Step by Step through A Druid Worship Ceremony
Step by Step through A Druid Worship Ceremony
© Isaac Bonewits
Originally published in Druid's Progress #4
This document reflects our early ritual step-by-step, prior to 2006. Our current outline can be found in our Order of Ritual.
I hope that the previous essays on liturgical design and preparation have made it clear that decisions about the structure of a ceremony are not just a matter of arbitrarily picking and choosing things to do that seem "nice", "fun" or "traditional", nor of slavishly copying a script that someone else wrote a long lime ago. The "Outline for Druid Worship Rituals", published in DP#2, was carefully constructed according to the principles we've been examining. It should, with the modifications mentioned in this essay, be usable without major changes for a few more years of further liturgical experimentation.
But even the best(?) liturgical design will not guarantee an effective and satisfying religious experience unless the people performing it actually understand what they are doing, and why they are doing it. So the purpose of this essay is to give you some of the details about actual ceremonial performance that the version published in DP#2 did not have room for. I'm not going to repeat all of the rubrics, nor the text of the prayers (except for translation corrections). So you'll need a copy of that issue in order to get the most out of this. In the pages that follow, we'll go through that script, following the (modified) outline step-by-step, and taking into account comments, critiques, changes and variations that have occurred during the years it's been used.
Once you've digested the materials in this and the preceding essays, you should be able to come up with new scripts based on the outline, which will be repeated in its current form at the end of this essay. You can then publish these in your zines. We are especially going to need (a) scripts based on all of our different Indo-European ethnic focuses, and (b) scripts for rites of passage and spell castings which can fit into the ceremony as currently structured. And of course, we're going to need scores(!) of new songs and chants from our bards, so send those in too.
Let me emphasize this as blatantly as possible: I don't want to have to create the entire liturgy all by myself. I'm willing to figure out the basic liturgical designs necessary to accomplish various goals, but the artistic expression of those designs must be a community effort if what we are doing is ever to fulfill its potential. Don't worry about whether your new script is "as good as" mine, or constitutes immortal poesy, just work on making it better than the last one you did. As time goes by, we will all steal good lines from each other's scripts, translate them into the languages we're each using, and explore the possibilities inherent in each design.
Before we begin this step through, let's review the five-part structure. (1) Starting the ritual and establishing the groupmind; (2) Opening the Gates Between the Worlds and beginning the power flow; (3) The major sending of power to the deities of the occasion; (4) Receiving and using the returned power from the deities of the occasion; and finally (5) Unwinding and ending the ceremony.
First Phase. Starting the Rite & Establishing the Groupmind
The Clearcut Beginning: the Consecration of Time
Every ritual, whether religious or not, should have a clearly designated beginning. This can be signaled by a bell ringing, by the clergy showing up in full regalia, by candles being lit, or in some other fashion. What's important is that the participants in the rite receive the cue that says to their subconscious minds, "the ceremony is Stating, it's time to be magical/spiritual/psychic."
In this rite, the opening phrase in a nonEnglish language provides this vital cue: ta muid anseo leis na deithe a adhradh. "We are here to honor the Gods." The English translation immediately follows, and after this the English version of each phrase or prayer gets done first. Yes, I know that's the opposite of the way the script has them, but experience has shown that this pattern works better for congregations who are not familiar with the nonEnglish language involved.
(Linguistic note: the second phrase in the published script is better translated as "O Gods, whose power gives life to everything which is alive, be you here with us rather than "give to us your presence" as published. Obviously, the quality of the Irish/English translations still needs work.)
In any event, the first phrase is to announce to the subconscious and conscious minds of the human participants, and the second phrase is to announce to the Gods, that the ceremony is now starting. When loud instruments are available, a single blast of sound before the opening words are spoken helps, especially if there's a large congregation on hand. Right after the opening phrases are finished, the instruments can start up again with real music.
The Consecration of Space
Having begun the consecration of time, you need to immediately consecrate a bit of space. In a place that is normally used for religious activities, all you need to do is to walk into the temple or grove with a proper intent, and the sacred nature of the place will become activated. In a location that is normally mundane (or at least not normally viewed as sacred), you will need to mark the physical perimeter of the area you plan to use. This can be done loosely by processing around the area, or (if you are short on maneuvering room) by having everyone sit or stand in a circle (or other shape) and hold hands while singing a song about sacred space (such as "Circles", for example).
The physical perimeter of your ritual area can also be set up tightly by physically marking the edges of the area, followed by ritually consecrating those edges. The choice of a loose or tight boundary depends upon the type of magical/religious activity you intend to do. More specifically, it depends upon how critical it is that certain energies be kept in or out of the working area, either temporarily or permanently.
A number of people have been astonished that this Druid ceremony pays no attention whatever to the Wiccan tradition of "invoking the Four Quarters." In fact, although some folks have insisted on inserting Quarter invocations into it, and this doesn't actually hurt the energy flow, most of the time we don't bother. Heres why:
As near as I can figure, Quarter invocations probably weren't necessary for Paleopagan Druid ceremonies, since (a) everybody probably already knew which direction was which, so the orientation factor was covered, and (b) sacred groves were already sacred, so calling on spirits from the Four Quarters to "make" them sacred would have been redundant. I've seen little evidence that the Indo-Europeans paid much attention to the Four Quarters, and they certainly did not use the Judeo-Christian Cabalistic arrangement of four-elements-plus-one (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, plus Spirit). Instead they seem to have used three-worlds-plus-one (Land, Water, Sky, plus Fire). So rather than an equal armed cross with the fifth "element" of Spirit in the middle as their symbolic map of the cosmos, they would perhaps have used a triangle or a three legged spiral (triskalion) with Fire in the center. But then, for them Fire was the "fourth world" of Spirit.
There's also the fact that the "Guardians of the Quarters" or "Lords of the Watchtowers" in Neopagan polytheology are very vaguely defined. Every group, and often every member within such a group, who "invokes" (actually, invites) Them seems to have a different idea of who or what They are, and what (if anything) They are supposed to do upon arriving. Actually, the "Watchtowers" are another concept lifted by Gardner, I believe from the Masons, and those who aren't Masonic initiates can never be too sure of what they, or their Guardians, really are. For the rest of us, it's a matter of invoke a fuzzy spirit, you get a fuzzy answer!
Wiccan circles are an outgrowth of Goetic circles, but with the barriers meant to keep energy in, as well as to keep it out. They are very appropriate for private small group rituals, where intense magical work is going to be done by people expecting outside interference. On the other hand, Paleopagan Druid groves were, naturally, open to the air (though fenced on the ground), and were meant to attract energy, or at least the attention of spirits, ancestors and the Gods. There was no need to try and keep out energy, since no "demon" or other evil spirit would dare to invade a sacred grove. Did they have a need to keep energy in? I don't know. Keeping energy in may only be necessary for rituals involving the buildup to a single peak of power. My experience with the ADF ceremony is that the psychic/magical/spiritual energy can be successfully "breathed" in and out of the grove, throughout the entire ritual, without worrying about barriers at all. The pattern seems to turn into a vortex/whirlwind shape, with energies going up and down, in and out, simultaneously.
