Ritual: Creating Sacred Space Contents

Items needed:

At the processional site:

Bowl of water for purification; a musical instrument for calling the people together, such as a horn or a drum; a piece of bovine leather (if this is not available, a square of unbleached wool felt can be used); the xā́sā, on the piece of leather, with briquettes; small pitcher of lighter fluid; means of lighting the xā́sā; fireglove; small bowl of melted clarified butter; spoon for offering butter; pitcher of mead; the sacrifice.

Two-thirds of the way between the processional site and the where the ghórdhos will be:

A second piece of leather (or dark wool felt); bowl to make dough in; pitcher of water for mixing the dough; flour (either barley or spelt); dark beer in a pitcher; bowl of barley mixed with local sacred grain.

Either carried in the procession or at the ghórdhos site:

Bowl of barley and the local sacred grain; bowl of water (this can be the same as used to make the dough if you have filled it with enough water); broom; shovel; ʔṇ ́gʷnis container (if it is not built on the sod altar itself); fuel, kindling, and tinder for the ʔṇ ́gʷnis a second pitcher of water; four short poles (about 4‘ tall); small sledge hammer to drive the poles into the ground; two long poles (about 8’ tall); one medium pole (about 6’ long); lid of the xā́sā; fire extinguisher, with a blanket to cover it if you wish; a blanket or mat for the Fire Tender to sit on; the speltá; a second bowl of butter; a second butter spoon; and the equipment for the particular ritual, put on the speltá: for a sacrifice, for instance, you will need a knife, a bowl of xádōr, and a small bowl of water.

Carry as much of this as you can, and put the rest where it will be needed.

Purify the equipment. This can be done by anyone. Mark out where the corners of the space will be with holes, and then put sticks in them so they can be found easily. Also make a hole to receive the sacrificial stake. It makes it easier to insert the stake if a length of PVC pipe of suitable diameter is placed in the hole.

The attendees gather some distance away from where the ghórdhos will be, the Nḗr carrying his axe. This spot will be away from the where the procession will form.

1. Calling and purification

The Ǵhḗuter goes to where the procession is to begin and calls to the others:

Gʷṃté, gʷṃté, gʷṃté
Gʷṃté, gʷṛtíbhos Déiwōm!
Uzmé ḱéidont:
Klúte tóns!
Gʷṃté ʔṇgʷnim.
Gʷṃté, spṇté!

ever come;
ever and always come!
Come to please the Gods!
They are calling you:
Hear them!
Come to the fires
Come and worship!>

The others go to where he is.
When all have arrived, the Nér says:

Tūsyéte! Tūsyéte! Tūsyéte!

May we all maintain a holy silence.

With each " Tūsyéte" he speaks more softly.

), translated by Woodard (2006, 129) as “keep silent.” Cicero (On Divination 1.45) says that this is said at the beginning of all public ceremonies. It is also mentioned by Seneca, De Vita Beata, 36.7, who explains it as being for the purpose of preventing ill-omened words. Livy (Weiss, 2010, 147, n. 40) and Pliny the Elder (Natural History 28.11, in Warrior, 2006, 18) tell us that there is a herald whose job it is to enforce silence. Vedic rituals required a vow of silence, after which everything said had to be done according to ritual prescriptions (Jamison, 1991, 83).

If the group is small enough, a bowl of water is now passed around for each person to purify themselves as they desire. If there are too many for this to be done easily, the Fire Tender asperses them, saying:

Pṛ-óntṃ supós púrōs sīme.
Xṇkʷóntṃ ḱwéntom séupṃ pṛ-īme.
Wesubhos ḱwéntom ṇḱime.

May we cross through the sacred that we might attain the holy.
May we attain the holy that we might be blessed in all things.>

2. The Beginning.

The Xádbhertor asks:

Diviner, is the day propitious?

The Diviner replies:

The omens have been taken and are auspicious.

3. Lighting the xā́sā.

In the old times, the xā́sā would have consisted of coals from a home fire or an otherwise sacred fire. The flame to light it can still be brought from somebody's home. If the wiḱs has a Réḱs it can come from his house. If the ritual is being performed for a particular person (but still being put on by the wiḱs) it should come from their home. A match can be used to transfer the fire from the stove to a candle in a jar, which would then be brought to the ritual. (Depending on size, a car cup holder might hold this kind of candle, although somebody besides the driver will have to be assigned to watch it during the drive.)

If the fire in the xā́sā is lit at the site, the Fire Tender holds three matches vertically and says:

The supporting pillar of the home
resting on the earth.
Spring forth, fire, from the center of our world.

She strikes them as one group (or lights them with the brought flame), and lights the briquettes.

She can also use a lighter or flint and steel, saying instead:

Strike the rock, lightning born flame.

