Gnosis. In which I write about cheeseburgers and Red Bull.
Gnosis. In which I write about cheeseburgers and Red Bull.
for she is
wolves and lightning
she is a bitter word
from a pretty face
she is a string of pearls
on the neck of death herself
as she comes screaming down the highway
in a nineteen-fifties cadillac
and a carefully cultivated coiffure
Firstmost, live for yourself.
I am the apparently rare person who was touched by the divine–shown visions–and then returned to mundane life. (more…)
For those who aren’t yet aware, I’m presently studying in ADF. And not just poking around, either; I’m regularly studying and am actively involved with a grove/practicing group, which is unusual for me.
I have the strong conviction that polytheism needs structure. We need community, and we need clergy. Without dedicated clergy, we all become clergy, debating personal gnosis versus lore and having no trained officials who can help or clarify. Furthermore, without standard training, there is no such thing as a standard to weigh practitioners against–sure, this diviner claims she’s authentic, but has she done her research, can she tell Cernunnos from Belisama if an omen smacks her in the face…?
I took a look at ADF’s content and was pleasantly surprised to find that not only were most elements flexible enough to allow a hearth culture to use them regularly should I so wish, but those that weren’t flexible were still applicable to my practice. Most of the training elements involve research and reflection, and nothing self-referring (pointing to books which could, for example, only be bought on ADF’s own website), unlike certain other neodruidry outfits out there. Many of the books pointed to for the book requirements are actually books that I’ve either read or heard verified from others I trust. There’s something in me that just runs opposed to pagan organization, like maybe I saw one too many shitty covens, but ADF genuinely works for me.
This said, when formatting my own beliefs and practices into the ADF format for sake of study and practice, I’m still required to think and build a liturgy of my own around my gods and my faith.
Thus we come to the issue of ADF’s Core Order of Ritual for High Days. It’s explained on the site in the general ADF sense where it can be applied to any given grove’s or individual’s Celtic- or Celtic-adjacent-beliefs. Therefore, I’ll not be actually explaining their Core Order, but rather reconstructing it in the context of my own faith.
1. Initiating the Rite – May include:
As a group practitioner, I follow my grove’s liturgy and rites, and they do, obviously, have processionals and such things. On my own, however, I have no need for a processional, nor do I use a musical signal because, as of yet, I’ve not found one that works for me.
Each large ritual does, however, include a prayer to Cernunnos as Way-Opener to give me the strength, will, and capacity to open myself to the gods, properly receive them, and interpret their will. This prayer is basically universally impromptu. I find that it gives my words more sincerity, and less of a stiff feeling that sometimes comes with recited prayers.
Though I have no need to establish the groupmind or group consciousness, I do briefly take a moment to “realign” my brain with spiritual works rather than the mundane. This might involve a momentary meditation of my own devising (in this context, you could call it the love child of ADF’s Two Powers meditation and the LBRP), in which I “step into” the spiritual world, metaphorically, preparing myself for divine contact, and leaving behind mundane worries.
2. Purification – This must take place prior to Opening the Gates
While I’ve yet to find a reason to consider myself spiritually impure under most circumstances, I do tend to think that physical uncleanliness lends the spirit a sort of clinging… miasma. Therefore, before proper ritual, I bathe, wash my hands, possibly perfume myself, put on nice, clean clothes, and just generally make sure that I’m clean and presentable.
When I do find myself in need of spiritual/ritual purification, I might do this with a prayer over a fire, or by washing my hands and face with water, which incidentally runs tangentially to physical cleanliness.
Purification also has to do with appeasing the Outsiders, or spirits we don’t want hanging around us. I’ll admit to being lax in this practice, especially since the Outsiders are typically depicted as trickster or chthonic deities (and therefore deities I’d likely get along with), but the Outsiders also include unwelcome spirits like angry or wrathful local/land spirits, unaffiliated ghosts, odd entities, and the rest. To placate the Outsiders, I’d likely set aside an offering, possibly at the foot of the altar or at the edge of the property if convenience allows, which basically says, “This is yours, the rest is mine, stay out.”
