Greetings Royal (and loyal) Readers! As you now, our Beltane celebration didn’t happen the way we wanted. Jax and I did break bread together on May 1st, but we did not ritual.* We firmly believe sharing time, wine, laughs and food (there must always be food!) is the best kind of “bare bones” observance of any holiday (pagan or otherwise). I am committed, however, to planning ahead for Summer Solstice, which will be on June 21st this year. If you are not familiar with the solstices, you can learn all about them in a previous post.
In planning my solstice celebration,** it occurs to me that not all our readers know what is involved in a pagan observance. Our blog is at least partly about promoting interfaith relations. More to the point, it’s about providing information on paganism in a multi-faith friendly environment to help encourage a more accepting, more convivial society. The Pagan Princess blog is sort of a guide to “how to be a pagan without freaking out your family and friends” with a dab of “what the heck? invite your family and friends to your pagan celebration and see what happens” and a smattering of “whatever your practice, wear something fabulous.”
Pagan observances are known by several names. If you are a Heathen, you might call your observance a blót. If you are a Wicca, you might call your observance a sabbat. Or you might just call your observance a ritual, regardless of your pagan leanings.
So, how do you start planning for an observance? There are few key questions or core considerations that will guide your practice:
- Will this observance be solitary practice or a group gathering?
- Will this observance be formal or relaxed?
- Will this observance be generally pagan or will it adhere to a specific faith?
- Which pagan season, celebration or holiday are you observing?***
These are not in any particular order. Indeed, you may find your answer to one question alters your response to a previous question. Your planning may be more cyclical than linear, and this is okay. Your answers will inform several dimensions of your observance, including intention, materials needed, time allotment and food (there must always be food!). Just kidding about the food. Well, sort of. Most observances do end with a meal; eating is a common way to ground yourself after religious work.
Your answers to the key questions will also inform the procedure of an observance, the sequence of events and the events themselves. These events (parts or components) vary by faith and personal taste. There are a slew of resources online advising how to conduct a ritual, too many to review here. If you are interested in learning more, we recommend asking the Oracle (known in Mundania as Google) “how to [conduct a ritual], [blot], or [cast a circle].”
There are three basic components to a ritual observance:
- Creating a sacred space
- Holiday-centered practice
- Closing the sacred space
If your observance is relaxed, it may only contain these elements. If your observance is formal, it might contain several more procedural elements, such as an invocation, a rite, meditation, a symbel, a libation, or other practice (such a healing work). The second component, “holiday-centered practice,” is the heart of the observance and will be influenced by everything mentioned thus far.
A bit about what I mean by “creating a sacred space.” By and large, paganism is a collection of faiths without sacred architecture (Bado-Fralick 2002). Most pagans do not have a house of worship and so must create their own space for sacred practice. How you create and close this space varies according to the questions / considerations listed above, as well by personal preference. Note that in order to create a sacred space, you must start with some kind of space. And this brings us to another very important dimension of ritual practice.
Your observance will be heavily influenced by your resources. In regards to space, you may not have personal or public space available to conduct your ideal observance. For example, a college student in a dorm room might not have the personal space s/he wants to, say, cast a circle. And s/he may not feel comfortable casting a circle in a public place, like a park or a on campus. So, this pagan may choose to chuck it all and observe holidays in his or her own way, using the resources available to him or her. And that is just fine.
For many of us, another resource to consider is cost. Materials, including food (there must be…ah, you know what I mean), cost money. Be sure to plan an observance that is financially feasible. Time is another big consideration. While our personal time is free (it doesn’t us cost anything), it is a valuable resource. Try to plan an observance that fits realistically into your schedule. Otherwise, you may develop a habit of non-observance because…well, let’s face it…non-observance is easier than observance. The most of important part of an observance is that you do something to recognize the passage of time, or as we call it, the “wheel turning.”
I am not saying that pagans who don’t observe holidays are “bad” pagans. I’m saying part of the joy and reward of being pagan is the satisfaction and centered-ness that comes from observance. And this is what motivates me to plan my Summer Solstice ritual in advance. I will be sure keep you posted on my own plans.
Do you have plans for Summer Solstice? Please share them with the Princesses!
* We did not literally break bread, but we did share a meal (from County Line). Jax and TheScott follow a paleo diet and I strive to most of the time (and fail miserably some of the time — curse you potato chips!).
** I say “my planning” because Jax and I are not sure we will be together for observance of Summer Solstice this year. We are both traveling around that time and may be in different states. *sadness*
*** This post is focused on observance of pagan holidays (holy days). Pagans also practice on non-holidays and for any number of reasons, including (but not limited to) marking new beginnings, focusing on a particular goal, and blessings.