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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.

Initial Planning

On the Day

Before the Ritual Begins
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.)

    2. 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.

    3. 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>
    4. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. Communing Decompress, share food Talk, Sing, Drum, Clean up
24 Hours After The Ritual, at least.

© 1999 Sheherazahde, (Revised with assistance by Buddha Buck 03/13/02)
Distribution is welcome if this notice is included.
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