I was taught that setting the bone is a crucial part of being a priest/ess, a leader. That sometimes we have to hurt in order to heal. And I was also taught that truth often hurts. We couch so many things in white lies to salve someone’s feelings, to soothe it over, to make it hurt less. But those attempts to ease pain in the short term often cause longer term pain. In essence–sometimes the deepest form of compassion is to say the hard thing. It hurts in the short term, but it heals in the long term.
The most current issue of Circle Magazine is themed entirely on rituals. It’s a great read with lots of tips and tools for ritual facilitators. My own article, Ritual Facilitation: Designing Impactful Rituals, ended up being way too long for the magazine, and so I pulled out a section of it and just created an entire article from that piece. Thus, this article will perhaps have more context if you read the article in the magazine. Below I focus on the specifics of designing processes and how this connects to the design of ritual.
In many of my articles on ritual facilitation I talk about designing rituals rather than writing them; design means to plan. I also talk a lot about the flow of rituals and how each piece of a ritual layers and prepares people for the next piece. What might surprise you is that some of my own background as a web designer and usability consultant impacts how I approach designing rituals.
I’ve been on the road for about two weeks, and I have about a dozen blog post ideas swirling in my brain, but I thought I’d ease in with a ritual technique, since this is something I use frequently when I teach and lead rituals and lots of people ask me about it. My pet name for the technique is the Trance Hammer, since I came up with it during a Brigid-themed event.
As I’ll be teaching a number of workshops on ritual facilitation at Pantheacon, ConVocation, and Paganicon, I thought I’d offer up one of my articles on leading rituals that is included in my book, Ritual Facilitation.
I’ve also created a Facebook group with the intention of discussing and teaching techniques for leading more potent rituals. Feel free to join up if you like!
Raising the Sacred Fire: How to Build and Move Energy in Ritual
Together we are singing, moving, dancing, chanting, and drumming around the fire in the center of the circle. The energy builds and slows then rises up again. I move the drum beat, and the drum beat moves me. We draw closer; I look into the firelit eyes of people around me and we smile as we sing. We drop the chant down to a whisper, then bring it back up again. Our song is a prayer for transformation, a prayer for our individual gifts to be transformed on Brigid’s Forge into their highest potential. I am singing for my gift, and for the gifts of everyone there. Our prayer is singing, movement, rhythm, and our shared intention. The chant moves into a tone that rises and falls like a fire at the bellows until we hold the silence together.
I’ve been invited to be a panelist on the topic of Warding in Ritual at Pantheacon, which is the largest Pagan conference and takes place in a few weeks in San Jose, California. The folks organizing the panel worked to create an outline of questions and topics, which is very helpful for us panelists! Since I’m thinking about all of these questions, I thought I’d work up my responses as a blog post. In fact, it’s a 2-parter, because (as I tend to) I went into some depth.
Part of why I want to think about these questions a bit is because I’m a bit of the “devil’s advocate” on the panel. Meaning, I don’t really approach warding as a magical act. For me, it’s very pragmatic. In fact, I don’t even really call it warding. And yet, that piece of what I do in a ritual is still incredibly important and is still the foundation of an effective ritual.
My own 5-10-year plan is to have land of my own outside of Chicago; a seminary/monastery/temple/farm/cooperative living space. I want to help offer leadership training to Pagans who are looking for that, as well as have self-sustaining land.
But there’s a few challenges to building that infrastructure, and to fundraising for that. Some challenges are easier to overcome than others.
Should Pagan teachers charge? How are we going to pay for all the Pagan events and initiatives out there? I see those questions come up a lot. I also see some Pagans viciously attack anyone who charges for classes or events.
Context is important, and I’d offer that there’s a range of what we mean when we say, charging for classes and services.
I charge for what I do. I travel and teach, I host events. There’s a cost–a hard cost (venue rental, gas money) and a soft cost (time).
I charge for readings too. But, I also do rather a lot for free. In fact, most of the time even when I’m charging, I’d say I ultimately end up at a financial loss.
Many Pagan groups have a story, a myth. “Pagans are broke,” Pagans will tell me sagely. And…they are right and they are wrong. I’ve run Pagan events that make money. And, I’ve run Pagan events that didn’t break even.
I’ve posted about Pagans, money, and paying for community events before, but it’s a topic that begs further exploration. As an event planner, and as a traveling teacher, this is quite honestly a maddening process.
“Let’s meet at ___ location at about 6pm.” What does “about” mean here? Does “about” mean, “I want you to meet me exactly at 6pm?” Does it mean that we might be there by 5:45, but that it also is acceptable if we aren’t there until 6:15?
“I like it when someone else takes the trash out.” What does that mean? Does that mean the person is hinting that I should take the trash out?
“Someone needs to design a flyer.” What does that mean? Is someone being asked to design a flyer?
I’ll be totally transparent here: I don’t believe in curses and hexes. Or–to be more clear, I don’t believe that curses work in the way most people think. And most of the people who I hear talking about being under psychic attack or dealing with an energy vampire have very different issues going on.
But then again, I’m a pretty pragmatic Pagan, and I tend to lean on the idea that psychology and science are core pieces of magic. As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me back up and explain where I’m coming from on this. And let me also be clear–my intention is not to be dismissive of your experience. Rather, to offer a different perspective on what might be going on beneath the hex.