There’s no standard set of rules for ritual since everyone does them differently. However, sometimes there are things that just don’t add up. These are some of my Pagan pet peeves. I’m sure I have more. Although there is no wrong way to hold rituals, format, quarters, correspondences and deities should make sense too. There needs to be valid reasons why something is the way it is.
Saying west is green because it makes the grass grow hurts my head. When water is green it’s stagnant. I spent all summer trying to keep green out of my pool water. Green is algae and not healthy to swim in. Therefore, this theory – only held by one person that I know of – is like nails on a chalkboard. I haven’t found this correspondence used by anyone else and I’ve searched. Also, north is not blue because it’s cold. I live in North New Jersey, do not tell me it’s cold here in the summer. Temps are in the 90s and above more than a handful of times. We get all four seasons.
One of the substantial lessons the Rev. Foxxy (Sher) Pullen, taught us in Three Fires Grove’s Magick 101 were correspondences. Not knowing them is one of my pet peeves, a huge one. We spent several months on this crucial section before we even attempted to create a ritual. After researching the four quarters we had to create visualizations for each element loading them with appropriate correspondences. Yet it seems to me that others haven’t had this training, don’t understand these concepts or just haven’t -as my elders- put it “engaged brain.”
Once while attending a Samhain ritual I got uncomfortable when we got to the direction east, seeds were mentioned. Samhain is the last harvest and the thinning of the veil between the worlds. Additionally, for Celtics it’s the Pagan New Year – from darkness comes life. It has nothing to do with seeds, seedlings or the growing season. They could have mentioned with the cool breeze you feel the veil thinning or the leaves blowing through the air. Two decent examples off the top of my head.
Most recently, at Litha someone called the direction west and they mentioned water and autumn related correspondences. While yes, these are correct associations, there are others that fit in easier. Such as, for that sabbat, the water nourishing the plants during the hot summer months.
These pet peeves really irk me. I visualize each element and their correspondences clearly as the person calls them. When someone just tosses autumn in summer it breaks my focus on the ritual. I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
Another huge pet peeve which may sound contradictory to above is that the ritual was “wrong.” Granted, there is no absolute wrong way to hold a ritual. If the above correspondences work for you then people like me need to deal with it. Just as Druids use gray or purple for water and Wiccans use blue. One tradition uses pink, brown, orange, and another color to represent the quarters. It’s their tradition, and if I ever participate in such a ritual, I’ll keep quiet, but definitely ask questions later. As my elder says, the only dumb question is the one unasked. I’m sure they have valid reasons why they chose those colors.
Moreover, if someone does not read exactly what is written for them, just go with it. I’ve attended quite a few rituals under a “perfectionist” high priestess. It’s great to have everything printed out, especially if you are asking for volunteers to call quarters, etc. However, if they mess up, or do not do it exactly the way it is planned, it is not a disaster. Seriously, deity knows we are not perfect, they do not expect perfection. They do expect us to try and do the best we can, however. And sometimes these small errors become the highlight of the ritual- even almost setting the altar on fire. Yes, I almost did that once in Sacred Wheel CUUPs at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, New Jersey. We all still joke about it today.
We need to learn from one another. Don’t assume one way is right because it is always done in that style. Just because someone else is doing what they learned does not make it wrong. Perhaps it is another tradition, an unfamiliar one, or it could make entirely no sense at all. Some Pagans seem to forget to be open minded, as odd as that may sound.
Once again though, follow your gut, if it doesn’t feel right, leave. Don’t sit through something that might be harmful. Weird is one thing, but if it’s a negative ritual you don’t want any part of that karma. Not many rituals require a set number of people in the circle, at least none of the ones I attended. Well, that one that had bad mojo from the start. Lesson learned the hard way, a bit too late though. My elder helped me clean that mess up afterwards.
Another one off my pet peeves is people snacking on the “cakes and ale” before the ritual even begins. I often fast before ritual, so by the time an evening ritual begins, I’m really hungry. But even if you don’t fast, the cakes and ale are for the ritual not appetizers and the potluck for community time and grounding. Besides, you never know when a car or van load of unexpected participants may show up just before a ritual, it does happen.
However, young children and pets do not have to abide by adult rules. They should not be loudly scolded if they eat or break the circle. Guide them during the ritual; explain quietly why what they were doing was not appropriate gently afterwards. A five-year-old raised as a Pagan may handle ritual fine. However, a 12-year-old exposed for the first time, and untrained or told what to expect is likely to disrupt. We don’t start rituals with newcomers without some explanation time beforehand, I hope.
So, maybe next time you hear something odd, you’ll question the person after the ritual. Yes, wait until the end to ask them. It could be they didn’t realize it, or they have a valid reason. Maybe you’ll teach them something or vice versa.