Sermon: Truth, Facts, and Other Endangered Species

Reading: "Telling," by Laura Hershey

As I was preparing for writing this sermon, the perfect quote for the top of the order of service popped into my head.  “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”  But I didn’t know how perfect it was until I went to look for the source of the quote.  I couldn’t remember who said it, which is not unusual for me, so I started to do some research.  And I quickly found it widely attributed to George Orwell.  In fact, you can buy all sorts of merchandise, from bumper stickers to t-shirts with these words accompanied by pictures of the author.  The only problem?  He never actually said it.  Or rather he never wrote it.  Various people who do this sort of thing have looked through the entirety of his published works, and these words do not appear. 

I found a website called Quote Investigator which did an extensive study of this quote.  The first instance they can find is of a letter to the editor of a scientific publication complaining about something the letter writer believed to be less than truthful, and the letter writer attributed these words to George Orwell.  Their best guess is that this was the letter writer’s summary of his interpretation of the message of 1984.  After that, it gradually spread until now it is everywhere, and very often attributed to Orwell. 

This seems like just such a perfect metaphor for these times.  Where misinformation spreads unchecked, where lies or even simple mistakes are broadcast over the internet and repeated until they are believed as facts.  Where finding the real truth takes work, and can be deeply challenging, at times, even seemingly impossible. 

The day after the presidential inauguration, brand new White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, in his first statement to the press, announced that the crowds at this inauguration were the largest in history, which is demonstrably false.  The Washington Post laid out a detailed description of all the false information that was contained in two different statements Spicer made to the press, from incorrectly stating that this was the first year white ground covers were used on the national mall – they were first used in 2013 – to estimates of the number of rides on the DC public transit system this year as compared with Obama’s two inaugurations which were wildly inaccurate, to estimates of TV and online viewership which did not have any solid foundation. 

The press, of course, was not having any of this, and widely took Spicer to task for the blatant lies in this statement, with much speculation that Spicer was ordered to lie by the president.  The next day on Meet the Press, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway said that Spicer had presented “alternative facts.” 

This, of course, follows a campaign season characterized by so much blatant dishonesty that some media pundits have proclaimed that we are living in the “post-truth” era.  The era of alternative facts seems to be upon us. 

There are so many kinds of untruths out there.  Spicer’s assertions about crowd size are just plain false.  I think it would be hard to conclude that he was not just out-and-out lying in that report.  But not everything is that simple.  Sometimes there are just mistakes, like the report that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office.  In that case, it was a simple error, and the reporter who made it quickly corrected the record and apologized when he realized his mistake.

And sometimes, there is a narrative built around factual information that is nonetheless misleading because it lacks context or is not the whole truth.  Take, for example, the story of the White House website. 

Immediately after the inauguration, a story began to be widely circulated on Facebook and other social media that the terms “lgbt” and “climate change” had been scrubbed from the White House website.  Other reports had other lists of missing terms.  The story was that the Trump White House had taken down these pages, presumably as a reflection of his agenda and biases.  But this is not actually what happened.  According to Snopes.com, which fact checks urban legends, rumors, and other such things in the social media world, while it’s true that those terms did not appear on the White House website immediately after the inauguration, not much of anything appeared on the site at the time.  What had happened was a routine transition in the White House web content, whereby the material belonging to the Obama website – all of it – was migrated to an archive site, so that the incoming administration could repopulate the White House website with their own materials, which had not happened in the first few hours of the new administration. 

It is true that the new White House page does not contain sections on LGBT issues or climate change – or still really much of anything a few weeks into the term.  And I think it’s very clear that this administration is hostile to the lgbt community and to the science of climate change.  But it is not true that the incoming administration specifically took down those parts of the website.

Nevertheless, the story fit so well into the image of the incoming administration in the minds of their opponents that the story got quite a lot of circulation.  I saw versions of it all over my Facebook feed, and it was brought up in conversation to me several times.  But a friend of mine was skeptical, and she tracked down the Snopes report, and so I learned that this wasn’t the whole story.

We are so used to politicians lying to us during campaigns that we almost don’t even notice unless it’s as blatant as it was during this election season.  But I think real democracy relies on truth telling among candidates as well.  How can we adequately assess who we want to lead us if they are dishonest about their real goals and motivations? 

When my wife Rachel was in graduate school studying public policy, she told me about a class discussion based on this question: is it ever right to lie to the public about your policy intentions to support something that is good policy but unpopular?  The idea is that sometimes the right thing to do is hard to articulate, and that people cannot always understand nuance.  So maybe at times it is best to say that you will pursue one policy during a campaign in order to have the power to take a better course once in office.  I was a bit surprised by the vehemence of my own reaction when Rachel talked to me about this.  I was so adamantly opposed to this idea. 

I believe that to the extent that voters are making decisions on the basis of lies and manipulation, we do not actually live in a democracy anymore.  The will of the people cannot be expressed under such conditions.  It is simply the will of those who think they know better, or those who want more power, or those most willing to say whatever they need to say to get elected.

Everywhere we turn, there are people hiding the truth, bending the truth, spinning the truth, telling half-truths, making mistakes, and flat out lying.  About crowd size and climate science, about motives and intentions.  About big things and little things, and sometimes things that are so inconsequential they hardly seem worth lying about.  This feels like the closest I’ve ever witnessed to a time of universal deceit. 

But I am not ready to give up on the truth.  And I know I’m not the only one.  There were so many funny and creative signs at the Women’s Marches around the country several weeks ago.  This is one of my favorites. 

As Unitarian Universalists, one of our Principles is a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  We often focus on the freedom part of this Principle, but what I am reflecting on lately is the responsibility part.  The responsibility we each have to search for the truth, to tell it and amplify it when we find it, and to avoid being ourselves the source of untruth, wittingly or not. 

This is a challenging task in an age of such deceit.  When there are lies around every turn, how do we know what is true? 

I think there are actually several different kinds of truth, just as there are different kinds of falsehood.  And by this I do not mean facts versus alternative facts.  I mean on the one hand facts, evidence, science, the concrete, verifiable truth.  And on the other hand, the truth of our own personal experience, the truth of our own stories.  Both are kinds of truth, and both are foundationally important to a democracy. 

In order to live in a democracy, to make decisions together about the best way to deal with challenges, the best way to create a commonwealth of the most good for all, we need actual, concrete facts.  We need real science and real journalism.  We need the people who keep looking for the truth and do not stop at convenient guesses or suppositions.  We need to know the real science of things like climate change.  We need to know the real statistics that demonstrate where we are succeeding in creating wellbeing and where we are not.  We need the real stories about how decisions were made or how events unfolded.  We need real facts. 

Some of you are scientists and journalists, those who do the actual, on the ground investigation on which our society relies.  And to those of you who do this important work, thank you.  We need it always, and now perhaps more than ever.  But even you are experts only in a limited number of areas.  And so all of us have to rely on others in most areas of our life for accurate information.  So how do we do that in this time?

Now more than ever it is important to know where our information is coming from, and to find sources that we can trust.  A healthy dose of skepticism will serve us well in these times.  I think we should be skeptical of things that feel doubtful, and doubly skeptical of stories that confirm our own biases, because these will be all too easy to believe when we should not.   

I have found this chart helpful in thinking through this.

We need to find good, reliable sources of accurate information.  And then disseminate that information, rather than things that are more dubious or have a spin to them.  We can help be sources of accurate information and real facts for our own friends, coworkers, family members, and the others we interact with.

The other kind of truth is personal truth, the telling of our own truest stories.  What do you care about?  Why?  Who are you?  What are your values?  What has your lived experience taught you?  What do you know because of who you are and what has happened in your life?

Laura Hershey says, “Those without power risk everything to tell their story and must.  Someone, somewhere will hear your story and decide to fight, to live… Someone else will tell her own story, risking everything.” 

This kind of truth telling brings us the deepest wisdom of the lived experience of ourselves and others.  Telling and receiving the truth in this way can get us to our most compassionate decisions and our deepest core values.  So, we must learn to tell this kind of truth, and to be willing to listen when others tell us their true experiences.

I believe that truth is foundational to democracy.  Both of these kinds of truth.  We need to make decisions on the basis of the lived reality of our citizens and the basis of sound science, evidence, and fact.  When we come to the core of both, they do not lead us in different directions.  The lived experience of African Americans that they are often in danger in encounters with police is born out in the statistics, for example, the ProPublica study from 2014 which showed that young black men are 21 times as likely as their white peers to be killed by police.  The science of climate change is confirmed by the ways farmers are experiencing their land shifting and changing, and the ways they are having to adapt. 

Whoever said it, I think it remains true that in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.  At this moment, in this time of such widespread falsehood and dishonesty, we can continue to be responsible searchers for the truth.  We can be tellers of the truth, both concrete, factual truth, and personal, experienced truth.  Every time we interrogate something we are being asked to believe that feels a little off and continue to pursue it until we find the truth, we are helping turn back the tide away from the spreading of misinformation.  Every time we tell our own stories with all the presence and honesty we can muster, we are giving ourselves and others a path to deeper wisdom and better understanding.  Every time we receive the gift of a vulnerable truth told to us by someone else, we are creating the space where truth and compassion can meet. 

I am not ready to give up on the truth.  It is too important. 

So, my friends, let us search diligently for the truth.  Let us not give way to a time of deceit, but struggle to keep the light of truth shining as brightly as we can.  Let us tell the truth as clearly as we can, when we have found it.  And let us tell our own inner truths into each other’s keeping, so that we may hold each other in the work of creating justice and peace.

May it be so.

A Samhain Ritual for Global Warming

Notes for Planning:

This ritual is written for two officiants, but it is very flexible, and can be easily adapted to other leadership teams. 

The form of this ritual is based on the work of the Temple of Witchcraft, but feel free to change the details to align with your own tradition, if you feel so moved.  For this rite in particular, if your group works with specific deities, call these deities.

You will notice that we are calling fire in the east and air in the south.  Many groups call air in the east and fire in the south.  The directions in this ritual are in the alchemical/underworld pattern, which places opposing elements opposite each other.  This arrangement makes for more confrontational, and therefore potentially more powerfully transformational energy.  Since this ritual is designed to confront a long history of imbalance and a huge threat to our environment, this energy seemed appropriate.  If you are using this ritual, I invite you to try this arrangement, even if it is not your usual practice.

 

Introductory Remarks

Officiant(s) give any directions they feel are necessary to help attendees participate fully in the ritual, and answer any questions.  If there is alcohol in the Chalice, be sure to mention that.

 

Entering a Meditative State

It is helpful for everyone in the room to enter a light trance together before the ritual begins.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here is the version we use in the Temple of Witchcraft.

Officiant: Please rise as you are able.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.  Relax your head and neck, your shoulders and arms, your back, abdomen, legs and feet.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind.  Release all thoughts and worries from the day.  Take a deep breath and relax your heart.  Feel the love of the Goddess and the God.  Feel perfect love and perfect trust.  Take a deep breath and relax into your soul.  Find your inner light, which you can follow for guidance and protection.

Now picture a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen.  This is the screen of your mind.  On this screen, visualize a series of numbers counting down from 12 to 1.  As you count down, you will enter a meditative state.

12.  See the number 12.  12.  11. See the number 11. 11.  10. See the number 10.  10.  9. See the number 9. 9.  8. See the number 8. 8.  7. See the number 7. 7.  6. See the number 6. 6. 5. See the number 5. 5.  4. See the number 4. 4. 3. See the number 3. 3. 2. See the number 2. 2.  1. See the number 1. 1.

 

Cast the Circle

Officiant walks the circle clockwise three times, using the Wand to cast the circle with these words:

(First round) I cast the circle to protect us from all forces that would come to do us harm.

(Second round) I charge this circle to include the most perfect forces for this night's work, and to keep out all other forces.

(Third round) I charge and consecrate this circle to be a space out of space, a time out of time, a temple of perfect love and perfect trust, where the highest will is sovereign.

As I will it, so mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

 

Call the Quarters

One officiant can do all the quarter calls, a pair can alternate, or four people can each call a quarter.  Substitute the spirits or deities you have a relationship with in each quarter, if you wish.

All turn to face North, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the north, we call to the element of earth and to the Stag to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face East, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the east, we call to the element of fire and to the Horse to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work. Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face South, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the south, we call to the element of air and to the Crow to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face West, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the west, we call to the element of water and to the Snake to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work. Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Evoke the Goddess and God

Officiant 1: We call to the Goddess who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone, the Weaver and the Web.  Goddess, bring your wisdom and love to our circle we pray, and bless us with your guidance and protection.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Officiant 2: We call to the God, who is the Lord of Light and the Lord of Darkness, the Singer and the Song.  God, bring your wisdom and love to our circle we pray, and bless us with your guidance and protection.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Great Rite in Token

Officiant 1 holds the Chalice, Officiant 2 holds the blade.  The blade is plunged into the Chalice as Officiant 2 speaks: As the Sword is to the Grail, The Blade is to the Chalice, Truth is to Love.  We bring together the energies of the Goddess and the God.  So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

The Chalice is passed to all participants with the words "May you never thirst."  The response is "Blessed be."

