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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in rituals

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Yet More on Piety

 

In a comment to my previous article, Anne Niven wrote: 

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  • Tannim Wolfkin
    Tannim Wolfkin says #
    Just finished writing a paper on hubris for my English class and came across this post. Wish I had read it before finishing the da
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Thank you, Laura. I think you may be on to something with the way our society devalues service. In Heathenry, part of it is also t
  • Laura P
    Laura P says #
    Thank you again for writing about piety, a subject all too often overlooked in modern paganism. To me piety means respect, love an
  • Christine L Berger
    Christine L Berger says #
    Piety to me is a manifestation of love and respect intertwined. It is a reflection in my heart, in my being, of the desire to giv
  • Liza
    Liza says #
    Questions first, then answers: For the newbie, youn'in, seeker without a physical community to led them, how do you suggest they s
Ritual, Monotheism, and Again with the Piety

 Seriously, folks, argue and disagree with me all you want, but do so based on what i say, not the misinterpretations you project onto what I say. I find it particularly interesting that in the course of the comments to my two articles on ritual (both those posted and those I received privately), quite often I'm being accused of everything BUT promoting piety and respect in ritual. Why is that such a difficult and challenging concept? It certainly wasn't for our ancestors. Piety was a central concept to the majority of ancient polytheisms, though of course the words used to describe this behavior varied from culture to culture. Plato, for instance, wrote an entire dialogue ("Euthyphro") in which the definition of piety was the central issue under discussion. The ancient Romans considered it a necessary and sacred virtue and one simply cannot read writers like Cicero, Pliny, or Seneca (to name but a few) without finding exhortation after exhortation to pious behavior both within one's temples and without. Why is it so difficult for us moderns? Because it is. I don't quite know why, though I have my suspicions, but it really is.(1) 

Unlike Plato, who had his character Euthyphro define piety in part as 'what is dear to the gods,' i would, in addition, define it as 'right behavior toward the Gods.' Piety is a curb and a guide to our behavior.  Of course, right behavior implies precisely that: that there is a right and wrong way of behaving, that there are standards. Standards do not imply tyrannical theocracy. They imply behaving properly and mindfully as the occasion and interaction demands. Now I've written about the opposite of piety here: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2012/05/pagan-blog-project-i-is-for-impiety.html for those who might want to take a peek. I'm going to let that stand and speak for itself, because there actually is a right way of doing things and it's not that difficult to figure out.  You know what else? The Gods and ancestors are more than capable of telling us what it is if we do the work and listen. Of course that might lead us to a reordering of our priorities but c'est la vie.

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  • helmsman of inepu
    helmsman of inepu says #
    I think you're right about "the filter." You even see it operating with "Evangelical" atheists- it's not enough for them not to be
  • Ainslie
    Ainslie says #
    Paganisms of the world are diverse. Galina's a particular person doing particular work in a particular context. Some of that conte
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Oh dear. I really wasn't gonna jump back into this, but feel I've been pulled in by reference. So I'll speak up and say, "me, me!
  • sannion
    sannion says #
    The amateur sociologist of religion in me looks at this kerfuffle and says, "Oh, this is just the community moving into a new stag
  • Amarfa
    Amarfa says #
    Ok. I'm confused, where was the part about 'piety' questioned? You're preaching to the choir when it comes to the Romans being ve

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
More on Ritual Praxis

 

So my recent Heathen Heretic article and its reception  (both of which you may find here: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/beltane-offerings-not-the-post-i-intended-to-write.html)  led me to a certain epiphany with regard to the way so many of us approach ritual. Let me begin by saying that I'm always surprised when people purposely, or so it often seems, miss the point of my articles. A colleague recently pointed out that much of my writing provokes people past their comfort zones and that too rather surprised me: that people would draw lines against experience and narrow their worlds down to such small, grey places. Oh well. we do and everything in our world encourages us to do this so I guess i shouldn't be surprised. Still, there is nothing in my practice that should be radical to someone engaged in deep devotion with their Gods. Nothing. 

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  • Amarfa
    Amarfa says #
    "Why does this imparting their own morality or decision making process as a mean to judge others need be a negative? If experience
  • Amarfa
    Amarfa says #
    I forgot to mention that there are rituals out there that don't involve the Gods. They involve personal transformation. That b
  • Tim Schneider
    Tim Schneider says #
    "That being said, when I see or hear the words "[blank] should be [x]," a red flag goes up. I respectfully wish to relate that whe
  • Amarfa
    Amarfa says #
    I know I'm not going to change your mind, Galina, but I'm hoping you will see how you are presenting yourself: with a great deal o
  • Tim Schneider
    Tim Schneider says #
    I don't think you read Galina's post in depth, nor her response to Anne. Anne, I think you're looking at piety and devotion thro

