|Ritual: Sacrificial Ritual||Contents|
Glossary of Terms|
Bhudnōn -- "Bottom." The world below.
Dhétis -- The laws of society. In a perfect society, they are the societal expression of the Xártus.
Fire Tender -- She, of course, tends the fire. If possible, if the sacrifice is being performed for a man, this role is taken by his wife. If it is for the group as a whole, it is preferably taken by an unmarried woman.
Ǵhḗuter -- "Caller out, pourer." The priest who says most of the invocations and performs most of the libations.
Ghórdhos -- Enclosed space." The space in which the ritual takes place.
ʔṇ́gʷnis -- "Living Fire." (More specifically, the animate word for "fire.") The sacrificial fire.
Kówəs -- The priest in charge of most of the ritual speech.
Medhyom -- “The Middle.” Our world, between the above and the below.
Nḗr -- "Man, Hero." The champion, the protector of the group. He represents Perkʷū́nos and carries a double-headed axe.
Réḱs -- "King." The head of the Wiks in a religious sense; he may or may not be the political head.
Speltá -- "Board." The place where the ritual tools are stored. It may be just a board or cloth on the ground, or a small table. In no case, though, should it be taller than the ʔṇ́gʷnis.
Wiḱs -- "Household." The group performing the ritual together.
Xádbhertor: "The one who brings forward." The priest who is the main actor in the sacrifice.
Xádōr -- "Dry stuff." A mixture of salt and parched barley, used to purify the sacrifice.
Xā́sā -- "Hearth." The representative in the ritual space of the hearth of the one from whom the ritual is being performed.
Yéwesa (sing. yéwos) -- The rules according to which a ritual is to be performed, a reflection in ritual action of the Xártus.
The sacrificial ritual may be performed in honor of any of the deities, or of more than one. The rituals dedicated to different deities differ in the hymns and the identity of the animal sacrificed. This example is directed towards Xáryomēn.
The sacrifice consists of:
A metal plate on which is a piece of white flatbread.
A second metal plate on which is a red velvet cake in the shape of the appropriate sacrificial animal. (This was suggested to me by Francesca Hedrick.)
On the sacrifice, two gold ribbons or lengths of gold chains vertically parallel to each other.
A short looped length of cord between the chains.
A white cloth over all of this.
Finally, on the top is a smaller piece of flatbread, this time whole wheat.
A small bowl of a clear liqueur mixed with red food coloring to look like blood. This is on the plate with the sacrifice, placed between the animal's leg.
If the group is small enough, the bowl of water is passed around for each person to purify themselves as they desire. If there are too many for this to be done easily, the Xádbhertor asperses them (the asperger can be simply a leafy branch cut at the site), saying:
Be pure to cross through the sacred.
Cross through the sacred to attain the holy.
Attain the holy that you might be blessed in all things.
2. The Beginning
The Xádbhertor says:
Diviner, is the day propitious?
The Diviner replies:
The omens have been taken and are auspicious.
3. Lighting the xā́sá.
Arrange the xā́sá.
To light the fire, 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 and lights the briquettes. She can also use a lighter, 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 Ǵhḗuter says:
Westyā, who burns on our hearth, in our home,
we call to you to join us here,
in our midst,
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.
Once the xā́sā is burning well, the Fire Tender offers butter to it, saying:
Shining Westyā, unite us all,
for by worshipping at a common hearth
we are made one family, one people.
Demezpotyā, your household is here.
The Ǵhḗuter 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. The Fire Tender follows, carrying the xā́sā. (Even a cauldron with three incense briquettes in it is hot to carry, so she will need to wear a fire glove.) The others follow her in two lines. If there are musicians, they are at the end of the procession.
When the procession reaches the entrance to the space all stop. The Ǵhḗuter says:
All: We wish to worship the gods!
The Ǵhḗuter lifts his hands in prayer and says:
Dōtóres weswom, ḱḗrdons nsons nzmei dhedhəmes
ni All: Givers of Goods, we set our hearts toward you!
Ǵhḗuter: Come we together on this holy day
across the distances that lay between us
to this time, to this place,
for one strong purpose:
To worship the Holy Ones in the proper manner.
He lowers his hands and says:
May our worship be according to the Xártus.
They enter and take their places. The Nḗr stands to the right of the gate. The Fire Tender places the xā́sā to the west of the ʔṇ́gʷnis and sits down halfway between them and slightly to the south, where she can tend both fires. 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. On his way to his place, the Xádbhertor puts the sacrifice on the speltá. The others arrange themselves equally about the ghórdhos, close to the edge.
