Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Litterbusters! Giving back to the Nature Spirits

We had been talking for a while about doing something for the Nature Spirits and the land around the city, but we hadn't really done anything about it. However at Autumn Equinox the Nature Spirits called us out on it during the Grove Omen so we finally got our butts in gear and volunteered with the Forest Preserve of Cook County. Our first task was litter removal and we chose Evans Field in Jerome Huppert Woods where we do a lot of our outdoor rituals (Beltaine in particular as well as Autumn Equinox this year.)

We arrived around 10am, coffee and breakfast sandwiches in hand, on a beautiful late Autumn day. We met up with Jennifer, finished breakfast and grabbed our plastic bags and gloves, made some offerings and headed towards the little side grove where we hold our rituals.  The Forest Preserve can and will provide gloves and bags if you need them but Jack and Chris had some heavy duty bags and gloves left over from the flood so we used those instead. The offering was a squirrel feeder of corn that we thought the deer might enjoy. Ironically we had to break it up to get the plastic piece out of the middle (it's designed to sit on a pole) so we wouldn't litter! Jennifer also brought some offerings but we saved those for the end.

We each took a bag and split up, and even though the woods didn't seem  too littered soon we were finding all sorts of things. Mostly beer and booze bottles and junk food wrappers, but we got some strange and frankly gross things like used maxi pads (!). I found a nice metal pole that I used to tease bits of trash out of hard to reach places that Jennifer took home to stake her plants in her garden (see we recycled too!) While foraging for trash I explored parts of the woods that we never had time to explore on High Days, and in the woods on the far side of the field, I found some swamp land and a small spring!

Even though it seems I spent most of my time taking pictures, I actually did pick up a large bag of trash, we all ended up with a good sized bag each. After we had pretty much scoured the place of trash we grabbed Jennifer's offerings and headed to my newly discovered spring. She offered, honey, an apple, a banana, corn, and oats. We are pretty sure the trees around us were filling up with hungry squirrels eager for our departure so they could feast! Afterwards we headed to Jack and Chris' house for yummy Guinness stew and to plan our Samhain ritual.

All in all it was a fun day, the weather was great and it feels good to help the land and the Nature Spirits. We plan on doing something monthly from now on. It will vary by season, but will include things like invasive species removal, more litter busting, and anything else they want to train us for. Anyone who wishes may join us, you can RSVP (which is really helpful since the Forest Preserve likes to know how many people to expect if they have to give us supplies or training.) Anyway have a blessed Samhain and Happy New Year! :)


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Autumn Equinox 2011

Autumn Equinox Altar
The day of the Autumn Equinox rite dawned rather cold and rainy but the Grove was determined not to let the weather mess up yet another rite this year and we went ahead to Evans Field in Thatcher Woods Jerome Huppert Woods (someone changed the woods on me, no wonder people were getting lost!) as planned. We figured (correctly) that no one would be using the shelter, and we brought a spare gazebo tent in case it was. So even though the heavens opened up on us pretty much the whole time, we were dry and (almost) toasty! And even though we have been to this place many times, it seemed  more numinous and glowing in the rain (and later sun), it must be something about this time of year....

Jack invokes Heimdallr
As a new tradition at Wild Onion, Autumn Equinox is the time we honor the Gatekeeper Deities we invoke as part of the Core Order of Ritual throughout the year. We feel this is a very appropriate time of year to think about liminal spaces and times as well as a time to reflect on where we came from and where we are going. This year it was Heimdallr's turn as not only do we ask him to be Gatekeeper for our Norse rites, he is also Jack's Patron Deity. We asked Ægir to step in as Gatekeeper which he seemed happy to do (he also got lots of beer which I am sure helped.) We wanted the Invocation to be a journey across Bifröst and we hit on the idea to incorporate the colors of the rainbow, Runes and ADF's Nine Virtues for each step of the journey. Of course there are only seven colors in the rainbow and nine virtues so we added black and white to symbolize the darkness as we started the journey and the light at the end after acquiring the wisdom of each Rune.

Bifröst prayer bead take-aways
So Jack wrote the Invocation and as he performed the it, he lit the corresponding candle until we had a sparkling Bifröst across the Altar. Chris then offered the Sacrifice (a homemade white cake with apricot confit filling and cooked icing that Jack made) and of course beer! Lots of beer. I then took the Omens and they were good! So with the sacrifice accepted, Chris asked for return Blessings and we shared shortbread cookies (a gift from our guests!) and handed out the take-aways. I made sets of polymer clay prayer beads in the 9 colors and painted the corresponding Runes on each one and separated them with AB crystal beads and small gold seed beads, reminiscent of Heimdallr's gold teeth. I then sculpted small Gjallarhorn charms to finish them off.

Chris makes the Sacrifice
As you can see I made twenty of them. I am always paranoid we won't have enough for everyone, even though I always make way too many. We only had five people show up, well two including me Jack and Chris. Colleen was home with a sick cat (better now thankfully) and we had assumed the rain kept everyone else away. We did find out later that a couple were waiting for us in the wrong part of Thatcher Woods (and no wonder, since Evans Field is apparently in a different Woods altogether) and they were without phones! So two will go to them when we see them later in the month and Colleen got hers when I got home and we are sending some to Grovies that moved out of state and some to friends and after all that we only have a few left, so not a total disaster. In fact the rite went very well, the day was beautiful in it's own way, and as Chris says the measure of a good ritual is if the Kindreds show up when invited, the Sacrifice is accepted and the people have a good time. So I think we passed on all counts and we met new people to boot! So until next time, have a blessed Autumn time and see you at Samhain!

P.S. I just found this out about Evans Field: "Evans Field -- site of Indian Village and chipping station. There were several Indian burial places and temporary villages along their main trail following the Des Plaines River. Just east of Evans Field, there were five mounds built by prehistoric Indians." Neat!