All students are required to briefly outline their answer to all questions, with 200 words minimum per question. In addition, the student must write an essay of no fewer than 5,000 words (and no more than 7,500 words) on one of the following topics, or a combination of these topics. Students who wish to write on a topic of their own choosing may contact the Clergy Council Preceptor or their reviewer for permission to do so.
- Using examples from the lore and philosophy of any Indo-European culture, describe the nature of evil in the ancient world, and how ill deeds affect the relationship between human and divine. To what extent are these concepts reflected in ADF's work, and how do they fit with ADF's mission and values?
If we look at the arguments of Plato in his Republic book 2,he makes an argument that if God is to be assumed to be good, good cannot be hurtful, and if they are not hurtful, they cannot cause hurt and because hurt is equivalent to evil, God cannot be the source of evil. What that then leaves us is that evil comes from outside of deity, and the obvious place to place that evil is on humans. When one reads the rest of the Republic, it becomes obvious that he does place evil as being born out of humans, and to a large extent out of the state (Plato II). Plato's view that the deities are not the cause of evil and that it didn't have an effect on their relationship with the deities was a typical view of the Hellenic people.
Within ADF, we are silent on the cause of evil and how it affects the relationship between us and the deities. We do espouse the idea that we should follow our laws, including our own internal governing documents, which are by nature a way of saying what we as a people consider to be good actions. Within ADF we also encourage everyone to live up to our nine virtues which are what we generally consider to be values that our ancestors would consider to be good, adapted for modern times. Without being explicit on it, we are implying that right action and good action will strengthen our ties to the deities.
- How does our work in ADF address the issues of humanity, such as suffering, ignorance, and other evils? How does this compare to the way two other world religions deal with these issues? How does it compare to the lore of Indo-European cultures?
The question on how a culture addresses issues of humanity is really a question of how does the culture teach people to interact, and deal with the problems that come with being human. With this we are talking about mostly human caused issues such as suffering because of actions of someone, ignorance that affects you, wars, and other evil deeds, intentional or otherwise. While the root cause of these are ultimately interpersonal in nature, we see that deities were often considered to be involved in some way.
One good way to look at these questions in a cultural context is to look at the hero cycles or monomyths within the culture. The monomyths have the basic commonality of showing how the cultural ideal, the hero, fights and survives against the evils of the world. These are heroes though, and the stories are atypical of daily life within the cultures they come from. With that understanding though, we can see how the cultures saw their ideals dealing with interpersonal issues through studying their monomyths.
What is the monomyth?
The idea of a common monomyth, or hero cycle, was proposed by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. He postulates that the various hero focused lore over many cultures falls into a similar pattern. They all include some kind of departure from their normal life, an initiation through various trials, and then they have to deal with what they did and reintegrate with society at the end. Within these three major themes, there are more common sub-themes:
- Call to Adventure
- Refusal of Call
- Supernatural Aid
- The Crossing of the First Threshold
- The Belly of the Whale
The Trials and Victories of Initiation
- The Road of Trials
- The Meeting with the Goddess
- Woman as the Temptress
- Atonement with the Father
- The Ultimate Boon
The Return and Reintegration with Society
- The Refusal of Return
- The Magic Flight
- Rescue from Without
- The Crossing of the Return Threshold
- Master of the Two Worlds
- Freedom to Live
Throughout the monomyth cycle, we can find traces of how the hero addresses issues of humanity. Within the departure, there is some reason that the hero goes on the adventure. This is often the result of some interpersonal issue. Within the trials and victories of initiation, we usually see the hero battling some version of evil. We also often see the hero doing questionable things that often come back to haunt him later on. In the reintegration with society we see the hero having to reconcile what evils he has done with the values of the society he is coming back to. This reconciliation is an excellent place in the lore to find the values of the society, and how they address those that have acted against them.
