Circle Magazine is now seeking reviews of Pagan media including books, music, film, decks, podcasts, e-books and other forms of expression.
Review Subjects: We are looking for reviews of Pagan books, music, film, decks, podcasts, e-books, and other media. In very special circumstances we may also review media that is not specifically Pagan themed, but is of particular interest to the Pagan and Nature Spirituality community. Circle Magazine does not review clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, food, herbs or any other non-media product.
Review Content: Reviews should be 1500 words or under. Your review should include a synopsis of the content of the media that is not less than a quarter of but not more than half of your total text.
In addition to the synopsis, please include an analysis of the media's usefulness, execution and impact. Ideas may include:
Reviewer's Bio: Please include a short (1-2 sentence) biography of yourself, including any background you may have that is relevant to the review. A review of a book of mythology by a classics professor might be very different from a review of the same book by a priestess looking for ideas for her group's next ritual, or a father looking for stories for his children. All may have valid observations and it is useful for the reader to know where you are coming from.
Review Tone: Circle Magazine has very limited space to publish reviews - only a few pages, four times a year. Therefore, we prefer to focus on bringing attention media that is of value or positive significance to the Pagan and Nature Spirituality Communities. There are many other forums for warning people off shoddy or disappointing products. While we do not include a rating system in our reviews, we ask that reviewers focus on those works that they would consider worthy of 4 or 5 stars - or a really interesting and significant 3. That is not to say that everything you write about a given work has to be positive, it is often very useful for a reader to hear about drawbacks as well as successes, but we do want to focus on media that is on the whole worth considering.
Review Copies: Circle Magazine accepts review copies of Pagan media. For more information about what is done with review copies see the description of the Volunteer Review Team. We cannot accept and do not review non-media products including jewelry, cosmetics, supplements, or food. Review copies may be mailed to Circle Magazine Review Team, c/o Circle Sanctuary, PO Box 9, Barneveld WI 53507. Review copies will not be returned. To check if your product could be reviewed, please email email@example.com.
How to Submit a Review: Simply click here, fill out a few pieces of information about yourself, and upload the review!
Please feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information or clarification on reviews for Circle Magazine.
The following sections regularly appear in CIRCLE Magazine. Please send in material for these sections as well as for the Forum Topic for each issue. Frequently, the material included in these sections relates to the Forum Topic, but this is not necessary. Also send photographs and artwork for each section.
Bardic Voices: Words and musical score for songs and chants. Fiction which could be used in storytelling. Reviews of Pagan recordings, as well as information (articles and photographs) about Pagan musicians and others working in the Bardic Tradition. Articles and photographs about present Pagan Bards that describe who they are, the creativity behind their Bardic magic, any recordings they have done, and where they will be performing in the near future.
Celebrating the Seasons: Invocations, poetry, short articles, rituals, and artwork of a seasonal nature.
Ecomagic: Reports of individual and/or group environmental projects, rituals, and other activities that have a spiritual component. Activities can be those you have coordinated and/or participated in.
Family Focus: Articles about the spiritual dimensions of family life; meditations, rituals, storytelling, music, and theater for youth and/or the whole family; reviews of relevant books and other resources; and descriptions of spiritual exercises or spiritual crafts for family members of all ages.
Gatherings: Announcements of regional, national, and international festivals, conferences, and gatherings that bring together Nature Spirituality people of many paths.
Herbcraft: Recipes for incense, oils, teas, amulets, and other herbal preparations for healing and helping magic. Be sure to include specific information on amounts of herbs needed and methods of preparation and use. Also articles regarding the lore associated with healing and helping herbs.
Inner Journeys: Transcripts of guided meditations, pathworkings, trance, and other spiritual activities for facilitating consciousness exploration. Include complete and clear instructions so that someone would be able to carry it out.
Invocations: Invocations to the Elements, to Deities, to Nature Spirits, etc. Incantations or spellworking chants can be for singing or speaking and can be accompanied by instructions for use. We publish seasonal poetry or poetry related to the theme of the Forum section. Please do not send us other kinds of poetry.
Lady Liberty League Report: The Lady Liberty League is a referral network of volunteers affiliated with Circle Network interested in helping out with Wiccan/Pagan/Nature Spirituality religious freedom cases. Send press clippings, reports, or tips about religious freedom cases.
Leader Skills: Leadership training articles for and by Pagan elders, group leaders, and teachers.
Magicraft: Articles about magic and transcripts of rituals, spells, meditations, and other spiritual work you have successfully performed. Include complete and clear instructions so that someone would be able to carry it out.
Nature Communion: Send us accounts of Nature mystic experiences, meditations, rituals, and other sacred activities involving contact with Nature spirits and/or oneness with Nature as a whole. Illustrations with Nature mystic themes are also welcome.
Nature Religions Around the World: News reports and other accounts of traditional and contemporary Nature Religions as they are currently being practiced by individuals and groups in various countries, bioregions, or other geographical areas.
Pagan Primer: Rituals, meditations, and articles suitable for those beginning their studies and practice of Paganism.
Pagan World News: Networking news and reports of efforts to broaden public understanding of Wiccan Spirituality and other forms of Paganism. Send us newsclippings, magazine articles, summaries of radio and television coverage, and reports of other positive efforts for both this column and our archives.
Pantheon: Articles exploring Deities, sacred concepts, beliefs, myths, symbols, and practices connected with various Pagan religions, ancient and contemporary, around the world.
Passages: Timely announcements of births, child blessings, coming of age ceremonies, weddings, handfastings, funerals, and other rites of passage you have performed or been a part of. Remember to include the names of principal people involved, locations and dates.
Rites of Passage: Transcripts of personal and community rituals and meditations that mark and facilitate transitions in the human life cycle. Include complete and clear instructions so that someone would be able to carry it out.
Ritual Tools: Articles, artwork, and/or photographs describing the creation and/or use of ceremonial tools in personal/group rituals, meditations, magical workings, and/or other forms of spiritual practice.
Sacred Sites: Articles, artwork, and photographs of sacred places. The places can be indoors or outdoors, and either naturally occurring or created by humans. Describe your impressions of the place and its spiritual significance, past and present.
Scholars Speak: Academic papers and reports pertaining to ancient and/or contemporary Paganism, Shamanism, Goddess Spirituality, Ecofeminism, and other forms of Nature Spirituality.
Traditions: Descriptions, artwork, and photographs of traditions, philosophy, symbols, customs, or other spiritual practices associated with a particular Wiccan, Druidic, Shamanic, Pagan, or other Nature religion group, community, denomination, or path.
Cover art should relate to the forum topic of the issue in which it is included. Art should be in full color, and electronically submitted in as high a resolution as possible. If you wish color art to be considered for an upcoming cover, please send a reproduction of the art and a description of the original so that we can determine its potential as a cover.
