This is one of a series of articles about creating Atheopagan rituals. They expand on the Atheopagan Ritual Primer, to which they will be added after the whole series has been published online. The previous articles in the series are Arrival, Qualities and Intentions, and Deep Play. There are also some notes on proper settings for rituals (and why we do them) here.
When the Deep Play is done, it is time to express Gratitude. Gratitude is such a key element of a happy life that even when our rituals are to assuage fear or sorrow, we must always remember the many gifts with which we are showered by the Cosmos every day.
Gratitude is often done in a manner similar to Invoking the Qualities, creating a kind of “bookend” effect: either going around the circle and having each celebrant express what s/he is grateful for, or doing so in random “popcorn” fashion. Celebrants may also express gratitude that the Qualities were with them in the circle, e.g., “I am thankful that Discipline is with me, and supports the work I do here.”
Gratitude is often combined with the sharing of ceremonial food and drink—a way for participants to feel their very bodies surging with gratitude as, say, a rich red wine or ripe strawberry or chocolate or freshly baked bread encounters their taste buds. We are alive today, says the phase of Gratitude: thank you for this, and for those who love us, and for all the great and small blessings we enjoy in this precious life we live.
Benediction is the formal ending of the ritual: an expression of well-wishing and encouragement that celebrants act in accordance with the intentions of the ritual.
I prefer to end my rituals the same way each time, in the hope that my co-celebrants will learn this benediction in the same way so many Pagans have learned the “all from air into air, let the misty curtains part…” closing statement so commonly used in Wiccan-style rituals.
My usual benediction is this:
“To enrich and honor the gift of our lives, to chart a kind and true way forward, by these words and deeds we name intent (participants join in unison): to dare, to question, to love. May all that must be done, be done in joy. We go forth to live!”
Sometimes after the Benediction, a closing song is sung by celebrants—this can be a wonderful and connecting way to complete the ritual process.