Liturgy 1: Fire, Well, & Tree

Discuss the origins of the Fire, Well and Tree, and the significance of each in ADF liturgy.


The Fire has long been considered a central aspect of the religions of Indo-European speaking peoples.  The ‘eternal’ fires of Hestia, Vesta, and Brigid and the Vedic deification of fire as Agni all speak to this deep spiritual connection to the element.  As such, fire has been a part of ADF ritual since the beginning, originating from RDNA practice.  A common refrain heard during rite is “Let us pray with a good fire”.  As noted above, the fire is the gateway to the upperworld which allows the Gods and Goddesses to hear our voices, but it is also a focal point for our sacrifice, allowing us to give gifts to the Kindred like the burning of “white bones to the deathless gods upon fragrant altars” described by Hesiod.

Wells are also quite well attested amongst Indo-European religions, enjoying particular affection from the Celts; the sacred well of Nechtan with its hazelnut trees and salmon being perhaps the most famous.  The introduction of the well into ADF liturgy seems to have been part of the 1991 changes, referred to at the time as the “Pouring of the Sacred Waters”. As noted above, the well is the gateway to the underworld and allows the Ancestors to hear our voices.   Most representations of the well take the form of a cauldron, however a shaft dug into the Earth is also an acceptable form which has the added usefulness of serving as a vessel for sacrifice.

The Tree as we know it also originated with the 1991 changes, being introduced as the ‘Sacred Pole’; one assumes that Bonewits thought it unlikely that a real, living tree could was a likely option.  Of course, the idea of a tree was present as far back as the original ADF liturgy which included the “Tree Meditation”, but in 1991 the tree (or its pole impersonator) was included as a representation of the ‘Cosmic Tree’.  The significance of this has already been discussed in relation to the concept the Centre and won’t be repeated here.  However, one vital aspect of the Sacred Tree seems to be under-emphasized in ADF documentation which is that, at least according to the classical authors, the ancient Druids worshipped within forest groves — so what is a Druid ritual without the presence of at least one tree?

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