14.5.13

The Closing Ritual


We have finally come to the last post in the cycle of ritual form :) The first post dealt with the Opening ritual and the issues of casting the circle, invoking the Elements along with the Goddess and God. The next post was dedicated a bit more to the invocation of the gods as well as the role of sexuality in Wicca. This post will round off the whole cycle.

In the first post, I told you how you can open the circle and explained what comes after it. In this post, I will start where I stopped there and that is at the cakes and wine rite. After you have eaten and drank and in doing so, regained some of your energy, it is time to celebrate the Sabbat/Esbat, say thanks to the Goddess and God for being there with you and dismiss the Elements. I will explain all these steps in greater detail soon enough.

What I find interesting is that some people prefer to consecrate their food and drink during the Great Rite (or in any other fitting way), but don't consume it until after the Sabbat/Esbat ritual because this is supposed to ground you after spiritual activity (what better way to ground yourself than to consume something that has directly come from the ground itself). I think that this decision should be left to the individual/group to make :) I have tried both ways (eating before and after the Sabbat ritual) and both suite me just fine, though I usually eat after everything is done because it really gives me the opportunity to rest a bit before closing the circle.

It is traditional to leave a bit of food and drink as a libation (a sort of "sacrifice"). It should be clear by now that there are no real sacrifices in Wicca of animals, virgins and so on, but rather symbolic ones such as a cookie, a piece of bread, a sip of wine etc. What is left of the drink is usually poured onto the ground after the circle has been closed (i.e. at the end of everything) just as the remaining food is ground and returned back to the earth.

This leads us to the main topic of this post. Before actually closing the circle, it is recommended that you removed everything that is situated in that part of the circle to which you will be directing your energy. Why? Well, you will see that the Closing Ritual includes doing a reversed pentagram i.e. the banishing pentagram. Some believe that the consecration of a certain object can be "removed" if you do this pentagram facing that object (or "on the object"), since the opposite of this pentagram (the invoking pentagram) is used for consecrating objects. It's up to you if you will practice this or not. This is but one of the many dilemmas that appear in ritual work, so expect to com across many more. Like I said, it's up to you to decide which ones you will practice. You can try something out and see if it works for you and if it doesn't, then simple do it the other way :)

In coven work, you will again have a High Priest (HP) and a High Priestess (HPs). If you are working alone, you will take on the role of both of them and if you are working with one or more people, then make sure you agree on the assignment of roles :)
  • the HPs stands facing the east, the HP stands to her right and the coven behind them (all holding their athamés)
  • one person stands behind them all with the consecrated objects (if you are working along, then simply move the objects somewhere where they won't get in the way and where you think they are safest, if you even decide to do this step)
  • the HPs says:
"Ye Lords of the Watchtowers of the East, ye Lords of Air; we do thank you for attending our rites; and ere ye depart to your pleasant and lovely realms, we bid you hail and farewell...Hal and farewell."
  • while the HPs speaks, she does the banishing pentagram or Earth which you can see here
  • she then kisses her athamé and holds it on her heart for a few seconds (as you would hug and kiss a good friend when parting)
  • the coven repeats all the gestures she does and only repeats the words "Hail and farewell" when they are spoken
  • someone from the coven then steps out to blow out the east candle (this person will blow out the rest of the candles after each farewell, but if you are working alone, then I'm afraid you will have to juggle the obligations. I usually walk around the circle to a quarter, bid it farewell in an appropriate manner, blow out the candle and then walk to the next quarter clockwise. This is how I have manage to avoid drawing any banishing pentagrams towards consecrated objects because I do the actual "banishing" on the very edge of the circle where there are no objects to be "unconsecrated").
  • this procedure (quarter - farewell - banishing pentagram - repeating after the HPs - blowing out the quarter candle) is repeated for the three other quarters, only changing the beginning of the revocation (the opposite of invocation):
"Ye Lords of the Watchtowers of the South, ye Lords of Fire..."
"Ye Lords of the Watchtowers of the West, ye Lords of Water..."

"Ye Lords of the Watchtowers of the North, ye Lords of Earth..."
By the time you have finished this, all the candles in the circle should be extinguished except for the altar candle(s) which should be left to burn (party because this is a nice symbol, but also because it is practical to have some source of light until you turn on the electric lights as not to trip on anything when exiting the circle).

