- Describe the purpose and function of ritual. (minimum 300 words)
In general, the purpose of ritual is to form a relationship and connect with the divine, so that we then get something back from the divine. In the case of ADF, this means forming a *ghosti relationship with the Three Kindreds. We are praising them and offering to them so that we might receive their blessings. We are seeking to not only to receive blessing for ourselves and our kin, but also to “awaken that same divine spark in our own souls so that we can bless the world in return” (Corrigan “ADF Outline”).
There are also specific purposes for holding rituals. For example, when observing the eight High Days, we are holding ritual essentially in honor of the seasons. There are various deities who can be associated with each High Day, but the when and the why for the ritual is due to the occurrence of the world changing around us. The structure and predictability allows us to build community with those around us and also build a relationship with the Kindreds (Corrigan “Intentions”).
Another reason to hold ritual is for Rites of Passage. These are an important part of any religious tradition, being able to properly honor and mark those big moments in life: birth, death, coming of age, marriage, divorce, etc. These rituals invite the Kindreds to share in those important moments in our lives and also invite the community to take part (Corrigan “Intentions”).
The third reason to hold ritual, because we Druids work in threes, is for personal work. This can be in the form of simple devotional work, praise offerings, or offerings of thanks. It can be to seek out the help of patrons or other magical allies. It can be to do trance work or energy work. These are all valid reasons for ritual, and each have a purpose (Corrigan “Intentions).
So, in holding ritual, the participants are looking for help with a task, for a relationship with the divine, and/or building a community around shared beliefs or practices. I think in pagan traditions, as in many others, there is a desire to blend our religious practices and beliefs into our lives as much as possible. It therefore becomes difficult to separate out the magical from the mundane, and it is through setting out specific liturgy and rituals that we are able to do that.
- Describe some of the roles individuals might take on within the context of ritual. (minimum 100 words)
In ritual, as each step in the Core Order is worked through, there is a person performing the magical acts surrounding the steps. That being said, one role that an individual could take in ritual is either reciting the words for a step, or performing the magical act, or preferably both, since words hold power. This could be either Bard or Clergy. It is certainly not necessary for the same person to take on every magical act in a ritual. For instance, it may be preferable to have one set of folks purifying and sanctifying the space and the folk, another set calling to the Kindreds, another set taking the Omen, and so on. Another role that an individual could take would be the role of Sacrificer. I’ve found in larger rituals it’s helpful to keeps things moving without losing energy to have one person designated to give the offerings, whether it’s libating wine, pouring oil of the fire, or lighting incense.
- Describe the concepts of the Center and the Gates in ADF’s Standard Liturgical Outline. (minimum 300 words)
The Center of the World is what is created in order to bring the focus of the Kindreds to us, and to allow our focus to extend beyond the mundane world. In many Indo-European cultures this is symbolized by the Fire, Well, and Tree, however only the fire is consistent through all Indo-European cultures. For, example, the Vedic culture there is only a fire, and in the Hellenic culture, rather than a tree there is an omphalos. However, the Center is still represented in these varying symbols. In any case, the idea is that as we create the Center of the World, we are aligning the Center of our world to the Center of all worlds. It is this alignment that allows us to communicate with the spirits on all levels.
The Gates are opened into what can be called Sacred Space both in our own minds and in the world(s). When the Gates are open the magic can flow more easily and the Kindreds have an easier time reaching us so that they can hear us and bless us (Brooks). When the Gates are opened, normally a Gatekeeper is requested to aid in the opening The gatekeeper is a being who often takes the role of psychopomp, which is a being that can walk between the world, or exist in all the worlds. One Gatekeeper who is invited to aid in the work is Hermes in Hellenic rituals. Through studying the lore we know that Hermes was able to transverse the worlds as Zeus’s messenger between the Upper-, Middle-, and Underworlds. In our grove we invite Garanos Crane to aid us in Opening the Gates. He is an example of a being that exists in all the Worlds. He has one foot in the water, one foot on the land, and an eye cast to the Sky, where he soars beyond the ninth wave.
