Wiccan rituals are ceremonies that honor the God, Goddess, and the Earth, and strengthen our bond with them. They are usually performed to attune us with the lunar and solar cycles of the Earth and for working magick. Magick is worked during ritual to improve the life of the Witch on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels, depending upon the needs of the Witch. Wiccan rituals are also held to celebrate rites of passage, such as birth, coming of age, marriage, becoming an elder, and death.
I have added this posting for the many people that are stuggling beginners we have in our group and for those solitaires who have all written in to me trying to fathom just what “ritual” is all about and are finding the whole thing confusing. How, what, when and why and is it ok if…. are among the many questions, so I hope that I can help those people in this rather long posting.
I must add here that you can actually make your ritual area and rituals themselves to be as simple, or conversely, as dramatic and flamboyant as you personally want. The reality after all, is found deep in your heart and your personal relationship with the Goddess, God and Ancient Powers, not so much in the trappings of an Oscar winning production, (although this certainly helps get one into a wonderful mood to achieve real magick).
If you belong to a proper Coven, ritual is an important bonding time with your Coven-mates. If you are practicing as a Solitary, ritual develops your relationships with the Gods on an intensely personal level. Most Witches who are members of a Coven still perform solitary rituals occasionally for some “quality time with Mom and Dad”, (so to speak), or to do personal spells and meditations.
So, what is a Wiccan ritual? There are nine basic components of Wiccan ritual: purification of self, purification of space, creation of sacred space, invoking the God and/or Goddess, ritual observance (stating the purpose of the ritual), energy raising, earthing the power (the Simple Feast), thanking the God and/or Goddess, and opening the circle. I will discuss each of these steps in detail and as before, bullet them for easy reading and digestion.
The quality of one’s clothing, or robes, (or as in most Wiccan groups around the world, the lack of them) is another cue to one’s inner being that sacred activities are about to take place, as well as another way to show respect to the Deities. The people attending the ritual therefore either dresses in special ceremonial robes or else strip down to a state of ritual nudity. The latter makes them “skyclad,”, and for those who are interested, the word came from a Jain term for naked sages living in the woods and abandoned all social concerns and class distinctions in their quests for enlightenment.
Almost all Wiccan groups use a circle as the shape of their sacred space. Some have this shape physically marked on the ground or floor; but most do not – which is why it often turns into a “magic oval”.
Most will have candles or torches set up, either just inside or just outside of the circle’s line, at the North, South, East, and West intersections of two invisible lines drawn through the center of the circle. The spots are called “Quarter Points” or often just “the Quarters.” Whether the directions are marked accurately with a compass or loosely as the room or other factors make convenient, varies considerably.
Some Traditions have the altar outside this circle when the rite begins; others place it inside either at the center or near to one of the Quarter Points, (invariably north).
Salt and water are usually exorcised and/or blessed by the presiding clergy, sometimes along with other substances such as incense, oil, candles, etc. These items are used, either before or after the circle is “cast” (symbolically formed) to exorcise and/or bless the circle as a whole and/or all the people in it. As with the personal purifications mentioned above, exorcisms done in Neopagan rituals have little to do with banishing evil spirits and much to do with re- tuning the spiritual energies of the objects and/or persons involved to make them appropriate for the work at hand – much as a cook who had been chopping garlic would take care to wash his or her hands and the knife before beginning to chop the apples for a pie (at least we hope so!)
- 1 – Ritual in Working Magick
- II – Ritual Etiquette
- III – Creating Meaningful Ritual
- IV – FORMAT OF A TYPICAL RITUAL
- A Creating Sacred Space 1. The High Priestess or assistant casts the circle.
- B Evoking the Guardians of the Watchtowers
- C Invoking the Goddess and the God, or Drawing down the Goddess, or God.