There are a few things I would like to note.

The first is in regard to what I have already mentioned. Before beginning the ritual, decide whether you are going to put aside the consecrated objects or not. Also, please decide beforehand if you are going to eat before or after the Sabbat/Esbat ritual.

Secondly, don't forget to bid farewell to the Goddess and God after your Sabbat/Esbat ritual. I'm guessing you wouldn't just let a guest out without saying goodbye or by kicking them out on the street (if you are friends with them, of course). You would probably be polite and say something along the line of "see you soon", right? Try to view the deities and other entities you work with in that way. They are your visitors and friends which I believe you want to see again. So don't just say "bye". Try to express that you really would like to see them again. In order to achieve this, I usually say the famous Wiccan line "Merry meet, Merry part and Merry meet again" which I believe to fully express the happiness with which you should be filled after a nice drink and talk with a friend of yours. In saying this, you also express the want to meet again soon and therefore eliminate any need for long good-byes. I believe it is because of this that the Closing ritual is much shorter than the Opening ritual.

There is, of course, one more dilemma. How to extinguish a candle? I assume it will come natural to blow it out. Some people may say that this act represents the domination of Air over Fire and that this is wrong since all the Elements should be equal inside the circle. If you decide to extinguish the flame by licking your fingers and "pinching" the wick, this may again represent the domination of Water over Fire. Most will say that the best way to extinguish a flame is by reducing/stopping airflow since this is the most neutral way and also the most practical since there is less smoke in the air. I also prefer this way. It is enough to cover the candle with some sort of glass/cup if you don't have a candle snuffer (which you can see on the picture to the right) and that's it. The snuffer can be made from various materials and comes in many shapes and sizes and what's most important, it's practical!

The last thing I would like to mention is that there is also the option of continuing the Closing ritual even after the snuffing out of the candles by repeating the Opening ritual backwards. This is entirely up to you. If you decide to do this, then you would begin by visualizing the decreasing protection of the circle after you have snuffed out the candles. Theoretically, now would be the time for marking the circle with the Elements (salt, incense etc.) but this part is omitted because this would mean invoking them again, which is not your goal since you just said goodbye to them. Therefore, we go straight to the closing of the circle with the athamé. Some think that this also has to be done "backwards", i.e. if you opened the circle deosil/clockwise, then you would have to close it widdershins/counterclockwise. This is also a very popular debate topic. While this may be completely logical to some, others will say that this is the equivalent of drawing a banishing pentagram towards consecrated objects or rather that this action "unconsecrates" everything in the circle. Like with the previous problem, this is up to you as well :) I prefer to do everything deosil and always begin in the east. This gives a certain rhythm to the ritual and when it comes time to bid farewell to the Elements, you realize that each Element has stayed in the circle equally long (you welcome Air in the east first and also say goodbye to it first in the Closing Ritual).

Let us revise. The Closing Ritual follows the Opening Ritual, the Great Rite and the Sabbat/Esbat ritual. The Closing Ritual consists of:
  1. Cakes and wine (if you haven't already had them during the Great Rite)
  2. Bidding farewell to the Elements and drawing banishing pentagrams (staring in the East)
  3. Extinguishing the quarter candles in the process
  4. Repeating steps 2 and 3 for the other Elements (going deosil)
-----you can finish the ritual here-----
  1. Bidding farewell to the Goddess and God (if you decide to finish with step 4 then say goodbye to them before dismissing the Elements...this is what I would recommend)
  2. Visualizing the decreasing protection of the circle
  3. Closing the circle with your athamé
  4. Extinguishing the altar candle(s) (only after everyone has left the circle and the electric lights have been turned on)
And voilà! Those are the basics of ritual form.
But no worries, I will manage to find other topics with which to entertain you :)

I hope that this short cycle of posts will help you in your works and in understanding what you are doing and why because this is key! You shouldn't do something just because it says so in a book or on some silly blog (hehe), but because you feel that it is the right way to do something and because you feel comfortable doing it that way. Find a reason why you don't like something (be it a spiritual, historical or any other reason). Tradition is slowly fading away because people (and Wicca) are readjusting themselves to modern times. I don't think it is a sin to evolve, so why not try out some new ideas?

Think about what I wrote here! :)
Merry meet, Merry part and Merry meet again! :D
Witch's Cat

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