1. Describe the purpose and function of ritual. (minimum 300 words)
“The primary purpose of ritual is to reduce uncertainty…” (Bonewits 4) a concept that Ian Corrigan defines further when he states that the primary intention is, “…the re-weaving of the links between human-kind, the natural world, and the Gods and Goddesses and Spirits who support both.” (Corrigan 1) Now this does not mean that like the J-C-I religions we perform ritual pro forma. Rather in ADF, rituals always have a specific goal in mind(s) which is sought through the re-weaving process that Corrigan mentions. Each ritual then may be entirely different in purpose than any other even though the elements of the ritual are the same basic format. The goal, the reason or purpose, for the ritual being performed is what makes the difference. This brings about a change in the level of consciousness, raising the awareness and allowing participants to connect to their higher self. All of this is wrapped around and through the process of strengthening beliefs and forming solidarity.
If one does not make a distinction between noun and verb then both function and purpose are almost identical and serve each other as synonyms. By using the synonym for ‘function’ as a verb, the “work” of the ritual becomes specific to the intent for which the individual or group is acting in their prescribed manner, following the outline of the COoR to achieve their desired ends. For instance the purpose of a ritual may be to request healing energy to be bestowed upon a person who has requested it but the manner in which the ritual is worked or conducted may be, and probably will be, entirely different than the manner in which a seasonal ritual is conducted. The ritual for a healing involves asking the respective deities for a blessing to be bestowed upon individuals, usually named, whereas the seasonal ritual is specific thanks for the bounties that have come about as result of harvests, strengthening sun, longer days, successfully surviving the cold days of winter etc.
While both healing and seasonal rituals involve specifically named deities, and some may serve in both because of a multiplicity of functions, the manner in which they are addressed is slightly different depending upon the reason the ritual is being performed. So while the purpose and function are closely associated as nouns, the use of a verb for the function creates a bigger difference than might be expected.
2. Describe some of the roles individuals might take on within the context of ritual. (minimum 100 words)
Roles of individuals in the context of the ritual fall; it seems, into two categories, the primary liturgical functionaries, and secondary functionaries. Robert Barton states that the, “… Officiant or ‘Druid’ who is the primary celebrant of the rite … is to insure the adherence to the ritual as written.” (Barton 40) This implies that the Officiant is somewhat akin to a Master of Ceremonies. There is also the role of the Bard whose function is the inspiration of the group involved in the ritual through chant, song, story or prompting participants who may have forgotten lines.. There is also the Seer who reads and interprets the Omen. These then are the primary functionaries.
Secondary functionaries would be the Fire Tender whose responsibilities include making sure that the fires are maintained in a non-distracting and efficient manner. The Cup Bearer who aids in the circulation of the blessing cup, the Sacrificer whose job is to ensure that the sacrifices and offerings are appropriately made, the Liturgist(s) who compose and construct the rituals and ceremonies that are being undertaken and performed.
While it is acknowledged that sometimes in small groups or solitary ritual these tasks may be undertaken in conjunction with other roles, they are none-the-less vitally distinctive roles that when possible should be divided among separate individuals.
3. Describe the concepts of the Center and the Gates in ADF’s Standard Liturgical Outline. (minimum 300 words)
The Center could be a very crowded and confusing space with a great possibility of Chaos occurring if one was to take the positioning of the three elements involved literally. Fortunately most of us have enough common sense to realize the infeasibility of putting the Well, Tree and Fire in the exact same location, even though this is what the Sacred Center is. This center is not a physical place you can get to, it is a state that we define. As it is though, the center can be accomplished by close placement of these elements and instead of an exact “X” marks the spot, a central area is applied.
Within this central area, be it large, medium, or small in size, indoors or outdoors, it is essential to have representation of the fire, well and tree. These then are the elements that form the Sacred Center and thus the Sacred Center is an interconnective source for everything in our rituals and should be revered as a sacred space and treated accordingly. The Sacred Center is the vertical axis of Underworld, the Middle World and the Sky above us and as such everything circulates around it, a concept that the World Tree effectively represents.
Linda Demissy goes further with the importance of these elements in her essay by saying, “There are three great gates that are central to Druid rites: The Well is the Deep Gate, The Fire is the Bright Gate, The Tree is the All-Reaching Gate.” (Demissy 1) This brings up the next concept of the Gate. A gate is literally and figuratively an instrument that opens to provide access to another area which for us is generally understood to providing access to the Kindred and the Nature Spirits. Through recreating the cosmos and making offerings to the Gatekeeper we are able to open the gates to the other worlds. It is through the ‘Gate’ that we can openly communicate and visit with those entities that are most dear and sacred to us. There is a Gatekeeper associated with the Gates and it is appropriate that we request his/her assistance in the opening and subsequent closing of these Gates. Respect and courtesy should always be paramount in dealing with the Kindred, their helpers, and the Nature Spirits if one desires to have the proper Gate opened.
