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Susan and Ken Reed's Life Universe and Everything spacer
 
A Survey of Modern Druid Groups  

© Copyright 2004 Susan Reed

Introduction • Capsule Histories • Statements of Belief • 
• Organizational Structure • Membership and Training • Rituals • 
•  Ethics • Conclusions •  Resources •

Focus on Ritual for Each Group

The sample ritual outlines I have included below are just that — samples. In many of the groups, ritual content may vary depending on the nature of the ritual and the preferences of the individuals or groups performing the ritual. Sometimes the ritual outline and content may vary greatly from one ritual to another within the same group. Other groups may have a basic framework that is always or nearly always used with minor variations in content.

OBOD

In OBOD, the purposes of ritual are to help the participants change consciousness, so that they may contact sources of inspiration and wisdom; to make them aware of the sacred nature of the time and the space they are in; to create a time and space from which beneficent forces may be radiated; and to express deep interconnections among ourselves and between the participants and other realms, beings or forces. (1)

OBOD has both seasonal rituals and various rituals for each grade to introduce the student to experiences taught within a grade or to mark progress within a grade. The seasonal ritual calendar includes: Samhain, Alban Arthan (winter solstice), Imbolc, Alban Eilir (spring equinox), Beltane, Alban Hefin (summer solstice), Lughnassa, and Alban Elfed (fall equinox).

There are no ritual tools required for all rituals, nor is there a set way to physically prepare the ritual space that applies to all rituals.

Ritual components may be reordered, modified, omitted or added to as fits the particular ritual or group or individual performing the ritual. Often, rituals will combine some elements from the BDO ritual format, such as honoring the Spirits of the Land and the Ancestors.

Notice that invoking or inviting Gods is not a usual part of OBOD ritual. This is partly because OBOD regards Druidry as a spiritual philosophy rather than a religion. Individuals and groves/seed groups may include invocations to deities as they wish.

Sample Ritual Outline

Grounding Meditation
Opening Statement
Call to Spirit(s) [spirits of place, spirits of the grove, God(s), etc.]
Peace to the Quarters
The “Universal” Druid’s Prayer (AKA “Gorsedd Prayer”)(2)
Awen Chant
Casting the Circle
Consecrating the Circle (with water and fire)
Opening the Quarters
The Working
Unity Prayer
Awen Chant
Thanking the Quarters
Unwinding the Circle
Ending Statement

View the text to a Samhain ritual.

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BDO

At the time she wrote Ritual: A Guide to Life, Love and Inspiration, Emma Restall Orr was the Joint Chief of the British Druid Order. Her take on what Druid ritual is:

Ritual is a “pause in time,” a break from the tumbling swirls and eddies of life’s river. It gives an opportunity to check our beliefs, both those that are sound and those that need to be changed. It reveals the world as sacred, guiding us to relate more closely to its creating and its essence, to understand more respectfully the spirit of nature, its power and potential. (3)

I could find no example of BDO ritual from the BDO web site. The sample ritual below is derived from examples given in books by Emma Restall Orr and from a book by Philip Shallcrass (see resource list), who at the time of writing were Joint Chiefs of BDO. Both Orr and Shallcrass are OBOD members as well, and their rituals have much in common with OBOD rituals. (4)

Much of BDO ritual is done at public gatherings, such as Druid camps, Gorseddau, etc.
The ritual calendar includes: Samhain, Alban Arthan (winter solstice), Imbolc, Alban Eilir (spring equinox), Beltane, Alban Hefin (summer solstice), Lughnassa, and Alban Elfed (fall equinox).

Ritual set up varies with the particular ritual being done.

Sample Ritual Outline

Call to Spirit(s) (guardian spirits of place)
Peace to the Quarters
Casting the Circle
Consecrating the Circle (with water and fire)
Honor Directions
Honor Spirits of the Land
Honor Ancestors
The Declaration of Purpose
Invoke the Gods (optional)
The Working
The Grounding
Eisteddfod (optional — may be held after ritual closing)
Feast
Thanking the Gods, Ancestors and Spirits
Thanking the Quarters
Unwinding the Circle
Closing Prayer

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AODA

The AODA doesn't require a specific liturgy for its members, and in fact the task of writing a personal set of rituals for the holy days of the year is one of the things members do in the course of the study program for the AODA's Second Degree. Solstices and Equinoxes are the main seasonal rituals; the Celtic cross-quarter days are optional.

There are, however, set rituals for AODA Solitary Grove opening and closing and for the Candidate’s Initiation ceremony (the latter is only available to members). See http://www.aoda.org/about/lodge.htm for an example of the opening and closing ritual.

Rituals may be open to non-members, except for rituals involving initiation, confirmation or exaltation for a particular grade.

AODA Grove Opening and Closing Ritual (5)

Set Up

Altar in center of grove, covered with a white altar cloth.

Incense and incense burner (east of altar).

Oil lamp or candle (south of altar).

Cauldron half filled with water (west of altar).

Platter of earth (north of altar).

Golden sickle and mistletoe in West of the circle.

