- Describe the purpose and function of ritual. (minimum 300 words)
There are many purposes and functions of our rituals. One of the main reasons we do what we do is so that we can enter into and continue relationships with the kindred. Most of our rituals tend to work on our relationship with the Shining Ones, but we can design our works to build the relationships with the Ancestors or Land Spirits (Corrigan, The Intentions of Drudic Ritual).
Another reason we worship is to receive the blessings of these supernatural forces that we’re trying to build relationships with. In our standard order of ritual, we give offerings and sacrifices to the various powers, and we ask that these powers give us a blessing of some kind back (Brooks, Goals of Group Ritual). To find out what this blessing is, we take an omen using the divination tools that we are familiar with.
We also worship for spiritual fulfillment. How this is accomplished varies by participant, and is often not easy to achieve in a large group setting. This is the warm fuzzy feeling that we all hope to have by the time we leave a ritual. This can also be a way of us to help build a stronger and closer community. To me it seems that if we all get those warm fuzzies, we all work well together in worship, and as a result, we start forming a closer and closer community (Brooks, A Druidic Ritual Primer).
Our high day rituals should be all about those purposes, but also we have to include into that the celebration of the seasons. These celebrations should include blessings, relationships, fulfillment, and community building, but we also have to mark the passage of the year, and the various customs of those times. We also can do rituals for the purpose of magic. This magic can be of any kind we want, and of course results will vary (Bonewits, The Basic Principles of Liturgical Design).
A reason that I personally have not used yet for ritual is a very important one. That is the rites of passage. These include birth, coming of age, marriage, and death. These are rituals to mark specific events in one’s life. It is also through these rites that one normally gains extra responsibilities in the community, such as coming of age marks you becoming an adult.
Overall, there are many purposes and functions of ritual. It is all up to the person(s) writing the liturgy, those performing it, and of course, those participating in the rituals.
- Describe some of the roles individuals might take on within the context of ritual. (minimum 100 words)
The most common roles in the context of a Druidic ritual are those of the Seer, Bard, and Clergy. Seers are responsible for taking and interpreting what ever kind of divinations may occur during the ritual. In ADF rituals, this is usually just when we take the omen, and we’re asking what blessing we are receiving. Bards are responsible for much of the beauty of the ritual. They often are called upon for poetry, stories, or leading the songs and chants. The Clergy are responsible for the magical arts of the ritual. It is the Clergy that attempt to control the energy, or Mana as Isaac says, that is built up throughout the ritual. The Clergy are then responsible for directing that energy to what ever purpose it was raised for (Bonewits, Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach).
- Describe the concepts of the Center and the Gates in ADF's Standard Liturgical Outline. (minimum 300 words)
In most cultures for the sacred center, it’s acceptable to have the fire, well, and tree as the center. In others, such as the Vedic culture, fire is the only appropriate symbol. All cultures will have fire at minimum. This center we create is a re-creation of the sacred center. This is the center of our universe.
The center is established through our hallowing of the symbols we are using, and acknowledging that what we have just created goes through all worlds and all realms. To me, the tree is the best example of that. In the Celtic view, it connects the underworld, midworld, and the heavens in a vertical fashion. In the Norse for another example, its roots connect the various worlds. Needless to say, this center we are creating is in all worlds, and aides us in communicating between all worlds.
The Gates are in a way like a doorway between us and all the other worlds or realms. This doorway is both for the various deities, spirits, Ancestors, etc, to move through, and also to break down any barriers for the communication between us and all the other worlds (Thomas, A Cosmological Pre-Ritual Briefing).
Normally what we do is call on a psychopomp deity to aide us in this. The idea behind this is that if they are a deity that can, and has, traveled through all worlds, they can more easily open the gates for us. We don’t need to limit ourselves to just the psychopomp deities though. We can ask other beings that have been known to move through all the worlds, such as Sleipnir.
In the end, what we’re asking the gatekeeper to do is to help us take our hallowed center, and open that as a gate. As my favorite wording for opening the gates goes, “Now, join your magic with mine and let the fire open as a gate, let the well open as a gate let the tree be the crossroads between all worlds.”
