1. Ritual Definition
Define ritual, especially as the term applies to religious and spiritual work. (200 words)
Bonewits defined ritual as “an 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 designated to produce and manage one or more altered states of consciousness within which certain results may be obtained” (Bonewits, Neopagan Rites 9). This explanation may be lengthy, but I think it gives us a good place to start. To simplify this definition, rituals are a group of actions that are repeated for a desired result. In a religious context, rituals would therefore be a sequence of events that are intended to make a connection with the spiritual world. Within ADF, ritual is used to build and develop relationships with our peers, the Kindreds, and the world around us.
Spiritual rituals are intended to “empower the souls of the worshippers” (Corrigan). They allow participants to strengthen their beliefs and to build relationships within their spirituality. Rituals also give participants a way to recognize those beings and spirits that they feel the need to interact with in their spiritual path. These connections are vital within religion, for without a way to practice faith it can be very difficult to maintain.
Ritual can also be used to foster a personal relationship with both our peers and the community we are involved in. A positive ritual experience can help a group bond and develop relationships, allowing for a community to form. However, a negative ritual may damage relationships and reputations. Overall, the intent of a ritual in a spiritual environment is to help spirituality grow and develop through the formation of relationships. It is these relationships that are remarkably significant to spirituality.
2. Ritual Roles
Describe some of the roles individuals might take on within the context of ritual. (100 words)
The roles someone can play during a ritual can easily be varied dependent upon the size, participation, and intent of a rite. Solitary rituals will have only the officiating Druid, while a large Grove may have 10 or more people who take on an active role within a ceremony. However, there are several roles that are frequently seen within a ritual, including a Bard, a Seer, and a Sacrificer. The Bard is someone who manages the music for the ritual and may lead any songs that are used within the rite (Brooks). This can be a helpful way to indicate transitions and to fill free time in a large group ritual. The Seer is someone who is charge of taking and interpreting the omen for the ritual, which is how ADF determines the effectiveness of a ritual. This role is very important as it is their goal to act as the messenger between the Kindreds and the group, to share the message of the Omen with the participants. The Sacrificer is the person who makes the offerings to the Kindreds within rituals (Sacrifice), which in itself can be a daunting task. There are always additional roles that can be added to rituals to include as many people as desired, which may be as simple as breaking the ritual into parts and allowing each person to take on a section of their own. However, it is also very possible to do an ADF ritual as a solitary practitioner. This flexibility allows ADF rituals to encompass people in many different circumstances.
3. ADF Ritual Boundary
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)
ADF boundaries are not included in an ADF style ritual for two primary reasons. First is the idea within ADF that ritual should be open to the public, with the ability for people to come and go as they need to. Using a defined border such as a circle limits the ability for this to happen. I personally appreciate the lack of a ritual boundary because “if someone arrives late we want them to be able to join us” (Brooks). This simple gesture helps to build the idea of community instead of cutting someone out of the event due to timing issues.
The second reason that circles are not used is because these barriers are “meant to keep energy in.” (Bonewits, Step by Step through a Druid Worship Ceremony). Druid rituals were traditionally done outdoors and were intended to interact with the spirits of the time and place, as well as other entities. This would make a circle counter-productive to most Druid workings.
Instead of using a defined outer boundary, ADF rituals use a Sacred Center to connect to the cosmos and make the ritual space sacred. The re-creation of the cosmos, combined with the purification of the space and participants prior to ritual, are used to help sacralize the space for ADF rituals.
4. Earth Mother
Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
The Earth Mother is a very significant part of both ADF liturgy and the spiritual practice of many ADF members. By definition, ADF is an earth-centered religion. The earth is not only where we live, but is a vital part of everything we know about life. How the Earth is viewed varies from member to member but within ADF the importance of honoring the Earth Mother is well established. In rituals, “the Earth Mother is honored early in the rite to emphasize the primacy of nature in our religion” (Newberg, Step Three: Honoring the Earth mother). This happens prior to the opening of the gates within the ritual to show the ever-present connection to the earth. By including the Earth Mother as the first and last “entity” contacted in an ADF ritual, we show the significance of the earth in both our lives and in our religious practices.
