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.


I started this site separately, in part, to feed traffic to the main site for Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF.

Let’s try doing those searches I mentioned again…

If I search Google with state college” druid I don’t see Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF — but I do see another, related site in position 7.

Likewise, “state college” pagan doesn’t point to Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF — but that same related site is in position 9.

Which site would that be?

This one.

Maybe I should have just done this blog right on the PG site…or perhaps I’ll put together a thinly disguised post to help the situation.

Finding your group

Back a bit, Eric Sink wrote How would you reach YOU? It was about marketing software, but the same question is applicable to any small modern religious group, Pagan or otherwise.

For me, the fact Hemlock Vales is linked from ADF’s main site is enough, as I was interested in ADF after finding out about ADF through Isaac Bonewits’ website, which I learned about from, of all places, Steve Jackson Games when they republished Authentic Thaumaturgy.

But what if we assume a hypothetical Arthur who didn’t get that link set? How would he find Hemlock Vales?

A first answer would be Witchvox. And, indeed, Witchvox has an entry set up for Hemlock Vales Protogrove. Okay, let’s go further. Assume this hypothetical ur-Art doesn’t know about Witchvox.

Okay, let’s go to Google. Other search engines may be equally important, but Google is the most known/best-analyzed.

“state college” druid — click in three pages, don’t see anything relevant

“state college, pa” druid — The fifth link down will get them there via ADF’s main site. Not bad, not great.

It gets worse if you change out “druid” for “pagan”. But there is a bright spot: Try “penn state” or PSU with pagan…and you see the student group’s home page.

Perhaps I’ll ask them for a link.

And I’ll seek out other ways of improving my link-fu. (Let’s be honest, this blog is one of them.)

This is, of course, all about online marketing. What about offline? It seems harder in some ways, yet effort there can yield results. The easiest route is, obviously, word-of-mouth. I’ve had a number of referrals from the UU regulars of other UUs interested in finding a more Pagan-focused group locally. It hasn’t usually panned out…but it’s worthwhile. To get good word-of-mouth, though, requires a positive impression.

Another major offline option is flyers…which I think are best saved for later.

Location, location

I need to find another place to have Yule.

Wait, let’s back up. One of the reasons I felt truly secure starting a Protogrove was having an indoor location for cold weather with a nice, sliding payment scale — well, actually donations — at a local co-op market. I’m not exactly certain how much everyone else donated, but I think it was about $40 total per High Day.

Said co-op market went out of business in October. So, back to needing to find another place to have Yule.

One of the regular attendees is elderly, and does not deal well with the cold. So outside is out.

Other places I’ve used before have their own issues. The local UU fellowship seems to be full up with books for the annual “Book For Every Child” campaign during most of that time frame, though I need to pore over their schedule carefully to be sure there isn’t a convenient gap; the 22nd, which is the solstice proper, is free, but I know at least one regular would be unable to make it. There was an issue with scheduling when I rented the Friends’ School two years ago for Yule that disinclines me to return. Finally, there was the business function space I was able to get for free for Samhain — but I’m reluctant to risk using that favor up. I also only found out later from a mutual associate that the person who let me use it was more weirded out than they let on.

So, I need to locate an appropriately public and affordable space that can reasonably have a High Day celebration in it. This is the part of being a Grove Organizer I feel I’m worst at — but I know if I want Hemlock Vales to grow to be big and strong, I can’t shy away from it.

The Past Through Yesterday

I suppose I should say where we’ve been.

In February 2005, I and two other ADF-interested individuals in State College gathered to hold an Imbolc rite. I didn’t write it. The interest of the two others waned for various reasons, but I continued to perform personal rites for each holiday.

In August 2005, I held my first semi-open ADF-style rite, mentioned on local email lists. After that, I continued holding locally advertised ADF-style rites for the High Days as possible, though (ironically) it was hardest to get people together for Samhain and Beltane. Attendance varied widely as I progressed; I could never predict how many would turn out. A few definite regulars started attending: a UU-affiliated Discordian and a UU-friend of his, along with a few other semi-regulars. Many others attended one or two rites and went on their own way. I was fine with this, because I was finding a joy in offering an outlet for public honoring of the Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Godden. As I proceeded, I began to develop my own particular takes on some sections of ritual and my understanding of the ADF Core Order of Ritual improved.

Eventually, I realized I was doing a large chunk of the work of a Protogrove. Or, at least it felt that way. So in March 2007, after a number of pushes by humans and other people, I finally submitted a Grove Organizer’s survey. I hoped that formal recognition and a name would help create an “If you build it, they will come.”

I knew it was a mistake, letting my officemate use that movie as a test disc for months on end.

For you see, there’s interest — a fair bit of it — but turnout hovers at 4 per High Day. Including myself. The two regulars, though very supportive (spiritually and materially), aren’t interested in joining — they are the Pagans public holiday ritual is meant to serve. One of the semi-regulars likes the rites, but lives in Pittsburgh (I have mentioned Sassasfras Grove). Another would like to come more often, but works a fiendishly incompatible schedule.

So now I’m here to look at what I’ve been doing, adjust and adapt. I’m certain I’ll touch on other aspects of the past as I go — but right now, this is the situation.

Starting up

Sometimes, it’s as much a matter of knowing when to start as when to stop. This blog is about bringing Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF into existence.

It doesn’t take much to start an Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF) Protogrove, you see.

You need to join ADF.

You need a PO Box.

You need six months to pass.

You need to not be a complete ogre.

You need to fill out a Grove Organizer Survey.

But this level of “starting” isn’t the same as actually founding a Protogrove.

That difference is what this blog is about.