4. Discuss why ADF rituals need not have a defined outer boundary, or “circle” and the sacralization of space in ritual. (minimum 100 words)
There are a few reasons why ADF rituals need not have a defined outer boundary, or “circle”, some of which are practical, others historical and still others of a spiritual nature. Historically speaking there probably was no need to create a barrier to keep demons and evil spirits out because the sacred grove was an area that they would not invade. Further the participants would all be familiar with the cardinal points so there was no need to create them.
On a practical level the openness allows latecomers to join the ritual and not have to stand on the sidelines as observers. As we all know the best of intentions to arrive at a ritual on time can be thwarted by circumstances beyond our control and to exclude the energy of those unfortunate to encounter uncontrollable conditions on their way would be disadvantageous at the least since the more energy during a ritual the more effective it can be.
On a spiritual level allowing the energy to flow unhindered by barriers is a plus. The effect is like a free flowing waxing and waning of energy at various points of the ritual as climaxes and ebbs occur in a natural and rhythmic pattern. The absence of barriers also allows the Kindred and Nature spirits to come and go without expending extra energy and thus provides a more welcoming circumstance for participation and blessings.
5. Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Members of ADF recognize that as a Neo-Pagan religion we are part of an earth-centered and nature-oriented group. Because of this ADF’s relationship with Mother Earth is central to our philosophy and critical to our existence. It is through this acknowledgement that the Earth Mother is recognized in our rituals before the Gates are opened thus indicating how primary her role in our lives is considered.
In some cultures, such as the Celtic, the Earth Mother was not ‘one’ specific goddess such as was the case with the Greek and Roman cultures where it was Gaia and Cybele respectively. However many of the local groves had individual goddesses that were honored because of their affinity with the land of that locale, as an example in Ireland she was Danu yet in Scotland, according to the Encyclopedia Mythica, she was Cailleach (Mother of All). Both closely associated Celtic tribes yet different names give the indication that there was more than just a slight language difference involved here.
Regardless of the name though much reverence has been accorded to the goddess addressed as Earth Mother and today we need to continue that reverence and show not just by our sacrifices but by our efforts to bring balance and harmony back into this Chaos that we find ourselves existing in.
6. Discuss the ritual significance of Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Fire is the one element that carries across all three realms of the world, it is the Gate to the Upperworld. The Underworld with its volcanic fires, coal and peat, the Land with the fires of the occupants in hearth, camp or forest, the Sky with lightning and smoke, stars, sun and moon, are seen as means of communication between the realms. “Sacred Fire burns in, and through all the categories of reality and can be used symbolically to tie them all together.” (Bonewits 16) It is because of this triple world transcendence that fire is used to carry sacrifices to the Kindred.
Similarly, Water has a primary role because it also exists in all the spiritual and physical places but can be viewed as the Gate to the Lower World. Conversely, while Fire is seen primarily as a male aspect most associated with the Celestial Realm, the world of the Sky, order and knowledge, Water is viewed as, “…most strongly associated with the Chthonic Realm, the world of the Waters, chaos, femaleness and inspiration.” (Bonewits 16) Bonewits goes on the postulate that by invoking this symbolism involved with The Cythonic Waters and the Celestial fire the can be a unification within ritual participants of the Two Powers.
7. 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)
The Fire is where sacrifices and gifts are made. The Well provides us with a direct connection to the land below. The Tree is everywhere, roots going down into the Earth and the branches spreading out and up providing us with spiritual food while at the same time connecting the Sky above and the Earth below. Indeed they are “central” to success in liturgical ritual because they provide connections for the participants to relate to and utilize.
In his essay A Druidic Ritual Primer, Brooks succinctly defines these three as, “Fire: An elemental spirit and gate to the upper world. A companion to man since time out of mind. The spark of inspiration is one of this element’s gifts. Therefore Fire symbolizes the power of thought.” (Brooks 3) so what do we learn from this? Well fire is representative of the order of the cosmos and the intellect. Fire also brings order to the culture because it is where we can get comfort from food, warmth and protection.
