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Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Gods in Ritual this post may descend into a bit of a rant, but please indulge me just this once. 

I have participated in many Neo-Pagan rituals, both as part of a group and as a solitary practitioner. I have participated in an Alexandrian ritual, Reclaiming celebrations, initiates-only Feri circles, and many more. From all of these, I have reached the conclusion that the way we treat the Gods is often horribly, hideously wrong. 

Semantics aside, we worship the Gods because they are worthy of our respect, honour, and love. They are the awe-inspiring manifestations of the Unknowable Divine that our human brains can begin to grasp. Whether or not you are hard-poly or of the "All Goddesses are one Goddess" camp, for all intents and purposes you treat the Gods as real beings in a ritual. And the way we treat these real beings often falls short. does this happen? 

In Feri, we say that the Gods are real (albeit incorporeal) Beings, not merely aspects of the Goddess (although, paradoxically, that is also true!). When we invite them to participate in a ritual, they should be treated as honoured guests visiting the home. 

Consider this scenario: your best friend comes to visit your home for the evening. You greet her at the door, invite her to come in with a hug and ask how she is. You tell her how great her new haircut is and ask her where she bought that fabulous coat. You make her something to drink, probably a cup of tea (or something stronger!) and ask her if she'd like something to eat. So, you start cooking her some food, all the while engaged in conversation over a glass of wine, and then you finally settle on the couch and watch a film together. During the film, you're still chatting and having a giggle, until it's time for her to go home. You give her a hug and a kiss as she leaves, thank her for coming, and maybe give her a bit of food to take home. 

This would be considered being a great host. 

Now contrast this with what we do with the Gods in ritual:

We generally prepare the space for them, with an altar and perhaps a magic circle of some kind. We will then invoke the Gods, usually with some kind of spoken invocation or maybe an action. This will last a couple of minutes. 

And then that's it.

They aren't mentioned again, or talked to, or interacted with until it's time to "thank them" and asking then to leave. What's wrong with this picture? 

I firmly believe that we should treat the Gods as we would a beloved friend. Here are my suggestions as to how we could do this (some of this was influenced by Deborah Lipp's excellent book "Elements of Ritual):

1. Invite them to your ritual ahead of time. This could be a written invitation that is burned, a spoken invitation to Their image, or something similar. 

2. Do your research! Don't just invoke any God you think sounds cool. Chances are they won't actually come if there's no prior relationship. 

3. When in ritual, treat them as if they are the most important person in the room. Direct every action towards them, mention them in every spoken prayer, ask for their aid in spellwork. 

Basic courtesy goes a long do not need to pick and choose different Gods to work with as if you were making an iTunes playlist. Get to know a God in a deep and meaningful way, treat them right and have faith that they will reciprocate. 

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