‘Preliminary Courses’ Posts
Honestly, I only have one citation here because most of this is just from experience over my 11+ years in ADF.
Thomas, Kirk. “The Nature of Sacrifice.” Ár NDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. <https://www.adf.org/articles/cosmology/nature-of-sacrifice.html>.
Summarize each of the five contexts of sacrifice in Rev. Thomas’ “The Nature of Sacrifice” paper in your own words. Explain the effect of sacrifice on the cosmos and on the participants. (100 words min. for each context, 150 words min. for effect.)
This is the first time I am reading Kirk’s article, so I am glad I was pointed in the direction. In his article, he describes the five contexts of sacrifice, which in laymens terms essentially means the five reasons sacrifices were made in the “olden days”.
1. Maintaining the Cosmic Order
One method sacrifices were made was to recreate the cosmos. Essentially this means through sacrifice we are representing the mythos of how the world was created. For example, in Norse lore, the body of Ymir was dismembered and used to create the world. His skull was made into the sky, his blood into the seas, his bones into the mountains. Our sacrifice is meant to feed the cosmos and regenerate the life within ourselves. We sacrifice the “animal” and consume part of it during revels to promote furthering life. We are using modern methods to reenact an ancient custom to represent and honor the cosmic order and creation of our world.
(Word Count: 111)
2. Delivering Services Through Gifts
Another method of sacrifice is the delivering of services through gifts as a sacrifice. This is the act of offering a sacrifice as a gift, and in return we receive blessings through the waters of life. The term for this is *ghosti-, which means reciprocation of hospitality or a “guest and host” relationship. The relationship of guest and host between us and the Gods and the obligation of our relationships so that we give so that the Kindred may give. I give so that I may receive, I give to you so that you may give in return. In some cultures, the thought of the giver who has more to give, shall give more (Thomas).
(Word Count: 115)
3. Providing Protection
While similar to #2 in that you are giving to receive, another context of sacrifice was to provide protection. In a way this is like a bribe, such as bribing someone to protect you from a bully. This is like an investment in a safety net to encourage protection from the Gods against things like…diseases. Another spin on sacrifice for protection is to compensate for any wrong-doing the sacrificer has done, almost as sort of a payment to ensure a good outcome despite the wrong-doing. To complicate things even more, there were also methods of protection sacrifices that actually involved making an animal or person a “scapegoat” that harnesses the bad energies thought to exist, and then banished from the community as a representative of the negative energies being removed from the community through that sacrifice.
(Word Count: 136)
4. Commensality (Community)
I can’t imagine a community where you only eat meat that comes from a sacrifice, but the idea of it is quite interesting. The shared meal with the community and with the Gods is another context of sacrifice. The thought is that the shared meal is a gift exchange for protection. At CedarLight, we share a meal after ritual to ground the energies we created with our rituals. This allows the community to sit together, ground together, and share foods prepared specifically for the purpose of supplying the community with nourishment and in honor of the season. This in itself is another method not necessarily mentioned in Kirk’s article, but that I feel is important as well.
(Word Count: 117)
5. Mitigating Order with Chaos (the modern idea)
The last context of sacrifice that Kirk speaks about is the mitigation of Order with Chaos. The example used is within Roman rituals where the had to be performed perfectly, or it was thought that another ritual would have to be performed to make-up for the mistakes. There are other methods of mitigating order through Chaos aside from large-scale rituals, such as the destruction of a wickerman that encompasses messages from the community and is then burned to remove discord from the community. The destruction or payment for the destruction is what mitigates the chaos to help prevent bad things from happening.
(Word Count: 102)
The effect that sacrifice has on the community and participants varies depending on the type of sacrifice, but also has a common theme. The community as a whole can be affected by the blessings given from the sacrifices given. We share a common energy in ritual, so anything we bring to ritual or receive in ritual affects us all as we are all connected with the group mind during ritual. So it is important to give proper sacrifices that are accepted by the Kindred. There are also positive elements to shared energy in community sacrifice, such as grounding the community after intense ritual, or sharing a community meal or blessings in the waters of life after significant sacrifice. We are also affected when the community comes together for a common purpose, such as a healing rite with an intended outcome. The sacrifices given determine the success of our outcome for protection or healing, and those energies will share the wyrd within the community. So there is quite a bit of consideration with community sacrifice and how a priest ensures sacrifices have the outcome desired.
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What does it mean to be “purified” in ADF ritual? Why is purification important? What must be purified, and who may do the purification? (150 words min.)
To be purified is to be cleaned and prepared for ritual. This is also a way for us to mentally prepare for what we are about to do, and doesn’t just mean physical purification, but also the preparation of our garb and mental state as well. We do not want to bring in our negative thoughts, energies, and tag-alongs that may affect the ritual or the folk as a whole and disrupt the energies we are trying to create for a purpose we are intending. These purifications are done before ritual, sometimes as an asperge of water, other times through smoke of incense either individually by the liturgist or as smoke we walk through during the procession into ritual. In some of our Greek rites, we also wash the hands with scented water that is made sacred for this purpose. These are usually self-purifications at the beginning of the rite.
