the Cosmos in Grove of the Other Gods, ADF Druid Ritual
February, 2002, submitted to Jennie
Hunt and the Liturgist's Guild
with us- this is the result of several group discussions among our liturgists,
so its a bit redundant and lengthy.
Ive eliminated accents on words because they tend to come out as damn-near-anything-but-accents
once theyve gotten through an e-mail program.
Biographies of our liturgists:
Our current Grove of the Other Gods liturgists are:
-Senior Druid Norma Hoffman, ADF member since January 1990 and Green
Man Grove member since Samhain 1990. Shes also former Co-Editor of
News from the Mother Grove. Shes been Grove Organizer of Green Man
since 1997 and Senior Druid since Samhain 2000. Shes participated
in over 100 ADF rituals of all sizes both locally and at festivals, and
has performed handfastings and such-like.
-Erica Friedman, who joined ADF and Green Man in 1991, and was ADF Members
Advocate in 1995. After that experience she left ADF disillusioned, and
formed White Horse Grove with ex-ADF members Pattie Lawler and Marcia Blaustein.
They continued to perform ADF rituals outside the restrictions of ADF. Erica
rejoined ADF and Green Man in 2000.
-Pattie Lawler, who joined ADF and Green Man in 1991 and has been involved
in designing and performing rituals with the grove since then. She has contributed
articles on folklore and religion to Druids Progress and the MetroDruid
Nuz Dispatch. Were happy to have Erica and Pattie back with us, and
as members of ADF again. Pattie and Erica have participated in close to
100 ADF rituals.
-Edwin Chapman, who joined ADF in January 1990 and Green Man on Samhain
1990. He was the other Co-Editor of News from the Mother Grove, has done
layout work for Druids Progress and Oak Leaves and is a Lifetime Member
of ADF. Hes participated in over 100 ADF rituals.
On Imbolc 2002 the name of the Grove was changed from Green Man Grove to
Grove of the Other Gods.
While the four of us dont always agree with one another, we share
a similar overall philosophy about our relationship with the cosmos in ritual.
We believe that having a real relationship with the land, the gates, the
kindreds and individual deities and having a real connection to the other
worlds is the heart and soul of ADF ritual. Scholarship is important, but
scholarship should take a back seat to developing real relationships and
connections. If we dont have a real connection to the other worlds,
were not a real religion, were a cargo cult. Sincerity
is not enough, as Isaac has often said, but without sincerity we might
as well join the S.C.A.- were just dressing up and calling ourselves
by funny names and pretending were a religion.
What do we mean when we say that our cultural focus is New Jersey?
The ancient Druids did not have the liberty of choosing a cultural
focus. We have that liberty, and thats very nice. While we follow
a modern NeoPagan sort-of Celtic wheel of the year (our fire festivals are
more important than solstices and equinoxes) and while our two guiding deities,
Brigid and Manannan Mac Lir, are pan-Celtic deities, our real cultural focus,
for better or worse, but in fact, not fancy, is New Jersey. She, and the
metropolitan area of New York City, are our Genius/Juno Loci. You dishonor
your nature spirits and spirits of place by pretending youre in Tara
or Rome or Reykjavik.
We have put down roots in this toxic soil. Most of us were born and raised
here, and we must give the land and culture right here the honor that it
deserves. It might sound a bit strange, or even sound like a joke- but we
are not 4th century Irishmen, nor are we 1st century Gauls, or Celts or
Norsemen or Romans from any other period. We love the old stories, as did
the ancients, and we emulate the old Pagans in our connections to the land
and kindreds and the Goddesses and Gods. While we are inspired by the ancients
and take many of our virtues and strengths and ideals and ideas from the
ancients, we are not the ancients, we live here and now. The Celtic deities
are our good friends, but we believe that theyre here with us. As
the Celts migrated, their deities went with them.
Our part of New Jersey is much like Rome was in the 1st century: its
a spiritual marketplace where cultures from all over the world have come
together. We have the largest Hindu population of any area in the United
States, a vibrant Santeria community, Christians and Jews and Muslims of
various stripes, and several dozen different NeoPagan groups- all in our
backyard. (Sometimes it seems they are literally all in Ed & Normas
backyard!) We revel in this bounty.
Our view of the cosmos is the same as any other culture: were the
fuckin center of the universe. The ancients believed that they were
in the center of the universe, and if the ancients lived in New Jersey,
theyd say they were in the fuckin center of the universe. We
have no doubts about this.
We also acknowledge that this is a matter of perspective. Norma remembers
that Isaac stressed This is our center, but its no better than
any other center. Its not THE center; its OUR center.
Our grove is interested in folk traditions as much as we are interested
in speculation on Indo-European liturgy. We try to keep our worship local
We hope our view of the nature of the cosmos will become clearer as we go
through the beginning of our ADF ritual. Basically, recreating the cosmos
is like building a house. You cant open the doors and invite your
friends in until you dig the foundations, build the floors and nail the
walls and roof together.
A comprehensive pre-ritual briefing always precedes the ritual. This gives
the ritual ringmaster a chance to go over the ritual briefly with the participants
and gives newcomers an idea of what to expect. We talk about nearly everything
were going to do- nothing is hidden unless it has to be hidden for
the purposes of ritual drama.
We start the ritual with a clear beginning. A chime is struck 3 times. This
fixes our time boundary: we are now out of everyday clock time and in ritual
time. And, on a practical level, it gets everybodys attention and
shuts them up. The Senior Druid (or whoever else is leading the ritual)
will fill the silence with the line We are here to honor the Gods.
