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- Introduction – You can skip this one if you are performing the ritual solo. It is very helpful when you are doing a ritual with a larger group. This section is good, because it tells the new people who may never have attended a Pagan ritual before what to expect. Basically introduce yourself and your group. This is where I tell everyone to turn off their cell phones, let them know when it is ok and not ok to leave the circle/talk amongst each other, and where the restrooms are located. If you have any chants or songs the group needs to sing/say or if you need audience participation, teach those to those gathered now.
- Sabbat/Esbat Description – Introduce the Sabbat/Esbat to those gathered. Educate! Tell any history, lore, and myths you know of the day. Tell how it was observed in ancient times and how we observe it today. Keep it short and simple. Again, this is a brief introduction. Keep the long lectures for your study groups.
- Cleansing/Purifying – It’s smudging time! Whether you are cleaning the house and taking a bath or cleansing a large group with Sage, this is where you do it. You want the energies around you to be clean and pure. Anoint with oils, if that is your thing, or perform other acts of purification at this time.
- Opening Bell – This is a nice, gentle signal to let everyone know it is time to settle down, close mouths, and open their ears. The fun is about to start! You can use bells, gongs, chimes, or singing bowls. You can also just say, “Let us begin.”
- Grounding – This step is to shift your attendees’ consciousness from the ordinary world to the magical world. It merges everyone into a sort of group mind and helps them connect with the Earth. This can be accomplished with guided meditation, singing, drumming, or chanting.
- Declared Opening – This is simply a single line or two that says why you are performing a ritual. Example: “We are here to celebrate Samhain. We welcome all who come in love and friendship to join our gathering and celebrate with us.” Done.
- Casting the Circle – Create your sacred space. The circle acts as a barrier to keep out unwanted energies and keep in your own until you are ready to release it out into the world. Generally, the circle is cast with salt, incense, or water. I have even used stones in the past. If space is limited or your are, for whatever reason, unable to cast a circle. Don’t worry about it. Just find some other way to create or declare your sacred space.
- Calling the Quarters – Call the essence of the four quarters and the four elements to be present at your circle. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Get creative if you want.
- Invoking – Here you can invoke your Ancestors going back to the beginning of time (or as far back as you know) and our Ancestors of Spirit who helps found our traditions. Honor them, thank them for the foundations they laid down for us, and ask for their help with our workings. Some will also use this step to invoke the Goddess and the God. Invite them to join and bless the circle. Honor and thank them. Be respectful.
- Give offerings to the Gods and your Ancestors – If you want divine things to come, you need to give them a gift to say, “Thanks for stopping by.” Food and beverages work fine. You can burn some incense, say prayers, recite poems, sing sings, dance, whatever you want to offer in praise of those you invoked. You are not bribing. Like any good host, you are offering a little something to your guests.
- Main Event – This is what all the above prep has been for. What we have been waiting for. This can be a magical working, a Sabbat rite, an Esbat rite, a rite of passage, etc. Formal or informal. Long or short.
- The Simple Feast – Now that you have raised energies and finished your main event, I bet you are starting to get hungry. All that work is exhausting! Eat and drink to help ground you to the real world and to celebrate some more. Cakes or bread are common foods shared during the Ritual. Maybe some juice or wine as well. Remind people not to talk. You can even make a big show of passing around the food and drink. Read poems, sing songs, make a little speech. Try not to break the atmosphere you spent so long creating.
- Reverse the Ground – No, we are not turning the world upside-down. We are releasing our energy into the world in order to bring us out of the magical world to the real world. You can meditate briefly to achieve this.
- Thank the Gods and Ancestors – Anything you invoked should be thanked and released. The last one you called gets released first. Last in, first out. Be respectful. You want your guests to come again to the next ritual, so say, “Thank you and Farewell” to each by name.
- Release the Quarters – Thank and release what you called in reverse order. Again, last in, first out.
- Uncast the Circle – Open the sacred space. You don’t have to get fancy or elaborate here. Just saying, “The circle is open” is fine.
- Closing Bell – However you told everyone that you were starting, use the same method to tell them you are done. Simply saying, “Farewell and go in peace” or “We’re done” will work.
- Final Words – This is another spot you don’t have to do if you are doing the ritual solo. It is helpful when you are doing a ritual with a large group. Thank them for coming, make any announcements, and send them on their way. By “on their way” I mean point them towards the area they can chat for a while or eat more food. Social time! You’ve done all this work, now sit and shoot the breeze. Relax! Enjoy each others’ company.