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Archive for the ‘Initiate’s Path’ Category

6. Discuss the ritual significance of Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)

The first instance of Fire and Water in ADF Ritual is typically the purification step, where we purify first with water (usually by sprinkling), and then with fire (in the form of incense) (Newburg). Where water washes and cleanses, incense purifies and fills us with sacred fire, and we are renewed by this step of the ritual and made ready to participate in the offerings that come afterward.

Fire and water are also the two most common representations of ADF’s Two Powers – the powers we draw upon for our magical workings and energetic currents (Newburg). The fire is the sky power, the power of the upperworld, of order and craft, and of the expression of will. The water is the underworld power, the power of chaos and potential. When these two powers meet, as they do in each participant in an ADF liturgy, they provide the magical current from which we have the power to do the work of making sacrifices and opening the gates. They also provide a grounding and centering aspect to ADF ritual, which  prepares the ritual participants for working together and mentally calms and prepares them for the energetic work that we do in each ritual (Bonewits “Step”, Newburg). These mirror nicely the two worlds that existed before the creation of the world in the Norse myths – the realm of ice (water) and the realm of fire, from which all things were made.

Fire is also the primary means of sacrifice to the upperworld, as it transforms our offerings into a form that the spirits can use. As well, at the end of each ritual, we imbibe the waters of life – waters which have been transformed by blessings (which often come from the otherworlds, and can be represented by fire) and which send us out into the world renewed and re-energized. By fire we give our offerings to the spirits, and by water they return blessings to us.

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5.    Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)

The Earth Mother is probably the most obviously Neopagan part of the ADF liturgy, but She is an extremely significant part of Druidic culture and worship. While there are people who see Her as a thought-form, a goddess, an ecological organism, a local body of water, and an archetype (or some combination of the above) (Newburg), She typically takes the first and last offerings in ADF’s liturgy and is given the respect of the eternal All Mother from whom we all emerge and to whom we all return. This is not to say that there is no historical present for an Earth Mother figure (and, in fact, Tacitus calls Nerthus the Earth Mother to the Germans, and Gaia can serve in the role of Earth Mother to the Greeks), but that her role and primacy in ADF ritual is more reminiscent of modern than ancient worship. This element of our rituals helps ground the ecological and naturalistic currents in ADF’s population, and the presence of the Earth Mother places ADF squarely among the other Neopagan traditions with Earth/Environmentalism as the center of their worship, though ADF also worships more historically based god/esses (Newburg) and often participates in more historically flavored (if not actually derived) practices.

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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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A year ago I applied for and was accepted into the Initiate’s Program as my next step upon finishing the DP. I set out to do the IP work as a placeholder and a way to continue my studies and start to suss out whether I really did have a vocation to doing the Clergy Training Program. (I have questioned whether I have a vocation to clergy in every religion I’ve been part of, from mainstream Protestantism, to questioning if I would have a Catholic vocation, to seeking initiation in a Wiccan tradition.) I was solitary when I finished my DP, and initiation seemed the most logical step. To those ends, I completed (or partially completed) a portion of the study work in that time (Namely Divination I (posted here), Liturgy I (partially posted here) and Liturgy Practicum 1 (partially posted here)).

Over the last year, however, a lot has changed. I took up leadership of a study group, mentoring DP students and acting as a spiritual leader – writing rituals, providing divination and basic spiritual guidance, and acting as a guide and mentor. I also began participating with the local protogrove when I can (my job makes rituals on work nights nearly impossible in a city as large as Houston). They’ve been supportive of our study group, and it’s been an interesting experience to see how a more Neopagan protogrove operates (versus our more devotional polytheist leaning study group).

As well, I’ve struck up a friendship with Rev. William Ashton, who has been mentoring me in my steps toward leadership. This leadership, as well as the work with the local protogrove and my conversations with Rev. William, has dramatically reduced my fears over being a public pagan face in my area, and the spiritual leadership has done nothing but cement that I have a vocation to service on a clergy level.

