Probably one of the most unique aspects of ADF ritual is the Praise Offering. Because the general public is called forth at nearly all rituals to make offerings and sing praises to the Kindreds, a bit of explanation is probably in order for our first-time visitors.
What are Praise Offerings?
ADF ritual provides a specific section of the rite for each person to come forth and offer praise to the Deity of the Occasion. These offerings are called “Praise Offerings”.
The individual offering of praise to the Deity of the Occasion is central to our rituals, and it is always encouraged, even for the first-time attendee, though no one is required to make one.
Generally speaking, Praise Offerings are an offering of our individual or communal skill: they may involve the first fruits from our gardens, something woven or painted by our own hand, or a poem performed specifically for this occasion. At Samhain, we traditionally invite the folk to offer a short story or to say something about one of their ancestors, or their ancestors as a whole, for instance.
For praises or offerings to individual Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Deities who are not the Deities of the Occasion, we currently offer a short section in our rituals either after each of the specific invocations to these groups, or just before the offerings to the Deity of the Occasion. The person leading the rite will call for these praises at the appropriate time so you don’t need to worry about missing them.
What else do I need to know about Praise Offerings?
Please bear in mind that Praise Offerings are witnessed not only by the community, but also by the Deities and Spirits themselves. Sacrifices, in ADF ritual, are given to the Kindreds, and so should pass out of human use.
When thinking about what to give as a Praise Offering, keep the following in mind:
- If we have a large turnout, we may do all praise offerings at once; there may not be a time to do an individual offering. If this is the case, please make your offering with others. There is no list that orders the offerings, so feel free to step forward with your offering.
- If we have a small gathering where praises may be done one-at-a-time and your praise is not too private, please speak it aloud, so that the community may join you in your reason for praising this deity.
- Please be aware of any physical offerings you may give: items which sink (such as silver or stones or jewelry) should be offered to the Well; items which burn (such as butter, oil, distilled alcohol, or paper) should be offered to the Fire; and items which are completely biodegradable (such as birdseed, grain, or wines and beers) should be offered at the Tree or spread upon the ground.
- Likewise, you may wish to choose your offerings based on their final destination, as items sacrificed by Fire tend toward the heavenly realms of Deities, items given to the Well tend toward the lower realms of Ancestors, and items at the Tree are generally for Nature Spirits on this plane.
- Please listen to instruction about the disposition of offerings. Sometimes, our rituals are held in places where the fire cannot be used for offerings because it is a gas fireplace, but a bowl may be placed in front of it, or if we are inside seed cannot be spread upon the ground. In cases like this, we will inform the Folk prior to the rite of any special things that need to be done.
- Praise Offerings are designed to be purely giving; that is, should you desire to ask for something in return, please check with the ritual leader about whether time can be made for a request during ritual. Most large High Day rituals do not have time for this sort of work.
- If you offer it to the Kindreds in ritual, you will not get it back. All offerings in ritual pass out of human use permanently.
What if I want to ask for something from the Kindreds, or make an Oath?
ADF rituals are primarily about giving offering and praise freely to the Kindreds; however, when we have brought praises and given freely of our love and wealth, we may approach the Powers and ask that the blessings and love they return to us might take a specifically directed form, for ADF ritual seeks to establish reciprocity with the Powers, where guest and host together share love and blessings with each other.
If you would like to ask for your blessing from the Kindreds to take a particular form, please ask if there is time in the “works” section of the ritual. This is after the praise offerings and omen, and follows just after the Waters of Life. Because of large ritual turnout, there is not always time for these sorts of workings unless they are planned well in advance. Ideas of things that would work well in this section are:
- Requests for healing
- Requests for blessings
- Requests for save travel
- Requests for luck job-hunting
- The making of Oaths that you desire the Community or Grove to witness
Please see the person in charge of the ritual if you wish to do this. Please also be aware that, should you make an Oath in a Three Cranes Grove ritual, the Grove and the community at large is welcome to challenge it, and your oath will be recorded in the Book of Three Cranes.