I drove an hour to Malibu for my Spring Equinox ritual. The location was a secluded, public beach called “El Matador.” The site opened at 8, and I arrived just a few minutes after the top of the hour.
I followed the dirt trail down the edge of the cliff side, wearing jeans and work boots and too many layers. I’d overdressed, fearing that the ocean would bring a chill to my skin, but the sun was already up and it was plenty warm.
Once at the bottom, I started searching out a spot for my ritual. There were several coves and nooks that traced the edge of the beach, and I wanted to make sure I was far enough from the path that I’d have some privacy. I wasn’t exactly certain how this was going to go, and I didn’t want an audience.
I climbed over and around a few large crags, timing my stride with the crashing of the tide. I waited until it moved back, and then ran to the next high clearing. The sand was saturated and sinking, and it swallowed my boots with every step.
I came upon a clearing. This would be where I performed my first solo, High Day ritual.
I brought with me a loaf of locally baked wheat bread and a bottle of locally brewed beer as my offerings. Something about bringing offerings made in the area felt right. I carried the beer and bread in my hunter green backpack, along with my tarot cards, my travel altar, and my two Pagan prayer books. I didn’t know if I’d use the books, but it seemed like I should have them nearby in the event that I needed to find words to speak.
I set down my bag, took out the bread and the beer, and began to take off my clothes. I’d leave on my jeans, but nothing else. I removed all of the ritual items from my backpack and laid them on dry reeds.
I tried to twist off the beer top, but it wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t the kind, and I had no opener with me. I put the edge of my key along the bottle cap and tried to pry it open, but it slipped and my finger dragged across the sharp lip, slicing two small gashes near my knuckle. I sucked off the blood and continued to try to open the beer by dragging the bottle top along the edge of the rocks, being careful not to break the glass. It budged a little; enough to allow a trickle of alcohol to pour out.
That would have to do.
I set my ritual items at what seemed like a good distance away from the water, placed my new hand-made stole over my naked shoulders, and walked barefoot towards the sea.
The ocean crashed louder.
I thanked and praised the Earth Mother, and I found that the words came fast and easy. There is something qualitatively different about outdoor ritual, especially in the moments where you acknowledge the power of the land. I noticed this right away.
I called on my Gatekeeper, Arawn. I invited the Kindred: first the Nature Spirits (which needed no invitation, really), then the Ancestors, then the Shining Ones. I called upon Brighid, for I have a deep connection with her, and it seemed right that I praise her. I’d never before made offerings to a God that I didn’t already have some sort of relationship with. That is…until the next moment.
I called on Manannán mac Lir.
Then, things changed.
I spoke of the greatness of the ocean, of the power and strength of the water, and I gave him praise. I said that I had offerings of beer that I would give to him, and I turned to retrieve the bottle. Once I had it in my hand, I knelt down and began to allow a trickle of alcohol to pour onto the sand. Just then, the tide rushed in — a good twenty feet higher than it had at any moment prior — and pushed me off-balance! The water rushed up towards my tiny, portable altar and consumed it, putting out my little candle and filling my tin with sand. I laughed out loud, amazed at what had happened, and rushed to grab my belongings before the water swept them away.
It took me a moment to recompose myself. I felt small, and slightly shaken. Keeping the form of my ritual, I turned over three cards to get a message or omen from the Kindred, and the cards were sobering. They affirmed my feeling that I did not realize how very real all of this was.
I felt humbled in that moment.
I gave thanks to Manannán, Brighid, and the Kindred, called on Arawn to close the gates, gave thanks to the Earth Mother, and was finished. I staggered back to my wet pile of possessions, gathered them up, and began the journey back to the beginning.
My Equinox ritual was not a heady experience. In fact, I’m not even sure what to think about it. I encountered something much greater than I’d imagined. I can only describe this feeling as a visceral reverence.
It is a new season, indeed.
Have you ever had a ritual experience that shook you to the core; one that took you out of your head and brought you into deeper communion with the world around you? If so, how did it change you? Did it affect the way you think about yourself, about the mysteries of the universe, about the nature of the Gods?