Rituals at Pantheacon can be a polarizing experience. The amount of history, jargon, and the attachment that the leaders have for their art can be outright intimidating. Even for an insider, naming a practice “A Rite of Hekate” might imply that you would be trespassing to join. Hekate, the Greek Goddess of witchcraft and magic, is a powerful and historical symbol for Reclaiming Pagans. She can be unforgiving, full of dark energies and female power. She might be who you turn to in order to set a curse upon another. She embodies that which people fear most about witchcraft.
And yet, in this charged political climate, I was drawn to the idea of participating towards something that may change myself and the society I see around me for the better. More over, I felt welcomed by the group despite not worshiping Hekate myself. They were thankful enough just for our interest, and empowered by our call to participate. Songs and mantras were practiced before any spell-casting, so that everyone would feel knowledgeable and included. The experience was equal parts performance art, participatory dance, and emotional catharsis.
There is a Pagan traditions to call upon the directions and elements of the world before asking spirit for anything. North and earth, east and air, south and fire, west and water, heavens above, underworld bellow, and spirit within. Often times, this is a brief affair, but for this ceremony, each direction was acted and composed by members of the coven, embodying the elements and their emotional aspects. Some were short, some were loud, some encouraged participation, and some just quiet contemplation. This helps raise a different kind of energy in the room, an accepting and excited onlooker becoming more and more a part of the ritual.
We began to walk in circles around a small alter, being guided through a visual meditation. We we asked to envision our own spirit world, imagine the sensations of being there and observing what was around us. Within the meditation, we were told, we find a web. A grand, sticky web of connecting threads of what we think, how we feel, and the actions that effect us. Within this web, there are blockages. Lies caught up and twisted in the strands that prevent love and the ability to be our true selves. We envisioned cleansing the web, free from lies and hatred, whether it be the lies we tell ourselves of the lies politicians want us to believe. Still walking round, and round, in the circle, we “cast” or imagined throwing those sticky lies back to the center alter where they might be transformed. We shed these lives away from our psyche to bind others, specifically those in power who wish to control us, from telling more lies.
We joined hands then, and the circle began to loop around in a weaving spiral while we sang magic words. The ceremony allowed for connection, mourning of the lies that we let rule us, and the repetition creates a heightened state of consciousness and understanding. There was no judgement on the scale of your pain, just the ability to join together and not only share a common pain, but to try and release it as well.
My view as an outsider is that these kinds of ceremonies are much more for the sake of the participants than really inflicting any results onto others. If we free ourselves from the lies that society and we as individuals tell ourselves, then it is more likely we are going to feel empowered to take action against an unjust cause. Knowing that we are not alone in pain, acknowledgement and acceptance that something is unfair, and then being able to take effective action against it. I personally can feel very small when I recognize all of the toxic things in our society that we have to overcome. I question and doubt my ability to contribute or even if I am in the right. Rituals like the Great Turning allow us to feel bonded as strangers for a similar cause, knowing that we aren’t fighting alone. It is easy to feel that connection while singing and dancing in a spiral, and much harder when faced with the mundane responsibilities of reality.
Like everything, acting true to yourself and your beliefs is a practice. Allow yourself to express your personal truth. Bringing those who harm us out of power is a healing action, not one of malicious violence. Do as thou wilt and harm none. So mote it be.