Ritual Reports:
Lughnasadh, Equinox, Samhain & Yule

& Poems by Nora and Hillary

Our Ecumenical Druid Harvest Ritual
Hands of Change, a large local coven, hosts the annual New Jersey Pagan Picnic each August. We had helped out the year before, ran a workshop, built a labyrinth, and had a lot of fun. This year, at the planning meeting in June, they asked if our grove could organize the main ritual as a Druid ritual, involving local Druid groups. As a number of Wiccans in the area, as well as Druids, have participated in our rituals we thought that we could get a whole bunch of groups involved. Dozens of phone calls and e-mails later, we had eight groups working together; each had their own invocations to perform in their own style.
We are deeply indebted to the following: Red Oak Grove, ADF; Braided Stream Coven, Blue Star; EarthCraft Pagan Community; Tyr’s Hand Grove, Tuatha de Brigid; Portal of the Porcupine Coven; White Horse Grove; and Hands of Change Coven.
Each group performed an invocation during the course of the ritual, and also honored the Harvest Deity of their choice at the culmination of the ritual. It was a matter of trust to let other groups invoke in their own style and without rehearsal, but well worth it. The invocations were all outstanding.
There were over 200 people at the picnic this year; Hands of Change told us that there were over 160 at the ritual. We did not ask people to form a circle, but in our Druidy way asked them to “clump” together on chairs or blankets around the bilé and the ritual area. This is one advantage of ADF Druid ritual, we don’t have to have a one-person-deep circle; “clumping” brought more people closer to the ritual area and within hearing range.
We decided to bring our indoor bilé outdoors and set it up on a low table rather than use a tree as the bilé and the river as the well. We wanted a dramatic vertical gate opening.
We started the ritual promptly at 4pm with a few words and a chime. Norma functioned as “ringmaster” throughout, cueing parts and announcing what was coming next. In addition, before each person invoked they announced who they were, and which group they were associated with.
Sea, a Priestess of Hands of Change Coven, started us off with a lovely invocation of the Earth Mother, praising her bounty and asking everyone to touch the Mother and look around and see how beautiful She is. Then Sea led us in song.
Norma guided us in meditation, then asked Pattie of White Horse Grove to invoke the well. Pattie started with a few lines from the Talking Heads: “Water dissolving, water removing, there’s water under the ocean...”, and ended the invocation with “sacred well, flow within us.”
Lady Sue from Portal of the Porcupine invoked the fire and sang a beautiful torch song, ending with “sacred fire, burn within us.”
The bilé was invoked by Conny Jasper of EarthCraft and she ended with “sacred tree, grow within us.”
Norma invited Manannan Mac Lir to join us, explaining who He is and his position as our Gatekeeper. We opened the gates with a rousing “Let the Gates be Open!” that was probably heard in New Brunswick across the river. The gates opened cleanly, and created a vertical vortex in the ritual space.
Norma explained our concept of the outsiders, pointing out that quite a few of those we call outsiders could be helpful insiders in other situations. She had us recognize the outsider parts of ourselves that might be set aside for the duration of the ritual, and I took an offering to the banks of the river. The outsiders accepted our sacrifice.
The Hearth of Tyr’s Hand performed a beautiful Brigid invocation, Griffin and Grinning Wolf and Vigil alternating spoken parts— a stunning performance ending in a solemn song. Then, by request, Norma led us in Brigid’s Jig; 160 people shouting “fire us up!”
Deb, one of our more courageous grove members, invoked the Ancestors. Brenda was going to do this originally, but had to back out that morning due to a family emergency. Deb did a fine job, invoking from the heart, the place of the Ancestors. She asked us all to invite our beloved dead, ancestors, teachers, heroes, and guiding lights, setting the tone for the invocations to come.
Kybrynn of Red Oak Grove, ADF stepped up to invoke the Nature Spirits and Spirits of Place, ending his invocation by scattering a small amount of birdseed.
Nej, representing Braided Stream Coven, invoked the Goddesses and Gods, asking us to bring our special deities, patrons and patronesses into the space.
The first of our special Harvest guests was Lugh, as this is traditionally his festival, in honor of his mother Tailtu. We invoked Lugh as Samildanach, the many-skilled, as he gained entrance to Tara before the battle of Moytura.
Erica, our many-skilled Dogsbody and Cupbearer, Rush Mistress and Etc. was the obvious choice for Lugh. She rapped on a drum outside the Nemeton and asked to be let in. Norma asked what skill she brought us. As Lugh announced each skill, Norma looked around the circle and found someone with that skill. Warrior? We’ve got a few. Healer? That was a laugh. Smith? Yes, several. Sailor? Some hands went up. Sorceror? A lot of those! This was great fun in a large circle of people.
After Lugh got through with the traditional skills, he announced he was a webmaster and computer programmer. Must have had a dozen or more sitting around the circle. Rocket scientist? asked Lugh, getting a little testy. Yep, we even had two rocket scientists in our Pagan circle! “Well, I’m a damn fine auto mechanic!” said Lugh. There were a few of those, too. Then Lugh announced that he could do all these things, and also bring in the harvest. Norma welcomed him to the circle. Lugh somersaulted in, did a few acrobatics, and was handed his glittering spear. The Harvest followed, personified as Carmen Miranda (Ed) in a hat full of fruit and veggies and Lady Apples, and with a basket of Jersey corn, beans, tomatoes and cucumbers, and a banana in his pocket.
Grinning Wolf of Tyr’s Hand invoked Njord, and also invoked Sif, Thor’s wife of Golden Hair. He did this in a beautiful, formal way, calling to them.
Nej of Braided Stream called out to Dumuzi, telling his story, how he tried to run from his destiny, how he had to face his fate. She spoke of how sacrifices are made for the Harvest.
Charlestrie of Red Oak Grove drew down Rhiannon, calling out her praises and nearly galloping away on wings!
Conny of Earthcraft powerfully invoked Osiris and his life-force and sheaves of wheat.
Crow, a Priestess of Hands of Change, invoked Demeter, the mother of the harvest in a personal and compelling way.
Lady Sue of Portal of the Porcupine invoked Asherah as the keeper of the rains and the bounty they bring forth.
And Pattie of White Horse Grove invoked Kali, with the help of Hillary, praising and describing Her while her hands circled around with all of Kali’s ritual implements.
Each person invoking made an offering of water to the hard, dry earth. We had been two weeks without rain.
After the invocations, the sky darkened a bit, initially a good thing, as the day had been quite hot. Marcia led us in drumming and singing and vocalizing as a group praise offering until we had raised a bit of energy. Norma performed a final sacrifice, stabbing a loaf of wheat bread with a sickle and breaking the bread over her knee.

