Monday, August 23, 2010

One Girl's Festival Review.

Upon returning from this year's Summerland Festival, I must say that I am rather changed internally. Leading up to the festival with preparation for Isaac Bonewits' Memorial Service, I should have known I was in for something big. Not only did I have the privilege of joining the Bards for the Memorial, but also of  serving as Bard for the Sumble and for the Unity Rite--as well as a performance spot on Saturday night! I was one tired Bard on Sunday morning, but I still had enough left in me to join in the singing while we made breakfast for the rest of the camp.
Summerland 2010 will henceforth be known as the festival at which I began to internally believe that I am a functional ADF Bard. 

I spoke with several folks who were trying to figure out why I am so "overly modest" in terms of musical ability. After much thought, I think that there are several reasons for this. Primarily, I have always been a comparatively lower-caliber musician among my musician friends. Many of them are semi-professionals who play for pay. I tend to look forward to where I am going without recognizing how far I have come. I look to them for motivation when the learning gets hard, but I've ignored the hindsight that shows that I have already learned a lot. I've never really believed in myself, and that held me back quite a bit. I realize there are still a bazillion people better than me, but that doesn't mean I don't have any talent of worth. It just means I have more to learn, and I always will.

Another factor is my innate desire to play and sing and to try to involve others in that activity. The sheer joy I receive when I hear other people singing a song that I wrote is almost indescribable. It's previously never felt like work, and I've always viewed performing at a 3CG function as them allowing me to play because of the depth of my desire to do it. It feels like them providing a service to me in the form of an outlet. The Cranekin are my family, and they love me and want me to be happy. They are uplifting and supportive, and I think the word "family" has made me infer that they support me and compliment me because it's their job. At Summerland, I was asked to "serve as a Bard" in a way that made me have an epiphany (ha). There is a big internal difference between feeling like you are being placated and feeling like you are being called on for service. Seamus reminded me that receiving joy from the work doesn't mean it is not service. What more reward can there be than enjoying the work? (I can almost hear half of you shaking your heads and saying, "It's about time!")

Much like at Dublin Irish Festival, I was pushed HARD as a Bard. I'm not used to it being so much work, and in some sick and masochistic way, the fact that it wasn't easy made me enjoy it even more. When someone says, "Do this right now," and I find that I actually can, my heart fills enough to make my eyes water. I have much to process from this festival. There will be more posting!
There were many opportunities for conversation and much revelry to be had around the nightly fire circles. One of my favorite memories is from Friday evening. You see, after the Sumble, there were several drummers around the fire, but no Ian to lead them. I asked where he was, and I was told he was down at the dining hall where the keg was. We devised a plan, and a minion and I took the wagon to the dining hall where I pronounced: "I have come to collect the keg. Ian, if you are not at the drum circle in ten minutes, I'm bringing the wagon back for you!" When we put the keg on the wagon, Rb jumped in and tried to save it!  Eventually, as was likely to happen, all the Drunken Druids followed me, as though I were the Pied Piper. Much hilarity ensued, and a good time was had by all.
We Ordained a Chaos Magician. It rained from the moment he was called forth to the moment the stole was placed around his neck, after which the sun began to shine. Since I was asked to sing for him in the middle of all of that, I totally get to say that I was singing in the rain. This is one of those incidents that won't be forgotten for many, many years to come.
Saturday evening, which was rough for everyone, I forgot the lyrics to a song I spent most of the weekend teaching to other folks so they could sing with me from the audience. I asked if anyone knew the next line, and then all of a sudden, one "Rev Enchantingly Direct" gave me a giant kiss on the lips. I asked "How the heck is that supposed to help me focus?" He replied quite simply, "It helped me!" Priceless and very funny. Bardic Minion came forward with sheet music, because I am that kind of Bard. Song was played, roughly, but I made it through. I would feel bad had Awen not had several mishaps during their set as well. Did I mention we Ordained A Chaos Magician?! So much fun, and so many good memories!
Finally, there were folks who were either not present that were greatly missed or present for too short a time for me. I carry you in my heart.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

So much to do, so little time!

As you probably are aware by now, our beloved "Esteamed Flounder" of Ar nDraoicht Fein, Isaac Bonewits has passed. A Memorial service is being held in his honor this Thursday at the Summerlands Festival in Ohio.
What you probably do not know is that *I* have been asked to sing with the Bards for the event! The event will be professionally recorded by a hired videographer, and I have been asked to sing the song Isaac himself requested be performed at his service with Liafal and Emerald, our Bard Laureates, past and present. I am surprised and humbled and awed and inspired and about thirty other things right now.
But, I am also very busy. I need to learn all of the songs to performance level, one of which is in Irish Gaelic, by Thursday. I think more than anything that I am excited by this project. I am not often called upon for much as an ADF Bard, and this is by far the biggest challenge that I have faced. I am pleased to say with confidence that I am rising to the occasion. I will, of course, post links to the YouTube videos that will be up very soon after the actual service!
In similar news, we had to cancel the Bardic Night at Summerlands due to the Memorial service, but the festival organizer has emailed me and the Bard Laureates listed above to ask us to prepare and perform a short set each before the main entertainment on Saturday!
May the Kindred see the joy, love and gratitude I have in my heart for these wonderful gifts and blessings. Hail!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lughnasadh at the Dublin Irish Festival

On the bright, sunny morning of August 8, 2010, I had the privilege of participating in the first (annual?) Three Cranes Grove, ADF, rite to be held at the Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, OH: The second largest Irish festival in the world. Weeks of careful planning and practice led up to a very fine performance by all celebrants.

