Lit Prac 2 Evaluations

Script for Avestan Summer Solstice Ritual, honoring Anahita, the Mother of Waters

Evaluations per Course Requirements for Liturgy Practicum 2, Requirement 2.2:

Include evaluations of the ritual from two other attendees (Include contact information for the attendees providing the evaluations. Their evaluations must be at least 125 words in length and include a description of what they thought went well and what improvements could be made, as well as whether or not they believe the ritual accomplished its purpose.)

Evaluation 1

(contact info removed for privacy)

Briefly describe the Ritual:

The ritual was the celebration of Summer Solstice. Anahita, the Mother of Water, was the Deity of occasion. Rev. Jan wrote the ritual and assigned parts to volunteers, using the ADF Core Order. She attempted to have many perform parts that they normally would not have or that have not had the opportunity to perform yet. There was no working outside of worship and praise. Everyone had the opportunity to give offerings to both the Anahita and their own personal deity. Indo-Iranian names were used during the rite.

I personally had the opportunity to make peace with the Outdwellers, not a part I normally call; however, fitting given my military service.

What did you think went well?:

Jan was very precise on instructions. There was active group participation within the rite and most people spoke loud and clear. Everyone gave offerings and people actually spoke their praise to the deities out loud; something that not everyone does. People stepped outside of their comfort zone and performed well.

What improvements could be made?:

As an evaluator, I would like to have had a copy of the written ritual prior to rite. This would have given me more time to formulate any questions concerning the rite.

Do you think the ritual accomplished it’s purpose? Explain:

Yes. The purpose was for Jan to write an entire ritual and assign those to parts to individuals who volunteered to be a part of her rite to meet the criteria for the Liturgy Practicum 2, Requirement 2.2. Part of her purpose was to get individuals involved in ritual and to speak out loud when giving offerings. Everyone who came did as she had encouraged in her instructions prior to the start of the ritual.

Evaluation 2

(contact info removed for privacy)

Briefly describe the Ritual:

The ritual was held in Three Cranes Grove’s usual nemeton, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation East in Reynoldsburg, OH. Many of the attendees had assigned ritual parts, which Rev. Avende had previously sent out to their responsible parties. She had also prepared all the required offerings, which were noted in the ritual script.

I don’t believe any of the attendees were previously familiar with Avestan-style ritual; certainly there was no broad knowledge. Rev. Avende began with a briefly not only of the ritual as a whole, but also of the particularities of Avestan ritual. Specifically, she noted the customary tag to invocations and offering praises: “for you brightness and your glory, we offer you a sacrifice!” Rev. Avende’s script also delved into the particular cultural practices of the Avestans, naming particular mythological figures in the Recreation of the Cosmos, calling on the Kindred by their Avestan titles, etc.

What did you think went well?:

The culturally specific namings and invocation tags were particulary effective; much as a translator often leaves a bit of the ‘flavor’ of a source text while doing the bulk of the heavy-lifting for the understanding of the reader, Rev. Avende took historically attested forms and adapted them to the COoR while maintaining their cultural focus.

I was also impressed by the ritual’s response to the broader secular world. The summer solstice, in Columbus at least, aligned with our community’s celebration of Pride; in fact, I and others traveled directly from the Pride festival to the rite. I haven’t talked to her directly about this matter, but I suspect Rev. Avende specifically wrote subtle allusions to the secular cultural context into her script. The attunement played on Anahita’s life-giving waters that flow from the sun, and led us through contemplating the different prismatic colors of the rainbow formed in the mists of magic, which was a fairly clear connection to Gay Pride. In addition, there were repeated references throughout the script to diversity in all its forms. None of this felt in any way forced; it all would have been completely appropriate language at any time of year. But especially in the wake of the shootings in Orlando, it provided a welcome and meaningful space to honor the blessings of the Mother of Waters as she sustains us all, in our diverse array of selves.

What improvements could be made?:

I was very pleased to have the Avestan ‘flavor’ included in the rite, and usually Rev. Avende’s script did a fine job of smoothly interpreting the unfamiliar terminiology. There were a few points, however, when an unfamiliar term would go unremarked. I seem to remember, for example, (though I don’t have the full script in from of me), that the first occurrence of the Avestan term for ‘chaos’ didn’t have an immediate gloss. Similarly, my part (Recreating the Cosmos) included a number of mythological terms for the first plant, first animal, first man, which all seem to have etymologically-related names, but it wasn’t clear in the glossing whether the gloss was translation or explanation. Especially for linguistically minded people like me, that poses a danger of pulling me into my own headspace.

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, it’s because I am: Rev. Avende’s ritual script was beautiful, and flowed smoothly; it made an unfamiliar hearth culture feel present and welcome. My quibbles above are to take it from excellent to superlative!