5. Opening prayer
Holy Ones, Mighty Ones, Protectors of our People!
Splendid Ones, Steadfast Ones, Givers of Gifts!
Gods rightly worshipped for years uncounted.
All: We praise you,
we worship you,
we pray for your presence.
The Ǵhḗuter then calls to Xáryomēn, saying:
You weave our people together in bonds of law.
It is your law, indeed, that binds us as one.
Dhétispotei, you guide us in the ways of the gods;
In the ways of men you inspire right actions.
You are Xáryomēn, god of the right way,
of the right way for people in our society.
Watch us today; we will offer sacrifice to you.
Come join us today in holy ritual.
Come sit at the table we will set for you.
Xáryomēn, hear our words, see our actions, share our meal.
6. Call to silence
When the Ǵhḗuter is done, the Xádbhertor says three times:
Tūsyéte! Tūsyéte! Tūsyéte!
; "may there be holding for the tongue"), 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,” 26.7), who gives the form as favete linguis ("be favorable with your tongues"), and 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 28.3 in Warrior, 2006, 18) tell us that there is a herald whose job it is to enforce silence.
7. The fires
The Fire Tender offers butter to the xā́sā, while the Ǵhḗuter says:
We feed the fire on the heart of our land.
With the burning of the fire we take possession
of the land it lights, of the world it warms.
From here to there we take possession.
(He gestures from side to side when he says the last line.)
The Fire Tender then lays three logs on the altar, one each to the south, west, and north. As she places them, the Fire Tender says:
Tóm ʔṇ́gʷnim Bhudhnen dedəmes.
Tóm ʔṇ́gʷnim Medhyō dedəmes.
Tóm ʔṇ́gʷnim Wēi dedəmes.
She puts tinder in the center and kindling in a teepee shape above it, within the three logs. She then sprinkles the pile lightly with water from the pitcher. She lights it by transferring a briquette from the xā́sā with the butter spoon. As she puts the briquette on, she says:
Be our place of sacrifice.
She then blows on the ʔṇ́gʷnis to enflame the tinder, while the Ǵhḗuter says:
With our prayers we feed you,
with the breath of our mouths.
After the ʔṇ́gʷnis is lit, the Xádbhertor puts butter on it, saying:
Be fed with the produce of cattle.
Shine with the shining cow’s gift.
If the ritual is being performed indoors, use four incense briquettes arranged in the shape of a square, and transfer the fire from the xā́sā to the ʔṇ́gʷnis with a match.
8. The circumambulation.
The Xádbhertor says:
We honor the fire with right turning.
The Xáadbhertor picks up the sacrifice and goes clockwise around the ʔṇ́gʷnis. When he returns to his place, he puts the sacrifice down. The circumambulation is the last of the opening rites. Next comes the main ritual.
9. The hymn.
The sacrifice begins with a hymn of praise, recited by the Ǵhḗuter:
A web is laid over us,
the web of right law,
the web of the dhétis.
It is you, Xáryomēn, who weave that web;
you put each in its proper place.
It is with your blessing that we become one people,
It is with your strength that we are joined together.
10. The first offering.
The Xádbhertor picks up the small piece of bread from the top of the sacrifices, takes it to the ʔṇ́gʷnis, and breaks it up there, scattering the pieces on the ground while saying:
Givers of gifts, we offer the gift of the ground
transformed by our work into food for us and for you.
Receive with pleasure this first gift to you.
11. The blessing of the sacrifice
He returns to his place, where he removes the cloth and puts it over the knife. He uncoils the rope and drapes it on top of the cloth.
He then picks up the bowl of water on the speltá in his left hand and sprinkles some of it, using his right hand, over the sacrifice three times, saying each time:
A pure offering is this,
without blemish or stain,
He raises the sacrifice and says:
to the place of sacrifice
bedecked with gold
in celebration and beauty.
He puts the sacrifice down and removes the chains, putting them on the ground to the right of the speltá. He picks up the bowl of Nekter in his left hand and sprinkles some of it onto the sacrifice with his right hand, saying:
Be filled with life, with long life, for the good of the gods.
He puts the bowl of Nekter down and picks up that with the xádor in his left hand. He scatters the xádor from it three times with his right hand onto the sacrifice, saying each time:
Be blessed and fed with the fruits of the earth.
(He may want to rinse his fingers in the bowl of water, and have a towel to dry them on.)
