Like the Druids of old, we dont generally write down our rituals, or script them.
This is a kind of blurred morning-after-and-a-week-later telling of what we did for Imbolc this year
Green Man Groves Patented
Imbolc Ritual and House Blessing
Imbolc started for Norma and I much as it did the previous year: last year Brigid blew out the pilot light in our stove (Hey! I smell gas! Oh that's right- we were supposed to relight our hearth!); this year we had to replace the ignitor in the furnace and re-light the pilot light in the water heater. (Its Brigids way of reminding us.)
We (Bryan, Suzan, Norma and I) had a ritual planning meeting in Jersey City a few days before the ritual. We didnt really plan all that much, but it made us feel more confident about the whole thing, nevertheless. We talked to Pattie and Erica of White Horse Grove (former ADF members) on the phone, and spoke with Chuck Shupe (of Green Man) who lives in the apartment upstairs. We were doing a fairly traditional Green Man Grove Imbolc, but with a special house and apartment blessing.
We held Imbolc at our new (to us) house in New Brunswick. Wed closed New Years Eve, and were still doing construction work and moving in. The day before Imbolc, Norma and I went to a local park that has a small zoo. We checked on their herd of goats: all of the females were very large with kid and looked ready to lactate. I went into the marshes and cut an armful of Fragmites reeds for the Green Man women to use in our ritual- and looked at the new shoots that were coming up. All good signs of Spring approaching. We went to a local rag shop and, after much searching, found a red, white, black (and blue) piece of cloth to use as a Brigids Brat. Norma created a Bredeog (Brigids Dolly) out of reeds, cloth, and ribbon and laid her in a small basket. The Fragmites reeds gave her mall hair and the cloth looked kind of like a kimono. Brigid was invoked and offerings were made that night, and the reeds and the cloth and the Bredeog were left overnight for Brigid to bless. Norma also cooked. And cooked. And cooked. This is an integral part of Imbolc for her.
We planned a group trip to the Rutgers Geology Museum in the early afternoon- they have an open house every year at Imbolc: they open the museum to the public, sell rocks, and identify strange rocks. They also have a mummy- an Egyptian princess-, and various Egyptian idols. A bunch of us walked over to the museum with rocks to identify, and had fun in the exhibits.
By 3pm we were back at the house, and more folks had come. We had fledgling Druids and an Asatru from Manhattan, visitors from several local Wiccan covens, some folks who were with us on Samhain and Yule, folks who were at our apple tree Wassail and house blessing in Piscataway a few weeks earlier, and our usual crew. 21 people total, for this ritual- especially missed: Marcia, one of our Screamin Green Men, whos packing for a trip to Ghana; Maria Elena, whos helping her; Al, our Wandering Druid, whos in Australia celebrating Lughnasadh; and Sue Hunt, whos drumming in Washington.
We started the pre-ritual briefing at a quarter to four, and parts were assigned for the ritual. Bryan and Norma explained the holiday and the purpose of the ritual. Bryan went through the ritual, briefly, step by step, explaining how we intended to fill up the room with our kindreds. Our lovely and talented Bard, Peggy Kaan, was in fine form, and rehearsed the songs, and Norma explained the magical working we intended to do- a blessing on our new house- and how we intended to do it.
The pre-ritual bathroom run started at about four.
Then the men were chased from the house, carrying the Bredeog.
The women blessed the house, hitting the walls with reeds and scattering reeds across the floor. Norma formally invited Brigid into her house.
The men made up a macho chant and stood around outside wondering exactly what the women were doing in there and discussing how many of our wives and girlfriends were in their moon and how that would affect the task or test we had to pass to gain admittance to the ritual.
Then each man had to duck through a tunnel of blankets to enter the house as the women somewhat gently hit the blankets with sticks, and yelled push, push in a kind of rebirthing spring experience.
I came in last with the Bredeog, and handed it to Peggy Kaan.
We then formed a circle and asked why we were there.
We are here to honor the Gods, O Gods who give us life, give to us your presence..... etc.
We honored the Earth Mother first. Peggy invoked her and passed around a bowl of local earth. An Earth Goddess that Normad sculpted from Brushwood clay lay on top of the earth in the bowl. We all got our fingers in the dirt.
