‘Ritual Mechanics’ Posts

 

Ritual Mechanics Passes

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Dear Rev. Crystal Groves (Crystal Groves),

Congratulations! Your Ritual Mechanics submission passes.

Blessings,
Rev. Michael Dangler

 

Ritual Mechanics, Citations

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Serith, Ceisiwr. “Chapter 3: Preparing for Prayer.” A Book of Pagan Prayer. Boston, MA: Weiser, 2002. 29. Print.

“Unity Rite FAQ.” – ADF Neopagan Druidism. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.

 

Ritual Mechanics, #7

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Describe three different methods of Opening the Gates, as used by at least two different active ADF Priests. Explain the actions done, the reason for those actions, and any specific magical work the Priest does during the Gate Opening. Provide an original script with stage directions for the Gate Opening based on one of these methods.

Below is an example of a very involved process that Reverend Caryn MacLuan used for opening the gates during one of our Lughnasadh rites:

In the beginning there was the first sacrifice

Sacrifice to make all that was and is, holy

Holy is the land, sea and sky above

Above blows the wind on the sea

The Sea which moves the ocean waves

Waves cresting high cause the water’s flow

Flow now into this holy well

Well of the Ancestors, deep and sacred

Sacred waters flow and change within us

 

Within us burns the spark of inspiration

Inspiration from the minds of the Gods

Gods who dwell in the above world

World accessed through this holy fire

Fire that is the gateway for the sacred

Sacred fire burn and change within us

 

Within us stands the Tree of Life

Life with roots upheld by the ancestors

Ancestors who reached towards the heavens

The heavens whose light sustains our branches

Our branches which grow the fruit and flowers

Flowers which yield the hazelnuts of wisdom

Wisdom from above and below combining the sacred

Sacred Tree grow and change within us

 

Within us, without us, above us, below us we stand in the center

The center where all things end and begin again

Again we look beyond the gates to see her

See her walking from the clovered plains of Taillten

Taillten named for her, the plain she cleared

Cleared and later saw the nasadhs of Tailtue

Tailtue, foster-mother of Lugh, sovereign goddess

Goddess, inspiration for and patron of Cedarlight Grove

Grove of your sanctuary and your folk who welcome you

Welcome you, call to you, offer to you, and hail to you

Hail to you Tailtue and welcome home

 

Home where we return to our roots

Roots that run deep in all the worlds

Worlds accessible through the gates

Gates above and below, opened by Tailtue

Tailtue join your power with our magic

Magic shaped by the Old Ways

Ways between the worlds open now

Now Tailtue, let the gates be open!

 

Closing:

Open are the gates and ways between

Between the worlds we have walked

Walked with the Kindred and Sacred Earth

Earth who has called us to do Her magic

Magic to restore Her holy balance and clarity

Clarity to see through the deceit and lies

Lies that create anger and fear

Fear that distorts the return to balance

Return to balance now, return to center

Center where we began with Tailtue

Tailtue join your power with our magic

Magic shaped by the old ways

Ways between the worlds close again

Again Tailtue, may the gates be closed

 

Closed as the well becomes a well, closed

Closed as the fire becomes a fire, closed

Closed as the tree becomes a tree, closed

Closed, as we return to our place in the beginning

In the beginning, there was the first sacrifice

Reverend Sean Harbaugh gave an interesting interpretation to opening of the gates from his Grove.  They no longer do a specific gate opening, as they do this process when calling the triple hallows and involve Brigid as the general ward in ritual.  But from a liturgical standpoint for opening the gates, he gave me this:

“We process into ritual with a flame and a pitcher of water from outside ritual space.  These items are placed next to the well and altar, respectively.  When at the opening of the gates portion of ritual, we take the fire to the sacrificial fire and call upon Brigid to tend the fire and explain to the group as the fire is lit, a portal opens to the heavens.  We do the same with the water, explain the envisioning of the portal opening to the Underworld as the water is being poured.  We call upon Brigid to act as a ward for this portal.  We do not use the Tree as a gate, as it is already in the Middleworld.”

