Friday night, Deb and I began our ritual. We'd been preparing for a
long time, and I dare say the ritual started the night before we gave
it, when we sat down to make the medicine bag prize and prepare all
the offerings. I thought maybe we'd be full of giddy Coyote/Crow energy
or chugging tequila and partying or beating drums, but instead we were
two tired chickadees trying to get our act together. Deb sewed and assembled
the medicine bag -shinies (Sacajewia dollar, Coyote medallion), Crow
medicine, Coyote tail fur, Crow beads, and Crow bones and Coyote claw
on the outside- while I figured out how to get the Coyote scalp/mask
on my head and prepared the vessels for the offerings. I couldn't get
the mask right - the idea felt right (tying it on my head), but the
execution felt wrong. We were both tired and tumbled into bed unshadowed
(as far as I know).
I slept all right. Max, Deb's cat/familiar, kept me company. In the
morning, I was cranky and still too much in my body. I showered and
got ready. Deb braided my hair, and that's when I finally started to
feel something. Like we were going into battle.
"Let the woo begin"
We were going to drink kava tea, but we were running late, so Josh prepared
some shaman smoke for us. I'd never had it before. At first, it was
an awful lot like magical pot - very much in magical space to the point
of not being too connected to the mundane world. By the time we got
to Ed and Norma's, it had dropped to a regular feeling of ungroundedness
that had followed me all week.
The drive to New Brunswick was...interesting. I was in the back seat,
and they'd put on some magical music, and it was all I could hear, "dancing
in the fire..." And Coyote came to me, which relieved me because
he'd been conspicioulsy absent until then. I'd wondered if he was mad
about the chat Frigga and I had had, but he seemed nonplussed, as I
was *his* and she knew it. And then we...communed...for a while. I last
opened my eyes before Millstone and next thing I knew, we were in Somerset.
There was a small flutter of activity at Ed and Norma's, as we were
on time, which threw them off. It also surprised me, as we'd gotten
out of bed nearly an hour late. We prepared the house, but really, there
wasn't tootoo much left to do.
Then the guests started arriving. (We had 27 for the ritual, 32 total.
Carol and Jenniforensic watched the house and took care of the food.)
I was pretty well myself for a while, but then I felt the puppy creeping
into me. I was bouncing around, nearly coming out of my skin. The pre-rit
seemed to go smoothly enough, and I was glad I wasn't in charge.
Then we got to Change.
I figured out - of course - the scalp/mask goes on the black leather
fedora, not the green one, not on my head. My tail looked fabulously
organic. Crow took a long time to preen, as usual. DebCrow and I messed
up right away because we had to get out of the house. We'd told them
there would be a clear opening in the house, but we forgot, so we made
our way out and got smudged. It took Josh a while to gather the congregation
out the door and get them smudged (Carol and Nora were on smudge duty),
for which he apologized for and explained how everyone thought it would
be inside the house. He was very tactful. I was a little worried that
this wasn't a good beginning, but it all went well enough.
Josh blew the clear opening on his flute. Deb honored the gods and the
earth mother with a meditation. We felt the ground and our roots in
it. She offered sacred tobacco to Mother Earth. Then I got to lead everyone
in the directions. Ed had drawn a fabulous compass on the driveway to
help me, but I still needed my notes, as everything kept falling out
of my head. I gave local landmarks for all the directions, followed
by an Indian tribe out in that direction and what they did. I may have
insulted white people as a whole and definintely insulted a Californian,
but I tried to make nice and I hope they took it all in good fun. I
didn't feel a lynch mob forming, anyway.
Misha did a great well invocation, saying how all civilizations and
groups were centered around the well. Then we gave it a Swedish Fish
of Knowledge, which I think it liked.
Pat led us out into the sun for the fire invokation. The sun came out
from behind the clouds after we remembered to actually give it its offering
of cinnamon incense.
Then Grinning Wolf, who was wearing a tree t-shirt, gave us a lovely
invokation of the tree, speaking also of the world tree.
We had a long walk ahead of us, down Somerset Street, and to the gates
of the Old Queens campus. We had a chant to keep us focused, and it
sort of worked, but I think the words and syllables got changed. DebCrow
and I kept trying to sing along and then broke down giggling, as it
was sort of hopeless to keep track. But it did keep the focus.
Then on the grand wrought iron gates of Old Queens. Chris and Ed served
as gatekeepers while Josh invited Thunderbird, the one who punched the
way between worlds for us. The gates did indeed open, and then Old Queens
was full of magical shimmery gate-y goodness (but no faeries because
of the iron in the gates). Thunderbird was offered more tobacco (Josh
said it's all he'll accept).
On to Benchhenge for the Outsider invocation. Monica extended a chipper
invitation to the Outsiders, and I felt the group trying to follow her
as she skipped away to place the offering, a copy of S.E. Hinton's "The
Outsiders" inscribed: "If you've found this book, it's for
you. Good luck from The Outsiders. Summer Solstice 2004, Grove of the
Next was our invitation to our muse, Grandmother Spider. There's a wonderfully
ooky spidery tree in the midst of the campus. Maggie wound thread around
the group while telling the story of how Grandmother Spider was the
only one clever and small enough to steal fire and put it into the sun
for everyone to use. She also offered a sun pinata to our grove, which
we later enjoyed. It was full of omenny goodness, and chocolate. And
We went to a war memorial (I forget which one, the one by the Freedom
Tree) to do ancestors. A very brave first-timer, Louis, invited all
the ancestors of everybody, and he offered the Star Anise we'd brought.
Our party was starting to get populated!
On to the Indian Well, a small well lurking behind the Geology Museum.
For the animals and nature spirits and especially New Brunswick and
bunnies, Patty told a story of rescuing some birds who'd flown down
her chimney. We offered them posh bubbly water, which they seemed to
like. Then we called out to a menagerie and New Brunswick herself to
walk with us.
Our final kindred invokation took place by more gates, ones facing Hamilton
Street, which somehow had champagne glasses embroidered into the ironwork.
Betty led the invitation to our gods and goddesses, and we offered the
four elements (feather, incense, shell, and stone).
After a (thankfully) uneventful pagan street crossing, we processed
into Vorhees Mall to invite our guests of honor. DebCrow told her story
under a tree. It was a really neat story about how Crow used to be white
but gave up his feathers to find out why we're all here from Thunderbird,
and then Gaia rewarded him by making him her Secret-Keeper. (We're all
here to live and learn, apparently.)
Next, Coyote and I gleefully led our party to the deserted benches in
front of Scott Hall. He sat on the stone wall above one of the benches
and talked about his purpose, to teach by example and to show that it's
ok to make mistakes. He told a story (with visual aids) of when he wanted
to fly like the crows, but he wasn't very good at it, so they plucked
out his feathers and dropped him to the ground. He shouldn't've presumed
to be like the crows, but vanity got the best of him. However, when
he fell, his tail lit on fire and he got covered in dirt, so now he's
the color of the desert. This shows that even though he made a mistake,
he's better off, because a grey coyote is perfect for the desert, while
his old color (blue) was not so perfect at all.
Guests and kindreds called, we went off to Whispering Willy to hear
the story-telling contest, the winner of which would receive the Coyote-Crow
medicine bag. There were many stories, but here are a few: Norma told
of a true tall tale of a tree almost toppling her friends. Tracy told
of tricking tigers in India.
Grinning Wolf told of the Solstice. Laure told of the Mead of Poetry
and Odin's tricksy deeds. Monica told of cow-tipping in Ohio. Jeff told
of aSufi master who did something obtuse. Vigile told of Loki giving
birth to Odin's 8-legged horse.
But the best stories (in Coyote and Crow's opinions) were:
*Nora telling of how Coyote and Crow first tricked Thunderbird to make
rain in the desert, and then tricked Condor to make the rain stop and
put Thunderbird to sleep, thus making Condor all bald and ugly and croaky.
*Ed telling the true tale of a New Brunswick fire and brimstone preacher
who sent his brother to be educated at the Princeton Theological Seminary,
only to have his brother slip into the debouch ways of the town. Preacher
brother than preached the little brother to death. However, at his funeral,
little brother rose and told of the heavenly visions he had experienced,
thus contradicting preacher brother's assertations of hell and brimstone
that surely awaited his sinning brother.
The contest was so close that Coyote and Crow had to flip two coins
two times to figure out a winner, but finally Ed won because his story
was true and about New Brunswick and tricksy and they'd never heard
it before. And they'd only made one medicine bag.
The day was growing long, but there was still more praise to be given,
offerings to the city and to patrons and to spirits.
As a group offering, we were all asked to twirl madly and fall down
laughing, as New Brunswick does so miss her drunken students. For an
omen, Lauren, Ed, Daphne, and Marc were asked to perform cloudomancy.
However, the sky was beautiful and clear, so they were to take omens
from other parts of nature. They took a long time and were subjected
to much heckling, and in the end they decided that all their omens together
meant Chaos, which was appropriate enough for the day. Norma relieved
her pent-up aggressiveness as Senior Druid by spritzing everyone in
the eyes with the Waters of Life, and Rook distributed Swedish Fish
of Knowledge to all attendant.
At the crossroads to the side of Scott Hall, Deb thanked everybody,
and Josh asked Thunderbird to close the gates.
Then we tramped back up to Ed and Norma's house and devoured all the
food on the table in about five seconds.
Later, we bashed Pat and Maggie's sunyata and ate of the chocolate omens
inside. We also raffled off a donation by Chuck, a beautiful framed
photo of Seaside Heights pier, which went to Louis.
And- we collected 84 cans and boxes of food for New Brunswick's Food
All in all, I'm really happy and proud with how it all turned out. It
was a bit long and a bit scattered, but that's the nature of walking
rituals. But I think, most importantly, it was *good*.--
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS!
Note: In the local paper on the very day of the ritual there was an
article on how coyotes have been migrating eastward into New Jersey,
and there were now an estimated 1,500 coyotes in the state eating yummy
sheep. We took this as an omen that Coyote wanted to be recognized in
his new digs. Go to:
Newspaper Story Omen!