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The Center to the Edge

The Center to the Edge

The Center to the Edge-

liturgical world


There are several sacred structural concepts which we include in ritual, these concepts are the keys to understanding how the cosmos is ordered. In building a liturgical world, one orders the cosmos of the ritual area in a way that reflects the ordering of the cosmos as a whole and so these vital cosmological concepts of structure are included in the ritual space. The people stand in a little world, complete in its order and structure and reflecting the order and structure of the cosmos. Some people will refer to this structure with the terms microcosm and macrocosm with macrocosm indicating the larger cosmos and microcosm indicating the smaller cosmos.

Centrality is the concept of the sacred center and we will first look at ways that this concept functions in ritual. While the concept of centrality is a general Druidic concept which we see demonstrated in most rites the ways in which we present the sacred center can vary greatly. Be the symbol of the center a tree, pole, pit, stone altar or hearth the concept is still to be seen. The concept of sacred center is ever-present in our ceremonies but the symbols of the center can change from rite to rite or group to group.

Liminality is a concept that is present in our rites as the edge, if the center is the hub of the wheel of the sacred space then the outside edge is the rim where the space of the rite stops. Liminality is a reflex of the sacred center and just as the center is present in some form during a ritual the edge is present though that form can vary from one ceremony to the next.

Gates are the point of contact between the ritual space and other worlds and so many rites will have a symbol of gates present. As simple as a doorway into a room, a trail leading into a grove or nemeton an opening in a stone circle are all physical gates of entry which may also be seen to symbolize gates of entry for spiritual realms. Sometimes a set of spiritual gates are opened during a rite and so these become the gates of spiritual entry. An offering shaft or beaker type vessel may be seen as gates which carry offerings through to the other worlds. Fire, for some, is seen as a gate of inspiration or a gate of blessings from the other worlds with the smoke rising into the sky serving as a gate for prayers and praise to pass to other realms.  A well, spring or water vessel may serve as the symbol of gates which bring blessings from other realms. Any given rite may have multiple gates or a single gate and those gates may take different forms at different times and places but the concept of a point of passage between worlds is present in all of these gates.

Celtic multi-world systems are often seen as being present in the ritual space and occasionally we see representations of these multiple worlds. Statues, poles with staring eyes and graphic depictions of Deities may be included in the ritual space and so represent the divine over-world often referred to as sky. Items of the ancestors or of the spirits of the past or a symbol of the dead may be present in the ritual area and represent the connection to the after-world often seen as being to the west. Depictions of the spirits and forces of life in this middle-world may be present and so represent the full participation in physical and spiritual life of this middle-world in which we live.

Be they called or physically represented these multiple worlds are seen to connect to the ritual space and weather seen, heard or felt these realms are with us as a part of our rites.

From the center to the edge, the sacred space is arranged to reflect the order of the gods, ancestors and people. A ritual area is, in small, a reflection of the world as a whole. By clearly seeing the structure of the microcosm we are better able to understand the organization of the macrocosm. Each rite, reinforces order and our role in the world by allowing us participate in the establishment of the world and embrace the sacred order.