On a practical basis, having a loose "open" ritual area means that late-comers to the ceremony can join those already present, instead of having to wait outside and passively observe. This latter effect happened during an ADF Fall Equinox rite in Kansas City. A group of local Pagans arrived late, did not realize that a traditional closed Wiccan circle had not been cast, and so assumed that they had to watch from the sidelines, which they very quietly and respectfully did. I was so focussed on the rite, and on my prayers to Taranis to hold off an impending thunderstorm, that I didn't even notice them standing there in the dark until the ceremony was nine-tenths over. Here was another situation where it would have been good to have someone whose job it was to bring latecomers into the group. (The rain started as we were heading back to the cars.) On a polytheological basis, this distinction between tightly defined, closed magical boundaries that should never be crossed during the ritual (the Goetic/Wiccan style), and loosely defined, open boundaries that can be crossed without mishap (the style used in ADF rites), is one of the major differences between an exclusionary psychic/magical/spiritual system and an inclusionary one. Either approach can be appropriate for different groups at different rimes, but it's important that a choice be made one way or the other on each occasion, since this is one case where compromises usually fail.
In terms of defining the sacred space on the ground, one processional pattern that we have done successfully works like that described in the script -- the forming of a giant Druid sigil shape: Q). Other patterns could be experimented with, such as a triangle (with banners of the Three Worlds at the corners), or an egg-shape (if you are working with the symbolism of a "cosmic egg"), etc. What would be important here is that everybody gets into motion, and that they all define on the ground a shape that has meaning to them. However, if you're going to use a noncircular shape, you should mark it out physically on the ground beforehand, and be sure to mention it in the pre-ritual briefing.
If this is a night Procession with torches, the torches should be put someplace safe at the end of it: either in the center bonfire, in a ring around the middle, or (if there are a lot of torches) in a ring far outside the edges of the congregation. Remember what was said in the preceding essays about the necessity of appointing a Fire Warden for supervision. His/her word should be final.
Although Processions get everybody moving in unison, and thus are the beginning of getting a groupmind together, they can also scatter the energy a bit, unless they've been well rehearsed, and the chants being done during them are simple and effective. For example, consider "We All Come from the Goddess" and "Hoof and Horn'. These popular Neopagan chants go to more-or-less the same tune (along with a dozen others), and can be alternated or interwoven in a wide variety of ways. Lines or couplets or entire verses can be passed back and forth between male and female voices, parts can be inserted between spoken phrases by the clergy or bards, etc. Here's the version we used at the 1986 P.S.G. ritual:
We all come from the Goddess And to Her we have returned; As our ancestors Worshipped Her Air, land and sea. Hoof and horn, hoof and horn, All that dies shall be reborn. Corn and grain, corn and grain, All that falls shall rise again.
Those of you familiar with the Goddess chant will notice that the words have been changed somewhat. This was done (1) to avoid summoning rain, which the usual line about "like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean" usually does; (2) to emphasize that we have returned in our present lives, rather than "shall" return someday at our deaths; (3) to insert a punning reference to reincarnation ("As our ancestors") for those who believe in such; (4) to place a reference to the Three Worlds at the very beginning of the rite (a model that continues throughout); and (5) to put an "eee" sound at the end of the chant, which would wrap around to the beginning "We" sound (thus making it a cyclical round instead of a linear poem). It's amazing how many polytheological implications you can get out of some very simple changes. (By the by, the original version of the chant began with "All things come from the Goddess", not the actual "We all come from the Goddess" that most folks are now familiar with.)
Many other songs and chants can be used for Processionals. I've used dozens over the years, and will share some of them with you in future issues. So don't fossilize the ones printed above (or in the rest of this essay). Instead, write your own, and send them in for the rest of us to enjoy.
As mentioned earlier in this essay, if you are working in a small indoor area, you may not have the room to process -- especially if you have chairs or pillows set up in a circle or horse-shoe (oriented on a fireplace) shape. In this situation, it's a good idea to sing some sort of song, or chant a chant, with words that focus on the concepts of ritual space. Gwen Zack Moore's classic "Circles" song is good for this, though we could use some new ones that are more polytheistic and less Generic Wicca. You could also use the "I Circle Around" Amerindian chant here, doing it nine times.
One way of settling down the energy at the end of the Consecration of Space is to do a simple plainchant, and this is the function of the "O Earth-Mother" chant published in the script. This chant goes back twenty rears to the old Reformed Druids of North America. The singing style is the Irish sean os ("old style"), with much ornamentation and abrupt stops. Other chants can and will be used, but this one (a) is Earth oriented, and therefore begins the grounding process, (b) has triads and references to sacred trees, and therefore sounds Druidic, and (c) has been used effectively in RDNA rites for twenty years. It works, and I'm nostalgically fond of it. For those of you who can't find your copy of DP#2, here it is again:
O Earth Mother! We praise Thee: that seed springeth, that flower openeth, that grass waveth. We praise Thee: for winds that whisper through the shining birch, through the lively pine, through the mighty oak. We praise Thee, for all things, O Earth Mother, Who givest Life!
Naturally, other plainchants could be written for this section, and I encourage you to do so. The idea is to have something striking, yet dignified.
Centering, Grounding and Merging: the Tree Meditation
"Centering" is a term used in Neopagan ritual technique to refer to each person finding the center within him/herself. If you close your eyes and say to yourself, "Where am I in this body, anyway?", some of you will find your center behind your eyes, some of you in your heart area, some of you in your belly, or elsewhere. There is no right or wrong place to have your center in (at least not for the purposes of this ceremony) from a polytheological aspect. However, from a movement awareness aspect, you might be better off to move your center of awareness to the solar plexus region, tuck your pelvis under, and otherwise stand or sit in a fully relaxed manner, in order to open your body up for the maximum internal flow of psychic energy (comments from martial artists, yoga students or dancers on this would be appreciated).
"Grounding", on the other foot, is one of those quasi-technical terms that Neopagans commonly use for two very different ideas. The first one is that of making a physical and psychic connection to the ground, both as a source of physical and psychological stability, and as a spiritual source of energy (the Earth-Mother). The second way in which the term "grounding" is used is as an electromagnetic metaphor for draining off "excess" psychic energy into the ground (or occasionally into one's ceremonial tools). At this point in the ADF worship ceremony, it is the first sense that is primary.
The next step is to merge into a "groupmind." For those of you unfamiliar with this term, think of it as getting everyone present to be "on the same wavelength", experiencing the same emotions and seeing the same visual and mental images. This is usually done through individual centering and grounding, followed by a reminder to the congregation of what they have in common (ancestry, beliefs, relations to the divine, etc.), and some sort of meditation, song or other activity designed to promote a sense of unity and to begin the circulation of coordinated psychic energy by the group.
In the ADF rite, this is all accomplished by the "Tree Meditation." This can be done as a spoken guided meditation by one of the presiding clergy, as mentioned in the script, or can be sung or chanted by one of the bards. See Karl Steinmayer's zine in this issue for the text and music to an excellent sung version of it. The Tree Meditation was deliberately designed (a) to accomplish the centering, grounding, and unifying steps just mentioned; (5) to use dynamic organic images in keeping with a Pagan worldview, rattler than static inorganic ones, and (c) to use the overall image of a tree, and thus to induce a Druidic feeling into the participants early on in the rite.
Let's go through this part of the liturgy in detail, because this is the first really critical stage of the ritual. We begin with individual centering. Each person in the group, including the presiding clergy and the bards, focuses their attention on finding their personal center, as described above. This can be seen as finding your "seed" of individual power and awareness.
