Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vist to a Foreign Land

Midsummer was the first high rite I attended that was not done with the ADF core order of ritual. Although I am not a member of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, I am friends with one of its leaders, so I attended their Centennial celebration in Pittsburgh and witnessed my first AODA ritual.

In keeping with AODA's roots in the Druid revival, and the revival's emphasis on Welsh lore, the group referred to the day as Alban Hefin.

The ritual seemed more like a lodge ceremony than a religious observance. Four high-ranking Druids took positions at the compass points – Grand Archdruid John Michael Greer in the north – and four others took up the positions next to them to guard the quarters. The four key participants all dressed in full regalia – white robes, sashes and rope belts. JMG's sash and nemyss were purple with gold trim.

The grove opening ceremony involved the Druids at each quarter in turn carrying a representation of each element around the circle in purification – but since we were in a hotel with strict rules, unlit incense stood in for air and an electric tea light for fire. Then the Druid at the West gate carried a sword to each quarter, declaring peace in each quadrant through a call-and-response script. Then another member performed the Sphere of Protection, a magic rite described in Greer's “The Druid Magic Handbook,” intended to invoke the positive energies of the seven key components of AODA's cosmology – air, fire, water, earth, spirit below, spirit above and spirit within – and banish the negative energies of the four physical elements.

(I'm not giving away any secrets here -- all this is publicly available information, and the ritual was open to the public.)

The actual ritual was short. There was a brief call-and-response script and then silent meditation for about ten minutes. There was little said about the actual season or its significance.

The grove closing ceremony, held at the end of the day after a couple of hours of informal talk, essentially reversed the opening, with each Druid declaring the work of that quarter to be accomplished. The opening, ritual and closing each culminated in the attendees intoning the word “awen” (pronounced, for the purposes of intonation, “ah-OO-en”) three times.

All in all, it was interesting for me to witness, very different from ADF.