This is a generic ritual designed specifically for a mixed group of unknown Pagan background being led by a small group of people who know each other well. It follows the basic Wiccan format which everyone is familiar with but it leaves out or adapts some elements that can alienate non-Wiccans. It is also designed to be extremely flexible. If the small group follows this outline each time and speaks the parts from their heart (rather than from a script) the order will soon flow naturally and the need for scripts will be eliminated. Rituals without scripts tend to be much more spiritually fulfilling for all involved as they tend to feel more natural, spontaneous and meaningful. In a large, public situation, script cards can be distributed to participants to allow as many people as possible to participate. Encouraging participation encourages engagement and makes for a more meaningful experience.

Actors

This ritual is designed to allow as many or as few people as wish to take active roles. It can be done with only one ritual leader but will work best with three additional participants and can accommodate as many as 10 with, of course, as many observers as the venue can hold.

Ceremony Leader

The ceremony leader makes all of the preparations necessary for the performance of the ceremony, chooses and briefs all other actors on their parts and acts of master of ceremonies.

If your

The Fire Tender

If you have a bale fire or fire of any sort, one person should be in charge of it. This person is the only one allowed to feed the fire, poke the fire, etc and oversees the feeding of offerings to the fire and the roasting of marshmallows over the fire and spots the jumping of the fire if that's part of the festivities. There are important safety reasons for this as well as important sanity reasons for this. Once you have hosted a few group rituals involving a bale fire, you will understand about the sanity. Pick the person who is most concerned with the fire situation but who is not obsessed with making the biggest baddest fire ever (or you will run out of wood before the sacrifice, jumping will prove rather dangerous and anyone who wants to cook over the fire will go batty).

The ritual leader(s) has enough to worry about and may be involved with the initial kindling and blessing of the fire, but shouldn't have to deal with the ongoing maintenance of it. This is a good job for someone who is mature and responsible, but maybe doesn't have a lot invested in the experience. Many of us have spouses or other supportive family members who could fit this role.

Sword Bearer

The Sword Bearer lights and blesses the smudge stick or censor, fumigates the area as the ritual leader blesses it, and greets and smudges ritual participants as they enter the Circle. The sword bearer should also perform all ritual functions involving the sword/athame/staff including holding it during the symbolic Great Rite as needed. He will also be the vessel for Calling Down the Sun as needed and will attend the cakes for the simple feast.

The Sword Bearer should be male, if possible, and should have a reasonable amount of experience with whatever functions he is serving.

Cup Bearer

Gathers, salts and blesses the water for asperging the participants as they enter the Circle and performs all duties related to the carrying of the cauldron and/or chalice during the ritual including holding the cauldron and/or chalice during the symbolic Great Rite as needed. She will also be the vessel with Calling Down the Moon as needed and will attend the drink for the simple feast.

The Cup Bearer should be female if possible and should have a reasonable amount of experience with the functions she is serving.

Quarter Callers

If there are enough participants and they are willing, four people can be assigned the four quarters. These folks do not need to be overly experienced and it is a good way to engaged young people and guests.

Alternatively, the Cup bearer and Sword bearer can call the quarters or the ceremony leader can call them.

The Vessel(s)

If an invocation (drawing down the moon/sun) is desired, one or two vessels should be chosen ahead of time. These can be the Swordbearer and Cupbearer or someone else but should not be the ceremony leader. The leader's responsibility is to keep things flowing and they cannot do this well while being ridden by a God/dess, though they can speak the invocation.

The Vessel should prepare by bathing and fasting and may wish to write their own invocation and pass it on to the leader some time prior to the event as part of the preparation for accepting a God/dess into their consciousness.

The Chanter(s)

One or more people can be assigned to sing, chant or play music to accompany entrance and exit, to raise energy and to lead the rest of the group in chanting. Any of the other actors can take on this role as needed, or it can be dispensed with.

Preparation

Printed Materials

While a script is not recommended, a program should be distributed to the guests as they arrive giving them an idea of what is going on, explaining the significance of the ceremony and the occasion if there's a possibility someone won't know and most important: the words to any chants, songs, prayers, etc. you will be using. Giving the attendees this program as they arrive will give them a chance to review the chants ahead of time in case they can't read it due to darkness. Of course, if you gather with the same people all the time, a program may not be necessary.

You may prefer to email this program to attendees before the event so they can choose to print it themselves or not, to save paper.

The Actors

The Ceremony Leader should be bathed and prepared ahead of time. Fasting is not necessary or advised, they should refrain from alcohol or mood altering drugs for several hours before the ceremony to ensure a clear head.