Our Omens.
Conny shuffled a tarot deck and let three random people from the circle pick a card each.
The cards were:
Page of Swords: Here’s an urgent message.
Eight of Swords: You’re sitting at a ritual and you think you’re stuck there, but you really ought to hurry up, because...
Blasted Tower: There’s a thunderstorm coming your way in about fifteen minutes!
As soon as Conny announced the Blasted Tower, people looked up at the sky and merchants got up and ran to pack up their blankets. Talk about immediate omens, all that much-needed rain was on its way.
Conny, however, shouted for us all to just wait a minute, that this omen felt much stronger than just an immediate storm and, in response to a question from the folk, said the omen was in force until the Autumn Equinox.
(She was proved doubly right, to our shock and horror, on September 11th. Second sight is always better in hindsight; who could have imagined that the Blasted Tower might prove to be a real tower? In addition, there had been Jersey Devil sightings all summer: reports of large animals in the pine barrens, disappearing footprints in Chatsworth- and when there are Jersey Devil sightings it means that something catastrophic is coming.- ed, writing 10/01)
We had an army of people passing out cups and pouring the Waters. We ended the ritual quickly, thanking those who attended, and shouted “Let the Gates be closed!” although the weather was holding them open. I was told later that Asherah, in particular, was holding her knees together until we finished the ritual.
We had a lot of frantic help taking down the bilé and clearing the area—we can’t thank everyone enough. We all started to clear out the picnic grove, vendors packing wares, folks packing food, loading cars—and then the rain began in earnest; pouring, thundering, drenching rain accompanied by blazing lightning—an amazing show!
It was a shame to miss the post-ritual drumming and dancing and socializing, but it just makes us look forward to next year’s picnic all the more, when we won’t be leading a ritual and we’ll able to sit and talk and relax with folks.
We were surprised a week or so later when Hands of Change sent us a copy of an article in the Piscataway Review: a report on the picnic and a big photo of Norma in her Druid robes standing by the bilé!