How to send images: We encourage you to submit art and photographs electronically. Files should be in the form of .GIF, .TIF, .PNG or .JPG files, and as large as you can manage, preferably at 300 dpi. Use our online submission form, or send to email@example.com. You must include your legal name, address, phone, and email for our records on all material you submit. If you wish to be published under a different name, clearly indicate that on your material, too.
Designing Front Cover Art: Image placement within the art is important. We prefer to print covers that have 'edge to edge' interest, however the main focus of the art must be clear and visible behind the text on the cover and not clash or compete with the text. To make this process easier for artists we've created a .PNG file that you can download here (425.59 kb) to test your cover image. You can either include this file as a layer in a program such as Photoshop, or print it out and just hold it next to your art to see if your image will fit well.
Size and resolution: Our cover size is 8 3/8" x 10 7/8." Please make sure that your image is at least 300 pixels per inch at this size. For printing we also need to include a 1/2 inch bleed around the cover image, so please consider this when sizing your art.
Perks of being a front cover artist: Chosen cover artists are given space for a short biography and a headshot in the issue of CIRCLE Magazine where their art appears. This can include contact information, including your email address or a link to your website. You may also request a complementary 1/6th page ad for your art or other Pagan themed product in the advertising pages. This ad is subject to the same rules as requirements and approval as all other CIRCLE Magazine advertising. For more information see the advertising page.
Back Cover Art: CIRCLE Magazine now features seasonal festivals and upcoming events on the rear cover. We are seeking full color art to be used on the back cover and to promote these events. Upcoming festivals include Yule, Imbolc, Earth Day, Beltane & Pagan Spirit Gathering/Summer Solstice. Unlike front cover art, suitable images will be compact and able to be centered within a circle on a black or white background. Artists whose work is chosen for the back cover will also receive a complementary 1/6th page ad for your art or other Pagan themed product in the advertising pages. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Please feel free to contact us via email at email@example.com if you would like more information or clarification about providing art for CIRCLE Magazine.
CIRCLE Magazine is always looking for original Pagan-themed art, particularly line art, which translates very well into our print format.
4/8/2015 Press Release: Call for Art and Artists
How to send images: We encourage you to submit art and photographs electronically. Files should be in the form of .GIF, .TIF, .PNG or .JPG files, and as large as you can manage, preferably at 300 dpi. Use our online submission form, or send to firstname.lastname@example.org. You must include your legal name, address, phone, and email for our records on all material you submit. If you wish to be published under a different name, clearly indicate that on your material, too.
Submitting art by mail: Originals or hard copies of artwork may be mailed to CIRCLE Magazine, PO Box 9, Barneveld, WI 53507. We strongly encourage you to make copies of art before mailing it to us! We will do our best to take care of everything you send us, but CIRCLE Magazine's office are housed in a converted barn and occasionally mice and mold happen, to say nothing of the tender mercies of the postal service. If you would like the original returned you MUST include a self addressed, envelope with correct postage. Please do not mail photographs or film.
Colors: CIRCLE Magazine is printed in black and white, with color covers. Color art or photos used within the magazine will be scanned as grayscale images. Please consider, when submitting an image that is originally in color, if it will translate well to black and white. If you are not experienced with converting images to grayscale using a program such as Adobe Photoshop, please feel free to send your image in color and we will convert it for you.
Credits: Artists credits are listed on or beside the page in which your art appears. If your work has a title please include that, otherwise it will be listed as "Illustration by..." or "Photo by...". Artist and photographer credits are also listed in the Artistic Credits section of the Magazine. If you would like your contact information, which can include a phone number, email address or website to be printed in this section please include that information with your submission. Signatures within the work must be very subtle, or may be edited out. Please remove all watermarks from photos.
Nudity: CIRCLE Magazine has many readers in institutions such as schools hospitals and prisons that have visual content restrictions. While we deeply value artistic freedom and honor the human body in all shapes, sizes and states, we also feel obligated to make our publication accessible to readers in more restricted settings. Therefore we no longer publish images containing or suggesting nudity. This includes 'wearing' strategically placed clouds, scarves or leaves. Many institutions also ban depictions of pubic hair. We greatly appreciate artists who are able to work with us to strategically edit their work, and acknowledge that this does leave one with the impression that many Gods and Goddesses are very fond of wearing bicycle shorts and tank tops. We ask their forgiveness and trust that they understand that the alternative would be to exclude many readers who have little access to other Pagan media or our spiritual community.
Length and Format: Preferred article lengths are 1500-2000 words or 3000-3500 words. The preferred format for submissions is: .doc files, single-spaced, 11-point Times New Roman. Be sure to include two spaces between every sentence.
How to Submit an Article: All text submissions must be submitted electronically. Please do not send handwritten, typewritten or printed text. We encourage submissions using our online submission form (preferred) or if that is not possible you may email your submission to email@example.com. You must include your legal name, address, phone, and email for our records on all material you submit. If you wish to be published under a different name, clearly indicate that on your material, too.
Editing: We reserve the right to edit and/or crop all material submitted to us. The layout of articles is a delicate puzzle and frequently articles must be edited to fit the space available or to conform with the standard format of CIRCLE Magazine. When possible, you will be notified if your article must be significantly reshaped in order to be included or you may be asked to redraft sections to better fit. Your article may be reviewed by CIRCLE Magazine staff as well as members of the volunteer editing team. Occasionally we also ask outside experts to review and give feedback on the content of an article prior to publication.
Biography: Submission of a brief (2-3 sentence) biographical paragraph is optional, but encouraged. Biographies should be in the third person and may include contact information, such as an email address or personal website that you want published.
Citations and References: Provide references for all material that is not your own thinking, or for any material that is quoted or referred to in your article For citation formats please use the Chicago Manual of Style. A quick reference for citations for various sources is available at http://citesource.trincoll.edu/chicago/
Pagan Specific Style Guide: Names of religions or traditions, including the word 'Pagan' should always be capitalized. Capitalization should also be used to designate principles such as 'Spirit' which are being used as proper nouns. Capitalization should not be used for emphasis. Names of gods or goddesses should by capitalized. The word 'god' or 'goddess' should be capitalized when referring to the God or the Goddess, but not when referring generally to 'some gods or goddesses.'
CIRCLE Magazine does not have a preferred spelling for 'magic' or 'magick,' and will follow the author's prefrence. In the case of other words, such as the names of holidays, which have multiple 'correct' or common spellings, CIRCLE Magazine will use the spelling preferred by the author.
Inclusivity: Please be aware that CIRCLE Magazine's readers come from many paths and traditions within the Pagan and Nature Spirituality communities and try to keep your language inclusive.
Poetry: CIRCLE Magazine is delighted to print poetry (including songs or chants) by Pagan poets and bards. Poems should address Pagan themes, nature, seasonal topics or the Forum topic. Poems of all sizes are appreciated. Be sure to clearly indicate where the line breaks are in your poem. Also, double check your grammar - it can be very difficult for our editors to determine if a missing comma or extraneous capitalization is a deliberate artistic statement or just a typo. We are happy to print short bios along with your poem.
