Planning A Ritual
Article ID: 15402
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,842
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Author: Janice Van Cleve
Posted: June 30th. 2013
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It is 11:00 on a Sunday morning and the women begin gathering at a private home. Immediately coats go on the couch, tea and cocoa are served in the kitchen, and happy chatter fills the room. It is a very relaxed and cozy mood among good friends, and in this atmosphere newcomers blend in effortlessly. We talk about just anything – our lives, our projects, relationships, health issues, children, jobs, politics, dogs, food or whatever. We laugh and joke. There is no structure to this at all – yet in reality this is the beginning of the weaving of our upcoming ritual.
For in the process of this girl talk, magical things are happening. We are reconnecting with those we have not seen since the last Sabbat. We are rebonding in sisterhood. We are “dumping our buckets” to get out of our minds and off our shoulders things that might distract us from the work at hand. Sometimes it just helps to get things out there so they don’t bubble and brew within us unspoken. Besides, we also listen to each other. Ever stop to think how few times in this world people actually look right at us and listen to us with both ears? Attentive listening is one of the greatest gifts we give each other. Through all this we are weaving the strands of our lives and our concerns together into meaningful themes, which we can later express in song, activities, and especially in our intention for the magical workings we will write into our ritual.
We move into the living room. Around the coffee table are flyers and scripts from previous rituals. We have been at this for 23 years so we have quite a deep reservoir of ritual history upon which to draw. Some of our rituals, such as Candlemas, are fairly structured, for at that time we make our dedications to the Goddess and to the Circle. Others, such as Samhain, are laden with heavy purpose and our intentions and mood are already directed toward a known end. Yet even for these Sabbats, our process promotes creativity and meaningfulness for the here and now.
This is because we start from the baseline that every Sabbat will occur whether we do anything or not. We do not turn the Wheel of the Year. The Wheel was turning just fine before we showed up and it will continue to turn long after we are gone. Our goal is to catch the rising energy of the Sabbat with our intentions, to magnify the effect of our rituals and thereby leverage our magical work. It’s like surfing. We seek to catch the wave at its rise. Besides the fact we get more women on the weekend, this is the reason we schedule our rituals on the Sunday of, or before, the actual Sabbat date.
As our chatter continues, we begin to discern general themes that capture where our energies are at this moment. We do not draw our rituals from medieval practices or liturgical recipe books. We are urban Pagans. We don’t shear sheep, run cattle between bonfires, burn straw figures, or harvest grains. Our concerns and motivations – that is, the energies alive and present within us right now – are things that are relevant in our lives today. This is energy already present. We capitalize on this energy by folding it into our intention and the rest of our script.
Intention is everything. Without a clear, concise, and purposeful intention there can be no magic. Too many ritual intentions are vague, vapid, or cobbled together into mishmash that confuses the focus of the energy. We confine ourselves to a statement of intent that has only one verb after “We work our magic to . . ..” This gives us a definite target at which to aim.
Of course not all the concerns active in the group can be incorporated into one intention statement. We take the secondary concerns and weave them into the songs and activities, meditations, trance journeys, etc. that will be written into the script. Yet even so, these concerns will be directed to assisting the principle intention. All voices are welcome in this process from newcomers as well as veterans. No one has a monopoly on good ideas!
The seasons certainly play a major role in the construction and appearance of the ritual. We like to do our rituals outdoors when we can. We try to incorporate seasonal attributes. We also use a color code to fit the season and promote unity and harmony for our magical work. Winter solstice is deep rich colors like magenta, purple, etc. Candlemas is white. Spring equinox is green. Beltane is red. Summer solstice is generally blue. Lammas is yellow. Autumn equinox is oranges, browns, and olives. Samhain is black. They usually don’t have to be formal robes or cloaks. Jeans and t-shirts that show some effort was put into choosing the color is enough. Preparing our clothes itself sets apart our ritual from the mundane and even raises some energy!
In the process of this good-natured banter, the woman designated as the scribe begins to write down the general themes. Sometimes we can wordsmith an intention first thing. Other times it is the activities or energy raising that takes shape first. It is an organic process but it works every time. Our preliminary conversations have moved us into a mindset where the juices are flowing and words and ideas leap out, coalesce, merge and blossom into something beautiful.
Another reason that this organic ritual planning process works is that we already know our 5 C’s and 5 B’s. The 5 C’s are: Clear the area, Cast the circle, Consecrate the circle, Call the directions, and Crystallize the intention. The 5 B’s end the ritual in reverse order: Benediction, Bid farewell, Bring down the rampart, Broaden the circle, and Back to the mundane. There is a lot of background behind each of these, but that must wait for another article. Suffice it to say that these standard practices are the wood, the intention is the cauldron, and our activities and energy raising cook the soup inside.
Our planning meetings have a fixed time. We always meet two Sundays before the ritual date. The whole process takes about two hours. There is no “Pagan standard time” here. We start on time and we end on time. Nothing makes a meeting more effective than knowing for sure when it will start and when it will end. It is a sign of respect for those who show up, it gives us a specific target range in which to accomplish our work, and it allows us to plan other activities for the rest of the day. Meetings that drag on with no end in sight are dull, inefficient, and don’t bring people back.
One last note: our planning meetings are also final exams for our initiates. After a year and a day of training, practicing roles, reading, etc. the initiate becomes the scribe for the meeting and writes the next ritual. At that ritual, she will be inducted into full membership by the facilitators in a special ceremony. It is a fitting celebration of her efforts and a demonstration of her mastery of our process.
By 1:00 pm we are done and the scribe goes off to transform her notes into flyers for the general attendees and scripts for the cast. We feel energized and renewed by the work we have done, the sisters with whom we’ve renewed our bonds, and our imaginations perked with excitement for the ritual to come.
Copyright: Janice Van Cleve; Copyright 2013.
Janice Van Cleve
Location: Seattle, Washington
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Bio: Janice Van Cleve is a priestess with the Women Of The Goddess Circle, a Dianic Wiccan circle located in Seattle. The website is www.wotg.doodlekit.com. Copyright 2013.
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