Air thick with water.
Fire tinges leaves of autumn
Earth. The storm will come.

--HJG 2001

Our Autumn Equinox Ritual
Our Autumn Equinox ritual was a difficult one, as I imagine was true everywhere. We had decided that this wasn’t going to be a ‘pity-party’ or ‘whine-fest’ or ‘jingo-jerk’. We decided that what people needed by the 22nd of September was strength, courage and balance. We had been planning a moment of meditation when the sun actually crossed the equator (or the Earth tilted away from the sun, depending on your point of view) and we still intended to keep that much of our original plans.
We had 23 people. We started the ritual at 6pm. Deb Sandrock invoked the Earth Mother. (Deb claims that she’s now invoked everything in the ritual at least once. This doesn’t get you off the hook, Deb. Now you that you have experience we need you more.) Norma led us in a tricky meditation, and then I pointed out the geographical features in the four directions, unable to overlook the great smoking hole in the East. I timed them so the South came last and talked about how the Earth tilts (She wobbles but She don’t fall down....) and tried to drag it into a segue to the actual equinox moment, but I couldn’t ramble quite long enough.
Daphne invoked the well very nicely—but stopped and asked what the lumps in the water were. Norma explained that we had placed nine hazelnuts in the well so that if the Salmon of Wisdom ever showed up he’d have something to eat, “and wouldn’t we piss our pants if he actually did show up!”
We were momentarily entertained with the vision of a great silver-green salmon leaping out of the well into the living room.
We gave Xuk three minutes to invoke fire before the moment of the sun’s passing the equator, and then proceeded to heckle him—the Druid version of “Survivor”. It seemed that we all needed to breathe and laugh again, and the ritual was working the tensions out of us. It had been a rough two weeks for all of us.
(Xuk wanted to know why we invoke the elemental force of fire rather than any other elemental force—say, for example, sacred gravity. “Better to drop a candle than to curse the darkness?”)
And then the bell went off and we all sat and got dizzy as the northern hemisphere tilted suddenly and abruptly away from the sun. At least it seemed that way. We all got a little thrown off balance, which was contrary to the purposes of the ritual.
Marcia performed a gentle, philosophic tree invocation that put us back on our feet. Norma invoked Manannan Mac Lir, and we all opened the Gate with a whoosh and a bit of wind through the windows.
Erica honored the outsiders and took the offering outside. There were a lot of outsiders, she reported, and they wanted her to stay out there and have fun. We threatened Erica until she came back in to suffer with the rest of us.
I invoked Brigid and we sang Lady Brigid of the Bards rather nicely. Nobody wanted to hear “fire us up!”
Hillary had one of the most difficult invocations—the Ancestors—and she handled it well. She offered momentary sanctuary and relief to any souls who’d like to come to the ritual and perhaps smile a moment with us before going wherever they should go. So many dead, and many came to be entertained. We were going to be a USO show for wandering souls, which was OK by us. And the people called their own dead in. We sang the ADF Ancestor’s song.
Pattie and I invoked the Nature Spirits by performing a cut-rate but heartfelt version of the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, which is traditionally performed the first Monday after the first Sunday after the fourth of September, which fell a few weeks before. Norma accompanied us on spooky electric piano. People invoked their own Spirits and Places and we sang “Fur and Feather” quite nicely.
Erica invoked the Goddesses and Gods. Since we had all been in touch with people we hadn’t talked to in a while after the terrorism tragedy, Erica encouraged us to get in touch with deities we haven’t talked to in a while. Then we sang “Hail all the Gods.”
I invoked Lugh—first as Hero, to lend strength and courage to our rescue workers, firefighters, cops and Red Cross people; then as Samildanach, to sharpen our skills; then as Lugh Lamfada, to reach his long arm across the seas and help us defend our freedoms; then as Lugh the Eagle, to sharpen our vision so we could see what to do in the long term and short term and in the present moment; and then as Lugh the Negotiator, to sharpen our wits.
Norma called on The Morrighan, the furious bloody enraged battle Goddess, and asked her to “back the fuck off.” We’ve had enough rage and bloodlust. Help speed the souls of the dead to their rest, but back off a bit on the rage. This was the first time in this ritual that tears came to my eyes.
(Eds. note- The Morrighan let us know that she could not back off. She does what she does.)
We praised the Kindreds, Lugh and the Morrighan.
Jenne went first, singing a beautiful lament, her voice high and sweet and clear and perfect. This is the second time tears came to my eyes. Jenne works as a reporter and had spent the last two weeks interviewing the families of the missing.
Norma read a poem about Lugh’s spear. People offered things to the well. Peggy offered up a lottery ticket. People spoke and recited and talked.
Josh stood up and said that when we had mentioned the Salmon of Wisdom he felt in his pocket for the bear totem that he always carries, thinking, “Now I know why he’s got a salmon in his paw.” The bear released the salmon into Josh’s hand, to Josh’s great surprise, so he stepped forward and manifested a salmon in our well! We didn’t quite piss our pants, but came pretty close. A small, soapstone salmon, but a rare and unexpected and magical salmon, nonetheless, given to us by a bear. I guess hazelnuts are the right bait to catch a wise salmon....
We ended the praises with a drum jam that built nicely.

