Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ritual Mechanics

1.  Explain why purification is important prior to ritual, and what you do to purify yourself before you lead a rite. Include any prayers said, items used, and any stage directions needed to help your reviewer understand what is happening. (min. 150 words, not including prayers, items, and directions)
            Purification is a form of ritual preparation that helps to physically and/or spiritually cleanse a participant.  This is done as a way to prepare for “sacred interaction” (Newberg, Step Two: Purification). Before I lead or perform a rite, I always make sure to shower, or at least wash my hands and face if this is not possible while thinking of the ritual that I am about to experience.  This helps me get into the appropriate mindset before I do any sort of “official” purification. 
In my personal practices, my purification is done very simply.  I typically use a water purification, where I rinse my hands, and then anoint my forehead and my chest while saying a simplified version of Ceisiwr Serith’s “Blessings, Honor, and Worship to the Holly Ones” (Serith, Blessings, Honor, and Worship to the Holy Ones): 
May my thoughts be true.
May my actions be just.
May my heart be pure.

            Within our protogrove, we align the purification with the specific culture we will be working with, so the means of purification is different for each ritual, but we try to use similar wording for each ritual.
Purified by ____________, may you enter with a good heart.
We have experienced many variations on purification in this format, including having people walk between two candles to be purified by fire for a ritual to Brigid, having people handed a candle and sprinkled with water for a Norse ritual, hand washing for a Greek ritual, purified just by incense, and several variations of these methods. 
            Each of these different types of purification serves the same purpose: to help people cleanse their thoughts and emotions in preparation for ritual.  It begins the process of establishing a ritual mindset, and reminds people to set aside those external concerns and negative thoughts in order to focus on the ritual itself. 

