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Archive for the ‘Initiate’s Path’ 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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5.    Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)

The Earth Mother is probably the most obviously Neopagan part of the ADF liturgy, but She is an extremely significant part of Druidic culture and worship. While there are people who see Her as a thought-form, a goddess, an ecological organism, a local body of water, and an archetype (or some combination of the above) (Newburg), She typically takes the first and last offerings in ADF’s liturgy and is given the respect of the eternal All Mother from whom we all emerge and to whom we all return. This is not to say that there is no historical present for an Earth Mother figure (and, in fact, Tacitus calls Nerthus the Earth Mother to the Germans, and Gaia can serve in the role of Earth Mother to the Greeks), but that her role and primacy in ADF ritual is more reminiscent of modern than ancient worship. This element of our rituals helps ground the ecological and naturalistic currents in ADF’s population, and the presence of the Earth Mother places ADF squarely among the other Neopagan traditions with Earth/Environmentalism as the center of their worship, though ADF also worships more historically based god/esses (Newburg) and often participates in more historically flavored (if not actually derived) practices.

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3. Describe the concepts of the Center and the Gates in ADF’s Standard Liturgical Outline. (minimum 300 words)

ADF’s ritual structure revolves around a recreated “sacred center” that exists at the center of all worlds (rather than between the worlds, or in a liminal space, as most neopagans do). This sacred center is the axis mundi – the axis about which all the worlds revolve, and through which we access the magical and energetic currents found in each of the worlds (the number of which usually depends on the hearth culture, but most often three or a multiple of three). The sacred centers that we use in ritual allow us an orientation in the world and a fixed point from which to observe and participate in the cosmos (Dangler). The axis mundi itself, the axis of the world, can only exist at the center of the universe and “all things extend about it”, it’s presence is not an ordering force, but a break that “allows the sacred to pour into and destroy the homogeneity of space” (Dangler). In this way the axis mundi is both a type of sacred center, and a type of gate through which we encounter the otherworlds.

This central axis is represented by the sacred fire, which transforms offerings so that they may be consumed in the upperworld, the sacred well, which transmits offerings so that they may be consumed in the underworld/lower world, and the sacred tree, which forms the pathway across all the worlds and holds the ways open. These three “hallows” are recreated in each ADF ritual as part of the ordering of the cosmos and creating the sacred center, transforming an ordinary fire, well and tree into their sacred counterparts. The fire, well, and tree together form the Center of All Worlds, the creation/recognition of which is recognized as a crucial part of ADF liturgy. (Paradox)

Once we have affirmed the Center, we then open the gates. The gates function as a way to “tune” the groupmind’s psychic powers to whatever “wavelength” the ancestors, spirits, and/or gods will be communicating on” (Bonewits “Step”). Depending on the ritual, there may be one gate (or portal), or three, or more. Some ADF rituals open one central gate in the center of the ritual space, while others call upon both the fire and the well to open as gates, with the tree holding them open as the axis between them or opening as a gate to the far reaches of the middle realm (or both). These gates are the portals to the otherworlds (however many of them you need) through which we make our offerings and from which we receive blessings. The gates can be considered plural insofar as they are triple (Fire, Well, and Tree) or singular insofar as they together open a single portal (Newburg). When we make offerings to the well or to the fire, their energy passes through those gates and is available to the Ancestors, Dieties, and Nature Spirits to consume as sacrifices. In return, They give of Their energy and nature to bless us in return (Newburg). This transaction happens through the open gate(s).

While the gate(s) aren’t strictly necessary – you can communicate with the otherworlds without them – they make that communication easier, much like phoning ahead before you go to visit friends and family makes it more likely that they will be home to receive you and will not be elsewhere or busy or sleeping. In ritual, when we want the specific attention of the powers and spirits of the otherworld, it makes good sense to open the gates and inform Them that we want Their presence and attention.

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A year ago I applied for and was accepted into the Initiate’s Program as my next step upon finishing the DP. I set out to do the IP work as a placeholder and a way to continue my studies and start to suss out whether I really did have a vocation to doing the Clergy Training Program. (I have questioned whether I have a vocation to clergy in every religion I’ve been part of, from mainstream Protestantism, to questioning if I would have a Catholic vocation, to seeking initiation in a Wiccan tradition.) I was solitary when I finished my DP, and initiation seemed the most logical step. To those ends, I completed (or partially completed) a portion of the study work in that time (Namely Divination I (posted here), Liturgy I (partially posted here) and Liturgy Practicum 1 (partially posted here)).

