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.