No more CHUR-cle! Witchcraft Ritual Techniques to Engage Everyone

No more CHUR-cle! Witchcraft Ritual Techniques to Engage Everyone September 21, 2019

Don’t you hate it when a group ritual turns out to be a boring, tiresome slog?  You know the drill: you’ve been standing forever in the same spot while the ritual leaders go on and on in soliloquy. You’re shuffling in pain, and losing focus. Maybe you can’t really hear or see what’s going on. Maybe there is nothing you’re supposed to do except watch passively from the edge of this circle formation–eaten by mosquitoes.

Is this witchcraft, or am I just the audience at the theater? If you’re in a magickal rite, but you can’t wait for it to be over, then I call those lost opportunities “church-in-a-circle” or CHUR-cle for short. I’ve spent enough years as a child imprisoned by the pews of the protestant church, served nothing but dry, white toast. I can’t abide a Witchcraft circle that engenders that same impotent feeling within me. Here are some ritual techniques for engaging all the witches in your circle!

A Witch's Circle a Sphere by Heron Michelle
Heron Michelle’s graphic for the Witch’s Energetic Temple as a sphere. Like a big 3D Yin/Yang + Pentacle + Circle Cross + Vesica Pisces.

How I can engage everyone with a Pentacle Approach to a Witchcraft Temple? Meaning, how can my ritual intention be reinforced through all of the five senses, engaging all 5 of my bodies? My mind, heart, body, will and spirit all have to get in on the action. Once I’m opened and flowing with the natural power we are raising, how will this rite help align the personal will of the individuals with their Highest Divine Will?

Links to full ritual instructions in the Sojourner Tradition Style:

Imbolc Ritual for Dedicating to the Great Work, with Examples of Call and Response Methods for group magick
Ostara Ritual for a Large Group with interactive Temple Building Techniques
Litha Ritual of Highlight and Shadow, with examples of group magick that blends individual sharing with group energy building

Techniques for Engaging all the Witches:

Awakening the Inner Temple

  • Pre-Ritual Discussion: Etiquette and Expectations
  • State the ritual intention up front, and what sort of contribution we will ask of them.
    For example: if they will have a chance to speak or share, let them know that up front; give them an alternative.
  • Go over songs, chants and teach the dance movements beforehand, so that the energy flow isn’t interrupted to explain things during the rite.
  • Give permission to tailor movements to one’s abilities. Like, tell them to feel free to step to the edge for a breather, or sit when they need to sit.
  • We don’t have to maintain a perfect circle’s edge the whole time. Use the Inner circle as the fast lane, and the outer circle as the slow lane.
  • Chalice Alcohol and Foods disclosure; make sure everyone knows in advance what they are being served, and give them a chance to provide an alternative if they have a food allergy. Offer alternatives, such as giving their sip or bite as an offering and how to go about that.

Consent and sacred permission

  • Will there be physical interaction? holding hands, a hand on a shoulder, etc. Gain knowledgeable consent from everyone BEFORE they go into circle.
  • Give sacred permission for them to say “no, thank you” or to be silly or serious and fully Divine.
  • Give them sacred permission to be free and alive, and present in any emotions that well up. Acknowledge that a witchcraft rite is meant to shake things up, and allow healing and rebalance to everyone there, which means that they are welcome to feel what they naturally feel and there will be no judgements made. This is important in our toxic society. We are safe to be divinely messy human beings.
  • Make sure they know that we are the magick, we are the temple, no one else need be their intermediary to Divine Connection. We all internalize our locus of our control:  That which we seek, we’ll find it within ourselves.

Call and response model:

When the person speaking projects their voice with power a punctuated phrase such as “So mote it be!” “Blessed be!” Hail and Welcome/Farewell” the group echoes that phrase in response, with power in the voice.

This method can be especially powerful with the chanting of songs and charms, so that the celebrants are hands-free and don’t have to be shuffling papers or hymnals. The Ritual Leader can feed them a one line of the rhyming couplets at a time, then they repeat after them.

Write a Ritual like an Energy Wave Form:

Think of ritual like a journey: We begin on earth, remembering our place here in the middle world and our connections on all levels. Build the temple. Begin a pace that is low and slow and shifts everyone into magickal mindset, a light meditative or trance state. Then ramp up in energy and awakening to our connections on the unseen levels, above and below. Build power until a crescendo is reached, tune that energy into your desired change, direct that power to its goal. Then wind down back into the body, descending back to an earthly consciousness, low and slow again. Open the temple.

