|Autumn Equinox Altar – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012|
As an ADF protogrove, we follow their traditions and that includes their liturgical style. Our public rituals follow a certain pattern. Because Druids value self-expression and often experiment with ritual, each High Day takes on a unique tone while still following the core order of ADF ritual. This means that a person who moves from one grove to another should understand what is going on and be able to take part with minimal confusion. Our style of ritual and the tools we use, as with many other spiritualities, reflects our cosmological beliefs. If you are new to ADF and/or Druidic ritual, we encourage you to read this page and the links below.
The Core Order of Ritual
When you come to one of our rites, the first thing we will do is have a pre-ritual briefing. This is a short period of time before the rite in which the purpose and outline are shared with everyone. Chants will be reviewed and smaller parts may be handed out. This can be helpful to newcomers who are unfamiliar with Druidism, ADF, or the lore associated with the High Day.
Next, there is a purificiation, usually done with incense and water. One Druid will wave the incense upwards before each individual and say, “May the spirit rise within you.” Another Druid will sprinkle water on each individual and say, “Wash away all earthly cares.” This isn’t done with the belief that people are inherently impure and unfit for ritual. Rather, it is done to prepare everyone’s mind for ritual and banish everyone’s stress. Following or in conjunction with the purification, the group will process to the ritual space. There is often chanting involved.
Once in the ritual space (often a grove of trees -sometimes called a nemeton- or a stone circle), the ritual leader will remind everyone why they gathered. Next, Druids honor the Earth Mother with offerings, prayers, and possibly a chant. Many will kiss the Earth Mother. A bardic deity is often honored or acknowledged in the hope that the ritual will flow well. Some groups may choose to acknowledge the Outsiders – often viewed as spirits of chaos or even our own anxiety – with a peace offering. We ask that our ritual be left in peace. A Druid acting as a warrior may stand guard.
An important part of ADF ritual is recreating the cosmos which is basically acknowledging the realms of land, sea, and sky. The three hallows of fire, well, and tree will be recalled. Some groups may give offerings, others may ritually recall them to mind. The purpose is to connect us to the natural realms, our ancestral practices, and further prepare our mind for our workings. The group will ground itself in these energies, usually using a meditation we call The Two Powers. We recall the energies of creation, inspiration, and magic.
Next, the Gatekeeper is welcomed and given offerings. We ask that he or she help us open the gates to the Otherworld so that our deeds and words may more easily flow to the Kindreds. Once we feel the gate is opened, each of the Three Kindred – Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Gods – are invited to our sacred space and given offerings. This often includes prayers and/or chanting, and usually with some reflection of the seasonal changes. Finally, the being(s) of the occasion are formally announced and invited. This is usually a God, Goddess, or combination, but occasionally another Kindred may play a larger role depending on the High Day or the intent of the ritual. Lore or history may be recited. This portion may also include a major offering given by the whole group – such as a communal piece of art, a basket of harvest everyone has contributed to, etc. There may be a time for individuals to give offerings. This tradition varies from group to group, so visitors should check with the ritual leader during the pre-ritual briefing. In the North Country Druidic Study Group, we suggest that offerings are made to the Three Kindred or the being of the occasion out of respect. An omen is then taken. The purpose may differ from group to group. At North Country Druidic Study Group rituals, we take omens to learn what blessings or lessons the Kindreds are sending us for the upcoming season. (Some groups may draw omens to determine if offerings were accepted and may take specific steps if the omens are negative.) Having named the blessings or lessons, we then visualize them flowing into a chalice or drinking horn. The group communally receives this blessing in the form of the toast and boast. Everyone drinks (or touches the vessel to his or her head if not drinking) and shares something positive with the group. These are meant to be short declarations of success or praise given to another. This actualizes the blessings of the previous season and brings everyone closer together. As we drink, we should visualize the blessings of the current season entering us.
If desired, magical workings or oath-making may occur following the blessing and toasting or boasting. These are often decided upon before the ritual. Visitors should not assume these events will occur or that they should initiate them. If in doubt, ask the ritual leader during the pre-ritual briefing or privately before the ritual.
Once the main portion of the ritual is complete, the process is reversed. The being of the occasion and the Three Kindred are given more offerings and thanked. The Gatekeeper is given offerings and thanked, then the gates are closed and a reversed Two Powers meditation usually occurs. Any leftover offerings are given to the Earth Mother, who is also thanked. The rite is closed, often with a recessional chant and/or a declaration.
Just Remember – Every Group Has its Own Traditions!
Once more, traditions and methods can and do vary from group to group. Each grove, protogrove, and study group has an individual flavor influenced by hearth culture, region, customs, and High Day. If they are part of the ADF tradition, the steps should still be familiar to you.
A Note About How ADF Druids View Ritual Space
If you are familiar with other NeoPagan traditions but have never attended an ADF Druidic rite, keep the following in mind:
- we do not cast circles, although we often gather in a circle as it is a sacred, ancient symbol and is very inclusive
- we do not call the quarters – we recall the three realms of land, sea, and sky and invite our Three Kindred
- we view the Gods as individual entities and do not refer to them collectively as Lord and Lady
- you do not need to cut a door in our ritual space – if you need to leave for any reason, just quietly slip away and quietly return when ready
- even though we approach ritual differently than other traditions, we are still welcoming and respectful – we only ask for the same in return!