Then it's time to put down "roots." You can visualize and/or feel psychic roots growing out of the bottoms of your feet (those of you who know how to "drop a cord" from the bottom of your spine should do this as well). You ground yourself to the actual dirt/sand/rocks that you happen to be standing upon, feeling the connection between yourself and the planet. If you are indoors, extend your awareness through the floor and directly downwards as far as necessary, until you connect with the Earth. If you are several stories up in the air, you may need to link yourself to the building first, then feel its connections to the Earth. If you are in an airplane or space station, you may need to skip grounding entirely.....
Think about all those dead ancestors of yours, buried in the earth, as well as your predecessors (the folks who have done these sorts of ceremonies in the past, whether as clergy or congregation). Make the psychic link to them, feel yourself as a part of something very ancient. Then return your mind to the recent past, thinking calmly (like a tree would) about any important events that have occurred to you in the days or weeks previous. Contemplate the highs and lows with equal dispassion, and think briefly of the lessons each had for you. Then feel yourself absorbing nourishment from all these sources: the rock of the Earth-Mother and all Her holy biosphere, the rich psychic soil of your ancestors and predecessors, the spiritual compost of the lessons you have recently learned. Feel this nourishment flowing into you like sap rising up a tree.
As this sap rises up your legs and into your trunk(!), lift your arms as if they were branches. Feel your entire being glowing and growing, visualize branches sprouting out from you in all directions, reaching out to the limits of your aura. Feel the breeze blowing through your branches, let yor! mind become very clear and settled (your leaves will rustle in the wind, but your center should remain calm).
You are now in touch with all Three Worlds: the Land beneath your roots, the Water running through your trunk, the Sky caressing your branches. Now let your leaves begin to absorb the Firey light from above (whether sun, moon or stars) and the hidden Fire within the Earth below. This Fire will circulate throughout your entire being, making your body, mind and soul glow with its creative power. You have become a human tree.
So now is the time to create the grove, by extending your roots and branches until they meet and intermingle with those of the others participating in the ceremony. Realize(!) that you are all rooted in the same Land, drinking the same Water, beneath the same Sky, and receiving the same Fire. With that realization, feel yourself becoming one with the others, merging into a single being -- the grove, something that is far more than the sum of its parts.
Now is the time in most religions where an affirmation of group beliefs would be done. With Neopagans, however, creedal statements are difficult to write in a way that genuinely includes everyone. Small groups should experiment with trying to write such statements for themselves, but for most of us (especially with large-sized ceremonies), songs work far better than prose, and have the additional advantage of beginning an almost automatic circulation of energy around the grove. Such songs should have easy melodies and memorable choruses, so that literally everyone can join in, and be serious rather than humorous. If you can come up with polytheistic (rather than duo-) themes and Druidic images, so much the better. But for pacing purposes, you'll want to keep it down to three or four verses plus choruses.
Speaking of pacing, the entire Tree Meditation section should take five to ten minutes, depending upon the time necessary for the slower members of the group to trance out. It won't hurt for the more experienced ones to spend extra time being trees, but the less experienced folks need to be brought thoroughly into the groupmind. Yet spending more than ten minutes may (with some groups) offend and/or start to bore the majority of the congregation.
Specification of the Ritual Focus and Deities
Once the groupmind has been created, it is reminded of the deity or deities that it is supposed to be concentrating on for that occasion, what the purpose of that occasion's ritual actually is, and of why the deities chosen are appropriate. This gives everyone the intellectual, artistic and spiritual themes they need to be concentrating upon. Unfortunately, with a small group, this part is easy to forget, since "everybody already knows" all this. Rut all you need is one newcomer or unexpected guest who doesn't already know, and he or she can generate a lot of confusion. So try not to forget this vital internal reminder.
Second Phase: Opening the Gates & Preliminary Power Raising
Invoking the Gate Keeper
Having gotten the groupmind ready, it's necessary to next "tune" the groupmind's psychic powers to whatever "wavelength" the ancestors, spirits, and/or Gods will be communicating on. This is often symbolized in Pagan ceremonies as "Opening the Gates Between the Worlds", and is usually accomplished by invoking (although that may not be quite the correct term here) a particular deity who is considered a "Gate Keeper", and Who is the easiest of all deities to contact, since He/She is always halfway into this world already. The Gate Keeper is then requested to open the Gates, which She/He will usually do with little fuss. This deity was Ogma in the published version of the script, but we have also experimented with Manannon, based on suggestions from various members that the latter might be more appropriate.
(Another linguistic note: Molann muid thu mar gheall ar do chumhacht should really be translated as "We praise you for the brightness of your power".) Brightness/light/fire were considered primary attributes of divinity among the Indo-Europeans.)
The prayer of invocation is followed by a chant. So far, we've used two versions each of two different chants, in varying ways. The tunes for both chants are traditional Irish. The first one goes like this:
Siuil linn a Oghma... ("shool-leen ah oh...mah") ...Walk with us Ogma. Siuil linn a Mhanannon... ("shool-leen ah wah-na-non") ...Walk with us Manannon.
The pattern is sung either three or nine times. It's also been used successfully as a Processional chant. The second chant goes like this:
We invoke thee Ogma, Opener of every Gate. (repeat) You shall reach us, You shall teach us, and reveal our fate! (repeat)
The three-syllable name "Manannon" can be substituted for the words "thee Ogma" in the first line. Each line is done twice, and the whole pattern is sung either three or nine times. (This habit of repeating things in threes and nines not only fits aesthetically with the Indo-European patterns, but also makes it easier for people to know when to when to stop, something that script writers frequently forget about.)
When the Gates are Opened, exactly where are they? Generally, I've noticed that they seem to manifest in the center of the circle, over the fire or altar, and anywhere from six to ten feet up. Different groups will visualize and perceive them differently, and this is something that should be discussed during your planning sessions.
One way to remind people of this (at least if you're outdoors or in a large area), and to focus their psychic energy towards the task of invoking the Gate Keeper, is to do some sort of choreography involving physical movement by a few clergy or bards (or even banner holders) circling around the Gates' intended location during the chanting. These Gates function as the ritual Center of the grove, regardless of their space-time coordinates. I'll have more on this later, but in the meantime I can't recommend too highly Mircea Eliade's writings on the mystical/magical importance of the Center.
Invoking the Matron/Patron of Bards
Although it is not mentioned in the script published in DP#2, this is now followed immediately by an invocation of a deity in charge of bards, since bardic activity is our primary means of raising and tuning power. This deity should be of the opposite gender from the Gate Keeper, in order to maintain balance in the ceremony. So far, this has usually been Bridget in the ADF rites. This invocation (which deserves the term fully, since we are attempting to pull Her energies into ourselves) will begin the first trickle of energy from the Other Side, which is used to inspire the bards and the congregation to generate more energy. Here's the song, called "A Hymn to Bridget", that I've been using for the last couple of years (the transliteration is on the right):
|A Bhrid, ar goroi, an-gheal Bheanrion;||(ah vree, ar gree, ahn-yawl von-reen)|
|Lo de thoil e beannachta sinn.||(low da dolly bah-nacht-tah sheen)|
|Is sinn bhur leanai, is tu ar mamai||(iss sheen vur lanni, iss too ar mom-wee)|
|Bi ag isteacht duinn mar sin.||(be ah gay-stot dween mar shin)|
|Is tu an coire, anois inar doire;||(iss too ahn hweer-ah, ah-neesh in-ar deer-ah)|
|A Bhean-domhan tinfim orainn.||(ah van-dowan tin-feem or-rin)|
|A thine ghra, a thine bheatha;||(ah hinna hrah, a hinna byah)|
|Lo de thoil e ag teacht Bhrid duinn!||(low da doily ah tockt vree dween)|
O Bridget, our heart, O brightest Queen; Cast your blessings unto us. We are your children, You are our mother; So hearken unto us.
