On Thursday of Wellspring, I arrived later than anticipated after a hell of a morning, trying to get started. On the way up, though, I listened to a setlist from a guest DJ on CD101, who was from Chicago, and I could tell immediately that he, too, was a Q101 fan. I recognized the choices as solid ones from that radio station back a couple of years ago. Then, it was on to listening to Buffett for the next few hours, and by the time I was just into Cleveland, I realized that I hadn't been that relaxed in a very long time. I was going back to ADF, to see the people I love and know, and I wasn't worried about anything.
It would be five days before I would think about work again, before I would wonder about how the house was, and before I would even think about so many problems in my life.
I got in and set up camp with the Grove and made the rounds to say "hi" to folks I was rather sorely missing. There were (and are) a few gaps, but the gaps that were left never sting badly when you simply prefer to count the ones that are all filled in. I was quite happy to have the tent all to myself for a change (I'd been looking forward to that since Trillium, not because my previous tent partner had been in any way undesirable, but because I was strangely feeling like being on my own for a bit: it's why I didn't want to offer my tent up to anyone else for the full weekend).
I suppose we all have a solitary streak, though. :)
According to the Wellspring schedule (yes, I was surprised, too!), every sunset had a ritual or something else on it. This caused me some quandary, because I have sunrise and sunset devotions to do. My eventual conclusion was that if I was in ritual, I wouldn't have to do a sunset devotion.
Well, I guess that's the theory. . . It's certainly not how it panned out.
Before the opening ritual, I had turned off my cell phone. For those who are unaware, my cell phone has an alarm that I set twice a day, once for sunrise and once for sunset. I figured that, being in ritual, I didn't need the notification, so I flipped it off. In the middle of the opening ritual, though, Ratri wanted her promised ritual.
My cell phone alarm started to sound.
Fortunately, it wasn't at a critical point, and cell phones rarely cause issues in rituals, but I knew what I was supposed to do at that point, and so I stepped quietly out of the circle, thinking thoughts of, "Just how proper is it to leave one rite to do another one?" and said my evening prayer.
I made sure to apologize profusely to Stonecreed, who all thought that it was rather amusing.
That night, I stayed up and chatted with folk for a while, and then eventually found my way to my bed. It was a nice night and I wasn't cold at all.
I woke up Friday morning, and went up to do my morning devotional. I was sidetracked on my way up by a couple of people who had just not bothered to go to bed, and was mostly talked at about how men perceive women. I re-kindled the fire for druidkirk's offerings, which gave me the first real notion that, "Hell, lighting a fire at dawn is doable!" This may become a real common thing for me soon, once the logistics are figured out.
Amanda appeared in camp that morning, after we'd just been talking about how Flip couldn't make it but a couple of people from his Grove were coming anyway, and I managed to get a "hello" out before distractions occurred left and right.
I went into town around 9 AM to get cash for the festival registration (I drained my account on gas and Brushwood's camping fees, and needed Friday's paycheck to get me officially registered with SCG), and saw an amazingly weird truck that was designed for irrigation (I play of fun game of, "WTF is that piece of farm equipment for?" often).
Anyway, I got back to camp and sat down to work out my workshop for later that day. The topic was "Cultivating the Fire of Piety", which some of you may recognize as the title of the book I'm working on. The fact that I'm far enough along to do a workshop on part of it might tell you how close I am to finishing.
After that workshop, I was tapped to do something for the ADF Unity Rite: the Outdwellers. And, since I hadn't done this particular invocation in two years, I decided to run it in this ritual. Here is the complete text of my favourite offertory prayer ever:
Redhead Hottie InvocationEris, Baby, Redhead Hottie,
Drinkin' chai and sippin' latte:
Take your children back to Night
And dance until the morning light.
Process from here, or maybe loiter
Or party here outside the border.
Drink and dance and have some fun
And argue who's the Prettiest One.
One of these days, I should annotate that with why I wrote what I did. :) Maybe a linear-type footnote. I was fortunate that druid_medb was willing to let me dig through old Oak Leaves issues to get it, because I didn't bring it with me, though I did discover that I knew most of it by heart, which surprised me.
I went back into town to see if I could find an Golden Delicious Apple, but, alas, Sherman, NY, does not stock this particular item. So I ended up coming back empty handed. Fortunately, while at the store (buying "wine product" for juxtaposem, so it wasn't a total bust), seamus_mcnasty suggested hotdogs, and I had those in the cooler already!