Bryan led us in a cauldron meditation that involved filling three cauldrons- one in the gut, one near the heart, one above the head. The cauldrons were each filled with three long deep breaths and lit with three quick short breaths. (This is derived from one of Erynn Darkstars meditations, from the Cauldron of Poesy.)
This put all of us into a sufficiently altered state.
Pattie Lawler (of White Horse Grove) invoked the well. She passed the water to each of us, and asked it to quicken us. When finished, we responded in chorus: Sacred well, flow within us.
Lady Sue (of Portal of the Porcupine) invoked the fire, lit it and passed it to each of us, asking us to feel its warmth and light... we responded: Sacred fire, glow within us.
Norma invoked the tree by describing how without it there would be no connection between the worlds. She knocked on the Bilé and we responded: Sacred tree, grow within us.
Bryan opened the gates by making the well a gate, the fire a gate, and the tree a gate. He called upon Mannanan Mac Lir to open the gates. We responded, loudly, Let the gates be open! And they were.
I made an offering to the Outsiders, taking care not to offend. This was a bit delicate. The woman who had owned the house before us passed away as we were closing on the house. She was Catholic, and shes still hanging around making suggestions to us. Wed seen her over the years in her garden tending her roses or her grapes, and have always felt friendly towards her. I wanted to take care that she knew we respected her wishes even though this might not be her kind of ritual. In addition, its an old house and it has a strong spirit of its own. At the same time I needed to keep any other entities that might be hanging around the gates placated as well, so wed be left in peace, and also remove any feelings anyone in the grove might be having that might not be appropriate in the ritual.
This accomplished, Peggy invoked Brigid as Bardic Deity and Grove Patroness, and we sang her song Lady Brigid of the Bards.
John Baumann (Green Man) invoked the Ancestors. Bryan poured an offering in the offering bowl- the Earth Mothers bowl, over the clay Earth Mother. We responded Accept our sacrifice...
I invoked the spirits of Nature and Place. Bryan poured an offering....
Erica Friedman (of White Horse Grove) invoked the Goddesses and Gods. Bryan poured an offering....
During the dark half of the year, we try to get people to call out the names of their own personal Ancestors, Spirits of Nature and Place, and Goddesses and Gods, or to say them silently to themselves- the idea is to fill up the space with spirits.
Brigid was invoked again, as the Patroness of the Grove, Special Friend, and Deity of the Occasion.
Norma had us all rap repeatedly on wood as she invoked Brigid over the rythmic cacaphony.
Praise was given to the Kindreds, and to Brigid- quite a few nice praise offerings! Lady Sue sang an eerie beautiful song to Brigid that she was inspired with on the spot; Wendy, of Portal of the Porcupine sang the chorus of a song her Pagan band is recording; Peggy vowed to have a song for the Well, Fire and Tree ready for Spring Equinox; Pattie passed a coin for Marcia. The coin will go with her to Ghana with the blessings of the Grove, the Kindreds, and Brigid. Cant go wrong, there! Meanwhile, I dedicated a self-published poetry book to Brigid and read a poem; Suzan thanked Brigid for saving her cat, and offered up some cat hair and a crystal rock; Erica told a story... and there were more offerings, but thats all I can remember. We ended with a great drum jam- Chuck Shupe leading on the congas, Lady Sue, Jenne, Jacquie, Peggy and Wendy vocalizing in harmony over the top, people dancing- that built to a nice creshendo of energy.
As we wound down, Bryan offered a final sacrifice, a bit of fragmites to the fire, the culmination of the praise.
Bryan never does the final sacrifice or the consecration the same way, but its generally along the lines of the old ADF consecration-
Our praise goes up to Thee on the wings of Eagles, our voices are carried up to Thee on the shoulders of the winds... hear us, O Brigid, as we offer up this sacrfice. Accept our sacrifice. And the Grove responds Accept our sacrifice!
Bryan consulted the Norse runes for an omen as we drummed an ominous rythmn.
We received Beorc, Tîr and Nyd.
The old Goddesses and Gods have not returned to us- they have never left us. They are in the Earth, the Sky, the Sea, the Trees, Animals, and in us. Every time we invoke them they grow stronger and more attentive to the needs of their people. They support the Earth at our feet and dance amongst the clouds.... (Again, its never the same, but frequently a variation on that old standard.)
We do consecrate the Waters of Life the same way every time. (We use the old ADF/RDNA one):
Sr. Druid: Of what does the Earth Mother give that we may know of the continual flow and renewal of her Blessings?
Grove: The Waters of Life!
Sr. Druid: And from Whence do these Waters flow?
Grove: From the bosom of the Earth Mother, the Ever-changing All-Mother!
(Weve added hand gestures to that part
Sr. Druid: And how do we honor this gift that
Grove: By partaking of it!
Sr. Druid: And has She provided for us?
Grove: You betcha- its right there (or something to that effect...)
Sr. Druid: Then gimme those Waters!
Bryan consecrated the waters with his sickle and said something like: Brigid, Kindreds, hear us and answer us, we have praised you and honored you and now we ask your blessings of creativity, sustenance, health....
...and the cup was passed as we drummed. We used apple juice for this one. We had home-made mead for Yule, and on Samhain we created a punch during the ritual- a food ogham- the ingredients added with each invocation.
Then, to start the house blessing, Lady Sue sang a house-blessing song shed composed for us. We took the smaller instruments, strings of bells, maracas, tambourines, and led the Grove on a traipse through the house opening the doors and blessing every room, upstairs, downstairs, the basement, the attic, and also Chucks apartment on the second floor. After we found ourselves downstairs again, we wound the ritual down and Bryan thanked the Kindreds and Brigid for their help and blessings, and also thanked the Grove and our visitors. The Grove thanked Bryan. Bryan asked that the gates be closed. And they were.
Four-year-old Ariel helped us ground the excess energy, by taking most of it herself.
The Brigids Brats were cut up and passed to the folk, as Norma explained what they were.
And we ate, and ate, and ate....
Ariel and Pattie discovered that the reeds could be dropped through small holes in the floor. Later, going downstairs to see where the reeds went to, they discovered that the reeds could be conjured back up through the floor - much to the astonishment and delight of the adults upstairs.
The Grove was invited to a Wiccan circle later that night. We took the Bredeog, and some of the remaining Brats were passed out at the circle as offerings from the Grove. The Bredeog and more of the Brats went to another Wiccan circle later that week. We also saved a Brat to take to Red Oak Groves Imbolc ritual to bless Bard Dafydds house and Red Oak Grove.
The tangible offerings were taken to the park and offered to the Kindreds and Brigid in a separate ceremony. Everyones old Yule greens were burned in the park, along with the burnable offerings and a few remaining brats. Apples and food offerings were left for the Nature Spirits and the Earth Mother dirt & clay Earth Mother were returned to the Earth Mother. The Bredeog was sent to Brigid in a fast bright rush of fire.
All Green Man Grove rituals are a bit different, of course- as with all Groves-, but this is a pretty good telling of what we do.
Last year our Imbolc was hosted by a fractal artist, a friend of Bryans, in his studio in Hoboken. He constructed a well-and-fire machine for Brigid out of a girder balanced on a hub, an acetylene torch, solder and a steel bowl of water. It was constructed so that as the torch at the top of the girder melted the solder, hot bits would fall randomly through the air and plunge into the water with a loud HISSS throughout the ritual. The space was pretty wierd, a warehouse with vats of chemicals- but, again, as always, we did a house blessing; rushes and reeds were scattered; the women of the house invited Brigid in while the men had to pass a test to gain entrance; we had Brats and a Bredeog; and lots of song and drumming.
Sometimes we invoke the directions, sometimes we dont. Our outdoor rituals (Spring Equinox through Fall Equinox) tend to be a bit different than our indoor ones. We have a bunch of special things weve always done for Beltane, and another set of traditions for Samhain. Our Yule tends to be as much of a party as a ritual.
Our rituals are frequently attended by artists, actors & actresses, singers & musicians- and so, over the years, weve adapted to suit the needs of people who like improvisation and performance. In addition, with a New York crowd, weve found that you run up against scheduling problems, travel difficulties (people who dont own cars), and people who wont commit to any kind of organization. Weve learned to work with that relatively successfully.
Edwin Chapman, Grove Scribbler