Cosmology 1

1.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 idea behind cosmology is the generation of order out of chaos.  In ADF ritual we are taking actions to maintain the order in the chaos.  The word for this in the Vedic culture is rta.  In our rituals, we are seeking to do things properly by the rta. When we choose to do things by the rta, we are choosing to take the right actions in the cosmos. We are looking for some way to conform to the order of the cosmos, and one of the ways we do this is by offering sacrifice. Sacrifice is a vital part of our cosmology, and participation in the process of offering sacrifice is clearly something that aligns us with the Kindreds (Dangler “Nine Central Tenets”).

In IE mythology, the cosmos came to be out of chaos. From the chaos of potential came the Land, Sea, and Sky, forming the basis of the world.  The generation of the cosmos in most IE cultures comes out of sacrifice.  In both the Norse and the Vedic mythology we see the destruction of a being bringing about the world as we know it.  The sea, the sky, and the land were created out of the death, the sacrifice, of a great being (Serith Deep Ancestors 22-24).  These pieces of the cosmos are all tied together by the Sacred Center, which is established through the sacrifice of those beings.  If we think of it in such a way that the Chaos feeds and nourishes the Sacred Center, which in turn holds the Cosmos together and keeps it fresh, vibrant, and strong (Serith Deep Ancestors 30).

The Norse myths describe the creation of the world as it came into being guided by three brothers: Odin, Vili, and Ve.  In the North was icy Nilfhiem, and in the south was fiery Muspell.  In the middle was Ginnungagap, a mild place where Ymir, a frost giant, lived and sweated out the race of frost giants.  This myth goes on to explain how Ymir was killed by the three brothers, Odin, Vili, and Ve as they grew tired of his and the other frost giants evilness. The Norse world was made out of Ymir’s body. His flesh became the earth, his bones the mountains, his blood the lakes and seas, and his skull the sky, held up by four dwarves.  The brothers took the embers from fiery Muspell and threw them up into the sky making the sun, and moon, and stars (Crossley-Holland 3-7).

If we look at the idea of death being a type of chaos, and life being a type of order, then out of chaos came order.  Out of death came life.  It is through the act of sacrifice that the seeds of the cosmos were able to spring forth out of chaos and the waters of potential.  “And just as the first sacrifice was the means by which the world was ordered, so our own sacrifices ensure the continuation of the world… our sacrifice is a repetition of the cosmogony, and so by it, we ensure the continued newness of creation” (Serith Deep Ancestors 24)  In ADF ritual, we continually make sacrifices in order to maintain the order of the world.  When we create the Sacred Center, we are making the tools we use to do so sacred through the act of sacrifice.

 

2.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 Center of the World is what is created in order to bring the focus of the Kindreds to us, and to allow our focus to extend beyond the mundane world. T he idea is that as we create the Sacred Center, we are aligning the Center of our world to the Center of all worlds.     It is this alignment that allows us to communicate with the spirits in all the Realms.

The sacred center in ADF ritual is most often represented by the fire, well, and tree, reflecting the triadic Cosmos common in IE cultures. While Fire must be present, the Well and the Tree are sometimes represented in different ways.  For example, the Sacred Center in the Vedic hearth culture can be represented with three Fires.  The Tree in the Greek hearth culture is often replaced with either an omphalos or a mountain.

The Fire is a great power.  It brings light in the darkness.  It brings warmth in the cold.  It transforms our offerings into smoke that rises to the Heavens, carrying it to the Gods.  The Fire is what brings the shining light of the Ouranic powers down on to us, to bathe us in wisdom, light and warmth.  The Fire is prominent in many creation myths, as being something that the Gods had and the humans needed to make them “man.”  In Greek myth Prometheus convinced Zeus to not destroy the race of man in addition to giving them fire.  This fire was needed not only to help mankind survive, but also allowed them to burn offerings to the Gods.  In ADF we use it as a piece of our sacred center because of its prominence in ancient worship and because it is a transformer and through it was can send our offerings to the Kindreds and allow them suffuse us in their blessings.  Additionally, the Fire exists upon the Land, and as such belongs to all the Folk and all the Gods (Serith Deep Ancestors 28).

