New Year’s Eve Ritual — Gangleri’s Grove

This is a rather lovely New Year’s Eve ritual that I thought my readers might enjoy. Of particular note is the use of sound to cleanse a space. It’s highly effective – I use sound myself, although usually of a different type – and it’s always nice to see that utilized rather than the more common smudging.

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A few days ago, someone asked me about the New Year’s Eve ritual that I typically do for the House. I promised I’d post it here, so here it is. I alter this a little every year, but the barebones scaffolding remains intact: New Year’s Eve Ritual I don’t usually share House rituals, but I’m […]

via New Year’s Eve Ritual — Gangleri’s Grove

Solstice Vigil, 2014

I’m currently curled up in my desk chair, sipping icy water and nibbling on dark chocolate while Pandora plays softly in the background. Recovery from this year’s Solstice ritual – like all the other years I’ve done it – is a stone bitch.

I do the same ritual every year, an all-night vigil from dusk to dawn, and over the years a holiday I used to despise has become one of my absolute favorites. It’s quiet, and introspective, and forces us to follow a schedule set by something more meaningful than a clock.

The heart of my vigil is individual meditation. For me Solstice – the longest night of the year, ending in a brilliant dawn – is all about bringing light to our own inner darkness, spelunking in our inner depths and discovering things within ourselves we didn’t even know were there. Solstice is also a quiet period allowing us to really open up to the Powers. Enough time and focus can help even the most resistant of us hear the whispers carried by silence, and it’s a wonderful time to reconnect.

A lot of internal illumination can occur during the course of a 15-hour-long night.

I went into this ritual with my private ritual of Origination still bouncing around my head. I knew this year would lead to some changes and challenges, and while some I suspected were confirmed others came out of left field. I thought I’d share a bit of it here.

1) This year’s focus will be getting my physical world in order. I’m tackling my finances, getting healthier, embracing a more environmentally-sustainable life, and (as soon as I get transportation) opening myself to new relationships with corporeal people. My Hermit-like retreat will draw to a close soon, and it’s probably a good thing.

2) The Ancestors and especially the Land Spirits deserve more from me than They’ve been getting. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there’s no denying it. This year will see some serious deepening of my devotional practice in those areas, including but not limited to increased offerings and more work in social justice and environmental arenas.

3) I work with 8 deities in addition to my Lady, all at Her direction. I knew going into those relationships that they were temporary, and this year some of them will be coming to a close. The lessons I needed to learn from them are learned and it’s time to move on. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this yet. I also don’t know if I’ll be welcoming an equal number of new deities to my practice or not. We shall see.

4) In the same vein it looks like my prohibition against honoring Gods has been relaxed a bit – for the last 15 years I’ve exclusively worked with Goddesses, with the only exception being Loki. I still don’t work with Anyone my Lady hasn’t cleared, and I need to do some work with this, but I am feeling a very strong pull towards a specific God I’ve not worked with before. That will be interesting all around.

5) I have several projects on the burner – developing my own Tarot deck, producing a divination system I’ve already developed, and revising the curriculum I use with students for possible publication among others. All of those are now officially slated for completion in by Samhain of 2015. *deep breath*

6) Several topics came to light that I’ve avoided dealing with as completely as I should have. That’s being addressed. Yay.

For now I’m enjoying the calm that comes with the next two weeks, as everything slows a bit until January, and I’m already a bit excited about what I’ll discover during Solstice of 2015.

Blessings of the season to you and yours!

Ordeal and Community

I’ve been facilitating and participating in Ordeal rituals for damn near a decade. One fairly constant aspect of my experience, whether I’m the Seeker or the Guide, is that these rituals tend to be individualized. They are crafted start to finish for one person, with one goal in mind, and the experience of the Seeker rarely affects any larger community.

This is completely understandable. Ordeals are not for everyone, of course, and there is no reason everyone should walk that path. It also plays into the near fetish we Americans have for the individual who exists outside of/rebels against/is distinct from the larger community. Especially in the case of Ordeal work, since so many Ordeal mechanics actively contradict the mores of the larger community. There are logistic concerns as well – getting a number of Seekers undergoing the same Ordeal in the same location as the number of skilled Guides needed to pull it off is incredibly challenging.

While understandable, this individual approach to Ordeal is really unfortunate. It misses an unbelievably huge part of the picture.

