Describe the generation of the cosmos, and what is done in ADF ritual to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. (300 words min.)
In the context of ADF ritual, the generation and creation of the cosmos is done through multiple steps, culminating with the opening of the gates. The main steps as defined by the Core Order of Ritual are:
Sacred Center must be established in a triadic Cosmos
The Three Worlds or Realms must be acknowledged
There must be some central focus that must include fire.
(ADF Clergy Council)
To understand this, we need to look at what the sacred center is. It is commonly defined as the point where all the worlds meet. This can be done relatively generically in as the place where the underworld, midworld, and upperworld all meet. It can also be more complicated, as demonstrated in a Norse context being the place where all 9 worlds meet. The key though is that the Sacred Center is the center of it all, and all places and all time can be easily reached from this point.
Establishing the Sacred Center in a triadic Cosmos is also commonly referred to as hallowing the hallows. This is where we define the three objects that we are going to use as the sacred center, and hallow them for this purpose. This is commonly the hallowing of a fire, well, and tree, but as those symbols don't occur in every IE culture, they can change. The only constant is that there must be a fire as part of this sacred center.
How this hallowing is done can vary immensely. From my experience and practice though, generally a sacrifice of silver is given to wells, a sacrifice of oil or incense is given to fires, and the axis mundi usually has the other two hallows symbolically joined with it. An example of this last part is the sprinkling of well water and censing of incense to join water and fire with the tree, our axis mundi. After the hallowing is complete, the center has been created.
Once the Sacred Center is created, we need to put it in context of our cosmos. This is done through the acknowledgment of the various worlds or realms. This is often done by saying things such as “The Underworld below us, the Midworld around us, and the Upperworld above us, we stand at the center of the worlds”. By acknowledging that the realms exists all around us, and that we can see and/or travel to all them easily from where we are, we have firmly cemented the location of our Sacred Center as THE Sacred Center. We are also now defining exactly what our cosmos is for our work, hence why this part of the rite is often called “filling out the cosmos”.
With our cosmos and Sacred Center being created, we now can use it in our workings by opening the hallows as gates to all the worlds with the assistance of a Gatekeeper.
Describe the physical items that exemplify the sacred center in ADF ritual, and how each constituent part reflects the vision of an ordered cosmos. (300 words min.)
ADF generally uses three objects to represent different parts of the cosmos. These are commonly the fire, well, and tree, but variations do exist depending on the culture we are dealing with. Because of that, it is best to think of the objects as symbolizing the underworlds, upperworlds, and tying them all together.
For representing the underworlds, ADF most commonly uses the well, but sometimes a shaft dug in the ground also fulfills this role. This object is a connection to the primal waters of the world, and to the lands of our ancestors. Water has this connection with the Ancestors in many pieces of lore. For one example, we can see in the Irish that the lands of the ancestors are to the west, and across the waters and the river Styx runs through the lands of the ancestors in the Greeks. Wells are also associated with knowledge, as can be seen best with Mimir's well in the Norse.
For representing the upperworlds, ADF uses fire, and from my experience exclusively fire, for this role. The fire is connected to the upperworlds through its smoke rising skyward. It is a transmuter. It changes what we give to it into smoke which then rises up to the upperworlds. This rising smoke carries the sacrifice to the upperworlds. In the Vedic culture though, the fire is the only object used in the ritual to represent the different parts of the cosmos. Here we see the sacrifice to Agni, the deity of the fire, who then sends it to the right place.
Finally, we have the tree, or more appropriately stated, the axis mundi. This is the central pillar that connects all the worlds together. A prime example of this from the Norse lore is Yggdrasil, the world tree. In the Greeks though, you had the Omphalos. The key thing of this object is that it represents the center of the worlds. It is also something that reaches below ground and stretches up into the sky. This allows it to connect the upper and lower worlds, with the midworld in which it stands.
Explain the divisions of the cosmos in ADF ritual, and why the cosmos is divided in this way. (300 words min.)
The most common way that one sees the cosmos divided in ADF is along the lines of where the Kindreds live: realms of the Ancestors, realms of the Nature Spirits, and realms of the Deities. How and where these are divided comes from the lore. The most common way of doing this division is best exemplified by the Norse, but also seen in many other cultures. This is the underworld, midworld, and upperworld model.
The realm of the Ancestors is where our kin that have died now reside. It is often seen as the underworld, but sometimes, as with the Irish, it is someplace over the sea. The important thing though is that this is where the ancestors dwell. This is what is being connected to through the well or similar portal, and where our sacrifices go to.
The realm of the Deities is the upperworlds or sky. All cultures see their deities as living above them. This is the realm that is connected to through the fire. It is where the smoke travels to to bring the sacrifices that were made. The added benefit of being of the highest realm, the Deities can see all the worlds, and have a better idea of what is happening. A good example of this is Odin sitting in his High Seat where he can survey the worlds.
The realm of the Nature Spirits is where we live. This is the earth, the place where we live. It is here that the Nature Spirits reside. These are the obvious beings of animal and vegetative life all around us. It is also the home of many of the unseen supernatural beings out there, such as the elves and fae. This is the realm that we are most familiar with, and where a large portion of the lore takes place.
Just because the worlds are divided in either the vertical fashion of upper, mid, and underworlds, or the more horizontal fashion of land, sea, and sky, that does not mean that the specific Kindred for each realm spends all their time there. There are plenty of examples of the Kindreds moving between realms, and even of ancestors, ending up residing in other realms. It is just a generalized guideline on where you can find the majority of that Kindred, the majority of the time.
Explain why the fire is an essential element of ADF ritual, and what relation it has to the sacrifice. (150 words min.)
The fire is the one object that must be in all ADF rituals. The fire is found within all the Indo-European cultures as a focal point for their rituals. It is through the fire that we have our connection to the upperworlds, or the realm of the Deities, and it is through the fire that we make sacrifice to the Deities.
The fire's role in sacrifice is quite simple. That is to take the physical material that we place into it for sacrifice and transmute it to a form that can be delivered to the deities. It is this role of changing the form from the physical to the esoteric that it excels at. We make the assumption though that this changed form is more palatable to the deities than the form it was in when we put it on the fire. Being that our omens show that the Deities accept our sacrifices more times than not, I think this is a safe assumption.
The other thing that fire often does is to define the boundary of our safe zone to do work in. A very common phrase to hear when people are protecting the space by making sacrifices of appeasement to the Outdwellers is “All who abide beyond the light of this works fire.” While this is a fuzzy boundary, it does define where our work and worship is taking place, and where those that don't want to take part in peace should stay out of.
Describe the purpose and function of the Gatekeeper in ADF ritual. Explain also who or what makes a good Gatekeeper, along with why they do, with at least two examples of mythological figures that could fill the role of a Gatekeeper and give an explanation of why they can. (300 words min.)
There are many arguments I have heard for who makes a good Gatekeeper, and what their characteristics should be. One example for the Norse that always comes up is Heimdall. His entire function in the Norse lore, apart from when he creates the three kinds of man, is to guard the gate to Asgard. He is literally the gatekeeper on the Rainbow Bridge. Apart from that though, he doesn't truly fit into the two most common arguments for what a Gatekeeper is.
One of the more common arguments is that the Gatekeeper should be a magician figure. This argument makes great sense in that we are asking them, when we open and close the gates, to join their magic with ours and aide us in opening/closing the gates. The opening/closing of gates is the act of using magic to create a portal between where we currently stand and the otherworlds. Henceforth, a magician to aide us with this makes perfect sense.
The other most common argument is that the Gatekeeper should be a psychopomp. This means that the Gatekeeper has to have some precedence of traveling or being in all the realms. These are often deities that deal with the dead, or wandering deities. The idea behind using a psychopomp is that they are familiar with all the worlds, and how to get around them, so they can assist you in opening the ways to those worlds, and also to assist you with bringing the sacrifices to where they need to go.
In my personal practice I tend to lean towards the psychopomp argument, and I call on various beings at different times, depending on the ritual. Odin is one that I often will call on to aide as the Gatekeeper. He is a wanderer, a magician, and a deity of the dead. As a result, he fulfills both arguments extremely well.
