The topic this afternoon at our monthly CIPS Meet & Greet was “Writing Rituals.” Paid clergy are extremely rare in the Pagan community. In many Pagan traditions there is a hierarchy of leaders with an unpaid High Priestess and High Priest who have been trained and initiated by an HPS and an HP who were trained and initiated by an HPS and an HP, etc. And members of that tradition will have access to the group’s Book of Shadows, a collection of rituals, spells, and herbal lore that has been handed down through the group. The HPS and the HP may possibly earn part of their income from writing Pagan books, doing lectures, or owing a Pagan oriented business (Pagans can enthusiastic entrepreneurs). But most Pagan clergy earn a living doing mundane work at mundane jobs.
Because teachers can be few and far between, most contemporary Pagans tend to learn from popular how-to-books and online resources. And many contemporary Pagan groups may out and out reject the notion of hierarchy and initiation! In eclectic groups like CIPS it is assumed that every member is capable of functioning as HPS or HP. And each and every member can participate in writing our seasonal celebrations.
The structure of the ritual is fairly consistant: purify the ritual space, gather the participants and cast the ritual circle, call the Quarters–North, East, South, and West and their corresponding elements, Air, Water, Fire, and Earth–and then invoke the Goddess and the God. Now we have created a space between the Worlds. The HPS or HP states the purpose of the ritual. The group, having entered an altered state of consciousness, raises magical energy to power our spell work. When we have accomplished the purpose of the ritual, we bless and eat our “Cakes and Ale” to show gratitude to our Deities, to affirm our fellowship and to help return to normal consciousness. We thank and bid farewell to our Deities, thank and dismiss the Quarters, and open the circle.
The Beauty and the Mystery is in the details. This afternoon we all shared details on how we execute each step in the ritual. Pagans are a creative bunch. They are by turns solemn, poetic, and playful. Flowers and incense, singing bowls, and the Hokey Pokey may all be elements of worship. Pagan rituals can be messy; they can be awkward and definitely unrehearsed, but they are also fresh and heartfelt created by the community for the community.