We adopt many of the ritual elements and practices common among modern day Wiccans and Pagans because we believe these are a solid and familiar foundation for many who are seeking a place to call home within the Pagan community. We want the average Pagan who may have recently moved to the area from somewhere else to feel right at home at one of our rituals or a solitaire who is just trying out group working to not be confronted with a huge learning curve when being introduced to our ritual style. So, while we do things with our own flavor, you should have an easy time catching on and fitting in with us. Even if you’re new to Paganism altogether, what you learn with us will be easily transferable elsewhere if you end up moving to a new area or decide to explore other groups. Still, there are certain things which are uniquely ours or that we have borrowed from other traditions and incorporated into our practices and we will try to cover these a bit here.
As you will find covered in the Clothing, Tools and Magickal Names article our temple uses cord colors to indicate a particular degree or level within the clergy. Cords are collected and not replaced so as one gains another cord it is usually added to the ones already attained by the priest or priestess. To learn which colors mean what please refer to the Cords subsection of Clothing, Tools and Magickal Names. Like many Wiccan covens, our temple utilizes the practice of having someone designated to use a besom (magickal broom) to sweep the ritual space clean before circle is cast. While one person is sweeping the circle you will usually see another go to a point somewhere to the south of the ritual space, say some words and pour something out onto the ground or in a bowl. This is an “Outdweller Offering” An outdweller is a spirit or entity who, while not necessarily malevolent, might not be friendly to our work. To appease these spirits we make an offering of some sort, often ale but other things can be used too, and ask them to accept this gift and leave us be while we have our ritual. It’s a gesture of making peace with the spirits of the land or others who may be nearby.
We typically have someone to anoint participants with oil by drawing a pentagram (for protection) or other symbol on their forehead and asking them how they enter the circle. If you do not know the correct answer then ask someone before ritual begins. It’s fairly common knowledge among Pagans. Upon giving the correct passwords the participant is welcomed to join the circle. After everyone is in, the High Priest or High Priestess will usually have a few things to say about the reason for the ritual that is about to take place then ask everyone to join hands as the circle is cast with the following chant: “Hand to hand the circle’s cast, joining present, future and past — a sacred place, a world apart, where powers merge and magick starts.” Afterward a few more things will take place at the altar then everyone will turn to the east and prepare to call the quarters.
The quarters represent the four elements of Air to the East, Fire to the South, Water to the West and Earth to the North. These elements are considered to be the fundamental essence from which all things are made and the elementals themselves are called upon to attend and help guard the circle against any malevolence from outside. They form the boundary between the magickal, sacred space created within the circle and the mundane world of the outside. After each quarter is called all of the participants turn to the next direction and the next until all are called, ending with Earth in the North. At this time the High Priest and High Priestess will call upon the divine masculine and divine feminine to join, this can be the Lord and Lady or a particular God and Goddess may be called by name depending on the occasion. But in all things we seek balance so we try to have both masculine and feminine energy present in our rituals in equal degrees. After the elements and the gods (used here to mean gods and goddesses) have been called what happens next varies from ritual to ritual but the High Priest or High Priestess will usually have some things to say and will explain what workings are coming up. At some point it is often asked if there are personal magicks which anyone wishes for during the circle. This is when members will often tell us of friends, loved ones or themselves in need of healing energy, help finding new employment or help with another situation. We have certain chants, spells and other things we can do to raise the proper energy for the request made and usually those will be done on the spot or if more research is needed then a commitment is made to study on a way that more magickal work can be done to help the individual. Also, at some point a request is made to make offerings to the gods. This can be an opportunity to share a poem one has written, or a spoken piece one would like to share, perhaps a work of art or craft or anything that it is felt by each individual woud be an appropriate offering to make in thanking the gods for the gifts which have been bestowed upon them.
Later, after all words have been said, workings done and offerings made then an offering of cakes and ale (which can be any food and drink actually) are blessed and passed around the circle with the words, “May you never hunger.” and “May you never thirst.” then the circle is closed in generally a reverse manner to the way it was cast. Although there are many ways to do what was just described, this is basically the gist of a typical Wiccan or Pagan based circle anywhere you may go (save for the Outdweller Offering part which comes from ADF Druidry). This is how we do it and for the most part it is what you can expect to see if you come to one of our rituals. A few things might be different here and there but for the most part it’s fairly basic and, as we said, most anyone with a Pagan background should feel fairly comfortable and at home with it which is how we like for things to be.
Dedicate or Initiate?
At our temple there is a difference between these two concepts and we would like to go into some explanation as to how these differ.
Dedicant – At our temple we believe in the concept of a Pagan laity. In other words, we recognize that there are people out there who desire the social and spiritual aspects of participating with a group but they are not necessarily interested in becoming clergy and entering a training program. That’s perfectly acceptable. It’s not like, if you go to a Christian church for example, that everyone who is in attendance necessarily aspires to be a pastor someday. Why should all Pagans be expected to become clergy and pushed to attain a high enough degree to go form another group of their own? Maybe they are happy right where they are. We are offering a path by which people like this can have a dedication ceremony to make this temple their spiritual home and dedicate themselves to the gods in whatever way they conceive of them. We are working to put together an e-book for our Dedicants with a collection of Pagan prayers, chants, blessings, devotionals, spells and other things to help them live a Pagan spiritual life in their day to day practice.
Initiate – An initiate is someone who has been called to and decided upon becoming clergy within our temple. We don’t do instant initiations, so if we’ve only met you once we’re probably going to be a bit hesitant if you express interest in initiating right away. We like to get to know you and have you get to know us a bit before taking this step. Our initiated clergy is a very tight knit group and see one another as literal spiritual brothers and sisters. Our initiation rite is intended to depict a birthing into this new life. Our initiations and our Esbats are only open to clergy and spouses for attendance and are fully skyclad. All who attend must be able to do so in perfect love and perfect trust. The only exceptions to the clergy and spouses rule is invited candidates who are coming to be initiated into the temple clergy. In order to be invited you first must express your interest in initiating and you should have attended at least 5 temple events. Then the temple elders will discuss and determine your state of readiness. A vote is cast and if it is favorable you will know because there will be bells.
We’re not in this thing to make a bunch of money but putting on rituals, holding events and buying items for the temple does cost money. For this reason, we do ask our members to “Chip In!” a suggested monthly donation of $10 to help with incidental costs like candles, incense, charms for initiate cords, etc. If you’re able to do more then we will promise to put the money to good use providing better things for our temple. If you are under economic hardship, don’t fret, we feel it is more important that you’re here on the path with us and sharing your energy while we all seek spiritual enlightenment and wisdom.