CTP Prelim – Cosmology I

  1. Describe the generation of the cosmos, and what is done in ADF ritual to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. (300 words min.)

The generation of the cosmos during a ritual is like affixing a giant red arrow that says “You are here” a map of all of existence.  It lets celebrants know where they are in the grand scheme of things.  It gives them a firm place to stand and lets them know, not only where they are, but also what they may expect.  In ADF ritual this is done by establishing the Sacred Center.  Establishing the Center fixes a spot in space and time.  It is the red dot that the arrow points to.  We establish this Center by hallowing the Fire, Well and Tree (Our Own Druidry 20).  This action is what actually affixes the dot on our map.  Usually the Fire is given oil, the Well is given silver, and the Tree is watered.  Once this is done the realms of Land, Sea, and Sky are acknowledged. The vertical hallows and the horizontal worlds intersect and this outlines the cosmos within which we work.

The Core Order itself also helps with maintenance of order.  We follow certain steps and do certain things at certain times.  One thing proceeds logically and expectedly to the other no matter where you go, who you are with, or what time of day the rite happens.  If it is an ADF Core Order ritual, with a few minor variations, you will have a good idea about what will happen during the ritual and when.  Here are a few examples:  There will be a clear cut beginning to the ritual.  The Earth Mother is always honored first in ADF rites.  Following that, some form of ritual purification will always occur before the Gates are opened.  Once sacrifices or offerings have been made, an omen will be taken to see if the blessings have been accepted or what the blessings may be.  There will also always be a clear ending to the rite (ADF Core Order).  All of these things serve to bring order to the time and space, or cosmos if you will, that we work within during an ADF Core Order ritual.

In some IE mythologies the cosmos is created through an act of sacrifice, usually of a person or being.  Such is the case of the Norse creation myth where in Ymir was killed then his body used to create the world of the humans.  It can be said that when we make sacrifices in an ADF rite we are still reenacting this type of act of creation (Newburg 25).

  1. 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.)

In an ADF Core Order ritual there are three items, sometimes called hallows, that make up the Sacred Center.  These are the Fire, the Well and the Tree (Our Own Druidry 21).  They each have their own function within the Center.

The first, and most important, part of the Center is the Fire.  It is the most important because without the fire you cannot have an ADF ritual.  The Fire takes the offerings and messages up to the Shining Ones (Our Own Druidry 30).  It touches and interacts with the order that resides in the starry sky.  It transforms chaos into energy to fuel the cycles of the Universe.

The second part of the Center is the Well.  The Well grants access to the Mighty Dead.  The water that the Well provides has traveled to all corners of the globe and has bathed the bones of the ancestors (Our Own Druidry 21).  It moves through the earth that provides the raw building materials of existence.  It is the chaos that is transformed by the fire.

The third part of the Center is the Tree.  It touches and interacts with the order and the chaos.  Its roots are nourished by the waters of the Well that have carried nutrients up from the depths of the chaotic earth.  Its leaves and branches are similarly nourished by the fire of the sun as it shines down from its ordered circuit in the sky. (Our Own Druidry 21) The Tree is where the chaos of the earth and water as symbolized by the Well meet the order of the fire and sky as symbolized by the Fire and where work is done.

Taken together, these three components of the Center help fill out the map of the cosmos.   It lets us know where we belong and sets up a physical way to symbolically place ourselves at the Center of the cosmos.  When we honor these Hallows, we acknowledge our place in the Cosmos as we reaffirm theirs.

  1. Explain the divisions of the cosmos in ADF ritual, and why the cosmos is divided in this way. (300 words min.)

In ADF ritual, the cosmos is divided into threes.  The number three can be seen as a number of significance in most Indo-European Societies.  Why, exactly this hold true is still a mystery.  It may be because the strongest shape, the triangle, has three sides, that three is the number of spatial dimensions that humans are able to perceive, or even that three is the first number to be made up of the numbers that precede it.  Even today, the signifigance of the number three can be seen across religious and geographical boundaries but, unfortunately, we may never know exactly why the number three pervades mythology to the point that it does.   The Celts see the world being divided into three parts of Land, Sea, and Sky.  Other Indo-European cultures see the division as Upper, Middle and Underworlds, or Celestial, Terrestrial, and Underworlds.

In the ADF Core Order of Rituals, I see three parts of the cosmos, the Vertical Axis, The Horizontal Axis and the Center.  Each of these three contains three parts.

