We begin our exposition of the ways of Our Druidry with the intentions of our rites. By this we mean both the limited and specific goals of any one rite, as well as the overarching meaning that is present in the Order of Ritual itself. Every rite performed in this Order partakes of three meta-processes of spiritual intent.
I: The Spiritual Intentions of Druid Rites
To Rectify and Empower the Souls of the Worshippers:
The most consistent and personal result of sincere participation in ritual is the creation or strengthening of the patterns of our spiritual cosmos in the souls of individual worshippers. We need not enter into a discussion of whether this pattern exists innately in all people or whether we must create it there through our work. In either case the pattern will be strengthened and deepened by repeated meditation and ritual enactment.
The lore of Indo-European Paganism clearly assumes that the Inner Worlds, Otherworlds or Spirit Lands are the original models that predated our manifest world and from which it draws its reality. When we make our simple physical images of cosmic order, our Sacred Grove, we draw these Inner realities closer to the manifest world. When we in turn meditate on these symbols, recreating them in vision in ourselves, they become a kind of map that allows a clearer, more ordered understanding of the contents of our minds and hearts.
As in most of the Pagan revival, Druidry is not focused exclusively on the Light or the Heavens, nor do we value the Inner or Spiritual world more highly than the manifest world or the contents of our souls. We understand the Inner to be integral with the physical, and the physical to be as holy as the Inner. We use ritual to manifest the Powers of the Inner in our common world. By using our art, craft and skill we create physical and spiritual events that reflect and manifest Inner realities.
Once these Inner realities are manifested in this way, they can have effect on much larger groups and whole communities, in the process being graven in the souls of many more worshippers. Thus is the Pattern of the Worlds translated from the Inner through Art to the physical, and into the souls of the folk.
When a Pagan successfully integrates these patterns, they act as a kind of realignment for the mind and heart. Even if we assume that these patterns are inborn in us all, it is clear that the stresses of everyday life in our secular culture can leave us uncentered and distressed. Thoughtful, integral participation in ritual is one of the key answers to this modern alienation.
To Serve the God/desses and Spirits:
In contrast with much of Paganism, our Druidry tends to adopt a theology that views the million Powers described in tales and lore as independent, living entities. We reject, in general, theories that view the Powers as projections of our own minds, or as thought-forms created by human worship or as archetypes in the collective unconscious. Instead we prefer the traditional uniting of the nature of the God/desses and Spirits and of humanity. We can describe this uniting as having three parts.
First, humankind are Powers in and of themselves. We have innate abilities to shape thoughts, words and things just as do the Powers, and are capable of magic even without their aid. The greatest of us can be the equal of nearly any being, and all of us are able to exercise a degree of spiritual accuity according to our talent and skill. Second, we know that while there are many Spirits that may be weaker than us, there are many that are vastly more powerful. Many of these Mighty Ones are connected with the very maintenance of the life and health of ourselves and our land. So, third, in order to live well we need the blessing of these great Powers. This is obtained through worship, sacrifice and Attunement. By thus bringing ourselves into contact with these beings we allow them to be reflected to some degree in our own souls, bringing their blessing into our lives.
All traditional Paganism says that it is proper to give gifts of our own skill, art and substance to the Powers. The ancients offered carefully crafted objects of precious metal and wood as well as fruits of labor, food and drink to those they worshipped, and it is proper for us to do the same today. We must assume that the Spirits want and need these gifts just as we need their blessings. So by our rites of worship we feed the Powers and acknowledge our mutual interdependence with them.
This worshipful approach can help us to avoid the inflation of the personal ego that has been the besetting error of the Western magical Tradition. We do not teach that we are "God" or identical with God or the Universe. Rather we acknowledge that each of us is one element in the great dance of being. If we are skilled and talented we may come to a very great spiritual power, perhaps even becoming a God/dess. Yet even the greatest of the Powers worships and sacrifices to the other God/desses and Spirits. The web of mutual obligation never ends nor would we wish it to, for it is the thing that sustains all existence.
To Bless the Folk and the Land:
Our Druidry is neither meant to be humble, one-sided giving to the Powers nor vague, feel-good spirituality. Pagan religion hopes always to provide real benefit to the community it serves. In traditional lore this is often expressed as three great goods - health, wealth and wisdom. Again, Paganism does not reject the things of this material world in favor of spiritual things. Every human life needs a balance of physical well-being, sufficient goods and mental and spiritual growth. We expect our religious rites to be practical aids toward these goals.
The Order of Ritual contains several intrinsic benefits for all who join in wholeheartedly. First, as mentioned, is the establishment or strengthing of the Cosmic Patterns in the soul making us more firmly grounded and more effectively centered. Second is the deepening of our contact with the God/desses and Spirits. As Pagans we should be working to establish personal relationships with the Deities, members of the Faery Tribes and of course with our own Ancestors and the Elder Wise Ones. Whenever we participate in the offerings to the Three Kindreds we have the opportunity to call to our own allies among the Powers, thus strengthening our personal magic. The third source of blessing is, of course, the Blessing itself (the "return flow"). The worshipper should formulate carefully what she desires to receive from any rite, and everyone should expect real results, real life-changes from the blessing and drinking of the Blessing Cup.