- D Feasting
- E Working Magick / Raising the Cone
- F Grounding of the Cone of Power
- G. Thanking the Goddess and/or the God
- H Thanking and releasing the Guardians
- I Closing the circle
- V – Overview
- VI – Some Thoughts on the Evolution of Wiccan Ritual
- VII – The Pattern of a Generic Wiccan Rite
1 – Ritual in Working Magick
A. The Need to Change the Wiring in our Brains
1. Learning to work magick requires that a certain amount of neurological re-patterning of our brains takes place. · To be effective, we have to change the way we use our brains.
- How to “use’ our inner self and subconscious.
- How to raise and release power.
- Magick requires the development and integration of the right hemisphere way of thinking with the left hemisphere way of thinking.
- The spatial, intuitive and holistic patterns of awareness that characterize the right hemisphere modes of consciousness must be able to communicate and work in harmony with the verbal, analytical and linear patterns of awareness so characteristic of the left hemisphere.
- A person’s growth, creativity and personality is deeply influenced during this process and it eventually leads to a person who is truly functional as a whole person.
- The real language of magick is expressed in `symbols’ and `images’.
2. Images bridge the gap between the verbal and non-verbal modes of awareness.
- Symbols and images implant certain ideas in what Starhawk calls the `Younger Self’ who passes them on to what she refers to as `High Self’. These are of course, the conscious mind and subconscious.
- By allowing the critical and analytical functions of `Talking Self’ to relax, `Younger Self’ may respond fully and emotionally to what happens during your magickal workings.
3. Ritual, which is defined as, “a specific set of images and symbols attached to certain actions”, allows us to deliberately alter our states of consciousness so that we may perform works of magick.
- All humans relate to their environment through symbols and rituals.
- Except during rare occasions, we do not experience our environment directly.
- Our left hemisphere patterning awareness developed so we could safely ignore anything in our environment, which was not potentially dangerous.
- A direct benefit of this survival tactic however, was the ability to ‘concentrate’, which allowed us to examine the world around us and led to experimentation.
- Experimentation led to better ways of doing things, such as making tools, and thus technology was born. It has served as a goad and a goal since then.
- The way our left hemisphere works is actually fascinating.
4. Working as a filter of all the stimuli coming into the various senses of a human, the left hemisphere examines everything closely and then files the new sensory data away as images, tastes, smells, etc., where it stays in memory.
- The majority of this activity occurs when we are young and enchanted with the world around us.
- Maturity is usually judged by the degree to which your enthusiasm for examining the world around you has diminished.
- Ironically, when you become too mature, you withdraw from the world around you and lose interest. This is usually marked by a tendency to live in your memories instead of the present. This condition is commonly called old age and people who give-in to living in the past are then called senile.
- Those of us who never lose our sense of `wonder toward all the world has to offer’ are often accused of having never `grown up’ or if, we have managed to live long enough, to be going through our `second childhood.’
- As we approach something in our normal everyday activities, we receive an image from our eyes and then a part of our brain searches through our memory for an image that matches the one at which we are looking.
- If there is already an image on file, even if it is not a perfect match, the image on file is fed to that part of our brain, which `sees’ what we are approaching.
- In this instance, assuming that we have not associated the image in memory with something dangerous, we will walk past the object without paying it any attention, or actually `seeing’ the object.
- If there is not an image on file we will stop and examine the new object as if we were seeing it for the first time, which, of course, `we are’.
- Then having classified and categorized it, we then file it away in our memory for future reference and continue on our way, oblivious to our surroundings once again.
- This behavior allows us to concentrate on more abstract things, than worrying if our favourite armchair is going to have us for brunch.
5. An extension of this type of behavior is the formation of habits. Habits are ways of interacting with our environment, based on assumptions made, using our stored images and experiences as a true picture of reality.
- In effect, habits are pre-programmed responses to everyday occurrences.
- A little known fact relating to habits is, that habits do fulfill a psychological need.
- And you cannot break a habit, you can only replace it with another that meets that same psychological need.