The Vertical Axis contains what many call realms.  There are several common labels for these, including, but certainly not limited to; Upper Realm, Lower Realm, and Middle Realm, and Heavens, Physical Realm, and Underworld.  Usually the Upper Realm, or Heavens, is considered the home of the Gods, or Shining Ones as they are known in ADF.  The Lower Realm, or Underworld, is occupied by our Ancestors, or Mighty Dead.  The Middle Realm is where we as humans reside.  We also share this realm with the Spirits of Nature, or Noble Ones.  The Middle Realm bridges the Upper and Lower Realms, touching them both and forming the vertical axis.

Around the vertical axis exists the horizontal axis.  It is divided into the three parts of Land, Sea, and Sky.  This horizontal axis resides in the middle realm, where we humans exist.  The Land is under our feet, the Sea surrounds the land masses and the Sky is above us.

These two axes meet in the center.  The Sacred Center in an ADF Core Order ritual contains three parts, or hallows.  These are the Fire, Well, and Tree.  These three hallows connect the three parts of the Vertical and Horizontal axes to make a three dimensional, interwoven picture of the cosmos.

The Fire leaps up into the sky and through the heavens bringing our words and offerings to the Shining Ones.

The Well carries our voices on the waters that flow to and from the seas down into the Underworld so that our ancestors know that we honor them still.

The Tree is rooted in the land, is nourished by the sea and climbs into the sky.  It stands as a bridge between the Fire and Well just as the Middle Realm spans the space between the Upper Realms and the Underworld.

  1. Explain why the fire is an essential element of ADF ritual, and what relation it has to the sacrifice. (150 words min.)

Fire is an agent of creation, destruction, and transformation (Our Own Druidry 21).  Throughout history people have looked at fire with a mix of awe, fear, and reverence.  It kept our ancestors warm as well as discouraging predators from using them as a midnight snack. Later, fire was used to transform solid rock into weapons and building materials.  Fire was central to our ancestor’s survival as well as being central in the development and production of the technologies that have made us the civilization we are today.

Fire is also only element that must be present for an ADF ritual (Our Own Druidry 30).  It is used as a method of transmitting the sacrifice to the Kindred as well as a medium of communication.  In transformation processes, energy is created.  As the heat, flames, and smoke from the fire rise into the heavens, they take with them the energy of our offering.  Fire can also be seen as a medium for communication with the Kindred.  Fire scrying is a form of divination, which can be seen as the Spirits communication with us.   The flames and smoke can also be seen as carrying our words up to the realm of the Shining ones.

  1. 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.)


            In ADF Once the Hallows have been honored and the Sacred Center is formed, it is time to open the Gates.   The Fire, Well, and Tree are the gates that are to be opened to allow easier communication with the Kindred.   According to “Ancient Symbols, Modern Rites”, the Gates and the act of opening them prior to communing with Kindred were at least partially inspired by Vodou(Newberg 25).  In Vodou, before the Lwa can be contacted, an offering must be made to a Gatekeeper such as Legba.  The Gatekeeper is then petitioned via chant, dance, or song, to open the gates and allow the Lwa to come through and communicate with the petitioner.   In ADF the idea is similar, but not completely the same.  First, in Vodou, Legba must be called and the gates opened before any communication can be done. In ADF we believe that the Kindred may be contacted without opening the Gates or calling upon the Gatekeeper, but that doing so makes communication easier and clearer.  Second, in ADF the act of opening the gates is a cooperative effort between the person opening the gates and the Gatekeeper.  We call upon a Gatekeeper and ask that their powers be joined with ours so that together we may open the gates instead of relying solely on the Gatekeeper to do the work for us.  For ADF celebrants, the Gatekeeper acts as a power booster.  Sure we can open the gates ourselves, but joining forces with a Gatekeeper deity eases the task and helps us build a relationship with him or her.

Gatekeepers have a certain specific characteristics that make them suitable for this function.  They are all liminal figures, living in or moving through the in-between places.  They are generally associated with at least two worlds and/or are able to move easily between the various worlds.  They may also be messengers that take communications between realms or psycopomps that take souls to the Underworld.

Heimdall and Hermes are two examples of such figures.

Heimdall is a Norse God.  He is the Watcher of the Rainbow Bridge and guards Asgard against invasion.  In this way, he is associated with the path between two worlds as the bridge he guards is, on its own, a gateway between world.  He also has a horn, that when blown, can be heard everywhere (Davidson 29).  This ability to communicate across the worlds also makes him a good candidate for a Gatekeeper.

Hermes is part of the Greek Pantheon.  He is probably best known in his role as Messenger of the Gods (Lenardon-Morford 236).  This ability to carry messages and communicate, like Heimdall, makes him a luminal figure and a candidate for Gatekeeper.  In Greek myth Hermes also has a role as psychopomp.  He is one that leads souls into the Underworld (Lenardon-Morford 236).  In this role he also exhibits a skill that qualifies him to be considered a Gatekeeper within ADF ritual.

  1. Describe the relationship between earth and sky in ADF ritual. (125 words min.)

The earth and the sky are things that every modern human encounters on a daily basis, as did our ancestors.  The Sky is above, the earth below and we stand in the space between.  In this way, our very existence echoes the triple hallows of the ADF Sacred Center.  The sky above us is the home of the Shining ones who are fed by the leaping flames and smoke of the fire.  The Earth below us is the home of the Ancestors who bones are bathes by the waters of our well.  We become the tree, feet on the earth, head and arms reached to the sky.

The earth also has an anthropomorphic place in ADF ritual in the role of Earth Mother.  We honor her before any other because she is always with us.  In the past, and in some ADF rituals still, a Sky Father figure may also be honored as a complement to the Earth Mother.

The earth and Sky can also represent order and chaos. The sky is also the home of the stars which progress through it in predictable patterns.  The earth is filled with the building materials of our physical world.  It is the raw chaotic state (Our Own Druidry 26).  It is pure potential.  Combine this chaos with order and work can be done.   One way this can be accomplished is through the Two Powers, or Two Streams meditation.  In this meditation, the power of the waters is brought up through the earth, picking up building blocks on its way to the surface.  The power of fire is brought down out of the sky, plucked from its regular rhythmic cycles.  The two meet within us (Our Own Druidry 26-27).  When you add fire to water you get steam.  Just as physical steam can power a locomotive, this psychic steam can power work we do within our rites and celebrations.

  1. Summarize each of the five contexts of sacrifice in Rev. Thomas “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.)


In Rev. Kirk Thomas’ “Nature of Sacrifice”, he writes about five different contexts in which sacrifice can occur.  They are:

Maintaining the Cosmic Order

Delivering Services Through Gifts

Providing Protection


Mitigating Order with Chaos (Thomas)

The first context addressed by Rev. Thomas is that of “Maintaining the Cosmic Order”.  Sacrifices of this type are done to ensure that the world continues to turn and that cycles continue to occur as they normally do (Thomas).  Sometimes this may be presented as an offering made to a solar deity to ensure that the sun will return after the long night of the Winter Solstice.  This may also take the form of the ultimate creation offering where a figure is sacrificed in order to create the world that we live in.  An example of this would be the sacrificing of Ymir.  In Norse Mythology Ymir was sacrificed by three Gods to create Midgard, or the world in which we humans live (Davidson 27-28).

The second context is “Delivering Services Through Gifts”.  This type of sacrifice is probably the most common.  It deals with the concept of reciprocity.  Gift or favor X is bestowed because offering Y was given (Thomas).   There is no guarantee, of course that the gift or favor will materialize, but we have faith that if we give the Gods a worthy sacrifice that they will see fit to thank us by doing what we are asking.  Two examples of this would be trying to ensure a bountiful harvest by offering up the first plant to reach maturity to a harvest deity or asking for rain by offering up water or steam to a storm deity.

The third context is “Providing Protection”.  This one reminds me of old mob movies wherein the shop keeper has to pay protection money to keep the hoodlums out of his store.  Protection sacrifices follow the same principal.  They are bribes to keep the unsavory elements out of our hair (Thomas).  The offering to the Outdwellers is a good example of this.  We offer something, maybe a candle flame or alcohol, and in return they don’t cause problems in our ritual (Newburg 67).  Some ritualists will give half of the offering at the beginning of the rite with a promise to give the rest of it once the rite has concluded as long as the Outdwellers behave themselves and keep their end of the bargain.

The fourth context is that of “Commensality”.  A few months ago I did a morning musing at our local UU church about how Pagans invented potlucks.  This context fits that musing perfectly.   In this case the sacrifice brings people together (Thomas).  The most common offering would be a large animal of some sort.   The animal is slaughtered and the parts that humans can’t, or won’t, eat are offered up to the Gods as offerings.  The rest of the animal is cooked and shared with those that attended the rite.  In these sacrifices, not only do the Gods and individuals get fed, but so does the sense of community.  Everyone is brought together and the bonds between them are strengthened.

