Monday, November 23, 2009

Druidic Ritual Innovation - the Blessing Vessel

In our Druidic ritual it has long been our custom to consecrate drink as the carrier of the Blessing of the Gods and Spirits. While we often use other customs in addition to the Waters of Life, the drinking of the Blessing is the central and most traditional symbol of the receiving of the divine power. In this season of contagion our Grove has decided to begin suggesting that attendees bring a drinking vessel of their own to our High Day rites. While this has some obvious hygiene advantages, it also offers some valuable options for spiritual and magical work. It is always good to find ways to gather intimate, personal moments inside a big community seasonal rite, and the Vessel of Blessing offers just that.

The Vessel of Blessing – A Valuable Druidic Tool

In this article I mean to discuss a development of the core symbolism available within our order of Ritual. The ‘return flow’ portion of the rite has great power that can perhaps be expressed more effectively through the use of a new ritual tool. This Vessel of Blessing – is a quaich, chalice, cauldron, horn, etc which is added to the Druid’s ritual tools as a specific drinking vessel for the substance of the Blessing (the return flow). It is especially valuable for solitary work, and has potential for applications in group and Grove rites as well.
Our Druidic rites often seem focused on the work of offering to the Powers, of honoring the Gods and Spirits. The rites of Opening the Grove and the Gate, the offerings to the Kindreds and to the Powers of the Occasion can leave the remainder of the Order of ritual seeming like an afterthought. The ‘return flow’ or Blessing can sometimes be reduced to a simple affirmation in which the cup is declared to be blessed. This reduction is an error that can rob a rite of a chance for a powerful spiritual moment.
We work the rites for several reasons. We seek to expand our awareness of the natural world and the spirits in it. In that work we also open to the cycles and forces of nature, and to our place in it. We offer to the Gods and Spirits, strengthening their presence because we love their presence, and because we hope to make them more active in the modern world. We bring our people together, creating community and linking hearts. But we make the Sacred Grove, and fill it with the Powers not only for our community and our world, but for ourselves. We seek to inspire and empower our individual spiritual natures by the blessing of the Gods. Our rites are often works of public religion, but they also contain the possibility for personal theurgy.
The ritual moment in which the ‘return flow’ is blessed is a vital spiritual event in our rites. It is the culmination of the intention of the rite, the goal of all that comes before it. Certainly we make our sacrifices because we share a bond of love with the Gods and Spirits. It is impossible for an open heart to know the spiritual realms without responding in awe and delight – in love. Yet one of the real reasons for such awe is the bounteous giving of nature and spirit. From the unstinting gifts of land and sea and sky to the bounties of life’s emotional and intellectual harvests, the worlds give us all that we have. When we come to the Sacred Grove we seek to specifically channel that infinite flow of blessings in more specific ways. Just as the watercourse is channeled in the mill-wheel, or infinite light made strong in the laser beam, so the devices of spiritual ritual focus the power of spirit in our Groves.
Our Order of Ritual most commonly works by blessing a cup of drink, which is then consumed by those present. While our larger practice may use various elements in the Blessing – fire, bread or other edibles, a sprinkling in place of a drinking – the central and most usual symbol of the immediate result of our working remains the Cup of Blessing. This symbol has never been formalized in our work. The ritual forms are well-known but we have created no key symbol or tool for this portion of the work.
The Fire, Well and Tree have been well established as ritual tools in Our Druidry. Even individual practitioners are encouraged to own and use these symbols in the Home Shrine, or as tools in .portable personal ritual. I propose the addition of a further Druidic spiritual tool – the vessel of Blessing. This special drinking vessel is consecrated to the special task of receiving and transmitting the Blessing of the Gods and Spirit. I envision this tool as both personal and collective, spiritual and practical.
The Blessing Cup begins as a solitary tool, a part of one’s Shrine ritual set. A vessel is made or purchased, then hallowed by a charm such as that given below. In personal ritual it is used as the special cup from which the Blessing is drunk. I think that it is as a personal tool that the Vessel finds its truest expression. The Vessel is an expression of the personal spirit – the vessel into which the blessing of the Powers flows. In some ways it could be seen as a symbol of the Da Fein – the God In Me.
In a Grove setting there are advantages to individual members bringing their own drinking vessels to rites. Symbolically, this allows each to present the Vessel of their own Spirit to receive the flow of Blessing from the Grove. Practically it solves the problem of sharing cups among a large group. There is an element of difficulty involved in attendees carrying their own cups throughout a ritual. Medieval traditions of carrying a cup in a belt-pouch or tied to a belt by a cord suggest ways to deal with the problem. The vessels could also be placed on a side-altar as the company enters the ritual space, then distributed at the Blessing.
It would also be possible to create a Grove Blessing Vessel that could be used for High days and other major rituals. A cauldron, large chalice or krater could become a potent symbol of the group-mind of the Grove. A Grove vessel would need to be large enough to hold all the drink for a large-group vessel, and could be accompanied by a ladle for distributing the Blessing. The ritual act of hallowing the Blessing in a group vessel, then portioning it into the consecrated personal Vessels carries many layers of meaning. While it might grow clumsy in very large group rites or in rites involving lots of movement it is well suited to smaller groups, or when everyone has a clear seat.
The Vessel of Blessing is a magical technique, applied to our religious intent. Each student’s vessel becomes in effect, a talisman consecrated to the work of Blessing one’s own spirit. It becomes an Inner center of the Shrine, or of the Grove, just as the Hallows are the visible center. By regular use, and by being kept carefully sacred, such a vessel grows beyond the simply symbolic and comes to have power of its own. By that power the Blessing of the Gods and Spirits becomes ever stronger in a Druid’s rites.

A Simple Charm for Hallowing the Vessel
Have as full a Shrine as you can manage. You’ll need Fire and Water, preferably your own Three Hallows of Fire, Well and Tree. Have your Blessing Vessel present as well.
Bless the Hallows, giving silver to the Well and lighting candles and incense for the Fire, saying:
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
In Land, Sea and Sky, Below and on High,
Let the Water be blessed and the Fire be hallowed.
Sprinkle and cense yourself for purification, saying:
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Cleansed of ill and bane am I
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Blessed in Land and Sea and Sky
Sprinkle and cense the vessel, saying nine times:
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
This (cup) is made clean and fit for sacred work.
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
This (vessel) is made whole and holy!
And, after the ninth time:
By Fire Well and Tree
By Gods Dead and Sidhe
This is my Vessel of Blessing, made to receive the flow of the power of the Gods and Spirits.
So be it!

1 comment:

druidkirk said...

Sprinkle and cense the vessel, saying nine times:

Nine times! That's long charm for nine times, unless something else is going on, don't you think? What is happening in the person's mind's eye in the Otherworlds during this long charm? Perhaps there could be a specific inner experience that could be quantified somehow which would be taking place during the speaking of the charm nine times? It just seems to me that something else should be going on inside during this.