Autumn Aelwyd (autumn_hearth) wrote,
Autumn Aelwyd

Silver Falls Winternights

I had the wonderful opportunity to help write and lead ritual this weekend.  I have been attending high days with Silver Falls Grove in Akron, Ohio on and off for a little over a year and a half.  They are the grove closest to us and have made me feel very welcome.  A month ago I attended my first meeting where among other things Amanda mentioned planning Winternights, a Norse rite in honor of the Alfar and Disir, our forefathers and mothers.  I expressed interest in helping with a portion of the rite, having recently written a Norse Harvest Home for a local eclectic pagan group which never got to manifest.  I wanted to focus particularly on the Establishing of the Sacred Center, tweaking a three part address I wrote for my first Norse ritual, Yule 2006 with Black Bear Grove. 

Performing this ritual act is one of my fondest memories of ritual and I have wanted to relive it ever since.  I felt beautiful, wise, and powerful describing this bit of Norse cosmology.  Most of my inspiration came from Voluspa, the Prophesy of the Volva (Norse seeress), relating the creation and end of the worlds to Odin.  Other bits were borrowed from other grove’s liturgy.  So it was to the Voluspa that I turned for inspiration in tweaking the roles and writing an entirely new section- Honoring the Nine Realms.  This time though I did not picture doing this alone.  With three hallows I wanted three women, each honoring three realms and opening the Gates together.    I have witnessed a handful of beautiful gate openings.  One involved three druids (black bears) bringing three staves together then doing a fancy move to create a triangle.  Others have been at Summerland and Three Cranes Rites with the folk chanting “Open the gates, open the gates, open the gates…” it always gives me chills.  The Gate Opening at Isaac’s Memorial was particularly stirring, the priests of Whispering Lakes Grove did an excellent job.  I wanted to emulate all of that.  Fore the opening on the Gates is not always a powerful moment for me in ritual.  I only recall doing it twice.  Once was during my silent Samhain, where I preformed a sword dance for the Morrigan.  The second time was at an Imbolc where I wrote a chant for the Black Bear relevant to the season and the realms, but the actual magical act was lacking and the gate closing was an afterthought.  I wanted to step up my game, I wanted everyone to feel it.

This would take a lot of coordination with the other two ladies and it is here where I feel I failed.  Manda and I got together for an initial planning meeting after exchanging a number of emails talking about what she pictured for each of the steps.  We decided on an Earth Mother (there is more than one option in Germanic cultures), a deity for Bardic Inspiration and a Gatekeeper, I felt it important that she get her choices as it was her ritual and I wanted it to maintain her vision, even though she told me I could run with it.  They were mostly the same choices I would have made.  So we established our initial outline up to the opening of the gates, the rest I left to her (this will be relevant later). 

We weren’t able to get together with Kc until a week before the rite and the inspiration for the parts I wanted to focus on was trickling in slowly until that day.  I began writing frantically that morning, during the meeting, later than night and the next few days, e-mailing last minute changes.  While this was exciting for me, it was less than desirable for working ladies with a lot on their plates.  However they had indicated they were going to read from scripts not having time for memorization of being comfortable with ad libbing or speaking from he heart (in ritual in general).  I value memorization as a form of devotion but I’m sure it was much easier for me having wrote the words.  I would have liked to have got together that week to practice, but schedules didn’t allow for it, so we had to leave it to before the rite, at which point we just went over the logistics, not the words.    I was thrown a few loops the day of.  Manda forgot her outline for the ritual.  She was going to lead it since it was her vision and her grove but since I remembered the order (up until inviting the Kindred) and was comfortable with ad libbing, I agreed to take over.  Kc forgot she was honoring Nerthus (a role that was originally going to be done by someone who couldn’t attend) and didn’t have anything printed off.  I volunteered to take that as well, though soon found myself freaking out and trying to find someone else, I didn’t.  So there I was leading a rite for another grove, with a new role at the very beginning which I feared my throw off my confidence.  Thankfully it didn’t.  Jamie agreed to lead the pre-ritual briefing for the new comers which was a relief. 

I led the folk in honoring Nerthus and processing inside to the tune of “We Approach the Sacred Grove”.  Midway through I realized I didn’t give her an offering and grabbed an apple I’d brought and took it back outside for her.  It shook me a bit but I leaned on my staff for strength and Jamie’s address to the Outdwellers, his Hammer Rite, Emerald’s beautiful call to Odin for inspiration and Nick’s Two Powers attunement not only centered my mind but each brought waves of energy into my staff.  I could feel it coursing through the wood and with that strength I led the folk.

