Non denominational rituals with a Wiccan theme.


Every religion has its rituals. Be them simple or elaborate, ritual drama is one of the key elements that help define the religious experience.

Every ritual is symbolic. Symbols transcend words and actions, they speak directly to our inner self.

Religious ritual is designed to exalt one’s consciousness, to connect us with the divine, with something that is greater than ourselves. And while every religion has its own system of values, symbols and philosophy, they are all a reflection of the human experience.

Wiccan neo pagan sensibilities.

Wiccan rituals are tied to the Earth. We celebrate our place within our planet’s rhythms and cycles. By understanding ourselves we seek to understand our world. By understanding the cycles of Nature and our place in them, we seek to understand ourselves.

While a full blown Wiccan ritual is charged with Wiccan-specific symbolism, and that symbolism is probably not adequate for a non-pagan audience, many of the underlying archetypes need not be so. The same can be said of rituals pertaining to almost every other Pagan denomination.

Ritual cycles in a stable workgroup can be established as a path of self healing and exploration. When properly crafted, these cycles can also become a path to a new understanding, to a new balance of the self. Neo Pagan rituals often focus on very basic archetypes, and require (at an essential level) nothing more than a commitment to oneself, an open mind and sincerity.

If we dress not the underlying archetypes with their usual full pagan regalia of sacred names, invocations and spellcraft, but we instead focus on the essential principles and the energy work, the possibility of sharing our experiences with our fellow non pagan brothers and sisters can be made a reality.

Why.

As I see it, the main reason is that we can learn and grow from these shared experiences. If we live in a place where there are very few Pagans around, multi-faith, non denominational rituals can also be an excellent way to celebrate the Sabbats and even some select esbats.

Another aspect we must not underestimate is the fact that these rituals can also help to dispel many of the preconceptions and “bad publicity” that Paganism usually attracts in conservative countries.

Last but not least… because it is fun, and a way to share between friends and family a constructive experience.

How.

A few words of caution: Creating and leading an effective ritual of this kind puts a lot of stress on your ability to shape and direct energy. All of the invocations will be silent, the casting of the circle will be sustained with your visualization. I do not recommend trying it if you have not solid experience leading and performing full blown solo or group rituals in the traditional way. If you are a solitary, without access to structured training, please do not attempt this unless you have already been practicing on your own for some time. The classic “a year and a day” is a good start, but only if you do your rituals in full form, without any simplification or shortcut through the opening and closing steps. Failure to heed this words of caution can lead to an ineffective ritual experience (in the best of cases), or even to the creation of a severe energy imbalance and inner harm to all the participants (in the worst case). You have been warned. Remember: In perfect love and perfect trust. An it harm none, do as you will.

The key: who to invite.

This is what you must decide first. The quality of the “mood” and energy work depends a lot on who is participating. Non Wiccan Pagans? A mixed agnostic – Christian group? New agers? An open ritual in a public park? Consider carefully. Ritual work is a deep experience. It requires a certain implicit trust to exist between all parties involved. And of course, you will be tunning the ritual to the composition of the group, so this is the first thing you must decide. Resist the urge to invite everyone, and think carefully. Write down the names of prospective participants, approach them and get a formal confirmation. Let them know what this will be all about. You need to minimize surprises as much as possible.

Ritual planning and design.

Now is the time to get your Book of Shadows/notepad/word processor/whatever. First of all, decide what will be the intent of the ritual. What are you trying to achieve. Create an entry in your book, and record the ritual intent there.

Now, start imagining the ritual. Visualize how you plan to cast the circle. Visualize how will you call upon the Quarters. Will you invoke specific deities?

This is a tricky part. If your group has non pagans in it, or people not used to magickal works, invocations can be scary for them. They may also be against Christian/Hebrew/Islamic sensitivities. It is important that you tailor this part of the ritual to your people.

In my case, I often have a mix of Christian and Agnostic friends in the group. So I do not invoke/evoke anything out loud. I visualize and vibrate internally all invocations. I erect the Watchtowers and Call on the Quarters while circling the ritual area without saying a word out loud.  I do say a few things after I have finished, to signal that the space and time is now sacred, and that the ritual is set to begin.

