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Liturgy Practicum 2, Requirement 2.1

Keep and submit for review a journal covering a period of not less than six months and not more than a year that documents your active participation as a celebrant at six or more group rituals, including three observances of seasonal festivals. The text of individual prayers written by you should be provided as frequently as possible. Include an essay for each rite that involves the analysis and commentary on the ritual's structure, as well as a critical review of the performance of that rite.

To make this easy, I have numbered my six group rituals and my three seasonal festivals on the first line of each entry.

September 20th, 2009

Celebrant 1Seasonal Festival 1

Over the past seven years, it has been my deepest pleasure to work with the members of this Grove. Today, it was a deep pleasure to hand over the "reins" of leadership to a new Executive Committee: we have elected a new Senior Druid, lees, and a new Secretary, Irisa. Our Treasurer remains Maggie, but we find ourselves in new territory: not only is this the first time all our officers have been women, but this is also the first time they have all been redheads!

The ritual today included the oaths of two of our officers (Irisa was visiting the Pittsburgh Grove, and will be installed at the next Druid Moon rite), but it also included the retirement of our old statue of Garanus and the presentation of a new statue. Our old statue was honoured one last time, and presented to the folk and to the new statue, allowing each to acknowledge the other for a moment before I gently kissed the old wooden statue and placed it on the ritual fire, a sacrifice to the patron of this Grove, Teutates.

It was a moving experience, taking the old statue around the fire: Garanus had seen so much through those eyes, and watched over so many of our rituals. While the Garanus statue is not considered to be the Crane himself, it is an icon that represents the Crane to many of us. I saw tears in the eyes of many of our members, and felt my own eyes sting with joy and reverence as I carried the statue around.

When I lifted the statue, I uttered a prayer:

Garanus Crane,
You have guided us,
Walked with us,
Watched over us.

Garanus Crane,
See now this statue of wood,
The icon we have gazed upon so long.

Garanus Grane,
See through its eyes the new statue.
Know that we honour you with it as our new focus.

Garanus Crane,
For guiding, walking, and watching,
We honour you.

We offer this icon now to Teutates,
God of our Tribe.

I then kissed the head of the statue, knelt, and placed the wooden statue on the fire. I reflected on this Grove, on how it has grown and on where it has been, and I smiled.

One day, we will retire this new statue, too. And I pray that we will do so on land that is ours, in a permanent nemeton.

As the statue of the crane went up in flames, I knew: we have and will continue to pray with a good fire.

Some specific issues that occurred in this ritual: we were so caught up in our ritual of retiring the statue, installing new officers, and celebrating our anniversary that some folk noticed we didn't actually mention the Autumnal Equinox that we were celebrating. While I don't see this as a major issue, really (the solstices and equinoxes are the "minor" High Days in my own practice), I recognize that as a Grove providing public ritual, we need to be aware that it's not all about us, and we need to ensure that we offer each of the High Days to our community in full service. This has been somewhat mitigated in the past by the fact that we often hold two separate rituals for Autumnal Equinox (one for our anniversary and one for the Folk), so we just need to be careful when combining them in the future.

The structure of the rite was great: it worked very well for us to run the full Core Order for this rite, and placing the statue retirement and the Officer oaths in the Working went nicely. We also provided the officers with additional Waters after their oaths, and I kept some back for Irisa, who was not at the rite.

December 13th, 2009

Celebrant 2Seasonal Festival 2

Today was the Grove's Yule Rite, celebrated in honour of Cerridwen and with a rebirthing theme. It was not so long ago, just last year, in fact, when Yule was our smallest rite, when it drew no more than around 30 people. It is with joy and trepidation that we found that our Grove is growing stronger and drawing in more people: this year, Yule drew around 68 people! We go forth into a new year with numbers we never expected to see!

This was also the first rite since Lughnassadh 2008 that we have received a negative omen when we asked if our offerings have been accepted. This time, as last time, the omen was Hagalaz, the hail-storm. Our seer made a graceful piacular offering, however, in response to the negative omen, which pleased the Kindreds; our omens that followed were good and right for the occasion: Berkano, Dagaz, and Isa.

