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High Day Rituals

This is my first completed Dedicant Path requirement and thanks to chronarchy for proofreading my at times rather creative English gleaned from an even more creative dictionary.

Relevant Bit from the Personal Religion Essay

Before I joined ADF in summer 2007, I had little experience with good Pagan ritual and even less idea how to perform them. The guided meditations felt dull and unreal (“Golden rain springing up from my head? Come on!”) and nobody taught me about the meaning of the rites (“What is the purpose of the screeching, anyway?”) or the explanations just didn´t resonate with me (“It´s supposed to raise energy? Hmmmm.”)

Pagan rituals of any kind are scarcely available in our country and so are liturgies in Czech, so DIY is often the only way. To add on baggage, I had to learn a completely new ritual format and translate or create liturgies in my mother tongue, because unlike the bilingual members, I could not perform them in English. The COOR tutorial and Neopagan Rites helped a lot, but relating a textbook to personal experience has been completely another thing.

Hence, the High Day Rituals requirement turned out to be the most challenging one. More than once I felt like giving up. It also turned out to be the most beneficent one for my spiritual life. I will continue to attend and take part in every accessible ritual.

09/2007 Vernal Equinox

We travelled North to Liberec upon invitation of fellow ADFers Eurik and Sothis. Our hosts chose a Wiccan style ritual in order to appeal to the invited beginner Pagans. We celebrated indoors and in bilingual mode; there were 8 people present. The sacred drama featured the battle of the Young God and Old God, who enters the underworld and becomes the Lord of that realm. He lures the Goddess, but she would not follow him until Samain. I took a speech part, as the storyteller. A pathworking to meet the Dread Lord was included, but I felt too exhausted from the incenses to have any visions. I liked best the part when women and men, facing the other direction, were chanting the sacred conversation between the Gods, it had a spark of sexual magic. I could clearly feel the energy raised by the ritual afterwords.

10/2007 Samain

This was the day of our first Protogrove ADF style ritual and it was the ride of the mischievous spirits, truly. We ended up leaving the city at 7 P.M. after a furious fight with the printer, with the ritual script half-finished. We headed North to a cave in the woods. We witnessed several omens, such as when a young owl circled over the ritual site and candles fell when we talked a certain person who was gifted with witchcraft. The seasonal theme was the descent of Persephone and we likewise consumed a pomegranate. Another one was left for the spirits. Torm scried into the well and prophesied “many new members and many disappointed ones”. The rest of the visions he kept for himself as they were private. We read from the Druid´s Herbal and talked about Death and such. A feast followed. The omen drawn was Death – a very seasonal one.

12/2007 Yule

The atmosphere of this indoor celebrated festival was grim and sombre. Only two friends came to our flat, so we could take advantage of the intimacy of the ritual and talk about our lives. Presents were exchanged. We dedicated the ritual to the return of Light and Order in our lives. We read from the Druid´s Herbal. The ritual itself turned out to be surprisingly powerful, I credit the natural piety of our female friends for that. This was the first fully written ADF liturgy. I was the presiding Druid and Seer and I could feel the divine power sliding through me before I took the Omen. The omen was No – Skills – Never. I interpreted it in the most favourable way I could, i.e. that we ought to use our wits and guts and thus survive till a better Omen. It was universally agreed though that the Omen is extremely unfavourable.

02/2008 Imbolc

The Omen received last time proved to be true, because interpersonal strife erupted so badly on the way to the site that the ritual was eventually sabotaged by our own friends and prospective members of the Protogrove. I was torn. I felt helped by Brigid to solve the situation and sacrificed a bee wax candle to her. I took my ritual gear and books to the spa where I was heading for a month, determined to do a solitary Imbolc there.

The solitary ritual was a poor one as to liturgics. I figured out that taking the Grove liturgy I wrote previously and changing „we“ to „I“ doesn´t really work. (I later found out about Brandon´s liturgies which looked much better.) Also, I was nervous as hell and took a greater sip of the Waters of Life than usually; nevertheless, I succeeded and my (this time utterly personal) Omen was Skills – Sun – Message. I made it through – hurray! Healing and new contacts were to be expected.

04/2008 Spring Equinox

We (Skoll and I) were eagerly expecting the visit of the Vice Archdruid and turned out to be very relieved to manage to host him in my parents´ humble country cottage, as we were de facto homeless at the time. In the front garden we improvised a bilingual ADF ritual dedicated to Persephone who received a flower-shaped candle. Silver was permanently buried under the well, in fact a stone pool overshaded by apple trees. I felt calm and spiritual in the presence of the presiding Druid and surprisingly I liked the guided meditation of Two Powers. The Omen was Tree – Destruction – Warrior – Work, interpreted unanimously as the Protogrove´s (Midnight Tree Clan) past, present and future. Destruction is a card on which a war bloodshed is depicted, and it fit my feelings about the past events. Warrior was a card I drew before upon the question “What approach should I adopt as the GO?” and Work promised a lot of effort, perhaps routine and unsatisfactory, but it might also mean that “the time is working on our behalf”. A bit of this ritual was inserted in an interview that aired on Tribeways 5/2008.

