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Introduction:

This course is the first of two intended to provide an introduction to the practice of liturgical writing. Topics covered in this first course are primarily foundational: the purposes of ritual; the use of source materials; and the nature and forms of heightened language (or, for the purposes of this course, poetics) applied to writing liturgical material, such as prayers.

This course also assumes a familiarity with the ADF order of ritual and completion of the ADF Dedicant Program. While much of the content of this study guide is couched in general terms, the student will be asked to apply those general concepts to a consideration of how they are exemplified by ADF liturgical practices and having those practices in mind while reading the material will be helpful.

Course Objectives

  • Students will analyze and discuss a variety of purposes fulfilled by the ADF Core Order of Ritual.
  • Students will identify techniques utilized within effective poetic expression and begin to incorporate these techniques within their liturgical writing.
  • Students will be able to create a prayer appropriate for use in high day ritual and select an appropriate offering to accompany the prayer.

1.    Describe how ADF’s order of ritual expresses the following concepts: “Serving the people”; “Reaffirming shared beliefs”; “Reestablishing the cosmic order”; “Building enthusiasm”. (Min. 500 words)

  “Serving the People”

ADF’s Core Order of Ritual is a type of service in and of itself, for it was designed to be a shared, public Neopagan liturgy. Isaac’s vision was one where ADF groves held rituals in public, for their entire communities, in a way that was normal and affirming to all who might come and worship the kindreds with us. Public ritual is a service that groves provide, and a service that ADF clergy provides at festivals, to the various communities that they serve and are a part of.  This service allows people to strengthen their ties to the kindreds and to their gods and spirits through offerings and receiving the blessings, and it facilitates the building of social structures as well, which are ever more and more important in today’s often frantic society.

“Reaffirming Shared Beliefs”

The first steps of the Core Order are about reaffirming shared beliefs. We process into the space together, often in song, as a show of solidarity of spirit and purpose. Each member is purified, but then we create the group mind, often through the Two Powers meditation, establishing our connection to each other, to the powers of the Earth and Sky, and maintaining our sacred space within the worlds. We then state our purpose for being in ritual, a step that is both about reaffirming our shared purpose and beliefs and that teaches newcomers what to expect in the ritual. These steps form the “set up” at the beginning of any Core Order ritual and provide a shared system of belief and a feeling of community that pervades the rest of the ritual. As each offering is made, the community responds in kind – “Accept this offering” and “Accept this sacrifice” – as each offering is both personal and communal. Our shared beliefs are upheld when we make offerings together. (Newburg)

“Reestablishing the cosmic order”

The cosmic order is maintained through our ritual actions each time we do ritual, in the “middle” of the setup of a Core Order ritual, after the affirmation of shared beliefs and the introductory parts of the ritual.

While world-creating aspects of liturgy “are sometimes present just to commemorate the creation… more often they are also meant to orient the ritual participants to other parts of the universe and to all the other beings in it” (Bonewits 31). Bonewits says that the first step of this part of the ritual is “defining a ritual center,” which ADF does through creating the sacred center in the Fire, the Well, and the Tree, as well as the three “worlds” of Land, Sea, and Sky. This requires creating a “center of the world” (Eliade, in Bonewits 31), which is the place where the deities created everything and a place where you can have access to anywhere in the various worlds. This is usually represented by the axis mundi – the Tree in ADF’s cosmology, which can be represented by any number of axes, including Yggdrasil, Irminsul, Omphalos, and Bile.

ADF then completes this sacred center by opening up a gate, with the aid of a Gatekeeper spirit (or spirits), through which all of the energy of the ritual will flow, both inwards to the other realms and then back outwards to the participants in the ritual.

