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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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I’ve had an altar of some form or another in my home for quite some time (right now, I actually have two). ADF style rituals have specific things they need in terms of supplies and bowls, receptacles for offerings, and representations of the Fire, Well, and Tree. As such, before I did my Samhain ritual I went and did some altar styling to give myself a better workspace for ADF rituals.

This is the result (more or less):

My World Tree is pretty obvious – that’s a piece of driftwood that I found on a local beach. In front of that is my Well, a hand carved bowl from South Carolina. And then two representations of Fire in front of that – the three candle cluster and an incense burner. Those three items set up the ADF cosmos for each ritual. (I do not always leave the World Tree standing up, as it’s not super stable that way and is a bit off balance.)

There is a clear glass vase for holding liquid offerings, plus an offering bowl and a cup to drink from. The offering bowl and the cup are a matching set that I’ve had for years, and I like that they match. My offerings to the Kindreds go in a vessel that matches the vessel they give me the Blessings in.

The two taper candles are there for extra light and because I like candles. Also on the altar are some owl figurines, a Nature Spirit I’ve long had associations with (along with Toad and Rabbit), plus a little green man figurine, a big wooden acorn, a sand dollar, a holey stone that a friend brought back for me from a trip to the Middle East, and an aspen-leaf candle holder. These are all things that have spiritual significance for me, though I do eventually want to get some small shelves to get the figurines up off my working space.

The altar itself is a wooden cube bookshelf I got from (I think) Target, and I store all my Pagan and magical supplies in the closed baskets, with assorted books in the other open shelves. This sits in my craft room/spare bedroom, so it has to be dismantleable in a short time in case of guests. It pretty easily turns back into a bookshelf top with some assorted candles on it without much trouble.

Since I’ve used the altar a few times now, I’ve already made a few changes. I moved the offering bowls and offering pitcher to the right side of the Fire, so that I can pour offerings without setting my arm hair on fire (that smelled lovely, let me tell you). I also now have a set of wooden oghams, and those live on the upper left side of the altar most of the time as well, for daily drawings. I also added the two woodburned world tree symbols that I got from the Magical Druid. They sit to either side of the tall World Tree.

I do my sitting meditation on the floor in front of this altar, sitting on a big floor pillow. I often burn incense, and that creates a nice ambiance. Because it’s a bookshelf, I have to stand for rituals, so I’ve taken to putting my scripts in a small binder that I can hold with one hand. It lives in the open cube on the left hand side.

Overall I think it’s a functional altar, if not super elegant. I’d like to have a bigger working space eventually, ideally one that I could use outside, since a real fire would be nice for burning offerings. As it is, if I give spirits to the Shining Ones, they go in the same offering bowl with everything else, so I tend to give offerings of good incense to them. I’d also like a more proportional World Tree, so perhaps I’ll do some work with the driftwood one and trim it down and make a nice base for it. I think it’s a good Tree, just a little out of proportion with the rest of my space!

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