As modern Pagans we have a special duty to heal and defend the land itself. Our Holy Earth has been deadened by centuries of loveless abuse, and it should be part of every Druid rite to appeal to, waken and honor the land that upholds our work. Our Order of Ritual gives us several opportunities. The first is at the Earthmother Offering, when the local Goddess of the land, and/or the Earthmother of the chosen pantheon is honored. The second is at the Nature Spirits Offering, when the tribes of Spirits who enliven the area are worshipped, and the third could be at the Blessing itself, when a portion of the Blessing might be poured on the Earth, so that the land may share in the results of the work.
II: Practical Considerations
Having discussed the theoretical bases of our work we may now examine some more practical connotations in choosing your intent and goal for a Druidic rite. We can consider these under two headings: Choosing a Pantheon and the Occasion of the Rite. Pantheon and Patrons
The primary outer purpose of most Druid ritual is to worship the Powers, the Deities and Spirits. In much of the Pagan revival Powers from a variety of cultures and systems are often worshipped together. While this happens in Druidry as well we encourage the choice of a single cultural pantheon for each individual rite. This gives focus to the rite, ensures that the Powers are in harmony and en es the gaining of lore about ancient Pagan cultures. So the first step in designing a Druidic rite is to decide in which cultural complex the rite will be done.
Of course any system that chooses to call itself "Druidry" will have a strong interest in the ways of the Pagan Celts. We are no exception, and the next volume of this digest will focus on Celtic rites for the seasons and other intentions. However Ar nDraiocht Fein is open to all Indo-European cultures and we have work occurring in the Germanic, Hellenic, Slavic and Baltic communites.
Of course the strongest element in this choice will be your own interest and dedication to a particular pantheon. If you are working alone you should simply use your own first choice of pantheon, but groups will need to reach a consensus. Rather than mingling the systems of several group members, we recommend doing separate rites, experimenting with various cultures until the group's preferences become clear. Some of ADF's Groves keep to a single culture through out the year while some vary from holiday to holiday and some even perform multiple rites, one for each of several cultures for each Holy day. Choosing a single cultural paradigm allows a group to deepen and strengthen its magical connection with those Powers, while experimentation broadens experience and entails research, so the choices are yours.
Once you have determined the pantheon for your rite you must also choose the particular Powers to whom the central offerings and callings will be made. This will be based on the occasion and the magical intent of the rite as discussed below, and on the inclination of its group or individual sponsors. Almost always these Patron Powers are a pair of Deities, a Goddess and a God, though rites can also be offered to the Ancestors or the Spirits of the Land.
Those working alone or in a small group that shares a focus may find a desire to worship only one or two Deities from a single pantheon, that is personal Patron Deities. This is fine, but it is important to include the broader company of Powers from the pantheon from which these Patrons are drawn. Our Order of Ritual requires offerings to several categories of Deity in every case, reducing the problem of focusing on personal Deities alone, but you should be sure to thoroughly research the whole cultural pattern from which the Powers are drawn.
The Occasion of the Rite
This topic divides into Seasonal Rites, Rites of Passage and personal needs.
A: Seasonal Rites
Ar nDraiocht Fein has formally adopted the modern NeoPagan calendar of eight seasonal holy days. These are, of course, the four astronomical days i.e. the Solstices and Equinoxes combined with the so-called Fire festivals of the Celts - Samhain, Imbolg, Beltainne and Lughnassadh. We have not established a specific set of symbols or mysteries for these occasions. The form and content of each is up to you, though we will provide scripts from which you may draw in tion. Again your own research and meditation will be the best guide to the proper symbols for each feast.
ADF is not attempting to revive any of the ancient Pagan religions of the cultures we study. We base our work on authentic ancient lore and effective modern magical and religious technique, realizing that we are creating a new religion for ourselves as moderns. Thus we use the standard dates and core symbols of the modern Pagan calendar, fitting various ethnic traditions into this pattern. While a Grove may choose to perform rites based on a specific ethnic tradition on dates different from the core calendar, the eight core holidays must be offered to the communty.
B: Rites of Passage
As in any religion, Pagans hallow the important occasions of our lives with ritual. Births, Child Blessings, Comings of Age, Religious Vocations, Weddings and Funerals can all be proper occasions for our rites. In a future issue of the Flame we will give scripts for several of these occasions.
C: Personal Magical Work
The ADF Order of Ritual has been evolved mainly for public worship with medium to large groups. Using the Order for small workings is quite possible, but may require some variation. This booklet provides a simple script that can be used as a stepping off point for individual and small-group workings. Again, we will discuss practical Magic in a later issue.
One approach to personal rites in a community context is similar to traditions in several world religions including Vedic and Yoruba ways. When a member of the community has a particular need or has had a particular stroke of good fortune they may ask their local priest/ess to perform a Rite of Offering to the Powers who will or have aided them. This sometimes be comes a community celebration or prayer and sometimes is quite private. It seems to me that this is a practice that we could profitably adopt.
So then, let's conclude by recapping the central concerns for the intent of any rite:
Nature of the work- is it seasonal worship, a rite of passage or an individual goal? If the rite combines one or more of these functions, which is the primary and which the secondary intention?
Pantheon and Patrons- if you are devoted to a particular cultural pantheon then that choice is simple. Otherwise you will choose which complex to draw on. You will then choose which Deities are most proper to your intention. For seasonal work this may derive from customs and traditions connected to the holy day; for other intents you will need to do research to determine which Powers most closely fit your need.
When these concepts are clear in your mind you are ready to proceed to the actual construction of your Druidic rite.