At our Latha na Cailliche rite on March 23, I had the opportunity to try out a different Gate opening from what we normally do. We’ve been looking for ways to enhance our liturgy, and this was a stunning success.
Let me back up — the Gates are a concept within ADF liturgy and theology that, the elements of the Sacred Centre, the Fire, Well, and Tree, can be ‘opened’ to allow clearer communication with the realms of the gods and spirits. Though we can connect with those realms on our own in our own practices, in public ritual where our attendees may be of varying skill and practice, it is beneficial for us to create a method by which the communications in the ritual are conveyed. This is normally done with the help of a Gatekeeper deity or spirit, someone who walks between worlds and is thus “easy” to contact already by that virtue, and through our continued relationship with them, by our combined magics can we open these portals.
My Grove has a longstanding relationship with Manannán mac Lir, and our Summer Solstice rite is held in his honour. We bring to him gathered rushes and grasses, and yellow flowers, and present them to him in payment for his services as Gatekeeper. Because it would be inhospitable of us to ask him to also be the Gatekeeper in this rite, we call upon Lugh Lamhfada to aid us in the worship of his foster-father by filling this role.
We’ve been experimenting with the “Two Powers: An Alternative for Large Rites“, placing it in the liturgy after the Statement of Purpose but before the Three Realms, our logic being that the Two Powers becomes the first step in (Re)Creating the Cosmos. We’ve also started to incorporate drumming into our rites, something that we didn’t have before (perhaps surprisingly).
A heartbeat starts partway through the meditation as the congregants are asked to feel the upwelling of the earth power and the heaven power within them. This beat continues through the acknowledgement of the Three Realms, and the building of the Sacred Centre — the Fire, Well, and Tree.
After the Sacred Centre was established, I called to Manannán mac Lir to welcome him to the rite. Giving offerings of oil to the fire, I was ridiculously nervous for the experiment, but also pretty focused. Only a few people knew in advance what we were going to do, which make it extra scary. Lugaid and Mórag started to chant “Open the gates… open the gates…” as the drummer switched to a more driving beat. Speaking over the chanting, I asked Manannán to join his magic with ours, and spun in a circle with my arm extended as I opened the Fire as a Gate, and spun in another, lower circle with my hand to the earth to open the Well as a Gate, and extended my arms above my head to make the Tree a bridge between the worlds — and promptly forgot what the next bit was because I was overwhelmed with how this felt — and recovered enough to stammer something about the Kindreds hearing us and called for the Gates to be opened. Everyone repeated the call, and I walked back to my space to try to not fall over.
Honestly, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I can’t take credit for the format — I believe Rev. Kirk Thomas did it first, and you can see the chanting/spinning example here, among other places. I found it actually pretty difficult to function normally after this, my hands were shaky and it was hard to prepare my offerings for the personal praise.
I had a lot of good feedback about this, especially from our guests, who said it felt like “a rush of air” when the Gates opened, and some of our Members expressed that they’d like to see this be a permanent part of our liturgy. I hope that at least, it inspires other people to become more involved in the performance of liturgy so that they can do awesome things too. I know that it made me more conscious of magical power and my own abilities with such.