The Well contains the sacred waters and connects us to the dark cosmic and chthonic powers below.  The Well connects to the underworld and allows the wisdom of our Ancestors to flow up through the blood of the Earth to fill us, sustain us, and nourish us.  The idea concept of the Well being the connection to the Ancestors comes from the idea that in many myths the dead needs to cross water in order to move on.  For example, in Greek myth the river Akherosian must be crossed with the help of Charon in order to reach the Underworld where the Ancestors dwell.  The concept of the Well and the origin of it comes from the idea that in Norse mythology Yggdrasil was rooted deep within the Well and from the Well came the Ancestors, our own fate, and great power.  This is described in the Poetic Edda in the Grimnismol. In ADF we use it as a piece of our sacred center because it connects us to the Kindreds, and through archeological findings we know that metal was often offered to rivers and wells in ancient times. The Waters also represent the Chaos of Potential the rest below the axis mundi. These are the Waters out of which spring the Cosmos.

The Tree is the crossroads.  Its roots stretch deep into the Well and travel out through the world.  Its branches reach up into the Heavens, where the primal fire dwells, and cascade around us here in the Mid Realm.  The trunk is the center of the universe, connecting the fire and the water.  The tree is like a great line of communication that connects us to the Ancestors below, the Nature Spirits here, and the Shining Ones above.  It transverses the worlds and connects us to all beings.  In ADF we use the tree as a piece of our sacred center because it is what holds the other pieces together.  We use it as a crossroads to open the lines of communication and hold them open so that we may commune with the spirits (Demissy).

 

3.Explain the divisions of the cosmos in ADF ritual, and why the cosmos is divided in this way. (300 words min.)

In ADF ritual the cosmos can be divided into the land, the sea, and the sky; or the terrestrial, atmospheric, and celestial; or the underworld, middle world, and upper world.  The Land/Sea/Sky division fits extremely well within ADF cosmology specifically with Ceisiwr Serith’s prayer: “The waters support and surround us / The land extends about us / The sky stretches out above us” (Serith).  In Hellenic cultured it can be seen as the land, deified in Gaea, is defined best as a disk that is surrounded by the encompassing waters of Okeanos. Okeanos would be the sea, the deep-running river that holds the land together. The sky, deified by Ouranos, is the dome that covers the sea and the land.

However, it is the last division, of Under/Middle/Upper-World that is most commonly seen in ADF ritual.  This fits with most Indo-European mythology across the cultures, and so resonates well in ADF ritual.  This resonates well in our rituals because we commonly represent the Sacred Center by using the Fire, Well, and Tree.  The Fire acts as a gate to the Upperworld, carried our voices and offerings to the Heavens.  The Well acts as a gate to the Underworld, carrying our voices and offerings to the Beings below.  The Tree, the axis mundi, serves as a connecting gate between all the realms, acting as the path connecting the centers of the all the worlds together (Dangler “Nine Tenets”).

Another way this resonates well in ADF rituals is in how we call the Kindreds.  One method of calling the spirits is to call the Ancestors, then the Nature Spirits, and then the Shining Ones.  However, as methods that I find resonates better within the concept of an ordered cosmos, and the method we us in our Druid Moon rituals in Three Cranes Grove, is to first call the Chthonic Beings: all those Ancestors, Natures Spirits, and Shining Ones who dwell in the Underworld;  then call to the Beings of this Realm: all those Ancestors, Natures Spirits, and Shining Ones who dwell with us here on Earth; then call the Ouranic Beings:  all those Ancestors, Natures Spirits, and Shining Ones who dwell in the Upperworld, in the Heavens above.

 

4.Explain why the fire is an essential element of ADF ritual, and what relation it has to the sacrifice. (150 words min.)

Fire is imperative in ADF ritual because it is what transforms our offerings into sacrifices; it allows us to bring gifts to the Kindreds and both form and maintain the *ghosti relationship.  Sacrifice is literally “to make sacred,” from the Latin roots sacer (sacred) and facere (to make), so in ritual, when making a sacrifice, you are taking the thing that is being offered and making it sacred so it can be a gift to the Kindreds.  Another important point about sacrifice is that when making something, the object is then removed from human usage.  it is carried away from the mundane and into the sacred.  Through the Fire are our sacrifices carried to the Gods.  The Fire is what brings the shining light of the Ouranic powers down on to us, to bathe us in wisdom, light and warmth.

