“Blessings upon thee o creature of fire, as thou art lit from the most sacred of flames you are free from all impurities and uncleanliness. So mote it be.” Generally after saying those words I light the “fire” candle on my altar, which my wife and High Priestess then uses to light the incense we use for purification. Only this time the candle I was trying to light didn’t want to cooperate and without thinking I mumbled “oh shit” under my breath and add libbed a few lines on the “hypothetical creature of fire.”
I didn’t think much about this after it happened, but this wasn’t a normal coven ritual. It was an “open ritual” meaning we had guests in the circle with us. While chatting with some of those guests I asked them what they thought about the ritual. They replied with “it was different, you all laugh.” I asked for some further elaboration and was told that “our High Priest always tells us to be serious, even when we mess things up.”
Laughter isn’t always appropriate in circle, but I don’t think forced solemnity is always appropriate either. I can’t imagine myself making a quick quip at Samhain or during a drawing down, but during one of the more celebratory sabbats? Absolutely! I take ritual seriously, but I’m also well aware that it can often be goofy! Since humans are the ones generally running most of ritual, and we extremely fallible creatures, ritual is going to reflect that.
The following afternoon my wife and I talked about the “always serious” comment and reflected on just why laughter is so important in circle. Don’t get me wrong, most ritual doesn’t have room for stand-up comedy, but a laugh now and again is human nature. And sometimes laughter is even necessary in ritual. Pretending a mistake didn’t happen is often more silly and ridiculous than acknowledging it.
Perhaps the most important function of laughter in ritual is to release tension. When something goes wrong during ritual there’s often a quick intake of breath and suddenly everyone feels like they are on needles and pins. Did you drop your chalice while pouring cakes and ale? Then give everyone a hearty “Hail Eris!” and take a second to laugh about it.
can can’t write enough about “Hail Eris!” in ritual. It is the perfect response when things go wrong. And sometimes she just wants to show up at the party, and wants acknowledgement that she’s present.)
Laughter, and the ability to make fun of ourselves, can often put everyone in ritual at ease. It’s like popping a ballon, sometimes you just need to do something to release the tension. A quick joke can also serve as a way to transition from an exhaustive emotional magickal working to more generic rites.
When weaving together magickal space we generally try and include as much “stuff” as possible. There are goddesses and gods, earth, air, fire, and water, along with a whole host of other personal energies. Usually when I think of those personal energies I think of awe or perhaps focus (and sometimes even fear), but something a little lighter is welcome too. When we release laughter from our bodies we are also releasing energy and putting it into our magickal spaces. A friend of mine once told me that his coven raised energy by simply telling jokes in the middle of ritual!
And sometimes circle can just be full of goofy energy. I know our coven every great once in awhile is “just in a mood” where everything seems a bit silly. And those nights we laugh our whole way through ritual. Ridiculous, humorous energy is just as consciousness changing as anything else.
Sometimes being goofy is simply human nature too, and we shouldn’t get so lost in “being serious” during ritual that we lose our sense of self. Again, that doesn’t mean we should verbalize every quip that shows up in our brains, but sometimes it’s appropriate. Good ritualizing means knowing when it’s OK to let our sillier sides show.
While ritual can often be serious, it’s also meant to be fun. We dance and chant not just because it’s effective, but because it’s enjoyable! I’ve found myself so giddy after dancing in the center of the circle that laughing is all I can do. I love my coven and I love my rites, I don’t have to be in awe of them all the time, sometimes I simply want to enjoy them, and there’s no better way than with some genuine laughter.
And also, let’s face it, sometimes ritual can be goofy. I’ve jumped over a lot of cauldrons and ridden a lot of brooms around my living room over the years . . . and while I understand the symbolism involved in such acts, they are also just ridiculous and fun! I can’t help but laugh when I think about what I’m doing.
Wiccan-Witchcraft doesn’t have a lot of “universal liturgy” but the Charge of the Goddess, comes pretty close. In The Charge we find these words:
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
Notice how it says “mirth and reverence.” If one is missing from the equation our Craft just isn’t quite the same. So yeah, we should totally laugh in circle when appropriate.