This line, traditional in old ADF liturgy, is much like the beginning of
a story told by a storyteller. We make a well of silence and then we drop
that pebble into it and the ripples are amazing- the ripples practically
cast a circle around the listeners, especially if theyve been to a
We honor The Earth Mother immediately. (Why dont we call Her Mother
Earth ????) The Earth Mother is always with us. We dont need
to open gates or do anything special to access Her. She is our most important
and immediate deity. She sustains us and gives us life and invoking her
gets us wondering where our food and shelter come from. This positions us
on our planet and in the food chain and puts us in a thankful mood. And,
on a practical level, this tends to make folks who are new to Druid ritual
comfortable- everybody can relate to the Earth. Almost every culture has
a personified relationship with the Earth in one form or another. The Earth
Mother invocation also puts people in the present: in the here and now,
and on the Earth thats immediately under their feet.
We dont cast a circle (people have said that we clump);
our boundaries are permeable and flexible. As weve developed the liturgy,
weve tried to push and shift the spatial boundaries- on the last Summer
Solstice we took our ritual for a walk around the town. (See MetroDruid
Nuz, or our web site for written accounts of recent individual rituals.)
The folks in Grove of the Other Gods tend to have strong personal boundaries.
We are not trying to be anyones home or family. Although we have about
20 people we can count on to be at nearly every ritual, we provide sanctuary
to anyone in the community for eight holidays a year- and frequently get
from 40 to 60 people at an average ritual. This creates a boundary in itself
in the kind of rituals we can do and the kind of magic we can perform.
A meditation follows the Earth Mother invocation. The meditation- which
can be a tree meditation, a flower meditation (opening your closed hands
like a flower) or any other specific meditation- should center the participants
in the quiet of their own bodies and relax individual body parts and root
everyone in the earth and connect them to the powers of the heavens. Thats
all. And thats quite a bit. This is how we define the cosmos in our
If the meditation works, we are all individuals in a group, our roots and
branches entangled. We are also in the here and now and not thinking about
getting to the ritual or who these weird druids might be.
Next, we point out the horizontal directions. Were not comfortable
with the standard ADF horizontal directions- again, were in New Jersey
and our people are not all Celtophiles. We talk about whats north
of this place. Whats East of where the ritual is being
held. It could be the Atlantic, it could be Brooklyn or Long Island. Well
talk about geographic features - rivers and mountain ranges- and how they
were formed. Sometimes well ask Who came from the South? Where
did you come from? and follow that around the ritual space. We are
orienting ourselves in space in a very real way that everyone can understand.
When we travel on highways to get to rituals we frequently dont know
where that site is located in relation to simple geographic features, or
even other towns. We end with Any point
in an infinite space can be the center, any point on the surface of a sphere
can be the center, this is now the center.
So- with the Earth Mother invocation weve put people in the present
moment and with the meditation weve made people aware of their connection
with others in the grove and their connection with the earth and sky, and,
now, with the horizontal directions theyre aware of where they are
in space in relation to the places around them.
The invocations of Well, Fire and Tree come next, orienting us in vertical
space and in magical space. Were not going to go into Indo-European
precedents for well, fire and tree because it would take up way too much
time and space in this essay, and its already been done in Druids
Progress and in Oak Leaves.
To be blunt, the well goes down. It connects to visceral root stuff, it
has associations with ancestors who are buried underground, with underworlds,
with fecundity and fertility and with the water that sustains us. Chthonic
deities live there. Offerings can be made into it that go down. Ribbons
can be tied around it. It is the root of the Gates.
The Fire goes up. It connects to the heavens, the sky Goddesses and Gods,
our higher selves, and our higher aspirations. Offerings can be made into
it that go up. Its both a signal fire and a sacrificial fire. While
the well absorbs, the fire transforms.
The Tree is invoked after the Well and Fire in order to connect them. Nature
Spirits run up and down the tree, which is rooted in the Well, and has its
branches in the light of the sky or the stars. The tree is our Bile, our
sacred center and the Gate that is easiest for us to identify with. The
Gates would be more abstract without the tree; you cant hug fire or
water. Trees are also bridges. World trees are common in folk traditions
and in the mythologies of many cultures. Without the tree, wed be
like Alice in Wonderland, when shed gotten small and the key was out
of reach on top of the table.
There are Gods and Kindreds and Ancestors and Outsiders in all 3 places.
A penny in Brigids Well goes to Brigid. These Gates all work with
different types of energy. Three different flavors of Gates. These three
Gates are the ones we formally invite; there are other Gates in between
and all around. The Well, Fire and Tree all have the scent of folktales
and fairy tales and myths- they are points of wonder and magic in the ritual.
Connected, they are the axis we revolve around.
Now the Gates have been invoked as themselves, as Well, Fire and Tree, and
the house is built. Next essay, we turn them into Gates and open the doors
to the house.
Its all about being the center of attention, really.
We try to get centered in our heads and our bodies, standing on our own
ground on the Earth, connected to others in our Grove, at the center of
horizontal space and vertical space, between the underworlds and the heavens
and connected by the tree.
The first part of the ritual places us where we can get the attention of
the Kindreds. We have recreated the cosmos and placed ourselves at the center
so all the universe above and below and around can hear us and see us in
this place. Our actions take on greater significance in this place. Our
words mean more.
February, 2002, New Brunswick, NJ