While working on our coven ritual for Mabon, I started running ideas in my head about what constitutes a great ritual. There have been loads of articles, books, and blogs about how to write and perform successful ritual. But what makes a bad ritual? What faux pas must happen in order to tank a ritual? How do you have a rotten ritual?
In this article I am going to assume that most of my readers have been to a ritual or two and are familiar with most of the terminology. If not, I apologize in advance. I will try to make things as clear as possible. But should you have questions, feel free to comment. You may also drop me a message and I will answer as quickly as I can.
Below are just five examples of things to do if you want your ritual to tank and truly, truly, stink. Many of these examples have been garnered from my own mistakes, from watching, and being a part of, some extremely bad rituals. Yes, there are more than five things that can tank a ritual, but these are some of the worst of the worst. So, without further ado, I give you the “rotten ritual”! Drum roll please!
Examples of Rotten Ritual
Example #1 – The “I’m doing it all myself because I am awesome.” ritual: High Priestess Mucky Muck spends the entire ritual standing in the center doing what appears to be directing traffic. She points at each of the other participants when she feels they need to do something. Arms in constant motion, voice drowning out all the other ritual attendees, she must have all the attention to herself. Her calls to deity are all “I, I, I” instead of “we”. There is so much “me” going on that she does not see that everyone else is lost. The participants are not feeling engaged, and there is no energy in the circle at all. Everyone leaves the ritual feeling drained, a bit miffed, and with no respect for the narcissist who facilitated the ritual.
Example #2 – The “I wrote this at the last minute so we are going to wing it.” ritual: Aside from large public rituals where the participants are only there for the day, the “wing it” ritual rarely works (there are some exceptions). Preparation is key to a good ritual. Handing someone a ritual script 5 minutes before you are set to begin just isn’t cool. And it guarantees a perfectly rotten ritual. Ok, maybe you can get a something out of it, just a little. However, if the participants are unfamiliar with the deity being called, have to muddle through unknown terms and foreign pronunciations the energies are going to be all over the place. They will be so busy reading and trying to figure out what the heck is going on those attending never stand a chance at true connection. Always familiarize your attendees beforehand – a week is optimal – to guarantee the greatest success possible.
Keeping it Rotten
Example #3 – The “Watch and Learn Peasants.” ritual: Ever been to a ritual where all you’ve done is watch? The group presenting the ritual does all the work. The theatrics and pageantry are amazing but no one in the circle is ever engaged or participates in any way, shape, or form. It is like you are being “schooled” in proper ritual form by those who feel more knowledgeable than you. While those on the ritual stage may be raising energy and connecting with deity, the rest of the non-participants are completely left out. For me, this is one of the worst forms of ritual. If I wanted to go to a show, I’d have gone to my local theatre.
Example #4 – The “Let’s do circle in a public place. What could go wrong? ritual: You finally found the perfect spot. A secluded little inlet surrounded on three sides by dunes and on the fourth, the beach and lapping surf. The high priestess casts circle, corners are called and the coven begins the ritual in earnest. Suddenly, you look up to see that you’ve got an audience. Everyone is pointing at the witches and making comments. Needless to say, the ritual has gone rotten, any energy raised spews out of the circle like poop from a goose. Nothing left to do but pack up and go home.
I have performed ritual on a public beach, in broad daylight with my coven and never been interrupted or even watched. Why? Because we took the time to conceal our working with special circle castings and wards. Rituals in public places aren’t easy. They take special preparation and perhaps, permits, to keep intruders out. Otherwise, nothing will be accomplished except finding yourself on YouTube or worse, the local news.
And the winner is….
Example #5 – The “Let’s throw everything into the mix and see what comes out.” ritual: The local coven is throwing a Beltane ritual, advertised at the local metaphysical shop and on their Facebook page. This is a public ritual so they’ve noted that attendees will be given information and a talk prior to ritual beginning. Sounds great, right? Once you arrive, you are told during the pre-ritual discussion that they will be doing the Maypole, and a bonfire. Great! Then they go on to say there will make three different crafts in circle, and create oat cakes which will be cooked over the Bonfire. Deities from 4 different pantheons will be called in and honored according to their individual traditions. Fred and Wilma will sing traditional Beltane chants and, yadda yadda, on and on, ad nauseum.
There really can be too much of a good thing. Trying to do it all just doesn’t work. Adding this much to a ritual makes it way too long, confuses participants as to what the need to do when, and does not allow them to focus. A ritual such as this can go on for hours, and hours. Now extremely exhausted and confused, the participants leave, unsure of what they were really celebrating. Keep it simple, engage without tiring, and keep the timing long enough to be meaningful yet short enough for any attention span.
Next time you start to right a ritual, take a quick peek at these examples of “rotten rituals”. Use them as a guideline for what not to do before setting that pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Learn from others mistakes so you can avoid some of your own. May all your rituals be fulfilling, reverent, fun, and not a bit rotten.