(Or, why I prefer to do it outdoors)
I know a lot of Pagans do their rituals inside. There are advantages – privacy, quiet, warmth, not being rained on. Other people dogs and children will not roam through your circle. Toilets are close to hand, and other useful resources. It can be fitted in around the rest of your life without much hassle, and you can wear whatever you like, or nothing at all, without fear of the consequences.
I have done rituals inside. Mostly because I was working with a group and either the weather, or the proposed work meant others wanted a degree more security than the woods could offer. Group work has to include a degree of compromise sometimes.
All the reasons for staying in, are also reasons to go out. Yes, people will see you. This can make you feel exposed, vulnerable and like an idiot, but if we take what we do seriously, then we should be able to stand that. Being able to be a pagan in a semi-public place without shame, is a good thing, and worth experiencing. It also means showing a few lone souls what we do, and that doesn’t hurt either. We may be strange people in the woods, but if others see that we cause no harm, sacrifice no chickens and summon no demons, that helps tackle a few myths about pagans right there. Of course if you do want to dance naked (does anyone actually dance naked?) there might be issues.
Yes, you will be disrupted by the weather. You will get cold, be rained on. The fire will go out. Insects will bite you. Someone will tread in excrement. It will get dark and you will not be able to read the script. But this is nature, as it really is. Not the ‘nature’ we might worship in abstract from a living room, but the dirty, messy, uncomfortable, demanding reality of it. If you can get out there, honour it in person, deal with the dubious stains and the setbacks, it’s so much more real. It’s a much more honest, grounded kind of paganism.
It takes more effort to gather outside, safely, effectively, with the right gear. You can’t just hop into your personal magical space, do a quick thing and get back to regular life. Ritual outside is a big event. It will take energy. This is a good thing. The more you put in, the more you get out, so look at these challenges as an open invitation to put more in, and see where it goes.
You can’t wear what you like. An icy wood at imbolc is not the place for dainty heels, flouncy shirts, or even cloaks. You need solid boots and a good coat. Working outside through most of the year knocks some of the scope for pageantry out of the ritual. So if the aesthetics matter to you, you have to work harder. See previous comments about putting more in. Otherwise, if you are the kind of person who mostly lives indoors, this will be a profound journey. Learning about the reality of nature, the demands it makes of your body, the kit you need for basic comfort – is all good. It’s all real, it all teaches lessons.
It takes determination to do a ritual in the pouring rain, or to trudge out through the snow for one. It takes the right gear and a bit of will to handle a scorchingly hot day, or a bitter wind that you can’t shout over. You will pause and ask why the hell you are doing this to yourself, what it is for and whether there is any point. The gods are clearly not on your side. Perhaps they don’t care if the ritual happens or not. Why not go home and see what’s on the telly?
At that point, some people will give up and either decide they aren’t pagans, or embrace the living room altar with new zeal and fervour. But for the people who survive, who work out why they were out there in all that weather trying to speak some lines… there is a whole new understanding to be found about what paganism means to us. That’s worth getting rained on for.