This specific morning was a very special day for me, a day I had waited for since I was in the 4th grade. It was a cool, brisk morning full of anticipation. I had decided to drive with my children the 5 hours from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to Peebles, Ohio just to be there specifically for Spring Equinox.
While driving up the road leading to the preserved site, my heart and mind were full of anticipation, but a small voice in the back of my mind kept telling me not to get TOO excited. As we drove up and found a parking space, I began to feel a bit….let down. I had been in such awe when I first read of this ancient effigy that I was expecting some great and wonderful spiritual moment upon seeing it. But sadly, there was none. The kids and I got out of the car and just took in our surroundings. Trees were all around, but obviously pruned and cut away from specific areas. The two burial mounds we had seen on the internet were obvious, but so much smaller than anticipated. There were a few people about when we got there….maybe a total of 20. All dressed in bright vibrant clothes; thick crocheted, knitted or sewn blankets and wraps in all colors of the rainbow; drums of all sizes and shapes could be seen about. We walked up the sidewalk a bit, and climbed the tall metal lookout to get a better view of this ancient sacred site. From up there we could actually see the full shape and size of the Great Serpent Mound. We descended the lookout and began our exploration of the grounds.
After walking one complete time around the ancient effigy, we veered off the path to a hiking trail to see what lay just beyond the tree line. We descended down the steps to find ourselves on a trail about 20 feet below the area we were just walking, and that wound down beside a small stream. We stopped several times admiring the beauty of the trees swaying in the morning light; and to listen to the small waterfalls gurgling the peaceful sounds of Momma Gaia. I sat on a log dampened by the morning’s dew. The energies around me were quiet; still; expectant. I sat with my eyes closed grasping the few stones I intended to charge in my hand. The smells of Mother Nature in the morning surrounded me; musty undergrowth, decaying leaves, rich soil, fresh baby green grasses just breaking the ground in search of more Sun. Around me the sounds of nature were at work; crickets cricking their farewell to the dawn, birds chirping their greeting to the morning, the wind gently rubbing the tree limbs together. The few not-so-natural, or better yet, manmade sounds began to filter in. The sounds of my little girl on the log next to me shuffling the leaves with her feet, pouting that she has to sit on the damp log with me…this the one that calls herself my “Little Go-Go Witch”. Then, the sounds of my son, the one who calls himself my “Christian Boy” like his daddy, quietly giggling as the wind tickled his eyelashes while he tried to “meditate”. How backward is that? Lol After peeking to check on my children and be sure they were still within the immediate area, I went back to my own appreciation of the absolute quiet I was enjoying.
My meditation had taken me deep under the earth, through rich dark soils to secret underground water caches where roots and small animals would possibly call sanctuary. It took me to a time of people living WITH the Earth, not just ON it. It took me to a time before our technology of today secluded us so much from our true Mother who nurtures and cares for us. A time before a 10 sec download was so much better than a 40 second download….because it’s not very efficient to waste the whole, whopping 30 seconds of your life watching the download bar to be complete. From the depths of my meditation I began to hear small tingling and jingling sounds. I heard the soft murmur of voices and so popped my eyes open to see what it was. Almost immediately upon opening my eyes, I was greeted by an old wrinkled, bone thin, scraggly beard looking hippie guy who had a smile as radiant as the sun, and an energy that just emitted joy at that moment. “Happy Spring”, he said in greeting. Shocked by the surprise of such an open greeting and recognition of the Spring Equinox, I was barely able to choke out “Happy Spring” back to him before he and the other men in his small group passed me. This was when I stood up myself, herded my children back to me and walked up the trail some more. Only a few feet up the trail we met with the females of the group of people. All so happy and chatty. All quite a bit older than me in years, but so much closer to me in spirit…..I could just feel their energies rolling off of them. “Happy Equinox”, one of the ladies brightly offered to me. “Blessed Equinox to you all as well.” I was a bit more prepared this time.
I was suddenly feeling more connected, more kindred here at the Serpent Mound. When I arrived I felt disappointed and alone. I wanted to feel SO MUCH when I arrived, but felt absolutely nothing. These few smiling faces and a couple of Equinox blessings helped me to relax more and experience the energies of the Great Serpent, rather than trying to force what I was wanting.
