So, instead of our traditional invocations, Summer Solstice became "Storytime."
Generally, we don't have any issue with invocations getting the "point" across to our attendees, but we're also not out in so public a place where the folk have never heard of us before. So instead of going all "high church" on the folk who might stumble into our ritual that morning (and I do mean "stumble". . . ComFest is known for its beer), I opted to go "children's story time" on them.
The night before the ritual, I sat down with my books and started looking for information about Sulis (the sun) and Taranis (the thunderer). I make no bones about the fact that we don't have a lot of actual fact to go on regarding Gaulish divinities, and so I often feel free to borrow liberally from what's available in the IE world. That night, it was A. A. MacDonnell's Vedic Mythology that got my attention.
Under Surya's entry, the sun in the Vedas, I found a small note: There is a story about how Indra stole the wheel of the sun's chariot.
I took this and began to work forward.
Here is the story I told:
The Stolen Wheel
It is said that long ago, when even the gods were young, Taranis, the Thunderer, saw Sulis, the Sun, bathing at dawn.
Each morning, Sulis would rise from the cosmic waters at the edge of the world. As she rose from the waters, she would blush deeply, and only a glimpse of her could be seen as she ascended into her chariot. No man was allowed to look upon her, for she was young and beautiful, untouched.
Once she had mounted her chariot, whose wheel is the sun, she would ride all day, the wheel shining brightly as it turned along the path, until she returned once again to her bath in the cosmic waters, the aquae sulis.
The god Taranis had heard of her beauty, and though he knew that it was not allowed, he went one morning to see her bathe. Cloaked in his stormclouds to hide his form, he went down to the waters' edge. Taranis was not subtle, however, and Sulis refused to leave the waters.
"Who is there?" she called out.
Thinking quickly, he disguised his voice. "It is I, Epona's handmaiden, come to see your horses."
"But there is nothing wrong with my horses," Sulis responded, puzzled.
"My Lady fears one may be lame. Let me check them while you prepare for your journey."
Sulis agreed, knowing now that it was no man, but a maiden who had come to visit her. As Taranis hid beneath his cloak of clouds, Sulis exited the waters. Instantly, he was struck with lust, and plotted to see more of her.
"How are my horses?" Sulis asked.
"They are fine, my dear," answered Taranis. "Now, be on your way."
And so Taranis watched in awe as she passed by him, wondering how he might see her, so beautiful and naked, again. She mounted the chariot, flicked her reins, and disappeared behind the bright, shining sun wheel.
Taranis knew he must see her again. To do this, he left and flew to the west, intent on stealing the wheel of the sun, for he could not look upon her while the wheel shone so brightly.
He set his ambush far away, placing his clouds in the sky in the west, knowing that she could only travel a fixed path. He waited until the afternoon, and then began to approach the chariot of the sun.
He cast wide his cloak of clouds, racing forth in his own thundering chariot, obscuring the light of Sulis by covering the wheel. He stole the wheel from the axle and hid it deep within the folds of his cloak, laughing peels of thunder at his cleverness.
But Sulis was no weak woman. She was far-seeing and knew things beyond earth, sea and sky. She knew her path, though the cloak of clouds was dark, and she called on the horses to follow it. As the horses pulled, she dismounted the chariot and lifted the axle on her own, carrying it forth, becoming bright herself in the process. Taranis was once again blinded, though this time it was with a beauty born of strength unexpected.
When Taranis saw this, he was in awe—so beautiful a goddess, and yet so strong in her own right. Ashamed, he averted his eyes, admitted the spying, and replaced the wheel. He set Sulis gently on her chariot, and began to ride his away.
As Sulis became once again visible in the daylight sky, and and the clouds receded, Taranis offered one final apology: he reflected the inner light of Sulis' beauty, and brought us the rainbow, the most magnificent display of fire in water.
Children of the earth, this is the story of the Wheel of the Sun, how the Thunderer stole it, and the beauty of his apology to an underestimated woman.
Some aspects of the story are common themes: the cross-dressing (though it's very muted) of the Thunder God; the image of Dawn as a maiden, blushing just in case anyone sees her; the world as bounded by waters on all sides; and the creation of a rainbow as a sort of promise are all things you find just about everywhere. I sort of riffed on those themes, not quite sure where the story would go, and found myself writing it mostly without pause from start to finish, not quite knowing how it would end, myself.
As I wrote the story above, I found myself writing from deep within my heart. Particularly at the forefront of my mind were some of my own relationships with very strong, beautiful women, and the feeling that sometimes, others forget that there's just so much more to them than a beautiful face.
In the end, the story is one part ancient mythology, one part creativity, and one part mythologizing the women I love so deeply because of their fathomless inner strengths. I would name them now, but I don't particularly want to embarrass them (or leave any of them out!). The central action of Sulis carrying the chariot, and her beauty being in her strength of character and knowledge of what is right, as well as its unexpected but true nature, is the key to this story, in my mind.
I loved telling the story in ritual. Getting the "Monty Python-esque falsetto" down for Taranis' hand-maiden alter-ego was something I tried to practice, but it came out so much better *in* ritual than outside of it that I have to call it Awen.
I particularly like the fact that it really went so well, and flowed so nicely. And, I hope, we'll find more of this sort of thing in our rituals, at least from time to time. It is good to praise the Kindreds with creativity and joy in our hearts, and it is good to let the folk know who these Kindreds really are.
Oh, and yeah, we got great omens :)