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Facilitatorís Handbook, Part 1
Large Group Wiccan Ritual
This structure is used for large groups, generally between 13 and 100 people. It can be used for groups as small as two but it is rather stilted then. This is the form of ritual to use when you have one small group presenting a ritual for a larger group. When you have a group small enough so that everyone can participate in the planning you are better off using the small group form of ritual.
If you use these instructions you can keep track of your Ritual with this form.
- Who is involved in providing this ritual?
Every Community is different and there are many ways to provide a public Ritual. You may be part of a Coven or Circle in an area where there are no other groups. Or you may be part of a community with many other Covens or Traditions. Or you may be an individual trying to get other individuals together for the Sabbats. The existing community, the needs of your working group, your personal philosophy, and your working style will all affect the way you approach this sort of Ritual.
The advice I am giving here comes from years of working in different communities. It works for Covens, Circles, or Ad Hoc Committees.
- Facilitator(s) The Facilitator is the person (or persons) who is(are) in charge of making sure the Ritual happens. They make the final decisions. Frequently they are the HP/S as well, but not always. If someone else is HP/Sing make sure everyone knows exactly what they are, and are not, in charge of.
Once when I was facilitating a Community Ritual by Ad Hoc Committee I gave the HPS role to someone else. She thought she was in change of everything. I didnít realize it until the day of the ritual when we had two sets of people show up claiming parts. When the Facilitator and the HP/S are different people the Facilitator is the Director and the HP/S are the Stars. The Facilitator is in charge of everything the HP/S are just in charge of their own parts. This is actually a good way to do things, it frees up the HP/S to be totally with the Spirit not worrying about who canceled at the last moment or talking to the police.
- High Priestess/High Priest (HP/S) The titles High Priestess and High Priest can mean several different things. In most Wiccan traditions anyone who has completed all three degrees of training is titled High Priestess or High Priest. Within our Tradition the people who are in charge of the ritual are the High Priestess and High Priest of that ritual. It is like the nautical title "captain" that way, there may be more than one person with the rank "captain" but each ship has only one Captain. The main ritual duties of the HP/S are: greeting people as they enter the circle, and the center of the ritual (the invocations of the Deities, the Passion Play, the Magick, the Great Rite, and the Sacred Feast). That is different from the shipís Captain. A ship Captainís job is to be in charge, an HP/Sís job is to commune with the Gods. Whoever invokes the Deities is the HP/S even if they do nothing else.
- Quarters/Elementals The Quarters invoke the spirits/watchtowers/guardians/etc representing the various elementals associated with each cardinal direction. They are also responsible for dismissing them.
If you are using these events to help build a stronger community it is a good idea to farm these out to different covens, circles, or individuals in your community. Tell them what the theme of the ritual is and ask them to do some thing appropriate. The more creative control they have over their parts the more enthusiastic they will be to participate. In addition, remember to tell them if they will be responsible for the gates as well.
You will need to assigned people for Gates and Site Purification. It helps to assign each element of the purification to a different person or group of people. We have had good success assigning the purifications to the same people or groups who are doing the quarter calls. If you do not have enough volunteers the HP/S can do the Purification Gates. It is nicer with more people.
If you have a lot of people who want to help or (conversely) not enough people, you can have one person do Fire and Air and another person do Earth and Water.
These are the positions:Air/East/Intellect, Fire/South/Energy, Water/West/Emotion, Earth/North/Incarnation, Any Others/Spirit.
- Maiden/Page The Maiden is still a useful role during Ritual. The Maiden is the assistant to the HP/S. She can hold candles or scripts for people to read. And she can assist the HP/S in any way needed. This is a good job for a young girl.
There is no standard name for a young man in this position. Some traditions have a position called "Summoner" that they consider the male version of 'Maiden'. The Summoner was in charge of informing people that a ritual was occurring. But most of his other jobs have been delegated to the Graces and the Dragons. Other titles for a young man who is acting as assistant to the HP/S would be "Page", "Lad", or "Youth".