You may wish to pour a small amount of lighter fluid on the briquettes before lighting them. The Gyhéuter says:

Wéstyā, who burns on our hearth, in our home,
we call to you to join us here,
bringing our prayers to the gods,
forming the means by which we sacrifice.
May the holy arise in our midst,
the pure and the blessing.

for the purpose" It would be nice to know what those "appropriate words" were. The Iguvine Tables (III.11) also say to "kindle the fire with a prayer" (Weiss, 2010, 98; Poultney, 1959, 202, however, translates the word Weiss translates "kindle" as "load (with incense)." Since there has been no mention of the existence of a fire until this point, I am inclined to go with Poultney.)

Once the xā́sā is burning well (or, if you have used lighter fluid, died down a bit), the Fire Tender offers butter to it, saying:

Bhlegpotyā, ṇzmé wesum ghedh.
for by worshiping at a common hearth
we are made one family, one people.
Demespotyā, your household is here.

The Ǵhḗuter says a short prayer putting forth the reason for the ritual. When he is finished, the Nḗr holds his axe head out to the Xádbhertor, who pours mead on it while the Ǵhḗuter says:

God whose presence is lightning,
whose voice is thunder:
hear my little voice that calls you here.
With libations, with prayers, poured out,
we call you here.
Destroyer of opposition, destroy all that oppose us;
Remover of obstacles, remove all in our way.
Go before along our path,
guiding us through the untamed lands,
Protector, cleaver of mountains.

He pauses and says:

Set forth upon the shining path,
the ancestral way laid out before us.
Place your feet with measured stride,
in ancient rhythm.

4. The Procession

The Nḗr leads, holding his axe vertically in front of him in both hands, followed by the Ǵhḗuter and Xádbhertor side by side, the Xádbhertor on the left. The Xádbhertor carries the sacrifice, on a plate. The Fire Tender follows, carrying the xā́sā. The others follow her in two lines. If you wish, you may sing a processional song; if there are musicians, they are at the end of the procession.

When the piece of leather is reached, all stop. The Fire Tender puts the xā́sā down on the leather.

The person who has brought the flour now pours enough water into it to make a stiff dough, mixing it with their hands. (They will probably want to have brought a towel and extra water with them so they can wash and dry their hands afterwards.) They form a ball from the dough and then make a rough bowl by indenting it. They place this on the ground to the outside of the leather.

The Nḗr puts the head of the axe on the ground, touching the dough bowl. The Xádbhertor says:

Those who stand outside who stand against are crushed by the wágros,
are completely thrown down, their land seized.

He then pours beer into the bowl from the ghórdhos side of the axe (there needs to be enough beer to overflow the bowl), while the Ǵhḗuter says:

Those who once stood outside,
and will stand with us
are those who receive this offering.
Once beyond the borders, you now serve them;
now as servants of the Protector, you protect.

The Fire Tender picks up the xā́sā. The Nḗr touches his axe to the leather, and says:

These cattle are ours, this cattle ground is ours.
We take our due, which we have earned.

The person with the first piece of leather lays it down on top of the second, rolls the two up with the first on the outside, and picks them both up. The procession continues. This time, however, the person in the lead is the one with bowl of mixed grain. They scatter it as they go.

When the procession reaches the entrance to the space all stop. The Ǵhḗuter says:

Déiwons xadbheromes!

All: We wish to worship the gods!

5. Purifying and building the space

Those who will be taking part in this rite enter and take their places; the others wait outside. The person with the bowl of grain crosses the space, scattering whatever is left, saying:

Xánsūs whose land this is,
give, in return for this offering,
a place to hold our rites.

The Nḗr stands to the right of the gate (as seen from the inside). The person with the pieces of leather puts them down to slightly to the west of where the xā́sā will eventually be, unrolling them in such a way that the second is on the bottom. The Fire Tender places the xā́sā on them. The Xádbhertor and Ǵhḗuter cross the space and go to the west, where they stand facing east, with the Xádbhertor to the Ǵhḗuter's right. The Xádbhertor puts the sacrifice on the ground slightly to the left of where the speltá will be.

The person who has scattered the grain now takes a bowl of water, and walks to the east, sprinkling it on the way, while the Ǵhḗuter says:

Be pure, this place of ours.
Be pure, be clean, be fit for the gods.

They put the empty bowl down next to the empty grains bowl.

The Fire Tender sweeps where the xā́sa̅ will be, while the Ǵhḗuter says:

The best of worlds is pure,
the best of worlds is clean,
the best of worlds is here,
where we dwell,
where we will graze our cattle,
where we will place our hearth.

The Fire Tender then sprinkles water where the xā́sā will be, while the Ǵhḗuter again says:

The best of worlds is pure, the best of worlds is clean, the best of worlds is here,
where we dwell,
where we will graze our cattle,
where we will place our hearth.

