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As I approached my ritual, I wasn't really sure how I was feeling,… - John [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[Sep. 15th, 2004|10:52 pm]
As I approached my ritual, I wasn't really sure how I was feeling, and I suppose I was fine with that.

I realized that this was going to be something like a test, a dabbling into what I could do. The reason I was doing this was because I felt that I'd gotten to the point that I was a true shaper, having seized control of the universe to the extent that I could, and having become competent enough at this to call myself a witch.

I'd spent a good part of two days trying to come up with a set of rhyming couplets to use in the opening of the circle, and the invocation of the god and goddess. At one point, Pat (kightp) mentioned that she'd felt like saying that this was the real work, and the actual recitation was going to be significantly less than their creation. I agree with her... in fact, the actual shaping came from the selection of the words and the recognition that they'd be something I wanted to say.

It was later that I decided the form of the rest of the ritual. I would cast the circle, invoke the god and goddess, and then introduce myself to each of the spirits at the cardinal points of the circle, and to the god and goddess.

(For those of you who want to learn a bit about Wicca, let me mention this: traditionally, Wicca will call the four cardinal points (North, East, South, West), and usually link each point to an element (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water). I've seen people call North or East first, and when building, one always goes clockwise. The addition of spirits and traits are my own creation, and, obviously, the particular spirits I chose are not canonical, since most folks don't have *any* spirits involved. I chose to start in the North for personal reasons, but many folks would start in the East.)

After this, I would do whatever seemed natural... if I had to do it again, I'd have probably decided to do some energy raising and grounding, but I'm not sure that would have been the right decision.


Preparation involved flying a kite. No, really... that was part of it. The image of a flying kite is, in fact, my internal connection to the element of air, so this was truly a magical thing to do. Of course, if you're going to do magical things on beaches, it's always a good idea to watch your footing. I sprained my ankle.

Was this meaningful? Maybe it was. I sprained my ankle once, and I panicked. I didn't know how to tell it wasn't broken, and was scared by the huge swelling.

This time, I knew exactly what to do. I started jogging back to the house, knowing I wanted to bind it and get some ice on it ASAP. It's a shame that the house was so far off the beach, though... the ocean was cold enough to be nearly as good as ice, but I wasn't sure I could climb up to the house if I had soaking wet shoes. (Plus, I didn't have any spare shoes besides my running shoes, which are reserved for running. And, of course, the soft sand wouldn't be good to run in, so I'd be walking in really cold water.)

Four days later, my ankle's a little stiff... but it hasn't given me any problem, at all, really... just some minor swelling. Call it a growth experience... I've certainly changed since that first sprain!

Once I'd had my ankle iced, I went back to the beach to gather some firewood, and a bottle full of water from the ocean... and to take part in another bit of ritual purification that I'd planned out.

I knew that the water would be cold, but I also knew that if I was careful, there was no danger, especially not in the short time that I was planning to immerse myself. So, a quick dip (literally!) later, I headed back to the house for a shower, and then to the hot tub with Pat.

After a soak in the hot tub, we went up to the ritual space we'd picked. We purified it with incense and ocean water, which is a traditional way to purify with the four elements: fire and air in the incense, and water and earth (salt) in the ocean water (or ordinary salt water, if you don't have an ocean nearby).

Then I started a fire in the fire pit. I decided earlier that I'd get a fire going, and not worry about the ritual until I had that going well. I didn't want to feel rushed, and I knew it would take time to get the fire going with the damp wood we were using. (It was misty the entire weekend; nothing would really dry in the outside air). I cheated a bit, though: I used a candle for combination tinder and kindling. It was slow, but very sure, with the way I was building it.

Then, I placed a picture of Chuck, and the raven's feather I gave him, in the eastern corner and asked the ravens to guide him here, he was invited to watch if that was his choice.

See, I told him that if he wanted to visit me (after he'd been placed in hospice care), I'd prefer not to do it that weekend, because of the ritual... but then I said if that was when he could make it, we'd find a way to manage it. I didn't think he'd ever make it out, and I was right, but still... he was welcome.

And then I started to cast the circle.

Y'all have my permission to laugh at my casting; it's my first :-).

Northern lords and spirits who guard our Mother Earth
Link us to and keep us to the true source of our birth
As we walk between the worlds wherever we may roam
Keep the beacon burning bright to our beloved home

Eastern lords and spirits we ask of you this hour
Guidance of the air and sight and of our mental power
As we walk between the worlds please ever be our guide
And in our mystic journey please watch our every stride

Southern lords and spirits who are bound to the fire
Give us strength and energy that we may never tire
As we walk between the worlds please give us warmth and light
And bind us to our passions to keep them burning bright

Western lords of water and emotion and the sea
Please grant us all the depths and flow of all your energy
As we walk between the worlds please keep us on our course
As we plunge into the depths of our minds deepest lores.


(Yes, I rhymed 'course' with 'lores', and you can't revoke my poetic license, because I don't have one!)

Folks, you might like the casting above, or you might think it's ridiculous, but I don't think any of you are going to go "WOW! John, that is so emotionally deep and meaningful!" Am I right? I bet I'm right.

But as soon as I started to cast the circle, I was gripped by emotional power that's impossible to describe. My voice was shaking, my throat was tightening, and I wasn't afraid or angry or nervous or anything... I was just flooded with power.

Then I hit a problem... it turns out that I'd only hand copied this portion of the ritual, and hadn't hand copied my god and goddess invocation... and my notes were a little additional tinder I added to the fire, just to help the candle out a bit.

