My first ritual

The first ritual I was invited to participate in through a moot I attended. At that point I was in my twenties. I was self-identifying as an eclectic Pagan, and I’d read very little about ritual. Back then, there weren’t many books about ritual to be had, and most of what there was, was Wiccan and I had read some and knew it wasn’t for me. I’d also never felt drawn to exploring any kind of solitary ritual.

I was given some lines. I took it all very seriously, learned my lines, thought about what to wear, invested in the idea of ritual and doing something sacred and significant. I was prepared, and wholehearted.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the chap running the ritual. He was not prepared and had not learned his lines. Quarters were called badly, while being read from a script he could barely see because it was dark, which seemed to surprise him. He laughed a lot – probably from nerves. The whole thing was an awkward mess and I felt embarrassed to be offering this to anyone or anything. I spent a lot of time towards the end of the ritual quietly apologising to anything that had been obliged to witness this shambles. 

After the ritual, owls started calling. Some of the participants found this really validating. To me, it felt like forgiveness, for which I was deeply grateful. 

After the ritual, it was also clear that the man running it felt it had gone really well. I did not go back for a second ritual with him. He also talked a lot about how important he felt imagination was for ritual. It’s an idea I rejected on the spot. It’s not enough to imagine. If ritual is going to be meaningful, it has to feel real, on whatever terms that can be a thing for you.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. 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

6 responses to “My first ritual

  • alainafae

    Everyone comes to a ritual from their own place on their journey.

    I’ve had a similar experience from the opposite perspective. I carefully crafted a ritual, arranged all the other event details outside the ritual itself, memorized my lines, “took it all very seriously” as you said, and then felt my expectations were let down because the majority of the people participating apparently wanted to simply show up and have a fantastic experience served to them. Would best be characterized as wooden mumbling out of order punctuated by nervous giggles, if they elected for a speaking part at all. Clearly very few had taken the time to even glance through the script beforehand, let alone memorize anything.

    Not only did I feel my expectations hadn’t been met but also worried that people would judge my novice effort by the less than stellar performance all around. Some came back for other events, some didn’t. I realized that my idea of how that ritual was “supposed” to go differed from others’ and that neither view was necessarily wrong. I had written the ritual from my level of commitment & understanding without considering that others might not have as much to give. Perhaps they’d thought it would be like their experiences of going to church, or maybe they had no real frame of reference at all for ritual. Whatever the reasons, we all offered what we did, which is more than what would have been offered outside that sacred space & time. I do feel like something was accomplished even if it did not look the way I had expected it to.

  • M.A.

    I performed my first ritual alone; I cast a healing spell (which either worked very well or damn! what a coincidence). That was (good grief…) nearly 50 years ago, and since then I’ve done many rituals, alone and with others, some beautifully done and others kind of embarrassing. The advantage to solitary ritual is that you can control more of the variables.

  • River

    This sort of thing is why I’ve taken a break (given up on) group ritual for a while. There’s always someone who wants to lead ritual because they want to put on a (badly done) performance and loves the sound of their own voice rather than to facilitate community.

  • locksley2010

    I run a moot in Nottingham where (pre Covid) we ran public ceremonies in front of the Robin Hood Statue near the castle. My main problem was finding people willing to join in rather than turn up and spectate. Now, we do it all online and the gang are beginning to open up and lead them too. I actively encourage people to join in and do there own thing, but it turned out most were simply afraid of “getting it wrong”.

    In that regard, I found that my approaches to ritual are not their approaches to ritual, so I’m always happy for one of the members to step into the spotlight…. It’s not easy if you aren’t used to it, but we all have to start somewhere.

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