- Discuss why ADF rituals need not have a defined outer boundary, or “circle” and the sacralization of space in ritual. (minimum 100 words)
All of the earth is sacred, and so we do not need to “create” that sacred space. What we do do in ADF ritual is recreate the cosmos to bring the attention of the Kindreds to us. They are already there, and the space is already sacred, we are more creating a space, like a room, that makes it easier for them to hear us and for us to hear them. It’s like filtering out the distractions of the mundane world. Most often in our rituals a boundary is still loosely defined, because we stand in a circle-ish shape, and this helps with visualization of the Center of the World, but it is not a locked out boundary, rather is more permeable than that. In ADF ritual people can come and go as they please. This helps because if someone has to depart for some reason (bathroom, children, etc.) they can leave with minimal disruption to the folk around them.
- Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
The Earth Mother is a common thread through Indo-European mythology. In ADF ritual she is honored both first and last, and is given any and all unused offerings. This is fitting because while we arguably cannot be surrounded by the other aspects of our religion at all times, the Earth Mother is ever present, and existed before we arrived here, and will exist beyond our parting. So it is right that we should honor Her and respect Her, because she is our great provider and gives a home. The Earth Mother is sometimes addressed simply as such, or as the All-Mother, but in specific Indo-European cultures she is given a name, such as the Hellenic Gaea (who is rightly a Titan, and came before the Olympians, who are most commonly worshiped). Some people and Groves also prefer to think of the Earth Mother as a more localized spirit, specific to their place of worship. All of these ways of interpreting the honor that should be given to the Earth Mother are valid. Another reason that the Earth Mother holds such significance in ADF liturgy is because not only is she generally the root and mother of us all, she is also very important in RDNA, one of the prominent organizations that ADF grew out of.
- Discuss the ritual significance of Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Fire and Water are the two main ways of giving and receiving praise and blessings in ADF ritual. As the Fire and the Well connect us to the Kindreds, so do they connect the Kindred back to us. So when we make offerings, it is generally done in one of two ways. When an offering is made to the fire, the essence of that offering is transformed and sent up as smoke to the Heavens. When and offering is made to the Well, it is sunk in the waters. In ancient times this would more likely have been a natural well or river, and the offerings would have literally sunk down into the depths and darkness, to the place where the Ancestors dwell.
When seeking a return flow of blessings, this too is done through fire and water. In purifying the sacred space, incense is often lit, and wafted about each ritual participant, to grant the purity and blessings of the Kindreds to the participant. In the same way, after the Omen is taken and the folk call for the return flow, this is done through water. The folk call for the Waters, which are by their very nature sacred, and ask the Kindreds to fill them with their blessings, which are then drunk to bring those blessings into our body.
- Discuss the origins of the Fire, Well and Tree, and the significance of each in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words for each of the Fire, Well and Tree)
The Fire is a great power. It brings light in the darkness. It brings warmth in the cold. It transforms our offerings into smoke that rises to the Heavens, carrying it to the Gods. The Fire is what brings the shining light of the Ouranic powers down on to us, to bathe us in wisdom, light and warmth. The Fire is prominent in many creation myths, as being something that the Gods had and the humans needed to make them “man.” In Greek myth Prometheus convinced Zeus to not destroy the race of man in addition to giving them fire (“Prometheus”). This fire was needed not only to help mankind survive, but also allowed them to burn offerings to the Gods. In ADF we use it as a piece of our sacred center because of its prominence in ancient worship and because it is a transformer and through it was can send our offerings to the Kindreds and allow them suffuse us in their blessings.
The Well contains the sacred waters and connects us to the dark cosmic and chthonic powers below. The Well connects to the underworld and allows the wisdom of our Ancestors to flow up through the blood of the Earth to fill us, sustain us, and nourish us. The idea concept of the Well being the connection to the Ancestors comes from the idea that in many myths the dead needs to cross water in order to move on. For example, in Greek myth the river Akherosian must be crossed with the help of Charon in order to reach the Underworld where the Ancestors dwell (“Charon). The concept of the Well and the origin of it comes from the idea that in Norse mythology Yggdrasil was rooted deep within the Well and from the Well came the Ancestors, our own fate, and great power. This is described in the Poetic Edda in the Grimnismol (Hare). In ADF we use it as a piece of our sacred center because it connects us to the Kindreds, and through archeological findings we know that metal was often offered to rivers and wells in ancient times.
The Tree is the crossroads. Its roots stretch deep into the Well and travel out through the world. Its branches reach up into the Heavens, where the primal fire dwells, and cascade around us here in the Mid Realm. The trunk is the center of the universe, connecting the fire and the water. The tree is like a great line of communication that connects us to the Ancestors below, the Nature Spirits here, and the Shining Ones above. It transverses the worlds and connects us to all beings. In ADF we use the tree as a piece of our sacred center because it is what holds the other pieces together. We use it as a crossroads to open the lines of communication and hold them open so that we may commune with the spirits (Paradox).
- Discuss the Outdwellers and their significance in ritual (or not, as the case may be). (minimum 100 words)
The Outdwellers are a rather unique feature to ADF ritual as opposed to other Neo-pagan rituals. Since we don’t form boundary to separate ourselves out from the world completely, there is the chance that being who would disrupt our ritual may interfere. So, the treaty with the Outdwellers is the part of ritual where we make a peace offering to beings whose purposes are cross with ours so that they will leave us be for us to perform ritual. I prefer to also think of the Outdwellers not only as beings who would distract from the work, but also as the feelings and emotions that have no place in the ritual work. When I make offerings to the Outdwellers I try to remove all things that would distract me from my purpose in ritual space. That means stepping aside from thoughts that resonate in the mundane world so that I can focus on the work at hand.
- Describe the intention and function of the Three Kindreds invocations, and give a short description of each of the Kindreds. (minimum 100 words for each of the Three Kindreds)
The Three Kindreds are the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Shining Ones. The idea behind the invocations is that we are welcoming them and asking them to listen to us in our ritual. We’re going to give them gifts, and would like to receive blessings in return (the *ghosti) relationship. We invoke them to get their attention specifically so we can give them praise.
The Ancestors are the Mighty Dead; the Ancient Wise who have gone before, and as such they have knowledge beyond my comprehension that can help me on my path, my journey. There are three ways that I connect to the Ancestors. There are ancestors of my blood, ancestors of my country/culture, and ancestors of my hearth. The Ancestors of my blood are those who I’m directing related to: grandparents, great-grand parents, and so on. The cultural Ancestors are all the people who have helped to shape our world and culture, and made it what it is today, whether through scientific discoveries, or work in the humanities, or through exploration. By honoring the cultural ancestors I connect both to the culture of humanity as a whole, as well as to sub-cultures of people and professions that have shaped out society. The Ancestors of my hearth are those who are reflected in the lore, often as heroes. They are the people who’ve experienced the world, strove to make it a better place, and because of that have had their stories told to millions.
I see the Nature Spirits in two broad categories. Those beings of nature that we can see, and those we can’t. The first type of Nature Spirit is the more obvious. They are the creatures that inhabit our world: the birds, fish, insects, reptiles and mammals, but they are also the trees, rivers, rocks, plants, dirt, and oceans. They are all part of the ecosystem that makes our world work together and function, and that is a large part of why they deserve honor. The second type of Nature Spirit, the kind you can’t see, are the mythical beasts. This incorporates creatures that live hidden in our world, are described in myths, or take on roles beyond that of their mundane counterparts. These nature spirits are those who are our spirit guides, our totems, or those to deliver omens. I see this second group of Nature Spirits as the tenders of the first.
The Shining Ones, the bright and numinous beings, are the Deities. They are the Gods talked about in myth and legend. They each have a domain that allows them to connect to each other and/or the mundane world. There are those who work in the Upper Realm, Gods of the sky, air, sun, wind, etc. or those who are specifically said to dwell in the Upper Realm. There are those who work in the mid-realm, like Gods of the forest, hearth, commerce, war, etc. And then there are those who work in the Underworld, generally considered to be the Gods of death. In this sense, calling them the Shining Ones, is generally a misnomer, since not all those Gods would “shine,” but the idea that they all radiate power fits.