- Graces: The job of the Graces is essentially ushers, greeters, and gophers during setup. It can be done by anyone who doesn't have to be in the ritual room setting up for the ritual. (i.e. The people doing HPS, HP, and purifying gates can not act as Graces, they are busy.) The Graces job is to greet everyone who comes through the door, hand out orders of service, make them comfortable, and answer their questions. They run errands for the people in the Ritual area, and generally act as an interface between the people setting up and the people arriving for ritual. Part of the job is making it so people don't have to go through the ritual space while it is being setup -- the Graces can pass through to get to the kitchen, to deal with coats, etc, and should do things like take people's pot-luck items to the kitchen for them. They also sign people up for the mailing or email list.
- Dragons: The Dragon's job is to guard the gates to the ritual the area, to keep people out until you are ready to have them come in, and to cut open and close the gates in the circle if there is a need. Essentially he or she is in charge of security. How much security you need depends on the site. In a public park you might need several people to patrol the perimeter in pairs. At an indoor site the Dragon may be just one person. He or she bars the doors when the ritual begins and is in charge of cutting gates to let people in or out during the Ritual.
- Psychopomp: A Psychopomp is a guide for the souls. They tell people about the ritual before it happens, so people know what to expect, and answer people's pre-ritual questions. During ritual, they announce the parts of the ritual before they happen so that everyone knows what is going on and is not lost. Famous for lines like "Now we turn to the East, to invoke the spirits of air" We have found this to be a useful position in large groups. The psychopomp acts as a prompter to people who have parts and a guide to people who have no idea what is going on. If you have many volunteers you can give one of them a stripped down script and have them do this job otherwise it will fall to the Facilitator or the HP/S, or not get done at all. It is not a necessary part just convenient and helpful.
- Chant Leader: The Chant leader teaches people the various chants and songs we will be using in ritual, and leads people in the group singing. They should have a good, strong singing voice and have a bucket suitable for carrying tunes in.
- Drum Leader: The Lead Drummer is a general all-purpose rhythm section. Keeps people in time, and sets the tempo for chants, processionals, etc. Maintains mood and sets energy levels through drumming during meditative and energy raising parts of the ritual. Responsible for keeping any other drummers in line.
- Dance Leader:The Dance Leader makes sure the dance gets started properly at the appropriate time and possibly teach the steps at the Pre Rit Rap
- What/Why: What you are going to do and why. This usually starts by considering the season and the phase of the moon. Then the facilitator(s) should look into the relevant mythology. What gods are appropriate. Or what part of the chosen gods' mythology is relevant to the occasion. Then they need to decide what to do to express this idea. I usually go with a Passion Play, a dramatic presentation of the myth. Followed by some magical action and energy raising.
- Where: You need to decide where the ritual is going to take place. Are room reservations, permits or fees involved? The facilitator needs to know these things and make sure they are taken care of. For public rituals it is more important than usual that everything be above board. The police are entirely justified in rousting you if you are on state owned property after closing.
- When: At the same time you are trying to find "where?" you will need to know "when?". What day are you going to have the ritual and what time?
- Staff set up and Ritual start Times
There are two times you need to keep track of for large group rituals 1) the time the staff needs to show up to set up and 2) the time the participants need to show up. The staff set up time is the earliest time you reserved the space for. The Ritual start time is what you put on the announcements.
Make sure that people with parts know to arrive early for Set Up. While you are still in the planning stage (before you show up at the site) you need to know what materials the staff will need to bring to do their parts. Make a list and check with people to make sure they know what they are supposed to bring.