I actually find this a very fascinating and logical interpretation for Opening of the Gates.  I still like the physical involvement of three gates, however, as it amuses my sense of proper proportional “3’s”. A lot of the symbology I use was covered in a previous essay where I envision blue beams of light directionally flowing out of each “gate” into a logical direction pertaining to that gate (fire upwards, well below, etc).

While inviting a Gatekeeper in a typical invocational fashion, generally with the “Gatekeeper Song”:
“Gatekeeper Open the Portals, Between the Gods and Mortals, Power freely flows, as our magic grows”

While standing at the Well, I would raise a hand over the well and push downward: “Let the Well Open as a Gateway to the Underworld”.

While standing at the Fire, I would raise my hand over the fire and raise it upwards towards the sky: “Let the Fire Open as a Gateway to the Aboveworld”

While standing at the Tree and touching its base: “Let the Tree Open as a Gateway between the worlds, connecting the below and above in this world.”

“Gatekeeper, Let the Gates between the worlds be open!”

When closing, I do these things in reverse:

While standing at the Tree, touching its base: “Let the Tree grow as a Tree”

While standing at the Fire, hands raised and slowly moving downward: “Let the Fire burn as a Fire”

While standing at the Well, hands lowered and slowly raising: “Let the Well flow as a Well”

“Let all return as it once was as land, sea, and sky.  Let the Gates between the worlds be closed!”

 

Ritual Mechanics, #6

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Describe three different methods of Calling/Hallowing/Affirming the Waters, as used by at least two different active ADF Priests. Explain the actions done, the reason for those actions, and any specific magical work the Priest does during the Calling/Hallowing/Affirming of the Waters. Provide an original script with stage directions for the Calling/Hallowing/Affirming of the Waters based on one of these methods.

From my own experiences at Cedarlight with rituals led by Reverend Caryn MacLuan, her experience with Hallowing the Waters is what I am most familiar with:

Children of Earth, breathe deep and remember your roots, we have come here tonight to pray for (enter prayer here). We have gifted the gods and now we ask for their blessings. Let us ask them to speak to us. (Voice prayer in the form of a question)
Seer: Reads the omen and speaks it to the folk.
Children of Earth is it your wish that we receive this blessing?
All: It is!
Children of Earth will you heed this blessing?
All: We will!
Children of Earth do you accept this blessing?
All: We do!

(If the waters are in chalices, then the appropriate number of people need to come forward and hold them up. I have found that 1 set of chalices per every 20 people is a good match and does not draw this section out too long)
Sacred ones, holy ones, (names of deities of occasion), we have honored you, we have gifted you, and a gift calls for a gift!
Fill these chalices (or whatever container you are using) with your blessings! (Say something about the omen here and tie it into the blessing.)
(Names of Deities of Occasion!) Behold the Waters of Life!
All: Behold the Waters of Life
(The Cupbearers proceed around the circle clockwise and as they offer the cup to each person they say, “the waters of life” and the person replies, “the waters of life.”
(I definitely like a song or drumming/rattles during the passing of the waters)

From Reverend Sean Harbaugh, his take on Hallowing the Waters is as follows:

“Right before the Hallowing of the Waters, I fill two chalices.  One with 50% whiskey and 50% water, and the other with straight soda water (non-alcoholic).  I raise these above my head and explain to the folk, as I call upon the waters, to envision the offerings given and the blessing flowing back into the cups.  I then say “Ancestors Hallow the Waters, Nature Spirits Hallow the Waters, Shining Ones Hallow the Waters”.  I present the chalices and say “Behold the Waters of Life!”