Volsungsaga - Sigurd
At the start of this story, we find that Sigurd's father had died and he has gone to live with a foster parent, Regin. Regin tries to tempt Sigurd into greed, and Sigurd consistently rebuffs the attempts. Eventually Regin tells Sigurd about how his father was denied his rightful treasure through the telling of the story of Otter. Sigurd agrees to act and revenge Regin's father's death and help Regin get his share of the treasure. With that, we see his departure from reality and enter into the trials of initiation.
They go out searching for Fafnir, Regin's uncle, who has been turned into a dragon because of his greed and a cursed ring that was part of Otter's ransom. He does battle with the dragon and wins. Upon cooking the heart of the dragon for Regin, he burns his thumb on the meat and ends up ingesting some of the dragon's blood. This gave him the ability to understand birds and ultimately saved his life as he learned that Regin was plotting to kill him allowing him to kill Regin first.
We also are told in the story of how Sigurd falls in love with Brynhild, a valkyrie, who also predicts that he will face his death through marriage to another woman. We again see greed in others as Sigurd travels to the court of Gjuki. Gjuki wants Sigurd to marry his daughter, Gudrun, and through a magical ale of forgetfulness gets Sigurd to forget Brynhild allowing him to fall for Gudrun. They get married, bringing the riches of Fafnir into the family.
Brynhild was not happy though, especially when Sigurd tries to get her and Gunnar, Gudrun's brother, together. Brynhild puts herself in a ring of fire and promises herself to whomever is brave enough to get through the flames. The flames though only allow Sigurd through. He changes shape to that of Gunnar and goes through, winning Brynhild. When she eventually finds out about this, she accuses Sigurd of taking liberties with her, and turns the family against him, eventually leading to his, and most of the family members, deaths and the fulfilling of Brynhild's prophesy (Byock)
We see a couple themes throughout the story that addresses issues of humanity. If we take a look at the theme of greed, we can see it throughout the story. At the start, we have Sigurd that displays no signs of greed. He is tempted over and over again by Regin, and does not fall for the temptation. We also see greed on display when Gjuki tries to get Sigurd to marry Gudrun. He had to resort to the use of magic to get what he wanted, which ultimately caused the fall of Sigurd. Sigurd is showing us that he is above the greed and does not willingly do things for greed. Instead, he does things for different reasons, and implying that the culture in general does not reward greedy people.
Another thing we can see in the story is the importance of vows and the consequences of breaking them or making them on false pretenses. This theme is mostly centered on a scorned woman, Brynhild. I believe she understands that it is not Sigurd's fault for them not becoming married and she is willing to let what happened lay in the past. The lies that upset her though revolve around Sigurd changing shape and causing her to marry Gunnar. This gives her cover for avenging a wrong and ultimately cause the death of Sigurd. The multiple deaths at the end are actually all caused by many deceptions and lies. This is showing us that all actions have consequences, and that the culture valued right action over the deceptions that we saw in the story.
A major theme of this story talks about right action, and that the people should do the right thing. When Sigurd is doing things that are good, he gets rewarded. This can be seen by his avenging the death of Regin's father by killing Fafnir being a right action. His reward from this was the gift of understanding the language of the birds which saved his life. When we see Sigurd not doing the right thing, impersonating Gunnar to win Brynhild for Gunnar as an example, he ultimately pays the price in his death. This shows the culture valuing doing the right thing, and doing it for good reasons. If one did and fought against evil, one was rewarded.
An overarching theme that we see throughout the story though is the idea of avenging a wrong, be it the death of a father, or the lies told to Brynhild. The avenging of the death of Regin's father was also a story of fighting the personification of evil in the form of the dragon Fafnir. The deaths of almost the whole family at the end also shows an avenging of a societal wrong. This is because all were involved in some kind of deception between each other. We get a caution out of this story that lies and deception are not something that should be done, and may result in death.
This is all in line with the values taught in the binding of Fenris. In this story we see the deities at a loss as to how to deal with Fenris, a giant wolf, that was prophesied to do them harm come Ragnarok. They tried many different ways to bind the wolf, and he was able to break free from them all. Finally, they had a magical tether crated, and to convince Fenris that there was no trickery involved, Tyr promised his hand. Trickery was involved, and Tyr did the right thing and lost his hand (Sturluson 39-42). This is an example of a deity doing the right action for the greater good by doing what was needed to be done to tether the wolf. It also is an example of being willing to pay the price for a wrong action, breaking a vow that no trickery was involved in this case.
