Liturgy Practicum 2: Small Group Practice

Liturgy Practicum 2: Small Group Practice

Requirement #1: Key concepts

  1.  Describe three differences between personal or domestic rituals and small-group rituals. (Minimum 150 words)

One difference between a personal ritual and small group ritual is the amount of magical ‘juice’ that you can manifest and have access to during that ritual.  “Having more people present makes more mana available” (Bonewits 58).  This means that you could theoretically do more powerful magical workings, or maybe have a deeper or more meaningful experience.  However, a challenge to work through with this idea is that you also need to keep more than just you focused on the task at hand so the mana doesn’t dissipate. The ritual leader(s) will have to keep the whole group focused.

This leads to a second difference between personal and small group rituals: the need to develop a group mind.  The effects of intra-group familiarity were discussed in Liturgy Practicum 1, and play strongly into a group’s ability to develop the well-established group mind that is necessary to focus the energy generated by increasing amounts of people.  In creating a group mind, the chief liturgist or clergy leading the rite will ideally need to know the skill level of the participating congregation in terms of visualization, trance, and energy work (Bonewits 57).  This will allow them to design a ritual that will keep everyone engaged as much of the time as possible, and modify the ritual on the fly if needed to accommodate unexpected reactions or circumstances.

This touches on a third difference between personal and small group ritual: the presence of clergy or other leadership.  Bonewits’ touches briefly on the varying views of having clergy, but in general seems to agree with the idea that clergy are the specialists that have studied the arts of magic, liturgy, and other topics pertaining to religion.  A group ritual of any size is likely to be aided by having a leader who is trusted by the group, and by a group that values a mix of leadership by hierarchy and consensus (Bonewits 50-3).

  1.  Explain the importance of a shared worldview or cosmology within group ritual, and what can be done to help foster that shared cosmology. (Minimum 200 words)

Having a shared worldview or cosmology in a group ritual is important because it helps to establish group mind by giving all ritual participants a starting point. One way we can work to ensure that our rituals have a common starting point is by providing a thorough pre-ritual briefing before beginning ritual work.  This can address the common ritual structure that is central to ADF rites, and answer questions that a newcomer may have (Bonewits 59-60).  Because ADF is orthopraxic, our shared ritual structure is a large piece of what ties us together, rather than a shared set of beliefs about how the cosmos or world works, though we do work from similar assumptions in our practice.

Having a shared cosmology also helps to ensure that a ritual carries meaning for all participants (Bonewits 59).  When individuals share a common set of understandings or assumptions (not necessarily beliefs) about how the cosmos works, they are more likely to find the same sorts of experiences meaningful.  Within ADF one way we work to have a shared cosmology by limiting our public practice to Indo-European cultures.  We include all Indo-European cultures because there are many similarities between the cultures, including root language, community values, and myth cycles.  This limiting of our cultural focus helps to foster a shared cosmology by allowing a common discourse between members who may worship following the practices of many different hearths.  By limiting our focus within ADF we foster a point of connection between practitioners of various Indo-European hearths. It also fosters a common language that all ADF members can relate to, such as discussion of the Three Kindreds, the Earth Mother, and the Gatekeeper, and allows us to focus our study solely on Indo-European cultures so that we can draw deeply from a few sources, rather than shallowly from many.  This limiting means we are able to keep a more solid identity of who we are, and that solid group identity is important to forming group mind, which is even more important because we offer public rituals (Dangler 7).

  1.  Explain how you can incorporate words, motion, dance, posture, music, and gesture in a public, small group ritual. How is including each one in small group ritual different from how they are included in individual or domestic ritual? (Minimum 50 words per item, and minimum 150 additional words for comparison)

Words:

Praying through words is often one of the most intuitive ways to pray in both private practice and in small group worship.  When praying with a group one way that words are incorporated is commonly through the invitations that are spoken to each of the spirits in the core order of ritual.  These spoken prayers are sometimes pre-written and performed either from a script or from memorization, or sometimes performed extemporaneously.  Words can also be used in a group ritual specifically within set prayers that are common to the group.  In Three Cranes Grove, we use Ceisiwr Serith’s prayer “To the Holy Ones” as a spoken group prayer following the attunement.  We also pray through words when we engage in the call and response style liturgy that is common, particularly at the end of an evocation and during the Return Flow portion of a ritual (Serith A Book of Pagan Prayer 17-9).

Motion:

Praying through motion in ADF group ritual is most often done through the processional into the space, and the recessional out, as well as occasionally through the methods of treating with the Outdwellers and purifying the space.  When the whole group enters or leaves a space, this is a method of prayer through motion, as they are declaring that space to be separate from the mundane.  When the person treating with the Outdwellers walks a good distance away from the declared sacred space to make their offering, this is a method of prayer through motion.  When one or several people circumambulate the declared sacred space asperging or wafting incense to purify the space, this is a method of prayer through motion (Serith A Book of Pagan Prayer 22-4).

Dance:

Praying through dance is a continuation of prayer through motion.  Dance most often displays emotion, though it can also be used to attain an ecstatic state to open yourself more fully to the Spirits, or to raise energy for a specific magical working. In a group ritual, if the whole group is expected to dance, it becomes important for the dance to be accessible for all participants (or for another comparable role to be available) and for the dance to be choreographed enough that all can participate together without causing injury.  This can be as complex as a structured unison or group folk dance, or as simple as ensuring that all have enough awareness to be moving in the same direction, or within a space that they won’t run into each other (Serith A Book of Pagan Prayer 24-5).   

