“There can be no direct results of ritual. The results are always just part of the fabric of all action.”
— Sean Michael Morris
As I prepare for my upcoming appearance at the Sacred Harvest Festival I’ve been giving thought to assumptions I’ve made about Paganism; assumptions that many of us make.
We assume the Wheel of the Year. Many of us assume a circle. We assume nature reverence, but I’m not sure how many of us connect that ideal to our own patterns and habits of consumption. We assume gender for things that (I think) are genderless. We often assume and ascribe a universality to European forms of Paganism, and sometimes take that one step further to assume whiteness where race or ethnicity should play no part.
We make a lot of assumptions.
And I think, to a degree, that’s to be expected. One studies in a tradition and begins to adopt aspects of the worldviews inherent to that tradition. If universality — true universality — is not central to that tradition, you’re bound to pick up certain tribe-specific ways of thinking.
In some respects, the training I received in ADF (which, I should note, was a partial, incomplete training) is one that seeks to inform modern Pagan practices with knowledge about ancient cultures. It works with the Wheel of the Year and is rooted in and influenced by Indo-European practice and worldview. One might say that ADF Druidry it’s prototypically Pagan, even with it’s differences and distinctions from it’s more popular cousin, Wicca.
And ADF assumes, as many modern Pagan traditions do, that rituals (especially public ones) should result in something. At the very least, an ADF ritual is designed to facilitate reverence and piety; the result is often a deeper and more meaningful connection with the Kindred. These rituals can also include some kind of magickal working, but even if there is no intent to do magick there is always the expectation — the assumption — that the ritual should do something (i.e. have a result) in the physical world.
But then there is this idea that rituals are “just part of the fabric of all action.” Rituals, when seen this way, are ordinary, poetic acts that, if done well, draw people into a deeper awareness of the extraordinary reality that already exists everywhere around and inside of them. The rituals themselves aren’t fabricating the awesomeness; they’re simply reminding you that the awesomeness is already there.
That could be result enough.
Perhaps it isn’t so much a question of articulating what results I’d like to get from the ritual I lead at SHF, but rather the intent of the ritual that I should focus on. It seems like intention is the only thing you really have control over when putting this kind of thing together. The results will be what the results will be. That really isn’t up to me. But the intention? That I can (and should) decide in advance.
So my intention is for this ritual to push through my assumptions about what a Pagan ritual can look and feel like; to play with ideas of sound and movement, silence and song; to inspire participants to find a still place within, the place where their creativity is born, and to bring that creativity out in a joyous way.
Here’s the description language of my Sacred Harvest Festival ritual:
Harvest of the Soul
“When we harvest, we sing. When we pray, we dance.”
This is the season of the harvest, a season to look inward and reap what we have sewn. In this musical, movement-oriented, participatory ritual, we will gather together and make a good song in celebration of the harvest, acknowledging the hardships and rewards of a season of good work.
This all-ages ritual will be influenced by certain aspects of ADF Druidry, and will seek to make welcome participants from a wide variety of Pagan paths. Bring an open heart and open mind, and prepare to lift up your voice in celebration of this sacred time.
Boom. That is my intention. The results aren’t something to concern myself with too much between now and when the festival begins on August 5th. If anything, it’s time to start imagining the “how” of the ritual…
I’m curious —
If you’ve ever designed rituals, what has been your process? Is it important for you to attain some specific result, and is this something you achieve by a magickal working? Are you aware of the assumptions that you regularly make, and do you focus any of your work on challenging those assumptions?