It is said to be possible for extreme adepts to carry out a ritual using neither implements nor images. This is, however, altogether a too spartan procedure for most of us, for it argues that the Deities have been so interiorised that no external stimuli nor aids are necessary. Such a perfect response we aspire to make perhaps, but in practice we need images and ritual to assist our concentration and to serve as points of focus to our thoughts. Their use adds a magic quality to our observances and makes them feel ‘otherworld’, and so holy.
All instruments used for ritual must be dedicated to the worship of the Deities. This means that they must be properly made, preferably by hand, and preferably by the hand of one of the celebrants of the group if the devotee is unable to fashion them himself. But best of all is self-made matter, for the concentration and will required in the making are held in the field of the object, and in use reflect our purpose back to ourselves, whence we can fortify our dedication outwards to the Deities. These tools need not necessarily be reserved for ritual purposes, but then should be re-dedicated at each time of ritual use. In practice it is simpler to lay up such tools apart, placing them before a symbol or statuette of the Goddess or image of Her Gods.
Each festival has its own images, implements and accoutrements, some of them peculiar to that festival; and these will be mentioned in the text, but the following are basic: a knife, kept sharp, a libation bowl and another for drinking from. The knife is a symbol of will and intention, bravery and purpose; the bowl all that is receptive, intuitive, birth bringing. Other essential items, which are needed at various festivals are: a statuette of the Goddess modelled from some white material like chalk or clay, (plastic is not suitable); a human skull or other memento mori for use at The Hallows; votive masks of the God, and a symbol, such as a sun face smiling for summer, that can be wreathed and libated on May Day. All these are aids to the concentration of the devotee, putting one in tune with the ethos of the festival.
Other adjuncts can be, a cauldron from which symbolic meals can be served, and from which inspiration is considered to flow; a cloak with a hood, which when worn confers a ‘magic’ or ritual personality.
Yet other tools can be suggested for the furtherance of any rite, and themselves be suggested by the ritual, but a word of caution is necessary. A ritual can easily become more and more elaborate for its own sake. It becomes overdressed and its meanings and philosophy are lost in a welter of fanciful trumpery.
As we dedicated our dancing ground, so we must dedicate our ritual implements. Sincerity is more important than an elaborate process. We need a firm intention, then a purification. A flame is a great purifier, and an incense of aromatic herbs, a lustration of water and appropriate prayers should be used to sanctify the instruments and images.
Yet as good pagans we do not revere images too much. The image only stands for the God or Goddess. It may, and probably will, become numinous and take on its own psychic potential by the charge of prayer and devotion directed through it, but that is another matter. Our real worship is of living forces with which we not only identify, but understand to be also a part of us and all living things.
With all preparations made and our minds clear to our purpose we can now consider the festivals of the year. At a very bleak time indeed, at the beginning of December, at the time the Christians have renamed Advent, the first of the rituals is held, and the simple account I have given of the Basic Myth is dressed out and the significance of the seasonal rituals explained. The ceremony, as befits the season, is of the barest. Either outdoors or in a darkened room the Festivals are read over and their story told. A single candle is used to provide the proverbial ‘light in our darkness’. The candle is called the Light of The Promise and at the end of the ceremony the candle stub is kept to light the Yuletide candles.
This ceremony is known as The Reading of the Festivals.
© The Estate of Ronald M. White
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