Cerri and I had been organising open rituals at the Long Man of Wilmington for every seasonal festival since the Spring Equinox of 2000 so last year’s would have been the Anderida Gorsedd’s 20th anniversary. The only hiccup was that an annoying virus had arrived in the UK and was making us re-assess whether it was safe to meet up in numbers. We chose not to go. There were a tiny few who scoffed at that decision, but the safety of those attending was our priority. What we did instead was write the ceremony and post it to the Gorsedd’s Facebook group, so people could do the ritual at the time we would usually meet, then post some pics of those rituals onto the group. It was lovely to see all of those familiar faces.
The Gorsedd rituals continued like that until Samhain when it became obvious that we would not be visiting our sacred hill together in person for quite some time to come. The Samhain ritual was one that could be done live, on Zoom, so that’s what we did. It was different, that’s for sure, but it worked, so both our Winter Solstice and Imbolc rituals were done live online too.
We are now approaching a year on.
This weekend we once again should have been at the Long Man together. Our last open ritual held in 3D is now over a year ago and man I miss it, but I’m also grateful for the technology that has helped us all stay in touch. The UK government have said that on 21st June, progress on vaccinations, numbers etc willing, all of the pandemic restrictions will end. Whether they can keep to that timetable who knows, but there is definitely a light at the end of this strange and twisting tunnel. The Gorsedd hold our open rituals at the Long Man on the closest Sunday, which is June 20th, so even if they keep to that timetable we would just miss the Summer Solstice. So it looks like our first return for an open ritual would be Lughnasadh.
A good time of year.
So my thoughts are turning to what that open ritual might be like.
Many of the things that people love about Pagan open rituals revolve around the community. Holding hands in a circle, singing the Awen together, sharing food and drink to celebrate the turning seasons. These are all things that none of us has been able to do for over a year. Are people going to be instantly ok to go straight back to being that tactile? I know there are a lot of people who simply cannot wait to get hugging, but I also know there are some who still want to take things slowly. It’s not like the virus is going to disappear overnight. We are going to have to live with it as we do with any other disease.
When we meet in Circle, is everyone going to be happy sipping from the same chalice again? Passing it around the circle, taking a sip with a “Blessed Be”, and passing it on to other lips? I don’t think so. The same with the ritual equivalent of a buffet – the sharing of cakes, or bits of cake/biscuits, all from the same plate. The truth is that it’s much safer than sharing a chalice of drink, but all of these things will need careful consideration by the organisers, and those taking part. I can see a time when those questions will be less of a concern, but not at the very beginning of things opening up after such a long time. And it’s good to ask these questions. Things might be different for a while, and that’s ok. We will be able to see each other in 3D, outside, to stand in a circle and hold ceremony together. I will never again take that for granted. It is a blessing I have missed deeply.
Cerri and I will keep watching as things develop and change. As I sit typing this article I’m wondering if that first open ritual should be more like a ‘sacred picnic’ up on that hill. After so long apart, rather than standing in a circle for an entire ceremony, maybe people would prefer to set the circle around the entire perimeter of the hill, then go and sit down to eat our own brought food, and to talk to all of those friends we haven’t seen for over a year.
I think that might be the perfect way for the Gorsedd to get going again, under that Lughnasadh sun.
We shall see.