He then picks up the main sacrifice (that is, the top plate) and brings it clockwise about the space, carrying the bowl of xádor as well. Each person takes some xádor and throws it on the sacrifice with their right hand.
12. The sacrifice.
When the Xádbhertor returns to the speltá, he puts the bowl of xádor down, and holds up the sacrifice in his left hand and his right hand over it. He says:
A proper offering is this,
as it is right to give.
This ox to Xáryomēn.
He lowers the sacrifice just enough so he can cross his left hand under it to pick up the knife, keeping it covered by the cloth, and with the rope still draped over it.
He carries them to the Fire Tender who pours some melted butter on the sacrifice (not on the knife, which would make it slippery), saying:
With the heart of the cow,
with all we own,
we offer to you,
you who stand behind all things.
He then brings them to a spot right to the west of the sacrificial stake, and puts the sacrifice on the ground. He puts the bowl of red alcohol on the left side of the sacrifice, and then puts the knife to its right, crossing it over the sacrifice, and putting it down with the blade away from the sacrifice. He takes the rope and loops it clockwise around the stake, ending it up the ends crossed on top of the sacrifice, saying:
Arrived at the center of the Cosmos, you are bound:
bound to the service of those who give,
bound to the service of those who shine,
bound to the sacrifice and to the immortal.
The Nḗr comes over to the fires and stands on the south, facing the Fire Tender. When he has arrived, the Fire Tender says:
The Nḗr goes clockwise around the space, holding the axe upright and out. As he walks, the Fire Tender strikes a bell, and the others join in, either with their own instruments, by clapping, or by stamping on the ground. Following the Fire Tender’s lead, they increase the tempo and volume as he walks.
While the Nḗr circles, the Xádbhertor leans close to the sacrifice and softly says (it is to the animal he speaks; the others do not hear over the noise they are making):
We free you to take the sacred path,
to take the holy path,
the divine path to the Divine Ones.
He removes the rope during this, coiling it to the right of the stake.
The path is well-marked, from ancient days till now:
as you have freely offered yourself,
freely take your way,
bound only by the prayers we have made,
carrying them on your back.
During the line, “bound only...” he takes the knife from under the cloth, draws its dull side across the sacrifice from its lower left to its upper right, and then puts it on the cloth. When the Nḗr has returned, he picks up the knife again, holding it flat, with the sharp edge away from the sacrifice.
When he has returned to the south, the Nḗr lifts the axe high and the Fire Tender says:
The Nḗr brings the axe down hard against the sacrifice, and then lifts his axe to a vertical position in front of him and returns to his place. As the axe hits, the percussion stops.
As soon as the axe is lifted, the Xádbhertor quickly cuts off the head of the sacrifice, using his right hand. He then cuts off the hind leg and puts it next to the head, and then the front leg and put its on top of the other leg. He goes to the ʔṇ́gʷnis and puts the head in it, saying:
Xáryomēn, here is your share.
Sit down at our table, Xáryomēn,
and see the meal we have spread out for you.
ʔéd, ʔeti wḗǵ!
He stands and announces:
We are ghóstēs to Xáaryomēn.
Xáryomēn is ghóstis to us.
He holds the top leg over the xā́sā for a moment in his hands, and then gives it to whomever the sacrifice is being held for. If the sacrifice is being held for the wiḱs this will be the Réḱs. He holds the other leg over the xā́sā for a moment in his hands, cuts or tears it in half again and shares it with the Fire Tender. He then holds the plate with the rest of the sacrifice over the ʔṇ́gʷnis for a moment, and then gives the remainder to another, and it is passed around, each eating some of it. If there are too many people present for this sharing to be practical, it is shared among representatives of the attendees. While it is being distributed, the Xádbhertor puts the rope in the fire. If there is any cake left over, it is placed in the ʔṇ́gʷnis.
(If the ritual is being performed in honor of more than one deity, the prayers can simply be directed to all of them and a single sacrifice performed, so long as the same animal is not inappropriate to all of them. If the deities are such that different animals should be sacrificed, however, each deity must get their own animal, with steps 3 through 7 repeated for each, but with the distribution to participants left until all have been offered to. Each person must eat some of each sacrifice; not to do so would be to insult the deity to whom it was offered.)
The Xádbhertor returns to his place.
13. The libation.
The Xádbhertor pours the red alcohol into the ʔṇ́gʷnis, saying: Through the fire, Through the sacrifice, through its life, the Holy Ones are honored.