Promoting Author's Projects: We love to work with Pagan authors, and CIRCLE Magazine is a great way to reach an interested audience. While we occasionally do publish excerpts or chapters from Pagan books and blogs, we strongly prefer to publish original material.
We encourage you to draw from the material in your book or blog and rework it into an article format. The format and writing style of a magazine article is often different then the format of book or blog post. Magazine articles are generally shorter. CIRCLE Magazine's length requirements are 1500-2000 words or occasionally, 3000-3500 words. Articles may also have shorter paragraphs and use bolded text and 'pull out' lists or charts to draw readers' interest.
When developing an article from a book, it often works well to pick a specific topic from within your book and develop that into a stand-alone article. For example, if your book is on Celtic Tree Magic, an article on the magical properties of Oak is likely to be more engaging in 2,000 words than trying to explain about all of tree magic in the same space.
To credit your book, please do include the title and publisher of your book in your bio. You can also include an email address or website for readers to find you or your book. Just try to keep URLs as short and easy to type as possible. (Example: Erin is the author of Celtic Tree Magic, forthcoming from Example Press. Learn more at www.ErinsCelticTree.org) While we generally do not print excerpts alone, you should feel free to use material from your book within your article. For example you might reprint a chant, ritual or recipe and include an attribution to your book.
While blogs are similar to magazines in many ways, the print format often means that magazine articles need to be much more concise than blogs. You may want to use tools to shorten any URLs you wish to cite, as most of our readers receive their magazines in print format. Please let us know if your article is adapted from a previously published blog post. We will wish to note this in the magazine.
CIRCLE Magazine does occasionally publish reviews of new Pagan books, however at this time we have a very limited number of reviewers. While Circle Sanctuary does accept review copies of books, we cannot guarantee that any book received will be reviewed in our publication. We do NOT return materials submitted for review, whether reviewed or not.
If your book is already published, you may need to contact your publisher to inform them that you are submitting a related article to CIRCLE Magazine. Please be sure you have the rights to all content that you submit to CIRCLE Magazine and include proper attributions.
Individual Spiritual Experiences, Memoirs and Personal Essays: CIRCLE Magazine does publish some essays or articles focusing on personal spiritual experience, however we generally include only one or two such articles in each issue. Currently about half of the articles that we receive are personal essays, so there is considerable of competition for the small amount of page space we have for that type of writing. This is not to discourage you from submitting your personal essay! We are always looking for engaging, inspiring content. However, even for essays that we would like to use, there may be a longer wait time for publication.
You also might want to consider if your idea for a memoir or essay might have some more universal lessons in it that you could rework into a more educational style article. For example, if you had a profound revelation while at the Kiyomizu-dera in Japan, instead about writing about your experience directly, could you write an article about that temple for our Sacred Places column? Or if you had a deep communion with the Goddess Hestia could you write a guided meditation or personal ritual to help others connect with Hestia?
Reviews: CIRCLE Magazine is now accepting reviews of books, music, decks and other Pagan focused media. For more information about submitting reviews, or having your material reviewed, please see our review page.
Illustration: We encourage, but by no means require, authors to provide photos or art to illustrate their articles. You may also wish to suggest short captions to go along with the images you send. We will always try to use images sent by an author, however for layout or image quality reasons we may not be able to use every image sent. If you are not the artist or photographer who created the image you are sending please obtain permission first and send the appropriate image credit. Do not embed image files in the word document, send them as separate files. Please see the information on Image Submissions for more details.
Please feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information or clarification about providing articles, poetry or other text submissions for CIRCLE Magazine.
by Selena Fox
originally in Fall 2011, pp. 31-32
Every year, at our Welcome Summer Festival, in early June at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, we craft a special kind of herbal amulet known as Spirit Bags, for members of the Pagan Spirit Gathering Community.
We make enough so that each participant in the Pagan Spirit Gathering can receive one upon arrival and use it as part of personal and group spiritual activities throughout the week. We also make some extras, which later are given to others as tokens of healing and well being.
Each Spirit Bag consists of a small fabric pouch made from a square of all-cotton cloth and containing a blend of dried herbs and a small sacred stone. The cloth, once filled at its center is tied with a piece of yarn, which in turn is tied to a circlet fashioned from a longer piece of yarn.
Each year, we select fabric, yarn ties, and a type of sacred stone to match the theme for that year’s Summer Solstice festival. For 2011, our theme is Solstice Magic, and we have Tiger’s Eye, representing healing, protection, wisdom, awareness, prosperity, and well being.
The fabric and the yarn may be a solid color or patterned. For 2011, the fabric is lavender with a pattern of white celestial six rayed sun stars with arches representing motion, and the yarn is white to match the Solstice Stars. Our fabric squares are of uniform size and usually are between four and five inches square, depending on fabric width.
Every year, we select and combine dried sacred herbs grown in fields, forests, and gardens of our land, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in southwestern Wisconsin. We ritually harvest these magical herbs, dry, blend them, and then place a bit of them, along with a stone in each Spirit Bag we create.
The blend of herbs each year has Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) as its main ingredient. Mugwort is a versatile ritual herb used to enhance intuition and bless dreaming as well as to cleanse, heal, nurture, protect, and consecrate. It also is an herb associated with Summer Solstice celebrations.
Other herbs that usually are part of the blend include dried leaves of Mint, Yarrow, Bee Balm, Sage, Thyme, and Lemon Balm.
Participants wear their Spirit Bags around their necks during the Pagan Spirit Gathering. Some continue to wear them after the Gathering. Others place them on their altars or hang them in their dwellings as home blessing charms.
* Focus: decide on the purpose of the Spirit Bags you will be creating and qualities.
As with the creation of other sacred objects, it is important to keep spiritual intentions in mind at each part of Spirit Bag crafting as well as during completion and throughout use.
* Fabric: select a natural fabric of a color and pattern suited to the focus. An all (100%) cotton fabric works well. Cut the fabric into five-inch squares. Have one for each person who will be receiving one.
* Yarn: select a soft yet durable yarn of a color that matches or complements the fabric. Cut a six-inch tie and an eighteen-inch piece to serve as the necklace for each Spirit Bag.
* Herbs: select dried herbs with spiritual properties that suit the focus of the Spirit Bags. Place them in a large, non-metal container, such as an enamelware canning pot, plastic cauldron, or large wooden salad bowl. Name the spiritual qualities of each herb that you wish to activate as you place herbs in the container and begin the blending process. Then thoroughly mix the herbs, removing twigs and any prickly parts as you do. There should be enough herbal mixture to fill but not stuff each bag.
* Stone: select a type of sacred stone that suits the purpose of the Spirit Bags. Stones should be small and of similar size and shape. A good source are tumbled stone chips that are typically sold in strands at craft stores and rock shops.
Assemble the items for Spirit Bag making. Have enough tabletop space available for the Spirit Bags crafting process.
