Into the Unknown – 5 Things to Expect from a Public Ritual

Often is the case that something most worthwhile can be simultaneously incredibly intimidating. The pagan community is very diverse and welcoming of many varieties of Earth-centered beliefs. The opportunity to participate in a public ritual can serve a unifying purpose, giving sense of oneness to those participating. However, the idea of attending a public ritual for the first time can be overwhelming. This post is intended to provide some solace, or at the least a bit of perspective so that one can more easily decide if this is the right choice for them. So, here are 5 things to expect at a public ritual.

  1. Community support. Probably one of the most common reasons to look for a public ritual is to have the opportunity to celebrate your beliefs with like-minded individuals. While Paganism is hugely rewarding, providing a sense of unity with the universe at large, it can also be very isolating in a predominantly monotheistic society. We are often looking for a place to find others that we could call family, who will see our beliefs and respond in kind. Public ritual is a wonderful opportunity to meet other local pagans and make lasting connections.
  2. Freedom to be yourself. Hand in hand with finding your community of like-minded individuals, you will also find a safe space. Public ritual is a space where you can let your Pagan pride fly free, speak openly about your deities, and know that you will be safe. Some rituals are religion-specific, such as a coven meeting for trusted members, but others are very open and eclectic. CUUPs rituals, in particular, are accepting of a great range of beliefs, and so members will understand that your unique practice is important to you. Whether your aim is to celebrate what a certain pantheon has done for you, to honor the triple goddess for her gifts, to celebrate the seasons for the life lessons they provide, or simply to commune with friends in full fae-inspired attire, public ritual can provide that space.
  3. Reverence for the unseen. As you find freedom to be yourself, public ritual is a space to honor and respect that which is important to you. There is a magic in being surrounded by others who are all there for similar reasons. A public ritual, as led by a high priest or priestess, connects all those who participate. By having a set time and place to be while  led through a narrative visualization by a singular individual, all minds are united in time and space to a single purpose. At the least, this can provide a duration of time to experience a great sense of calm in which to honor your beliefs and send out your intentions. At best, all participants send energy simultaneously toward manifesting a goal and honoring the season. That collective energy is palpable and there is a profound sense of being in the right place, where others, like you, are aiming to elevate themselves and the world we live in through divine inspiration.
  4. Opportunity to learn. Whether new to Paganism, or well-practiced, the nature of meeting with a diverse group of Pagans is that you will inevitably learn something. Every ritual is a little bit different and reflective of the group that is hosting the event. Everyone has something to offer. My favorite thing about Paganism is that it lends itself to constant interpretation and application in endless ways. It is meant to be a lifestyle, and as our world continues to change and evolve, so too does the way in which Pagans practice. Perhaps you will hear about a god or goddess you never knew, or if this is your first ritual, you get a practical understanding of a particular Sabbat or Esbat. You may learn a new way to cast or close a circle, call quarters, or address deity. There may be some practices that you find you can take home and continue privately, or they may spark a new research interest. The possibilities are endless.
  5. Good vibrations. At the least, you will experience some really great vibes. A good public ritual, having provided a safe space for Pagans to come together, meet, and express themselves, is a special kind of positivity. I can only speak to my own experience here, but there is something about being gathered together, all dedicating mental and spiritual energy to a central intention, all feeling safe, that creates a feeling one must experience to truly understand. Give bonus points to that high vibration if there is an open bonfire or drumming to amplify the energy.

Public rituals are powerful, but also very natural. They are nothing to be feared. Granted that you have reached out and found a group you trust, the ritual should be a space to lift and empower the participants. Ultimately, we are all people just trying to find meaning and purpose in this world. The first time you attend may be spent acclimating and becoming familiar with your surroundings. That is perfectly normal. By the second time, you may be able to approach it calmly, now knowing what to expect, and appreciate the gifts of ritual. Do not allow the fear of the unknown to deter you from what may be a wonderful experience. After all, most of us came to Paganism through a desire and a need to know the unknown.

Photo by Kayla Maurais on Unsplash