Sounding board in the North (for staff-rapping).

The elements alternately can take form of four identical cauldrons containing incense, a lamp or candle, water and earth each.

The Chief Druid carries a staff; Druid of Air carries a sword in scabbard; Herald, Pendragon and almoner carry staves with golden sickles; Druid of Fire carries matches or a lighter.

AODA Grove Opening and Closing Ritual Outline

Declared Opening
Call for Peace
Purification of the Grove by the Four Elements
Statement of Purpose
Druid Prayer
Awen Chant
Banishing Negative Influences for Each Quarter
The Center Working (grove meeting, holy day celebration, etc.)
Determine That Work Is Done
Open grove in the cross quarters and invite the Candidates (NE), Druid Apprentices (SE), Druid Companions (SW) and Druid Adepts (NW) to speak or share with the grove.
After they are done “peace” is reiterated for each quarter
Oath of Officers to serve the Earth
Awen Chant
Banishing the Elements/Quarters
Procession Out

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RDNA

RDNA rituals were developed from Episcopal liturgy and emphasize sacrifice to the Earth Mother and receiving blessings from the Earth Mother. Rituals are not required, if done, are usually performed on Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnassadh. Solstices and Equinoxes may also be kept, but are optional. RDNA ritual can be very loose; anyone can omit any part. Rituals are open to anyone who shows up. (6)

Sample Ritual Outline

Invocation (to Be’al)
Processional
The Praise (to Earth Mother)
The Sacrifice
The Reply
The Catechism of the Waters of Life/Waters of Sleep
Consecration of the Waters of Life/Waters of Sleep
Communion
The Meditation
The Benediction
Drawing the Three Sigils in the air and Proclaiming “Peace”

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ADF

ADF gives the following intentions for Druidic ritual :

To rectify and empower the souls of the worshippers; to serve the God/desses and Spirits; to bless the folk and the land. (7)

Rituals should honor only one pantheon in each rite. Each ritual usually has one or two Patron powers to whom the central offerings and callings are made. Which ones are chosen depend on the specific nature of the rite. Usually these are a God and Goddess pair, but may also be the ancestors or spirits of the land.

Rituals may celebrate the seasons, rites of passage or for personal needs. ADF “High Day” rituals are open to the public and ADF encourages its groves and protogroves to advertise the rituals far and wide. There is usually a pre-ritual briefing to inform participants about how the ritual works, what will happen, how it happens, background on the mythology behind the ritual, etc.

High Day rituals include: Samhain, Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lughnassadh, and Fall Equinox. Some groves also have lunar rituals as well.

ADF ritual requires a representation of a well (for example, a pan, a basin, a cauldron), of fire (such as a fire pit or fre bowl, or one or more candles, if inside), and the world tree (a pole or branch or, perhaps, an actual tree) and often a sacrificial branch or other sacrificial items/offerings. One of the groves local to my area also has altars for the realms of land, sea and sky or for ancestors, nature spirits and Gods, depending on the cosmology used in a particular ritual. ADF ritual does not create “sacred space”; space is already considered to be sacred all the time. The ritual space is open and people may leave or join in as they will.

ADF ritual structure can be quite complex and some groves have simplified liturgies that follow the basic format. Order of service may be different from grove to grove.

Sample Ritual Outline (8)

Initiating the Rite

Musical signal
Opening prayers
Processional
Establishing the group mind.

Purification

Honoring the Earth Mother

Statement of Purpose

(Re) Creating the Cosmos

Establish the sacred center within a triadic cosmos
Acknowledgement of the Three Worlds or Three Realms
  (This is most often done as fire, water and tree; fire must be included)

Opening the Gates

Inviting the Three Kindreds

Key Offerings

Invitation to the Beings of the Occasion
Seasonal customs
Praise offerings

Prayer of Sacrifice

The Omen

The Blessing

Calling for the Blessings
Hallowing the Blessings
Affirmation of the Blessings

Workings (if any)

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks to the Powers

Closing the Gates

Thanking the Earth Mother

Closing Rite

View an example of an ADF Samhain ritual.

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Henge of Keltria (9)

The Keltrian Book of Ritual (fourth edition) states that ritual is a way through which faith is expressed. Ritual also provides ways to keep in time with earth cycles and life cycles, to honor the Gods and the spirits of nature, to integrate participants with the essences of earth and sky, the energies of male and female, so that harmony can be obtained.

According to the Book of Ritual, all Keltrian ritual is public except the Vervain Rite, an initates-only ritual and any initiations or elevations.

The Keltrian ritual calendar includes: Samhain, Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lughnassadh, and Fall Equinox. There are also rituals done at the sixth day of the moon (the Mistletoe Rite — focus of this ritual is healing the community, finding balance in our lives and the sharing of food and drink) and, for initiates, rituals done at the third quarter of the moon (the Vervain Rite — focus is on working magic). Two other yearly rituals round out the calendar: The Feast of Age (or its equivalent; this celebrates “our spiritual immortality and the invincibility of our faith”) and The Feast of Remembrance (this honors Druids slain at Mon in 60 CE and all who have been persecuted or killed because of their beliefs). (10)

Ritual space is considered sacred space, which is set up so that it is separate from the mundane world, but not moved “outside” the mundane world. In the ritual, a portal is opened to allow the Divine to come to the ritual space. Ritual space should be outside, whenever possible.

