Friday, November 27, 2015

Liturgy Practicum 2: Small Group Practice

Requirement #1: Key concepts
1.     Describe three differences between personal or domestic rituals and small-group rituals. (Minimum 150 words)
In order be able to perform effective rituals, it is important to be able to understand the differences between personal rituals and small group rituals.  Bonewits identifies the differences in three categories: knowledge, affection, and group identity (Bonewits 57).  Knowledge is the amount of understanding the participants have about the ritual and the other people involved. In a personal practice, having a strong knowledge of the subject and ritual format can help create a positive ritual experience, and you can expect that the participants are reasonably familiar with it.  However, in a small group practice, it is very likely that you have new attendees or people who are not as familiar with the ritual format so including explanations or a ritual explanation can be beneficial.
Affection examines the emotional connection that ritual participants have with each other. In a personal or domestic ritual, it is quite probable that the participants are all emotionally attached to each other and have strong emotions for one another.  However, in a small group practice there will be varying relationship dynamics to incorporate.  Some people may be very close, while other participants may not know anyone else in the ritual. 
Group identity is the third area that can be quite different between small group practices and private or domestic rites.  Having a group identity allows the group to focus their intention and purpose of the ritual more effectively than clashing individual identities may.  For example, my grove is made up of many pantheons, including Norse, Greek, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon.  This diversity could easily make doing group worship a challenge, but instead we work together to explore new pantheons within our rituals, and as a group we are able to focus our energies and experience new things together.

2.     Explain the importance of a shared worldview or cosmology within group ritual, and what can be done to help foster that shared cosmology. (Minimum 200 words)
A shared worldview within a group ritual can be quite beneficial because the more closely someone can connect to the cosmology of a ritual, the more they will get out of the ritual experience.  Additionally, the better the participants know each other and accept similar “intellectual, artistic, psychological, social, and spiritual worldviews” the more effectively they will be able to work together, build energy, and create a group mind (Bonewits 59).  Having a shared worldview is also important because ADF Druidry doesn’t follow an orthodox path, but instead utilizes orthopraxy, or a shared practice, with a common worldview and liturgical outline to build a connection between members. 
There are a couple things that can be done to help those people who do not share a common worldview, or may not know the worldview that the group works within.  The first, and easiest to accomplish, is a pre-ritual briefing.  This can be used to give an explanation of the cosmology of the ritual, as well as any features of the rite that may be different than what the participants may be used to.  Giving an explanation before the ritual can help make people feel more comfortable within the ritual, and allows them to have a better understanding of what to expect.  Additionally, it is important for the liturgist who is writing the ritual to consider who will be attending the event when they begin putting it together.   If the participants are all familiar with the ritual format and typical cosmology then explanations are probably less necessary.  However, if there are many new attendees or people who are inexperienced with the ritual format then additional explanations may be necessary.  For example, the discussions if you are performing a ritual with your grove are going to be very different than it would be if you were performing a ritual at a Pan-Pagan event, such as a Pagan Pride Day, or at a non-Pagan event such as a Celtic festival.  Being aware of the participants and having the appropriate conversations with them will help make the ritual more effective and enjoyable for everyone involved.

3.     Explain how you can incorporate words, motion, dance, posture, music, and gesture in a public, small group ritual. How is including each one in small group ritual different from how they are included in individual or domestic ritual? (Minimum 50 words per item, and minimum 150 additional words for comparison)
Praying through Words
Praying through words is the type of prayer that most people are familiar with.  Within a small group ritual, invocations, praise offerings, and ritual workings are spoken aloud. The inflection in your voice can help convey meaning, explaining the sorrow of Demeter as her daughter moves into the realm of the dead during fall, or the joy of the bright warm sun at Midsummer.  Words are the easiest way for us to communicate with each other, so it is a very beneficial method of prayer in small group ritual (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer 17).
Praying through Motion
            Prayer through motion shows how moving from one position to another can strengthen the meaning of your words and give them energy.  During our grove rituals, we often kneel to greet the Earth Mother and welcome her to our rituals.  It shows our appreciation for her, and also allows us to make a more physical connection with the earth as we speak words to welcome her into our sacred space and ask her to uphold our rite (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer 23).