(Word Count: 150)
In many rituals we call for the blessings of the Kindreds. Where do these blessings come from, how are they provided to the folk, and why are we entitled to them? (200 words min.)
The blessings that we receive are from the Kindreds are just that, gifts in the form of blessings that we receive mostly from the Shining Ones. These can be in the form of inspiration, universal help on a problem we are faced with, or whatever they feel is appropriate for the situation.
In ritual, one of the main climatic portions of the rite are when we give praise and offerings to the Kindred. From that point forward, we take an omen to make sure our offerings have been accepted (if not, we better be prepared to give more gifts!). If the offerings are accepted, we then call down the blessings into the waters of life for us to consume and accept these blessings. The liturgist calls down the blessings into the waters, designating their direction and purpose and it is shared among the folk equally. This is the act of a “gift for a gift”. Because I have given, so may I receive. This is the reciprocal relationship we hold with the Kindred, and that is why we are entitled to blessings. We do not ask for blessings from the Kindred without giving a proper sacrifice first, and we are not entitled until those sacrifices have been given.
(Word Count: 208)
Describe the purpose and function of the Gatekeeper in ADF ritual. Explain also who or what makes a good Gatekeeper, along with why they do, with at least two examples of mythological figures that could fill the role of a Gatekeeper and give an explanation of why they can. (300 words min.)
The purpose of the Gatekeeper is to watch over, assist in the opening of, or “keep” the gates that we open between the worlds. We work with them together as partners to open the three gateways and to close them once our work is done. Most deities that we in ADF associate as a Gatekeeper are those that serve multiple purposes or act as guardians. Manannan in the Celtic culture, for example, is a God of the mists between worlds. So he has that relationship between worlds that will help in the endeavor of gate opening between worlds. Heimdall is another deity I often associate as a Gatekeeper in my personal hearth culture, because of his aspect of guardianship of Asgard. It is my opinion that you want a deity that is known for their involvement between worlds or a strength in guardianship, or guardian of boundaries in general. Opening a gateway is not something you want to do without some sort of plan to keep those gateways protected from unsavories as well, and we simply can’t do that alone. So a gatekeeper serves a multi-function as a helper and a guardian, which is why we look for deities that would be most appropriate for those tasks.
Gatekeepers in general kinda act as a liaison between us and the Gods, and protector of the gates so that we don’t foolishly have an unencrypted (wi-fi nerd term insertion bonus points) open gateway with the unknown.
In our Grove, we have an altar at the main doorway that is dedicated to many gatekeepers that we leave offerings at, at each event, to help ward of any negative energy that guests may bring. This is another purpose that we have incorporated of our Gatekeepers, as we’re not just trying to prevent nasties from other worlds, but from this world as well.
(Word Count: 308)
Explain why the fire is an essential element of ADF ritual, and what relation it has to the sacrifice. (150 words min.)
Fire is an essential element in ADF ritual for many reasons, the main of which is the ability to send our offerings to the heavens and to the Gods. It is used to cook sacred meals to share during our community revels after ritual to ground and share the energies of the ritual together. The shared meal is a very important ending to of ritual for that exact purpose. Ritual libations are often poured into the fire (if proper alcohol content) or around the fire (if high water content). Sacred herbs, written poetry, flowers, artistic creations, are all placed into the fire as an offering so they can be consumed by fire and gifted to the Gods. It is the only way for us to really have these offerings consumed properly with a fire that is designated for that particular purpose. We do not use it for disposing of trash, as that would be insulting to the Gods.
(Word Count: 158)
Explain the divisions of the cosmos in ADF ritual, and why the cosmos is divided in this way. (300 words min.)
I have to be honest, I feel like I’m saying the same thing over and over for these essays, so a lot of this may be the same as previous essays.
The division of the cosmos is generally very similar across many of the Indo-European cultures. In the Norse they have a division of the nine worlds on the world tree. In ADF we at least acknowledge what I call the “sacred trine”, which is another “nine realms” across general Indo-European mythos. They aren’t necessarily realms, per se, but they are sacred centers that help make up the axle of life. These consist of the Land, Sea, and Sky, the Well, the Fire, the Tree, and the Underworld, Middleworld, and Upperworld.
The land, sea, and sky make up the horizontal plane of our world, the Middleworld or Midgard. They are all of the general aspects of Midgard that we live on and share space with the Nature Spirits and Land Wights.