Berkano tells us that our offerings have been accepted: here, the fertile and flexible birch tree, which can survive even the harshest of weather and hardship grows healthy and strong. Even hail cannot break the spirit of this tree.

Dagaz tells us that the Kindreds offer us a new day, a brigh and shining dawn. This is an amazing and ideal omen for the winter solstice, particularly one that centers around this theme of rebirth.

Isa tells us that the Kindreds require of us the inward-looking vision, the contemplative path that shows us the way toward discerning between that which is beautiful and that which is dangerous.

These are good omens, indeed.

The rite went very well, though: each person received a token to take home, we collected over 50 toys for local donation, and several canned goods as well. Functionally, the ritual flowed beautifully, and though hiccups are virtually required in public ritual, they were small in this rite.

At this ritual, I was asked to do the blessing of the Waters of Life, but I was not in on the pre-ritual planning where the altar layout was provided. When I arrived at the ritual site, I saw three pitchers rather than our usual two, already filled with water. The ritual team had decided that we would use two pitchers in this ritual to distribute the waters, and so I worked up a new Waters module on the spot.

The module followed the basic structure of "calling for, hallowing, and affirming," but was altered in the substance within that structure. The end result was:

All waters are by their very nature sacred,
And in this sacred time we have taken these waters and set them aside.
As all waters that run on the earth come from two sources,
So too do these waters here.

[elevate right pitcher]

There are waters from the heavens,
Raining down upon us as blessings from the Shining Ones.
These are the waters that flow from on high
That are touched by the Gods themselves.
We call out for those waters:

Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

[lower the right pitcher, elevate the left pitcher]

There are also waters from the deep earth,
welling up from below to bring blessings from the Ancestors.
These are the waters that are drawn from the earth,
That contain the wisdom of the Ancestors.
We call out for those waters:

Ancestors, give us the Waters!

[raise now both pitchers]

These waters together form the waters that run upon the land,
nourishing the spirits of this place and this time.
These are the waters that are co-mingled in our lives,
That contain the blessings of the Spirits of Nature.
We call out for those waters:

Nature Spirits, give us the Waters!

I then poured these waters together and continued on with our normal blessing, asking the folk to see these blessings as they co-mingled and drew in from the realms above and the realms below. It was a powerful waters module, and entirely the child of necessity.

Like we were reminded at Samhain, we need to find larger places to rent: this ritual had too many people in too small a space. Additionally, one of the praise offerings was an electric guitar solo with a song, which was awesome, but we need to do a soundcheck in advance, since the guitar was far louder than Aeryn's singing. In terms of structure, the ritual went well, but we also found item reinforced from Samhian: our current Praise Offering structure has a flow problem when too many people are inside too small a space, and everyone needs to get to a single fire. Some traffic direction will be necessary down the road.

One thing is clear, though: the ritual teams have put together some amazing and impressive rituals. All of them, from Samhain to Lughnassadh to tonight, have done amazing things for our Grove. I am so proud of all of them.

December 21st, 2009

Celebrant 3Seasonal Festival 2

The Grove had a Druid Moon rite this night, and it was a small crowd (which led to a laid-back ritual). Maggie had grabbed my coat from the rack and put it over her shoulders to keep warm, and I couldn't help but think of the ring in the pocket. I must have given her a funny look, because she asked if it was okay to wear it. I said, "Well, I'm using it right now, but you should keep wearing it." I was terrified that she'd put her hand in the pocket and find the ring box.

The central portion of the rite was for us to do some focus trancework by staring into candles (Ratri, Vedic goddess of the shining night, was our deity for this rite, and so we focused on the candles as symbols of the small light of the Yule sun, that grows stronger with each passing day). So there, lit by candles, and surrounded by friends, an omen was taken, and I found deep meaning in it myself:

  • What is our Path? Hagalaz - "Hail": challenges and strife, difficulty to be overcome.
  • On what should the Grove focus until the next moon? Manaz - "Man": the relationships between us as humans; ancestral connections.
  • On what should each individual focus until the next moon? Oþilda - "Ancestral land": the connection to our ancestors, inherited property, lessons from the past.
As I read these omens that Seamus drew, personally, I could see only this: "It has been a long, hard road to get to this place, but it is time to focus on your relationships with those that mean the most to you, and to do this with things that bind families together."