Do a spiritual centering and attunement. Connect with the sacred according to your own path and ask blessings on the crafting process. Connect with the spirits of the herbs and the stone, and ask for their support. Call to mind the focus of the Spirit Bags.
Place fabric squares, with the outer side down on a table. In making multiple Spirit Bags, it is best to have enough tables so that every piece of fabric can be laid out. Next to each square, place a single yarn tie.
Now place a single stone in the center of each fabric square. Call the spiritual properties of the stones in mind as well as the focus of the Spirit Bags as you place each stone.
Once all the stones are placed, take a large pinch of the herb blend, about the size of a strawberry or large grape and set it atop the stone in the center of each square of fabric. There should be enough of the herb blend to fill but not overly stuff each Spirit Bag so that it can be securely tied when its four corners are brought together. Call to mind the focus of the Spirit Bags as you set the herbs in place.
The next step is to craft each Spirit Bag. Pull each of the four corners of a fabric square up so that they touch each other. Compress the herbs and stone together in the fabric to form a small ball-like pouch. Tie the yarn piece firmly in a knot to secure the pouch.
Once the Spirit Bags have been tied with the shorter lengths of yarn, take each longer length of yarn and tie its two ends together to form a circlet. Place a circlet by each Spirit Bag. Now, placing the knotted end of a circlet next to the knot of the shorter yarn tie of a Spirit Bag, take the two ends of the shorter yarn tie and tie them twice to affix the circlet to the Spirit Bag.
The circlet with the Spirit Bag attached can now be worn around the neck. Or, to wear later, hang it on a hook or wrap the circlet of yarn around the ends of the Spirit Bag so that it can be unwrapped later.
Once the Spirit Bags have been assembled, energize each one and all together with blessings connected with the focus of the Spirit Bags. This can be done through chanting, prayers, and/or visualization. Once energized, Spirit Bags should be handled with care as with other sacred items.
Spirit Bags can be used in a variety of ways. The most common way to work with a Spirit Bag is to wear it around your neck. It also can be hung or placed in your home or vehicle, or carried in a briefcase or purse. It can be placed in a bedroom under a pillow or above or beside the bed as a dream charm.
Spirit Bags not only can be crafted for use by one’s self, but can be crafted for others and given as gifts, such as to a newborn as part of a baby blessing rite, to a couple at their wedding or handfasting, or to a friend moving into a new home.
A Spirit Bag can be crafted as an offering and can be left at a shrine, temple, circle, or other sacred site. Crafted for healing a loved one, it can be placed on or near the one in need, or worn by the one in need.
When not wearing or using a Spirit Bag, keep it in an honored place, such as on an altar or in a box with sacred jewelry. Care for it as you would other sacred objects.
Should a time come to dispose of a Spirit Bag, express thanks to the sacred forces that were part of its crafting, do a prayer of release, and then return it to Nature in some way. Bury it at a sacred site or by a favorite tree. Or, cast it into a sacred fire. Or, cut the tie and cast the herbs to the wind or into flowing water.
A wonderful way to store and display Spirit Bags crafted for various purposes over time is to affix them to a grapevine hoop, hung on a door, wall or other place in the home.
Spirit Bag crafting and spiritual work can deepen one’s connection with the sacred dimensions of plants, stones, and life, and can serve as a reminder of the greater Circle of Nature of which we are all part.
The Morning Fire Offerings at PSG 2011
by Steven Posch
Originally in Spring 2012, pp. 54-55
At the heart of all human culture burns Fire, both hero and trickster, revered in many traditions as a God in his or her own right. To honor this divine being -- the God who paradoxically dwells in every human home -- I crafted the Rite of Morning Fire Offering for the 2011 Pagan Spirit Gathering at Stonehouse Park in Illinois.
The prototypes for the ritual are drawn from ancient (and modern) Baltic practice, influenced by Zoroastrian fire-offerings and the agnihotras of Hinduism. But the rite in some form was once present in nearly every Indo-European culture and, in a sense, in virtually every traditional culture in the world.
How many billions of times in the course of human history has it happened? The woman of the house rises early in the morning, before anyone else, and wakes the fire that has slept banked through the night. She rakes away the protective bed of ash and adds fresh fuel. Onto the newly-wakened flames she sprinkles a few pinches of meal or flour by way of offering and, as she does so, prays for her family’s wellbeing. Then she starts to cook breakfast. This humble yet profound ritual, repeated daily in every household in practically every traditional culture, is the prototype for the larger, tribal fire-offerings of the Indo-European diaspora generally, and the fire-offerings of Vedic India and Zoroastrian Iran in particular.
Lighting a sacred community fire to mark the ingathering of a group of people is standard practice among American First Nations, and has long been a sacred tradition at PSG. The fire is ceremoniously kindled at the beginning of the gathering, burns throughout the festival, and is ritually extinguished at its end. This fire is in effect the community hearth. It is fitting that offerings on the tribe’s behalf are made daily at the collective tribal hearth-fire.
We made the Morning Fire Offering on each day of this year’s festival, when a handful of early arrivals gathered damply beneath the canopy that had protected the Fire from the previous night’s downpour. We were privileged to number among us that morning the handsome young fire-keeper who, his own tent flooded, had heroically kept all-night vigil to guard the Fire and keep it alight.
On subsequent mornings, we made the offering immediately before Morning Meeting. By placing the ritual at this point in our shared day, I intended to help the PSG tribe begin in a sacred and prayerful way, and to highlight the sanctity of the Morning Meeting and the work that we do there together. Although technically the presence of the tribe is not required at the offering -- it is the priest’s responsibility to make the offerings and their accompanying prayers on the tribe’s behalf whether or not anyone else is present -- it became the custom for those who wished to participate more intimately in the offering to cluster around the fire. If there was a single lesson to be learned from the rituals of PSG, it was that as compressed molecules generate greater heat, so people clustered together generate greater power than they do in a vast one-deep circle. Each morning more and more people came to the fire, and I can testify from personal experience that the intensity of our collective prayer was so strong and so deep as to be (to speak for myself) at some points nearly overwhelming. As the triad goes:
Three things give wing to prayer:
the needful occasion, the offering,
the soaring prayer of others.
My thanks and appreciation to all those who participated in our Morning Fire Offerings. It was a pleasure and a privilege to serve you as, in effect, village priest; in all, the experience taught me many things about the nature and practice of priesthood. My special thanks to heart-friend and brother-in-rites Sparky T. Rabbit, who offered his usual insightful critique during the rite-crafting process.
While retaining copyright and right of use, I hereby make a gift of this ritual to Pagan Spirit Gathering and the entire PSG community, from my hands to yours. It is my hope that you will receive this ritual and take it with you wherever you go, to use (or not) as you see fit. My one request is that if you do make use of this rite or some form of it, that you continue to credit me as its source. It’s a basic principle of human cultural endeavor that the single best way to encourage our creative people to generate more good material is to give them credit for the work that they’ve already done. My gratitude and ongoing prayers go with you all.