Beowulf - Beowulf
Beowulf is another monomyth that can be looked at for how the culture dealt with the issues of humanity. We don't truly see a departure in this story as we come in with Beowulf coming to the aid of Hrothgar, whose kingdom is being disturbed by the monster Grendel. Hrothgar's celebrations in the mead hall cause Grendel to attack. Because of this, his pride and glory of a mead hall is shuttered. Upon the arrival of Beowulf, they open up the mead hall and have a big celebration and draw out Grendel. When Grendel arrives, the weapons of Beowulf's men do not work against him. Beowulf though is able to pull off one of Grendel's arms and Grendel runs away to die.
The next night, Grendel's mother takes revenge on the men of Hrothgar. This leads to Beowulf going into her lair to fight her. He again finds that his weapon does not do her any harm, but when using a weapon from within the lair, he is able to kill her by severing her head. He then severs Grendel's head, destroying the blade of the found sword, and brings the head out as proof that he is dead. This causes Hrothgar to reward Beowulf with his family's sword, but also gives him words of warning to not be prideful and to always reward those that work for him.
Beowulf goes home and does abide by Hrothgar's advice. He becomes king of his own people and they are happy. One day though a slave steals a cup from a dragon causing the dragon to attack his lands. Beowulf then confronts the dragon by himself with his men looking on. Beowulf is doing poorly and one of his men come to his aid, eventually killing the dragon. Within this though, Beowulf is mortally wounded (Heaney).
We are again seeing here the idea of the hero doing a just fight. He comes to the aid of a people who are being troubled by an outside evil, Grendel. This evil turns out to not be able to be harmed by weapons, but when Beowulf faced him one on one in hand to hand combat, Beowulf is able to win by tearing Grendel's arm off. We again see that Beowulf goes is alone when he fights Grendel's mother, who is also causing trouble for Hrothgar's people once Grendel dies. What we see also is that he loses his material possessions when he cuts off Grendel's head. This in many respects denotes his personal transformation from that of a warrior to that of a ruler.
When Hrothgar gives his sermon to Beowulf, it shows us what the culture expected of their leaders. Hrothgar warns Beowulf about hubris and not letting this victory go to his head. He warns him that fame is fleeting and that at some point it will wane. He advises him to be humble and to treat his men well. These words of advice are good advice in general, but they also are stressing that the leaders need to treat their people well, for their own fame will fade and luck will turn at some point.
When we look at the battle years later with the dragon, we see that Beowulf did heed Hrothgar's advice and has been a good ruler. His men are loyal, he is doing well wealth wise, and has a generally happy kingdom. In the end though he does show a form of hubris. He insists on fighting the dragon by himself. He needed help though, and in the end his hubris brought him to an end. This shows us a warning that you can't do everything by yourself, and sure enough even the great Beowulf needed help in his final deeds.
The bigger theme of the story though is the idea of having a good reputation. This theme is one that resonates throughout the Germanic people. It goes along with the idea of right action. Beowulf was doing the right thing, and was justified in his killing because he was doing it to protect people. Doing this by himself though is what significantly increased his reputation. The Germanic people felt that having a good reputation was one of the more important things one could have. As a result, doing things that increased your reputation were worth doing. In the end, your deeds and your reputation are what are remembered, and if you are remembered, then you live on. The Havamal addresses this directly:
76. Cattle Die, kinsmen die,
oneself dies just the same.
But words of glory never die
for the one who gets a good name.
77. Cattle die, kinsmen die,
oneself dies just the same.
I know one thing that never dies:
the judgment on each one dead.