You are the cauldron, now in our grove; Earth-Mother inspire us. O fire of love, O fire of life; Please Bridget, come to us!
A Bhrid, ar goroi, an-gheal Bheanrion....
Obviously, this is used to invoke Bridget as the Matron Goddess of Bards. The words are by myself and Shenain Bell, and the music is Irish traditional ("Roving Galway Boy"). Currently the first verse is repeated after the English verse. The English translation-verse needs work, and it would be nice to have several more verses in Irish or English.
We've also used a chant called "Lady Lift Us Up", which has a jazzy sort of tune, and which (when done nine times) does a very good of of exalting the participants. It goes like this:
Lady ... lift us up.
Up ... where ... we belong.
Lady lift us up where we belong!
And higher and higher!
The Triad Invocations
In the ADF rites, the next step is the "Triad Invocations", which are designed to invoke entities associated with each of the Three Worlds. Each invocation, consecration, and passing of (or asperging with) the Waters of Life brings more power to the groupmind and makes the subsequent invocations more powerful. In effect, since we are tapping into a very sleepy and distant part of the collective unconscious, we are "lifting ourselves by our own bootstraps" through a back and forth exchange of energy through the Gates. Other religions accomplish the same effects in different ways. All of them spend time and effort to get the groupmind (a) generating lots of energy and (b) focussed on the needs of the occasion.
If you have set up three altars around your site, you can do one of these invocations at each of them. The first at the Land altar, the second at the Water altar, the third at the Sky altar. Naturally, the fourth and final invocation (see Phase Four) would be done at the central altar.
I have recently come to the conclusion that the nature spirits should be invoked first, and the ancestors/predecessors second, even though this is the opposite of the way the published script has them. Originally I associated the ancestors with the World or the Land because of the common Indo-European tradition that the dead lived beneath the ground, in a mirror universe, where they walked "upside-down" to our perspective. The justification for associating the spirits with the World of the Waters was not quite so clear. The Waters are often seen as the Gateway to the Other Side, where the spirits exist, but the Gods and the ancestors exist there too.
Eventually it occurred to me that the nature spirits are, first and foremost, the spirits of the Land, and that their primary impact is on the producer caste -- the hunters and the farmers (fishers, on the other fin...). To keep the tripartite Indo European motif throughout the ritual, the first of the Triad Invocations should be of those entities who affect fertility, and the second be for those associated with death, such as dead people. There may even be occasions when warrior spirits may be appropriate to Invoke then instead of, or in addition to the ancestors/predecessors. (I'm not sure that I really understand the connections between war/death and the World of the Waters.)
However, I think that the most important principle here is to have the liturgy maintain the sequence of (1) fertility, (2) mortality, (3) divinity, and (4) transcendence.
So we now begin with invoking the nature spirits, both those of the ancient times and those in the locality where the ritual is taking place. The spirits being invoked here are those of the trees and the grasses, of the deer and foxes, the birds and the fishes. Even if you now live in the middle of a large city, you can make the psychic/spiritual link to the continent-wide forests that once covered Europe, as well as the woods, prairies and swamps that once covered North America. This is the part of the ritual where you may want to think of Native American nature spirits who were once worshipped in your area.
In this part of the ceremony we are asking them to give us the comfort, knowledge and blessings that we will need to accomplish our goals for the rest of the ceremony, as well as in our private lives and group activities to come. The purpose of the consecration is to make the Waters a bridge between them and ourselves, so that as we partake (through drinking or asperging) each of us has a clearer and stronger connection to them -- one that will last long after the ceremony has ended.
As mentioned in the rubrics, the energy flow during the invocation is directed from the center of the grove downwards and outwards, in a radiating cone. In the moments after the words are finished, the nature spirits reply by reversing the energy flow into the grove and thence into the Waters (thus consecrating them). The clairvoyantly inclined will "see" an arc of energy going from the center into the containers of Waters. Even after the Waters begin to be passed around, the energy flow continues to climb up the cone into the center. As the Waters go around the grove, the arc of energy from the center will touch each person. Eventually, everyone present will have a direct psychic link to the nature spirits through the center.
In order to keep everyone focussed during the passing of the Waters, it's important to have some sort of chant or song, preferably one that reflects the flavor of energy being absorbed. Here's one (written by Sable) that we've used very successfully (it should be done at least nine times, and continued until everyone has partaken):
Fur and feather and scale and skin, Different without but the same within. Many of body but one of soul, Through all creatures are the Gods made whole.
Next comes the invocation of our ancestors and predecessors. The vast majority of folks interested in Druidism have at least some European ancestry; even those who haven't feel a strong psychic and/or psychological link to the Ancient Druids/Godis/Flamans, etc. Here the energy flow is directed from the center outwards into the world around us, psychically connecting us to the ever-present spirits of those who have gone before. This energy pattern may be perceived as a horizontal disc floating around the center, or as the space between two shallow cones radiating from the center. (Stand with your arms pointing out horizontally from your shoulders. Lift them 15 degrees and slowly turn around in a full circle. Drop them to 15 degrees below horizontal, and turn around again. The area between your upper and lover arm positions is the sort of shape I'm talking about.)
As with the preceding invocation, the return response of energy comes from the center and arcs towards the containers of Waters, from whence it passes around the grove as the members partake. These energies are added to those of the nature spirits, which continue to radiate into the grove.
Here's a chant that we've used for this passing of the Waters. It should be done at least nine times, and continued until everyone has partaken.
It's the blood of the Ancients That runs through our veins. And the forms change, But the Circle of Life remains.
The last of the Triad Invocations is of the Gods "in general". Most congregations will probably have a particular pantheon of divinities that they feel closest to, such as the Celtic Gods, the Norse, the Slavic, the Greek, etc. Or a given ceremony may be focussed around a particular ethnic group, so its divinities would thus be the appropriate ones. In any event, the purpose of this invocation is to open ourselves to the powers of the Gods as 12 collectivity. The power flow from each divinity will not be as strong as the energy to be received later from the specific god and goddess of the occasion, but neither will it be as tightly focussed. Thus if a weather working is to be done later, with a weather god and goddess as the ones for the occasion, a person who needs healing or prosperity may receive at this point of the rite some appropriate strengthening from a healing goddess or god of wealth. Everyone in the grove will, at the very least, find themselves exalted spiritually to the point where they will find it easier to absorb the powers of the specific god and goddess to be invoked later at the high point of the ceremony.
The geometric pattern of the energy flow for this third invocation is the opposite of the first one -- a cone of energy going from the center and radiating upwards, then reversing its direction as the Waters become consecrated. Again, an arc of energy will come from the center into the containers of Waters, and follow it around the grove as each person partakes.
