Ritual Calendar – June (Belated)

There are some ideas from my last post that I want to further explore, but I’m just not in the proper frame of mind to do so just yet.  In the meantime, I’ve promised myself that I will finish my ritual calendar posts before 2015 rolls around.  So, six months late, here are some thoughts on the summer solstice.  I feel like this needs to be fleshed out a bit more, but wanted to get the bones of it down.

June Ritual – Celebrating the Day

Timing
  • Perhaps unnecessary to say, but this should be done on the solstice.

Themes

  • Seasonal renewal
Purpose
  • Celebration of the solstice.
Preparations
  • Determine the time of the sunrise and sunset.
  • If doing the full ritual, plan for outdoor activities and gather any needed supplies.

Ritual- Minimalist Version

  • Go outside at sunrise and face the east. Acknowledge the rising sun and what it means to you.
  • At the end of the day, go outside and face the west. Give thanks for the gift of light.

Ritual- Full Version

  • Greet the sunrise by going outside and facing east.  Offer an acknowledgement of the coming light in a way that you feel is appropriate (prayer, yoga, etc.).  Confirm your commitment to celebrating the gift of sunlight throughout the entire day.
  • Spend the day engaged in outdoor activities.  If possible include a picnic or outdoor cooking (a solar oven would be ideal) and offer a part of the meal to any solar deities you feel are appropriate.  Whenever you can, reflect on how the daylight makes your activities possible.
  • If you can do so safely, use the sun to kindle a fire that will be allowed to burn throughout the night.  If this isn’t practical, allow a candle to sit in indirect sunlight during the day to infuse with the sun’s energy.  Light this candle before nightfall and allow it to burn through the night.
  • At sunset, face west and offer thanks for the gift of daylight.
  • As the darkness begins to descend, focus on the fire (or candle) you’ve lit, meditating on ways that you can carry light within yourself even in the deepest darkness.

Modifications and Notes

Outdoor activities can be adjusted to suit the abilities and needs of the individual practitioner.  The point is not to cram as much activity as possible into the day, but to simply get outside and honor the gift of extended daylight hours.

Weather will need to be taken into account, of course, and modifications made as necessary.  In the event that the weather absolutely does not permit outdoor time on the solstice itself, I’ll usually delay until another day when the weather is more suitable.

 

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Ritual Calendar – November

November is winding down already and it’s time to think about this month’s entry on the ritual calendar cycle.  I’d mentioned previously that November’s ritual is purposefully abridged.  There has been some interesting behind-the-scenes feedback about the efficacy of abbreviated rituals. Some indignation has been expressed that small rituals don’t ‘properly honor’ one’s path or deities.

Embracing a ‘Go big or go home’ philosophy is a viable option only if you have the resources to do so. The couple of critics who have expressed dissatisfaction with my approach have missed a vital point – not everyone has unlimited resources to invest in a regular schedule of large-scale rituals. Lack of resources does not necessarily preclude someone from having a meaningful practice. More importantly, it is up to each individual to decide what constitutes a meaningful practice on their path and what level of ritual work is required.

Perhaps I need to be more clear in my intent: this calendar is for my own use and takes into account my own limitations and priorities, along with the expectations of those deities with whom I work.  The purpose of posting it here is not to declare that my method is the One True Way(tm). Rather, it’s just an opportunity to share one approach that someone else may find useful or adaptable on their own paths. If it doesn’t work well for someone else, that’s fine because it is not created for anyone else. In any case, I’m not going to post large-scale, expansive rituals simply because someone else thinks that’s the way it should be done.  So, without further ado, a little ritual of thanksgiving.

November Ritual – The Gratitude List

Timing
  • Any time in November, but well suited for Thanksgiving if you’re in the States.