3. Honoring the Earth Mother
I don’t think that there’s “an Earth Mother,” or rather that there’s one grandiose Earth Mother presiding over all the world. I initially did think this was a conflict of interest, but shortly met my grove, who generally seem to believe in many different, varied, native “earth mothers,” which is very much along my line of thought.
Therefore, during this segment, I offer a momentary prayer or invocation to the local land spirits. In one of the areas in which I live/have lived, the land spirits are spirits of manmade rivers and streams, abandoned coal strip mines, tall grass and locust trees, etc. When I live in the city, I pay respects to the City, Detroit, and the land on which it was founded. Each land spirit is very different, with its own “flavor.”
Beyond this, I may also offer a prayer to Nantosuelta and/or Sucellos, bringers of material health and wealth. Nantosuelta likely better fits the “Earth Mother” archetype, being the progenitor of, say, vegetations, grains, honey, etc., whereas Sucellos is more in the vein of metal and mead and similar riches. Either way, I thank the gods for the fact that I am healthy and in a position to worship them properly, and honor them for the wealth I’ve been given.
4. Statement of Purpose
This is glorified reformatting. For example: “I stand here at this altar on [date] this day of [holy day] to honor you, [honored guests] for [thing].”
E.g.: “I stand here at this altar on the day of 18 July this day of Cathu Alliae to honor and keep in my memory the tribal ancestors whose strength lives on in me,” or “I stand here at this altar (and/or bonfire) on this day, 19 June, to celebrate Medisamos and the bright and benevolent gods whose divine will shapes the world around us all.”
5. (Re)Creating the Cosmos
This is a new concept to me as of ADF, but I must admit I like it. While I have talked about my personal take on the Samos/Giamos duality of powers, I haven’t ever discussed my take on the axis mundi, I don’t think, and I don’t have the space or inclination to include that entire thing here. This said, I do believe in an axis mundi, or in these terms the “sacred center.” In my cosmology, the axis mundi consists of the Depths, the waters which become the primordial seas of creation, rising up to meet the Heavens, the skies which become the divine air and wind of reality breathed into life, connected by a Tree.
By recreating the cosmic axis mundi, we introduce ourselves into the grand scheme, aligning ourselves with that same scheme and putting ourselves in an appropriate ritual space.
My views on fire are difficult to explain, but to be very short, fire is aligned with the divine, the Heavens. When something is burnt, its spirit rises up on the winds as smoke (metaphorically, of course), and its mundane shell falls to the earth as ash. The fire is one of the most direct ways that we can send something up to the gods and heavenly bodies; I personally burn all of my spell remnants in fire, for example. So, properly, the Fire is aligned with the Heavens, and nearly functionally identical. In this sense, the triad is established as Water, Fire, and the axis between. In my rituals, I still connect Depths and Heavens with the Tree, however; it’s simply worth noting the implications of fire’s inclusion.
6. Opening the Gate(s) – Must include a Gatekeeper
The Gatekeeper, proper noun, for me is Cernunnos, as I said previously. At this moment, I say a more formal prayer in the context of the axis mundi, more of an invocation than anything.
On the other hand, and by and large in private ritual, I am also a gatekeeper, improper noun, since I slip through that gate all of the time. Formal prayer to Cernunnos is strange to me, as I have been dedicated to him for… well, years and years. Anyway, given the initial prayer early in the ritual, and given my personal context, I assume his continued support and open the way for myself “under his advisement.” Were I leading a public ritual, I wouldn’t assume that I could open the gate for everyone, and would therefore call on Cernunnos to do so.
7. Inviting the Three Kindreds
In ADF, the three Kindreds are the gods, the nature spirits, and the ancestors.
In private practice, the ancestors are always welcome on my altar and in my spiritual life; by virtue of the ritual being personal, I don’t need to do anything for the ancestors, as they are aware that they can come by whenever I’ve “put out the welcome mat” (activated or lit a candle at the altar). Again, this differs in public ritual.
The nature spirits have been welcomed in step 3; I do it again here where appropriate, since it’s polite.
In this step, I primarily welcome the gods: the Gaulish gods “in general,” where I address them only as “the gods” or “the gods of my ancestors/people/tribe,” which puts out the welcome mat for anyone who would like to be present (we’re not gonna have any Maleficent business in here, thanks), and then specifically the gods of the occasion, as in the next step:
8. Key Offerings – This will commonly include:
Here, the gods (and otherwise) of the occasion are invited in, again if necessary. This is basically the high point. This step is fairly vague, which is a good thing, because each high holy day requires a little something different, i.e. “seasonal customs as appropriate.”
TL;DR this is the meat of the ritual, where we get to The Point. Appropriate offerings and celebrations are made, then we move on.
9. Prayer of Sacrifice
This is largely, and strangely, subjective; there’s not much documentation on how this should be done. I personally think that this is incorporated into my offerings from step 8; with each offering or sacrifice I give a prayer detailing what it is, what it’s for, and to whom it is addressed.
In public ritual, this is the moment where one seer or diviner takes an omen to learn whether or not the sacrifices have been accepted. I’ve honestly never heard of a sacrifice being rejected. I usually don’t overly much bother with this part, since my rituals are small and I usually get “a feeling” anyway, but during grandiose rituals that I’ve fully planned in advance, I would likely pull out the cards or trance.
I’m also fairly strange, probably, in that I’m rather practiced at taking natural omens, so I watch the world around me before and after a ritual and interpret the signs accordingly. Were a ritual outside, this would be how I would do it, and stand there until I got an omen (same for a public ritual, though I’d likely bring an alternative method just to hasten along the cumbersome practice of public omen-taking).
11. Calling (Asking) for the Blessings
With the sacrifice accepted, I thank the gods and spirits for their bounties and place my requests. On my personal altar, this might take the form of anything from an impromptu prayer to a lit votive and written request for assistance.
12. Hallowing the Blessing
Meaning to consecrate the blessings, to bring them into a holy space. In ADF ritual this primarily takes the form of pulling the energy or blessings into an alcoholic beverage such as whiskey, mead, ale, etc., which is then shared between participants, sprinkled over them, poured into the Well/Fire, etc.
I personally find little need to do this; the blessings gather on my personal altar and remain there for me to partake of, therefore I do not need to hallow the blessings into a physical form. When the imagery and mood strikes me, however, different alcohols are for different purposes. A nice grain alcohol like a beer will serve for most purposes, especially prosperity rituals; I associate mead with magic and sovereignty; wine somehow feels somewhat chthonic; and whiskey is for the ancestors. Mostly, it’s very much an “as the mood strikes me” sort of thing.
13. Affirmation of the Blessing
A glorified “and thus the blessings are upon us.” Distribution of good fortune, health, and wealth to everyone I need to distribute it to.
14. Workings (if any)
This is the magical portion of the ritual, if need be. Here is where I trance if I’m so inclined, and also where I summon up all of that natural ritual energy and slam it into some warlockin’. No details needed.
15. Thanking the Beings
“Thank you, [being], for attending this rite and watching over your [relation]. Be welcome and stay until the fire goes out/[similar signal].” E.g., “Thank you, ancestors, for attending this rite and watching over your daughter. Be welcome and stay until your light goes out.” (The ancestors have a personal one on my altar.)
16. Closing the Gate(s)
Cosmically, the Tree regresses from the Heavens back into the primordial Depths. Representative emblems lose their ritual power; e.g., a votive representing fire/the Heavens is no longer a spiral to the gods but just a fire; the World Tree is now just a bunch of twigs or a tarot card; the cup of water representing the Depths is just regular old H2O; etc.
I then (and/or simultaneously) ritually close the gates, drawing my spiritual consciousness back into myself and into the mundane world. I then pray to Cernunnos, thanking him for his assistance in the rite.
17. Thanking the Earth Mother
The local spirits are given thanks for permitting my magic to be raised on the land, and once again the gods of prosperity are thanked.