In short, I am not sure the Initiate’s Path is where I need to be anymore – I think I need to be working towards becoming a part of ADF’s clergy.

As such, I have enrolled in the CTP-Preliminary coursework (6 courses, followed by an intention letter). I expect it will take me about 6 months to complete this work – or at least, that’s my goal. My Liturgy 1 work already counts toward the completion of CTP-Prelim, though it is being re-reviewed currently, since Clergy students have different expectations than Initiate students, and must be reviewed by a Clergy reviewer.

As such, I won’t be posting any more of my Liturgy 1 work until I have received word that it is up to snuff. My Divination I course will need to be re-reviewed as well, if I am accepted into the first circle of clergy training (henceforth CTP1). I was counseled to finish working on Liturgy Practicum 1 for now, simply so that it wasn’t a waste of 3 months of journaling, but to revisit the journal after I’ve finished the preliminary coursework for clergy training and decide (possibly with the help of my reviewer) if I need to re-do things.

Fortunately I do not have to abandon the Initiate’s Path – the courses that cross over will still cross over, and if I should seek initiation in the future, that path is still open to me.

I won’t lie and say that making this decision was easy. Well, that’s not exactly true – it was easy enough to sign up in the study program tracker, and easy enough to talk to the Preceptor about transferring my work over. But I’m more than a little intimidated by this step, both for the amount of work involved and the amount of scrutiny that I will be subjected to. Still, I’m fairly certain this is what I need to be doing, and the path I need to walk.

I’m going to leave this post tagged with both the Initiate’s Path and the Clergy Training Program. I’m leaving my coursework tagged on the page at the top of the site, and will be starting a second page for my CTP work. At this time I’ve completed Cosmology 1 as my next course to submit, and I’m working on IE Studies. (IE Myth is the course that intimidates me the most right now.)

I’ll continue to post my progress here though, as well as things I’m learning and struggling with. After all, journaling is a big part of this program, and while I can’t share everything publicly, I’ve come to appreciate comments and links that I get through this blog.

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Lammas week! Hooray! This is one of my favorite high days, so I’m excited to have celebrated it, both with my study group and on my own, as part of my home-based practice requirements. I did not attend my local protogrove’s ritual, simply because I was still getting over being sick, and it was clear on the other side of town from where I live, and an all-day event, and I just didn’t have the energy for something like that. My study group did a Loaf-fest ritual to Thor and Sif, and I did a solitary Anglo-saxon Lammas ritual to Thunor. I left some room for improvisation in the ritual, especially around the key offerings, and I think that went well. (I’m not sure if I need to include the full ritual text for my journal entry, but I don’t have it with me, so I’ll have to add it in later if it’s needed.)

Unfortunately, my mental health hasn’t been so good lately. This is not unusual when I get very busy over extended periods of time – I’m a pretty strong introvert, and need my space – but for whatever reason this particular down-period is both stronger and more persistent than usual. It’s likely that this is a bipolar episode, which is frustrating because I just have to wait for it to go away, but also kind of comforting, because I know it won’t last forever and I just have to wait for it to go away.

I know during tough mental times, I should be turning MORE to my daily practices, but I’m finding it very hard to stay motivated to do anything. My morning practices have all been at work this week, and done more out of a sense of duty than of any sort of joy or desire for the connection. But I am still doing them. I am trying to do more meditation as well, since that can help during rough brain times, but that hasn’t been as often as I’d like. I did buy some new candles for my hearth practice, which is nice – they smell good too.

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2. Describe some of the roles individuals might take on within the context of ritual. (minimum 100 words)

Priest/ess – The person leading the ritual, who is often (but not always) the leader of the group. S/he will make the primary sacrifices, and will be in charge of making sure the rest of the liturgy goes off as planned. Also in charge of improv/control when things get out of hand. The Priest/ess is responsible for the energy created in a ritual, and usually directs that energy as needed or determined by the purpose of the rite.

Bard – The person who leads the chants and praise offerings. Preferably someone with a strong voice and some ability to sing. Skill with an instrument is beneficial, but not required. May lead magical workings, depending on the working involved.

Seer – The person who takes the omens and interprets them for the group. May also have other roles in the ritual.

Fire Warden – The person who makes and tends the fire. Also the person who puts the fire out, if it gets unruly. Arm this person with a fire extinguisher, especially in an enclosed or otherwise flammable space. Especially necessary in windy or difficult conditions, it’s important to have someone specifically assigned to control the fire so that the other ritual participants don’t have to worry about it. This is a crucial role and one to which a single dedicated person should be assigned, and they should be able to keep at least part of their attention on the fire at all times.

Liturgist – The person who writes the liturgy itself. This role can be performed by any of the above, depending on the number of willing volunteers in a group, and may or may not overlap, as this is a pre-ritual position primarily. (This is the function that I am most often tasked with, and also most worried about doing – a well written ritual can be easily ruined by bad participants, but a poorly written ritual is hard to save.)

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1.    Describe the purpose and function of ritual. (minimum 300 words)

Ritual can have many, many purposes and functions, depending on how widely you define ritual. Limiting it to sacred/religious ritual, the list is still pretty long – from 30 second morning devotionals said in the elevator on the way to the 9th floor to extended group magical workings and high day rites, there are as many different purposes as there are rituals, really. Each ritual will fill a function in the lives of the humans that perform it (otherwise, why perform the ritual?). That said, I think generally ritual serves as a place to connect – to connect humans to each other, and to connect humans to the sacred forces that inhabit this world (Corrigan “Intentions”).

If we look at ADF Core Order ritual, for a high day or other high occasion, we’re still primarily looking at those two purposes. The group mind and group energy serves to connect us to each other, to strengthen our friendships and bonds, and to be the backbone of our religious communities (Brooks, “Goals”). The offerings made and blessings received serve to connect us to the spirits around us, Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Deities, and to create a baseline relationship for us to use in those contexts (Brooks, “Goals”). When we stand at the sacred center, especially in a group with a united mind and purpose, we have the opportunity to fulfil both functions of ritual in a profound way.

Other rituals will fit into different places along those spectrums, where a solo ritual done to a Patron is almost entirely about connection to that one sacred spirit, but a community ritual to welcome a newborn (or other rite of passage) is almost entirely about connection as a group and community (Corrigan “Intentions”).

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention a third function of ADF Core Order ritual specifically, which is the recreation and restrengthening of order in the cosmos (Dangler). Our rituals mirror the creation and ordering of the cosmos, and in doing so serve as a way to strengthen that order. While there is a place for chaos in the cosmos as well (for order without chaos will die, just as chaos without order will never accomplish anything), our rituals are primarily orderly and serve to reinforce that order.

 

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Wow, what a week. Lots of things to think about this week.

My daily practice has been mostly out of sorts this week, between returning from vacation and getting sick (airport crud, yuck). I did manage I think two days, but it was just an off week altogether for my regular practice.

Lesson learned: I’m good at routines, and when my routines go out the window, so does any kind of regular anything I’m used to doing (exercise included in this category). Doubly so for any practice I haven’t fully established yet.

I have started preparing for Lammas though, and what I’m going to do as a solo practitioner. I know I need to do at least one solo high day during this journaling process, and I’ll only be doing the study group ritual for Lammas (the protogrove is doing an all-day festival 2 hours north of my house, and after spending two weekends on vacation or being part of a wedding, I can’t for my own mental health give up a third weekend in a row. More on that later). Since I won’t be coordinating two group rituals, and Yngvi is doing most of the legwork for our Scandinavian celebration with the Study Group, I have time to prep for a solo ritual. I’ll be using my standard Anglo-Saxon template, but I haven’t decided how I want to modify it just yet. Something I’m thinking about.