Manda began addressing the Fire while Kc and I knelt at the hearth feeding it wood, oil and herbs.  I described Yggdrasil, the World Tree, while the others censed and asperged the ritual tree.  Kc paid homage to the three wells beneath Yggdrasil while Manda offered silver and I poured water three times.  We then moved behind the altar to the light the nine candles for each of the realms.  Poor Kc was so nervous she forgot we had a votive lit and taper to transfer the flame and fumbled for her lighter.  This was the one part I had written down for myself, but I didn’t have to look at my notes.  When the arch of candles were all lit we moved back in front of the folk.  I called out to Heimdall, Kc continued describing him and Manda gave him honor and offering.  I then asked him to “merge his magic with ours” and led the folk in chanting.  Instead of a fancy triangle move we each pounded our staves three times as we asked the Fire and Well to open as gates and the Tree to span the Nine Realms.  We drew our staves together and flung them apart as we said “May the Gates be open!    I prepared a bit the night before as a cue to the folk that we were now open to the worlds and transition to honoring the Kindred.  It went well, but this is where things started to get fuzzy for me as a ritual leader.  I had to choose the order of the Kindred though I let Manda and Jamie work out who would go first for calling the Alfar and Disir.  I led the folk in singing “Mothers and Fathers of Old” and making offerings.  Jamie leaned over to ask when I wanted to do the Book of the Dead.  There were things I hadn’t prepared for, they were things I didn’t think I would have to prepare.  Anna Gail called out to the Norns to aid her in the omen, which were good.  I was so not prepared to lead the Waters of Life.  I didn’t know vessels to grab and when I got the correct water goblet I walked over to the first person to offer it… before calling down the blessing.  A subtle psst from Jamie brought me back to the center and thankfully, he led the Hallowing of the Waters.  We decided to sing “Pour the Waters” at the last minute and I continued to feel like a noob until Manda mentioned to me that Kc was in the bathroom with a nosebleed, I started to head out when I saw Rowan clinging to his grandma on the verge of tears.

I had invited my mom and sister to the ritual since it was my birthday weekend and I didn’t have time to do anything special.  My sister and her boyfriend declined but my mom came with my husband, Rowan and two acquaintances who needed a ride.  Rowan fell asleep in the car ten minutes before they arrived.  My mom decided to stay in the car with him rather than wake him up.  They came in during the Waters it seems so I held him and nursed him and Jamie took over the rite.  Thank the gods, I am not the person to read the Grove’s Book of the Dead and the other workings were officer oaths and giving Jamie a gift for serving as Senior Druid.  I wasn’t needed until the gate closing at which point, I straightened my apron, scooped up the boy, grabbed my staff and the little goat stick I brought for him (amazingly not with this purpose in mind) and headed back to the center.  I asked Manda to thank Heimdall and led the gate closing I had worked out in the wee hours of the morning (not an after thought though!).  The gates were closed with Rowan’s help, we pounded our staves nine times (stolen from Emerald at the Warriors’ Sumble) and all were thanked.

I felt good about my parts, at least the ones I’d planned.  Jay said I didn’t have Jamie’s presence, which I don’t disagree with but he also said a lot of very rude things I’d rather not repeat.  My husband has a very hard time giving me compliments. I felt amazing at times and I hope the folk felt something too.  I think the ritual could have benefitted from a one round sumble to the Ancestors, but I was too focused on my section of the liturgy, which I am still very proud of will include below (note that I am Druid 2).  Next time I’m just going to volunteer for a part and not ask others to act out my visions.  Crazy over-elaborate liturgist.    Norn    Establishing the Sacred Center</b>

“Muspel, Primeval Fire, Spark of Creation,                 (Druid 1)                            
Fire of Sacrifice, through our offerings
Become for us a gate to the Aesir, the mighty gods.
May your sweet rising smoke reach their halls,
And may we pray with a good fire".
(Druids 2 and 3 make offerings to the fire)

"An Ash stands, I know by the name of Yggdrasil.                                                (Druid 2)
Three are the roots, that run three ways,
One harbors Hel, another frost giants,
Mortals seek shelter beneath the third.
Serpent below, eagle above, squirrel chattering in between.
May your roots and branches span the Nine Realms."
(Druids 1 and 3 cense and asperg the tree)

