The Mystery of the Union with the Land
For the ancient Celts, there is no question that a complex ritual and social system centered on the three-fold relationship of the People, their Chieftain (often termed a “king”), and the Land itself, embodied in the figure of any of a wide array of Sovereignty goddesses. Central to this system were two fundamental concepts: That the leader of the people was expected to be fit and to behave with honor and that the leader should be wed, in some sense, to the Land. This ideology finds echoes in places as disparate as ancient inaugurations rites from India and the Arthurian lore of the Wounded King and the Wasteland.
As modern American Druidic Pagans, we are part of a culture that has rejected monarchy and the oppressive political structures that so often have accompanied it in European history. But because of this, we are apt to read into accounts of Irish “High Kings” a conception of “kingship” that is based on stereotypes based on the oppressive behaviors of hereditary kings and queens who ruled by “Divine Right,” not by personal merit. American democratic principles resonate in some ways with the more merit-based system of chieftainship to be found in the Celtic world during much of its history and the fellowship seeks to explore and reinvigorate the healthiest aspects of the ancient ways.
Again, as Americans, we have no need for “kings”–but we can consider ancient Celtic ideas about the leader as fit representative of the People and that the unity and prosperity of the People might be sustained by a harmonious and periodically renewed relationship with the Land. In FoDLA, therefore, the custom is to have one person, who has been identified as qualified, charged with the facilitation of any rituals that are open to the community at large and to ask that person to renew the contract with the Land on behalf of the People assembled. In this way, the community is re-engaged in its responsibilities to act in harmonious relationship with the environment in which it lives and on which it depends.
The ritual leader is asked to make an offering of grain to the earth, returning some of our share of the bounty the Land has provided. At minimum, an equivalent to the following prayer is offered to the goddess in the Land:
“May we be united with you, Lady of the Land,
Keeper of abundant blessings and bitter truths alike.
Grant us the bounty and the lessons you bear,
As our ways find favor in your eyes.”
Todd Covert – May 2006