Merry Meet Friends and Lurkers!
I can tell you that it was a four hour drive from Jersey, in the rain, which sucked more than words can say. As we drove down stretch after stretch of highway, there was farmland as far as the eye could see. Perhaps it was the rain, but I found it rather depressing. Whatever had been planted had long since been harvested, leaving barren fields that a few months ago had obviously been green and abundant. And there were goat farms. With goats. As far as the eye could see. I never really gave much thought to where goats came from, with the exception of perhaps...well, other goats. I now suspect that the World's goat population comes from Delaware. We passed a billboard that was advertising the 23rd Annual Mushroom Festival. Now, I admit, fungus not withstanding, I am a mushroom fan. I just couldn't help but wonder who the hell would travel to Delaware for 23 years to celebrate their existence. I must confess that several times during the trip, I questioned what would ever possess me to drive this long for a single event. It was an answer I already knew. The choice was not mine.
We were attending the Ritual of Hecate. If you've read my blog or have an understanding of Wicca, than you know that Wicca is a polytheistic religion, meaning we honor more than one God or Goddess. These Gods and Goddesses can come from many historical backgrounds, i.e. Roman, Egyptian, Celtic, Greek, as well as Christian origins. Hecate is known as the Greek Goddess of the Crossroads, guardian of the household, protector of the newly born, Queen of Witchcraft, the Dark Mother. She is also my patron Goddess, whom I honor and call upon for guidance and protection. So for me, attending this ritual held a special significance.
The intent of this particular ritual was to invoke the Goddess and have her speak to the celebrants through the three High Priestesses that were officiating. The High Priestesses each represented one of the three aspects of the Goddess, maiden, mother and crone. The term for this is "aspecting." If you've never seen someone channel a spiritual entity, think of Whoopee Goldberg in the seance scene from the movie, "Ghost" and you'll understand what I mean.
The ritual was sponsored by a group of six covens known as the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel on a property spanning about 106 acres called Seelie Court. This was by far the largest public ritual I've ever attended. There were probably a hundred or so people participating. What struck me immediately was how widely the age range varied. It was really impressive to see such a large number of people, much older than myself, who had obviously been practicing for many years.
There were some workshops in progress when we arrived. Afterwards we were able to mingle and get to know the people we would be circling with. If you actually know me, you know that I love meeting new people. I was actually once referred to as a "best friend whore", I believe because I interact with new people as if we've been best friends for years. That's actually a really lovely compliment and no offense to my friends, but I used to be referred to as a "nut magnet". Just sayin'.
The rain had stopped shortly before the ritual began, thankfully. The night was warm, but the sky was still overcast and threatening. I wondered where they would conduct a ritual of that size should it begin to rain again. Still, I was hopeful that I wouldn't have to find out.
In order to get to the place where the actual rite was to be held, we needed to walk a path through the woods which had been lit by tea light candles in small jars. I'm talking woods guys...deep, dense, can't see your hand in front of you, woods. Some of those candles had been blown out by the breeze. What blew my mind however, was that my eyes adjusted immediately to the total darkness and I walked effortlessly on the path to the Circle. It was as if I had walked the trail a million times before. We sang a beautiful chant that echoed through the trees as we entered in procession.
I watched as we filed into the Circle and it become so large that the faces of those on the opposite side became unrecognizable. After a guided meditation to ground and center, the Circle was cast. We closed our eyes and hand to hand we began to chant. After several moments, I began to feel as if I were no longer earthbound. I could have sworn my feet were no longer touching the ground! The sensation was quite startling and my eyes flew open. I needed to be sure I was still connected with the Earth! Assured that I was, I allowed myself to enjoy the sensation. I could hear the sound of bats, making little bat sounds overhead and a coyote howling in the background. Then from somewhere within the Circle I heard a woman begin to speak. Her voice was powerful, yet soothing. I opened my eyes to see who it was and as I did, I noticed that the sky had suddenly begun to clear and the moon was shining down onto the Circle. As the ritual grew intensity, I could feel a sudden rush of wind blowing through the trees, where just moments before there was not a hint of a breeze. I thought it was about to rain, so I looked up to see the clouds rushing by and the moon shining just as brightly.
Each of the celebrants were instructed prior to the ritual's beginning to think about what question they would like answered or what advice they might be offered by the Goddess Hecate. As I listened to the High Priestess speaking, I realized that, one by one, she was answering the very questions I had thought to ask!
After the ritual ended, we walked back to the house for the post ritual feast. Stepping back into the light seemed, strangely foreign. We were greeted by three of the four huge dogs that live on the property, wolf/coyote hybrids, who came bounding from the woods in pack formation. Oddly, they were no where to be seen when we were in Circle, and I realized that they must have been just near by, somewhere in the cover of darkness. It was...comforting. I would describe the entire ritual as comforting, but even then, it would be an understatement.
The Dark Mother taught me how to dance.
In Darkness, Light!