The Underworld, the Middleworld, and the Upperworld are the realms of the Kindred. The Underworld is where our Ancestors reside, the Middleworld is where we along with the Nature Spirits of this realm, the other realm, and those that walk between realms reside, and the Upperworld is the realm of the Gods and Shining Ones.
The Well, Fire, and Tree are the gateways and sacred points in sacred space that act as gateways to the realms. The Well is our gateway to the underworld or Ancestors. The tree is the gateway between the worlds that lives in our world of Midgard. The Fire is the gateway to the Upperworld and Celestial realm where the Gods reside.
So we have three sets of three, all of which speak to me on a very spiritual level. It is because of this that a lot of my invocations also include sets of threes to relate and pattern with the sacred trine. Some samples of liturgy I have written that supports this:
Sacred Spirits of Nature,
Those of fur, feather, and skin
Those who walk the lands, those who swim the seas, those who soar the sky
Those nature spirits of this world, the other world, and those that walk between worlds
We honor your rightful place, and we walk in balance with you as partners
Nature Spirits, we honor you
In this particular invocation, there are 3 sets of 3, which caters to my anal nature.
(Word Count: 373)
Describe the physical items that exemplify the sacred center in ADF ritual, and how each constituent part reflects the vision of an ordered cosmos. (300 words min.)
The physical items that represent the sacred center are the well, the tree, and the fire. These three physical objects are representations of gateways to their respective realms of the Underworld, Middleworld, and Upperworld. In truth, they can also represent the land, sea, and sky in their own relative aspects, creating a woven interlink of world representation in various forms.
For example, the Well is where offerings of coin and silver are thrown to act as gifts to our Ancestors. The well roots run deep into the earth, into the underworld, where the waters of our Ancestors remain and flow within us. The Well also represents the sea, or waters of the earth. Ancient waters where the Ancient Ancestors of the land, our blood, and our mind dwell.
The Tree represents this world and all the creatures, including us that dwell here. It is the vertical link between the Underworld and the Upperworld, residing in the Middleworld. It is the land, it is the axle (I say axle as a pinnacle frame of the cosmos) that holds everything together and links everything for us to have access to and grow within us.
The Fire represents the Upperworld, the gateway that carries burnt offerings upwards to the heavens and to the Gods so that the fire may grow within us. It represents the sky, and is one of the main focal points in our ritual.
All three of these gateways are what make up the sacred center of our rituals. Combined the are like Captain Planet, they make up the proper order in which our worlds come together and our to network in which we want to connect to our Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Shining Ones. The tree interlinks all the realms (and in the Norse, there are 9) to act as a network for delivery of our intent.
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Describe the relationship between earth and sky in ADF ritual. (125 words min.)
The earth and sky can be represented in ADF lore through the Two Powers meditation, or within our cosmological structure. The earth is the land, sea and sky of the Middleworld in which we reside. The sky above is the heavens in which we pray to the Gods and our messengers are sent upwards through the fire to carry those messages upwards into the sky. I have seen members in ADF pray to an Earth Mother and Sky Father, and my own native bloodline acknowledges such an existence, but I do not pray to it in my Heathen hearth culture. The sky is the gateway to the upperworld through the fire, and the earth is where the creatures of our world, and the world tree reside. The roots of the tree dip down into the underworld, the branches raise up towards the sky, thus linking the three worlds together. A fictional similarity would be like the standard of two snakes, facing each other, over a black sun and black moon. The snakes could represent the serpent of the World Tree, and the sun and moon could represent the heavens and earth, opposite each other.
(Word Count: 194)
Describe the generation of the cosmos, and what is done in ADF ritual to ensure that the cosmos remains in order. (300 words min.)
The creation or “generation” of the cosmos is where we recreate the creation of the world, and in doing so create a sacred space for ritual. The creation of the world is a symbolic act, such as recreating the death of Ymir in Norse lore.
To do this, we attune ourselves to the three realms to create that link within the three realms where they all “collide” in our ritual space. Those realms are the underworld, the middleworld, and the upperworld through access of the three gates of the well, the tree, and the fire in this realm of land, sea, and sky. By giving offerings to the three gates, and opening the gates between the worlds via the tree, we are creating that vertical access in the three realms to have our messages be sent to the three kindred. We acknowledge that this time and the place is now for sacred work. To the well of our Ancestors, we sometimes offer silver (my Grove often offers coffee or a good whiskey). To the tree we offer water and nourishment. To the fire of the Gods we offer incense and things that burn well to carry our messages to the heavens through the smoke. In the Norse culture, many hearth culture, this is represented by the nine realms rather than just the three, but they are linked with the world tree just the same.
The general process is that a gatekeeper is called to watch over the gates, and the gates are then opened, creating the connection between all the worlds and making our space sacred for ritual. By offering these gifts, and continuing to offer sacrifices through praise later on, we maintain the cosmos until we are ready to close the gates and thank the gatekeeper for their assistance.