Adopting the Core Order of Ritual for Solitary Use
There are several challenges specific to Solitaries when it comes to completing the Dedicant Path. One of the largest is performing at least four High Day Rites following the Core Order of Ritual, which includes all of the minimum requirements for a rite to be considered ADF in style. If you are new to ADF and have never seen a full rite using the Core Order of Ritual, or COoR, this can be quite daunting. When I first started the Dedicant Path, I performed (I use the word loosely) a full ADF high day style rite. How hard could it be? Well, it was awful! I made numerous mistakes, I was uncomfortable, and I think I even heard laughing as I closed the gates—before thanking the Kindred, mind you. Yup, I slammed the door right in their faces.
Needless to say, I needed to start smaller. . . much smaller.
I had three months until the next high day, and I wanted to be able to have a successful and fulfilling experience by then. I devised a plan to teach myself the full Core Order of Ritual, from memory, in three months using daily devotionals, no less than four per week, at my home shrine. I hope this method will help you on your path. At the end of this essay, I have also included a generic text of a full ADF COoR Solitary Rite that will fulfill the requirements of the Dedicant Program, when adapted to the seasonal occasions. Keep in mind that I am no liturgist, and you may add, remove or change whatever you like as you go along.
If you do not already have a ritual space, now is the time to set one up. If it needs to be portable, find a shoebox or laundry basket you can designate to hold your ritual items. Laundry baskets are nice because you can flip them over and use them as a table when performing your rite. At this stage, be sure you have a representation of the fire (such as a candle) and offerings for the Kindred. Don't forget the matches/lighter! Fire is one of the most important elements of a druidic rite. If you are inside, you will need something to put your offerings in once they have been offered. If you desire, find representations of each of the Kindred and the Earth Mother to put on your shrine. You may also wish to get a bell or some other item to make a sound that initiates the rite.
For the first step, we will include the following steps:
This simple ritual will take approximately fifteen minutes. I find it is helpful to tape a small piece of paper to the wall with the above numbered steps on it in front of your shrine to help you keep track of what comes next. After you have been doing this for at least a week, try doing it without the paper. Advice from a seasoned veteran:
"Something I know about myself and many other people is that as long as the paper is there, they will need the paper. I might suggest doing it for a week with the paper, then trying it once a week without the paper, then twice a week without it, and so on until you're doing it without the paper being taped up there. Paper is a notoroious crutch to the ritualist: getting intimate with the COoR requires that you occasionally kick the script."
When you can perform this ritual without that piece of paper consistently, you know you are ready to add the next few steps.
During this time, learn about recreating the cosmos with the fire, the well and the tree symbology. This information is included in the Dedicant Manual and in the Core Order of Ritual Tutorial found on the Wiki pages. If you learn "The Portal Song" by Ian Corrigan, it will help you remember what is necessary to firmly establish this sacred center.
For the second tier, you will need to add a representation of the well (such as a bowl of water), and a representation of the tree (such as a stick, a portrait, a natural wood wand, etc.).
When you are ready for the second tier of your devotionals, we will flesh it out to include the following:
This ritual form will take approximately twenty minutes, depending on how quickly you get through "The Portal Song." Again, when this can be done without the paper on the wall, you are ready to move on. Hopefully, this will take you one week.
During this time, it is important to consider whom you would like to call on to act as Gatekeeper. I suggest choosing a Gatekeeper with whom you will work on a regular basis. Creating a relationship with your Gatekeeper can be as powerful as the relationships you establish with your patrons. A Gatekeeper is a deity who can move freely between realms, and thus they are easier to contact with the gates closed. In the Hellenic Hearth, for example, many Druids use Hermes, the Messenger. He carries messages from the Gods to the people and even to the Underworld. Write a few lines that say something about the character of your Gatekeeper and why you chose him/her. Also, it has been helpful for some members to include a hand gesture or visualization to aid in focusing your energy for the actual opening of the gates. There are several articles that address this topic available on the ADF website.
You may add a representation of the Gatekeeper to your shrine, if desired.
Now, you are ready to open the Gates!
The third tier of your ritual looks like this:
I found a lot more power behind my rituals when I added the opening and closing of the gates. It really makes a difference. Hopefully, it will not take long to get used to opening the gates. This addition to the ritual brings the total time to a whopping seventeen minutes. And again, when you can do this comfortably without the paper, you are ready to move on. This may only take a week if the gate symbology is familiar to you, or you feel immediately comfortable with the Gatekeeper motif.