Another set of beings I often call are the Valkyries. These are supernatural beings that carry the slain warriors from the fields of battle to the halls of Odin or Freyja. These beings don't fit either argument extremely well. They are magical creatures, they do travel between the upper and mid worlds, and they do deal with the dead. They don't really deal with the underworld or do magical workings, as far as I have been able to find in the lore. So, they fill many aspects of both arguments, but they don't fulfill all of the arguments. As a result, I don't call on them in this role for rituals where I expect to do much work with the underworlds. They do work wonderfully for the rituals where I have called on them though.
Describe the relationship between earth and sky in ADF ritual. (125 words min.)
The traditional ADF view of the earth and the sky is best seen in the Two Powers meditation. The earth is home to the waters of chaos. They are located within the earth, but something we are able to easily reach. These are the materials of raw potential that we can use for all kinds of work. It is here where we can grow our roots down into to tap the raw, chaotic powers from the earth.
The sky is the home of the lights of order. The stars above are ordered, and give us ordered energies to work with. We can tap into these powers by reaching up with our branches and drawing down the ordered energy into our bodies. It is with these powers that we can shape the energies from the earth into what we want.
We, therefore, are the pillar that connects the two and are the magicians that can shape the powers from above and below into what we need them to be. Thus the relation between the sky and the earth is the powers of order and chaos, with us in the middle, acting in the role of the axis mundi, shaping them into the magical work that we are doing.
Summarize each of the five contexts of sacrifice in Rev. Thomas' "The Nature of Sacrifice" paper in your own words. Explain the effect of sacrifice on the cosmos and on the participants. (100 words min. for each context, 150 words min. for effect.)
Kirk Thomas explains that there are five kinds of sacrifice that is used throughout ADF (Thomas).
Maintining Cosmic Order:
The best examples of making sacrifice to maintain cosmic order are creation myths. Often it is man killing twin, if you follow the linguistic etymology of the names. Out of the remains of this sacrifice, the world is created. The Norse lore is a good example of this where the gods kill Ymir, a giant who's name is cognate with twin. The body is then dismembered and the world is created out of it. The Romans, whose lore is usually civil based, the founding of Rome shows the same kind of story. Here Romulus kills Remus to found the city of Rome. Again, here Romulus is cognate to man, and Remus is cognate to twin.
Delivering Services through Gifts:
*Ghosti is the overarching principle in this kind of sacrifice. With *ghosti, you have the guest host relationship. This is where the guest has a certain set of expectations to live up to, like provide good conversation and not to rape the host's daughter, and the host has their own set of expectations to live up to, like provide food and shelter. One can easily see that this is a basic contractual arrangement, which is the essence of all the sacrifices that Kirk talks about in this section.
The most basic example of this is the patron-client sacrifice. This is where the patron is responsible for the well being of the client, and the client provides services to the patron for their quality of livelihood. The most extreme example is the giving of ones life for some greater reward. A good example of this comes from the warriors of the Germanic people. They were willing to sacrifice their life through battle in order to gain entrance into Odin's or Freyja's halls.
Apotropaic offerings for protection:
This kind of sacrifice is about removing bad luck and getting rid of the cause from the community. In other words, it's about purifying the community. It is also about making amends for mistakes made in the past. The piacular sacrifice is an example of the latter. Here we're making a sacrifice and asking that if we screwed up, please accept this extra sacrifice as we didn't mean to screw up. The other good example of this is the scapegoat. Here someone is chosen to be sacrificed to through things like ritual feasting and gifting. Then the person would be driven out of the community, or even killed. The thought was the intimate contact this individual would allow the scapegoat to take the pollution that was around, and when they were removed from the society, they would take it with them, leaving a pure society.
Commensality – The Shared Meal:
This sacrifice is about sharing our bounty with the deities. This is done with the hopes that our giving to them will provide beneficial to us as they should, according to the principals of *ghosti, give back to us. The ancient Greeks would do this with their feast days. Here they would sacrifice an animal and give part (the inedible parts usually) to the deities, and feed the people with the rest. This would be the only way that the majority of the people got meat. It was then expected that if the deities accepted this sacrifice, they would look favorably on the city and would help them in what ever way was asked.
Chaos Mitigates Cosmos:
This is a completely modern, and in my opinion fictitious, form of sacrifice. The idea is that some chaos is introduced to our rites in order to make them less ordered and less rigid. When something is greatly ordered, it tends to become brittle and easy to break. Adding a bit of chaos can make it more flexible and in the end stronger.