II – Ritual Etiquette
B The Ritual Bath
1. Before performing a ritual, it is necessary to prepare yourself for the work ahead.
- As many Singaporeans only have showers and not long baths, as most western households seem to have, the ritual bath can be done by taking a pinch of salt and any oils into the shower and then standing or sitting under the stream of water and emptying one’s mind.
- A ritual bath washes away the dirt and grime of the everyday world along with the tensions of the mundane world
- For those with a long bath; draw a hot bath and add some essence, oils or perfume that makes you feel good. If you have studied the uses of oils and scents in magick, you might want to tune your additives to the work to be done.
- Turn off all the lights and light a single white taper or small candle.
- Make sure that it is in a candle holder, that will handle it without you worrying about it setting fire to anything, or spilling wax where you do not want it. Votive candles and holders work very well for this.
- Light a stick of incense or place some on a glowing coal in a censer that you have. · Place some sea salt in a white dish or small bowl.
- Being so close to the sea, it is easy to collect sea salt by just taking some ocean water home and letting it evaporate in the direct sunlight until all that is left is the salt crystals.
- If you cannot get sea salt, you might want to use some iodized, or rock salt, from the market. It is essentially the same thing, but personally I like the idea of making or collecting my own salt.
- You should have some purified water in a cup or vial.
- Fresh spring water or stream water is ideal but most of us living here have to make do with bottled water from a store.
- Rainwater, collected, strained, and kept in glass bottles is a good substitute though.
- It is definitely preferred that you do not use tap water because of the additives in it.
2. The following is a very simple ritual for consecrating the ritual bath.
- Lock the doors and unplug the phone.
- This is to ensure that you are not disturbed.
- Once the bath is drawn and any oils have been added to it as desired, take the candle and make three slow passes over the water as you say the following evocation.
- (a) “By this creature of fire do I purify this ritual bath. May all impurities flee before its light.”
- (b) Set the candle down so that it is out of the way but still sheds light on your work.
- (c) Take up the dish of salt and, sprinkling three pinches of the salt into the water say the following. “By this creature of earth do I purify this ritual bath. All impure creatures may not approach it.”
- Set the dish of salt aside and pick up the incense or censer and make three passes over the water as you say the following evocation.
- (a) “By this creature of Air do I purify this ritual bath. May my hopes and aspirations rise upon the smoke to be carried by the winds to the Lady.”
- (b) Set the incense aside and pick up the water. Pour the water into the bath. You may form patterns that appeal to you if you like and say the following. “By this creature of water do I purify this ritual bath. May this bath contain the Waters of Life that spring forth from the Heart of the Mother.”
- Settle into the bath and soak until the water starts to get too cold to stay in, or until you have fully relaxed and left the tensions of the world behind, which ever comes first.
- This is a good time to meditate on the work you wish to do.
- Dry off with a freshly cleaned white towel that has been allowed to dry in the sunlight if possible.
- Again, the colour of the towel can be coordinated with the work you intend to do.
- Apply any anointing oils that you plan to use and go to your working site.
- There are provisions made for `emergency’ ritual baths in the event that you cannot take a real bath, as we’ve already discussed above by taking showers if no alternative is present.
- These provisions just involve dousing yourself with any specially prepared solutions and the salt that serve the purpose.
- These are not so much favoured so much as they do not allow any time for real relaxation and meditation, unless you sit and let all the stress and dark thoughts wash away with the stream of water.
C Handling Ritual Tools
1. A Witch’s tools are more personal than their toothbrush.
- Generally, it is considered extremely bad form to handle another person’s tools without prior permission.
- Some Covens maintain ritual tools that they only allow their own members to handle.
- If you are a guest, it is always best to avoid offending anyone by `not handling anything’ unless it is specifically offered to you.
D Entering and Leaving the Circle
1. A witch’s magick circle is designed to keep the power raised `within it’ contained and concentrated.
- Leaving and entering the circle during the ritual tends to weaken it and for this reason it is not encouraged.