Morning Fire Offering Ritual
Fire Priest or Priestess:
My brothers and sisters: we have it from the ancestors, and they from their ancestors, that the avenues of communication between ourselves and the Gods are most open during the making of offerings; so as I, by your leave (bows), make the morning offerings to the Fire, I would invite you to lift up your hands and to make your own prayers to whichever Gods your people make their prayers to. And so we begin.
Priest covers head, and all rise.
Blowing of horns.
Priest uncovers offerings; People intone.
First Offering (oil, ghee) is made; Priest prays for Life for the People.
Second Offering (meal) is made; Priest prays for Food for the People.
Third Offering (herbs, incense) is made; Priest prays for Beauty for the People.
Priest re-covers offerings.
Red Flower, Thunder Flower, Flower of the Sun,
burn among us, burn within us, Flower of the Sun.
Priest or Priestess:
My brothers and sisters, our rite is ended, and let us all say:
All: So mote it be.
Blowing of horns.
Priest uncovers head.
[Lyrics: Steven Posch (based on a New Fire chant by Rosemary Sutcliff) © Steven W. Posch 2011, with special thanks to Bruner Soderberg]
Morning Fire Offering Ritual Commentary
The rite is intended to be performed daily at the tribal sanctuary's hearth fire. By custom, the priest should make the offering with head covered, and for all capable to stand for the duration of the rite. It is desirable for the people to be present; it is the priest’s obligation to make the offering regardless. In a domestic context, the same offerings would be made daily at the household hearth on the family’s behalf. In fact, the domestic offering -- traditionally made at the morning kindling of the Fire -- is the historic pattern for the larger, tribal rite. My use of male generics throughout should not be construed to mean that the performance of this rite is in any way restricted to men.
Introduction: When none of the people are present, or when a majority of those present are familiar with the Fire Offering, the introduction may be omitted.
Priest covers head: It is long-standing tradition for the offerer to cover his (or her) head. This serves both to set him apart visually and to depersonalize him, and thus to keep collective focus where it should be: on the act of offering rather than on the offerer.
Horn: Blowing horn(s) at the beginning of the ritual calls the attention of those present and within hearing distance (including the Gods themselves) to the offering that is about to take place. It represents Primal Sound and inaugurates the beginning of sacred time.
Priest uncovers offerings: It is customary to bear the offerings on a cloth-covered tray. The practical reason is to protect the offerings, especially when performed outdoors; there are of course mystical meanings as well.
People intone: When the people are present at the offering, it is customary for them to hum, drone, or intone during the making of the offerings. This continues until the offering tray is re-covered.
First Offering (oil, ghee): The First Offering causes the Fire to flame up and be seen in all its beauty and power. The priest prays for Life for the People. Note: it is customary to make each Offering in three portions.
Priest prays for Life (Food, Beauty) for the people: The prayers are best recited aloud but in an undertone. It should be apparent that the priest is praying, but it is not necessary for them to hear what he says. These are known in Latin tradition as the secreta: not "secret," but "separated" or "set apart" prayers. One paradox of priesthood is that the priest best serves the community by being set apart both in person and in prayer from others, at least for the duration of any given ritual.
While others may pray for their own needs during this rite, the priest is not at liberty to do so: his job is to pray for the collective well-being. While formulas exist for the "secret" prayers, it is best for each officiant to formulate his own. Here as elsewhere in ritual, simple is best.
Second Offering (meal): Cornmeal or any sort of flour is appropriate. The priest prays for Food for the People.
Third Offering (herbs, incense): The Third Offering should be something that burns fragrantly. The priest prays for Beauty for the People.
Hymn (all): A hymn to Fire or some other tribal God is appropriate.
Horn: The second blowing of the horn(s) signifies the conclusion of the rite, informs those present and those within hearing distance that the offering has been duly made, and joins the rite’s end to its beginning.
Priest uncovers his head: Having completed the offering, the priest’s commission to act singly on the people’s collective behalf comes to an end, and he reverts to his normal status as one of the people.
by Paul Herrick
originally in Winter 2010, pp. 51-52
“Eight hundred hands, reaching up. Four hundred people, focused on one illuminated orb. One tall, slim man moving among us in the twilight, carrying the representation of Gaia, our Mother Earth.”
Kathy Nance of St. Louis Today wrote those words about the main ritual of Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) 2010, reflecting what an immensely powerful experience it was. What the article didn’t tell you was that I was that ‘tall, slim man’ that was lumbering along with the representation of the planet Earth.
I am not sure many people have a good understanding of what goes into organizing a ritual for hundreds of people to participate in. Those who do also know what a haphazard process it can be to get a great idea for a ritual, than to quickly pull it together with people you may have never worked with before, and than count on them not to make a major blunder. My Pagan Spirit Gathering memory is about my experience of the quirky process that led to a humbling and profound ritual experience.
The 2010 PSG ritual was conceived by Shauna Aura Precourt, with input from Selena Fox and Nora Cedarwind Young, and a lot of on site help by Shauna’s partner, Mark Mandrake. The intention was not just to do a ritual for some sort of nebulous inner work or warm, fuzzy, community togetherness; rather they wanted to spiral deep into each ritual participant and draw out the power to create real change. Than spiral out into the world where time outside PSG would be more than just a ‘supply run’, rather it would be a chance to bring the PSG spirit in their lives, make real healing change for themselves and rekindle their devotion to the most visible symbol of the Divine: the Earth.
I came into this process when Shauna sidled up to me one day at PSG. Since I was presenting workshops on vaguely environmental topics, she asked me if I would like a part in the ritual. I’ve known Shauna for a while now. We met at a Circle Sanctuary festival and spent the better part of the day talking about community dynamics, modern Paganism, and where we are all headed. After that we kept in touch on Facebook, had a couple phone conversations, and exchanged some emails. At PSG 2009 I’d been drawn into a very strange, late night, conversation with Shauna about how cool her hanging, solar powered, pear shaped, light string looked on her golf cart. By any Pagan’s reckoning we were best buddies, or fellow fifth circle adepts of the blue council, so how could I say “no?”
From there, I plunged into one of the craziest ritual planning sequences that I have ever taken part in. Shauna wanted me to participate in the ritual by helping people fall in love with the world again. She described the role as calling out the moments where people understood the majesty of the Earth, things like ‘the first time I saw the Earth from space.’ This ritual role kicked off a crazy snow ball effect that rapidly increased my level of participation in the ritual. At the first planning meeting Shauna thought it would be logical that I also help with calling the element of Earth. At the next planning meeting I was drawn into helping with the Trance Journey portion of the ritual, where the ritual facilitators would be calling out questions in an overlapping fashion to draw the ritual participants into an altered state of consciousness.
With the snowball still rolling at three ritual parts, shortly after that I was asked if I could carry the world on my shoulders. In a brilliant move, Shauna and Mark explained to me that they wanted a grand symbol of the Earth to be present at the ritual, so they had purchased a four foot wide, plastic, inflatable globe. To use the globe for the ritual that night, Mark and I had to stand around in awkward and possibly compromising positions with a bike pump ‘blowing up the Earth’ for twenty minutes before we stowed it till the ritual in the evening.