- Describe other possible models for the “Filling Out the Cosmic Picture” sections. (minimum 100 words)
The common way that we fill out the cosmic picture in ADF is by invoking the Shining Ones, Nature Spirits, and Ancestors to join us in ritual space (Corrigan “Standard”). In this way all Shining Ones are called forth at once. A different way this could be done is by calling the beings based on the realms that they dwell in, such as the Underworld, Mid Realm, and Heavens. Thus, one could first call for all the beings of the Underworld to join in ritual. One would address each of the Three Kindreds residing in the Underworld, rather than assigning a Kindred to a place. In a similar fashion, one could call based on the Land, Sea, and Sky. I think the way that you invite the Three Kindreds to join in ritual and fill out the cosmic picture depends on the hearth culture that you’re working in. Some ways of calling out make more sense than others. For example, in Norse mythology, there are nine realms that spirits dwell in. It may make sense in this case to fill out the cosmic picture by calling out the beings of each realm rather than in other groupings.
- Discuss how one would choose the focus (or focuses) for the Key Offerings. (minimum 100 words)
The Key Offerings should be chosen after the purpose of the ritual is chosen. If the ritual is a High Day, and specific deities are associated with the culture that the High Day is being celebrated in, then the offerings made should reflect the purpose and values of that High Day and that Deity of the Occasion. If the ritual being held is more of a general blessings ritual with no specific deity being called, then what kinds of general offerings were made to all the spirits being offered to? For instance, knowing that Apollo in Greek myth valued bay or laurel, that is what you could offer to him specifically, but if the ritual was for a general blessing in the Hellenic hearth culture, then oil, wine, or barley would be acceptable because those were common offerings made in Greek ritual. If the rite being held is for a specific purpose, such as healing, then what kinds of offerings do the healing Deities being called on ask for? Or, more generally speaking, what kinds of materials or tool would be beneficial in a healing and could be offered? So, overall, it is more important to identify the purpose of the ritual, and the Key Offerings will follow.
- Discuss your understanding of Sacrifice, and its place in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Sacrifice is literally “to make sacred,” from the Latin roots sacer (sacred) and facere (to make), so in ritual, when making a sacrifice, you are taking the thing that is being offered and making it sacred so it can be a gift to the Kindreds. It applies well with the general idea that a sacrifice is a gift to the Gods of something that is being removed from human usage. So, a sacrifice should then be something that has meaning to both the person making the sacrifice, and the being that they are sacrificing to; it should be a gift. When this gift is given part of the *ghosti relationship is formed. We, the folk, have given of something to the Kindreds, and they will in return give us something back. Some examples of this are the Return Flow or the shared meal. A sacrifice is made and we are then given something in return to bless us and sustain us (Thomas). The shared meal can take a few different forms. In a Dumb Supper (normally this occurs at Samhain, or another celebration of the Ancestors) a food plate is prepared specifically for the Ancestors and the Folk, or the family, eat in silence at the table with the Ancestors. The idea behind the silence is that we speak all throughout the year, and so at the Dumb Supper we are to listen to the Ancestors, and we we speak it is only about them. The potluck feast after a ritual is another example of the shared meal. During this time, after we have tended the relationship we have with the Kindreds, we are coming together as a community to share a meal with our fellows and the Kindreds. Part of the meal is offered to them, and the reset is shared amongst the Folk in fellowship.
- Discuss your understanding of the Omen. (minimum 100 words)
The Omen is the part of the ritual where the Seer asks questions of the Kindred to some end. In our personal Grove rites we ask three questions: 1) What is our path? 2) On what should the Grove focus until the next Druid Moon? and 3) On what should each individual focus until the next Druid Moon. I think these demonstrate one way of taking the omen. The Seer is asking for guidance as a whole: where have we been, where are we now, and where are we going? He is then asking for a focus to get us where we are going on two levels: the level of the folk and the personal level. I think it’s important that when the Omen is taken that it resonate with each person present. By deliberately asking for an individual focus, this call for that. Some other common ways of taking the Omen are by asking for what each Kindred offers as a blessing (or a warning, in the case of a bad omen). Some ask whether or not the offerings have been accepted as the first question and some assume that since the offerings were made in good faith, that they have been accepted.