5. Fire, Well, & Tree
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)
The Sacred Center is traditionally represented within ADF through Fire, Well, and Tree symbols. Each of these symbols is viewed as a gateway to one of the three separate realms within ADF cosmology, the fire opening the way to the upper realm, the well opening to the lower realm, and the tree connecting the middle realm and everything in between. Each of these symbols has its own place in creating order.
The Well connects us to the lower realm. In the Greek culture this is typically connected to the underworld, which is our connection to the ancestors. From the ancestors we are able to gain courage and understanding of the world around us in an effort to find order between the past, present, and future. The well is a concept that was prevalent in many Indo-European cultures. For example, the Norse viewed the world tree as being rooted in wells where knowledge and healing were stored (Demissy). Within ADF liturgy, the Well is used as a connection to the Ancestors and is viewed as a way to communicate with them and gain their blessings and knowledge.
The Fire connects us to the upper realm, which is our connection to the Deities. Through the fire and smoke we are able to connect to the Deities to make sacrifices and give praise. It is from the Deities that we are able to gain wisdom and understanding of the cosmos around us. Fire is viewed as the most important part of an ADF Druid ritual and cosmology. Fire was “held up as one of the most common features of ancient Indo-European religions” (Newberg, Step Five: (Re)Creating the Cosmos) and therefore its significance plays a large role in modern Druid practices. The fire is how we make sacrifices and how we build a relationship with the Kindreds.
The Tree itself connects those two points, drawing the energy into the Sacred Center and representing everything in between the upper and lower realms. It gives us a connection the physical realm and the other inhabitants of it. This connection can help us find balance and peace, which can definitely assistant in the process of creating order. The tree is yet another piece of ADF cosmology that is based in the lore of Indo-European cultures. The Norse had Yggdrasil, the World Tree as an axis between the realms and while Greeks did not have a “world tree” of their own, the idea of a sacred center was still present through the Omphalos. Within ADF the world tree is viewed as a connection from our realm to those of the Deities and the Ancestors.
Overall, these visual representations allow people to better comprehend the different aspects of the cosmos and connect with them logically. They establish a time and place for ritual and allow for a connection to be made.
6. Cultural Cosmos
Describe three culturally specific models for (re)creating the cosmos consistent with the Core Order of Ritual. (minimum 100 words for each model)
Cultural cosmology is something that I have always found intriguing. The different approaches to how the universe is viewed set the standard for differences between cultures, both past and present. ADF rituals (re)create the cosmos in order to build relationships and honor the Kindreds so it is important to understand the cosmology of the culture you may be working with.
Greek culture represents the three realms as the under, middle, and upper worlds. The underworld is the lower realm and is the location of the Ancestors. The rivers that run through the realm, including Styx and Acheron, frequently represent the well. The middle world is home to humans and the nature spirits. This includes both plants and animals, and those nature spirits that are unseen, such as the nymphs, satyrs, and dryads. The Greek culture does not typically have a tree that is used in its creation of the cosmos, but instead uses an Omphalos, which is the “navel of the world” and marks the center of the world (Burchfield). The final realm is the Upperworld, which is often represented by Mount Olympus. This is the home of the deities and the source of fire.
The Celtic culture seems much different than the Greek in regards to cosmology, but it has some similarities. They view the three realms as Land, Sea, and Sky. The Land represents the middle realm, which is the land of the nature spirits and humans. It is the realm of the World Tree, which connects the cosmos. The second realm is the Sea, which represents the ancestors. The well in this cosmological setup is often described as the waters of the world. The final realm is the Sky, which is the “source of Light and Shadow” (J. Wyndham). This is the home of the Shining Ones and the light of the world.
The Norse culture is once again different from the other cultures, while still maintaining similarities with the other Indo-European cultures. They divide the cosmos into realms, but view them as nine realms as opposed to three as we’ve seen in other cultures. However, they are still aligned along and connected by the world tree and can be divided into three triads. The highest realm is Asgard, which is the home of the deities, along with Vanaheim and Alfheim. The middle realm is Midgard, which is the realm of humans and our nature spirits, along with Jotunheimr, Svartalfaheim, and Nithavellir which are the realms of the giants, elves, and dwarves. The lower realm is Niflheim, which is the home of the dead, and Muspelheim.