18. Closing the Rite
At home and in private, this is almost as simple as walking away from my altar. However, the fire, when still lit, represents the “welcome mat” to the spirits, the sign that says “open for business.” Sometimes, I leave the fire on afterwards, because it is almost always a tealight that will go out within a few hours, and it represents the continued goodwill that I have toward the invited spirits and gods: that I trust them to be benign at my altar, though I may not necessarily be actively attending. Other times, however, and particularly after long rituals like this kind likely may be, I may feel that I need immediate grounding, in which case I immediately douse the fire and close off the altar from the spirit world fully, ending the ritual officially.
* Additional Notes
I’ve considered revising the “earth mother” steps to include Taranis, the sky-father/great thunderer, and yet another god who brings prosperity. It never hurts to be grateful, so for now he may take a role in this steps as well.
So! Now that I’ve explained the recontextualization of ADF liturgy under Gaulish polytheism and private practice, below I’ve written a sample ritual for Lugunassatis/Litu Lugus, the closest upcoming holy day, which will be August 1.
Litu Lugus Ritual Script
i. Approach the altar. Clasp hands and bow, then perform an adoratio upon the appropriate idols: the ancestors’ vessel for the ancestors, the emblem of Cernunnos for Cernunnos.
Ancestors, look now upon your daughter,
and inspire me to good works.
Cernunnos, look upon your follower,
and grant me the ability to walk the path.
ii. I come clean and whole, in sound mind, body, and spirit.
iii. Bow once each to all invited presences, and perform adoratio into the air above the altar (given there are no appropriate idols).
Be welcome in my home and at my altar, spirits of the land,
native spirits of [rock, coal, brush and wood].
You who have dwelled on this land for longer than I or my kin,
be welcome in this ritual.
I call to you, Nantosuelta, great progenitor of the riches of earth.
I thank you for your offerings of wealth, and invite you to my home.
I call to you, Sucellos, good striker, bringer of goods and wellness.
I thank you for your contributions, and invite you to my home.
I call to you, Taranis, thunderer on your throne in the heavens.
I thank you for your good will and protection, and invite you to my home.
iv. I stand here on this day, the first of August, to celebrate the feast day of Lugus, tribal father,
and the strength and ingenuity of the tribe, my ancestors.
I stand to thank Lugus and the spirits of the tribe.
v. Invoke the primordial Depths, the seas/waters, and pour water into its vessel.
From the roots of all creation and being,
water springs forth, alive and flowing with potential.
I feel it pool at my feet, my body being pulled with the current of time.
Invoke the Heavens, the sky/fire, and light the appropriate fire.
From chaos and potential, life gives way to heavenly order,
the divine fire lit in each person’s soul.
My nerves are set alight, and my spirit rises toward the gods.
Invoke the World Tree, the axis mundi, and break the appropriate lengths of wood/set them upon the altar.
Growing out of the waters of creation,
the World Tree rises up, carrying the heavens in its branches,
and the seas in its roots.
Perform the Two Powers/custom meditation (discussed above).
Like the world, I rise from the deep waters and am set alight with bright fires.
I put my roots forth into the waters below; I lift up my branches to uphold the heavens.
[Caelo, terra; cresco, muto; divinus.]
The branches of creation intertwine with this life.
vi. Standing at the crossroads of the world,
my branches unfurl and the way is opened.
I beseech you, Cernunnos, to stand at my shoulder,
to open the way, act as my guide, and destroy the obstacles in my path.
vii. Clasping hands in prayer.
Gods, divine and shining ones, I invite you to attend this rite.
Be welcome, and pass down your blessings through the fire.
Making a salutation to the spirits.
Spirits, natural and local, I invite you to attend this rite.
Be welcome, and share your wisdom in words and deeds.
Ancestors, ancient and beloved dead, I invite you to attend this rite.
Be welcome, and pass up your wisdom through earthen water.
viii. Light a candle (orange, red, white, gray?) for Lugus.
Lugus, (the fire ignited on the invocation of the name)
I invite you into my home and into this rite.
Lugus, tribal father, keeper of the people,
performer of good words and great deeds,
be with your tribe now.
Lugus, we praise you:
for your leadership,
for your guidance,
for your foresight.
Grant us the wisdom this year to make good oaths,
to overcome that which is presented to us,
and to act in the best interest of our tribe and family.
In good faith, so be it.