Themes

  • Gratitude
Purpose
  • Reflection and expression of thanks.
Preparations
  • Gather supplies:
    • Pen
    • Paper
    • Blessing oil of choice (optional)

Ritual- Full Version

  • Spend some time in considering what it is that makes you thankful. Start with the big and obvious things, events, and beings in your life for whom you are grateful.
  • Write out your list.  This can be a simple bullet list or if desired, prose text that includes the reasons for your gratitude.
  • When your list is complete, say a prayer of thanks. If desired anoint the list with blessing oil and add a prayer of blessing for those on your list.
  • Place the list in a place where you can see it frequently and be reminded of it.

Modifications and Notes

  • As this is a reflective work, I don’t find warding or demarcating the ritual space necessary.  These steps can be added per personal preference.
  • If you have the inclination or are of a creative bent, you can also look for less obvious additions to your list. For example, a broken leash and an ill-mannered dog because that combination allowed me to meet a really amazing person (who is also the subject of much gratitude).
  • An alternative to the list would be a visual collage with representations of the objects of your gratitude.
  • While I do list deities on my list, this is not designed to be a ritual of giving thanks directly to them.  Offerings of thanks to deity are done separately and tend to be very specific to the deity and the situation.

Ritual Calendar – May (Belated)

Catching up on the ritual calendar posts hasn’t been as easy as I’d hoped, as life finds other ways to keep me busy.   May and November are both abridged rituals, as they both follow on the heels of major rituals the month before.  There is not a longer version to either of these, as I’m often still processing the previous month’s working when these roll around.

May Ritual – Releasing the Muse

Timing
  • Any time in May.

Themes

  • Creativity
Purpose
  • Encouraging creativity and the fruition of ideas.
Preparations
  • Gather supplies:
    • Any combination of herbs of inspiration and creativity – mints and citrus are good choices
    • Burning bowl or cauldron
    • Charcoal Tabs
    • Paper
    • Pencil with an eraser
    • Pen

Ritual- Full Version

  • Light the charcoal tab in your burning vessel and while it heats, draw a box in the middle of the paper.  Inside, place your name, a stick figure, or other representation of yourself.  Around the outer edge of the box, write the things that are keeping you from your creative goals (e.g., “stress”, “lack of time”, etc.).
  • After you’ve finished, drop some incense on the charcoal.  As it burns, erase the words that hold you back, one at a time.  As you erase them, envision the barriers disappearing.  When all of the words are gone, slowly erase the box itself, leaving only your personal representation.
  • Drop a bit more incense on the charcoal and as it burns, use the pen to trace over your name and then begin writing words in a spiral pattern that flows out from the end of your name and surrounds it.  These words should all have positive connotations and be related to your creative process. Include also ideas and words that you hope will apply to the finished work. For example, a spiral for someone writing a novel might include terms like “words, plot, character, ink, chapters, revisions, editing, rave reviews, NY Time’s Best Seller, book signings, etc”.   As you create the spiral, fill it with hope and positive energy.
  • Pass the paper through the incense smoke and hang it in your creative work space as a reminder of your goals.

Modifications and Notes

I haven’t included warding or demarcation of ritual space with this one, as I don’t find it necessary for this particular working.  These can be added if you prefer, as can offerings or petitions to deity.  For me, I actually prefer this one to be free of any other entities, partially due to the very intense amount of deity interaction that accompanies my April ritual.

Ritual Calendar – October

I keep tabs on my calendar and to-do lists on a daily basis, but somehow, the end of October still managed to sneak up on me.  The ritual that follows is a highly condensed version of what I do over the course of the week leading up to the festivals of the dead that predominate this time of year.

October Ritual -Honoring the Dead

Timing
  • End of October.

Themes

  • Remembrance
  • Reflection
Purpose
  • Remember and reflect upon the lives of those of who have passed.
Preparations
  • Gather supplies as needed.
  • Decide on foods to be prepared and shop for ingredients as necessary.
  • Prep or buy any offerings, gifts, and incenses to be used.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • There isn’t one, as far as my own practice is concerned.  If you’d like to do a minimalist version, I would suggest that either a roll call or placing photos of the beloved dead at the dinner table might suffice.
Ritual- Full Version
  • Ward all of the spaces that are to be used during the ritual, including any areas used to transition from one part of the ritual to another.  This kind of work tends to draw all sorts of ‘out-of-town guests’, so it pays to lay down some strong boundaries.  Unless of course, you really enjoy banishing rituals.
  • Personal cleansing/purification ritual as desired.  Dress as you feel is appropriate.
  • Part I – Dumb Supper for close family and friends.  I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on how-to, as this is pretty well described other places. For those not familiar, this is a dinner held in silence in which the honored guests are the dead.
  • Part II – Dessert.  For those who I’ve known but were not invited to the dumb supper, I put out dessert and pour wine.  For specific individuals that I want to invite at this time, I light additional tealights.  This is the time that I set aside for the dead to make any requests that they need to (with the understanding that I am not a granter of wishes but will do what I can within reason).
  • Part III – The Unmentionables, Unknown, and Unnamed.  Place a plate of food outside, away from the other ritual areas for any wandering spirits, any dead that you don’t want to name, etc.  This is a simple acknowledgement that there are others who are not part of the main celebrations. A simple prayer gets offered for these souls.
  • Part IV – The Naming (aka The Honor Roll).  The tealights are moved to the central ritual space.  I begin this portion with music – specifically, Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire?”.  The names of the honored dead are then read slowly, a bell tolled between each name.  This list begins with those who have departed in the past twelve months, followed then by the names of those that were of special significance in my life.  When all the names have been read (I do recommend writing a list before you start), finish with “And all those beloved who have come before.  May you never be forgotten.”  At this point, I’ll usually throw in a reading or piece of music that is appropriate to this particular celebration (this year, it will likely be series of quotes from Robin Williams, Dr. Maya Angelou, and Nelson Mandela).
  • Part V – The Blessing and Release.  I end with a petition for a blessing of those who have died and a request that their memories be preserved another year in the minds of the living. Prayers are offered for those who will be passing in the coming twelve months and a request made that the deceased help to guide those who will soon pass. The guests of honor are thanked for their presence and invited to return for next year’s ritual. The tealights are allowed to burn until they are extinguished.

Modifications and Notes

This one has a similar disclaimer to the April ritual:  Unless you’re at least somewhat seasoned with rituals involving multiple deities/entities, do not try this one at home.  Start small if this is something beyond the scope of your experience.  No matter what your experience level, be prepared to do a banishing ritual if needed (as in, be familiar with one and be able to do it quickly and on the fly if needed).

There’s room for variation throughout the ritual.  The timing of this one is flexible. While I prefer this one to be done on October 31st, this isn’t always practical.  I typically try to keep this one confined to the period of October 30th to November 3rd.  If there are budgetary limitations, a single plate can be set for the dead at the supper (same with tealights).  While most of my rituals are written for solitary practice, this one easily accommodates shared practice.

A final word of caution:  This ritual can be very draining for a variety of reasons. For this reason, I don’t hold fast to a specific date, but try to schedule it when I can have a full day’s recovery time (i.e., no work or other major obligations the next day) or alternatively, break it up over several days.

Ritual Calendar – April (Belated)

I’m going to try to get caught up on the missing Ritual Calendar posts for April through August over the next few weeks, as time permits. April is a difficult one to outline in specifics, as it focuses entirely on my own work and path.  I’m just going to sketch out the generalities of what I do with some suggestions if you want to adapt this to your own practice.

April Ritual -Honoring the Work

Timing
  • Any time during the month is fine.  I usually try for the end of the month, as this is a ritual to be balanced with my work in late October.

Themes

  • Recognition
  • Rededication
  • Reflection
Purpose
  • Reflect on work done over last twelve months
  • Rededicate self to one’s work
  • Recognize any and all helpers in that work
Preparations
  • Gather supplies as needed. At minimum, offerings for the helpers, candles, etc.
  • Because this is my next-to-the-most-important ritual of the year, I tend to put a bit more advanced preparation into demarcating the ritual space, doing purification rituals, and choosing appropriate clothing and offerings.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • Reaffirm my commitment to do death/threshold work.  Provide offerings for deities and other helpers in that work.  (As this is one of the ‘big’ rituals for me, minimalist version will only be used in extreme circumstances).
Ritual- Full Version
  • Create  ritual space, using at both an inner and outer circle.  After closing the outer circle, set out a candle and offering for each deity and helper who has assisted with my work (or wishes to in future). Close the inner circle, placing myself within it. Light a candle to represent my work, allowing it to burn during the full ritual.
  • Invite attendees (i.e., deities and other helpers past and present) one at a time, turning to face their candle/offering vessel.
  • Declare myself and my purpose. Typically it goes something like this “I, Aisling Faa, born (name), called (nicknames/common monikers), devotee to Isis, child of (parents names), of the families of (insert family names), stand today to honor and affirm the work that has been chosen for me.”
  • Acknowledge any assistance relieved in the past year.
  • State what I believe to be my ‘work’ and await for confirmation from my patron deity.
  • Once confirmed, ask that any helpers not wishing to provide future assistance in doing this work make their feelings known.  Allow them time to withdraw.
  • In the event that there is a helper whom I’ve chosen not to work with again, thank them for their past help and ask them to take their leave.
  • Affirm my desire to continue the work with an oath and libations.
  • Thank  those still present for their continued assistance.
  • Break the inner circle and light the candle of each of the helpers.
  • Recenter self in the middle of the circle and open myself to any messages that the helpers would like to impart.  Remain in circle until the helpers’ candles have all extinguished themselves.  Break circle, carrying my own candle with me and allow it to burn until self-extinguished.

Modifications and Notes

I’m going to start by saying that, unless you’re at least somewhat seasoned with rituals involving multiple deities/entities, do not try this one at home.  Start small if this is something beyond the scope of your experience.  If you have a patron, get a feel for working with them alone over a number of rituals before inviting others into the space.  Allow them to guide you on who it is and is not appropriate to invite into circle and when you should begin doing so.  Work up to more complex rituals.

In the event that you do decide to take this one on, know that there is a lot of flexibility in how you handle this.  However, I do recommend that you make a practice of confirming with your patron deity the nature of the work that’s expected of you prior to affirming your willingness to do it.  Know that you can say “Gee, I think I’ll pass on that” but be prepared to offer up some idea of what you’d be willing to do instead.  If there is specific work that you want to do, you can petition to be allowed to do that.  You may or may not be allowed to pursue your interest (or it may be tacked on to whatever the gods already have in mind for you).

Depending on who you work with, you may not need to set up a double circle… or you may want to keep both circles closed through the entire ritual (in which case, you’ll need to light the helper’s candles prior to closing the inner circle).  In my work, I prefer to keep the inner circle intact until I’m as certain as I can be of the intent of those present.  While I’ve not had a problem with anyone refusing to leave, I’d suggest familiarity with at least one banishing ritual in the event that someone’s idea of ‘help’ might not be in line with yours.

Ritual Calendar – September

Summer has gone by in a blur and whirl of activity, mostly of the mundane work variety.  It’s a good time to begin getting back on track with the ritual calendar (or at least post the current month!).  I’ve quite happily located my brainstorming notes on these, so I have some clue now where I was going with them.

 

September Ritual – A Reaping

Timing
  • Any time during the month. For me, this is a good one to coincide with the equinox, when I usually make a harvest  celebration meal.