Now, I don't disagree with that argument as my grove does exactly this with our Spring Equinox ritual when we invite the outdwellers into our ritual and have a ritual for the chaotic beings and powers. The argument I use is exactly the same as above. I do not see this as this kind of sacrifice but instead as more of an apotropaic sacrifice. Whenever I have seen chaos introduced into a ritual, it is never planned, and it is never done in any way that would be seen as a sacrifice as they often occur out of the “planned time for chaos” of the praise offerings, and I cannot agree that the setting a time in the ritual for people to make their own sacrifices qualifies as a sacrifice.
The effect of sacrifice can be varied, and have many results. The basic idea though is that through making sacrifice, you are helping maintain the cosmos. This is best seen through the first kind of sacrifice, Maintaining Cosmic Order, but all sacrifices do aide in this. The more immediate, and for the participants usually the more important, result though is what they physically get out of the sacrifice. In each of the sacrifices described, the participant gets something back.
We give so they may receive. The assumption is that we are giving proportionally to what we can, and we'll receive back proportionally from what the cosmos or beings can give back. This return should be much more than what we give, as the beings and cosmos have a lot more to give. In ADF rituals, this basically comes down to the return flow. We make sacrifices of all kinds throughout the ritual, and then we ask for something back. What we get back is usually determined through the taking of omens.
What does it mean to be "purified" in ADF ritual? Why is purification important? What must be purified, and who may do the purification? (150 words min.)
In my experience there really is no overall agreement as to what it means to be purified in the context of an ADF ritual. The general process of purification does tend to be similar throughout though, but at different points of the ritual. In general, the process involves the “washing” of the folk with water, often water from the well. This is done through sprinkling or aspurging the folk. Once the folk are washed some kind of incense is used to perfume and cense them. My grove does one more thing of asking people to leave their ego in a jar, which is similar to what some groves do of asking if you leave all ill will behind. This purification can be done anywhere between when the people gather for the rite, up to just prior to opening of the gates.
What is really happening though is up for debate. Some will make the argument that the people, space, tools, etc. are being spiritually cleansed of all ill will, and prepared for ritual. Hence the reason it is usually water first then the incense, wash the bad away and then make yourself smell pretty. Personally, I don't hold these beliefs. I I don't see the acts of washing and perfuming as truly doing anything as far as cleansing. The conscious act of saying that you bring no ill will or of leaving your ego behind is what is doing the real work. The incense and the water though do play a role though of being psychological cues that you are going into a ritual, and they unconsciously bring you to an appropriate mental state to go into ritual.
In many rituals we call for the blessings of the Kindreds. Where do these blessings come from, how are they provided to the folk, and why are we entitled to them? (200 words min.)
When blessings are called for in ADF rituals, they are coming from the beings that we have made sacrifice to. If we were doing a general blessing ritual and giving to all the Kindred, with the Kindred being the focus of the ritual, and the major beneficiary of the sacrifices, the Kindred would be where our blessings come from. If we have named beings of the occasion, then they are the ones that should be receiving the majority of our sacrifices, and they would then be the ones that give us the blessings.
The blessings are usually provided to the folk through the waters of life. Normally, the beings we have made sacrifice to are called to infuse the waters with the blessings they are giving us. What blessings are being given is determined through the taking of omens. Once the waters are filled with these blessings, the folk then receive them. This may be through the drinking of the waters, or in the case of larger rituals, through the sprinkling of the waters over the folk.
We are entitled to these blessings because of the principle of *ghosti. We have given of ourselves to the Kindred or to the beings of the occasion.. The rules of reciprocity say that if you give, you should receive in return. As we have given what we can to the Kindred or beings of the occasion, it is fair for us to ask that they give us in return what they can. It is this principle that our entire ritual is based off of.
ADF Clergy Council. ADF Core Order of Ritual..n.d., web. Nov 16, 2011 , http://www.adf.org/rituals/explanations/core-order.html
Thomas, Kirk. Nature of Sacrifice..Mar, 2008, web. Nov 25, 2011 , http://www.adf.org/articles/cosmology/nature-of-sacrifice.html