and Ritual Preparation[credits]
- Avoid interruptions during
a religious or magical rite -- take the phone off the hook, lock the doors, post a "do not disturb" notice. Depending on how
your animals and/or children react to ritual, you may have to make other arrangements for them during this time. However,
remember that an interruption won’t ruin your ritual unless you let it. In fact, our church was named by an "interruption"
who stopped by without knowing that we were in the middle of a ritual and ended up an uninvolved observer (and dog sitter).
For circumstances like this, it helps to develop a psychic pause button.
- Whenever possible a ritual
bath (or jacuzzi!) is beneficial to wash away everyday tensions before entering sacred space. In addition to being a spiritually
as well as physically cleansing event, immersion in water links us with our most primal memories. If you don’t have
access to water, you can use incense, or a bell, or few minutes of light drumming or meditation for the same cleansing effect.
The goal is to enter the circle with a clear mind and an untroubled heart; you’re trying to meet your friends (including
Deity) on a higher/deeper level than in day-to-day life.
- Ritual dress can range
from ritual nudity (skyclad), to formal hooded robes in colors appropriate to the ritual, to whatever you feel most comfortable
in. In our group, we usually opt for the latter; most traditional groups I’ve visited work robed. Many English-based
traditions work skyclad, as do many solitaries.
For those inclined, physical
nudity symbolizes honesty, openness and intimacy, as well as the freedom from slavery mentioned in the Charge of the Goddess.
Personally, I find spiritual and mental "nudity" an even more intimate goal for group practice.
In addition to ritual dress
(or undress), ritual jewelry such as pentagrams, amulets, good luck charms and Deity images are often worn. While these are
symbolically useful, remember that your power, luck, and connection with Deity is within yourself, not the jewelry. Losing
an item, while emotionally painful, shouldn’t be spiritually devastating.
- Are you interested in
solitary or group practice? Actually, this is almost an immaterial question since this is a book of how our group practices,
and we all practice solo at one time or another anyway -- like when a rainbow appears while driving home on that last day
before a long vacation, or that brilliant Full Moon slips through the clouds and into your bedroom window.
Obviously, we enjoy group practice
-- the presence of like-minded friends can enrich your spiritual experience -- but there are a few caveats. First, the presence
of others can be inhibiting, so try to concentrate more on your spiritual communion with Deity and your circlemates than whether
you’re "acting weird." Also, beware of a love interest who takes an interest only because you do. Conversely, beware
of becoming interested in someone solely because they share your spiritual beliefs. Finally, working in a group may
lead you to start feeling that your solo work is inferior or wrong, but nothing could be further from the truth, as long as
what you do alone works for you. What works is what’s right, and vice versa.
- An important part of ritual
preparation is setting up the working altar. This physically prepares the area to become sacred space while simultaneously
psychologically preparing the participants to enter that space. In addition to our standard tools (candles, incense burners,
knives, wands, God and Goddess statutes, a chalice, a plate and a peace pipe), we add photos and/or artifacts of missing circlemates
and other loved ones as well as any jewelry, amulets and artwork we wish to bless.
- The actual ritual activity
is the least dogmatic and most spontaneous portion of all and is up to however the group feels on that occasion. Sometimes
we just meditate together; sometimes we have extremely energetic drum circles. Occasionally we formally invoke the God and/or
Goddess; we almost always do magic. While our primary tool is music -- both pre-recorded and live -- the selections and the
order change from ritual to ritual, depending on our goals and moods (and sometimes on which tapes we can find!).
- The timing of rituals
is also up to the group. Traditional circles practice together on Full and/or New Moons, the Solstices and Equinoxes, and
the cross-quarter days (midway between the Solstice and Equinoxes). The Solar rituals are known as Sabbats; the Lunar, Esbats
or Moons. Traditional Moons usually include invoking the presence of Deity for communication and doing magical work; the eight
Sabbats are more a celebration of the Turning of the Wheel of the Year than magical work, and often include a potluck feast.
Moons are usually held at night -- preferable at moonrise -- while Sabbats usually begin during daylight and sometimes last
until the following dawn.
Church of Amazement ritual times (like our rituals
themselves) tend to be very untraditional. If part of the group happens to be together and in the mood for ritual, we’ll
have one. In general we try to plan rituals close to the actual Esbats and Sabbats, but due to varying work schedules, we
have to stay flexible. The hour usually depends on who gets off work latest that day -- we occasionally end up starting at
the "traditional" witching hour of midnight (which is far later than the traditional groups I’ve visited start). We
also call for a ritual when anyone in the group has a particular magical request, like healing or a job search.
As an auxiliary note to time
spent together in ritual, I should mention that our group also tries to spend some quality time together outside of ritual.
We consider each other family and therefore share important times other than ritual with each other. Often a few of us will
get together and share a new movie or a special music store or bookstore, and we try to attend local Pagan gatherings as a
group. As in any good relationship, circle siblings should be friends first and foremost, no matter what else they become
to each other.
- At the end of ritual,
residual energy usually rushes around within you and the circle. This should be grounded, or reprogrammed to fit smoothly
into your normal energy scheme. One way of doing this involves actually touching the ground and visualizing the energy returning
to the Earth. A complementary method is the ritual sharing of food and drink. Eating kicks your body into a (literally) down-to-earth
mode. In addition, sharing a meal provides communion among group members, especially when blessings are passing along with
the plate and cup. To expand this ritual sharing to include all four basic elements, you can pass around a peace pipe as well
to represent air and fire. Within our group, we call this the Elemental Feast.
- Once the power has been
grounded, it is important to return the ritual area to its normal state as well. Before disassembling the working altar, the
circle should be opened or "uncast". Instead of dispersing the energy and breaking the circle, we ground it by visualizing
it sinking into the floor beneath us while saying:
As the circle sinks into
Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again