As I had posted previously, I went to an Imbolc Retreat that was hosted by Hearthstone Grove of the ADF. It took a bit of cajoling to get me to go — but the crows pushed and pushed until I finally could find no other reason to say no. And thus I went. And had a lot of fun. And learned a lot about myself.
Was i uncomfortable? A little bit. I only knew one person at this event in a face-to-face context. Beyond that, I only knew two others via an online context. The rest were completely unknowns to me. Which forced me way out of my normal comfort zone. I mean, way way out of my comfort zone. Yet, everyone was not only kind and open – but there were a lot of folks that were a ton of fun to talk with. Good thing for me: I’m good at remembering faces. Bad thing for me: I am terrible at remembering names. Nonetheless, it took me about a full day to be a little more at ease with folks, probably one of the worst side effects of being a Solo Practitioner.
There were a few rituals around the fire, and each had its own fascination for me. And one moment of anxiety as well – providing an offering, which including drinking from a horn. Each and every time, I abstained – typically holding the horn up and towards the fire in a silent gesture before handing it on to the next person. I also never approached the fire with an offering either. Each time, it didn’t feel like the “right” way for me to do so. So instead of providing an empty offering or taking a pull from a drinking horn with nothing more to say than “thanks for having me here” — I decided that it was better to not do so.
However, each morning I rose just before the sunrise and managed to stand out while the sun rose up over the horizon. So as not to make too much noise up in the main house, I didn’t get my first cup of coffee until somewhere close to an hour later. It was here that I made my offerings – quietly, and just at the edge of the buildings. The first morning (Saturday), I had a bit of a biscuit in my pocket – leftovers from breakfast on the road on Friday. As the Sun peeked through the morning cloud cover, I crushed the biscuit in my hand and scattered the crumbs in the area directly behind the bunk house, offering my silent thanks to the Gods and my Crows for pushing me to be there. The second morning (Sunday), I managed to get a cup of coffee shortly after sunrise (more people were up early at this point) – and poured the last of the cup into the grass near the same area – again providing my silent thanks to the Gods for the start of a new day. It seemed a little more appropriate for me – but I have to remind myself, I am a Solo Practitioner. Quiet little rites and moments like this are a daily part of my practice.
Aside from being able to participate in a ritual that I had never seen before — I was part of the awesome energy that was raised during each one. I also managed to understand a few of the personalities that had driven from their homes to come out into the Texas hill country to give homage to Brigid. And driving home that early Sunday just before noon, I realized that this was the one thing that made this very special – and it was mentioned during the opening ritual. We came here – some of us as strangers – to give homage to the Gods, particularly Brigid. And when everything was over, we left as individuals that had bonded together during that time. Even now, a week later, I still feel a lot of that bonded energy each morning that I wake up and step out into my backyard to greet the morning Sun with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a handful of birdseed in the other for the Crows and the Spirits of the Land.
I sit here in my office, typing on a keyboard, looking at the screen of my iMac — and I remember the feelings of each evening and night. Talking with people that were new to me on a Friday – and when I left on that Sunday – it was like leaving old friends. Yes, there was magick in that weekend – some of it was even raised in the circles in ritual. Much more of it was raised in our hearts and souls. And its that magick that I will be seeking – as I step out of the shadows of my Solo world… ::Raising coffee cup:: Slainte! I arrived as myself, and left as myself – and somewhere between arrival and departure – the fellowship of this group of people has changed me, and dare I say — it has changed all of us, for the better.