"Three Wells are there that feed Yggdrasil.                                                            (Druid 3)
Urdarbrunnr, Well of the Wyrd, Well of Fate.
Mimisbrunnr, Mimir's Well, Well of Wisdom.
And Hvergelmir, the Roaring Kettle, Well of the Underworld
May our voices be carried to the dwelling places of our ancestors"
(Druids 1 and 2 pour water three times and offer silver to well)

Honoring the Nine Realms

“Nine Worlds I know, Nine Realms fill the branches of the glorious Ash    (Druid 3)

To the south lies Muspelheim, Primeval Land of Fire,   (light candle to far L)
Home of the Fire Giants and Surt- Freyr's foe.
To the north, Niflheim, Primordial Land of Ice,              (light candle to far R)
Home of the Frost Giants and Source of Many Rivers.
Through their mists and merging was made Midgard,   (lights central candle)
Middle-earth, Home of Mortal Men and Landwights”.

“Above us shines Alfheim, Land of the Light Elves,  (D2, 3rd candle from L)
There lies the Halls of Frey and our beloved Alfar.
Below us in darkness is Svartalfheim, Land of the Dark Elves,   (3rd from R)
Great forgers of treasure, the Dwarves who dwell deep in the earth.
Across rivers and mountains lies Jotunheim, Land of the Jotunns.  (2nd from L)
Great Giants, strong as stone, the first children of the first being”. 

“In the secret mounds of the earth lies Vanaheim, Land of the Vanir,  (D1, L of center)
Elder Gods of Wisdom, Vision and Fertility.
At Bifrost’s height spans Asgard, Land of the Aesir and Asynjur,  (R of center)
Gods and Goddesses of Might and Skill and the Home of Heroes.
And Beneath the deepest root of Yggdrasil is Helheim, Hel’s Realm  (2nd on R)
Where lies the Halls of the Dead and our beloved Disir”
(Candles from left to right are: Muspelheim, Jotunheim, Alfheim, Vanaheim, Midgard, Asgard, Svartalfheim, Helheim and Niflheim.)

Honoring Heimdall

Warder of Asgard, Heimdall, we hail you!                                                        (Druid 2)
Son of Nine Mothers, Father of mankind
You who can hear a single leaf fall                                                                    (Druid 3)
And the wool growing on sheep
You who blow the horn to signal the end of days
White God, Guardian of beautiful Bifrost                                                         (Druid 1)
Here we give you proper honor,
That you may carry our calling to the halls of the Aesir
And carry our prayers to our beloved dead. (Druid 1 makes an offering to Heimdall).
Heimdall, accept our offering!                                                          (Druid 1 and Folk)
Heimdall, merge now you magic with ours                                        (Druid 2)
That we may open the Gates between the worlds

Opening the Gates

Druid 2 leads the Folk to chant “Open the gates, open the gates, open the gates…”
“May the fire open as a gate!”                            (Druid 1 pounds staff three times)
“May the well open as gate!”                             (Druid 3 pounds staff three times)
“May the tree span the Nine Realms!”               (Druid 3 pounds staff three times)
“Heimdall may the gates be open!”                    (Druid 3)
“May the gates be open!” *                                 (All with Folk)

(Druid 2 addresses the Folk saying):
"Children of Heimdall, we stand at the center of all worlds, beneath the boughs of Yggdrasil, with the wells of fate, wisdom and memory before us ready to receive our prayers to our beloved dead and Bifrost the rainbow bridge, all aflame rises from our fire to the halls of our gods.  Let us welcome the three Kindred".

Thanking Heimdall and Closing the Gates

(Druid 1 thanks Heimdall)
"Heimdall we thank you!" (All)
"Heimdall we ask you once more to merge your magic with ours that we may close the gates between worlds".  (Druid 2)

Druid 2 leads the folk in chanting: "Close the gates, close the gates, close the gates..."
"May the fire be but flame"                             (Druid 1)
"May the well be but water"                            (Druid 3)
"May the world tree be but wood”                  (Druid 2)
“Heimdall may the gates be closed!" *            (Druid 2)
"May the gates be closed!"                               (All with Folk)
D1, 2 and 3 pound staves nine times in unison.
* Staves are brought together and pulled apart for the gate opening and start apart and are brought together for the closing.
Tags: adf, dp, liturgy, norse, rituals, silver falls grove
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