Posture:

Praying through posture often accompanies praying through words, since when speaking, you have to hold you body in someway.  I think it becomes prayer through posture when you make the way you hold you body intentional.  In small group ritual, developing a common posture to accompany certain prayers or ritual actions can be part of establishing and maintaining group mind and the energy level within a rite.  For example, when honoring the Earth Mother, Three Cranes Grove has two common positions: kneel and touch the ground, or stand in ‘half orans’ with one hand palm down and parallel to the ground, and one hand up perpendicular to the ground, elbow bent and close to the body, palm facing away from the body.  We also have adopted certain postures for calling to each of the Kindreds: when calling to the Ancestors we look and reach towards the ground, palms parallel to and facing the ground.  When calling to the Nature Spirits we reach out to our sides, looking levelly across the earth, arms bent at the elbows and palms facing in towards the center flame.  When we call to the Shining Ones we reach up and look towards the sky, arms extended and palms facing up.  Additionally, when calling to the Gatekeeper or Being of the Occasion, we typically stand in a modified orans posture, with arms bent at the elbows, forearms perpendicular to the ground, and palms facing away from the body (Serith A Book of Pagan Prayer 19-22).

Music:

Praying through music can be done in small group ritual through the use of chants or songs that the group sings together.  Music can also be used when played or sung by one or a few people to generate a mood for the group as a whole.  I find music to be particularly useful in the context of barding for ritual in order to maintain the energy of the ritual.  Music helps to maintain the focus and the group mind so that the energy generated doesn’t dissipate before it is used (Serith A Book of Pagan Prayer 25-7).

Gesture:

Praying through gesture falls somewhere between posture and motion.  In ritual, we most often use gesture when we are making offerings or when we are changing our body posture from one thing to another.  In group ritual gesture large, or over-exaggerated, gesture is useful in giving that motion meaning and ensuring that the Folk present see the ritual action as significant.  In Three Cranes Grove, some common gestures that we use, in addition to switching between the postures described above, include raising an offering to about eye level before pouring it out, and the variety of gestures that are used when opening and closing the Gates (often spirals or traced Druid sigils) (Serith A Book of Pagan Prayer 27-8).

 

The difference between using each of these methods of prayer between private and group worship depends on which one it is.  Words are often common between the two types of ritual, though in a private ritual one may be more inclined to not pray out loud, or to use more extemporaneous prayers.  In a group ritual it is important that if prayers are going to be said as a group, that they are set.  The use of bookends at the beginning and end of spoken prayers also becomes more useful. Motion, posture, and gesture can be used similarly in both types of rituals, however in a private ritual one wouldn’t be using those methods of prayer to establish or maintain group mind, but rather to focus their own mind to the task at head, and put themselves into a sacred headspace.  Similarly, music, when used in a group ritual helps keep the energy and focus of the congregation engaged, but when used in a private ritual is more focused on the feelings that it evokes within the solitary practitioner.  Similarly, when dance is used in a private ritual, it is based entirely on what the solitary practitioner needs, whether it is designed to be an offering or designed to create a certain mental state.  Music and dance are also similar to words in that if they’re going to be used in a group ritual with multiple people participating in them, they need to be set, rather than extemporaneous.

  1.  Explain the strengths and weaknesses of marked and unmarked speech in prayer. Explain how each type of speech manifests in your personal practice, and provide a description of your performance of a prayer for each type of speech in public ritual, including the text of the prayers. (Minimum 200 words)

Marked and unmarked styles of speech lead to different styles of prayers, and different levels of formality when using those types of prayers.  Unmarked speech is conversational, and more prose in nature.  In prayers, this speech is best used for spirits with whom you have a preexisting relationship with, who you’re on good terms with, or who are close to people in general.  Serith suggests that High Gods, such as Zeus, may not appreciate prayers in this style, deeming it too disrespectful to speak in this manner (Serith Pagan Ritual Prayer Book 2-5).  I don’t necessarily agree with this, and think that it depends far more on the relationship you have with a particular spirit, rather than on their job description or where they reside. Perhaps my view also comes from a generational position, as I’ve been told time and again that Millennials are less formal than previous generations, particularly in interactions that used to demand more formality. On the other hand, my prayers typically use marked speech almost exclusively, even when extemporaneous.

Marked speech is more formal, ranging from elevated prose to poetic in nature.  This is the type of prayer that was used most often in ancient times, or at least was written down most often, may use more archaic language, and is designed to be spoken rather than read.  Prayers like this may not be best for off-the-cuff, extemporaneous prayers, because they typically require more drafting and knowledge of poetic form and other literary devices.  They are excellent for more formal scenarios and high liturgy magical acts though, as they clearly sound different than regular patterned speech, which marks them as sacred (Serith Pagan Ritual Prayer Book 2-5).

I am far more likely to use marked speech in my personal practice.  I think in large part this is because not only have I read a lot of translated primary source material, but I also have a degree in English and I teach writing.  This means that understanding poetic form is more intuitive for me, and I have an internal vocabulary and set of phrases that live in my brain that I use when speaking and writing prayers.  When I have watched rituals, I have noted that even the prayers that I have spoken off the cuff sound more like marked speech. I have a strong internal set of scripts and phrases that combine with my knowledge of literary devices that allows me to do this.

Another reason I think I use marked speech even in scenarios that may otherwise have been more informal is because much of my prayer is done first in writing.  When I pray, or write prayers for others, I write so that I can send it to them for their use.  This allows me more time to think about it before I speak it or share it.  Here is a typical example of what a prayer written in a marked style of speech looks like for me.  It is a prayer written for an ADF member as they were going into labor, performed at a Druid Moon rite, as well as sent to them so that they could use it themelves:

I call out to gentle Eileithyia!
Make your way swiftly to this mother and child
that labor may be eased and pains dampened.
Sweet Opener of Ways:
As new life springs forth, hold your torch high
that the path may be illuminated
so this shining child may join us here
in full health and full joy,
Bright-eyed as he shouts his arrival to the world!
Eileithyia, for your gentle and practiced protection and delivery,
I make this offering to you!

There have been a few times that I use unmarked speech, but they are rather rare comparatively speaking.  I think most often I use unmarked speech in prayers that I haven’t formalized or finished drafting yet.  A prayer that has unmarked speech in my practice is often an unfinished prayer, one that I haven’t used frequently or polished up yet.  But, again, my brain tends to live in a more formalized style of writing and speaking when I am praying, so I don’t use much unmarked speech.  It is one of the ways I differentiate my mundane speech from my sacred speech.  I notice this especially about myself in watching the videos of our rituals, and noting that even when I am speaking off the cuff, my speech is patterned in a more formal style, using various literary devices and parallel structure. It is just where my brain tends to live. A rare exception is a call to Cerberus that I use sometimes around Samhain, and even it was written with the intention of being informal.  It goes something like this:

Cerberus! Here boy! *whistles*
*wheedling voice* I’ve got a treat for you if you let me pass.
*offers dog treats*
Who’s a good boy?
You are! Here you go, Cerberus!
Let me go see your master.

  1.  Explain why it is important to include physical offerings in ritual. (Minimum 150 words) 

Serith states in A Book of Pagan Prayer that “when we come before the gods, it is wise not to come empty handed” (7).  This is absolutely true in my opinion.  At the very least, we can come before the gods in prayer, and speak our devotion.  Even better is to come with physical offerings.  One reason that Serith gives explaining why physical offerings are important is because we are a religion that focused on right action, and that by giving material things, the gods remind us that the material, the here and now, is sacred too.

Another point that Serith makes is that by bringing physical offerings, and not just words or “energy”, sincerity is encouraged.  We are more likely to be sincere in our praise when we are giving something of value.  When we are taking something we value out of human use, it gives it more meaning (Serith A Book of Pagan Prayer 6-12).

Finally, I think the most important reason to give physical offerings to the spirits is because physical offerings encourage a reciprocal relationship.  We talk a lot in ADF about *ghosti, and giving physical offerings is a way to maintain that reciprocal relationship.  It encourages the idea of movable wealth and sharing the blessings between us and the Spirits.  We give the best of what we have, what we are able to give, so that they might give to us the best of what they have in return.  “Do ut des.” (Serith A Book of Pagan Prayer 6-12).

Requirement 1: Works Cited

Bonewits, Philip Emmons Isaac. Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals That Work. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2007. Print.

Dangler, Michael J. “Commonly Asked Questions.” Grove Organizing Handbook. : Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship., 2005. Print.

Serith, Ceisiwr. A Book of Pagan Prayer. Boston, MA: Weiser, 2002. Print.

Serith, Ceisiwr. A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book. York Beach, ME: Weiser, 2011. Print.

 

Requirement #2: Documenting domestic and small-group ritual practice

  1. Keep and submit for review a journal covering a period of not less than six months and not more than a year that documents your active participation as a celebrant at six or more group rituals, including three observances of seasonal festivals. The text of individual prayers written by you should be provided as frequently as possible (at least one for each ritual). Include an essay for each rite that involves the analysis and commentary on the ritual’s structure, as well as a critical review of the performance of that rite.

3CG DIF Lughnassadh – Irish – Lugh (8/2/16)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IJIB0mBC7E

Attendance:  ~350

Analysis/Commentary/Performance:

This was our 5th year doing the Lughnassadh rite at the Dublin Irish Festival alongside all the other Sunday morning church services. There are a lot of things we have polished up over those five years that have needed rethinking from our usual style since it’s in a different setup (we’re on stage), has a time constraint (1hr), and is for a huge congregation (typically between 300 and 400 people). This year’s ritual started off a bit rockier than normal, since some of our celebrants we’re running late. I ended up adding an additional song to the pre-ritual set to allow for that buffer time.

Some of the changes we’ve had to make to this particular ritual that are different from the normal for us are: not having a praise offering section due to the stage arrangement and the time constraint, having to restrict the number of people taking parts because only so many of us will fit on stage, having everyone wear white robes, and having everyone memorize their parts. Running ritual is pretty old hat at this point, and we have a very solid ritual team, especially for this rite. The ritual flowed just fine, and followed the Core Order of Ritual without any problems.

Things that I’d like to modify for next year include changing our altar set up so that it is easier to see some of the action that takes place closer to the ground, such as silvering the Well. I would also like to work on blocking more, so that we have a better idea of how parts flow from one person to the next with the use of the two different speaking mics. To a lesser extent, I think we could use some more work on big gestures that scale well to this large of an audience.

Significant Portions of the Liturgy I wrote:  Call for Inspiration

The Children of the Earth call out to Oghma!
Sunny-faced one, your brilliant rays shine down upon us this morning.
We ask now that you alight upon us.
Lend your honeyed words to us.
As your silvered-chain travels from your tongue to our ears
Might we speak with the eloquence that you give us.
Oghma, Meet us at the boundaries,
Join us at our sacred fire, and be warmed at our hearth.
Guide us and aid us as we walk the Elder Ways.
Oghma, accept our offering!

Hermes Full Moon (8/28/15)

Attendance: 6

Analysis/Commentary/Performance:

I lead full moon rituals for my grove and others (I would generally classify these rites as semi-public). During them we honor the Three Kindreds in a Greek context, Selene, each individual’s Patron of Magic, and one of the Olympians based on which month it is. I choose who we’re honoring that month based on the Hellenion schedule of libations, and the focus of the moons is doing a more intense magical working or trance journey based on which of the Theoi we are honoring that month. These are rites that I have written the entire litugy for, and have slowly been giving more folks parts, and encouraging them to try them. I’ve fostered these moon rites to specifically be a learning, no-fail environment, where I’m able to encourage folks to try out parts they’ve not done before in a public rite, or want to practice before doing in a public rite.

In August we honor Hermes. For this rite, I told the story of Hermes stealing Apollo’s cattle and how he came out on top of that bargain thanks to his excellent communication skills.  We did a working where I took the omens we had received into the waters and we each anointed our lips with the blessing of Hermes to give us added power in bargaining and communication. I am always surprised at the power of touch in ritual, and have been reading more about it, and how to consciously incorporate it within the bounds of a consent culture.

The flow of the ritual went well, even with having my 2 year old daughter ‘helping’ me with the whole rite. I did manage to forget my omen set for this ritual, but the other grove member who reads Greek Alphabet Oracle was there, so it was good practice for her to take the omen anyways.

Significant Portions of the Liturgy I wrote: I wrote the entire ritual for this. I’ve excerpted a couple of my favorite parts below:

Opening Statement/Prayer –

  O, Makares, (Blessed Ones)
As the moon in its cycle is timeless,
Growing in power each month until it bursts with luminescence,
So we return each month at the time of the Full Moon
In the timeless act of worship
Echoing with our prayers and our offerings,
The moon’s glowing promise of power and magic.
This night, beneath the bright and shining moon,
We gather to do as our Ancestors did before us,
To reforge the sacred *ghosti bond in our worship,
And to mix our powers together to achieve great works.
Elthete (Come) Theoi (gods),
Bless us with your presence,
And partake of what we offer,
In reverence of you here in our Ekklisíasma (Congregation). 

Gods of Dikhomenia –

*each person speaks of their Patron of Magic as they feel called*

To those Patrons of Magic,
whom we each work with to further our studies in these arts,
with whom we’ve developed special relationships,
You who walk alongside us and keep us safe as we walk the Elder Ways.
I pour out these libations to you as I sing your praises.
Patrons all, accept our offerings!

Selene, brilliant shining Titaness, your face,
full in power and brightness,
shines down with grace and an influx of magic and power.
You who have bathed in the sacred waters of mighty Okeanos,
you who shine, luminescent,
driving your long-maned horses at full speed across the sky.
Selene, splendid Queen of the Night,
your glowing amber orb makes this night like the noon of your all-seeing brother,
I pour out these libations to you as I sing your praises.
Selene, accept our offering!

3CG Anagantios Druid Moon –  (2/13/16)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX71jDbo2KI

Attendance: 32

Analysis/Commentary/Review of Performance: 

This is a really unique ritual, and was my first year being able to take part in it. During the Anagantios Druid Moon, which is the Stay at Home Druid Moon, the priests of the Grove, rather than convening a ritual somewhere, in what is normally our worst month snow-weather wise, instead travel to the homes of each Grove member.

We begin the morning by collecting the Kildare flame from the Grove member who tends it, and then going to each house to do a house blessing and give the flame to the member and their family there. This year MJD and I were able to travel together for the whole day, rather than having to split up, since the moon fell on a Saturday, and many of our Grove members were off work and had more flexible schedules. We visited and blessed 17 homes, spent 11 hours driving, and traveled 200 miles.

Normally Michael has just done the house blessing and gift of the Kildare Flame, but since there were two of us, we wanted something for each of us to do. I figured since we were blessing with fire, we could also do something with water. So I wrote a Threshold blessing to pair with the Home blessing, where the thresholds of the home were anointed with waters from several holy wells. Another cool thing we did this year was have the members we visited take the omen for us throughout the day, with three different people throughout the day each pulling one symbol.

I did notice that I became more comfortable with the liturgy and process as we moved on throughout the day. The houses we blessed in the morning, I was still nervous on. But the houses later in the afternoon, I was pretty comfortable with.

Significant Portions of the Liturgy I wrote: Threshold Blessing

Waters drawn from the holy wells,
Flowing across the land to collect here,
And spread your blessing to the threshold of this home.
May your blessing keep this household safe.
May all who cross this threshold in welcome,
Be filled with the blessings of the Waters
As they enter in hospitality.

3CG Spring Equinox – Hellenic – Artemis & Hephaestos (3/20/16)

Attendance: 56

Analysis/Commentary/Review of Performance: 

This ritual went exceptionally well, and the feedback has continued to be outstanding from attendees.  This was an experiment in pairing two deities who wouldn’t normally be thought of as going together. I think it also helped that Artemis is a patron of mine, and Hephaestos is a patron of Traci’s. We don’t have this happen too often, where the DotO is a patron of someone leading the rite, and I hadn’t ever really thought much of it. I often feel awkward leading a ritual to one of patron’s in a public rite because it feels like sharing something exceedingly intimate with others. I’ve described it as “introducing your girlfriend to folks, when they didn’t even know you were bi.” All this aside though, I think one of the reasons this ritual went so well, felt like it had so much energy, and was so well received even by the non-Hellenes is because folks could feel and were able to benefit from the pre-existing relationship that Traci and I have and maintain. I think this is something worth considering when we do future rites.

The energy that Mike, Jeff, and I had during the DotO offering as we played (voice, drum, and guitar) was palpable and wonderful (31:50).   Traci was the Druid in Charge (traffic cop) for this ritual, and I was the Priest in Charge. She did skip the Prayer of Sacrifice, but we rolled with it and I came back around to pick it up after the omen as a final gift of thanks.  The working was fantastic, with Traci pounding hammer on anvil (brake drum) to raise energy for the blessing of tools and hands.   The use of the anvil imagery and sound I think is a huge part of what contributed to the success of the Working. We’ve been asked if we can do this particular ritual again, so I think we can definitely say it went well.

Significant Portions of the Liturgy I wrote:  Call to Artemis; Return Flow; Processional and Praise offering songs; Working (I’ve excerpted a couple of these below)

DotO – Artemis

Artemis, Chaste Maiden of the Hunt.
Delighting in arrows
You come down from the mountains,
Wind and rain flowing with you.
Following the tracks of the deer, as they run their path.
Protecting all new life that comes to us in this season.
Sweet Artemis, dancing and delighting with Cranes,
We call to you and offer you sweet amaranth.
Artemis, accept our offering!

Return Flow

Now, children of earth
Gifts have been given unto us as we have given unto the Kindreds.
We’ve been given a gift from Kindreds all,
A reminder to stay patient,
To wait for good things that will come to us.
See in your minds eye that bright light warm and ignite within you
Just as it ignites within these flames and within these waters.

And so, patience, we ignite in ourselves and in this flame
Brightening and warming these waters with this gift.

And then from Artemis we receive the blessing of her presence.
That she has come to give us her aid and her guidance
In this time of new growth and new life.
See that blessing ignite in yourself, ignite in this flame
And brighten and warm these waters.

And from Hephaestos, who gives us all,
Everything we desire and ask for,
He can forge, he can make, he can create.
Hephaestos, many skilled, can give us all these things and more.
So see that gift brighten in yourself, brighten in this flame
and brighten and warm in these waters

Children of earth, theses waters have been brightened in blessing,
have been warmed at the forge of Hephaestos,
have flown down from the mountains where Artemis dwells,
have come from across all the lands where all the Kindreds send us their aid
as we patiently wait for it, for it will come

So children of earth, here see in these waters those blessings grow
and speak with me: Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

All: Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

Flowing up from the deep, from the wells below
Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

All: Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

Flowing across the land, down from the skies
Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

All: Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

Brightened and warmed and blessed…
Behold, the Waters of Life!

All: Behold, the Waters of Life!

Children of earth is it your will to partake of these waters
and bring these blessings into yourselves.

All: It is!

*water is passed and quaffed*

3CG Beltaine – “Celtic” – Trooping Fairies (5/1/16)

Attendance: 59

Analysis/Commentary/Review of Performance: 

This is a ritual style that MJD had wanted to experiment with: the premise is that because the fairies move from place to place at Beltane (and Samhain) and we wanted to try having a ritual with lots of movement. We set up a main altar in a central location, and three separate altars for each of the Kindreds circled around that main space. Then, as we invited each of the Kindreds to join us, all of the Folk who are able processed, making lots of joyful noise, to each of the specific altars. It made our ritual take a bit longer, but it worked really well. It kept everyone engaged, and kept the energy level high. Because we had taken into account accessibility issues, those in the congregation who are less mobile were still able to experience the rite without having to leave the main altar space. The working for this rite was also movement based. I wrote a Crane Dance that we used to generate energy to aid the fairies in moving to their new home, to encourage those beneficial ones to come into our lives, and to encourage those more troublesome one to leave us be.

The overall energy of this ritual was quite joyful. We had spent several weeks ahead of time advertising it as a kid-friendly ritual, and that meant we had probably somewhere around 20 children. Children give a special kind of chaotic and joyful energy to a ritual, and I was pleased that we were able to host them. I led a kids activity before the ritual making bell-branches that we would then use in the rite, and another Grove member made 20-30 sets of fairy wings that the kids and other folks could wear and then take home with them. Many families thanked us for providing a kid-friendly ritual, particularly at Beltane. Joe, our Senior Druid, really led the charge in making this ritual one of reverence and mirth with his attunement. He inspired laughter and fellowship with his words, and connected it beautifully to the fae.

One thing I wanted to try, that I had experienced with Rev. Sara Blackwelder at Trillium this past year, was opening the gates with sound. Specifically building a chord, and letting the final resolution of the top note of the chord as it was hit mark the opening of the gates. It worked okay, though there are definitely some things that could have gone better. The first was a location issue: the roof of the shelter we were in ate the sound and bounced it all over the place. This meant that during the whole ritual, I could barely hear myself, and that, combined with projecting so I could be heard, made it difficult to hit the 3rd, 5th, and octave of the building chord. The other difficulty could have possibly been taken care of by a better pre-ritual briefing on my part. I had picked out 3 people to hold each note in the chord for me, however, our regular congregation is too well-trained, and so when I hit a note and held it, they joined in and toned with me. This meant that the key note got lost, because when we tone, we don’t worry about what note each person is holding. I still thought it worked, however, if I decided to try it again, I’ll have to be more explicit about what I’m doing.

The Crane Dance is both fun and a challenge. This is the second time we’ve done it, and I learned a bit from last time. This biggest thing was I realized after the first attempt at this that I couldn’t lead the dance and work the magic at the same time. So, I had Mike B. teach and lead the dance, which was good leadership in ritual practice for him, and I led the working. It clocked in, all things told, at about 5 minutes in length, which was half the time it took the first time we did this in 2012. I think part of the reason it was shorter was because I didn’t have to get the dancing solid before beginning the magical work, I could just start right in on directing the energy being built, since Mike was taking care of the specifics of the dance.

Significant Portions of the Liturgy I wrote: Gatekeeper invocation & gate opening opening; new praise offering song; Crane Dance

Gatekeeper & Gates

Children of earth, we stand at the center of worlds:
Where the fire and the well and the tree
Mark this as our sacred space.

And now, once again, in your minds eye,
remember the feel of those fairy hills and mounds,
the sound of the tinkling bells that seem to exude
whenever they move and wherever they go.

Now see the mists rolling across those hills,
and stepping out from that mist is Garanus, the Crane.
He stands at the edge of a pool
one foot on the land, one foot in the waters,
eye cast to the heavens.

Garanus Crane is our gatekeeper and our guide.
He leads us along the path of magic.
He guards us where we go.
He aids us in our work.
So, Garanus Crane, Gatekeeper,
You who walk with us and fly with us,
Garanus, accept this offering!

All: Garanus, accept this offering!

And so we prepare to open the gates between the worlds.
Waters flowing across the land, welling up from the deep,
raining down from above.
(sung) Let the well open as a gate.

Fire burning bright in the earth and bright in the heavens,
Burning here at the center.
(sung) Let the fire open as a gate.

Tree rooted deep in the earth,
Crowned high in the heavens,
Marking the connected bridge between the worlds.
(sung) Let the tree open as a gate.

(sung) Let the gates be open.

Children of the Earth, the gates stand open.
We are here at the center of the realms
Let naught but truth be spoken here, and blessings given.

Gods, Dead, and Sidhe (3K praise offering song)

(chorus by Ian Corrigan, verses by Rev. Jan Avende)

Chorus:
Gods and Dead and Mighty Sidhe
Powers of Earth and Sky and Sea
By Fire, by Well, by Sacred Tree
Sacrifice we make to thee.