My own methods are a little more simplified, but still include some similar elements.  We generally do two chalices, one with water and one with mead or alcohol for our Waters of Life.  Once our prayers have been accepted, I start the process.  I generally like to reiterate certain parts in ritual for those unfamiliar with ADF and the COoR, so sometimes I briefly explain what is happening:

We have given praise and bestowed offerings before the Gods. Gifts from us to the earth, to the Gods, and now from the Gods, to the earth, to us. Let us receive their blessings in these waters so we may go forth in strength and love.  Behold the Waters of Life!

While this is being said, I hold both chalices high towards the heavens.  When finished, we start the process of offering chalices around the ritual circle.  Often times we will involve other ritual participants and direct them to hold up the chalices and pass them around in the same fashion.  Usually the liturgist will drink last.

I always find it important to involve attendees whenever possible so they feel they are contributing their energy in ritual.  This is a good part in ritual to do this as they do not have a speaking part if they might be shy 🙂  I do like Caryn’s Call and Response involvement though, so I may tweak mine a bit to ask if the audience accepts the blessings.

 

Ritual Mechanics, #5

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Describe three different methods of (Re)creating Sacred Space, as used by at least two different active ADF Priests. Explain the actions done, the reason for those actions, and any specific magical work the Priest does during the (Re)creating of Sacred Space portion of the ritual. Provide an original script with stage directions for (Re)creating of Sacred Space based on one of these methods.

I have to admit, creating sacred space has always been the single most difficult part of ritual for me, not because I think the act is as difficult as I perceive it, but the layout of this part of the COoR is cloudy to me.  Some people combine this with opening the gates in so many different ways, I have not yet found a method that is familiar and comfortable to me.  The core seems to be the same, in that you are invoking the well, the fire, and the tree and creating a sacred cosmos, or axis, or whatever you want to call it, and then opening the gates between the worlds after inviting the Gatekeeper.

I suppose the order that makes the most sense is to create the sacred center, then invite the gatekeeper, then open the gates.  But how should I envision creating the sacred center?  This is the toughy for me.

So I’m looking at what other Priests have done. Fortunately I am blessed with having a fellow Priest in my Grove who has likely more experience under her belt than any other Clergy in ADF.  Reverend Caryn MacLuan:

Fire: A small fire is lit in the cauldron, a candle if necessary.
I kindle the sacred fire in wisdom, love, and power.
Sacred fire burn within us.

Well: Silver is offered to the well and its waters are poured.
In the depths flow the waters of wisdom.
Sacred water, flow within us.

Tree: An Incense stick (lit from sacred fire) censes the tree, asperging too.
From the depths to the heights spans the world tree.
Sacred tree, grow within us.

The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree, flame and flow and grow in me.
In land, sea and sky,
All: Below and on high.
Thus is the sacred grove claimed and hallowed.
All: Biodh Se!
By the cleansing of water, and fire, let all ill turn away from me and mine.
All: Biodh Se!

That’s a little different than what I’ve seen performed at the Grove, but the jist is the same.  In a way, creating the cosmos is another form of purification.  You’re cleansing and preparing the space to become sacred for ritual work.  Much like we do in the beginning by cleansing and purifying our minds and bodies.

One that I know we use a lot in our Grove, is through the use of the Portal Song by Ian Corrigan:

Chorus:
By Fire and by Water, between the Earth and Sky,
We stand like the World Tree, rooted deep, crowned high.
By Fire and by Water, between the Earth and Sky,
We stand like the World Tree, rooted deep, crowned high!

Verse:
Come we now to the Well, the eye and the mouth of Earth.
Come we now to the Well, and silver we bring.
Come we now to the Well, the waters of rebirth.
Come we now to the Well, together we sing.

Repeat Chorus

We will kindle a Fire, bless all and with harm to none.
We will kindle a Fire, and offerings pour.
We will kindle a Fire, a light ‘neath the Moon and Sun.
We will kindle a Fire, our spirits will soar!

Repeat Chorus

Gather we at the Tree, the root and the crown of all.
Gather we at the Tree, below and above.
Gather we at the Tree, together we make our call.
Gather we at the Tree, in wisdom and love.

