Pagan

This turn of the Wheel: a review

With Lammas 2021 behind us, I’ve completed my yearlong experiment in minimalist rituals. How did it go? How do I want to proceed?

tl;dr version: I loved it. I want to keep doing it. I need to make several decisions about how I’m going forward, but I feel I’ve prepared the ground well for those decisions and whatever grows from them. That’s the short version. Read on for the loooong version.

A photo of Earth from space. A circle is drawn around the Earth with the Wheel of the Year drawn around it in circles and lines.
Wheel of the Year with Earth by Bart Everson via Flickr

First, I want to re-examine the eight values I chose. A couple turned out to be less important to my spiritual practice than I’d thought, while others that didn’t make the list need to be there. I’ll also look at which value I associated with which Sabbat. A couple have a desperate “nothing else is left!” feel and would work better elsewhen.

A (not exhaustive) list of things that worked for me in this process:

  • Simplicity. No hours-long planning sessions or armloads of stuff. I spent some time before each Sabbat contemplating my strongest associations with the day and what would be going on in our home and environment at the time and built a ritual around that. Then we showed up and did it! Easy-peasy-Pagan-squeezy.
  • Personalization. I made these rituals for us. 99% of the time, they were exactly what we needed. When they weren’t, we could easily pinpoint where they’d gone off the rails and do things differently the next time.
  • Flexibility. We relocated when weather was inhospitable. We rescheduled when grad school workload was inhospitable. We got to wait or adjust so we could be present and celebrate fully.
  • Creativity. Having practiced in the Reclaiming tradition for so long, my personal practice is steeped in its ritual forms – even the ones I don’t really like. By positioning these personal rituals as “Reclaiming-adjacent,” I felt comfortable playing with form and content. I never went entirely hog-wild, but I jettisoned components that don’t work for me and worked in a few that aren’t part of most Reclaiming rituals.

A (probably not exhaustive) list of things I missed and hope to incorporate in the future:

  • Physicality! I really stripped down these rituals to focus on beliefs and values. I didn’t, and don’t, want a lot of “stuff” weighing it down. But creating a simple altar and playing music at Lammas made a huge difference in the ritual’s depth and texture. I’d love to keep doing things like that, and to add more movement. These rituals need more dancing!
  • Better intention statements. At base, all Sabbat rituals have the intention of “celebrating [insert Sabbat name here].” But several times, when it came time to state the ritual intention, I realized I hadn’t crafted a statement beyond that. I’d like to be more prepared for that part.
  • Leora! Leora graciously agreed to show up for whatever I planned this year. Now that the year (and grad school) have ended, I’m excited to co-create rituals with them again!

A pretty complete list of things I did not miss:

  • Complexity. I want richness and depth in my rituals. But I’ve come to feel spiritually disconnected from most really complex rituals. A big part of the point of this year was paring back to what felt essential. That worked. Big-time.
  • Spellwork. A hard but necessary realization: Pagan I am; Witch I am not. I root my spiritual beliefs wholly and solely in the natural forms and processes of Earth and the Cosmos, and Western neo-Paganism most strongly influences my spiritual framework. But I do not, and if I’m honest I have never, turned first (or second or fifth) to magic as a tool unless at someone else’s suggestion or direction. Yes, our rituals contained elements that others might see as magic, but I didn’t intend or experience them that way.

Where does that leave me with respect to Reclaiming, the Witchcraft tradition I’ve called my spiritual home for close to twenty years? Most of my spiritual beloveds are there. The sacred activism that’s one of the tradition’s cornerstones is in my bones. And having poked around in other, non-ecstatic traditions, both explicitly Pagan and otherwise, I know that’s not for me. I need the fully embodied immersion that I’ve only found in ecstatic ritual.

On the other hand, what right do I have to a tradition whose Principles of Unity declare “we proudly call ourselves Witches” when I don’t? Besides which, I’ve spent so much time and energy in rituals and classes over the years translating common Pagan/witchy concepts into language that makes sense to my body, mind, and spirit. Think about the effort required to use scissors intended for your non-dominant hand. That’s what group rituals of any established Pagan tradition usually feel like to me. It’s exhausting. I absolutely believe that my spirituality should challenge me. I don’t believe that every spiritual action should be a battle against myself.

So I have big decisions to make. And I have firm ground under my feet and strong connections to both human and nonhuman communities. Whatever happens in the next turn of the Wheel, or the next, or the next, I trust that I can make the choices that are best for me, and for my relationships with All That Is. And I can celebrate those choices and relationships through rituals that keep bringing me joy and spiritual wholeness.

Blessed be!

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