Within the ritual space, Keltrians stand in a horseshoe shape, rather than a circle. Altar placement may be placed in the east, by tradition, or may be placed in any direction according to season or purpose of ritual.

Ritual set up

Altar tools: Bell branch; sickle; three “cauldrons” or bowls, one for each of the triads; altar plate; two chalices; libation bowls; two white candles; a freshly cut “sacrificial branch”; a fire pit/place/candle; a shell or other symbolic tool for the Deity who parts the veil; essential oil for anointing; an offertory basket or container; two “remembrance” bowls; gong or bell; mead or other spirit and water. All tools must be of natural materials.
Appropriate dress is some kind of ceremonial robe (white preferred for clergy roles) and participants should have bare feet, if possible, or wear soft shoes of natural materials. Street clothes are discouraged and there is a phobia of any man-made materials.

Sample Outline of Keltrian Ritual

According to the Book of Ritual, there is no “official” Keltrian ritual, but variations to the suggested outline are limited to moving a few parts around. The following is the suggested outline given in Book of Ritual:

Designating parts
Individual preparation
Site Preparation
Processional
Marking sacred space
Tracing the Sigil
Invocation of the Bards, Seers and Druids of past, present and future in the Southwest, North and Southeast
Greeting the Four Directions
Announcement of the Rite
Establishing Group Mind
Unity chant
Tree meditation
Parting the Veil
Invoking the Powers
Invoking the Triad (Ancestors, Nature Spirits and Gods)
Statement of Purpose of the Ritual
Invoking the Principals (Matron and Patron) of the Rite
Lighting the Sacred Fire
The Devotionals (dedicating something to the service of the Principals, such as a tool or a poem or some similar thing)
Offerings to the Gods (gifts to the Gods such as grain, incense, libations, etc.)
The Divination
The Working/Grove’s Choice
Giving of Remembrances
Consecration of the Blessing
Distribution of the Blessing
Closing
Closing Announcements
Returning the Patrons
Thanking the Triads
Closing the Veil
Dissolving Group Mind
Parting Message
Recessional

Notes

  1. Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. The Book of Ritual. Lewes, Sussex: Oak Tree Press, 2001, 4. (Generally unavailable to non-members, but the information is not restricted to nonmembers.)
  2. The original Gorsedd prayer is usually attributed to Edward Williams, who was also known by his pen name, Iolo Morgannwg. Williams published several variants of this prayer, which he claimed to be by a medieval Welsh bard named Talhaiarn, in his book, Barddas. This book is available online at The Summerlands web site, <http://summerlands.com/crossroads/library/slideviewer/slideviewer.cgi?list=barddas_1> (Accessed July 27, 2004.), William's exposition of the prayer can be found on slides 223–225. One modern variation of the Gorsedd Prayer can be found on the British Druid Order's web site, <http://www.druidorder.demon.co.uk/gorsedd_bards.htm> (Accessed July 27, 2004).
  3. Emma Restall Orr. Ritual: A Druid’s Guide to Life, Love & Inspiration. London: Thorson’s, 2000. XX.
  4. Emma Restall Orr. Ritual: A Druid’s Guide to Life, Love & Inspiration. London: Thorson’s, 2000 and Thorson’s Principles of Druidry. London: Thorson’s, 1999; and Philip Shallcrass. Druidry: A Practical and Inspirational Guide. London: Judy Piatkus Ltd, 2000.
  5. Ancient Order of Druids. “AODA Grove Opening and Closing” n.d. Accessed July 27, 2004. <http://www.aoda.org/about/lodge.htm>.
  6. A collection of RDNA liturgy can be found in: The Reformed Druids of North America. A Reformed Druid Anthology, Part Three: Liturgy. Drynemeton Press, 1996. Available in PDF format [1,488K].
  7. Ian Corrigan. “Intentions of Druidic Ritual.” Published 2003. Accessed July 27, 2004. <http://www.adf.org/rituals/explanations/intentions.html> More about ADF rituals can be found at: <http://www.adf.org/rituals/index.html> (accessed July 27, 2004).
  8. Ár nDraíocht Féin. “ADF Core Order of Ritual.” Published 2006. Accessed February 19, 2008. <http://www.adf.org/rituals/explanations/core-order.html> See also “Standard Liturgical Outline.” Published 2003. Accessed July 27, 2004. <http://www.adf.org/rituals/explanations/brief-lit.html>.
  9. Henge of Keltria. The Book of Ritual. 4th ed. n.p., 1997. The following information about Keltrian ritual is derived from the Book of Ritual unless otherwise noted.
  10. Henge of Keltria.The Henge of Keltria By-Laws. 2003–2004 Edition. Published 2003. Available online in PDF format [212K].

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Updated February 19, 2008.
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