 

Remembering our Beloved Dead

Officiant 1: On the feast night of Samhain, the veil between the worlds thins.  Our ancestors and beloved dead are closer than ever.  And so we take the time this night to acknowledge all those whom we have loved and lost.  We honor them by speaking their names and remembering all they brought to our lives.  I invite you to call into the space the names of your beloved dead, one at a time.  We will all respond with, “You are not forgotten.”

Participants call names and respond until all names have been spoken.

Officiant 2: To all our ancestors, ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, we thank you for our lives and for your love.  Please say again with me,

All: You are not forgotten.

 

Remembering Those Lost to Climate Change

Officiant 1: In addition to our own beloved dead, we take the time this night to acknowledge all those already lost as the world feels the effects of global warming and climate change.  Thousands of people, as well as animals and plants, die every year from the effects of global climate change.  As we acknowledge these lost, we shall respond, “We remember you.”

Officiant 2: To all those people lost to extreme heat waves

All: We remember you.

Officiant 1: To all those people lost to floods, hurricanes, mudslides, and other disasters caused by changing weather patterns

All: We remember you.

Officiant 2: To all those people lost to hunger as crop patterns change

All: We remember you.

Officiant 1: To all those people lost to drought as weather patterns change

All: We remember you.

Officiant 2: To all those people lost to disease as the environment shifts

All: We remember you.

Officiant 1: To all those animals, siblings of flesh and blood, breath and bone, whose lives have been lost as global climates change

All: We remember you.

Officiant 2: To all those plant spirits, siblings of the green world, whose lives have been lost as global climates change

All: We remember you.

Officiant 1: To all those species lost forever as global climate changes

All: We remember you.

Officiant 2: We remember you, and we commit ourselves to restoring balance.  So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

 

Meditation

Officiant 1: In restoring balance, we find ourselves in need of guidance, wise counsel, and loving support.  Join me now in a time of meditation as we seek the guidance we need. 

Get into a comfortable position and relax your body.  Follow the sound of my voice as I count down from 13.  There is no need to visualize numbers this time.  13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

On the screen of your mind, picture a giant tree, bigger than any tree you have ever seen.  This is the World Tree, a gateway between the worlds.  Imagine the screen of your mind is like a doorway, a portal you can easily pass through.  Step through and stand before the great tree.  Hear the wind in its branches; smell the earth where the roots dig in; reach out and feel the bark.  As you keep your hands on the bark, hold the intention of finding an ancestor spirit to help you in your part to restore balance to the world. 

Search in the roots of the tree for an opening.  When you find it, step into the opening, which will lead to a tunnel.  The tunnel slopes gently downward.  Follow the tunnel downward.  Continue to follow the tunnel as it continues to spiral down.  At the end of the tunnel, you see a light, flickering like a fire.  Walk toward the light. 

The tunnel ends in a forest clearing.  There is a great fire in the middle of the clearing, and around the fire are the spirits of the ancestors.  The ancestors are dancing or simply watching the fire.  Wait on the edge of the clearing until one of the ancestors breaks away and comes to join you.  This may be a recent ancestor, someone you knew in life, or it may be someone from a more distant past.  It may be an ancestor of blood or an ancestor of spirit.  If you do not recognize the ancestor, introduce yourself.

Ask your ancestor guide for any wisdom and guidance about your role in restoring balance to the world.  What is your task in these times?  What wisdom from older times can help you in your work?  What else do you need to do your work in the world?  Ask any other questions you may have.

The ancestor may give you a gift to help you in your work, or to help you remember your conversation.  Search within yourself to see if you have a gift to offer in return.  Thank your ancestor guide for their help and wisdom. 

Find the tunnel again, and enter it.  Follow the tunnel as it slopes back up.  Follow the tunnel up and up.  Follow the tunnel until you are once again at the base of the World Tree.  Hold your hands to the bark of the tree and offer thanks for facilitating this journey.  Then step back through the screen of your mind and bring yourself back to this circle.  Come back, come back, come back.  Come back to this time and this place.  And open your eyes.

If you wish, and if your group is small enough, you may invite participants to share anything they would like to about their journeys. 

 

Working: Welcoming the Coming Dark and Cold

Officiant 1: As we seek to restore balance to the world, we welcome the coming dark and cold.  Darkness and cold are too much absent now.  It is time to call them back, to welcome them and celebrate them.  We raise our energy to welcome and to call darkness and cold back to our world. 

Lead the participants in a chant that honors darkness and/or cold.  One option is “Hecate, Cerridwen” by Reclaiming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ffh_jFnUKlM.  Another is “Mother of Darkness” by Alice Di Micele: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN0D2kkkLhg.  Invite participants to dance around the central altar, if they wish.  When you feel that the energy has peaked, stop the chant and dance. 

Officiant 1: We are going to send the energy of this circle now to restoring balance and cooling the earth.  We raise our hands slowly, saying "EE-AH-OH", releasing on the "OH'.

All: EE-AH-OH!

Officiant 1: So mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Officiant 2: In this time of darkness, we dedicate our dreams to the restoration of balance.  In this time of cold, we dedicate our work to the restoration of balance.  In this time of crisis, we dedicate ourselves to the restoration of balance.  We ask the aid of those who have come before, our ancestors of blood and spirit, the Mighty Dead, the Hidden Company, all those spirits who come in love and trust.  We ask your aid in restoring the balance.  May we find the way so that we may live again, renewed, so that our world might live again, renewed.  So mote it be. 

All: So mote it be.

 

Thanks to the Goddess and God

Officiant 1: We thank and release the Goddess, Maiden, Mother, and Crone, the Weaver and the Web.  We thank you for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

Officiant 2: We thank and release the God, Lord of Light and Lord of Darkness, the Singer and the Song.  We thank you for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

 

Release the Quarters

Each quarter should be released by the same person who called it. 

All turn to the North, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the north, we thank and release the element of earth and the Stag.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the West, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the west, we thank and release the element of water and the Snake.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the South, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the south, we thank and release the element of air and the Crow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the East, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the east, we thank and release the element of fire and the Horse.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Open the Circle

The same officiant who cast the circle now walks the circle counterclockwise once, opening the circle with the wand.

I cast this circle out into the universe.  May it join with the circles of our siblings, through space and time to the highest good.  The circle is open but never broken.

All: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.

A Mabon Ritual for Global Warming

Notes for Planning

This ritual is written for two officiants, but it is very flexible, and can be easily adapted to other leadership teams. 

 The meditation in this ritual starts after the group has all symbolically entered the Underworld, and ends before the group returns.  So, the introduction and conclusion are a little less extensive than usual.  Adjust this to the needs of your group as necessary.

 Mabon is, among, other things, the fruit harvest.  So, the bread for the ritual is ideally made with fruit that is seasonally available where you live.  The chalice has pomegranate juice to honor Persephone’s eating of the fruit of the dead.    This might mean zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, something made with apples, etc., depending on your local climate.  Alternatively, you could have a pomegranate and invite participants to eat some of the seeds. 

The form of this ritual is based on the work of the Temple of Witchcraft, but feel free to change the details to align with your own tradition, if you feel so moved.

You will notice that we are calling fire in the east and air in the south.  Many groups call air in the east and fire in the south.  The directions in this ritual are in the alchemical/underworld pattern, which places opposing elements opposite each other.  This arrangement makes for more confrontational, and therefore potentially more powerfully transformational energy.  Since this ritual is designed to confront a long history of imbalance and a huge threat to our environment, this energy seemed appropriate.  If you are using this ritual, I invite you to try this arrangement, even if it is not your usual practice.

 

Introductory Remarks

Officiant(s) give any directions they feel are necessary to help attendees participate fully in the ritual, and answer any questions.  If there is alcohol in the Chalice, be sure to mention that.

 

Entering a Meditative State

It is helpful for everyone in the room to enter a light trance together before the ritual begins.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here is the version we use in the Temple of Witchcraft.

Officiant: Please rise as you are able.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.  Relax your head and neck, your shoulders and arms, your back, abdomen, legs and feet.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind.  Release all thoughts and worries from the day.  Take a deep breath and relax your heart.  Feel the love of the Goddess and the God.  Feel perfect love and perfect trust.  Take a deep breath and relax into your soul.  Find your inner light, which you can follow for guidance and protection.

Now picture a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen.  This is the screen of your mind.  On this screen, visualize a series of numbers counting down from 12 to 1.  As you count down, you will enter a meditative state.

12.  See the number 12.  12.  11. See the number 11. 11.  10. See the number 10.  10.  9. See the number 9. 9.  8. See the number 8. 8.  7. See the number 7. 7.  6. See the number 6. 6. 5. See the number 5. 5.  4. See the number 4. 4. 3. See the number 3. 3. 2. See the number 2. 2.  1. See the number 1. 1.

 

Cast the circle

Officiant walks the circle clockwise three times, using the Wand to cast the circle with these words:

(First round) I cast the circle to protect us from all forces that would come to do us harm.

(Second round) I charge this circle to include the most perfect forces for this night's work, and to keep out all other forces.

(Third round) I charge and consecrate this circle to be a space out of space, a time out of time, a temple of perfect love and perfect trust, where the highest will is sovereign.

As I will it, so mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

 

Call the quarters

One officiant can do all the quarter calls, a pair can alternate, or four people can each call a quarter.  Substitute the spirits or deities you have a relationship with in each quarter, if you wish.

All turn to face North, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the north, we call to the element of earth and to the Stag to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face East, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the east, we call to the element of fire and to the Horse to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work. Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face South, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the south, we call to the element of air and to the Crow to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face West, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the west, we call to the element of water and to the Snake to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work. Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

 

Evoke the Goddess and God

Officiant 1: On this night of balance, we call to the Goddess who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone.  The flower of youth, the protective parent, the queen of the Underworld.  You who walk all the cycles of life, the fullness of experience, be with us this night.  Help us to live in harmony with the turning of the seasons.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Officiant 2: On this night of balance, we call to the God as the Lord of Light and the Lord of Shadow.  You who hold both the darkness and the light, both the warmth and the cold, both the growing and the waning, both the living and the dying, be with us this night.  Help us to learn the ways of balance.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

 

Story: Kore, Demeter, and Persephone

Once upon a time, the world was fruitful and green all year long.  The land was blessed by the Goddess of growth, fertility, and abundance, the Mother Goddess Demeter.  Demeter had a beautiful daughter, whom she loved above all things, who was called simply Kore, that is Maiden.  Kore’s father was Zeus, the King of the Heavens, the sender of lightning.  Kore grew up very much beloved not just by her mother, but by all the people.  Wherever she went flowers bloomed, and her radiance and joy blessed all who were lucky enough to come into her presence.  

As it happened, the Lord of the Underworld, Hades, saw Kore one day, and like all others, he was immediately overcome by her beauty and grace.  And so he determined to bring her into his realm, the land of darkness, the home of the dead.  And so, one day when Kore was out enjoying the sunshine and the flowers with her companions, the ground opened beneath her, and she was swept away into the Underworld, the land of darkness and the dead. 

The stories differ about what happened next in the Underworld.  The Underworld can be like that.  Some stories say that Kore was held against her will, that Hades tricked her and married her without her consent.  Other stories say that Kore fell in love with this dark God, and that she willingly became his queen.  However it happened, Kore was no longer the innocent Maiden, and so she needed a new name.  She became Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, the Queen of the Dead. 

Meanwhile, above ground, Demeter was beside herself.  All she knew was that her daughter had disappeared.  She searched everywhere, eventually disguising herself as a human woman to search the corners of the earth.  At first, none of the Gods would help her.  And so, in her grief, Demeter decided not to bless the earth anymore.  She withdrew her power from the ground, and it ceased to give life.  For the first time, the plants withered and dropped their leaves.  The warmth fled.  The very first winter came upon the earth.  The people began to suffer and then to die. 

Finally, Zeus decided to intervene, and told Demeter what had become of Kore.  Demeter demanded that her daughter be returned to her at once.  Hermes, the messenger of the Gods was sent to Hades with the demand.  But by then, whether through trickery or through her own agency, Persephone had already eaten the food of the dead, creating a bond between her and the Underworld.  She had eaten six pomegranate seeds.  And so the Gods decided on a compromise.  For every seed she had eaten, Persephone would spend a month of every year in the Underworld, as Queen.  But the other months, she would return to the land of the living and become once again the Maiden Kore.

And so, for six months of the year, the earth warms and gives forth life.  And for six months of the year, the earth cools and goes dormant until everything is still and sleeping, waiting for the step of the returning Goddess to restore spring and life once more.  And a strange thing happened once this arrangement was in place.  Because of the time of withering and rest, the land actually became more fertile.  The people grew stronger and more resilient, as they learned to live in a world with seasons and changes.  The Goddess Kore/Persephone became the first to bring the gifts of the earth to the Underworld, and the gifts of the Underworld to the earth. 

