17 April 2015

Pop-Up Ritual

I love doing ritual magick but I don't always love the rigidity of the way it's often practiced.  I want my ritual practice to be adaptable enough to be done anywhere and anytime it's needed, with whomever wants to join me.  Don't get me wrong, a complicated and exactingly crafted ritual can be a beautiful thing - but I tend to save that for rare major workings.  Most of the time I do magick on the fly, including rituals.

Like so many things, I first started doing ritual back as an undergrad at Wellesley.  We had an amazing group that focused on learning new things and trying out new practices.   We were students just getting into magick, what else would we be doing?  We met every week and would often begin meetings by asking if anyone needed any magickal help.  Most of the time someone needed something (help studying for an exam, healing of an injury, dealing with a conflict, etc.); so, we would circle up, call the quarters, and do some magick.  We were a diverse group with Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Red Road, and a few other practitioners, so we didn't exactly have a set liturgy.  We'd improvise on a theme and just figure out what we were doing as we went along.  Every ritual was totally different, but they pretty much always met our needs.  It was an extremely open and flexible way of doing ritual and I loved it.

Ah my Alma Mater

I still love it.  I pretty much never do something the exact same way in multiple rituals.  Yes, over the years I've developed a pretty standard way of casting a circle and calling the quarters, but they always vary at least a little from ritual to ritual and they're the closest thing to standard liturgy that I've got. I like being able to feel the energies around me when I'm doing ritual and then adapt the ritual accordingly.  Shouldn't the way you call air into a circle be different if you're standing on a wind swept bluff as opposed to when you're indoors?  Should you summon, stir, and call forth a spirit that you can feel is already standing right beside you or just acknowledge it's presence and thank it for showing up early?  I've always felt that such adaptability is key for an effective practice.

Ritual is, in essence, a formal framework for worship, magickal practice, or a bit of both.  In my practice a ritual needs to have: a statement of intent/focus, an opening, calling of supportive powers (elements, spirits, deities, etc.), a working (devotional, magickal, or both), thanking of supporting powers, and a closing.  As long as those elements are present, preferably in that order, you've got yourself a ritual.  To me, it doesn't really matter whether your celebration of Artemis takes the form of a 15 minute recitation of an original poem in perfect iambic pentameter or is just a few moments of heartfelt meditation and lighting some incense.

Oh My Gods Archive
The exact execution of any step in a ritual is far less important than the focus and intent used in performing it.  I've been to large, carefully executed, highly formalized ritual that had less power and meaning than a five minute improvised ceremony to honor a pretty tree found in a park.  It's a lot like feeling the power and beauty of a heartfelt jazz improv as opposed to a coldly, if perfectly, played Mozart concerto; like music, magick has to have soul!

Of course, nothing is ever quite as simple as that.  Unless you're really comfortable with public speaking (something my inner attention whore loves with an unholy passion), improvising in front of strangers can be intimidating.  If you're inexperienced you might not know what to say; you may fear being judged or laughed at.  It's important that ritual space be safe space.  I like to begin my public rituals by stating that there is no right or wrong way to do something (within reason) and that judgements are strictly prohibited.  When I ask for participants I try to be fairly specific about what roles are needed and any constraints on how something can be done (usually time or adapting to the needs of the particular atendees).  If someone wants to participate that doesn't know what to do or feels comfortable doing something alone I ask for a more experienced practitioner to help the newbie plan what to do and how to do it (think magickal spotter). 

This brings us to the idea of pop-up ritual.  I have a dream of building a network of magickal folk who can come together, without prior preparation, and perform ritual whenever it's wanted.  Just like you see pop-up retail stores appearing temporarily where they find a need, I want to see pop-up ritual that can be set up in a flash anywhere, anytime, with whomever happens to show up.  I want to see open, inclusive ritual being practiced in my community. If you're in the Seattle area check out Illustris on Facebook and see where you can participate in my pop-up rituals.

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