With the idea that I was going to have to retrieve the giant globe during the ritual, I was standing squarely at four different parts in the ritual and desperately hoping I could keep them all in my head and their order straight. Nobody wants to be the person who messes up the grand ritual. This made a large portion of the rest of the day as ritual preparation for me, as I continued to go through the different parts in my mind.
The evening of the ritual, I was hastily chatting with other facilitators to make sure I remembered my parts, while the drums of the ritual procession pounded off in the distance. Later, I was equally hastily involved in making sure community elders put their chairs in good spots as the drums from the ritual procession drew ever closer. From the moment that the procession came into the ritual area, the community was caught up in a Spiral Dance led by T. Thorn Coyle with the rest of the ritual facilitators acting as cantors for the opening chant. The Spiral Dance gave way to the very visceral quarter calling and than to the Trance Journey that had even the facilitators sinking deeper into altered states. Space became sacred and time slowed as events started to blur.
I clearly remember breaking away from the ritual group to fetch the inflatable globe and thinking about how corny it was going to be. I couldn’t have been more wrong when I hoisted what amounted to a giant beach ball, painted to look like a globe, and brought it into the circle. Shauna had me hold the globe above my head, and above the crowd, so that people could see it while the chanting was going on. From the moment that all eyes turned on me I could feel the attention and energy that was pressing on the globe, and by extension, me. Some people described the nebulous energies of magic as being electrifying or warm, but this was pure pressure, pure weight, as peoples’ attention poured into the globe. It was at that point that Shauna whispered to me that I should walk around the circle.
It was a surreal thing carrying that globe through the circle. Hundreds of Pagans in trance locked in their attention on the globe and chanting for the healing of the Earth. Many reached up in reverence to touch the globe as I passed by them, seeing the living image of Mother Earth, rather than an absurd, giant, plastic beach ball. As I walked, the globe itself became heavier and heavier and a low vibration came from my hands down to my feet. I had inadvertently filled the role of Atlas, bearing the sphere of the heavens on my shoulders. I walked several circuits of the ritual space with the Earth on my shoulders and between the chanting and the energy swirling around; it was all I could do to center myself and walk forward. I stopped among a group of children near the center of the circle and slowly lowered the sphere to the ground. It seemed appropriate that the children helped lower the Earth symbol to the real Earth. Doesn’t each generation pass the world to the hands of its children?
After removing the globe from the ritual circle it became a beach ball again but the power it had as a symbol demanded that I reflect on my experience. The ritual we had just performed was not a selfish ritual. It did not ask us to heal ourselves, to request something of the world, to be reborn, or to resolve some inner turmoil. The ritual asked us to focus outward on the greatest symbol of our faith as Pagans and demanded that we not only revere it but also sacrifice something of our self to it for all we have received. A sacrifice of intention, attention, energy, hope, and love to both heal the planet and ourselves.
by Raven Bloodstone
originally in Fall 2010, pp.42-43
I walked my first labyrinth at PSG 2009. I was expecting it to occur in the daylight so that anyone could stop by and walk it at their leisure. But it was at night, and one night only. So after a long day of being hot and tired, I stopped by to walk through it.
I was amazed at the number of people walking the labyrinth and even more amazed at the number waiting their turn to enter. It was very quiet, even with all those people there. A few spoke about the lights, or where to turn, when to go, but over all it was very serene . . . very reverent.
This particular labyrinth was outlined by plastic cups that held candles and sand inside. The luminaries cast a soft, flickering glow about the area that made the whole experience seem tribal.
When it was my turn, I stepped into the Labyrinth behind a few people so I wouldn’t get lost. From the outer perspective, it appeared that people were just walking back and forth with no clear distinction of where the beginning, middle, or end was.
The pathways were wide enough that people entering and exiting were passing by each other. At each of the four corners, the altars had been placed inside the labyrinth so those who wanted could interact with the Elements.
Inside the rows, I kept thinking that it wouldn’t take long to get through this so I could go back to my tent and sleep.
Each time I passed around the center I kept thinking that next turn would be the sacred center. Yet each time it was another turn or an altar stop. I was getting frustrated until I realized that I had lost sight of the whole experience. It was supposed to be reverent, sacred . . . not express lane-like. Get in, get through, get on with life. I’d missed a lot of beautiful experiences being in a hurry or being in the middle of something too important to put down.
At the second altar stop, I decided to slow down and actually listen and observe those around me. What were they saying? To whom were they praying? What were they asking for? What were they looking at on the altar? What were they leaving on the altar?
Suddenly it was like a vortex had opened and I was having a different experience within the current experience. It became the sacred journey that it should’ve been from the beginning.
As I heard others mumbling about their triumphs, their obstacles or worries, I began to mull on my own.
Most recently I had converted myself from a life of Christianity for 31 years to a Pagan. I had considered myself Wiccan in the beginning, but discovered that I like several different things that other Pagans were doing outside of Wicca.
As a solitary practitioner, I was still very much in the closet. I read a lot of books and talked to a few people, but I was missing a community mind-set. I felt lost most of the time because I wanted to work magic with people in public to deal with public or community issues. I wasn’t living in an area that was supportive of such things. Just making and following through with the decision to attend PSG was very nerve-wracking and scary.
Yet, walking through that labyrinth let me know I’d made the right decision for me and it didn’t matter what anyone else publicly or privately thought about it. Working through all those thoughts became easy as the labyrinth wound around and around, back and forth.
Suddenly the energy and people in front of me shifted and I was there, in the sacred center . . . just like that.
It was smaller than I thought but very powerful. I wanted a bench to sit down on, to feel what it was like to be in that space and marinate in it for a while. After all those things I had to do to get there, I wanted it to last more than 30 seconds.
Before I knew it, I had moved and was walking back out the way I came. Other people had moved into the center and I wanted to keep my distance and my solitude.
As I walked out to the periphery, I realized that I sometimes go back and forth on problems, searching for solutions. That I can’t wait to get on with life and get to the good stuff, move out of this weird place of awkwardness, and not knowing.
The truth is, the solution, much like the sacred center, has been in sight the whole time. There were just more turns or insights to make . . . more barriers and resistance to drop, before I could get there.
The next day the labyrinth was gone. The meadow it had been in had the grass beat down in the exact patterns of the labyrinth. So many people had walked their thoughts and praises through that path. So many had found solitude, answers, and a wonderful experience.
Others had remained on the outside and just watched the ones who went about their journey.
As PSG continued I wished that the labyrinth had been more than one night so that I would have multiple chances at new discoveries walking that path.
The first week I was home from PSG was my saddest time. I had found the community mind-set I was looking for and now I was without it. I contemplated several things I could do to recreate my PSG experience. My yard was large enough to host a labyrinth, but I didn’t know how to make one, nor did I have the patience at that time. It took the PSG volunteers a few days to get the labyrinth together and running. I only had myself and my husband. We were just too tired and depressed to do it.
