Hail To Autumn

At our Autumn Equinox ceremony in March we honour the power and radiance of Autumn and acknowledge the approaching Winter. This year Pamela spoke for Autumn and, at the appointed time in the Working, cast off her cloak to reveal a costume of russets, red, oranges and yellows and unrolling a parchment scroll and walking the circle, spoke thus:

I am Autumn
I am the release as the end draws near
I am the last breath.

I protest my leaving!
And my breath shall not be a whisper or a cry
But a shout made exultant by the power in me.

I rebel against my fading!
In these last moments you will see and feel my brilliance
And as I rebel will you view me in fear and admiration.

I am no spectator, I am the spectacle.
You do not touch me, I touch you.
In awe will you stand back as I begin my throes.
Only the daring will approach me as I embrace the Earth
And share my brief spasms of Ecstasy
For the generosity and fullness of my Relaxation.

All of my animals, too, regret my passing
For they must face the starkness of the time that approaches
The bear eats ravenously for fat, the squirrels store
All Nature quivers as my strength leaves.

I deny my passing!
Even as I go to Earth shall I give form to the future
And my seed shall rise again in another body.

And so I allow the old to fall away
And in my last, withdrawing sigh
I feel the energy of new creation . . .
For I am Birth, Death and Genesis

Then Tom stepped into the circle, head and body completely covered by his cloak to speak for Winter thus:

I speak for Winter at Autumn Equinox

As you enjoy the warmth of the sun on this Autumn day
Know you that I am coming!

Notice how the evenings and nights are cooler,
The days getting shorter.

Soon there will be frosts and the South Wind will howl in
With rain and snow.

I speak for Winter and I am coming fast . . .

 

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An Ode to Balance

Balance, a precious state, not to be found easily, or handed out as a gift, no, balance flows, balance is born of wise choice and actions, it is dynamic, it moves through our whole lives in many forms. The wisdom of our ancestors to be balanced with the excitement of our anticipation, the masculine and the feminine inside us all, emotion and intellect, creation and accomplishment, hearts love for ourselves and for others.

Often we are very aware of the balance we seek as we find ourselves swinging past it frequently in one direction or another, never quite managing to settle before the spot moves on with life’s flow.

At Alben Elfed, the Grove of the Summer Stars celebrated the balance of light and dark once more, committing ourselves to balance, to be blessed with it’s gifts in our own lives and with us, the lives of all around us.

 

An Ode to Balance

I search for balance, often with a frown
An illusive state, is it ‘verb’ or ‘noun’
‘Equilibrium’ or ‘stability’
‘Justice’, perhaps ‘impartiality’
So many meanings ‘balance’ has for me

But to know that my soul has stabilized
Is to be in a place so dearly prized
Where all my emotions and senses strive
Passions, temperance, together contrive
for that ‘Balance,’ that makes my spirit thrive

~ Les

 

Autumn Equinox 

Last weekend we celebrated Alban Elfed/Autumn Equinox in the Grove. It was a beautiful autumn day, with barely a breeze and the sun was warm but not too harsh. Of course, being sun conscious Druids we all donned sun hats for our trek outside.

Our Grove had been attended to by Les, who had mowed to grass and redesigned our centre altar using our old brazier. We decorated it with bounty from our harvest, wine and bread.

We came together to celebrate the balance of light and dark that is present at this time of year. The evenings are starting to get darker earlier as we begin to move towards winter. Pamela spoke of how this year, on the actual Equinox we can celebrate the balance of femininity and masculinity as we celebrate the male energy with the sun as it enters the 3rd quantrent of it’s cycle, and on the 21st the moon, who we honour the female energy, enters the 3rd quantaint in her monthly cycle.

Tom and Richard spoke of how Autumn looks in New Zealand with the trees. Most of our trees are flowering at this time, and they don’t shred their leaves for winter. Tom shared some science with us to help is through the winter – when stressed find 5 minutes to spend watching birds play.

img_4675We also talked about healing, calling in energy and atua to help with the healing of a few members of our Grove or extend families who are in need of it at the moment. Moria spoke of connecting with the roots of trees that go deep into the earth and connect with each other to help with healing. She recalled an earlier conversation which talked about drawing energy from natural things like glass windows and wooden furniture in sterile environments like hospitals. Anne chipped in that glass is something that uses all the elements to create – sand from the Earth, added to the hot Fire, blown into shape with Air and cooled in Water. What a beautiful object to pull energy from!

