Patreon Topic 24: Crafting Ritual

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From Alec comes this topic:

“Do you think you could possibly go over how you create a ritual? I understand if maybe it’s too personal but I always find myself having a hard time organizing a ritual and there’s so much confusing information I would love to know what you do, if you’re okay with sharing.”

This is something I have gone over in my blog before, but not quite in this way. The posts on ritual praxis are here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. However, since that was covering specifically Heathen praxis I thought it was worth revisiting it here for a more general polytheist and Pagan audience.

First, to define what a ritual is. According to the OED a ritual is “1 A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” Thankfully, this definition tells us nothing of what that religious or solemn ceremony actually consists of, only that there is a prescribed order. The fun part of being a Pagan is that your prescribed order may be entirely worked out with your Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and/or developed on our own depending on the relationships, roles, and the reasons for the rituals we engage in. Likewise, our solemnity may follow either the first or the second definition rather than the first alone: “1 Formal and dignified. 2 Characterized by deep sincerity.”

Rituals may be performed anywhere. I mean that sincerely. We may be more or less prepared to do a ritual in whatever the ideal ways are for us are. Ritual is available to us as a way and tool of connection, power, and relationship wherever we go. They can be incredibly simple, from three deep breaths and a “Thank you” to the Goddess Sunna for shining down on us or as complex as a community-wide Haustblot (Autumn Sacrifice) with animal sacrifice and feast.

To make how I craft a ritual easier to follow I will break it down into steps.

Step 1: The Reason for Ritual

Before we begin to design a ritual we need to know why we are doing ritual, what ways of doing ritual are respectful for my Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir, and what role(s) are in that ritual. Is this ritual’s purpose right? That is, does a given ritual deepen my right relationship with a God, Goddess, Ancestors, vaettr, or group of Them? If it is not a devotional ritual, but something like a rite for empowerment or protection, does the ritual provide some kind of positive result for the ritualist(s)?

Step 2: The Form of the Ritual

This is how the ritual will be conducted and where it will be conducted. The language you use, the cadence, tone, and other delivery of it may change depending on if you are approaching the Gods in a formal way or an informal way, or if you are doing ritual for a group. It can also depend on the size of a give group, or the kind of emotion the ritual is supposed to tap into. In the case of a simple devotional rite, like the one above with three breaths to Sunna and a “Thank you”, it a simple ritual of thanks. With a Haustblót it can be incredibly complex, with many ritual steps including leading a group through prayers, offerings, divination, and sacrifice.

Step 3: Consideration for the Ritual

This is about where the ritual taking place and how best a ritual space can be accomodating to its ritualists and attendees. Can the ritual be performed as desired in that space? Is the place for the ritual accessibile to folks with mobility disabilities? Is the ritual or ritual prep going to take a long time and the ritual crew and attendants need food/drink? Are there special props, offerings, etc that must be included or excluded? If alcohol is at the rite is there a non-alcohol option for folks who do not drink it?

Step 4: Roles for the Ritual

This is about who does what in the ritual. If you have a spiritual specialist, or several, what role(s) do they serve and how do they serve it? If you are doing a solo ritual, how do you create your role within the ritual so that you can enact the ritual while also experiencing it? Are there aspects of the ritual you can ask others to perform or do you need to do it yourself, eg divination after the rite? While this step takes on a bigger function in a group setting thinking about your role as a ritualist in private rituals can be helpful in considering how a given rite might affect you, and what you need to do to be in a good mindset for each part of it.

Once these questions are answered we can get into designing the ritual itself. We will go over my basic ritual outline below.

1. Cleansing. Cleanse yourself, the area, and anything being brought into the ritual not consecrated to the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir. Likewise, cleanse any spiritual or other tools that you bring into the space. Cleansing can be done by tradition-appropriate methods, eg khernips or reykr/recels, or by a simple blessing spoken over water and sprinkled on an area/person/item.

