In the past year I’ve been working on an alternate ritual structure based on my experience in Wicca, Druidry, and Heathenry. In particular I have been studying modern psychological research and attempting to incorporate some best practices to improve the flow and meaningfulness of ritual. If you’re familiar with Druid ritual structure you will note a number of similarities and differences. It is simplified and to some degree generalized. Part of the point was to create a structure that is more flexible so that people from various traditions can work together more easily. Druidry is notorious for being inflexible in its ritual structure and difficult for pagan interfaith work.
One of the things I am most pleased by is the Gratitude section. Instead of a careful naming of names in proper reversed order, which is a common practice in both Wiccan and Druid circles, we simply set aside time for gratitude in whatever form seems appropriate. I will be going into that idea deeper in future blog posts as I develop the idea. Psychology shows that gratitude is key for mental wellbeing and deeply connected to the religious urge. By allowing ourselves to open to the deeper meaning of the “Thank You” portion of the ritual, we allow ourselves to more completely feel the impulse that drives the underlying urge. We are allowed to connect with gratitude in whatever form it takes.
Another major difference: the beginning is set aside for “Land Acknowledgment” rather than “Earth Mother Offering”. This too is a broadening, and was partially created with the input of my Heathen brethren and sistren. It was also deeply informed by practices of honoring the Native American tribal histories and their place as the first and ongoing residents of the land. The earth mother is the land, but the land is more than just the Deification process. The land is inclusive of deity, spirit, and ancestor. In this ritual, I put in a tribal acknowledgment appropriate to Michigan, where I am from.
Basking in the Blessings was originally called “Wallowing in the Blessings”. In my ritual experience we have a strong tendency to spend a lot of time building up, giving offerings, singing songs and getting ready to bless the sacred items. What we don’t do is spend a lot of time allowing ourselves to sit in the blessings once received. I’ve seen this with Wiccan, Druidic, and Norse rituals. I believe it’s because our society is chronically shut off and has a difficult time with vulnerability. (Yes I’ve been reading a ton of Brene Brown. She’s great.)
Most pagan rituals on average take about an hour. We generally spend 45 minutes of that hour getting ready to spend about 15 minutes transforming ourselves. We only use 25% of our time to allow ourselves to be touched by deity in the form of cakes and ale or the waters of life. Sometimes people are tired and sometimes hungry by the time we get to the point. That’s not good. Thusly, the addition of “Basking in the Blessings”. This is often an optional portion of ritual structure, sure you can bask if you want to bask, but if you want to go straight to thanking all the deities in perfect reversal of the invocational form and stay rooted firmly in your comfortable logic, it’s perfectly acceptable. I’d love to see rituals become more balanced. I want pagans to spend about half the time on build up and half the time on wallowing in the vulnerability of connection and transformation.
Ritual is a transformative and connecting technology.
Let’s use brain science and modern knowledge to make it that, shall we?
In order there are six steps:
- Land Acknowledgement
- Container Making
- Return Flow
- Basking in the Blessings
This is the outline that I have been using for my local grove’s moon rituals:
Items in italics are examples of the things that could be done. Only one thing would be needed, but multiple options could be used in one ritual. This is not an exhaustive list, and those who have been working with this ritual form are continually working on new techniques.
Land Acknowledgement: can be Earth Mother offering, land claiming, or tribal acknowledgement.
On this day of gathering, first let us honor and remember those people who came first in this place.Here in Michigan, we honor the Odawa Tribe, the Chippewa Tribe and the Potawatomi Tribe,known now as the People of the Three Fires. These are the tribes that made treaties with the colonizers.Let us also honor the Huron Tribe and the Wyandot Tribe who did not make treaties and no longer exist as tribal entities here in Michigan.
Having honored those who lived on this land for centuries before colonization,let us give thanks to them for their stewardship then and the ongoing battles that are still being fought surrounding women’s rights, racism, oil pipelines, land, and water usage and rights.I ask that in this space of gratitude that each of us reflect on how we might come into right relationship with this land we live on and all the people who have lived and will live upon it.Please let us sit in a moment of silence.
May the spirits of land and sky and the lakes that surround us bless this shared space and may we all be blessed by joy and right action in our lives. So say we all.
Container Making: intros, group unity, building structure
Prayers for the beginning of Druid Moon:
By fire’s warm light and the striker’s firm might, we work our will
By those who are gone, and those who will come we work our willBy spirit and bone, by earth and stone we work our will tonightWe seek the pillars of desire and wisdomWe walk on this land and we are this landWe breathe in the outbreath of the spiritsWith the strength of our bodiesand the loving kindness of our heartsLet us move forward in right action,In reciprocity with all beings
So be it.
Light fire, sit in circle and vocalize, recognize the structure of the cosmos, call to liminal gods or spirits.
Connection: offerings, invitations, invocations, songs. Reaching out to the spiritual in whatever form it calls.
Return Flow: checking in with omen, blessings.
Waters of Life Prayer:“All Waters are one.The water that flowed from this tapIs the water that flowed from the pipeIs the water that flowed from the aquiferIs the water that flowed from the riverIs the water that flowed from the oceanIs the water that flowed from the skyIs the water that flowed from the sacred well where the gods reside.
All Waters are one.”
Basking in the Blessings: Empowered activities, embodiment of the blessings (“wallowing” in the blessings), “business over the horn” for prayer requests and gratitude expression.
Gratitude: can be “thank you’s” but also many things. Sitting in gratitude is key. Sometimes we share things we are grateful for in our daily lives, or ways that we are grateful for each other and the spirits. We’ve even done silent gratitude with excellent results.
If you are inspired to incorporate any of these elements into your ritual practice, I’d love to hear about it in the comments or the Book of Face.