“Water or the Sacred Well: An elemental also that serves as a gate to the lower world. The symbol of our emotions. The Sacred Well is a powerful symbol of rebirth.” (Brooks 3) All things in the Underworld are mysterious and chaotic because we cannot easily see them to understand them. Chaos comes with water in the way of floods that destroy and cause confusion, so it is easy for us to see the symbolism involved here with water and chaos.
The Sacred Tree: We are Druids and trees have many things to teach us. This tree is special it stands at the center of everything and exists as we hope to do in all of the worlds. Standing beneath the Sacred Tree is one of the ways to enter sacred space. It serves as a gate to both the upper and lower worlds and our world as well. It also a symbol of the completeness of creation. Some people call existing in all the worlds as being centered.” (Brooks 3) For us in ADF the tree is the most often used axis mundi and while other ancient cultures may have used other specific mountains or pillars as their axis mundi, the tree serves us better because of the connection between the three worlds more visibly.
8. Discuss the Outdwellers and their significance in ritual (or not, as the case may be). (minimum 100 words)
One of the best definitions of the Outdwellers I believe is provided by Isaac Bonewits when he states, “The category of “Outdwellers included the spiritual equivalent to mortal outsiders…” (Bonewits 39) This being the case we often see the term “Outsiders” used interchangeably with “Outdwellers” in a lot of literature regarding the offerings to, “…keep the rite working well.” (Ellison 91) As Ellison mentions also the offerings are more in the line of bribes so that order can be maintained during the ritual and the Outdwellers are often associated with causing Chaos to occur on varying levels. Although the Outdwellers may not be antagonistic to the workings of the ritual their mere presence may cause a disruption in the balance and for this reason they are usually requested to stay away from the rite. This would be the same basically as some uninvited Christians walking into the ritual proceedings without any knowledge or prior briefing as to what was occurring. The interruption would stop the flow of energy being generated and cause the proceedings to necessarily be started over.
9. 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)
It seems to me that the intention and function of the Three Kindreds Invocations serve a twofold purpose. The first purpose is to acknowledge and pay respect due to them for their contributions. Secondly, we are asking them to join with us to bring their expertise and power as an aid to increase our power, knowledge and abilities. This conjoining of can create a very powerful force to bring about a successful solution to the purpose or goal of the rite.
The first of the Kindreds are the Ancestors. These are those that have gone before us and can be either biological, adoptive or others in whom we have a special interest or relationship such as the Heroes of tale and deed. These are those who have physically lived in this world and have since passed into the Land of the Dead where they now dwell aiding, advising and guiding us when they are called upon. The Ancestors have a special affiliation with us because they have experienced what we have by living on and with the land the same as we are doing now. Their knowledge can benefit us to great extent by what they have seen and experienced so advice that they give us should be heeded with great reverence and obedience.
The second of the Kindreds are the Spirits of the Land. “They are the creatures that walk and crawl upon the land, the mammals, reptiles and insects. They are the creatures that fly in the sky and swim in the waters, the birds, fish and amphibians. They are the creatures that burrow in the land itself, the insects and other microorganisms. Next are the actual “Spirits” that reside in the trees, plants, stones and other land features.” (Ellison 14) It is hard for non-ADF people to comprehend this concept but to us it is clear that as Ellison states everything we see, touch, hear is a living entity upon the Land that we are privileged to inhabit at this time. As such, they have a spirit the same as we do and that Spirit, wherever we are living in the world, is part of that which we worship and honor just as our Ancestors once did. This grouping also includes the members of the tribes of faeries, the Sidhe that we rarely if ever see but know are around us by various signs that can be noticed to those in harmony and balance with the Land.
The third of the Kindreds are the Gods and Goddesses that our Ancestors worshipped. Depending upon your hearth culture this will vary greatly. For myself where the heart culture is Celtic I am attracted to and worship among others the Tuatha Dé Danann, the people of the Goddess Danu. Because my particular leaning is towards the Gaelic branch of the Celtic culture I also worship Tailtiu, Bride, Donn, Belenos, Brianan, Angus and many others. This is not to say that are of greater importance than others but simply that they have special meaning to me. Those who follow the Hellenic culture will find meaning for themselves perhaps in Gaia, Dionysus, Zeus, Hermes, Ares etc. These are the Gods and Goddesses of particular cultures that can be learned about by studying the myths and lore. They are particular to the Hearth culture that is chosen by the individual and are often called upon to witness our oaths, sacrifices and actions.