Our omens.
Our omens were read by Jenne, Peggy, Deb, Hillary and Marcia.
Marcia drew the 9 of Coins, which she interpreted as “riches and abundance, everyday prosperity, but also loneliness.”
Deb drew the 9 of Cups; the need to “open up and share the wealth.”
Jenne drew the Star, “hope, renewal, the door to youth, the card that follows the Tower.”
Hillary got the Emperor, “Justice, not vengence, the ruling body exercises balanced judgment,” and, she added, “it’s not Bush.”
Peggy drew the Moon, “more balance, indicates desire and need, think about the heart, the need to reach to others, not be so alone....”
Better omens than Lughnassadh. Jenne reiterated the message of community, sharing our bounty and wealth, the need to open doors and open up, and the need for balanced judgment.
We were satisfied with these omens.
We consecrated the Waters of Life, the pourers poured and the passers-out passed out. Several people saw the water in the Morrighan’s jug turned a pale reddish color as the sickle touched it.
We beheld the Waters of Life, and drank anyway.
The ritual wound down and we all seemed a lot happier after it than we were before it. We seemed to have gained some strength and shaken off a bit of dust. The lottery ticket won us one dollar, a symbolic omen of wealth that coincided somewhat with the other omens.
Norma said that this was the most difficult ritual she’s ever done, and was still saying that after Samhain, which brought its own difficulties.


Our Samhain Ritual
This Samhain ritual was probably the most planned ritual the grove has done in eleven years, and also the most deliberate act of magic we’ve done.
Our rituals, especially Samhain, had gotten larger and larger, and we had intimations that we’d be expecting sixty people or more for Samhain this year. The ritual is held in a moderately small indoor area, and we knew from previous years that we would definitely have a space problem. For the comfort and safety of those in the ritual space, we decided to limit the attendance to forty. To keep with our policy of open public rituals, we thought that the only fair way to limit attendance would be to put people on a list on a strictly first-come basis. This would favor those who really wanted to attend and planned in advance to attend. When we reached forty (plus Norma and I), we would start a waiting list in case people cancelled at the last minute.
It took less than two weeks for the list to top 40 people—that was the second week of October. By November third, we had eleven people on a waiting list, some of whom were hoping to come to the vigil.
All this added tension to an already tense time. The events of September eleventh had Norma doing real clergy work in tough circumstances. Many of us were still having trouble sleeping and eating, and some of us were doing magickal work of our own.
All of these emotions were in play when we started the ritual. It was a long ritual, almost three hours. We had five willow priestesses (Erica, Al, Nej, Peg and Conny) either guarding the boundaries or ready with tissues for people. Nej mentioned afterwards that she had to keep returning to the back door to ward stuff away.
At our planning meeting on the 27th we had nine attendees; by then most ritual parts had been assigned via e-mail. Everyone who attended knew we were working along the lines of Deb Lipp’s suggestion— that we push back the disruptive forces that came through the gates on the eleventh via that massive blood sacrifice and martyrdom and close that gate.
At the planning meeting we counted grains of rice: one grain for each person missing on the eleventh. This was placed on the Ancestor’s altar, to be buried after the Samhain vigil. Counting the rice really brought the magnitude of the disaster home.