Each Indo-European culture has unique aspects of their cosmology, but the overlap between them appears to be much greater than their differences. It is easy to see the similarities between these cultures when they are looked at in this way. While the cultures themselves may have been quite different, their views on the universe definitely aligned well.
7. Center and Gates
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 Sacred Center in an ADF context is a concept used to describe the “point of power” that we use to access the Cosmos (Newberg, Step Five: (Re)Creating the Cosmos). Essentially, the sacred center is the axis of the universe. This concept of axis mundi is another one that is populated throughout both Indo-European and non-Indo-European cultures. In the Norse cosmology they see this connection as Yggdrasil. The Greeks use the term Omphalos to describe their sacred center. Buddhists often regard stupas as their connection to the universe. Each of these separate instances shows a relationship to all places through a single connection point. This concept is vitally important in ADF ritual practices because it is in this place of connection that we hold our rites.
The Gates in ADF’s Core Order of Ritual are opened in order for us to recreate that Sacred Center in the cosmos and build relationships with the Kindreds. It is through these gates that we make sacrifices and receive blessings. These gates represent realms of the Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Shining Ones so by opening them we are welcoming them to our ritual and offering them hospitality within our rite. The Greek culture uses an Omphalos to represent the Sacred Center of the Cosmos. It is through its connection to the universe that we are able to access the other realms. The Upper and Under worlds, lands of the Ancestors and Deities, are the Omphalos represents the middle realm and the nature spirits that reside in it. The Omphalos stretches below the earth to connect to the Underworld and the Ancestors, and rises into the sky to connect to Mount Olympus, the home of the Gods. Hermes often acts as the gatekeeper because he was the messenger of the Gods.
Within the Norse culture, Yggdrasil connects each of the realms together and allows for travel between them. The tree spans from the lowest realms to the highest attaching them all at the sacred center. It is through this connection that we are able to open gates to the realms of both the Ancestors and the Deities. Heimdall is the guardian of Bifrost, so he often acts as the gatekeeper in Norse rituals.
8. Fire and Water
Discuss the ritual depiction of the relationship between Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Fire and Water are represented as the two primal forces within ADF liturgy. Each element can be powerful and dangerous, but together they create a form of balance within the universe. They meet at the Sacred Center to bring order to the cosmos and reduce chaos. This balance can easily be seen in the Two Powers meditation. In this meditation, warm, ordered light is brought from above into the Sacred Center, while cool, chaotic water is brought from below to create a balance within the Sacred Center (J. Wyndham). Fire and Water can also be viewed as the gateways to the Upper and Lower realms, those of the Ancestors and Deities.
Discuss the Outdwellers and their significance in ritual (or not, as the case may be). (minimum 100 words)
Outdwellers are defined within ADF as “hostile, chaotic forces” (Newberg, Supplementary Step: The Outsiders). They are often viewed as entities that are unwelcome within a ritual and are acknowledged in a way that requests that they leave the rite in peace. The opinion on Outdwellers varies a lot within ADF. They are viewed the forces of Chaos or beings at odds with the ritual, or negative feelings inside of participants. Even the proper way to deal with them varies, ranging from acknowledging them or giving them a bribe to posting a guardian against the Outdwellers. However, this is an optional step in the Core Order of Ritual, so acknowledging the Outdwellers is not something that you are required to do.
10. Inviting the Kindreds
Describe the intention and function of Inviting the Three Kindreds. (minimum 100 words)
ADF rituals invite Three Kindreds to the rite, the Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Shining Ones. These Kindreds are invited to attend as a way to create and foster a relationship with them them. We offer them sacrifices and praise in our rituals, and ask for blessings in return for these actions. This reciprocal relationship is very important to the ADF ritual structure. These Kindreds are the inhabitants of the cosmic realms. By inviting them to our rituals and building a positive relationship with them we are helping to order the cosmos and maintain a balance between the realms. Each of the Kindreds has their own strengths, so by building a relationship with them we are also working to better ourselves through their blessings.
