Lughnasadh was exciting.
Now it had been an exciting week leading up to the last weekend of July. After years of hemming and hawing we had finally called the county storm-water managers, and arranged to have the old drainage ditch re-dug. This turned out to be a Giant Project, and all week long we were semi-supervising the county crew as they tore through our woods to cut the ditch. The final result will be a new road through the woods, connecting the old half of the property with the new, along with vastly improved drainage, woods no longer turning to swamp, etc. It still feels a lot like we summoned a crew of moderate-sized demons to help us build out new temple…
Fortunately the new barn cleans up easily, and actual prep for the gathering went smoothly. Saturday was moderately attended, but the evening musical sets were very nice, and the fireworks and laser (yes, my kin, laser) show in our backyard was a real treat. As a side bonus we met more of our neighbors, and found them to be young, open and unconcerned about our brand either of fun or of religion. On we go toward that scary moment when we hang up a shingle on our road.
|Two contestants strive at Staff-wrestling|
To review, our Lughnasadh customs include a five-game competition, the winner standing as the Champion of the Grove for the coming year. The new Champion and the old face off in the rite, in a dance of spear and bread-loaf commemorating Lugh’s defeat of the Old Giant. The five games are
• Rock-Toss: as titled, thrown for distance
• Loggets: a lawn-bowling game in which an irregular stone is thrown at an irregular stand of logs, across an irregular lawn. A combination of skill and luck…
• Board-game: varies from year to year. We’ve done Morris games, Othello, Brandubh, and this year another variant of fidchel, or the tafl games.
• Staff-wrestling: Opponents stand in a narrow court, each holding one end of a staff. Goal is to move the opponent out of the court, or make them release the staff. As close as we get to grappling.
• Poetry: Contestants must write nine lines of poetry in any style, on a topic chosen at the moment, in nine minutes, then read them to be judged by a panel.
The exciting part, for me, is that I won! Well, I split the win in a tie with one of our newer folks, so I’m co-champion for the year. I’ll admit, after whining about feeling old, that I’m pleased. I placed first in Loggets, first in the Stick, and third (damn their eyes) in poetry, so a nice well-rounded skill-set to finish my boast.
|The Spear and Loaf dance from a previous year.|
The other end of the excitement began when the radar and local forecasts made it plain that we were about to get hit with a wave of severe weather, just in time for Sunday’s ritual. I can count the number of times we’ve been rained into the barn for ritual on one hand, even now, but this was one of them. There may be an occult angle to that as well.
We are working to move our spiritual work on this land from the small nemeton that has served us for some twenty years into a new glade with new structures up the hill. Since before Solstice we have been building, making offerings and doing divinations. While public omens have previously been lovely I’ve had a couple of private concerns that I have attempted to mitigate by offerings.
Arriving at Sunday, we had decided to make-do in the admittedly unfinished new nemeton, hallowing it as part of the Lughnasadh rite. This was not to be. Driving rain sent us under roof. Fortunately we have a nice fire, well and tree available in the outer room of the barn, and we had a cozy and well-seated rite. The omen, drawn in the ogham letters, was
Ceirt, Fearn, and Huath.
ADF druids may wonder why we didn’t call that an ill omen and call for more offerings, as is our custom in such situations. First, I don’t consider Ceirt particularly ill. Second, the ‘terror’ of Huath, in my opinion, is in some ways the experience of meeting the Other Crowd. Having these two centered by the protection and strength of Fearn was reassuring. Also specific to our case is that the apple-meadow at Tredara is in one corner, while the Hawthorn-hedge property line is in the other. One very local way of reading that omen is that Fearn protects, from apple to hawthorn. Thus the seer and I looked at each other, and decided to accept the omen as a blessing. Some blessings, as we teach, include lessons.
|Generic lightning, but it|
was like this...
The company was feasting in peace, rain heavy but not frightening, when cell-phones lit up with a tornado warning for our small county. Now, until recently, a warning meant that a funnel had been sighted, so folks began to get worried. Recent tech advances means they issue the warning (as opposed to a watch) if radar sees clouds even beginning to form certain patterns, so it isn’t quite as dire…
Then the area tornado sirens went off. Once again, this generally only happens if the status is ‘imminent threat’. I’ll admit that the combination of the networked warnings and local siren scared the crap outta me – that ‘terror’ promised by the Huath blessing, I might say. We had a barn full of friends and their kids. The only real shelter choice if a funnel had marched in to that very meadow would have been the nice new ditch now filling with water. After a moment’s pause to calm ourselves, and a sky-watch that revealed no immediate threat we made the dash to our back porch, where access to our basement would provide at least provisional shelter. It also provided access to radar on TV and real-time local coverage, which revealed that our neighborhood wasn’t in line for the 80+mph wind events that were hitting a few areas, and that no funnels were in the air. We brought everyone into the house and Thexalon (the retiring Champ) told a story to calm and center the kids. Twenty minutes later the active warning was over, and radar showed the storms moving out.
Despite our terror (which, to our credit, never turned to panic) the worst that our patch saw was heavy, straight-down, pounding rain, and lots of it. We might say, in fact, that we were protected from south to north, as our omen-reading suggested, as no damage was sustained. However, it is plain that the new nemeton was not ready – the hard rain washed away some of the support of the new eastern porch, causing a small section to collapse. Plainly we were premature and Those watching over the process schooled us to that effect. We will proceed, more deliberately.
I have occasionally allowed myself to think I know what I’m doing in terms of such things as establishing a new nemeton. Yeah, well…
However it generally was a lovely weekend with tribal peace, revelry, cheerful striving and bardic delight. The Spear of Lugh was over us in every sense, and may his blessing be upon you all in this season, dear readers, if not quite so literally.