10. Describe other possible models for the “Filling Out the Cosmic Picture” sections. (minimum 100 words)
Kirk Thomas gives some ideas in his essay on Pre-Ritual Briefing when he states, “Sometimes we also fill out this cosmic picture by re-establishing the Three Realms of Land, Sea and Sky (the three parts of the Mid-World), or by calling the 5 directions…” (Thomas 1) This indicates that whatever is used to recreate the three worlds and three realms would be acceptable. This might include using statuary, symbolic totems, deity specific images perhaps of their totems such as fish, birds, animals, and even the inclusion of songs, chants, poems and stories. In short anything that can facilitate in recreating the horizontal axis that is requisite for the ritual.
One of the key cautions to remember though is that reverence and not frivolity be the mantra when selecting images. We are after all talking about a sacred space and even though the deity may be a fun loving, party animal such as Dionysus, there are still standards of decorum to be maintained. This should go without saying, but any person can at a given moment have a lapse in discretion and border on the offensive unintentionally so when consideration is being given to completing this task it may be better to offer the reminder than to offend either the member later on or the deity during the ritual.
11. Discuss how one would choose the focus (or focuses) for the Key Offerings. (minimum 100 words)
This would entirely depend on the particular Hearth Culture, what the occasion of the ritual was, who the deities or Kindred of the occasion were, and what the preference of the selected honored deities was which would depend to a large extent on the time of year of the rite since some offerings are very seasonal. Keeping all these variables in mind one could, and possibly should compile a list of what works best for a particular honoree at a particular time and ritual.
It would seem obvious to some but then inasmuch as not everyone thinks in the same manner which is one aspect that makes life so interesting, it should be noted that choosing the proper deity for the occasion of the rite is essential. One would hardly seek assistance with healing by making offerings to the deity of the Underworld for example. If one was looking for inspiration in the bardic arts then honoring Apollo would be more appropriate than Dionysus, although the inspiration from Dionysus might have some interesting side effects! Likewise if the Hearth Culture is Celtic honoring Celtic or Norse deities might be considered offensive by the Celtic deities with some shuddering consequences.
Generally it is the accepted policy to stay within your own Hearth Culture although the group decision for a grove may vary by consensus, for solitaries it is a much easier choice obviously. This is one of the benefits of selecting a Hearth Culture early on because it simplifies many such decisions down the road as to whom, why, and when to honor. In the same vein it is hardly appropriate to honor Donn, the god of winter at Lughnasadh when offense to Lugh would occur. Generally speaking it is best to stick with the appropriate deity of the occasion and your own patrons if one is a solitary or the accepted deities of the grove unless discussion and choice has taken place prior to the actual ritual.
12. Discuss your understanding of Sacrifice, and its place in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
The Sacrifice is the climax of the energy buildup and is representative of an actual physical sacrifice. Bonewits in his treatise on a Druid Worship Ceremony puts it this way, “With this prayer/incantation. she/he sends the power in the grove through the Gates Between the Worlds to the God and Goddess of the occasion. All present should feel their energies going through the branch and out the Other Side.” (Bonewits 15) Yet there is more to Sacrifice than a sending out of energy, as Kirk Thomas explains, “But sacrifice is a two-way street. Not only do we offer to sustain the cosmos, but we can also use sacrifice to transfer the power of the universe into our own bodies. Food (through the ‘shared meal’ taken after sacrifice) and healing are the two prime examples of this.” (Thomas 6)
The best sacrifice that we can offer is of ourselves, not necessarily giving of our own lives although that would be the ultimate of course, but by rendering service to the Gods and Goddesses through helping others in the myriad of ways available and by ensuring that some of our efforts are directed towards restoring the land to a more sustainable and uncontaminated state.
13. Discuss your understanding of the Omen. (minimum 100 words)
The Omen is the method by which members of a ritual can determine how their sacrifice and particular quest upon which they have embarked at that time is received by the Kindred. It is means of Divination which will reveal an outcome with differing meanings depending upon a number of variables. It takes place towards the end of the ritual to enable energy to build and create more magic in order for the goal to be a success. When the Omen is read care must be taken to observe and note not just the particular layout of say the Ogham, but all of the nuances that are taking place around the Center such as the actions of the participants, the birds, the insects etc. because all of these factors can affect the interpretation and will of the Gods and Goddesses.
14. Discuss your understanding of the Blessing Cup, or “Return Flow”. (minimum 100 words)
During ADF rites the Return Flow is when the blessings and gifts from the Kindred flow into the congregation and are absorbed by them. This best exemplified when the congregation drinks from the blessing cup into which the Kindred have dispensed their blessings. This Return Flow serves a dual purpose in ADF. The first is a magic/religious nature and the second is a social one.
