As author Elizabeth Fisher once said, "to be in ritual is to be in the river of life." To me this is a wonderful analogy because when you are physically in a river, your view of the world is very different from onshore. While in the river, you can swim or simply go with the flow wherever the current may take you. The experience is refreshing, and you feel different when you emerge.
Ritual is important because it helps us to find our true self. We are not just physical and mental creatures, we are also spiritual. We have this thing called a soul, and many of us cannot shove it in a cabinet and keep it locked away; it will pound on the door for attention. We know that we must acknowledge this part of ourselves, otherwise we feel incomplete. Ritual provides the means to hand ourselves over to spirit and to participate in the great dance of life.
Entering into ritual helps awaken what is eternal within us. When we do this, we find where we fit in the web of life that surrounds us and touches everything in the universe. This connection also extends over time, because as we engage in traditional celebrations with the Sabbats, we connect ourselves with those who have gone before us. In a sense, we also project to the future to those who will follow in our footsteps. Our energy becomes part of a spiral that stretches through time and space.
Ritual is not a passive event. That part of us that we awaken cannot be stuffed into a box to await the next ritual. The energy that we raise changes us slightly each time, so that when we go back into the world at large, we take some of the energy—some of the magic—with us. Through ritual we are transformed and we learn that we become transformers. As this chant suggests, "we are the weavers, we are the web." We realize that we can weave and transform our lives.
We are sometimes called to help others in their transformation, and so this book practically demanded to be created. People who I had performed ritual work with over the years were of the "artsy type" that I associate myself with. We would put together elaborate rituals, or wing it and ad-lib. Several years ago I found myself leading a group in a town where I had recently moved. It was a very mixed group, with people at various levels of experience and from many backgrounds, and a number of sessions were spent teaching. It was then that I realized that not everyone is a bard. This didn't mean that others didn't feel what I felt in ritual or didn't appreciate crafted ritual components. Creating them simply wasn't their calling. If I had to outline everything I couldn't do—well, I'm sure it would be a lot longer than this article.
Although A Year of Ritual started out as a collection of Sabbat rituals that were basically "ready to go," it seemed to have a wider application. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner, sooner or later, when putting together a ritual, you may be pressed for time or creative inspiration may remain elusive. After all, I would frequently turn to my Book of Scribbles (I'm not that well organized to have a formal Book of Shadows), and pull pieces from here and there.
As a set of Sabbat rituals took shape, I felt something was missing. The Sabbats are important to me, but so are the Esbats. Marking all these occasions helps to bring me into balance with the rhythms of the natural world. Together, the Sabbats and Esbats celebrate the interconnected cycles of the three most important celestial bodies: Sun, Moon, and Earth. Through these celebrations we bring our bodies, minds, and spirits into alignment.
While this sounds like serious business, ritual is also meant to be joyful—reverence and joy are not mutually exclusive feelings. The rituals contained in A Year of Ritual are intended to reflect both. They are presented in group and solo format and can be easily modified to suit various situations, or used simply to brainstorm your own ideas.
While this book provides ideas, words, and direction for ritual, the most important part must be supplied by you—faith in your beliefs. Without this vital ingredient, ritual is only a performance. Use this book as a framework for your realization of truth and let your spirit flow with the river of life.