- Discuss your understanding of the Blessing Cup, or “Return Flow”. (minimum 100 words)
The Return Flow is a very important part of the *ghosti relationship that we share with the Kindreds. By sacrificing we have given of ourselves and that means that something must now be given in return. As far as what is given in the Return Flow, what we are drinking from the Blessing Cup, is determined by the Omens. One of the common ways of taking omens is by specifically asking what each Kindred blesses the folk with. By asking these questions it is then determined what we are receiving in return from the Kindreds. For example, sometimes the Kindreds offer us wisdom, gifts, or advise us of new beginnings, and sometimes they caution us against difficulties to come. These omens, of course, depend on the divination system used and the Seer in question. In any case however, when the Folk drink of the Blessing Cup, they take the energies of the Kindreds into themselves. Following the Return Flow is either a working if required by the rite, or the beginning of restoration of the ordinary. The Return Flow is the first step in “powering down” from all the energy that has been circling around in a ritual. The folk take of the blessings and that thereby takes them out of the space. If there is a working to be done then the folk have been filled with the power of the Kindreds when they drank from the Blessing Cup and so have enough energy to be able to complete the working. If there is not, then the folk take what they need of the Return Flow and, as with all else left unused, give the rest back to the Earth Mother.
- Describe possible cultural variances for elements discussed in questions 3 through 14 above. (minimum 100 words)
The cultural variances to the above questions are what give a ritual its flavor. One of the places where there is often cultural variance is in the creation of the Sacred Center with the Fire, Well, and Tree. In Vedic culture Agni is a deity of fire, and it is his fire that accepts the Sacrifices. A Vedic ritual will have three fires associated with Agni, the domestic fire, the ritual fire, and the solar fire, rather than the Fire, Well and Tree (Elout). This means that in Vedic ritual there may only be the Fire, and in that culture, the Fire connects all things and so is all that is necessary. In Hellenic culture Zeus found Delphi to be the Center of the world, and it is designated by the omphalos (navel). Thus, in Hellenic rites the Tree can beis replaced with the omphalos. In Roman rites, the Tree is often replaced with the Doorway of Janus. Janus is the god of the threshold, and thus stands at the Crossroads and the Center of the Worlds. Another variance that takes place regarding Hellenic ritual is the placement of the Earth Mother. Traditionally in a Hellenic ritual, Hestia is always honored first and last, thus when working through the opening prayers, Hestia may be honored prior to the Earth Mother in order to keep consistent with that hearth practice.
- Describe how ADF liturgy corresponds with your personal or group practice. (minimum 100 words)
I have found the standard Core Order to be a bit cumbersome for personal work that takes the form of devotionals at my home shrine; however, I enjoy the feeling that I get from following the ritual format in other work. For instance, at least once a week I like to do a full Core Order ritual (minor adjustments made for my Hellenic hearth). I find it to be very powerful for creating and maintaining a sacred and creative space. While I do devotionals more to offer praise to the Kindreds, I prefer the structure of the Core Order when I’m doing workings at my hearth, such as writing for religious purposes. I also perform rituals that are more of a reconstructionist bent when I’m celebrating a specific Hellenic Feast Day that has no easy equivalent to general Indo-European Feast Days.
Being a member of Three Cranes Grove, in our High Day rituals we follow a full Core Order, though our Druid Moons use a modified Core Order that have the Gates being opened first, and then having the folk enter. I like the variation of ritual formats that I experience because while I find the Core Order to be powerful and meaningful, I think I would get caught up too easily in “going through the motions” if that’s all I did. So, for me, I think the variation is better. It leads each individual type to be stronger for the experience of the many.
Additional Question: Is it possible that we give offerings to the Kindreds for what they have already given us? Is it presumptuous to think that if we give gifts to the Kindreds that they must be returned?
I think it’s a totally fair assumption that we are giving offerings to the Kindreds for things that they’ve given us. The nature of the relationship is that we can never give enough thanks for what they give us. This means that we give what we can, when we can, and from our hearts. It is the kind of close relationship where you don’t worry about who gave first, or keeping track to make sure you’re even. A relationship of love doesn’t require that things be even, only that each give as he can in a truly meaningful way. It’s like getting a birthday card from a child. They drew it and spent time on it, and it means so much more than any store bought card they could have gotten.
This also means that in giving gifts, because we’re not keeping score, we don’t need to expect every gift be returned. All will come around in the end, and if it doesn’t, then just as a one-sided friendship eventually fades, so too will that relationship with that particular Deity. In this sense, it is also important to remember that not all gifts are tangible. A child can give little to a parent beyond joy, hope, love, and wonder. And for most parents that is more than enough to maintain that relationship. So too is our relationship with the Kindreds.
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