Iliad - Achilles
The monomyth within the Iliad is the story of Achilles during the Trojan war. With this story, we really only see the trials of initiation as the departure occurs long before the story, and we stop before he returns home. The story starts off with Agamemnon taking a Trojan woman named Chryseis as his, and her father begging for her return. When she wasn't returned, the father pleaded to his patron Apollo. Apollo heard the pleas and a plague was sent on the Greeks. Achilles found out from a prophet what was causing the plague and he confronted Agamemnon. This got Chryseis returned to her father, but at the cost of Achilles' war prize, Briseis, whom he also claimed to love, being taken by Agamemnon. Upset that this woman had been taken from him and the loss of honor as a result, Achilles refused to fight with the Greeks. He went as far as trying to convince Zeus to help the Trojans so that he could regain his honor.
The battle eventually turned against the Greeks, and it is thought to be the influence of Zeus at the request of Achilles. Agamemnon was urged to appease Achilles, and offered him back Briseis along with other gifts. Achilles refused and urged his men to continue the plan to return home. The Trojans advanced and pushed the Greeks to the shore. Achilles' men are lead by Patroclus in Achilles' armor, and pushed back the Trojans with Patroclus being killed by Hector before the city of Troy is assaulted.
With the death of Achilles friend, he grieved and held funerary games. Achilles was then persuaded to rejoin the fight, and new armor was made. In a rage, he fought the Trojans and killed so many men that he enraged a river god because they were choking the flow of the water. Achilles though was on the hunt for Hector. He was slowed down by the gods though so that the city of Troy was not destroyed before the allotted time.
Eventually though, Achilles fought with Hector. Hector knew he was going to die and requested that Achilles treat his body with respect. Achilles did not make any promises, and ended up dragging Hector's body behind his chariot. Hector's father Priam then went to Achilles to plead for his son's body back for burial. Achilles gave the body back, and provided a truce for the time it took to bury the body (Homer Iliad).
Within this story we do see some of the Greek values and how they faced the issues of humanity. One thing that we see in this, and it's apparent when the gods try to slow down Achilles before he destroys Troy, is the concept of fate. Troy was fated to be sacked at a certain time and the gods couldn't let it happen before that time. The belief that one's fate was set and that it was difficult, if not impossible, to change it was a belief in the Greek culture. This would lead them to use fate as a reason why things happen, it was just destined.
The overarching story here is about honor though. Achilles honor was sullied by the taking of his battle prize. This gave him cause to leave the fight and prepare to head home. He was offered his honor back, and great riches in payment for his loss of honor, but his pride would not let this happen. The dishonor he had received and prideful nature of Achilles combined can be said to be the eventual cause of the death of Achilles friend, Patroclus. With Patroclus' death, Achilles' pride is taken over by thoughts of revenge and extracts it on the person that killed his friend, Hector. Ultimately though, none of this would have happened if he didn't lose honor. This is showing us that similar to the Germanic people, honor was something to fight for and was highly important.
Odyssey – Odysseus
The story of Odysseus as told in the Odyssey is about his return from the Trojan war, and everything that went wrong with what turned out to be a ten year journey. As a result, we don't see the departure, but we do see the trials of initiation and reintegration with society. The story starts with his ships being driven off course by storms and becoming captured by Polyphemus, a cyclops. Polyphemus was killing his men, so Odysseus had to find a way to escape. He did this by getting the cyclops drunk, and blinding him by burning his eye. Odysseus also used a clever trick by having called himself “nobody” when he was drinking with the cyclops. When Polyphemus told the other cyclopes that “nobody” had blinded him, they thought he was mad, ultimately allowing Odysseus and his men to escape.
Odysseus and his men then get a break when Aeolus, the master of the winds, helped them by bagging up all except the western wind. This would have allowed them to sail directly home. Greed overtook Odysseus' men though, and they opened the bag thinking it was some great treasure, once again blowing them off course. This time they come to the sorceress Circe who turned half his men into swine. With the help of a drug given by Hermes to Odysseus, Circe falls in love with him, and his men were treated well. After a year, the men convince Odysseus to leave, and they get directions from Circe on how to return to Ithaca.
