- Define ritual, especially as the term applies to religious and spiritual work. (minimum 200 words)
In Neo-Pagan Rites, Isaac Bonewits defines ritual as “any ordered sequence of events, actions, and/or directed thoughts, especially one that is meant to be repeated in the same manner each time, that is designed to produce and manage one or more altered states of consciousness within which certain results may be obtained(Bonewits 9).” Basically, a ritual is something that is repeated the same way over and over and that can move the participant or participants out of their normal headspace and into another that is conductive to spiritual veneration and/or work. This definition speaks to ADFs emphasis on orthopraxy, or right action. ADF rituals follows a Core Order of Ritual that outlines the steps that must be included in an ADF ritual as well as in what order they are to be performed (ADF Core Order). Following a set outline for rituals within a religion allows the celebrant to concentrate on the purpose of the ritual. That purpose could be anything from High Day celebration to a rite of passage or even a magical working. Knowing what is coming next allows for the participant’s focus to be shifted to a higher state. It allows the celebrant to fully engage in the work or veneration instead of being distracted by trying to figure out what to do next.
Ritual also offers a sense of safety and community. There are no surprises when it comes to format and because a celebrant knows what is going to happen, they feel like they are part of the group. Once again this allows for more concentration on the task at hand. When a person feels safe and surrounded by community, they are more likely to fully immerse themselves in the ritual. This allows them to experience the full benefits of the ritual that they may not experience if they feel uncomfortable and hold back.
- Describe some of the roles individuals might take on within the context of ritual. (minimum 100 words)
First, a note regarding the words I will be using in this work. I will use the words celebrant and participant interchangeably to refer to anyone attending a ritual.
There are many roles that a person may take on for a ritual. Once such role is that of the ritual leader. This person directs the flow of the rite and the energy created in it. A person may act as Sacrificer and offer sacrifices to whatever deity or deities being honored. They may act as Bard, reciting poetry or creating music to add atmosphere to the rite. They may serve as the Seer, the person who interoperates the omen after the sacrifices have been made. Other actions that may not traditionally be assigned a titled role, but that are nonetheless vitate include the person or persons who invites the Kindred and the Deity of Occasion to attend the rite and those that honor one or all of the hallows or open the Gates once the center has been established. Celebrants may also choose to do none of the above, simply participating in the rite by being attentive and joining their energies with the rest of the celebrants’ which is equally as valuable to the success of the rite as active roles.
- Discuss why ADF rituals need not have a defined outer boundary, or “circle” and explain the ADF‟s method of sacralizing space. (minimum 100 words)
One of the most obvious differences between an ADF ritual and a standard western Pagan rite is that the ADF does not cast a circle and call quarters (Newberg 11). This causes some confusion and discomfort for those that are used to having that boundary marked out, but there is good reason why ADF rites do not do this.
First, most ADF rituals are not trying to raise energy and release it all at once for a singular specific purpose like many standard western rites do, therefore we do not need a circle to act as a container for the energy that is produced during the ritual.
Second, in ADF ritual, an offering is made to the Outdwellers. This takes the place of the protective function of the circle. The Outdwellers are given an offering so they will leave the celebrants alone and not cause mischief during the ceremony. There is no need for a protective barrier once this is done (Newberg 68-69).
Third, the act of recreating the cosmos, the hallowing of the Fire, Well, and Tree and the opening of the Gates sanctifies the ritual space (Newberg 29). This takes the place of the circles function of delineating the sacred from the profane and cleansing the ritual area.
Fourth, not having a circle means that people are able to come and go as they please. This is especially helpful in group rites. It allows people to move freely in and out of the ritual space without disturbing other celebrants.
- Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
The concept of the Earth Mother originated with the RDNA (Reformed Druids of North America) and was brought to ADF by Isaac Bonewits from that organization (Newberg 20). In the ADF Core Order of Ritual, the Earth Mother is the first being to be acknowledged. This is because she is the most familiar and important to our everyday lives. The Earth Mother provides everything we need to survive from our food and water, to the components that make up the construction materials we use for our dwellings, schools, and work places. Without her, there would be no us.
