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Planning A Festival Rite

Author: Tara "Masery" Miller
Posted: March 12th. 2006
Times Viewed: 3,396

The summer festival season draws together solitary Pagans and Pagan groups from every tradition. Even people of other religions attend either out of curiosity or to be with a Pagan they know. How can a ritual be put together for all of these different people? The answer is to design the ritual not necessarily from a Pagan point of view but a human one. All cultures have rituals of some kind. The main purpose for every ritual is to celebrate the passage of time, a significant event, or create change within ourselves that can lead to change in the world around us.

A public ritual is not the place to perform a major magical undertaking. That requires all of the participants to trust each other and be perfectly in synch. At a major gathering, you have to expect distractions. People may be sunburned, tired, and hungry. Kids could be running around the circle or there may be noise from the vendor booths or workshops. Do expect that each person attending will have a different experience at the ritual. That is out of the hands of the organizers; however, the leaders can take steps to make sure it is a pleasant event.

Here is an outline of the different stages of a ritual. Some of them include tips for public gatherings.

I. Preparation

Just because the ritual is simplified, doesnít mean it canít be a sacred and mystical experience. The leaders can do much behind the scenes to prepare sacred space.

A. Determine the Energies, size of the circle, and position of the gate.

Spiritual essence moves like the wind and the leaders should be aware of the direction the essence flows because it will affect the magic. Always think spherical when determining the direction. Put the entrance gate in a place where the essence will flow in and easily coalesce in the center. If ritual is indoors, physical space will be a major factor in placement of the entrance gate. Sometimes energy will move from sky to earth or vice versa; put the gate in a direction that represents the intent and allow the energy to move in the center. Now the participants wonít be going against the natural lay of the room or area.

Make sure all the elemental callers and circle guardians of the ritual understand the perimeters and energies of the circle.

B. Purify the area with salt, incense, or blessed water. The participants may not be focused but the leaders can connect with the area to prepare mentally.

C. The Callers of the directions or elements can spend time meditating to connect with the elemental essence they will be calling.

D. Circle Guardians are people who stand post or walk the perimeter of a sacred circle to protect participants from unwanted photographers or other rude people. They can also stand at the circle gate as participants enter, their presence impressing the importance that they behave. Guardians are most important for outdoor and public rituals. There should be at least one and as many as needed depending on the size of the gathering. Usually one per twenty participants.

II. The Call

In some way - by music, an announcement, chanting, drums, or some other way to get peopleís attention - the participants are called to gather.

Take a few minutes to explain what the ritual is about and how it will be conducted. Keep the intent of the ritual simple. It could be a celebration of life and community. Everyone can understand that, because there is a human need to be a part of something.

III. Grounding and Entrance


To relax and get into the right frame of mind, participants are lead in a meditation. If there is a song for them to participate in, donít have multi-line verses. Keep it simple to three lines repeated. Itís awkward not knowing the words and reading from a piece of paper is distracting. It also costs a lot to make that many prints.

If there are a lot of people, there may not be time to cleanse each participant. With a large group you also have to be conscious of allergies. I participated in a ritual once were the contents of the anointing oil wasnít announced and a friend of mine with cinnamon allergies was seriously burned. Anointing or incense can be left out. Prepare a nice looking gate and during the ritual explanation ask people to imagine the cares of the day to be left behind as they pass through. That is a chance for circle guardians at the gate to focus on dissipating peopleís cares as they pass.


The callers should either already be at their quarters or they enter first. They can help direct participants clockwise and space them out so each person is at a comfortable distance from the next.

The next four steps can be the most creative.

IV. Casting the Circle
V. Calling the Quarters
VI. Invoking Spirit
VII. Working and Power Raising

It is awkward enough standing in full view of total strangers. Donít ask participants to understand or speak in foreign languages or learn a multi-step dance. One of the biggest arguments among Pagans is which deity should be called and my deity doesnít like your deity. Paganism teaches that we are all divine beings in physical form because divinity is immanent. How about invoking the inner Spirit? This will remind or introduce participants to this important principle.

Common sense dictates that the Great Rite shouldnít be performed at a public ritual and that participants shouldnít be naked in the city park or hotel ballroom.

VIII. Releasing Power
IX. Grounding and Centering Excess Energy

All kinds of people attend public rituals from Pagan elders who have participated for decades to new members. Not everyone is going to understand ritual lingo. Explain things in simple terms.

X. Communion (also known as Cakes and Ale)

Three things to consider when deciding if the passing of cakes and ale should be offered at a public ritual: How much will it cost to have enough food and drink? Will there be enough cups so all these people arenít sharing germs? (Communicable disease canít be prevented by magic no matter how much you want them to be.) Is there time to pass food and drink to all of these people? (If there are almost a hundred people, it could take twenty minutes or more. Time adds up and if people are standing it can get painful. I know. Iíve been to a three-hour-long handfasting. I was surprised the couple had the energy to consummate the marriage afterward in their tent!)

XI. Dismissal of Divinity and the Elements
XII. Opening Circle
XIII. Closing Processional

Iíve been to public ritual where people didnít understand it was over. The leadership just wondered off and left the participants confused. The leaders of a public circle can let people know the circle is open and the ritual is over in some way. It could be by saying, ďThank you for participating in the circle. May you enjoy the rest of the festival.Ē The callers can lead participants out of the circle. Or musicians can lead people out. This guidance helps prevent congestion at exits in a room, instead of people just walking away in all directions and offers a sense of conclusion.

Always expect the unexpected at a public ritual but by planning to be simple and safe, you increase the chances of everyone having a wonderful time.


Tara "Masery" Miller

Location: Licking, Missouri

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