2.  Explain how you position your body and hands when inviting the Kindreds and making Key Offerings, what that position means, and why it is important to have a position that is (or several positions that are) consistent between rituals. (min. 100 words for description and meaning, min 150 for importance)
Body position is something I never put a lot of thought into as a solitary practitioner.  It wasn’t until I began leading public rituals with other people that I understood the impact that specific positions can have on a group mindset and connection.  Ceisiwr Serith reminds us that prayers and praise are not limited to the words that we speak, but can also be expressed through posture, motions, dancing, and gestures (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer 17-28). 
Earth Mother Position:
The first position that we use is actually when we honor the Earth Mother.  We kneel, with one knee touching the ground, and place our hands upon the earth, or at least point or gesture toward the Earth if kneeling is not possible.
This position is taken for two separate reasons.  First, it allows us to make a physical connection with the earth, to feel her energy and understand the importance of it.  Second, by kneeling, it shows some humility toward the Earth Mother, showing her that we honor her and see her as incredibly important, and expresses the superiority that we see her as having.  This posture is slightly different from the kneeling posture expressed by Ceisiwr Serith because we frequently kneel with only one knee on the ground instead of both, which I suspect is because of the associations that many people have with kneeling and the prayer methods of other religions.   
Kindreds Positions:
Body position when calling the Kindreds is something that I am still actively working on establishing as a habit, but right now it still requires me to think about my movements in order to follow them.  After attending rituals with other groups, including Midnight Flame, and seeing how many of the members of Clergy position themselves in ritual, I saw how effective and moving even simple motions may be. 
When calling to the Ancestors, I keep my elbows by my side while my forearms are extended and my palms face the ground. When calling to the Nature Spirits, I once again keep my elbows by my side and my forearms extended, but my hands then face out, away from my body.  Finally, when calling to the Shining Ones, I rotate my arms, so that my elbows are still by my side, but my extended forearms and palms are facing up toward the sky.
I use these positions based on the cosmological location of each of the Three Kindreds.  The Ancestors are located in the underworld, the Nature Spirits are located in the midworld, and the Shining Ones are located in the upperworld.  By using my hands to gesture in the direction of their realm, I am also sending my intentions and energy in the direction they exist in, which helps to further make a connection with them. Using a gesture where my hands are not actively moving is a challenge for me as someone who avidly talks with my hands,  but it conveys a message of waiting for the Shining Ones to perform an action, which seems appropriate when welcoming them to join us in our rituals (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer 27).
Key Offering Position:
            Key Offerings are the central portion of an ADF ritual and often include the invitation of the Beings of Occasion, any seasonal customs, and the Praise Offerings (Newberg, Step Eight: Key Offerings). When making Key Offerings, my stance often changes based upon the Being of Occasion.  If the ritual is being done to Sunna, I may hold my arms up high and gesture toward the sun.  If the ritual is for Nerthus, I may kneel and place my hands upon the ground.
The reason that my position during Key Offerings varies so greatly is that my actions are used to help honor and further connect with the specific Being of Occasion.  To me, it makes little sense to do Key Offerings with my arms extended well above my head, when performing a Samhain ritual to honor my ancestors.  Instead, I use my body position to connect to them in a way that is as physical as I can.  Having consistent postures is important because it allows people to better focus their energy on the intent while not having to think about what they should be doing with their hands.  It can also work as an aid to help remember which being is being addressed.  However, for this section, I prefer to make the connection more personal than the other set body positions.
3.  Describe your meditation practice as it stands today. Include its regularity, any positions you may use or prayers you may say, and the method(s) you typically use. (min. 200 words)
            Maintaining a regular meditation practice is something that I have always struggled with.  I may be able to keep a practice for several weeks, but as soon as that regularity is disrupted I have a very difficult time getting back on track.  I learned this lesson repeatedly when I worked through the Mental Discipline portion of the Dedicant Path.  Instead of continually trying to force it to happen and increasing my frustration with it, I have changed my perception of what meditation is for me.  In my practices, I use meditation as a tool. 
I use the Two Powers meditation as a way to ground and center before ritual work is done.  The form of Two Powers that I prefer to use for my personal practice is to visualize myself at the mouth of a cave and slowly entering it.  As I enter the cave, I find myself descending into the underworld and the realm of the Ancestors.  I reach a river and either swim in it or gather a vial of water and then return to the surface.  From there I turn around to find myself facing a mountain.  I climb the mountain and find myself in the upper realm, amongst the Deities.  While there I will either warm myself by their fire, or light a torch.  I then carry the torch, or keep the warmth inside of me, and return to the midrealm.   This meditation is very relaxing and empowering to me, and allows me to connect to my hearth culture while doing my meditation.
I also find myself repeatedly chanting my daily devotional while focusing on breathing when I am overly stressed and need to balance my emotions out to continue with the day. 
The sun rises refreshed and renewed,
As do I into each new day. 
From the Ancestors, may I find courage. 
From the Nature Spirits, may I find peace. 
And through the Gods, may I learn wisdom,
For it is through the Kindreds that I am made whole.

This devotional was developed by combining and modifying some of the devotionals that were originally written by David Crawford, including both his “Sun Rise Devotional” and “Prayer to the Kindred” (Crawford).  This chant helps to focus my attention on what is important and to remind myself that I am not alone in my struggles.  It helps me to ask for assistance in being wise, but also in being courageous and peaceful in my actions when I don’t feel like I can.
Information regarding ADF Priest personal practices was obtained through personal email interviews with each of the Clergy below.
4.  Explain how two different active ADF Priests light a ritual fire. Describe the actions done, any prayers or magical work done. Explain how you light a ritual fire, including actions, prayers, and magical work you may do.
Rev. Melissa Hill
When lighting a ritual fire, Rev. Melissa Hill puts a lot of emphasis on the makeup and lighting of the fire itself.  She uses kindling and tinder, which she lights either with a single match or a candle that has had a sacred flame transferred to it.  She also avoids the use of accelerants.  Once the fire itself is lit, she tends to the fire until she knows it is burning well while symbolically breathing on the fire to keep it going and envisioning her own essence flowing into the fire while supporting it and giving it strength. 
Rev. William Ashton
Rev. William Ashton enjoys making his ritual fires as sacred as possible, even when not using a large fire.  He has a set of tea light tins that he has reused repeatedly by refilling them with local beeswax and burning it.  He lights each one from a tapir candle, which was lit from a fire connected back to the Sacred Flames of Kildare. 
Rev. Jon Drum
Rev. Jon Drum builds a fire in a teepee fashion, using paper, kindling, sticks, and logs.  If there is a particular purpose in mind he may etch the ogham on a peah of paper or kindling and offer it to the fire.  As he lights the fire, he clears his mind and watches the fire grow. Once the fire is self-sufficient he holds his hand open near the base of the fire and allows his energy to flow into the fire and says:
“Grow, fire grow:
Grow within me,
Grow without me,
Grow, fire grow.”