Straw Hat

by Nora T.

She holds it more, now that age is taking her;
Her fingers stroke the hollows where dried
Flowers have since fallen from the band.
Some nights, she only sits and hums, eyes
Closed with lips around a wordless tune...
The straw lies rough and rumpled on her hands,
Covers callouses on fingers that its snapped and
Splintered edges could never quite sand smooth.

Those nights, she rocks and remembers children—
Not the babes she bore, long flown afield now,
But children as she dreamed them in her youth
When walking to town on Joseph's arm...
How she settled her prize, with its glory of
Ribbon and rosebuds, held fast with her finest
Pin, and thought how proud her someday sons
Would be to claim a ma decked out so fine.

One cracked and crooked crease along the rim
Still whimpers where she crushed it on the day
He left to fight. That day remains; she loses
Others: what day the pale straw lost the scent of
Hay and sunlit lanes, in those years when the
Farm, in city sleet and soldier's pride, was
Never mentioned, and the ghosts of back-closet
Mothballs settled in to haunt her relic.

She holds it more, now that age is taking her:
Smooths rough straw with rougher fingers,
Strokes the stains and creases, thinks of home.
Some nights, when she sits alone by the lamp;
When the scent of burning leaves hangs like a
Shroud outside her window; when her fingers
Trace the weave through time in silence,
She can almost hear the horses and the scythe.

Copyright 2001 by Nora T.

We didn’t imagine we could actually shut the gate—like most Pagans, we’re better at opening the gates than shutting them—but we did intend to try to calm the forces of anger and hatred and fanaticism and bloodlust and tell them it was time to go home. And then back it up with power and anger of our own. The battle Gods were on a sugar high; we couldn’t invoke the Morrighan, our usual Samhain patroness, because it’s just not in her nature to do what we needed done. We had too many connections to the Trade Center and to those missing or dead, too many people who needed to work out anger and grief, and the grove intended to put that energy to good use.
All 40 people who made it on the list attended the ritual. It was powerful and terribly beautiful; a difficult ritual to explain, and a serious magickal act. A difficult ritual to do: the grove has always been close to the “outsiders,” but these forces were not the usual crowd. They were invaders, enticed and excited by all the fire and blood. I might as well stop explaining and get right to the ritual.
Gregory rang the chimes that began the rite. Norma said our usual opening words and then Hillary invoked the Earth Mother. Norma talked about the season and the purpose of the ritual. She led us in a calming meditation. Deb pointed out the horizontal directions, stressing that if you go east far enough you wind up in the west and stressing how the world is interconnected.
Maria Elena invoked the well, beautifully, as a salty well of tears. We do, indeed, have salt in our well from Manannan’s ocean water. Justin invoked the fire. Conny invoked the tree within us, and Norma connected well, fire and tree. Erica invoked Manannan Mac Lir and asked him to open the Gates, and the Gates flew open, even more open than they’d already been. And these were our particular Gates.
Nej honored the Outsiders with an apple cobbler just out of the oven and a cinnamon candle that she brought into the back yard as an offering.
Lady Sue invoked Brigid, thanking her for what she does, the inspiration we rely on, and for the gift She gives us that makes us more like the Gods. I was really moved by this and found myself nodding my head, yes.
Perhaps the most difficult invocation was Jenne’s. She invoked the Ancestors singing an original song about death and the sea. She had been interviewing the families of the missing for our local paper. We called our dead in, and those wandering or confused who needed to rest. Many of us began to weep. Al invoked the Nature Spirits and Spirits of Place, very gently, and we called our spirits and totem animals. Marcia invoked the Goddesses and Gods, and we brought them into the ritual.
I’m missing a lot of this, because I was in a very strange headspace. I’d been in the position of Shiva’s pupil for several weeks, and absorbed in my invocation. I stepped into the marked-off Puja area before the bilé and dipped my hands in ashes dedicated to Shiva and poured coconut milk on the clay lingam I’d made the night before. I danced thrice, turning, and calling on Shiva’s secondless, supreme and attributeless bliss that regenerates the world, listing his attributes—or the complete lack of attributes—and asking him to calm the forces of anger and hatred and fanaticism and bloodlust and send them back through the gates; overwhelm them with his secondless, supreme and attributeless bliss, and tell them it’s time to go home: mama’s calling, and she’s not happy, mama’s calling, yes, you, back through the gates, that’s right, go on back through....
And I knelt down, my face down, as was everyone else’s, when Meryl stepped into the circle to invoke Kali Ma, listing her appropriate traditional attributes and then talking to her—with her—answering herself—making demands—threatening the forces out there—eventually slicing a pomegranate—I’m not sure what else she did—until at some point she must have stopped and Norma dedicated the puja and passed the puja plate around as we sang softly and inhaled the fire. (Meryl was a few blocks from the Trade Center when the first plane flew over her head and crashed. Just when she got her friend Sharon calmed down, the second plane crashed. They took two women to the hospital before they managed to find a way home. All of our anger and rage and sorrow combined with her own and were directed through her towards the gate.)
The praises began shortly after Meryl finished. Wendy had a beautiful song; Josh a story; Amy a poem; Norma had a story; Conny sang us a song; Jenne recited a Christina Rossetti poem; Maria Raven recited a poem; Hillary spoke; Nora read an original poem; Sumona talked about destiny; Joanne—surviving tongue cancer—talked about hope. Brenda talked about a guy pulling up to her car at a stop light on the day after the bombing, crying, and saying they couldn’t have done this to us if we were all working together. Sue talked about Brenda racing over to her house to sit with her until she knew her son had made it out of WTC 1. And there was more—stories, ancedotes, sorrow and song—45 minutes of praise, I’ve been told. I barely returned from my invocation, barely got my mind back in my body to read an elegy... and then we ended with a keening that grew into a wail that sounded like an army of furies. Erica, at the front door, told us that we had stopped traffic in the street.
We took the omen to a rousing revival omen chant that appeared out of nowhere, praise to Brigid.