Call that "the problem with the ritual", because something always goes wrong. It only took me a moment, before I could continue:

Dancing Kokopelli I come to you as friend
Fill my heart with music, joy, and dancing 'til the end
You're the bearer of the burdens and the giver of the gift
Help me to spread joy and love and cause hearts to uplift

Wise and strong Athena, I come before you now
To ask for wisdom and for strength and that you show me how
To stand against the tide of woe when the time to stand arrives
And to wisely choose another course when standing would harm lives
Looking back, I think that this is more than just a little corny, but at the same time, it worked... and that's the ultimate question about magic.

Then I introduced myself to my spirit guides. The bear in the north, who represented strength. This was a special moment, because it was the notion of the bear as a totem that first opened my eyes to magic. Think of it as your first love... there's almost always a special sentimentality about first loves. I spoke silently to the bear for a while, and the words were for the bear and I alone.

Then I called upon the raven, in the east, and the raven represents vision. Vision can be a mixed blessing; seeing too much can be as hard as not seeing enough, sometimes. I called upon the raven for the understanding to deal with visions, and the ability to keep my eyes open to them.

Then I called upon the red wolf, in the south, who represents compassion for me. I especially liked the notion of wolves representing compassion, because they are part of a pack, and protect their packmates, but their compassion does not blind them to harsh realities.

Finally, I called upon the dolphins in the west, who represent joy. I asked them to help me handle joy and to be better able to seek it out and experience it, as well as spreading it to others.

I then spoke to Kokopelli, noting that he was not who I expected to be my vision of the god, but accepting him and realizing he was appropriate... a gift bringer, and a burden bringer... in fact, sometimes both at once; he's reputed to bring the fetus to pregnant women. I asked him to help me to always dance while carrying a heavy load, and to remember to keep music in my life.

And finally, I spoke to Athena, again, surprised that my goddess was not a gentle, nurturing figure, but glad to accept her instead... a wise protector and patroness of the crafts.

At this point, the emotional energy I'd been feeling hadn't exactly gone away, but it had become less a blazing fire and more burning coals. I sat, and I meditated a bit, staring into the fire for inspiration, and seeing little except smoke and flame... but the quiet time helped me ground. Finally, as the candles Pat had lit at the four corners were starting to burn down (and with the darkness growing quickly), we opened the circle, in reverse order, giving thanks to Athena, Kokopelli, the West, South, East, and North. This was unscripted, but sincere. Then we doused the fire as best as we could (next time, we'll know to bring more water!) and headed for the house. I went back to make sure the fire was out (next time, I'll bring a LOT more water! Even smothering with wet sand takes a long time!), and we had our post-ritual feast.

I think we defused by watching a lot of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Mind, we watched a hell of a lot regardless, but I don't know if Pat considered it defusing. :-) It was, however, a good emotional release for me. I have a special soft spot in my heart for the show; what could be more perfect that a group of close friends who'd go to the wall for each other, and who are doing something *really* important besides?

It wasn't until later that I started to puzzle through the meaning of the ritual and what it had done to me.

I think the biggest lesson I learned is that this emotional energy that can be such a curse to me is actually part of who I am, and that I can not and must not deny it. For good or ill, it's part of who I am, and the source of much of my power. I might need to learn how to deal with it, but dealing with it, and rising above it, "surfing" on it rather than letting it crash around me, is not the same thing as rejecting it, or trying to shut it down.

I've been trying to keep that in mind, even if it does keep me close to tears during relatively innocuous events, sometimes.

I suppose that I've been taught that overblown emotional reactions are 'wrong' for a bunch of things, and the fact of the matter is, they're not... the emotions just need to be kept in perspective. That I have a strong emotional reaction to something only means that it strikes a deep chord within me; it doesn't mean anything more or less than that. If something strikes a chord within me, that's my business, no one else's, and there can't be anything wrong with that reaction, unless and until it influences how I act towards others.

Now that I know I can channel unpleasant emotions away, I have more freedom to enjoy the more positive emotions... and it's time to take advantage of that.

Whatever other lessons I've had to learn will have to wait for another time... it's long past bedtime for me.

From: kightp
2004-09-16 06:19 am (UTC)
An observation: When the emotions started washing over you (and I think "washing" is an apt description), it was clear that something powerful was happening, but I never worried about it for an instant, even when the tears you didn't remember later started streaming down your face. It felt strong and ... right ... and I knew you were going someplace you were meant to go.

From the outside, it felt as if you were being shown something; you've opened a door, and it goes in both directions, letting power in and also letting it out. That's a profound experience, any way you look at it, and the lessons learned from it should serve you well.

I was honored to be by your side, beloved, and to be able to assist.

And, yeah, Buffy was defusing. (-:
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From: iamjw
2004-09-16 11:16 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing that with us, John. It sounds...powerful and life-affirming and completely wonderful.
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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2004-09-16 12:14 pm (UTC)
"That I have a strong emotional reaction to something only means that it strikes a deep chord within me; it doesn't mean anything more or less than that."

*nod* Yep. It can be occasionally a bit embarassing, but, you know, it's not a biggie once you get used to it. :)
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[User Picture]From: janetmiles
2004-09-16 12:28 pm (UTC)
Most excellent. I thought about you a lot on Saturday, and was hoping you'd write at least a little bit about it. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2004-09-16 01:43 pm (UTC)
bright blessings, crazyman.

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[User Picture]From: blackthornglade
2004-09-16 02:42 pm (UTC)
Congratlations, and welcome to the path. *grins* You *do* have a roller coaster permit, yes?
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