My Personal Practice
On my personal altar, I have a red votive candleholder with the sigil of Hestia carved into it.  In it I keep the Hellenic Kin flame candle that I received from Jan Avende.  At the start of each ritual, I light this candle, and say a prayer to her, such as the one I have written here:

Hestia, glorious goddess of the hearth,
You who we honor both first and last.
You embody both hearth and home
And guide us with your warmth.
With your name, we ignite the hearth fire.
Come forth and dwell in this space.

Hestia, gracious goddess of home
Goddess of the living flame
You who keep the hearth ablaze
And inspire us with your light.
With your name, we start our rite.
Come forth and dwell in this place.

Through you, may our hearts warmed.
Through you, may our homes be bright.
Through you, may all who join be welcomed.
And through you may our intentions be pure.
Hestia, magnificent goddess,
Come forth and encounter this rite.

From there, I use the hearth candle to light the other flames on my altar at the appropriate times, including that of my Sacred Fire. I light the flame of my fire candle and make my offering while saying:
“Primal fire, ascend to us with the dawn and rule the sky.  Glory of the Sun, with burning luster.  Your radiant heat inspires life.  Light bearer and power of the stars.  Sacred fire, accept our offering.”

5.  Describe three different methods of (Re)creating Sacred Space, as used by at least two different active ADF Priests. Explain the actions done, the reason for those actions, and any specific magical work the Priest does during the (Re)creating of Sacred Space portion of the ritual. Provide an original script with stage directions for (Re)creating of Sacred Space based on one of these methods.
Rev. Melissa Hill
            Rev. Melissa Hill uses the three hallows of Fire, Well, and Tree when she recreates the sacred space.  She likes to have the participants of the ritual sing a single note, or hum, while she speaks over each of the hallows in turn, starting by offering silver to the well and saying:
            “This is the sacred well of the world, this is the place where the ancestors dwell.  Let this sink deep into the earth and let our words travel deep down to the waters under the world.  See now as the waters swirl upward from the depths, and settle in this place and time, connecting us to our ancestors and the primordial waters. Let this well be part of the triple center.”

She then offers oil to the fire and says:
“This is now the sacred fire of the gods, touched by the blessings of the kindred. The flames of this fire reach up and light the way for us, transforming our offerings and letting them rise like smoke to the highest and wisest of us, the gods and goddesses.  See now as the fire burns ever more brightly and the spark of divinity resides within it. Let this fire be part of the triple center.”

Finally, she lights incense from the fire and censes the tree stating:
“This is the sacred tree which connects all the realms.  Let the roots of this tree reach deep into the otherworlds, let its branches span the heights.  We are connected with all the realms by the will of the tree.”

Rev. William Ashton
Prior to the beginning of a ritual, Rev. William Ashton chooses a Tree to use for their sacred tree, the Well is filled with local spring water, and the Sacred Fire is lit.  Oil or butter is offered to the fire while he says:
“With the Flames of our Sacred Fire kindled from the great heavenly fire, our Sun itself, we name and claim this fire as THE FIRE of the Heavens, the burning power of the Gods, drawn down from above to this place, here and now! We offer to The Fire…and say as one, Sacred Fire, burn within us!”

He then positions himself before the Well and makes an offering of silver while saying:
    “The Waters of our Sacred Well is the same water that has been here since the first days… there is no NEW water on our Earth. This water has been drank, shared, and returns to us over and over… thus we name and claim this water as THE WATER in our Well, born from the depths of the Earth Herself, returning over and over, drawn up from the depths below to this place, here and now! We offer to the Well.  And say as one, Sacred Well, flow within us!”

Finally he moves to the tree and makes an offering stating:
“The Fires of the Heavens roar above us, as the Waters of the depths churn below, yet without connecting these Two Powers, our Cosmos is incomplete. Before us, we see the WorldTree, reaching into the heights of the Heavens, and below into the depths of the Earth, connecting Water and Fire with Root and Branch, pulling from below and above, meeting in this moment, connecting in this place, offering order to our Cosmos… thus we name and claim this tree as THE TREE, linking Fire and Water in this place, here and now! We offer to the Tree. And say as one, Sacred Tree, grow within us!”

Rev. Jon Drum
(Re)creating the sacred space with Rev. Jon Drum is quite interesting.  He puts a lot of emphasis into his positioning and stance, to make the ritual activity apparent in his entire body.  He begins by holding his palms open and pointing downwards while facing the well and saying “I honor the well and the ancestors that lie beyond” and briefly cups his hands in front of the well.  He then holds his arms at waist height, pointing at the fire with his palms open at 45 degrees and says “I honor this fire and the Shining Ones that peer through the flames.”  Once again he briefly cups his hands before proceeding to the tree.  He then holds his arms at chest height, and points at the tree saying “I honor the tree, rooted in this world, reaching into the next, here in the realm of the Nature Spirits that live under its branches.”  One last time he cups his hands in front of the tree, and the Sacred Space has been created.
My Personal Practice
Sacrificer:  <Make an offering of Silver to the Well>

Priest:  <Kneeling down and make a spiral motion with your hand in the water> “Sacred Waters of the Well, you who represent our path to the Ancestors.  You who are the source of our bubbling fountains, rivers, and lakes.  In the depths of the water flows wisdom.  Sacred waters, flow within us!”

All: “Sacred Waters, Flow within us.”

Sacrificer: <Make an offering of oil to the Fire>

Priest: <Standing with palms facing the fire>
“Primal Fire, you who represents the path to the Shining Ones.  You who are the brightness at each dawn, and the radiant heat that inspires life.  In the heat of the fire is passion and power. Sacred Fire, burn within us.”

All: “Sacred Fire, burn within us.”

Sacrificer:  <Make offering of incense to the Tree>

Priest: <Stand with palms on the tree>
“Mighty tree, you who spans the three worlds.  Your roots dig deep to drink from the waters of the well, while your branches rise high into the heavens to reach the light of the fires.  In the heart of the tree grows peace and plenty. Sacred Tree, grow within us.”

All:  “Sacred Tree, grow within us.”

Priest:  <Arms open to the participants>
Connected with the three realms, this place is made whole and sacred.”

6.  Describe three different methods of Calling/Hallowing/Affirming the Waters, as used by at least two different active ADF Priests. Explain the actions done, the reason for those actions, and any specific magical work the Priest does during the Calling/Hallowing/Affirming of the Waters. Provide an original script with stage directions for the Calling/Hallowing/Affirming of the Waters based on one of these methods.
Rev. Melissa Hill:
To Hallow the Waters, Rev. Melissa Hill keeps the waters in a bowl and asks multiple particiapnts to hold it for her.  She places her hand facing the bowl to channel the energies that will flow into the waters.  She also uses the singing or humming of the participants for this portion of the ritual to help increase group connection and build energy.  She calls upon each Kindred to bless the waters.  She will say something similar to this:
“I call to the Ancestors to bring their blessings to us on this day
Let these waters be filled with their energy and their love
Let these waters swirl and move with the dark energies of potential and the strength of the lessons learned from the past.
Let them be infused with the blessings of (whatever the omen was)
Give us the waters!
All repeat: Give us the waters!

I call to the Nature Spirits, those of green shoot and red blood.
I call to the Alfar and the Tomten spirits great and small who guard the land
With wild eyes and glowing green light I call to you and ask that you bless these waters with your energies and gifts.  As we have given to you so we ask that you give to us and let these waters be infused with the blessings of (whatever the next omen pulled was)
Give us the waters!
All repeat: Give us the waters!

I call to the Shining Ones, the goddesses and gods who guide the worlds
I call to those who shine in the darkness and those who dwell in the light
Blessed ones, wisest and mightiest of us all I ask that you share your powers with us and imbue these waters with your gifts!  Let these waters be infused with the blessings of (whatever the last omen was)
Give us the waters!
All repeat: Give us the waters!”

Throughout this entire piece, the group holding the waters continues to raise them up higher until they are holding it up over their heads.  At the end she states, “Behold the Waters of Life!” and distributes the blessings in whatever way is appropriate for the ritual.
Rev. William Ashton
To Hallow the Waters, Rev. William Ashton first listens to the omens and tries to make note of the themes to be folded into to the blessings.  He then lifts the empty drinking vessels and holds them out for two water-bearers to come forward, filling one with “firey” liquid and the other with local spring water.  He then says:
“Offerings have been made to the Kindred Three, offerings of our love and our goods, and now we ask for your blessing in return.  We, the assembled folk call to you:  Give us the Waters!”

He then hallows the Waters and says:
“In our practice, we act in accordance with the Old Ways, wherein a gift calls for a gift.  We, the assembled folk bless these cups, preparing them for your blessings in return, and so we ask again: Give us the Waters!”

He then affirms the blessings on the waters by saying:
“Behold, the cups of blessing, filled with _______, __________, and _______.  Behold the results of our offering and worship.  Behold the gifts of the Kindred Three.  Behold, the Waters of Life! “

The cups are then passed to the cup-bearers who offer them to the participants to receive their blessings. The rest is then offered back to the Earth.
Rev. Jon Drum:
When Hallowing the Blessings, Rev. Jon Drum takes the waters and holds them at eye level before holding them out and presenting them to the Kindreds.  He then lifts them higher, taking them closer to the Shining Ones before saying:
“Hail to you, Shining Ones, descend into these waters and make them holy.”
He then holds the waters back at chest level and moves them from left to right to present them to all the participants and says:
 “Behold the Waters of Life!”
My Personal Practice:
Priest:  As they did in the past, we have given gifts to the Kindreds, and in return a gift is given.  We will drink deep from their Inspiration.  Mighty Kindreds, we ask you to guide us with your blessings!

<Lifts the pitcher of water>

“Might Kindreds, Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Shining Ones, hallow these waters.  Bless our lives with your gift as we drink deeply of these waters.  Behold the waters of life!”

<Pass the blessings to each of the participants and after all have received their blessings>

“By the blessings of the Kindreds, may our blessings grow and shine in our lives.”

7.  Describe three different methods of Opening the Gates, as used by at least two different active ADF Priests. Explain the actions done, the reason for those actions, and any specific magical work the Priest does during the Gate Opening. Provide an original script with stage directions for the Gate Opening based on one of these methods.
Rev. Melissa Hill:
            Rev. Melissa Hill enjoys using a staff to help open the gates during public rituals.  She sings the portal song and hallows each of the gates.  She then asks the grove to help her open the gates and makes a pushing motion with her hands as she repeats “Open the Gates” over and over, starting softly and gradually growing louder and louder.  She holds her staff in one hand and uses it to direct the energy.  When she feels the energy has reached its peak, sue uses the staff to push open the gates as she lifts it in a signal to the group that it is time to release their energy.  She then states that the gates are open by saying, “The ways between the worlds are open and our words will resonate to the edge of all things for we stand at the center of the all.”
Rev. William Ashton:
Once the cosmos have been (re)created, he stands at the center of the hallows while the participants chant “Open the Gates” to a fast drumbeat.  He begins speaking:
We stand at the center of our beautiful, ordered cosmos, the fiery heavens above, the cool depths below, and the great World Tree holding the space between Earth and Sky.  From this place at the center of our shared world, do we call the Gatekeepers, the guardians standing between the Three Relams and the folk, the Heavenly Guardian at the gates between the Realm of the Gods and the world of the folk, the FerryMan brining our beloved dead to the realm of the Ancestors, and the Great Shepherd moving between the mountains and the plains.  Dwelling both here, there, and In-between, we make offerings to our Gatekeepers.”

He then makes an offering to the fire and states:
“Celestial Gatekeeper, Heavenly Guardian, accept this offering and let our voices echo through the heights, to the ears of the Gods themselves.  Heavenly Gatekeeper, accept our offering!”

He makes an offering to the well and says:
“Gatekeeper of the underworld, guardian of the land of the dead, accept this offering and let our voices echo through the depths, to the ears of our Ancestors of blood, bone, heart, and heart.  Ferryman, accept our offering! “

Finally, he makes an offering to the tree and says:
“Earthly Gatekeeper, great shepherd, accept this offering, and let our voices echo throughout the mountains, and across the plains, to the ears of the Spirits of Land.  Great Shepherd, accept our offering!”