The directions helped Odysseus avoid many obstacles, but he does end up getting caught by the six-headed monster Scylla losing six men. He then landed on Thrinacla and ignored the warnings to not kill the sacred cow of Helios. Helios forced Zeus to wreck all of Odysseus' ships and Odysseus washed up on the island of Ogygia alone with all his ships and men destroyed. It was here that he was forced by Calypso to be her lover for seven years. When he eventually escapes, he gets help and finally comes home to Ithaca after ten years. When he does though, he comes in disguise to see how things really are.
We see upon his return that ten years was enough for his wife to finally agree that he must be dead. She holds a contest where one had to string the bow of Apollo and shoot an arrow through twelve ax handles. Still disguised, Odysseus competes and is the only one that can string the bow, much less shoot through the handles. His wife does not believe that anyone could do this except for Odysseus and provides one more challenge to prove who he is. She told a servant to move the bed, but Odysseus speaks that this cannot be done because one leg is a living olive tree.
We also now see some of the consequences of the adventure come to a head. The fathers of the suitors want to extract revenge for Odysseus killing them all, but Athena is able to broker a peace. We also see Odysseus' son with Circe return as a man. On his arrival, he kills sheep to feed himself, and that catches the attention of Odysseus. They fight, and Odysseus is killed by his son through the use of a spear tipped with poison from the sea. This fulfills the prophesy that Odysseus would be killed by the sea (Homer Odyssey).
We see a few different things with Odysseus, especially with his return. When he gets caught, he does what he has to so that he and his men get free. This can be seen with the cyclops where he gets him drunk and blinds him. He did it with some trickery though through word play with not giving his name, causing him to not only blind the cyclops, but trick the other cyclopes into thinking the blind one was mad. We also see him doing what he has to do with Circe. Here he had the help of Hermes providing a drug to make her fall for him.
We also see that the Greeks did not really value greed. If it wasn't for Odysseus' men being greedy and opening the bag that contained all the winds, they wouldn't have been blown so far off course. This of course would preclude the adventures they had after this event, and could be considered the triggering event that lead to their deaths. One could see the misfortunes that they face after this event and their deaths as being the results of greed.
What we also see with the whole story of Odysseus is that the gods are ready to intervene. At almost every turning point, we have some deity that is helping or harming Odysseus. To me this shows that the Greeks believed that, at least for the heroes, the deities took an active role in their life. This means that anything good that happened, or anything bad that happened, there was a good chance that it was because you pleased or upset a deity or other powerful being.
The return to Ithaca is also interesting as he does not make a grand return, but instead comes back in disguise to see how things are, ten years later. He found that his wife was faithful to him for that time, and only just accepting that he may be dead. She wouldn't settle for anyone less than him though. We do see Odysseus taking revenge on all those that tried to replace him, killing them all. The people of Ithaca didn't accept this and were out for revenge on Odysseus until once again, a deity intervened.
Ultimately though, we come back to the idea of fate. Odysseus fate was to have a death from the sea. He tempted fate with his voyage back, and he had many chances for death at sea throughout the story. It is an interesting ending though, when his son from a woman other than his wife, someone who was tricked into falling in love with him, kills him. In the fulfilling of fate though, the sea could be that the poison was from the sea, or it could also be that his killer was the result of his time at sea traveling over the sea to find him. Fate is unavoidable, and that is the ultimate cause many issues of humanity in the Greek mind.
One theme that comes up in both the Greek and the Germanic stories is that of fate or pre-destined future. We see it with Achilles when talking about when Troy could be destroyed. With Odysseus his death is fated to be by something of the sea. For Sigurd, his fate is foretold by Brynhild that he would marry someone else, and be doomed because of it. The idea of fate though is different in each culture. With the Greeks, fate was not something that could be changed easily, if at all. The Germanic people though saw the future not as set, but a most likely outcome based on what has happened in the past. This therefore gives the Greeks the excuse of fate being the reason that issues of humanity happened, it was predestined. The Germanic people could try to use the same excuse, but they also bore some responsibility for what has happened to them as their future could be changed more easily than the Greeks could.
