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Special Occasion Rituals, Requirement 3

Describe how the following elements of the Core Order of Ritual can be used in a special occasion ritual in a way that takes into consideration religiously diverse audiences that may not be accepting of ADF traditions and practices (minimum 50 words per element):

  1. Calling for the Blessings and Hallowing the Waters
  2. Honoring the Earth Mother
  3. Inviting the Three Kindreds
  4. Recreating the Cosmos
  5. Opening/Closing the Gates

Calling for the Blessings and Hallowing the Waters

Perhaps the most complicated of all of these is the calling for blessings and waters: there are many people who, when attending a Pagan ceremony (or a crypto-Pagan ceremony) might be suspicious of the ritual and particularly of anything that they might ingest. The best thing to do to reduce concern over the substance is offer only water (and nothing that is the colour of blood!) to drink, and to provide it in clear cups and pitchers. In weddings, the waters may be distributed as part of a wedding toast (either during the ritual or during the reception), which can hide the religious nature of the blessing. Alternatively, the blessings can be distributed only to the couple, which both reduces the amount of distribution work and the associated issues of having relations not wish to take part in this portion of the ritual. At a child's naming ceremony or Druidic baptism, the blessed waters may be hallowed and then the child bathed (symbolically or totally submerged) in those waters. In any case, the folk can be asked to focus their love for the couple or child on the waters, or to pray over them in their own way.

Honoring the Earth Mother

Honouring the Earth Mother is an integral part of who we are as Neo-Pagans; it's important to us spiritually and in terms of our identity. Often, when expressing our religious beliefs in prayer, we will speak directly of the Earth Mother, which can be complicated in some spaces. We are fortunate, however, that the major scriptures and philosophies of the world direct the followers of their religions to honour the earth, either as a creation of the divine, the divine itself, or as something that we have borrowed from our children. By speaking of "honouring the earth" rather than "worshiping the Earth Mother," much of our ritual and prayerful language can be retained, particularly if it is poetic and powerful. Below is an example prayer from our Grove's part in an interfaith service for the Pride Parade in 2008 which illustrates how this can be done.

Inviting the Three Kindreds

In some cases, this is similar to the Earth Mother: calling on the Ancestors is rarely an issue in mixed company because it is seen as drawing on family history. Generally, for weddings I will call out to the Ancestors of the couple (and those who cannot be there) to be present to see their descendants joined. A similar call would go out for a child-blessing, and a call to the Ancestors to receive the dead would never be out of place at a funeral. The Nature Spirits and the Deities can often become more complicated. Most often, I call on the Nature Spirits in the form of the winds, who carry news of the union, birth, or death to the corners of the world, or to smooth the transition for the person receiving the rite. With the deities, I have generally been explicit or given them passing mention as the couple decides in weddings, but they are always mentioned, and in plural. An example of how I have minimized (but still mentioned) these invitations may be found in the wedding blessing example below.

Recreating the Cosmos

Cosmos creation may be done simply with a prayer, or more in a more complicated manner with offerings and elaborate motions. Generally speaking, the cosmos can be simply described and that description stated as "true" for the purposes of the ritual. In this way, we describe a sacred vision of the cosmos and indicate that this is how we believe the world to be structured for this time. The IE worldview is fortunately simple and visual enough that it makes sense to all except the most science-minded. In general, I will describe the cosmos in a prayer as being of land, sea, and sky, with a sacred fire at the center. It often sounds simply like poetic imagination. An example of how one might do this is found in the wedding benediction example below.

Opening/Closing the Gates

This is another complicated portion of the ritual, because it has a very visual look to it, and the level of visibility will be based on how accepting the attendees are of the cosmos creation and the invitation of the Three Kindreds. For rituals where you feel you can be (or you have been instructed to be) more open about these aspects, it becomes a function of these invitations. You might silver the well so that the Ancestors can hear your voice, you might pour oil so that the Shining Ones are fed. But in a situation where you feel you cannot make offerings or be direct about what you are doing, there are several options:
  1. Open the Gates before the rite: This side-steps the issue entirely, and some pretty words about "being already at the center of all" and "in a place where we can be heard by all the spirits" are good ways to indicate what you have already done.
  2. Wax poetic: speaking of the fire, well, and tree as metaphors is also good, even if there is concrete meaning behind it: "May your hearts be open to the world around you just as this tree is tall: its branches reaching heaven and its roots reaching far into the earth." "May the light of this fire, kindled here on the land with a pillar of smoke that supports the heavens, burn brightly and support you as you go forth into this new life."
  3. Speak to the Gatekeeper: Speak metaphorically about the Gatekeeper, asking him to open the gates: "As Orpheus walked the paths to the underworld to retrieve his love, descending into the waters; as his voice was lifted on the fire to serenade the Gods; and as he stood at the center of his craft, may the words of love you speak enter all the realms this day.

Example Prayer: Gay Pride Parade Prayer, 2008

By Rev. Michael J Dangler

This prayer is a result of our interfaith work with the marriage equality movement, the gay pride movement, and our general acknowledgment that all human beings are a part of our community deserve the same respect any others are afforded. The preamble offered here was spoken prior to the prayer.

"I am Rev. Michael J Dangler, of Three Cranes Grove, ADF, a local Druid fellowship. We have always felt it was important to celebrate Pride, for we are all Children of the Earth Mother. Whether we believe were formed from clay and given life by the breath of a deity; made up of the elements of the periodic table; or born directly from the Mother herself, we all share our one Earth Mother. As we prepare to depart, we will ask for blessings from our Earth Mother this day. Thank you for coming to this service, and thank the organizers for holding it. It is our tradition, though you need not follow it, to kneel and touch the ground as we call out to the Earth."

Earth Mother, your children call out to you.
You uphold us as we move through life, with each step we take.
Let every step we take upon you today in pride and unity
Be a step toward justice, understanding, and love.

Let us follow the footsteps of our Ancestors
Who blazed trails long before us and fought for what was right.
Let us hear the blessings of the Nature Spirits
Who play among the trees and upon the wind.
And let us go forth with the strength of the Shining Ones
The deities we follow and love.

Earth Mother, mighty Kindreds,
Bless our steps this day, and uphold us even in adversity.

Children of the Earth,
Go in peace and blessings:
This service is ended.

Example Prayer: Wedding Blessing

By Rev. Michael J Dangler

"I call out to the ancestors of both families to hear the vows of these two; to the spirits of nature who can carry word of this union on the winds; and to the shining ones to bless the union. Let this cup and its contents be blessed, and let the voices spoken over it resound in its depths and be lifted to the highest heights."

Example Prayer: Wedding Benediction

By Rev. Michael J Dangler

"By the waters that support and surround us, by the sky that stretches out above us, and by the land that extends about us do I bless this union. May the fire that burns at the center of all things burn as one within your hearts for all your days."


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