Over the last year, however, a lot has changed. I took up leadership of a study group, mentoring DP students and acting as a spiritual leader – writing rituals, providing divination and basic spiritual guidance, and acting as a guide and mentor. I also began participating with the local protogrove when I can (my job makes rituals on work nights nearly impossible in a city as large as Houston). They’ve been supportive of our study group, and it’s been an interesting experience to see how a more Neopagan protogrove operates (versus our more devotional polytheist leaning study group).

As well, I’ve struck up a friendship with Rev. William Ashton, who has been mentoring me in my steps toward leadership. This leadership, as well as the work with the local protogrove and my conversations with Rev. William, has dramatically reduced my fears over being a public pagan face in my area, and the spiritual leadership has done nothing but cement that I have a vocation to service on a clergy level.

In short, I am not sure the Initiate’s Path is where I need to be anymore – I think I need to be working towards becoming a part of ADF’s clergy.

As such, I have enrolled in the CTP-Preliminary coursework (6 courses, followed by an intention letter). I expect it will take me about 6 months to complete this work – or at least, that’s my goal. My Liturgy 1 work already counts toward the completion of CTP-Prelim, though it is being re-reviewed currently, since Clergy students have different expectations than Initiate students, and must be reviewed by a Clergy reviewer.

As such, I won’t be posting any more of my Liturgy 1 work until I have received word that it is up to snuff. My Divination I course will need to be re-reviewed as well, if I am accepted into the first circle of clergy training (henceforth CTP1). I was counseled to finish working on Liturgy Practicum 1 for now, simply so that it wasn’t a waste of 3 months of journaling, but to revisit the journal after I’ve finished the preliminary coursework for clergy training and decide (possibly with the help of my reviewer) if I need to re-do things.

Fortunately I do not have to abandon the Initiate’s Path – the courses that cross over will still cross over, and if I should seek initiation in the future, that path is still open to me.

I won’t lie and say that making this decision was easy. Well, that’s not exactly true – it was easy enough to sign up in the study program tracker, and easy enough to talk to the Preceptor about transferring my work over. But I’m more than a little intimidated by this step, both for the amount of work involved and the amount of scrutiny that I will be subjected to. Still, I’m fairly certain this is what I need to be doing, and the path I need to walk.

I’m going to leave this post tagged with both the Initiate’s Path and the Clergy Training Program. I’m leaving my coursework tagged on the page at the top of the site, and will be starting a second page for my CTP work. At this time I’ve completed Cosmology 1 as my next course to submit, and I’m working on IE Studies. (IE Myth is the course that intimidates me the most right now.)

I’ll continue to post my progress here though, as well as things I’m learning and struggling with. After all, journaling is a big part of this program, and while I can’t share everything publicly, I’ve come to appreciate comments and links that I get through this blog.

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Lammas week! Hooray! This is one of my favorite high days, so I’m excited to have celebrated it, both with my study group and on my own, as part of my home-based practice requirements. I did not attend my local protogrove’s ritual, simply because I was still getting over being sick, and it was clear on the other side of town from where I live, and an all-day event, and I just didn’t have the energy for something like that. My study group did a Loaf-fest ritual to Thor and Sif, and I did a solitary Anglo-saxon Lammas ritual to Thunor. I left some room for improvisation in the ritual, especially around the key offerings, and I think that went well. (I’m not sure if I need to include the full ritual text for my journal entry, but I don’t have it with me, so I’ll have to add it in later if it’s needed.)

Unfortunately, my mental health hasn’t been so good lately. This is not unusual when I get very busy over extended periods of time – I’m a pretty strong introvert, and need my space – but for whatever reason this particular down-period is both stronger and more persistent than usual. It’s likely that this is a bipolar episode, which is frustrating because I just have to wait for it to go away, but also kind of comforting, because I know it won’t last forever and I just have to wait for it to go away.

I know during tough mental times, I should be turning MORE to my daily practices, but I’m finding it very hard to stay motivated to do anything. My morning practices have all been at work this week, and done more out of a sense of duty than of any sort of joy or desire for the connection. But I am still doing them. I am trying to do more meditation as well, since that can help during rough brain times, but that hasn’t been as often as I’d like. I did buy some new candles for my hearth practice, which is nice – they smell good too.

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