I’ve written a great deal about my daily practice on this blog. There have been periods of prolonged drought, periods of genuine doubt, and times when I felt like my daily practice was all that was keeping me invested in my Druidism.
In my ADF Dedicant studies (which will be a central focus for me until Imbolc), one of the tasks for the student is to develop a steady daily practice. A regular practice, especially for solitaries, is key to taking your religion out of the book and rooting it in your life.
I had almost no regular practice in August. I kept the High Day, but after that I woke up and started my mornings with only a casual glance at my shrine. I was busy in my head before stepping out of bed, and I didn’t take much time to slow down and seek out the Kindred.
But I have a syllabus now. I’m a dedicated religious student (as I mentioned in my Druid School post). I’m going gung-ho, and I’m starting as a beginner.
ADF member, Melissa Burchfield, wrote a piece on ADF.org on how to adopt ADF’s Core Order of Ritual (COoR) for solitary use. For those who don’t know, the COoR is what makes and ADF rite an ADF rite. It’s the foundation for all ADF liturgy.
On this article, Melissa lays out a series of “tiers” for the beginning student. In the first tier, she strips down the COoR to these components:
- Initiating the Rite – Bell Ring, clap of the handsLight candle
- Purification - Breathe deeply, nine times to centerand clear the mind.
- Honoring the Earth Mother
- Statement of Purpose - "I have come to honor the gods."
- Inviting the Kindred
- Key Offerings - Made to the Kindred
- Thanking the Beings - In reverse order
- Thanking the Earth Mother
- Closing the Rite - "The rite is ended."
Notice that the numbers are a little wacky? That’s because the COoR has a total of nineteen steps in its full form.
I performed the first tier of this druid ritual this morning.
For step one, I rang triple Goddess bell. I lit my candle and said,
“I light this candle in the presence of the Shining Ones above, in the presence of the Ancient Ones below, and in the presence of the Nature Spirits all around me.”
Step two was easy, and surprisingly effective. Feeling tense? Breath nine deep breaths. It’s like magic (*ahem* — magick).
Honoring the Earth Mother is always a strange moment for me. I feel like my prayers can never be big enough. I said something to the effect of,
“Holy Earth Mother, on whom we move and live and have our being, all praise and honor belongs to you. From you we are born, and to you we shall return.”
What can I say? I was a cradle Episcopalian. I like the formalities.
After the statement of purpose (which can sometimes be elaborate, as in the case of a High Day ritual), I invited the Kindred.
I like this part. This is where I speak out loud to the Kindred and ask that they be present in my ritual space. When I call to them, I describe them, and by doing so I engage my imagination. I get to see them in form, in color, with attributes. That’s how it was this morning, at least.
I simplified my offerings today. Taking cue from Melissa, I poured a bit of steel cut oats into a small, clay serving cup, and used it for all of my offerings.
I made offerings to the Three Kindred, ending with the phrase that I hear at most ADF gatherings:
Nature Spirits / Ancestors / Shining Ones…. accept my sacrifice.
I love liturgy. I love the repetition of meaningful phrases. I nerd out over it sometimes. Saying the phrase “accept my sacrifice” with the same cadence and tone that we did at Eight Winds makes me feel — just a little — like I’m still at Eight Winds. Liturgy allows my small rite to feel like a giant group ritual.
I offered my thanks to all, and closed the rite.
The whole thing took about five minutes.
I share all of this not to present myself in a special light. My practice should not garner me any praise; that’s not what it’s for. But, I do feel that people — solitaries, especially — need to see that there is always an opportunity to begin your practice again, to start from scratch. With a beginner’s mind, you can simplify your religious life and relearn how to be what you are.
It all starts with a single flame.
Have you ever stripped things down to the basics? If so, what was that experience like for you? Do you find that a ritual with a reliable form and structure makes sense, or are you more of a ritualist who keeps it loose?
What would your “beginner” ritual look like?