My First Open Ritual in 18 Months
On Sunday 1st August 2021 the Anderida Gorsedd returned to the Long Man of Wilmington. Our last open ritual there was for Imbolc on Sunday 2nd February 2020, and the next festival, the Spring Equinox of 2020 would have marked 20 years of unbroken continuous open rituals – rain, hail, snow and sunshine, we were there to mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year.
Then the pandemic hit.
So for the Spring Equinox 2020, Cerri wrote a ritual that people could do in their gardens or homes and then, if they wished, they could post a photo to the Gorsedd Facebook group. We were all apart, but those photos were so lovely to see. We did the same for Beltane, the Summer Solstice, Lughnasadh, and the Autumn Equinox, then for Samhain we took the rituals onto Zoom. No, they absolutely were not the same, and could never replace the feelings of an in-person group ritual, but it was what it was, and we marked the turning of the Wheel together with those who logged on.
Once more everything changed in the middle of July this year. Everything opened up, and it seemed that we might well be able to meet once more at the Long Man. A week passed and although infection numbers were going up, hospital numbers seemed to be very much slower in increasing. Facilitating open rituals doesn’t begin and end with writing a ritual. There is also a responsibility to the people attending. So we asked the people in the group what they would like to do. It was obvious that although we all shared this experience, the way people felt at that moment differed hugely. Some were very keen to hug, others not at all. Some were still concerned it was all too soon and would stand this one out and see how things were for the Autumn Equinox, whilst others couldn’t wait to get things going again. We read and digested every point of view, and there was such love and excitement about once more standing beneath the Long Man in Circle that we decided to go ahead.
The conditions were that everyone asked before assuming to hug, and didn’t get offended if the answer was no and that nobody should be pressured into a hug either. It was all down to personal choice. For this ritual, we wouldn’t share a communal feast, but instead, we would hold the Lughnasadh ritual, then close the circle and have a big picnic to give a greater opportunity to get to know each other again, see each other in 3D, and have a conversation where, unlike Zoom, everyone is not looking directly at you, all of the time.
A proper social time, together.
So that is what we did.
I will not lie, I was very nervous and worried. As we drove to the Long Man and up Wilmington High Street I asked Cerri how many she thought might be there. We reckoned about 20. Parked the car, and walked up the hill to the car park, and there were about 35 people there – many had robes and had decorated their hair. Faces we hadn’t seen in 18 long months. It was an emotional moment. On one hand, it felt like we hadn’t seen each other for so long, and on the other, it felt like no time had passed at all, but of course, it had. There were tears. Good tears. The hugging protocol was respected by everyone and it was wonderful.
We formed our circle, called in the Spirits of the Four Directions, then said the Gorsedd Prayer together. I knew the Awens would get me. I hadn’t heard a group of people sing the Awen together for 18 months, for some there it had been longer than that. As the sacred sound left our mouths and spread across the land I felt my throat catch, and my voice broke, as tears fell down my face. It was one of the most beautiful, most welcome, most glorious sounds I have heard in such a long time. Relief, joy, wonder, healing, so many emotions broke over me in that instant.
We marked the turning of the year together and re-introduced ourselves to the Spirits of Place, and it felt so good. I can see that other groups are now beginning to meet again and I am sure that the same care and love will flow through your gatherings too. If the past 18 months have done anything positive, it has reminded me and reaffirmed my love of community, of friends, of companionship and love, and the magic we share when we join together to mark the turning seasons.