Plan to Engage all the Senses and Bodies

Visual

  • Present a ritual that looks appropriate to the mood and intention; aesthetic details, drama.
  • Ritual is the Divine inner mysteries enacted outwardly upon the stage of this physical life.
  • Lighting, the richness of color and texture evoke a mood that sets that stage.
  • Visualizations are also of paramount importance. This falls to the ritual leader to guide all the participants with imagery and poetry that paints vistas in the mind’s eye.
  • Visual cues spark the imagination and align the Mental Body to the magickal intention.

Auditory Sound

  • Background music, drumming, the chiming of a bell or singing bowl, the crackling of burning logs on the fire…the crickets singing.
  • Have a Shruti app or some sort of back-ground music playing?
  • When there is awkward silence at first, people get distracted and fill it with idle noise.
  • The key to building cohesive ritual attention, is in the play of sound against silence.
  • I have found, however, that most often I find the silent open places within me where the God/dess speaks most clearly, are found while my other senses are kept busy listening to the cacophony of drums and chants.
    Ritual Leader uses the drama of their own tone and volume to build power and engage the emotions.

Olfactory Smell:

  • Releasing the scent and energies of plant allies through ritual burning in the fire, sets the vibration of the temple.
  • To involve everyone, I like to set a small cauldron of dried herbs or special wood chips near the ritual fire, and invite people to grab a handful, throw it in, and purify themselves by walking in the smoke. It is visceral, and gets your hands dirty. As far as I’m concerned, until you’re dirty and smell of strange smokes, the witchcraft isn’t done yet.

Taste:

  • The shared ritual feast of “cakes and ale” is another great way to engage both taste and smell.
  • The whole ritual can be the charging and crafting of a Magickal Brew that everyone drinks,
  • We can magickally prepare foods to eat during ritual can also engage everyone.

Lammas Ritual of Integration and Sacrifice, with examples of visceral Craftings in circle, preparing and eating corn on the cob.
Lammas Ritual,
Sharing the Grapes of Gratitude, another example of eating ritual foods with intention, and the method of breaking out of circle formation to mingle and share one-on-one.

Touch:

  • Getting into the motions, dancing with bare feet on the ground and the wind in your hair.
  • Holding hands and singing out the Awen Cone of power. Awen is Welsh for “inspiration” it is chanted in three slow syllables ah–oo–wen that blend together, rising in pitch and speed to a peak, then directed to your intention with the hands.
  • Digging your hands into making something like ripping back the leaves from an ear of corn at Lammas.
  • Getting oily and gritty with herbal powders.
  • Heart rate up! Tired muscles, rapid breath, laughter.
  • Be fully alive and engaged in the body as an act of gratitude.

Physical Postures

Heron Michelle Consecrates Altar
Heron Michelle at Mystic South, Presenting No More Churc-le Workshop July, 2019
  • Elemental: Ritual of gestures adapted from suggestions made by Scott Cunningham in his first Wicca Book. (page 144-145) The physical posture we stand in as we face the cardinal directions, helps engage the body, while the mind pictures what the gatekeeper is evoking.
  • Divine Postures: Goddess Invoking position, Horned God Posture, Posture of Esoterism (Like on the Rider-Waite Magician Tarot card), Osiris Pose
  • Mudras: hand positions which evoke and align you to various spiritual states and energies.

Casting our Energetic Temple

  • Energy flow visualization: World Tree and Elemental grounding and Power-Tapping.
  • Gather around for altar consecration: Everyone can hear and see.
  • Hallowing together: chant together for the whole lap: “I consecrate this circle by the powers of ____.” Not only does everyone engage their voices and their ears with a droning chants, but we are all making affirmations, therefore shifting our consciousness.

Statement of intention:

Be very clear to state the purpose of the ritual up front. Affirm reminders of that intention often. Reinforce it in the quarter-calls, and evocations.

Circle Cross

  • Macrocosm to Microcosm, Get Thee to the Cross-roads. Describes an intersection of worlds, the liminal place, betwixt and between, where gods and mortals can meet.
  • The Circle Cross is also the astrological symbol for the planet earth, the middle world, and the circle itself.

