Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What's With All of This Ritual?

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Recently, I was with a friend and the subject of ritual came up.  This friend, who is relatively new to the Craft, sometimes doesn’t understand why things are done as they are done.  Said friend also possesses the logic of a Vulcan.  He and I were talking about casting a sacred circle and what it takes to do such things.  He’d only ever seen this done ritually, so I sat down and closed my eyes.  Drawing the energy upward and outward (as I do), I cast a circle.  When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me strangely.  He felt the energy move, a bubble surrounding us.  I smiled and announced that the circle was cast.  He then asked, “If it’s that easy to cast a circle, what’s with all of the pomp and circumstance of ritual?”

This simple question really got me thinking.  If the moving of energy and the manufacturing of coincidence is magic and we really don’t need anything other than our own will, why do ritual of any kind?  Why do we spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on tools, or spend days and weeks of our time searching for and decorating the perfect tool if these things aren’t really needed?  What’s with all of this ritual stuff?

I have a theory on this.  Some may say this theory is truth, while others say that it’s bullshit.  I say it’s theory because both truth and bullshit are absolute, and we all know that in the Craft, what works for one may not work for another.  I also say it’s theory because theories are ever evolving and changing as more knowledge is gained.  So, a theory it is.

We pagans do ritual to create a certain mindset.  Our robes, cords, candles and incense all turn our minds away from our mundane lives and set our minds in a spiritual mode.  This is done much in the same way by our Christian counterparts who dress in suits and ties and dresses and fancy hats on Sunday.  For that allotted amount of time, we are neither here nor are we there, but in some in-between place where the energy flows easily and as a solitary or group, we can direct it in the direction we want it to go.  We open up and can feel and hear and see the intent we project.  Our will becomes a tangible thing, drifting and swirling under the gentle rays of the full moon as we chant and dance and beseech our gods to make it so.

So, when does that ritual mindset move from just sabats and esbats and into daily life?  When does the practitioner find themselves living their ritual daily?  When does it happen that you walk into a group circle (or even cast your own) without all of the chanting and ritual garb and the incense smoke hanging in the air?  When does the altered state of consciousness become something we slip in and out of without all of the pomp and circumstance?  Does it take years of intense study?  Is it something preached about by a teacher?  Or, is it something we do unconsciously when we drift off into daydream?

This altered state of consciousness, opening up if you will, is done by us all in those still, quiet moments.  For some, those moments last longer, but for others, it’s only that flash of silence which is needed to get an answer.  When we recognize those moments and begin to listen, we suddenly realize that none of this stuff is needed, not truly needed.  No ritual, no robes, cords, chants, none of it is a necessity.  These are all things we hold on to and when we find ourselves letting them go, we find ourselves in a simple state of being.  In that state of being, we are open.  We catch the wisdom of the aether. We take it in and make it a part of us, but then we release it.  We find the spiritual in taking a walk and picking wildflowers.  Before we know what has happened, life has become our ritual and all of the pomp and circumstance becomes added fun.

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