Guidelines for Public Ritual: How to Be a Good Guest and How to Be a Good Host

Suggested Guidelines for Public Ritual

By Cara Freyasdaughter, rev. June 2017

Yule 2015 Yule log, Kara

An example of a public Yule ritual altar

Hail, ye Givers! a guest is come;
say! where shall he sit within?” (Havamal, 2)

As a Heathen, I view public ritual through the lens of hospitality. Knowing how to act in the most respectful way in any situation was (and is) the key to avoiding many unnecessary disagreements in communities, especially the pagan community. Granted, some bad behavior will probably always happen, depending on those involved. However, many insults are given accidentally by people who are unfamiliar with the ritual format, religious tradition, or purpose of the given ritual. In my mind, the guidelines for public ritual can be broken down into one of two categories: 1) how to be a good guest (ritual attendee), and 2) how to be a good host (ritualist).

How to Be a Good Guest

  • Respect the hosts. Public rituals take a lot of time, energy, and planning, much moreso than a small ritual in someone’s home for a closed group. Unless the hosts are charging a large amount of money to enter the ritual, the ritual itself is being done as a service—to their Gods, to their tradition, or their community. Respect the amount of effort the host puts in and the risks that they take by running a ritual that is open to the public.
  • Assume good intent. Ritualists general do not hold open rituals in order to hurt or shame others. Mistakes and misunderstandings can happen; unless proven otherwise, assume they are unintentional.
  • Come prepared. It is your job to research the exact details of the ritual you will be attending. What is the format of the ritual? What Gods / spirits / ancestors / archetypes are being honored? Is it a sitting meditation or an ecstatic trance dance? Will there be a potluck? Will it be held outdoors? Will there be tickets or a requested donations? Remember to get enough food, sleep, and whatever else you need ahead of time, so that you can be a ritual attendee and not a ritual emergency-waiting-to-happen.
  • Arrive on time. Many pagan events do not start on time, granted, but a good part of the reason for this is that many attendees do not arrive on time.
  • Don’t be rude. Don’t get up and walk around, start a conversation with a friend, or answer your phone during a ritual. Unless the host specifically says otherwise, assume that the ritual is formal and that the host (gasp!) actually wants your attention and participation. Not only could you offend the hosts, but you could also offend any deity or spirit being honored in the ritual. Why offend Thor to answer a phone call?
  • RSVP if possible. Make life easier for the hosts by letting them know how many people to expect at their event.
  • Offer to help out. Many larger rituals require a lot of set-up and tear down. If you are early, offer to help set up chairs or put out food for the potluck. If you can stay afterwards, help put the room back into its original state.
  • Keep post-ritual gossip to a minimum. Even if the ritual was a complete mess, refrain from tearing down the group later. Instead, try to give some constructive feedback to the hosts. If it does turn out that the ritual or hosting group is a complete wash, just don’t attend their events.

How to Be a Good Host

Running a public ritual is a big deal. Your attendees are giving you an hour (or three, or five) out of their day and putting their trust in you to lead them through a spiritual or magical experience. As such, you have the responsibility to do any (or all) of these things: help them connect to the divine; help them heal—physically or spiritually; educate them; or lead them in honoring the turning of the calendar wheel. (Or other purposes; take your pick.) While you can half-ass this, that lack of preparation tends to show, and people tend not to come back to chaotic or unsatisfying rituals. Just as the guests have many things that are required of them, so to do you owe your attendees a good ritual.

(Also: Here’s some very basic advice from one ritualist to another: Putting on public ritual is a service. It is done out of a need to serve, not a need for power, fame, exhibitionism, or what have you. If you want to put on a public ritual, and one of your top priorities is not serving your community, make it a private ritual.)

  • Have a clear purpose in mind for your ritual. Why are you having this ritual? “Because it’s fun” or “because we did it last year”, while true, are probably not clear enough purposes for a public ritual. Think about what the audience should take away from this ritual. What kind of experience do you want to provide? Plan accordingly.
  • Respect peoples’ time. Be prepared to start on time. Also, a ritual doesn’t need to be several hours long for it to be a good ritual. Somewhere between 45 minutes to 1 1/5 hours is the most comfortable length of a ritual most attendees.
  • Tell people what to expect. Once you have figured out the purpose for your ritual, tell the possible attendees. Be as specific as possible. They deserve to know if, for example, this ritual will include a long trance journey in which they will get to experience Odin hanging on the World Tree nine days and nine nights. Don’t just say, “In this ritual we will go on a trance journey to meet the Norse Gods”, because that covers a wide variety of possible experiences. Let people know exactly what they are in for. (Cue stories of really bad ritual experiences.)
  • Plan for accessibility needs. Know your audience: If this is a public ritual, you will likely have a wide spectrum of people attending. Keep in mind accommodations for physical mobility; scent, sound, and food sensitivities; accessibility to food, water, and the privies; location-specific requirements; specifically gendered language; and level of experience with ritual energy and activities.
  • If your ritual will be intense in any way, prepare for at least one attendee to have a meltdown. In a public ritual, you have absolutely no way of knowing exactly who is going to walk through that door or what kind of life experiences your attendees have had. If you are planning a deep spiritual or psychological ritual, contemplate exactly how this experience could set someone off, and how you will handle it when it does. I’ll compare it to the guidelines for attending a public park: try to leave your attendees better off than you found them; don’t leave a mess. This is followed closely by:
  • Don’t attempt deep, intense experiences in public rituals. Unless this is a ritual you are really familiar with leading and you are fully aware and experienced in dealing with the possible outcomes, don’t do it publically. Deep rituals can be awesome and amazing experiences. But, for all of the reasons stated above, they are best done privately, where you at least have some control over who comes to what ritual.
  • That said, Give the attendees the space to have their own experiences. You may have a goal for your attendees, but some of them may end up having a completely different experience. As long as they’re not imploding or disrupting the ritual as a whole, let them go with it.
  • Follow up with people afterwards. Want to run a great ritual? Get some feedback from your participants. It helps to continue the positive guest/host relationship and will make your ritual foo that much better.
  • Go to other peoples’ rituals. Support your fellow ritualists, and get some perspective on your own rituals. Who knows, you might get to have your own great spiritual or magical experience when you’re not the one running the show. J

