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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in public ritual

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Tug-O-War Rope - Rental-World

The center of the ritual that night was to be a tug-of-war between Summer and Winter.

I think the occasion was Beltane, back in the early days of Paganistan, down at the old River Circle, in its grove of cottonwood trees. Energy was high; folks couldn't wait.

I can't remember how we chose who was going to pull for Summer, and who for Winter; maybe we counted off around the circle. Maybe we drew lots.

Anyone, there we were: rope in hands, ready to have a good haul to settle which season would prevail. (This being Minnesota, I can only hope that the Winter folks would have had the good sense—not to mention the sense of civic duty—to put up a good struggle, and then let Summer win.)

As I said, energy was high. Once we had the rope in hand, people immediately started shouting and tugging. Everyone was having lots of fun; the power in the air was palpable.

Then the priestess killed it.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Gorgon Medusa part 4 - My Favourite Planet People

A principle of effective ritual-planning from my friend and colleague Robin Grimm: Do the math.


Question: If each participant at your ritual is to have a two-minute personal experience—an encounter with a deity, say—and there are 60 people in attendance, how long will that take?

Answer: Way too f*ckin' long.


The premise of the Medusa Ritual was a good one, addressing a need that goes largely unaddressed by contemporary pagan liturgy.

None of us live up to our values all the time. All of us have things that we'd like to get off our consciences.

So, the premise of the ritual was: you confess your (to use a good old pagan term) sin to Medusa. She turns your sin to stone, it crumbles into dust, and falls off of you.

Unfortunately, the ritualists hadn't done the math.


One hundred people. A maybe five-minute encounter each with Her Snakeyness.

It was excruciating.


A principle of ritual attendance from my friend and colleague Sparky T. Rabbit: Vote with your hooves. When ritual becomes ritual abuse, get out.

Alas, more easily said than done. I really wanted to vote with my hooves—politely, unobtrusively—at a recent Samhain ritual during which we waited interminably while people had their private “word with the Crone.” Irritable with boredom and low blood sugar, I really wanted to head off to the feast tables.

But I was a guest. To have walked away would have been a rejection of those who had so kindly welcomed me to their circle, and the very real community that our shared presence in that circle constituted.

So I didn't do it. More the fool me, maybe.


When the torture that was the Medusa Ritual was finally over, we sat, soul-numb, around the campfire. The definitive word on the experience was spoken by Gandalf, a much-beloved community elder known for his kindness and generosity of spirit.

What that ritual needed,” he said, “was Three Medusas, no waiting.”

Mistakes are only bad if we fail to learn from them.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    And you, and you...and you were there.
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    (Knowing wink.)

 Replacement Sliding Patio Doors | Stanek Custom Patio Doors

In a moment of weakness a couple of months ago, I agreed to cantor for this ritual. Now that the time is here, quite frankly, I don't really want to do it.

But I agreed to it, so I do it anyway. That's what personal honor is all about.

At first, things go fine. I'm a good cantor not because I have a particularly nice voice—it's pleasant enough, but no great shakes—but because I've got a good memory for tunes. Of the ten possible tunes to which we could sing these particular words, I can access the one that we want, on the spot. This gift of instant recall is so deeply ingrained that it took me a long time to realize that it's not something that everyone can do. That's why I'm here: gifts are for the sharing.

About two-thirds of the way through the ritual, I start in with a tune that I've just learned. Two days ago, I didn't know it, though I'd heard it before; but I'm a quick study, and it's been running through my head pretty much continuously ever since. Life for the musical is lived to an internal soundtrack. I woke up this morning with the tune running through my head.

The song starts with a chorus. The tune is catchy, and everyone sings along enthusiastically.

Then comes the verse, and a crevasse opens up at my feet.

The tune is gone.

Every performer knows that sooner or later you're going to screw up bigtime in public. If you survive it, without drying, this invariably marks a turning point in your performance career. It's the performer's initiation, really, and not everyone manages to get through with confidence intact.

But if you do, it changes what comes after. Once you've already made a fool of yourself in public and survived anyway, you lose a lot of your fear of ever having it happen again.

I open my mouth and sing. What comes out of it isn't the tune; it's not even a good improvisation.