Naturally, another chant or song is need for the third passing of the Waters. Here is one that we've used in the past (as before, nine repetitions minimum are recommended):
Mother I Feel You, under my feet. Mother I hear Your heart beat! (repeat) Father I see You where the eagle flies. Spirit gonna take me higher & higher! (repeat)
This is OK, since it tends to establish the symbolic link between the earth and sky, but does have the drawback of being focussed on only two divinities. Another, more polytheistic one we've used is my own "Will Ye Now Come Back Again?" song, which has a simple chorus for people to join in on and a tune almost all Celtophiles will recognize instantly ("Bonnie Charlie's Now Awa'").
By the time the Waters have gone around the grove three times, the participants will not only be thoroughly charged up with psychic/magical/spiritual power from each of the Three Worlds, their groupmind will be a thousand times stronger than it was at the beginning (if each of the Triad Invocations strengthens it by a factor of ten...). Those drinking even tiny sips of whiskey or mead will be loosened up, but probably not drunk (and for some reason hangovers are very rare from these rites!). The total energy pattern for the grove will be one of energy flowing in and out of the grove, from below, around and above. The center of the grove, being the intersection point, should be glowing so brightly at this point that even folks who aren't normally clairvoyant may be able to "see" it. The Gates Between the Worlds will be wide open and waiting...
Third Phase: The Major Sending of Power to the Deities of the Occasion
This is the stage at which most ceremonies will have some form or another of "sacrifice". There's no room here to go into a general theory of sacrifice, so suffice it to say that the purpose of a sacrifice is to "feed" the Gods with as much psychic energy as possible, in order to trigger a return response of divine power. Anything that will generate psychic energy can be (and has been, throughout history) used for this purpose. This includes chanting, singing, dancing, drama, storytelling, sex, drugs, the slaughter of animals, etc. The overwhelming majority of Paleopagan religions, including the predecessors of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions, have practiced human, animal and/or plant sacrifices, because any living thing will release psychic energy when killed.
However, blood sacrifices are messy, difficult for modern folks to do (unless they were raised on a farm) without excess pain to the animal, and are generally unnecessary. Additionally, most Neopagans (especially the vegetarians and animal rights activists) consider them morally repugnant (and far too reminiscent of Satanism), so including a blood sacrifice in a modern ceremony is far more likely to offend your congregation than it is to uplift them. Sacrificing any animal (or human!!!) in any Neopagan Druid ceremony is absolutely forbidden. After all, that's one of the reasons why we're Neopagan instead of Paleo-.
Depending on the season, people may bring fresh cut flowers or recently harvested fruits and vegetables to be used as sacrifices, but most of the time our rituals, like those of the Reformed Druids before us, use small branches cut from trees. These do not contain enough psychic energy to be very effective sacrifices by themselves, but they make an excellent Focus of attention for sending the energies raised by singing, music and other artistic offerings by the congregation. These energies constitute the real sacrifice in our ceremonies.
This procedure begins when the presiding clergyperson says something on the order of, "Has anyone brought praise for the Lady and Lord of this feast?" or "Now let us praise the Lady and Lord of this feast!" The first cue is most appropriate with a small group, all or most of whom are planning to offer Praise. The second cue is better with medium sized or larger groups, where particular people have been selected ahead of time and a performance order decided upon.
Praise Offerings most often consist of songs and poems, preferably original, designed to have the maximum emotional impact. We have also had ritual drama performances and storytellings, as well as ritual dances.
Dances done as performances are usually not as effective by themselves as those done with the participation of most or all of the other people present. However, a badly done group dance is much worse than no dance at all, so if a proposed participatory dance has not been thoroughly rehearsed by all parties concerned, you are best off to have your grove's dancer(s) do it as a performance piece between two other carefully chosen verbal/audio pieces. Even better, you can have them do it at the same time that a song or chant is being done. Either method will prevent the damage that a poorly done group dance can do to your ceremony's focus and pacing, while still allowing for group participation.
Pacing is absolutely critical here, because this is the main "power raising" for your ceremony. The folks who plan to offer Praise should show their material to everyone during rehearsals, or at least to the presiding clergy beforehand, so that the best possible performance order be worked out ahead of time. Then people can be called upon to offer their Praises in such an order as to generate the greatest possible amount of energy.
You can, of course, just pick a person to begin, and go around the grove deosil, hoping that the energy will grow and that the last person will be terrific. With small groups where everyone is offering something, this approach is fairly common. But as far as results are concerned, it's very unpredictable, and of ten the last Praise Offering is not as good as an earlier one was.
With this sort of a situation, or if some outside event has disrupted the steady buildup of emotional power, the presiding clergyperson may want to end this section by calling upon the best bard present to do a specific piece that she/he is known to be good at. Clear this with her/him beforehand, and make sure that they know what pieces they may be asked to do, so they won't spend precious time retuning their instrument, or trying to remember words they haven't sung recently. If the presiding clergyperson is a bard him/herself, then he/she can make this decision isntantly, knowing (we hope) their own strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps doing the final Praise Offering him/herself..
Another option you have hear is to have ready a simple, powerful, and well-rehearsed chant to use as the final Praise Offering. Start it out softly, then gradually build up the volume and speed of both the voices and the music (especially drums). Decide on a cue (such as raising their arms high) for the presiding clergy to use to indicate that the last verse is coming up. This part gets tricky. You can't just stop the music abruptly at the end, since folks are likely to start yelling and screaming (especially at a large festival rite), and your carefully woven web of energies will go splattering in all directions. If the musicians and chant facilitators drop their volume on cue and slow down for the final verse (which they should), with no visible signal to the rest of the grove, then the other participants may not notice, but instead continue to increase the volume and the speed of their chanting until it all falls apart.
Try this: When the cue is given, have your chant facilitators step three paces towards the center, turn around with their arms held high, and gradually lover their arms as they lover and slow their voices (and the musicians lower and slow their music). The presiding clergyperson can be doing the same gesture near the main altar, slowly rotating in her/his place. The chant will end with everyone slowly whispering it, then stopping simultaneously. The chant facilitators can then return to their previous positions, and the energies in the grove will be at a strong and steady peak. (This technique will work even better if it's been used a few times earlier in the rite, or at previous ceremonies.)
It's important to remember that the primary purpose of all these Praise Offerings is to raise as much psychic/magical/spiritual power as possible, all of it focussed around the deities of the occasion -- not to boost the egos of the performers (that can be a secondary or tertiary purpose). By the time the last Praise Offering is done, the grove should be charged up with as much energy as it is capable of generating.
The Prayer of Sacrifice
It is at this moment of supreme tension that the presiding clergyperson lifts up the sacrificial branch (and perhaps one of the flowers or fruits, etc.) towards the Center. She/he then touches the branch with a sickle or other blade (to symbolize death, mortality, harvesting, etc.), and intones the Sacrificial prayer. The one in the previously published script is a variation on the Reformed Druid version, but the concepts involved are universal ones. With this prayer/incantation. she/he sends the power in the grove through the Gates Between the Worlds to the God and Goddess of the occasion. All present should feel their energies going through the branch and out the Other Side. After a moment of silence, the clergyperson puts the branch back on the altar.
