I am thankful to be a part of a rather closely-knit pagan community in the town where I live. For years, this was not always the case and I found myself feeling somewhat adrift. It’s been nearly three years now since the group was formed, or perhaps the better term would be founded.
In the beginning, the group was rather small and quite informal. We met in the homes of various members of the group and engaged in lively conversations about a variety of topics. As time progressed and members of the group felt more comfortable with each other and confident in sharing our various insights and experiences in regards to our spirituality, we became more practice-oriented. It was not uncommon for one member or another to bring a chant, hymn, or even a complete ritual to the group to recite or sing or participate in. This has not only helped us understand each other more, but also informed members within the group of the various “branches” of the Pagan tree. We have since gained momentum over these few years and are slowly gaining a more prominent presence within the community.
Last month, we planned and facilitated our first public ritual dedicated to the Summer Solstice – a rather large undertaking for everyone as we’d never worked with the public. Each member of the group contributed something to supplement the ritual as a whole, whether it was cleansing the ritual space and each participant, preparing offerings for the spirits of the land, or printing materials to provide to the public.
Our extended pagan community is very diverse and is comprised of Wiccans, Heathens, eclectic neo-pagan witches, practitioners of European shamanism, hoodoo, and various other forms of alternative spiritual and religious paths. In order to not only appeal to them, but also ensure that each member of our own core group was represented by elements of their own practice, our ritual took on a rather eclectic model. The space was smudged by one member; the spirits of the land upon which we stood were addressed and honored by others; still others called the quarters. Once these had taken place, the invocation to the Sun began – but not just the Sun itself, the gods of the Sun. The Titan, Helios; the god, Ra of the Two Horizons; the god, Utu, who is also Shamash; the goddess, Sol, who is also Sunna. These names were included in a lengthy address that everyone, regardless of religious or spiritual affiliation spoke with great aplomb. To hear the names of the gods on the lips of everyone present was an amazing experience. Even those passing by us in the park stopped. Some no doubt, were perplexed at what was happening. Why were so many people gathered in one great amorphous circle?
Immediately after the names of the gods of the Sun were spoken, I stepped forward and lit a fire inside of a brass bowl that was contained within a stone fountain in the middle of our circle. I lit the candle I bore and using the flame from that candle, I lit the candle to the person on my left and to my right, Each person in turn passed the flame on to their neighbor to the left or the right.
As the fire within our circle burned, the flames each of us held began to grow higher and brighter as the candle wax melted. We addressed the Sun as the dispenser of justice and the merciful judge. We addressed the Sun as a potent, life-giving force. We addressed the Sun as one who would carry our messages to the underworld. Each person present spoke the name of a departed loved one and when the last name was spoken, as if the manifested presence of the Sun acknowledged us, the flame immediately went out.
The individual flames of each candle continued to burn brightly. Through the trees we could see that the Sun had already begun to set as the sky turned from blue to pink to orange to red.
I’d like to think that each god we addressed, each god we acknowledged, was present.
I’d like to think that Utu, who is Shamash, was pleased to hear his name spoken aloud. I’d like to think that he was pleased to receive his offerings. I’d like to think that maybe, hopefully, he was moved to bestow his blessings.
July 07, 2017