- Discuss why ADF rituals need not have a defined outer boundary, or "circle" and the sacralization of space in ritual. (minimum 100 words)
When I first joined ADF it was explained to me that the entire world was sacred. So, we therefore don’t need to create a sacred space inside a sacred space. Another reason that we don’t need a fixed boundary is because we are recreating the cosmos in our ritual. In the standard liturgy this is the fire, well, and tree. When we create this sacred center, we are therefore making the space that we are in sacred.
We also sacralize the space in other ways. One way is by processing in and declaring where we are is sacred. Another is by singing chants that declare our location as sacred. We can even just join hands and do the same thing. We just are not casting a bubble of energy to make a sacred space, or to create a boundary.
There are boundaries though, and they are not fixed. In my grove’s practice we define the boundary of our sacred space by the light of the fire. This is obvious when we make offerings to the Outdwellers and ask “all those who abide beyond the light of this works fire” to leave us alone. We also often form visual markers of boundaries of our sacred space, be it the room/house we’re in, the grove of trees that surround us, the fence around the yard, torches, or the bit of chalk (or some marking device) on the ground around where we’re worshiping (Bonewits, Step by Step through A Druid Worship Ceremony).
There is also no evidence that the ancients cast circles or called quarters to sacralize a space. There is a side benefit of not putting ourselves into a bubble though. We don’t need to cut ourselves out, and if someone needs to leave for the bathroom, screaming child, etc… they can leave. In the end though, we have defined in some way that we are now setting this piece of earth apart for sacred purposes.
- Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
The Earth Mother is very significant in our liturgy. First off, ADF is religion that honors her and worships her. Without her, we would not be able to survive. She provides us with all the nourishment and shelter we need to survive. She is also all around us and with us all the time, from birth to death and beyond in both directions.
Since she is so important to us, we honor her first in our rituals with an opening sacrifice, and thank her last when we close our rituals, including returning to her all that we left unused. As one person had said during a ritual, if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be here, we’d just be floating around in space (Corrigan, The ADF Outline of Worship: A Briefing for Newcomers).
Another way we in ADF view the Earth Mother is also as a goddess. If one looks at the Greek mythology, you can see Gaia who is the Greek Earth Mother, and the original Goddess in their lore. We can also see in the Germanic people Nerthus as a Goddess of the Earth. Many people and Groves in ADF when making offerings to the Earth Mother actually give offerings to a local deity or spirit that is the Goddess of that place.
- Discuss the ritual significance of Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
These are two of our main means of giving sacrifices during our rituals. As I have stated in previous questions, these are part of our sacred center. They also can act as portals or gates to the other worlds. Along the idea of a pathway to the other worlds we can look at them like this. Fire burns and consumes our sacrifice turning it into ash and smoke. This smoke goes up, towards the heavens, and to the Shining Ones.
The well is water, and water historically was associated with the underworld. So, if we make sacrifices to the water, and then eventually give this to a larger, natural body of water since most of us don’t have that luxury in our ritual space, we are sending offerings to the underworld and our Ancestors (Paradox).
We also use fire and water to represent order and chaos. If one looks at the two powers meditation, you are calling on the earth waters and the sky fires. In this case, the earth waters are symbolic of chaos and the unknown of the underworld. The sky fires are representative of order. The sky is where the deities are and where order will come from. As one goes through the two powers meditation, you bring these energies into yourself and mix those earth waters and sky fires and use that to ground and center ourselves, preparing us for ritual work. Kirk Thomas also suggests that this is also re-creating the vertical axis where we are now the world tree and bridging the gap between the heavens and the underworld (Thomas, The Two Powers: An Alternative For Large Rites).
- 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)
Fire is one of the primal elements in almost all Neo-Pagan rituals. In most, if not all, creation myths fire plays a role in the creation of the world. Fire also is a transformer. It will take whatever we put into it and send the “essence” of it to the heavens. As a result this is a common way to make sacrifices to the Shining Ones. So, in ADF we have taken the fire and set it up in our sacred center, hallow it, and use it as a gate to the other worlds, not just for us sending sacrifices to them, but to allow that which wants to come through to us to do so.
