Last Saturday’s Denton CUUPS Beltane ritual was far more than the traditional Maypole Dance at the beginning. It was also the Cernunnos Ritual – an invitation for participants to experience the Lord of the Animals and God of the Forest in an unscripted, ecstatic setting.
As with the first Cernunnos Ritual in 2013, this ritual happened because He wanted it to happen. When we were planning our circle calendar last fall, I got the strong message “it’s time to do it again.” And so we did. We kept the same basic structure but wrote a new main working… most of which I received at the ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat.
I seriously questioned whether or not I should publish the monologue and dialogue from this ritual. Pagan ritual is not an intellectual exercise – it’s an experience of the senses. A blog post can allow you to read the words and see a few images, but it cannot help you experience a torchlight procession. It cannot allow you to feel the drums, smell the fire, see the altar, and hear the passion in the voices of the participants. It cannot allow you to feel the presence of a divine being.
But written words can communicate the concepts and ideas of the ritual. And if you are in the proper frame of mind – and if He is so inclined – it may facilitate your own communication with the God of the Forest, where ever you are right now.
This is not the complete ritual. The meditation was followed by the procession and opening ritual. The monologue was divided up between four priests and was immediately followed by the dialogue. Our drummers asked the questions – the priests responded. The invocation followed the dialogue, and it in turn was followed by further invocations that simply cannot be communicated in writing.
And then it happened.
Get comfortable, close your eyes, and take a deep breath.
Take a second.
And a third.
Imagine you are living in Britain some two thousand years ago. Your family and your lands are fine, the same as they’ve always been. But you’ve heard news of an empire that that now controls many of the lands around you, and you’re concerned.
Tonight is Beltane, the beginning of Summer, and despite your worries you intend to celebrate. You will join your family and friends in the sacred grove, and you will make the offerings to your Gods and ancestors. If this empire comes to your home, you will need all the allies you can muster, both in this world and in the Otherworld. What better way to form and strengthen your alliances than with a feast?
The sun is setting – it is almost time. You hear the drums calling you to the ancient ritual.
Drummers begin drumming a lively beat
As you walk towards the sacred grove, your mind begins to think of the Gods of your tribe. Who are they? What have they called you to do? How have you responded?
It is two thousand years later, half a world away, and much has changed. But much has not. The drums still call us to ancient ritual.
Open your eyes. Take a deep breath, and be here now.
Please form a single line and follow us into our sacred grove – into our temple.
If 2016 was the year of Death, 2017 is the year of The Tower.
In the Tarot, the Tower card represents sudden, dramatic, and unpleasant change. The Tower is built on a weak foundation, so it cannot stand against the storms. For the past six years, many of us have heard “a storm is coming.”
Now, the storm is here.
But the storm did not begin on January 20. The storm has its origins in Empire, an empire that began in Rome, was re-created in London, and now resides in Washington, New York, Brussels, and in the boardrooms of every large corporation in the world. It is an empire that values Nature only for how it can be exploited. It is an empire that pays lip service to the equality of all but sees humans only as resources to be used up and then thrown away. It is an empire that while not as openly brutal as Rome is far more efficient in dealing death and destruction.
For years, we ignored Empire because we liked the guy in the White House. We ignored Empire because we enjoyed the cheap goods made in sweatshops in other parts of the world. We ignored Empire because we didn’t have to look at the bodies of those killed in air strikes and drone attacks, and because the refugees were showing up on the shores of Europe and in not the airports of America.
Now Tower Time is here, and we can no longer look away.
2017 has seen a resurgence in civic engagement. People who rarely bothered to vote are calling and writing their elected representatives, giving money to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, and marching in the streets.
This is a good thing. Representative democracy only works when it is a participative activity and not left to professional politicians and their wealthy donors.
But if we put our trust in the law, we will always be disappointed. If we put our identity in politics, we will always be incomplete. If we put our faith in government, we will ignore our allies in this world and in the world beyond.
We have put our faith in the wrong things.
You think government is strong? Nature is stronger. You think politics is strong? The human spirit is stronger. You think the law is strong? Magic is stronger.
Who can stand against us when we align ourselves with the currents of Nature? Who can stand against us when we ally ourselves with our Good Neighbors in honor and respect? Who can stand against us when rank upon rank of mighty ancestors surround us? And who can stand against us when we ally ourselves with the Gods?
Q: What Gods?
A: A God such as one who is here tonight.
Q: Why is He here?
A: The God of the Forest reminds us to care for Nature, and to respect all her creatures.
Q: Why should we care?
A: The Lord of the Herds reminds us to care for each other, and ourselves.
Q: What can we do?
A: The God of Liminal Spaces reminds us that we have magic.
Q: How can we keep going in such difficult times?
A: The Mighty Stag reminds us that we too are full of power and beauty.
Q: How can we stand?
Cernunnos, Lord of the Animals and Lord of the Hunt, we ask you to join our circle and bless us with your presence.
Rituals like this do not end with the closing bell and the transition to the social hour. What was seen cannot be unseen, what was heard cannot be unheard, and what was felt cannot be unfelt. These rituals stay with us, opening doors and uncovering truths long after they’re done.
We are living in Tower Time. We are living in the last throes of Empire, and those in power will not go quietly. We may not be able to change the system, but we can make the system irrelevant in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Alone, we will be trampled.
Together, who can stand against us?