So, I got back, got ready for ritual, and found myself wandering around with my weiner in hand for about a half hour before the ritual.
We almost used my "Are We There Yet?" chant. It was suggested and seconded and thirded (and beyond) very quickly, but I'm a sucker for letting kids make liturgical decisions, and one kid wanted to do "We Approach the Sacred Grove", and Dafydd was leaning that way anyway, so that's what we chose.
Amusingly, I think that the "Are We There Yet?" chant has had its desired effect: not only were people actually, really enthusiastic about it, but people wanted something more creative (and still simple) than the usual things we have.
Honestly, that made me feel very good. After all the garbage I went through because I was audacious enough to suggest that our chants either needed to get a life or else admit what they were, this was very, very nice.
I think I did a wonderful job on the Outdweller's offering, personally, though I had to make a split-second liturgical decision when the front half of the line stopped the processional song at the right time and the back half broke into another verse.
I decided not to wait for the back half to figure out what was going on. . . I was placating Outdwellers anyway, right? They'd figure it out as soon as I started shouting the above rhyme.
And so I did. And they stopped. Well, they stopped at some point. I love to read the rhyme so much that I ended up getting lost in it, and damn if I didn't just block them all out while I focused on the Outdwellers. For me, the offering was very personally effective.
The ritual itself went very well. . . It was one of the most powerful I've been to in a very long time, and it was more powerful than nearly all the ones I've actually had a part in. I realized that night that I love doing ritual with our Clergy. This would come into play again this weekend, too.
I went to bed early that night as well, because I just couldn't stay up so late. Then, Saturday dawned with a bit of rain.
Saturday morning, I woke with a drizzle on the tent, but it had cleared up by the time dawn arrived. I did my morning devotion, and then I hung out for a while, observing who was up that morning. Interestingly, until about 8 AM, the only people I saw were ADF Priests, bustling here and there looking for coffee or muttering incoherent morning ramblings.
By 9:30 AM, we had our first section of the Clergy Retreat up and ready to go, and we were talking with the members about the Dedicant Path and all the things we want to do for and with it. We had a lot of discussion, and I think it came out well. I think that the issues addressed on ADF-Liturgists were fixed, too.
During this, valkyrvolva and I caused a scene when she nearly tackled me with a hug. Let me tell you, I think that was the best hug I've ever gotten, for sheer enthusiasm points! I nearly ended up on the ground with her on top. . . which we later agreed would have probably been improper for a workshop on the DP.
Immediately following that, the Clergy adjourned to the lounge and we locked the doors. We discussed the Clergy Order Work and a few other things, but it was good to sit down and get away with these folks again. We also set a date for our next Clergy Retreat. I'm looking forward to it quite a bit now.
We broke for lunch with the Bardic Guild, and then I sat in for a while on druidkirk's "Nature of Sacrifice" workshop, which I don't think I'll get tired of hearing.
Following that, it was back to the Clergy Retreat, and we discussed the Initiate Path with the members there, too. We got a lot of good ideas, and druidkirk and I agreed to finish it as soon as humanly possible, and to go through this shindig together if we can. We did, though, decide that the Initiate Path's actual Initiation portion can, indeed, be failed. More on that is forthcoming.
After that, it was off to the Nemeton for the real Work that the Clergy have been participating in. Some may recall the first tad of what this was about, but the rest really can't be talked about, just experienced.
Saturday night was the Bardic Circle. . . More like a Bardic concert. I requested "Ordinary Day" from Ian and Sue, and Ian hinted that they may not sing it all that much longer, so get it while you can! I was, though, able to get my sunset devotional in at the BC, because there was no need for me to turn off my cell alarm, and there was nothing I couldn't get away from. I spent most of the circle bugging Illious at the mead table and chatting with folks, especially druidkirk. Both of us really, really want to focus on getting something done in the Initiate Path, and we want it to be good, so we entered a very deep and very long conversation about it, probably boring everyone within earshot to tears!
That night, I went up to the hot tub with Amanda and we hung out with two or three other people for a couple of hours. We finally went to bed around 3 AM, and as I was drifting off to sleep, I caught a conversation between smithing_chick and Ian about how very unlikely I was to take advantage of any nubile young women around me, using various amusing examples of previous situations I've found myself in. I was amused by this, and I stuck my head out of my tent to shout agreement (trying not to wake folks around me), but apparently they didn't hear me.
