Guidelines for Attending and Conducting Open Rituals
Open rituals have been held in Sheffield for many years to enable pagans of different traditions to celebrate the seasons outdoors, on or close to the Sabbat dates. These guidelines have been put together to help make these occasions as successful as possible and to encourage those who may be new to the writing and conducting of rituals.
People who write or take part in the ritual may come from a range of pagan paths but the rituals are not intended to follow any specific path. In open rituals variety is important. Unlike workings within established groups, open rituals must try to please people of differing paths - not easy or always possible. While the ritual format can be expected to reflect the persuasion of the writer, some compromise may be necessary.
All are welcome to the rituals but we ask that those attending for the first time make themselves known to others in advance or attend as the guest of someone known to the group. A ritual is a sacred rite. But as a dedicated building is not available for use, and also because many pagans do not practice indoor rituals, it is necessary to create a sacred space on site on each occasion. Tools and symbols are important to some, but not essential. They may, however, help to create an atmosphere conducive to the occasion.
The purpose of ritual:
For celebrating the Wheel of the Year and the changing seasons.
Doing magical work.
Rituals can do either or both of these things; many open rituals may simply celebrate the time of year.
An ideal open ritual should:
Please as many people as possible. (It is understood that one cannot please everyone on every occasion)
Should create/increase a high state of consciousness.
Leave those attending with a feeling that they have taken part in a sacred
Create a feeling of spiritual renewal.
The writer, or the conductor, and those attending the ritual all play a part in achieving these things.
Guidelines for those attending rituals:
Don't arrive late and try to enter the circle after it has been cast.
Stay within the circle once the ritual has begun.
Remember that you are a participant not a spectator - take part
enthusiastically; either silently, or in the chanting, dancing etc.
Switch off mobile phones
Don't take photographs or recordings - please respect the privacy of others.
Everyone is welcome to bring guests but please do not bring people who have no wish to take part in the ritual.
Respect the sacred nature of the circle and don't chat or argue during the ritual.
Leave mundane items, such as bags, outside the sacred space.
Accept that the nature and conduct of the ritual will reflect the personal path of the writer.
Guidelines for those writing and conducting rituals.
Tailor the ritual to outdoor work
Keep it simple - this will be easier on the night.
Make the ritual appropriate to the season.
Remember that it may be dark during the winter months and tailor the ritual accordingly.
Ensure that the ritual has a clear focus. It may be useful to explain the focus at the start.
Prepare props etc. in advance.
Do a 'dry run' in advance of the evening especially if complicated.
Learn your script - this is the best way to create flow but is time consuming and not essential.
If people will be required to read 'parts' try and recruit them in advance.
If possible/necessary, arrive at the site early to set up and prepare.
As well as a copy of the ritual, any props you may like to bring:
A bucket for a fire and wood supply; Altar; Altar cloth; Candles; Matches; Incense; Sacraments - often bread and wine; Torches to read by.
Others can be contacted to bring these things for you.
On the night:
Make certain before starting, that everything required is set up and to hand. Make certain that sacraments are present and ready to hand out. (Uncork wine etc. before the start of the ritual)
Creating sacred space:
It is normally expected that the sacred space will be created prior to performing the ritual. The easiest way to do this is to cast a circle and call the quarters. Most people are familiar with this and it easily draws a line between the 'everyday' before the ritual and the ritual work. As many people are familiar with this practice, volunteers for quarter calling can usually be found on the night. Some like to invoke deities for the ritual and this would normally take place at the start after the circle cast and the quarters called. There are other ways to create sacred space and writers may use these as long as it is clear that the space has been created and the ritual has started.
Content and conduct:
This is variable depending upon the tradition of the writer and the nature of the festival but an open ritual should normally be appropriate to the season and the festival being celebrated. Whatever the tradition however, an ideal ritual will be professional in execution. To help the ritual flow well, know your ritual - don't leave gaps, which encourage those attending to chat and break the flow. Don't allow discussion or argument. The circle is not the place for these things. Maintain momentum. This helps create an atmosphere of higher consciousness.
Chanting, drumming and dancing are all good ways to raise energy for magical work. Remember: Chants should be simple - it is hard to read in the dark and some attending may not have chanted before. Drums may need to be provided. It can be hard to dance in the dark.
It is usual to hold a communion (often bread and wine) at the close of the ritual. Please note: this is NOT a parody of Christian worship. As well as being traditional, this serves as an important grounding exercise if energy has been raised. The conductor of the rite is responsible for ensuring that the sacraments are present though they don't have to supply them themselves. Asking another to bring some is fine.
Closing the circle:
Many people feel that any deities, elements etc. called for the rite should be thanked and dismissed and the circle closed before leaving the site.