The Seeing of the Omen
Now he/she asks the deities of the occasion if they have accepted the Sacrifice. The reply from Them may be through a sudden wind, bird calls or flights, the fire leaping up, etc. If possible, you should have a grove diviner present to read these auguries, or to cast the runes, or to otherwise do some on-the-spot divination. She or he should announce the results clearly, in such a fashion as to make it clear that this is a legitimate divinitory process (for example, by calling out the runes that appeared, naming the omen observed, etc.). If the Omen is positive, the ceremony continues in the usual fashion. If not, further Praise Offerings are necessary, in which case the clergyperson or bard should lead another song or chant. Then repeat the Sacrificial prayer and the divination.
If the results are still negative, try one more time. Make more Praise Offerings, repeat the Sacrifice, seek for the omen. A third answer of "No" indicates that the deities of the occasion, for Their own reasons, are not inclined to assist the grove in achieving the ceremony's goal. So this should be announced, the members of the grove should be advised to meditate upon these events, and the fourth phase of the ritual skipped. Instead, jump directly to the fifth phase of winding down the ritual.
But most of the time the Sacrifice will be accepted and the branch can be cast into the fire, alone with the aspergillims. Some folks object to the symbolism of burning flowers, so you may want to dispose of any sacrificed (and decorative) flowers in running water after the ritual is over. Fruits and veggies can be kept where they are, and consecrated (or just blessed) along with the Waters (see next section), then consumed as part of a ceremonial feast.
[Note: later ADF Liturgy, as of 1997, provided one round of praise offerings.]
Once your Sacrifice has been accepted, it's time to precede to the.....
Fourth Phase: Receiving and Using the Returned Power
Preparation for the Return
This is what the whole process of a worship ritual is leading up to, so it's important that everyone be ready to receive and handle the divine power that is about to be returned to them through the Gates. This has (naturally) three steps: meditation upon personal needs, a repetition of the group's needs, and the induction of a state of receptivity.
The first step is relatively simple, since the presiding clergyperson will ask everyone present to meditate upon what they need from the Goddess and God of the occasion. In a primarily theurgical ceremony, this process will take somewhat longer than in a mostly thaumaturgical one, since receiving these blessings will be the main point (the goal) of the entire liturgy. So folks should be given a few minutes to think quietly, with no outside sounds other than those provided by Nature, or perhaps some serene harp or flute music.
In a predominately thaumaturgic ritual, the second step becomes more important than the first. It's here that the participants are reminded of the group's goal(s) and target(s), and of the need for unity to achieve them.
The third step is a matter of getting the participants into a state of maximum openness and receptivity, by reminding them of what is about to happen and why. This encourages them to drop whatever remaining psychic shields or psychological blocks they may have between themselves and the deities. This third step is meant to be accomplished by the old RDNA "Catechism of the Waters", which was put into the script more for reasons of nostalgia, than because it's really effective.
It should be possible to write a quiet, powerful song to accomplish all three steps, with verses to add or subtract to change the pacing and focus. This would probably work best in a verse-plus-chorus or litany format being led by one or two singers, and including long pauses for meditation.
So now we come to the fourth and final consecration of the ceremony. Just as the first three represented the Three Worlds of Land, Water and Sky, this one represents the Fourth World -- Fire. As the presiding clergyperson lifts the two main cups towards the Center, she/he enchants the words that ask the Goddess and God of the occasion to bless the liquids within them (and the other containers to be passed), to make them truly the Waters-of-Life.
As before, an arc of energy will leap from the Center/Gates and into each cup (or other container) being consecrated. The power will be stronger and clearer than before, and may appear as twin area of differently "colored" energies. As each participant sips from the Waters of her/his choice (this is the consecration where asperging is not normally an adequate substitute for drinking), and does the breathing exercise mentioned in the script, the God and Goddess will fill her/him with the maximum amount of power that she/he is capable of handling safely.
Thus each individual and the group as a whole receive what they need in the way of "healing, blessing, power, and inspiration". Bonding within the group as a whole will be reinforced, something that will last beyond the ceremony, whether it's bonding with the community at large, or with the members of one's local grove. Some people will have visions or be healed of ailments, others will be filled with a holy joy or suddenly recognize a psychic link to a deity they never really knew before. The changes may be simple or complex, subtle or obvious. Every participant will have a unique experience, as well as sharing those of everyone else. "Communion" with the Goddess and the God, as well as with each other, will be achieved.
We've used the following chant (given us at PSG 86 by Nicholas Sea) successfully for the final passing of the Waters. It should be done softly, a minimum of three times. Generally it's continued until all have partaken.
Burn bright, flame within me, Kindled of eternal fire. Of the people I do be, And the people part of me. All one in many parts, A single fire of flaming hearts!
Larry Cornet has collected this chant in a slightly different form, with the second line being "Kindle love's eternal fire." This has different polytheological implications, and folks may want to discuss which seems more appropriate at this point of the ceremony.
If food has been offered up as part of the sacrifice, the presiding clergy may choose to consecrate all or part of it along with the Waters. However, unless the food is bitesized and ready to eat, it may not be a good idea to pass it around with the Waters, since the distribution and consumption of food can easily destroy both concentration and pacing. Often it's better to do a lesser blessing (rather than a full consecration) on the food, and to consume it afterwards as part of a feast.
Optional Activity.- Spell Casting or Rite of Passage
Now is when the participants will be able to perform the most powerful spell castings and/or rites of passage. There's no room here to go into either category in detail, and the high points have mostly been covered in the preceding essays. I will, however, mention one bit of magical "tech" here: the use of the Center for casting spells, instead of the "cone of power" method.
The idea of "raising a cone of power" is that the participants are supposed to create, usually by dancing and chanting, a large, cone-shaped field of psychic energy. At a peak of energy buildup, the cone is supposed to "fire" a blast or energy towards the target, carrying the power and information content of the spell. Nice theory. Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn't work very well.
Leave aside the rude comments I've previously made about Neopagan ceremonial dancing, and the fact that most Neopagans don't physically mark the edges of their circle, and thus have no clear idea of where the base of the cone is supposed to be. Ignore the fact that no two cone raisers ever seem to agree about the size, shape (sharp or squat?), color, dimensionality (solid or hollow?), etc. of their cone. These are all symptoms of lack of planning and training in the community, and can eventually be overcome. We can even ignore the fact that the imagery is completely male. Let's look Instead at a different cluster of factors, ones of physics and metaphysics.
When you fire off a spell in a straight line towards a distant target, you are essentially broadcasting a message. And like any other message broadcast, through normal space and time, a spell is subject to deterioration of (a) its power level, (b) its directional vectors, and (c) its information content.
The further away your target is, the more power will be used up simply in getting there. So when it does arrive, it won't be strong enough to do much. If your target moves, or you didn't really know where it was in the first place, or some other energy field deflects your "beam", your spell will wind up missing the target completely. And if the distance is great, the sheer psychic static of our biosphere (let alone deliberate efforts by others) can disrupt the psychic structure of your spell, causing it to lose all or most of its information content, or to suffer major changes in meaning. Thus, even if it arrives "on target" with lots of power, it may well wind up doing little or nothing that you wanted done.
How do you get around the problem of a spell deteriorating when it goes through normal space and time? You just go "around" normal space and time completely, by using the Center of your working area as a "shortcut". You see, every ritual Center is connected to every other ritual Center, since in one sense they are all the "same": each is the Center of the Multiverse. SO if you have previously created a sacred space around the target of your spell, or if you create one symbolically ("by remote control") at this point of the ceremony, you can establish (recognize, actually) a magical/psychic/spiritual connection between the ritual Centers of both places.