06/2008 Beltine

At last, our new flat was inhabitable and we placed the old altar-drawers in the bedroom. We decided to make it a sort of newly-weds/household blessing ritual, inspired by our actual needs and the notion that household spirits were honoured at this time of the year. The ritual would be Greco-Roman, with Ianus the Gatekeeper, Vesta the Sacred Fire of the household and Hera the Deity of Occasion. The idea was to ask Ianus to keep the ill away and admit only the good into our household; to dedicate an oil lamp to Vesta, who would become our hearth and as Hera for blessings as a couple. I had a surprising prophetic voice recently who was revealed to be Hera. It was horribly wet that day, so we waited for the storm to come, which was a perfect threshold time. Basically I performed the liturgy and Skoll assisted. He said he liked the ritual very much. The Omen was Birth – Yes – Stars and we were both deeply moved. It means that all long-term goals set about at this time will eventually flourish and that we are entering a new period of our lives with the blessings of the Powers.

06/2008 Summer Solstice

This was the first open ritual in months, presented by a newly-formed unit of Dianic Witches. We headed South by car to a beautiful woodland close to a military area. There was additional programme, a guided meditation of four elements which I surprisingly enjoyed. The main feature was lighting a giant fire accompanied by chanting and enacting the myth where the Holly King replaces the Oak King. The fire eventually rose so high that we could hardly stay in the in the circle around it. It was a good example on how to do public rituals and I was happy to see the general structure of Pagan rituals I learnt before. We actually had a talk about the Dianic creative ritual performance, and later exchanged English books on liturgics with the organizers. A feast followed.

07/2008 Imbas Ritual

We joined the Celtic ritual of sacred creativity upon invitation of a fellow ADF couple. The ritual itself took place in an old beech grove in the mountains. One of the oldest trees represented the world tree. We sacrificed to Danu as the Earth mother, who I believe sent us an omen in the form of bees who entered our circle after the milk was poured. Nechtan opened the gates and I read the song of creation. The experience was profound. I could really feel each offering to be accepted and I learnt a little more about the featured Deities – Brigid and Oghma – by direct personal gnosis. The Omen was Oak which I read as an affirmation to my recent decisions. A bardic contest followed back in the house which we enjoyed very much.

07/2008 Dianic Circle

This was frankly the most professionally lead ritual I´ve ever been to here and also among the most profound ritual experience I´ve had. An interesting point was the grounding&centering meditation where we reached to the moon, rather than the heavenly powers. It felt different. The ritual was a mystical encounter with the Creation Goddess Eurynomé, to join her in the Dance of Creation. I entered a quite deep trance (possession).

I mused about the complementary nature of our rituals. ADF rituals are classical services of worship and there´s not much focus on self-empowerment and self-transformation. Theologically speaking, we concentrate on the transcendent side of divinity, whereas Dianics celebrate the immanence of the Goddess in every woman. There´s a completely different feeling to it. I feel the power arises from within me, unlike a patron´s blessing which is something clearly given to me.

07/2008 Lughnasadh

This ritual took place in a living-history Celtic village in Sumava National Park, celebrated by my friend, with several dozens of onlookers. I was again pleased to make use of my ritual theory skills gleaned from Bonewits, as the ritual had the same basic structure (opening the gates, sacrifice, blessings...). The rite called up to the Great Wolf as the Lord of the Wild Hunt. During high parts of the ritual the crew representing the Wild Hunt got possessed and acted like wolves. This is the difficult part, because the Brotherhood of Wolves (the kindred´s name) combines elements from native religions, Norse and I suspect some influence from Thelema or Satanism in the prayer for the fulfilment of our True Will, challenge to face one´s True Self or the unrestrained Nature of oneself. (Later inquiry turned out that there is no influence, though my friend found her way into these circles eventually. It´s more that she advocates the inspirationalist end of approach to Paganism. ) While it was a very professional public ritual – an ecstatic one, and these are truly rare – I felt their gods don´t speak to me. I could feel the purification and opening the gates but otherwise it was quite dull. This was valuable experience in the sense that one´s own patrons might sometimes disapprove to other forms of worship. Skoll was better off perhaps because of his allegiance with Loki. My friend was chosen to serve Loki´s children – Hel, Fenri and Jormundgard and I can sympathize why she feels as a “castaway even among heretics”.