The Fire Tender puts the broom outside of the space, while the Nḗr gives his axe to someone to hold. The Fire Tender goes to the xā́sā, and picks it up. The Nḗr slides the leather so that its western half is where the xā́sā will be placed. The Fire Tender puts the xā́sā down there, and sits. The butter and butter spoon is placed on the eastern half of the leather.

The Nḗr takes the shovel, and cuts a square sod from a spot a pace or three outside of and to the west of the ritual space. He puts the sod in the space's center. If you want a higher base for the altar, cut one sod ritually and set it aside before cutting more to make a pile, with the first sod on top.

As he cuts, he says:

From Bhudhnōn to Weis.

As he puts the main sod in place, he says:

You are the mountain, the most high mountain,
on which the gods dwell, from which they descend.

The Xádbhertor sprinkles the altar with water, saying:

From Bhudhnōn to Weis,
and flowing back
the waters feed the world.
Be pure, be clean, be fit for the gods.
An altar where living flames will rise,
a place fit for sacrifice.

If the ʔṇ́gʷnis is going to be put in a container rather than built directly on the sod(s), he puts it over it now.

If it wasn't prepared before the ritual, the Xádbhertor makes a hole for the sacrificial stake halfway between the ̄ and the gates. He places the egg in it, saying:

Encompassed without,
Enclosed within,
is the gold
is water
is wealth.

He puts a small piece of shed snake skin on top of the egg, saying:

The serpent enclosed the waters.

He then brings the hammer and the medium-sized pole to the hole. He puts the stake in the hole and pushes it down hard, breaking the egg, saying:

The thunderbolt strikes: the serpent is slain,
the waters flow out and feed the earth,
the cows come forth to give food to all.
The World Tree is founded on Perkʷū́nos' strike.
The World Tree is founded,
the Snake at its feet.

He puts the hammer down and grasps the stake with both hands, the right above the left, saying:


Well supported.
Well established.>

The world is established from sacrifice.
Our prayers will be established through sacrifice.

Someone then picks up a pitcher of water, goes to the where the right pole of the gate will be, and walks clockwise around the edge of the space, pouring water, while the Ǵhḗuter says:

The surrounding waters flow on the border.
They make a division between outside and inside
across which we may only pass with danger.
The great sea encloses us.
Méǵō móri ṇzmé gherdheyeti.

They put the pitcher down.

The Nḗr hands his axe to someone and picks up the shovel. He goes to where the right pole of the gateway will be, touches the shovel to the ground, and says:

The sacred is cut off from that which is not.

He traces the border of the ghórdhos from pole hole to pole hole clockwise with the shovel. If the ground will permit it, he may cut an actual mark into it. He stops at the left pole hole of the gate, lifts the shovel, and says:

Our ghórdhos is sacred, set apart,
within the border of the encircling river.
Pure and holy is this place of ours,
fit for the gods to enter.

He puts the shovel down, just inside of and parallel to the border, returns to his place, and retrieves his axe.

The Xádbhertor picks up one of the short poles and the sledge hammer and goes east from the center, turns to the gate way, and walks to the southeast corner pole hole. He drives the pole into the ground there, saying:


Well supported.
Well established.>

He returns to the center to take another pole. He does this with all four of the short poles, each time first walking to the center of the border and then turning to the right to reach the appropriate hole.

He then takes two longer poles and goes to the east. He drives them into the ground about two feet apart, the left one first, to form a gateway. He then puts down the hammer and grasps the right hand pole (as seen from the inside), while the Ǵhḗuter says:

Be for us a protection against the outside.
Be our threshold, where outside becomes inside.

The Xádbhertor goes to stand in the east, to the left of the Ǵhḗuter, keeping the hammer.

The Outsiders who are in the space must now be expelled, and those outside it repelled.

The Ǵhḗuter says:

May our ghórdhos be safe from the stifling snake,
from those that stand beyond and below.
May none assail our well-built world
May none seek to crush our well-built walls.

The Nḗr goes to the Ǵhḗuter who puts his hands on the Nḗr 's shoulders and says:

Go with the protection of Dyḗus Ptḗr, lord of the Xártus.
Go with the protection of Xáryomēn, lord of the dhétis
Go with the protection of Perkʷū́nos, killer of serpents.

The Nḗr, with the axe in his right hand, goes to the gateway, faces outwards, and holds up the axe in both hands. He says:

He took his wágros, and with it slew.
Perkʷū́nos the hero slew the serpent.
With the wágros he slew it, he laid it low.
Wágrō ʔógʷhim gʷhent

All say loudly:

Serpents, be far away:
Perkʷū́nos guards our rites.

The Nḗr lowers the axe, returns it to his right hand, and returns to his place.

The Xádbhertor goes to the sacrificial stake and grasps it, again with his right hand above his left, and says:

This is our place of sacrifice,
Here we establish our ghórdhos,
here we take this place for worship.

The other things are put in their places; the speltá is erected, and the sacrifice, bowl of water, bowl of xádōr, and knife are placed on it.


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