1)Describe the purpose and function of ritual. (minimum 300 words)
Rituals occur in everyone's daily life. They mark transitions, provide meaning, and establishing order for our interactions and experiences. There as many purposes and functions to ritual as there are types of rituals. There are secular rituals, such as the daily morning ritual of waking, eating and bushing teeth in a certain order and timing. These rituals give order and meaning to our daily activities. They provide comfort in the mundane and a sense that the world is as it should be. Much like a good luck charm, if these rituals are not observed, they can make the rest of the day feel just that little bit off, or wrong somehow.
There are legal rituals that signify to society that some sort of contract has been entered. These often overlap with religious rituals and may employ religious language. The ritual of the swearing in of a President of the United States, or a judge are secular examples of these rituals. Weddings, and funerals are great examples of where the religious forms overlap with the legal. Both express a legal state of being that affect how a persons personal holding will be dealt with in the future.
Religious rituals provide a framework in which a person or group of people may leave the profane and enter into a state of sacred actions. During these rituals, the participants use certain symbols combined with actions, to interact with one another on a spiritual level. Contact with extra natural beings, such as Gods or spirits, can also be part of this type of ritual. These rituals rely on common myths and symbols to convey meaning to the actions of the congregation. A Catholic Priest holding up the Eucharist and proclaiming it the blood and body of Christ is using the story of the crucifixion as well as the myth of transubstantiation to create a moment of deep meaning for those who share the Catholic worldview and culture. Religious ritual can provide a reinforcement of a cultural view point of reality while being deeply moving to even those who do not share the theology.
Ritual ultimately is a structure that we use to define the brief moments of our lives.
The Definition of Ritual; http://anthropology.uwaterloo.ca/courses/Anth311/Ritual%20Defined.htm
Bibliography of Social Anthropological Theories of Ritual Meaning and Function, Sharon Morris (1996); http://pages.swcp.com/~ldraper/slim/biblios/morris.html
Anthropology of Religion: Overview of Religion; http://anthro.palomar.edu/religion/rel_1.htm
2)Describe some of the roles individuals might take on within the context of ritual. (minimum 100 words)
The first distinction I make on roles apportioned in ritual starts with who is actively participating. Even those who are observers also serve a part, no matter how peripheral. Those who watch add their energy to the work, for good or ill.
My firm belief is that people get more when they engage in the work. Each section of the Core Order of Ritual can be broken into components. This means that there are potentially 18+ parts. I like to keep certain aspects (the opening of the gates as an example) under the auspice of the lead druid. I also like to have the omen taken by someone who is not the lead.
The lead druid keeps the action moving forward and running smoothly. This could mean a rather pointed nod at the person who should be speaking at a certain moment during the liturgy, or verbal cues.
The ritual organizer is in charge of there being a script to follow, as well as a space in which to perform the ritual. The ritual organizer insures that all sacrifices are ready and present for the ritual.
Having a person to tend the fire, making sure it doesn’t go out or burn the place down, is vital. Safety around flame is extremely important and fire should never be treated without respect.
Someone to lead the music (bard) is ideal. Music is one of the sticky points for a group that doesn’t share a common knowledge of the refrain being used. Having a strong leader who knows how to teach a song can save the singing from turning into a dirge of unintended dissonances.
All parts should be agreed upon before the start of the ritual, but the lead druid should be prepared to take over any parts that remain unfilled.
3)Describe the concepts of the Center and the Gates in ADF's Standard Liturgical Outline. (minimum 300 words)
One of the things that sets ADF’s form of ritual apart from the average Wiccan ritual is that we do not cast circles, or the call quarters. In Wicca, as I understand it, the circle is cast to hold energy in, as well as to keep certain influences out. The quarters are called as a way to re-create the cosmos and acknowledge the elements that are part of all life.
We in ADF do indeed re-create the cosmos, but in a different manner. Instead of the directions, we call the three worlds and Kindreds. We light the fire, honor the well, and acknowledge the Axis Mundi. We do not cast a circle because we do not wish to keep anyone out, and do not need to keep anything in.