Praying through Dance
This fall I was able to attend a workshop on community building through dance.  The idea is that by having a simple dance you help to build energy, while also helping people to learn to trust the actions of the other participants and appreciate their presence.  Dancing is a great way to show emotion, and it could be used effectively to pray for some people (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer 24). 
Praying through Posture
            Within small group ritual, I see several different methods of prayer through posture.  Many members of our grove use a posture similar to the “orans” position discussed by Serith where you stand with your arms are parallel to the ground and your hands open with palms forward during the blessings of the waters of life (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer 21). When we hallow and affirm the waters of life, we hold the pitcher well above our heads to show that we lifting the waters toward the Kindreds to receive their blessings.
Praying through Music
            Praying through music is a beautiful practice, and we have recently started to incorporate it into our small public rituals.  By sharing the gift of music with the Kindreds or with those people around you, you are giving a very personal part of yourself as an offering.  The act of drumming can help to build energy and enthusiasm in a ritual.  Singing a song can focus the intention of all the participants, while also helping them to feel more actively involved if they know the words.  Music can be an incredible way to build connections with other people, as well as the Kindreds (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer 26).

Praying through Gestures
The intention of gestures in my practice is to help strengthen and reinforce the words that are being spoken. The most intentional gestures we use are when opening and closing the gates. When opening the gates, the participants hold their hands together, and then pull them apart, like we’re opening curtains, to show the gates opening.  We then hold our arms open wide, and bring our hands together to simulate the closing of the gates.  These gestures help the group add their energy to the work, while also helping them to visualize what is happening during that portion of the ritual (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer).
While the different methods of prayer can be utilized in both private and public rituals, they are slightly different in each in stance.  Prayer through words is effective in both types of ritual, however, while volume, enunciation, and other speech practices aren’t explicitly important in private working, in a small group ritual they become very important.  If the other members of the group cannot understand or hear what you are saying, the prayer is lost for them and loses some of its effectiveness for the group. 
Motion can be choreographed into any ritual.  However, it can be a bit of a challenge when there are several new participants or if you’re trying to do complicated motion with people who aren’t familiar with the it.  I think that the biggest difference between motion in private and public ritual is the amount of explanation and time that is required for it to be accomplished.  I feel that dance is the same way.  While you can dance in both private and small group practices, a group of people dancing can be quite chaotic if it isn’t somewhat controlled and organized, and well communicated. 
Posture is one area of private and public ritual that I think works quite easily.  When a ritual leader, and those familiar with the ritual perform a specific action, such as kneeling during the Earth Mother invocation, other participants are often able to follow as well, since it is a simple movement into a specific posture.
Music is much more challenging to incorporate effectively into group ritual.  While an individual singing a song works, getting a group to sing a new song requires practice, and can be quite awkward initially. However, when implemented successfully, it can be a beautiful shared experience that allows the group to bond and build energy together.
Finally, we come to gestures.  Gestures can be quite helpful in small groups as symbols to the participants for specific actions.  We make a simple gesture when we want the participants to give a response, and it has been easily picked up on by those in our small group.  However, too many gestures can be distracting and frustrating to those not familiar with the ritual, while in private practices they may go completely unnoticed.
4.  Explain the strengths and weaknesses of marked and unmarked speech in prayer. Explain how each type of speech manifests in your personal practice, and provide a description of your performance of a prayer for each type of speech in public ritual, including the text of the prayers. (Minimum 200 words)
            Both marked and unmarked speaking styles can be useful within prayer. This type of speech is friendly and uses our normal speech patterns and words we use in our everyday life (Serith, A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book 2).  This type of speech is best used with those beings that you are most familiar and comfortable with, or with those that you have built a good relationship with.  Serith gives examples of hearth deities, or ancestors you know well.   For me, I often use this type of prayer to talk with Athena and Hestia, which are the deities that I am most familiar with, when I am thanking them for being part of my life, or sharing my thoughts or feelings with them.  I also use it regularly to discuss my life with my ancestors. Most recently, this type of speech was used throughout my grove’s Samhain ritual where all participants had the opportunity to honor their ancestors with prayers, stories, and offerings.  I stood in the middle of the group and essentially told the story of my friend in a very conversational manner.  This is the prayer I used for this ritual:
     Today, I’m here to honor Dale Bacon, my friend, and mentor.  Dale, you were such an incredible inspiration in my life.  You were my consistent guide, helping me to find my own path, answering my questions, helping me to find myself when I felt lost, and so much more.  Our dream was always to create a Grove, and even though you’re gone, our dream has lived on.  Prairie Shadow is named in your honor, and we remember you each time we speak the name.  Thank you, Dale, for everything you’ve given me.  Your stories will live on. 