By Sunday morning, I was moving with slightly less enthusiasm in the mornings. Too many late nights and not enough space between bed and dawn was starting to get to me. But, I managed to muster the wakefulness to do my dawn devotional, even if I didn't manage to actually get up and stay up.
I did, however, move out for the ADF Annual Meeting, where Raven and I had agreed that we would do our part to keep the meeting short.
I just wish anyone else had the same thought. In the end, the whole thing ended up rather poorly organized, with some folks going up multiple times for multiple reports (I'd have preferred reports mashed together). Fortunately, I got to sit next to valkyrvolva, and she and I determined (yet again) that we should never, ever sit together at workshops or anything else at an ADF event. We're bad influences on each other.
I expect to sit next to her next time we attend a festival together, anyway. Besides, her other half had an amazing book: "Baby's First Mythos", which I read cover-to-cover in the middle of the Annual Meeting.
Immediately after the AM, I ran up the hill to the Hospitality Tent for the Council of Senior Druids meeting, where Flip "attended" via phone (of all things, he'd sent his cell phone with Amanda instead of just trusting that someone would have one on hand). I ended up running most of the meeting, because we have some major changes to make in the CoSD bylaws to fix things that accidentally got left out with recent changes. These changes won't affect the way Groves function, they'll just be us putting stuff back in that was there in the first place.
I spent most of my afternoon waiting for the Clergy Council to meet yet again: we still needed to go over the Clergy Order Work we'd done the night before, and I'm unhappy to say that when we finally got around to it, we had to rush through. Still, though, we got to share our experiences, and that's a vital portion of this Work.
After that, several people asked if I'd eaten as we were preparing for the Sumbel. And I mean, at least 5 people asked me, some more than once. It was kinda funny, actually. I'm not sure why people thought I hadn't eaten (aside from the fact that I'm skinnier now than I was at Trillium), but I assure everyone that I knew I was going to be drinking, and I had eaten.
We lined up for the Sumbel right at sunset, and so for a third night out of four, I didn't manage to do a sunset devotional. We all filed in, and I was happy to see the Solitaries called first, and honestly, the Sumbel went well for a while.
The first round of toasts to the Ancestors, then Nature Spirits, and then Shining Ones went well. It was one person per table who got to toast to each, and I was selected to do the Shining Ones. Here's my basic toast:
Within or without,
bringing us the mead of inspiration,
gazing upon us as friends and family and lovers.
Hail the Shining Ones!
druidkirk muttered "Yes, Lovers," under his breath as he moved to the next table. . . I admit, I was hoping he'd challenge me on that, because I had the Rgvedic passage handy so I could cite my sources: RV I.30.20: "What mortal do you enjoy, O immortal Dawn? Where do you love? To whom, O radiant, do you go?"
Omens were then taken, and they were drawn by Emerald, who pulled from the Major Arcana of the Tarot.
The Spirits of Nature offered us the Star: shining within, alchemy within, knowing, magic created, harmony.
The Ancestors offered us the Sun: lessons from them, shining without, shining into the world, radiating stories and knowing.
The Deities offered us the Moon: wisdom and knowledge of the gods beneath the surface of our unconscious selves, signs that are not always obvious, and asking that we be open to the whispers on the winds.
In all, a very good omen: we were given many things from the world and cosmos.
Then it came time for "Toasting, Boasting, and Oathing". Poor ralmathon didn't quite have time to "gather the courage he wanted," but he still performed admirably when he slipped a ring on druid_medb's finger.
I was fortunately at the second table, and when I stood to give my toast, I hadn't had much to drink yet: I was perfectly sober at this point, and I knew what I wanted to do. Here's my toast:
Every quarter, each Grove fills out a quarterly report. Caryn probably knows mine is usually rather late. But there is a space on these reports for "other business".
When I look at this space, there is only one thing that I can think to put there: my officers. tanrinia, seamus_mcnasty, and romandruid are here tonight.
Without my officers, I could not do this. I thank them from the bottom of my heart, they deserve this toast.
To them, the officers fo Three Cranes! I say that they have made this Grove what it is today. Hail the Officers of Three Cranes!
I was thinking, at the time, of all my past officers, and even their occasional stand ins. They're amazing folk, really, and a survey through our quarterly reports will show that I do my best to remember them and show that I appreciate their work to the rest of ADF. These reports may not be widely published (and sometimes I'm in a hurry to finish them and so I skip the "other" field, though I try not to do that), but it's one small thing I can do for these people who make this Grove so viable, and with whom I simply could never manage to lead this Grove without.
