The Art of Ritual: Why do we invite deity?
Usually deity is invited to join a ritual, which ones to invite is again, personal choice. Some groups may only work with specific deities whatever ritual they are performing, some will work with deities specific to the sabbat, some will call upon an all encompassing deity and just invite “The Lord and Lady” to join the rite. In coven rituals the Goddess and the God are often invited in by the High Priest or the High Priestess, but of course again if you are a solitary you will be doing all the calling. If you don’t work with deity you could just call upon Mother Earth and Father Sky, or you don’t have to include deity in your ritual at all.
Why invite deity? Well there are many reasons; we want to honour them, we would like them to witness the ritual, we would like them to enjoy the ritual, we ask for their wisdom, guidance and protection, we would like them to receive our offerings, we would like them to add their energy to our workings and to give us their blessings. The Gods can help teach us valuable lessons; they can influence our magical workings, increase our knowledge and inner strength and be there for us when we need support. But they also force us to take responsibility for our own actions and have a habit of kicking butt when necessary…
Bear in mind that each and every person may have a different perspective on deity and the divine, no one is wrong, no one is right, it just is. There are many, many aspects to deity and the divine from the gods in all their various pantheons (some of which are decidedly similar across the cultures) from nature spirits, to angels to demons. Most pagans (and I say most, this isn’t the case for everyone) will have a polytheistic belief which means instead of one god we have a whole heap load of them. My thoughts are these…deity is a huge multifaceted diamond, as one it is the divine (for me the goddess but with both feminine and masculine energies), but each facet is a different personality of deity which translate into all the different pantheons and deities therein. Of course…just because I believe it does not make it the ultimate answer.
I work with the gods to support me in my spiritual journey, over the years I have worked with many different pantheons and even more individual deities, each one has come to me for a particular reason to share their own unique energies, characteristics and wisdom. I haven’t always liked what they had to say or show me and sometimes I have fought against it but ultimately they have been there to do what was best for me.
Some traditions will only invite a goddess into the ritual preferring to work only with the feminine energy and this works well, especially in women only covens, moon circles and red tent rituals. In all of our coven rituals we bring in both the goddess and the god so that we have a balance, as we have both male and female members in the ritual it is how we prefer to work.
Who do you call?
As with most pagan questions there are many answers (fighting my inner 80s child who wants to answer with “Ghostbusters”). If you work with a specific pantheon then you might want to stick with deities within that group. If you are working a ritual for a specific sabbat you may choose to work with deities that correspond with the celebration for instance harvest gods and goddesses at Lughnasadh and dark gods and goddesses at Samhain. If you are working a ritual with an intent such as prosperity you might want to invite deities in that are associated with money and abundance.
One of the subjects that often comes up is “can I mix pantheons?” I can only answer this from personal experience…I have stuck with deities from the same pantheon and all has been fine and dandy but I have also mixed and matched. In fact my matron goddess is Celtic and my patron god is Hindu, not the most obvious of pairings but they tolerate each other. The rituals held by my coven tend to be written by a team of people, each one will make a suggestion for a deity they would like to call in, so for each ritual we have four deities; two goddesses and two gods and we have had a totally mixed bag of pantheons…I can report that so far other than a bit of rain we haven’t suffered any bolts of lightning or plagues of locusts. So my recommendation would be to go with your intuition and what works for you. What I would suggest is make sure you know at least a little bit of background about the deities you intend to work with before you invite them in you may not want to invite a powerful warrior god in for a love ritual…
How do you call them?
So you are ready to send out the party invites to the Lord and Lady, what do you do now? You know that I am going to say it’s up to you and personal choice right? However there are traditional ways of doing so. Whichever way you end up doing it always be respectful. A bellow of “oi you lot get over here” will either be ignored or you will pay for it.
Usually the male and female are invited separately. Invite them using their name, their title and say something about their reputation and the specific characteristics they bring with them, basically flatter them. Each invite is usually finished with ‘Hail and welcome’.
Some traditions will also invite their ancestors to join the ritual, the spirits of the land. It could be their own specific ancestors (i.e. grandparents) but it could also be the ancestors of their people so it might be Celtic spirits for instance. It could also be the ancestors of the land that you are standing on especially if you are outside in a forest or at a sacred place.