The fire is intimately connected to the sacrifice. In the Vedic culture, Agni  not only devours the sacrifice, but he calls the rest of the gods forth to accept the sacrifice and transfers it to them.  “Sacrifice puts us into proper relationship with the sacred and maintains us there,” thus allowing us to maintain the order of the Cosmos out of Chaos (Serith “Sacrifice”).  Additionally, in ancient IE cultures, fire was needed not only to help mankind survive, but also allowed them to burn offerings to the Gods.  Fire is an In ADF we use it as a piece of our sacred center because of its prominence in ancient worship and because it is a transformer and through it was can send our offerings to the Kindreds. “In many ways, the fire is the counterpart of the priest, a sort of example that our own priests must follow. By bringing the deities to the place of sacrifice, by transmitting the offering, and by knowing the ways of the sacrifice, the fire is the perfect priest” (Dangler “Nine Central Tenets”).

 

5.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 Gatekeeper in ADF ritual is in charge of either aiding the celebrants in opening the gates between the worlds, and/or in safely holding the gates open after they’ve been opened. They help the celebrant who is in charge of opening the gates by mixing their magic and power with the celebrant’s in order to align the worlds and realms.  It’s important to note that we have the power to communicate with the Kindreds and without the Gates being open; however, the lines of communication are clearer and more enhanced with the aid of a Gatekeeper.  The Gatekeeper on ADF ritual acts as guide, and also as liaison between the Folk and the Spirits. The Gatekeeper is a being who often takes the role of psychopomp, which is a being that can walk between the worlds, or exist in all the worlds; one who is liminal. They are also a being who is willing to work with us, or has shown an interest is working with us, even with the Gates closed, most often because they desire to build and maintain a relationship with us (Newburg).

One Gatekeeper who is invited to aid in the work is Hermes in Hellenic rituals.  Through studying the lore we know that Hermes was able to transverse the worlds as Zeus’s messenger between the Upper-, Middle-, and Underworlds.  Another Gatekeeper within the Hellenic hearth culture is Hekate. She kept the role she had as a Titan after the divine war, and is still “the key-holding mistress of Land, Sea, and Sky,” and “the Goddess of the Crossroads.” She stands at the boundaries and guides travelers on their way. Within the lore, she aided Demeter in searching all the realms for her daughter, and was able to safely enter in and leave al the realms, as well as guide others along with her.

Gatekeepers in other hearths include Heimdal, the God who controls and watches over the Rainbow Bridge, which connects all the realms, and Mannanan mac Lir, who is often called in Celtic ADF rituals to help us in the role of Gatekeeper for his ability to go beyond the ninth wave and for his skill in magic. In our grove we invite Garanos Crane to aid us in Opening the Gates.  He is an example of a being that exists in all the Worlds. He has one foot in the water, one foot on the land, and an eye cast to the Sky, where he soars beyond the ninth wave.

 

6.Describe the relationship between earth and sky in ADF ritual. (125 words min.)

“I am a child of Earth and starry Sky, but my race is heavenly.” (— From the Bacchic Gold Tablets)

ADF is a neo-pagan religion, and so we are focused on the earth.  This is one reason that the Earth Mother is honored early in our rites, so that we can recognize that relationship with the earth.  The Sky Father can also be honored at this point in the ritual.  This not only balances genders, but also honors a common IE archetype (Newburg).  While the Earth Mother is the land, the earth, and the local sovereignty, the Sky Father is the clear sky and the ancient head of the pantheon.  As the ancient Indo-Europeans moved from the east to the west and when they settled into a new territory, “the Sky Father wed the Goddess of that land or the Earth Mother deity and in the minds of the early Indo-Europeans the relationship between the Sky Father and localized Earth Mother was as simple as, the Sky Father fertilized the Earth Mother, which in turn gave birth to all living things” (Mann).  As we ground and center ourselves in the earth, we “look to the sacred and inseparable union between the Earth and Sky for our example, for one can not exist without the other” (Mann).  This is often reflected in ADF ritual when we do the Two Powers meditation, involving acting as a Tree and sending our roots down into the Earth, and our branches up into the Sky.

 

7.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.)

The five contexts of sacrifice are Maintaining the Cosmic Order, Delivering Services Through Gifts, Providing Protection, Commensality (Community), and Mitigating Order with Chaos.

1) Maintaining the Cosmic Order

In IE mythology, the cosmos came to be out of chaos. From the chaos of potential came the Land, Sea, and Sky, forming the basis of the world.  The generation of the cosmos in most IE cultures comes out of sacrifice, where a primordial being is killed and dismembered with his body parts forming the basis of the cosmos. The sea, the sky, and the land were created out of the death, the sacrifice, of this great being (Serith Deep Ancestors 22-24).  These pieces of the cosmos are all tied together by the Sacred Center, which is established through the sacrifice of those beings.  If we think of it in such a way that the Chaos feeds and nourishes the Sacred Center, which in turn holds the Cosmos together and keeps it fresh, vibrant, and strong (Serith Deep Ancestors 30). Sacrifice feeds the cosmos, and the cosmos feeds the need for sacrifice, and the cycle of life and death goes on.  When we sacrifice we are not only helping to sustain the cosmos, but we are also using that sacrifice to take the power of the universe into ourselves (Thomas).

