Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Solstice Ritual

I arrived just before the pre-ritual briefing. There were nine people there, and adding me rounded us out to a nice, even ten. It was a beautiful day. The sky was promising eventual rain, but our spirits were high and no amount of rain was going to keep us from the task at hand. Besides, the gods don’t care if it’s raining!

During the briefing, it became clear that this was going to be a group-effort, with everyone taking responsibility for various parts of the rite. Like the Grove member’s said, today’s ritual was apparently for the family. This is significant to me. I have not belonged to a religious group, or affiliated with, or worshiped along side of, or done much more than practice my solitary faith in several years. The idea that I was accepted on this day as family, and they meant it, was deeply moving to me.

We did the Outdweller’s Offering just off the path and processed in about twenty-five feet. Not far, but far enough to get the mood established. The attunements and songs chosen for the day helped to remind us that summer is a joyful time, a time of smiling, laughter and happiness. We could hear the children playing on the playground and the soft murmur of the other picnickers. I had a difficult time focusing during the meditations, but I did enjoy communing with the sounds of the season, and my mind was eventually set properly for the task at hand.

The opening of the gates was not as disorienting as at Beltane, since I was prepared for it, but it did fill me with reverence for meeting with the Kindred. It was comforting, like being at prayer at home. I made my first fire offering to the Kindred. After a long history of fear of fire, and two house fires in my immediate friend’s and family member’s homes—one two weeks ago in which everything was lost, I think it went well. I was not aware that pouring wine onto a fire is the equivalent of pouring water, which makes me feel silly for choosing it was my offering (or for not offering it in the right place), but since there was little chance of it going up (like Michael’s offering) it was a good choice for me. (Maybe at Lughnassadh I will try whiskey—or just pour my wine by the tree.)

Our Deity of the occasion was Belenos, the God of Heavenly Light. I think that in the future I will make a point of knowing who our Deity is before I arrive at ritual, so that I may be prepared to offer to Him (or Her) as well. Though I did not bring an offering for Him, the prayers and words lifted to Him during the Main offering were inspiring.

When we moved to the omens, I was not surprised that our offerings were not accepted. (Knight of Spears: No.) I have been having some troubles in this area, and I was almost expecting this. I misplaced the mini pinecone I found on a hike that I was planning on offering to my patron, which is not that big of a deal…unless you (I) do not make any other offerings in its stead. Several of us made additional offerings; I poured an additional quantity of wine around the fire for Persephone. Our offerings were then accepted. (Three of Spears: Yes.)
The messages the gods have for us in return indicate a time of celebration, growth and merriment. (Four of Spears: High spirits, recognition and celebration are all at hand. Now is the time to move on to a new phase of growth. Much will be gained from the upcoming experiences that will bring about a stronger sense of community and closeness to others. Forge ahead with confidence and goodwill.)

And finally, the Kindred have asked from us in return, or in this instance I prefer to think of it as our homework, is to let go of a painful past/past sorrows. (Five of Swords, Reversed: a time where the focus is too broad and details are being missed. It's important to step back and examine everything that is happening, and to recognize the little things [including the things that are holding us back.] Pay attention to detail.)

I did note that the interpretations from my deck are a little different than the ones we received during the omen. They are different decks, and omens are read as is appropriate for the Grove at the time, even if not in the strictest sense of the card’s meaning. I feel the interpretations of the omens were entirely correct, and I trust that I heard what was meant for my ears and spirit to hear. I have some terribly painful sorrows from the past, especially in matters of religion. It has been a difficult journey, but I feel that these omens are telling us that it is time to let the past be the past and move ahead into the future. I have also gathered that others present received similar internal messages.

We ended the rite beautifully, and shared a meal by the fire. It was a very nice evening, and I have made many new friends. I am beginning to really feel that I belong in this Grove.

On a personal note, I finally inquired about becoming a friend of the Grove. I am nervous about moving away from solitary practice, but I am grateful for what I have learned and for the ability to practice on my own. Here’s why:

Once I was home, I found the pine cone. It was on the counter with the dirty dishes, of all places. It did not belong to me, so I felt that I could not keep it. I held an additional full ritual the following day instead of just doing my daily devotional. I have added a Trigaranus representation to my shrine, and I am working with him as my gatekeeper. Opening the gates went very well. I seem to have found a gatekeeper that is willing to work with me. I welcomed the Kindred from my heart and not with a written work this time. I spent a little time just talking to them. For my offering, I lit the pinecone in the sand where I usually burn my cones, and it burned just like incense with no flame and a nice pine-scented smoke. It took a while to burn, and per my last conversation with Persephone, I waited patiently and even began to sing while it burned. The words they gave me in song are as follows:
Smoke and Fire and Well and Tree
I give my love to the Kindred, Three.
Ancestors, Nature Spirits, Mighty Sidhe,
Shining Ones—Accept my offering!
I have not gotten to the place where I lose track of time yet, but I think this was a step in the right direction.

I took omens, and this is what I have learned:
1. Was my offering accepted? Six of Swords (Science, Focus) and Four of Disks (Power). (These cards stuck together, so I have kept them both)—Yes.
2. Gifts the Kindred Offer in Return? Nine of Swords (Cruelty)-Needs Dignified-Adjustment (VIII-Justice) Anxiety is clouding the truth and stifling creativity, but balance, honesty and harmony are there. Use wisdom in decision making and be sure to weigh options carefully. In short, I interpret this as a sign that I need to boost my confidence. I must not be failing as badly as I think I am!
3. Further Needs the Kindred have of me? Knight of Disks—Two of Disks: Outward emulation. Move forward with effectiveness and grace with head held high. Do not be ashamed of what you do. Remember for whom you do it. But, be flexible. Pagan ritual is in no way meant to be inflexible and absent of spontaneity. Join in this spirit and have fun! (The King of Pentacles is a card that typically just represents me. I read here that this card means they need me to be me. I threw the second card because this card has been the “me” card so many times that I needed more information.)

I regret that I closed the gate before I dismissed the Kindred, which I am assuming is like slamming a door in their faces. I feel immensely guilty about that. I almost opened them back up to apologize, but I decided to make another attempt this week with an apologetic offering in addition to the main offering. I hope they are understanding of us new ones for things like this!

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