Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Autumnal Equinox: Welcoming the Lord and Lady

Today is September 21, the Autumnal Equinox. (Yes, yes, I know... it's officially at 4:02 AM GMT on Sept. 23 this year, but I'm being a traditionalist here.)

Since websites all over the world take joy in publishing Masonic rituals, I thought I'd return the favor, sort of, by republishing an Autumnal Equinox Ritual. It's interesting how much similarity there is between Mason and Pagan ritual. The following is reprinted from the Indiana Pagan Resource Network. May you find meaning in it. Blessed be! — W.S.

Autumnal Equinox Ritual

In magick, it's easy to get caught up in "I want" or "I need", or even easier, "I didn't" or "I can't." There's nothing wrong with working towards our own needs; magick is for personal growth, and improving our environment is part of that. But it's also important to appreciate what we get and what we have. Even if you're not a very 'religious' pagan, taking time to think of what works in our lives helps us bolster our abilities to continue to develop and grow. And if you are religious, it's always a good idea to thank the Lord and Lady, not in any sort of subservient way but simply recognizing how very much our interaction with Them enriches our lives. In conjunction with the agricultural cycle, Autumn Equinox is the time of thanksgiving for a successful and abundant harvest. Here in Indiana, farmers may not actually be completely done with the harvest but by now the results are fairly evident and little can change them. The planning and worrying is over; now is the time to reap the results. The same holds true if you've been doing any sort of magickal project that follows the cycle of the seasons: you can now sit back and enjoy the results — it's time. Traditionally, this celebration was observed with a harvest feast that was a surfeit of luxury as a statement of faith — we are so certain we have the gifts we need that we can splurge a bit now, almost in defiance of the coming dark. Today, that is part of what we're doing with the food drive - we are stating that we have such abundance that we can afford to share, to give it to those whose harvest was less abundant than our own this year.

Mabon is also the Autumn Equinox, the balance between light and dark. As we give thanks for the abundance that the long days and strong power have given, we also take this moment to balance, to rest, to simply be, and prepare ourselves for the growing cold and dark. And to recognize and remember, as always, that what appears as death is merely the preparation for rebirth. That what is reaped at the harvest will become seed for the next year. And we remember the mystery — there is no death; all that dies will be reborn. And for this too, we give thanks.

Gathering In

Find the center point within you, the place where you feel 'together' and balanced. Sense that that point is connected to everyone else's balance point, and that of the Earth, the universe. And know that whatever method you use to sense this is just a tool; the end result is what counts, the feeling of relaxed tension, balanced focus. And know that where we are about to enter is truly Between the Worlds.

ALL: Hoof and horn, hoof and horn;
All that dies shall be reborn!
Corn and grain, corn and grain,
All that dies shall live again!

Priest and Priestess bless all after we enter:
We bless you with the smoke of autumn leaves on the Air and the Fire of fall bonfires.
We bless you with the Water of September rains and rich Earth yielding her harvest.
Welcome to the Circle; blessed be.

Creating Sacred Space

Casting the Circle

Join with me in creating this Circle as our sacred space, where we gather in love, joy and friendship; as a boundary between our everyday world and the realms of mystery and magick; as a shield against all stress and worry and care; as a sphere of protection to focus and contain the magick we create. And we bless and consecrate this space in the names of the Lord and Lady. So mote it be!

Calling the Quarters

EAST: As we turn to the East, and call to the winds,
We think of the gifts, the gifts the Air brings
Thanks for the bite of the autumn-chilled air,
Thanks for the wisdom from the winds of change…
(All continue with thanks as inspired)
Welcome, o Air of the East! Welcome the gifts that you bring.

SOUTH: As we turn to the South, and call to the flames,
We think of the gifts, the gifts the Fire brings.
Thanks for the power of will and desire;
Thanks for the warmth from an autumn bonfire…
(All continue with thanks as inspired)
Welcome, o Fire of the South! Welcome the gifts that you bring.

WEST: As we turn to the West, and call to the rains,
We think of the gifts, the gifts Water brings.
Thanks for the richness of cleansing and healing
Thanks for the new frost that wakens my feeling…
(All continue with thanks as inspired)
Welcome, o Water of the West! Welcome the gifts that you bring.