2) Delivering Services Through Gifts

This is the idea of the *ghosti relationship, which is to say the guest-host relationship.  The host has an obligation to provide for their guests, and the guest has an obligation to be courteous and respectful to their host: literally “someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality” (Thomas).  In relation to our rituals there is also the idea that the nature of our relationship with the Kindreds is such that we can never give enough thanks for what they give us.  This means that we give what we can, when we can, and from our hearts.  Each gift we give, each sacrifice we make, is a part of ourselves.  It is the kind of close relationship where you don’t worry about who gave first, or keeping track to make sure you’re even.  A relationship of love in this way doesn’t require that things be even, only that each give as he can in a truly meaningful way.  There is also the concept of substitution, which is very useful in our rituals, which prohibit blood sacrifice.  This means that we can do things like substitute bread for flesh, or offer up other precious objects in place of a life (Thomas).

3) Providing Protection

One way of sacrificing something for protection is like making a treaty or a peace offering. This is what we often see in ADF ritual when speaking to the Outdwellers.  “Here, take this in good-faith, and leave us alone.”  These are offerings to prevent bad things from happening.  Another form of protection gained through offering is the piacular offering.  This was designed to cover the “if we messed anything up, or offend you, or forgot someone: here, take this, we’re sorry.”  There is also the concept of making offerings or sacrifices to remove pollution so that one was purified to enter a ritual space.  The idea of a scapegoat can also be used for purification.  It offers up someone or something who has been intimately tied to the community in question in order to absorb their pollution, and then removes them from the community in some way, the idea being that they take all that pollution with them.  The Hellenic Oath Sacrifice is a sacrifice that is made in order to bind an oath-maker to their promise (Thomas).

4) Commensality (Community)

The commensality part of the sacrificial process refers to the shared meal that happened in ancient culture following a sacrificial rite.  In these rites the skin, fat, and bones we offered up to the Gods, and the Folk were given the meat.  This was generally the only time that people in the community had meat available for food.  This shared meal also reflects the *ghosti relationship.  The humans sacrificed to the Gods, and both parries received a portion of the spoils, thus setting the stage for us to make requests and demands of the gods because we had welcomed them at our table to share our food (Thomas).

5) Mitigating Order with Chaos (the modern idea)

The Cosmos is created out of Chaos through the act of sacrifice.  While too much chaos will make order fall apart, so too will too much order break itself if it is not enlivened by chaos.  Chaos feeds and nourishes the Sacred Center, which in turn holds the Cosmos together and keeps it fresh, vibrant, and strong (Serith Deep Ancestors 30). We welcome this chaos in modern rituals most often during the Praise Offering section of a ritual.  This is the portion where the Folk come to bring their own offerings, and there is a spontaneity and vibrancy that sometimes reeks of chaos, but which brings life and joy to the order of the ritual (Thomas).

Sacrifice is what helps to bring the Cosmos into being.  Sacrifice is intrinsically tied to the generation of the cosmos, and imperative for it to remain in order.  It is through the act of sacrifice that the seeds of the cosmos were able to spring forth out of chaos and the waters of potential.  In this sense, the first type of sacrifice that Thomas discusses is the main way that sacrifice has an effect on the cosmos.  Looking at the effect that sacrifice has on the participants in a ritual, it draws from all the types of sacrifice that Thomas discusses.  In maintaining the cosmos order, we are looking for some way to do this, and one of the ways we do this is by offering sacrifice. Sacrifice is a vital part of our cosmology, and participation in the process of offering sacrifice is clearly something that aligns us with the Kindreds (Dangler “Nine Central Tenets”).  “And just as the first sacrifice was the means by which the world was ordered, so our own sacrifices ensure the continuation of the world… our sacrifice is a repetition of the cosmogony, and so by it, we ensure the continued newness of creation” (Serith Deep Ancestors 24)  In ADF ritual, we continually make sacrifices in order to maintain the order of the world.  We also make sacrifices in order to establish a relationship with the Kindreds.  It is through our acts of sacrifice that we are drawn closer to them, and they to us.  This is done both through the exchange of gifts and through the shared meal.  It is particularly visible during rites where a plate of food is made up for the Spirits.  We also make sacrifice in magical workings, particularly those which are designed to protect or purify us.  In short, sacrifice is the basis of our relationships with the Spirits and the Cosmos as a whole (Thomas).