The well is usually connected with the underworld and death. In many creation myths, the world that we know is surrounded by water. We also have many mythologies in which the dead travel across the seas when they go and die. We also have the phenomenon where people would make major sacrifices of material goods to bodies of water. This can be seen by the various lakes and rivers throughout Europe where they have discovered large quantities of metal. At the time they were sacrificed, that was a big sacrifice for the owner. Wells and rivers also often are highly sacred or of major importance in the Celtic and Norse cultures.
The tree is the world tree. This is a common theme among the Celts and the Norse. The tree is the physical center of their universe. With the Celts this was seen as the tree being a vertical axis that goes through all worlds. In the Norse culture, things were more planar and the roots of the tree went to wells in each of the worlds. We use the tree as the part of our sacred center. When we hallow it and open the gates, we ask that it act as the crossroads between all worlds (Paradox).
- Discuss the Outdwellers and their significance in ritual (or not, as the case may be). (minimum 100 words)
The concept of the outdwellers is a rather unique thing. Outdwellers are those beings that are not part of our tribe. They are those that are beyond the boundaries of our community. In one respect, they are the unknown and hence are "scary." With most other Neo-Pagan groups a boundary of some sort, such as a circle, is set up to keep the unwanted out. Since we do not set up a boundary like this, what we do is ask those who wish to cause trouble or harm to accept our offering, sometimes thought of as a bribe, and trouble not our workings. Surprisingly to me, when I first started doing this, it works and works well (Corrigan, The Worlds and the Kindreds).
- 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)
We invoke the Three Kindreds into our rituals so that all the beings that are important in our histories are made welcome into our ritual space. As part of inviting them into our ritual space we give them offerings and sacrifices. At a later point of the ritual we ask for hospitality back, and ask them for blessings back, as read by the omen.
The Deities are the Gods and Goddesses of old. These are the beings of myth and legends. Many of the people involved in ritual tend to have one or two that are their patrons and matrons. The deities are often considered to be “higher” beings that have more knowledge and power than us. We invoke them at this point in the ritual so that all the deities are welcomed into our space. By this I mean the deities of those present, the deities of the space we’re in, and also all the deities of old that may be interested in us. We hope that by offering to them at this point, we’ll get good blessings in return.
The Ancestors are those who have come before us. They are our parents, grandparents, friends, etc. that have passed on. These are beings that can give us advice, and are often called on to do just that at Samhain. When I call on them, I call on the ancestors of my blood, ancestors of my kin, and the ancestors of the place I am in. Normally we don’t do much beyond acknowledging and giving them this one offering. Samhain is usually a different time where we do further workings with them, since that is a festival of the dead. It is through our remembrance of them and offerings to them in all our rituals though, that we hope they will look after and aide us throughout life, and also blessings in return.
The Land Spirits are essentially everything else that is around us.
They are the animals and vegetation of the area. They also are the unseen beings such as the Fey of the area. It’s important that we remember them in our ritual for many of the same reasons that we remember the Earth Mother. They are around us all the time and we interact with them on a daily basis. We call on them at this time in our ritual so that they are formally invited in and given recognition. Of all the Kindred, they have the most effect on our daily lives, but they are very often neglected. And, like all the other kindred, we hope that our offerings and remembrance that we live among the land spirits will give us blessings in return (Corrigan, The Worlds and the Kindreds).
- Describe other possible models for the "Filling Out the Cosmic Picture" sections. (minimum 100 words)
There are so many ways that the Cosmic Picture can be filled out. The Three Kindred is just the most common way. Things could be a lot more elaborate and, hence, take much longer if we wanted to. We can call on the beings in each of the worlds that can be of help to our ritual. We can also call on beings that will help us in the purpose of our ritual for that day. This is all usually culturally specific though. What is important, in my opinion, is that we are inviting the various beings into our ritual to aide us with our work, if any, and for us to remember that they are there. We so often forget to take time to remember all that is around us, and I feel that they enjoy getting a bit of acknowledgement now and then (Corrigan, The Worlds and the Kindreds).