Sword Bearer and Cup Bearer should have prepared themselves ahead of time through bathing and fasting as warranted (fasting is preferred if they will be a vessel but is unnecessary otherwise.)

Ceremony Leader and Bearers should be dressed in clean clothes befitting the occasion. Ritual garb may be preferred but casual dress is permitted providing it is clean and in good condition. They may decide among themselves to dress in coordinating colors suited to the season or a specific item of clothing or piece of jewelry may be designated by the Group for use by the individuals holding these offices for the day. For example, a cowl, a crown, a necklace, a scabbard etc.

Quarter callers likewise should be offered some item of clothing or jewelry to represent their office if possible.

The Altar

The altar should be set up with the following:
Representation of the God(s)/Goddess(es) of the occasion (this can be statues, candles, or symbolic objects such as seashells for a ocean divinities), the tools used in the ritual - cauldron, chalice, offering plate, wand/athame/sword/staff, besom if it is to be used, censor, bowl of salt, food and drink for simple feast and several candles, matches and a candle snuffer if desired.

Order of Proceeding

1. Preparation of Sacred Space

  • The Ceremony Leader and any helpers clear debris from the sacred space and may sweep it with a besom.
  • They sets up the altar with all needed tools and places any musical instruments on or beneath the alter.
  • All symbolic items are charged to be what they represent.
  • The fire is lit if necessary and the fire tender stationed at its side.
  • The Cup Bearer and Sword Bearer bring the simple feast and set it up on the altar or on a small table near the altar.
  • The Cup Bearer gathers water and sprinkles salt into it, blessing it and charging it to cleanse and sanctify that which it touches by Earth and water. The Sword bearer plunges in a burning brand to complete to blessing.
  • The Sword Bearer lights the smudge stick or censor and charges the smoke to cleanse and sanctify that which it touches by air and fire. The Cup Bearer sprinkles it with water to complete the blessing.
  • They then smudge and asperge the ceremony leader and then each other, circumambulate and fumigate the ritual space before returning the the alter to assist the ceremonial leader with altar preparation by smudging and asperging the altar and tools.
  • When all is prepared, the Ceremony leader stands before the alter in a meditative pose as the Cup Bearer and Sword Bearer move to the ceremony entrance to signal their readiness to begin the ceremony. The Ceremony Leader or the Chanter(s) then go to gather the participants and lead them into the ritual space.

2. Processional

  • The Sword Bearer and Cup Bearer are stationed at the entrance to the ceremonial space with smudge and asperge, both blessed and charged ahead of time for the purpose of purifying those that enter by the elements of fire and air (smudge stick) and water and earth (salted water). They may smudge and asperge attendees as they walk by or attendees may seek purification in their own way. For example some may wish to wet their hands and face with the water in symbolic cleansing.

All proceed to the ritual space single file, perhaps while clapping and chanting a previously agreed upon chant or shaking rattles or beating drums. This raises energy and gets the spirits attention. Each enter one by one at the designated area, receiving purification as suits them and then circles the ritual space clockwise before coming to rest in their chosen spot.

2. Statement of Intent

The statement of intent is written by the ritual leader after consulting with the group. It is always spoken out loud at the start of the ritual to ensure everyone is on the same page. Group members should stand in meditative, worshipful posture as is suited to their tradition while the statement is read and focus and internalize the words.

Example: We are gathered here on this holy night to celebrate the primal energies of the full moon, to honor the God/Goddess of (Whatever), to raise magical energy to support (purpose of spellwork this evening) and to reaffirm the bonds between us.

A sound may be used at this time to signal the beginning of the ceremony. A bell or gong, the blowing of a horn, etc. Three repetitions may be used, but a single long blast is also suitable.

3. Establishing Sacred Space

The Ceremony leader may walk or draw the Circle as he/she prefers according to personal tradition while speaking or chanting his/her intention.

Example: //Upon the Earth, below the Sky, by the light of the moon I cast this Circle that it may be a sacred space between the realms where all things are possible. So mote it be. // (or something)

Their then returns to the center and declares the Circle cast - in their own words or according to tradition.

