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ADF Core Order of Ritual

The following is the Core Order of Ritual (COoR) for ADF High Day rituals as approved in late 2006 by the ADF Clergy Council.

This is not a complete re-write of our current Order of Ritual, but rather a clarification of what we're already doing, meant to answer the questions, "Just what ritual steps are the minimum necessary for a High Day rite to be considered an ADF ritual?" and "In what order should these steps take place?"

Certain actions/concepts below are "suggested", often listed as "may include" or "is most commonly represented or included". In these cases, the main heading is required for a rite to be called "ADF", just not all the choices listed—and there may be other acceptable choices as well that aren't listed.

However, where the word "must" appears, this is a required action. Remember that there is usually a strong cosmological or theological reason for each part of the rite to appear where it does. Some modifications to the COoR are expected, including additions to the main headings and particularly steps from past Orders of Ritual not specifically listed here, but any such modifications should have a particularly strong justification.

Note also that following the Core Order is a listing of things an ADF ritual does not include.

Core Order of ADF Ritual for High Days

1. Initiating the Rite - May include:
---Musical Signal
---Opening Prayer
---Establishing the Group Mind
2. Purification - This must take place prior to Opening the Gates
3. Honoring the Earth Mother
4. Statement of Purpose
5. (Re)Creating the Cosmos
--- Sacred Center must be established in a triadic Cosmos
---The Three Worlds or Realms must be acknowledged
---The Fire must be included
---Sacred Center is most commonly represented as Fire, Well and Tree
6. Opening the Gate(s) - Must include a Gatekeeper
7. Inviting the Three Kindreds
8. Key Offerings - This will commonly include:
--- Invitation of Beings of the Occasion
---Seasonal customs as appropriate
---Praise Offerings
9. Prayer of Sacrifice
10. Omen
11. Calling (asking) for the Blessings
12. Hallowing the Blessing
13. Affirmation of the Blessing
14. Workings (if any)
15. Thanking the Beings
16. Closing the Gate(s)
17. Thanking the Earth Mother
18. Closing the Rite

Items that ADF Rituals Do Not Include

1. Elemental Cross Symbolism (the 4 Elements)
2. Casting Circles in public ritual
3. Calling Watchtowers or Elemental Guardians
4. Calling the dualtheistic "Lord" and "Lady"
5. Acknowledgement of one divine being with power over all
6. Blood Sacrifices
7. Non-Indo-European mythic and deity motifs

A Cosmological Pre-Ritual Briefing

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.

Do you honor the Lord and Lady?
No. In ADF rites, we honor the deities as separate entities and powers. We do not believe that all gods are aspects of a single god or goddesses as a single aspect of one goddess. We are polytheistic.

Excuse me, you forgot to cast a circle?
No, we didn't. Some pagans cast a circle to create sacred space and a closed place of protection. ADF Druids believe that all space is sacred so there is no need to create sacred space. We simply purify
iit before we use it. Also, our rites are open and participants can come and go as they please as long as they are not disruptive.

Who are the outsiders?
The outsiders are those forces internal and external that can disrupt our rite. Whether it is honking horns from passing cars, people walking into the rite asking questions or someone worrying about the grocery list and what to make the family for dinner. All these things distract from the spiritual experience. We ask these energies to
leave us alone during our rite and give them an offering outside of our sacred space.

Who are the kindred?
The three kindred are the ancestors, the nature spirits and the shining ones. The ancestors are those of blood, spirit and intellect that came before us, the nature spirits are those living beings that
share this earth with us, and the shining ones are all the dieties who are not being specifically honored in our rite. Each of the kindred have an altar and are always honored in ADF rites.

What is the sacred center?
The well, the fire and the tree. These are portals to the otherworld and expedite our offerings to the deities. When called upon they are used as a gateway to the otherworld. The well connects us to the powers of the earth. The fire connects us to the otherworld with the power of transformation. The tree (or bile') is the connector between
the worlds. The roots are anchored on earth and the branches reach high into the sky and through its trunk the energies of the above and below are mixed. It is the center of all worlds.

What do you mean by sacrifice?
A sacrifice is an offering to deity or the kindred. It is a gift from yourself. In days of old, people would offer coins, cattle, and food in exchange for prayers to be answered. These were truly sacrifices because without food or coins the winter could be a deadly place.

What is meant by "A gift for a gift"?
We give offerings to those deities or kindred as a sign of hospitality to thank and welcome them to our rite. Only then do we ask them to answer our prayers. Everyone in an ADF ritual is welcome and encouraged to bring an offering to the rite.


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