For the next step, we are going to be adding a "Deity of the Occasion." Each High Day has specific deities associated with it. It is fitting to call on these deities and give them praise and offerings in their time. If you have a patron(s), they can be honored here in the daily devotional format. Be sure to prepare yourself with the stories and lore behind the chosen Deity. It will help you give proper praise and offerings that He/She will find pleasing.
We also add the Prayer of Sacrifice, or final sacrifice. This is a short but powerfully made statement claiming that all your offerings have been given, like adding a concluding statement to an essay, and one final material sacrifice. Many groves like to use something dramatic like oil or whiskey added to the flame. This is not necessary, but it can help to elevate the amount of power raised. This is the height of a full rite, energy at its highest point.
You can also add an item to represent your Patrons or other Deities as well as a secondary bowl for offerings to them. I use one bowl for all my offerings. The Final Prayer of Sacrifice offering is to everyone, and I think it should go in a central location. It is up to you. A typical way that I do my offerings for a daily devotional is to choose one thing to offer, like a small bowl of steel cut oats. I pour out an aliquot for the Earth Mother, the Gatekeeper, each of the Kindred, and each of my patrons. When I do the final sacrifice, I offer the rest. After my rite, I take them outside and scatter them in the grass or on a spot of earth.
The Fourth Tier:
Depending on how involved your deity of the occasion praise and offerings are, this will bring you to about twenty minutes. Many members have a chosen system of divination that they work with. If you do not, now is the time to consider what will work best for you. It may take several different tools before you find the one that is right for you. It might be helpful, if you have a Hearth Culture, to try what they used.
A note on omens:
The Fifth Tier:
Depending on your speed with the omens, our devotional time is up to twenty-five minutes. The omens may take quite a while to learn and should be addressed separately. For our purposes here, once you have gotten the hang of taking them, interpreting and recording them, you are ready to move on. It may take several months or longer to fully learn a divination tool. You may also try one out and find that it is not working for you. I suggest doing the fifth tier for a week.
The last stage of adopting the Core Order of Ritual is adding the Waters of Life, or Return Flow portion. "Having given offerings to the Kindred, you hope that blessings will flow back to you, magnified many times" (Ellison, 125). It is divided in the COoR as three separate steps-and they may be separate steps in a full grove rite. As a solitary, I find that the three steps of the Waters of Life/Return Flow portion flows into a cohesive whole. As listed, the steps are:
These three steps are a triad of energy flow, harnessed in the cup, consumed, and acknowledged. They are most powerful when the three are treated as parts of a whole
Also, immediately following the return flow is the time for any additional workings such as magic spells and oaths. The flow is pouring back at you. Now is the time to harness it, if you wish. If you do have workings or oaths planned for the working portion of your rite, it should be stated in your statement of purpose at the front of the rite. Add a drinking vessel to your shrine. Some members have a pitcher that they pour from and into their cup. You may choose whichever works best for you. I do not use a pitcher for devotionals, but I do for High Days. For daily devotionals I use a cup that already has water in it.
The final tier, full ADF Rite per the Core Order of Ritual:
Congratulations! You just did a successful ADF Core Order of Ritual Solitary Rite!
If you are performing your rite away from your shrine, it is important that you "mark your territory" before you begin. Walk the perimeter of your site and focus your energy on removing/pushing out any negativity from the area as well as from yourself. During the purification portion (step 2), you may offer to the Outdwellers, if desired. Do this away from your ritual site, and ask them to take your offering in exchange for being left alone. If you are working with the Two Powers Meditation, you may perform this in place of the Nine Breaths Centering. Many groves do this to establish a group mind. I like to do a Two Powers Meditation and move into a "Parting of the Mists" in which I conjure a mist in a visualization and then part it to reveal my Gatekeeper (ala Three Cranes Grove, ADF).
Once you have attained this level of control over the format, the only writings you will need to bring with you are the praise offerings specific to the Deities of the occasion. Feel free to beg, borrow and "steal" prayers and stories from anywhere you desire to flesh out your rites and make them your own. Be sure that any writings you use that are not your own have the source properly cited, especially if you plan to publish it. If you are a writer, write your own prayers to make this more personal. The search tool on the ADF website is an excellent way to learn more about any of the parts of the Core Order as well as prayers, stories and many other ritual needs.
I hope that you will find the Core Order of Ritual is highly adaptable. Once you have made it routine, the real spiritual work begins. When your eyes are free to move from the physical world into the beyond, and your actions become fluid and second nature, you will reap the benefits of learning to meet the Kindred in this way.