This Imbolc ritual explores the mystery of emergence – of one reborn from the old life, of one encapsulated from a cocoon, of one emerging into a new year or new roles and responsibilities.
Three unique elements within the standard Bhakti Wiccan ritual structure are:
- the Circle Casting using a selection from the Book of Ecclesiasticus,
- the “Charge of the God and Goddess” from the Fellowship of the Sacred Grove tradition, and
- “LightSeeker and The Lady”, a story which originated as an assignment for Survey of Chaplaincies at Cherry Hill Seminary, taught by Patrick McCollum in Spring, 2005.
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
Seven ritual roles are required: Bard, Priestess, Priest, East, South, West, and North.
All but Bard are seated in circle; the Grove candle stands unlit on North altar
We gather tonight to open the veil between the worlds, to seek the Lord and Lady, and to experience the Mystery of Emerging.
Hear this warning. 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.
Casting the Circle
Priestess speaks from center, turning slowly deosil, wand extended to cast the circle, and addressing all gathered:
Hear these ancient words of praise to Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom – a song of emergence:
facing East, extending wand
Before I ventured forth, even while I was very young, I sought Wisdom openly in my prayer.
In the forecourts of the temple I asked for Her, and I will seek Her to the end.
From first blossom to early fruit, She has been the delight of my heart.
My foot has kept firmly to the true path; diligently from my youth have I pursued Her.
I inclined my ear a little and received Her; I found for myself much Wisdom and became adept in Her.
To the One who gives me Wisdom will I give glory, for I have resolved to live according to Her Way.
facing East, retracting wand
From the beginning I gained courage from Her, therefore I will not be forsaken.
in Center, embracing wand
In my inmost being I have been stirred to seek Her, therefore I have gained a good possession.
As my reward the Gods have given me the gift of language, and with it will I offer praise to Them.
The circle is cast.
So mote it be!
All rise and remain facing the center.
Claiming the Space
The Claimings are spells and should be spoken with conviction and intent. The Bard and remaining Quarters respond So mote it be! to each Claiming.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Inviting the Guardians
East speaks, facing outward:
To this circle of praise and honor, 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, 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, facing outward:
To this circle of remembrance 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, facing outward:
To this circle of holy awe, I call for one to stand in the place of the Stones,
To teach us reverence and ecstasy and to uphold the pillar of the North.
Guardian of the Standing Stones, Hail and Welcome!
All: Hail and Welcome!
Welcoming the Lord and Lady
Priest, from center, invokes The Lady as he is moved.
Hear now the words of the Great Mother who is called Isis and Freya and Brigid and many other names.
Think not that I am far from thee, for thou canst see my visage in the moon, and hear my voice upon the wind. I am the silence of the sea, and the secret of the standing stones. I am the beauty of the green earth, and the mystery of the stars. I am the Mother of all things, and the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe. I am the source of thy beginning, and I am the fulfillment of thy desire.
Priestess, from center, invokes The Lord as she is moved.
Hear the words of the All Father who is called Osiris, and Woden, and Lugh, and other names beyond counting.
Thou knowest me not, but I am with thee. My face is the sun, and my voice the thunder. I am the strength of the forest, and the keenness of the sword. I am the rune giver; the patient teacher; the revealer of secrets. I am the warrior, the defender of the weak and the companion of heroes. I am the Horned One. I am the gateway to the Mysteries, and I am that which Mystery reveals.
Arise and come unto us, for mine is the womb that bore thee and the breast that nursed thee. Thy joy is our joy, and thy sorrow, our sorrow. We would teach thee the ways of healing, and the joys of love, for our law is love unto all beings. We give the knowledge of the eternal spirit, and beyond death we give peace and reunion with those who have gone before. We would lead thee to love and to freedom. Call on us, and we will show you the hidden paths.
Follow my white stag into the deep forest. There is mystery in the wild places, and a path that leads between the worlds. The path is not easy, for it leads to that which cannot be given by another. Those who would share our freedom must create it anew within their own hearts. But no one who walks that path walks alone. Fear not to call on us, for we have not forgotten our Children.
Settle into a comfortable position that you can maintain without conscious attention while we journey together between the worlds.
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.
The journey moves down through the roots into the deep silence of the Earth to a deep trance state, then back up through the roots, then up the trunk into the branches, feeling the wind and sun, rejoicing at the sap beginning to flow.