- Animals and small children can pass through the barrier of the circle because they live in a `state of grace’ under the protection of the Goddess.
- Even so, animals and children should be kept out of the ritual area unless they are a specific part of the ritual because they become distracting.
- When it cannot be helped, the High Priestess (or High Priest) will open, or `cut’ a door in the circle so that people who need to, can pass in or out of it.
- Naturally, after the person has passed through, the High Priestess (HP) will set a guard, or close (seal) the circle again.
- Walking across the barriers of the circle is considered to be extremely disrespectful and only someone who wants to test the patience of the High Priestess and High Priest will do it knowingly.
2. Movement within the circle is in accordance to the order found in nature.
- As you face south you can track the Sun and Moon from your Left to your Right.
- This is the order of how we move in the circle, from side to side when doing things such as lighting candles, etc.
- Continuing the movement from the west to the north and back to the east, we have actually inscribed a circle in a clockwise or Deosil, pronounced Jeshil, (as the sun travels) motion.
- Deosil is the direction the Circle is cast in, and all circular movement within the Circle should thus be in a clockwise direction for positive effects.
- There are certainly times when we move in a counter clockwise direction and is usually for banishing or other special circumstances and is explainedby the HPS and HP on why we are doing it.
- The general rule though is “move in a clockwise direction.”
- It must be pointed out though that some Traditional Witchcraft practices always move in an anti-clockwise direction, but that is another matter and does not relate to standard Wicca traditions.
3. Each Coven maintains its own practices for giving salutes during invocations, evocations and blessings.
- Invoking and banishing pentagrams are also used in setting up the Circle and during other rituals acts.
III – Creating Meaningful Ritual
A Creating Sacred Space
1. We `define’ a new space and a new time whenever we cast a Circle in the Craft to begin a ritual.
- The Circle exists outside the boundaries of ordinary space and time. We say it is “Between the worlds of the seen and the unseen”.
- It is a space in which alternate realities meet, in which the past and future are open to us. · Casting the Circle is an enacted meditation.
- We create an `energy form’ which serves as a boundary that limits and contains the movement of subtle forces.
- In group work, it is usually the High Priestess or her assistant, (or High Priest in special circumstances, who casts the Circle).
2. Casting the Circle is the formal beginning of the ritual.
- It is the complex `cue’ that tells us to switch our awareness into a deeper mode.
- In ritual, we `suspend disbelief’ just as we do when we are watching a play or reading fiction.
- In the a few permanent stone circles of the Megalithic era, where rituals might have been enacted for thousands of years, great reservoirs of power were probably built up.
- There was no need to draw out the circle as we do today, because the stones defined the sacred space.
- Casting a temporary circle as we do today probably began during the time of persecution when tearing down stone circles was a popular sport of Christian mobs.
- In Starhawkian Wicca and some of the other heterodox Trads, the circle casting, Quarter Point Invocations, exorcism/blessing of the circle and people, etc., can be done completely or fragmentarily, and in any order or all at once, depending upon the consensus and/or whims of the participants.
3. To further the `destruction’ of our circles, the church ordered that Christian churches be erected over the old sacred spots in the countryside. In the Old Country, it is common to find ancient churches built `near’, but usually `not on’ the site of an ancient Holy Well, usually of the Goddess. (As was done at my favourite sacred place back home on the Isle-of-Man, where a church was built in approximately 400 AD “adjacent” to a Holy Well dedicated to the Goddess. The original walls still exist on the church, although it was built-on later a few centuries ago and there are original Celtic crosses scattered around the ground – It’s where I can sit for hours by the old Holy Well).
B Evoking The Guardians of the Watchtowers
1. The concept of the quartered circle is basic to the Craft, as it is to many cultures and religions.
- The four directions each correspond to, and resonate with, a quality of the self, to an Element, a time of day, and year, to tools of the craft, symbolic animals and forms of personal power.