A spell that you cast into the Center of your grove will arrive instantly at the Center of the other location, without going through time or space as we know it. It will pop out of that other Center with full power and information content (directional vectors become irrelevant). It won't matter if your target is ten miles or ten thousand miles away (note to my great-great-grandchildren: or ten light years away).
I first discovered this technique by accident over fifteen years ago, when I was living in Berkeley and heard on the radio that the Canadian nesting grounds of the whooping cranes were about to be engulfed by a major forest fire. I had already noticed a 500 mile limit in my previous spell castings, and the distance involved was a couple of thousand miles, but I figured I had to do something. So I got out a map of Canada and drew a circle centered on the nesting grounds, then invoked Thor and did a rain spell. The circled map was in the middle of my altar, which was in the Center of my working area. I cast the spell into the map and hoped for the best. Much to my surprise and delight, a few hours later I heard on the news that a sudden rainstorm had "come out of nowhere" and stopped the forest fire a mile away from the nesting grounds.
For years I thought it was the use of a mandala/pentacle that had been the key, but eventually I figured out that the critical steps had been defining two ritual Centers and then merging them. So now I hardly ever do "cone raisings" if I want to affect a distant target, and I highly recommend this "Center-to-Center" technique as a replacement. And now, back to our ceremonial step-through, which is still in progress...
Remember when you do spell castings or rites of passage at this stage of the liturgy, that you'll have no need to generate more power, since everyone will already have as much Gods-given power in them as they can handle. Instead, use chants, talismans, and gestures (mantras, mandalas, and mudras) as devices to focus your visualization and timing. That way, everyone can release their divinely enhanced power into the Center at the same instant, towards a uniformly visualized target, with a unified intent, to achieve the agreed upon goal.
Now obviously with most rites of passage, or specific healings/blessings on people present in the grove, you are not going to be sending energies outside the boundaries of your current sacred space, but rather into the bodies/auras of folks right there. The ritual-within-the-ritual of child blessing, ordination, coming of age, healing, etc., should give everyone all the information they need to send or receive the energies. We'll talk more about this in future issues of DP. For now, let's go on to the...
Fifth Phase: Unwinding and Ending the Ceremony
Affirmation of Success: Following Through
Those of you who are familiar with golf, tennis, bowling, baseball, croquet or any other sport that involves casting or striking a small object away from you, will know about the importance of "follow thru". You don't just stop moving abruptly the instant the ball is struck or thrown, you continue the bodily motions you were engaged in at that instant. This insures that your motions will be smooth and continuous, rather than abrupt and jerky, and thus improves the accuracy of your casting/striking.
Oddly enough, this can be a very useful metaphor for casting a spell instead of an object. This is true even for purely theurgical workings in which you are, In essence, casting a spell upon yourself. The way you do a "follow-thru" in a ritual is by proclaiming that the blessings have been received, the spell is already working, Etc. This "affirmation of success" alerts your subconscious to stop receiving and/or sending energies. Just as importantly, it tells your subconscious to let goof the target(s) psychically. Without this letting go, your subconscious is likely to continue "worrying at" the target(s), which usually has the effect of draining away the energies sent, often ruining the results. So you need to have your conscious mind say to your subconscious mind (and any spirits who might be listening?), "Hey! It worked!"
In the script this affirmation of success is represented by the phrases, "the Lady and the Lord (of the occasion) have blessed us" and "Every time we invoke Them, They become stronger and more alert to the needs of Their people." That's because the primary goal of this liturgy has usually been to strengthen and awaken the Old Gods, and the secondary goal has been to obtain blessings for the participants. The affirmation is interwoven (incorrectly) with the silent contemplation and the "Let us return to the realm of mortals" cues necessary for the Recovery process (see next section).
After the follow through, it's necessary to bring people back in touch with the Earth plane level of reality, regardless of whether you have done a spell casting or rite of passage or neither. Otherwise folks will drift in their altered states indefinitely, and the energies absorbed and/or channeled will not be properly "digested". So at this point the presiding clergy should remind the participants to refocus their attention through the Three Worlds: thinking about what they've been doing, feeling the emotions that have been generated as a result, and sensing their physical connections to the "realm of mortals" again. This recovery process will continue through the rest of the ceremony, gradually returning everyone to their "normal" slates of being (through we hope in an improved condition).
Thanking of Entities Invoked
This portion of the ceremony accomplishes three tasks: (a) it shows courtesy to the entities invoked and invited, (b) it further affirms the ceremony's success, and (c) it lets the Gods and the lesser entities, not to mention the people, know that you are winding things down and that They can leave if They wish. As a general rule, you do not "dismiss" goddesses and gods. If nothing else, it's rude.
Yes I know that some ancient Egyptian magicians were in the habit of bossing their deities around, as are some modern followers of Voodoo/Hoodoo. But I've always considered these to be corruptions from the earlier states of these religions, something that happens when the magicians involved no longer believe in the Gods as Gods.
In the fully developed Afro-American religions unlike Hoodoo and Voodoo (which have lost most of their religious character and become mostly grab-bags of magical techniques), the initiated clergy will sometimes have to urge a possessing deity to leave Her/His "horse" (the human being possessed). However, I believe that they do this through reminding the deity of the contractual agreements made at the time of the clergyperson's initiation. It's done with love, courtesy, and respect -- not with the typical arrogance of the Goetic magician (the source of Wiccan style "dismissals"). In general, I tend to think that the current Neopagan phrase of "Go if You must, stay if You will," reflects a much more appropriate attitude.
The entities are thanked in the reverse order of their invocation or invitation: first the God and Goddess of the occasion, then the deities as a group, the ancestors and predecessors, the Nature Spirits, the Matron/Patron of bards, and the Gatekeeper (even though it's not in the script). When the Gatekeeper has been thanked, this effectively closes the Gates, but it's still a good idea to overtly ask Him/Her to close them. That way, folks will know that they should stop having an "open line" to the Other Side.
Reversing the Tree Meditation
In keeping with the unwinding process, it's now necessary to go through four steps: (1) to "unmerge" the groupmind, though some psychic links will remain in potentia; (2) to drain off any excess psychic/magical/spiritual energies that might be remaining; (3) to return the participants to a more mundane consciousness; and (4) to recenter each of them within themselves as unique individuals. In this liturgy, you accomplish all this by doing a reprise of the Tree Meditation, which should be done by the person who led it at the beginning of the ceremony, in a similar delivery style.
Step 1 - Everyone is told to pull back their psychic branches and roots from being interwoven with each other's, and to become individual trees again.
Step 2 - Folks are instructed to release any remaining excess energy that they might have and which they don't need. They can send the excess through their roots into the ground (the other sense of "grounding" mentioned earlier), or else into the ceremonial vestments or tools they may be wearing.
Step 3 - All are guided in pulling back their roots and branches and "becoming humans" once more.
Step 4 - Everyone is told to refocus their attention on their personal centers.
