Rite of Welcoming an Infant

This ritual welcomes a very young child – a babe in arms – into the community.

The CircleAltars are placed at the periphery of the space to be used, at the cardinal points of the compass. Seating is arranged in concentric circles to within three feet of the altars, with at least a six-foot diameter clear space in the center and radial openings allowing access to the altars. If the South altar can be placed at near the base of a large tree and the North altar with a view of Standing Stones, the setting is ideal. If this is not feasible, then a potted tree and other greenery should be placed behind the South altar (with respect to the center of the circle) and a large stone on or behind the North altar. A sword or athame is placed on the East altar; a chalice is placed on the West altar.

Nine participants, including the parents, have scripted roles. The ritual is suitable for an intimate, indoor setting or a larger outdoor setting that is small enough for the speakers to be heard.

The ritual shares liturgical elements with the Yule ritual in the Sacred Grove tradition. The parents and child need not be affiliated with the Grove; attenders are welcome from all paths at the invitation of the parents. This script assumes members of the Grove witnessed the wedding of the parents.

With all the participants seated in ritual space at the beginning, the Priestess formally casts the Circle using her wand and a Creation myth adapted from one taught by Patrick McCollum from his initiatory tradition [Patrick McCollum, Survey of Chaplaincies, Cherry Hill Seminary, Spring 2006]. I changed his tradition’s words lazra meck to Om, retaining, I hope, much of the intention but offering more familiar language.

The rite is intimate and particular to welcoming a single child and may be scaled up to accommodate multiple children. Scaling it up to accommodate multiple families is not recommended.

While moving toward and into the ritual space, the group can sing “Listen to the Lord and Lady’:

||: Listen to the Lord and Lady call Their children in the moonlight :||

The Preparations

All but Bard are seated in circle; Grove candle stands unlit on North altar. Quarter candles (unlit), matches, and water or sand to suppress flames are on the Quarter altars.

Comfortable seating for the parents is placed in the center of the circle; a rocking chair would be most appropriate. Parents, Grove, and guests have been alerted to the opportunities to offer gifts (material or otherwise) to the child.

The Warning

Bard speaks:

We gather tonight to open the veil between the worlds, to seek the Lord and Lady, and to experience the Mystery of Their Love.

Hear this warning. This is not safe.

To be touched by the Lord and Lady is to be changed. If you open yourself to that touch, you put at risk your comfortable view of the world. You risk experiencing a sense of awe to which worship is the natural response. You risk discovering Deity as your Lover and your Beloved.

Bard lights Grove candle.

Let none remain who is unwilling to be changed by Their touch.

Marking the Circle

Priestess speaks from center:

Nothingness, piled upon Nothingness, gathered in the center which is also everything and edge of everything, which is Nothingness.

The Mother formed Herself from the Nothingness. She looked around.

Priestess looks around, ending up facing East

She was Alone – All One. In Her loneliness She screamed.

Om, Her scream, the light of darkness, went away from Her

Priestess walks toward the East, wand extended and searching

Until om realized om was separate from Her and moving away from the only Other that there was.

Priestess stops moving

Here – this place of realization, this enlightenment, this first place, we will call East. Here we celebrate illumination, light, the element of Fire.

East lights red candle from side or back of East altar.

Priestess speaks:

Here om began to seek the path back to the Mother.

Priestess begins walking toward South, tracing the circle with the wand

bringing the illumination, the Fire – in a shining arc –

Priestess stops at South

until the light takes on form and substance, and becomes solid. Here, this place of solidity, we will call South. Here we celebrate form and substance, matter, the element of Earth.

South lights green candle from side or back of South altar.

Priestess speaks:

Again om continued seeking the path to the Mother

Priestess begin walking toward West, tracing the circle with the wand

heavy now with substance and illumination, yet incomplete –

Priestess stops at West

until om found omself flowing into the cauldron of creation, the womb of the Mother, and coming to birth in the waters of life. Here, this place of birth, of life, we will call West. Here we celebrate life and the element of Water.

West lights blue candle from side or back of West altar.