Every ritual includes the Axis Mundi for several rather important reasons. The Axis Mundi is the center of the world for the space and time of the ritual, and as the center it becomes sacred space around which all others revolve. It is usually represented as a tree, but can also be viewed as a mountain, or pillar. I have done a Hellenic ritual that used a stone as the Omphalos, or navel of the world.
The advantage of living on a globe is that every spot on the surface of the Earth can be declared the center of that surface, with all truthfulness and honesty. There is nothing wrong with declaring several places at once as the center of the surface of the world when you’re on a globe. We can see this in how the ancient Greeks declared the center to be in Delphi, while at the same time having a sacred cosmic tree  as well as Mount Olympus as centers of the cosmos. Any space can be declared sacred, and in the end there are no off-limits, outside of the local laws, or no-trespassing signs.
This is something I love about our ritual form. Being married to a man who studies the universe as a profession, I see the big bang slowly expanding out from a center, while there is no center to the universe, but everywhere is the center, reflected in how we establish the sacred space for our rite.
We use the Axis Mundi as a connecter to the underworld, upper world, and to this space we inhabit. It becomes a doorway in which we can cast our voice and call to the Kindreds. This is not an action to be taken by oneself! This is why we call a gate keeper to help in the effort it takes to create that bridge. We set our altar, and the fire that burns on it, on the strong back of Mother Earth. She upholds our actions, just as the fire carries our prayers. The well, which waters the tree, acts as a gate to the dark underworld, but it is the Axis that connects them all.
Some traditions view the human body as the Axis Mundi. This can be seen in some forms of Tai Chi and Yoga. The Chakra system that many have borrowed for their magick workings from Hinduism is a type of human-body Axis Mundi . Is it any wonder that the Buddha gained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree? Or that in the Old Testament, Jacob met God next to a ladder that was itself an Axis Mundi? The Axis connects us to everything, and everything to us.
When we create the center of our ritual by anointing the tree, silvering the well, and by offering to the fire. The well and fire represent doorways into the worlds below and above. The tree is also the gate to the mid-world, where we exist, but because we have created an Axis Mundi, we are somewhat separated from the greater outside world because of liminal space. The magical action of opening the gates with the help of a Gate Keeper allows our voices to be heard by the Spirits and Divinities that exists in each of the three realms.
2.Mircea Eliade (tr. Philip Mairet). 'Indian Symbolisms of Time and Eternity' in Images and Symbols." Princeton, 1991. p.76
4) Discuss why ADF rituals need not have a defined outer boundary, or "circle" and the sacralization of space in ritual. (minimum 100 words)
In ADF, we do not cast circles, or the call quarters. In Wicca, as I understand it, the circle is cast to hold energy in, as well as to keep certain influences out. The quarters are called as a way to re-create the cosmos and acknowledge the elements that are part of all life. Our Cosmos is recreated and sacred space defined as we silver the well, light the fire while making offerings to it, and as we anoint and bless the tree. When we do this, we create a liminal space that exists in this world while existing in the other worlds at the same time. We want full access to all worlds, not just roped off sections, and a circle would make this difficult.
5)Discuss the Earth Mother and her significance in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Sweet Mother Gaia, everything starts with her. Life, both mundane and divine, owes its existence to the ground below our feet. Tiny, little adjustments to the tilt of our planet, the amount of water, how far she swings from the sun, makes all that we experience on this world possible. We are her children, but it is not just us who call her mother. The Gods and nature spirits owe the Earth Mother a debt for their existence as well. I think it is right that most creation myths start with her. An ADF ritual’s first offering is often to the Earth Mother, and this is proper. Just as life starts with the Earth, so should our rituals. She upholds us, and all we do.
