Last night, my Grove walked our annual pilgrimage to Lake Ontario, along the Oshawa Creek, in honour of Manannán mac Lir. With us, we carry the gathered offerings of rushes and yellow flowers from the previous day’s rite that we may place them at a particular tree at the lakeshore to pay our rent.
This was probably the most well attended year, including some uninvited friends of one member. While we extended a welcome to them, some events held by the Grove are members-only, not because of elitism but because our members need an opportunity for immersion, rather than providing education. In this case, I think that educating created immersion for some folks, but we still won’t be making this event public in the future.
So eleven of us set out on the pilgrim’s path, with rain clouds looming above. We chose to have two specific silent sections along the walk, first through the botanical gardens, and then at the end, when we emerge from the creek trail and approach the park. Between them is time for friendship, keeping in mind the nature of the walk, so there were discussions about Lugh’s relationship to Manannán, what a Gatekeeper does, important sites to us along the way, and sharing with our new acquaintances why Manannán is important to us and his role in the Grove.
Aiding us in ensuring that our conversations do not stray too far and that we bring our attention back to the focus of our walk, each time we walk under or over a bridge, we speak a collective prayer, imploring Manannán to walk with us as we approach him with offerings. Among us we share the joy and responsibility of carrying the offerings and our Sunwheel, a brighty-decorated reminder of the season.
We paused this year, before the final turn towards the lake, finding our centres in our own way after liberally reapplying bug spray. Then, with the collective prayer said as we passed over the last bridge, we walked silently and purposefully towards the tree. Leading the group, I could feel their collective presence, and I gathered it all up with me as I silently called out to Manannán, announcing our soon arrival.
Other friends who were unable to do the 7km walk joined us on the final stretch of the path, at the back of the group in respect to those who had walked the entire pilgrimage. Our group now 17 strong, we descended the grassy hill to stand at the edge of the lake, with many of us taking off our shoes and stepping into the cold water. A flock of geese bobbed out on the water to the right. Standing barefoot on a large flat rock in the shadow of the tree, I called out to Manannán, lifting my voice over the crashing of the waves. And so we prayed together, calling for the presence of Manannán mac Lir to inspire us.
And inspire us he did, for some received omens and messages, as we often do after this walk. For me, all he said was, “Good job! You have done what you had set out to do.” And with an enigmatic smile I was told no more, not even about the things that I had been told to bring in an earlier vision, but simply that the act of bringing them, and leading my Grove was satisfactory. I lit a bundle of sage that I had offered in the previous day’s rite, while those around me continued to commune.
Some friends picked up trash, some took photos, others made personal offerings, and when we were finished in our own time we gathered at the top of the hill for the final prayer and goodbye.