Week Four – DPWotY

So I attended my first High Day as a newly minted ADF member and Dedicant Path walker yesterday (30th of October). The sun was high and for the first time this year I felt like it was hot, a good day for Beltane celebrations. We made the two-hour trek with our contributions to the post ritual meal and socialization sitting carefully packed in the car. Unfortunately it didn’t save the carrot and walnut cake I’d baked from being assaulted by a box of books and made substantially thinner, which gave people a good chuckle when we arrived.

We arrived at the ritual area with ten minutes to spare and liberally applied bug repellent, which we ended up sharing around because there were large, hungry mosquitoes preying on the other druids. Apparently this is the first time they’ve ever had mosquitoes bother them at the site in ten years. The floods our state had experienced earlier this month apparently had left ideal conditions for them though.

We had a chance to socialize for about twenty minutes prior to the ritual starting due to late runners. During which time the senior druid handed out the copies of the ritual for everyone so they could follow along, join in at the appropriate moments and in case they weren’t familiar with the songs to be sung.

The ritual went smoothly for the most part and the excitement and joviality was palpable in the air. (I’ll go into the actual ritual more below when I answer the questions required and the homework questions from Through the Wheel of the Year). Our blessing was accepted and a positive omen was received, everyone was thrilled. After the ritual finished we departed to the area where we were going to share our meal singing the recessional song.

We spent a good hour or so breaking bread and chatting happily in the sunshine before it was time to pack up and depart. It was a truly positive experience and I think a further step towards making good solid friendships, I intend to get to as many High Days with the Grove as possible and other events they run because they are such a wonderful community but they were very accepting of the distance and cost of travelling so far and that I wouldn’t be able to make them all.

Homework

How did the rite go in terms of structure?

The rite was written by senior druids of the grove and followed the the ADF Core Order of Ritual. So we had the following (I may have missed some of it and/or misunderstood where parts fit into the order but this is what I’ve interpreted as happening):
– Processional
– Establishment of Group Mind/Statement of Purpose
– Honoring the Earth Mother
– Centering/Grounding/Purification
– Establishing the Sacred Centre
– Opening the Gates
– Inviting the Kindreds (Placating the Outdwellers)
– Key Offerings
– Prayer of Sacrifice
– Seeking the Omen
– Calling for Blessings
– Hallowing the Blessing
– Affirmation of the Blessing
– Thanking the Beings
– Closing the Gates
– Closing the Rites
– Recessional

What things went wrong during the ritual? 

Nothing major went wrong with the ritual, there were a few lines that were stumbled on but corrected and one part the person doing the parts for the Nature Spirits needed prompting for one of his lines, the only other thing that happened which I don’t know if can be interpreted as going wrong or not was the tree that was used for building the cosmos shed a large amount of bark as we were closing the gates.

Who were the patrons of the rite, and who was the gatekeeper?

The gatekeeper was Manannan mac Lir for this ritual and the patron was Danu.

Did you have problems with saying the words without stumbling, or did everything come out smoothly? 

For the most part I went well with the parts I got to speak for although I did get tongue tied once or twice when we were singing songs during the rite.

Did you forget to bring a sacrifice? 

I didn’t forget to bring a sacrifice, I didn’t feel comfortable doing so and thankfully it was optional for individuals to make sacrifices as the Grove made a number as part of the ritual.

Were you alone, or with a group?

I was with an ADF Grove for this ritual, which made it feel even more special as my first ritual since joining ADF that I celebrated a High Day with a Grove.

If you were with a group, did you say anything or do anything?

I have to confess to being too shy to have a speaking role this time around, I was worried my mild dyslexia would flare up from nerves and that I’d mangle it, so I only spoke or sung during the parts of ritual where we were all meant to do so. The senior druid has encouraged me to accept a speaking role next time I attend a ritual with them though and I agreed.

Did you feel anything during the ritual?

I felt a lot of joy and love during the ritual, I honestly cannot say if it was from the working done by the grove or if it was just pure excitement at being there with the Grove participating in Beltane.

Did you experience doubt or confidence? 

I experienced some pre-ritual doubt, which caused me to decline a speaking role in the ritual. I kind of regret letting doubt get to me like that but I am not going to let it ruin the experience. As I already said earlier I have agreed to take a speaking role next time.

 

What omens were drawn (if any), and what did they tell you?

The senior druid played the part of the seer and using an ogham card deck drew the omen. We got Apple which was interpreted as a very good sign. They said it was the symbol new beginnings and growth and that the apple is often one of the first trees to flower. Apparently, other meanings that can be taken from the Apple are the pursuit of beautiful things, and the anticipation of reaping the beauty later that we sow today.

Could you feel the presence of any deities, spirits, or powers?

I didn’t feel the presence of any Shining Ones but I suspect that may be because I am not familiar with the Celtic pantheon and don’t work with them personally. I thought I could feel the presence of something during the parts where we were honoring the nature spirits though, like a warm, gentle presence.

What else about the rite struck you, or do you want to share?

I cannot think of anything else that I want to say about the ritual that I haven’t already.

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Week Three – DPWotY

Ok, the last post for this week I promise!

So this week’s lesson is all about preparing for your first High Day, which as we established in the last post will be Beltane or  Walpurgisnacht. As promised by Rev Michael J Dangler it is a big week, there was a lot of reading to cover, which I suspect not all of sunk in yet. :/

So apparently all the questions for this week can be merged together into the first essay on the High Days. Seems simple enough on the surface, however it means carefully considering my answers as I go. Thankfully I can revise everything here as I assemble my final document to submit for consideration so if I gain greater insights I can incorporate them. It is kind of comforting knowing that I can come back to this with new eyes.

Are there any myths that are celebrated in connection with this feast?  If so, what are they, and how do they fit in? 

While I’m sure that there are myths connected to this feast I’ve not been able to find any that have any real merit (in other words they were not backed up with any kind of evidence, links to historical documents or passages in the Sagas and Eddas).

What does this holiday or time of year mean to you?

For me, this holiday means that the weather is finally going to turn better, that I can plant out seeds for plants that can’t tolerate frost because we should not be getting more frost. It also means an end to being trapped indoors day after day due to heavy rain, hail or snow and the freedom to get out into nature again, to see my favourite haunts in nature and that I get to attend Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering.

Do you look forward to it?

Yes. Always, I think this is easily one of my favourite times of the year. The energy of Beltane is always so joyful, I can’t help but look forward to it. I associate Beltane with the emotions joy and happiness and so it always feels like a celebration when this time of year comes around.

Are there secular aspects of the holiday that mean a lot to you, or perhaps holdovers or memories of your childhood that you cherish?

I suppose there are, I grew up on a cattle farm and we were always told to play outside during the day. We would leave the house after breakfast and only return to the house for lunch and again in the evening for dinner. This time of year was always great because frogs would be spawning in the dams and the creek, plants were budding and flowering and some animals were giving birth already. For us, as children, this was all magical and we loved exploring the countryside during this season, we’d spent all winter making games in barns or tree houses and now we were free.

How do you know when this day arrives?

The land starts to dry out, the rains ease off and the land begins to wake up. At home the fruit trees start to get new growth, the Hawthorn by the back gate likewise gets a flush of growth and usually has its first flush of flowers just in time for Beltane. Also, there is a lightness of the soul that I always feel at this time of year without fail.

Do you look at the calendar, or do you just know it has come?

Without looking at the calendar you know it has come, the signs are there, combined with a feeling. However the fact that the annual Beltane celebration I go to is marked on my calendar also provides a constant reminder and helps build the sense of excitement as the date gets closer and closer.

If you have children (or wish to have children), what key traditions do you wish to pass down to them?

I don’t have children and it doesn’t seem likely that they will be on the cards for me but if I did have children I would love to pass on to them the sense of celebration and joy this time of year brings, show them that the land is waking up, teach them to dance the Maypole and enjoy the magic happening around them.

What, if anything, is spiritual or religious to you about this High Day or time of year, and how do you show that?

For me the land around me waking up after a long cold winter is very spiritual, I show this by spending time outdoors, talking to trees, tending my garden and making sure it is well, going out into the forest and meditating, singing and dancing to share my joy with the nature spirits.

Are there any traditions that your Grove has for this High Day?

I don’t belong to a grove yet, I may not either, it will depend on how compatible we are as to whether I will consider myself to belong to my local grove. As for traditions it has? I will have to learn that, I suspect they will have them because they too seem to get a lot of joy out of this time of year.

Finally, is there anything else about this holiday that you would like to add?

It would seem that Freyja is one of the deities most commonly associated with Beltane for those of a Norse perspective, so it would do well to make sure that she is offered sacrifice. Although I already was aware that Beltane was a time of love, it would seem from my reading that it is also a time for healing and foretelling.