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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.

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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.

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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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I conducted my Midsummer ritual on Friday, June 21 as close to noon as I could arrange it, which ended up being about 3pm (the earliest I could get off work). This was a solitary ADF style ritual that followed the Core Order of Ritual, and was based around Ian Corrigan’s Solitary Blessing Rite, as I didn’t feel as connected to the Solitary Druid Fellowship ritual this high day. I did not honor a named Earth Mother or Gatekeeper, but I specifically honored Freyr as my patron and Sunna as the honored Deity of the rite. I brought incense for the fire and silver for the well, and the rest of the offerings were of a Peach Melomel (fruit mead) brewed not far from where I live in Texas.

I went back to a ritual that I know and love for this high day, because I couldn’t find anything I really liked – poetry or published ritual wise. Nothing was speaking to me, so I opted to work from an established template, albeit a generic ADF one and not a generic Norse one. I felt that the ritual went well – the poetry of the blessing rite is powerful and easy to read, and it flowed well in speech and in tempo of the ritual. I would have liked to do more to specifically honor Sunna, beyond a basic offering, but I didn’t have anything prepared. In hindsight, I should have improvised some praise offerings – I will remember that for my next ritual!

One thing I didn’t do (again) was remember to feed the Two Powers into the opening of the Gates, which I keep saying I need to do. Perhaps I will go back and re-read my previous ritual write ups next time before I start a high day ritual, to remember the things I’m supposed to be learning from this!

After making my offerings I asked “What blessings do you have for me in return for the offerings I have made?” and drew the following runes:

  • Berkano: Birch, Strength, Flexibility, Resourcefulness. This is the rune of resourcefulness and making something from nothing, and Rev. Dangler speaks of it as the rune of “female strength” (Very Basics of Runes 47). It speaks of birth and rebirth, and physical or mental growth. There is also an element of strength and pride to this rune meaning, alongside the current of fertility and creativity, that you can see in the last two lines of the rune poem. I see self-sufficiency as well, in the first lines of the poem (the tree that brings forth new trees generated from its own leaves)
  • Dagaz: Day – Rising sun, New day, Deliverance. This is a rune of a bright future, of good hope and promising things to come. Also, in Dangler’s Very Basics of Runes, he speaks of a sort of divine intervention aspect to this rune, that the blessings it brings are “heaven sent” (53). The idea that light will wash away evil, and gives hope and happiness to all. Daylight clarity as opposed to nighttime uncertainty. A time to plan or embark upon an enterprise. The power of change directed by your own will, transformation. Hope/happiness, the ideal. Breakthrough, awakening, awareness.
  • Othila: Stationary Wealth, Ancestors, Completion. This is inherited wealth or property, the kind of wealth that is passed from generation to generation and is stable and secure. Safety, increase, and abundance, or perhaps the completion of a task in such a way that it is stable and secure. Acting from your center, with all the support of your ancestors and your heritage, and being secure in their values.

We give you abundant blessings to get you through tough times. Things will end, and end well, and a new day will dawn.

I didn’t divide up the blessing questions between the Kindreds, since I was honoring both the three Kindreds and some Honored Deities. I feel like this is a pretty powerfully positive omen, which is encouraging, as a lot of things have been pretty rough going in my life of late.  I really couldn’t ask for a better blessing – strength, flexibility, resourcefulness, the brightness of a new day and new beginnings and a promising future, and the completion of a stable task (or wealth! I’m OK with wealth too!). I hope I get to see these blessings in action between now and Lammas in 6 weeks. It will be a good summer, if so.

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The Summer Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) occurs on or around June 21 every year, and marks the astronomical point at which the sun has reached its highest altitude in the sky. This produces the longest day/shortest night of the year, and the holy day of Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is celebrated at this time. This holiday is often referred to as Litha among various branches of neopaganism, a reference to Bede’s naming of the months of the summer.*

Historically this holiday was celebrated in most of Northern Europe, especially the British Isles, Scandinavia, and the Germanic lands, where celebrations included bonfires and the picking of golden-flowered plants, supposed to have miraculous healing powers. In the Scandinavia, where the sun sets very late and rises very early resulting in extremely long days, the Sun is the central figure, as well as the lit bonfires and celebrations of community. People frequently danced around (and through!) bonfires as a ritual of protection, as well as driving cattle through the fires to protect them. The strength of the Sun makes the crops grow, and there is a great deal of promised bounty as people tend the crops and prepare for the upcoming harvest.

In the Neopagan myth, this is the time of the second battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, where the Holly King defeats the Oak King (who has reigned since Yule) and will then rule until December when the two will battle again. This begins the “Dark” half of the year, where the Sun’s power wanes and the days grow shorter again until the cycle begins anew at Yule.

