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by Symbios

When attempting to plan a ritual for a large number of people, several considerations present themselves. The ritual must be simple enough for celebrants to be led from one point in the ritual to the next, and occasionally herded from one location to another. The ritual must demand enough participation that everyone feels involved, but not so much that it takes forever to do. Finally, it should take into consideration the amount of power that a large group can raise, focusing and directing it properly.

The following ritual was inspired by ancient Greek friezes of processions bearing sacrifices to the shrines of the Gods, and was originally performed at Merry Meet 1995, the annual Grand Council of the Covenant of the Goddess. It was intended to be a ritual of thanksgiving, in which the Goddess in her many aspects would receive sacrifice and praise for all the blessings in our lives. We offer it here as it is a good, easily modified model for large group workings. Text within the ritual is a mixture of original material and snippets taken from various Golden Dawn rituals.

Necessary preparations were minimal. A medium-sized bonfire was lit in the center of the field where the ritual was to take place. Next to the fire, a brazier (i.e., large grill) was prepared with eighty pounds of charcoal, lit sufficiently far in advance that the fire had died back, leaving only a bed of hot coals remaining for the ritual. All celebrants were told well in advance to bring a handful of sweet resin incense (frankincense, copal, benzoin, etc.) to the ritual.

At twilight, a procession was formed as follows: The High Priestess bearing a sword or athame; two Purificatory Officers bearing a bowl of water and burning incense; Officers of the Sacrifice bearing wine and bread; Lectors bearing scrolls with the Names of the Goddess; Priests and Priestesses of the Chorus; drummers; all followed by the four Officers of the Quarters. The procession wound its way through the camp, picking up celebrants along the way. When the procession reached the ritual site, the High Priestess led everyone three times around the ritual area, casting the circle as she went. All other officers purified the circle and lent the energy to the casting as they followed. At the conclusion of the circle casting, the celebrants stood at the circle's edge and the officers moved into the following formation: The High Priestess and Officers of the Sacrifice stood beside the bonfire. The Lectors flanked the brazier. The members of the Chorus and the Purificatory Officers stood in a double column stretching between the brazier and the edge of the circle.

The Officers of the Quarters moved to their respective Quarters on the periphery of the circle, then invoked the Watchtowers. When their invocations were completed, the High Priestess said;

My sisters and brothers, tonight we gather to give thanks for the multitude of blessings in our lives...

At this point, the High Priestess extemporized about those blessings. (In a small enough group, one could ask for all to speak individually for what they are grateful.) When concluded, one of the Officers of the Sacrifice said:

We gather to give thanks to Her
From Whom all blessings flow,
To Her Whom we all love and adore,
She of a thousand Names and temples.

The other Officer of the Sacrifice then continued:

Take in your hands the incense that you have brought and think of all that for which you are grateful. Hold it tightly in your hands as you hold the Name of the Goddess in your heart, and prepare to offer it in sacrifice and thanksgiving.

The Lectors then began to chant the Litany of the Names of the Goddess. This consisted of approximately 200 variations of the phrase:

Thou Who wert (Goddess Name) of the (region, culture, or people)

(Example: Thou Who wert Hestia of the Greeks!)

The Chorus then answered each name by chanting:

Holy, holy are Thou, and blessed be Thy Name Forever!

As the Litany was being performed, celebrants filed down between the double column of the members of the Chorus, individually cast their incense onto the charcoal, then processed back to the circle. After a short while, the celebrants took up the refrain of the Chorus. The ritual area was filled with sounds of adoration and clouds of incense mounting heavenward, backlit by the glow of the bonfire. When everyone (approximately 125 people) had cast their incense onto the charcoal, the Lectors chanted the final names of the Litany (Isis, Astarte, Dione, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna) as the Officers of the Sacrifice placed bread and wine on the coals. The Lectors then led everyone in the Isis, Astarte... chant until it seemed appropriate to draw it to a slow and quiet conclusion. All present made an obeisance, rising when the High Priestess said:

O Great Goddess, we pray Thee:
Watch over us in the coming years
and protect us in all our endeavors.
Plant within us the seeds of love and understanding
that we may prosper in the Great Work
and assist others to its glory.

So mote it be! (All repeat this in response.)

O Mighty One, we have sung Thy praises and given humble thanks for Thy blessings.

May there ever be peace and harmony between us.
With hearts and souls filled to overflowing with Thy Love we say:
Hail and Farewell! (All repeat this in response.)

The Watchtowers were then dismissed by the Quarter officers, and the Circle was opened for celebrants to proceed as they wished--some remained at the bonfire to dance and chant, others meditated alone in the shadows. Many left the ritual area with smiles on their faces, looking jubilant and yet humble. So often it seems that rituals endlessly ask things of the Gods, but rarely do they simply offer thanks. We have since performed this ritual in a smaller setting, and while it was not nearly as grand, it nonetheless offered an opportunity for quiet communion and adoration.

This article was featured in issue No. 3 of Obsidian.