6) Discuss the ritual significance of Fire and Water in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
If we think of the ritualist as the axis mundi, then the three-world cosmology is perfectly recreated by the presence of the water (underworld), and fire (upperworld), and this is why these elements are the basic requirements of re-creating the cosmos for ritual purposes. Just as heat and water allow a tree (a common representation of the axis mundi in art and ritual) to survive and thrive, fire and water are two main elements necessary for humans to survive. Without heat and water, many die quickly. Fire and water are also powerful natural phenomena that transform whatever they touch. Water over time cuts through rock, and can create new biomes for life to thrive. While fire acts more quickly than water, its ability to transform is no less impressive. It is thought that the ability to harness the power of fire to transmute our food into something easier to digest was what allowed humans to evolve as rabidly and as far as we have. In ritual, fire transforms our words and sacrifices into structures that are acceptable and accessible to the kindreds. Water acts as a purifier as well as the gateway to the dark underworld of our Ancestors, whose water is the blood that flows through us. It is through fire and water that we connect with the three worlds in a manner that allows for meaningful communication.
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 is truly a gift from the Gods. It gives the ability to see in the dark, and to cook our food. It transforms wood to ash, and heats our homes. The acquiring of fire is often considered to be what allowed humans to evolve as far as we have come. Fire has often been seen as a deity itself and examples can be seen in Agni, Hestia, and Bride. In Loki we have the trickster fire that can shape-shift and cause great havoc, but who also gives great gifts when in the mood. Fire seems to be a major component of most ancient religions. In the Greek religion it is said that the fire of sacrifice was a gift of Prometheus, who later negotiated on behalf of the humans for what parts of the sacrifice would be given to the Gods and what would be kept for human consumption. The fire was what transformed the offerings into something that the Gods could consume and enjoy. Mircea Eliade wrote in The Forge and the Crucible, “It is through fire that nature is changed, making it the basis of the most ancient magics.” (p. 170) Fire was also used as a way to claim the land and space for either the nation or the family. The family fire was the place to gather for private devotions, while state fires provided the place where public rites would be held.
Wells are the by-product of both human labour and of nature’s gifts. A human digs deep into the Earth to find this substance that makes life possible. Water is not something humans can make on their own, unlike fire. Wells have long been seen as places where spirits live, and this is not hard to understand when considering a deep echoey shaft that seems to go down into the underworld itself. In ADF the well is the doorway into the underworld; the land of our ancestors. Wells are also seen as a source of wisdom. I would argue this also comes from an association of the well going deep into the ground where the ancestors dwell. We can see this in the Norse culture with the well of Mimir when Odin offers his eye to the well in exchange for great wisdom. To me the evolutionary tree of life is the perfect picture of all of nature’s abundance and diversity. It connects every form of life on the planet into one huge family. This is why I see the tree as the perfect gateway for the nature spirits in ADF ritual. The roots reach deep into the ground where the ancestors dwell, while the branches reach high into the sky where the deities exist. The tree is also a type of axis mundi. An axis mundi is a symbolic pole or structure that proclaims a place at the center of the universe or at least the world. The axis mundi connects the heavens and the Earth. The tree is both an axis mundi and perfect picture of life on Earth.
8)Discuss the Outdwellers and their significance in ritual (or not, as the case may be). (minimum 100 words)
The outdwellers are the spirits that are not from our tribe, or that chaos is part of their make up. We make a small offering to them as a way to honor them, so as not to cause offense, but to also ask them to leave us alone as we do the work of ritual. I like the way I heard a friend describe it as a, “here take this and go away,” offering. I have often heard the idea of purification being a way to deal with the outdwellers who have traveled in with us. In many ways the outdwellers remind me of the darkness beyond our family fire while camping. Out in the dark where we have not staked our claim to own the space are things we can not, nor wish to try to control. When our grove is in a space we have done ritual in many times, we tend not to give offerings to the outdwellers, since it is felt that the land and space have already been well and truly claimed by past actions. Our past use of the space has set that boundary of darkness back even further by our fire and presence. Much like if we had brought a flood light in with us, instead of just a small camp fire. Where the light hits is ours, and beyond that is the wild of chaos.
9)Describe the intention and function of the Three Kindreds invocations, and give a short description of each of the Kindreds. (minimum 100 words for each of the Three Kindreds)
Our Kindreds are not omnipresent nor omniscient. They do not constantly wait with bated breath for us to speak to them, so sometimes we have to get their attention. The reason for the invocation is to first get their attention, and then to provide them with an invitation to join us as participants of our rite, or as guests by our fire.
The ancestors provide a personal base for who we are in this world. They are also a base for our spiritual work. They continue a connection to us in our blood, DNA, and in those habits passed down through generations which we conveniently call culture. As we work with our ancestors, we can develop a closer relationship to who we truly are. That discovery can help an individual to be more authentic in how they relate to the other two worlds. We can also help to act as memory keepers of the ways of old. The ancestors have a vested interest in their descendants. As we act to remember them, we feed them. We give them a connection to this middle world and just like the trunk of the tree, we give the ancestors a connection to the upper world as well. As the trunk of a tree dies without connection to the roots, we wither without a connection to those roots that produced who we are. So by honoring them we also feed ourselves, and we create a connection to the power of knowing. Nature
The middle world is where we humans exist, but we are not alone. We share this space with the nature spirits. In my experience, Nature Spirits are the ultimate idea of a species. Nature Spirits are the combination of all the dead of a single species into a singular spirit form, kind of like an over soul. The Native Kansa, here in Kansas, often prayed to Elk, Coyote, Rabbit, and others. These were the local nature spirits that the corresponding animals were in tune with, as well as a small part of, just as I am part of the human spirit, even though I am not the total. Nature spirits seem to be not just of the animal variety. They can also be the spirits of rocks, mountains, boulders, trees, grasses, and any form of creation that might be met with here in the middle world. This would also include weather such as thunder, clouds, and winds. It is the essence of the thing that we look to as its spirit. In many ways it is the instinct that is inherent in a species. It is that pure essence that binds and animates an individual to itself, it is simply the divine forces of nature. Nature spirits are not as powerful Gods, nor as weak as the fleshy things, much like the spirits of our ancestors. Although there are points where Gods and nature spirits do overlap. I would point to the spirit of fire as an example. In many pantheons, Fire is indeed considered a God. The thing that seems to divide the Nature Sprits from the Gods is that nature spirits do not move from a singular place or from the animal it is formed of. One would most likely not come across a polar bear spirit in the desert of Arizona. The human spirit is all over the world, because humans are, but the Spirit of the River is only found there where the river flows.
The Gods do not seem to be limited to physical space, the way nature spirits seem to be. Different Gods can reach beyond the bounds of the land they originated in to find new followers. I personally have experienced this with Athena. They are very powerful primal forces that are not always kind or good, but who do seem to be rather value neutral. They are happy to help sometimes, and other time content to stay out of it. They do seem to appreciate our offerings and by creating a relationship with them, we can often count on their help, even if that help doesn’t come in a form we like at times.
10) Describe other possible models for the ‘Filling Out the Cosmic Picture’ sections. (minimum 100 words)
I want to approach this question from my Hellenic hearth culture. Filling out the Cosmic picture in this instance could include using Hestia as representative of the Fire. She would be the receiver of offerings both first and last, and would act as a gate as well as a guardian of that gate. The well could be conceived of as being part of the six rivers that run through the land of Hades. The invocation and offering could reflect the powers of each river as silver is added for each. An example would be to talk about how the Acheron is the river of pain that the newly dead must cross to enter the underworld. The Cocytus could be described as the river that surrounds Hades, and so forth. The world tree could be described as the tree that bore golden apples that was given to Hera at her wedding. Another way to expand the axis mundi in the Hellenic rite is to use an Omphalos, or world navel stone, in place of the Tree image.
11) Discuss how one would choose the focus (or focuses) for the Key Offerings. (minimum 100 words)
Key offerings tend to be dependent on who the beings of the occasion are. Different Kindreds tend to prefer certain offerings. I have found seeds to be greatly appreciated by Nature spirits, and so would lean more toward this type of offering instead of objects made of metal or that don’t degrade quickly. Before a ritual is preformed, or even written, I like to take time to meditate on what the beings of the occasion would like. A quick look into what others have found these beings to like also helps. Many mythologies also include short descriptions of what is of greatest value to those spirits being offered to. Athena as creator of Olives does seem to enjoy olive oil being offered, where as Poseidon doesn’t really seem to appreciate it.