Some examples of Earth Mothers in various IE mythologies would include Demeter and Gaia from the Greek and Tialtiu from the Celtic myths. Demeter personifies the strong feeling a mother can have for a child. This is represented in the seasons to occur as she grieves for her daughter Persephone while she is in the underworld. Gaia, on the other hand is the personification of Mother Earth herself. Tialtiu represent the sacrifice that mothers can make for their children. This is exemplified by here clearing the land so that crops could be planted for her children to feed on.
Unlike the Kindred and the Deity of Occasion, the Earth Mother is called before the Gates are opened. This is because we are already in contact with her. She is literally underneath our feet so there is no need to open the Gates to aid in our communication with her.
- Discuss how the Fire, Well and Tree became parts of ADF’s sacred center, and the
significance of each in ADF ritual. (minimum 100 words for each of the Fire, Well and Tree)
When deciding the items to be in the Sacred Center, the mythologies and cultures of Indo-European people were studied to try and find common ritual components. After reviewing the lore, ADF eventually decided on the Fire, Well, and Tree to most commonly represent the Sacred Center in ritual (Newberg 24).
The inclusion of a fire in ritual is nearly universal throughout Indo –European cultures and is the only part of the ADF Sacred Center that absolutely must be present in order to call a ritual ADF (Newberg 24). It doesn’t matter if the fire is a hearth fire dedicated to Hestia or Vesta, a small fire on a personal altar, or a large bonfire at an open public rite, it will still be a central point of the ceremony. The fire is what breaks down the sacrifices when they are are made by a celebrant and sends the energy from those offerings to the Gods as its flames and smoke rise into the heavens. It is connected to the Upper Realms
The Well, or water, also plays a part in Indo-European lore. There are many rivers named after deity like the Danube or the Boyne. There are also sacred wells where people would go for healing. In Greece there is a tale in which Poseidon gifts the city of Athens with a salt water spring (Jones Pennick 10). In ADF ritual, the well also connects us to our ancestors. The water of the well can be seen as washing over the bones of our ancestors. It takes the celebrants’ messages down to them and, in turn, brings support from the ancestors back up to the celebrant. It is connected to the Lower Realms.
The Tree is probably the most stereotypical symbol of Druidry. One of the most well known Indo-European trees is Yggdrisal from Norse mythology. It is the tree around which all of the Norse Worlds revolve. The Celts also have a connection to trees. They were said to have worshiped outside in groves of oaks. In fact, there are reports of sacred groves from all around the Indo-European areas. Unfortunately these were usually mentioned as they were being destroyed because groves were considered places of power for the Pagans of the day.
In ADF ritual, the tree joins the upper and lower worlds. Its branches reach up into the sky and the Upper Realms and its roots reach into the earthy, watery Lower Realms. The Tree itself resides in the Middle Realm. 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.
- Describe three culturally specific models for (re)creating the cosmos consistent with the Core Order of Ritual. (minimum 100 words for each model)
The Indo-European focus of ADF allows for flexibility when writing ritual. A liturgist may decide to include their hearth culture or the hearth culture of the grove if it is a group event, when recreating the cosmos. Here are three examples of liturgists doing of this.
