Ritual Design: Part II - Your Own Tradition

Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham 1993

Ritual Design: Part II
Your Own Tradition

YES, THERE’S MORE, but relax. This part’s much easier than writing your esbat and sabbat rites. It consists of determining the shape of a few other, far less complicated rites.

The Circle

By this time you’ve probably found a suitable circle casting. If not, now’s the time to decide. You should know which tools are used and how they’re used. The readings offer many examples. So much has been written about the circle casting itself that I feel that to rephrase it here would be meaningless. Therefore, I’ll discuss other aspects below.

In actually determining the circle casting to use, you may adopt one that’s appeared in a book, or utilize it as the basis for your own. In any case, the circle casting is an important ritual. To be as brief as possible, here’s a breakdown on the outer ritual steps that usually compose a circle casting:

• Purifying the area.

• Setting up the altar.

• Lighting the candles and incense.

• Consecrating the water.

• Blessing the salt.

• Actual magical creation of the circle.

• Sprinkling of salt around circle. Carrying of smoking censer around circle. Carrying of flaming candle around circle. Sprinkling of water around circle. (I stress that, while such a form is used by many Wiccans, it’s hardly the only method of casting the circle.)

Besides knowing the outer mechanics of circle casting, you should also be well aware of the internal processes that occur within you during circle casting (including energy raising and releasing, visualizations, and changes in consciousness). Once you’ve decided on one specific circle casting, become completely familiar with and comfortable with it. It’s best if it can be memorized in its entirety.

It’s also time to determine your tradition’s basic concept of the circle. How strong is it? Can you walk through it, or do you have to cut a doorway to leave the circle? If so, how do you make a doorway? What about pets and children who roam into your circle? Will they harm it? Will it have to be recast when this occurs?

What’s the circle’s function? To keep energy in? To keep something else out? Both? Or is it simply a place that you create to meet with the Goddess and God? Is the circle necessary for every ritual, even those that occur outdoors? What about emergencies?

Determining this information will allow you to make stronger, more effective circles. Why? Because you’ll know your circle forward and backward. You’ll have no uncertainties regarding its purpose or function. (You’ll also have to create your circle releasing rite. See the readings.)

Tool Consecration

Many traditions utilize a specific ritual for the consecration of tools. Some use the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) in such rituals. Others, a sprinkling of blessed salt and consecrated water. Some type of incantation should be created, borrowed, or adapted which aptly sums up the ritual action. Such rites are usually quite short and rely far more on the consecrator’s energy than on the ritual form itself.

Cakes and Wine

Cakes and wine (also known as cakes and ale and, in this book’s successor, as the simple feast) is the rite-within-a-rite that both grounds energy and directly links us with the Goddess and God, since we’re consuming food created on their planet. Many Wiccans use cookies that they’ve specially baked for the “cakes.” Others use crackers or even store-bought cookies. Many Wiccans don’t drink wine. If you do, which type is most appropriate for cakes and wine? If you don’t drink wine, what’s a good substitute? Grape juice? Apple juice?

The ritual is quite simple: the cakes (cookies) and wine (juice) are blessed by a short prayer dedicated to the Goddess and God. A small portion may be left on the altar or in an offering bowl to be given later to the earth, and the food is eaten in ritual.

Writing these rituals isn’t as difficult as it may appear, especially if you adapt and borrow from other traditions. They’re necessary in every Wiccan tradition and should be finalized for your new tradition. There are other rites that you can write or adapt as you see fit. These aren’t strictly necessary in what will probably be a solitary Wiccan tradition, but you might wish to have them on hand and copy them into your Book of Shadows—just in case. (For examples, see the readings listed at the end of this chapter.)

Handfasting

(A Wiccan Marriage Ceremony)

You may not need one, but then again, you just might. Such ceremonies, of course, aren’t legally binding unless they’re performed by a person so empowered by the state in which the people reside. This may or may not be of concern.

Birth Ceremony

Some call these “Wiccanings,” but I dislike the term. You may have questions concerning this rite as well: is the baby being dedicated to the Goddess and God? If so, shouldn’t she or he have a say in the matter? And, thus, should this be done at a later age? If the rite is purely protective and celebratory, in which the child is shown to the Goddess and God, such questions need not arise. It depends on the way you write the ritual.

Death Ceremony

Wiccans as a group don’t ritualize mourning. Death is a doorway through which souls pass to reenter the realm of the Goddess. Bodies are simply suits that we wear and use until they wear out, or until we have no need for further lessons and opportunities in this lifetime. Bodies should be taken care of, but their deaths (the soul never dies) aren’t, traditionally speaking, times for ritualized sorrow. How can it be in a religion that embraces reincarnation; that sees bodily death as but one of many such transitions that the human soul will experience? Naturally, Wiccans grieve, and many have small rites to mark the transition of a loved one. Few of these rites have been printed. You may write your own if you feel the need.

Self-Initiation and Initiation Rituals

Finally, you may wish to record your own self-initiation ceremony. You may even write or adapt an initiation ceremony, if you have any plans to ever teach others your Wiccan tradition. It’s never too early to start planning.

Suggested Reading

(For additional publication information regarding these books, see the bibliography.)

Circle Castings

(Most of the books below include both creating and releasing the circle.)

Farrar,What Witches Do. (Pages 56—60.)

Valiente,Witchcraft For Tomorrow. (Pages 155—159.)

Starhawk,The Spiral Dance. (Pages 55—57.)

Cunningham,Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. (Pages 115—122.)

Buckland,The Tree. (Pages 38—41; here entitled “Erecting the Temple” and “Clearing the Temple.”)

Consecration of Tools

Farrar and Farrar,The Witches’ Way. (Pages 44—48.)

Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. (Pages 133—134.)

Slater, Pagan Rituals III. (Page 59.)

Valiente,Witchcraft For Tomorrow. (Pages 164—166.)

Cakes and Wine

Farrar and Farrar,Eight Sabbats for Witches. (Page 46.)

Slater,Pagan Rituals III. (Pages 69—70.)

Buckland,The Tree. (Pages 54—56; here termed “Cakes and Ale.”)

Buckland,Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Page 63.)

Cunningham,Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. (Page 123; here termed the “Simple Feast.”)

Handfastings

Buckland,Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Pages 97—99; includes, wisely, a Handparting as well.)

Buckland,The Tree. (Pages 78—81; a “Handparting” ceremony can be found on pages 82—84.)

Farrar and Farrar,Eight Sabbats for Witches. (Pages 160—165.)

Birth Celebrations

Farrar and Farrar,Eight Sabbats for Witches. (Pages 153—159.)

Buckland,Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft.(Pages 99—100.)

Buckland,The Tree. (Pages 85—87.)

Death Ceremonies

Farrar and Farrar,Eight Sabbats for Witches. (Pages 166—173; here termed “Requiem.”)

Buckland,The Tree. (Pages 88—90; here termed “Crossing the Bridge At Death.”)

Buckland,Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Pages 100—101; termed as in the above entry.)

Self-Initiations

Valiente,Witchcraft For Tomorrow. (Pages 159—164.)

Farrar and Farrar,The Witches’ Way. (Pages 244—250.)

Initiations

Farrar and Farrar,The Witches’ Way. (Pages 9—20.)

Buckland,Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. (Pages 46—49.)

I’ve listed the above two sources because they’re among the most complete treatments of initiation in print, but many, many other Wiccan books discuss initiation and/or provide ritual scripts. These are all for coven use, of course.