But I keep going anyway, if unbeautifully, and in no time we're back at the chorus and back on track. Hey, this is ritual: chances are, people aren't paying particularly close attention to the details. Besides, I've been here before, and managed to come out still alive on the other side.

This is one of the lessons of the priesthood (one which, sadly, many never learn): that your job as priest is to direct the focus, not to be the focus. Sometimes that means that you have to pull the kind of attitude that a cat pulls when it runs headfirst into the sliding glass door: you sit back, preen, and radiate: I meant to do that.

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 Oak King Green Man Pagan God Summer Solstice 11x14 Print Pagan image 1


Two pagan rituals.

Which one would you rather attend?


Ritual A

Circle is cast.

Priestess invokes Green Man.

Clad in green paint and living leaves, the Green Man springs into the circle.

Green Man gives a speech about who he is and what he does.


Ritual B

Circle is cast.

Priestess invokes Green Man.

Clad in green paint and living leaves, the Green Man springs into the circle.

Drums come up.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    The throb of the drums will always lead us back to the heart of Pagandom. Praise to the drums, and their drummers!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I like that version C with the strange drink tasting of nuts and fungus, but I would like to be numbered among the drummers instea
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I've always felt that, like sex, ritual needs to be something that people do together, not what one person does to another. (Proba
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    B, of course. I have a hard time with performative ritual, where attendees just stand around and watch other people do stuff. Dan
  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    How about version C? Clad in green paint and living leaves, the Green Man springs into the circle. The Green Man offers strange

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 The dazzling crown which sat on the Queen's coffin - BBC News

Well, I sure hope that pagans were watching attentively during the recent funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Let's just admit it: for the most part, large-scale pagan ritual (at least here in the US) is, frankly, pretty execrable. Modern pagan ritual, handicapped by its default grounding in the Wiccan-style Magic Circle, only rarely—if ever—makes good ritual of scale.

Fortunately, nobody does ritual of scale like the English.

Some highlights from the royal funeral—from the parts of it, at least, that I saw myself:


The Cortege to St. George's Chapel

Ritual of scale requires choreography, and an eye for larger patterns. Watching the Coldstream Guards—and those with them—walking in unified lockstep as they accompanied the queen's body down the three-mile Long Walk to St. George's Chapel was deeply moving.

Takeaway: Many people doing the same thing together—especially moving together—in unison, has immense power to stir deeply


Carrying the Coffin Up the Stairs of St. George's Chapel

Surrounded by stillness, eight beautiful, burly young guys slowly bore the royal coffin, draped with the monarch's personal flag, the crown jewels, and flowers, up the stairs. The coffin never tilted with the incline of the stairs, but was borne horizontal to the ground at all times.

Takeaways: Precision matters. Use your resources to their best effect. Use available beauty to best advantage.


The Removal of the Crown Jewels from Coffin to Altar

One by one, the Royal Jeweler removed the Crown Jewels from the coffin where they had rested throughout the funeral. Then they were borne to the altar, where three purple cushions awaited them: first the scepter, placed to the left; then the orb, placed right; and lastly the crown, placed center. (Important ritual principle: Save the most important till last.) Did you notice the order in which they were removed? Did you notice the different orientation of the three cushions? Did you notice that everyone handling the regalia wore gloves, with the exception of the consecrated priest?

Takeaway: Ritual of scale imparts a sense of meaning whether or not we understand the significance of every detail. Don't explain; symbolism should speak for itself.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Gone with the Window

Hundreds of us, jammed into the hallway outside the hotel ballroom, waiting for the doors to open and the ritual to begin.

The power in the air was palpable.

Like atoms which, when compressed, generate heat, so too with bodies. You could taste the energy mounting, mounting, as more and more people pressed in.

Finally, the double doors swung open. With a cheer, we stampeded into the room.

Then the ritualist killed it.

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Prelude to a Public Ritual

 When enacting ritual in public, it's always best to make the directions part of the ritual itself.

Horns blow.

Procession to altar.


At the altar, officiant raises arms and chants:

Let all cell phones be turned off now: So mote it be.

Let all cell phones be turned off now: So mote it be.

Let all cell phones be turned off now: So mote it be.

(People join in third time.)

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