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Archive for the ‘ADF’ Category

8.    Discuss the Outdwellers and their significance in ritual (or not, as the case may be). (minimum 100 words)

Outdwellers are representatives of the forces of chaos, and generally are seen as beings that would act contrary to the rite that is being performed (specifically to the order that ADF ritual seeks to create) (Newburg). While some view them as specifically malevolent or chaotic beings, others view them as simply “anyone we’re not actively making offerings to today” (Newburg). Some groups also include human feelings and impulses (like anger or jealousy) that would have a negative impact on the rite as part of the outdwellers (Newburg), though making offerings to those feelings seems odd to me. The outdwellers can be a significant (or not) portion of ADF worship depending on how they are viewed by any particular group that is performing the ritual. Some groups make offerings to the outdwellers directly, some groups make offerings to a protective god/ess or spirit to protect the sacred rite from the influence of the outdwellers, and some groups ignore them entirely, preferring not to name those forces and thus garner their attention. I usually do some of the first two – I make an offering to the outdwellers directly (usually beer or soda or cider), and then ask Thunor’s protection of my ritual space – which is something of a threat, considering how Thunor usually deals with things that disrupt the order of the universe.

Added 7/15: Our protogrove has chosen simply to ward our ritual space through an offering and song to Thunor, which is based on an Anglo Saxon hallowing charm, set to music. We tried several other methods of offerings, and nothing felt quite right, but we also didn’t feel right completely ignoring the idea of the outdwellers, and so we settled on using a guardian deity whose function is the protection of the middle world to specifically protect our ritual space. We make these offerings to Thunor both at the beginning of the ritual (asking for protection) and at the end (thanks for protection), as well as singing the charm and carrying fire around the space.

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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)

Fire: The Fire forms one of the gates in ADF’s sacred center. It is the connection to the upperworlds, and it is most often affiliated with the Deities. It is the hearth fire and the essence of change, the spark that creates life (Paradox). Fire burns away impurities and makes things sacred. The sacred fire is the recipient of many of our offerings, which burn into smoke that feeds the deities in the nature of the Vedic sacrifices to and through Agni. Fire was highly important in Indo-European cultures, and many sacred fires are found in the mythology, from Agni (who is fire itself) to the Roman hearth fires and Vestal fires (Dangler).

Well: The Well forms one of the gates in ADF’s sacred center. It is the connection to the underworlds, and it is most often affiliated with the Ancestors, who go “below” and from whom we get wisdom and memory. It is also affiliated with chthonic deities and their underworld realms. Water from the well washes away impurities and makes things sacred. The well is represented in the mythology by the three wells that feed the World Tree Yggdrasil, from which Odin gains wisdom and the Norns get the mud that repairs the world tree’s roots. It is also similar to the watery otherworld that the Irish see as the home of the Ancestors. (Paradox)

Tree: The Tree holds fast the ways between the worlds. It stands at the center and connects all the worlds, and it is most often affiliated with the Nature Spirits, who live in and among its branches. The tree spans the worlds, from the watery depths of the well to the fiery heights of the sky. It is particularly well represented by Yggdrasil, the great World Tree, whose inhabitants include the dragon (Nidhogg), the squirrel (Ratatosk), the unnamed eagle, and the four stags (Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór) (Paradox). The Irish also have an ancient sacred tree, the Bile, found growing over a holy well or fort (MacCulloch).

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6. Discuss the ritual significance of Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)

The first instance of Fire and Water in ADF Ritual is typically the purification step, where we purify first with water (usually by sprinkling), and then with fire (in the form of incense) (Newburg). Where water washes and cleanses, incense purifies and fills us with sacred fire, and we are renewed by this step of the ritual and made ready to participate in the offerings that come afterward.

Fire and water are also the two most common representations of ADF’s Two Powers – the powers we draw upon for our magical workings and energetic currents (Newburg). The fire is the sky power, the power of the upperworld, of order and craft, and of the expression of will. The water is the underworld power, the power of chaos and potential. When these two powers meet, as they do in each participant in an ADF liturgy, they provide the magical current from which we have the power to do the work of making sacrifices and opening the gates. They also provide a grounding and centering aspect to ADF ritual, which  prepares the ritual participants for working together and mentally calms and prepares them for the energetic work that we do in each ritual (Bonewits “Step”, Newburg). These mirror nicely the two worlds that existed before the creation of the world in the Norse myths – the realm of ice (water) and the realm of fire, from which all things were made.