While we were having eisteddfod I noticed a tried bee crawling along the blanket, as a sad reminder of summers end.

~ Mary

Lugh Lamhfade by Moria

Here is the lyrics for the song we sing at Lughnasdh, Lugh Lamhfade by Moria.

Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh the shinning one
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Warrior of the Sun

God of craftsmen
Lugh of the long arm
All knowing all wise
LUGH!

Travelled to the West
With the Tuatha da Danaan
Celtic sun god
LUGH!

Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh the shinning one
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Warrior of the Sun

Slayer of Balor
The champion Formore
Warrior sun god
LUGH!

Lugh Chromain
Now called Leprechaun
Sleeping with the aes sidhe
LUGH!

Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh the shinning one
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Warrior of the Sun

Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh, Lugh, Lugh Lamhfada
Lugh

Here is us singing it at Druid Camp 2017:

Here is Moria’s nephews band singing it:

Lughnasadh Camp 2017

Last weekend we had our annual Lughnasadh Druid Camp. We say that Camp starts on Friday, but really it starts on the Thursday as we all troop in to set up tents, pick up the shopping (which was ordered online this year!), unpack it and set up the kitchen in the barn. This year we had delicious meals cooked by our wonderful Joarn and Martha.

Camp always has a theme and this year wimg_4273as Head, Hands, Heart and Hallows. Every morning we start with a camp meeting, where we each share a word for the day, we chant Awens and go over the plan for the day.

Friday was our Head day, were we got to put our thinking caps on! We started by having a opening ritual which naturally went over time so we pushed back the tree workshop we had planned. The great thing about this year’s camp was all the gaps we left in the roster so we could be flexible (and have time for naps.) I won’t say much about the tree workshop because that will be a post for another day. It was a great starting workshop that helped us find a tree each for camp. We ended this day with a Eisteddfod about the meaning of The Druid’s Prayer which led to lots of meaningful debate and a greater understanding for all.

Saturday was our Hands day. Before we could get started using our hands we had a Skype call with Philip Carr-Gomm so he could give us his thoughts on The Druid’s Prayer which created further discussion and understanding of the prayer. There were lots of creative activities for us to set our hands to, wood carving, fibre weaving, painting, drawing, Harakeke weaving, bread making and crocheting! I had set out to learn to crochet. With lots of help and support from many of the other ladies at camp I learnt to crochet one granny square but came away with half a blanket thanks to the generosity of those who could already crochet!

Saturday evening we had much delight having a sing along of many of our songs. Some of these we recorded. You can hear our song Lugh that our talented band leader, Moria, wrote by going here or listen to it below.

Of course, a camp sing along wouldn’t be complete without a short telling of Bob the Sheep God before we sung our Bob version of Lugh. Bob has become one of my favourite camp traditions as it is full of inside jokes. It is a story about the creation of myths and legends that has taken on a life of its own. It is also extremely ridiculous, giving us all a good laimg_4260ugh.

Sunday was our Heart day. We celebrated Lughnasadah with a ritual. Unfortunately we had to have this inside because the wind, which had blown down all the tents during the night, had blown over a ‘sacred’ gorse tree onto the path way to the Grove! After our ritual, and a delicious lunch, we had a Poetry and Prose writing workshop to get us all connected to the heart of story telling, and seeing how easy it can be to get words flowing through us. We continued this story telling on at our evening Eisteddfod where we played a story telling game.

Hallows day was on our last day, Monday. In the morning we had a beautiful sharing circle about death and entering the Summerlands. This was followed by a discussion on how to be practical and prepared in the lead up to entering the Summerlands. Here are some links to the documents that were discussed:

That evening we had a Eisteddfod discussion on where you believe your power is coming from when you do your working. It was proposed that there was two different ways of believing where the energy comes from and that neither is wrong. It was an enlightening discussion that helped us think about our own beliefs and practices.

After Eisteddfod we trekked out to the Grove to preform the closing ceremony, as the sun died down for the day which seemed very fitting.

On Tuesday morning we packed up, with the knowledge that it was our last camp for a couple of years. According to our fabulous planner Nicola it was the fastest pack up ever. I love camp, but it will be exciting to spend time developing the endeavours we are looking to spend our time on in the future.