Repeat Chorus

What I like about using a song to create the cosmos, is (as mentioned in previous courses) my affiliation with music and rhythm helping me to maintain focus in ritual work.  Having drumming and singing allows everyone to stay “on beat” as it were during the process.

During this particular song, we’d have either one volunteer creating the sacred space as it was being sung, or in order to promote more ritual experience for upcoming liturgists, we’d have three individuals assigned to a “gate” to open that particular gate and create the sacred space.  This is typically done by pouring water or silver down the well during that verse, pouring water or touching the tree during that verse, and adding wood, incense, or alcohol to the fire during that verse, respectively.

I personally like it when multiple people are involved, it enhances community contribution to the space and ritual as a whole.

I also sat with Reverend Sean Harbaugh briefly to get an insight on how they do things on the WEST SIDE:

“We cense and asperge the space for our participants at the beginning of ritual, which is when we create our sacred space.  With palms out and arms upwards we chant “By the might of the Water, and the light of the Fire, this space is made whole and holy, three times.”

As for my own liturgy, outside of song (because I do like song, and may create my own Sacred Space song at one point), I’ve come up with the following that I’d like to work with and familiarize myself more with this portion of ritual:

While kneeling by the well, hands touching the stone while pouring water into the well or placing my hands within the water: Let the Well Waters of the Underworld and our Ancestors flow within us to sanctify this sacred space.

While standing with the tree, touching its long branches or pouring water at its roots: Let the Tree of Life in this world and those Spirits in Nature that walk in balance with us, grow within us to sanctify this sacred space.

While standing by the fire either arms raised high towards the heavens with incense lit, or pouring offerings into the fire: Let the flames of this Fire reach the Upperworld, the smoke delivering our prayer to the Gods, and let it burn within us to sanctify this sacred space.

I like to involve action that symbolizes the direction of that particular portal, as visual aids and symbology have always helped me better understand ritual practice.  I also visualize lots of light blue beams of light for some reason going into the directions that these sacred centers and gateways are supposed to go 🙂  I feel like I should say a prayer to Captain Planet here, or something.

And then invoke the Gatekeeper, depending on who is being called at the time (so it would vary) and opening of the Gates:

Let the Fire, the Well, and the Tree come together, connecting the realms in this sacred space.  Let the gates be open!

 

Ritual Mechanics, #8

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Explain the purpose and function of the Pouring of Waters for an ADF Unity Rite. Provide a script with stage directions for this portion of the Unity Rite. (min. 150 words for explanation)

I had the pleasure of experiencing my first (and only) ADF Unity Rite in April of 2010 during my Ordination as a Priest.  As part of my Ordination, I also got to pour the waters as the names  of the ADF Groves and ProtoGroves were spoken aloud in ritual.   This was very symbolic for me, because I was joining the ranks of Priest while also participating in a ritual meant to bring unity within ADF.  It was like I was becoming part of the family, officially.

That is essentially the function of the ADF Unity Rite, to create a oneness among all groups and individuals within ADF and foster new growth and development in our community (Unity Rite FAQ).  As the waters are poured over the ground, the names of al the ADF Groves are read to symbolize them being present in spirit, even if they are not present in body.  In order to grow we must have a solid foundation of community, and I firmly believe the ADF Unity Rite helps balance that.

A Sample ADF Unity Script of the 1st Unity Rite, by Skip Ellison:
“Our organization grows stronger every day. We are here today,
doing this work, to allow all members to grow closer and to make our
organization stronger. Nature Spirits, Ancestors, Shinning Ones, these
offerings are for you. We ask that you help make ADF grow strong, grow
together and prosper. So be it!”

For my own Unity Rite Script, I would probably go in the direction of something like this:

I would follow the COoR through the steps, and reach the main sacrifice or final praise offering portion, and while pouring the waters between the gates, speak the following:

As these waters are poured, let each drop represent a seed.  Each seed representing a Grove within ADF.  Let the water fall to the ground and absorb into the soil so that it might nourish itself and all it comes into contact with.  Let it encourage growth and strong roots, and may the warmth of our community help it break through the surface and reach for the heavens for all to see.  Its roots remaining forever deep in the foundation, its branches expanding outwards in a neverending reach as it continues to expand with each new leaf.  Let these waters be as our people and our Groves, a strongly rooted foundation that we nurture together with each name read here today.

And then continue with the names of all the Groves in ADF.

(Word Count for Description: 171)

 

Ritual Mechanics, #4

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Explain how two different active ADF Priests light a ritual fire. Describe the actions done, any prayers or magical work done. Explain how you light a ritual fire, including actions, prayers, and magical work you may do.

Not many of our fires at CedarLight are lit in a ritualistic fashion.  The firewarden, who is the tender of the ritual space, lights the fires prior to ritual, and that in itself is a fairly sacred act, but there are not any certain gestures or words spoken in general (if they are, it’s likely silent).  That said, however, at Imbolc our fires are lit from a Brigid’s Fire provided by Reverend Caryn MacLuan, and that is always done in a sacred manner.  It usually consists of a prayer to Brigid (this changes each ritual), and a description of where the fire comes from.  Guests are always given their own small taper to light with Brigids fire so they can then take it home to light their own hearth fires with it, thus continuing the flame of Brigids fire.

As far as a second Priests method for lighting sacred fire, I did attend a workshop by Reverend Michael Dangler at this years Trillium Gathering that was specifically about ritual fire building and tending.  I don’t recall any special words he may have said in prayer over the fire, but he did go over the basics of starting, feeding, and extinguishing fires.  He also expanded upon the ritual use of fire and what is appropriate for the flow of ritual.  We also got to create our own teepee laid out flame from very basic materials, were shown different methods through flint and steel by Reverend Carrion, and the bow method with Reverend Fox.

As important as fire is within ritual, and as much as some Groves tout about sacred flames, I’m actually surprised I have not seen more sacredness involved in the starting, feeding, and extinguishing of sacred fires.  I think I shall have to remedy this in my own practice, and share it within Oak Leaves.

(Word Count: 306)

 

Ritual Mechanics, #3

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Describe your meditation practice as it stands today. Include its regularity, any positions you may use or prayers you may say, and the method(s) you typically use. (min. 200 words)

Meditation for me is always difficult.  My mind is the type to run 1000 miles a minute, so getting it to calm without distraction with the 10,000 things to do in the back of my mind is near impossible.  However, I have found a compromise through rhythmic sound, mainly drumming.  I have a natural ability to jump into rhythms or create new rhythms and trace into that particular rhythm non-stop for however long is needed.

During my first journey to the mound, Caryn MacLuan made the suggestion that Ian drum during the journey so I could better adapt into a trance-like state, and it worked perfectly.

I am a very musical person, especially in my spiritual life, so rhythmic trance was a natural process for me, and has served me very well since.

To start, if I am alone I like to listen to a rhythmic drumming CD alone in the dark with a flame in front of me.  This allows my eyes to focus on the flame, and my mind and body to focus on the rhythm.  I can start to feel and even predict the beats so I become familiar with the repetitive nature of sound.

In a group setting, I try to set a basic rhythmic beat for others to follow.  As the energy is raised and people are used to the core “father beat”, I can then add my own flourishes and lead the direction of the energy where I want.  It allows me to really absorb into the rhythm and the different partitions of beats that can shoot off of one simple rhythm.

(Word Count: 268)

 

Ritual Mechanics, #2

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Explain how you position your body and hands when inviting the Kindreds and making Key Offerings, what that position means, and why it is important to have a position that is (or several positions that are) consistent between rituals. (min. 100 words for description and meaning, min 150 for importance)

I don’t always posture as I should, but I have been working on improving that.  In general, if I am receiving a blessing, I am standing with my elbows to my side, my arms stretched forward with palms facing upward in a “receiving” position.  This posture is also used if I am “giving” praise as well, although I prefer to have my arms raised above my head in a “v”-like fashion while giving praise instead.