The fifth context is “Mitigating Order with Chaos”.  Order is great.  It lets us predict what will happen next and cuts down on the stress of never knowing what waits around the corner, but sometimes too much order can drain the life out of a person (Thomas).  We have all sat through a service, workshop, or ritual that was extremely well organized and extremely dull.  The order had not only eliminated the nasty surprises that may occur, but it had also eliminated the spontaneity that can make a ritual fantastic.  The sacrifice allows a bit of loss of control to creep into our lives. You can never be 100% sure what is going to happen.  Will the Gods accept it?  Will Bob catch the sleeve of his robe on fire when trying to light the fire?  Will Martha be able to carry a tune as she leads us in song?  We all need a little bit of chaos in our lives to make things interesting.

When we make sacrifices within any of the above contexts it has an effect on celebrants as well as the cosmos.  In the first context, the cosmos is created.  It builds the foundation upon which we build the ritual.  This also allows celebrants to know where they are and why they are there.  It gives them a firm point of reference for the things to come.  The second context allows for the rules of hospitality to be followed and our relationships to be strengthened. Celebrants have given an offering with a petition and so when that petition is answered, they should not feel beholden to the Kindred, but instead realize that the bonds with the Kindred have be reinforced and the rules of hospitality and reciprocity still stand.  The Fourth context allows celebrants to feel safe and secure from outside forces as well as providing a way to shed unhelpful thoughts or feelings for the duration of the rite.  The unwanted and excessive chaos is held at bay, at least for a time.  The fifth context allows just enough chaos into the rite to keep it interesting.  It allows for a break and a recharge of the celebrants.  It keeps boredom and monotony from taking hold.


  1. 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.)

According to Dictionary.com, purification is “to make pure; free from anything that debases, pollutes, adulterates, or contaminates:”  This is especially important when participating in a ritual.  In ADF rituals, anything things that makes one unprepared to fully participate in the ritual should be left outside the ritual space (Newburg 17).  These things may include emotions such as anger or annoyance, or thought s such as how much laundry needs to be done when you get home.  The purification process, whether it is aspersing, censing, anointing, or some other method, is used to not only purify the body, but as a signal to the psyche that a Sacred Time and Place is about to be entered into.  All purification in ADF rites are done before the Gates are opened so that celebrants can communicate with the Kindred and any Deity of Occasion without the added baggage of unhelpful, or harmful influences.  Anyone may purify themselves other celebrants in an ADF ritual.

  1. 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.)

The Gates have been opened, the sacrifices have been made and accepted and it is now time to receive the Blessings of the Kindred (ADF Core Order)!  Most of these blessings are in response to the sacrifices given within the second context listed Rev. Thomas’s “Nature of Sacrifice”, those of “delivering of services through gifts”.  This relates to the concept of reciprocity.  Celebrants have given a gift to the Kindred and now they would like something in return (Thomas).  These blessings from the Kindred may be directed into some kind of vessel.  This may be a bowl containing liquid, food, or other items depending on the ritual and the ritualist.   In this example, a bowl or pitcher containing liquid will be used.  Once the blessings have been directed into the liquid, the liquid is then dispersed to the celebrants.  This may be accomplished by imbibing the liquid, if non-toxic, or asperging or anointing celebrants with it.   Imbibing is great for smaller groups, but if the group is too large, asperging works very well.  The theory is that coming onto contact with the liquid will imbue the celebrants with the blessings from the Kindred.  This will then allow them to carry this blessing out from the ritual space and into their lives.

To summarize: Often times in ADF ritual we receive blessings.  These blessing come from the Kindred and/or the Deities of occasion.  They may be provided to celebrant in many ways including the passing of a blessed drink, asperging the celebrants with blessed liquid, the distribution of blessed objects, or the eating of blessed food.  We are entitled to these blessing because of the rules of hospitality.  We have given offerings to the Kindred and/or Deities of occasion and as good guests they should give us something in return.

Works Cited

 “ADF Core Order of Ritual for High Days”. Ar nDraiocht Fein; A Druid Fellowship,

Inc. Web  7/17/2014

Davidson, H.R. Ellis.  Gods and Myths of Northern Europe.  New York: Penguin

Books, 1982. Print.

Lenardon, Robert J and Mark P.O. Morford.  Classical Mythology Fourth Edition.  

White Plains: Longman, 1971. Print

Newberg, Brandon.  “Ancient Symbols, Modern Rites:  A Core Order of Ritual           

Tutorial for Ar nDraiocht Fein”. PDF 8/13/2014

Our Own Druidry  an introduction to Ar nDraiocht Fein and the Druid Path. Tuscan:

ADF Publishing, 2009 PDF. 9/27/2013

 “Purify”. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, LLC. 2015. Web. 4/7/2015

Thomas, Kirk “Nature of Sacrifice”. Ar nDraiocht Fein; A Druid Fellowship,

Inc. Web  7/17/2014


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