We who hear this story can follow in the footsteps of the Maiden who is also the Queen of the Underworld.  For the Underworld is not just the land of the dead.  It is the place where things go, like fallen leaves, to be turned anew into life-giving richness.  We all must face moments when it is time to let things go, time to let go parts of our own selves go, time to enter the darkness so that we can re-emerge renewed to life and growth.  We, too, may have gifts to bring from one world to the other. 

 

Journey to the Underworld

One officiant announces that the dance represents the journey to the Underworld, and invites participants to join in.  A possible song for this is the Kore chant by Reclaiming:  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVwF34LcZCg)  The officiant leads the whole group in a slow dance clockwise around the circle until the symbolic journey to the Underworld feels complete.  This is a very basic “dance,” which is really more of a walk.  Take it slowly to allow the maximum number of people to participate.  This is the version written below.

Officiant: It is the equinox.  The time has arrived for Kore’s journey to become Persephone.  It is time for us to follow Kore down into the underworld.  We are going to dance slowly around the circle clockwise.  This is a very gentle dance, where we are simply moving slowly as the music moves us around the circle together.  Join in at any time.  Come, let us go into the dark.

Officiants start the chant and the dance.  When it feels that the journey is complete, continue.

Officiant:  We come now to the Underworld.  Kore the maiden has become Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld.  We come now into her presence, and here we pause for meditation.

 

Meditation

Get into a comfortable position and relax your body.  Follow the sound of my voice as I count down from 13. There is no need to visualize numbers this time: 13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

Imagine now that you are in a great forest.  It is a very dense forest, and very dark.  This is the forest of the underworld.  There is a smell of earth in the air, the deep, rich smell of good rich soil.  You find yourself on a path.  Follow the path through the forest.  As you continue to follow the path, the towering trees on both sides seem to grow taller and straighter.  The trees become more and more like pillars, until you realize that you are now in a great hall with towering pillars lining the way.  You continue to walk forward through the hall until at the end you can see two thrones.  You walk toward the thrones.  As you approach, you see that on one throne is the Goddess, wearing the face of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld.  On the other throne is the God, wearing the face of the Lord of Shadow.  You approach until you are standing before the thrones.

As you stand before the thrones, the God and Goddess begin to speak.  They share with you whatever is yours to hear about the mysteries of the Underworld, the place where death becomes new life.  They share with you whatever is yours to hear about the dark part of the year.  You may ask any questions you have.

Before you leave, ask the Goddess and God two questions: What gifts does the darkness hold for me at this time?  What gifts do I have to bring to the darkness at this time? 

Hold the answers to these questions in your heart.  Hold them as you begin to bring your awareness back to your body.  Come gently back to your own body.  Come gently back to this circle.  Come gently back to this circle.  Come back, come back, come back.

 

Great Rite in Token/Cakes and Ale

Chalice contains Pomegranate juice, plate has bread made from some fruit of the season, such as pumpkin or zucchini bread. 

Officiant 1: Knowing that the Underworld holds gifts for us, and knowing that it is the place of regeneration, we celebrate the Great Rite in token, the rite of cakes and ale in harmony with the energies of the underworld.  Takes the chalice.

Officiant 2: Plunges the blade into the chalice with these words:  As the sword is to the grail, as the blade is to the chalice, truth is to love.  I bring together the energies of the Goddess and the God.  So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Officiant 1 puts down the chalice and holds up the plate.

Officiant 2: Draws an invoking pentagram over the plate, with these words:  God and Goddess bless this food and infuse it with your love.  So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Chalice is shared with all participants, with the words, “May you never thirst.”  Bread is shared with all participants, with the words, “May you never hunger.”

 

Returning

Officiant 1: Although Persephone spends six months in the Underworld, it is not so for us this time.  The time has come for us to journey back to the place from which we came.  Let us join now in the journey back to the land of light and life.  As we journey back, continue to hold in your heart the answers to the questions: What gifts does the darkness have for you?  What gifts do you have for the darkness?

Officiant leads the group in another slow walk clockwise.  Use the same chant or another appropriate song.  Once the journey is complete, if desired (and if your group is small enough), participants may be invited to share the answers to the questions: What gifts does the darkness have for you?  What gifts do you have for the darkness?

 

Thanks to the Goddess and God

Officiant 1:  We give thanks to the Goddess, who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone, Kore, Demeter, and Persephone.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Officiant 2: We give thanks to the God, who is Lord of Light and Lord of Shadow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

 

Release the Quarters

Each quarter should be released by the same person who called it. 

All turn to the North, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the north, we thank and release the element of earth and the Stag.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the West, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the west, we thank and release the element of water and the Snake.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the South, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the south, we thank and release the element of air and the Crow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the East, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the east, we thank and release the element of fire and the Horse.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

 

Open the Circle

The same officiant who cast the circle now walks the circle counterclockwise once, opening the circle with the wand.

I cast this circle out into the universe.  May it join with the circles of our siblings, through space and time to the highest good.  The circle is open but never broken.

All: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.

 

A Lammas Ritual for Global Warming

Notes for Planning:

For the dance in this ritual, you will need very small woven wreaths of grain for participants to hold.  You can buy wheat from either local or online florists or floral supply companies.  The internet is also full of wheat-weaving tutorials.  For this ritual, you need just a very simple braid of three strands, which is then tied in a circle.  It only needs to be big enough to be held comfortably, looped around the fingers, like a handle. 

It is very easy to get lost in the verses to the Mill of Magic chant.  My suggestion would be to have the words available for all participants who are not dancing.  They can sing the actual verse, and have the dancers join in on the repeated part: "Work the will for which we pray, Ee-Oh, Dee-Oh, Ha, Hee, Hay!"  Of course, if a bit of chaos is in keeping with the character of your rites, feel free to just teach the song and then let it be what it will be.

For this rite in particular, I would recommend using actual alcohol - ideally beer/ale in the Chalice.  You might want to have a second non-alcoholic chalice as well.  You may also want to give your regular attendees a heads-up about this, especially if you do not usually use alcohol in your rituals.

You will also need some bread.  If possible, bread made from this year's grain would be particularly meaningful.

This version of the ritual is written for 2 officiants, but it can be easily adjusted to one or four, and with a little creativity to other numbers. 

The form of this ritual is based on the work of the Temple of Witchcraft, but feel free to change the details to align with your own tradition, if you feel so moved.

You will notice that we are calling fire in the east and air in the south.  Many groups call air in the east and fire in the south.  The directions in this ritual are in the alchemical/underworld pattern, which places opposing elements opposite each other.  This arrangement makes for more confrontational, and therefore potentially more powerfully transformational energy.  Since this ritual is designed to confront a long history of imbalance and a huge threat to our environment, this energy seemed appropriate.  If you are using this ritual, I invite you to try this arrangement, even if it is not your usual practice.

Introductory Remarks

Officiant(s) give any directions they feel are necessary to help attendees participate fully in the ritual, and answer any questions.  If there is alcohol in the Chalice, be sure to mention that.

Entering a Meditative State

It is helpful for everyone in the room to enter a light trance together before the ritual begins.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here is the version we use in the Temple of Witchcraft.

Officiant: Please rise as you are able.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.  Relax your head and neck, your shoulders and arms, your back, abdomen, legs and feet.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind.  Release all thoughts and worries from the day.  Take a deep breath and relax your heart.  Feel the love of the Goddess and the God.  Feel perfect love and perfect trust.  Take a deep breath and relax into your soul.  Find your inner light, which you can follow for guidance and protection.

Now picture a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen.  This is the screen of your mind.  On this screen, visualize a series of numbers counting down from 12 to 1.  As you count down, you will enter a meditative state.

12.  See the number 12.  12.  11. See the number 11. 11.  10. See the number 10.  10.  9. See the number 9. 9.  8. See the number 8. 8.  7. See the number 7. 7.  6. See the number 6. 6. 5. See the number 5. 5.  4. See the number 4. 4. 3. See the number 3. 3. 2. See the number 2. 2.  1. See the number 1. 1.

Cast the circle

Officiant walks the circle clockwise three times, using the Blade to cast the circle with these words:

(First round) I cast the circle to protect us from all forces that would come to do us harm.

(Second round) I charge this circle to include the most perfect forces for this night's work, and to keep out all other forces.

(Third round) I charge and consecrate this circle to be a space out of space, a time out of time, a temple of perfect love and perfect trust, where the highest will is sovereign.

As I will it, so mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Call the quarters

One officiant can do all the quarter calls, a pair can alternate, or four people can each call a quarter.  Substitute the spirits or deities you have a relationship with in each quarter, if you wish.

All turn to face North, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the north, we call to the element of earth and to the Stag to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face East, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the east, we call to the element of fire and to the Horse to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work. Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face South, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the south, we call to the element of air and to the Crow to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face West, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the west, we call to the element of water and to the Snake to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work. Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Evoke the Goddess and God

Officiant 1: We call to the Goddess as Ceres, the kindhearted and benevolent.  Ceres, the mother who taught us to cultivate the food to feed ourselves and our children.  Ceres, the one who ensures the fertility of the earth.  Goddess of the first harvest, bring your blessings, guidance, and aid to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Officiant 2: We call to the God as John Barleycorn, who is cut down in the first harvest so that we may eat.  John Barleycorn, the sacrifice who rises into bread and ale.  John Barleycorn, who rises again in the spring to begin the cycle again.  God of the grain, bring your blessings, guidance, and aid to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Story: John Barleycorn

There are many versions of this traditional song and story.  This version is selected excerpts from Christopher Penczak's version.

One officiant may easily present this alone, but if you have 2, they can alternate as indicated, or in some other arrangement to add more drama and interest.  If 2 are doing this together, some practice time to get the meter and cadence right would be time well spent.

Officiant 2:

There were three men who came out of the East

Three men born great and high

A Seer, a Sorcerer and a King

Who swore John Barleycorn must die.

 

Officiant 1:

There were three ladies who came from the West

Three ladies neither foe nor friend

The future, the present and the past

Who swore John Barleycorn must end

 

Officiant 2:

There were three shades who came from the North

Dead men one and three

They walked back to the land of life

To say John Barleycorn must go free

Officiant 1:

They plowed the land.

They sowed the seed.

They threw clods upon his head.

Officiant 2:

A Seer, a Sorcerer and a King

Vowed John Barleycorn was dead.

Officiant 1:

They let him lie for a very long time,

Until the heavenly rains would drown.

But there he sprang up his head once again

Covered in an emerald crown.

Officiant 2:

They let him stand til Midsummer's Day

Till his crown turned yellow and gold

And the king gathered everyone around

For it was a sight to behold

Officiant 1:

They've gathered men with the sacred sickle to cut him down in the field

They've rolled him out and bound him hard, so nothing was concealed.

They've gathered men with the pitch forked staves to pierce him in the heart

And the loader he has served him worse than that, for he's heaped him upon the cart.

Officiant 2:

They've brought him to the threshing room floor to finally face his fate

And they've made a promise to him, to serve him on a silver plate.

They've gathered men with the flailing sticks to separate skin from bone

And the miller he has served him worst than that, for he's ground him between two mill stones.

Officiant 1:

And the three Ladies gathered him up

With honey and milk, butter and eggs, water, salt and yeast.

Mixed him up and baked him upon hot stones for the Sabbat Feast

Officiant 2:

The three wise Men drowned him down

With only water and hops and yeast

Entombed him in his own casket cold to later give rise to a Beast

Officiant 1:

And the three Shades who rose from the grave

Knew they were once a Seer, a Sorcerer and a King

Just as they rose, they knew he would do too,

John Barleycorn would rise again in the Spring

Meditation

Get into a comfortable position and relax your body.  Follow the sound of my voice as I count down from 13.  There is no need to visualize numbers this time.

13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

On the screen of your mind, picture a giant tree, larger than any tree you have ever seen.  This is the World Tree.  Its branches reach up to the heavens, and its roots dig deep into the earth.  Imagine that the screen of your mind is a portal, like a doorway or window, something you can easily pass through.  Pass through the screen of your mind and stand before the great tree.  Hear the wind in its branches.  Smell the earth where the roots dig in.  Feel the texture of the bark.  Know the World Tree.

Place your hands on the bark and hold the intention of visiting the god of the harvest.  Search in the roots of the tree for a tunnel.  When you find the tunnel, follow it.  It meanders without rising or falling very much.  You see a golden light at the end of the tunnel.  Walk toward the golden light.  Come out into the open sky and the sunshine. 

Before you lies a field of grain.  It might be wheat, barley, corn, oats, or any other grain.  What kind of grain appears to you?  The grain in the field is ripe, ready to be harvested.  Walk into the field.  Walk between the rows of grain.  Reach out your hands and touch the grains, ready for the harvest.  Reach out and pick the grain from one stalk.  One stalk of wheat, one ear of corn, one head of grain.  Hold it in your hands. 

In your work to help heal the earth and restore balance, what have you accomplished?  What is ready for you to offer to the world?  What is coming to harvest for you?

Now, prepare to eat some of the grain.  Notice that to do this, you have to do some work.  You have to peal back the husks of the corn, or roll the grain of wheat in your hand.  You have to separate the grain from its shell, from its stock.  The grain must be separated from the chaff. 

What do you still need to release in order to bring your gifts to harvest?  What do you need to let go in order to offer healing and nourishment to the earth?  As you separate the grain in your hands from the other parts of the plant that surround it, commit to letting go of the things that no longer serve you in your quest to be a steward of balance.

When the grain is free of all else, eat it slowly and reverently.  Offer thanks to the God of the harvest.

Walk back through the field the way you came until you find the tunnel again.  Follow the tunnel.  Follow the tunnel as it meanders, back, back the way you came.  Follow the tunnel back and back until you are once again standing before the World Tree.

Thank the World Tree for this journey. 

Come back through the portal in the screen of your mind.  Come back to this circle.  Come back, come back, come back. 

When you are ready, open your eyes and rise in body or spirit.

Wait until all participants have risen, or at least opened their eyes. 

Working

Officiants can divide the duties of leading the working however you wish.  Participants may choose to dance or not.  Those who are not dancing should have special responsibility for the chant, as it is very easy to lose your place in the verses.  My suggestion is to have those who are not dancing sing the part that changes, and have the dancers join in on the repeated part: "Work the will for which we pray, Ee-Oh, Dee-Oh, Ha, Hee, Hay!"

Dancers should form two circles, one closer to the center of the circle, and one farther away.  They should have roughly the same number of people, but it is not necessary for this to be exact.  Have the inner circle face counterclockwise, and the outer circle face clockwise.  Give each dancer one of the wheat circles.  Have the dancers hold them in their right hands, that is, the hands closest to the people in the other circle.  The dancers will dance around in a circle, so you will have two circles going in opposite directions.  As they pass the people going the other way, they will hit the wheat circles together. 

Explain that this dance represents the mill stones that grind the grain and separate it from the chaff.  We ourselves are ground between the mill stones, as we let go of that which no longer serves and are left with that which gives life. 

The chant for this dance is the Mill of Magic.  Lots of versions of this exist online.  Here are the words:

Fire flame and fire burn.  Make the mill of magic turn. Work the will for which we pray, Ee-Oh, Dee-Oh, Ha, Hee, Hay!

Air breathe and air blow.  Make the mill of magic go. Work the will for which we pray, Ee-Oh, Dee-Oh, Ha, Hee, Hay!

Water bubble, water boil.  Make the mill of magic toil. Work the will for which we pray, Ee-Oh, Dee-Oh, Ha, Hee, Hay!

Earth without and earth within.  Make the mill of magic spin. Work the will for which we pray, Ee-Oh, Dee-Oh, Ha, Hee, Hay!

One officiant should be in charge of channeling the energy of the dance and deciding when to stop it.  Stopping this chant can be accomplished by gradually increasing the volume of the last line until the last Hay is shouted at the end. 

One of the officiants now directs the participants:

We are going to send the energy of this circle now to restoring balance and cooling the earth.  We raise our hands slowly, saying "EE-AH-OH", releasing on the "OH'.

All: EE-AH-OH!

Officiant: So mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Officiant  now directs everyone to ground any excess energy.

Great Rite in Token/Cakes and Ale

For this rite in particular, I would recommend using actual alcohol - ideally beer - in the chalice.  You might want to have a second non-alcoholic chalice as well.  You will also need some bread.  If possible, bread made from this year's grain would be particularly meaningful.

The harvest is in.  The grain has been cut down.  The mill stones have turned.  The grain has risen in bread and in spirits.  We share now the first fruits of the harvest, and celebrate the love of the Goddess and the God.

Officiant 1 holds the Chalice.  Officiant 2 plunges the Blade into the Chalice with these words:

As the Sword is to the Grail, The Blade is to the Chalice, Truth is to Love. We bring together the energies of the Goddess and the God. So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Officiant 2 holds the plate of bread.  Officiant 1 draws an invoking pentagram above the bread with the blade and says:

Goddess and God, we ask you to bless this bread and infuse it with your love.  So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Officiant 2 passes the bread to all participants with the words, "May you never hunger."  The response is "Blessed be."  Officiant 1 passes the Chalice  to all participants with the words "May you never thirst."  The response is "Blessed be." 

Thanks to the Goddess and God

Officiant 1: We thank you, Ceres, Goddess of the harvest.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Officiant 2: We thank you, John Barleycorn, God of the grain.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Release the Quarters

Each quarter should be released by the same person who called it. 

All turn to the North, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the north, we thank and release the element of earth and the Stag.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the West, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the west, we thank and release the element of water and the Snake.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the South, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the south, we thank and release the element of air and the Crow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the East, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the east, we thank and release the element of fire and the Horse.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Open the Circle

The same officiant who cast the circle now walks the circle counterclockwise once, opening the circle with the wand.

I cast this circle out into the universe.  May it join with the circles of our siblings, through space and time to the highest good.  The circle is open but never broken.

All: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.

 

A Midsummer Ritual For Global Warming

Notes for Planning:

This ritual is the mirror of the Yule/Midwinter ritual in the series.  

The working for this ritual uses the "Full Height of Our Power" chant from the album Elemental by Kellianna, available at http://www.kellianna.com/buy.php or through iTunes. You may want to consider a central fire for this ritual, if you are in a place where that is possible.  It is not necessary, though.

The form of this ritual is based on the work of the Temple of Witchcraft, but feel free to change the details to align with your own tradition, if you feel so moved.

This version of the ritual is written for three officiants, but it is fairly flexible and can be easily adapted to 1, 2, or 4.

You will notice that we are calling fire in the east and air in the south.  Many groups call air in the east and fire in the south.  The directions in this ritual are in the alchemical/underworld pattern, which places opposing elements opposite each other.  This arrangement makes for more confrontational, and therefore potentially more powerfully transformational energy.  Since this ritual is designed to confront a long history of imbalance and a huge threat to our environment, this energy seemed appropriate.  If you are using this ritual, I invite you to try this arrangement, even if it is not your usual practice.

 Introductory Remarks

Officiant(s) give any directions they feel are necessary to help attendees participate fully in the ritual, and answer any questions.

Entering a Meditative State

It is helpful for everyone in the room to enter a light trance together before the ritual begins.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here is the version we use in the Temple of Witchcraft.

Officiant: Please rise as you are able.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.  Relax your head and neck, your shoulders and arms, your back, abdomen, legs and feet.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind.  Release all thoughts and worries from the day.  Take a deep breath and relax your heart.  Feel the love of the Goddess and the God.  Feel perfect love and perfect trust.  Take a deep breath and relax into your soul.  Find your inner light, which you can follow for guidance and protection.

Now picture a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen.  This is the screen of your mind.  On this screen, visualize a series of numbers counting down from 12 to 1.  As you count down, you will enter a meditative state.

12.  See the number 12.  12.  11. See the number 11. 11.  10. See the number 10.  10.  9. See the number 9. 9.  8. See the number 8. 8.  7. See the number 7. 7.  6. See the number 6. 6. 5. See the number 5. 5.  4. See the number 4. 4. 3. See the number 3. 3. 2. See the number 2. 2.  1. See the number 1. 1.

Cast the circle

Officiant walks the circle clockwise three times, using the Wand to cast the circle with these words:

(First round) I cast the circle to protect us from all forces that would come to do us harm.

(Second round) I charge this circle to include the most perfect forces for this night's work, and to keep out all other forces.

(Third round) I charge and consecrate this circle to be a space out of space, a time out of time, a temple of perfect love and perfect trust, where the highest will is sovereign.

As I will it, so mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

 

Call the quarters

One officiant can do all the quarter calls, a pair can alternate, or four people can each call a quarter.  Substitute the spirits or deities you have a relationship with in each quarter, if you wish.

All turn to face North, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the north, we call to the element of earth and to the Stag to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face East, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the east, we call to the element of fire and to the Horse to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work. Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face South, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the south, we call to the element of air and to the Crow to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face West, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the west, we call to the element of water and to the Snake to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work. Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Evoke the Goddess and God

Officiant 1 lights the Goddess candle on the altar, and speaks: We call to the Goddess, she who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone, the Weaver and the Web.  We call to the Lady who guides us and guards us and holds us all in her love.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

The God candle is not yet lit.  Officiant 2 speaks:  I call to the Oak King, the God of warmth, light and summer.  Be present with us on this, the longest day, the moment of the height of your power.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Officiant 3 speaks:  I call to the Holly King, the God of cold, darkness, and winter.  Be present with us on this, the day when the world begins to turn again toward darkness.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Story

The story is told that in the beginning, there were two gods who were brothers.  And like many brothers, they struggled with each other for ascendance and power.  One brother was the King of the forces of life, light, and warmth.  He wore a crown made of green oak branches and brought with him all growth and vitality, fertility and abundance.  He was called the Oak King.

His brother was the King of the forces of death, cold, and darkness.  He wore a crown made of the prickly holly branches and brought with him all withering and decay, stillness and hibernation.  He was called the Holly King.

The brothers were identical in strength, and so year after year the same pattern was repeated.  Each year, the Oak King would grow strong and mighty and during his time of dominance, the light would gradually increase, bringing with it warmth and abundance.  But each year, at the height of his power, he would be thrown down by the Holly King.  In the wake of the Holly King's victory, the light would gradually wane, and as it did, cold would come and the land would go dormant.  But at the height of the Holly King's power, he would be challenged again by the Oak King and would fall.  And the cycle would repeat again and again and again.

Alone, the brothers were equals, but soon there came a race of beings known as people.  The people watched this cycle, and pretty soon, they began to take sides.  The people loved light and warmth, and they feared darkness and cold.  And so, each year, they would celebrate the victory of the Oak King, but they would mourn the victory of the Holly King.  When the two struggled with each other, the people would lend the strength of their voices and their bodies, their minds and their spirits to the Oak King, but the Holly King was without their support.  And so time went by.

Over time, the people's adoration of warmth and light only grew, and so they began to invent ever new ways to find light in the darkness and warmth in the cold.  And finally, if they wished it, they could spend all of their time in the light they had created, and they could be warm all year long.  But their efforts to stay always in the light and the warmth were not without consequences. 

Generations passed and generations again and the people did not at first notice the shifts in the balance.  But finally, they could ignore it no longer.  The people began to notice that darkness was disappearing from the land, driven out by millions of lights the people had created.  Animals, birds, plants, even people began to suffer the effects of light unbalanced by darkness.

But it was not just darkness that was disappearing.  Cold began to flee, too.  The whole world began to get warmer.  Summer began sooner and lasted longer.  Ice that had been frozen far longer than the longest memory of the oldest person in the land began to melt.  Migrating birds and animals began to be confused about when to begin the migration.  Plants found themselves rooted in climates that no longer supplied their needs.  The air was changing, and the winds that had brought rain and taken it away again began to flow in unexpected directions, causing drought here and flood there.

The people began to see that their support of warmth and light over cold and darkness had altered the balance of the whole world.  They began, slowly, one at a time, to realize that the Holly King was dying.  And for the first time, this thought filled them with fear.  What would happen if the balance continued to be destroyed?  Could they even survive in a world without the Holly King?

And in the world of the gods, the Oak King realized it, too.  And though they had been competitors all these many centuries, he also realized that he loved his brother deeply, and could not live without him.  The longest day came, and the Oak King and the Holly King met again, but this time, the Oak King had no heart for the fight.  He lay down his sword and spear.  He came, open-handed to his brother, who was struggling just to stay on his feet.  The Oak King wrapped the Holly King in a tight embrace.  At the moment of his greatest power, the Oak King promised to give some of that power to the Holly King to restore the balance, and together they decided to lend some of their combined power to the people who would help them to heal the earth.

Great Rite in Token

Officiant 2 lights the God candle on the altar while Officiant 3 speaks.

As this rite seeks to restore balance, we light this candle now for the God who wears the faces of both the Holly King and the Oak King, the Lord of light and the Lord of shadow, the Lord of life and the Lord of death, the Lord of warmth and the Lord of Cold.  We call to the two-faced God, the Singer and the Song.  We call to the Lord who guides us and guards us and holds us all in his love.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Officiant 1 holds the Chalice, Officiant 2 holds the blade.  The blade is plunged into the Chalice as Officiant 3 speaks:

As the Sword is to the Grail, The Blade is to the Chalice, Truth is to Love. We bring together the energies of the Goddess and the God. So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Officiant 3: Blessed be.

All: Blessed be.

The Chalice is passed to all participants with the words "May you never thirst."  The response is "Blessed be."

Meditation

Officiant 1 leads the following meditation.  Officiants 2 and 3 should be in meditative space, too, connecting with the energies of the Oak King and Holly King (or their own guides/deities who can help in this rite), so that they can work to direct the energy of the working that will follow.

Get into a comfortable position and relax your body.  Follow the sound of my voice as I count down from 13.  There is no need to visualize numbers this time.