At this point, you should pour any remaining Waters onto the ground or into the fire. The traditional RDNA prayer is a nice one for this: "To Thee we return this portion of Thy bounty, O our Mother, even as we must return unto Thee." (If you like, you can consider the fire to be masculine and say, "O our Father" instead.) If there is going to be a ceremonial feast afterwards, you may want to save a little of the consecrated Waters to mix Into the punch bowl or ale cask, but you should not casually pass cups of consecrated Waters around, in order "not to waste" them. It's not wasting the Waters to return them to the Earth or the Fire, it's a sign of love, respect, gratitude, and courtesy, just as the various thankings are. Furthermore, it's a clear indication that you're not greedy, that you know when to stop taking and start giving.
Just as every ritual needs a clearcut beginning, it also needs an equally definite ending. Your ritual space will need to be deconsecrated, unless you are lucky enough to have a temple building or sacred grove which you expect to be able to remain holy. Usually, however, deconsecration is necessary (a) to prevent outsiders from wandering through a still "charged" area and accidentally connecting up with the psychic links of the folks who have been worshipping there; (b) to prevent your people from worrying about fundamentalists or other hostile intruders committing sacrilegious acts there; and (c) to announce to the subconscious minds of the participants that they are "back" in the "real world" again.
You also need an overt cue to each person's subconscious that it's no longer "magic time". So announce that "this ceremony is over" verbally, then follow it up with snuffing out the candles, ringing a bell, or playing a special piece of music.
A good way to combine all this is through a Recessional (balancing out the Processional at the beginning). Make your announcement, then have everyone leave the area (thus destroying the temporary definition you had of sacred space by crossing its boundaries physically), while singing an appropriate song. Here's the Recessional hymn that we've been using since Summer Solstice of 1986:
Walk with wisdom, from this hallowed place. Walk not in sorrow, our roots shall e'er embrace. May strength by your brother, and honor be you friend, And Luck be your lover, until we meet again.
This should be sung a minimum of three times. The words and music are by Sable, of the Minneapolis Grove. See her zine in this issue for the musical notation, and Susan Kirsch's zine (also in this issue) for a "sitting" variation of the words. Some people may prefer to use "sister" instead of, or simultaneously with, "brother".
Cleanup and Critiques
As soon as the liturgy is over, the presiding clergy and bards should go off somewhere to remove their ceremonial gear and perform any additional grounding and centering which they might need. In the meantime, their assistants can be packing up the ritual tools and supplies, putting out the fire, etc., while volunteers check the area to make sure that nothing has been left behind (especially litter -- Neopagans, like scouts, always leave a site cleaner than it was when they arrived!).
Comments about the liturgy should be limited at this time to positive ones. Individuals may want to share visions with each other, or to write down any insights sparked by their experiences during it, but a critical analysis should wait at least twenty four hours. This is to enable everyone to digest what has happened and to enable any workings done to "solidify" without "second-thoughts chasing after them on the astral."
A few days later, but no more than a couple of weeks at most, gather together as many as possible of the participants to discuss the ceremony in depth. This is the time to say things like: "That chant we wrote for the second consecration just didn't sound right." "George, you kept missing cues. Do we need different cues or were you having an off day?" "The harmonies on the Processional were terrible. We'd better practice them some more." "Susie, your Anglo Saxon pronunciation needs work." "The altars for the Three Worlds are too big, the dancers kept running into them." "The clergy didn't project their voices quite loud enough." "I had an insight about the wording of the consecration prayer, and I'd like to rewrite it." Etc.
It's very important to state the criticisms in a friendly way, with the emphasis on future improvements rather than assigning blame. Positive feedback about every aspect that went well should be included. People should share any psychic/magical/spiritual events that occurred to them during or after the ritual. In effect, you should be doing the same kind of fair-but-firm critique session that a theatrical troupe or symphony orchestra would have after a major performance. Who knows, perhaps we will even have genuine ritual critics writing reviews in the Neopagan press someday!
Detailed notes should be kept, to be used in future planning, preparation and performance. These notes can be copied and distributed to all the members of the group who might be interested, including the ADF Mother Grove!!
An Update on the Liturgical Outline
This is the version of the Outline for Druid Worship Ceremonies that I would like people to use for the next few years, and which I've been discussing throughout this essay. Please make sure that the new liturgical scripts you send in for sharing with the other members all follow this basic pattern:
First Phase: Starting the Rite & Establishing the Groupmind Clearcut Beginning Consecration of Time Consecration of Space Tree Meditation Centering Grounding Merging Affirmation of Group Beliefs Specification of Ritual Focus and Deities of the Occasion Second Phase: Opening the Gates & Preliminary Power Raising Invoking the Gate Keeper Invoking the Matron/Patron of Bards Triad Invocations, Consecrations and Sharings Nature Spirits Ancestors and Predecessors Gods as a Group Third Phase: The Major Sending of Power to the Deities of the Occasion Praise Offerings Prayer of Sacrifice Seeking of the Omen (Possible Repetitions of Praise/Sacrifice/Omen Seeking) Fourth Phase: Receiving and Using the Returned Power Preparation for the Return Meditation upon Personal Needs Repetition of Group Needs Induction of Receptivity Final Consecration and Sharing Reception of Individual Blessings Reinforcement of Group Bonding Optional Activity: Spell Casting or Rite of Passage Fifth Phase. Unwinding and Ending the Ceremony Affirmation of Success: Following Through Recovery Thanking of Entities Invoked Deities of the Occasion Deities as a Group Ancestors and Predecessors Nature Spirits Matron/Patron of Bards Gatekeeper -- Closing the Gates Reversing the Tree Meditation Unmerging Energies Draining of Excess Energies Pulling back of Branches and Roots Recentering Libation Clearcut Ending Deconsecration of Space Deconsecration of Time
Conclusion: The importance of Joy
After reading sixty (very) odd pages on liturgical design, preparation, and performance, many of you may have decided that this is all a lot of grim, dull work. Nothing is (or should be) farther from the truth. Any harper will tell you that the joy of composition and performance comes after you have mastered the basics of your instrument, and learned your scales. A painter may spend years learning color mixing, anatomy, the laws of perspective, etc., yet if there were no joy in the learning and the practice, she/he would have stopped being a painter early on.
Creating, preparing, and performing a ceremony requires a series of artistic decisions and actions, no matter what other polytheological, psychological, magical, or technical factors may be involved. And for Neopagans, joy is an integral part of every art we practice. Regardless of whether your liturgy is one of thankfulness or of grief, of love or of rage, of celebration or of entreaty -- if it is to be a Neopagan liturgy, it must be filled with joy. This may be the quiet, serene joy that strengthen,- as in times of fear and sorrow, or the noisy, boisterous joy of friends sharing pleasure, or the wild and dangerous joy of the tigress defending her young. Balder or Bacchus or Kali. If our liturgies are truly to transform both ourselves and our world, there must be joy! So make sure that you and the people you are working with pay attention to having fun during the entire process. The average Neopagan Druid liturgy is no more complex than putting on a three-act play, or a Beethoven symphony, things that thousands of people every year manage to do in high school -- while having a great deal of fun at the same time. With sufficient determination, practice, imagination, love and joy in our hearts, we can create ritual experiences that will have longterm positive effects on ourselves and the entire world. And remember...
The Gods are watching us, so let's give Them a good show!
"Step by Step through A Druid Worship Ceremony." submitted by IsaacBonewits on 15 May, 2019. Last modified on 12 January, 2021.
Page URL: https://www.adf.org/rituals/explanations/stepbystep.html
Related Pages: Rituals and Practice