My kids and I finished walking the trail and discussing the historical facts as well as myths about the site as we went. It was upon reemerging from the trail and at the tail of the Serpent that a growing need for ritual hit me and hit me hard. I really wanted to leave, and quickly, hoping I would be able to get back home in time to put together even a very small and meager ritual to honor Ostara, or Spring Equinox. But, I decided to wait it out a little longer, besides, we were only about 45 minutes from the actual Equinox time.
We walked around the Serpent again and I took as many pictures as I could…that were actually any good at least. (You see, from the ground it is VERY difficult to see anything but grassy hills…the Serpent is much better viewed from above, which is why the best pictures of it are all aerial.) By this time more and more people began to show up and walk around. One group that showed up right before the actual Equinox was a group of Native American women who had brought with them their medicine drums to welcome in Spring with their beautiful chanting. I finally worked up the courage to speak to a few of the revelers who, I found out, had been there well before sunrise in order to greet the Sun as it rose. It was nice to share in their experience with bringing in Spring at the Serpent Mound, something this group did every year.
As we began our third, and final, trip around the Serpent the small group of four Native Women had finally begun their ritual drumming. The sound of their drums, as well as the ones you could hear whispering up from other areas on the ground, resonated deep within my soul. I could feel each beat of every drum play along my nerves, caressing my senses. Oh my, I love the sound of drums during a ritual, or for celebrations. The feeling made me long to get home even more to hold my ritual and give my reverence to the Lord and Lady; to Mother Earth; and to my Spirit’s need to revel. But with all the drums around me, it was almost as if it were meant to happen in this way….almost as if it were the closing of the ritual that I was feeling the need for. As we walked we could hear the women’s drumming and soft chanting; we all three actually began to bounce to the beat of their drums as we walked. When we returned, for the last time, to the Serpent’s tail, I turned to each quarter and blessed the stones I still had in my pocket. I thanked the Sun for being out that morning and helping to chase away some of the chill. And I thanked the Spirits of the Natives who built this mound….for whatever reason they had, it was a mighty one to have gone to the lengths it took to create such a magnificent work that is still in existence today, a few thousand years after it was made. The kids and I gave our thanks, blew our kisses to the Nature Spirits there, and we left.
I was barely in the car when I began planning my ritual out. I was already making plans as to what I would cook for dinner, considering I would be getting home right at dinner time. I was planning how I was going to clean my altar off and quickly redecorate it for Ostara. I already had my quarter calls done, they are usually the same as always, just with slight changes for each sabbat. I was so reenergized and amped up to get home and hold a wonderfully humble little ritual when I got home, but I was also getting very overwhelmed by my own expectations. I knew I had a long drive home. I needed to grocery shop for the dinner foods; get home and cook the dinner; clean the altar off and reset it; I had to do my ritual shower and space cleansing; I had to gather everything before the ritual took place, and most important, I had to be sure it was a special honoring and not a huge flubbing mess. It was amidst all these preparations making and the pre-ritual panicking that an overwhelming feeling of warmth, comfort and ACCEPTANCE hit me. I didn’t need to go home a hold ritual….I already had, ALL MORNING LONG. No, I didn’t have an altar set up. No, I didn’t intentionally call in the quarters; cast a circle; or request the guardians’ presence. No, I didn’t have a specific script, or even a libation. I had none of these things, but I HAD held ritual. My ritual wasn’t a ritualistic ritual, but it was a ritual nonetheless. I was a bit aggravated with myself for not realizing it sooner. I, being a deployed soldier at one point, should know very well that these things are not necessary to hold a ritual….not at all.
Ritual is not about the “stuff” you have. It’s not always about saying the “right” things. Ritual is about understanding. Ritual is about sharing. Ritual is about honoring. All of these things can be done without candles, wands, athames or incenses. All of these things can be done as simply and as beautifully as sharing a lifelong dream of yours with someone you love or cherish, and allowing them to experience your joy at that time of sacredness in your life.