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Posts Tagged ‘sacred center’

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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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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This week’s meditations included my winter solstice ritual, where I felt hurried to get through the Two Powers meditation. Fortunately I was able to slow myself down and take some extra breaths, so I didn’t feel hurried through the rest of the ritual.

Also I did a bit of mental grove work, which is quickly becoming my favorite meditation. The combination of visual with a still mind seems to really work for me. Some of this week was spent away from home, so it’s nice to be able to take a hallows with me wherever I end up.

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As a note – this is a fuzzy sort of post. I’m not really sure exactly what I’m doing, since as a meditation exercise, this is pretty new for me. Still, I’ve been asked to put together what I have so far, so here goes!

Before I start my visualizations, I do a grounding and centering meditation, like the Two Powers meditation. You generally want your mind to be stable and clear before you start introducing new imagery to it, and I need to get better at the Two Powers meditation anyway, so I’m using that one. Any grounding and centering meditation will work.

I start my visualization exercise by creating a Hallows (a Fire, Well, and Tree, consecrated as the Sacred Hallows, ADF style). I like to do a simple consecration of each, followed by sprinkling and censing the area while saying “By the Might of the Water, and the Light of the Fire, this Grove is made whole and holy.” This sets up a ritual space that I do need to take down at the end (don’t forget that part), but isn’t a formal ritual where I need to worry about offerings to the Kindreds.

I do make an offering of incense to the gatekeeper though. I’ve tried this with Cernunnos and with Garanus (the Crane), and it worked equally well both times, though I liked the energy of Garanus better. I ask the Gatekeeper to open the gates and to help me to feel their power as the sacred center.

Because I play video games, the main image I’ve been using for this type of connection is that of a Portal – an oblong “hole” in the fabric of the universe that you use to travel from this place to some other, presumably distant (or just different) place. Depending on the game, these are either cast by magical spellcasters, read from a scroll that enables a portal, or fired out of a dimensional portal gun that you point at things. Still, the image is pretty consistent – you get a glowy sort of oval that you can step through and be transported to another place.

Since that image is one that is ingrained in my brain pretty strongly, it’s something I can refer to easily and that works with the kind of image and connection I’m trying to build. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, think about maybe an arched doorway, or the center of a ring of standing stones, or even a tunnel. Watchers of science fiction television shows might envision something like a stargate. Basically, you want an image that works for you, that suggests an opening from wherever you are now into another place that might be distant or otherwise removed.

After you do your grounding exercise, I start to visualize a portal.* (I’m going to use the term portal since that’s the image I’m using. Feel free to substitute in a word that suits your own imagery better!) I concentrate on seeing in my mind’s eye this dimensional opening that leads into an unknown place. I try to see the edges of the portal grow distinct, and they glow slightly, but are a little out of focus. In the center there are stars – sort of like the deep, universal stars that you’d see in a truly dark place on a night with no moon. Endless sorts of stars.

And as I peer into that portal, from my little Hallows, I start to put together other portals, there in that deep dimensional starry place. Those portals lead to other Hallows, which I can’t quite see, because as a solitary, I really am working off my own imagination (with a little help from YouTube) about what other Hallows might look like. But there are always fires, or  wells, or trees, or all three. Some of them are elaborate, and others are simpler, like my own. They are imaginary Hallows, kind of like my Mental Grove (which, now that I think of it, is a place I should be trying this work from!) You could think of this step like a hallway of other “doors”, or, if you’re using the stone circle imagery, as though you’re looking through stones on one side, but can see portals out between all the other stones.

Basically I’m trying to establish that even though I’m here in my own Hallows, I’m connected through that sacred center to all the other Hallows, both linearly in space and vertically in time. I’ve not tried actually looking for any specific places to visit, I’m just looking to create that connection to something bigger.

Once I’ve sat for awhile and built up the visualization, I slowly allow my mind to come back to center and present, usually by making sure I’m mentally back in front of my own Hallows instead of out looking around. When I’m solidly back in myself, I close the Gates (with the help of the Gatekeeper), and return the fire, well, and tree to their normal, material selves. The whole process makes for a smallish ritual that takes 5-15 minutes, depending on how long you work with the meditative aspect of the visualization.

I think repeating this exercise will help me fine tune it (right now it’s a little fuzzy still, since I don’t have a clear picture of what I want to do). I also think practice will help me think less about the actual setup and more about what the experience/visualization is symbolizing. Right now I still feel more like I”m setting it up, and less like I’m actually connecting to anything. I don’t wonder if the reason I had better luck with Garanus as a Gatekeeper was simply that I’ve got a stronger connection to the Nature Spirits than I do to the Gods and Goddesses, of any stripe. (Not to mention my lack of a true hearth culture – I sometimes work in Celtic, but I have been drawn to Gaulish lately) I want to really *feel* a connection to the sacred center though, especially since creating it is such a big part of the CooR, and since feeling that connection is a big part of having a religious experience, for me.

 

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