1. Describe the generation of the cosmos, and what is done in ADF ritual to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. (300 words min.)
ADF’s ritual structure is, at its heart, a re-creation of the cosmos. We first channel Fire and Water – the two primordial forces – and then we recreate the world itself, through the three hallows of Fire (which connects us to the upperworld), Well (which connects us to the lower world) and Tree (which exists in our world and yet stretches to contain all the worlds). By creating a sacred center via the powers of Fire and Water, we re-create the order that maintains the worlds themselves, and we perform the right actions – the rta – that uphold the cosmos itself (Dangler).
The cosmos was itself created by sacrifice, when the primordial being (frequently “Twin”) is killed or dismembered (frequently by “Man”) and its body is used to form the world. This is reflected in several hearth cultures, including the Vedic Perusha, the Norse Ymir, and the Roman twins Romulus and Remus (Thomas). This sacrifice of the primordial being is what brings about the cosmos itself.
In each Core Order ritual, each element of the cosmos is taken and put in its proper place. The ultimate order is maintained, as “ritual order takes the formless and gives it shape” (Serith). Like the Fire and Ice combining in Ginnungagap to make the Giant Ymir, from whom the very worlds are formed, our Rituals combine Fire and Water (which are themselves both ordered and chaotic, depending on the form they take) into the elements of order that represent the cosmos itself. “From a point where the ritual begins; through to the description of the cosmos; past the sacralization and population of that cosmos; and even in the blessings poured forth upon us by the Kindreds, we are engaging in an emulation of the rta and following the example given to us by the Kindreds” (Dangler).
We then take those elements and through them we pour our sacrifices – and sacrifices themselves are ordering, as they align our purposes with each other and with the Kindreds (Dangler). “The sacrificial order takes Chaos and forms it into a non-destructive but still vivifying flow”, a flow that we can use and channel into our world as something sanctified and sanctifying (Serith). In recreating the cosmos in each ritual, we reinforce the order, the right truth of the cosmos, and then in the return flow the cosmos pours back into us the power to transform ourselves and our world, to affect and remake us after the proper order of things.
As well as the general order of ritual itself, there is the cycle of rituals that we maintain that upholds the proper order of the cosmos. As Neopagan Druids we keep the Wheel of the Year, and in celebrating key events in the cycle of the year itself, we help progress those events and ensure that they continue in the right order. We, in a sense, become agents of the cosmic order ourselves, and ensure the persistence of the cosmos (Dangler).
2. Describe the physical items that exemplify the sacred center in ADF ritual, and how each constituent part reflects the vision of an ordered cosmos. (300 words min.)
The sacred center in ADF ritual is most often represented by the Fire, the Well, and the Tree. Typically, in an ADF ritual, the fire is represented some type of actual fire (whether a bonfire or simply a candle, though electric fires can also be used), and the well is represented by water in some form (typically in a bowl or cauldron, though sometimes in a dug well or pit). Representations of the tree can vary from an actual tree, to cut branches, to symbolic trees carved out of other materials, to potted plants, to posts and world pillars. In all three cases, exceptions can be had, especially exceptions of necessity. A Druid in a dorm room, for example, might not be able to have anything more than some red and orange tissue paper to represent their fire, where a Druid practicing from deployment might have to do entirely without physical representations of the hallows, or with a simple set of hallows drawn on notebook paper.
These three hallows act as gates to the otherworlds, and articulate the power of the sacred center to reach into all the worlds.
- “The Fire points upward, with its leaping tongues and rising smoke, toward the Heaven Realm” (Newburg). Fire transmits our sacrifices (which are cosmos affirming) into the upper worlds and makes them available to the spirits.
- “The Well leads down toward the Underworld” (Newburg). The Well gives us a connection to the Ancestors, who lit fires and prayed before us, and from whom we learn about how to maintain the world order itself.
- “The Tree, like Yggdrasil, connects all the worlds” (Newburg). The tree is an example of an axis mundi – the axis around which all the worlds turn, and the central feature of them all. The Tree is perhaps the most interconnected of the hallows, and represents the connections we have with the spirits, be they natural, divine, or ancestral.
The three elements of the sacred center are also interconnected, and their connections maintain elements of the sacred order. “The Tree (the axis mundi) is fed by water from the Well. The Tree drops fruit into the Well. Back and forth they exchange their gifts, and the Cosmos is maintained thereby” (Serith). The Tree (the axis mundi) extends into the heavens, where light nourishes it and blesses it with green leaves. In exchange, the tree carries upward the messages of the middle world, and the Cosmos is again maintained. Fire is said to be “connected intimately with the celestial waters, often said to be born from them” (Dangler). Each element of the sacred center feeds into the others, and together they form the hallows around which ADF performs its rituals. While each individually can represent elements of the cosmic order, together they present a full picture of the order of the cosmos – an order which is reciprocal, and balanced upon the giving and receiving of gifts.