Priestess speaks:

Alive now, om continued seeking the path to the Mother –

Priestess begins walking toward North

living substance, illuminated, yet incomplete –

Priestess stops at North

until om found the Mother’s gift of spirit, of soul, the anima, and became a complete and independent being, alive, aware, and determined. Here, this place of inspiration, we will call North. Here we celebrate Spirit and the element of Air.

North lights white candle from side or back of North altar.

Priestess speaks:

Complete and independent, om still longed to rejoin the Mother –

Priestess begins walking toward the East)

and chose to continue the search –

Priestess stops at East and turns toward the center

– until om recognized a place om had been before and from there

Priestess walks inward, embracing wand

—  retraced om’s path and reunited with the Mother.

All rise and remain facing the center.

Claiming the Circle

The four Quarters stand facing the center.  The Claimings are spells and should be spoken with conviction and intent.  The participants respond So mote it be! to each of the Claimings.

East speaks:

In the name of the Lady of Light, and in my own name, I claim this circle as a place of Men.  Let all within be bound to speak and hear the Truth.

So mote it be.

West speaks:

In the name of the Sacred King, and in my own name, I claim this circle as a place of Women.  Let all within be bound to Perfect Love and Trust.

So mote it be.

South speaks:

In the name of the Lord of the Greenwood, and in my own name,I claim this circle as a place of Nature.   Let all within be bound to the Sacred Web of Life.

So mote it be.

North speaks:

In the name of the Queen of Heaven, and in my own name, I claim this circle as Sacred Space.   Let all within be opened to the presence of God and Goddess.

So mote it be.

Sealing the Circle

Bard speaks:

We have stepped beyond time, to a place not of Earth.  In the presence of the Lord and Lady, we join together and are one.

Beginning with the Bard, each person takes the hand of the person to the left, repeating We are one.

When the Circle has been joined all around, all repeat together We are one.

All sit except Priestess, Priest, and the four Quarters.

The circle remains permeable, in particular with respect to Parents and child, who may choose to remain for a while in a quieter setting if the child is awake and restless.

Inviting the Guardians

East speaks from near center, facing outward:

To this circle of challenge and commitment, I call for one to stand in the place of the Sword, to teach us courage and discernment and to uphold the pillar of the East.

Guardian of the Sword, Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

West speaks from near center, facing outward:

To this circle of joy and celebration, I call for one to stand in the place of the Cup, to teach us compassion and understanding and to uphold the pillar of the West.

Guardian of the Cup, Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

South speaks from near center, facing outward:

To this circle of honor and connection, I call for one to stand in the place of the Tree, to teach us of life and change and to uphold the pillar of the South.

Guardian of the Tree, Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

North speaks from near center, facing outward:

To this circle of mystery and transformation, I call for one to stand in the place of the Stones, to teach us mirth and reverence and to uphold the pillar of the North.

Guardian of the Standing Stones, Hail and Welcome!

All: Hail and Welcome!

The Mystery

Welcoming the Lord and Lady

Priest invokes Lady.

Priestess invokes Lord.

The Working

Bard speaks:

Settle into a comfortable position that you can maintain without conscious attention while we journey together between the worlds.

South leads grounding and centering using imagery of being within a tree, flowing down into the roots, into the deep silence of the Earth.

South speaks:

Placing your hand on the bark of a great tree, feeling its life, you find yourself within the tree feeling a hand on your bark.

South leads the journey down through the roots into the deep silence of the Earth to a grounded state, then back up through the roots, then up the trunk into the branches, feeling the wind and sun, brimming with life.

From high in your branches, you look around and begin to recognize familiar spirits in other trees, some mingling their branches with yours, all swaying in the same wind, soaking up the same sunlight. Perhaps you can recognize all of us who have journeyed together this far, trees forming a grove – sheltering – inviting – welcoming –

Eagerly, perhaps, you slip down from the branches into your trunk, where you are feel a hand on your bark – and now you find yourself standing at the base of the Tree, feeling with the bark beneath your hand.

As you look around, you may notice the rest of us emerging and sharing the wonder of this place.