Marked speech is any sort of speech that is not that a normal conversational speech pattern.  This type of speech is typically more formal and includes both “newscaster’s speech” and poetry (Serith, A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book 3).  Marked speech gives a bit of formality to the prayers and makes them feel more extravagant than a typical conversation.   In my practice, these prayers most often take the form of poems. During ritual, most of my formal invocations and prayers take the form of marked speech.  The words are often more melodic than typical speech, and feel much more like a performance than a conversation.  The prayer below is one that I wrote to Hestia for a ritual that was performed at the To the Stars Retreat. 

Light Hearth Candle

 This flame is lit to build this community and welcome Hestia to this rite. Hestia, glorious goddess of the hearth, you who the Greeks honor both first and last, you who embody both home and harmonious community, guide us with your warmth.  With your name, we ignite the hearth flame.  Come forth and dwell in this space.

Make offering of mead to Hestia

Hestia, goddess of the living flame, you who keep the hearth ablaze and inspire us with your light, through you may our hearts be warmed.  Through you, may our homes be bright.  By worshipping at your hearth, may our community be strong and unified.  Hestia, munificent goddess, come forth and encounter this rite. 

Make offering of mead to Hestia

Welcome Hestia!

5.  Explain why it is important to include physical offerings in ritual. (Minimum 150 words)
We give offerings to the Kindreds as a way of building hospitality based relationship with them.  By giving them something that we consider valuable or important, we invite them to become a part of our lives.  We are acting as the host, inviting them into our space and giving them gifts for their presence there.  Additionally, Serith tells us that there is “no sharp line to be drawn between the material and the spiritual” so by giving physical gifts, we are reminded that material objects can also be sacred (Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer 8).  It also holds us more accountable and makes the practice seem more genuine.  Serith believes that anyone can say the words and perform the rituals, but by giving something physically to the Kindreds, something that holds value to us, it shows their importance and significance in our lives. Giving physical offerings also makes the intent a lot more clear to a small group practice, giving a physical manifestation of the gifts we are giving to the Kindreds, and makes the physical connection of the blessings we receive in return a lot easier to comprehend.

Requirement #2: Documenting domestic and small-group ritual practice:
1.     Keep and submit for review a journal covering a period of not less than six months and not more than a year that documents your active participation as a celebrant at six or more group rituals, including three observances of seasonal festivals. The text of individual prayers written by you should be provided as frequently as possible. Include an essay for each rite that involves the analysis and commentary on the ritual's structure, as well as a critical review of the performance of that rite.
2/7/15 - Prairie Shadow Protogrove -- A Roman Februalia Imbolc Rite
       Prairie Shadow Protogrove is the local ADF group that I am affiliated with.  We hold public rituals for each of the high days.  We have a Pan Indo-European focus, which means that we rotate our celebrations through different Indo-European hearth cultures for our events.  For Imbolc, we decided to try something new.  We did a Roman Februalia ritual of purification instead of doing the traditional Brighid Imbolc rite.  Overall, this ritual was very well received, and it was a lot of fun to put together.  We used the ritual that I had submitted as my group Core Order of Ritual in my Clergy Portfolio, so I was quite happy to see it actually put to use. 
   In this ritual we called upon Februus and Vesta, and focused on purification for the spring.  It was a very cleansing ritual, and I think everyone enjoyed the experience overall.  We also inducted our final officer, so that was a fantastic experience.  Our Omens also seem to express a positive response to the ritual. 

Ianus Pater, opener of doors,
Guardian of every household,
You embody beginnings and endings
And guide us through the gates.
Through your door, let our words reach the Kindreds .
Come forth and dwell in this space.

Through you, may our hearts be open.
Through you, may our homes be safe.
Through you, may all who join be welcomed.
And through you may our words travel past the portals.
Ianus Pater, magnificent God
Come forth and encounter this rite.

2/15/15 – Nebraska Pagan Alliance – Imbolc Ritual to Brighid
Tonight I participated in a traditional Gaelic ritual to Brighid in honor of Imbolc with a local group called "Nebraska Pagan Alliance."  This ritual was written by one of the administrators of the group, and I was asked to perform a small grounding and centering before and after the ritual.  Unfortunately, I found out the day before that my grandfather has lung cancer, so I was disconnected and withdrawn while trying to be supportive.  It was the hardest ritual I have ever participated in.  I can't even find words to express how I felt.... mostly lost and distraught.  The ritual structure itself was also unfamiliar to me, not done in a traditional Wiccan or ADF format, so that also made it more of a challenge for me to follow along.  During the ritual, we each made brats, which are effectively prayer packets that we could dedicate to whatever purpose we wanted.  I made a sigil and prayer of healing for my grandfather with the hopes that Brighid would work with me to make him healthy again.  I’m sure I would have enjoyed the ritual in other circumstances, but ultimately it felt disjoined and disconnected for me. 
Brigid, glorious goddess of fire,
I call to you now.
Mighty goddess of healing,
I ask for your aid.
I pray to you to ask for the healing of my grandfather,
May your flame burn away all of his illness,
May your strength help to ease his pain,
May your blessings heal his wounds.
Let him to be whole and happy.
Send your healing wisdom to his body,
So he can heal both seen and unseen.
Send your energy to restore him,
and bless his healing with peace.

