Nemos Ognios Beltane | ADF

Nemos Ognios Beltane

This is designed to be performed within the standard ADF format, with the changes given. As part of the ritual briefing it must be determined how many people will be taking part in the bannock rite, so the number of pieces the bannock must be cut into will be known.

The Season

A sense of foreboding fills the Celtic world at Beltane, then. There is the disappearance of Rhiannon's son and the great claw through the window in The Mabinogion. There is divination to see if the summer's weather will be good. And there are the purifying fires which give the feast its name.

Beltane is a time of crisis. In a pastoral community it is the time when animals are moved from their winter holdings to the summer pastures. This means a crossing from areas close to settlements into essentially wild areas. In an agricultural community, the crops are beginning to grow. No longer protected beneath the ground, and not yet fully grown, they are in a vulnerable liminal state.

The danger comes from the spirits of the land that are Outsiders. Not having been brought into the human community (through their choice or ours), they can be expected to be at cross purposes with us. We make our gains at their expense. We therefore propitiate them, making peace with chaos before we can build our cosmos.

The Ritual

The main purpose of this ritual is to appease the Outsiders, and to win their consent in our forming civilization in their midst. Once this is done, we may confidently ask our household deities to protect our homes.

The rite of choosing the marked bannock piece may originally have been performed to choose a sacrificial victim. In historic times the chosen one was purified by fire, a representative of the community. In his purification we are all purified of the baneful influences of winter.

He must first perform the community's work. He is sent into the unknown, bringing an offering to the Outsiders. Although the workings of the gods have chosen him, there is still some uncertainty as to the acceptance of the offering. Even if he returns successfully he must be purified before he is readmitted -- he has become sacred, and by going so closely to the Outsiders may have acquired some of their influence.

The elaborate turning and covering rite has the practical purpose of confusing everyone as to which piece has been marked. Ritual, it solemnizes the moment and incorporates all present
into it.

The people put part of their own bannock pieces into the chosen one's bowl as an acknowledgement of his service. Practically, this provides him with the means for his own
offering.

Finally, at the end, each attendee is purified individually by the smoke of the fires, a rite found both in Celtica and Rome.

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Props

  • A bannock on a plate.
  • A cloth to cover the bannock.
  • A knife to cut the bannock.
  • A bowl of barley.
  • An offering bowl.

Celebrants

  • Two Priests (D1 and D2)
  • Diviner

The Opening Prayer

D2: Ta muid anseo leis na dheithe a adhradh!

D1: We are here to honor the gods!

D2: We come together on this sacred day
to celebrate the feast of Beltane
to call in the summertime
to win from chaos a peaceful time
in which to gain our harvest.

Appeasing the Outsiders

D1: The time of resting has ended,
the time of planting has come.
We take our fields from the unmarked lands,
measuring our world out in their midst
and in the midst as well of those who dwell there,
those who dwell beyond the borders.

D2: We will make an offering, then,
to assuage the Outsiders
to appease them and please them
and win from them their grudging consent
for us to form our island world,
our homes, our culture, our people, our fields,
within the great surrounding sea.

D2 holds the bannock up and presents it to the others. She puts it back down and makes a mark on the underside. She holds it up, to show the mark to the others. She puts it down on its plate and cuts it, making sure that the mark falls on only one piece. She turns it three times, deosil, saying the following, one line with each turn:

I make this turn for the blessings of the High Gods
I make this turn for the blessings of the Honored Dead
I make this turn for the blessings of the Nature Spirits

The Diviner chooses a non-grove member, and the two of them go to the bannock. The Diviner holds a cloth about six inches over the bannock, and the non-grove member turns it three times, deosil, and then returns to her place. The cloth is lowered onto the bannock, and one of the grove children comes forward and turns the bannock three times, deosil. The child returns to his place. D2 then brings the covered bannock about the circle, deosil, and each adult takes a piece from under the cover. When all have taken one, the one who has the marked piece holds it up. The chant ceases. D1 motions the marked person to him. D1 and D2 hold their hands in blessings over him and say:

D2: As you go beyond the nemeton's borders,
may the blessings of the ancestors go with you.

D1: As you go beyond the nemeton's borders,
may the blessings of the deities go with you.

D2: As you go beyond the nemeton's borders,
may the blessings of the land spirits go with you.

All hold their hands up in blessing and say: As you go beyond the nemeton's borders,
may the blessings of the three kindred go with you,
and our blessings as well.

The marked one goes to the gate and says:

To those beyond the border
whether gods or goddesses
whether spirits or dead
to those who were before us
and dwell in the darkness of our world's shadow:
I come to you with offering
to buy from you a world.

He goes out through the gate and makes offering of his bannock piece. When he returns, he is met at the gate by the diviner, who asperges him, saying:

Div: We purify you from the Outsider's influence.
We cut you off from them,
that you might return to the people.

The Diviner conducts him to the fire, where he is met by D1
and D2. D2 gives him barley, and D1 says:

D1: Offer to the holy ones,
and become once more part of the people.

After he offers the barley to the fire, D2 says:

D2: People of the tribe, encircle the nemeton,
creating about this one who has returned the sacred
enclosure.

They circle deosil once. The marked person then rejoins the circle to the right of D1, who hands him an offering bowl.

The Offerings

The Diviner says:

Div: With the Outsiders appeased we may make our offerings.

Starting with D1 and going deosil, each person goes to the marked one and gives him a piece of their bannock piece, before going to the fire and placing the rest in it. As the offering is made, each person prays to his or her patron deity or deities to protect their household in the coming season, saying something like:

To < > and < >, who watch over my household,
I offer this bannock.
Protect my household, people and beasts,
land and all on it.

When the turn comes for the marked one, he uses the pieces the others have given him as his offering. After his offering, D2 says:

Pour out on us, Kindred, all your blessings,
bestow on us your gifts,
offer to us, with open arms,
the endless bounty of your unfailing power.
On fields and cattle

All: Let blessings fall.
D2: On hearth and home
All: Let blessings fall.
D2: On family and friends
All: Let blessings fall.
D2: On all our world,
from edge to edge, and all within it
All: Let blessings fall.
D2: From now to Samhain, be our protection.
Uphold the cosmos in which we dwell.
From all that would harm us
All: Protect us, kindred.
D2: From all that would wear us down
All: Protect us, kindred.
D2: From all that would damage the world of people
All: Protect us, kindred.
D2: Upon all that we own
Upon all that is ours
Upon all that is dear to us
All: Let blessings fall.

The Cauldrons of Purification

D2 lights a fire in two cauldrons which have been placed near the gates, transferring flame to them from the main fire. As she does so, she says: The fires of Beltane are fires of purification.

Recessional

D2: As we leave the nemeton, we pass between two fires.
May they burn away in us the accumulated detritus of winter.
We leave the season of inside;
We enter the outside.

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References

Danaher, Kevin. The Year in Ireland. St. Paul, MN: Irish Books and Media, 1972.

Leach, Maria (ed.) Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1972.

The Mabinogion. tr. Jeffrey Gantz. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1976.

Ovid. Fasti. tr. James Frazer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.

Author Information

David Fickett-Wilbar (Ceisiwr Serith)

Articles by David Fickett-Wilbar (Ceisiwr Serith)