11. Focus of Key Offerings
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 of a ritual depends heavily on the intent of the ritual that is being performed. If the ritual is directed toward a specific Being of Occasion, they should be the focus of the Key Offering. However, if the ritual is one that is meant to build a community it may be better to make an offering that is aimed toward that cause. A spring ritual that is performed in honor of Demeter and Persephone would probably use much different phrasing and offerings than a Yule ritual honoring Sunna, so understanding the purpose for the ritual is the first step in choosing a Key Offering for a ritual.
Discuss your understanding of Sacrifice, and its place in ADF ritual. (minimum 100 words)
Sacrifice was a huge part of Indo-European cultural religions. Because of this, the idea of giving sacrifices has been heavily incorporated into ADF spirituality, typically by giving sacrifices through ritual. These sacrifices affect both the cosmos and those participating in the offering. Sacrifices are meant to strengthen the cosmic structure and order the cosmos in a logical path that we can understand, while also aligning the cosmos with the participants. The participants also benefit from giving sacrifices as well. Sacrifices can be used to build relationships with the Kindreds and the cosmos. There may be the physical benefit of sustenance through food or drink, but the affect may also be a deeper spiritual effect, such as a deeper connection with the world around them, or inspiration for a project they are working on. Group offerings can also be a way to build a community and create bonds between people.
13. Sacrifice and the Blessing
Discuss the relationship between sacrifice and blessing and how this is reflected in the Core Order of Ritual. (minimum 150 words)
Within ADF ritual, sacrifices are given to the Kindreds in order to build relationships and maintain order within the cosmos. The relationship that is built is one of reciprocity. The Kindreds give their blessings in return for the gifts they have received. This reciprocal relationship is based on the idea of *ghosti and hospitality (Newberg, Step Eleven: Calling (asking) for the Blessings). Building this type of relationship is one of the goals of sacrifice. ADF usually shares these blessings with the folk through a practice called the “Waters of Life.” These “waters” are held in a vessel. After the blessings are called for the beverage in the vessel is imbued with the blessings. The waters are then consumed by the folk, allowing them to receive the blessings from the ritual. The actual contents of the vessel may vary from water to wine, but the intent remains the same. These blessings are received as a part of the relationship that is built through ritual and sacrifice. This relationship is what “entitles” us to receive them, but I see it as much more as a blessing of spirituality than one of entitlement.
This relationship is reflected in the ADF Core Order of Ritual in the actual order of the events in the ritual. Sacrifices and praises are given to the Kindreds and after they have all been given we ask to receive blessings through the Waters of Life.
Discuss your understanding of the Omen. (minimum 100 words)
The Omen is the way that we allow the Kindreds to communicate with us during a ritual. It is said to all “clear and structured communication to take place between worshipper and worshipped” (Newberg, Step Ten: The Omen). Within ADF liturgy, the omen is taken after we have given praise and offerings in the ritual and is used to determine if those sacrifices have been accepted. It is also frequently used to decide if there is a blessing or message to be given in return and what that blessing may be. There are numerous ways that the omen can be taken, but many groups will use tarot, runes, or ogham to receive these messages.
15. Personal Liturgy
Describe how ADF liturgy corresponds with your personal or group practice. (minimum 100 words)
Prior to joining ADF in 2008, I was not one to frequently do personal or group rituals. My practice was more focused on spending time in nature than any sort of formal ritual. Since joining ADF, I have worked to incorporate the ADF liturgy into my personal practice more thoroughly. I now use the COOR almost exclusively for ritual, with the exception of my brief morning devotional. This liturgy format has helped me to become more comfortable with formalized ritual and to understand the flow of a ritual when the concept previously felt bizarre to me. In October 2013 I also started a protogrove, Prairie Shadow Protogrove, ADF and have been working to build a group practice for the first time in my life. The ADF liturgy has given us something to work from to develop a standard for our public rituals, which has been a huge blessing to our group. People who were not at all familiar with ADF now know the flow of our rituals thanks to the liturgy and the COOR. We use the Core Order of Ritual in our rites without some of the optional steps. It has worked well for us to build a community and we have even had members now volunteer to help us create rituals. It’s very exciting to see that sort of enthusiasm from other people.
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