There is no question that, historically, some Ordeals have always been solo. There are times we simply have to walk alone, and these rituals emphasize that. However, we tend to forget that there are plenty of examples throughout history and around the world of group Ordeals too. Ordeals that, while affecting people in individual ways, are experienced by many at once. Ordeals that are supported by and provide support for the larger community. Ordeals that, instead of emphasizing the division of the Seeker from community, actually help to further entrench them in community.

I was recently privileged enough to present about Ordeal work and co-facilitate a group Ordeal ritual at Dark Odyssey’s Fusion event in Maryland. I was humbled, awed, and simply blown away by the way doing Ordeal in a group as part of the larger community utterly changed the experience for everyone involved.

Fusion is an interesting event. Up to 1500 people attended this year, all focused on enjoying time to be their authentic selves without the need to hide or defend. In addition to all the amazing programming being offered, this was the first year that a dedicated Ordeal Track was available – a panel of classes, challenges, and shorter rituals all leading up to a capstone Ordeal ritual.

At the end of the day, twice the expected number of people followed the Track. The first offering – essentially Ordeal 101 – was attended by an incredibly diverse group. I don’t think any of them knew each other prior to showing up for this. They were awkward and a bit stand-offish with each other at first, but that changed as we progressed through the preparation as a group. Seekers did the classes together, met the mini-challenges together, and shared a deep need to push themselves through this intense experience in a search for personal transformation and change.

Over the course of three days – just three days! – I watched the connections form. Just how far this group had come from that initial discomfort with previous strangers was markedly visible as we geared up for the final Ordeal ritual.

We met up that night and I gave them a 5 minute warning before beginning. These fellow Seekers, strangers just three days previously, spontaneously held hands in a circle and expressed their support for each other, their faith that they could all make it through to the other side. They were ordered to silence, and they simply continued to support each other non-verbally. One made sure everyone had water, another passed around supplies, and comforting touches were everywhere.

Each Seeker walked the path of Ordeal alone. Many of them were in tears before we even really started. A few hit their limit before the end of the path. But at the end, all were escorted to the same area for aftercare. Even after their own trauma (and yes, it was trauma) they gave their fellow Seekers support, and in many cases they were each other’s aftercare.

After the event (and some much-needed rest) everyone gathered together to process, as a group, what had happened and get some closure for the experience. It was 90 minutes of sharing and commiserating, laughter and tears. Before it broke attendees exchanged email addresses, made promises to keep in touch, hugged and held and honored each other.

I saw a group bond in days, cemented by the Ordeal all experienced. Three weeks later many who went through the experience are still in contact with each other – and with me, which I treasure. I have no doubt that many of them will continue to process the experience together, regardless of physical location, because that’s what the survivors of something transformative do for each other. That kind of support is not possible when Ordeals are undertaken as a solo event, and for many that support is what made the event as transformative as it was.

The larger Fusion community had a part to play in this too. It was in no way a solo experience, and it wasn’t limited to the Seekers who actively walked the path together. The entire Fusion community participated in the Ordeal Track and benefitted from it. People who were totally uninvolved offered cuddles and encouragement to the Seekers as the track progressed. The day after the capstone ritual everyone seemed to assist with aftercare, from offering hugs to giving space.

People in the community also expressed a feeling of being supported by those on the Ordeal track, even if they had no personal involvement at all with the proceedings. It seemed to register to some almost as an act of community service, and members of the community felt supported and valued as people just because the option to do this kind of thing was available for them too.

The importance of this kind of community involvement and support for the experience – especially something that mainstream culture finds “weird” or “scary” – cannot be overstated.

We craft these rituals, we plan these experiences, and they are transformational and powerful and everything else, but when we do these things alone the experience is limited. I want to experience this group-in-community setting for Ordeal again, and try to duplicate this type of experience in other groups, with other communities.

Because honestly? I desperately want to see more of this. I want to watch another group bond over shared trials and successes. I want to see those who participated in this year’s track participate in next year’s track, mentors and examples who can say “we did this and you can too”. I want to see these connections continue to grow and deepen and develop, expanding to accept new people and expressions.

So many of us who dance the edges of spiritual experience, who push ourselves past not just our own limits but the limits society attempts to place on us, can find ourselves walking a very lonely road. Our experiences sometimes set us apart from others. But no man is an island, and totally rejecting/being rejected by a larger community can limit us.

Conceptualizing Ordeal as part of a larger community bridges that gap, making everyone a part of the process. Our spiritual work becomes not something limited to ourselves, but radiates outwards in a tangible way. Fostering connection without sacrificing individual experience transforms not just ourselves but our world, one community at a time.