For a while, the Sumbel went pretty well, but it ended up taking a total of five and a half hours (not including the setup, which stretched it into the 6 hour mark), and as time went on, people got longer winded, and drunker, and the focus started to get lost.
Probably the coolest thing about the Sumbel was the mist that rolled into the ritual space. We were literally standing in mists, and wisps of the mist could, at times, be seen no more than five feet from us, and would occasionally slip between me and the other side of the picnic table.
You can see the misty progression, left to right.
All those taking photos | Fox gives an oath | The mist in the Sumbel
The Sumbel format has some problems (first and foremost being that there's nothing clearly stated that what you're drinking doesn't need to be alcoholic), our desire to provide complete expression has overridden our sense of ritual timing (we need to limit to "two out of three" of "toasts, oaths, or boasts", and tell people to only do one of each), and an incomplete understanding of the magic that this ritual weaves. I think a more complete pre-ritual briefing would be a killer idea.
Our Grove was also pulled away just as the part I was hoping to see, Sassafras Grove's history (I pray someone got that on tape), in order to give a hand to a member of another Grove who had had a bit too much to drink (not surprising with 5 hours of continual drinking at that point), but whose Grove wasn't helping her for some reason. We got her into bed, and then I came back just in time for the closing of the ritual.
After the Sumbel, I did a bit of socializing, which began with Ian touting my work in ADF to Isaac and Fox, the two previous Archdruids, and Isaac shouting at me, "You troublemaker you!"
I believe Isaac paid me the highest compliment ever with that exclamation.
But I felt rather embarrassed by the whole situation, I admit. I don't do this stuff for compliments or even recognition, and I don't really know how to react to it all. So I tried to be gracious and thankful (because I am both), but I don't know how well I came off like that. But I admit, I really did appreciate Ian's very, very kind words about my work in ADF. It meant a lot to me.
By the end of it, it was a hell of a night, and all I wanted to do was go to bed. I invited Amanda to stay with me since it was a hell of a walk back to her camp (probably a good quarter mile, actually), and I certainly wasn't going to walk with her if I could avoid it, and my tent really was "right there".
On Monday morning, I got up and did my sunrise devotion, and then I took a short walk, and then I went right back to bed. I needed more sleep before I got up in the morning, because I was supposed to be filmed that day! ADF is going to put me on the YouTubes!
Anyway, I slept through the Mother Grove meeting for all the obvious reasons, and I rolled out just in time for the closing ritual. This rite was quick, simple, and full of the hugs and love I knew it would be.
After that, Sue, Caryn, and I started talking about our little three-person ritual. I was fully prepared to do ritual in my "ritual whites", and so I had what I've taken to calling my "ritual under-whites" on which most people point at with a bit of laughter, saying that I look like an Amish boy (see pic at right for me in them). While they're absolutely correct, I do look like an Amish boy with a zipper fly, I have to point out that it's just practical and, quite simply, the best option for what I wear as a robe. My ritual robe is completely see-through, even if it's not wet, and a freak thunderstorm in a rite would probably get me thrown in jail for exposure.
In the end, I just deal with the laughs, because they're not meant to actually laugh at me. Or at least that's what I tell myself :) (and no, I wasn't wearing my hat at the time).
I expect that we achieved the look we were going for, though: with Sue in her tie-dye and Caryn in her fringed t-shirt, we looked very much like we were a hippie, a biker, and an Amish boy doing Druid ritual. Well, we wanted to show that people from different walks of life and different life experiences can just come together for a rite, and damn if the way we were dressed didn't totally do that!
We did a short run-through of our ritual, and then did it again with the camera on. It almost made it as one take, but I forgot, of all things, the very last line of the ritual. *rolls eyes* Fortunately, a car drove by in the background, so we had to re-tape that line anyway.
The gate opening we did was good and solid and very, very excellent, I thought. While always aware of the camera, I still found that we were doing a completely active ritual, and I think that this is because we didn't script it at all, just made sure that we all knew what was going on, and then we just did what we would usually do.
It was one of the best rites I've ever done.
I hung around a few hours, dropped my completely dry tent, snapped a couple of pictures, and then drove back, completely satisfied with my festival experience.
The last person I saw from Wellspring was Brian, who passed me just north of Columbus on I-71 while I was fumbling around to dig out my altar for my sunset ritual. (Yes, I sometimes do my sunset ritual while driving. Sue me.) :) I made it back to Columbus around 9 PM on Monday night, feelin' damn good.
Miss you all, all over again.