Archive for October, 2009


Careful Notation

October 26, 2009


How often have you created something — either in ritual or messing around with herbs and oils — where you’ve been delighted with the result, but could never re-create it because you never wrote it down?

Keeping good notes will help you keep track of your work, your progress, and help you develop your recipes. Getting into the habit of taking good notes is one of the hardest habits to develop, even if you’re a meticulous diarist.

Part of that, in my opinion, is that so many of the books that offer guidance into the creation process have such an intricate system of planning and note-taking BEFORE your actual ritual or recipe starts that you’re so exhausted from the preparatory notes that you never get any farther.

Whether it’s a ritual or a recipe, there’s a much easier starting point:

Purpose and Correspondences.

Yes, that’s it. Know your purpose. Jot it down. Find correspondences that fit your purpose. Jot them down.

If you’re creating a ritual, you can then slot the purpose and the correspondences in to the way you work. That’s why it’s called a “ritual” — it’s a series of specific actions in a specific order. You have a set way of working — a template, so to speak. Each ritual is individualized to serve its specific purpose within that template. It doesn’t have to be twelve pages long and contain 96 steps. Simple and focused tends to get better results than pretentious and meandering.

The other thing to remember after the ritual is over, you’ve cleaned up and you’ve thought about it for a bit, is to write down your experience of the ritual, what you feel did and did not work, changes that happened organically within the ritual, and, overall impressions. That helps you in the future — if you do a particular sequence from ritual to ritual and it doesn’t feel right or doesn’t work or you can never remember it, you can see that pattern over time and make decisions to change it to something that works better, and brings you more in sync in your communications with the Divine.

If you’re creating a recipe, notating as you work is very important, the same way it would be if you were developing a new recipe for bread dough or a cake or whatever.

Write down each ingredient as you add it.

Note how you mix it in — clockwise, counterclockwise, if you use a specific number of strokes.

Note how it smells or any other sensory details.

Then note any changes you make — do you add a little more of this, find it’s too much, so you have to adjust with a little more of that?

It’s a good idea to make a clean copy of a successful recipe, but don’t throw out the notes that set out the process for getting there. You learn from the process just as much as you learn from the finished product. There will be times when the ratios from an earlier version of the recipe-in-progress will be useful in the creation of another recipe.

And, within a couple of hours, the details of the process will flee, so the sooner you wrote them down, the sooner you can refer to them in the future and save yourself time, energy and frustration.

Take it from one who learned the hard way!


Fashioning Ritual

October 22, 2009


This is my busiest time of year — not that I’m complaining. I usually teach at a conference in mid-October. Often, I’m prepping for Nano (although I’m skipping it this year due to deadlines). And we’re getting close to Samhain, which means ritual and more tarot readings than usual.

I’m doing different rituals with different intents for a variety of clients, as well as creating the ritual for Cerridwen Cottage’s Rituals for Gaia, which will be a posted series of sabbat rituals for the coming year. And, I’m working on my personal rituals for the year, which include the days of Tending the Dead and the Ceremony for the Ancestors. (If you want more information on the way I Tend the Dead, please click here).

It’s a unique challenge to work on different rituals simultaneously. Usually, I have plenty of time to create a ritual, perform it with the client, , rest up, move on to the next. But, this year in particular, I’ve ended up with more ritual bookings around Samhain. Since the individuals are different, the ritual is different.

Each individual’s needs and intents are taken into account, and the unique ritual is fashioned with that in mind. The use of pantheon, guardian, etc. is factored in; the supplies necessary; how many will participate. While seasonal rituals with similar intents can contain similar elements, using too much of a boilerplate dilutes the impact of the ritual. So every ritual has to be fashioned carefully and uniquely.

This year, they have to happen simultaneously.

How does one do that? My way is only one way; I don’t want to pretend it’s “the” way. I take notes when the client and I talk about the ritual. I make sure I know patron, pantheon, comfort level with ritual work, experience with ritual work, and any allergies, which is just as important as need and intent. If you’re using incense or oil in the ritual to which the client is allergic, it’s going to negate the ritual.

Then, I take some time meditating/visualizing the result for which the client hopes, and work from there. Obviously, it’s an intent that harms none and doesn’t interfere with free will, or I wouldn’t agree to do it.

I start with the basic structure: Casting the circle, calling in the directions, the actual work of the ritual, thanks, and closing. Then, I fill it in, according to the specific purpose of the ritual and affinities of the client. Usually, it percolates for a few days, and then suddenly, it’s as though a veil lifted and it becomes very clear. I rush to write it down while it’s still clear, and then put it away and edit it over a few days, much the way I do with any piece of writing. You want it to be succinct and focused. It needs to be something in which the client can participate (because you’re not there to perform For the client, you’ are working WITH the client) without feeling lost and without needing weeks of preparation.

Also, once the ritual is written, go over it and make a list of what each participant needs to bring, and what the client should have on hand (cups, dishes, etc. to hold things) so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute. Try to get the list to everyone four or five days before the ritual, and run through the checklist when you set up the space, and before you cast the circle.

Sometimes, looking at a full calendar can cause anxiety, but once you start to sit down and work on specifics, you feel the internal shift, and you feel it when you’re on the right track.


Return to the Journey

October 19, 2009


October 19, 2009
Moon Phase: Waxing
Retrogrades: Neptune and Uranus
Weather: Moving into winter with barely an autumn

I’ve been away from this blog for nearly two years. Sometimes, internal work is so confusing that you can’t discuss it outside a personal journal. Sometimes exterior forces push you and test the limits of your strength, and there’s not enough strength to talk about it with others.

All of these things have contributed to my time away.

And then yesterday, I was blindsided by some news that just proved what my gut told me about the other party, but which sets me back because I cut too much slack and hoped the other side would have the ethics to “do the right thing.” Lesson learned, yet one must be careful not to punish anyone else for a different individual’s choices — always hard. In the long run, it will prove to be the best possible outcome, but the transition will not be pleasant.

On the plus side, I am writing full time. Making my living with my pen, a scribe of sorts. Of many sorts, actually, because I cover a wide range of topics under a wide range of names. I have a daily (and often nightly) yoga practice, and I’ve found a wonderful weekly meditation group.

I enjoy my 2010 calendars from Llewellyn — I am not scheduled in any of the 2011 annuals. After 15 years of writing for their annuals, I feel I need to restock the creative wells. I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot in 15 years, but sometimes, one just needs to be quiet for awhile, as I was quiet here.

I continue to work with the Tarot and let it teach me, and I’m spending the next several months going deeper into the Runes, which should be an interesting journey. My European heritage is tied to Runic cultures, so it’s time I paid attention to the ancestors.

This is also the busy time of year for me, with Samhain approaching, not just for myself, but creating and performing rituals for house blessings, ancestors, the coming year, and, of course, a plethora of tarot readings.

Interestingly enough, the last post was about baking bread. And, yesterday, I baked bread. Well, Hestia is one of my patrons!

Not a circle in this case, but a spiral.

I look forward to picking up the journey here. I hope we can take it together and learn from each other.

Cerridwen Iris Shea