by Norma Hoffman

This report left the members of Green Man Grove singing to apple trees in January. It’s now April and those same apple trees are covered in blossoms. The sad thing is that we practiced the apple tree Wassail song so much and sang it to so many trees that even three months later in spring I can’t get that damn song out of my head. (Oh apple tree we Wassail thee and hope that thou wilt bear....) It’s more annoying than an old John Denver tune. Hopefully, now that I’ve made you think of it you’ll be singing it too. Misery loves company.

We celebrated Imbolc in Hoboken. This was one of the most unusual spaces I’ve ever seen a ritual held in. The space belongs to Bryan’s friends Brian and Kris. It’s a combination living quarters, artists studio, and work space for Brian who’s a fractal artist working with huge vats of water and toxic chemicals to grow and capture his fractal images. We held the ritual in the studio/work space part of the area - sort of like a huge garage but much weirder. When I first walked in I was greeted by deafening goth-punk type music (didn’t someone say “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” – oh well...) and people swinging from a giant weighted line set
in the 20 foot ceiling. The combination of that first impression and the attendance of lots of Bryan’s fabulous and scary artist friends was enough to let me know this was not going to be the usual ritual. At the pre-ritual briefing Bryan explained the holiday and told the visiting artist folk a little about Green Man Grove, ADF druids, and neo-Pagans in general. Apparently our friend Sue Wolfson, who was also there, was right when she said “scratch most artists and you’ll find Pagans underneath” because everyone seemed to fit right in with the ritual plan and we gave out many small supporting ritual parts to people who had never been in a Pagan ritual before. An especially lovely part of this Imbolc was provided by Bryan’s friend Vernon, a virtuoso flute player, who was moved to play softly throughout the ritual and was frequently accompanied Sue W.’s beautiful vocalizations. They also helped out the bardless and otherwise musically lame Green Men during the standard songs. Brian (the fractal artist) gave a great and frightening praise offering of a sort of chaos-machine sculpture constructed for the occasion that dripped hot solder into water at random times during the ritual to make an eerie hissing sound in the background. A strange Imbolc full of music and art – a proper offering to the Goddess Brigid!

Not counting the sort-of-boring but necessary business meeting, the next event on the Green Man schedule was a henna party. A truly wonderful event in my opinion. It’s not too surprising that I think that either, since I was hosting the thing. I spoke for a while about the history and use of henna and henna patterns and also about the formulas for mixing skin henna paste and why henna works the way it does.
After the lecture, I woke everyone up and the fun part of the workshop began.

Everyone got to play in the henna mud. Some wanted to decorate themselves and some wanted to be decorated. Once the henna applying frenzy was over we sat and talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company while the henna paste was drying. The results of this workshop can be seen in the pictures on page 11.

Our most recent ritual, Spring Equinox, took place on the actual first day of spring. I don’t know about elsewhere but in New Jersey the first day of spring brought all the snow, sleet and freezing wind that the actual winter never delivered this year. Our planned ritual location of Maria Raven’s beautiful garden plot on Cook College campus had to be abandoned in favor of the warmer and dryer climate of Ed and Norma’s living room in New Brunswick. Our ritual was centered around exploring the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. A special part of the ritual was to be the reading of runes written on beans. Then, as the plan went, we would plant the rune-beans in Maria’s garden and by Summer Solstice we would be able to eat our own omens.
It seemed that this wouldn’t be possible because of the weather but the plan was saved by Maria who showed up dripping wet with a huge bucket of earth. It seems that she went out to the garden that morning in the snow and sleet and dug up a patch of soil, complete with dandelions and chickweed, so we could do the bean omen planting! The ritual was lovely and quiet as many of our small-space indoor rituals are. The story of Jack and the Beanstalk was told and discussed, with many different points of view given and much learned. There was soft drumming and singing and a special seed and garden tool blessing which left seeds, tools and everyone present feeling very blessed indeed and also left our living room happily covered with wild oat kernels. I find it truly amazing that I’ve been doing rituals with Green Man for over seven years now (that’s well over 50 rituals!) and each one that comes along is unique, enjoyable and powerful. Thanks Green Man!