A ritual closing

On March 22nd, 2007, Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF came into existence.

Previously, Rev. Michael J Dangler suggested a ritual closing. In some behind the scenes discussion (due in part to WordPress.com being extremely slow at the time), he pointed out some possibilities and suggested it could be done as part of Spring Equinox.

That’s not what I did. Part of it was that the bandaid was already ripped off, so to speak. I didn’t want to drag my regulars — who were willing to join ADF solely if it would make me happy — through a funeral when I was the only one grieving. Another was timing. It struck me as auspicious to do it exactly three years later.

So, tonight I performed the rite, a full COoR rite. It generally followed Hemlock Vales’ ritual methodology, and so was fairly off the cuff; the invocations are firm in my mind.

However, here a few bits about what I did, should anyone else find themselves in the same situation or wish to critique.

I actually opened a double set of gates; one with my Home Shrine, and one with Hemlock Vales’ standard indoor ritual gear. The latter was closed during the Workings Section — along with a few words and the removal of Hemlock Vales’ website — no longer a “closed” page, but a “410 Gone” status code.

Statement of Purpose

I walk the path, but I walk it alone.

I  am in the hall, but the hall is empty.

I am here to formally close Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF and give thanks to the Kindreds for their support of it.

Prayer of Sacrifice

Shining, Noble, and Mighty Ones, I give to you these gifts. Hemlock Vales has been blessed by you, and so it is time for one final gift, as a Protogrove. Holy ones, accept these gifts, I pray. (repeat last line 3x)

Workings Section Preface

Now it is time to end the public face of Hemlock Vales Protogrove. This Protogrove may and can return, but it is time for it to fade from view — though the actions it has taken, learning it has done, and upholding of *ghosti- will never fade.

So, what was the Omen? I asked what message the Kindreds had for me, and received Gebo, gifts; Jera, year; Isa, ice. I saw this as about the cycle of gifts over a long period of time yet the recognition of stagnation that had occurred.

Lest anyone ask — I am okay. I saw this coming, and have accepted it.

Field of Dreams Syndrome

Protogroves in ADF have three years to apply for Provisionally Chartered Grove status, or go defunct. Extensions are available — and routinely granted. Hemlock Vales will reach that three year point around the Ides of March this year.

I do not plan to ask  for an extension.

Why? I have many reasons, but perhaps the foremost one is realizing I’m suffering from “Field of Dreams Syndrome.”

“If you build it, they will come” — mysterious voice in “Field of Dreams”

As I submitted my Grove Organizer’s Survey, I had met at least fifty local Pagans personally, and there were more on the county Pagan e-list I ran. There was a student group on Penn State’s campus, reasonably popular with the students and some post-students but without large townie involvement. With this base, I thought I could coax a few out to be part of the Protogrove.

Indeed, I had a few supportive regulars, but their interest was more in regularly held rites than in ADF rites. Some irregular visitors were put off by the structured ADF order of ritual, preferring to be able to do things as they were moved at any point. People would post excitedly to group e-list and then not show up. Many of the local Pagans I knew had outed themselves just to me and were unwilling to join an e-list or Meetup.com.

Going back to “If you build it, they will come,” the “they” I sought were other ADF members willing to help not just with rites, but also with all the other aspects of running a Grove. To be Provisionally Chartered, a Grove needs to have three ADF members (among other requirements). I suspect most Provisionally Chartered Groves have more when they apply. I now suspect that waiting to start a Protogrove with two others is a good idea in an area with a small Pagan community, rather than starting a Protogrove in the hopes of finding others.

In hindsight, I should have looked to find interest in ADF first. My regulars, helpful as they have been, would have been fine with open Wiccan-esque circles; they had no attachment to ADF. I had already been running open rites, and being on ADF’s site was not the advertising coup I imagined.

I will continue to hold open rites after the Protogrove is no longer; it is important to me to make these rites available to others. I lose advertising via ADF’s site, the direct support of the GOC and GCC, and the need to file reports — not the ability to hold rites.

So, then, what of this blog? I anticipate writing a bit more about other mistakes — and perhaps taking it in a new direction.

When the interested don’t show up

A week ago now, Jenett wrote a good post about seeker responsibility and follow-through, discussing interested seekers who disappear, either by never showing on their first meeting or failing to follow through on later RSVPs. Back when I was trying to do any sort of local Pagan networking I did run into occasional no-shows myself when someone would want to meet one-on-one before coming to the coffee-shop get-togethers.

Now, ADF orients itself toward open events, so I do not frequently try to meet people one-on-one these days. At the same time, not everyone who says they will come shows up. I’ve occasionally learned mild tolerance for PST is useful (which is why I announce the start of the pre-ritual briefing; if you show up late, you wind up a bit more clueless about what is happening) — but it can be easy to delay too long because there were five more people who said they were coming, but haven’t shown up yet, and then don’t. I sometimes forget that delaying for stragglers only encourages the behavior.

