Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ritual Design Considerations

Life has been so crazy around here. There is a lot to be grateful for, and some that has our household reeling. This Saturday is the Full Moon and it is also a festival that historically has been dedicated to Diana. In recent years, however, August 13th has become linked with Hekate.

So I'm trying to figure out what to do for the event. I have a few people coming over for a potluck, but I also have responsibilities to Hekate that night via the Covenant of Hekate and my own relationship with the Keybearer.

I have a painting that I did of a vision that Hekate gave me back in March that I will be dedicating to her and offering, then hanging it at my altar in my bedroom. It is moments like these that I realize it is probably good that we live in a small place right now, because the list of people that I wish we could invite.

Ritual design can be tricky, especially when designing for a group. One needs to take into consideration the space, the way that sound carries, the experience levels of each participant. For example, you want people to each participate, but you don't want the new person to be put in charge of holding a quarter during an intense ritual.

If you don't own the room you are using for the ritual, you want to look over the rules of the property. Follow the rules, even if they put a cramp in your hopes for the property.

At the same time, think about why you are doing the ritual. If it is like this weekend's plans for me, dedicated to a specific deity, try to tailor the food as well as the ritual to their tastes. Decorate with the symbols of the god in question, and plan to answer questions about the deity from those who aren't familiar with them.

If your ritual is more focused on spellcraft, then tailor it towards your intent. If the ritual is one of healing, then try to decorate with colors that are soothing.

Begin the ritual with an explanation of your purpose, and then do something to delineate a difference in purpose. Most neo-Pagans do this by casting a circle.
In my experience circles work best with altars in each direction for the elements, but that isn't always practical. In my current living room, there isn't room for that many tables. So we tend to keep all the elements on one table.

Ultimately, rituals all follow a pattern, so it is important to make sure that your own design touches each of the steps.

I. Preparation: Set up the space. Ritually bathe and purify the area. Dress in fresh clean clothes. Take a moment to prepare by meditation.

II. Establishing Sacred Space: In many Pagan rituals this means casting the circle, inviting the elements, and welcoming the Gods and ancestors.

III. Statement of Purpose

IV. Ritual Acts. This is where you do the work itself. It might be as simple as meditation, or it might be ritual dancing and singing. Sometimes it is a lengthy event.

V. Gratitude. Be sure to give thanks to the Gods and spirits involved in the ritual. If you have a feast as part of the event, ask the Gods to bless the food and offer part of it to them prior to sharing it amongst yourself.

VI. Ending the Rite. Give thanks again to the Gods and Spirits and explain that the rite is done and that the Elementals should depart. Essentially you want to say, "Thank you for coming, the party is over." Then be sure to ground and center. Take a moment for meditation.

VII. Clean up. Pick up everything. If you need to do something like set out your offerings, do so now.

VIII. Follow up. If you were casting a spell, you need to do something in your everyday life to enact the ritual. If you cast a job spell, send in applications, go to interviews and generally do the footwork involved in getting a job. For a healing spell, eat accordingly if you are the recipient of the spell.

And there you have it. Sit back and let the acts reverberate through your life. Pay attention to dreams and the events of your life afterward. Some people include divination in their rituals, which would take place after the ritual act or after the gratitude portion.

This is, of course, just a basic outline. It won't work for everyone obviously.

May the Gods walk with you in darkness and light,