2. Grounding. This is letting go of any excess energy whether accumulated throughout the day or disturbed by the act of cleansing. This can be as simple as three long breaths, letting your muscles relax, and getting ready for the next step, or as complex as a multipart tree visualization where you put your ‘roots’ into the Earth and exchange energy with the Earth and/or an Earth Goddess.

3. Centering. This centering yourself in what you are doing and why you are here. For ritual work this is coming to focus on the ritual. In other contexts centering might be focusing on the hereness of your body, the next step in whatever task you have before you, or being present and acknowledging thoughts as they occur and letting them go.

4. Shielding/Warding. This is present in Wiccan traditions as casting a circle, and while most non-Wiccan polytheist religions do not normally do this, there are definitely ways in which a person is shielded or a place warded. Atropotaic symbols adorn temples as well as people the world over. We wear symbols of our Gods, which not only serve as signs of our devotion, but also may call to our Gods to protect us, and/or give us strength to protect ourselves. The bringing of fire around a space in Heathenry to cleanse a space also serves to set the sacred boundary so it is a two-in-one cleansing and shielding. I put this step here because some folks, myself included, usually have a step where a space is formally declared sacred when it is not at our home altars, shrines, or vé and we cannot use something like fire to cleanse and ward.

5. Set the Intention of the Ritual. This can be a simple declarative statement such as “Thank you, Sunna, for shining down on me. I share this coffee with You in gratefulness.” It can be as complex as “Hail to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir! We come together today to celebrate the Haustblót, to celebrate the Fall Harvest, and to sacrifice our offerings so that cycle of gift for a gift continues! Hail to all of our Holy Ones!” The point of Step 5 is to firmly fix what the point of it is and to get undewray.

6. Call to/invite the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir. Again, this can be as flowery or as simple as your Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, tradition, or style of ritual allows for. Sometimes simple is way better, especially starting out. Be sure if you are calling to Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir by certain titles, epithets, heiti, etc that you know what they are and what calling on Them in that way means.

7. Engage in the ritual itself. Take the time you need to do it well. Immerse in the experience in the moment and analyze your experiences after the ritual.

8. Thank the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir for Their Presence. Make offerings, prayers, and do any work needed in thanks, in reciprocity, at this point.

9. Do any ritual aftercare, cleanup, and take down of the vé, altar, etc if needed.

Especially for new folks or folks who are out of practice it may take doing more than a few to get everything down. The work will teach you how to do the work. If you have questions, comments, or thoughts leave them in the comments or email me and we can work from there.

Patreon Topic 19: On Seiðr

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From Elfwort comes this topic:

“Would it be possible for you to discuss seidr work in some depth?”

I will. Before I get started a few things need to be acknowledged up front. Seiðr is a lot of things to a lot of people. This website provides a good very basic overview on it. I also recommend reading my overview post on seiðr here.

When I write about seiðr I am specifically writing about the working with spirits to achieve an end even when establishing communication and retrieving information is involved. Spá is working with spirits to make prophecies, establish communication, or retrieve information. I differentiate seiðr from spá, while some use the terms interchangeably or as close to one another. While it could be said that a seiðkona could also be a spákona, I like to keep terms as neat and tidy as I can. The big difference, as I see it, is the purpose. In doing a seiðr working you are seeking to cause some kind of change, whereas with a spá working you are seeking to see what is there or to prophesy.

When it comes to seiðr I cannot speak about seiðr work in depth as Hrafnar does it. In my experiences with their oracular seiðr, it strikes me as being spá, since the work is about getting information from the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir and to those gathered for the work. I also cannot speak to how others do it. Most folks who do seiðr and spá take inspiration from The Saga of Erik the Red, or Eirík’s saga rauða and the few scant references to it in the lore.

The majority of my experience in seiðr and spá is being told by Óðinn I was going to study it from Freyja. Her instructions were very clear and to the point. It started with my usual regimen of cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, and then warding the space. Describing the work itself is simple: I start by breathing deep, rocking, and shaking. Once in trance, I call to the spirit or group of spirits I am to work with. They are to come to me, or come into me, as is needed for the working. Once done they depart, and I do cleansing, grounding, centering, and shield work to be sure I was clear of spirits and then the space was clear prior to taking down the wards.