~ Mary

Lughnasadh Soup

At Lughnasadh camp each year, the Lughnasadh ceremony on Sunday is followed by a communal lunch. Campers, other Grove members and visitors share a meal, of which this delicious soup is the basis.


Lughnasadh Soup (double recipe – need 2 big stock pots) (32 large serves)


img_426116 tablespoons olive oil
8 teaspoons ground cumin
6 teaspoons turmeric
8 heaped teaspoons minced garlic
8 litres vegetable stock (32 tsp Rapunzel stock powder with 32 cups water)
8 cups red lentils (rinsed)
16 medium-sized carrots
16 stalks celery
8 large kumara
salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Chop the onion in 1cm chunks and cook in the oil or butter for about 5 mins till clear. During this time, stir in cumin, turmeric & garlic. The spices should smell fragrant, but should not burn.

Add the liquid and the lentils (more makes a thicker soup), and simmer, stirring now and then.

Cut the carrots and celery in 5mm slices, and the thinly peeled kumara in 1cm cubes. Add them and cook gently, with the lid, tiimg_4264lted, for 20-30 minutes, or until everything is tender. Leave the soup chunky, or puree all or part of it, depending on the texture you like. Thin with extra stock, or water if very thick. Taste and season last of all.

Serve with crusty bread and optional cheese. Corn fresh off the cob is also a fitting accompaniment!

(This soup is based on Alison Holst’s Creamy Lentil and Vegetable Soup from her book, Meals without Meat.)

Summer Solstice 2016

I hope everyone has had a fantastic holiday period. On Sunday the 19th December our Grove celebrated Alban Hefin/Summer Solstice/Litha. It was a nice day so we all walked out to the Grove using the neimg_3852w pathway that many of us hadn’t used yet. It has been a couple of years since I joined in for the  Summer Solstice ritual as I usually run a children’s circle and join mid way. However this year we only had one Child of the Light turn up and he wanted to join us in the circle.

During the ritual we honoured the King of the Trees and the Child of the Light. We had 4 people call in Maori, which is more than I ever remember having before. It gave me goosebumps as they welcomed the ancestors and the atua into the circle. Having this aspect of relationship with the culture of the land we are working on is a very special part of our Grove.

We had our eisteddfod after our feast inside. Here we shared poems, old and new, that related to the celebration. As it is close to Christmas our story teller, Moria, shared a story about Christmas traditions being changed when settlers discovered that trees were different in New Zealand. Here we have the Pohutakawa tree which flowers img_3854bright red at this time of year. New Zealanders also use pine trees to decorate in their houses.

As it is also near the close of the calendar year, we also reflected on those that we have lost this year, personally and within the bardic/artistic world. Our musician, Glenn lead us in a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. There were many wet eyes.

To celebrate Alban Hefin/Summer Solstice at this time of year, so close to Christmas, can be very confusing. All around us people are celebrating Winter traditions and Santa is fainting from heat exhaustion. It makes it all the more important for us to be honouring the Sun and the cycles of the seasons.

– Mary

Beltane

Last Sunday the Grove of the Summer Stars celebrated Beltane, or what the Maori call Whiringanuku. To the Maori it is the 5th month, when ka whakaniho nga mea katoa o te whenua i konei (‘all things now put forth fresh growth’) and a good flowering of ti kouka (cabbage tree) is said to be a sign that a long, fine summer will follow.

We started our Beltane celebration by starting a fire. Beltane is a celebration of Bel the god of light and fire, and we used this fire to cleanse us of things we no longer want in our lives and to bring a spark of beginning to our future endeavours.

For our ritual we built twin fires. During our ritual we spoke this poemeach saying a line each.

Light of the sun warms the earth,
Quickening the pulse of the land.
The sleeping giant rises,
To answer the call of the king
And I saw the Kowhai with its myriad yellow lights
And many plants
I saw leaves of kaka beak tree as they want to sprout
I saw branches equally laden with flowers;
I saw the attributes of a most generous king
And I saw the lady Papatuanuku smile as she passed by

Mine are the riches of the land of Aotearoa
Mine are the bounty,
Mine are the kindliness,
Mine the cloth,
And mine the victuals.

Lost in creation they are undisturbed by my presence,
for I am from them.

Skyfather Earthmother
the old people were right.
For I see the union
of sun and earth
and hear their songs of fertility
pregnant with life.

