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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
What's With All of This Ritual?
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Recently, I was chatting with a friend and the subject of ritual came up. This friend, who is relatively new to the Craft, sometimes doesn’t understand why things are done as they are done. He possesses the logic of a Vulcan and constantly questions everything he sees and hears in regards to the process of Witchcraft. He and I were talking about the casting of a sacred circle and what it takes to do such things. Since he had only ever seen this done ritually, I sat down and closed my eyes to show him that a full-blown ritual was not necessary.
Drawing the energy upward and outward (as I learned to do) , I cast a circle. There was no chanting, no movement, and no words to be spoken. It was a simple movement of the energy. When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me strangely. He felt the energy move, a bubble surrounding us. I smiled and announced that the circle was cast. He then asked, “If it’s that easy to cast a circle, what’s with all of the pomp and circumstance of ritual?”
This simple question really got me thinking. Why do practitioners of the Craft (myself included) have to have ritual? Why do we have to cast a circle, call the elements, and invoke our gods? If the moving of energy and the manufacturing of coincidence is magic and we really don’t need anything other than our own will, why do ritual of any kind? Why do we spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on tools, or spend days and weeks of our time searching for and decorating the perfect tool if these things aren’t really needed? Why are we so intent on possessing candles, stones, incense, cards, and other ‘magical’ trinkets? Is there a reason for picking out the perfect robe? What is our motive for picking out ritual jewelry?
Why do any of these things matter? What’s with all of this ritual stuff?
I have a theory on this. Some may say this theory is truth, while others say that it’s bullsh*t. I say it is theory because both truth and bullsh*t are absolute, and we all know that in the Craft, what works for one may not work for another. I also say it is theory because theories are ever evolving and changing as more knowledge is gained. So, a theory it is.
We pagans do ritual to create a certain mindset. Our robes, cords, candles and incense all turn our minds away from our mundane lives and set our minds in a spiritual mode. This is done much in the same way by our Christian counterparts who dress in suits and ties and dresses and fancy hats on Sunday. For that allotted amount of time, we are neither here nor are we there, but in some in-between place where the energy flows easily and as a solitary or group, we can direct it in the direction we want it to go. We open up and can feel and hear and see the intent we project. Our will becomes a tangible thing, drifting and swirling under the gentle rays of the full moon as we chant and dance and beseech our gods to make it so.
The mindset we create is planting a seed in the subconscious mind, that part of the mind that is directly connected to the divine. By changing our clothing and jewelry for ritual the seed begins to quickly grow and flower. Consciously, we are simply donning robes and ‘getting ready’. Subconsciously, the scents, colors, and textures as well as the sounds of pre-ritual preparation are a trigger. The chatter of our conscious mind begins to still as the drum calls us to circle. The chants begin and we shift into a worshipful attitude. The mundane no longer matters, indeed it no longer even exists. When this happens the barrier between the conscious and subconscious minds begins to blur and we slip into an altered state, a state of being more open to the energies of the universe and messages from the divine. We truly become one with the Mother and Father.
So, when does that ritual mindset move from just sabbats and esbats and into daily life? When does the practitioner find themselves living their ritual daily? When does it happen that you walk into a group circle (or even cast your own) without all of the chanting and ritual garb and the incense smoke hanging in the air? When does the altered state of consciousness become something we slip in and out of without all of the pomp and circumstance? Does it take years of intense study? Is it something preached about by a teacher? Or, is it something we do unconsciously when we drift off into daydream?
We create this altered state of consciousness, this ‘opening up’ if you will, all in those still, quiet moments. For some, those moments last longer, but for others, it’s only that flash of silence that is needed to get an answer. Maybe the answer is to a question we didn’t even know to ask! When we recognize those moments and begin to listen, we suddenly realize that none of this stuff is needed, not truly. No ritual, no robes, cords, chants, none of it is a necessity. These are all things we hold on to and when we find ourselves letting them go, we find ourselves in a simple state of being. In that state of being, we are open. We catch the wisdom of the aether. We take it in, maybe record it, and make it a part of us, but then we release it.
We find the spiritual in taking a walk and picking wildflowers. We find our connection to the divine, growing, becoming something more than it was. We begin to feel the pulse of the Mother as She cycles through life, death, and rebirth. Before we know what has happened, life has become our ritual and all of the pomp and circumstance becomes added fun.
Copyright: (c) Lightgoddess 2012
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