Light the candle vessel (or white votive/tealight alternatively) for the ancestors.
Ancestors, I invite you to sit at the forefront of my altar:
members of the tribe, gone but not forgotten.
Your actions are honored this day, in word and deed.
Today, as in all days, we remember your contributions,
recall your strength running through us,
and honor the gifts you gave to the tribe.
Take oaths, as appropriate.
I will not be taking oaths this year, but add:
Good god Lugus, though I offer no binding oaths for the year,
help me to hold close that which I most value,
and make me to follow my obligations and keep my promises,
to honor all the oaths that I make.
Lugus, great father, founder of family and leader of men,
I praise you and honor your name.
Ancestors, beloved dead, givers of blood and life,
I praise you and honor your names.
ix. In good faith, I stand now at the altar and offer sacrifice.
To Lugus, present coins and/or rope.
To Lugus, a token of good faith:
that I might keep my word the following year,
and honor my tribe in word and deed.
To the ancestors, present classical offerings and/or funerary flowers.
To the ancestors, gifts for the beloved dead:
that you might be honored in death as well as in life,
and know that you are remembered by your daughter.
Additional, on-the-spot offerings given here; e.g., offerings to land spirits or attending gods.
x. Take the omen.
If the omen is unfavorable, ask for forgiveness/clarification, and potentially increase offerings and/or vow to offer more in the near future should more not be on hand.
If the omen is favorable, thank the gods and move on:
I thank you, spirits of fortune and shining heavenly ones,
for the good fortune you have blessed me with.
Thank you for accepting these offerings.
xi. Bowing head over the sacrifices.
I thank you, Lugus, for accepting my gift.
I thank you, ancestors, for accepting my gift.
I stand before you now, and ask for your blessing in return:
I give, that you might give.
Personal, specific requests henceforth:
Spirits, I beg of you assistance in finding the strength to overcome.
Lead me to the path of persistence and strength of will, and bring me to success.
Ancestors, through your strength, I find my own strength.
Through your deeds, I find my own inspiration.
Through your being, I find my own purpose.
Ancestors, I ask of you your continued blessings,
and your presence and outlook on my life.
xii. Accept the blessings of the gods and spirits into an appropriate vessel. This occasion, it should likely be whiskey or, failing this, mead, cider, or spring water.
xiii. Drink of or otherwise consume from the vessel.
xiv. I do not plan on doing any trance work this year, though I may choose to shove my ritual debris into a few workings at this time.
xv. Bowing head over the altar.
Gods, ancestors, and spirits, I thank you for visiting my home.
I thank you for your blessings, and for attending my ritual.
In good faith, I invite you to remain upon this altar
until the last fire goes out.
xvi. Performing the “reverse” axis mundi meditation.
The World Tree stands tall, roots deep, branches high.
Now the branches fall gently from the heavens;
now the wood falls to the earth and is given back to the waters.
From my branches recede the Heavens,
lofty kingdom of the shining gods,
leaving with the world its divine spark.
From my roots recede the Waters,
primal source of all creation,
leaving with the world its raw potential.
The skies above, the seas below,
we stand tall in our kingdom of land,
left with the blessings of the World around us.
Performing adoratio to Cernunnos.
My spirit rises up from where it fell to earth,
and is restored to the world.
At the crossroads of the world, the gate to the spirit world is closed.
Cernunnos, I thank you now for opening the way;
safe travels to both of us as we go our separate ways.
xvii. Spirits of this world, above and below, here and beyond,
I thank you for your attendance to this rite.
You are honored, here as in other places,
and welcome always at my door.
xviii. Stepping away from the altar.
The rite is concluded.
The gods and spirits have been honored, as is proper.
Take your leave now, as you will,
or until the last light on the altar burns out.
In good faith, so be it.
Reiterated notes: This ritual is a sample (and was constructed on little to no sleep) and is thus susceptible to flexibility and change.
This day, July 18, is a day I personally celebrate as a minor holiday, and the only one in July, properly. It’s Cathu Alliae, a day to celebrate the strength of the ancestors that still works through us.
