So as Rodney and I were traveling from house to house during the Brídeog last night, the talk turned (as it often does) to football.
“Who do you want to win tomorrow?” Rod asked.
“Definitely the Patriots. A perfect season would be great to watch, plus their quarterback is from Michigan.”
“Yeah, me too, just because of the name of the other team.”
I smiled at that. Rodney being the Norse practitioner that he is, of course he can’t root for a team named the Giants, any more than I could ever bring myself to root for a team named the Titans. I kinda feel sorry for those teams for choosing a nickname that happens to be the enemy of a group of ancient gods, and wonder if they would still use those nicknames if they knew. Then again, we have a professional hockey team named the Devils, and plenty of college teams with Devil or Demon in their nicknames, so maybe this just isn’t a problem for most people.
We in ADF base our practices on the cultures of the ancient Indo-Europeans, and the legends of those cultures have a common theme of the gods defeating an older group of beings, usually associated with chaos and/or destruction, in order to make the world an ordered place for the gods and mortals to live together in relative peace and tranquility. The Irish had the Fomorians, the Norse had the Giants, the Greeks and Romans had the Titans, and so on.
Clearly this relationship with the gods was important to the Ancients, but how should we modern neo-Pagans apply this to our rites? Once upon a time, ADF’s Core Order of Ritual included an acknowledgement of the Outdwellers or Outsiders. The current CooR no longer includes them, as many groups don’t want anything to do with them (thinking that to even acknowledge the existence of hostile entities is to give them strength), but several Grove and individuals do still include them in the Liturgy. And we have no one fixed was of dealing with them. Many Groves call upon a protector deity to be present in the rite and prevent the Outdwellers from interfering, others (SLG included) make a food offering some distance away from the ritual center to act as a distraction. For that matter, our various Groves don’t even agree on who we really refer to when we talk about the Outdwellers in a ritual context. Are these spiritual entities who really want to physically harm us? Entities who just want to interfere with the flow of the rite? Local teens who wandered into the woods, got drunk, and are looking for ways to amuse themselves? Small children who scream loudly through the entire rite? All of the above? And should we try to be nice to them, as modern people who maybe don’t want to view the world through an insider/outsider frame of reference? The whole concept is hard to define, compared to the other elements of our liturgy, but I think that’s inherent in their nature.
So what should we, as good neo-Pagans do? As always, we have to choose something and see how it works. Our Grove views the Outsiders (which we still call the Outsiders, and I’m never going to get my Grovemates to call them Outdwellers instead, not after fourteen years of using “Outsiders”) as forces of chaos, not necessarily malevolent, but definitely capable of interfering with our rita, so we make a food offering (either outside the nemeton for our outdoor rites, or outside the building for our indoor ones) and ask them not to disturb us too badly during the ritual itself. Too much chaos is no way to run a ritual, but a complete absence of chaos means stagnation, and that’s not what we want for our rites or our Grove.
You readers, of course, can choose to view the Outdwellers in some other way, or not at all. That’s how the Grand Experiment That Is ADF works, after all!
Oh, and I pick the Patriots to win by 9.
Have a super week!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF