There are many stereotypes of pagan ritual: witches gathering in a coven to call down the moon, or cast some dark spell involving eye of newt and a big ol’ cauldron; druids standing in groves chanting at trees; crazy bacchanalian rites involving too many candles, too much wine, and too little clothing, etc. All of those are about right, for some people. Friday night I did some ritual solitary-style. Here’s what went down. (Psst, it’s not very sensational.)
I decided to cast a circle and do something more formal than my daily devotions, so that I might deepen my relationship with the Gods and Entities and Ancestors. My family is undergoing some very stressful shifts right now (more on that when the dust has settled) and I wanted some assistance in sorting things out. I decided to consult the tarot for some perspective (notice I said perspective, not answers) and I wanted to do that in a sacred space, with the assistance of this spiritual tradition.
Many elements of ritual are the same, it seems, from one form of witchcraft or paganism or religion to another. We engage our senses and our wills; we create sacred space; liturgy has a beginning, middle and end; there’s offering of some kind; etc. Firstly, I cleaned my space – my trusty dining room. I put the babies to sleep. I gathered my materials: book, pen, tarot cards, offerings, candles, incense, lighter. I lit one candle, saying the Holy Mother prayer to kick everything off. Next, I prepared myself. I did a brief meditation, cleansed myself with salt water externally, washing hands, anointing forehead, crown, nape of neck. I cleansed internally by making kala (a rite specific to Feri, as far as I know). After tidying up those items, I lit the candle in front of the Ancestors, lit a couple more candles around the room for light, lit the incense and waved it in front of Ganesh first, then the rest of the altar.
Next came the difficult part – raising the energy to cast the circle. It wasn’t that raising the energy is hard, it’s that I’ve been so run down and sleep deprived lately. However, I managed to get focused and felt the energy rise. It wasn’t particularly strong, but it was steady, and that was good. I cast the circle as I’ve been taught. For the first time I felt pretty confident about it. I called in the Guardians, the Gods, the Ancestors and Descendents, and the Fey/Spirits of the Land. I offered my grandmother a hot cup of tea with a dash of milk, and for the Andersons I poured a glass of port. At the end of the ritual I got the sense that Cora would have liked a cup of tea, too. I opened a bottle of peated Welsh whiskey and poured a glass for the Fey. The room felt close, very full and crowded. I stated what was going on and why I’d called them all to house. I asked for their guidance and help in interpreting the cards. Then, I sat down to see what the cards had to say.
Of course, the baby woke up shortly into reading. My husband brought her down and she sat at the edge of the circle happy as could be, playing with her toys. After a couple of readings, with very clear answers, the baby started to fuss. Only then did I realize that two and a half hours had passed! I packed up the cards, picked up the baby, said my thank yous and goodbyes, and took down the circle. I blew out all of the candles and went to bed, feeling peaceful and alert.
The next morning I was very tired, like I had been at a really good dinner party slightly longer than was wise. Which is kind of what a good home ritual is like. It’s not flashy, it’s not complicated, but rather like a late night gathering with good friends.
Go if you must, stay if you will. Hail and farewell!