On Sunday the 18th of June, the Druids of Silver Birch Grove ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship) hosted a public and inclusive Winter Solstice ritual in collaboration with the PCV. I thought it might be a good idea to write a little bit about the ritual for posterity…and this blog. After all, I just so happened to be the one who led that ritual.
Druidry tends to draw together those with a more Celtic inclination and emphasis on nature. ADF encourages it’s members to explore one or more of the related Indo-European hearth cultures. As a practitioner of both Ásatrú and ADF Druidry it was only natural that I would write a ritual for Yule bringing together Norse traditions in the context of an ADF ritual. Yule is a favorite High Day for me and is one of the most jolly and sacred times of year: the Norse New Year.
The weather was cool but a clear day. We were fortunate to have 20 attendees, from a diversity of paths, backgrounds and walks of life. We formed a procession into the circle of stones, surrounded by the sacred grove, with the rhythm of Geoff and Mel’s drums. We gathered around the cairn of stones, with a guided meditation as the creek flowed over the rocks nearby. We followed the ADF core order of ritual, hidden in plain sight within a pocket of urban bushland. Heimdall warded the ways as the gate keeper, Bragi was implored for inspiration. By a good fire, a silvered well and a sacred tree we welcomed, honoured and gave gifts to Jord (the earth mother), the ancestors, the land wights and the Gods. Our deity of the occasion was Skadi, fierce goddess of winter, the mountains, the wild, archery and skiing. I told an ancient myth of her time with Njord by the sea. I had carefully crafted an arrow from fragrant mountain cedar wood and knapped an arrowhead from some bluestone I found on a trail in the Hills. I carried the arrow around the circle and past the altar as the drums intensified and cast it into the fire as a sacrifice. Others than made their own offerings, including Mark’s carefully made Yule goat. Sad to see such pieces invested with such time and care turn to flame and smoke, but that was part of the point after all.
Our ash tree Yule log burned on the fire. The altar decked in Yule decorations of pine, holly, white winter flowers and the last of autumnal oak leaves, held a statue of Skadi, the grove treasurers and the sun chariot. I gathered my runes to take the omen. Just as I started to turn toward the altar 3 ravens swooped through the middle of the grove and our ritual participants! Surely a sign that our ritual and offerings were well received?
The runes answered with Inguz, Fehu and Teiwaz. A sign that we had been building things up in the last year, that we had been generous with what we shared or gave back and that with sacrifices , we would be successful in the times ahead. A good Yule omen after having gifted some offerings, indeed.
I then led a sumbel rite where guests were invited to make any of the following: a toast in thanks or to ask the Gods, land wights or ancestors, a boast or an oath over the mead horn. Yule is an especially auspicious time for this. There were many fine toasts, boasts and a couple of renewed oaths. Not to mention, a lot of spiced mead!
The spirits were thanked and merrily the ritual drew to a close. The drums sounded once more as the procession left the circle. Afterwards there was a festive picnic feast as people enjoyed and afternoon of conversation and laughter.
At the time I was busy. My concern was for everyone else, the ritual and sacred space. Later I took it all in and reflected on the spiritual experience of it all. I was glad to hear everyone had felt welcome and enjoyed their time experiencing the sacred through the practices of two traditions. It is a humbling but beautiful experience to share your spiritual traditions and sacred practices for others from our Victorian Pagan community.