Another common theme is the protection of a hero's honor or their reputation. We see in all these stories that the hero is almost always acting to maintain or increase their honor and reputation. When others work to actively diminish their honor, such as what Agamemnon does to Achilles, the hero feels that they are in the right to actively work against the person attacking their honor. In the Iliad, this is Achilles preparing to leave the battle. We also see that the hero pays the consequences of lowering his own honor. This is exemplified by Sigurd's use of magic to trick Brynhild into marrying Gunnar leading to his own death.
Related to honor, we also see the fighting of the just fight. A good way of thinking of this is a fight between good and evil, or correcting a wrong. We see in each of these stories this theme. Sigurd doesn't go on his journey until he is convinced that his killing of Fafnir is a justified action. Beowulf is working to defend the people of Hrothgar from Grendel and his mother. Achilles fights to avenge the death of his friend. Odysseus fights to save his men multiple times.
So, we have the Greeks and Germanic people using fate or the meddling of the gods as a reason for their suffering. Defending their honor and fighting the just fight are how they dealt with resolving the evils that were created by man. How does this compare to modern religions? For both the Jewish and Christian faiths, if one reads the old testament of the Bible or the Torah, you will see that there is a vengeful God that causes suffering to many of his followers, but their faith is what brings them through the trials. This God is also the cause of natural disasters such as the fire and brimstone at Sodom and Gomorrah or the world flood. These are all set up to be trials for his followers and were also “meant to humble human pride” (Greer 59). This is very much an extension of the idea of fate, but with the monotheistic God being the creator of the fate and willing to change a person's future on his own whim.
How Does ADF Address Issues of Humanity?
ADF does not directly address the cause or how we should react to issues of humanity. This allows the individual to place the cause as they see fit. It could be blamed on fate, deities, or other people. Depending on what the person believes is the cause, that should dictate how they personally address whatever the issue is. Ultimately though, ADF does not have any dictates on how to address and react to the issues of humanity apart from obeying your local laws.
With that in mind, there are some aspects of ADF that can be thought of as addressing the issues of humanity. The most prominent way is to follow the nine virtues (ADF). These virtues are talking about personal actions, and are an ideal for how we should act. If everyone lived up to these virtues, then we would be acting to decrease the amount of suffering, ignorance, and other evils. We may even be able to help others out with their facing of these issues.
Taking a page out of the Germanic people's beliefs, ADF also has pushed the idea of personal responsibility throughout the years. This is related to living the nine virtues, but goes further in some respects. Personal responsibility is about keeping and increasing your reputation by not doing things that would harm it. Any harm to your reputation that is controllable by you, it is your duty to make sure that the harm is mitigated if possible. This does justify us confronting any interpersonal evils directly. Ultimately we want a good name so that we live on past our death.
If we look at the suffering that comes from nature, such as natural disasters, ADF does have a mechanism that can address that through donations to ADF Cares. The money raised through ADF Cares goes to aid those that are suffering. On a more local level, ADF Groves are required to do community service. This service is supposed to help the communities that they are in, and will often result in less suffering for members of that community. My grove, as an example, give to our local animal shelter to support their operations, helping reduce the suffering of the stray dogs, cats, and other small animals in the region.
The issue of ignorance is something that has been a focus from the beginning though. Isaac formed ADF with the understanding that we are basing our religion on the best possible scholarship (Bonewits). Through the use of scholarship, and through the training of our members, we are decreasing our own ignorance, and are able to confront one of the more common issues that Neo-Pagans face, a skeptical public. Putting on a good public face through trained members is the best way that ADF confronts ignorance that affects us from a religious standpoint.
- A key question in theology is how the work or belief system transforms the participant. Given ADF's self-proclaimed orthopraxy and deep commitment to public worship, how does our work, both public and private, transform the participant? Compare this transformation with the way two ancient religions or cults claimed to transform their participants. How does the work we do compare to both the reality and the lore of Indo-European cultures?