Here in my part of the South, public rituals are few and far between, so I'm happy to participate in any of them. Regardless of what one might think about the effectiveness of an open public ritual, there is something to be said for the energy of being in a large circle of people who believe in the Goddess and the sacredness of the Earth. It is fortifying, especially when it so often seems like we Pagans are lone islands in a sea of Christianity.
However, public rituals can be challenging. You are working with, potentially, a lot of people of different experience levels and beliefs. As a priest or priestess, your challenge is to get all these people’s energy and focus together in a harmonious way. It takes equal parts stagecraft and intuition to pull it off successfully.
In my belief system, worship (including ritual) is participatory; standing around listening to one person call the quarters, invoke the God and Goddess, lead the Work, and dismiss the circle feels no different from attending a play. If I didn't participate in anything, I leave feeling disappointed and unsatisfied. As Amber K states in her invaluable book, "Covencraft," ritual "should be creative, transformative, awakening, and energizing."
It takes the work of several people to pull off properly. This is not usually a problem in my private circles, where everyone has enough knowledge and experience to jump in and lead any part of a ritual. But public rituals, as I said, include people who may have no idea what any of this is about. So my advice is to include as many experienced priests and priestesses in both the planning and the execution, so “newbies” can see the collective nature of our worship (plus it’s less work for one person).
First, however, the intention for the ritual must be clear. It seems as if this should go without saying, but many of the public rituals I’ve participated in did not have an explicit purpose. It is impossible to bring everyone’s focus together if no-one knows what they are supposed to be focusing on. Are you blessing and dedicating a sacred space? Celebrating a rite of passage? Honoring the cycles of the earth? Be clear in your intention, and state that intention at the beginning of the ritual.
Like any group effort, a ritual needs a leader, or at least a manager. That is the role of the High Priest or Priestess. Like a stage director, s/he holds and focuses the group’s attention and energy. S/he explains (briefly) each part of the ritual for the benefit of any newbies. S/he determines, using intuition, when the group is ready to move from one section to the next, neither rushing nor holding back the group’s energy.
Having someone else call the quarters isn’t a necessity, but I think it adds to the energy of the circle and gives more people the chance to participate. If possible, try to get volunteers ahead of time, and if they are experienced enough to invoke without a script, so much the better. Whoever calls the quarters and/or casts the circle, they must have enough knowledge and experience to create a strong boundary; public spaces are by definition more open and unprotected than private ones.
This brings me to guardians. If your ritual is held in a public space, it can be hard to ensure the physical boundaries of the circle are respected. People wander in late. Curious onlookers want to poke their noses in. The guardian or guardians stand outside the circle to protect its boundary, politely but firmly turning those away who would disrupt it. These can be the same people who called the quarters, or not. Because their attention is focused on the exterior of the circle, they can’t really participate in the ritual beyond this role.
So you’ve cast the circle and it’s time for everyone to drum and chant to raise energy (remember to state for what purpose this energy is being raised!). This part, in my experience, is usually the most awkward and least successful part of public rituals. However, I don’t think it’s hopeless, as long as someone exercises practical leadership.
First, let’s talk about drumming. For a drum circle to coalesce, there must be a steady, simple bass line that everyone can follow or link to. Other, more talented drummers can improvise around it, but most people just want to follow the leader. The Priestess (or whoever will lead the drumming part) needs to have the deepest, loudest drum, and must commit to playing a simple, steady rhythm. Complicated solos will confuse the less rhythmically inclined (and are more appropriate for higher-toned drums anyway). The Priestess/drum leader can then gradually build the rhythm faster and faster, building energy in a natural, cohesive way.
Chanting is another ritual component that challenges both organizers and participants. Most circles don’t have hymnals (or “hernals”). For public rituals, my advice is to pick one or two very simple chants, such as “Earth my body, water my blood/Air my breath and fire my spirit” or “She changes everything She touches and/Everything She touches, changes…” Chants or songs with multiple verses leave too many people feeling lost and unsure, which is the exact thing you do not want in ritual. In addition, it can be helpful if you have a few “plants” in the circle, people who know the chant and are willing to sing it loudly and confidently. This helps shyer participants muster up the courage to join in.
Last, obviously, don’t forget to ground and center! Large group energy is by its nature bigger and harder to handle. Don’t let anyone go home scattered or spacey.
A rehearsal or practice run before the actual ritual can be invaluable for ironing out any kinks. It’s best if you can do it in the actual space where the ritual will be held, so you can see where people will be, how loud to speak, how fast or slow the flow of people might get, etc.
The goals of public ritual are twofold: first, the stated intention of the ritual itself, and second, to bring people together for a meaningful, positive experience. I think with these simple techniques, both goals can be achieved.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Here's another hint for large open rituals: Never have 300 pagans do an interwoven serpentine in the dark unless you are prepared
  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette says #
    Greybeard: that's so true! Proper lighting is essential...as is scouting the area first to make sure there aren't any "ankle-turne
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Good article DR. Too often I have attended public rituals that lost focus and became more ordeal than sacred. What works in a ci

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Simple Samhain Rites

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  • Deborah Blake
    Deborah Blake says #
    Thanks! It's a great idea...and then you get to eat it, too!
  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    Insightful... love cooking those ancestor dishes!

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