The “Raven’s Grove Summer Solstice Ritual” is an example of using a Celtic specific model for recreation of the cosmos. Celtic deities are associated with the Fire and Well. Belenos, a Celtic solar God, is addressed when hallowing the Fire and Danu, a Celtic river Goddess is addressed when hallowing the Well. The Tree is not associated with a specific deity in this rite, just as a tree that spans the worlds. An interesting feature of this ritual is that, rather than addressing the Land, Sea, and Sky, a call for peace to the four directions is made. Along with the cardinal directions, four cities in Ireland; Lenester, Munster, Connacht, and Ulster are mentioned. (Covert)
In “Solitary Hellenic ADF Ritual Template”, Diane Lynn “Emerald” Vaughn offers a way to add Hellenic flavor to an ADF ritual. She begins the recreation of the cosmos by placing and blessing the Omphalos stone. The Omphalos stone is called the navel of the world and is considered a center of the Greek world. In myth it is said that all life springs from it. Vaughn uses the tale of Zeus’ eagles to also establish the stone as a Center. The world tree is then seen as growing through this stone to form an axis mundi. The Fire and Well simply referred to as the Primal Fire and Primal water. (Vaughn)
In “Roman Ritual Template” Rev. Jenni Hunt creates a rite that brings some unique verbiage and elements not usually seen in ADF rituals. She uses Focus, Mundus and Portus as elements of the center instead of Fire, Well, and Tree. In Latin, focus is the word for hearth or fireplace (Wiktionary). In Rome, the hearthfire was commonly used to make offerings to the Gods and so Focus is used to represent the Fire. One of the meanings of mundus is a pit or a shaft (Wiktionary). A pit or shaft allows accesses the under realms and the ancestors, so the Mundas is used in place of the Well. A portus is a doorway (Wiktionary). It is seen as something that is between worlds or realms so it is used in place the Tree. (Hunt)
- Describe the concepts of 1) the Center and 2) the Gates in ADF’s Core Order of Ritual, including two cultural variations of each concept. (minimum 300 words)
The Center, or Sacred Center, in ADF Ritual is the place around which the rite revolves. It is the anchor for the ritual reality. It is where we recreate the cosmic order. The Sacred Center is made up of elements, sometimes referred to as Hallows, that combine to form the ADF Sacred Center. Usually these are the Fire, the Well, and the Tree (Newberg 24). These three hallows connect the three parts of the Vertical and Horizontal axes to make a three dimensional, interwoven picture of the cosmos. Creating the center also lets us know where we belong and sets up a physical way to symbolically place ourselves at the Center of the cosmos and adds a sense of order and stability to the rite.
From this center point we can look at other parts of the cosmos. 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. As stated previously, 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.
Once hallowed, these elements, with the help of a Gatekeeper, are transformed into Gates. These Gates are then opened to allow for clearer and more efficient communication between the worlds, or realms (Newberg 29).
Many liturgists will use a generic, Fire, Well and Tree, but some will bring a specific hearth culture into the elements of the Center. The only hard and fast requirement for establishing the Center is that Fire must be present (Newberg 12). Outside of that requirement, the Core Order of Ritual allows for the creativity of the liturgist and the flexibility for the ritual to be shaped to better fit the culture of the deities being honored in the rite.
In the “Hearthfire Grove Yule Ritual”, the three traditional central elements are all present, but they reference Norse specific mythology. When honoring the Fire, the liturgist references the Nine Realms. The Well is seen as the three streams that feed the World Tree. The Tree is, of course, Yggdrasil and the ritual language makes reference to the eagle and snake that dwell in the upper and lower extremities of the tree as well as the squirrel that runs between them. In this ritual, Modgred is called as Gatekeeper. (Member 728)
There are possibilities for a Hellenic specific Center as well. Most families would have had a domestic hearth fire, so this concept could be used to represent the Fire of the Center. The ritual language could reference Hestia who is the Greek Goddess of the hearth. There is a story where Poseidon honors the city of Athens with the gift of a salt water spring. This imagery could be used for the Well. While the Greeks didn’t have a World Tree like the Norse, there is a myth in which Athena gives a gift of an olive tree. The olive tree could be reference in ritual language when honoring the Tree of the Sacred Center. Hermes is always a good choice for Gatekeeper for the Hellenic rites (Jones Pennick 10).