We began with music, which was wonderful for this bard. I played several original pieces during what I presumed to be a soundcheck (ha). It started out that way, but the Sound Engineer, Tom, was enjoying the music, so he never stopped me. It was a treat for me to play pagan songs for a mixed crowd, sending strength and beginning the threads of the community bond for this ritual between pagans and non-pagans alike. What a beautiful way to begin a service! (I think we should start including more "prelude" bardic pieces in our future rites. It would be a great way to introduce more music to the folk, as well.)

Two Powers attunement was effective and well delivered. Our Deity of the occasion was Tailtiu, and Chronarchy told her story as our main offering, which went very well.

The Ogham Omens were as follows:

What Blessing do the Ancestors have for us? Duir, The Oak....Strength
What Blessings do the Spirits of Nature Have for us? Oir ,The Spindle Tree.... The Blessings of our home and Hearth

What Blessings do the Shining Ones have for us? Ur, The Heather The Blessings of the Homelands

Taken together these might suggest "The Kindreds remind us that true and lasting Strength flows from the sacred Home, its Hearth and from the sacred soil of our Homelands"

Shawneen/Grove Seer
2010 Dublin Irish Festival Lughnasadh

In all, there were at least 327 participants counted, making this our largest rite by far. Samhain 2009, our first rite with 100+ participants is now a distant second. My, how far we have come in the short time that I have been a Crane!

On a personal level, this was the first rite that I really had to "work." We have a large grove, and the parts are usually spread out over a large number of people with the magical acts performed by the Priests and Elders of the Grove. As Grove Bard, I probably participate on a similar level to a Grove Elder, but the chanting work done is not typically very taxing, and the songs are pretty spread out. For this rite, however, I began with several songs designed (by me) to showcase my voice (read: pagan power ballads). Amidst the chaos of the greater festival, I put into practice during this rite those words I keep repeating, that music is a ritual device--and I used it to it's full potential. By the time we were through the chant for the waters about three times, I felt the draining effect of long-term expending. I was grateful for my training then, because I was able to send my roots down and draw deeply from the Earth to carry me through the next 14 times through. It was awesome. I feel very proud of myself for finally "getting it," this whole business of allowing the Kindred to work through me in a magical act without losing control. I don't know if I can do it without the music, but this is a big step for me.

I crested the 24-hour mark sans sleep toward the end of the rite. Needless to say when I arrived home, I kissed my kids and went straight to a peaceful sleep. And I woke up full.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Finding Normalcy

The past two weeks have rocked my world beyond recognition. Losing my Mother-in-law is so alien to me that I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that she is gone. I was alone with her when she passed. She woke up for a bit, and I was able to talk to her, though she was beyond speech herself. She passed at 3:30 am on July 31, her deceased brother's birthday. 

We had a memorial service rather than a funeral. She was so sick and had retained so much water that it was best to have her cremated and hold a service without showcasing her body. It was a short but kind service. The pastor was Lutheran, and I was able to use the moment to show my husband the importance of tolerance. Her family is very Christian, and when he began the "Our Father" prayer, the room filled with voices joining in the words, including my own. He asked me later why I said that prayer with them, and I was able to talk to him about tolerance and respect. No, I am not a Christian, but Debbie was, and her family still is. In honor of her memory, I have no problem offering a prayer to her God for safe journey and happiness in the afterlife, for those are the intentions I sent behind my words. Prayer is powerful and personal. Besides, right then was not the time to make a case for paganism. I think he understands better now, but we'll see what the future holds. 

I received many thanks from folks I didn't even know for being with her when she died. I found that to be awkward, and I wasn't sure how to respond. Somehow, "you're welcome" just didn't seem right, you know? I am pleased to say that although I was at a loss for words in person and in prayer, the Kindred were behind me, beside me and all around me through this difficult time. 

I am healing well, though there is so much more to work through, and I am rather drained. It's difficult to be the one everyone leans on--especially when you are hurting inside yourself. My own mother managed to kick me while I was down without even trying, and I am making peace with that, as well. I definitely feel different, like everything is in flux. I'm starting to wonder if it's been this way all along, and I've been trying to force constancy into a constantly changing world. Gaia beneath me is alone unchanged. I am grateful for her strength now more than ever.

I will see my Grove tonight for this first time since the fourth of July. I'm looking forward to hugs and love and group prayer. This empty girl is in desperate need of being filled up once more.