When I do Atheopagan rituals—particularly with other people—most of the time I follow a simple structure which facilitates passage into the Ritual State, also known sometimes as “trance” or “flow”. That structure and the concepts and principles surrounding it are explored in detail in the Atheopagan Ritual Primer, which can be downloaded here.
Now, I should say, as I always do, that you don’t have to use this structure to be an Atheopagan. Do whatever works for you. But I think you’ll find that this system does work, if you’re just getting started with ritual work or looking for an inspiration point to begin from in designing a ritual.
I’ve been thinking about the first phase of this ritual structure, Arrival. I believe now that I was so focused on the functional aspects of initiating the ritual process that I didn’t think enough about context.
Rituals take place in places on the Earth, whether it is at a Focus in your home or out in the woods, at the beach, in the desert, or on a mountain. And those places have histories, both natural and human.
When beginning a ritual, I want to feel connected: to the Cosmos, to the Earth, to my fellow ritualists…and to the specific place where I am doing the ritual. And that requires that some words be spoken to acknowledge some things.
I’m in the United States. The land I live on was brutally stolen from Native people who lived here for thousands of years before my predecessors got here and took it from them, at the cost of one hundred million lives and untold suffering. And it wasn’t long ago; in many ways, it continues today.
So when I acknowledge context in the course of the Grounding part of the Arrival phase, I feel I must not only speak to my connection to the oak, the elk, the deer, the bear, the mountain lion, the redwood, the salmon, the eagle that lived and live here, but also to acknowledge and express gratitude for this place to those whose bones are sown throughout this soil.
Some of you are in places where such invasions took place long before memory or history. In such a case, just a word to those who went before, who loved your land before you may suffice.
Others are in places that were colonized in the European conquests of the 15th-19th centuries, and may want to acknowledge those who were conquered and oppressed just as I do. I am less familiar with Asian history, but it seems to me that the Mongol invasions and the supplanting by the Han Chinese of indigenous groups similarly qualifies for acknowledgement.
I’ve updated the Ritual Primer to reflect this. I think it’s important for us to be aware that ritual is a golden moment in time, in the thread of moments that extend for a particular place back millions or even billions of years.
It is a part of our charge as Atheopagans to be aware: to be thinking about our world and the meanings sown liberally throughout it. Acknowledging those who were here before us is a way of connecting the dots, of carrying forward traditions of sacred reverence for land, water, air and creatures that extend far back into the shadows of time. Doing this keeps us centered in our values and our hearts open to both the beauty and the horror of history, which is the truth of living here on Earth.
I have been approaching my rituals as Moments of Now…and they are. But they are also momentary elements of the great sweep of time.
I shall do better going forward.