4/11/15 – Ordination Ritual – Community Ritual with Hestia
I was officially ordained on April 11, 2015 at the To the Stars Retreat in Topeka, Kansas.  Rev. Jean Pagano, performed the ordination while I performed the rest of the rite.  I was honored to have him perform the ordination for me, even in all of my terrified and overwhelmed state.  I performed an entire COoR alone in front of the retreat.  I was blessed to have some amazing friends, and my family there to witness the event.
As I stood in front of the group, ready to perform my ritual (and trying not to cry), my son held my hand and I knew things would be OK.  I began to speak, and whether it was nerves or the trance that my mind had entered I don't know, but I remember very little of the actual ritual.  My son acted as my sacrificer, making the offerings as I handed them to him and standing patiently by my side, reciting my prompts on queue.  It was amazing to have him by my side at that moment and made me incredibly proud.  His participation did not go unnoticed, or unappreciated. 
When the time came for my omen, I was blessed to have one of only five members of ADF who have completed the Seers Guild study program.  Her omen performance was breathtaking and remarkable and I know that I am lucky to have such a competent seer to receive my messages.  As I watched the runes fall and held my breath and my son's hand, I didn't know what to expect.  I received her messages, and desperately wish I could have recorded her words.  There were blessings of inspiration and positive messages of balance and support, and while her words were not recorded, the runes themselves were.  Some of them concerned me (not knowing the runes well), but her words reassured the overall positive message held within the combinations.
From there, the rest of the ritual seemed to fly by.  Blessings were given, and oaths were made...and time seemed to fade away much too quickly.  Before I knew it, the stole was wrapped around me and the weight of the community rested firmly upon my shoulders.  
I didn't notice at the time, but apparently after I had opened the gates, several people tried to enter the building, even up to the point that the community was blessing the stole.  Apparently at one point Drum even motioned people away.  Again, I didn't notice, but I take that as a good sign.  I was performing a ritual about community building, and being welcomed into the community.  To have people wanting to come in during the middle of thing makes me feel like I was putting out the right energy. 
Overall, I'm incredibly proud to be a part of ADF, and thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the people of ADF as a member of clergy.  

This flame is lit to build this community
and welcome Hestia to this rite.
Hestia, glorious goddess of the hearth,
you who the Greeks honor both first and last,
you who embody both home and harmonious community,
guide us with your warmth. 
With your name, we ignite the hearth flame. 
Come forth and dwell in this space.
Hestia, goddess of the living flame,
you who keep the hearth ablaze
and inspire us with your light,
through you may our hearts be warmed.
 Through you, may our homes be bright. 
By worshipping at your hearth,
may our community be strong and unified. 
Hestia, munificent goddess,
come forth and encounter this rite.

4/25/15 – Prairie Shadow Grove – Welsh Beltane Ritual
The Prairie Shadow Grove Beltane ritual definitely did not go as planned.  We did a Welsh COoR rite honoring Lleu Llaw Gyffes.  The ritual itself was fine, but unfortunately our Grove had very recently had some intense internal drama.  We had to do some last minute re-writes and part changes, and there was definitely tension in the air.  We tried doing purification and preparing for the rite, but it was still present.  Additionally, it decided to rain, making a normal ritual outdoors not feasible, so we were stuck inside in a new and not entirely comfortable location. The ritual itself was written by someone who was not terribly experienced, because we try to allow everyone to have the opportunity to write for our rituals.  Unfortunately, the ritual seemed to be focused exclusively on the writer and not on the group and made the ritual a bit awkward, especially considering the recent grove issues.  However, despite the ritual feeling awkward and uncomfortable, our omens were still positive, encouraging us to persevere and continue doing the work. It was an interesting and unexpected experience for my first ritual as an ADF priest.
Lleu, bright and shining God of light,
Bright one with the strong hand,
You who teach of perseverance,
Let the fires of the sun warm our hearts,
And the light shine upon our faces.
Bless us with your light
And purify us with your flame.
Mighty Lleu, we honor you.