“Building Enthusiasm”

Building enthusiasm is the creation of energy that is raised for the benefit of the spirit or spirits that are the central focus of the ritual itself. This preliminary power raising can be done by “singing or chanting, by a sacred dance, or by formal evocations or invocations” (Bonewits 33). In ADF ritual this is typically done through a combination of song and evocative prayers, where calls are made and energy is raised through offerings that are poured into the fire. Drama is key here, and a boring evocation with no poetry or ‘magic’ will often fall flat, where the same or similar evocation given with oomph and a flair for the poetry of the situation can be truly inspiring. The peak of this power-raising is the Prayer of Sacrifice, where all of the good intent, offerings, energy, love, and praise of the community is focused through the gates in a big final push to the gathered spirits (Newburg).

ADF ritual also builds another kind of enthusiasm – the enthusiasm for community and shared experience. Often if a group is feeling flat or dull, performing ritual together can spark life and energy back into the core of the group. This enthusiasm is built through our ritual structures, and brings us back full circle on this question, as it feeds back into the idea of serving the people.

(772)

2.    Create a prayer of praise, offering, or thanksgiving to a deity modeled on a mythic, folkloric, or other literary source of at least 75 words. Include a summary of what your sources were and how you utilized them (summary at least 150 words).

Hail Frey, Lord of the fields!
Beautiful lord of the Vanir
Golden of hair as the fields of wheat and corn,
Bringing riches of heart and hearth to the folk.

We hail you with the grain that springs forth
And falls again to nourish us.
We hail you, mighty boar in flight,
Lord of Frith that is bound to land,
You who can warm the cold heart,
Warrior without a weapon
Who give your prosperity to all of your kin,
You guide and sustain your descendants.

Lord Ing, Providing god,
God of the bees and the barley,
You who make the grain spring forth,
We sacrifice this, our first loaf,  to you
As the grains are sacrificed for us each year.

I have an ever deepening relationship with Frey, and have since I was working on my Mental Discipline requirement for my Dedicant work in 2012. Over the years, I’ve collected a number of books about him, and read all of his myths multiple times, but I’ve found that in popular culture this multi-faceted deity gets flattened to only be about fertility.  Ann Sheffield, in her Frey: God of the World, summarizes the kennings that are used to describe Frey in the Poetic and Prose Eddas. I consulted this list extensively. Some of the kennings that Sheffield quotes include:

  • Most renowned, most glorious among gods
  • Harvest-god, god of prosperity
  • Foremost, best of gods
  • Beli’s bane
  • Bright
  • Sacrifice-priest
  • Freyja’s brother
  • Battle-wise
  • Wealth-giver
  • (one who) guides, governs the people
  • People’s ruler of the gods
  • Fair, beautiful
  • Wise
  • Temple-priest
  • Chieftain
  • Mighty
  • Providing
  • Shining
  • Njordh’s son
  • Vanir-god
  • God of the world
  • Weaponless, unarmed

These kennings and bynames come from the Skirnismal, Gylfaginning, Ynglinga Saga, Grimnismal, Skaldskaparmal sections of the Poetic and Prose Eddas, by Snorri Sturlusun, or poets that he quotes (Sheffield 2-3). I noted that most of these references are to Frey as a giver of wealth and prosperity, and thus made that the focus of this prayer of offering, which references as well the first-loaves that were a common offering around this time of year (early August). I also make reference to Gullinbursti – Frey’s boar of golden bristles – which also comes from the Skaldskaparmal section of the Prose Edda. The reference to Bee and Barley is a reference to Beyla and Byggvir, Frey’s servants as quoted in the Lokasenna portion of the Prose Edda. The reference to warming the cold heart is to the story in Skirnismal where Frey sends his servant Skirnir to woo the Jotun-maid Gerda, who then becomes his wife.

(301)

3.    Discuss a poem of at least eight lines as to its use of poetic elements (as defined by Watkins): formulaics, metrics, and stylistics. Pay particular attention to use of meter and phonetic devices, such as rhyme and alliteration. (Minimum 100 words beyond the poem itself.)

