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.
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.
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.