Ritual on the fly — When and how to run an effective Sabbat

Ritual on the fly — When and how to run an effective Sabbat May 31, 2024

Clam shell, lit chalice and a plastic knife. Tools used for on the fly rituals.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” said John Lennon, in a very true statement. This happened to me recently. I had no car for the week of Beltaine, so I was unable to lug my ritual tools with me. Additionally, most of my Sacred Wheel CUUPs members had timing issues that week as well. So, holding a ritual at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair or even just virtually, just wasn’t happening. I was a bit bummed out that we weren’t able to do anything. Or so I thought…

I was in the congregation’s kitchen dressed in old clothes and an apron, about to make chili for the event we were holding after Sunday’s worship service. The side doorbell rang. I was the only one there, so I looked to see who was at the door.

At the door were the religious education director of a neighboring Unitarian Universalist congregation, a few children and a parent. All part of the Neighboring Faiths program the Unitarian Universalist Association has developed. The RE director told me that they were there for the Beltaine ritual and asked me where it was located.

I told them I am the Sacred Wheel CUUPs leader but we had to cancel due to “life.” They all looked as disappointed as I felt. I quickly told them to wait, let’s do it now. I had the ritual written up and all available on my phone.

Replica of the Beltaine altar on the fly. PHOTO BY ANN TRIP

But none of my ritual tools were available. No big deal, I had everything I needed from the congregation building, most right under my nose. In general I do Druidic rituals. So, I grabbed a wooden spoon for wood, a glass of water, and we already had the candle in the room for fire. I even had grape juice and cookies for cake and ale. I played all the songs for the ritual from my cell. The children, parent, and RE director participated by tossing a coin in the water. They learned about the sabbat and how we run a ritual. Plus, I got to hold my Beltaine rite which meant a lot to me.

What I am getting at is that the ritual went very well. It was mostly myself who led it but it was just what I needed. No fancy tools, no special altar cloth. I didn’t have my seashell I use to hold the water, the piece of stump from an old Yule tree I use for ritual. No bell or cauldron. At least I had a table though, even if it is used as an end table other times.

OK this one was a bit easier since I had the copy at my fingertips but my elder had an interesting first ritual. Interesting…but it worked and that is all that matters.

A replica of the Rev. Foxxy (Sher) Pullen’s first altar created on the fly. PHOTO BY ANN TRIP

The first time the Rev. Foxxy (Sher) Pullen had to do a ritual, she grabbed a KFC plastic knife. The fast food utensil served as her athame. “It was new, so pure, even if it was plastic,” she said.

Her altar was a baking sheet on a camp stove stand. A feather found on her patio was used for air; a twig became her wand, She had her seashell to hold water though, She drew her pentagram with the water from the shell.

Again, there was nothing fancy and it too worked well.

This is an important lesson she teaches in Three Fires Grove, a Druidic online teaching community.  It’s one of the first lessons in the Magick 102 class, which focuses on building ritual. Foxxy will set a scenario and ask us, “What if you need to do a healing circle right then and there?”

She had us think of anything nonconventional that we could use to create a ritual.

That is a good question. Now, if I wasn’t prepared for those visitors with at the least ritual words, I guess I could scramble something together. I have produced rituals for years. By now I should know the structure and most of the phrases we regularly use.  Besides, who said the gods expect perfection? I think they’d rather us make an honest attempt than nothing.

So, don’t fret if you don’t have all your tools, or that “perfect” one or any at all for that matter. The Gods and Goddesses don’t need us to have expensive equipment. The thought, the intent is what matters most. Sure having everything laid out for you helps keep the mind set, especially for those just learning. But it’s not necessary for every rite.

We did something similar to this in my martial arts class as well. My instructor asked us not to wear our gi (uniform) to class. He wanted us to see what it was like to “fight” in our street clothes. It was different, but it worked. I challenge you all to conduct a ritual on the fly. It’s adaptive and definitely a learning experience. See what you come up with, I bet it will be something great.

See also: Ritual: Perfection, We All Strive For It, But Should We?

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