The reason and the importance of ritual in all world religions and spiritual paths, is the achievement of a more awakened consciousness, to touch on all of the physical senses in such a way as to awaken one to a higher level of spiritual awareness. Think, for example, of the movements of the ministers on TV. Everything moves in a certain order, and if this order is not followed, people are unsettled.
It also helps to do things in a certain order, over and over, so that they become automatic, and the procedure does not interfere with the ideals in mind. For instance, when doing a healing within the circle, we can concentrate on the healing and not look at each other wondering what we are going to do now.
The order of the ritual is simple, the circle is cast, censed and sprinkled, the quarters are called, the Goddess is invited to attend and then the work begins. Once you have the words you want to say down, you can concentrate more on drawing energy to work with. Air gives you soft energy, Fire gives hot, Water gives cold and soft energy, and Earth gives you cool and hard energy. Each Element adds to the mix to create the necessary power. The calling of the Goddess then adds the broad range of energy, which binds the other four together.
Whether you are working alone or in a group, after a short time, the basics of how you work will become automatic, the thing you need to watch, after they become totally comfortable, is that they don’t lose their importance. If you let them become just a series of steps, not a whole entity, they will lose their effectiveness. A way to help prevent that, add creativity to the mix. Find new and appropriate ways each time, matching intent with methods.
I have been to circles where everyone seems to just be going through the motions. They raise no energy, and you leave the ritual feeling kind of let down. Please know that this can happen to anyone, even an experienced ritualist, but it generally happens in a circle where not only the priestess, but also the people within that circle have little or no training in working with energy. The power of ritual comes from a fully open participant, all senses activated, and emotions raised to direct energy. Remember, without energy, you have no magic. Magic is like a light bulb; it only works if you add enough energy. Do not confuse the exhaustion that comes after working difficult magic with the dull, flat feeling of energy free magic, one is the “is that all there is?” feeling, and the other is the elated exhaustion that comes after a won race, or a wonderful experience horizontally.
When first coming to this path your work is mostly solitary. Even later, there will be times that you may not be able to circle with others, due to time constraints, and other problems that make it necessary, if you are going to celebrate the holidays and full moons at all, to do so alone.
It is best to establish a ritual that is comfortable for you and does not wear you out. This, as a solitary or practicing with a sole partner, is not difficult, it just takes some thought and planning.
Ritual is easier if you have props – symbols as visual reminders of the work – however – none are really needed. If you choose to use symbols, you may wish quarter candles, an athame, a dish of salt, bowl or glass of water, some incense, and an altar candle. A glass of wine, fruit juice, or water and something like cookies, crackers, or bread is nice for grounding at the close of your Circle. And finally, symbols of the magic at hand!
If you are meeting for ritual with a group, offer to assist the person hosting the ritual. Even if they refuse, always offer. Probably the hardest part in the circle is the role of the priestess or the facilitator of the Circle. On her shoulders rests the responsibility of making sure all the necessary equipment is assembled, that everyone knows their part, that all is ready, that the goal, (the work to be done) is not only understood, but is agreed upon by the entire group, and that everyone is playing well with others. (This in itself, can be a challenge) And that’s just what has to be done before you have everyone standing and ready to move in that direction.
Then she is responsible for casting the circle, calling the Goddess, directing everyone in raising energy, noting any weak spots in the circle and filling them with her own energy, deciding when the energy is strong enough, doing the work, then directing the dismissal of the elementals and the deities.
Then she also has to be cordial and directive until everyone goes home. It can be exhausting.
The beauty of a Goddess Circle is that, as a general rule, most of the women if they have had any instruction at all, understand that everyone shares in maintaining the energy and in doing the work.
Sometimes, in spite of the best-laid plans, you will over-extend yourself. It just happens, it’s part of life. The trick is not to let your magical pursuits leave you unable to take care of everything else.
Remember, in your own space, you are your own priestess. Working alone you may not be able to raise the same amount of energy at first as a large group, but, on the other hand, you don’t have to raise enough power to help out the less adept members, and in any group you will have stronger people than yourself and those who are not as strong.
In the creation of magic, you must think, act, and be responsible. Magic requires thought and carries full accountability. You must decide on what is within your realm both ethically and realistically. If you do not agree on a goal that a group you are with wants to work toward, say so. They deserve to know if your lack of conviction on even one point would make it better if you did not participate. You will only drain the power from their work. Likewise, if someone does not want to help you with a spell that you feel is necessary, don’t grovel and beg, be polite and thank them for their honesty. Their lack of conviction could seriously undermine your work, don’t berate them for their integrity.
If you do not agree on all points, but would still like to help, offer to do that, by lighting a candle, or sending them energy. You would then ask for blessings for them personally, not for blessings towards their intended goal. That way you have helped and have also kept your integrity intact. This eases the laws of cause and effect.
My goal for each of you, whether you choose to follow a path similar to mine (I say similar, because nobody can ever follow an identical path.) or not, is to open your mind and heart, to help you be your authentic self, whether your ethics match mine, (not likely) or when you branch off in your own direction, with only your conscience as your guide. (Entirely acceptable) If you finish this book knowing what you believe, (at least basically) with the convictions to act on those beliefs, I will have done what I set out to do.
Excerpt from my book, Dancing with Goddess.
Deanne Quarrie, also known as Bendis, is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of six books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch – A Dianic Tradition and the Liminal Thealogical Seminary. In 2002 she created Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine. Deanne is a priestess hierophant within the Fellowship of Isis. Her most recent work, dedicated to Hekate, is the creation of a group practice called Hekate’s Tribe, open to both men and women. It is available in Austin, Texas as well as online. Those who come to Hekate’s Tribe may also enroll in the master’s degree program within the Seminary. This creation brings Deanne full-circle after dedicating her work to Hekate in 1986.