Bonfires are a very common method of celebrating this high day, often accompanied by all night vigils. This seems to be both an honoring of fire and a warding against wildfires, which are at their most dangerous during the hot dry summer months. The spirits of the land are also important at this time. Most central, however, is honoring the Sun at her (or his) strongest point in the year. I usually make a special point to watch both the sunrise and the sunset on Midsummer, and always have a “bonfire” in my charcoal grill, where I make offerings to Sunna, who is at her brightest (and most destructive!) at this time. As a tropical Pagan, my relationship with Sunna is one of deep respect as well as joy, for while it is sunny here most of the year, and I love basking in her warmth, it is very dangerous to underestimate the power of Sunna in summer, especially on exposed skin.

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I did the Solitary Druid morning devotional this morning in my car. It was dark in the parking garage, and raining, so there wasn’t much sun to speak of, but I think I will continue doing them. I put together a little cauldron, a piece of orange fabric, and a tiny metal leaf for my traveling hallows – it’s not ideal, but they seem to work well in the car, and they all fit in a bag about the size of a pack of cards, which is perfect for keeping in the arm rest of my car. There fortunately aren’t very many people in the parking garage at 7am, so nobody will bother me!

Overall I like the devotion, though the “we are one in solitude” thing wears on me a little. I know it really appeals to some of the other solitaries, but for some reason I find it a bit… saccharine. If I don’t warm to it after doing it a few times, I may just skip that part and work only with the attunement to the hallows. Or edit it to be more to my liking.

I also definitely want to add a prayer to Sunna, and I found one that I like at NorthernPaganism.org

Morning Prayer to Sunna
by Galina Krasskova

Hail the rising of the Sun,
Great Goddess, Bestower of all good things,
Shining brightly, You traverse the heavens
Driving back the blanket of night.
Mighty Sunna, be my pace-setter.
Help me to structure my day rightly
With time to work, and play, and pray.
Let me not lose myself to the hammering call
Of all that has to be done.
Help me to follow Your rhythms,
For You are wise and practical
And Your presence blesses us all.

I’m going to write this up on an index card that I can keep in my car. Hopefully with a few repetitions I’ll have memorized it. (I may let my artsy side out and decorate the card a little too, since it will essentially be a prayer card, and that deserves to be pretty!) Even if I don’t get it memorized very quickly, I can add it to the end of my other morning devotions in the car.

Maybe I’ll make TWO index cards, one with the SDF devotional and one my prayer card to Sunna. That will be a fun little project.

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I’m on the hunt for a morning devotion I can do in my car.

This is slightly unorthodox, I’ll admit, but I can’t really greet the sun before I leave for work, because it’s still quite dark when I leave. I love the idea of having a practice at a shrine in the mornings as the sun rises, but that’s just not going to be possible with my current commute.*

Most mornings, the sun comes up while I’m in my car. (I have quite a long commute) I don’t get to watch, since I’m driving North and … well, watching the sunrise while driving in traffic seems like a really good way to get either a ticket or an accident. Still, I enjoy watching the reflections off of buildings and signs, and having the world go from starry night to grey pre-dawn to bright early morning.

So I’d like to do a devotion while I’m experiencing that trip. I really like the morning devotional that the Solitary Druid Fellowship posted recently, but it feels very shrine based. I try to keep clutter down in my car, but I suppose I could keep a little electric candle, a water bottle, and a stick in a little bag for impromptu devotion. (A crane bag for my car?)

I don’t know if the parking garage is an ideal place for a sun devotion though. I will be giving this part a try anyway, I think, since I really do like the liturgy of that ritual. It’ll be limited in time (I can’t do it at sunrise every day, since I’m sitting in the parking garage at about the same time, regardless of when the sun comes up), but having a moment of grounding before I start the day sounds very nice.* I could also easily incorporate a daily divination, since I have my phone with me.

As for greeting the actual sun, maybe my first devotional writing in the Norse hearth will be to research poetry styles and write something simple to Sunna. If I can memorize it easily (which shouldn’t be a problem, since I’ll be writing it), I can say the prayer as I see the first glimmers and beams of light reflecting across the city. Not as good as the actual sunrise, but as close as I can get. Maybe I’ll write the prayer to reflect (ha ha) those reflections!

*While I like the idea of getting up on weekends to do a sunrise ritual, weekends are when I catch up on sleep, so I’m rarely out of bed before 9. Maybe I’ll do a sunset ritual on weekends instead? How do you guys differentiate the various schedules of your week if they have super different timing?

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