Why is this important?
To me these two positions are indicative of whether I am receiving or giving with beings in the above world.  It’s a symbolic direction of where energy should be flowing, which helps not only the unseen beings to understand what is happening, but ritual attendees as well.

When acknowledging the Earth Mother, however, many in our Grove either bend or kneel to touch the ground.  We do not kiss the ground, as others do, but we do touch in a loving manner during our prayer to the Earth.

Why is this important?
I feel as though actually touching the earth, feeling the soil and grass on my fingertips, shows a mutual respect and adoration with the Earth Mother.  She is not just something to travel on with our feet, she is something that we hold a very sacred relationship with, and holding hands, or touching of hands is a very intimate gesture in our world.

Another gesture I’ve seen common, though I do not use as often myself, is similar to the receiving of offerings position above, where you stands with elbows to your side, arms in front with palms facing upwards, but this time the palms are facing downward.  I have always taken this as a symbolic grounding posture, where you are pushing energy into the ground or outwards with a purpose.

Why is this important?
Giving of energy, directing energy, especially in the middle world, is a very intense act of prayer.  Since we are all living in this plane, it makes sense (to me) to keep this energy downwards rather than up towards the sky.  Push it amongst our existence here and towards its intended target (such as the gates).  Allow it to travel the surface of the earth, through the people in ritual, so that all of our energies can combine for the greater purpose.

An alternative of this same position is to have your elbows to your side, but folded so your arms are upwards but your palms are facing forward in front of you.  I’ve always seen this as a position that pushes energy into the immediate environment, perhaps the community you are in worship with.  But it can also be used to send energy elsewhere that is needed.

In general, posturing is important because it adds a semblance of recognition for participants.  It also gives a visual aid to the giving, receiving, and acknowledgement of energy rather than just everyone standing there doing nothing and expecting people to understand the flow of energy.  The dramatics of ritual help raise the energy, keep people in sync, and really allow them to get something out of the rite.

(Word Count: 254 for description, 268 for importances)

 

Ritual Mechanics, #1

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Explain why purification is important prior to ritual, and what you do to purify yourself before you lead a rite. Include any prayers said, items used, and any stage directions needed to help your reviewer understand what is happening. (min. 150 words, not including prayers, items, and directions)

At CedarLight Grove, ADF, our method of purification largely depends on the hearth culture being represented for that particular rite. Occasionally it also depends on time and the amount of people attending, in which case we’ll attempt something much more fluid and simple.

For example, during our greek rites, we often use a bowl of water to purify participants.  This is placed on a small table next to the entrance-way of our sacred space (but outside of it).  As participants walk by this table, they are instructed during pre-ritual briefing, to wash their hands in the water for purification.

Alternatively, if we have a rather large gathering, we will place incense on either sides of the pathway (or wooden bridge, as we have installed in our permanent nemeton), and the smoke would purify the attendees as they passed through it.  This would save time and have less “stop and go” at the beginning of the rite.

I officiated my first wedding last month, and used a similar purification method of combining the two.  A shell of incense to waft the smoke over the couple, and a bowl of water to aspurge the couple during the ceremony.  Smoke and incense are the two most popular forms of purification that I do in my personal practice, and that we do at the Grove.  Sometimes the water is scented with oils or herbs, but it is still water.

The purpose of purification is essentially the removal or “washing away” of distractions, negative thoughts, and allowing your mind and body to focus on the task at hand.  The goal is to be pure in intent and focus while speaking with the Gods (Serith). While not practical at my Grove, I do enjoy a good ritual bath before personal rites as well, as it is a more physical act of washing away or purifying, and relaxes my mind more than other methods so I might focus on my work.

(Word Count: 323)