Our omens:
Marcia drew the first card, the recent past, and said, “I knew we’d get that one: the Blasted Tower. It’s the situation.”
Josh drew the Queen of Swords, “Kali Ma.”
Deb pulled the Sun, “The deities are with us, the clouds are breaking, can’t be in pain forever.” Also represents Shiva’s bliss.
Nora had the two of Swords, “Weapons held in balance, held in peace, presence of deities, containment of chaos, swords not used in a mundane way.”
And Peg got the Magician, “We have the magic to do what we need to do, we are in control of the situation, and we’re doing it.”
Then Conny pulled the seven of Wands, “Defensive action, standing and fighting.”
The first card is the situation, the next two represent the deities invoked, and the last three cards are all “drawing down” cards: the two of Swords, the Magician, and the seven of Wands. The Magician (magic) is in the same postion as the seven of Wands (sweat). The two of Swords stills the mind and calms our own demons. This is all brain and magic and body. No cups.
We got what we needed from the omens, and we got what we needed from the ritual. We consecrated the waters and drank. The Kindreds and Deities were thanked and we ended the rite, leaving the gates open until dawn. People placed objects and notes on the Ancestor’s altar. Norma had her “Welcome Back to the World Trade Center” cup from after the 1993 bombing filled with flowers. People added rice to the bowl. There were always a few people at the Ancestor’s altar sitting, or standing and holding each other.


A Week In October

by HJG

Golden fading sun echoes
over the lush, beyond-emerald grass.
It's the last barefoot day of the year,
lukewarm soil embraces probing toes.
Evening sets in, chill reclaiming the air,
balmy naked-friendly nights long past.
Pale waning leaves set off the full chewy grass,
foreshadowing the brown, the orange colors of
Happy reNewal Year.

the ice molecules
in my frozen ears
knock against each other
like cubes in a martini glass
wind lacerates
between the threads
of my sweatshirt and jeans
my teeth ache
like ice-9 is trying
to sneak into my body
through my gums
the sun brightly serrates
my eyes,
but yields no warmth
happy renewal year...