- These correspondences are usually set down in a table similar to the one in the back of `The Spiral Dance’ and provide the basis for visualizations throughout the ritual.
- Constant visualizations of these connections create deep internal links, so much so, that physical actions during ritual can trigger the desired inner states.
2. The Guardians of the Watchtowers are energy forms.
- They are the Spirits, or Wraiths, of the four Elements.
- They bring the Elemental energy of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water into the circle to augment our human power.
- The vortex of power created when we evoke the four Quarters guards the circle from intrusions and draws in the higher powers of the Goddess and God.
- The circle keeps and maintains the powers raised within it, more than it is to keep anything out.
- Each Movement in a Ritual has Meaning
3. When we move deosil (or sunwise), we follow the direction the sun appears to move in, and draw in power.
- Deosil is the direction of increase, of fortune favour and blessing.
- When we move `widdershins’, or counter clockwise, we move against the path of the sun.
- This direction is used for `decrease’ or `banishing’. (Or as carried out by some ancient Traditional Witchcraft traditions as the standard way of movement)
D Cosmic Power Times
1. Some traditions even assign one of the four seasons to each of the four Elements.
- When this is done, they will orient their altar to face that quarter which represents the season that is being honoured rather than always pointing north or east. (Some traditional witches always face west).
- The East is associated with Air and the Spring, South is associated with Fire and Summer, West with Water and the Autumn and the North with Earth and Winter.
- Depending on the time of day or night, some traditions even encourage facing towards one of the four directions to draw power and perform magick appropriate to the Element used.
- Generally, as we’ve just said, the Craft always faces north, but there are those that face east.
- You may also use the following format some traditions use in that, from sunrise to noon you can face East, Noon until sunset face South, sunset to midnight face West and midnight to sunrise face North.
- I personally find all this too complicated and disconcerting for many Covens and follow the original tradition of facing north.
E Raising the Cone of Power
Raising energy is a part of most rituals, especially if spells have been cast. If no spells have been done, energy can be raised to heal the Earth. Energy can be raised in many ways. The most common are dancing and chanting. “Dancing” is a term I use loosely, because these dances often consist of everyone racing around the circle, with an occasional leap or twirl.
Movement raises energy; so don’t feel that you have to do some graceful and complex series of steps in order to do it “right”. Just make sure you move clockwise, or deosil, to bring something to you (money, love, etc.), and move counter-clockwise, or widdershins, to move something away from you (a bad habit, extra weight, etc.).
Chanting is another way to raise energy. You can chant the vowels, use a chant from a book or tape, or make up your own. Remember, the more power you put into your voice, the more energy you will raise. Many people say, “Oh, I can’t sing!” You don’t have to sing. Chanting is not singing. Just open your mouth and let sound flow out. You don’t have to hit a certain note. Just chant “Aaaaah” over and over, increasing volume and intensity until you feel the air throbbing and the hair on your arms is standing up.
No matter the method you use to raise the energy in your circle, continue until you feel it peak. If you belong to a coven, the High Priestess or High Priest will give a signal when this has occurred.
If you are a Solitary, you’ll have to use the trial-and-error method until you become familiar with the feeling. When the energy peaks, it is released by a sudden cessation of movement and sound. Everyone “lets go”, sometimes by physically dropping to the ground. Again, visualize the energy shooting out of the circle to carry out your desires.
When the energy has been released, you will need to ground by eating something. Trust me on this one. You might feel great (albeit out of breath!) but if you don’t ground yourself, you’ll end up spacey and irritable and might get a headache.
The Simple Feast is ritually blessed food that is shared with the coven. Common fare for a lunar esbat would be milk and cookies. For the holidays, the food and beverage usually correspond to the season. For example, apple cider and pumpkin bread could be served for Samhain. The Priest and Priestess bless the food and pass it around the circle. While everyone eats, stories can be told, songs sung, or you can discuss insights you had during the meditation. Basically, this a time to relax and enjoy the company of your Coven. If you are a Solitary, allow yourself time to relax and eat, and bask in the glow of the ritual you’ve performed.
