This past Sunday, Three Cranes celebrated the feast of Lughnasa. As we have for eight years now, we did so at the Dublin Irish Festival. That in itself is a big deal: we get a very large crowd, mostly non-regulars, who attend a pagan ritual that receives equal billing with multiple Christian services (everything from an interdenominational service to a Gaelic mass to a ‘U2Charist’) at one of the largest Irish festivals in the country. Such very public reverence for the old gods is in itself a powerful instantiation of the vision of Ár nDraíocht Féin. But beyond the questions of organizational stature and presence, this year’s DIF — our ritual and the broader festival both — had me thinking a good deal about music and the ways its presence supports and shapes my spiritual growth and wellbeing.
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what it means to be an artist. Who gets to be an artist? Who gets to own that? What are the obligations of an artist? If they keep it to themselves, if they share to the world, what does that mean? As a writer and teacher these questions have been floating around in the back of my mind for a long time, but a few interactions recently have really amped them up for me.
Tonight Three Cranes Grove celebrated Giamonios, the Gaulish end-of-winter moon. It was a small group of us, just four — we celebrated the Thargelia in honor of Artemis and Apollo as our public spring cross-quarter ritual just yesterday, so most people elected to stay home. But our intimate gathering provided a relaxed, informal resumption of our outdoor druid moons, where we cleaned out the firepit in our nemeton and rekindled our fires. At this moon we honor Belenos, god of the fiery sun, and honor the triple fire of sacrifice, inspiration, and fellowship. Our working in this small-group setting gave us the opportunity to speak from the heart: each person volunteered to speak on the fire in one of its three aspects, and I volunteered to tie them all together. So, with appreciative credit to Lisa Lea, Jan, and Thorne for their explications of the fires of sacrifice, inspiration, and fellowship, respectively — and with apologies for my rephrasing and reconfiguring of their words — some thoughts on the fire at the center of all.
The storm has arrived. Thunder rolls all around, lightning streaks from cloud to cloud, its forks mirroring the trees in their early-Spring bareness. Gather yourself, your bare feet, your cup of dark wine, and stand outside, barely skirting the drenching rain beneath the small overhang of the stoop.
There’s a certain lift that can happen sometimes, when singing. Or, I suppose I should say, there’s a certain lift that happens to me sometimes when I’m singing, a moment when the composer has written a particularly stirring chord progression. Perhaps it’s a suspension where one line rises, aching, tipping on the edge of dissonance before resolving into the cadence. Or perhaps an unspooling of harmony, the voices calling out in unison and then peeling off until the music shifts from one monochromatic tone to a welter of harmonies intertwining. Or the inverse, a tangling near-cacophony of complex lines combining as if by magic to ring out one spare, simple motif.
As so often happens when I’m moved to write something, today’s post comes from multiple sources that, while not intrinsically connected, end up jostling against each other in my daily life. Usually I end up working to hide the seams, as it were, to make the writing feel like an uninterrupted whole, but today I’m showing my work. (Sorry for mixing those metaphors.) Today, meditations on openness and honesty, courtesy of my non-druid friends, Jens Lekman, homosexuality, and my husband.
Three Cranes Grove celebrated the festival of Imbolc this past Sunday, and it was a hard one for me: essentially, I wasn’t in the ‘right’ headspace. I’d had a nonstop week leading up to it, I’d agreed last-minute to take on more parts in the ritual than I’d anticipated, I had nine hours of choral rehearsal scheduled around the rite, Jarod and I had spent the night with our godson after his mom gave birth — which to be utterly clear, was a joyous duty we were happy to take on, but was just one more thing in a very busy timeframe — and overlaying it all was a pervasive sense of fear and despair surrounding the Trump administration’s activities. I was pretty frazzled. I went to Imbolc out of a sense of obligation, rather than desire. And so, as I posted on Facebook that evening, I was amazed to discover after the fact that even the memory of the rite was deeply moving and grounding. I ended up exploring the issue of why and how my meta-experience shifted throughout the course of ritual with a friend, a graduate student in Old Testament archeology, and in the process of explaining religiocultural differences while also trying to draw parallels to his Evangelical Christianity, I came to a better understanding of the ways orthopraxy functions for me as a member of ADF and as a ritual practitioner. Continue reading When in doubt, make offerings: orthopraxy as guiding force