Fruit blessed in the ritual was offered to the people who attended or who came to the vigil. Sumona was disappointed, saying that in her community you could go out on the street after a puja and offer the fruit to anyone on the street and they’d know it was blessed at a puja. You’re supposed to distribute it to strangers. We had to tell her that you couldn’t really do that in New Brunswick, but perhaps we could bless food for a soup kitchen next time. Sumona served as our “puja expert”. She was dedicated to Kali as a young woman in India. Badger Girl and Norma and Nej have been working with Kali for many years.
We raffled off a small skull Norma had sculpted and painted and raised $138! Thanks to all who donated! Thanks to Brenda for running the raffle! Xuk took folks upstairs to watch Rocky Horror around 1 am.
Eleven of us stayed all night, Maria Raven and Sam falling asleep, Amy, Hillary, Jassen, Nora, Chuck, Norma, me, Jack, and Celestina staying up until dawn. An interesting group of people, and very easy people to spend the night with. Conversations ranged from the Sidhe to how you would reform the funeral industry.
At dawn, we had a ceremony in the garden and buried the grains of rice we had counted out, as well as rice people had added. We spoke to the dead, saying that if there was nothing to bury, they could be buried here, now, in a grain of rice, and rest if they wanted to. Offerings were burned or spilled on the ground as the sun rose. It felt like there was still a large group of outsiders camped around the apple cobbler and the cinnamon candle. When we shut the gates, we were surprised to find that they actually shut. Maria Raven helped us clean up in the morning (thanks Maria!).
Did our ritual do anything to stem the forces of anger and hatred and bloodlust and fanaticism? I really don’t know. I do believe that it helped each of us.

Our Yule Ritual
Our Yule was marvelous—the ritual revolving around a brilliant mummer’s play written and produced by our own Marcia Blaustein, who celebrated ten years with the grove this last fall equinox. Eight of us went through the play at a planning meeting the week before and assigned parts, somewhat. Costumes were created Woden’s Day by Pattie and Erica and Ed and Norma. (Much appreciation to Marcia and Maria Elena and Justin for the financial contributions!)
Marcia revised the script, and by Yule we were ready. Rehearsals? Who needs ’em!
Twenty-nine people attended the ritual, which was preceded by a giveaway where we traded last year’s worst holiday gifts for other people’s. Everyone seemed happy with what they picked up, and also with what they got rid of, proving that there’s no such thing as ‘junk’.
Greg started us off by chiming three times. The Fool, Norma, announced that we were here to do the usual, honor the Gods. Lady Sue honored the Earth Mother, assuring Her that we wouldn’t make too much noise if She wanted to sleep late. Norma’s meditation turned us into unique and individual trees, part of a grove.
Buxom Betty, Ed, shrieked out the horizontal directions.
(I didn’t realize how much of a ‘drawing down’ this would become!) Betty pointed to the North Pole, where Santa lives, bringing joy and cheer; the East Pole, where Buddha lives, another fat guy bringing joy and cheer; the South Pole, where fat penguins live, bringing joy and etc..; and in the West, Poland, where the Poles live, bringing us joy and cheer.... The Poles in the circle applauded. Betty then decided that this was the center of all worlds, the center of the universe. The center kept scurrying around until somebody stepped on it.
Al, who has been with the grove since 1991, asked us to see ourselves in the well, looking back at ourselves, maybe making faces. The salmon, the water and the nuts went into the well. The nuts stared back at us. The salmon drifted to the bottom and stayed there, perhaps an omen.
Josh invoked the sacred fire, mentioning the warmth and light of this holiday. Amy invoked the sacred tree, Yule trees and all trees.
Norma invoked Manannan Mac Lir and we all helped to open the gates. The gates opened.
St. George, Erica, honored the outsiders and took her offering outside, followed by several people who shall remain nameless. St. George forced Meryl, Pattie and Maria-Elena back in the house.
Betty then invoked Brigid, our muse and inspiration, in her triple aspects of beautiful maiden, magickal mother and irritable charwoman. She asked Brigid to help us with our... tomfoolery? chicanery? frivolity? silliness? The grove ran out of words, so we asked Brigid to provide us with more words.
Father Xmas, Xuk, looking like something out of The Nightmare Before Christmas, asked us to imagine our ancestors not as the old folks we remember, but as playful little children. The Fool despaired of a housefull of disembodied children.
Hillary got our Nature Spirits into the room with one of her favorite stories: “So, once upon a time there was this big bang....” When she got to life forming on the molecular level, we hurried her along through the proterozoic, the mesozoic and into the present zoic.
Slime Green, Nej Entropie, welcomed the Goddesses and Gods of humor, chaos, warmth, light and happy homes, and invited us to welcome in any deity who would like to be there. We argued over whether Mae West was a Goddess or an Ancestor or a Nature Spirit.
Once the chaos subsided a bit, the Fool formally entered. “Enter, the Fool!” Applause! “Enter, the Fool!” Applause! “Enter, the Fool!” Applause! Oddly, the Fool got tired of this before the grove did. She said a few things, something about a Dragon entering later; an ancient tradition assuming the position; the heartbreak of being nobody’s fool; the foolishness of the grove members being nobody—and then she claimed she was the miracle man and that if we all followed her and jumped off a cliff she’d fly us to a fool’s paradise! Or not.
The Hero, St. George, entered next. She let people feel up her muscular arm, and told us that the Hero always gets the girl. She also told us she’d die for us and be reborn, so the old year might die and the new one be born. This deftly led us into Marcia’s mummer’s play! (See Mummer’s Play script!) The mummer’s play was “timeless and current, typical, traditional and personal; everything a mummer’s play should be,” according to one review.
Praise followed the play—Lady Sue sang"I'll be Strange for Christmas”; Josh sang the Log Song, aided by most of the grove; Amy had us wish Beethoven and her mom a happy birthday; Meryl did some magic tricks and got us all shouting out the names of our favorite fools; Jenne (now Dr. Jenne! Congratulations on receiving your doctorate!) sang sweet and eerie from the porch.... Others sang and told stories....