6/27/15 – Prairie Shadow Grove – Greek Panathenia Midsummer Ritual
            For Midsummer, we did our very first ritual to Athena, the goddess that I am devoted to.  It was incredible to be able to worship her with a group for the first time, and to be able to share her gifts and blessings with the community.  For the first time, we also incorporated music for the processional and other parts of the ritual, and this helped the rite feel much more connected and emotional.  It seemed to give the ritual life and energy to hear the words shared among so many.  While I am probably biased, the feeling that I received from this ritual was beautiful, warm, and inspirational.  In the workings section of the ritual we actually worked on a weaving craft project, which gave us time to share experiences with each other and really bond as a group.  Many people shared that they felt this was one of the best rites we have ever done.  It more than made up for the disaster that I felt Beltane was.  The full text of this ritual can be found in the question that follows, but this is my invocation of Athena:
Athena, favorite child of Zeus,
defender of cities, glorious crafter,
and patron of the heroes,
we have gathered her today to celebrate your birth
and have heard the tale of your creation.
 We now call to you, glorious goddess,
to join us in this rite. 
Athena, revered goddess of wisdom;
clear thought, foresight, and cunning
you provide to those who hold your blessing. 
Mighty friend to mankind
and provider of gifts, both wonderful and useful,
we call you to our sides
and ask you to join us by the fire. 
Welcome, Athena!

8/8/15 – Prairie Shadow Grove – Hittite Lughnasadh Ritual for Telipinu
            This ritual was very interesting to me.  It was a pantheon that none of us were familiar with, so I found myself delving into research to familiarize myself with the deities and prepare to write this ritual. While the resources were limited, I am very proud of how the ritual turned out overall.  We called upon Hannahannah as our earth mother, and from there the ritual seemed to take on a life of its own.  We used Arinniti as the gatekeeper because she is the goddess of the flame from all three realms, including the Sun, hearth fires, and fires inside the earth.  Opening the gates with her felt like a deep, burning…like lava flowing through my veins and the sun shining on my skin all that the same time.  I had never worked with her before, so it was a very different feeling than any of the other gatekeepers we have used in the past.  We also anointed our own huwasi stones, allowing the community to take a part of the ritual home with them.  Our efforts to include people in the ritual definitely seem to be improving the energy as well.  I was very pleased with this rite overall. 
Arinniti, Goddess of the Sun,
Hearth Fires, Temple Flames,
and the Fires inside the earth,
queen of Heaven and Earth,
keeper of the sacred fires of all realms,
aid us as we re-create the cosmos
and call our Kindred near.  
We ask that you guide our journey tonight.
Help us to walk between the worlds
 and traverse the realms.  
See the flame leaping forth from the ritual fire.  
See the mist arising from the well,
warmed by the fires deep in the earth,
flame and mist joining at the eyan-tree,
forming a meeting place between the realms.  
Arinnti, merge your magic with ours, and
Let the Gates be open!

8/22/15 – Pagan Pride Day Omaha -- Opening Ritual
I am one of the coordinators for Pagan Pride Day Omaha, so starting the day off successfully is very important to me. Fortunately, my co-coordinator wrote a beautiful and simple ritual that welcomed the community and honored the Nature Spirits.  The committee along with my Grove performed the ritual.  We hailed the spirits of land, sea, and sky and then did a guided two powers meditation where the participants became a tree and pulled the light and waters through their bodies.  After the energies were released, the participants were welcomed to the event, and told to enjoy their day.  The ritual was very well received, and had the largest crowd we’ve seen for a PPD ritual yet.       
Earth Mother, you who support and sustain all life,
Through you the cycle of life continues,
In a circle that never ends.
We stand upon you now in the spirit of community
Joining together with others who also worship you.
Thank you for letting us use this beautiful space
To gather and build community.
Please help us to maintain energy
And keep the negativity at bay.
For all of your gifts, Earth Mother, we thank you!

9/11/15 – Midnight Flame Festival -- Main Rite
            Midnight Flame Festival is one of my favorite events throughout the year!  The fellowship and workshops alone make the twelve-hour trip completely worth it. Grove of the Midnight Sun leads a main ritual that is beautiful, energetic, and moving.  They call upon the Norse gods, and even though they aren’t my hearth, I am drawn in and welcomed.  The theatrics are minimal, including the lighting of 9 flames as they call to the 9 realms, but even so they are incredibly effective.  I am envious of their ritual abilities and hope to be able to present a rite of that caliber at some point.  I know it takes practice.  I also recognize that their ritual wasn’t perfect, but they kept going and that’s what made the rite effective.  During the praise offerings section, I gave my offering to the goddesses of my own hearth to the flame, standing side by side with so many others giving praise of their own.  It was an intense and overwhelming experience. 
Goddesses of my hearth,
Goddesses of my heart,
I look to you for inspiration,
as both leaders and role models.
Demeter, you who love your child unconditionally,
and show me the gifts of motherhood
Athena, you who helped so many heroes,
and show me how to help those in need.
Hecate, goddess of the crossroads,
you help me to find the right path when I feel lost.
Aphrodite, you who love wholeheartedly
and show me how to love in turn.
Artemis, goddess of the hunt,
you show me strength and independence.
I thank you all for your gifts and for your guidance.