1. Energy is raised in Coven rituals and most often molded into the form of a Cone. · This is called the `Cone of Power’. The base of the cone is the circle of Coveners; (its apex can focus on an individual though, an object, or a collectively visualized image.
- At times the cone is allowed to rise and fall naturally without being sent anywhere.
- At these times the cone is used to renew the Coveners’ personal power.
- It may also be sent off in a burst of great `Force’, directed by one person who may be apart of the circle, or may stand in the center serving as the focal point.
- Rhythmical drumming, hand-claps and dance movements, or a myriad of other arcane or specialized methods may all be used to raise the Cone of Power. It is very important to feel the power raising inside though, until it forms an almost orgasmic force which is suddenly released to do the Coven’s bidding.
F Energy Patterns
1. Mechanics of the procedure might look something like this:
- Center (at balance point of energy in body) Ground (to object or to the earth at the center of the physical space you are whirling around) Increase energy within your body Focus (on purpose of work) Direct (to place of sending, setting up resonance) Release (at peak of cone) Ground (residual energy) Center (re-establish personal balance)
2. Two practitioners can make use of polarity theory to more readily raise energy. This theory holds that energy moves from positive to negative (imagine filling a cauldron), so two people facing each other cycle energy within their own bodies, and then cycle energy between them.
3. Three practitioners form a pattern reminiscent of triskel designs in celtic art. As you add each person, the pattern will change and needs to be taken into account by the main person focusing the energy. If all are focusing the energy, clear agreement about how and when it is to be focused and released gets extremely crucial.
G The Release
1. This is the trickiest part of raising the cone, requiring a sense of timing and an awareness of the level of energies. The “drop” or release is called when the energy peaks, and before it falls back
2. Like raising sexual tension and releasing it, the cone may plateau and drop slightly in energy before climbing to an even higher peak just before releasing. An inexperienced person may not know this, or the group may only be able to raise a limited cone at first. This must be practiced and practiced to get it right, whether alone or in a group.
IV – FORMAT OF A TYPICAL RITUAL
A Creating Sacred Space 1. The High Priestess or assistant casts the circle.
- The circle can be marked out by stones, chalk, rope, salt or any other natural material, or simply visualized.
- No one is allowed to enter the circle until it has been properly cast.
- Once cast, other members of the ritual enter the circle through a pre-arranged `door’ in the circle.
- Usually in the north-east.
B Evoking the Guardians of the Watchtowers
1. The guardians are evoked, one at a time and welcomed.
The circle can be purified by that Element assigned to each Guardian, as the Guardian is evoked or later, after all the Guardians have been evoked.
C Invoking the Goddess and the God, or Drawing down the Goddess, or God.
1. Many traditions invoke the Goddess in all their rituals.
- Some invoke the Goddess and God at Sabbats and the Goddess only at Esbats.
- Some traditions invoke either the Goddess or the God, in accordance with the Season.
- Some traditions invoke both the God and Goddess, if applicable to the ritual.
1. The ritual feast can consist of eating a simple meal of ritual cakes and wine or a full-blown feast in honor of the Goddess and God and the season.
- It is traditional to pour a libation from the chalice out onto the ground `for the Goddess’ before anyone else has a drink.
- Some traditions have a modest meal of cakes and wine and then, after the circle is over, settle down for some serious feasting.
- Some traditions, (such as the OAM) celebrate the Goddess Frya on Her day, (Frya’s day) – Friday by having a feast dedicated to Her.
E Working Magick / Raising the Cone
1. Any magickal work or healing is usually done at this time.
F Grounding of the Cone of Power
1. Some traditions perform a ritual to rejuvenate the Earth Mother by grounding any unused energy raised during the formation of the Cone of Power.