- Discuss the ritual depiction of the relationship between Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Fire and Water are two important concepts and symbols in ADF rites. A fire must be present in order for a rite to be considered and ADF ritual (Newberg 12). We offer the Kindred a place at the fire when we ask that they attend our rites. It is also the method by which the offerings and sacrifices are given to the Gods. Water can be used for various purposes including purification, communication, and the transfer of the blessing. It is common for celebrants to be purified by aspersion using holy water. It is also the medium which carried our words to the ancestors.
One of the relationships between the two elements that can be found in liturgy is the give and take relationship of the sacrifice and blessing. Fire takes the offerings that have been given and transforms them so that their energies as well as our petitions to the Gods can be carried to them in the Upper Realms. Once these offerings have been given and accepted, the blessings from the Kindred are called for. These may be focused into a bowl or pitcher of water, or water mixed with another spirit. This liquid is then dispersed among the celebrants in order to bestow the blessing of the Kindred upon them.
Fire and water can also be seen as comic powers if you will. The Fire can represent the order that is associated with the stars which progress through the heavens in predictable patterns. Water is chaotic potential that seeps through the earth from below. (Our Own Druidry 26). 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.
- Discuss the Outdwellers and their significance in ritual (or not, as the case may be). (minimum 100 words)
In ADF ritual, the Outdwellers represent those entities that may disrupt the rite, or entities that may have been opposed to the hearth culture or deities that will be venerated during the ritual (Newberg 68). The Outdwellers are not always part of an ADF ritual. Offering them a sacrifice is an optional step. When present, it is a part of the purification process. This offering to the Outdwellers is nothing short of a bribe. It is done so that those unhelpful and possibly disruptive elements will leave the celebrants alone during the ritual. We give them something they enjoy and/or need and, in return, they behave themselves for at least a little while (Thomas).
- Describe the intention and function of Inviting the Three Kindreds. (minimum 100 words)
In ADF ritual, the Three Kindred are invited to join in the celebration. The Three Kindred as represented in ADF are the Shining Ones, the Mighty Dead, and the Spirits of Nature. The main intention of inviting the Kindred to an ADF rite is to worship, or venerate, them. I believe that the Kindred are always around us in some form or another, but during ritual we formally request their presence. I believe this invitation is another way to show them that we honor and respect them to ask them to come and not just assume they will show up when we call.
Most often main sacrifices are direct to the Deity(s) of Occasion, but offerings may also be made to the Kindred. Another reason to invite them into ritual is to build or strengthen our relationship with them. By spending time with the Kindred, we are getting to interact with then and thereby becoming more familiar with them and how they affect our lives. Third, celebrants hope that by giving offerings to the Kindred, the Kindred will, in turn, bestow blessing or favors upon the Celebrants. Such is the reciprocal nature of hospitality.
- Discuss how one would choose the focus (or foci) for the Key Offerings (which may include: Beings of the Occasion, seasonal theme or other focus of the work). (minimum 100 words)
The Key Offering is the big exciting moment of the ritual. It is the apex, the culmination of everything that has come before. This key offering is most often directed toward a specific figure or, in some cases, group of figures. Most of the time there is a specific reason a ritual is performed and this will help determine to whom the offering is directed. If the ritual is a High Day rite the offering may be directed towards an appropriate Deity of Occasion such as Brigid for an Imbolc rite or Dionysus for a Mabon ritual. One of the Kindred may also be honored with the key offering. Honoring the Mighty Dead at Samhain would be an example of this. A healing ritual with Brigit in attendance or a house blessing ritual with Vesta as the BoO are two examples of foci for non-seasonal related rites.
- Discuss your understanding of Sacrifice, and its place in ADF ritual. (minimum 100 words)
Sacrifice is how we honor the Gods. As outlined in Rev. Kirk Thomas’ “The Nature of Sacrifice”, there are many types of sacrifices that may be used in Ritual. The most common is what Thomas calls “Delivering Services through Gifts”. We offer sacrifices to the Kindred and any Deity of Occasion. These could be songs, poems, food, or incense, among other things. We offer them to show that we are good hosts. We then hope that the Kindred and DoO are good guests and bestow gift or blessings upon us in return.
Another \reason to offer sacrifices according to Thomas is “Commensality”. We build community and strengthen relationships, not only among ourselves, but with the Gods and the Kindred when we honor them this way.
Sacrifice is also used to keep away unwanted elements by using the offering as a bribe. It is a sacrifice to “Provide Protection”. We give them something tasty or a source of warmth and they leave us alone.
Another reason for sacrifice is the recreation of the Cosmos. When we do this we re-enact the act of creation in certain mythologies. The creating of Midgard from the body of Ymir is an example of one of those myths. Thomas calls this “Maintaining the Cosmic Order”.
Thomas’ last context is that of “Mitigating Order with Chaos”. This is a time where everything goes a little crazy for a moment or two. This time allows everyone to take a breath and relax before moving on to the next ordered part of the rite.
- Discuss the relationship between sacrifice and blessing and how this is reflected in the Core Order of Ritual. (minimum 150 words)
Reciprocity and Hospitality are at the core of the Sacrifice/Blessing Dynamic in ADF ritual. Celebrants invite the Three Kindred and Deity of Occasion to join them at the ritual. During the course of the ritual, these entities are fed and maybe even entertained by the offerings that participants make to them. In this way, the celebrants are good hosts to the Kindred and Deities and can expect that they will receive some sort of gift in return as long as the offerings have been accepted (Thomas). While ritual participants should never assume that the Kindred and Deity will bestow a gift or favor, the rules of hospitality suggest that it will happen.
This dynamic is exemplified in the Core Order of Ritual. In the COoR, all sacrifices and offerings are made during the first part of the rite and the receiving of the blessing follows after affirmation that the offerings were received and approved. After the sacrifices are made, an omen is taken that may signal whether or not the offerings were accept as well as what kind of blessing will be bestowed. After the omen is taken the blessing is called for and distributed to the folk (ADF Core Order). We give so that they may give.
- Discuss your understanding of the Omen. (minimum 100 words)
The word “omen” can be intimidating or frightening to some. It is a word that has been used in negative terms and therefore has some baggage associated with it. It took me a while to be comfortable using that word, but I have found that with a bit of explanation, most people relax and have no issues.
To me the taking of the Omen can do a couple of things. First, it can tell the celebrants whether or not the sacrifices have been accepted. If the Omen is good, the ritual proceeds, if it is bad, more offerings can be made until a favorable omen is received. Second, it can tell participants the flavor of the blessing that the Kindred and/or the Deity of Occasion have decided to bless them with.
I always encourage celebrants to think about how the Omen could relate to a current situation they are having and how it may suggest a resolution, an affirmation or negation of an opinion, or a different way of looking at said situation.
Most often the Kindred are asked to give the omen. I believe they respond to that request by nudging the Seer’s hand to chose the correct ogham, rune, or other divinatory device as well as affecting interpretation by planting seeds of thought in the mind of the Seer that will then be expanded on and transmitted to the folk.
- Describe how ADF liturgy corresponds with your personal or group practice. (minimum 100 words)
ADF liturgy plays a role in both my personal and group practice. All of the public rituals I have written and facilitated have been ADF Core Order Rituals. I have also been asked to participate in several standard western Pagan rites where the facilitators requested that I create the Center and open the Gates. This is a very cool experience and just goes to show that different practices are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
In my private practice I use the Sacred Center most often as it is what drew me to ADF in the first place. Most of my High Day celebrations are in a group setting, but on the few occasions where I have done a solitary celebration, I used the COoR. I found it to be an interesting shift when I didn’t have to think about others and how they are responding to the ritual and I would just concentrate on the celebration itself.
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