A Weekly Ritual of Focus and Protection

At least a couple times this year I’ve mentioned the need to maintain the autonomy of your mind and to set your own agenda. While ethics compel us to respond to major events like Charlottesville, if we are always responding we allow others to dictate what we’re working on. This keeps us away from our core spiritual practices and from the work we’re called to do.

This is the “tyranny of the urgent” – we spend our time working on what demands to be done now, and in doing so, ignore the work that will build a better world next week, next year, or next decade.

Responding to Nazis is an urgent need. But unless there are Nazis in your town shouting racist threats, the more important need is to build the kind of society where no one has a reason to turn to fascism, nor would they if they did.

This is a ritual to help you focus your attention on the bigger picture – on the work your Gods and ancestors have called you to do. It includes elements of protection, so you can feel safe in stepping away from the urgent in order to work on more long-term items and issues.

Timing and location

This is not a once-and-done ritual. We are all constantly bombarded with demands for our attention. Over time, even the strongest of us will break down. We need to regularly reinforce our commitment to what’s most important.

It’s best if this ritual is done at the same time on the same day every week. If you keep a Monday – Friday work or school schedule, I suggest you do it on Sunday evenings. If you’re absolutely unable to do it at your regular time, do it as close to the regular time as possible. It is best done at dawn or dusk (“neither day nor night”) but any time of day will do.

This ritual is best done outdoors, but indoors is fine if necessary.

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The full version or the short version

There are two ways this ritual can be done: the full version or the short version. This is the full version. The short version omits the altars and everything on them – all you need is yourself, the words (do it enough and you’ll find you’ve memorized them), and a large glass or bottle of water. See and do everything other than the cleansing and pouring offerings in your mind.

I suggest you do the full version the first time, then again either once a month or once each season of the Wheel of the Year. Even if you love the full version and have plenty of time to do it each week, do the short version occasionally. A week will come when you’re slammed for time, or sick, or traveling, and just can’t do all the setup. But you can do the short version.

Setup

Set a main altar in the center of your circle. You’ll need three main items on it. First, a representation of a deity – your patron, Someone you serve, Someone you’d like to get to know better. Statues are best, but pictures or other related items (i.e. – a black feather for the Morrigan) are fine. This ritual is written for Cernunnos, who is first among Those with whom I have relationships. Choose who seems right to you.

Second, a representation of your ancestors: a photo or other memento. And third, a representation of the Spirits of the Land where you are: a plant, a rock, a bowl of dirt.

Place a small candle in front of each of the three representations. Set candles or torches in the four directions.

You’ll need something for offerings. Wine is traditional, but most other drinks are acceptable, including clean water. If you’re indoors you’ll need an offering bowl. You’ll need a bell, a wand or athame, and matches or a lighter.

You’ll also need a bowl of water at the edge of your circle.

Preparation

Do whatever gets you in a ritual frame of mind. Take a bath, listen to music, wash your hands, change your clothes. I rarely “robe up” for solitary ritual, but I do like to wear some of my Pagan jewelry.

Turn off all communication devices: TVs, radios, computers, and phones. Especially phones. Don’t just put them in vibrate mode, turn them off. This is as important as any other element of this ritual.

There’s one and only one exception to this rule. If you must do this in a place with distracting noises (i.e. – you’re indoors and your housemates won’t turn the TV off), put your phone in airplane mode and play some instrumental music – something to drown out the distractions.

Do a final check to make sure everything is in place.

Cleansing

When you’re ready to begin, approach the water bowl at the edge of your circle. Dip the fingers of one hand into the bowl and touch your forehead, then your chest (as close to your heart as you can get without undressing – if that’s just below your throat that’s fine), then your other hand.

Needless to say, if you’re doing the short version, pour the water on your hand – don’t dip your fingers into the glass you’re going to pour offerings from.

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Opening

Approach the altar and pause for a moment of silent meditation. Ground and center using whatever method you find most effective. Then ring the bell three times.

Say “I come to this place and this time to recommit myself to my Gods, my ancestors, and the Land and the Spirits of the Land.”

Pick up the wand or athame, or if you prefer, just use your index finger. Move to the East, pause, then slowly walk the circle clockwise, drawing the circle as you go. See the circle rising in deep blue light. Make a complete circle, and see the ends joining together.

When you return to the East, set down the wand or athame and light the quarter candle. Say “Spirits of the East, Spirits of Air, I call to you. Come into this circle, I ask, and share your wisdom. Help me to know what is truly important and what is not. Welcome Air!

Move clockwise to the South. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the South, Spirits of Fire, I call to you. Come into this circle, I ask, and share your inspiration. Help me to find a passion for justice and truth. Welcome Fire!

Move clockwise to the West. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the West, Spirits of Water, I call to you. Come into this circle, I ask, and share your love. Help me to have compassion for all, even those I must oppose. Welcome Water!