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 the trunk, where you are feel a hand on your bark –
and now you find yourself standing at the base of the Tree with your hand on the bark.
As you look around, you may notice the rest of us emerging and sharing the wonder of this place.
Take time in trance to have each person speak at least his name, re-establish the group experience. Keep it lighthearted.
Here, between the worlds, we are together in sacred space, at the center of all, where we can explore and learn and share in safety, in love and trust, 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.
In this season of Imbolc we look at who we are – as individuals, as pairs, as a group – and open ourselves to recognizing the obstacles between where we are and where our best destinies might lie.
Who are we?
I will speak first.
Priestess names herself and speaks of who and where she is on her path – modeling doing so openly but briefly.
Priest or another who is comfortable with the task speaks next, and another, until all who will speak have done so — modeling sharing perceptions of each other or spirit beings in the Grove, responding, or listening attentively.
I have a story to share. Relax now in this beautiful, holy, and safe place – and attend the tale of LightSeeker and the Lady:
◊ ♥ ◊
Warm in The Lady’s embrace in the Grove, LightSeeker poured out her hopes and dreams. While her mundane life kept her confined, she longed to develop her drawing skills and asked The Lady’s help in doing so.
Gently, The Lady told her,
Long ago, I planted a seed within you which has grown into a fine young seedling, but maybe lost in the wealth of other plants. My gift to you now is the ability to recognize that seedling so that you may cultivate it to serve your needs. Come.
And with that, The Lady led LightSeeker out from the Grove and back along the path she had come –
Past the Standing Stones to the clear flowing stream where she had found the Cup –
With the stream behind her, she saw the Sword before her and, to her right, the Living Tree.
You have come this way many times, and every time each of these Teachers has had a message for you. Now you will learn to find in these the help you need to achieve your goals.
Returning to the Standing Stones, The Lady bade LightSeeker look beyond the Teachers to the worlds and realms beyond.
Here is both the source of your inspiration and the challenge of communicating what you see through your art to the beings in those other realms. Come here to look and receive, whenever you have need. Come here to share and receive more.
As LightSeeker stood with The Lady before the Standing Stone, she became aware of a being much like an old man smoking a pipe, sitting on a low rock beside the Stone. The Lady said:
This is the GateKeeper. He waits here to assist travelers to pass portals, or sometimes to advise them not to pass. When you come here, feel free to sit with him a while. Talk to him of what you see, and ask him if he sees the same. Show him your drawings, and ask him what he sees. He can help you recognize things you see in the mists, and you can hone your drawing skills by seeing how he recognizes the things you have drawn. Drawing is communication, and recognition is the test.
The Gatekeeper rose and bowed to The Lady and to LightSeeker, then settled back on his rock and resumed enjoying his pipe.
The Lady led LightSeeker back through the center and then to the Living Tree. The Lady placed Her hand upon the bark and smiled. To LightSeeker, She said,
The Living Tree is Life itself, which is not a solitary entity. Rather it is a vast and sacred Web, as you have known so well. Come here to remember that Web and to feel your place in it. Come here to recognize the strands of the Web that touch you and follow them in spirit to the other beings they touch. Come here to be one with the Tree.
LightSeeker, too, placed her hand on the bark and smiled – and found she was smiling at a very busy old lady, with her hands full of knitting, fibreoptic cables, ribbon, and clothesline. The Lady said,
This is the WebWeaver. She knows all the connections and, like a spider, perceives all the changes and rumbling in the Web. She makes new connections when appropriate, or frays and unravels where need be. She moves very quickly, but she is always ready to make time for you to sit with her and explore the Web. She can help you identify strands you need to follow. She can help you recognize patterns in the weave and start new patterns with your own weaving. Come here when you wonder why — or if — or how.
With a deep curtsy to The Lady and another, briefer, to LightSeeker, the WebWeaver picked up a vine from the ground, frowned at it, and followed it around the tree.
The Lady said with a laugh.
Back in the center, The Lady indicated the Sword and the Cup:
From the Standing Stones and the Living Tree you have access to knowledge, ever at your command, if only you come to ask and if only you learn to recognize the knowledge when you perceive it. If knowledge you need is not immediately at hand, a portal or thread leading to that knowledge is.
But to draw, you need tools – not only paper and pencil, but light and subjects and skills. For these, look to the Cup and the Sword. Which Teacher you look to first depends on what you need and what you have.