If you are working outside make sure you know the landowner's policy on fires. Most places will allow grills if they don't have permanent ones installed. A cheap portable grill makes a good central fire pit. Finding someplace where you can stay after sunset is difficult but Campsites fit the bill and allow camp fires and torches. Tiki torches or outdoor candle stands are good ways to mark the edges of outdoor circles and processional paths.(If your area is experiencing drought conditions be sensible about fires.) When there is a fire in the center of the circle most Wiccans move the altar to the East or the North (some never had the altar in the center in the first place :)
When working indoors a large central fire is less practical. We like to put our altar in the center with a central candle. On some occasions we have had caldrons of burning alcohol or candles stuck in sand. Usually there is a candle on a chair or table at each quarter. Sometimes these small shrines become quite elaborate. As with the outdoor sites Check with the people who own the site to make sure you can use candles and incense. Unitarian Universalist Churches are best. They are usually friendly and understanding about candles and incense.
When renting space from non-pagans be especially careful to leave a good impression. Clean up after yourselves and don't break any rules.
- Announcements and Invitations Once you have the Who, What, Where, When, and Why; it is time to send out the invitations. These should be sent out at least two weeks in advance. A month in advance is even better. Which means that the initial planning for the next Sabbat should begin as soon as the last one ended, if not sooner. Some newspaper announcements need to be sent out a month in advance and most need two weeks notice. If you have a snail-mail mailing list invitations should be sent out no later than two weeks in advance. If you have access to email lists the announcements should be sent out one month before the event and repeated at two weeks and one week.
On the Day
Before the Ritual Begins
- Set Up: Remember to have everyone with parts arrive early to help set up and cover any last minute changes. People who will be working with the Altar need to bring whatever tools they will be using. The people calling the Elements may want to set up Quarter Shrines. the people doing the purifying Gates will probably also be purifying the space and need to have their tools ready. Think about alternative access for the handicapped, make sure there are chairs available in the ritual space for those who need them if there is going to be a lot of standing. Donít forget, salt, incense, Quarter candles, God and Goddess Candles, water, chalice, wand, pentacle (plate), Athame, Cakes, Juice.
- Gathering Area Staff -Reception The Graces, Dragons, and Psychopomp should set up in the Gathering area. Get ready to welcome people, direct traffic, answer questions, get names for Mailing list., . Some space needs to be set up for Food for the feast after the ritual. Find out where the bathrooms are and know how people are going to get to them to change into and out of ritual garb. Find out if anyone has special needs and make accommodations. There should be an area where people can wait for the ritual to begin and donít forget to make signs telling people where everything is. Donít forget signs, sign-up sheets, and extra paper, markers, pens and pencils.
- Ritual Area Staff - Grounding (HP/S & Quarters) Once the area is set up the people with parts in the ritual should gather and ground before the ritual starts
- Light Center Candle: While the Pre Rite Rap is going on the gate and purification people should have lit the Center Candle or bonfire or night light, or whatever. Make sure the lighting in the ritual space is correct. You can't have people walking into a pitch dark room and tripping over each other.
If you are working indoors it is a good idea to do your grounding in the dark then light the center candle and see how much light it produces. You donít want people tripping over themselves as they walk in. But it should be a little dark, Make sure there are tapers handy to read by, if you need to.
If you are working outside around a bonfire either light the bonfire before you do anything else or make absolutely sure you can get it lit quickly. Lighter fluid helps. Unless you have some ritual reason for lighting it after the ritual has begun I recommend lighting it first.
- Site Purification and Gates:(Special Instructions?) The next ritual action is purification and you will need someone to do that. For large group rituals, it is more effective to purify the site before everyone arrives then to have a bunch of people standing around fidgeting in circle while you do the purifications. Make sure there is some place for participants to gather, away from the ritual site, while you are setting up. Once you have purified the site you then purify everyone who enters the site and everyone ends up purified without all the standing around.
These gates can be as simple as a bowl of salt water and stick of incense of as complicated as piece of performance art. But remember: If it something everyone does one at a time DON'T DO IT. 30 seconds times 100 people is 50 minutes and that is just too much time to be spending on any one part of the ritual.
Ritual start: Once the space is set up and purified you are ready to start the Ritual. This should be the time you told everyone the ritual would be.
