I'm a big fan of good ritual. It pleases me every time I conduct a ritual that transports me and those who share in the ritual with me into another time, another place, somewhere fantastic and awe-inspiring. The product of good ritual is transformed consciousness of all who share the ritual space.
I love masks. I love costumes. I love make up and props. I love music - both on the mp3 player and made by ourselves. I love good things to eat and good things to smell. Though minimalism has its place, I'm definitely appreciative of the maximalist ideal when it comes to ritual. Engage the senses. Speak to the inner child, and invite her to come out and play. Cultivate the land of make-believe, of wonder and wide-eyes.
I love words and motions that inspire the heart, rouse the spirit, and awaken the mind. Along with the surface trappings, though, must come depth. Just as the inner child must be satisfied, so must the higher self. The externals should reflect a powerful story, an important message, a moment of awakening, something that will touch the core of all who are there. When the hairs on the backs of the necks of everyone there have stood up, then you have done your job. An understanding of myth and psychology and how they overlap can be a powerful aid in this area.
It is around this time of year that the first harvests start coming in from our gardens. Rich, plump vegetables, grains in the fields, fruits on the trees and vines, all are ready to harvest and to nourish us. The promises of the spring buds have been fulfilled. It is food, literally, that makes us.
We started out as a single cell, a seed of potential. It absorbed nourisment through the mother in order to give that cell what it needed to multiply and diversify, and eventually develop into a child, ready to be born. When we were born, we continued to eat. By the time we reach adulthood, we have grown over 20 times our original size on the day of our birth, and millions of times our original size at the moment of conception.
That matter that forms our body all came from food. Food is the child of sun and earth, an intricate and elegant merging of energy and matter in such a form that it is able to support life. It is yin and yang bound up into one package. Without the sun, the earth would be a lifeless rock, floating in space. The sun's energy comes from an ancient nuclear reaction that began billions of years ago. That energy is transmitted to the earth and absorbed by it. Somewhere along the line, about 3.4 billion years ago, the right chemicals were in the right place at the right time, to absorb that spark of light from the sun to make it awaken. Life begins.
The food we eat is that ancient matter, gathered together in a shape and form that makes it usable as building blocks and energy. Stored within the food's cells are tiny battery charges of sunlight: calories or joules. Our body has the proper mechanisms, at the organs and systems layer down to the mitochondria in the cells that can translate that food into energy and building materials. Continually, the energy and matter we put into our body works to build, restore, and heal the body.
At this holiday of August Eve, as I see the first harvests start to come in after a long, hot summer, I take time to reflect upon and be thankful for the the body and energy of the gods which give us nourishment and make us whole. In looking at it from this spiritual viewpoint, we are all made of the Divine Ones, literally, as their energy, and body becomes our energy and body. Our body is their body, and without these ongoing, perpetual cycles of life, sacrifice, and rebirth, none of us would be. There is no part of us that is not of the gods.
A wise person does what is required and appropriate in any given situation. When meeting clients, I dress in a way so as to focus their attention on the business at hand rather than my cleavage. When having a romantic dinner with my lover, I show skin because I know it turns him on. And then there is a very practical side to it all: I live in Memphis, TN and right now it's the brunt of summertime with 100-plus degree heat and air so thick you need gills to breathe, so I say screw wearing any more than I have to. But make no mistake: I don't consider modesty a virtue any more than I consider wearing a sharp suit to meet a business client a virtue. There is nothing holy, sacred, or divine about covering my body; in my moral paradigm, it's simply something that needs to be done when the situation requires it.
Our over-culture is obsessed with it. Just look at creepy sites like the one discussed in this article, "The Ugly Side of Modesty," which tell little girls to cover up because Grandpa might see their panties. There's this underlying presumption of pedophilia everywhere and it's kind of disgusting. And of course, the best way to teach a girl that she's a sex object is to treat her like a sex object. "You've got to cover that up so that men think impure thoughts about you." The irony of these modesty teachings is that they teach girls to be sex objects - tightly controlled, covered up ones who are only allowed to express their sexuality through the confines of their religious doctrine - but sex objects all the same.
I firmly believe that magic and ritual should be an ongoing, evolving and experimental discipline, changing as any art does to reflect the ever-evolving spirit of the practitioner. Always, of course, this should be counterbalanced with a respect for the roots of one's ritual and an understanding that by standing on the shoulders of giants, we can see much further. Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with some new ways to work my daily banishing, and eventually developed a new ritual that is quite to my liking. It has been working quite well for me thus far.
Banishing rituals are used throughout magical practices all over the world. Casting a circle, censing and asperging the space, sending out the unwanted spirits and calling forth the wanted ones – we've seen this formula time and again. For many workers of magic, a banishing ritual is required before any workings. Many magicians and witches do a banishing ritual at least once a day. Working a banishing ritual daily can provide numerous benefits, including clearing out the spiritual clutter, building focus and discipline, awakening the psychic senses, and finding grounding and balance. I strongly recommend this practice to anyone who is serious about becoming better at their magic.
This ritual is based loosely on the structure of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. Though I have found the LBRP to be a powerful ritual with powerful symbolism, I have no personal connection to the Hebrew roots of it. Therefore, I ported the code to a system of symbols that is far more meaningful to me with my own practice of Wicca, while maintaining many parts of the original ritual's structure and effect that made me appreciate it so much in the first place.