- After any raising of power, it is important to always “ground” all the participants.
G. Thanking the Goddess and/or the God
1. A formal declaration of thanks for attending the rites and for any special favours granted.
H Thanking and releasing the Guardians
1. A formal thanking and leave-taking of the Guardians.
I Closing the circle
1. Either the circle will be banished so that it cannot be discovered, or a maintenance spell will be placed upon it to allow it to retain and grow in power.
V – Overview
Wiccan ritual is a powerful and meaningful way of communing with the Deities. Intention is everything, so as long as your heart’s in the right place, you have nothing to worry about. Remember to always mind the Wiccan Rede of “Harm None” and to live you faith between rituals. Pray often and be kind to the Earth. Remember that the Charge of the Goddess tells us that all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.
There is some confusion in the Wiccan traditions and literature over the use of the terms “open” and “closed” when referring to the magical state of the circle. Some groups will say “the circle is closed” early in the rite to indicate that the magical barriers have been fully erected (after casting and exorcism/blessing, etc.) and that therefore no one is to enter or leave without special permission and precautions (ritual “gate” making).
Others will say, “the circle is closed” at the end of the rite, to mean that the ceremony has come to a close. Conversely, some traditions use the phrase, “the circle is open” at the other’s same early stage of the ritual in the sense of being “open for work” or the Gates between the worlds being open for communication with the Other Side.
Still other groups will say “the circle is open” to mean that the ceremony is over and the magical barriers have been taken down. This conflicting use of terms can be very confusing until you find out how a given group functions. Originally, the circle was opened at the beginning and closed at the end, following the Masonic practice of “opening” and “closing” lodge ceremonies (whence Gardner took the terminology).
This whole collection of variations in Wiccan ceremonial patterns fits roughly within the “Common Worship Pattern”. Some Wiccan Traditions match it more closely than others. It has been my experience that Wiccan ritual can be far more powerful and effective, both thaumaturgically and theurgically, if a liturgical design is chosen that is as close a match as possible to the Common Worship Pattern. This can be accomplished most easily by adding the missing steps from that pattern.
One thing you might notice if you attend many Wiccan rituals is that they tend to be “top-heavy” – half to two-thirds of their liturgical structure consists of setting up sacred space and doing the preliminary power raising (calling the Guardians of the Quarters, etc.), with the supposed purpose for the rituals, the Drawing(s) Down and spell casting or rites of passage, taking much less time, and the unwinding of the liturgy being positively zoomed through.
Perhaps these rites would be less top-heavy if extensive trance, dancing, or other mana generating and focusing methods were used for spell casting and/or rites of passage, instead of the five minutes’ worth common in current Wiccan rites.
However, I believe that perhaps Gardner reasoned that modern Westerners need more time and effort to escape mundane reality than folks from other times and places did, so he deliberately elaborated the opening parts of the liturgy. Be that as it may, the ritual design presented next inserts the missing parts of the common worship pattern and makes the middle of the ritual more important than the beginning or the end.
VI – Some Thoughts on the Evolution of Wiccan Ritual
Undoubtedly (insofar as anything in this mish-mash of magick can be undoubted, the “convergent evolution” thing has a place in the development of the various traditions. ie. hitting on similar manifestations of one True Thing. An algorithm stays the same, no matter how you code it.
Some of the interesting divergences, for instance…
The Quarters: Always a lively discussion, such as, – Air’s in the East. No, it’s in the North, etc. The traditional post-GD attributions stem from a system attributed to Egypt, and Egyptian climate. The traditional Wiccan ones make sense in the context of Northern Europe, especially in Britain. (At least the Brit-Trad ones do).
The ceremonial (solar variety) magician concentrates on the Equinoxes and Solstices as his major milestones in the wheel of the year, whereas Wicca sticks with the Cross-Quarters as their main events. Again, the solar calendar is an Egypto-Sumerian bugaboo, and more important to agricultural peoples (or so it is suggested) whereas the Cross-Quarters fit the rhythm of birth and growth in herd animals, and thus suggest a tradition that evolved in the herding cultures of the early Celts and Britons (who did not succumb to the siren song of agro-economy until much later).