Then, as I was getting over being sick, I spent all of Friday and Saturday being a bridesmaid in a Very Big Catholic Wedding. This was… exceedingly taxing mentally and physically, and left me feeling very out of sorts with my druid practice. I grew up protestant, but joined the Catholic church in college, because I fell in love with the Mass and the Rosary and the Saints. Also because I had a wonderful church where I was feeling really spiritually nourished. Unfortunately that blew up in my face spectacularly. (I was severely traumatized, and when I went to tell someone about it, I was told that “Maybe God was trying to teach me something” and people sided with my abuser. It was devastating.) I left the church, and then Christianity altogether. (Obviously, as I’m clearly now a Druid.)

However, being back in a very traditional church for a very traditional ceremony, with the candles and the plainchant and the responses and everything? Really hit a sore nerve. It’s not that I have any interest in being Catholic again. I really don’t. (I spent the entire homily trying not to roll my eyes at the priest.) But there’s a lot of nostalgia there that I haven’t quite figured out how to enjoy without feeling horrible about myself as a person. This is compounded by the fact that I know if my family found out that I have left the church for good, they would be devastated, and even at 30 years old, I still have trouble when I disappoint people and don’t live up to their expectations, especially my parents. Religion is HUGELY IMPORTANT to them.

Also, after the wedding, I spent a good amount of time talking to my husband about religion and faith and what I’m doing, and he basically told me that he won’t stop me from doing what I think I need to do about my religion, but he wants no part of it and has no interest in doing any of it with me. My home based practice will be solo, for good. He is extremely independent, and mostly a Humanist, and as long as I’m happy and fulfilled, he’s fine, but he won’t be joining in with any of my high days or little ceremonies at all. He’s pretty much done with any kind of religion, and only really is interested in studying things for the sake of learning. While this isn’t really surprising, the fact that he’s not even interested in learning about what it is that I do and believe was a little hard. It is good that he is okay with me doing what I feel is right for me, and following my own path, but it’s also a little sad that he doesn’t even care to know what Druidry is at all. But that’s his choice, and I can live with it. I’m not sure what it will mean in the future if we have kids, but that’s mostly something we can discuss when we actually decide whether or not we’re having any kids at all.

So while this week wasn’t one much where I did a lot of actual home based practice, I did a lot of very deep thinking about my Druidry, and what going forward on this path may mean. I’m still processing all of it, and I suspect will be for awhile. There’s a lot to parse here.

While I do that though, I’m going to remember some very good advice given to me by Rev. Michael Dangler:

When you don’t know what to do, wash your hands, light a candle, and hug a tree.

 

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(Sorry this is so late in posting. I hadn’t re-emailed my document to myself last week, so you’re going to get two of these this week. I’ve been writing them at home in my course document and then posting them when I remember to do so!)

This week was really boring, ritual wise. Did my daily practice 4 weekdays in a row and then left for vacation, where I promptly forgot all about anything to do with daily practices in the flurry of seeing my friends. This is an annual trip to Seattle that I make with 40 friends from my gaming group, and it’s a TON of stuff crammed into three days, so I’m lucky to get any sleep, let alone free time to do daily practice. I did, however, make time to say hello to the amazing trees that I encountered. Old growth forest just isn’t something you run into in Texas, so the huge conifers were fun and new. I love being around them whenever I visit. I waved hello at Mt.s Raineir, St. Helens, and Hood on my flight as well. Also, I got to see otters!

Normally I’d feel bad for taking a “break” from my Druidry, but to be honest, it was a refreshing change of pace to just let it be something I “am” rather than something I “do”, even if just for a weekend. We’ll see if I can get back into the swing of regular practice next week.

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Fairly normal week. Missed my morning practice 2 days this week because apparently I need to get more sleep. I did it when I remembered, which is, I suppose, what counts.

Also did a bunch of canning this week (pickles, jalapenos, blueberry jam), which always makes me feel close to my prairie godmothers. Their candle burned near my stove all day while I jarred and processed the various things (it couldn’t sit ON the stove since I needed all the burners).  I don’t rely on the food I put up to keep us fed through the winter, but it is an inexpensive way to make food that is in season into something delicious that we’ll enjoy all year long. Both my husband and I love pickles too! It’s weird to think of cooking as a spiritual activity, but it really can be.

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