The Return Flow and drinking from the Blessing Cup (a practice that exists in many of the so called ‘true’ non-pagan religions of the world also) serves a unique purpose though. No matter the religion there is a uniting or strengthening of the congregation. Because of this it could be construed that the second purpose mentioned in the previous paragraph could also involve a magic/religious purpose.
15. Describe possible cultural variances for elements discussed in questions 3 through 14 above. (minimum 100 words)
In some instances I have read that Groves or individuals would rather deal with the Outsiders than offend them by excluding them. This is in contrast to those who would rather give them, “…a bribe of ale or food to keep the rite working well,” (Ellison 91) There is some merit to both factions although in the process of dealing with them it should be cautioned not to become belligerent or offensive in case the result is destructive to the working of the rite. It should be remembered that many bribe them for a specific purpose as Ellison mentions and explains.
In ADF, depending upon the particular Hearth Culture, there may be more emphasis on one of the Three Sacred Centers than the others. By this I mean that the fire may be more important to the Celts than the Vedics. The well may be of more importance and receive greater emphasis in the Norse than in the Hellenic or Roman cultures. And, as previously mentioned, not every culture utilized the Tree as an axis-mundi so those cultures would not find as much prominence today as they would on other of the elements.
Another variances would be in the preference of offering liquids. Mead was pretty much unknown among the Hellenic and Roman cultures so wine would be a more appropriate choice for those cultures whereas mead would be much more applicable to the Norse and Celtic cultures.
Runes instead Ogham staves would also be a variance in Norse and Celtic men readings. Both are more associated with one culture over the other and to some this ‘authenticity’ brings a closer association with the Kindred in their minds.
16. Describe how ADF liturgy corresponds with your personal or group practice. (minimum 100 words)
Because of my geographical location and somewhat by choice after being in religious group settings for a very large percentage of my life, I am a solitary ADF member. I have made it a habit to follow the ADF liturgy format. One of the works that has helped me to accomplish this is the Skip Ellison book ‘The Solitary Druid.” Taking the suggestions he proffers and adapting them to my personal pantheon helps to keep me in line with the COoR.
Because I am fortunate to be living on six acres of land I have several meditation sites that have been developed around the property. Some I have used for specific patrons and deities and others are just for general meditation. Each site has a small table that can be used as an altar for daily morning, noon and evening devotionals. Being a member of the Order of the Crane has helped me to be better prepared as I traverse my property throughout the day by me having my Crane Bag with me wherever I go so that at any time I am prepared for a ritual. For my High Day rituals I have a selected spot near the south end of my property in a grove of cedar trees that I have set aside specifically as a sacred place to perform rituals. Although I have not completed the work at this site, and I may never be satisfied totally, this is where I go for my outdoors rituals.
Inside, I have a small raised altar on a shelf above and behind my computer where I spend time researching. When the weather is too inclement or my health precludes my visit to the outdoor altars I use this to perform my devotionals. By constantly using either the full COoR or an abbreviated version for daily devotionals that includes offerings to the Outdwellers, recognize the three worlds and three realms, make offerings to each of the Kindred and use Ogham staves for the Omen, it is easy to fall into the routine of following ADF liturgical outline. The adage that ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ is inaccurate for me. I believe that ‘Perfect Practice Makes Perfect’ to be much more appropriate and is a mantra that I am trying to follow, especially where liturgy is involved.
Barton, Robert, Liturgy 1 Resource Book – “The Dynamics of the Primary Functionaries of Group Ritual”, Ar nDraíocht Fein, 2003
Bonewits, Isaac, The Basic Principals of Liturgical Design, Ar nDraíocht Fein, Web
– Essential Guide to Druidism, Citadel Press, New York, NY 2006
– “Step by Step Through a Druid Worship Ceremony”, Ar nDraíocht Fein, Web
Brooks, Arnold “Liturgy 1 Resource Book – A Druidic Ritual Primer”, Ar nDraíocht Fein, 2003
Corrigan, Ian “The ADF Outline of Worship: A Briefing for Newcomers”, Ar nDraíocht Fein, Web
Demissy, Linda “Sacred Space, An Exploration of the Triple Center”, Ar nDraíocht Fein, Web
Ellison, Robert Lee (Skip), The Solitary Druid, Citadel Press, New York, NY 2005
“Encyclopedia Mythica”, Web. 1 September, 2010
Thomas, Kirk, “The Nature of Sacrifice”, Ar nDraíocht Fein, Web
– “A Cosmological Pre-Ritual Briefing”, Ar nDraíocht Fein, Web