1. Opening the Gates:
The opening of the Gates is by far the most obviously visible of the possible magical workings in every ADF ritual.
Specifically, what we are doing during the gate opening is creating the ritual center of the Grove. (Bonewits, 42) This is probably best defined as a "magico-religous" action, as it can be argued that it is a little bit of both. What I'll cover is the magical half of this action.
When opening the gates, we are actually ripping apart the fabric of the cosmos so that it may be re-made in a manner that allows us to interact with the sacred on our own terms and theirs. You could see it as a sort of cosmic jigsaw puzzle: we have half and the Kindreds have the other half, and we seek to put them together.
The action itself is often represented as a movement of the hand or body in a single direction (often counterclockwise), and this action is accompanied by a visualization. Variations of the magical motion exist, often passing from one liturgist to another in the time-tested arcane method of, "I saw this one guy do it, and it didn't look hard" (I myself learned to use a triquettra, though I've seen spirals, triskels, and whole-body spinning motions done, and I occasionally engage in these as well).
While the actions and the visualizations are key parts of the magic, they are not what causes the magic to happen. Rather, it is the interaction and the reciprocity between the human actor and the Gatekeeper that brings about the magic. The combination of magician's will and Gatekeeper's blessing form a kind of alchemy, rending the cosmos and remaking it at the same time. It is entirely possible that while it is in the power of the magician to rend the universe, but to piece it back together correctly for ritual, the Kindreds need to be involved.
Recently, I was asked, "do we really need to open the gates? Can't the gods hear us if we just talk?" This question sparked a comparison: Yes, the gods can indeed hear us if we speak in our normal, daily voices, outside of ritual. With deities that are not omnipresent or omnipotent, though, we need to understand that sometimes we need to do actions that catch their attention. Doing a ritual that opens gates is one of those key methods of saying, "Hey, I'm here and I have something to say." Opening the gates can be somewhat compared to tugging on the sleeves of the gods and saying those words. It gets their attention, and it ensures that they know you're speaking to them, rather than speaking to someone else.
2. The Blessing/Return Flow:
The central action of the Blessing Cup and the Return Flow is the transference
of blessings from their source (the Powers) to their recipients (the Folk). It sounds so much easier when I write it like that.
The actual process is a lot more complicated. It involves a process of discovering the intentions of the Powers, calling for those intentions to be made manifest, consecrating the manifestation, and affirming the blessing. The process of calling for a "manifestation of the intent"
involves a few steps: what the blessings mean to the individual, what they mean to the group, and what they "look like". The process of "consecrating the manifestation" is also complicated, involving a few steps: pouring the waters, infusing the waters, establishing them as sacred. The process of "affirming the blessing" is equally complicated: the waters are affirmed in their status, accepted by the Grove, and ingested.
The final structure in Three Cranes rituals looks something like this:
Isaac refers to this process as three steps: a) meditation on personal needs, b) a repetition of the group's needs, and c) an induction of the state of receptivity. (46) This process basically means "figure out what you want, then open to it." Since his article has appeared, though, our liturgical design has become a bit different, reflecting more of the above structure.
- Discover the intentions (blessings provided by) the Powers [Omen]
- Calling for the intentions to manifest [Calling for the Blessings]
- Reflection on the personal application of the Blessings
- Reflection on community application of the Blessings
- Meditation on the manifestation of the Blessings
- Consecrating the manifestation [Hallowing the Blessings]
- The waters are physically separated from the main mundane waters
- Infusing the waters with the blessings
- The waters are demarcated from the mundane waters they came from and called "sacred"
- Affirming the Blessing
- Recognition of the new status of the Waters
- Acceptance of the Waters' representation of the Blessing
- Drinking the Blessing by ingesting the Waters
This work is obviously magico-religious in nature: it involves the gods and their intents (as read by the omen), but also involves a willed change in the reality of the waters. By working through the steps in a conscious manner that reflects
the above, any practitioner can follow and receive at least some benefit from
this portion of the liturgy.
Though this action is difficult and requires a strong connection to deity, I maintain that it is also one of the most accessible actions in ADF ritual: any person can do it, though with (of course) varying levels of skill. Centrally, my point here is that anyone can receive blessings, regardless of their skill and practice at this action, up to and including the first-time ritualist who merely "goes through the motions".
The Return may also include actual transubstantiation, which is an impressive magical act in itself. This occurred at Summerland 2006, where a loaf of bread was turned into a bull and sacrificed. But as this does not occur in all ADF rituals, I leave it aside for now.
3. The Attunement/Two Powers:
In Zuni myth, the center of the Zuni household is the heart of the world, and the center of the house is the heart of the waterskate, whose legs point to the solar directions. The process of centering in ritual, of attuning to each other is a process of creating centers within ourselves that are identical to the center of the ritual space and to each center in each person around us.
Part of the purpose of the Attunement is to establish a like mind about where we are and where we're going. Often called "groupmind" by most Neo-Pagans (or "groupthink" by Orwellians, or "egregore" by pompous magicians seeking big words), this is a fundamental part of group magic. It partially involves setting the mythico-religious stage, and partially involves offering a set of metaphysical "directions" to the congregants: it reveals the creative nature of the cosmos and shows what potential it holds for each of us.
It is not the spoken words that create the magic here, but rather the trance and/or meditative state that really creates the magic. By bringing the Folk into a state of ritual awareness, you are creating a new, single reality for the members of the Grove. This can be done through a variety of means, including neurolinguistic programming, leading, and other methods, but the central point is that the world becomes clearly defined for those present, and everyone arrives in the same spot to begin the work of the ritual.
It is this final arrival in a ritual state of mind that is truly the magic. In this action, you focus each member on the same reality, create multiple centers that are all connected as the same, yet distinct centers. There is nothing more magical than to reach your hands out, hands shining with the earth power and the sky power, and to have those powers mingle with the persons around you.
I thought about other instances, such as initiations, seasonal work, or magical work done in the "Workings" section. None of these, though, are a necessary part of ritual, and they are not done in every rite. Other possibilities, though, include the Prayer of Sacrifice, Purification, and the Establishing of the Sacred Center. I just happened to pick the three above.
Apuleius, Apology. http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/apuleius/
Betz, Hans Deiter. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells:
Texts. University Of Chicago Press; 2nd edition. 1997
Bonewits, Isaac. "Step by Step through A Druid Worship Ceremony". Oak Leaves #8. p. 38-51
Frazer, Sir James George. The Golden Bough
Gold, Daniel. "Consecration." Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Vol. 3. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 1954-1957. 15 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Thomson Gale. Ohio State Univ Libraries/Columbus. 13 Mar. 2007
Graf, Fritz. Magic in the Ancient World. trans. Franklin Philip
Luck, Georg. Arcana Mundi.