Opening the Gates / Parting the Mists

Just a quick something to start off the month…

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In ADF rituals there is a section in which a gatekeeper is called to open the gates between the worlds.  In the version of Gentlidecht I practice we do the same, asking Manannan to ‘part the mists’ between our world and the Otherworld.  Despite the similar practice the reasoning and even the mental visuals of the practice are very different.

The most common understanding of the ADF practice appears to be that they are opening triple gates between the worlds via the hallows which is most commonly a tree, well and the required fire.  The opening of the gates allows the various beings to move freely and the free flow of energy.  I have seen some state that the opening the gates is what makes the ritual sacred by opening the space to the realms of the gods, spirits and ancestors. This is not how we Genti understand things nor is it what we believe.

In Gentlidecht the Otherworld is something that exists along side ours.  Access to it can be via the sea, though doors in mounds, by entering caves, or even by passing through a magical mist.  In the legends it is where the gods and spirits live, and the dead go after physical death and that it has more than 70 names.  The legends also tell us that the gods and spirits can come and go as they please without any need for a guide or for someone to open the door for them.  There is not much said on the subject of the dead, except that at Beltaine and Samhain the veil between our world and the land in which the dead reside is the thinnest and that the dead can walk freely among the living during these periods implying that they can’t open the ways between the worlds on their own. As if the legends alone are not enough, experiences have taught many that the gods are imminent and that the spirits of nature are always around us.  So inviting them to witness and accept our worship would not require any gates to be opened at all, except for the ancestors.

Leading us to the reason why in Gentlidecht we ask Manannan to part the misty veil.  He is aiding in making it possible for the ancestors to come into our world.  Visually you can imagine a thick mist that stands between the Otherworld and ours, what I call the Cloak of Manannan, being blown by wind and thinned making it possible to see into and eventually cross through.  When the veil is thinned or parted the ancestors are able to move freely between the worlds.  Of course it is not necessary for Manannan to part the mists at Beltaine or Samhain since during those periods the veil is already so thin the ancestors can come through on their own.

What is interesting to note is that there is no Indo-European precedent for this practice or belief.  In fact there is a story in ADF that the reason they do it is because the organizations founder saw the gates being opened in an Afro-Caribbean ritual and thought it would be a good addition.  As a result there are Celtic Reconstructionists that do not include a section to ‘part the mists’.  Despite the lack of evidence within Indo-European rituals there is enough folklore in the Irish material hinting that the ancestors are unable to move freely between the worlds (except at Beltaine and Samhain) so we will continue to ask Manannan for his help with the ancestors.

If you have another perspective on the ‘gates’ in ritual please post it in the comments section of this blog.

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Note – For purposes of the blog I am clearly differentiating between ADF and Gentlidecht.  The reality is ADF Druidry is not a monolithic belief but each grove and individual within ADF can have very different beliefs and practices.  Five Rivers Protogrove, ADF is an ADF grove that practices Gentlidecht, meaning we use the ADF ritual structure but our understanding or reasons for doing certain parts of the ritual may vary from the more common understandings published on the ADF website.

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