Adapted from two Taliesen poems and from Apirana Taylor – Thoughts on the Road, Eyes of the Ruru

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At the end of our ritual we danced around the Beltane fires on our way out of the circle. A couple of years our beautiful Storyteller, Moria, wrote this song for us to sing as we dance:

Dance to the Beltane Fire,
Dance to the Beltane Fire,
In, out, turn about,
Dance to the Beltane Fire,
Earth and Air, Fire and Water,
We are Papatuanuku’s
Sons and Daughters,
Dance to the Beltane Fire.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After we had a feast we shared stories and poems. Les read the following poem by someone called Brook, that he found on Hello Poetry.

Beltane

Day breaks over a sleepy village
Morning absolutions completed
An excited buzz is in the air
Everyone is a buzz with cleaning
Hundreds gather wild flowers in the fertile fields
Many were in charge of raising the fires
Soon the whole town had bright blooms weaved from one end to the next
The horizon alight with smoke and power
Goddess and God rights invoked within circles round
Pulsating, rhythmic energy racing through each dancing body
Gyrating to the cosmic beat of life
Couples jump merrily together over cauldrons ablaze
High hopes rise and give way for dreams of children
Lovers round and round they twine
Maypole ribbons rainbow hued passing through hand to hand
As dusk falls the Queen is crowned
Mead flows freely through the jubilant worshippers
The moon hangs round with fullness above their heads
Lighting the way for love into the night

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Pamela shared this addition to the song from The Wicker Man that she wrote.

The rendition sung in the climax of the 1973 British film The Wicker Man is a mixed translation by Peter Shaffer:

Sumer is Icumen in,
Loudly sing, cuckoo!
Grows the seed and blows the mead,
And springs the wood anew;
Sing, cuckoo!
Ewe bleats harshly after lamb,
Cows after calves make moo;
Bullock stamps and deer champs,
Now shrilly sing, cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo
Wild bird are you;
Be never still, cuckoo!

 Summer is a’coming in
Find the tonic, grab the gin
Sing, o keruru!
Plant the seed and sip the mead
Less in haste and more in speed.
Sing, o keruru!

Lambswool beats the pallid cider
Milky vodka’s in the larder
Light the lamps and pour the champs
Now crilly king sheroo

Shekoo, kreshroo
Bild wird are ewe
Me too!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our Angela shared this poem she had written that morning.

Beltane Fire…..

My great passion
leapt
as a sudden spring eddy
swept up the dry old leaves
of unrealised dreams
and flung them to the fire.
The sound of the wind
briefly but beautifully amplified
as the flames consummated
the sacrifice.
Tears of release
sizzled and spat
as they danced wildly
with the rings and spirals
of the Tree of Life
now split asunder
in a final glorious blaze
of colour and heat.
I surrender to this moment
full of love and empty of fear
delighting in the eternal process
of one season
transforming
into another.

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Beltane this year was very inspiring and I am looking forward to seeing what develops from the sparks of inspiration that we all got.

– Mary

 

Spring Equinox 2016

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Last week our Grove celebrated Alban Eilir/Spring Equinox. As a Grove we have done public ritual before at Stonehenge Aotearoa, and we don’t exactly make a secret of our Grove’s existence, with only 4 of our 8 seasonal festivals being open to Grove members only. This year we decided to do some community outreach, by getting an article in the local paper inviting people to the ceremony.

Putting ourselves out there like this was scary. You never know how the public may react. One of the reasons we felt it was important to make ourselves known more in the community was because many of us feel like some of the ideas we see for the future of our Grove involves being a part of the local wider community.

The outcome was that we had around 45 people turn up for our ritual. One family had come because of the newspaper article, and they looked like they were very excited to have found us. Everyone was able to find a car park due to us opening up the paddock to parking, which was great for those of us who have been struggling with our small car park as our Grove has grown.

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The rain held off enough for us to hold the ritual outside in the herb garden, which has been beautifully tended to by one of our new members during the last 2 months. Not only were the plants calling to us about their spring growth, they were laughing with joy from the gentle touch of calm, knowledgable attention.

A couple of years ago we introduced sunflower seeds to our Spring ritual. We hand out the seeds for everyone to mediate on things they would like to grow in the coming months before planting them in some soil. We grow these at Woolshed, harvesting the seeds at the end of the season to use for the next years ritual. Part of the reason behind this is that the seeds we are using carry a whakapapa which we are building on as we continue to strengthen and build our community.