13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

On the screen of your mind, picture a giant tree, larger than any tree you have ever seen.  This is the World Tree.  Its branches reach up to the heavens, and its roots dig deep into the earth.  Imagine that the screen of your mind is a portal, like a doorway or window, something you can easily pass through.  Pass through the screen of your mind and stand before the great tree.  Hear the wind in its branches.  Smell the earth where the roots dig in.  Feel the texture of the bark.  Know the World Tree.

Place your hands on the bark and hold the intention of visiting the Oak King and Holly King.  Search in the roots of the tree for a tunnel.  Find a tunnel and follow it.

The tunnel leads downward, sloping gently.  You follow the tunnel deeper and deeper.  Notice the way the tunnel feels.  What is it made of?  Is it rough or smooth?  Do you smell earth?  Do you hear anything?  Follow the tunnel deeper.

The tunnel begins to open out, and you find yourself walking through a forest.  Follow the path through the forest.  Now you are coming to a clearing in the forest.

Before you are the Oak King and the Holly King.  Wait in the clearing until you meet a guide.  The guide might be one of the Kings or it might be an animal or plant spirit.  Who comes to speak with you?

Once a guide is before you, introduce yourself.  Ask your guide for help in finding the power you need to be an ally with the Oak King and Holly King in restoring balance.  What do you need in order to be as powerful as you can be?  What is your work in restoring the balance?  Who can help you in this work?

Continue talking to your guide.

Your guide may give you a gift, an item, an image, a word or idea to give you power in your work.  Look within and see if you have something to offer to your guide.  Thank your guide for their help and wisdom.  Offer thanks to the Oak King and Holly King.

Find your way back to the path through which you came.  Follow the path back through the forest.  The path becomes the tunnel.  Follow the tunnel as it slopes back up.  Follow the tunnel up and up until you stand once more before the World Tree. 

Thank the World Tree for this journey. 

Come back through the portal in the screen of your mind.  Come back to this circle.  Come back, come back, come back.  When you are ready, open your eyes and rise.

Wait until all risen or at least opened their eyes.

Working

Officiant 1 continues to lead the participants while Officiants 2 and 3 participate in the working, channeling the energy raised to restoring balance and cooling the earth.

Officiant 1 invites participants to rise and dance in a circle clockwise around the central altar, using the "Full Height of Our Power" chant.  Ideally, this should be accompanied by drummers and singers who can gradually increase the volume and speed as energy is raised. 

When Officiant 1 feels that the energy has peaked, s/he stops the dance by shouting the last syllable and raising his/her hands, a sign to the drummers and singers to stop.  Then s/he directs the participants:

We are going to send the energy of this circle now to empowering the Oak King and Holly King in the quest for balance.  We raise our hands slowly, saying "EE-AH-OH", releasing on the "OH'.

All: EE-AH-OH!

Officiant 1: So mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Officiant 1 now directs everyone to ground any excess energy. 

Thanks to the Goddess and God

Officiant 1:  We thank the Goddess, she who is Maiden, Mother and Crone.  We give you thanks for presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Officiant 1 extinguishes the Goddess candle.

Officiant 2: We thank the God, the Oak King and Holly King, the Lord of light and the Lord of shadow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

Officiant 3 extinguishes the God candle.

Release the Quarters

Each quarter should be released by the same person who called it. 

All turn to the North, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the north, we thank and release the element of earth and the Stag.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the West, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the west, we thank and release the element of water and the Snake.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the South, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the south, we thank and release the element of air and the Crow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the East, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the east, we thank and release the element of fire and the Horse.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Open the Circle

The same officiant who cast the circle now walks the circle counterclockwise once, opening the circle with the wand.

I cast this circle out into the universe.  May it join with the circles of our siblings, through space and time to the highest good.  The circle is open but never broken.

All: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.

A Beltane Ritual for Global Warming

Notes for Planning:

This ritual includes both a meditation on sacrifice, and an offering of sacrifice, and also more up-beat, celebratory elements traditional of this season.  It should be both reflective and fun.

The form of this ritual is based on the work of the Temple of Witchcraft, but feel free to change the details to align with your own tradition, if you feel so moved.

This ritual is designed to be a bit flexible.  It is written for 2 officiants, but can easily be led by different numbers of people.  This ritual is simple enough that one person could lead it alone, although in that case, you might want to designate a fire-tender.  Alternatively, four people can lead it together, each calling a direction and dividing up the other parts as desired.

After the meditation, this ritual calls for a fire into which small oat cakes can be offered.  You will need 2 cakes for each participant.  You will also need a substantial fire.  If you wish, you can start the fire at the beginning of the ritual, or just after the Evocation of the Goddess and God.  Alternatively, you can start the fire right before it is needed.  Make sure that the fire is properly contained, and built far enough away from the Maypole for safety.

This ritual also involves a Maypole.  It will need an even number of ribbons, about twice as long as the pole itself.  I would suggest fewer ribbons than participants, to ensure that all ribbons are taken, and assuming that some people will not want to dance.  If you have many more participants who wish to dance than you have ribbons, you can have dancers switch off. 

You will notice that we are calling fire in the east and air in the south.  Many groups call air in the east and fire in the south.  The directions in this ritual are in the alchemical/underworld pattern, which places opposing elements opposite each other.  This arrangement makes for more confrontational, and therefore potentially more powerfully transformational energy.  Since this ritual is designed to confront a long history of imbalance and a huge threat to our environment, this energy seemed appropriate.  If you are using this ritual, I invite you to try this arrangement, even if it is not your usual practice.

Introductory Remarks

Officiant(s) give any directions they feel are necessary to help attendees participate fully in the ritual, and answer any questions.

Entering a Meditative State

It is helpful for everyone in the room to enter a light trance together before the ritual begins.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here is the version we use in the Temple of Witchcraft.

 Officiant: Please rise as you are able.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.  Relax your head and neck, your shoulders and arms, your back, abdomen, legs and feet.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind.  Release all thoughts and worries from the day. 

Take a deep breath and relax your heart.  Feel the love of the Goddess and the God.  Feel perfect love and perfect trust.

Take a deep breath and relax into your soul.  Find your inner light, which you can follow for guidance and protection.

Now picture a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen.  This is the screen of your mind.  On this screen, visualize a series of numbers counting down from 12 to 1.  As you count down, you will enter a meditative state.

12.  See the number 12.  12.  11. See the number 11. 11.  10. See the number 10.  10.  9. See the number 9. 9.  8. See the number 8. 8.  7. See the number 7. 7.  6. See the number 6. 6.  5. See the number 5. 5.  4. See the number 4. 4.  3. See the number 3. 3.  2. See the number 2. 2.  1. See the number 1. 1.

Cast the circle

Officiant walks the circle clockwise three times, using the Wand to cast the circle with these words:

 (First round) I cast the circle to protect us from all forces that would come to do us harm.

(Second round) I charge this circle to include the most perfect forces for this night's work, and to keep out all other forces.

(Third round) I charge and consecrate this circle to be a space out of space, a time out of time, a temple of perfect love and perfect trust, where the highest will is sovereign.

As I will it, so mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Call the quarters

One officiant can do all the quarter calls, a pair can alternate, or four people can each call a quarter.  Substitute the spirits or deities you have a relationship with in each quarter, if you wish.

All turn to face North, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the north, we call to the element of earth and to the Stag to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face East, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the east, we call to the element of fire and to the Horse to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face South, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the south, we call to the element of air and to the Crow to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face West, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.  To the west, we call to the element of water and to the Snake to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Evoke the Goddess and God

Officiant 1:  We call to the Goddess as Aphrodite, the Goddess of love and fertility, in whose steps flowers burst to life, and who rules the season of spring.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Officiant 2:  We call to the God as Jack of the Green, the Green Man, the essence of the life force of plants and trees, friend to creatures of the forest and steward of the natural cycles.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Story: The Green Man

I learned this story from Gail Forsyth-Vail, who learned it from Gail E. Haley.

There once was a rich young squire, who loved nothing better than to go hunting in the woods near his home.  He believed the woods to belong to him, not just the land, but all the creatures and plants.  And so he cared little for habitat he trampled or the lives he took in the hunt. 

Meanwhile, in the village near the squire's home, the people had a very different understanding of the woods.  To them, they were a magical place, where all the creatures had their own part to play in the web of life.  They also believed the creatures were cared for by the Green Man, who watched over them, and over any children who happened to be lost or in trouble in the woods.  In honor of the web of life, the villagers left food outside their doors all winter for the Green Man.

One warm summer day, the rich young squire was hunting through the forest when he became separated from the rest of his party.  He came upon a pond in the forest, and decided to take a swim to cool off.  While he was enjoying the water, he did not notice a hand come from behind a tree and take his clothes, nor did he notice his horse being led away into the forest.

When the squire came out of the water, all he found was a length of rope, and an odd garment made out of leaves.  He hastily put these on.  When his hunting party came close, he was too embarrassed to be seen, so he hid behind a tree.  Night fell.  The young man went in search of shelter, and soon came to a small but cozy-looking cave.  When he entered, he found a container of water and another of grain, all the signs of habitation. 

Soon the young man settled into life in the cave.  As the days and weeks passed, he become acquainted with all the little creatures with whom he shared the forest, and he stared helping them when he saw a need.  One day, he found two children lost in the forest, and he helped them find their way again.  Seeing his long hair, and his garment of leaves, the children asked if he was the Green Man.  "I suppose I am," replied the young man.  In the winter, he was grateful for the food left outside by the villagers, and he shared it with the animals he had come to know and love.

And a year passed and it was once again a warm summer day.  One day, the Green Man saw a rich young squire in the woods alone.  This new squire found a nice pond to cool down in.  While the new squire was bathing, the Green Man took his clothes and horse, leaving his garment of leaves, and he rode back to his home.  His family was overjoyed to see him.  Over time, they noticed something different about him.  He no longer spoke of the forest and its creatures as possessions, but as pieces in the web of life, and he never failed to leave food for the Green Man in the winter.

While we honor the God as Jack of the Green, and pray to him for guidance and strength, we must remember that we, too, are stewards of the earth, and we, too, have a part to play in protecting the web and its creatures.  Let us journey now into the to spirit of the forest for guidance on how we can be better stewards of the web of life. 

Meditation

Get into a comfortable position and relax your body. Follow the sound of my voice as I count down from 13. There is no need to visualize numbers this time. 13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

On the screen of your mind, picture a giant tree, larger than any tree you have ever seen.  This is the World Tree.  Its branches reach up to the heavens, and its roots dig deep into the earth.  Imagine that the screen of your mind is a portal, like a doorway or window, something you can easily pass through.  Pass through the screen of your mind and stand before the great tree.  Hear the wind in its branches.  Smell the earth where the roots dig in.  Feel the texture of the bark.  Know the World Tree.

Place your hands on the bark of the World Tree and hold the intention of visiting with Jack of the Green.  Search in the roots of the tree for a tunnel or doorway.  When the tunnel appears, step into it.  Follow the tunnel.  Continue to follow the tunnel.  You notice a green light at the end of the tunnel.  Walk towards the green light.

You find yourself in a deep green forest, alive with plants, animals and birds.  Look around you.  What kinds of plants do you see.  Listen.  What kinds of birds can you hear?  Do you notice any animals?  Do you smell anything?  Take in the forest through your senses.

Notice a path before you, leading you deeper into the forest.  Follow the path.  Continue to notice animals, birds, plants, and whatever else the forest has to show you.  Follow the path further into the forest.  The path leads you to a clearing with a pond in its center.  On the bank of the pond is a large rock.  Sit on the rock.  It is warm from the sun.  Rest in the warmth for a moment.

Now hold the intention of asking for a guide.  Ask for a guide who can help you as you seek to be a better steward of the web of life.  Wait on the rock until a guide appears.  This could be Jack of the Green himself, an animal or bird guide, or even a plant spirit.

When your guide appears, introduce yourself.  Thinking about the man from the story, his first step toward stewardship was a sacrifice.  He had to lose his fine clothes and his horse.  Ask your guide for help in thinking about what you might have to offer as a sacrifice to help the earth heal.  Is there a part of your life where you can give something up so as to be a smaller burden on the planet?  What sacrifice are you willing to make?

If there is a sacrifice that you are willing to make, tell your guide about what you are offering.  Your guide may have wisdom for you to help in keeping this commitment.  Or your guide may offer you a gift, an item or a word to help you remember and keep this commitment. 

When you are finished speaking with your guide, thank your guide. 

Spend a few more moments enjoying the clearing, the warm rock, the pond.  Then find the path that you took to this place and return along the same path.  Follow the path back through the forest.  Follow the path back until it becomes a tunnel again.  Follow the tunnel back, back, back until you find yourself at the foot of the World Tree once again.

Thank the World Tree for this journey. 

Come back through the portal in the screen of your mind.  Come back to this circle.  Come back, come back, come back. 

When you are ready, open your eyes and rise in body or spirit.

Wait until all risen or at least opened their eyes. 

Offering Sacrifice

Officiant 1 either builds or feeds the fire while Officiant 2 speaks.

