Archive for the ‘ritual’ Tag

Doing it Right   1 comment

I am pondering the idea of ritual design today as I posted a lesson yesterday on my group’s learning site.  Each of them is to design a personal lunar ritual for each moon phase.  I purposely gave almost no instructions whatsoever, and this was not my obtuse attempt to be the elitist keeper of all wisdom and knowledge, or a smug attempt to make those lovely women feel like “oh crap, I don’t know how to do this right.”  On the contrary, it is because it is my purest, truest belief that the only way to do personal ritual “right” is to do it one’s own way and I am doing people a disservice by allowing them to believe that anything other than their instincts and heart can give them the answers on this one.   I am aware that this makes some people crazy.  It makes some of the newer people crazy because they are not convinced they are doing it right and they are very worried about this.  It makes some of the experienced people crazy because they find comfort in routine and I am constantly challenging the idea that the routine is required.  I never said it wasn’t okay, it just isn’t required, unless personally directed by one’s spirits or gods.  Until I get a personal memo from some ethereal being with hard core universe cred, I am not going to change my mind on this one.  

A month ago, our group met for Beltane.  It was windy and my candles around the bonfire wouldn’t stay lit, which pissed me off because I had planned a very pretty outdoor altar for this event.  The world didn’t implode.  I had to get over it.  There was discord in the circle this time around, and it was hard to concentrate.  I forgot two readings I had really wanted to do.  I couldn’t finish sentences.  It was a peculiar event and somewhat frustrating as far as holding the traditional structure in place.  There are lots of reasons for this, but we got through it.   Anyway, during the course of this ritual, inside a cast circle with invoked deities and elemental spirits and the entire nine yards, we made assorted natural decorations to hang from trees above the nearby creek, in the tradition of dressing the sacred springs or holy wells in the Celtic lands.  The energy didn’t settle and flow right in our circle  until we plunked ourselves on the ground to build our little crafts.   We created our precious ribbons and yarn strands with shells and bells and stones and feathers, tied them with long strips of cloth for our prayers and traipsed our happy behinds over hill and vale to the creek.  (Actually, it wasn’t a very long hike, but it was very hilly with much underbrush and assorted mud.)  By definition, our group exodus out of the circle basically opened the circle by default.  One woman stayed behind for fear of twisting a recently fractured ankle, and I am pretty sure she had a cigarette while she was at it, and enjoyed the weather.  I don’t get in a hink about this.  Beltane is supposed to be for enjoyment.

We hung our pretty treasures over the creek with our intentions and then hiked our behinds back to the ritual area.  When I arrived, it seemed quite clear that the circle had managed to uncast itself and any invited elemental spirits and deities had either come along with us and then gone on their way or were sticking around the fire, as they wished.  It’s not like the universe was holding its breath waiting for us to get back.  The group felt it too, for they had not naturally come back to the center.  Everyone was wandering about, collecting stuff from the altar and heading inside for the food (the really important part!) and I wasn’t worried about it.  I offered my silent thanks to our spirit friends for spending time with us.   Then someone says, “So and so says you forgot to open the circle and dismiss the God and Goddess and elements.”  I don’t even remember who it was.  But it was true.  I hadn’t followed the traditional formula, (which I have a tendency not to do.)  So as a few of us went back outside, it was mentioned to me again, “We forgot to dismiss the elements and the god and goddess.”

“Yes,” I said, “we didn’t do that.  It seemed to pretty much take care of itself when we tromped over to the creek.”  There was a general wave of possible disapproval from one direction, general confusion from another.  Others nodded, helped pick things up and didn’t seem too concerned.

“How does it feel?” I asked.  “Does it feel incomplete?  Do you feel something is left undone?  When you breathe in the wind, does anything feel trapped, broken or out of harmony here?”

The woman who had stayed behind near the fire said, “The minute you all left, it got windier again and it got cool. All the heat went away.  I put my jacket back on.  The energy flowed out.”  This particular lovely lady is new to the whole pagan “thing”, has not read all of the books and doesn’t seem compelled to do so.  She does what I call “practicing by heart.”

I asked if anyone felt the need to re-gather everyone into the circle and do all the formal closing steps.  The general consensus was no.  No one seemed upset.  I realized that the wave of possible disapproval had been coming from myself.  It was a function of my own insecurity.  I was challenging myself on not doing it “right”, after all these years.  Then I had a moment of envisioning the past, farther back than my modern brain can properly imagine, watching people gather at festival and then disperse, coming in and going out, like the tide.  No one told them to gather.  No one told them to go home.  They didn’t stand in a circle and make an announcement.  No one tells the ocean to come in.  No one tells it to go out.  No one tells the wind to sweep east or to sweep west.  Likewise, the opening and closing routines for our group rituals may be comforting and give our brains a sense of structure, and that’s okay, but I still don’t think that our spirits need them for it to be “right.”


Posted June 1, 2011 by Jessica in Uncategorized

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In the Closet   Leave a comment

So, I’ve been working with students on creating their own sacred space, be it an altar, a nook outside, a shelf, or whatever they need that will give them their own area to work.  I used to have a whole spare room all of my own that I know would really give my eye teeth for now, but I didn’t really utilize back then.  I think the reason is that I would often do my work and then lie down on my bed to meditate so naturally my own room became my sacred space.  I created a real energy in there that was all my own.  At that time I was single (divorced) and my child was older and not so dependent, and took direction much more easily.  This also meant he wasn’t getting into my stuff.

Now I’m remarried with a toddler and a newborn.  There are no extra bedrooms and even my bedside altar was constantly getting covered in mundane crap my husband would put there.  When I got him to stop, my toddler would steal my stuff from it.  (In all fairness, who can resist a pretty crystal?)  So I had to get creative.  I was desperate.  So I literally went “into the closet.”

When some pagans say they’re in the closet, they mean they can’t share their beliefs.  I have physically moved my sacred space to a corner of my closet.    I then took long tapestries and covered up the shelves of necessities I have stacked in there.  Right now, it’s a mess again, but when it’s right, I really like it.  The biggest issue at the moment is powder residue from things I’ve been making, or ash from incense or what have you.  Oils I need to put away, etc, etc.  Still, it’s my space.  My header has part of it in there, but below is a full picture of it:

It’s nothing fancy.  It consists of a corner shelf with “stuff” on it, and a mirror in front of which my cauldron sits.  I do most of my work inside the cauldron being of Celtic tradition and also because I really would prefer not to burn my house down.  Cast iron manages to protect just about anything I’m cooking up or burning in there.

It’s funny really, how creative one has to get in order to get a little bit of darn peace and quiet, where small hands aren’t taking off with my stones, or opening my oils and annointing everything in sight (or drinking them).  How about you?  Are you one of the lucky ones?  Or are you like me, carving out a corner of life to fit in a just a little bit of magic?

Posted January 24, 2011 by Jessica in Uncategorized

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