I muddled through the second week after PSG, and started to get back in my normal groove until something happened that made me angry. I skipped the gym and went straight home. I wanted to sit on my porch and be by my tree.
Sitting on the porch was fine for a while, but I soon found myself walking around my tree in a circle. I followed the lay of the land, walking up and down the little hills and roots, around fallen branches. I decided to change directions every 10 circles, then I decided to walk for 70 laps or until the sun went down. I walked and walked, gaining enough confidence to walk with my eyes shut.
Several days passed where this was my afternoon hobby. I kept telling myself I had enough room to make a labyrinth in the yard, but I just didn’t want to. Then I realized that I had made a labyrinth, almost by accident. I had chosen a spot, picked a specific pattern and set to task. Mine just happened to have a tree in the middle of it.
Upon looking at other aspects of my life, I realized that I’ve made several smaller labyrinths currently and in the past.
In high school we had plays to run in team sports. At a certain time, we should be in a certain spot. In track, we ran around in a circle. In cross country, we ran through the woods in a specific direction and pattern. On my way to work, I went the same route. When I left my car at the mechanic’s, I walked back to work through the cemetery. Getting ready in the morning, I did the same routine, walked the same path in the house.
All these things had seemed like redundant routines for me, when they were actually my personal labyrinths. And they’ve always been there, I just didn’t see them until now.
I look for opportunities to create new labyrinths now. Not just in the physical, but the ether as well. I go on journeys with a certain guide on the astral plane to the same location. We sit and contemplate or receive a message from the Goddess herself.
My latest labyrinth discovery has been the weather. Arkansas doesn’t usually get the kind of winter weather the northern states do. Our state recently had single digit temperatures and significant amounts of snow. While everyone had electricity, it caused things to move at a slower pace and some to stay inside.
One of my regular clients was complaining about not being able to run outside during this type of weather. He had to go to a local gym and run on a treadmill, which he hated. My only question to him was “what did you see or learn during this time?” He didn’t understand what I was asking.
I explained to him that when a weather pattern causes a significant change to occur in the people and community, it’s a slowing down mechanism. It’s the impetus to get people to stop, hold still, and look at or experience something they would otherwise miss or appreciate. My client never came up with an answer to my question since he had been so focused on being inconvenienced by the weather.
My learning experience from our recent weather was in my gratitude. I was also grateful that last year’s ice storm had warmer temperatures when it knocked out the heat. If we’d been without residential heat during this year’s temperatures, some people would’ve died or had severe frostbite or hypothermia.
This weather also slowed down my thoughts enough to consider writing this story and submitting it to be published. Thanks be to the forces that sometimes slow down our thoughts and speed up our impetus!
by Selena Fox
originally published in Winter 2009 pp.22-24
Sacred Fires and Sacred Flames have been an integral part of the Pagan Spirit Gathering since it began in 1980. The Pagan Spirit Gathering, also known as PSG, is one of America’s oldest and largest celebrations of Summer Solstice and Nature Spirituality. The Fires of PSG symbolize Sun, Summer, Community, Culture, and Celebration. They are sources of illumination and inspiration that are an integral part of celebrating Summer Solstice and creating Community.
A variety of traditions involving sacred work with Fire have developed over the years at PSG. Some of these traditions are forms of ancient Pagan practices, while others are more recent in origin.
Community Sacred Fire
A Community Summer Solstice Fire has been part of each PSG since it began in 1980. Called the Sacred Fire, it represents the Spirit of the PSG Community and its celebration of the Sun at Summer Solstice time. As was done by Celtic, Germanic, Scandinavian, Baltic, Roman, Greek, and other old European Pagan peoples, we use Oak wood as a fuel for our Sacred Fire. Before the Sacred Fire is lit, we add ashes and charred wood from the previous year’s Community Sacred Fire. This kindling a new fire from remnants of a previous one is an ancient Pagan practice representing continuity with the past in the on-going spiral journey of life.
In creating each year’s Sacred Fire, we also include dried stalks of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), a ritual herb long associated with Summer Solstice celebrations. The Mugwort we use is from the Mugwort Circle, a tall hedge and ritual circle around our Maypole at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in Wisconsin. We harvest the Mugwort in a special ceremony at Lughnassad time during our Green Spirit Festival in early August.
On the evening of the opening day of the Pagan Spirit Gathering, we light the PSG Community’s Sacred Fire during our Opening Ritual. The Fire is located in the center of our main Community ritual circle area.
Each year, one of the elders in our Community serves as the PSG Firekeeper. The Firekeeper, assisted by a small crew of other Community members, ritually kindles the Fire as the rest of the Community chants and our Community drummers make rhythms. After the Sacred Fire ignites and grows in intensity, my husband, Dennis, and I walk clockwise around the Fire and carry a large wreath of evergreen boughs used to celebrate Yule six months before at our Winter Solstice celebrations in Wisconsin. We cast this wreath into the Fire to signify the turning of the Wheel of the Year. As the wreath blazes and burns, gathering participants cheer and welcome in the Summer.
Then, PSG coordinators of various aspects of gathering Community life come into the center of the ritual circle and encircle the Sacred Fire. As they cast in handfuls of dried sacred herbs, they speak blessings upon the gathering and the Community.
Throughout the entire week of the gathering and through all types of weather conditions, the PSG Firekeeper and crew, assisted by other Community members, continue to watch over the Sacred Fire to make sure that it continues to burn day and night. In instances of heavy rains, the Firekeeper and crew usually place a portable free standing canopy over the Fire or use other methods to protect the Fire and keep it burning.
A variety of individual, small group, and large community rituals, meetings, workshops, meditations, and other activities take place around the Community Sacred Fire during the gathering. Community members often feed the Fire dried flowers, sweet smelling herbs, paper talismans, and other spiritual offerings. No trash is burned in the Sacred Fire. The Sacred Fire is respected as a spiritual presence embodying the Community Spirit as well as a sacred area.
Each day’s morning meeting is held in the ritual circle around the Sacred Fire. Community members gather to share news, announcements, discussion, music, drumming, and meditation.
Some PSG Community members do personal healing work at the Sacred Fire at times other than large Community events there. Some scry into the Fire and do other types of Fire divination for personal spiritual guidance. Some Community members keep vigil at the Sacred Fire throughout the night and then ritually greet the rising Solstice-time Sun at dawn.
In late morning of the final day of our week-long gathering, the Community Sacred Fire is thanked, honored, bid farewell, and then extinguished as part of the Closing Ritual. Following this ritual, after the remains of the Sacred Fire have cooled, the PSG Firekeeper collects some ashes and chunks of charred wood for use in starting next year’s Sacred Fire.
Other PSG Community members have the option of taking bits of the Sacred Fire’s remains home with them to bless their home fires and remind them of their connection with the Pagan Spirit Gathering Community and the larger global Pagan culture of which we all are part.