Officiant 2:  At this time of year, the ancient Celts made oatmeal cakes and offered them to the fire to ensure a fertile growing season and protection for their livestock.  Today, we will use these cakes to represent the sacrifices we are willing to offer to strengthen the web of life.  As the cakes are passed, take one, and holding it, think of the sacrifices you are committing to today.  When you feel ready, come forward and offer the cake to the fire. 

Officiant 2 passes a plate with half the cakes to all participants.  The other half of the cakes should be out of sight on another plate.

 Once all participants have offered a cake to the fire, Officiant 2 takes out the remaining cakes out. 

Officiant 2:  This is not only a season of sacrifice and responsibility, but also a season of abundance and joy.  As we have committed to offer sacrifice for the strength of the web, let us now rejoice and celebrate the gifts of nature and the fertility of spring.  Take a cake now to enjoy for yourself. 

The cakes are passed to all participants with the words "May you never hunger."  The response is "Blessed be."

Dancing the May Pole

Officiant 1:  And now, we dance the May Pole, to celebrate the spring, and to weave its blessings into our lives.  If you wish to dance, please come forward and choose a ribbon.  You can choose a color that represents something you wish to weave into your life, if you wish.  Those who are not dancing can help supply our dancers with music to dance by.

Once all ribbons have been claimed, officiants have everyone face the pole in the center.  Then they proceed around the circle, having every other person turn to the left, and alternating people turn to the right.  Make sure you are working together and not at cross purposes!  This will mean that half the people now have the pole on their right and half have the pole on their left.  Have those with the pole on their left take a step into the circle, toward the pole.  Now instruct the dancers on the dance.  They are going to weave in and out.  So, they step forward and pass each other.  Then those who had stepped toward the center move out a step or two, while those who had stayed still before move in a step or two.  Everyone passes another person, then they move in the opposite direction and pass the next person, and so on.  It is really easy once you get the hang of it.  Once the dancers have been instructed, have everyone stop, and cue drummers and/or singers to begin.  Then the dancers can begin at full speed.  Continue the dance until the ribbons are too short to continue. Then end the music with a flourish.

You can use any lively, upbeat tune for this dance.  Here are some possibilities:

"Aphrodite and Pan" by Kellianna on the album "Lady Moon," especially the chorus

The traditional Witch's Reel

"Rise O Goddess" on the CD companion to The Outer Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak

"Sumer is Icumin In" (Old English, or Modern English)

Great Rite in Token

Officiant 1 holds the chalice while Officiant 2 plunges the blade into the chalice. 

Officiant 1:  We celebrate now the union of the Goddess and the God and the fertility of spring.  As the Sword is to the Grail, the Blade is to the Chalice, Truth is to Love.  We bring together the energies of the Goddess and the God.  So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Officiant 1: Blessed be.

All: Blessed be.

The Chalice is passed to all participants with the words "May you never thirst."  The response is "Blessed be."

Thanks to the Goddess and God

Officiant 1:  We thank the Goddess Aphrodite, Goddess of love and flowers.  We give you thanks for presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Officiant 1 extinguishes the Goddess candle.

Officiant 2: We thank Jack of the Green, steward of the web.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

Officiant 2 extinguishes the God candle

Release the Quarters

Each quarter should be released by the same person who called it. 

All turn to the North, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the north, we thank and release the element of earth and the Stag.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the West, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the west, we thank and release the element of water and the Snake.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the South, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the south, we thank and release the element of air and the Crow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the East, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.  To the east, we thank and release the element of fire and the Horse.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Open the Circle

The same officiant who cast the circle now walks the circle counterclockwise once, opening the circle with the wand.  I cast this circle out into the universe.  May it join with the circles of our siblings, through space and time to the highest good. 

The circle is open but never broken.

All: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.

An Oestara Ritual for Global Warming

 

Notes for Planning:

This ritual focuses on the forest and trees and their role in capturing carbon dioxide and creating oxygen.  It encourages participants to think of ways to work for the protection and health of the forests of the world, through the imagery of the Oak King.  In this time of planting seeds, we plant the seeds of action on behalf of forests.  

This ritual is designed to be a bit flexible.  It is written for 2 officiants, but can easily be led by different numbers of people.  This ritual is simple enough that one person could lead it alone.  Alternatively, four people can lead it together, each calling a direction and dividing up the other parts as desired.

If possible, plan to have acorns available for all participants. 

The form of this ritual is based on the work of the Temple of Witchcraft, but feel free to change the details to align with your own tradition, if you feel so moved.

You will notice that we are calling fire in the east and air in the south.  Many groups call air in the east and fire in the south.  The directions in this ritual are in the alchemical/underworld pattern, which places opposing elements opposite each other.  This arrangement makes for more confrontational, and therefore potentially more powerfully transformational energy.  Since this ritual is designed to confront a long history of imbalance and a huge threat to our environment, this energy seemed appropriate.  If you are using this ritual, I invite you to try this arrangement, even if it is not your usual practice.

Introductory Remarks

Officiant(s) give any directions they feel are necessary to help attendees participate fully in the ritual, and answer any questions. 

Entering a Meditative State

It is helpful for everyone in the room to enter a light trance together before the ritual begins.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here is the version we use in the Temple of Witchcraft.

Officiant: Please rise as you are able.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.  Relax your head and neck, your shoulders and arms, your back, abdomen, legs and feet.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind.  Release all thoughts and worries from the day. 

Take a deep breath and relax your heart.  Feel the love of the Goddess and the God.  Feel perfect love and perfect trust.

Take a deep breath and relax into your soul.  Find your inner light, which you can follow for guidance and protection.

Now picture a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen.  This is the screen of your mind.  On this screen, visualize a series of numbers counting down from 12 to 1.  As you count down, you will enter a meditative state.

12.  See the number 12.  12.  11. See the number 11. 11.  10. See the number 10.  10.  9. See the number 9. 9.  8. See the number 8. 8.  7. See the number 7. 7.  6. See the number 6. 6.  5. See the number 5. 5.  4. See the number 4. 4.  3. See the number 3. 3.  2. See the number 2. 2.  1. See the number 1. 1.

Cast the circle

Officiant walks the circle clockwise three times, using the Wand to cast the circle with these words:

(First round) I cast the circle to protect us from all forces that would come to do us harm.

(Second round) I charge this circle to include the most perfect forces for this night's work, and to keep out all other forces.

(Third round) I charge and consecrate this circle to be a space out of space, a time out of time, a temple of perfect love and perfect trust, where the highest will is sovereign.

As I will it, so mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Call the quarters

One officiant can do all the quarter calls, a pair can alternate, or four people can each call a quarter.  Substitute the spirits or deities you have a relationship with in each quarter, if you wish.

All turn to face North, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the north, we call to the element of earth and to the Stag to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face East, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the east, we call to the element of fire and to the Horse to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face South, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the south, we call to the element of air and to the Crow to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face West, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the west, we call to the element of water and to the Snake to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.  Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Evoke the Goddess and God

Officiant 1:  We call to the Goddess as Oestara, Goddess of the spring, of flowers and the planting of seeds.  At this moment of balance and the turning of the seasons, bless us with your presence and your love.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Officiant 2:  We call to the God as the Oak King, the lord of the forest in summer, of growth and vitality.  At this moment of balance as your power grows, bless us with your presence and your love.  Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Great Rite in Token

Rather than the blade, this version of the Great Rite uses the wand.  Ideally for this ritual, it should be a wand made of oak. Officiant 1 holds the chalice.  Officiant 2 plunges the wand into the chalice while Officiant 1 says these words:

 As the Sword is to the Grail, the Wand is to the Chalice, Will is to Love.  We bring together the energies of the Goddess and the God.  So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Officiant 1: Blessed be.

All: Blessed be.

The Chalice is passed to all participants with the words "May you never thirst."  The response is "Blessed be."

Meditation

Get into a comfortable position and relax your body.  Follow the sound of my voice as I count down from 13.  There is no need to visualize numbers this time.

13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

On the screen of your mind, picture a giant tree, larger than any tree you have ever seen.  This is the World Tree.  Its branches reach up to the heavens, and its roots dig deep into the earth.  Imagine that the screen of your mind is a portal, like a doorway or window, something you can easily pass through.  Pass through the screen of your mind and stand before the great tree.  Hear the wind in its branches.  Smell the earth where the roots dig in.  Feel the texture of the bark.  Know the World Tree.

Place your hands on the bark and hold the intention of visiting the Oak King in the heart of the forest.  Search in the roots of the tree for a tunnel.  Find a tunnel and follow it.

The tunnel leads downward, sloping gently.  You follow the tunnel deeper and deeper.  Notice the way the tunnel feels.  What is it made of?  Is it rough or smooth?  Do you smell earth?  Do you hear anything?  Follow the tunnel deeper.

The tunnel begins to open out, and you find yourself walking through a forest in early spring.  Follow the path through the forest.  What do you see?  What do you hear?  What do you smell?  What plants and animals are present.

Continue to follow the path.  Now you are coming to a clearing in the forest.  In the center of the clearing is one giant Oak tree.  On the branches of the tree are the very beginning of tiny leaves.  Walk to the Oak tree.  Pause for a moment to take in the majesty of the great tree. 

Then draw nearer to the tree, and place your hands on the bark.  Bring your attention to your breath.  Breathe in and breathe out.  Breathe in and breathe out.  Become aware that you breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.  Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. 

Now bring your awareness to the breath of the tree.  The tree's breathing is much slower and less obvious.  Search with your senses until you can perceive the breath of the tree.  Become aware that the tree breathes in carbon dioxide and breathes out oxygen.  Carbon dioxide in and oxygen out. 

Become aware of this exchange.  As you breathe in the oxygen that the tree breaths out, and the tree breathes in the carbon dioxide that you breathe out.  Feel the balance and the harmony as you and the tree breathe together.

Now expand your awareness out into the forest.  Become aware of the ways the forest is waking up as spring approaches.  The sap is beginning to rise in the maples.  The trees are starting bud or to send out leaves.  The forest is awakening. 

Become aware of the ways the forest will soon begin to take in more carbon dioxide and transform it into new life for the forest, and oxygen that will be used by animals and people.  Become aware of the beginnings of the forest's great in breath. 

Bring your awareness back to the one Oak tree and to your sharing of breath with the tree.  As you breathe with the tree, consider ways that you might become a partner with the tree.  How can you help to protect the forest?  How can you help to keep the forest healthy and strong?  Is there a task for you in the protection of the trees and their breath which sustains your life?  Is there something you can do, something you have to offer? 

When you are ready, decide if you have a commitment to action that you can make.  If so, tell the Oak tree of your commitment.  Listen to see if the tree has any response.  Look at the roots of the tree until you find an acorn.  Take the acorn as a reminder of your commitment, a seed of action to plant when you return home.  Thank the Oak tree for this time together and any wisdom you have found.

Find your way back to the path through which you came.  Follow the path back through the forest.  The path becomes the tunnel.  Follow the tunnel as it slopes back up.  Follow the tunnel up and up until you stand once more before the World Tree. 

Thank the World Tree for this journey. 

Come back through the portal in the screen of your mind.  Come back to this circle.  Come back, come back, come back. 

When you are ready, open your eyes and rise in body or spirit.

Wait until all risen or at least opened their eyes. 

Seeds of Commitment

Invite participants to come to the central altar and take an acorn as a reminder of their commitment in this meditation.  Instruct them that they can literally plant it, or place it in a special place at home as a way of spiritually planting it.  Tell them that as the Wheel of the Year turns, to nurture the seed of commitment into action in the world.  If you have a small circle, you may ask participants to share something about their commitments with the group.

Working

Officiant 1:

Now we are going to raise energy for the health and protection of the forests of the world. 

 Officiant 1 invites participants to rise and dance in a circle clockwise around the central altar, using the following chant.  Ideally, this should be accompanied by drummers and singers who can gradually increase the volume and speed as energy is raised. 

Officiant 2 should focus on directing the energy to its purpose.

Chant:

To the tune of the Mill of Magic Chant.  (There are lots of variations of this, and here's one: http://threehundredandsixtysix.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/the-witches-mill)

Oak King, Oak King/ Help us with the balancing/ Work the will for which we pray/ Io Dio Ha Hee Hay

 When Officiant 1 feels that the energy has peaked, s/he stops the dance by shouting the last syllable and raising his/her hands, a sign to the drummers and singers to stop.  Then s/he directs the participants:

We are going to send the energy of this circle now to restoring balance and cooling the earth.  We raise our hands slowly, saying "EE-AH-OH", releasing on the "OH'.

All: EE-AH-OH!

Officiant 1: So mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Officiant 1 now directs everyone to ground any excess energy.

Thanks to the Goddess and God

Officiant 1:

We thank the Goddess Oestara, Goddess of the Spring.  We give you thanks for presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Officiant 1 extinguishes the Goddess candle.

Officiant 2: We thank the Oak King, lord of the awakening forest.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

Officiant 2 extinguishes the God candle

Release the Quarters

Each quarter should be released by the same person who called it. 