Move clockwise to the North. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the North, Spirits of Earth, I call to you. Come into this circle, I ask, and share your stability. Help me to do what must be done. Welcome Earth!

Move clockwise back to the East, then return to the main altar.

Invocations

If you’re doing the short version, skip the candles but pour the offerings.

Light the candle in front of the Land Spirits representation and say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, you who were here long before me, I invite you into this circle. May we share this place in honor and friendship. Accept this offering, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the glass in offering, then pour it onto the ground or into the offering bowl.

“Spirits of this place – hail and welcome!”

Light the candle in front of the Ancestors representation and say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, you whose child I am and on whose foundations I build, I invite you into this circle. May I continue your lines in power and strength, and may I live so as to be worthy of the honor of those who come after me. Accept this offering, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the glass in offering, then pour it onto the ground or into the offering bowl.

“Blessed ancestors – hail and welcome!”

Light the candle in front of the Deity representation and say “Cernunnos, Lord of the Animals and Lord of the Hunt, God of the Forest and of green growing things, I invite you into this circle. May I join You in the Great Work of this time and place. Accept this offering, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the glass in offering, then pour it onto the ground or into the offering bowl.

“Cernunnos – hail and welcome!”

Set the glass back on the altar.

Main Working

This is a rite of listening. Stand – or if necessary, sit – in front of the main altar. Focus your attention on the three representations. If you’re doing the short version, see them in your mind. Let your eyes, your mind, and your attention see one, then another, then the third. Move back and forth between the three representations at the speed that seems right to you – and that speed may change during the course of the ritual.

Eventually, your attention – your focus – will settle on one of the three. One will speak while the others are silent. All will speak but one will be louder than the others. If one is not clearly calling to you more than the others, you must choose, by whatever criteria seems right to you at the time – even if it seems trivial later on. You’ll be doing the ritual weekly, so if they all have something to say, you’ll be able to listen to the others soon.

Now, listen.

Listen with your physical ears – what do you hear? Listen with your other ears – what do you hear? What are your Gods, your ancestors, or the spirits of the land telling you? Pay attention to sounds and voices, to feelings and intuitions, to thoughts that seem random… but not too random. If your mind starts to wander to what you’re having for dinner or what went on at work last week, bring it back to the focus of this ritual.

Listen.

What are they calling you to say, write, build, create, sing, or become?

Listen.

Don’t analyze what you hear. Don’t think about how you’re going to do it. Don’t think about how much it scares you… and how much it thrills you. There will be plenty of time for that later.

Listen.

Listen for as long as feels necessary. Some weeks that may be one minute. Other weeks it may be an hour. Listen for as long as they’re speaking to you.

When you’re done, give thanks in your own words.

Pick up the glass, pour an offering to whoever spoke to you, then take a sip yourself. Set the glass back on the altar.

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Protection

Bring your attention back to yourself, and find your center. From that center, send roots down your legs, through your feet, and into the ground. Feel the warm, moist Earth. Begin to pull energy up from the Earth into your center.

Again from your center, send branches out of your head and into the sky. Feel the power of the sun, the moon, and the stars. Begin to pull energy down from the sky into your center.

Now feel the energy expanding from your center, through your body, through your skin, and emerging outside you. In your mind’s eye, see a bubble of glowing energy surrounding you, ready to deflect any and all maleficent magic or ordinary attacks.

When the bubble is established, withdraw your roots and branches into your center and return your focus to your circle.

I do a variation on this protection work every morning.

Farewells

Say “Cernunnos, Lord of the Animals and Lord of the Hunt, I thank You for your presence and Your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”

Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”

Say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”

Closing

Say “Spirits of the North, West, South, and East, Spirits of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”

Pick up the wand or athame, or if you prefer, just use your index finger. Move to the East, pause, then slowly walk the circle counterclockwise, pulling up the circle as you go. See the last of your circle disappear as you return to the East.

Ring the bell three times.

Say “This rite of focus and protection is complete. Hail and farewell.”

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Afterward

Take a breath. Turn on some music, or if you were playing background music, change to something lively and vocal. Drink some water. Turn on the lights. Do something to reorient yourself in the ordinary world.

Extinguish the candles, then begin to pick up and put away. If you performed this ritual indoors, dispose of the offerings in an appropriate manner.

You may wish to write about your experience in your journal, particularly if your experience was strong. Focus on recording the experience, not on your interpretation of the experience. You have the rest of your life to figure out what it all means, but you have only a short time before your recollection of the events begins to fade.

Response

The purpose of this ritual is to help you stay focused on what’s important, not just what’s urgent – to help you follow your agenda for your life and not someone else’s.

Whatever you heard needs a response. Perhaps it’s a simple task you can do right now. Perhaps it’s a larger project you need to start, or continue, or finish. Perhaps it’s something else – only you can say for sure.

Which, after all, is the purpose of this ritual.

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