Bonfire Drumming & Dancing
Another ancient Solstice Fire practice which has been part of each PSG over the years is that of celebratory dancing and drumming around blazing bonfires. In addition to happening as part of rituals around the Community Sacred Fire in the main ritual circle, this also occurs at other places within the gathering site.
The Community Bonfire Circle space has been developed in a wooded area of the gathering site as a place dedicated to drumming and dancing. The Bonfire is initially kindled from the Community Sacred Fire following the conclusion of the Opening Ritual in the main ritual circle. One of the major PSG rituals, the Tribal Dance and Drum Ritual is held there on the second night of the gathering.
During the daytime, a variety of drumming workshops are held at the Bonfire Circle. Each evening, ecstatic dancing and drumming happens throughout the night. Drummers and dancers interact with each other and the Bonfire in the center of the circle. Various drummers and dancers take turns establishing rhythms, which vary in pace, style, and intensity.
In addition to rhythm making with drums, often there are the additional sounds of tambourines, rattles, zills, flutes, bells, and other instruments. Sometimes there also is chant-singing. A variety of dancing styles may occur during an evening, such as trance dancing, ribbon dancing, and circle dancing. As with the Community Sacred Fire, herbs, wood, and other spiritual materials may be added to the Bonfire as part of dancing and drumming experiences.
Next to the Bonfire Circle is the Fire-Spinning Area. Fire-Spinning instruction and performances take place there. By special arrangement, some Fire-Spinning also is incorporated in large Community rituals and other events.
Sacred Fire Circle of Transformation
In another part of the gathering site is a sacred area known as the Sacred Fire Circle. A special type of alchemical and shamanic rite is held there from midnight to dawn on one of the evenings of PSG. The purpose of this rite and the Sacred Fire at the center of this Circle is transformation. In contrast to the celebratory dancing and drumming at the Bonfire Circle, this place has a structured ritual of trance dancing and drumming that aids in healing and spiritual illumination.
Another special area of deep spiritual practice is the Sweatlodge. This sacred place is an area where sacred sweat traditions of the Americas and, occasionally, old Europe are practiced.
The Sweatlodge has its own Sacred Fire. This Fire is used to warm the stones that provide the transforming sacred heat during Sweatlodge rites. The PSG Community Sweatlodge coordinator, trained in traditional ways by a Native American elder, watches over the PSG Sweatlodge area and activities, to make certain that spiritual and safety protocols are abided by. The Sweatlodge Coordinator also interfaces with the elders and teachers of different sacred sweat traditions who conduct Sweatlodge rites.
Prior to each Sweatlodge rite, the ritual leader and participants gather around the Sweatlodge Fire and prepare for the ceremony. During each ceremony, the Sweatlodge Firekeeper tends the Fire, serves as a guardian of the area, and attends to the needs of participants. Following a ceremony, participants often spend additional time around the Fire as they reflect on and integrate their experiences of healing and transformation.
Other Sacred Fires
Other ritual fires sometimes are kindled in workshop areas and gathering centers as part of various small and large rituals, such as child blessings, handfastings, coming of age ceremonies, other life passages rites, guided journeys, and consecration rites. Also, each year, at least one potter facilitates a clay sculpture workshop in which participants create sacred images, ritual bowls, pentacles, and other altar pieces. After the clay pieces have dried, they are pit fired in a ceremonial Fire created for that purpose.
The campfire in Amethyst Circle, the alcohol free camping area for Pagans in recovery, serves as a focal point for meetings and socials as well as ceremonies there. There are social campfires in other encampments such as the Rainbow Center and Camp, for GLBTQ Pagans, and the Guardians Camp which coordinates First Aid and Safety.
One of the oldest and most spectacular of the Solstice Fire traditions at each year’s PSG is the candlelight procession to the Opening Ritual. As twilight approaches, PSG community members dress for ritual and each lights a candle in a lantern or jar to carry with them. With these lights, they join the community procession as it weaves its way through camp toward the main ritual circle. Like a great ribbon of flickering flames, the procession spirals around and around within the great circle.
Hundreds of lights gleam and glimmer in the darkness. Our lights represent both our individuality as well as our unity. Our procession with these sacred flames spiritually connects us with each other, with the Spirit of the PSG Community through its history, and with the many others who have used sacred processions with flames through the ages as part of their religious and cultural practices.
A long-time favorite PSG Solstice Fires tradition occurs at the end of the opening ritual, when each participant simultaneously lights a sparkler from her or his candle flame. Participants then wave their glowing sparkler wands overhead as they make wishes and blessings for the gathering.
Another way we celebrate Summer Solstice at each year’s Pagan Spirit Gathering is with a Candlelight Labyrinth Ritual. One thousand votive candles, each set in sand in translucent cups, are arranged in an ancient labyrinth pattern within the main ritual circle.
Known as the Seven Circuit Labyrinth, the pattern we use is more than 5000 years old and dates back to Pagan Crete. At twilight, the Candle Labyrinth Ritual facilitators and helpers light each of the candles and do a special blessing of the Labyrinth.
Over the course of the night, from dusk to dawn, hundreds of PSG community members silently and meditatively enter and walk the Candlelight Labyrinth as a ritual of spiritual transformation. After walking the Labyrinth to its center, which is next to the Sacred Fire, most pause and meditate for a time before walking the Labyrinth back to its gateway. Experiences with the Labyrinth vary. For some, it is calming, while for others it is energizing. For most, it is a renewal ritual that deepens spiritual understanding.
Torchlights & Campfires
As twilight approaches each day of PSG, flames are kindled to illuminate roadways, centers, and campsites throughout the gathering site. The PSG Community Torchlighting coordinator and crew make their way along main roads and side paths and light the many tiki torches that they have filled with kerosene, citronella oil, or other fuels earlier in the day. They also light torches at the community altar, stage, and centers.
Throughout the years, there has been a growing number of tiki torches appearing at individual campsites as well, and these are lit by campsite members as part of their welcoming the night ritual process.
In addition, or as alternatives, to tiki torches, some individuals and groups kindle votive candles, oil lamps, and candle lanterns to illuminate their campsites, and in recent years, some solar-powered torches also have been used by some participants. Many Community members have sacred flames on campsite altars and shrines. Merchants who keep evening hours often light their booths as well as their campsites with flamelights. Most campsites with Fire rings also have campfires. In addition to their use for cooking food and warming beverages, these campsite fires serve as focal points for small group evening activities, including discussions, storytelling, singing, and merry-making. Some of these campfires also are used for household or small group private rituals.
The widespread use of many types of Fire, including torches, lamps, candles, and campfires throughout the gathering site each evening creates an enchanting ambiance which is timeless, bringing forth ancestral memories of living in community during times when live flames were the customary means of night time illumination. The flickering of flames and the various Sacred Fires in rituals, in community areas, along paths, and throughout the gathering tribal village is a visible reminder of our connection with each other, with ancient ways, and the Summer Solstice.