Fire is also the primary means of sacrifice to the upperworld, as it transforms our offerings into a form that the spirits can use. As well, at the end of each ritual, we imbibe the waters of life – waters which have been transformed by blessings (which often come from the otherworlds, and can be represented by fire) and which send us out into the world renewed and re-energized. By fire we give our offerings to the spirits, and by water they return blessings to us.

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4.    Discuss why ADF rituals need not have a defined outer boundary, or “circle” and the sacralization of space in ritual. (minimum 100 words)

By creating a sacred center, we eliminate the need to create an outer boundary. In fact, much like you can represent the three dimensions on a graph that extends to infinity, with one point in the center, the sacred center aligns the worlds and extends to cover them all. Instead of creating a boundary layer and separating the ritual from the world, which is, in a way, a rejection of the world as an appropriate place for magical workings, we work in the center that envelops the world and all the other worlds as well. Any place where the worlds meet – as they do at the sacred center – is already a sacred place, which we affirm as part of our rituals.

Also, ADF ritual is typically theurgist (per Issac Bonewits’ definition that theurgy is magic done for religious and/or psychotherapeutic purposes (Bonewits Neopagan 7)) and does not typically require raising energy that needs to be contained and then released in one great burst (which necessitates a containment device like a circle). This choice of a loose boundary (as opposed to a tight one, like a circle) is usually used since the energy raised in an ADF ritual doesn’t need to be contained to build up in one place before release (Bonewits Neopagan 26), and in fact would travel through the sacred center in waves with each sacrifice. This also eliminates the problem of energy dissipating before it arrives at its target in thaumaturgical (mundane) ADF rituals, since the energy travels directly through the sacred center in the ritual space to the sacred center at the target (Bonewits Neopagan 149). While this requires some coordination among the ritual participants, to ensure that the single burst of energy is raised and released at the same time, it avoids the problems often found with raising a “cone of power” within a circle.

As well, this openness to sacred space means that people can come and go easily from our rites, which is an important consideration with groups larger than 5-10, groups where families and children are present, or groups with people of differing bladder sizes (Bonewits “Step”).

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*blows dust off blog* (more on that in another post)

I spent this last weekend in the Texas Hill Country at the Texas Imbolc Retreat, hosted by the wonderful Godwins and Hearthstone Grove, ADF. I’m left with many thoughts, none of which will adequately describe the experience of the weekend.

  • Hospitality is a pretty amazing thing.
  • If you build it, they will come.
  • Tell them who you are, and tell them why you’re here.
  • Do the best you can, and let the haters hate.
  • I’m not crazy for thinking my house likes me.
  • I can make up an invitation to the Kindred off the cuff, and do a pretty darn good job of it. (Good enough for my Nature Spirit invitation to be graced with the presence of a huge jackrabbit.)
  • ADF’s priests are just as amazing as I thought, and I can’t wait to count myself one of their number.
  • ‘Cause the things that I prize, like the stars in the skies, are all free.
  • If you tell a flame tender and an Eagle Scout “Build a big fire” you get a REALLY BIG FIRE.
  • Other people find Rooster the Paladin just as funny as I do.
  • I can sing in a bardic circle and nobody will laugh at me (but they’ll ask for more Rooster stories).
  • Sometimes you get to meet people you’ve been “hearing” for years, and they’ll be just as awesome in person as you’d expect them to be.
  • Having a community of support is pretty important for pagans in leadership.
  • There’s a need for good resources about running an ADF study group.
  • We need a name.
  • 40 people around a big damn fire, led by experienced priests, can generate a whole damn lot of energy. (Enough to make my head spin and the hair stand up on my arms/neck)
  • Nature is good. Nature is very good.
  • Be careful about asking Brigid for inspiration. Sometimes you get what you ask for.

I could go on, but I think that’s enough for now. I returned from the retreat recharged spiritually and ready to take my next steps in ADF’s clergy path (Many thanks to Rev. Sean Harbaugh for giving me some much needed advice – I was killing myself on the reading list, and apparently that’s more than a little bit counter-intuitive).

And maybe next year I’ll get out to Pantheacon or Wellspring or Trillium too, but for now I’m just happy to know I can be part of a truly excellent Druid experience right here in Texas.

(Even if it is more than 5 hours drive from my little home in the swamp.)

 

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If I had to pick, I would say I operate in a Vanic-influenced Anglo-Saxon hearth. My rituals draw on Anglo-Saxon symbolism most strongly, but I work primarily with the Vanir/Wanes – the gods and goddesses of the land and fertility, using their Anglo-Saxon names where they are attested (So (usually) Ing Frea and Freo, but also Njord and Nerthus and Frau Holda. And Hela, who kind of is her own category.). It’s an interesting little mishmash, but it suits me well, and seems to work well in practice. There is considerably more information about Scandinavian paganism in particular, but since they’re essentially sister cultures, I don’t mind borrowing too much. I try to stick to Anglo-Saxon myths where they exist, and branch out from there.