- Pre Rit Rap: At this time the Facilitator or the Psychopomp does The Pre Rit Rap. This is your opportunity, before the ritual begins, to describe to the participants what will happen in the ritual. It is also when any chants or additional instructions are given. This takes place away from the ritual site in the place where you have told everyone to gather.
If you are planning some surprises you donít have to give it all away. But keep in mind that at a public ritual there will be people there who have never been to any ritual so everything you do will be a surprise. Cut them some slack and give a brief outline of those parts of the ritual that will be ďnormalĒ to people who are used to that sort of thing. If people are anxious about what is going to happen they arenít going to enjoy the ritual as much as if they felt they understood it.
- Procession Through Purifying Gates: You get people from the place where they gathered to the ritual site by Procession Through Purifying Gates. It is also a good metaphor for spiritual preparation. People are literally entering sacred space as they walk. The purification people should be there to purify them as they walk into the site. The purification gates can be set up right together at the entrance to the circle or spread out along the processional path.
Grounding Meditation: Once everyone has arrived in the Circle settle them down with a short Grounding Meditation or chant. This should be short and focus on calming and centering. This is not the time for a long guided journey.
- Chant: It helps set the correct mood to have the participants chant as they process. Someone will have to teach the chant during the Pre Rit Rap. Make sure it is not more than 4 lines long and not very complicated or it will be severely mangled. These are not professional singers we are dealing with. Don't be too hard on them
Circle Casting: Then comes the Circle Casting. For mid sized groups of less than 50 a simple "hand to hand (heart to heart) I cast this circle" will do. For larger groups, a circle casting chant would be more effective and less boring. Alternatively, a person or group of people could do some sort of casting. If it something people have to stand around and watch it should be short. If it something that everyone can do at once it can be a little longer. If it is something everyone does one at a time DON'T DO IT. 30 seconds times 100 people is 50 minutes. That is just too much time to be spending on any one part of the ritual.
Quarter Calls: Once the circle is cast it is time for the Quarter Calls. If it just your coven doing the whole thing these can be however you decide. However, The usual quarters are East (air), South (fire), West (water), and North (earth). Moreover, Facilitators take note, I have rarely participated in a Community ritual where at least one of the Quarter people did NOT pull out at the last minute. Keep at least one Second of Third degree person on stand by to do what ever needs doing.
Cross calls. It is common and effective in small groups for the person doing the quarter call to stand on the edge of the circle nearest their quarter and call out, away from the circle. This is less effective in large groups or outdoors. If you want people to hear you, you are better off standing on the opposite side of the circle from the quarter you are calling and doing your call across the circle. The Psychopomp or the people doing the other quarter calls can do any necessary candle lighting on that side of the circle for you. If the quarters are going to be called across the circle then all the quarter people have to know that in advance *and* understand the concept. I have had people tell me they understood and still go and do what they always did. Doing cross calls means that if you are calling East you stand in the west and face east. If you are calling South you stand in the north and face south. If you are calling West you stand in the east and face west. If you are calling North you stand in the south and face north. If there are candles to be lit the person standing next to the candle is not the person doing that call but he or she should light the candle anyway in a spirit of fellowship with his or her fellow quarter caller.
God/dess Calls: The next part is the Deity Calls. This is commonly done two ways. The most common form is for one person High Priest or High Priestess to Call whatever male deity they want in what ever many they deem suitable. Then the second High Priest or High Priestess Calls whatever female deity they deem suitable. The other way is to invoke one more hermaphroditic deity. Whatever you do, just make sure it appropriate for the ritual you are doing.
Passion Play: The more specific deity calls are better if you are going to do a Passion Play. A passion play is a dramatization of a myth. If you do this you will need a strong commitment from your staff, a good script, and several rehearsals. If you don't have those things, do a dramatic reading or some other short speech appropriate to the occasion.
