What is the Autumnal Equinox?
The Autumnal Equinox is the beginning of the dark half of the year. The winter is menacing in the distance, but still a few days are warm and relaxing. The trees enter their earliest colours, beginning to paint the world bright oranges, yellows, and reds. Between now and Samhain we will see the colours become more vibrant, full of their last gasps of life, living as they have never lived before, until they finally fall from the trees to be crunched underfoot on cold days.
We return to our studies or our work, and ensure that we have planned well for the winter. The time of frost and naked trees is coming, and we must be ready.
Three Cranes Grove, ADF, was born on this day. Of all our High Days, we take special care in working this rite, in planning it out. We celebrate our inception, when two Druids who had never worked a ritual together before stood out on a cold night, struggling to read the familiar yet strange words in the darkness, only a fire to light their way.
On that night, mistakes were made. Names were mis-pronounced. We laughed at each other, and joked about our own unpreparedness. We swore that we would always have flashlights in the ritual kit, and we do to this day.
In the end, the rite was good. After the rite, we both stood, unsure of quite what to do. Finally, we smiled, and we sat down to eat together, knowing that the Kindred had been worshipped and were pleased with our efforts.
From two, we have grown. We have gone from a struggling pair of Druids to a group of dedicated people forming the Grove we are now. Often, I am amazed at the dedication our members show to the Grove. With each new member, the Grove has been able to serve the Kindred with more dedication and love, and we have opened doors to stronger connections with the Shining Ones, sometimes including deities we would never have imagined ourselves connected to.
When we returned to the Autumnal Equinox the next year, our Grove was 7 members strong. We decided to commemorate our Grove's birth, the beginning of public ritual. As an ADF Grove is defined by public ritual, the rite should be a re-definition of who we are, built upon the past and looking to the future, seeking omens that further our development and remind us of who we are.
Our rite this time was more developed, more our own. Elements of the Three Cranes liturgical format were making their debut. No longer was our ritual a list of words repeated and forgotten; now, the rite was something we had created as a Grove. The rite held a little bit of all of us inside it, and a little bit of it was inside us all. We began a new tradition, seeking to put down the Grove's history in verse. We committed ourselves to creating a new stanza each year, one that would reflect the manner in which the Grove grew, one that would show those who came after us, our children and thiers, that the Grove had a living history, not a stagnant and forgettable one.
We reflected on the Grove's original purpose, and it rang true to us again as it did to the first rite. We had chosen the wording because it reflected what we could do in the future, but it grounded us, reminding us of the nourishment that we needed to provide in order to succeed. That nourishment is still required today, and we reflect on it as we did in the past. We called upon creativity, leadership, wisdom, and faith; these things still light our way. We know that the Grove may only fail us if we fail it, and so we supply it consistently with these things, and it grows stronger by the day.
For the first two rites, we called upon the God of the Tribe, Teutates. Teutates is a title, not a name: "the God of my people". Other deities have stepped forward, sometimes quietly, sometimes not so, and laid claim to that title. It is possible that we might never know the true bearer, but we have thought about it often, and the Identity always seems clearer at this time of year. At an Autumnal Equinox rite in the next few years (it need not be this rite), I would like to install a Grove Patron. If we do that, then this is the rite we must do it in.
To watch this Grove grow and change has been one of my life's greatest pleasures. It is to the other members of this Grove that I owe most of the credit, though. It is they who water it when I forget, they who tend it and weed it when I fall behind. Their pride in this Grove provides the sun that grows the trees, and their work provides the sweat that waters it. All this is done with faith in the Goddesses and Gods, a faith that shines brighter and stronger than any I have ever seen. I am proud to be a part of it.
So as we draw into the Autumn of the year, we remember that this is not a time of starvation and death, but one of bounty and life, where the earth gives of itself once more, and we reap the rewards of our hard work. It is an amazing time of year, and I am always deeply moved when it arrives.