Ritual location

If you’re doing rituals outside, there are a number of considerations. You need to be able to access the land – that means public spaces or a person you can ask. You need to consider how people are going to get to and from your ritual, especially those who are less mobile, access to toilets (or bushes!) and so forth.

It can be noisy outside – traffic noise, wind, and water can drown out attempts at normal ritual. This is one of the great advantages to working in a place surrounded by trees. If you are in a wood, or a clearing, trees act as a barrier, reducing the amount of sound that can reach you. If the wind is so strong that the sounds of leaves could drown you out… it is better to go home because that kind of wind can also bring trees down.

This assumes that you seek out a place where you can undertake the usual form of ritual. Historically this is what I’ve tended to do – think about the kinds of rituals I want to do, and then sought a space which would work for that.

Finding a space that you want to work with, but which does not lend itself to ritual is a whole other issue. There’s one I’m enamoured of which, given the tiny space and the water sound, could only accommodate a few people doing totally non-verbal ritual. I’ve worked on the shore, where there was plenty of room, but too many rocks for a circle and too much sound for speech. At Avebury, the circle is too big to use and has cars going through it, and a lot of background noise from those and the wind – it might be popular, but it’s a hard place for a regular ritual.

I wrote about my favourite hill yesterday, on which there is a barrow – it’s a space that absolutely calls to me, and is entirely unsuitable for normal ritual. The calling is strong enough that it has become necessary to find other ways of showing up.

I wonder what we’re doing if the need to hang on to our habits of ritual is more important than the space we’re working in. Not all spaces suit ritual as we tend to do it, but that shouldn’t limit us to only showing up places where we can reliably bring musical instruments and light a candle. Sticking with standard approaches to rituals holds us in the safest, tamest, most predictable spaces, all too often.

Perhaps rather than looking for places to do ritual, we should be looking for more innovative approaches to ritual that let us engage with more places.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

13 responses to “Ritual location

  • Janice R. Baker, LMSW, CAADC

    Beautiful piece on ritual, openness and flexibility, and so much a part of a larger theme for all of us, I think. I know it is for me. Eloquently stated. Thanks.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    years ago I use to do sky clad rituals in some of the larger gullies here in the desert but eventually we had to many people living here for that to work. I still could use the top of one of out mountains, but, not driving and using a walker, make that unlikely to happen. So I do it indoors now in a specialy built building with lots ofinsulation and no windows, though with a decent air conditioners and heater of course. This allows for my druminging, as unmusical as that can sometimes be, and total privacy in a sky blue room.

  • syrbal-labrys

    I admit, as I get older and achy, certain bits of violent weather discourage me working outdoors. But I often bring some of the outdoors IN…wet leaves upon the hearth, instead of an altar cloth; a bare branch and fallen feather.

  • angharadlois

    I remember joking about this with some of the Anderidudes – the shocking realisation that rituals didn’t always take place in perfectly clear, windless weather, with friendly forest creatures helping you to light your incense etc etc 🙂 I was coming at it from another angle; having spent most of my childhood outdoors, the idea of trying to accomplish anything formal seemed baffling to me – how could anyone expect candles to stay lit, cups to stay upright, random dog-walkers to stay at a discreet distance? But part of the magic of attending the rituals at the Long Man of Wilmington was, as you say, experiencing the ways the community had found to come together in celebration of such a beautiful, sacred place. It was very windy, very public and very exposed, but in being practical, adaptable and mindful of the particular spirit of that place, the gorsedd nearly always found a way to make some kind of group ritual work up there – and if it all went wrong, there was always the pub!

    • Nimue Brown

      I blame Disney. But at the same time now hankering after singing forest creatures with matches… what could possibly go wrong?

      • angharadlois

        Hahaha! Quite.
        On the theme of life imitating Disney, I am occasionally befriended by robins (I must look very much like the kind of lumbering pink creature who is likely to unearth some worms for their dinner) who will sit very close to me, on or between my feet, warbling away quietly. It almost makes me feel like a Disney princess befriended by chirpy woodland birds – except the robins in question are almost always suffering from mange, poor things, and there aren’t many worms to dig up for them in St Michaels station/lakeside business park…

      • Nimue Brown

        That’s so cool. I did once manage to handfeed a robin, it is the only way in which I shall ever resemble a Disney Princess.

  • verdant1

    “Perhaps rather than looking for places to do ritual, we should be looking for more innovative approaches to ritual that let us engage with more places.”

    Oh yes! Thank you – this is what I’ve been trying to put into words for years ❤

  • Aurora J Stone

    I’ve only done one formal ritual out of doors — my wedding ten years ago was outside for part of it at least. Other than that I’ve not really done much what I consider ‘proper’ ritual since I stopped doing church. I’ve done meditations and meditative walks, with pauses to give thanks, marveling with delight and wonder, and sometimes experiencing deep sorrow at what I’ve seen, but not an orchestrated ritual. I’ve never lived in a place or had access to a place conducive to ritual outside. I’ve not had the experience though I think I’d be very self-conscious doing conspicuous ritual where there would be other people about. I agree there is a need for some sort of innovative approach to doing ritual. To look anew at what ritual is for, what constitutes ritual action in the Druid/Pagan community. Sometimes it feels like it is based on more church-type patterns. Of course that could be because it is a pattern that works, but maybe we need to think outside the basilica, as it were literally and figuratively. I used to find great power in ritual and I find it odd that I seem to be so ambivalent, and sometimes hostile to it now. I have a hard time framing my own private religious/spiritual rituals — maybe because I can’t separate group ritual from liturgy, and consequently haven’t been able to shake the definition of liturgy as the work of the people. And ritual was always in a liturgical context for me. I’ve studied it and written it in that context. But not come to grips with it outside, again literally and figuratively, that context.

    Thank you for putting this issue into words for reflection. I have not found looking at this matter comfortable, but I think it is necessary that I do.

    • Nimue Brown

      I find formal ritual for one really weird. If it’s me, then ‘hello trees, hello sky’ seems to mostly cover it. The gathering of people can cause ritual to make more sense as a community activity…

  • Aurora J Stone

    I just got back from a walk where I wanted to spend some time with a particular beech tree, given some of the things I’ve been thinking about and meditating on for the past 24 hours. When I got there the long way around the village the whole very tiny wood was taken up by two people playing music loudly on some device and arguing. So I could not even enter to walk around the other way. I went to stand under a weeping willow closer in the village and let it comfort me and release my disappointment. I came home and watered my portable grove of rescue trees in pots that have been with me for years – one of which is a beech and I moved her to the front for easier access . . . accident?

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