All turn to the North, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the north, we thank and release the element of earth and the Stag.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the West, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of water and the Snake.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the South, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of air and the Crow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the East, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of fire and the Horse.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Open the Circle

The same officiant who cast the circle now walks the circle counterclockwise once, opening the circle with the wand.

I cast this circle out into the universe.  May it join with the circles of our siblings, through space and time to the highest good. 

The circle is open but never broken.

All: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.

An Imbolc Ritual for a Time of Global Warming

Imbolc Ritual in a Time of Global Warming

Erica Baron

It is my hope that these rituals for the Wheel of the Year in the context of climate change might spark inspiration and ideas for others.  So, feel free to use them in any gathering, circle, coven, or other group with whom you regularly observe the Wheel of the Year.  You can use them exactly as they are, or you are welcome to adapt them to the particular theologies and customs of your own group.  Please share as widely as you would like!

Planning Notes:

The central working in this ritual is an act of sympathetic magick, or a process of creating something in miniature that you want to see enacted in the larger world.  One tradition at this time of year has been to melt snow over a fire in ritual to encourage spring to come quickly and melt the snows of winter.  In this ritual, we are reversing this sympathetic magick, using the snows of this season to extinguish a flame as a way of encouraging the reversal of global warming.  Ideally, this would be done with actual snow collected just before the ritual, but as the climate changes, this is not always possible even in places where it used to be guaranteed, and of course, snow in February is not a regular occurrence everywhere.  So, there are some other options.  If there is snow sometime in the days or weeks leading up to the ritual, but you are afraid it will melt too soon, you can collect some and keep it in the freezer.  Be aware that snow tends to loose some of its volume and become more like ice in a freezer, so collect more than you would need if you were using fresh snow.  If there is no snow anywhere near the time of this ritual in your location, cold water would be close enough to the symbolism.  Find the coldest water you can get naturally. 

The form of this ritual is based on the work of the Temple of Witchcraft, but feel free to change the details to align with your own tradition, if you feel so moved.

This ritual is designed to be a bit flexible.  You can perform it with one officiant, either a High Priest or a High Priestess, or with an officiant team of any gender(s).  If you choose to have an officiant team, here are some options:

- Two officiants: This is how the script below is structured.  Officiant 1 is primarily holding the Goddess energy, while Officiant 2 is primarily holding the God energy.  In this arrangement, these two officiants can take turns calling and releasing the quarters, or ask 4 volunteers to do that part.  Either officiant can cast and open the circle.

- Four officiants: If you have a larger team, this ritual could be easily adapted to four officiants: Officiant 1 calls and releases the Goddess and holds the chalice in the Great Rite; Officiant 2 calls and releases the God and holds the blade in the Great Rite; Officiant 3 leads the meditation; Officiant 4 leads the working, with logistical support from the other officiants; each officiant calls and releases one quarter.  Any of the officiants can cast and open the circle.

You will notice that we are calling fire in the east and air in the south.  Many groups call air in the east and fire in the south.  The directions in this ritual are in the alchemical/underworld pattern, which places opposing elements opposite each other.  This arrangement makes for more confrontational, and therefore potentially more powerfully transformational energy.  Since this ritual is designed to confront a long history of imbalance and a huge threat to our environment, this energy seemed appropriate.  If you are using this ritual, I invite you to try this arrangement, even if it is not your usual practice.

Introductory Remarks

Officiant(s) give any directions they feel are necessary to help attendees participate fully in the ritual, and answer any questions.  Information might include when and how participants should respond verbally, the general structure of the ritual, and importantly, the content of the chalice and any other substances you are using, such as incense.

Entering a Meditative State

It is helpful for everyone in the room to enter a light trance together before the ritual begins.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here is the version we use in the Temple of Witchcraft.

Officiant: Please rise as you are able.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.  Relax your head and neck, your shoulders and arms, your back, abdomen, legs and feet.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind.  Release all thoughts and worries from the day. 

Take a deep breath and relax your heart.  Feel the love of the Goddess and the God.  Feel perfect love and perfect trust.

Take a deep breath and relax into your soul.  Find your inner light, which you can follow for guidance and protection.

Now picture a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen.  This is the screen of your mind.  On this screen, visualize a series of numbers counting down from 12 to 1.  As you count down, you will enter a meditative state.

12.  See the number 12.  12.

11. See the number 11. 11.

10. See the number 10.  10.

9. See the number 9. 9.

8. See the number 8. 8.

7. See the number 7. 7.

6. See the number 6. 6.

5. See the number 5. 5.

4. See the number 4. 4.

3. See the number 3. 3.

2. See the number 2. 2.

1. See the number 1. 1.

Cast the circle

Officiant walks the circle clockwise three times, using the Wand to cast the circle with these words:

(First round) I cast the circle to protect us from all forces that would come to do us harm.

(Second round) I charge this circle to include the most perfect forces for this night's work, and to keep out all other forces.

(Third round) I charge and consecrate this circle to be a space out of space, a time out of time, a temple of perfect love and perfect trust, where the highest will is sovereign.

As I will it, so mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Call the quarters

One officiant can do all the quarter calls, a pair can alternate, or four people can each call a quarter.  Substitute the spirits or deities you have a relationship with in each quarter, if you wish.

All turn to face North, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the north, we call to the element of earth and to the Stag to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.

Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face East, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the east, we call to the element of fire and to the Horse to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.

Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face South, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the east, we call to the element of air and to the Crow to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.

Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face West, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the east, we call to the element of water and to the Snake to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.

Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Evoke the Goddess and God

Officiant 1 lights the Goddess candle on the altar.

On this festival of Imbolc, we call to the Goddess as Bridget, the Lady of poetry, healing, and smithcraft.  Triple Goddess, Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Officiant 2 lights the God candle on the altar.

On this festival of Imbolc, we call to the God as Jack of the Frost, the guardian of the world of snow and ice.  God of the winter, Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Meditation

Officiant 2:

There are many ways of working with deities that represent the Wheel of the Year.  One version is Jack, a four-fold God who appears in different forms at different times of the year.  In May, at Beltane, he appears as Jack of the Green.  In August, at Lammas, he appears as Jack of the Corn.  In October, at Samhain, he appears as Jack-O-Lantern.  And now, at Imbolc, he appears as Jack of the Frost.  He is the God of the winter, guardian of snow and ice. 

For many centuries, snow and ice have felt threatening to human beings, and we have sought to overcome them.  But now, snow and ice are themselves threatened in a world grown too warm.  It is time now for us to recommit to protecting cold, winter, snow, and ice, as we seek to restore health and balance to our world. 

In that spirit, please join me in a guided meditation.  Get into a comfortable position. 

Get into a comfortable position and relax your body.  Follow the sound of my voice as I count down from 13.  There is no need to visualize numbers this time.

13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

On the screen of your mind, picture a giant tree, larger than any tree you have ever seen.  This is the World Tree.  Its branches reach up to the heavens, and its roots dig deep into the earth.  Imagine that the screen of your mind is a portal, like a doorway or window, something you can easily pass through.  Pass through the screen of your mind and stand before the great tree.  Hear the wind in its branches.  Smell the earth where the roots dig in.  Feel the texture of the bark.  Know the World Tree.

Place your hands on the bark, and hold the intention of visiting Jack Frost.  Search in the roots of the tree for a doorway or opening.  Go thorough it and find yourself in a tunnel.

Follow the tunnel.  Continue following the tunnel until it widens.  A light appears in the distance.  Walking toward the light, you find yourself emerging into a snow-covered forest.  It is beautiful.  You walk on a path through the forest, seeing the white snow covering everything, smelling the clear crisp smell of snow.  Sounds are muffled by the snow, but you can hear the branches rustling. 

Continue to follow the path until you come to a clearing.  In the clearing is the home of Jack Frost.  What do you see? 

As you stand in the clearing, you meet a guide.  This may be Jack Frost himself.  It may be the Goddess Bridget.  It may be another spirit or an animal or a plant.  When your guide has appeared, introduce yourself. 

Ask your guide for help in learning about the gifts of winter.  What do you have to learn about winter?  What gifts does the winter hold for you?  What do you need to appreciate about this season?

Your guide can also help you discover ways that you can help to protect winter and restore balance.  Talk to your guide about what your specific work might be here.

Your guide might give you something to help you in your work, or to remind you of your conversation.  Look within and see if you have a gift to offer in return.  If you do, give it.

Thank your guide, and thank Jack Frost for allowing you to visit.

Follow the path back through the woods.  Follow the path back until you find yourself in the tunnel again.  Follow the tunnel back, back, back to the base of the World Tree.  Place your hands on the bark and thank the Tree for this journey.

Come back through the portal in the screen of your mind.  Come back to this circle.  Come back, come back, come back. 

When you are ready, open your eyes and rise.

Wait until all risen or at least opened their eyes.

Working

For this working, you will need a container of snow or water.  If you have a large gathering, you could have multiple smaller vessels.  If have a large fire, it may be impractical to pass all of the snow or water that you will need.  In this case, pass a smaller amount.  Be sure to use that first when extinguishing.

Officiant 1:

For many years, participants in rituals at this time of the year have used a fire in the circle to melt snow, that the snow might quickly depart and spring come swiftly.  Today, we are reversing the working.  We will light a fire and use snow [or water] to quench it, that the excess heat of our world might be quenched and balance restored.

Light a fire in the center of the circle.  If you are inside, this should be in a vessel such as a cauldron.  If you are outside, you can light a bigger fire in a fire pit, as long as you have enough snow or water to extinguish it.  The fire needs to be big enough to last through this part of the ritual.  If you are worried about it, you can wait and light it later, just before the extinguishing ritual.

Officiant 2:

As we quench this fire with this snow [or water], we commit to working to quench the heat that is threatening the climate of our planet.  We commit to restoring balance. 

In this work, we ask for the help of the God Jack Frost.  Guardian of ice and snow, help us to restore the ices and snows of our world.  Give us your strength and your protection in this work.

Officiant 1:

In this work, we ask for the help of the Goddess Bridget in her aspect as healer.  Bridget, help us to heal our fragile planet.  Give us your love, your wisdom, and your strength in this work. 

As we pass the vessel of snow [or water] around the circle, you are invited to add your energy to this work, by holding the vessel and sending your intentions into it. 

As the snow [or water] is passed, we will sing together:

We are the flow, we are the ebb, we are the weavers, we are the web.

(Using just the beginning of the chant found at http://www.en-chant-ment.ca/FlowA.mp3.  Feel free to use a different tune, if you are so moved.)

Vessel is passed to all participants.  When it returns to the Officiants, Officiant 1 continues leading the chant, while Officiant 2 adds the snow to the fire until the fire is extinguished. [If more than one vessel is used, the Officiants should ask the participants to keep signing while they extinguish the fire together.]  If you have passed only some of the snow or water, be sure to start with the vessel that was passed. 

When the fire is out - Officiant 2:

Let balance be restored!  So mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Great Rite in Token

Officiant 1:

As we have worked together to restore the balance, let us join now in giving and receiving the gifts of the Goddess and the God in this circle of love and trust.

Officiant 1 holds the chalice while Officiant 2 plunges the blade into the chalice.

Officiant 2:

As the Sword is to the Grail, the Blade is to the Chalice, truth is to Love.  We bring together the energies of the Goddess and the God.  So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

The Chalice is passed around the circle of participants with the words "May you never thirst."  The response is "Blessed be."

Thanks to the Goddess and God

Officiant 1:

We thank Bridget, Goddess of poetry, healing, and smithcraft.  We give you thanks for presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Officiant 1 extinguishes the Goddess candle. 

Officiant 2: We thank Jack Frost, God and guardian of winter.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

Officiant 2 extinguishes the God candle 

Release the Quarters

Each quarter should be released by the same person who called it. 

All turn to the North, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the north, we thank and release the element of earth and the Stag.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the West, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of water and the Snake.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the South, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of air and the Crow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the East, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of fire and the Horse.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Open the Circle

The same officiant who cast the circle now walks the circle counterclockwise once, opening the circle with the wand.

I cast this circle out into the universe.  May it join with the circles of our siblings, through space and time to the highest good. 

The circle is open but never broken.

All: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.

A Yule Ritual for a Time of Global Warming

Introduction:

For centuries, human beings have been using words, deeds, and magical intentions which decry the cold and call forth warmth.  We have celebrated spring and feared the winter.  Finding stories that celebrate darkness and cold is surprisingly difficult. 

In this context, I have been pondering the Wheel of the Year rituals celebrated by many different Pagan and Wiccan communities in our modern world.  Given the changing climate, these rituals might need to shift, both to account for the fact that seasonal milestones are happening differently and at different times, and to create intentions which begin to counteract global climate change. 

I have decided to create Wheel of the Year rituals which try to take global climate change as a starting point, and give us the tools of intention, energy, and will to begin to turn back some of the effects of global warming and climate change.  This is the first of these.

It is my hope that the rituals I create might spark inspiration and ideas for others.  So, feel free to use them exactly as they are in any gathering, circle, coven, or other group with whom you regularly observe the Wheel of the Year.  You are also welcome to adapt them to the particular theologies and customs of your own group.  Please share as widely as you would like!