South takes time in centering to have each person speak at least his name, re-establishing the group experience, keeping it lighthearted.

Priestess speaks:

Here between the worlds we are together in sacred space, at the center of All, in the presence of the Lord and Lady. They are here with us, whether we perceive Them or not, for this is the Grove – Their home and ours. We are always welcome here – leaving our muddy shoes at the door.

Priest speaks:

Lady and Lord, we come tonight with [parent] and [parent], who bring their child to receive Your blessing and our commitments of love and support.

Priestess leads parents, bearing their child, Seeker, to sit in the center of the circle.

Priestess speaks:

How will this child be known in our community?

Parents present child, announce name, and provide some details of birth or adoption.

Priest speaks:

What are your hopes for Seeker? And your concerns?

Parents speak.

Priestess speaks:

Together you made a decision to bring Seeker into your life and home and relationship, committing yourselves to share those most personal connections, substance, and energies. You have chosen now to seek support from this community in accepting the joys and challenges that await you all.

We honor your choices and bless your commitments. We, your community – family, friends, teachers, and others you may never recognize – stand behind you – stand with you – and are available to help you guide Seeker safely to adulthood, secure in love and respect and at home in this wide, wonderful world.

Friends, what can we say to assure [parent] and [parent] of these connections and our support?

Priestess allows time for any and all present to speak, bring small gifts, offer quiet song and tributes. The Quarters can be prepared to step forward and set the example.

Priest speaks:

[parent] and [parent], most important of all connections are yours with each other and yours to Seeker. We heard and witnessed your commitments to each other, and we have been honored to be part of your lives to see you grow together in love. Before us all, will you assure Seeker of her place in your lives?

Priestess, if feasible, takes Seeker in her arms.

Parents speak. The following poem is offered by way of suggestion:

I will not say to you, “This is the way; walk in it.”
For I do not know your way or where the spirit may call you;
It may be to paths I have never trod or ships on the sea
Leading to unimagined lands afar,
Or haply, to a star!
Or yet again
Through dark and perilous places racked with pain
And full of fear
Your road may lead you far from me or near.
I cannot guess or guide.
But only stand aside.
Just this I say:
I know for every truth there is a way
For each to walk, a right for each to choose,
A truth to use.
And, though you wander far, your soul will know
That true path when you find it. Therefore, go!
I will fear nothing for you day or night!
I will not grieve at all because your light
Is called by some new name ‒
Truth is the same!
It matters nought to call it star or sun,
All light is one.

The author is unknown, and the title has been given variously among publications. In one case the poem was quoted in A Girl Grows Up, by Ruth Fedder. (Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1939). Chapter 9, “The Give and Take of Living”, page 227, whose author notes in the acknowledgments that she was unable to identify the poem’s author. The poem was also published in an anthology from which I copied and framed it when my first child was born in 1973. It still hangs prominently in our home.

 Priest speaks:

Heard and witnessed! So mote it be.

All (quietly):  Heard and witnessed! So mote it be.

Priestess speaks:

Welcome to this life, Seeker, child of [parent] and [parent].

Hail, Seeker, Child of Earth and Starry Heaven!

Hail and welcome!

All (quietly):  Hail and welcome!

Priestess returns Seeker to parents.

Priestess speaks:

We are here in the Grove, surrounded by friends with and without bodies. Let us make ourselves at home and enjoy the company for a while. Feel free to share – or enjoy in silence.

The Presence

Priest and Priestess remain responsible for bringing the group together when it is time to leave. Parents are at liberty to leave and re-enter without formality if Seeker’s needs require attention.

The Closing

Thanking the Lord and Lady

Priest thanks Lady

Priestess thanks Lord.

Thanking the Guardians

Quarters thank Guardians.

The Return

Bard recalls everyone to normal wakefulness.

Priest and Priestess encourage informal discussion, commentary, questions, chatting over minor refreshments.

Opening the Circle

Bard comes to center.

Bard speaks:

The rite is ended, the circle is open. May the blessing of the Lord and Lady be with us all. So mote it be.

All: So mote it be.

Bard snuffs Grove candle.