Riddle Forty-three:

Ic wat indryhtne              aethelum deorne
giest in geardum,            tham se grimma ne maeg
hungor scethan                 ne se hata thurst,
yldo ne adle.                  Gif him arlice
esne thenath,               se the agan sceal
on tham sithfate,             hy gesunde aet ham
findath witode him         wiste ond blisse,
cnosles unrim,               care, gif se esne
his hlaforde                hyreth yfle,
frean on fore.                  Ne wile forth wesan
brothor othrum;              him thate bam scetheth
thonne hy from bearme          begen hweorfath
anre magan                       ellorfuse,
moddor on sweostor.    Mon, se the wille,
cythe cynewordum        hu se Cuma hatte,
edtha se esne,                 the ic her ymb sprice.

(Porter 74)

I know of a lofty stranger
in the yards, beloved by noblemen,
whom sharp hunger cannot harm,
nor hot thirst, old age or sickness.

If the servant serves him kindly,
who must go away on that journey —
they will find at home, certain
and unharmed, happiness
and a hot meal, countless children.
But sorrow, if the servants
obeys his lord poorly,
his master along their way.

Brother does not fear brother,
who injures them both,
when they both depart, eager for yonder
from the lap of a single kinsman,
mother and sister.

Let the one who wishes to
name this stranger in familiar words,
or else the servant,
who I’m talking about here.

(Hostetter)

John Porter calls the Anglo Saxon riddles a collection of “lyric poems”, and defines these riddles as “metaphor, transformation and analogy, poetic perception, verbal play, language under creative imagination, ‘making it new’” (Porter 7). These poems are the essence of Old English poetry, and provide classic examples of the highest valued portions of their poetic forms – primarily alliteration and rhythmic forms. I have included both the Anglo-Saxon original and a readable translation for the analysis here, since it’s hard to analyze alliteration in a translation.

Formulaics is the use of repeated words and phrases, sometimes across languages, which serve as a poetic cue to the reader and to the poet (Watkins 12-19). While Watkins primarily compares the Vedic and Greek poetry for shared words and phrases that share syntax and meaning, the Old English literature is not discussed – perhaps because by the time it was written down it had branched so far from the original languages as to only share formulas with closer, sister-languages such as Old Norse and other Germanic languages.

Even so, this riddle is an exercise in poetic formulas from top to bottom, and – in fact – is a sort of poetic formula by its very nature, being that a riddle is in some ways an elaborate kenning for a greater topic. As well, there are formulaic pieces within the riddle as well, the most prominent of which is part of the key to solving the riddle. John Porter says that the answer to this riddle is “the body and the soul” (the stranger and the servant). Thus would the “single kinsman, mother and sister” be the earth itself (Porter 135). The oral traditions of poetry that Watkins discusses were incredibly successful thanks to these formulas, and the Anglo-Saxon language is no exception. There is very little written in Anglo-Saxon, and what we do have was written post-conversion.

Metrics is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in poetic forms, as well as the use of pauses, or caesura, mid-line (Watkins 19-21). The basic pattern of the lines in Riddle Forty-three is two half lines that are connected by alliteration (consonants with consonants, vowels with vowels), where the alliterated words have more stress. Each line includes a caesura mid-line.

Stylistics is all of the other linguistic features that distinguish poetry in a language, like alliteration, parallel structure, simile and metaphor, rhyme, repetition, and others (Watkins 21-27). As is typical of Old English poetry, there is no rhyme scheme in this 16 line riddle – and in fact there is no rhyme scheme in any of the riddles, which vary dramatically in length. Alliteration, however, there is in plenty – giest, geardum, grimma, maeg (line 2), his, hlaforde, hyreth (line 9), bearme, begen (line 12). The greater style of all of the riddles is one of extended metaphor – the subject of the riddle is compared to or described as many things in an attempt to get the listener to correctly guess the riddle’s subject.

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4.    Create a prayer suitable for the main offering of a High Day rite which includes invocation of at least one deity suitable to the occasion, description of the offering and its suitability to the occasion, and the purpose of the offering, totaling at least 100 words. Any stage directions necessary for performance of the offering should be included.

This invocation was made to Sunna at Nine Waves’ Midsummer ritual in 2016 and 2017.

Radiant Sunna, whose rays wash the land in light,
All nature vibrates with your energies
And the Earth is bathed with warmth and life
Fire of sky and air, your brightness draws us forth.
You are called ever-glow, day-star, and all-bright seen
Daughter of Mundilfari, you mark our days,
And with your brother you tell the time for us

Shine brightly upon us, Sunna,
On this the feast of your strength and speed
Your longest journey is today,
Let your light shine upon the fields in our hearts and minds
And may the harvest grow strong and tall there
Let your light shine upon the land around us
And may the harvest grow strong and tall there

May your blessing fall on our homes and all the crops we have sown
Until the time of harvest draws near.

Shining Sunna, accept our sacrifice!

(Throw sunflowers into the fire.)

(163)

Works Consulted

–. Anglo-Saxon Riddles. Trans John Porter. Little Downham, Ely, Cambs: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2003. Print.

Bonewits, Isaac. Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2007. Print.

Dickins, Bruce. Runic and Heroic Poems. London: Cambridge University Press, 1915. Print.

Hostetter, Dr. Aaron K. “Exeter Book Riddles.” Rutgers University. Web. 1 August 2017.
<https://anglosaxonpoetry.camden.rutgers.edu/exeter-book-riddles/&gt;.

Newburg, Brandon. “Ancient Symbols, Modern Rites: A Core Order of Ritual Tutorial for Ár nDraíocht Féin.” ADF. Web. 1 August 2017. <https://www.adf.org/members/training/dedicant-path/articles/coortutorial/index.html&gt;.

–. The Poetic Edda. Trans. Carolyne Larrington. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

–. The Poetic Edda. Trans. Lee M Hollander. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990. Print.

Sheffield, Ann Groa. Frey: God of the World. Lulu.com, 2007. Print.

Sturluson, Snorri. Edda. Trans. Anthony Faulkes. Clarendon, VT: Everyman Press, 1995.

Watkins, Calvert. How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Print.

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As I write this, I am home again.

All told, I was gone for 10 days – I left on Thursday, returned home on Saturday. Today is Sunday, and my apartment is mostly set to rights again. I had no damage to the building, though my entire garden on the balcony is pretty much destroyed. I’ve gone grocery shopping, mostly replenished the stuff that I had to throw away, and have done some laundry. I’m very happily wearing an outfit that didn’t come out of a suitcase.

This whole experience was exceptionally disruptive to my spiritual practice. (Duh?) I spent 10 days without a way to kindle a fire, no way to light incense, and in the home of family who are so devoutly Christian that the room I was staying in has been decorated in what I jokingly refer to as “ostentatious Hobby Lobby chic”. Crosses all over everything. Bible verses everywhere. Angels in all of the art. My parents are wonderful people, and they know that I’m no longer Christian, but it was very jarring to wake up and have an artfully arranged display of crosses be the first thing my eyes set on every morning.

It wasn’t an unpleasant week, all things considered, but it was a challenging one. Being at the mercy of nature (and the electric company). Being displaced from your home with no way to tell what was going on. I’m one of the lucky ones who had a home to go back to – many in coastal Texas this week are not so fortunate. I’m left thinking about what my private devotions *should* look like in such a situation, and all told I think I did pretty well. While my parents said their very-Christian grace over dinner each night, I said my own in my head, or said the Cosmos prayer if I couldn’t think of a meal blessing.

Actually, I said the cosmos prayer a lot.

I think, if I had to make a bug-out kit for future hurricanes, I’d include Ceisiwr Seriths A Book of Pagan Prayer in there, just for some variation. Writing prayers to help others is easy, but writing prayers for yourself when you’re in the middle of trouble is much harder.

I did write a prayer that I sent out to my grove though:

Mighty Kindred, we pray your help and blessings on all those in Houston and all of southeast Texas. May your spirits come to those in need, whether in the form of mental comfort or in the form of aid and rescuers, whatever they may need. Bless all those who are helping their neighbors, human and animal alike, that they may be safe, and that they may bring succor and safety to others.

Ancestors, blood of our blood and spirit of our spirit, we pray you give us strength – you were people who knew the challenge of building and rebuilding. As we enter the last phase of this storm, and move to facing what’s next, may we find your resilience and courage as we seek to re-order our lives.

Nature Sprits, you who are also displaced and affected by this storm, we pray you will be our allies, and that we can be yours. May we, as kindred of this middle realm, know that we are neighbors, and may we look out for each other as we rebuild, finding both our own place and yours after the storm

Deities, known and unknown, first children of the Mother, we pray you will give us guidance and comfort. Grant your wisdom to those who are helping, and your patience to those who have nothing to do but wait. As we move to rebuild, grant your strength to us all, that we may do the most good where it is most needed. Most especially, we pray that you who rule over releasing the waters will guide the last of these waters so that they will do the least amount of harm.

Kindreds all, we look to you now, and we ask that you bless each of us according to our needs – strength, patience, guidance, comfort. May we live our virtues in this time of trouble, and may we, as your kin, look to you now as we endure the last that this storm has to offer, and may we look to you always, as we rebuild and bring our lives back together.

Be it so!

And so we move forward. The storm is past, and now it is up to us to recover. To serve those who need help, and to piece together what we can of the old and create something new from it. (Easy for me to say, from my apartment which has power and internet working again already.)

My practice did not suffer for spending 10 days displaced, though it did adapt and change.

My runes for this week are:

  • Peordh – the dice cup, an uncertain outcome
  • Is – ice, stasis/beauty/danger
  • Ur – the aurochs, strength and stubbornness

The outcome of any storm is never certain – may you know when to be still and wait and when to fight with the stubbornness of the aurochs, that you may overcome the challenges ahead of you.

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Does it count as ritual research when you fall down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos made by other ADF groves and priests?

Asking for a friend.

Added the cosmos prayer to my daily moments of calm – not quite a true daily practice, but most days I’m getting to my altar, lighting the lamp and some incense, and speaking at least this little prayer. Planning my monthly retreat for this coming weekend as well, so I’ll hopefully have a ritual script to share next week.

The waters support and surround me,
The land extends about me,
The sky stretches out above me,
At the center burns a living flame.
May all the kindreds bless me.
May my worship be true,
May my actions be just,
May my love be pure.
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the holy ones.

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My apartment got struck by lightning on Tuesday night.

Not in some metaphorical, I had a flash of inspiration, great grand things are happening sense. In the literal, bolt of lightning blew a hole in the roof and blasted through my ceiling, exploded a phone jack, and fried all my electronics sense. This was followed by a massive water leak in my kitchen (see: giant hole blown in roof during thunderstorm).

My apartment is, yet again, covered in drywall and insulation debris as a result. But far fewer things are truly broken or dead than you’d expect from a direct lightning strike, and tomorrow they’re coming to try to get the internet working again. Until then, I’m on my phone.

This journal is supposed to be one of recording my steps toward a domestic cult practice, and I promise I’ll get around to that part, but before I get there, I want to talk a little bit about intuition.

Tuesday night at around 7:45pm I got a warning that a tornado had been spotted in an oncoming storm, and to seek shelter. Normally, tornado warnings aren’t something I take too seriously – Houston rarely gets tornadoes. My town doesn’t even have tornado sirens. But I pulled up the radar, saw the storm (which had three little hook-like shapes extending out from the front of the storm) and thought… NOPE.

I don’t know why I thought nope, but I noped right out of there. I grabbed the cats, my phone, and a portable charger, and the three of us went to go sit in the closet with the door closed and the lights off. I was texting with a friend, and she was updating me on the storm, and at about 8:15, the warning expired. And still I thought… NOPE.

So I stayed in the closet, and at 8:20, lightning struck my kitchen. There was a blinding flash and a simultaneous massive explosion, followed by the fire alarms all going nuts and my apartment filling with the smell of electrical smoke.

I fled, calling 911.

(The electrical smoke was most likely from the phone jack that took the brunt of the strike. The cover is melted.)

I can’t tell you why I had the ooky feelings about that storm on the radar. I work through thunderstorms all the time. Hell, I’ve been through hurricanes. Storms don’t bother me. But this one? It did. And I don’t know what little part of my brain got the signal that my rational brain did not, but I’m glad for it. If I’d been standing in my kitchen making dinner, I could be hospitalized or dead instead of dealing with a construction mess.

All that, however, leads me to the second bit. The actual practice bit.

I have rarely, in my entire life, felt less like I wanted to do anything related to prayer or ritual practice than I have this week. I am exhausted. Exhausted on that deep, mental level that you really only get after months and months of burning the candle at both ends. I have nothing to give my grove. Nothing to give my practice. I am depressed – and not because of my mental illness (which I’m happy to talk about) but simply because some things are just utterly overwhelming and stressful, and dealing with that is hard.

I will journal this though. At least four months. No less than weekly.

Rev. Michael J Dangler is known to say “when you least feel like praying is when you need it the most,” and maybe that’s true. But this week, I have no words to give, and so for week 2, I am lighting the lamp, taking a breath, and trying (mostly unsuccessfully) not to cry.

Let that be my prayer for this week. I’ll try again next week with words.

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“Oh You Mothers…”

This is the prayer I use when leaving offerings for my own ancestors.

Oh you mothers, all my mothers

Those who sleep in heavy soil,

Those who went to death so weary

All you thought was no more toil,

Those who danced with joy and laughter,

Those who fought to break the chains

Though you’ll know no more hereafters,

Here a part of you remains.

 

Oh you fathers, all my fathers

Those who dream in wet, black earth,

Those who let their dreams go hungry

So that mine could come to birth,

Those who died in rage and sorrow

Those who laughed and wandered free,

Though you’ll know no more tomorrows

Your tomorrows live in me.

 

All of you who came before me,

Though I know your names or not.

All who added to my story

Giving blood or deed or thought.

Take this food and drink I give you,

Share it with me, take your fill.

Though your verses may have ended

Yet the song continues still.

– Christopher Scott Thompson

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I am, by and large, an Indo-European pagan. I work with Gods from a number of cultures (Manannan, Hela, Ing Frea, Thunor, Heimdall/Hama, Hecate), but I’ve rarely (even before ADF) ventured outside this language/culture group. However, there’s a day of mourning called for today that I think I’ll be participating in.

From The Wild Hunt:

In another part of the world, ancient statues, relics and other historic sites are being pillaged and destroyed by ISIL. The destruction of these treasured artifacts has upset many Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens. One California Pagan, Jack Prewett has called for a Global Day of Mourning on April 18. Prewett calls the destruction a “tragedy for humankind” and says,“Let us mourn the loss of our history, our heritage. Cry for those that will come after us and know that once we had our history in our hands and let it slip through our fingers.” Why did Prewett choose April 18?  That is the U.N.’s World Heritage Day.
ADF Priest Michael J Dangler has also called for devotions – in this case, the making of art objects – in honor of the desecrated sites.
And Galina Krasskova has put forth a post about devotions in honor of the many Gods of the many Peoples who inhabit the lands that are currently under siege.
So if you have a little time today, remember this tragedy, and remember the Gods and Goddesses of those lands. I intend to make offerings in their names tonight, and hope that maybe my small voice can be joined with the voices of others. After all, I can’t fight this on the ground, and I certainly can’t fight it in person, but I can pray, and make offerings, and give honor to the Gods of those peoples, in hopes that They can help evict those who are committing atrocities across their lands.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious about it (and by no means should you feel confined to make offerings and devotions only today, on World Heritage Day), a library or museum would be an especially powerful place to do so. It is history and art that are being destroyed, and it is from our centers of history and art that we can reach out and (hopefully) do a little nudging of the cosmic forces in the direction of preservation and the end of this reign of destruction.

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This weekend at the Imbolc retreat, I learned a new prayer. It’s apparently quite an old prayer. OBOD Druid John Beckett spoke it during one of our rituals as the call to Inspiration, and it spoke to me.

So here it is.

Grant, O Holy Ones, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,
the love of the Earth our mother, and all goodness.

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