He then leads the participants in a chant of “Gatekeepers three, open the gates!” and at the third round of chanting, the drumming stops and he says,
“May the Gates be open!”
Rev. Jon Drum:
Seeing how differently each ADF Priest performs the sections of a ritual has been quite interesting to me.  Opening the Gates is no difference.  When Rev. Jon Drum opens the gates, he begins with the well.  He puts his hand deeply into the well and moves it in a spiral motion to open the gate.  He visualizes the ancestors moving through the gate as his hand moves through the waters. Next, he puts his palm toward the fire and does a similar spiral motion to open the gate, while visualizing the Shining Ones moving through the gate.  He then moves to the tree and clasps his hands.  He then extends one hand to the well and the other toward the sky to show the connection between the cosmos. 
My Personal Practice
Priest:  <Make offering to Hermes>  “I now call to Hermes, that I may open the Ways between.  Guardian of the Boundaries, please aid us as the worlds meet and call our Kindreds near.  Guide us this rite and help us to find the power within ourselves.  Help us to walk between the worlds.  See the flame leaping from the fire and the mists rising from the well as they converge upon the tree, forming a sacred meeting place between the realms. “

<Make Offering to the Well> “Let the well whose depths reach the underworld open as a gate so we may see the way to our Ancestors. “

<Make Offering to the Fire> “ Let the fire burning toward the heavens open a gate so we may see the way to the Shining Ones.”

<Make offering to the Tree> “Let the tree act as a path between Earth and Sky, and open the three realms to us.”

“Let the Gates be open!”

All:  “Let the Gates be open!”

8.  Explain the purpose and function of the Pouring of Waters for an ADF Unity Rite. Provide a script with stage directions for this portion of the Unity Rite. (min. 150 words for explanation)
I experienced my first Unity Rite at Midnight Flame in Bellaire, Michigan.  It was very interesting to experience, and to hear our own protogrove’s name listed amongst all of the others definitely made us feel like we are a part of something much bigger than our small group.  The Unity Rite is done by pouring waters from a caldron, while names of all the Groves and Protogroves affiliated with ADF are read aloud.  This is done to symbolize the presence of those who cannot attend, and to show that each group is an important part of the organization as a whole.
The Unity Rite is a ritual done by ADF Clergy to “foster a sense of community in ADF” (ADF).  By including each and every group of members in the rite, it unifies the organization and acknowledges those people who may not be able to attend a festival or other large gathering.
Unity Rite:
“Like a mighty oak, ADF has continued to grow and change with each passing year. Some of the oldest branches have continued to grow stronger and larger, while new branches continue to appear.   Each of these branches, no matter how big or small, near or far, helps to make up the whole of this great organization.  We are here today to honor the Kindreds.  Ancestors, Nature Spirits, Shining One, and we ask that they help ADF to continue to grow together.  Let these waters nurture the soil, to help us keep our strong roots while our branches continue to grow and expand.  Let us all remember that even in this growth, we are all a small part of something bigger. “
<A Priest will then read the name of all the Groves/Protogroves in ADF while pouring the water at the base of a newly planted tree.> 

This rite could be performed annually at this same tree, helping to create a permanent ritual Tree and also making the waters from the Unity Rite meaningful and important by having the waters symbolize the nurturing of the tree to help it grow.

Works Cited:

ADF. ADF Unity Rituals. October 2014 <>.

Ashton, Rev. William. Interview. Amber Doty. September 2014.

Crawford, David. Daily Devotionals...a good way to touch the divine. 12 August 2012.

 October 2014 <>.

Drum, Rev. Jon. Interview. Amber Doty. September 2014.

Hill, Rev. Melissa. Interview. Amber Doty. September 2014.

Newberg, Brandon. Step Eight: Key Offerings. October 2014 <>.

—. Step Two: Purification. October 2014 <>.

Serith, Ceisiwr. A Book of Pagan Prayer. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2002.

—. Blessings, Honor, and Worship to the Holy Ones. October 2014

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