- Discuss how one would choose the focus (or focuses) for the Key Offerings. (minimum 100 words)
The focus of the Key Offerings should be the focus of the ritual. If we’re doing a high day ritual, it should be based on what that high day is about, and should include deity(ies) that are appropriate for that season, such as the Dagda and the Morrigan for Samhain, our Lugh for Lughnassadh. If we were doing a different work, the beings we call in for the key offerings should be appropriate for that work.
There has been a lot of discussion/argument recently on the Liturgists Guild list with regards to the key offerings. The issue appears to be that we are providing open, group rituals, and that people are calling on their own personal deities, without regard for those beings we’ve invited in specifically. This has ruffled some feathers, and does provide the chance that non-IE deities are called in, and incompatible deities are called at the same ritual.
In the end though, we should be calling on beings to help us with the purpose of the ritual, and give offerings to the spirit of the ritual. I usually word this as asking people to give offerings to the deities we have called, and the season (occasion, etc) we are celebrating.
- Discuss your understanding of Sacrifice, and its place in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Sacrifice literally means to make holy. What we are doing when we make sacrifices in ritual is to take what we’re giving, making it holy, and send it to whatever we were sacrificing it to. We would hope that what we’re sacrificing has been thought out, and that the receiver of them will appreciate it. The sacrifices should also be of some value to the person making it (Thomas, A Cosmological Pre-Ritual Briefing).
In our rituals, this is usually part of the hospitality we give. We make a sacrifice to the Three Kindreds in hopes that they come and be with us and aide us in our works. We make sacrifices to the beings for the Key Offerings in hopes that the purpose of the ritual is fulfilled. We also ask that all the sacrifices we give come back to us, hospitality wise, in the blessings they give us.
- Discuss your understanding of the Omen. (minimum 100 words)
The Omen is when we find out if what we have done has been accepted and worked. I have seen the omen be done many ways. One common way was a past-present-future spread to see where the grove stands. This does have its place, but I don’t think it’s really what we should be asking. When ADF started, it was asking if the ritual worked and if we’re going the right way. Presently this has changed in many of the groves to asking what blessings we are about to receive. Normally we ask each of the beings we invited in during the Filling Out the Cosmic Picture section of the ritual what they give us. This section is the start of the lowering of the energy in the ritual too. In the even the omen we receive is not considered good, we can go back, give more offerings, and hope that we get a better omen (Corrigan, Magical Skills in Druidic Ritual).
- Discuss your understanding of the Blessing Cup, or "Return Flow". (minimum 100 words)
The Blessing Cup is when we physically receive the blessings that are being given to us by the beings we’ve called into the ritual. We figure out what these blessings are through the Omen we have just taken, although I have heard of some groups that take the blessing first, then the omen to find out what we’ve taken. This is the reciprocity part of the principle of hospitality. We have given of ourselves to the various beings we have invited into the ritual. What we’re asking is that they give back to us what they can. On top of that, principle, the waters do help start grounding us to send the energy back as needed (Bonewits, Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach 73).
- Describe possible cultural variances for elements discussed in questions 3 through 14 above. (minimum 100 words)
There can be many variances to the above based on the culture that is the focus of the worship. One of the spots where we have the most variation would be the sacred center. In the Vedic culture, all offerings traditionally go through Agni, who is a deity of fire. In that case, the well and tree is not really appropriate. In the Hellenic culture, the center of the universe is the well at Delphi, so a tree is not really needed.
There are also some variances in the concept of the gatekeeper. Most of us think of the gatekeeper as a being that helps us open the gates between all the worlds. In the Roman culture, Janus has been seen as not just the gatekeeper, but also the gate itself. Overall, every part of the ritual can be changed to be more specific to the culture of focus.
- Describe how ADF liturgy corresponds with your personal or group practice. (minimum 100 words)
Overall, I have found the ritual format that is set out by ADF is a very powerful format that works well. Since this works so well, in the grove rituals we do follow the format completely. As a result, we have had some powerful and extremely fulfilling rituals.
For personal practice, I tend to follow most of the liturgy. I have experimented with some parts though. I’ve played around with who or what I call on for the key offerings, depending on my intent of the ritual. I’ve also played around with the gatekeeper and have asked for non-deities to be the gatekeeper, with success. Overall though, I generally stick to the standard format because it works, and works well.
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