Alternative Methods -

  • Each person may enter the Circle carrying a candle and hold it until everyone is gathered and the right moment has come and then either all at once or each in turn place their candle on the ground behind them saying something like "I am the Circle. We are the Circle." finally declaring "We stand within this Circle of light to… blah statement of intent."
  • The group may join hands and dance clockwise in a circle to the sound of a drum until the Leader decides enough energy has been raised and the drum stops with a final loud beat. Then the leader declares the circle cast.
  • The group chants, drums, claps, etc. raising energy while the leader channels that energy through a staff, athame, sword or his/her hand to "draw" a Circle of energy around the group, finally raising his/her hands to signal for silence. The group falls silent and the leader declares the Circle cast.

4. Calling Quarters

Purpose: The purpose of calling the quarters is to bring into focus all parts of the Self for the ceremony. The body/earth, the mind/air. the emotions/water, and the passionate creative energy of manifestation that is fire. Therefore, all Circlers should maintain a meditative attitude during this process.

The Leader may call the quarters, the Cupbearer may call Earth and Water and the Swordbearer call Fire and Air (the directions associated with these may vary by tradition) or individuals may be chosen to call the quarters.

When calling the quarters, speak from the belly and project your voice and energy outward.

Various Methods

  • The Leader may write quarter calls according to the evening's theme.
  • Each caller may write, recite or make their own calls up on the spot according to their own tradition.
  • Quarters may also be called using musical instruments. A rattle may be shaken in each direction followed by a moment's meditation, or different instruments may be used. For example, an ocarina or flute for air, drum for earth, guitar or mandolin for water, symbol for fire or whatever feels right to the group. Just a few notes may be played or a song may be decided upon.
  • If there are enough musicians in your group, consider first having one instrument play a verse of a chosen song in each direction while the rest of the group meditatively draws the quarters in, then have all four instruments play the song together, symbolizing what can be accomplished when the elements are united as one.
  • You may choose to allow each individual to call in the quarters meditatively. The leader would simple call out for example "We stand to the North, to call upon the element of Earth" and then leave a space of 1-2 minutes to allow Circlers to meditate upon the element of Earth while facing the North., etc.**

Once the quarters have been called, a brief pause to allow Circlers to ground and center, or meditate upon their elemental selves should be allowed.

(Note, steps 3 and 4 may be switched in order according to tradition)

6. Evocation

The leader now invites ancestors, Gods/Goddesses and other spirits to be present within the Circle.

Unless a specific God and/or Goddess has been designated for this ceremony, the invitations spoken by the leader should be somewhat generic. For example instead of speaking the names of any God or Goddess, say Father God and Mother Goddess, or Great Goddess of Grain and Great God of the Fruiting Vine, etc. allow attendees to name their own Gods. After each spoken invitation, a few moments pause should allow individual Circles to call out the name of specific spirit guests they would like to invite.

A sound, such as a bell, a horn blast or a gong may follow each invitation.

Example follows:
Our Circle is cast and we stand within before our Gods and Ancestors prepared to do them honor. However, we must also honor those spirits who dwelt here before our intrusion. We ask the spirits of this place to forgive us if we trespass, to look with favor upon our gathering or at least to do us no mischief in retaliation for our intrusion here and to take this offering in thanks for your hospitality.
[The bell is rung and an offering is tossed into the fire, out of the Circle or onto the altar to be placed later.]

We invite our honored ancestors, our beloved dead to join us, to gather close and look with favor upon our proceedings.

[Ring bell and pause for 30 seconds to allow Circlers to call upon their ancestors with their own voices]

In this season of {whatever} we call upon the Gods and Goddesses of {whatever} to bless us with your divine presences so that you may enjoy the prayers and offerings we have prepared for you.
[Ring bell and pause for 30 seconds to allow Circlers to call upon their Gods with their own voices (or silently)]

Now a song or chant, especially one involving dancing and rhythm is appropriate to facilitate and celebrate the arrival of the Spirit-guests and to prepare the vessel to receive the spirit guests if invocation is desired.

7. Spellwork and Other Business

Now is a good time for:
Casting a spell
Discussion of a specified topic
A journey or guided meditation toward a specific goal
Creation of a sacred craft

8. Invocation (i.e. Calling Down the Moon, Calling Down the Sun) (Optional)

Notes:
This is optional and may be reserved only for special occasions.
Calling Down the Moon/Sun is an invocation inviting a Goddess or God to enter a vessel for the purpose of imparting wisdom or proceeding to another ceremony which requires the presence of the God and/or Goddess (such as the Great Rite).
The vessel should be well prepared ahead of time by bathing and fasting and may wish to drink mugwort tea or herb infused wine at this point to ease the God/Goddesses transition into the vessel. The vessel should be prepared to relax into a meditative state and allow the God/dess full access to their body. A drum beat of about 180 beats per minute will help with this as will dancing for some time to said drum beat.

