For the benefit of those who are not familiar with what we do in ADF, let me quickly explain our cosmology and what we expect to achieve in our ritual.
We are a sacrificial religion, which means that we strive to create and maintain relationships with the spiritual powers around us. This includes the Gods, the Spirits of the land and the earth, and our Ancestors, those kin of blood and kin of heart dear to us, as well as the peoples who lived in this place before us.
When we use the word, 'sacrifice', we mean something very specific, which may not be what you think. The word 'sacrifice' comes from the Latin words 'sacer' and 'facere', which only mean 'to make sacred'. The word 'sacer' means 'to set apart', so when we make sacrifice we are only setting things apart from our normal world that they might exist in sacred space and time. It doesn't mean that we're killing animals or people or anything like that.
There are three kinds of sacrifice in ADF ritual - reciprocity, the shared meal, and the mitigation of order with chaos. We can perform all three in our rituals, at various times.
The most common form we use is reciprocity - we give that we might receive. Now, this isn't a quid pro quo so much as a relationship. You give love and support and, occasionally, gifts to your friends, and you expect the same love and support and occasional gifts in return. This is the normal way relationships work. And this is what we do with the Powers. We make offerings to Them, and later, we will ask for Their blessings in return.
We deflect any Outdwellers, which is what we call problem spirits who are not aligned with our ways, by giving them a drink or food. And since a gift calls for a gift in return, in the spirit of reciprocity, we trust that they will stay away. Some Groves make sacrifices to a guardian God or Spirit to protect the rite in addition to, or instead of, offering to the Outdwellers.
The second form of sacrifice, the 'shared meal', is when we offer something, like a loaf of bread, giving part of it as an offering to the Powers while the rest of the bread is shared among us all. The 'mitigation of order with chaos' is when we make our Praise Offerings. These slightly chaotic moments that we bring to our rituals help to keep us from becoming too rigid or formal.
But how do we get the attention of the Kindreds - the Gods, Nature Spirits and Ancestors?
In most religious ritual, whether we are aware of it or not, we re-create the origins of the universe, bringing ourselves into sacred space and time, that communication may be made easier.
First we re-establish the Three Worlds of the Heavens (the place of the Shining Ones), the Mid-World (where we live) and the Underworld (where our Ancestors dwell) by doing the Two Powers meditation, which brings the Underworld powers, the powers of chaos, and the Heaven or Sky Powers, the powers of order, into ourselves, that we might be like the World Tree and connect the Worlds. We call this re-creating the vertical axis.
Sometimes we also fill out this cosmic picture by re-establishing the Three Realms of Land, Sea and Sky (the three parts of the Mid-World), or by calling the 5 directions, or whatever. We call this the horizontal axis.
The place where the vertical axis of Heavens, Mid-World and Underworld intersects with the horizontal axis of Land, Sea and Sky is the place that we call "The Sacred Center" or the "Center of the Worlds". And this place is where the veils between our world and the Otherworlds are thinnest. This sacred 'place' is where the universe was created, and it is all places and no place at the same time. But we re-create it here. We are also in sacred 'time', which is all time and no time, when the universe was created originally.
To help us connect with the Sacred Center, we consecrate and re-connect the Three Hallows in our rite. These physical objects are what we will use to pierce that veil between the Worlds, and we call them the three Gates. They are the Well (which connects to the Underworld and the powers of chaos), the Fire (which connects to the Heavens and the powers of order) and the Tree (which grows in our Midworld but connects us to the other Worlds).
When we open the Gates, we are sending out an open invitation to the Powers, an announcement, as it were, that we are here as a group and wish to commune with Them. We then make sacrifices to Them, which are offerings of food, drink, inspiration or precious objects, inviting Them into our rite with us. And when all sacrifices have been made, we ask for Their blessings to be given us in return.
So we are here to re-create the Sacred Center, make our sacrifices to the Kindreds, and ask them for their blessings and wisdom, forging and maintaining our relationships with Them all.