After our ritual we had the eisteddfod inside after the ritual. Many people shared poems, songs and stories. Our first offering was a rendition of a Jethro Tull song from one of our new visitors. Our Grove Storyteller told a tale of Pani-tinaku and how she and her husband, Rongo-manui came into possession of kumara seeds and growing them to feed their people. Kumara planting is an important aspect in this part of the year in the Maori tradition.

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Our bellies full from feasting it was time for the annual tor toss. This is proceeded by a tale about the cultural and historic reasons for why we climb to the top of the tor and throw eggs off to see who can get their egg the furtherest. Our tor toss always involves accusations of cheating, near misses for the judges having egg on their face,and lots and lots of laughter. We even have a prize giving!

Alban Eilir is one of my favourite festivals. Thanks everyone who made it such a delight this year, and I look forward to getting to know any of our new visitors should they return.

– Mary

 

Beltane / Whiringanuku

Beltane flowers, 2015

Ah, spring time. It’s a tempestuous time of the year in Wellington, but the days gradually get warmer and you know it’s only going to get better.
Last weekend the grove celebrated Beltane. Below are a few thoughts on what we did for the festival this year.

The Beltane Fires

Brazier, Beltane 2015
Last year we started a new Beltane tradition of keeping a Beltane fire (or fires, if we use the twin fires in the ritual) burning during the day. While Beltane is one of the four fire festivals, fire has typically been more a feature of our Samhain ritual. The warmth of the Samhain fire in the middle of winter and act of gathering around it to share in stories and food resonates strongly with all of us. It’s a time when we seek the comfort and warmth of community; when we’re all a bit weary from the dark cold winter. It also serves as a beacon fire as the veil grows thin, calling the spirits home. The veil also grows thin at Beltane, but with the warmth of the returning sun, our Beltane fire has often been more symbolic than real. Last year, one of our grovers had the idea of using the Beltane fire as more of a focal point in our ritual. Our ritual fire is now a focal point: for its ritual purification purposes, as a beacon like at Samhain, but also as a specific ritual tool.

We light the fire around midday, tend to it through the afternoon, and those who wish to can come prior to the ritual with offerings for the fire. The purpose of starting the fire early is to burn things we need or want to be rid of, items which have significance to us, but can’t just be chucked out with the ordinary. Some of the things in past burnings have included old photos, letters, legal papers, toys, items of clothing, books, art works. In this way we combine the ritual power of the Beltane fire with the wider for a slightly more practical focus: marrying the celebration and joy of Beltane with the purification of fire for the release of pent-up energy, letting go, and moving forward.

The spring winds that dominate Wellington’s spring meant we decided on the day to use the braziers rather than the bonfire: nobody wants their robe to catch fire! But there were many things to burn, dancing around the fire, and the sun was warm enough that we weren’t all huddling in front of the brazier! Later during the ritual, the braziers were used for grovers to walk between, and to burn mugwort for the purification aspect of the ritual.

Brigid’s Well

Brighids Well, Beltane 2015
The two elemental symbols for Beltane are fire (destroyed the powers hostile to humankind, purified the air, and allowed human and beast and vegetation to thrive and become fertile) and water (healing and the time of the first swim).

As the time of the first swim of the year, a small group who arrived early set off into the forest to visit Brigid’s Well before lighting the Beltane fires.

Ribbons at Brighids Well, Beltane 2015

We took with us a ribbon to tie next to the well, with the names of people we sought healing or blessing for. The forest walk was full of activity, with kakariki echoing through the trees, curious piwakwaka flitting so close you could almost touch them, and a frog leaping out of the stream as we were leaving offerings for Brighid! It seems everything was out enjoying the sun.

Eisteddfod

Our eisteddfod continues to grow, with several poems, songs, and stories shared. In the days before Beltane, I came across the poem The Sun by Mary Oliver. For me, this is a fitting celebration of spring, and also a reminder that as things get busier as we head towards Christmas, we should remember to focus on what’s important in life.

Our eisteddfod also saw the introduction of a piece of grove history – an Eisteddfod Chair! This beautifully carved chair (or bench, to be specific), made of native macrocarpa with kowhai carvings, was donated by one of our grovers. While we’re still deciding where it will be placed in the long term, it was a fitting addition to our eisteddfod and a perfect example of the productivity and creativity of Beltane.

– Nicola