That said, I also do a lot that is “ADF” flavored. I love a lot of the ADF language – Fire and Well and Sacred Tree, flow and flame and grow in me, that kind of stuff. Generic and Neopagan, I am drawn to the poetry because it is easy to remember and it rhymes. (Simple, I know, but it works.) My everyday practice isn’t particularly hearth flavored anymore – it revolves more around fire/well/tree and less around specific hearth practices. I’d like to build more hearth flavor into that practice, but it feels odd to combine the two. I need to find a happy medium. (Perhaps just adding runes would be a good start.) Right now I do Anglo-Saxon “influenced” ADF rituals for the high days, and my personal practice is much more Neopagan Druidry. I’m a bit conflicted about this, because … well, I’m not sure why. There’s no rules against doing this (at least in my personal practice) and if it’s working, hey, why not? I would like to do more personal rituals and not just queue them up for the high days though.

I can’t really explain why I’m so drawn to the Anglo-Saxon hearth over just going with the (better documented, more common, more easily accessible) Norse/Scandinavian one, but for some reason the Anglo-Saxons just clicked with me. I blame Alaric Albertsson’s Travels through Middle Earth book primarily, as it resonated so strongly I pretty much immediately started working in an Anglo-Saxon paradigm.

But I still definitely am a modern Pagan and Druid – I have never been and will (probably) never be a reconstructionist. I’m too firmly rooted in working in a modern context for that. I don’t pretend to be reconstructing anything, only using the history and lore as a way to inform and deepen my practice. So I’m a bit of a hybrid, and that seems to be working out just fine for me.

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I’ve been sitting with my lack of knowledge a lot lately, inspired in part by conversations with Rev. William Ashton, ADF’s newest ordained priest (and someone I’m coming to call a friend, which is pretty neat). There’s just a lot I don’t know, and as someone who is obsessively academic (especially in school-type situations) this bothers me on a deep level. And yet, philosophically, I know that learning and discovery happen on the interface of what is known and what is unknown.

So I have been encouraged to really allow the discomfort of not knowing things to be present, in the hopes of becoming more comfortable with it. Because there’s just so much out there to know, and knowing what you don’t know is the first step towards learning.

In reality, I’ve been a practicing Druid just shy of two years, a practicing Pagan for close to ten. I have completed only the most rudimentary study program that ADF offers and am only just beginning the real coursework of the Initiate’s Path. The ancient Druids were the intelligentsia of their societies, and I’d like my own modern practice to follow in those footsteps (once I’ve done more of it, obviously), but I am still, essentially, a newbie, and there is a LOT that I don’t know. And yet I’m (co)leading a study group – something I think I’m singularly unqualified to do – and trying my best to steer these potential dedicants (and other assorted studiers of things Druidic) into productive and useful practices, and get them acquainted with as much knowledge as they are interested in pursuing.

And on top of that, just this last week, in a discussion about the priesthood and ADF’s clergy training program, one of my groupmates looked me square in the face and said “So are you planning on doing that?” I stammered out something incoherent, and Yngvi replied for me, “Eventually.” I can’t deny I have a calling to it in some form. I know what it means to be a minister (my grandfather is one), and yet I’ve still toyed with ministry (in various forms) in every spiritual pursuit I’ve ever undertaken, from contemplating Methodist seminary, to considering whether I had a Catholic vocation, to pursuing Wiccan initiation, and now to pursuing initiation and possibly clergy training under ADF’s model. In every spiritual path I’ve been part of, I have seriously considered ministry or priest(ess)hood in some form. (I take this to mean that my calling is to serve the folk, not to serve a particular God or set of gods, but that’s just my own interpretation.) Whether that calling will be satisfied with initiation or not, only time will tell. I just don’t know right now.

For some reason that bothers me. I like control, and planning ahead, and knowing where I’m going. I want cold, hard answers to things that just don’t have cold hard answers. The idea that the path will reveal itself as it is walked just makes me inherently uneasy. But the reality is? Two years ago I wouldn’t have ever guessed I’d be where I am (and neither would anyone else I knew, for that matter), so who knows where I’ll be in two years, let alone five or more. (At this rate, still working on the IP; I really need to get moving.)

Until then, though, I can add in the CTP retreat days to help strengthen my spiritual practice, do the coursework, keep my practice alive, and just see where things end up.

And when someone asks me something I don’t know the answer to? Well, that’s just more time to practice this virtue of not knowing.

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