2.     Write and lead at least one group High Day ritual. Submit both your script for that ritual and an evaluation of the ritual in terms of structure (how the ritual flowed) and function (what was accomplished). Include evaluations of the ritual from two other attendees. 
Ritual Script:  Panathenia – Midsummer 2015
On the altar is a statue of Athena, who is beside a torch fed by olive oil.

The group processes from the entrance to the altar singing We Approach the Sacred Grove:

Ritual participants are cleansed with water from the well and purified with smoke from the censor.  After all have been purified, say:

A:  Through the union of fire and water, who hold the powers to create and destroy, and the might to cleanse and purify, may you enter with a good heart!

M: Welcome to the Midsummer ritual of Prairie Shadow Grove!  We are so pleased you could all join us for this celebration.  This evening we will be doing a Greekfocused rite called Panathenia, which honors the Greek goddess Athena.  As an official ADF Grove, we follow ADF's Core Order of Ritual for High Day celebrations.  Like the many ancient IndoEuropean groups from which ADF draws inspiration, this ritual format works mostly in triads, rather than a dualistic or fourfold model that many other Pagan groups use.  We use three Sacred symbols, the Fire, Well, and Tree, to represent the whole of this world and the Otherworlds; and we welcome three Kindreds into our rite to celebrate with us: the Ancestors, Nature spirits, and Gods and Goddesses.  Typically, the first and last Deity we give offering to is the Earth Mother, who keeps and sustains us.  However, in Greek practices, we first honor Hestia, the goddess of the hearth.

E lights Hestia’s flame
M makes offering of mead

A:  Mighty Hestia, mistress of the ever-burning hearth, sacred center of home and family.  May you hallow this rite, for worshipping at a common hearth we become one tribe, one people, one Grove.  Welcome Hestia!

All: Welcome, Hestia!

A gives cornmeal to Gaia.

E: Gaia, mighty earth, mother of men and blessed Gods alike, we ask you to join us in this rite.  Grant us your strength and wisdom.  It is through you that all life is renewed, through the cycle, which never ends.  You who support and sustain all life, we pray to you, Gaia, and ask that you uphold this rite. Welcome Gaia!
All: Welcome Gaia!

A: Today we celebrate Panathenia, a celebration of Athena, the ancient goddess of wisdom, crafts, and heroes. Athena acted as the patron and guardian of the city of Athens.  During this festival, the city celebrated her birth.  According to mythology, this was the day that Athena burst forth from Zeus’s head, fully grown and wearing glorious armor.  This is the sacred feast at which gods and mortals celebrate Athena’s birthday together. We begin this celebration by re-creating the cosmos through the Fire, Well, and Tree.

E:  Sacred fire, bright and brilliant flame, bringing light and life to human kind, your radiant heat inspires life.  Light bearer and power of the stars, you who cause the blooming of the flowers, and bring us light even on the darkest days.  Sacred fire, come forth!"

E gives oil to the Fire.

E: I kindle the sacred Fire in wisdom, love and power.  Sacred Fire, burn within us.

All: Sacred Fire, burn within us.

A: Holy Well, sacred waters that flow and swirl beneath all. Once again we ask you to become our gateway into the underworld and call for your blessings. Holy well, flow forth!”

A gives silver to the Well.

A: In the depths flow the waters of wisdom.  Sacred waters, flow within us.

All: Sacred waters, flow within us.

M: Mighty Tree, towering tall over all, spanning all three realms, we call for your blessings.  Your roots go deep and drink from the waters of the well.  Your trunk provides structure to our world, and your branches rise high into the heavens.  Act now as a gate to all worlds.  Sacred Tree, come forth!

M censes the Tree.

M:  From the depths to the heights spans the mighty Tree. Sacred Tree, grow within us.

All: Sacred Tree, grow within us.