How rigorous these arguments are is open to dispute – they may just be attempts to correlate anthropology and tradition. But they suggest areas of emphasis that separate the two paths, and suggest further the different aspects of Reality that drive them.
So now, just to re-cap on everything, for those of you brave enough to have read this far.
VII – The Pattern of a Generic Wiccan Rite
What follows is a generic expansion and ordering of the steps for a Wiccan ritual. I have done rites this way for decades now, with great success. I sincerely suggest that people experiment with adapting their liturgies to match this pattern. The numbered items are the observable steps of the ceremony as it is performed.
Preliminary Ritual Activity
- (A) Briefing
- (B) Individual Meditations & Prayers
- (C) Sacred baths, other personal cleansing
- (D) Setting up the altar and ritual area
- 1st Phase: Starting the Rite & Establishing the Groupmind · Clear-cut Beginning: Consecration of Time o
- (1) Announcement of Beginning · Consecration of Space & of Participants o
- (2) Blessing of the Elemental Tools o
- (3) Casting of the Circle o
- (4) Blessing/Exorcism of Altar, People, and Circle · Centering, Grounding, Linking & Merging o
- (5) Opening Unity Meditation/Kissing Dance o
- (6) Specification of Ritual Purpose & Historical Precedent
- (7) Specification of Deity(ies) of the Occasion & Reasons for Choice 2nd Phase: Recreating the Cosmos & Preliminary Power Raising
- Invoking the Gatekeepers/Defining the Circle as Center o
- (8) Inviting the Guardians of the Quarters
- (9) “Between the Worlds” Chant or Affirmation 3rd Phase: Major Sending of Power to Deity/ies of the Occasion
- (10) Descriptive Invocation of Goddess (optional: and God)
- Primary Power Raising (a.k.a. “Cone of Power”)
- (11) Participants generate mana by dancing, singing, chanting, etc.
- Any Sacrifice
- (12) Releasing of energy raised (a.k.a. the “Drop”) 4th Phase: Receiving and Using the Returned Power
- Preparation for the Return
- (13) Meditation upon Personal and Group Needs
- (14) Induction of Receptivity · Reception of Power from Deity(ies) of the Occasion
- (15) Drawing Down the Moon
- (16) Instruction from the Goddess; the Charge
- (17) Optional Activity: Drawing Down the Sun
- (18) Optional Activity: Instruction from the God; the Charge
- (19) Optional Activity: the Great Rite (or in step 23)
- (20) Cakes and Wine (Blessing and Passing)
- (21) Acceptance of Individual Blessings · Use of the Power Received
- (22) Reinforcement of Group Bonding
- (23) Optional Activity: Spell Casting or Rite of Passage
- (24) Optional Activity: Second Ritual Meal with Conversation and/or Instruction 5th Phase: Unwinding and Ending the Ceremony · Thanking of Entities Invited, in Reverse Order
- (25) Thanking the Goddess (optional: and God)
- (26) Thanking of Guardians of the Quarters/Closing Gates
- (27) Affirmation of Continuity & Success · Unmerging, Unlinking, Regrounding & Recentering
- (28) Closing Meditation/Kissing Dance
- Draining off Excess Mana
- (29) Charging of Tools
- Deconsecration of Space
- (30) Circle Closing
- Clear-cut Ending: Deconsecration of Time
- (31) Announcement of End (a.k.a. “Merry Meet and Merry Part”)
I hope that cleared up any misunderstandings for the newcomers and might even have been somewhat interesting for the “old hands” out there. I hope I have managed to answer the many questions that have been written into me from all those that have emailed me. In the meantime, Merry Meet, Merry Part and Merry Meet Again.