12)Discuss your understanding of Sacrifice, and its place in ADF liturgy. (minimum 100 words)
Sacrifices are a way to create a Ghosti relationship with the Kindreds. Just as when I invite friends over for dinner I give them food and water; I also provide for the Kindreds that I have invited into my life and ritual. The sacrifices or offerings I make are simple hospitality given to help strengthen, feed, and please those spirits willing to accept my invitation. This is why study into what the Kindreds wish to have offered is so important. I wouldn’t give a friend who is allergic to nuts a walnut laced brownie. I also wouldn’t offer Poseidon olive oil, since the olive tree was why he lost patronage of Athens. When acceptable sacrifices are made to the Kindreds, this increases their mana (this is a Pacific Islander concept of natural magical energy23) and provides an energy base from which they can work to increase order out of chaos in both my life and in the world in general.
13)Discuss your understanding of the Omen. (minimum 100 words)
The drawing of Omens is the part of our rite where we hear directly from our Kindreds about their thoughts on what we are doing together in fellowship and as a community. They reply to us a group. When I do an omen pull alone, they reply to me as an individual, and can speak to any number of topics, and not just about the offerings that have been made. In both instances divination is an intimate act of conversation where I become a partner with the Kindreds. They can inform me, or the group if our offering are acceptable or greatly enjoyed. It can also act as a return flow of Ghosti. The Kindreds can describe what they are offering in return for the sacrifices or offerings that have been made.
14)Discuss your understanding of the Blessing Cup, or "Return Flow". (minimum 100 words)
The return flow is when the Kindreds give as they have been given to. The ritual up to this point has been about what we offer to the kindreds, and how we view or feel about them. The omen allows the kindreds to inform us if our sacrifices were acceptable, and what they are offering to us in return. The common way this is worded in ADF is, “A gift requires a gift.” We give so that the kindreds may in turn give back to us. The blessing cup is one way in which to receive these blessing. It is a physical action that shows our acceptance of the gifts offered. We drink and assimilate into our bodies that which is offered.
15) Describe possible cultural variances for elements discussed in questions 3 through 14 above. (minimum 100 words)
Each hearth culture has unique names and beings that can be invoked for the various parts of ritual. In the Greek hearth culture the center could be represented by either a tree, mountain, or by the Omphalos, or world navel stone. In the Vedic hearth all three gates could be represented by fire. All of the IE hearth cultures have a specific Earth Mother that could be called on and honored. An example in the Greek hearth is Gaia, and in the Norse there is Jord. There are also culturally specific entities of fire and water. In Greek we have Hestia, as well as water nymphs that could be called on to represent the fire and the water. There are Out dwellers in the Frost giants of the Norse hearth, or of the Asuras in the Vedic. Different hearth cultures have different forms of omen taking. In the Greek hearth culture augury of bird flight might be used, or even the Greek alphabet system. In the Celtic Hearth culture, oghams might be used. In the Norse hearth culture runes might be used. Finally, the waters of life could be described as whiskey in the Celtic hearth culture, although I would tend to shy away from this since here are often people who are abstaining from alcohol for various reasons in any group. Mead could be used for those of a Norse hearth.
16) Describe how ADF liturgy corresponds with your personal or group practice. (minimum 100 words)
My personal spiritual practice was very hodge podge before joining ADF. It was when I joined ADF that I found a structure that allowed me to create a meaningful personal practice. I found the COoR to feel complete. In fact, I don’t feel as if what I am doing is complete unless it follows the COoR. When I founded Ad Astra protogrove, the COoR allowed for us as a group to create meaningful relationship with the Kindreds as well as community centered around a commonly held practice. I don’t often offer to the outdwellers in private practice, but we do use that as a Grove when in a new space. It provides a way for us to feel safe in a new place. As a whole, I feel the liturgy to be very comforting and powerful.