LightSeeker shrugged, displaying her empty hands.
Then we will start with the Cup,
The Lady said.
Moving to the cooling stream, The Lady filled the Cup with water, sipped, and offered it to LightSeeker, who drank gratefully.
“Here is the Source of All Things – since the moment of Creation from Nothingness, all that is, has been, and none has been lost from the Universe. But the specific things you seek are not necessarily where you want to find them when you need them and in the form in which you need them. Often you will have the things you seek, but may not recognize them as suiting the purpose for which you seek them.”
Seating Herself on a rock, with the Cup of water at hand, The Lady selected a reed growing at the edge of the stream. She blessed it, and it came away into Her hand. She found a handful of dark mud in the shallows. Working with the reed, the mud, and water from the Cup, She painted a smiling face on a flat rock beside Her and painted a crown upon the head. LightSeeker looked and, with joy, recognized the face as her own.
Rinsing Her hands and the Cup in the stream, The Lady said,
Come here when you need things. Look around you, and see what things you already have.
LightSeeker heard giggles from among the rocks and reeds. Suddenly several small beings – vaguely human – came running from the rocks. They laid a variety of cups – new, banged up, ornate, or plain – at The Lady’s feet. Each cup held a different color of mud. They giggled again and disappeared into the reeds.
The Lady laughed. She said,
These are the Providers. They are not always as quick as you want, nor as accurate. And you do not always know they are there or if they are listening. Sometimes you have to do the best you can with what you have so they can see what you really need. It does help them, you know, to thank them. When you come here, take time to make friends with them.
So saying, She painted Thank you, dear friends on a rock with Her finger and, carrying the cups of mud, led LightSeeker away to the place of the Sword.
The Lady said,
The Sword is a tool. It extends your reach. It does what you choose for it to do with more precision than your hands can provide. In particular, the Sword, like all cutting edges, is a tool of discernment, of change, of action. It is a tool made using other tools, which were made using other tools before them, and so on back to the first toolmakers.
Come to the place of the Sword when you seek tools.
She placed the cups of mud upon the rough table on which the Sword rested.
Any tools. Bring what you have of materials. Bring what you have of examples, ideas, explanations. Come clear in your mind of what you need the tools to do.
A man and a woman, wearing leather aprons and well-laden tool belts, faced The Lady and LightSeeker across the table, where they examined the cups and mud.
The Lady said,
These are the Toolmakers. They collect whatever bits and pieces are brought to them from the Source, and they listen to your needs and ideas. From what they understand of what you want a tool to do, and from the materials at hand, they forge a tool to do your bidding.
The Toolmakers took the cups and mud, bowed quickly to The Lady and LightSeeker, and departed, murmuring over the treasures.
The Lady said,
You may need to visit the Toolmakers and the Providers several times in turn, with side trips to the WebWeaver and maybe the GateKeeper, to acquire all you need. But with each trip, you will be enriched. And with each visit, you will nurture that seedling I planted.
For that seedling, you see, was the ability to recognize. You can see, you can hear, you can perceive in many ways. But without the ability to recognize what you are perceiving, its meaning for you, and its distinguishing characteristics from all that surrounds it, your drawing will ever be hampered.
But now, as you cultivate your growing seedling, you will recognize what you need to draw and how you need to draw it to communicate what is in your heart. You will recognize the patterns, threads, and connections available to you, and you will recognize the sources of materials and tools you need to cultivate your art.
Grow now with My blessing.
The Lady touched LightSeeker gently on the forehead and faded quietly back to the Grove.
LightSeeker thanked the Teachers, the Spirits of the Sword, the Cup, the Living Tree, and the Standing Stones, and returned down the familiar path to her room.
There, in wonder and joy, she felt mud drying on her brow.
◊ ♥ ◊
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.
Priest and Priestess remain responsible for bringing the group together when it is time to leave.
Thanking the Lord and Lady
Priest thanks The Lady, as he is moved.
Priestess thanks The Lord, as she is moved.
Thanking the Guardians
Quarters thank Guardians, as they are moved.
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, snuffs Grove candle.
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!
1Ecclesiasticus 51:13-16, 20b-22 (from RedBird’s CPE graduation; with thanks to Rev. Tammy Wooliver). The modification of the last verse is my own.
2Written by Khalila RedBird in Spring 2006 for Survey of Chaplaincies at Cherry Hill Seminary