I Don’t Know How You Do That VouDru
by Deb Castellano
“It’s to dying in another’s arms and why I had to try it.”
—something corporate

I like Lammas. It’s an old skool kind of holiday with blood and love and redemption. It’s the last huzzah before going back to work when the world is still magiksummer and anything could happen (and usually it does). In my Dianic* circle, I’ve designated it an Amazon holiday for us (because I believe in hardship/ and getting through hard shit [Alex Olsen]). My circle believes that whether we are maid, mother, or crone, it’s the Amazon part of us that we all have in common. To me, Amazon means being able to make hard decisions and doing what’s needed and Lammas signifies that to me. I’ve mutated part of the druid ritual to suit my Dianic Lammas by having everyone drum and call out the names of their Amazon ancestors.
“I will try not to breathe/shivering and bold/I will try not to worry you/ I have seen things that you will never see/leave it to memory/ dare me to breathe/ I need something to fly.”—REM
I was very stressed about running this ritual, as Josh and I were the first guinea pigs in the dedicants program to run a ritual. Of course, I open my big mouth to not just run a regular ADF kind of thing but to try to use African goddesses (“I don’t practice Santeria/ I don’t got no crystal ball...” [sublime]). I felt unprepared, though part of my brain was at least smart enough to say maybe I couldn’t be. I enjoyed making “omen soup” which seemed like the right thing to do for this ritual. On the day of, everything that possibly could go wrong did. Josh and I were bickering “like cats and cats” over things that didn’t matter about the ritual, we forgot important stuff on the way up, and were feeling generally fried. I had vague awful feelings of doomed-ness (ie: maybe all this stuff was going wrong because we were never meant to do this ritual and we were going to rain fire down on Ed and Norma’s house, burning the fig tree down to the ground and we’d never be allowed to priest/ess ritual again).
“I don’t have the gift of the prophecy/ telling people how it’s gonna be/ this house is on fire.”—Natalie Merchant
So we got to Ed and Norma’s and I started setting up the altar because it was really too late to worry or panic at that point anyway. I was surprised by how many people were there (32) and surprised and touched by how many people brought things to put on the altar and in the well. We had a visiting grove who seemed to dig the ritual (I think). I had never really done the whole ritual changing of clothes before, but when I put on my white dress and seashell tummy chain and took off my shoes, I did feel different. I think I looked different in how I carried myself. Eventually, we got the ritual underway and people teased me about “channeling Norma.” There were a lot of new faces at grove which was neat, but a lot of people were pretty shy about volunteering. Luckily I had a bowlful of guppies (um, dedicants) to fish out of when needed.

Norma led the song practice which was really fun especially since Bridget saw Norma and went, oooh shiny and jumped in. Between Norma’s red hair and how bright her eyes were, she looked like she was on fire. I had honestly never heard her so enthusiastically leading songs. So we chimed the clear opening and I realized that I had no idea where I put the Important Piece of Paper that had the whole ritual on it. I wanted to melt into the floor because I realized that while I am attending ritual I knew everything forward and backwards, but it flew clear out of my head when I was trying to priestess (d’oh). So I can now acutely sympathize with Norma. But, everything somehow pulled together (the theme of the ritual). Nej called in Manannan and the gates opened soundly.

Everyone’s invocations were beautiful, I remember how poignant it was to listen to Justin invoke the earth mother. I remember Jenniforenic’s invocation was lovely as well. It was really moving watching everyone put their water in the well. The songs were particularly motivated which was fun.

The drumming was great. It really made the ritual what it was and usually we’re not a particularly drum-happy grove. Chuck, Justin, and Ed were really amazing. Usually I kind of half-assedly drum but I had decided I would dance for this ritual. That was a hard decision because even though I’ve now had training in modern dance, I’m still a very body-conscious person and very self-conscious. I’ve grown to love to dance, and I love to dance at clubs where it’s safe and dark and most of the populous is trashed anyway but I wanted to do this for Yemaya; put myself out there and be vulnerable. The way I danced was different, for the first time since practicing a safe-bunny (bunny-safe?) version of Santeria, I felt it move through me and I wasn’t scared or self-conscious. I just needed to move with the beat that moved like a heartbeat through me. Chuck shouted, “Faster!” and I felt like Nora dancing the tarantella and I was scared I could collapse, but I didn’t want to stop because it felt so good to be just free. I heard Chuck making intonation sounds and I joined in and then I heard a bunch of people in the kitchen going and the house was pulsing with energy and it was like the house was on fire. Everyone was singing, screaming, drumming, dancing, it was amazing and free. I didn’t expect to be able to get a bunch of suburban/urban druids all crazy-like, but we were and it was really cool.

I felt the first inklings of drawing down when Josh had bowed for me to go first and I said, “No, sacred harlots first, darlin’.” I had been idly worrying about finding words to say for invoking Yemaya, but when I got up there I felt like I found the right words, even though I can’t really remember what I said. I didn’t really hardcore draw down during the ritual because I think Yemaya and Oshun weren’t sure if it would send people running screaming from the house so they were a bit more hesitant than I thought they would be, but they seemed to enjoy themselves. There was a lot of great praise— Sue sang a great “Hey Big Spender,” Amy led a really great song that everyone got involved with, and Josh sang “Come Monday” which I love. I found myself singing the girl parts with him. I felt how well we do really work together magically, everything blends so easily . Casting the bones (from the chicken omen soup) was fun. And it was a good omen, which I was relieved about. It was just so —words are lame to try to explain the ritual. I saw people being moved by something I helped to create, which was indescribable. People came to tell me how great it was for them and it was really nice to be able to give something back to people who have given me so much. But I was pretty “pickled” as Nej said afterwards. I was spaced out of my mind from the drumming, dancing and drawing down (it was a subtler thing than I expected, but still there) and I was trying to talk to people afterwards since people were interested. Nora was very kind and brought me food. I was just so moved by all the kindness in the room and all the heartfelt intentions. I laid on the floor for a long while. I knew I was really pretty gone when Norma said (a little desperately) that I knew a lot about renaissance clothes and could I help Joanne figure out something to wear for the wedding she was going to? I started to snap out of it then and everyone kept teasing me, “Deb! You’re here! We’ve missed you!” I don’t remember what I said when I was out of it, but I do remember being absolutely fascinated with the wood floor and Norma cackling and saying that she was going to leave it on my machine for the next day.

[Ed’s note: It rained twice the following week, which means that the Goddesses heard us, and were kind enough to be bountiful. We had a drenching downpour on Moon’s Day after the ritual on Saturn’s Day, and then serious storms from Thor’s Day into Frigga’s Day. This certainly lessened the effects of the long drought we’d been experiencing.]