NORTH: As we turn to the North, and call to the stones,
We think of the gifts, the gifts that Earth brings.
Thanks for the harvest, the fruits of the Earth;
Thanks for deep sheltering seeds of rebirth…
(All continue with thanks as inspired)
Welcome, o Earth of the North! Welcome the gifts that you bring.

Priest and Priestess:
The Circle is cast; we are between the worlds.
In this place that is not a place,
in this time that is not a time,
with a willing suspension of disbelief,
we consider the possible,
explore the probable,
and question the truth.

Welcoming the Lord and Lady

Note: PLEASE put down your rituals. Remember, during the welcome, the Priestess and Priest draw down the Goddess and God, but so does every other person in the Circle, as we are all Goddess and God ourselves. Please mentally do your own welcomes with us!

Charge of the Goddess

Priest: Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who of old was called Isis, Freya, Danu, Cybele, Demeter, Kuan Yin, Lakshmi, Shekinah, and many other names:
Priestess: Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the Moon is full, you shall gather in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me who am Queen of all the wise. Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit, and Mine also is joy on earth. For My law is love unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the Cauldron of Ceridwen that is the holy grail of immortality. I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before. Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured upon the earth.

Priest: Hear the words of the Starry Lady, the dust of whose feet are the scattered stars, whose body encircles the Universe:

Priestess: I who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mysteries of the waters, I call upon your soul to arise and come unto Me. For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe. From Me all things proceed and unto Me they shall return. Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals. Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

Welcoming the Lady

Priestess: Lamplight glimmers in darkened rooms
And you fold your hands across a swelling belly
Cradling the fruits of your labor.
The rich scent of new-mown hay, the dark Earth beneath it
Where seeds that fall soon deeply sleep
Here as we move towards the darkness of Samhain
The shadow that brings the light of Yule
Teach us to be willing to pause for a moment
To reflect on the season of growth
The crisp bite of air and the comfort of firelight and shadow.
Demeter, Isis, Arienrhod, Inanna, Freya,
Mother of Shadows,

Charge of the God

Priestess: Hear the words of the God, he who is slain and reborn, the Summer King and Winter Child, the soul of mankind and the mirror in which mankind reflects:
Priest: I who am the glory of the Sun and the Lord of the dance, the ripe grain that is reaped and the seed which is sown, I call to you with the cry of a babe and the horn of the hunter. I am the soul of mankind, born to learn, live, love, die and be reborn. Drink of My vine, the blood of life, and lift a glass to My holy laughter echoing across the hills. But know that I am both harvester and harvest, the sacrificed One of sword, sickle and cross who descends into the womb of the Mother where all souls go to be reborn. For in this I reveal My mystery: that My dance is yours, My path is yours, and My laughter leads the way to the Summerland. For I am you and you are Me. And My light is with you always, to lead you through the shadows and back again.

Welcoming the Lord

Priest: Smoke hangs like haze over harvested fields
The gold of stubble, the brown of turned earth
And you walk under the red light of fall
The scent of fallen apples, the dust of threshed grain
The sharp, gentle chill of fall.
Here as we move into the shadows of autumn
The night that brings the morning of spring
Come to us, Lord of Harvest
Teach us to be thankful for the gifts you bring us
The bounty of your sacrifice
The warmth and the light of friends gathered around the bounty of the earth.
Dionysus, Osiris, Cernunnos, Dumuzi, Frey,
Lord of the grain,

Seasonal Celebration

Spend a moment to ground and center and feel our connection with the Earth and each other.

(Suggestion on how to ground and center: Find your center point, about three inches below your belly button. Focus on this point; feel yourself balance there. Now find the same center point of the Earth around you, and feel the power held there, the power of earthquakes and volcanoes and rich molten magma. Feel the connection between your center and that power like the roots of a tree, taking the power, pulling it higher, bringing it up your spine and through your body, flowing like a river, like sap rising in a tree. When the power reaches your brow, feel it burst forth like willow branches, out and down. Feel those branches intermingling with the branches of the person next to you; feel our energies flow and ebb together. Feel the power flowing through you like a circuit, returning to the earth beneath your feet, making a circle, making a circuit, returning, always returning, through and through. When the circle seems to flow naturally, continue.)