Magic: Then comes the Magic. This is the ritual action everything was leading up to. If you did a Passion Play, this may be a celebration of our connection to the cycles of life demonstrated by the myth. If you didn't do a play you should do some symbolic action people can participate in. This is broad range of activities. You can have them do almost anything as long as it is firmly rooted in basic sympathetic magic: tying knots, cutting cords, burning things, burying things, eating things, chanting mantras.
Stay away from controversial subjects that some participants will not want to participate in, unless you have made the subject clear in the invitation. This is a touchy issue. If you want to do a special public ritual for Pro-choice that is up to you. However, if you use the Community Sabbat to do it you are forcing people to chose between a political stance they may or may not agree with and the opportunity to practice their faith in community. Keep the special issues for special rituals. If you want to build a community, people have to be able to trust that they will not be alienated at community events.
This does not mean that you can not do powerful rituals. I am always surprised when I hear people say that something can not be done because "people may not be able to handle it". People come to ritual to be moved, do not be afraid to move them. If someone is not ready for it, chances are it will pass them by. Alternatively, their personal guardians will make sure they don't show up.
Energy raising: After the Magic is the Energy raising. This is the Consummation of the magic. In large group, it usually involved dancing or singing, frequently with drums. We some times call this Spontaneous Pagan Mayhem (SPM). It is the time to let go and celebrate. Although if you do a Spiral Dance it usually remains contained and comes quickly to a halt.
Whatever you decide to do make sure you know who is in charge of it. It helps if everyone involved in the planning makes an effort to get things moving, 9we tend to call these people "shills"). A Dance Leader would make sure things get started properly and possibly teach the steps at the Pre Rit Rap. A Drum leader would keep control of the drummers and possibly teach them some basic beats beforehand. A Chant leader would set the tone of the Chant and possibly teach it at the Pre Rit Rap. You should probably decide on the chant beforehand.
Grounding: If you really get it right the energy should rise to a crescendo and everyone should come crashing down to the floor when it is released. The part where everyone falls down is called grounding. It takes a few minutes for everyone to catch the breath and find their center again after a good energy raising.
Great Rite/Sacred Feast: When everyone has caught there breath and had a chance to ground. We move on to the Great Rite and Sacred Feast. Eating is in itself grounding so never do this part before the energy raising.
Depending on the crowd and the tradition you can do a full Symbolic Great Rite or just a food blessing.
Devocations: Then it is time for Devocations and closing the circle. Everyone who did a call does a dismissal. Make sure they know that ahead of time. Goddess, God, North, West, South, East, and Circle Closing. The dismissals should be short. Nobody likes long good-byes, especially standing around listening to other people say them.
- Great Rite The Symbolic Great Rite is a very nice bit of liturgy and it consecrates the wine. So after you do the Symbolic Great Rite you still have to consecrate the bread.
If you the Actual Great Rite you have to bless the food separately. However, I don't recommend doing the Actual Great Rite at an open ritual. (It falls under the heading of "controversial". And if you make everyone leave the room for it, it really destroys the momentum of the ritual.)
- Wine Blessing If you donít do the either Great Rite you still need to bless the wine. It doesn't really have to be wine, that is just traditional. Juice is recommended for open rituals. Any simple blessing appropriate to the occasion will do.
- Cake Blessing: It doesn't really have to be cake, that is just a figure of speech. Bread or cookies are recommended for open rituals. Any simple blessing appropriate to the occasion will do.,p>
- Passing the Cup: Once the wine and cakes are blessed, then comes the Passing of the Cup. This is a point at which people may come forward and share their joys and concerns. But remember If it is something everyone does one at a time DON'T DO IT. 30 seconds times 100 people is 50 minutes, that is just too much time to be spending on any one part of the ritual.
Communing Decompress, share food Talk, Sing, Drum, Clean up
24 Hours After The Ritual, at least.
- Critique Everyone involved it planning and carrying out the ritual should get together to discuss What went well? What could have been better?
© 1999 Sheherazahde, (Revised with assistance by Buddha Buck 03/13/02)
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