We gather in the Fire’s Light
To watch our Sacrifice burn bright
Praise we give you for your might
Gifts of magic, strength, and sight.

Chorus

Rooted deep into the ground
Stands the Tree upon the mound
The host of spirits dancing ’round
From here the Realms can all be found.

Chorus

Hear us spirits as we pray
All the Gods and Dead and Fey
Praise we make, we sing, we say
On this blessed first of May.

Crane Dance (a magical act, danced in the round)

8 count skip right, 8 count skip left
8 count flapping LinJin
8 count skip right, 8 count skip left
4 count switch places with partner
8 count skip right, 8 count skip left
4 count spin down to up counter clockwise
4 count spin up to down clockwise
8 count skip right, 8 count skip left
4 count switch places with partner
8 count skip right, 8 count skip left
16 count clapping LinJin
lather, rinse, repeat!

Gamonios Druid Moon (5/11/16)

Attendance: 9

Analysis/Commentary/Performance:

Druid Moons in our Grove follow a standard calendar year, rotating through 13 different rituals. There is one each month on the 6th night after the new moon, with the 13th being the intercalendary moon that happens about once every five years when there is a second 6th night moon in a single month. The celebration for this month was for Gamonios, the “End of the Winter Month.” It is when we celebrate the coming of the warm days when the year is no longer in darkness, when the cold is finally bested by the light of the sun. At this Druid Moon we honored the shining Gaulish god, Belenos.

While we have a standard liturgy for each of these rites, they are not set entirely in stone, which allows me to add my own flavor and style to the rituals that MJD initially wrote. One of the things I did this year to make the ritual unique was light three fires instead of one. We had the Fire of Inspiration, the Fire of Fellowship, and the Fire of Sacrifice. All offerings throughout the rite were made into the Fire of Sacrifice.

When we got to the working, I divided up the 9 people in attendance into groups of three and gave each group a candle and a small cup of Everclear. As I called out to each fire in turn to fill us, I had one person hold the candle, one person light it, and the third make the offering to their fire. I thought this worked well, and the folk seemed to enjoy it. It gave them each something to do and be involved with (and let some of them get the experience of offering Everclear, which they hadn’t done before, and can be quite powerful). Our Druid Moons are much more intimate, and so each little thing that I can do to reinforce that feeling of intimacy, like making sure each person has something (maybe even more than one thing) to do in the rite, is important.

I took the omen for this ritual by fire scrying in the Fire of Sacrifice. It is a skill I’ve been slowly working on over the past year or so, and is a different method of taking an omen than our Grove normally sees. I find it full of good magical energy, and it makes me connect even moreso into that divinatory Seer state than normal.

Significant Portions of the Liturgy I wrote: I performed the ritual for this, with the standard working (though I modified the setup and words to fit my style, rather than MJDs). The omen was me.

Omen (fire scrying)

What is our Path: Fire dancing up and out from the Center. We are one and share our light with the those at the edges.

On what should the Grove focus until the next Moon: coal with a sheen, or coating, of smoke. When we smoor or bank the fire, we are able to tend it and carry it to others, to those in need.

On what should each individual focus until the next moon: breath of blue flame, not at the center, but at the edge of the fire. Search for the unexpected blessing and bring it to the Center, bring it to the Heart of the Fire.

Taken together, these might suggest: The Brightness of our well-tended Grove Fire of Sacrifice dances far and can reach into the darkness. We need to bring our own blessings to the Center, to the Grove. This will strengthen and unify us. As we then stand together we are able to bring our light to others who stand at the edge.

  1. Write and lead at least one group High Day ritual. Submit both your script for that ritual and an evaluation of the ritual in terms of structure (how the ritual flowed) and function (what was accomplished). Include evaluations of the ritual from two other attendees (Include contact information for the attendees providing the evaluations. Their evaluations must be at least 125 words in length and include a description of what they thought went well and what improvements could be made, as well as whether or not they believe the ritual accomplished its purpose.)

I wrote and led an Avestan Summer Solstice Rite honoring Adrvi Sura Anahita, the Mother of Waters. In part because I felt bad writing every part of this ritual, rather than our typical format of letting folks write their own parts if they want to, and in part because I wanted to try to keep it under the suggested 20 people for this course (since none of our public High Days are under 40 people typically), I restricted attendance to grove members only, rather than making this a public rite. It worked out well, allowed me to experiment in a different culture than any of us have familiarity with, and allowed my Folk to feel more at ease in general. I ended up with 16 people in attendance (including latecomers), 11 of whom had parts.

Throughout the course of writing this, I did realize that I rarely write rituals in their entirety, and it is something I enjoy doing. I would like to compile more of our Grove rituals this way, so we have a better back-log of liturgy that we can share with others. I also found the writing the Attunement and the Return Flow are my least favorite parts (though they are some of my favorites to do in ritual), though in the case of this ritual, those two pieces, along with the ReCreation & Gatekeeper/Gate Opening, are the parts I’m the most proud of.

The Attunement I had been putting off writing, because I didn’t have any really good ideas for it, and I didn’t particularly want to fall back on one of my standard Two Powers exercises. But then I was reminded of the idea of Fire in Waters, and then the Orlando shootings happened, and then it occurred to me that this ritual was falling on the day of Pride. I thought about how the Fire in the Sky is often the Sun, and when you bring the Sun into the Waters, you get a rainbow, and that ties directly into Pride. So, I looked up the meanings of the colors on the original Pride flag, and worked from that for this Attunement.

The part about the Return Flow that I liked was how it flowed from the Omens smoothly. Because I had decided that the Omen would be taken via water scrying, that meant that the Blessings were literally going to be seen within the Waters. And so, in that transition between the two liturgical pieces I poured the Waters used for scrying into the Blessing Pitcher; I literally mixed the blessings that had been seen into the Waters we would be drinking.

I wrote all the parts for this rite except for two pieces of standard Grove Liturgy (noted in the script), and sent them out to people about a week ahead of time.  I checked in with folks a few days later to see if anyone needed help with pronunciation or anything.  A few of them double-checked with me before the rite started, but no one needed any significant help there.  I prepared all the offerings for the rite, set up the altar, and took care of other pre-ritual necessities.  During the pre-ritual briefing I went over how the ritual would flow, who we were honoring, and who the Avestan’s were.  I also mentioned that verbal praise was very important to them, and taught everyone the phrase “for your brightness and your glory, I offer you a sacrifice” that they could use when making personal offerings.  This worked fantastically.  I love when everyone speaks before the fire when they offer, and it’s something that, as Cranes leading huge rites, we normally don’t get to do. So, having made this a Grove-only ritual (in order to keep attendance under 20 people (it clocked in at 16 people)), everyone got a chance to make personal, verbal, heartfelt offerings.  I also made a point of giving as many people as I could a part of the ritual that they had never done before.  Since I’d written all the parts, that took away some of the nervousness for them on that piece, and it gave them the chance to stretch their wings a bit (and me the chance to push them gently into trying out something new, that I knew they could handle, that they might not have been sure on yet).

The ritual flow went really well.  I was nervous getting started because I’m not used to working with a script.  But, I had practiced, and so barely needed to use it for me.  Scripts are awkward though, doing strange things to your self-confidence, and it some ways it acted like a crutch on parts that I don’t typically need it for. We had videoed the rite, so watching it after and doing my own critique, I noticed myself looking down to check the script more often than I had actually needed to.

Leading a ritual, especially one that is just our small group, is pretty relaxed at this point.  Most folks know what’s going on, and I had given them all parts to read, so they weren’t concerned with speaking off the cuff.  I think that probably helped the ritual flow a lot.  I purposefully didn’t give anyone the whole script before the rite, because I didn’t want them to be trying to read along to the whole thing.  I wanted them to experience the ritual, and only have to worry about their own part.

The ritual itself was a simple rite of offering and praise celebrating the Summer Solstice and honoring Anahita, the Avestan Mother of Waters.  We honored each of the Kindreds and then Anahita, and folks were given the chance to make praise offerings to both the Kindreds in general (or a specific spirit they have a relationship with), as well as to Anahita.  This ritual served to strengthen our relationships with the Kindreds, as well as introduce nearly everyone to the Avestan hearth culture, and Anahita specifically.  I got a lot of good feedback following the rite.  Folks seemed to get fulfillment out of it, and the omens were good.  So all in all, it went well.

Script for Avestan Summer Solstice Ritual, honoring Anahita, the Mother of Waters

Evaluations per Course Requirements for Liturgy Practicum 2, Requirement 2.2:

Include evaluations of the ritual from two other attendees (Include contact information for the attendees providing the evaluations. Their evaluations must be at least 125 words in length and include a description of what they thought went well and what improvements could be made, as well as whether or not they believe the ritual accomplished its purpose.)

Evaluation 1

(contact info removed for privacy)

Briefly describe the Ritual:

The ritual was the celebration of Summer Solstice. Anahita, the Mother of Water, was the Deity of occasion. Rev. Jan wrote the ritual and assigned parts to volunteers, using the ADF Core Order. She attempted to have many perform parts that they normally would not have or that have not had the opportunity to perform yet. There was no working outside of worship and praise. Everyone had the opportunity to give offerings to both the Anahita and their own personal deity. Indo-Iranian names were used during the rite.

I personally had the opportunity to make peace with the Outdwellers, not a part I normally call; however, fitting given my military service.

What did you think went well?:

Jan was very precise on instructions. There was active group participation within the rite and most people spoke loud and clear. Everyone gave offerings and people actually spoke their praise to the deities out loud; something that not everyone does. People stepped outside of their comfort zone and performed well.

What improvements could be made?:

As an evaluator, I would like to have had a copy of the written ritual prior to rite. This would have given me more time to formulate any questions concerning the rite.

Do you think the ritual accomplished it’s purpose? Explain:

Yes. The purpose was for Jan to write an entire ritual and assign those to parts to individuals who volunteered to be a part of her rite to meet the criteria for the Liturgy Practicum 2, Requirement 2.2. Part of her purpose was to get individuals involved in ritual and to speak out loud when giving offerings. Everyone who came did as she had encouraged in her instructions prior to the start of the ritual.

Evaluation 2

(contact info removed for privacy)

Briefly describe the Ritual:

The ritual was held in Three Cranes Grove’s usual nemeton, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation East in Reynoldsburg, OH. Many of the attendees had assigned ritual parts, which Rev. Avende had previously sent out to their responsible parties. She had also prepared all the required offerings, which were noted in the ritual script.

I don’t believe any of the attendees were previously familiar with Avestan-style ritual; certainly there was no broad knowledge. Rev. Avende began with a briefly not only of the ritual as a whole, but also of the particularities of Avestan ritual. Specifically, she noted the customary tag to invocations and offering praises: “for you brightness and your glory, we offer you a sacrifice!” Rev. Avende’s script also delved into the particular cultural practices of the Avestans, naming particular mythological figures in the Recreation of the Cosmos, calling on the Kindred by their Avestan titles, etc.

What did you think went well?:

The culturally specific namings and invocation tags were particulary effective; much as a translator often leaves a bit of the ‘flavor’ of a source text while doing the bulk of the heavy-lifting for the understanding of the reader, Rev. Avende took historically attested forms and adapted them to the COoR while maintaining their cultural focus.

I was also impressed by the ritual’s response to the broader secular world. The summer solstice, in Columbus at least, aligned with our community’s celebration of Pride; in fact, I and others traveled directly from the Pride festival to the rite. I haven’t talked to her directly about this matter, but I suspect Rev. Avende specifically wrote subtle allusions to the secular cultural context into her script. The attunement played on Anahita’s life-giving waters that flow from the sun, and led us through contemplating the different prismatic colors of the rainbow formed in the mists of magic, which was a fairly clear connection to Gay Pride. In addition, there were repeated references throughout the script to diversity in all its forms. None of this felt in any way forced; it all would have been completely appropriate language at any time of year. But especially in the wake of the shootings in Orlando, it provided a welcome and meaningful space to honor the blessings of the Mother of Waters as she sustains us all, in our diverse array of selves.

