Choose one other Indo-European culture and compare and contrast it to the culture discussed in question 3 above with respect to each culture’s Indo-European nature.
In many ways, the story of the Celts and Romans demonstrates how interactions with other peoples, and the subsequent diffusion of beliefs and cultural practices, are more important to the evolution of a culture than is a common heritage.
Some 4,000 years ago, a group of migrants arrived in central Europe. They, perhaps, spoke a language that historical linguists would call Proto-Italo-Celtic. A few centuries later some of these migrants continued migrating, moving south into what we now call the Italian peninsula, leaving their cousins behind to become the Celts. By the time they returned as conquerors the Italics, led by Rome, had become very estranged cousins indeed.
Looking at the differences between the La Tène Celts and the Roman Republic it seems clear that the Celts, entrenched in their deep forests, were the more conservative, retaining many traits of earlier Indo-European society while the Romans, by moving south, had become part of the great crucible of knowledge sharing that was the Mediterranean with its adjacent trade routes out through the Middle East, India, and onward to China.
For instance, the Celts retained their chieftain-ruled tribal nature which they shared with the Germanic peoples among others, while the Romans, inspired by the Greeks, deposed of their monarchs and adopted a democratic system of government which served as a central governance body as the state grew. The Celts also seem to have retained a simple tripartite societal structure while Roman society became far more complex with different classes based more on wealth than on function.
As far as religious life went, our knowledge of La Tène Celtic beliefs is sketchy indeed with most archaeological evidence only dating back to after the Roman conquest. With the Latins, however, it is clear that they quickly re-aligned themselves towards the east, subsuming many of their own divinities into Greek mythology and adopting eastern, non-Indo-European cults via the Greeks such as that of Bacchus and, later, Isis, to name just two.
The Latins and Celts shared a much closer common heritage than did the Latins and the Greeks. However in the end, the closer contact between the latter two over the last few centuries before the common era meant that when the Romans came conquering, they were by far more like the Greeks in religion, government, and social structure than they were to the Celts.
Describe how ADF liturgy corresponds with your personal or group practice.
At Daoine dhen Tamais Protogrove we tend to follow the Core Order of Ritual pretty closely. We have developed a “Standard Liturgy” (http://goo.gl/KcCTS) based primarily on the ADF full liturgy with a few changes here and there and meant to be adaptable to any particular High Day or other ritual. Although our group has been active for nearly two years now, many of the members as yet do not have a firm understanding of the various elements of the COoR, and so having a standard liturgy with repetition of many of the steps from one rite to the next helps members to follow along. I am hoping that as the group matures in its understanding of the liturgy that we can experiment with different approaches to the various elements and make it more truly our own.
Describe possible cultural variances for elements discussed in questions 3 through 14 above.
The Core Order of Ritual was designed to be adaptable by the various ADF hearth cultures. We have already seen how, for instance, the Germanic kin typically view the cosmos as ninefold rather than threefold, and that the Greek kin often use a rock rather than a tree as the axis mundi. The possibilities are really quite endless, but can include such elements as; omitting either the tree or well from the sacred centre if they do not have a cultural significance, the types of divination used (e.g., Norse runes vs Celtic ogham vs Roman augury), and differences in the number and form of Kindred invoked.
I often quip that North American Druidry is the lovechild of Heinlein and Tolkien. The Waters of Life in particular has always struck me as an attempt to create a Pagan version of the ‘Water Ritual’ from Stranger in a Strange Land, and as a result it has required some time to get the point where I can take it seriously on its own merits. Make no mistake, I think it is a powerful part of ADF ritual but I wish that I could find a way to make it feel, at least to me, more “authentic” and less sci-fi/fantasy.
Discuss your understanding of the Blessing Cup, or “Return Flow”.
The “return flow” refers to the conferring upon the participants of the blessings which were promised by the Kindred during the omen taking. While one assumes that such blessings can be bestowed directly upon the individuals by the Gods (or other spirits) if they so choose, the use of a Blessing Cup filled with the blessed Waters of Life seems to be a much more spiritually fulfilling experience. When drinking from (or being asperged by) the cup, participants have the opportunity to take a long moment to meditate upon the blessings, to consume the blessings, to physically feel the blessings upon them the more to appreciate them.
Discuss your understanding of the Omen.
Divination has been a central part of Pagan religious practice since the dawn of time. It is therefore fitting that a reading of the omens was a central aspect of RDNA ritual and was carried forward into Our Druidry. Central to an understanding of the Omen is a belief that worship is two way; we honour the Kindred and in return we expect something back. The taking of the Omen is the means by which we determine whether the Gods have deemed our offerings to be acceptable to them and what they are willing to provide to us in return. Additionally, the omen taking may be used to learn other details that the Gods would have us know beyond just what blessings they might bestow upon us.