Let us now join our voices as one, and help to re-create the cosmos at the heart of this sacred space by singing the Portal Song  ( 

E: We will now invite a Gatekeeper to watch over our rite, and aid us in opening the Gates to the Otherworlds.

A gives feathers to Hermes.

M: Hermes, mighty messenger of the Gods, you who dwell in the roads of travellers, and guide the souls of mortals.  Guardian of the boundaries, aid us as we re-create the cosmos and call our Kindred near.  We ask that you guide our journey tonight. Help us to walk between the worlds and traverse the realms.  
A: Mighty Hermes, merge your magic with ours.  See the flame leaping forth from the fire.  See the mist arising from the well, flame and mist joining at the tree, forming a meeting place between the realms.  Hermes, merge your magic with ours, and Let the Gates be open!

All: Let the Gates be open!

A: Gives birdseed to the Nature spirits.

M: Nature spirits, spirits of this realm, you who live in the forests, fields and plains, you play in the running and still waters, nymphs, dryads, oceanides, and satyrs, we call you to our sides and ask you to join us by the fire.  Welcome, Nature Spirits!

All:   Welcome, Nature Spirits!

E: gives bread to the Ancestors.

A:  Ancestors, guides and guardians, kin of blood and spirit alike, beloved dead both named and un-named, mythic heroes, and dwellers of the land of Hades, we call you to our sides and ask you to join us by the fire.   Welcome, Ancestors!

All:   Welcome, Ancestors!

M:  Gives mead to the Gods.

E:  Shining Ones, gods and goddess of land, sea, and sky, those who are familiar and those who are strangers, we call you to our sides and ask you to join us by the fire.  Welcome, Shining Ones!

All:  Welcome, Shining Ones!

M: Today we’ve gathered to celebrate the incredible birth of Athena, born of Zeus and Metis.  Zeus had lusted after Metis, the goddess of craftiness and wisdom, and decided to pursue her.  Metis tried to escape, changing form from hawk to fish to serpent, but Zeus was determined, so he changed forms with her until she relented.  However, an Oracle had prophesized that Metis’ child would overthrow Zeus, and Zeus took that warning to heart.  When he next saw Metis, pregnant with his child, he swallowed her and her unborn child whole.  Soon after, Zeus developed terrible headaches that left him in agony.  The other gods came to see what ailed him, and Hermes realized what needed to be done.  He directed Hephaestus to take a wedge and split open Zeus’s skull.  From this split sprung Athena, fully grown and in a full set of armor.
A:  After hearing the story of her miraculous birth, we now call upon our deity of occasion, the mighty goddess Athena.  Athena, favorite child of Zeus, defender of cities, glorious crafter, and patron of the heroes, we have gathered here today to celebrate your birth and have heard the tale of your creation.  We now call to you, glorious goddess, to join us in this rite.  Athena, revered goddess of wisdom; clear thought, foresight, and cunning you provide to those who hold your blessing.  Mighty friend to mankind and provider of gifts, both wonderful and useful, we call you to our sides and ask you to join us by the fire.  Welcome, Athena!

All: Welcome, Athena!

E:  Now is the time to give offerings to any of the Kindreds that you would like to honor.  Come up as you will and bring your offerings either to the plate or bowl; you may choose to say some words in honor of those you are offering to, or you may speak your intentions in your heart.

Prayer of Sacrifice

M After all are done, give final offerings.

M: "Honor to the Nature Spirits, Spirits of this land and place! Honor to the Ancestors, mighty dead who have gone before us! Honor to the Gods and Goddesses of many names! Accept our offerings!"

All:  Accept our offerings!

A takes omen.

M: "Do the Kindreds accept our sacrifice?"

A responds.

M: "What blessings do the Kindred gift to us?"

A responds.

A: In our tradition, a gift calls for a gift.  Having offered to the Kindreds, we seek their blessings in return.  Mighty Kindreds: nature spirits, ancestors, Gods, Hallow these waters! Bless our lives with wisdom and peace as we drink these sacred waters. Behold the waters of life!

Pour and pass cups, singing Blessings in the Waters:

E: By the blessing of all the Kindred, and mighty Athena, may we be filled with peace and wisdom.  May these blessings continue throughout the turning year.  Honor to the Kindreds!

A: Panathenia was a festival that celebrated the many aspects of Athena.  Most people know her as the goddess of war, but fewer know that she is the goddess of strategy, wisdom, and crafts.  Today, we celebrate the peaceful side of Athena.  Among her many gifts, Athena was known as an excellent weaver.

E: As we prepare to depart, let us give thanks to those who have aided us! Mighty Athena, goddess of wisdom, friend to mortals, we are honored to celebrate your birth with you.  Mighty Athena, we thank you!

