Samhain Ritual 2017

Our Grove celebrated Samhain on November the 4th, this year. I’m glad of that because in my mind it was separated from the modern day hype of Halloween which resembles nothing like the significance it holds.

This was the third Samhain that I have observed since being involved with pagans. The first was with a wiccan group, the second was my own personal rite because I missed the Grove’s event. I made it this time and I was glad.

Our Grove has grown a little bit since I have been there, but I guess when I started there were others who had moved away. So, it is nice to see the participation.

The cloaks were out in full force and looked so beautiful. I just wore a poncho type sweater. I do not have a cloak as of yet but that is on my list.

This was the last outdoor event of the year. The procession was a moving one as always when it’s outdoors. We actually take a little walk down and up the path to the field to the stone circle. So you can imagine that would be nostalgic to your soul, and it is!

The ritual was beautiful and I had the part where I sprinkled the tree with water for the Hallowing part. I decided to not take a bigger role due to too much going on in my life at the time. I got to be an observer.

The main deity was Donn and the Ancestors. I offered the ancestors some alcohol. After the main deity was honored, we were invited to honor and make offerings to our spirit allies. I choose Mother Earth. I offered her some river water with a mix of calendula and lavender.

For our magical working we put a clove into an apple and said a name of a loved one or friend who had recently passed to offer them healing and an easy passage to the otherworld.

After the ritual was over is was dusk and one of our members sang a beautiful chilling song which was an excellent ending.

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Winter Solstice Ritual 2017

Our Grove celebrated Winter Solstice early this year on December 9th due to availability of our rented space and weather.

This celebration was my second Winter Solstice with the Grove. Last year we had to do a virtual gathering due to inclement weather. This year we were in luck and the weather was not bad at all (at least for me). We planned on doing a Norse Themed Sumbel in ADF style.

I was not sure how this was going to take place. I knew it was going to be indoors and somehow it was going to be like a great hall. I had wild expectations for the ambiance and decorations. That was not to be. But it was a very good celebration and I would not mind if all of the High Days were that way.

The altar was set up and the tables were arranged like a great hall set before the altar. That was as far as the scenery there was. Oh well, we do rent the place and could only do so much and I watch too much of the television show, The Vikings. Yes, I had way too high of expectations (laughing).

For our workshop before the ritual, we sang pagan carols. I have never heard pagan carols and I rather liked it. I have been researching the meaning and customs of the Winter Solstice and Yule and have come to like the holiday. I have had a hate relationship with modern day christian holidays. After the research, I have come to the conclusion that we need to take back this holiday and the others and own it.

A grove member brought her keyboard and played and sang in her bardic voice. It was lovely. I brought my friend along. She has been to a few of the Grove’s celebrations and for the first time, I got to hear her singing. She could be a bard also. She has a very lovely singing voice.

For the procession, we walked into the room where the ritual was going to take place and sang our customary song. Then instead of standing around the altar, we sat down at our places around the tables. Our Senior Druid led the ritual standing up. Our mead was poured by a designated attendant.

The bardic spirit was welcomed and we had a sip of mead. After the natures spirits, ancestors, and gods and goddesses were honored, we all each in turn got to name a spirit, ancestor, and god or goddess to honor and we had a sip of mead to toast them all one at a time. I had the honor of welcoming the gods and goddesses. I offered them some Indian incense that my sister had given to me a few months ago.

My welcoming speech was short and sweet and I had to wing it, because my notes were on my phone and my phone did not sync. Actually, there is a funny story about my phone that happened right before I left to travel for the ritual. It was not funny at the time. But, when the ritual started and I realized that my phone did not sync, I right away knew what happened. That was the funny part. The Shinning ones played a trick on me. It went well but not as planned. And that was their plan, or Loki’s.

For the main deities to be honored, Odin & Thor, I offered them Irish beer. I did not have access to Norse beer and I did not know that you could actually buy mead. So next time I am at the liquor store, I am buying some mead to keep on hand.

When the time came for honoring our own personal spirit allies, ancestors, and deities, I honored the Earth Mother. I am making it a point to honor her in my own personal way at each ritual. This time I brewed some herbal tea for her to soothe, heal, and give her back some love.

After the ritual reversed and ended, it was time for feasting. I brought a sausage dip and my friend brought some cherries that we soaked in a sauce. There was many vegan and vegetarian dishes. This time I made a point of trying each one. There was many that I liked.

For the hour long ride to the ritual and back home, me and my friend got to chat which was way overdue because we are so busy working and taking care of our families that we don’t get to meet often. We have many shared interests including heathenry and it was a very nice time.

Picture by: Michele O’Donnell

Autumn Equinox Ritual 2017

This was my first Autumn Equinox Ritual and it was held at the yoga center in Adams, NY on September 30th. We always gather an hour before the ritual starts to give us time to talk, settle down, prepare, and do a little group craft.

Our group craft this year was drawing our own personal wheel of the year on a piece of paper and drawing symbols or pictures of what that time of the year means to us. Next year, we will do one as a grove.

After the group craft, chatting, and letting our food for the feasting heat up, we had our pre-ritual and last minute ritual parts were assigned. We sang our processional song down to the stone circle. We sang Come We Now as a People. This walk always prepares my mind for the sacredness of the situation. Upon reaching the stone circle we gathered in a circle clockwise. The outsiders were given their offerings.

I had the privilege of being assigned to sprinkle the ritual space with water for the purification. This was followed by the incense. The bard and gatekeeper, Lady Brighid, were honored.

The earth mother was honored next and I had offered to call to her. This was followed by singing The River is Flowing. The Three Hollows was next. This consisted of singing the Portal Song while 3 volunteers made an offering of silver to the well, whiskey to the fire,  and holy water for the tree. I volunteered to offer the silver to the well.

Our ritual leader lead us into the grove attunement. Our grove does the Two Powers Meditation. 

Next up was the calling and offerings to the Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Shinning Ones. I made an offering of whiskey for the Ancestors. I choose this because they most likely miss drinking spirits while they were alive.

The main deity of the occasion was actually several deities. Our grove choose to honor earth mothers of many pantheons because the good harvest was due to them. We choose Tailtiu, Gaia, Danu, Frigga, Prithvi, and Macha. Each person called to their earth mother and told a little about them and made their offering. I had the part of Danu. I was nervous but toward the end, the words were just flowing out of my mouth, thanks to her help. I gave her an offering of water from our local river, the Oswegatchie, which I added fresh healing herbs from my garden this summer. I felt that our Mother really needed healing because of the neglect all this centuries. I feel that the people of the planet need to turn their attention to the earth mother and start forming a relationship with her and give her offerings of thanks. Perhaps, we as a people will become more caring towards each other.

Our grove next made our individual offerings to our personal deities or spirit guides. Our seer drew the omens from her oracle card deck. The omens were good. We called for the blessings and hollowing of the waters, followed by our toast and boast. It was good to hear what was going on in our grove member’s lives.

Our magical working consisted of candle magic. I made soy candles for the grove and we did a little mediation while holding them and infusing healing magic inside.

Then it was time to reverse things. We thanked the Beings of the Occasion and the Kindreds. Our ritual leader closed the gates. We were led out of the Two Powers Meditation, and I thanked the earth mother.

Our rite was ended and we sang the recessional chant, Now the Rite is at an End. 

I am very happy to be taking part in the rituals now that I am a member of the Northern Rivers Grove.

Photo Credit: Michele O’Donnell

Lughnasadh Festival

Lughnasadh is the beginning of the harvest season. It’s when the first grains and fruits are ready to be picked, consumed, and preserved. This usually takes place around August 1st but does vary from different regions based on culture and beliefs. In the past it was even a month long event.

This festival can be traced to Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, as well as throughout Northern Europe.

Lughnasadh is also referred to as Lammas; which means “Loaf Mass.” Which makes sense being that the grains are harvested, ground, and baked into loafs.

With this turn in seasons, it’s only natural to get together with the tribe, village, or community to celebrate. These celebrations also served as helping one another out with harvesting and preserving. After all, many hands make light work.

Along with celebration, comes spiritual beliefs. Being thankful for the land and weather for good crops, means life. Another year at surviving. Who can they thank? Their gods and goddesses of course. And along with that comes the stories told from generation to generation. Stories of might, bravery, perseverance, heroic deeds, and magic. These qualities were needed for their survival and their stories helped with instilling that in the people as well as fostering their imagination.

This time was the perfect time for gatherings, religious ceremonies, athletic contests, feasting, match making, and trading. So it was a happy time indeed.

Lughnasadh is named after the Irish sun god, Lugh and nasadh means assembly. The stories say that Lugh started this celebration in remembrance of this his foster mother, Tailtiu. Since Lugh is associated with skill in all things, the funeral games are a popular activity during this celebration. Some stories say this was started because of Lugh’s wedding also.

Who is right? Does that really matter? It’s time to get out in the warm sun and pick the fruits of your labor. It’s time to get together with the community in good companionship and help one another for the big job ahead. And why not thank momma earth, the gods, nature spirits, and the ancestors for the gifts and blessings received.

Have a picnic, feast, do some match making, start a trail marriage, do some trading for more supplies, have a wedding, and enjoy some good natured athletic contests. Soon, the dark time will be upon us once more.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lughnasadh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lugh

http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-festivals/lughnasadh/deeper-lughnasadh

Lughnasadh Ritual 2017

This was my second time celebrating Lughnasadh on August 5th. This year we traveled to the Muin Mound Grove near Syracuse, NY at the home of Rev. Robert (Skip) Ellison, former Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). He is also the author of 6 books (as far as I know) as well as divination tools. 

It was an honor and a pleasure to meet him and his family, as well as members of the Muin Mound Grove. It was his book, The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit, that helped me settle into a routine of making this druidy my very own and getting comfortable, as well as understanding the rituals.

For Lughnasadh, it is usually the custom for groves to hold “funeral games”, as is the tradition of the Celts. These games consist of skills of endurance and skill. Since the drive was so long, I missed the “games.” After meeting the grove, sitting and talking, and snacking, it was time for the ritual.

Some of the members of Muin Mound Grove wore their ritual clothes which was a beautiful sight to see. We started with pre-ritual and that was when I discovered the blessing it was to have a Bard in one’s Grove. The procession was a magical time walking to the ritual area while singing the procession song. One by one, we were all saged and purified by the sprinkled water and smoke from the incense upon entering the ritual area.

We all gathered in a circle and the statement of purpose was given. Then the most peculiar thing happened. At least to me it was. I have only had experience with one Grove, and only for the span of one year. The senior druid and another that was helping her, walked across the diameter of our circle to the other side and through, and then back again. It was a mysterious thing to me as I have never seen it nor did not know the meaning of it. Upon, searching their Grove’s website, I learned it was a sigil that Muin Mound Grove does. It was magical.

After, our Mother was welcomed and my favorite part of bestowing a kiss upon the earth for her was over, the bard started singing again. For the Two Powers Mediation, the senior druid did an effective job of leading us through and visualizing the underworld and upperworld and the power they behold. I really liked and felt the image of the light and power of the stars falling on us.

The portal song was done and another strange thing happened as I have never seen it but only read about it in ADF literature. The boundaries of the land, sea, and sky was done. This was such a thrilling part and I teared up because even reading about this makes me weepy. After each boundary was done the rest of the grove broke out into the chant and shivers were running through me. It was so primal and I felt as if I have done this before and felt the ancestors right there with us.

After the Gatekeeper was called to open the gates, the offerings for the ancestors, nature spirits, and gods and goddess were done. The offering for the main deity, Lugh, was given next. After, the rite was opened up for us all to go make an offering to whomever we were called to. I brought a cucumber as that was the only thing in my garden that was ready for harvesting at the time. My offering was to the Mother Goddesses that have helped me settle into accepting my role in this life.

The omen was drawn using the Ogham’s and then it was time for the return flow. I brought my own vessel that I thought would be perfect. Turns out the wooden cup leaked. Oh well. They had an actual horn vessel to use which was cool to see in person.

The toast and boast was next, which I did participate in, and then it was time to end the ritual by reversing the order in which the first part went.

It seemed like a long time and my feet were hurting from standing so long but I knew this was my sacrifice to the Kindred’s. I made it through and my heart was racing at the end from all the energy raised.

I really enjoyed my time with a different Grove; and it was an interesting thing to see how other’s do things a bit differently, while still maintaining the Core Order of Ritual for ADF.

Photo Source: Michele O’Donnell

Summer Solstice Festival

Summer Solstice is the longest day and shortest night of the calendar year. In the Northern Hemisphere it is around June 21st and in the Southern Hemisphere, it is around December 21st.  The word solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium. Sol means sun and sistere means to stand still.  So solstice means when the sun stands still. It only appears to stand still for a short time until the sun starts reversing it’s direction.

This day officially marks the beginning of summer.

To the ancients who lived by an agricultural society, summer was in fact well under way since the beginning of May at Beltaine when the livestock was put out in the summer fields and everything was cleansed of the long winter stuck inside. That is why this time is also referred to as Midsummer and Litha.

So why was this day celebrated?

To be honest, there really is no evidence that the solstices and equinoxes were celebrated by the Celts. But, as the ADF states, the lack of evidence does not mean that they didn’t (3). The sun was very important to them from the evidence and artifacts we have.

According to author, Rev. Robert (Skip) Ellison, in his book, The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit, we have “indirect evidence” from the Roman writings who mentioned that the druids, “knew the way of the stars and moon” (Chapter 7).

Let’s think about it:

Since the solstice stood for the sun and our ancestors paid attention to life giving power, it was only natural to have a celebration for the sun. The crops were already in and growing well and soon would be harvested. Why not raise the power by getting together with the community and have some fun and give thanks for all they had and will have at the harvest? Also, the sun had been staying out later and later and after this, the days would be getting shorter. So yes, they gave thanks for the sun that helped them grow crops and gave their livestock a break from the winter and a chance to thrive in the summer.  The sun meant life and a fertile time. Thank you sun!!

Traditions:

Since this is a pagan holiday, there are many customs, traditions, and cultures celebrating midsummer. This was the time to gather/harvest the herbs which were incorporated into their traditions and customs.

In the Isle of Man, which is between Great Britain and Ireland, they gathered green meadow grass and through the grass over the cliff to the sea to pay Manannan Mac Lir his rent. He was the sea deity in Irish Mythology. The Isle of Man may or may not have been named after this deity or vise versa (Ellison: The Solitary Druid. Chapter 7). This might be the reason why they felt the need to pay him rent.

Another interesting tradition was rolling a burning “wheel” down a hill. This burning “wheel” symbolized the blazing sun and if the “wheel” stayed lit at the bottom of the hill, the harvest would be abundant (Ellison: The Solitary Druid. Chapter 7).

The summer solstice was the time to celebrate the sun and give thanks and offerings for an abundant harvest. The celebrations included customs that symbolized the sun, harvest, and deities of the occasion. There are many traditions/customs that are still carried on today and/or is being revived in the present day. This not only connects us with our ancestors but helps us remember and honor the sun, the earth mother, and deities of old that keep us rooted to the land and our culture.

Sources:

(1) http://blog.dictionary.com/summer-solstice/

(2) https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/facts-about-june-solstice.html

(3) https://www.adf.org/rituals/celtic/midsummer/wwtdd-summer-solstice.html

(4)  Ellison, Rev. Robert (Skip) (2014) The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit.

Photo Source: Michele O’Donnell