What improvements could be made?:

I was very pleased to have the Avestan ‘flavor’ included in the rite, and usually Rev. Avende’s script did a fine job of smoothly interpreting the unfamiliar terminiology. There were a few points, however, when an unfamiliar term would go unremarked. I seem to remember, for example, (though I don’t have the full script in from of me), that the first occurrence of the Avestan term for ‘chaos’ didn’t have an immediate gloss. Similarly, my part (Recreating the Cosmos) included a number of mythological terms for the first plant, first animal, first man, which all seem to have etymologically-related names, but it wasn’t clear in the glossing whether the gloss was translation or explanation. Especially for linguistically minded people like me, that poses a danger of pulling me into my own headspace.

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, it’s because I am: Rev. Avende’s ritual script was beautiful, and flowed smoothly; it made an unfamiliar hearth culture feel present and welcome. My quibbles above are to take it from excellent to superlative!

Do you think the ritual accomplished it’s purpose? Explain:

Indubitably. First, it assuredly marked the summer solstice: the DotO was absolutely aligned with the High Day, and Rev. Avende’s script tied her attributes back to the summer’s heat and life that we could feel and see all around us. Second, it also achieved the subtextual goals of building community and offering a space for attendees to celebrate the Kindreds and each other in all our great diversity — by welcoming difference, it bound us and the spirits more tightly in a web of care and community. It was one of the more powerful rites I’ve attended this year, and I’m quite glad to have been a part of it.

Evaluation 3

(contact info removed for privacy)

Purpose…

Our stated purpose for the rite was to celebrate the Summer Solstice, to honor the Kindreds, and to honor and give sacrifice to Ardvi Sura Anahita. The Folk did indeed bring honor and praise for the three Kindreds, as well as the Summer Solstice appropriate Deity of the Occasion Anahita, and received Blessings in return during this Avestan Rite. As a bonus, we learned about worship within a hearth culture that was new to nearly everyone who participated in this fully scripted celebration.

I very much enjoyed the ritual that began with offering to Atar, the Great Fire, with purification by washing our hands, and with an Outdwellers treaty. It was noted the Avenstans called to the Earth itself, not an Earth Mother, followed by calling to a deity of inspiration (Haoma) and the attunement. Recreating the cosmos and calling Beaver as the gate keeper continued the fire-in-the-waters theme, and then the gates were opened with well, fire, and tree imagery. General praise offerings by the Folk followed the Kindreds invitations, and offerings to Anahita were brought forth after evoking her. After the Prayer of Sacrifice (my part) came the unusual method of water scrying for taking an Omen. The Blessings were passed on to the Folk through drinking Hallowed Waters. The Spirits called upon were thanked, the gates were closed, Beaver, Haoma, and the Earth were thanked. The rite was ended.

Propitious…

There was excellent preparation for the rite, as evidenced by pre-arrangement of roles and tasks, discussion of the purpose and structure of the rite, and the availability of a full written version of the script (if we had not printed our part or had no electronic access). Jan provided effective coaching for the process and flow of the rite, as well as any parts assigned, before and during the rite. Jan adapted well to any difficulties that arose, handling changes that had to be made smoothly and gracefully.

There was also valuable assistance rendered as instruction on performance blocking, with personalized attention given to participants regarding specific questions. Jan exhibited a good understanding of individual Grove member’s aptitudes for liturgy, their current level of confidence with performance, and their willingness to stretch beyond that comfort level – and, encourage us to stretch she did! Everyone present participated in some way beyond just making personal offerings, even if it was only to use the suggested bookend phrase, “___ , for your brightness and your glory, I offer you a sacrifice,” which sounded very good and right as it was included in nearly every part spoken and in the praise offerings of so many of the Folk. It’s one of those things that quite beautifully knits a ritual together.

Along with fulfilling its ritual purpose, each part provided some information/education about the Avestan entity addressed and/or the way the Avestans might have approached their worship. I think this is one of the duties of those who lead our ritual celebrations – to teach us something of the peoples who have gone before and the deities they worshiped. Sometimes we do that in the pre-ritual briefing, sometimes through ritual storytelling strategically placed in a rite, or, as in this case, quite handily through the carefully worded liturgy itself. Even if I cannot connect with a ritual on any other level, if I come away with a new or different way to consider worship, I have “gained something in the work.”

Possibilities…

I love it when we try new things or take a new approach to things – like the water scrying for the Omen – though, it is inherently more difficult to connect with a method or approach used rarely or never before. The water scrying was completely appropriate to this rite, and this DotO, and I think it was a good call, even if it was uncomfortable as a participant to experience so much newness in one rite.

Offering to the Great Fire, Atar, and the washing of hands for each individual seemed to set the pace of this rite as somewhat slower and more word heavy than we might usually perform… though, again, both items (and all sections of the ritual) were completely appropriate to hearth culture/DotO, and were also a good call. There may or may not have been a goodly bit of wanting to get to the After-Feast in not wanting a ritual to drag on. To be fair, the lengthy liturgy was worth the information imparted.

Personal Favs…

Attunement – it seemed highly appropriate to a Summer Solstice Rite as it involved the Sun and the Waters showing how they combine to form a multitude of colors, and yet also coalesce into one unified white light… I was proud to do this Attunement at the Three Cranes Grove Summer Solstice Rite the next weekend on Sunday morning at the annual Community Festival (ComFest) in Columbus OH.

Bookends – it does indeed enhance the aesthetics of a ritual for many people to use similar formats during their parts, right down to repeating specific wording as in the case of this bookend phrase.

 

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