Do you think the ritual accomplished it’s purpose? Explain:

Indubitably. First, it assuredly marked the summer solstice: the DotO was absolutely aligned with the High Day, and Rev. Avende’s script tied her attributes back to the summer’s heat and life that we could feel and see all around us. Second, it also achieved the subtextual goals of building community and offering a space for attendees to celebrate the Kindreds and each other in all our great diversity — by welcoming difference, it bound us and the spirits more tightly in a web of care and community. It was one of the more powerful rites I’ve attended this year, and I’m quite glad to have been a part of it.

Evaluation 3

(contact info removed for privacy)

Purpose…

Our stated purpose for the rite was to celebrate the Summer Solstice, to honor the Kindreds, and to honor and give sacrifice to Ardvi Sura Anahita. The Folk did indeed bring honor and praise for the three Kindreds, as well as the Summer Solstice appropriate Deity of the Occasion Anahita, and received Blessings in return during this Avestan Rite. As a bonus, we learned about worship within a hearth culture that was new to nearly everyone who participated in this fully scripted celebration.

I very much enjoyed the ritual that began with offering to Atar, the Great Fire, with purification by washing our hands, and with an Outdwellers treaty. It was noted the Avenstans called to the Earth itself, not an Earth Mother, followed by calling to a deity of inspiration (Haoma) and the attunement. Recreating the cosmos and calling Beaver as the gate keeper continued the fire-in-the-waters theme, and then the gates were opened with well, fire, and tree imagery. General praise offerings by the Folk followed the Kindreds invitations, and offerings to Anahita were brought forth after evoking her. After the Prayer of Sacrifice (my part) came the unusual method of water scrying for taking an Omen. The Blessings were passed on to the Folk through drinking Hallowed Waters. The Spirits called upon were thanked, the gates were closed, Beaver, Haoma, and the Earth were thanked. The rite was ended.

Propitious…

There was excellent preparation for the rite, as evidenced by pre-arrangement of roles and tasks, discussion of the purpose and structure of the rite, and the availability of a full written version of the script (if we had not printed our part or had no electronic access). Jan provided effective coaching for the process and flow of the rite, as well as any parts assigned, before and during the rite. Jan adapted well to any difficulties that arose, handling changes that had to be made smoothly and gracefully.

There was also valuable assistance rendered as instruction on performance blocking, with personalized attention given to participants regarding specific questions. Jan exhibited a good understanding of individual Grove member’s aptitudes for liturgy, their current level of confidence with performance, and their willingness to stretch beyond that comfort level – and, encourage us to stretch she did! Everyone present participated in some way beyond just making personal offerings, even if it was only to use the suggested bookend phrase, “___ , for your brightness and your glory, I offer you a sacrifice,” which sounded very good and right as it was included in nearly every part spoken and in the praise offerings of so many of the Folk. It’s one of those things that quite beautifully knits a ritual together.

Along with fulfilling its ritual purpose, each part provided some information/education about the Avestan entity addressed and/or the way the Avestans might have approached their worship. I think this is one of the duties of those who lead our ritual celebrations – to teach us something of the peoples who have gone before and the deities they worshiped. Sometimes we do that in the pre-ritual briefing, sometimes through ritual storytelling strategically placed in a rite, or, as in this case, quite handily through the carefully worded liturgy itself. Even if I cannot connect with a ritual on any other level, if I come away with a new or different way to consider worship, I have “gained something in the work.”

Possibilities…

I love it when we try new things or take a new approach to things – like the water scrying for the Omen – though, it is inherently more difficult to connect with a method or approach used rarely or never before. The water scrying was completely appropriate to this rite, and this DotO, and I think it was a good call, even if it was uncomfortable as a participant to experience so much newness in one rite.

Offering to the Great Fire, Atar, and the washing of hands for each individual seemed to set the pace of this rite as somewhat slower and more word heavy than we might usually perform… though, again, both items (and all sections of the ritual) were completely appropriate to hearth culture/DotO, and were also a good call. There may or may not have been a goodly bit of wanting to get to the After-Feast in not wanting a ritual to drag on. To be fair, the lengthy liturgy was worth the information imparted.

Personal Favs…

Attunement – it seemed highly appropriate to a Summer Solstice Rite as it involved the Sun and the Waters showing how they combine to form a multitude of colors, and yet also coalesce into one unified white light… I was proud to do this Attunement at the Three Cranes Grove Summer Solstice Rite the next weekend on Sunday morning at the annual Community Festival (ComFest) in Columbus OH.

Bookends – it does indeed enhance the aesthetics of a ritual for many people to use similar formats during their parts, right down to repeating specific wording as in the case of this bookend phrase.

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