ADF is an orthopraxic, or a right practice, religion. This means that while our membership has a large variety of beliefs, including Judeo-Christian and agnostic beliefs, what unifies us is that we all worship in the same way. With that in mind, Rev. Corrigan states that there are three general reasons for doing ritual.
- To rectify and empower the souls of the worshipers
- To serve the God/desses and Spirits
- To bless the folk and the land (Corrigan)
The first and last point speak most to how ritual transforms the participant.
When we rectify and empower the souls of the worshiper, we are talking about the building up of the patterns of the cosmos within the participant. This connects the participant to the cosmos more every time we re-establish it in ritual. Using the symbols of ritual will also allow us to use them as guide points in understanding our minds and hearts. The strengthening of these patterns will aide us in overcoming the negative aspects of the world (Corrigan).
The blessing of the folk is about getting back from those we have worshiped. This can be a direct request, or it can be open ended asking what they want to give us. In the end, the powers we have called upon are giving us something in return for their worship. With introspection of what we are given, we can grow and face the challenges related to what they gave us (Corrigan).
In the ancient world, we can find transformative practices. The worship of Dionysus would be one example where the followers of him showed an obvious outward transformation. This is the god of intoxicated ecstasy, so it should come as no surprised that his followers were frenzied when they were connecting with the god through ritual. This was not just a personal frenzy, but was almost contagious to all who were present giving a group of manic worshipers. This surrendering to the mania was desired, and those that were affected considered themselves connected closer to the divine (Burkett II-2.10).
The funerary practices are also another good place to look at how ritual transforms a person. In this case, it is the transformation of a deceased person into an ancestor. The Greeks had well established practices to send a deceased person on to their afterlife. The ritual included sacrifices of gifts proper for their status, destruction of things of value that they left behind possibly including the killing of servants, spouse, and animals, and a feast with animal sacrifice to send them on the way. When done properly, this not only sent the deceased to the other worlds, but it also transformed those present allowing them to advance in their grief and start to accept that the deceased is no longer alive (Burkett IV-1).
- What is the ultimate goal of ADF ritual and Our Druidry? Are there antecedents to this goal in the lore of Indo-European cultures? If these goals are somehow different, can a course be charted that shows how these goals have changed since ancient times, as well as why they have changed or disappeared from our work?
It is hard to pin down a single ultimate goal of ADF ritual and our practices. This is because everyone comes into the religion with different needs and desires. According to Rev. Corrigan though, there are three general outcomes of our rituals that we should expect. First we have rectifying and empowering the souls of the worshipers. This is about connecting ourselves to the cosmos and all that is around us. Secondly, we have serving the gods and goddesses. Here we have the building of relationships with deities. These relationships may be just for the ritual, or may bloom into something more significant for the participant. In either case, serving the deities and building relationships with them will make them more amenable to helping us when we make a request. Finally, we have the blessing of the folk and the land. This is usually the return flow of the ritual where we call for and receive the waters of life. This is the most tangible result of our rituals as it involves the ingestion or sprinkling of the waters on our bodies (Corrigan).
Receiving the blessing as the ultimate goal of the ritual can be seen in Vedic Agniṣṭoma ritual. Here we see the priestly class guiding a man through the entire ritual. The sacrificer, a man usually of means, does all the work, including the killing of an animal, so that he may receive the return flow of the ritual. At the end, the drinking of the soma was done by the sacrificer and he receives the benefit of the ritual (Drury 25-32)
Recently though, I have been hearing some clergy talking about the entire ritual being the sacrifice instead of all the various offerings that are made throughout the rite. This would therefore make the ultimate purpose of the ritual to be a sacrifice to the beings we honor during the rite. When viewed through this light, the type of sacrifice that fits with IE lore would be the maintenance of cosmic order. Rev. Thomas talks about this being a sacrifice of a primordial being to create the universe. This is often the idea of man sacrificing his twin. Along this line of thought, the maintaining of the cosmos is reenacting that primordial sacrifice. This is exemplified throughout the ancient world by the use of animal sacrifices (Thomas).