The Ǵhḗuter brings the pitcher of mead to the ʔṇ́gʷnis and, with his right hand, pours it out at the base of the fire, being careful not to extinguish it, saying:
May all the Holy Ones, be honored in our midst.
Be welcome at our table, all of you.
We pour out our offering to you
like living water, like grain from a bag.
Drink deeply of the gifts we give.
All: Tṓd ʔestu!
The Ǵhḗuter then begins a litany of titles of praise to the All-Gods. After each one, all reply:
This is an opportunity for the Ǵhḗuter to show some creativity. Done right, this could be a moment of real ecstasy. Possible titles include:
Wise Ones/Beneficent Ones/You of Wondrous Power/You Who Bless/Smiling Ones/Possessors of Many Cows/Beautiful Ones/You Whose Being is the Xártus/Celestial Ones/Heavenly Ones/You Who Watch Over Men and Cattle/You Who Look on us from Above/You Whose Beneficence Sustains Us/etc.
As the last one, the Ǵhḗuter says:
Givers of Gifts, thus we praiseyou.
14. The Piacular sacrifice
The Xádbhertor picks up the remaining piece of bread and takes it to the ʔṇ́gʷnis, where he breaks it up and scatters it into the fires and on the ground, saying:
Gods and Goddesses
Spirits of this Place:
If anything we have done here has offended you
If anything we done here has been incomplete
If anything we have done here has violated the yewes
or in any way done violence to the Xártus,
accept this final offering in recompense.
15. Extinguishing the Fires
This phase starts with a hymn or prayer of praise to the deity or deities of the occasion by the Ǵhḗuter or by all.
The Ǵhḗuter lowers his arms and holds them out towards the ʔṇ́gʷnis and says:
Fire of sacrifice, you have discharged your duty well,
And now we feed you and send you on your way.
ʔṇgʷnei, gʷṛtins dedəmes.
Fire of sacrifice, we give you our thanks.
Fire of sacrifice, we give you our thanks.
The Fire Tender spoons clarified butter on the ʔṇ́gʷnis. When the butter is burned, the Fire Tender extinguishes the fire by pouring water from the pitcher on it.
When the ʔṇ́gʷnis is out, the Ǵhḗuter says:
Lady of Fire, Queen of the hearth,
who by rights receives the last,
bless and guard all those who worship you
whether in their home or without
whether alone or with others
whether thinking of you or engaged in business.
Pure One, receive this offering.
The Fire Tender pours butter on the xā́sā, while the Ǵhḗutersays:
Xā́sā, gʷṛtins dedəmes.
When the butter is consumed, the Fire Tender extinguishes the x̄́sa: by pouring water on it and then putting the top of the cauldron on.
Once the fires are out, the ghórdhos is no longer sacred.
16. The Ending
When the xā́sā has finished smoking, the Ǵḗuter says:
With the hearthfire extinguished,
the center of our sacred world is gone.
With the center of our sacred world gone,
the sacred site dissolves about us.
We will carry it in our hearts, though,
nestled deep with the love of the gods.
The Ǵhḗuter raises his arms into the orans position and says:
Xáryomēn who guides us in the right way:
See; we have performed the ritual rightly.
Rightly we have sacrificed, rightly praised, rightly offered.
Without your inspiration we would not have known the way.
Our prayers would have gone amiss.
But under your watchful gaze we have performed the ritual,
and all has been done as it should have been done.
Your being is great; it deserves our gifts.
Your power is great; it deserves our honor.
Your holiness is great; it deserves our praise.
That is what we have done here, Xáryomēn.
You who are the law know the law well,
and will not fail to return a gift for a gift
as is indeed the ancient way.
Give us then what we ask for.
Give us a community at peace,
joined one to another in the web of society.
The Xádbhertor says:
We have offered to the Holy Ones
and they have accepted our sacrifices.
The Ǵhḗuter says:
We have raised our words to the Old Ones as it is right to do.
The Xádbhertor says:
We have made offerings to the Old Ones as it is right to do.
The Ǵhḗuter says:
May we always be mindful of those we have worshiped.
May we always be mindful of them, worthy of worship.
May we all grow strong, under their watchful eyes.
The Ǵhḗuter raises his hands and says:
Shining Ones, who rule by the Xártus,
we have worshiped you today as the yewésā require.
We may end this rite with confidence, knowing you will bless us.
He lowers his hands, looks at the people around him and says:
Walk on the path of the Mighty Ones,
under their protection, with their blessing.
All leave in procession, in the same order in which they came. The Fire Tender may leave the x̄́sa: in its place to be retrieved later.
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