Liturgy 1: Grove

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” ( 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.

Liturgy 1: Cultural Deviations

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.

Liturgy 1: The Blessing Cup

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.

Liturgy I: Omen

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.

Liturgy 1: Sacrifice

Note:  Considering the importance of this subject, I was rather surprised that ADF only wanted 100 words for this essay.  Mine clocks in at 183 and could have been much longer.  One thing that really got me thinking during this essay was the idea of sacrifice = entering the sacred.  I’ve always felt that ritual is a journey from the mundane to the sacred; if true, this means that ritual is essentially the act of sacrificing oneself.  I’m sure that I’m not the first person to consider this concept, but it really made me go hmmmm.

Discuss your understanding of Sacrifice, and its place in ADF liturgy.

My understanding of sacrifice is primarily based on two concepts.  The first concept is that the terms sacred and sacrifice are inseparable; the sacred is something that is removed from the mundane world, and to sacrifice something is to move it from the mundane to the sacred.  The object thus sacrificed may not be physically destroyed or removed, but it no longer has a place in the mundane world; a sacrificed tool may no longer be employed as a tool, for instance.

The second concept is that of hospitality and reciprocity so common to many Indo-European speaking peoples; the notion so eloquently captured in the Latin do ut des – ‘I give that you may give’.  In other words, through the act of sacrifice we may give to the Gods in the expectations that our offerings will be returned in kind.

Sacrifice is a central element of ADF liturgy; the Core Order of Ritual provides many opportunities for making offerings and culminates in a “key offering” and “prayer of sacrifice”, after which we anticipate the Kindred to return our sacrifice with their blessings.

Liturgy 1: Key Offerings

Discuss how one would choose the focus (or focuses) for the Key Offerings.

The Key Offerings phase is in many ways the heart of ADF ritual; it is what brings purpose to the High Day (or other occasion).  It is also often the biggest challenge for the liturgist, for in many cases the choices for a High Day focus are not straightforward.  For Celtic hearth cultures, honouring Brigid at Imbolc and Lugh at Lughnasadh are simple enough, but beyond these the choices are not so easy.

Fortunately, there are few “wrong” choices which opens up a world of possibilities.  The key is to find some aspect of the High Day which you are interested in exploring and working from there.  If you are planning to include a Working within the ritual you will want to ensure that the Deities of the Occasion chosen are compatible with your purpose.  

Liturgy 1: “Filling Out the Cosmic Picture”

Describe other possible models for the “Filling Out the Cosmic Picture” sections.

The “Kindred Invocations” or “Triad Invocations” which are the familiar offerings and invitations to the Ancestors, Spirits of the Land, and Gods & Goddesses have been a part of ADF ritual since the beginning. However, in the 1991 changes to the Core Order of Ritual, this step was broadened to “Filling Out the Cosmic Picture”, a change meant to permit for more flexibility while still meeting the need to attract needed spirits or energy to the ritual. The general idea seems to have been that if your particular understanding of the ethnic focus of your ritual requires it, you may deviate from the standard set of Kindred and their respective associations with the Worlds, the most commonly cited deviation being the Norse kin and their belief in “Nine Worlds” rather than three.

Liturgy I : The Three Kindred

Describe the intention and function of the Three Kindreds invocations, and give a short description of each of the Kindreds.

In general terms, we invoke the Three Kindred primarily to obtain their favours as discussed individually below, and secondarily to form deeper relations with them and to honour them in their own right.

The Ancestors are the spirits of the dead, which include the direct ancestors of the ritual participants as well as the ancestors of our communities, hearts, and spirits.  Often we also invoke the spirits of the dead who lived upon the land on which we perform our rituals since, at least here in North America, these may not be the same as our Ancestors per se.  In invoking the Ancestors, we typically ask them for their guidance and their wisdom, which is considered to be our birthright.  Additionally, we assume that our Ancestors once worshipped the same Gods and Goddesses that we do, and so we invite them to attend to our worship.

The Spirits of the Land take many forms.  They are most often honoured as the Old World nature spirits known to our Indo-European speaking ancestors; the Sidhe and the Nymphs, Satyrs and Fairies.  Here in North America we often also honour the New World nature spirits; the stag and coyote, raven and salmon.  These are old spirits, and strong.  By invoking them we primarily ask them to be our allies and to lend us their strength and magic.  We also reaffirm our relationship with them and offer sacrifice to them in exchange for their blessings to conduct our rites upon their Land.

Finally we invoke the Shining Gods and Goddesses.  Here we try to invoke all of the deities… and I do mean all.  Often we call to the personal Patrons and/or Matrons of the ritual participants, in aggregate, as well as to the Gods and Goddesses of our Ancestors, and to those who were worshipped by the people who lived on the land upon which we perform our rituals.  Through our invocations we ask primarily for their blessings, but we also invite them join us in honouring the Deities of the Occasion.  A tertiary reason for invoking a plethora of Gods and Goddesses is to allow us to call upon specific functional deities to assist with our Workings, if any, during ritual.

Liturgy 1: Outdwellers

Discuss the Outdwellers and their significance in ritual (or not, as the case may be).

The “Acknowledgement of the Outsiders” appears in the 1991 changes to the ADF Liturgy, without a significant description of the step.  Newberg provides further background, suggesting that the step is an optional one meant to acknowledge those spirits which are typically at odds with our Gods and Goddesses, such as the Norse Giants, the Greek Titans, or the Celtic Fir Bolg.  However, the Outdwellers need not be limited to a particular race; any spirit be they a displeased Ancestor or a malevolent Fae which would seek to disrupt or harm the ritual can be considered an Outdweller.

Some Grove traditions send their warriors to drive the Outdwellers away, or offer gifts to divine guardians to keep them at bay.  More typically, however, we do not usually seek to put up wards against the Outdwellers but rather either ignore them appease them with offerings to leave our rites in peace.  

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?