Saturday, March 8, 2014

Recreating the Cosmos in Our Druidic Ritual Order.

A representation of the
'Cosmic' Fire, Well & Tree
I haven't posted a lot of technical ADF material here, since I suspect my readership is a little more general. However in keeping with my habit, this year, of archiving frequent answers here, I'll put this up. In our Priestly training program there is a moment when students are asked to obtain ritual notes on several subjects from three of our experienced priests. Since I'm on the list, I'll post this short answer right here. It refers to elements of ritual that I've been doing the same way for 20 years now - my answer is unlikely to change soon, and if it does I'll update it.

In my understanding, the basic steps of our Order of Ritual (OoR) amount to a recreation of the Indo-European cosmos. As in many traditional ritual systems, our rites are set in a cosmological diagram. Since our Order is written for modern, park-and-church-basement Paganism, we assume that this cosmic model must be rebuilt and reconsecrated for each ritual. Thus our sacrifices open with rites for consecrating the space and establish it as a gathering-place for the Gods & Spirits.

The arrangement of the Hallows is the most material diagram of our Three-tiered Cosmos. When I think about how to arrange the Hallows it is with that in mind. I tend to fall on the linear-diagram side of the discussion, with the Fire, Well and Tree in an east-west axis, usually with the Fire in the center. This represents, to me, the centrality of the Sacred Fire within the Great Triskel of Land, Sea, and Sky, as well as facilitating ritual access to the Fire.

A Table-top Hallows
There are many who like a side-by-side arrangement of the Fire and Well, with the Tree making a triangle; plenty of symbolic juice available there, not my preference. The goal is to represent the polar or complementary Powers of Underworld and Heavens in a way that facilitates the work of the rite.

The other pre-work is a Two Powers induction for the attendees. Despite the risk of performance failures, the value of inducing light trance in a crowd of otherwise-unprepared folks cannot be overstated. There are lots of ways to do that, but using Two Powers content ties in so artfully with the rest of the themes of our cosmos-building.

That in place, I approach the Opening Prayers of the rite as calls to cosmic, almost pre-manifest deities. I’m a lumper, not a splitter, and I have no problem identifying our Earth Mother call with a more cosmic All-Mother – a title I often call her. Inspiration is much like Primal Fire to my Druid self, and so we have primal (somewhat impersonal) Water and Fire in even the first offerings. Add to those the Outdwellers (as our local order does) and we have a very primal constellation of powers, called even before ‘manifestation’ of the ritual cosmos begins.

From there the formal recreation begins. The Hallows are consecrated as the local presences of the Cosmic Fire, Well, and Tree. We have no particular doctrine or story about that Great Cosmic Center, which might abide in the center of whatever Gods-Gard or Apple-Isle one calls Home, but such a thing is implicit in our approach. We seek to make the very place where we work our rite a sacred Crossroad, a place of Betweenness, where Fire and Water allow the Wonder-Tree to grow.
Fire, Tree and Well (L-R) in a
small outdoor Temple.

The esoteric work of such a thing could (and sometimes does) involve ‘charging’ each of the material Hallows in the Grove with the proper flavor of ‘juice’ – the Well fills with the Old Deep, the Fire shines with a stranger Light, etc. Involving oneself in solid visualizations, encouraging one’s own trance even as one manages the ritual, is a great help in establishing the content of the rite in the group mind, and deepening the work for all. That’s why it is valuable to spread this training among our regular ritualists.

In establishing the Hallows, I like to link the Fire and Water in the Grove directly into the Two Powers vision that I have usually induced in the group. This link between the visualized and the manifest is a powerful aid for general attendees to connect with the rite, I think.

The use of a ‘Horizontal axis’ module – involving Land, Sea and Sky in the Indo-European manner – is understated in our local order, subsumed in the purification by water and incense that follows the blessing of the Hallows. Some local customs give this more prominence. In any case the final map of the ritual space places the ritual ground at the center and crossroads of Underworld, Middleworld and Heavens, as well as of Land, Sea and Sky. Once again, for the operators to hold this vision firmly is a solid anchor for the other attendees.

In my present understanding it is this condition of limnality, of between-ness, that makes our ritual ground a place where we can “Open the Gate”. The Gate is a trick we use in ADF, a metaphor for the fact that in such liminal places the Way Between is shorter, the Veil of Mist thinner. We ask the Lord of Wisdom to aid us in the communication we seek with the Gods and Spirits, by “Holding Open the Gate”.

With the Center-Gate established, the Temple is rebuilt, and reconsecrated, and we are prepared to begin making our offerings to the Gods & Spirits.

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