As discussed in “Our big questions – part 1”, my spiritual family, the Silver Spiral Collective, has been having a series of formal conversations about faith and spirituality. It started with one conversation about each of our personal beliefs and practices, which led us realize that we wanted to have more conversations and start revising our ritual structure to better match our beliefs and needs as a community. Our second round of questions, therefore, focused on our ritual needs:
Do we want/need a standard ritual structure?
Do what extent can/should we deviate from the standard ritual structure?
If we decide to keep a standard ritual structure, are some parts mandatory or are all parts optional?
If we decide to keep a standard ritual structure, is the one we’re using working?
How do you write/design a ritual?
As with the first time, the questions were posted to our email list in advance. I also posted a copy of our ritual structure at the time, annotated with comments on why we had the rules we had and making sure everything was properly attributed. We’d been using minor variations on the same structure for probably 10 years, so it was good to remind ourselves of why we made certain choices and to make sure our newer members knew where we got bits of our liturgy.*
This conversation was less personal than the last one and therefore went a lot faster, though we did use the same general structure to allow everyone time to speak. At the end of the evening, we did have a consensus that we liked having a ritual structure and that we thought we could improve on our current one. We were especially interested in replacing some of the words we were using from other traditions with our own words.
Where we did have a bit more variation in opinion was in how strict to be about our ritual structure. Some of us are more interested in seeing about how much depth could be achieved in rituals by sticking very strictly to a structure, and some of us are more interested in deconstructing ritual and in experimenting with how the container affects the contents. We decided to be very strict about using the structure while we were still in development (realizing that this was going to be a process that would probably require revisions as we tried it in practice) and for some time – a year, probably – after, and then we would open it up to one-off changes as required by the ritual. We did decide on a general rule that we wouldn’t change the structure just for the sake of messing with it; all changes would be with purpose.
The next step was going to be working on the ritual structure itself, which was clearly going to require a night of its own. We set a date and went back to our email list to prepare for the next step. That’ll be part 3 in this ongoing series.
* In particular, I always like to make sure people know that “may you never thirst” and “thou art god”, very commonly used in our wider Pagan community, came to us from a science fiction novel via the Church of All Worlds. I don’t think this detracts from their beauty or meaning; in fact, I think the context adds to them.