All: We thank you.

M: Spirits of the land, sea, and sky, creatures of forests, fields and plains, may there be peace between us until we meet again.  Nature Spirits, we thank you!

All: We thank you.

A: Ancestors, kin of heart and blood, heroes, guides, and guardians, may your courage continue to guide us on our path.  Ancestors, we thank you!"

All: We thank you.

E: Shining Ones, Gods and Goddesses both known and unknown, deities of land, sea, and sky, may your wisdom continue to light our way.  Shining ones, we thank you!"

All: We thank you.

M: Hermes, courageous messenger of the gods, and traveller of the unseen paths, thank you for acting as our guide tonight.  May you continue to guide us on our paths.

All: We thank you.

A: Now let the Fire be flame, the Well be water, and the tree be but wood.  let all be as it was before.  Mighty Hermes, I ask you to once again join your magic with me and together, let the Gates be closed!

Motions closing of Gates.

All: Let the Gates be closed!

E: Gaia,  Goddess of peace and plenty, for your support and sustenance. We thank you!

All: We thank you.

A gives remaining offerings to Gaia.

A:  Hestia, glorious goddess of the hearth, thank you Hestia for helping us to build our hearth fire, and our community.  For all these things and more, Hestia, we thank you.

All:  We thank you.

M: "We have done as our ancestors did and as our children will do and the Kindreds have answered! Let us go out into the world secure in the knowledge that our sacrifices have pleased the Kindreds and that we go forth under their protection.  The ritual is at a close."

Ritual Evaluation:

In this ritual, we did a Panathenia ritual to Athena, the goddess that I am devoted to.  Structurally, this ritual followed the Core Order of Ritual and incorporated elements that were familiar enough to help the ritual flow smoothly.  Working with this pantheon is something that I am quite comfortable with, and I think the overall ritual presentation reflected that comfort. However, this was the first time we incorporated music in the ritual, using songs for the processional, recreation of the cosmos, and while giving the blessings of the water.  This inclusion helped the rite feel much more connected and emotional.  The music seemed to give the ritual life and energy.  While I am probably biased, the feeling that I received from this ritual was beautiful, warm, and inspirational.  In the workings section of the ritual we actually worked on a weaving craft project, which gave us time to share experiences with each other and really bond as a group, while also appreciating the talents and gifts of Athena. Some people shared that they felt this was one of the best rites we have ever done, and that they enjoyed the hands on experience with one aspect of our Deity of Occasion.
Evaluations from Attendees
#1  Molly
This past Summer Solstice, Prairie Shadow Grove held a Panathenaia ritual written and put on by Amber Doty. As with many Greek rites, Hestia was honored first, Gaia was welcomed as the Earth Mother, and Hermes was asked to be our Gatekeeper. To celebrate Athena, the deity of the occasion, first the story of Her birth was told. Then during the ‘workings’ section of the rite, we all sat together to craft beautiful sunwheels (or flowers, or whatever you wanted them to be) from paper plates and yarn.
            I really enjoyed this ritual, particularly because it was our Grove’s first foray into using a lot of chant and song during the rite and I felt it went fantastically well. The craft was also a great idea and went very well; we had a wonderful time bonding as a group as we celebrated together. In the future, I think a bit more rehearsal of chants beforehand would help the group hold together better during the ritual itself.
            Overall, I think the rite was a great success, and accomplished the purpose of honoring Athena wonderfully. Through Her birth story and our work at weaving, we were able to honor different aspects of Her; and I know that I felt the spirit of the holiday.
#2 – Emily
Amber Doty’s Hellenic ritual for the Midsummer festival was truly inspired.  The ritual set up was gorgeous.  Poles of fire lit the pathway to the altar.  As we processed in and washed our hands, her son held the drying towel.  The ritual was very inclusive of the children that were present.  The project that we did in the ritual space connected deeply with Athena.  Amber found a simple weaving project online and provided the supplies so that we could all partake in it.  I felt a great deal of fellowship as we wove our projects in the sacred space.  It was also a project that caused me to be mindful and set me in meditative state thinking about Athena and all of her abilities.  The songs that Amber found and included in the ritual also brought it to life.  It made the ritual feel more inclusive.  Amber’s ritual was very heartfelt and added elements to the ritual that we will look to inspire us in future rituals.  It definitely created a lasting memory.

Works Cited

Bonewits, Isaac. Neopagan Rites. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2007.

Serith, Ceisiwr. A Book of Pagan Prayer. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2002.

—. A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2011.

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