There it was, all laid out in runes by candlelight: "Ask her, you idiot."

It's well-known that I can sit on my hands when all signs point to "Yes!" with women, but I have learned from mistakes in the past.

So, after some other work that was done, I said, "Now, if there is no other work, I have one last thing. Maggie, I told you I was using the coat," and I smiled. "There's something I need from the pocket. Could you grab it for me?" So she reaches in, digs around, and says, "You mean the case?"

"Yes, I mean the case."

She pulled out the "case" and I laughed: it was the Miss Molly CD that I had purchased the Friday before. "Not that case, the other one." I said, taking it from her.

So she began to dig again, and she pulled out the ring case. I took it from her, and I said, "It's been a long, tough journey to give you this, but I think it's time. Will you marry me?" and I got down on one knee and opened the box, presenting the original ring to her.

She then kissed me and hugged me, and might have gotten a tear to show, but didn't say anything, so I asked, "Do I get an answer?" She smiled, and said, "Yes, I will marry you."

I put the ring on her finger, and it was a bit too large, so it sort of slid around, but she wore it happily, anyway. Then I turned to my Grove and said, "Okay, is there any more work to be done?" I believe Mary Anne responded with, "I don't think we can follow that. . ."

So the rite was closed out, and then we cleaned up, and then Maggie asked if we could go home yet. I asked if she would be calling her parents from the car (we'd driven in separately), and she said she wouldn't. We got home and started calling people in an attempt to beat the FaceBook rush. . . but that didn't go so well. It only took about 2 hours for word of the engagement to leak onto FaceBook, and so we spent the next day trying to contact as many people as we could before they found out through FaceBook or other online means. The next morning, Maggie posted to the Three Cranes Grove list, and I hear that all of Sonoran Sunrise Grove knew about the engagement due to a posting on their list. Finally, we gave up, posted to FaceBook with a picture and a "relationship status change" (because it's never official until FaceBook posts it on your wall, apparently), and only called relatives and friends who were not on FaceBook.

The ritual itself, as you can see, went very well. It had not occurred to me that Seamus had never done the omen in a ritual before, and he was sort of caught off-guard by it. The call to Ratri was very proper for the "dark month", and the small candles, which I asked everyone to focus on for a time for some trancework, worked pretty well also. It was nice to sit in the dark for a while and trance out with the Cranes. Still, I would have liked to have had some drumming, as that would have helped a lot with the trance.

My prayer to Ratri was similar to my evening prayer, and it went like this:

Ratri, daughter of heaven
Weaving the web of sacrifice
and conducting my prayers with bright rays
As Usas comes each morning,
So do you each night
Cloaked in stars, brightly shining,
Maintaining the order of our lives.

We call out to you now in the dark of the year,
When the light is smallest and hardest to see.
We ask that you help us focus on this flame,
that you help us to see it when we find it dim,
and that you brighten it with your shining light.

Ratri, daughter of heaven,
We call to you. Accept our sacrifice.
At this point, we asked for praises, and we moved into the trancework. The Druid Moons don't do a lot of focusing on the Core Order, but it's all there (if a bit out of order). I have always liked the way that they flow in contrast to the High Day rites.

January 31st, 2010

Celebrant 4Seasonal Festival 3

As we have done for so many years, since our first Imbolc rite in Jenni's apartment (where we drew a whopping 23 people!), 46 people came together to honour Brigando, read a poem, light 20 candles, and do work in preparation for the time ahead.

As we like to do, we mixed up the parts a bit, and brought new members and friends into the mix for this ritual. This ritual has not changed much since the first year we worked it, and many of the elements are exactly the same from that first year. This is a special rite to many of us, often marking an anniversary of first attendance for so many of our friends.

This evening's ritual lasted a full hour and a half, which was a bit longer than usual. But, by the end, we had done much work and received many blessings. These are the omens from the rite:

Are our offerings accepted?Ngetal, the broom: Cleansing and healing. The offerings are accepted indeed.

What do the Powers offer in return?Oir, the spindle: Hearth and home. They offer us the blessings of fellowship with those close to us and the joy of family.

What further needs to the Powers have of us?Emancoll, the witchhazel: Powerful magics. We are to work our will in the world through these blessings.

Taken together, these omens indicate that through cleansing and healing, we will find joy in one another and our families. Through this, we will work powerful magics as we move through the world.

These are good omens, indeed, and they played perfectly into the work of the evening.

We began our work by providing each person some time with a brideog, brought around the circle by two children in our midst. During this, we actually managed to sing a song that was done in rounds, something our Grove has actually never managed before. After that, we brought out the healing blanket that we had begun at last Imbolc: our Grove Artisan, Ravenna had led the final effort to put it together, and we re-blessed the blanket with the energy of those present. Following that, we presented a new book, created by Joe, to the folk, noting that the book we have been using since Yule of 2006 is now almost out of pages.

It was my job to bless the blanket. At last year's Imbolc, Seamus had led a blessing of the fabric that was used to create it, and he did this through toning. Because the toning thing had already been done on this fabric, I did not wish to do the same thing. Instead, I took the Waters and blessed the blanket.

I brought the blanket around to each of the people as chanting of "Power of the Spirits" went on, and offered the Waters to each person and asked them to put their healing energy, and the energy from our omens (Ngetal, Oir, and Emancholl) into the blanket. As each person touched the Waters and then touched the blanket, it was blessed by all our work and intent.

We dealt again with size issues: with only 20 lines to the poem we read, this year we had people "buddy up," one person reading the line from the poem and the other person lighting the candle. This actually worked out much better than years past, where people have tried to both hold the candle and the strip of paper, and I have been ever afraid of someone catching on fire.

This rite was a beautiful synthesis between what we have done in the past and what we will do in the future. It spoke very much to the work we do today and the history we have yet to make.

Every ritual, I am more and more proud of this Grove. Tonight was certainly no exception.

Hail to the Cranes.

February 18, 2010

Celebrant 5Seasonal Festival 3

I watched the Anagantios moon set in the west as I drove home, reflecting on the day. Awake at 3:30 AM and out the door by 5 AM, I began the ritual that has come to mean so much to me over the years: our "Stay-At-Home Moon" ritual, in which the Grove Priest travels from member house to member house, lighting the flame of our Grove's devotion and illuminating and warming the home in this frigid month.

This year I was able to bring Rev. James "Seamus" Dillard with me, as he is now also a Grove Priest. The company and help was invaluable to me today, and it helped me to know that our future as a growing Grove would include secure traditions like this one, where our members can have a day when they can request that a Priest come to their house and bless it, and our membership numbers will not outgrow the availability of our Grove Priests.

What is so special about this moon to me is that I get to spend time not only with Grove members I know well in their own homes, but I often get to see members, new and old, that I either haven't had a chance to connect with or that I have sorely missed over the time they have been away.

It is very special to me to spend that time with the members who ask me into their homes. The 212 miles traveled today were priceless to me in terms of joy and fulfillment.

This rite is very simple: you can actually view it in my answer to Special Occasion Rituals, Q5b. We go from room to room, using the same basic framework for each room, and bless the entire house. The ritual went well at each house, and it is interesting to do a ritual where you visit each participant in turn, rather than all at once. Some have dogs that get in the way, others have cats who seem startled when I poke a lantern into their closet.

Some key things that I noticed this year:

  • it took me a while to get started with the wording, and I had to go over it a couple of times at a couple of houses with the book before I was ready to work without the book for the rest of the day.
  • I think it would be good to take a general omen on this, maybe before I began, or perhaps at each house.

But, for now, it is the end of a very long day; it is time for me to do a final house blessing (my own) and to fall asleep in preparation for tomorrow.

But I do so with the vision of that Anagantios moon gracefully setting to the west, and good conversation bringing a smile to my lips.

March 21st, 2010

Celebrant 6Seasonal Festival 3

This week, the Grove celebrated two rituals: Ogronios, the end of the cold moon; and the Spring Equinox. Because I was not a celebrant in the Spring Equinox, it does not count toward my requirement, but it is included here because it is helpful.


We did the ritual out at Shepard's Corner, where they keep a labyrinth. Our ritual was done around dusk, and moved into darkness quickly. We inducted three new Grove members, and drew omens for the evening:

  • What is our path?
    Ing - Fertility and the earth, a good omen for this time of year.
  • On what should the Grove focus until the next Druid Moon?
    Kenaz - The torch, light of the fire of fellowship. We should focus on our fellowship.
  • On what should each individual focus until the next Druid Moon?
    Tiwaz - The right path, the way of truth, the guiding star. Each of us should focus on our way.

This rite involved the induction of three new Grove members, as stated above, and I have always enjoyed doing this. There is some stage magic that goes along with this, a little slight-of-hand that I don't want to speak too much about because someone might not want to know how it's done, and it went very well tonight.

One thing that I would like to do is go back to making these, or at least some of them, Grove-Member-only. I miss one of the central ritual actions I used to do, which was to have every member hold up the token to the fire at once and say a prayer over them. I hope to do this again soon, anyway.

I brought Seamus into this ritual, and asked him to run the "middle Kindreds" invocation, as I always do my "three worlds" Kindreds invitation for this (Heavenly Kindreds, Worldly Kindreds, Underworldly Kindreds). That went very well, but he's seen me do them. It was also nice to have someone to sing the Clergy Charm with prior to the rite.

I used a prayer to the Earth Mother that is adapted from the Atharvaveda and the Rgveda. It is:

We are Children of the Earth:
Born from her, returning to her.
We praise the Earth Mother,
And call her attention to us.

You bear the weight of the mountains;
O Earth Mother, abounding in height.
Sturdy as you are, you sustain the trees;
O Earth Mother, the center of all.
On you the waters flow day and night;
O Earth Mother, a flood of splendor.
Upon you we tread each day of our lives;
O Earth Mother, we do not stumble.

Make us shine, O Earth Mother,
With the splendor of the sun on the waters.
Grant us breath, O Earth mother,
That we may live long years in your beauty.

Rock and earth, and stone and dust,
with this Earth is held together, firmly bound.
With this rock and earth and stone and dust,
is this Grove firmly rooted, firmly bound.

Earth Mother, dwell here with us;
support us as we meet the Kindreds,
stand with this Grove as we stand upon you.
Earth Mother, be part of us as we are part of you.

(Sources: AV XII.1, RV V.84)

In the end, I was very pleased with this rite.

Spring Equinox

For Spring Equinox (I was not a celebrant for this rite), our ritual team came up with the creative notion of hiding eggs for children to find before the ritual. Each egg had a rune written on it in clear wax, and during the omens, three were drawn at random for the omen and dyed right on the altar. It was spectacular to watch, and added a lot of energy to the work. The omens for Spring Equinox were:

  • Have our offerings been accepted?
    Oþila - Ancestral land and holdings, wealth; they have been accepted!
  • What do the Powers offer us in return?
    Tiwaz - The guided path, the right way.
  • What further needs do the Kindreds have of us?
    Laguz - An overflowing of blessings.

Of note, we found that the first omen was actually (Ingwaz) when we re-examined the omens after the rite: the wax was not easy to read, and so first impressions were Oþila. It is the opinion of our priests that the omen, as read in ritual, is what is important, but understanding that the omen is also tempered by this other omen is important as well.

It is very interesting that these omens are very internally consistent between the two days, and leaves us with great food for thought as a Grove.


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