In going back and rereading my experiences and looking around online, what I learned from Freyja was more in line with the interpretation of Jan Fries’ understanding in the book Seidways, which I have only recently run into since writing this post. I would have to read the book to see where what Fries’ understanding and practice of seiðr and spá is.

What does it feel like, engaging in seiðr and spá?

It is a spirit sliding into you, not unlike in The Matrix or Shadowrun where a person is jacked in, a feeling of sliding into the base of your skull and a click, or some other sensation that lets you know the seiðr or spá has taken hold. One moment you are trancing to the beat of a drum, a song, and/or the rhythm of your own breath and heart. I usually do this work with my eyes shut or under a cloak or hat.

The next moment, a new consciousness joins you in the dark. Maybe it is a voice, a scent, a taste in the air, a touch, or a knowing. Whatever it is, it is outside you, definitely not you, and in this space between with you. Assuming this vaettr (spirit) is not one of your fylgja, kinfylgja, Ancestors, and other vaettir (spirits) that you trust and are with you, you ask if the vaettr that has joined you is legit, both that it is a vaettr and that it is who it says it is. Maybe you get confirmation from Them, maybe They turn hostile and eject the vaettr. Maybe you have to do divination so you are not just relying on your own experience and intuition, so you take a moment in this space to pluck or throw a Rune, or draw a card.

Working with the Runevaettir before, during, and after the seiðr or spá through galdr or other spiritwork, putting Them on your body, or through asking Them to help through a reading, can be a powerful ballast. Provided you have done right by Them, the Runevaettir can help provide clarity or power in a working that your Ancestors, fylgja, etc may not be able to. So much of seiðr and spá work is dependent on the reason you are doing the work. It depends on what you are looking to do, or to bring back knowledge on. It can also depend on Who you ask the question. Given I have seen and experienced Gods in seiðr and spá work, it is entirely possible They can come into the session whether you ask Them or They come on Their own.

For however long the work needs to be done, I am often engaging in some kind of rocking motion alongside regular breath patterns, often in groups of three, six, or nine. I generally will lose my sense of time. Timing is often a fruitless endeavor for me. It takes however long it takes to do the work. It can feel like I have been gone mere moments, or for days, depending on the working.

For anyone who has received divination from me, you have likely seen me do this spá work. When I learned how to do seiðr and spá from Freyja I incorporated this into my divination work. It stayed as I developed my divination protocols.

There is only so far in depth I can really get until we hit the wall of experience.

The way to learn how to do seiðr or spá is to do it.

The Power of Words

Words of love whispered at dusk

as night come rolling in

A voice in morning stillness sung

Piercing in reddened mist

Runes carved deep in the long tree trunk

Atop a horse head sits

Crossed out foe’s name with ink so fresh

The line is thin and slick

Like knives cutting into flesh

and ropes hung lingering long

The power of words carries on

in story, spell, and song

In words the power is still keenly felt

and fiercely is set free

So beware upon whom you turn your voice

in love or hating, speak

In our words our power holds clear

in friendship, ire, and oath

With it we may weave our Wyrd

and with them fulfill our troth

Yet our words may bring doom

Upon us or enemy

To our wrongs it may bind us fast

or in rightness set us free

So take care when you carve or sing, call or mutter low

Before you proceed all your words and works

And linger long after you go

Odin Project: Day 10

Seek under the Tree | hanging with taut rope

Yggr hangs, bleeding wisdom;

Seek in the Hall | seated in power

Alfaðir waits, far-seeing and grim

 

Seek on the Road | blue cloak wrapped tight

Gangleri wanders far, welcoming company;

Seek in the Wild | spear keen and gleaming

Wod preparing for battle

 

Seek on the Mountain | mouth open wide

Galdraföðer sings spell and enchantment;

Seek in the World | form ever-changing

Svipal walks and stalks