Notes for Planning:

The form of this ritual is based on the work of the Temple of Witchcraft, but feel free to change the details to align with your own tradition, if you feel so moved.

This ritual is designed to be a bit flexible.  You can perform it with one officiant, either a High Priest or a High Priestess, or with an officiant team of any gender(s).  If you choose to have an officiant team, here are some options:

  • 3 Officiants: 1 working with the energy of the Goddess (Officiant 1 in the script), 1 working with the energy of the Holly King (Officiant 2 in the script), 1 working with the energy of the Oak King (Officiant 3 in the script). 
  • 2 Officiants: 1 working with the energy of the Goddess (Officiant 1 in the script), 1 working with the energy of both the Holly King and the Oak King (Officiants 2 and 3 in the script).  In this case, the Great Rite in Token will need a little alteration to ensure that both officiants have equal roles.
  • 4 Officiants: 1 who casts and opens the circle, 1 working with the energy of the Goddess (Officiant 1 in the script), 1 working with the energy of the Holly King (Officiant 2 in the script), 1 working with the energy of the Oak King (Officiant 3 in the script).  In this case, each officiant might call one of the directions.

You will notice that we are calling fire in the east and air in the south.  Many groups call air in the east and fire in the south.  The directions in this ritual are in the alchemical/underworld pattern, which places opposing elements opposite each other.  This arrangement makes for more confrontational, and therefore potentially more powerfully transformational energy.  Since this ritual is designed to confront a long history of imbalance and a huge threat to our environment, this energy seemed appropriate.  If you are using this ritual, I invite you to try this arrangement, even if it is not your usual practice.

Introductory Remarks 

Officiant(s) give any directions they feel are necessary to help attendees participate fully in the ritual, and answer any questions.

Entering a Meditative State

It is helpful for everyone in the room to enter a light trance together before the ritual begins.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here is the version we use in the Temple of Witchcraft.

Officiant: Please rise as you are able.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.  Relax your head and neck, your shoulders and arms, your back, abdomen, legs and feet.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind.  Release all thoughts and worries from the day. 

Take a deep breath and relax your heart.  Feel the love of the Goddess and the God.  Feel perfect love and perfect trust.

Take a deep breath and relax into your soul.  Find your inner light, which you can follow for guidance and protection.

Now picture a giant screen before you, like a blackboard or movie screen.  This is the screen of your mind.  On this screen, visualize a series of numbers counting down from 12 to 1.  As you count down, you will enter a meditative state.

12.  See the number 12.  12.

11. See the number 11. 11.

10. See the number 10.  10.

9. See the number 9. 9.

8. See the number 8. 8.

7. See the number 7. 7.

6. See the number 6. 6.

5. See the number 5. 5.

4. See the number 4. 4.

3. See the number 3. 3.

2. See the number 2. 2.

1. See the number 1. 1.

Cast the circle

Officiant walks the circle clockwise three times, using the Wand to cast the circle with these words:

(First round) I cast the circle to protect us from all forces that would come to do us harm.

(Second round) I charge this circle to include the most perfect forces for this night's work, and to keep out all other forces.

(Third round) I charge and consecrate this circle to be a space out of space, a time out of time, a temple of perfect love and perfect trust, where the highest will is sovereign.

As I will it, so mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Call the quarters

One officiant can do all the quarter calls, a pair can alternate, or four people can each call a quarter.  Substitute the spirits or deities you have a relationship with in each quarter, if you wish.

All turn to face North, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the north, we call to the element of earth and to the Stag to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.

Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face East, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the east, we call to the element of fire and to the Horse to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.

Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face South, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the east, we call to the element of air and to the Crow to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.

Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

All turn clockwise to face West, raising non-dominant hands to draw in the energy of the quarter.

To the east, we call to the element of water and to the Snake to guide and to guard this circle.  Please add your energy to this night's work.

Hail and welcome!

All: Hail and welcome!

Evoke the Goddess and God

Officiant 1 lights the Goddess candle on the altar.

We call to the Goddess, she who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone, the Weaver and the Web. We call to the Lady who guides us and guards us and holds us all in her love. Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

 The God candle is not lit yet.  Officiant 2 speaks:

I call to the Holly King, the God of cold, darkness, and winter.  Be present with us on this longest night of the year. Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Officiant 3 speaks:

I call to the Oak King, the God of warmth, light and summer.  Be present with us on this night when we celebrate the rebirth of the light. Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Story

The story is told that in the beginning, there were two gods who were brothers.  And like many brothers, they struggled with each other for ascendance and power.  One brother was the King of the forces of life, light, and warmth.  He wore a crown made of green oak branches and brought with him all growth and vitality, fertility and abundance.  He was called the Oak King.

His brother was the King of the forces of death, cold, and darkness.  He wore a crown made of the prickly holly branches and brought with him all withering and decay, stillness and hibernation.  He was called the Holly King.

The brothers were identical in strength, and so year after year the same pattern was repeated.  Each year, the Oak King would grow strong and mighty and during his time of dominance, the light would gradually increase, bringing with it warmth and abundance.  But each year, at the height of his power, he would be thrown down by the Holly King.  In the wake of the Holly King's victory, the light would gradually wane, and as it did, cold would come and the land would go dormant.  But at the height of the Holly King's power, he would be challenged again by the Oak King and would fall.  And the cycle would repeat again and again and again.

Alone, the brothers were equals, but soon there came a race of beings known as people.  The people watched this cycle, and pretty soon, they began to take sides.  The people loved light and warmth, and they feared darkness and cold.  And so, each year, they would celebrate the victory of the Oak King, but they would mourn the victory of the Holly King.  When the two struggled with each other, the people would lend the strength of their voices and their bodies, their minds and their spirits to the Oak King, but the Holly King was without their support.  And so time went by.

Over time, the people's adoration of warmth and light only grew, and so they began to invent ever new ways to find light in the darkness and warmth in the cold.  And finally, if they wished it, they could spend all of their time in the light they had created, and they could be warm all year long.  But their efforts to stay always in the light and the warmth were not without consequences. 

Generations passed and generations again and the people did not at first notice the shifts in the balance.  But finally, they could ignore it no longer.  The people began to notice that darkness was disappearing from the land, driven out by millions of lights the people had created.  Animals, birds, plants, even people began to suffer the effects of light unbalanced by darkness.

But it was not just darkness that was disappearing.  Cold began to flee, too.  The whole world began to get warmer.  Summer began sooner and lasted longer.  Ice that had been frozen far longer than the longest memory of the oldest person in the land began to melt.  Migrating birds and animals began to be confused about when to begin the migration.  Plants found themselves rooted in climates that no longer supplied their needs.  The air was changing, and the winds that had brought rain and taken it away again began to flow in unexpected directions, causing drought here and flood there.

The people began to see that their support of warmth and light over cold and darkness had altered the balance of the whole world.  They began, slowly, one at a time, to realize that the Holly King was dying.  And for the first time, this thought filled them with fear.  What would happen if the balance continued to be destroyed?  Could they even survive in a world without the Holly King?

And in the world of the gods, the Oak King realized it, too.  And though they had been competitors all these many centuries, he also realized that he loved his brother deeply, and could not live without him.  The longest night came, and the Oak King and the Holly King met again, but this time, the Oak King had no heart for the fight.  He lay down his sword and spear.  He came, open-handed to his brother, who was struggling just to stay on his feet.  The Oak King wrapped the Holly King in a tight embrace.  And he promised to set aside their enmity and to help his brother heal.  On the night when he usually claimed ascendance, he realized that the world was already too warm and too light.  And so, he laid the great Oak crown on the head of his brother, took his hand, and each supporting the other, they went out into the world to see what could be done to restore balance.

Great Rite in Token

Officiant 2 lights the God candle on the altar while Officiant 3 speaks.

As this rite seeks to restore balance, we light this candle now for the God who wears the faces of both the Holly King and the Oak King, the Lord of light and the Lord of shadow, the Lord of life and the Lord of death, the Lord of warmth and the Lord of Cold.  We call to the two-faced God, the Singer and the Song.  We call to the Lord who guides us and guards us and holds us all in his love. Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

Officiant 1 holds the Chalice, Officiant 2 holds the blade.  The blade is plunged into the Chalice as Officiant 3 speaks:

As the Sword is to the Grail, The Blade is to the Chalice, Truth is to Love. We bring together the energies of the Goddess and the God.

So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Officiant 3: Blessed be.

All: Blessed be.

The Chalice is passed to all participants with the words "May you never thirst."  The response is "Blessed be."

Meditation

Officiant 1 leads the following meditation.  Officiants 2 and 3 should be in meditative space, too, connecting with the energies of the Oak King and Holly King (or their own guides/deities who can help in this rite), so that they can work to direct the energy of the working that will follow.

Get into a comfortable position and relax your body.  Follow the sound of my voice as I count down from 13.  There is no need to visualize numbers this time.

13. 12. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

On the screen of your mind, picture a giant tree, larger than any tree you have ever seen.  This is the World Tree.  Its branches reach up to the heavens, and its roots dig deep into the earth.  Imagine that the screen of your mind is a portal, like a doorway or window, something you can easily pass through.  Pass through the screen of your mind and stand before the great tree.  Hear the wind in its branches.  Smell the earth where the roots dig in.  Feel the texture of the bark.  Know the World Tree.

Place your hands on the bark and hold the intention of visiting the Oak King and Holly King.  Search in the roots of the tree for a tunnel.  Find a tunnel and follow it.

The tunnel leads downward, sloping gently.  You follow the tunnel deeper and deeper.  Notice the way the tunnel feels.  What is it made of?  Is it rough or smooth?  Do you smell earth?  Do you hear anything?  Follow the tunnel deeper.

The tunnel begins to open out, and you find yourself walking through a forest.  Follow the path through the forest.  Now you are coming to a clearing in the forest.

Before you are the Oak King and the Holly King.  Wait in the clearing until you meet a guide.  The guide might be one of the Kings or it might be an animal or plant spirit.  Who comes to speak with you?

Once a guide is before you, introduce yourself. 

Ask the guide to help you discover your own work in helping to heal the Holly King and restore balance.  What do you have to offer?  What is your calling in this time and place? 

What help do you need?  How will you find that help?

Continue talking to your guide.

Your guide may give you a gift, an item, an image, a word or idea to help you in your work.  Look within and see if you have something to offer to your guide.  Thank your guide for their help and wisdom.  Offer thanks to the Oak King and Holly King.

Find your way back to the path through which you came.  Follow the path back through the forest.  The path becomes the tunnel.  Follow the tunnel as it slopes back up.  Follow the tunnel up and up until you stand once more before the World Tree. 

Thank the World Tree for this journey. 

Come back through the portal in the screen of your mind.  Come back to this circle.  Come back, come back, come back. 

When you are ready, open your eyes and rise.

Wait until all risen or at least opened their eyes.

Working

Officiant 1 continues to lead the participants while Officiants 2 and 3 participate in the working, channeling the energy raised to restoring balance and cooling the earth.

Officiant 1 invites participants to rise and dance in a circle clockwise around the central altar, using the following chant.  Ideally, this should be accompanied by drummers and singers who can gradually increase the volume and speed as energy is raised. 

Chant:

To the tune of the Mill of Magic Chant.  (There are lots of variations of this, and here's one.)

Oak King, Holly King/ Help us with the balancing/ Work the will for which we pray/ Io Dio Ha Hee Hay

When Officiant 1 feels that the energy has peaked, s/he stops the dance by shouting the last syllable and raising his/her hands, a sign to the drummers and singers to stop.  Then s/he directs the participants:

We are going to send the energy of this circle now to restoring balance and cooling the earth.  We raise our hands slowly, saying "EE-AH-OH", releasing on the "OH'.

All: EE-AH-OH!

Officiant 1: So mote it be!

All: So mote it be!

Officiant 1 now directs everyone to ground any excess energy. 

Thanks to the Goddess and God

Officiant 1:

We thank the Goddess, she who is Maiden, Mother and Crone.  We give you thanks for presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Officiant 1 extinguishes the Goddess candle.

Officiant 2: We thank the God, the Oak King and Holly King, the Lord of light and the Lord of shadow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings this night.  Stay if you will, go if you must.  Hail and Farewell!

All: Hail and Farewell!

Officiant 3 extinguishes the God candle

Release the Quarters

Each quarter should be released by the same person who called it. 

All turn to the North, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the north, we thank and release the element of earth and the Stag.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the West, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of water and the Snake.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the South, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of air and the Crow.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

All turn counter-clockwise to the East, raising dominant hands to send the energy of the quarter back out of the circle.

To the west, we thank and release the element of fire and the Horse.  We give you thanks for your presence and blessings.  Hail and farewell!

All: Hail and farewell!

Open the Circle

The same officiant who cast the circle now walks the circle counterclockwise once, opening the circle with the wand.

I cast this circle out into the universe.  May it join with the circles of our siblings, through space and time to the highest good. 

The circle is open but never broken.

All: Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again.