Ultimately though, there are as many goals for our rituals as there are people performing them. The above are common and generalized goals with the maintenance of the cosmic order being more of a priestly concern while the others are more relatable to the rest of our members. My personal belief is that any ritual should leave the participants more at peace with themselves and greater in knowledge from the omens we receive from the Kindred. Anything beyond that for the majority of the rituals and the members is icing on the proverbial cake.
- Is the divine singular, multiple, non-existent, some combination of these, or does it vary? Craft support for your position from personal experience, and the lore and philosophy of ancient IE cultures.
This is a question that completely depends on what ones religion and culture are and what experiences one has (Paper 2-3). If you ask someone of a Judeo-Christian religion this question, the divine is singular in the omniscient God. If you ask many Wiccans and related religions, the divine is dual being a god and goddess. Since ADF is an orthopraxic religion, the way one sees the divine is not as important as following our practice which is to assume that the divine is multiple. Most reconstruction based religions, since they are usually being based on the indigenous cultures of western Europe, tend to see the divine as multiple.
Greer's cat analogy demonstrates this point well. The analogy essentially states that you shape your beliefs around your observations. If you see evidence for three cats, you'll believe that there are three cats, especially if your belief is that there are three cats. If your beliefs are that there is only one cat, or no cat, you will start to postulate alternative theories for why there appear to be three cats. This violates the Occam's Razor theorem where the simplest answer is that there really is three cats (Greer 87-88).
My personal experience and belief therefore are only really applicable to myself. With that in mind though, I do believe that the divine is multiple. I am a hard polytheist in my beliefs in that I do believe in the multiple deities, land spirits, and ancestors that one finds within the lore of each culture. I also usually see the beings within related cultures, such as Norse, continental Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon, as very similar yet different beings. As a result, I would approach Odin from the Norse differently than the Wotan of the Anglo-Saxons. The lore for the Indo-European cultures is firmly polytheistic, and within ADF, we practice as if the deities are multiple and distinct.
- What role does the Earth Mother or other gods or spirits play in natural disasters? Can disasters be attributed to divine retribution? Can natural disasters be averted or impacted by prayer and sacrifice? What should be ADF's response, as a community, to large-scale disasters, and why is this an appropriately religious response?
Being a man of science, and a man of faith, this is the one place where I have the most difficulty in rectifying the two. Science does not allow for natural disasters to be caused by sentient beings such as the Earth Mother. Science says the causes of earthquakes is movement of tectonic plates along a fault line, that weather is a result of the uneven heating and topography of the earth, lightning is due to static electric discharges between different electric potentials, and on and on. The Indo-European lore on the other hand shows that the ancients attributed natural phenomena to various sentient beings. Earthquakes for the Norse were due to snake venom dripping on the bound Loki. Lightening was due to a deity such as Zeus throwing it. The weather one had for sailing was the domain of the various nautical deities. Disasters were therefore the result of an angry deity.
Science and religion are clearly at odds with regards to the causes of natural phenomena. How is one to rectify this difference? My belief is that the natural phenomena are best explained by science, and it really is not the result of an angry or upset being. The results though, that can be modified by a being. For example, with an earthquake some being or beings may nudge people to be somewhere safer than where they would normally be and lessen the humanitarian impact of the disaster. My belief is that prayer won't directly help with or prevent any natural disaster. Prayer though may turn a deities eyes towards survivors, and aid them in surviving until found. The number of miraculous survivals after major disasters may be explained by this.
What should ADF as a whole do then? Prayer is good, but following my logic it won't save any lives unless human help arrives in time. This is where ADF Cares comes into play. Raising money to send to the groups of people who are helping with relief efforts should be our primary means of responding to disasters. If an ADF member is involved in the disaster, we should try to take care of our own first, and help them as we can be it with money, or other help as possible. Overall, I view prayer as a nice add on that may help some, but we need to give the resources to the people that are physically responding to the disaster, and give hospitality as possible to those in need.
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