Happy Solstice!

The shiny new coven, Phoenix Song, celebrated our first Summer Solstice today.

It’s become the practice, in our tradition, to use the solstice as a time to revision the group for the coming year. (Yes, the timing’s a little odd, but it’s something that grew organically from stuff we were actually doing, and it turns out to work nicely.) What do we want to do together? What do we want things to be like? How do we want to honor where we’ve come from, while continuing to move forward?

In the group I hived from, the tradition has been to create something that is present in the temple all year as a reminder. In our case, that’s a little impractical (we’re doing ritual in two different spaces, and neither of us has space to spare.

We decided, instead, to do a deliberately impermanent piece of art. (Before I go any further, I want to be clear: L and I discussed whether we were okay with my posting photos, and she’s fine with it. While our interpretations and thoughts about some of this are private, the basic photos aren’t.)

L has a very lovely garden, in which she spends tremendous amounts of time. Her garden also has a flat paved part: this is what we used as our canvas. We used entirely natural ingredients: no artificial colorings like food coloring. We also paid attention to what will not cause havoc to L’s garden as things blow away, get rained on, etc.

Our materials included:

  • bentonite clay (white)
  • green french clay (the pale green)
  • red french clay (the dusty red/brown)
  • tumeric (the far more orange red/brown)
  • dried safflower (the red/orange dried petals)
  • dried lavender (the gray/purple ones)
  • dried hibiscus (the dark red)
  • rose petals (undried, from our friend’s garden last night: these are from a rose called Dart’s Dash)
  • powdered eggshell – we tried something to get it to mesh to blue/purple, which did not work, but they produce a lovely dusty white that shades differently from the white clay.)
  • marigold, dianthus, and a few other flowers from L’s garden.
  • spoons and paper funnels to direct materials (and fingers!)

For next year, we’d really like something in the blue/purple range: this may prove to be tricky. We used far less of our materials than we’d anticipated: maybe 2 ounces each (and probably less) of the clays, and about an ounce or two of everything else. The finished space is about 8×6 feet, give or take.

Timing: I arrived at 1, we finished at 4. We didn’t do other formal ritual set-up, etc. but there was some setting up and getting things ready, and so on. It took less time than I was anticipating, but it was intense work.

If you’d like larger versions of the images (plus a couple I didn’t include here, you can go to my LiveJournal gallery.

Our workspace: note cat perfectly positioned for maximum difficulty. (This is L’s cat, a Bengal by breed. She was actually *very* good once we got started.)

Our workspace

Our first spiral: Everything starts at the center. Bentonite clay, red and green French clays, marigold.

first spiral

Our first pause

Our first pause

(There was a second pause, too: check out the gallery for that one.)

We’re done:

Final outcome

 

My favorite detail shot (another in the gallery)

Favorite spiral

How to handle ritual text?

One of the easier bits of shared-practice discussion I’ve had in the founding of the Shiny New Group has been about figuring out how to handle ritual texts.

The options:

There’s a spectrum.

  • Some groups memorise everything (i.e. there’s a prewritten script, but everyone works in ritual from memory.)
  • Some groups work from a written script, with notes used during ritual.
  • Some groups write things out in advance for planning, but then memorise or improvise in the ritual as makes sense.
  • Some groups figure out the goal of the ritual, but then collaboratively create (often referred to as co-creating) the ritual together. (In this last one, ritual roles or methods may not be assigned: people step forward to take on the roles they want to do, and do them as they see fit.)
  • Some groups combine one or more of these.

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Food for ritual

Since this also just turned up in my search engine results, I thought it might be handy to mention. One of our coven desires is good food and drink: we’re both big believers in food being a pleasure as well as a necessity, and we want our ritual work and celebrations to reflect that.

What does that actually mean?

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A ritual planning timeline

I just posted something to a mailing list that I thought might be useful over here, too – a time line of how we’ve been going about planning ritual.

Beltane is going to be our first ritual with guests, so we’re being extra-careful with the planning. That said, it’s one of my current goals to have a decent idea what we’re doing for the ritual (not all the details, but the basic working, goals, and stuff we need to have on hand) a month before the ritual.

Starting in early April would be fine for many people if you’re starting from scratch with no idea of what you want to do. (Starting in mid-April is stressful, in my experience, unless you already have a good idea what you want to do and you’re working with people who can adapt comfortably.)

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Friday night ritual

I live alone. I’m often free on Fridays with nothing scheduled (in the past, it’s been because various covenmates have their date nights on Friday, and also because of other aspects of my schedule.)

I decided when I moved to try Fridays as a personal ritual. Come home, tidy up a little bit, and make a nice meal with a few extra special touches. Maybe a glass of wine, or something that takes a little longer to cook. I’d fallen out of the habit for several months, but tonight seemed like a good day to try again.

I didn’t have much cleaning to do (I spent last weekend and the early part of this week doing a serious spring cleaning of everything that wasn’t tucked under the bed or kitchen table – that’s this week’s project) so I came home, put the library books out of the way, petted the cat, and did some basic cooking.

Nothing fancy today – mashed potatoes with the remains of the gorgonzola crumbles, a mixture of frozen peas and carrots, and some stuffed grape leaves (bought while I was at the co-op for something else today). I’m about to stick baked mushrooms in the oven for a late-night snack. A little Perrier (from a gift bottle from a friend) to drink, as I’m out of still-good wine.

I actually ate at the kitchen table, rather than the computer, too. (When it is just you, and you are busy, eating at the computer becomes somewhat more reasonable than otherwise.)

I then brought every non-specifically-dedicated candle in the house (ok, that’s six of them: I don’t have a lot of storage for them) into the bathroom, lit them, stuck nice music on iTunes, and had a lovely long candlelit bath. I have baths anyway [1], but taking a long time and luxuriating with a gift of LUSH bath stuff (Bathos, a longtime favorite, this time) in the candlelight was glorious.

I then spent the evening doing some writing and catching up on other things. In a bit, I’ll go curl up in bed with a book or two (a new-to-me mystery series that looks promising.) And a cat.

I’ll have to do this next week. (The 22nd, I will be out at a Wailin’ Jennys concert with two good friends, so I will have to find another night. And the 29th, I will be in ritual, so ditto. I’m excited about their concert: their “One Voice” – how I discovered them – encompasses a lot of my worldview in some ways, and I like a lot of their other songs, too.)

[1] My tiny little house doesn’t actually have a shower, just a claw-foot bathtub. This suits me just fine, as I prefer baths by preference. There’s a longer story behind this, but it’s been an evening decompression ritual for decades now. (Also, as I point out, you can’t read most books in the shower for very long.)