 

8.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.)

Purification in ADF ritual takes place early in the rite, and must happen before the Gates have been opened.  Anyone who has purified themselves can purify others as they enter ritual space.  There are no strict rules in ADF about who or what must be purified.  Purification is designed to prepare all participants and celebrants in the ritual for the work of the ritual, honoring the Kindreds, and making sacrifice.  It is customary in ADF rituals to purify the Folk before they enter the ritual space.  This is often done with water and fire/smoke.  The folk are asked to wash their hands, or are aspersed with waters and/or incense is lit and the smoke is encouraged to mingle about the body.  This covers the three parts of purification that Newburg discusses: the folk are washed clean, thus removing ‘undesirables;’ they are then fumigated, thus adding ‘desirable’ to themselves before ritual; and the space is purified to mark it as sacred for the work ahead.  Purification with water and fire/smoke also acts as a sort of neuro-linguistic programming trigger, helping to signify to the Folk that they are about to enter a Sacred Space and the should prepare themselves for the work.  Purification is important because as we approach our work it is important to leave behind those things that don’t serve us in honoring the Kindreds in the best way we are able.  This can be physical acts of purification, but more commonly is preparing the mind, so that “we can approach ritual pure and focused” (Newburg).

 

  1. 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 come from the Three Kindreds, sometimes viewed as a whole set of blessings, sometimes individually, and sometimes from solely the Being of the Occasion.  All of these methods can be seen in rituals, and it is important to use the one that flows best with the particular liturgy you’re working with.  They take the form of the Waters of Life, which can take the form of any beverage, or can take the form of any method that the participants can view as something they can take into themselves (a token, the heat of a fire, sprinkled waters, a shared meal, etc).  “Waters of Life” has simply been the name that is most often used in ritual to refer to this Return Flow (Newburg).

The Return Flow is a very important part of the *ghosti relationship that we share with the Kindreds.  By sacrificing we have given of ourselves and that means that something must now be given in return.  We are entitled to the Blessings because of the relationship we’ve developed with the Kindreds.  As far as what is given in the Return Flow, what we are drinking from the Blessing Cup, is determined by the Omens.  One of the common ways of taking omens is by specifically asking what each Kindred blesses the folk with.  By asking these questions it is then determined what we are receiving in return from the Kindreds. For example, sometimes the Kindreds offer us wisdom, gifts, or advise us of new beginnings, and sometimes they caution us against difficulties to come.  These omens, of course, depend on the divination system used and the Seer in question.  In any case however, when the Folk drink of the Blessing Cup, they take the blessings and the energies of the Kindreds into themselves.  The Blessings from the Kindreds (as determined by the Omens) are put into the Blessing Cup during the Hallowing of the Waters.  This can be done in any number of methods of energy work, but “the Hallowing should effect a ritual change in the beverage. It should express a change from mundane to sacred” (Newburg).

 

Works Cited:

Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Norse Myths. New York: Pantheon, 1980. Print.

Dangler, Michael J. “Nine Central Tenets of Druidic Ritual.” Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <https://www.adf.org/articles/cosmology/nine-tenets.html>.

Demissy, Linda. “Sacred Space, an Exploration of the Triple Center.” Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF. Web. 20 Jan. 2012. <http://www.adf.org/articles/cosmology/sacred-space.html>.

Mann, Raven & Carrion. “Reclaiming the Indo-European Sky Father.” Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <https://www.adf.org/articles/gods-and-spirits/general/skyfather.html>.

Newburg, Brandon.  “Ancient Symbols, Modern Rites: A Core Order of Ritual Tutorial for Ár nDraíocht Féin.” Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF. 2007. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <https://www.adf.org/members/training/dedicant-path/articles/coortutorial/index.html>.

Serith, Ceisiwr.  Deep Ancestors. Tuscon, AZ: ADF Publishing, 2007.  Print.

Serith, Ceisiwr. “Sacrifice, the Indo-Europeans, and ADF.” Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF. Web. 18 Sept. 2014. <https://www.adf.org/articles/cosmology/sacrifice-ie-adf.html>.

Thomas, Kirk. “The Nature of Sacrifice.” Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. <https://www.adf.org/articles/cosmology/nature-of-sacrifice.html>.

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