When witches cast a circle, we create an energetic construct of this very symbol at the macrocosm level – we carve out that sacred place between the worlds. Then we open the gates to the four elemental realms. We then evoke our Deities and spiritual guides and ancestors to join us on consecrated ground, in celebration of existence and partnership in growth and evolution.

But the occult mystery is that the microcosm crossroads lies within yourself. In order to expand your consciousness into the greatness of cosmic-level divinity, you’ll have to take the deep dive within yourself.

Group Sphere Casting

My favorite way to cast the sphere of our temple is to raise energy singing the Awen Cone of Power while holding hands. At the peak, we drop hands and I direct us as we sweep our hand above us to close the sphere, inviting down the heavens. Then we sweep our hands down to scoop up the underworld, closing the sphere around us. Then I do traditional circle charges for protection and amplification, etc. But everyone participates, not just observes.

Opening the Elemental Gates:

  • Can everyone hear? Cross-Calling: Speaker stands behind group to face the direction.
  • Engaging all 5 bodies, Above and Below, Call is a visualization and summoning.
  • Posture, Ritual of Gestures inspired by Scott Cunningham in Wicca Solitary Practitioner (I think.)
  • Awaken that corresponding body in ourselves.
    • Air: Mental Body. Mind, Intellect, Creativity, Wisdom. Stir the Breath
    • Fire: Body of the Will. Will power, courage, fortitude. Stir the Passion.
    • Water: Emotional Body. Compassion, intuition, discernment. Stir the heart.
    • Earth: Physical Body. Foundation, Manifestation, Ease. Stir the Bones, the blood

Opening the Upperworld Gates

  • Evocations of Spirits: Above and Below
  • To be in balance within our Spiritual Body is to awaken from the illusion of separateness. We remember our interconnection within that eternal Great Spirit, throughout time and space.
  • To seek spiritual balance is to embrace our wholeness – dark and light, day and night, the good and bad, ugly and beautiful, as all part of being an incarnate God/dess.Wholeness is perfection; we are Perfect Love.

Opening the Underworld Gates

  • Calling the Mighty Dead, the Ancestors of Land Blood and Spirit with awakening movements; stomp the ground, pound the chest and clap the hands in a heartbeat rhythm.
  • Allow everyone to make offerings.

Ritual Body:

Inner Work: A meditation or something inward for all participants to do to make the rite personally applicable.

Outer Work: with individual contributions and group focus. It isn’t witchcraft until you’ve DONE SOMETHING. This is a praxis, remember?

Raising Energy to charge the Ritual Intent, then Direction of energies

  • Music, song, drums, if all your celebrants haven’t made at least a few laps of this circle at some point, does it qualify as witchcraft?
  • Allow a time of free-flowing work with multiple engagements: Don’t make everyone stand there watching each person do private devotions…allowing for conversation and free-expression to dance or spontaneous chants to erupt.
  • Don’t be afraid to call an audible: If your plan isn’t working, make a quick change. If people are fighting or not paying attention, strike up a dance or a chant.

Winding Down back to Earth and Mundane Consciousness

  • Cakes and Ale to ground, get back into the body, and engage the senses again. Make it something delicious!
  • “Prayers and Thanksgiving” is a casual way to allow everyone there to speak a prayer or ask for aid, and personal magick to be done in sacred space. We all aid in visualization. Also helps wind down from the group focus, back into individual focus, shifting consciousness.
  • You can release/close all six gateways counterclockwise using the same postures and mudras.
  • Temple Closing: We do this thing I call a Jump-shot release. All participants gather up the energetic sphere and both physically and with our imaginations, push that sphere smaller and tighter until we can “see” and feel it like a dense beach-ball-sized sphere at the center of the temple, with us all gathered in like a team getting pumped for the big game. I set the intent for what we want our energy to do, then say one, two, three, RELEASE, and we throw up out hands, then clap and hoot ‘n’ holler to break up the space.

I hope these ideas have been helpful to you in planning engaging witchcraft rituals!

~Heron

About Heron Michelle
Heron Michelle is a witch, high priestess, mom, artist and shopkeeper living in Greenville, North Carolina. Connect with her on Facebook: Witch on Fire, and follow her on Twitter @HeronMichelle13. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Pagan
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment