Planning Public Ritual

by Peg Kaan

Public vs Private ritual: Private – • • • Closed setting – someones home, yard or coven stead Members usually know each other (Coven, Grove, House, Clan) Common spiritual beliefs and level of experience

Public – • • • In a publicly accessible place – Park, Hall, rented site Open to any who wish to attend, pagan or not Different spiritual paths, differing levels of experience (Mary 27th Degree Muckity Muck, vs Cathy Kitchenwitch, Whizbang the Ceremonial Magician , Seamus Shaman, Wendy Witch and Debbie Druid all at the same ritual)

Public ritual can be fantastic, but it requires planning and organization. There are challenges to doing a ritual in a public setting that are very different from one in your living room! PLANNING THE RITUAL – • • • • • • Most important step – WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE RITUAL!!! Have a clear idea of why you are doing the ritual – and what tradition you are doing it in! Where will the ritual be held? Park – do you need permits? Hall – do you need rental fee? Outside – are you on someones property? Can you have a fire? What tools will you need? Altar, ritual tools, fire, food, drums? Is the site accessible to all members of your community? Wheelchair ramps, uneven terrain, assistance for visually impaired? Will you be starting the ritual at the site, or will you process in? How many people do you anticipate coming? – VERY IMPORTANT, offerings, cakes and ale, site size will be dependant on this.

WRITING THE RITUAL – • • • USE AN OUTLINE AND MAKE UP CHEAT SHEETS!!! No matter HOW familiar you are with your ritual structure it’s easy to get off track when doing ritual for 30+ people. External distractions (people wandering around the site, dogs, traffic noise ect.) can be distracting as well. Work in the pantheon and tradition that is most familiar to you – Your first public ritual is NOT the time to test out that Kali Puja you've always wanted to do! Working in a familiar format will help keep you on track, and keep ritual flowing smoothly Write a pre-ritual briefing – helps people to understand what to expect, include any chants or songs that will be done. Use this as an opportunity for people to ask questions, to teach chants, songs or repeated phrases. Also a great time to find people who will be willing to take an active role in the ritual.

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Consider how the space will impact how the ritual is done. Are you going to be standing the whole time? Can people sit or lay down for meditation, will the site be warm or cold or wet? Tap your resources – use people who are familiar with the type of ritual you’re going to do to help you out with chants, calling quarters, making offerings ect. Steal from the best! Think about rituals you've been to that have really worked – why did they work? What was best about them? How did they flow? Incorporate elements that you've seen work well into your own writing. Educate the Noobs. Remember that not everyone there will be familiar with your ritual format. Briefing will help, so will repetition. Use call and response as a way of making the ritual accessible – “and we ALL say…” See it from the other side of the circle. When writing, try to look at the ritual from the celebrants perspective – gestures, tone and volume of voice, pace of speech, props , these are all things to consider. How do you want them to see it? Do you want light hearted or intense? Bright and bouncy, or grounded and serious? Do you want lots of music? Drumming? Dancing?

Things to remember – The 3 P’s – Presentation, Pace, and Playfulness • PRESENTATION - think about how the ritual looks – how do you want to set up the altar? What tools do you want to use? (ADF Well fire and tree, Images or representations of deities). What kind of feelings do you want to evoke in the celebrants? How do you want to appear? What type of ritual garb are you going to wear – clothing, masks, lighting all impact the mood of the ritual. PACE – NOT the same as energy – you can have a ritual that is solemnly paced, but still energetic. Samhain rituals paced very differently from Beltaine. PLAYFULNESS – Staying loose and relaxed, being able to deal with the unexpected incorporating humor into the ritual. APPROPRIATELY! Remember that being in a public space means that ANYONE can wander in to your ritual at any time. Be prepared for that possibility. Know the rules of the site you’re using, and have someone designated as “Witch Mart greeter” to deal with possible interruptions, so as to not stop the ritual in its tracks. Maintain safety – monitor fires and candles, if outdoors check the space beforehand for hazards like holes, broken glass ect. Be aware of other people in the space - lock up valuables, make sure everyone enters and leaves the ritual space safely.

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Things to avoid – • • • • Being a talking head . Nobody wants to be talked at for an entire ritual – Include the people that are part of your ritual – give out parts, use chants that people know, TEACH them the chants pre-ritual. The more inclusive the ritual is, the better it is for everyone there. Dirges!!! My personal pet peeve is chants that sound like funeral marches. Nothing will bring down a rituals energy faster than a minor key chant in 2/4 time. Reading the liturgy. Work from an outline, but know the ritual well enough to punt. Use the outline to keep you on track, but don’t let it be a crutch. Locking yourself in. – In general, when doing a public ritual, casting a closed circle is a really bad idea. Open circles are far more effective and far easier to extricate from if necessary.

Resources –

Books – • • • • • Neopagan Rites - A Guide to Creating Public Rituals That Work - By Isaac Bonewits Elements of Ritual - By Deborah Lipp Creating Circles and Ceremonies - Rituals for All Seasons And Reasons - By Overon Zell Ravenharte and Morning Glory Zell Ravenharte 8 Sabbats for Witches - By Janet and Stewart Farrar Pagan Rites of Passage - By Pauline and Dan Campanelli

Websites – • • • Ar nDraicht Fein – (Druidism, and several articles on public ritual), Coven Oldenwilde (Asheville NC) Public Ritual Pointers good article on ritual planning -

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