Though we are all Unitarian Universalist in my group, we do not all follow the same Pagan/Heathen path. The volunteer leading the ritual may do it in their path’s style. How does one write ritual?
PREWRITING GRAPHIC ORGANIZER
When writing ritual, I always start with the energy work. But before I get into that section, I have to think about some pre-writing steps first. I find it easiest to start by thinking about what the tone of the ritual will be. Joyful? Serious? Formal? Informal? Something else?
Next I figure out what spiritual type I am writing for. Then I decide the middle components first to appeal to that type. What will be the energy working? How are we going to do it?
I also consider what the purpose of this ritual is. Sometimes we are celebrating a sabbath or estate. Sometimes it is about honoring a life stage — a birth, a graduation, wedding, a divorce, a death, and so on.
I have to think about what theme there might be. For instance, if this is a wedding, the couple might really like the beach and want a lot of “ocean vibe” to their wedding ritual.
Knowing the tone of ritual, the spiritual type this ritual is for, the purpose of the ritual, and the theme of the ritual helps me shape what the energy working will be like. Once I know that? Then I can build the opening and closing components around it to “frame” it. I try to consider other spiritual types in these framing components so even if the “main thing” is not for them, they find some things appealing in the ritual.
I do not make the frame first, and then figure out how to put the energy working inside it. That would be like buying a picture frame, and then trying to find a good picture to put inside it. Rather than finding the picture you like a lot, then finding the frame for it.
When I am asked to help others with their ritual writing? I notice these places that are most commonly weak:
- They do not do any pre-writing to get clear in their thoughts.
- They start writing at the beginning of the ritual with casting a circle and aim for the end. Usually tiring out so their beginnings start strong but their endings seem weak and pitter out.
- They start with the opening and closing components and write them to match. (Ex: Calling Corner words, Goodbye Corner words.) Usually openings and endings seem ok and balanced. But the middle is left to the end and sometimes is weak or doesn’t match the “frame” or feels like an afterthought when really is the heart and center of the whole ritual.
- They do not include “traffic directions” for when to sit, stand, cue a song etc. Or they do not include logistic notes for where supplies need to be placed so they are at the spot they need to be at for ritual. Should something happen to the leader, a substitute leader cannot “just know” these things like the original author can. To make it easy on the substitute, I encourage people to write out the “traffic directions.”
My outline tends to go like this:
Before Ritual Date:
- Define purpose
- Write the actual ritual
- Gather necessary supplies
- Ask for volunteers
- Prepare Volunteer Jobs
Day of Ritual
- Have people place their items on altars for blessing/recharging if brought
- Have people step out
- Ring Bell
ENTERING SACRED SPACE
- smudge or oil
WELCOME TO RITUAL
- Welcome Statement (for newbies)
- Purpose of Ritual
- Done Before: Explanation of how the Sabbat is celebrated
- Done Today: How we will celebrate it today in energy work / purpose of gathering
- Done In Future: How it links to those to come
- UU Chalice Lighting
CALLING LORD & LADY
- Centering Self in Prepartion
- Raising Energy
- Focusing/Directing Energy
- Grounding Excess Energy. “The working is done.”
CAKES AND ALE
- Food blessing, small item blessing
- Pass out cake and ale
FAREWELL TO LORD & LADY
FAREWELL TO QUARTERS
CLOSE THE CIRCLE
END OF RITUAL
- Final thoughts/ meditation
- Extinguish UU Chalice
- Ring Bell. “The ritual is done.”
- Invite to potuck, clean up ritual space.
Our group usually meets to assess how things went before planning the next ritual. We ask ourselves…
- What worked?
- What did not?
- What could go better next time?
This is an extensive PDF form for ritual outline.
Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work by Isaac Bonewits is a helpful resources on understanding ritual components.