned a few pieces sprigs of pine, making a nice clean
fire on top of the snow in the well. This was a lot of fun for me, and
a good dramatic effect, even if it did set the smoke detector off as the
fire burned out. I gracefully jumped up on a folding chair, balancing
precariously, and removed the smoke detector, saying that wed planned
that. Another sign of Brigid: fire alarms and fire engines!
We replaced the well, and Norma performed the main sacrifice, cutting
and breaking a small fluffy stalk of reed. As we drummed, Celestina scryed
the omen in the wood door to the bathroom the omen received was
a praying mantis turning into a butterfly. We hoped that like
her last omen, this might concern George Bush, but all agreed on the value
of praying mantises and butterflies and the strong and the weak virtues
in ourselves, and how virtues can turn praying mantises into butterflies,
Norma hallowed the waters we responded with voice and hand gestures
the passers out passed out cups and we toasted and drank.
As the ritual wound down, we thanked the assembled kindreds and deities,
the gate closed with a big slam, and the rite was ended. Afterwards
for the rest of the night I was wandering around with a bit of tunnel
vision. I was blaming it on the decongestant until, while I talking with
Mike and Jacquie they mentioned that when the gate closed it closed so
hard that they felt their heads collapse and they were still a little
withdrawn from it. They and I were closest to the Bilé when the
gates closed, and I think we got our heads caught in it.
The ritual really seemed to bring out a warm community feeling in everyone:
a very loving ritual and feast.