Themes

  • Fruition
  • Harvest
  • Gratitude
Purpose
  • Recognize the work that has been done
  • Continue positive change
  • Express thanks for any assistance that might have been given
  • Honor the elements
Preparations
  • Gather supplies as needed.
  • Before beginning, look back at March’s ritual and recall what it was that you wanted to manifest at that time.
Ritual- Minimalist Version
  • Collect whatever fruits, leaves, flowers, seeds, etc.  that you can from the plant that you put into the ground in March.  Prepare them for storage over the coming months (press the flowers, dry the herbs, etc) as you contemplate the changes that you set out to make in March.  Reaffirm your commitment to make those changes.
Ritual- Full Version
  • Delineate ritual space as preferred around the plant that you sowed in spring.
  • Enter the ritual space and call upon any deities or other helpers that have assisted you in manifesting this change.  Express your gratitude as desired  through offerings, prayers, etc.
  • As you collect the parts of the plant that you wish to use, honor each of the elements:
    • Hold the plant  in your hand and say “With air, I have breathed life into you.”  Blow gently on the plant.
    • Touch the earth at the base of the plant, saying “With earth, I have rooted you.”
    • Hold the plant up toward the sun and say “With fire, I have guided you upward.”
    • Pour water over the plant while saying “With water, I have  nourished you.”
    • When all has been done, state over the harvested pieces “With spirit, I have changed you.”
  • Spend some time contemplating the ways in which your desired change has manifested itself.  If there is still work to be done, take a moment to petition for further assistance.
  • Offer thanks as appropriate.  As per your particular practice, break the ritual space and exit the area.
  • Dry, freeze, press, or otherwise store the harvested plant for future use.  If possible, find a way to utilize the harvested pieces during each of the next six months.

Modifications and Notes

  • As common sense is not always common practice, I think I should probably say that you’ve chosen to plant a potentially poisonous plant in spring (e.g., foxglove), harvesting and storing the plant is not recommended. This ritual can be done without removing the plant or its parts.
  • Using edible herbs or plants allows you to incorporate the harvest into dishes throughout the coming autumn and winter. Rosemary is my go-to plant for this ritual, as it is a). a symbol of remembrance (important to my personal path), b). easily dried and stored, and c). one of my favorite culinary herbs.
  • In the even that you did not do the March ritual or that your plant never came up or died (it happens, don’t read too much into it!),  you can substitute another plant you’ve sowed or, in a pinch, use a purchased plant.

Housecleaning

I’m in the process of a major housecleaning, both in terms of my physical space and my digital ramblings.  In trying to clear some of the digital clutter, I realized that I still have a lot of password protected pages on this blog that either need to be shared or cleared out.

Here’s one for sharing that’s appropriate to the subject of cleaning. I think I might have been feeling a little snarky the day I wrote it. 


 

Sage-Free Smudge

Both white sage and common sage are incredibly popular for smudges.  I know I am not the only person who absolutely loathes the smell of burning sage.  Smoldering white sage, in particular, makes me want to throw up on my pointy-toed shoes.  Given the option of facing something from the Dungeon Dimensions* or burning white sage indoors, I’ll take my chances with whatever is crawling up from the Dungeon Dimensions. For that reason, I’ve worked out an alternative to sage smudges that doesn’t smell, IMHO, like cat piss.

Blend and burn** these three ingredients together to create a cleansed, calm, and positively charged space:

  • Cinnamon
  • Lavender
  • Dragonsblood resin

The herbs can be process as much or as little as you wish.  Since I usually buy both cinnamon and dragonsblood in powdered form, I tend to grind up the lavender fairly fine.

 

*On the off-chance that a new witchling (or anyone else unfamiliar with the works of Pratchett) finds their way to this page, ‘Dungeon Dimensions‘ is a reference to a fictional place.  There is no such thing, so don’t go out to some forum and start pestering people more learned than you about their experiences with the Dungeon Dimensions. You’ll look like a prat. Save yourself… and the rest of us… the embarrassment. Thus concludes my good deed for the day century.  
**As common sense isn’t always common practice: Please burn outdoors or in a very-well ventilated area in an appropriate fire/heat-proof vessel with a fire extinguisher handy.  Also, this blend is not meant for ingestion of any sort, so don’t inhale, smoke, or eat this stuff.