As Jenett points out, the reasons why vary widely — you can come up with many reasons they didn’t show, and it’s not worth worrying about except in terms of keeping a person’s reliability in mind for the long run.

At the same time, some possibilities can be minimized. One possible Beltane attendee got lost along the way to the site. There wasn’t any cell phone reception around the Beltane site due to the local hills, so a cell phone call for directions would have been useless. One thing I’ve been contemplating is building some folding sandwich-board signs with a large “ADF”, an arrow, and perhaps a logo as well  that can be placed to point the way on the last two or three turns.

End of Year One & Ostara

Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF was officially approved on 3/22/07, which makes this the last hour of the last day of Hemlock Vales’ first year as an official Ar nDraiocht Fein Protogrove. There have been some ups and some downs; days when I felt everything was going well, and days when I questioned why I’d bothered. As we head into year two, I’m already leaning more towards finding interest via other means. Celebrating the High Days is great, but there needs to be more there — a larger understanding of ADF’s perspective, and even more social bonding. Post-rite potlucks do help with that, but that only works for the people who are there.

Our first rite was an Ostara rite with five in attendance; this year, there were three. Though I’m not certain scheduling the rite for tomorrow would have prompted more turnout, I am certain it wouldn’t have prompted less, as only the two regulars showed. With a death possibly impeding one person’s attendance, I know this is how things can go — but it was during one of the weekends bookending Spring Break.

There were some slight speedbumps in preparing for the rite. Most notably, I accidentally cracked (but did not break) a jar of grain loading it into my car. I was at a loss for why a slight bump like it received cracked it, until I discovered the stone Well was on the other side. I will have to plan more carefully when loading ritual gear into canvas bags for transport; I’d never had this happen before and so had become complacent. Fortunately, when I arrived at the UU fellowship one of the regulars helped me remove the grain and recycle the broken jar.

The rite itself flowed fairly well, as one might expect with the regulars present; in fact, it flowed rather quickly in hindsight, taking under half an hour. I was surprised, but even the regular that often has difficulties was following along well. This is, of course, the sort of thing that tempts me to “mix things up” a bit for the next rite. Most notably, I’m thinking about adapting my usually-private Walpurgisnacht celebration for group use in lieu of Beltane being, well, Beltane.

The omens were reasonable, and I think reflected the functional nature the rite had:

Acceptance: Tiwaz, the God Tyr (involved in War and Justice, among
other things). I said it was accepted, but just so, like a balance.

Ancestors: Dagaz, Day; Nauthiz, Need; Wunjo, Joy. A day for getting
what we need to bring us joy, but also a request to remember them.

Nature Spirits: Eihwaz, Yew Tree; Fehu, Cattle; Uruz, Aurochs –
Growth, but with a need to have the proper vision to direct it (lest
it trample other things).

Gods & Goddesses: Ingwaz, the God Freyr; Ehwaz, Horse; Isa, Ice –
Fertility, to boast about before the first frost.

I won’t deny I was disappointed with the turnout, but the omens were good while pointing to things to be done, so I’m pleased overall.

On timing

Strangely, it seems I haven’t posted about the timing of rites yet.

Earrach* of Pittsburgh has a lovely essay about accuracy of timing on the Sassafras Grove site as well as an essay about correcting calendar drift on the cross-quarters. Timing is useful; a Walpurgisnacht Rite I did as night turned to day May first was a stand-out ritual experience for me.

This year, the vernal equinox is in the early hours of the 20th. We are planning a celebration on the 15th. Why? Why give in to convenience to the point where we’re using the more distant bounding Saturday?

I’d love to give a pat answer like “just as we define our ritual space as being at the sacred center, we define the ritual time as being at the sacred time for the ritual.” (Actually, there’s something to work with there, even though I’m not certain it’s really Indo-European.)

Instead, I’ll give a different answer: it’s about the community. If I’m celebrating ritual at 1:48am on the 20th, I’m likely celebrating alone. Indeed, the convenient times on the 19th and 20th of this month are have other events at the the Unitarian-Universalist fellowship, our preferred space (Beltane will likely be outside). The 22nd, though desirable for reasons of proximity, won’t work as well, at least in part due to the schedule impact of other holidays that weekend.

So just as we stretch ourselves as a people to reach for the sacred day, the day stretches to reach the sacred community. A Protogrove weaves itself together by making that public High Day available and accessible, and sometimes that does mean bending a bit so that the community can come together. I’d love to do perfectly timed rites — but it would mean ignoring the world we live in, and the needs of those whose work isn’t 8-5 M-F with three weeks off a year. I expect a larger turnout by planning for the 15th, and look forward to seeing many of the faces from last month again.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to work on completing those plans; some fool moved the equinox rite up.

*In case you ever meet Earrach, his name is pronounced Eric, not Ear-ache. Thankfully, I figured this out before he figured out I was trying to address him.