The vessel should stand or sit in a meditative pose with the leader standing over or in front of them, the leader then reads the invocation. The invocation should be to a specific God or Goddess, it is not wise to invite random deities to enter one's consciousness.

You may use an existing invocation as in "calling down the moon" or "calling down the sun" or use a Homeric Hymn or Orphic Hymn to a specific God or Goddess or the Leader may wish to write their own invocation or the vessel may write it as part of their preparation to be a vessel. It should be read in a loud commanding voice. A background of drumming is helpful. The group may also help by chanting between stanzas, repeating lines or playing rhythmic instruments (180 beats are optimal). The leader will know when the Invocation is complete by carefully observing the vessel.The moment the God/Goddess is within, the leader should give an agreed-upon signal for silence.

The Leader welcomes the God/Goddess and announces Them to the group and asked that they prepare themselves to listen to what They has to say.

Whatever happens next cannot be held against the vessel.

Once the lesson is complete, the Leader should thank the God/Goddess and ask Them to depart from the vessel with blessings and honor and give the vessel something to eat to help facilitate their return.

Or, if the God/Goddess are to take part in the Great Rite, the second God/Goddess should be invoked now and the release of vessel(s) wait till after the Great Rite.

9. The Great Rite (Optional)

Notes: The Great Rite may take place while either the Sword Bearer or the Cup Bearer or both are being ridden by a God/Goddess or while both are quite themselves.
This Great Rite is symbolic. The actual Great Rite is unnecessary and is dangerous in this modern age of weird diseases and not really appropriate in a public, mixed group ritual. If you always gather with the same people, and only adults are present, you should do what feels appropriate at your discretion.

The Cup Bearer should hold the cauldron or cup out in front of her and walk around the Circle declaring that the Cup is the womb from which all life springs, but, she should say, this act of creation is not one that can be undertaken alone. It is the union of opposites, the male, the female, the soft, the hard, the light, the dark, the hot, the cool that brings about creation, innovation, etc. Her voice should grow louder and more impassioned as she approaches the Sword Bearer.

A drumbeat, or clapping, starting soft and slow and growing louder and quicker in the background will make this especially effective.

(Alternatively, the Leader can make the recitation while the Cup Bearer and Sword Bearer do the actions.)

The Sword Bearer should take the sword, athame or staff and hold it aloft briefly as the Cup Bearer approaches him and then plunge the sword into the cauldron when she gives the previously agreed upon signal.
(If the tip of the sword has been left in the fire for a bit ahead of time this is an especially dramatic moment.)

They should stand motionless for a few moments, united by the cauldron and sword between them, possibly closing their eyes in a meditative stance. The group may wish to sing or chant at this point or maintain a meditative silence.

The sword may then be removed and either the water from the cauldron, or the tip of the sword may be used to bless the attendees.

For example: The Sword Bearer touches the tip of the sword to each shoulder of each attendee (or perhaps just the men) and says "I bless you with the fires of creation, with the strength of the sword, with the passion of pure unformed energy, etc."
The Cup Bearer presents the cauldron to each attendee so that they may dip their hands in it and say "I offer you the blessings of the water of creation, the womb of the Earth, from which springs every new and sacred thing, etc. etc."
These are then set aside the the Cup Bearer and Sword Bearer prepare for the Simple Feast.

10. The Simple Feast

The Sword Bearer brings the cakes/bread to the Leader who blesses it and takes a piece as an offering to the Gods declaring as they does so that we are giving this offering of thanks, and returning only what the Gods have graciously given us and that we in turn share this bounty with others, etc." He/she then offers a piece of the bread to the Sword Bearer saying "may you never hunger" who in turn offers it to the next person around the Circle. The Sword Bearer may take it around the Circle or each person may pass to the next.

Repeat with the Cup Bearer and the Beverage.

After this a song of joy and thanksgiving or of unity may be sung.

11. Open the Circle

  • Release the quarters as in step 4, but go in the opposite direction, thanking them for their assistance.
  • Dismiss the unseen guests as in step 6, thanking them for their presence.
  • Repeat step 5 but in reverse.
  • Leader declares the Circle open (but unbroken).
  • Group says something along the lines of "Merrily we meet, merrily part and merrily meet again" or sings a chant along the same theme.
  • The offerings are taken to the fire or outside if not already settled into their permanent spot.
  • Clean up.
  • Discussion if desired.

Comments, questions, additional suggestions are welcomed for this!