Write down how you plan to do it. If you are not really used to speaking in public, write down every word you plan to say. Practice it. Believe it or not, what you say(and how you say it) can have a profound impact on the overall experience.

With the opening completed, I often perform an alocution called the “Declaration of Intent”. I tell both the participants and the spirits what the ritual is about and why are we here.

Then comes the main part of the ritual. Here is where your imagination comes in. Guided visualization? basic spellwork? oracles? drama? The heart of the ritual resides here. Take as many notes as you can. Plan ahead.

After the “high point” in the ritual, you need to start winding down and grounding everyone. One of the easiest ways to do this is the “cakes and ale” formula.

I often use wine as “ale”. Unless you have people who cannot drink in your group, I recommend trying with wine. You can select the variety that most closely corresponds with the ritual ocassion (a spring sabbat? Try a sweet late harvest wine. A full moon in summer? A fresh, fruity rose wine may be perfect, slightly chilled. A new moon esbat? Go for a dark red wine, like Cabernet or Merlot. Winter nights may call for strong wine. Use your creativity.)

Cakes… can be biscuits, real cake, chocolates, whatever seems appropiate.

Decide how will you do the blessing, and how will you perform the libations and offerings (if any). Remember, write it all down.

Now, When first passing around the wine, I often invite every participant to make a toast. To say whatever comes to their mind and express it freely. Do not be pushy, respect those who want to say nothing… but encourage all to speak. On your nervous first experiences, this is your first moment of true feedback on how things are going.

Last but not least, close the ceremony: thank the spirits, dismiss the quarters, open the circle… do not rush through this. Take your time. The ritual should have symmetry: this is the mirror of the opening formulae.

After you write all this down, you will end with a script for your ritual. Read it a few times. Practice it. Change it as it seems appropriate. This is your ritual. It must flow with your energy. But remember that this is also the ritual of those who are going to take part in it. Be considerate.

Talk to your guests.

Now you have a ritual script, and a a group of people eager to participate. Time to talk and explain. When you gather round, talk them through the steps of the ritual. Not in detail, but also do not gloss over any step. Answer questions. Be prepared to make minor adjustments to your script.

They should not be surprised during the ritual except when it is absolutely important for the ritual drama and experience.

Tips of an effective ritual.

The most important tip I have to give you is: put your heart into your ritual. Be sincere. Worry not if you stumble, or if something is “not perfect”. Remember: these rituals are about basic energies at work. Keep things simple.

Darkness, fire (be it a bonfire, a small campfire or simple candles), incense and your voice are powerful elements. Do not underestimate them. Also, your body language should reflect your focus: perform every movement with intention.

Keep the ritual short. Long meditations, overly complex opening and closing ceremonies and such can kill the dynamics of a group that is just there for the first time.

Rituals in public or semi public spaces have their own set of constraints. For example: no blades (daggers, swords and the like), no one wants to get arrested!, avoid flashy pagan regalia if you are in the open, be careful with the noise level, etc.

Afterwards.

After the closing of the ceremony, if all went well, your group should be still in a slightly altered state of consciousness. This is the moment for reflections, quiet conversation and flame-staring. Let the mood relax. Keep passing along the wine and cakes. Answer questions. This stage should help ground everyone, and be a time for everyone to share whatever they want.

Some final words.

While these rituals can be quite impressive, and have a lasting effect… remember, they  are a simplification of a much more subtle work. As the officiant, it is your responsibility to manage the rhythm and shape of the ritual. To aid in the flow of energy. But remember: in group rituals, the energy at work is a shared construct. You can help direct it subtly, but you must respect the independence and development level of every participant.

Leading group rituals is a valuable experience. If you approach it with humility and dedication, it is not only rewarding in terms of friendship and social relationships… it is an opportunity for a deeply spiritual understanding and awakening.

May the Old Gods inspire you :-)

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