After this, take a moment to think of where you are in your life right now, what you are thankful for, where you have been given abundance. While you are thinking of this, everyone begins to chant quietly:

ALL: We harvest the seeds of rebirth… give thanks for the harvest of Earth.

When you feel right doing so, walk up to the cauldron, take a handful of seed, and if you wish call out "For ________ I give thanks: I harvest the seeds of rebirth!" (Please, keep the statement of thanks to two or three words, no more.)
Now, know that for as much as has been given us, as much as we have created for ourselves, we are capable of that much more, and the adventure lies in the fact that greater things are on their way, whether or no we can see them now. While holding the seeds, the chant increases, and leads into the next one:

ALL: We give thanks for unknown blessings already on the way;
We give thanks for unknown blessings already on the way;
We give thanks for unknown blessings already on the way!

(How to raise a cone: Focus on the feeling of power. Sense the power we together are raising. Does it have flavor? intensity? color? do you feel it inside you, like a tension? do you see it coalescing like a fog? do you hear harmony building, like an orchestra warming up? Use however works for you to sense it, but try your best to sense it however you can. Feel your own power, however you sense it within you; feel the power of the person next to you - is it different? similar? how does it blend with yours? how can you make your own harmonize with it? And feel the power of the group, how it is similar or different from your own, how you can adjust yours to make it in tune with the group, be a complimentary color, feel at the same level. Concentrate, and know that the power we are raising is building up, synergizing, becoming more than any one of us could create alone, becoming more than simply the sum of all of our energies, creating a symphony, creating a painting, creating the tension of excitement and power within and without, feeling it build, build, build... and at the peak when you feel that neither you nor the Circle can hold any more, hold the power for just one moment, make sure that everyone else is at the same point you are, then release, send it forth, know that it is arrowing to the mark, that it will move to enflame your vision, empower your visualization. That which you created in your mind will be. Know this, like you know the sun will rise tomorrow, like you know who you are.)

At the peak of the power, we throw the seeds into the air, knowing that we send out this harvest to seed the next!

Then relax, and let the excess energy drain off into the Mother, who has room in abundance for all that you can't hold. Slowly let your own flows ebb back to normal. Find the center point within you, the place where you feel 'together' and balanced. Sense that that point is connected to everyone else's balance point, and that of the Earth, the universe. And know you just made magick!)

Feasting and Fellowship

We direct our attention to the results of the food drive, and bless it along with the bread we share with each other:
ALL: (to the tune of 'All Good Gifts' from Godspell)
We plow the fields and scatter She sends the snows in winter,
The good seed on the land, The warmth to swell the grain,
But it is fed and watered The seedtime and the harvest
By Her abundant hand. And summer's gentle rain

CHORUS: All good gifts around us
Have come from our Mother Earth,
Then thank Her now, O thank Her now,
With love and joy and mirth...

We thank You then, O Mother, No sacrifice You ask for,
For all things bright and good, For all Your love imparts,
The seedtime and the harvest, For You are our great Mother,
Our life, our health, our food. Your love is in our hearts. (to chorus)

Pass the cup and bread; feel the grounding of the bread, and the fellowship of the cup.
"May you never hunger." "May you never thirst."

Closing the Circle

Priest and Priestess: Lady of shadows and Lord of the grain,
We thank you for your presence with us today,
Knowing you are with us always.
Hail and farewell! Blessed be.

EAST: Who returns, returns to the East?
The air, the air, goes with our thanks
For waking our Circle with wisdom and knowledge.
Hail and farewell! Blessed be.
SOUTH: Who returns, returns to the South?
The fire, the fire, goes with our thanks
For kindling our Circle with power and courage.
Hail and farewell! Blessed be.
WEST: Who returns, returns to the West?
The water, the water, goes with our thanks
For washing our Circle with hope and with love.
Hail and farewell! Blessed be
NORTH: Who returns, returns to the North?
The earth, the earth, goes with our thanks
For firming our Circle with roots and foundation.
Hail and farewell! Blessed be.

ALL: The circle is open, but unbroken.
May the peace of the Goddess
and the love of the God
go in our hearts.
Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again!
Blessed be, and divine do!
1... 2... 3... It's a Circle!

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