I’ve done a bit of writing lately on the cosmic principle of giamos and its influence on the world around us, namely its association with the Otherworld, winter, and death. I’ve also been having discussions with some people I know in person about my “spiritual makeup:” just what it is that has influenced me to do what I do, and think how I think, in spiritual terms.
Upon reflection, the giamos energy’s influence on my life is enormous. I grew up surrounded by graveyards and cemeteries, out here in the rural Midwestern countryside. The land itself feels like a corpse, dead yet full of life, sustaining itself, growing out of the decay.
(And before I go on, let me say that this ties into one of the founding themes of this blog: the American dead. This is a land soaking in the influence of giamos, of Saturn, of everything that goes along with it: the Western World, associated by proxy with the Otherworld and the Unseen by virtue of being western in the Gaulish directional paradigm, is regardless a place of death and rebirth. One only has to look so far back as our modern history: we have built our nation on the lifeless bodies of natives, subjugated peoples, the harvested and unsustainably predated land, the extinct species and cultures. The Deep South is plagued by stories of hauntings, White Women, the surreal and unseen; New England has seen battles and wars, witch hunts and prejudices; the West Coast was initially an ideal, to ’49ers, to opportunists, to those who followed the Oregon Trail, who faced death at every turn. We must love death, for we trail it wherever we go.)
I also found death in my daily life. The familial Major Depressive Disorder wreaks havoc on those who have it, and we suppress our innate, terrifying closeness to death-by-suicide with medications and therapy. Still, it leaves its mark on those who have it, a mark that makes death seem all the closer for escaping it.
My perpetual closeness to giamos energy has predisposed me to some things, less others. In the Otherworld, in Dumnos, Cernunnos resides as King–I peripherally call him the King in Sleep. Cernunnos, who was the first God I really knew, laid hands on, so to speak, opened the door to every other crazy thing I did on the ongoing road of polytheism, from spirit work to necromancy, and everything in between. Cernunnos is a king of the dead, and when I am in contact with him, necromancy and its workings come that much easier to me.
On reflection, I actually found that this is true of all Saturnian/giamos influences. In times where life circumstances have pushed me closer to my MDD, I have invariably found it easier to communicate with spirits and the dead. In the winter, particularly on either side of winter (the liminal sides, before and after the deep ice, which incidentally I associate with Cernunnos), the spirit work comes easier. When I am more deeply oriented toward Dumnos, the spirit work always comes easier.
This leads, also, to the unfortunate implication that my best spirit work comes when I go off of my medication… which is a dangerous path to walk, and not something I’ll be speaking about right this moment.
I’ve had a concept of this alignment for a while, but it’s a difficult thing to express without sounding like you’re somehow “better than.” I described it as “death energy” for a while, though that isn’t all it is, of course. When I attempted to explain how to use it, I tried to explain “attunement:” how some people are more predisposed for certain types of works than others. Obviously, in this light, it sounds like a hoax or a New Age fad, but what I didn’t understand then and have neglected to mention is that this “attunement” comes at the cost of other things.
See, being close to Dumnos, the Otherworld, on the samos-to-giamos line graph means that I’m further than usual from Albios, the Heavens. Functionally, that means that I have trouble grasping related concepts, or relating to those gods. I don’t know very well how to miss something I’ve never had, but I do know that the imbalance doesn’t help the MDD. If samos is positive energy, light, and life, then that’s something that’s just that tiny bit harder to grasp for me.
When I deal with Belenos, I always have a moment of perfect wholeness that I can only imagine comes with exposure to holy samos at a divine level of intensity: hope, finely-tuned potential, loving kinship.
The benefits of being more toward Dumnos, such as they are, shouldn’t be overlooked given that one has them, though. Like I said, I find spirit work easier than it’s supposedly supposed to be, as well as various psychic feats like astral movement. And I would not trade my easy relationship with Cernunnos and the dead for anything: it’s led me to grow as a person on a whole other level beyond what I could have.
Likely, that’s to be treasured: if I cannot regularly experience the divine ecstasy of Belenos, I will gladly take the gentle acceptance of Cernunnos as my prize, and be all the happier for it. This, after all, is where I belong.
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