May 2017 check-in

This month has seen my brain be completely eaten by my new job. It turns out they were not exaggerating when they said it would take at least 6 months to train me up in the various software programs and procedures. Oh, joy. Until I get a better grasp on what I’m doing there, my energy for all things spiritual will be low. 😦 I’m still blogging once a month at Huginn’s Heathen Hof and I will be leading a couple of workshops at the 1st International Conference of Heathen Women down in Ashville, NC in July.

Until then, enjoy this lovely rendition of Freya’s cloak.

gold feather cloak

 

April 2017 check-in

Hello to all of my longtime followers! (If you’ve been following me for a few years, you may find this update interesting; if you’re new, well, this is what I have going on with me at the moment.)

Spring has sprung, and I finally feel awake again. Winters, even really mild ones like the one we’ve had here in IL, are always challenging for me. (I am not Elsa; the cold always bothers me.)

There’s been a lot going on all at once. My birthday passed a few days ago, and with it came a new job, financial security, a new garden, a new role at Huginn’s Heathen Hof, and plans to move in with my lovely Hela-devoted boyfriend. The new job is a government one, which is not someplace I’d ever thought I’d be.  Freyr and the Vanir were taking their sweet Vanic time in landing me this job, so maybe this is the place they needed me to be. I’m working in the Public Aid department, interviewing people and granting needy families food, medical coverage, and cash, so I do feel like I’m helping to make the world a better place, so who knows? Then again, it may just a secure job with good benefits and lots of room for advancement. I’ve definitely had worse situations.

This newfound financial security is allowing me to attend cool and interesting new conferences, such as the 1st Annual Conference of Heathen Women in July in Asheville, NC. One of the organizers, Hilary Wehrle, invited me to be a speaker. The line up of speakers and workshops that they have is very enticing, and the location is a fabulous spiritual retreat up in the mountains north of Ashville. I’m very excited about it all around and will likely be posting more about it here. If you’re interested in joining us, you can read more about it here.

As for HHH, Xander Folmer, the CEO and founder of Huginn’s Heathen Hof, has been a big supporter of all of my work. He’s promoted me up to co-admin of out FB page, and I also vet new writers and have a major say in any organizational changes. (Recently, we’ve become an LLC, and we are working with Saga Press to release some books by our bloggers this year.) It’s very exciting and I’m glad I finally have enough spoons to become more involved in our organization.

Finally, the boyfriend. Earlier readers will have followed my previous divorce, move, and meeting of said boyfriend in my home state. I had asked the Gods for a partner to help share the load with all of the spiritual and community work that I do, and not long after moving I found him. (Or, rather, he found me.) I hadn’t planned on my life partner being a Helas man, and he had never planned to date a woman who was dedicated to a (shudder) Love Goddess, but the differences actually seem to balance us out. He’s my grounder and my warder who can also carry a deity like nobody’s business. (Have you ever had a conversation with Hela? I have. She’s actually quite lovely. She easily grounds any energy or emotional issues I might be having.) Anyway, with the new job, the boyfriend and I can finally move in together, hopefully by July. Wish us luck! We’ll probably need it. 😛

That’s all from Cara-land at the moment. I hope everyone is doing well. I look forward to seeing what you’re all up to. 🙂

 

 

 

Freya: Modern need, ancient goddess

Hail the Lady! Well writ, John Mainer.

mainer74

Goddess Freya true

I am Heathen, which honestly is not the same as pagan.  I am a hard polytheist who understands the gods and goddesses, however imperfectly we understand them, are discrete knowable entities with a nature that springs not from our need, but from their essence.  The gods that I have built a relationship with are the gods of my northern European ancestors; those familiar to the Scandinavian or German, rather than the Celt, Frank, Latin, or Pict that is also in my lineage.
We build relationships with them through the gifting cycle because of our need, but I do not honestly think they are born from it, anymore than I think Oxygen is released by plants because we need to breathe it.  We need much from them, and I would suggest from the length of the reciprocal gifting relationships we have built between our folk and our gods and goddesses, that…

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Facets of Freya monologues

Here are the monologues from Freyja’s Aett’s first “Facets of Freya” ritual, PCon 2015. The specific facets that we covered were Freya in her Warrior/Chooser of the Slain aspect; Freya as the Bearer of Brisingamen; Freya as the Queen of Vanaheim;  Freya who is the embodiment of Desire; and Freya as the one who sees the value and beauty in all things and shares that gift with us.

1. Ember: Vanadis

2. Freybjorg: Brisingamen’s Bearer

3. Meredith: Chooser of the Slain

4. Bella: Lady of Desire

5. Cara: Generous Giver

The basic script for the ritual is available here. Enjoy!