Our Omens.
Our happy energy increased, so Nora, Mary Jo, and Deb read our omens from the famous Hello Kitty Tarot (thanks Greg!): Mary Jo interpreted the Seven of Swords (Badtz Maru sticking out his tongue and getting away with a bunch of swords) to mean that we were overburdened by the holidays, we should slow down a bit, and, also, that we thought we were getting away with something! Nora interpreted the Eight of Pentacles (Kitty drawing pentacles with a crayon....) as being about joy in our work, pride in our work. Deb conjured the Magician (an egg-headed bird guy-sorry kids, I'm not up on this - in the traditional Rider-Waite pose) and said that he's there to remind us that we're workers of the will; that we can work magick and we shouldn't forget that when we're in the mall and dealing with all the hassles of the holidays.
The waters were blessed and the pourers poured and the passers-out passed out. We all toasted and drank. The Kindreds and our Patrons were thanked, Marcia won our applause for the play, and we closed the gates and ended the rite. It was a lot of fun. Nej said later that, for the first time this year, "it made my mascara run in a good way". We feasted on lots of food: candy and cakes and pasta and chips and dips and bagels and soups and bread and soda and beer and wine... and Nora blew our minds and brought a big smoked salmon! Pattie presided over all of this as our Kitchen Goddess.
Many folks helped with the clean-up - thanks to all of you!
We held our second annual Win a Cthulhu for Yulhu raffle and wound up with $66.00 for our grove publication and web site expenses. Many thanks to all who donated. Chris won the cute stuffed loathsome demon who dwells in the vast cold empty reaches of time and waits with infinite patience, its stinking breath the very putrescence of all that horrifies mere mankind. Chris was very happy with her prize.
We set up a board and throughout the afternoon and evening people scrawled their top suggestions for our new grove name. This was added to names we've received via e-mail. The names ranged from cold and bitter to warm and fuzzy. (See the list of names that didn't make it.)
I think we all had a fun time, and we all felt like good solid responsible Pagan citizens doing our part to ensure that the sun comes back for another year. As you know, it did.




Creepy winter month
Snows, then melts, rivulets flow
Warm globe 'neath the sun.

--HJG 2001