As part of the discipline practice in my clergy studies, one of the requirements is to perform “a full solo hearth ritual that includes honouring the Gods and Spirits of the student, divining the nature of the Blessing and working a good Blessing in turn.” This phrasing has made me consider what it means to “work a good Blessing”, in the context of a personal or a group ritual.
The primary form of working a blessing in my practice (both public and private) is through the blessing cup. Waters are poured out and hallowed by the powers of the Gods, imbuing them with the blessings communicated to us through the Omen. These are listed in the Core Order of Ritual, and performed by us, as:
- Calling for the Blessing – asking the Gods and spirits to grant us the blessing exhibited to us in the omen
- Hallowing the Blessing – the transference of the promise of blessing into a manifest form, into the waters
- Affirmation of the Blessing – the folk’s acceptance and consumption of the waters
All three of these steps are summed up in one ritual piece my Grove refers to as the Litany of the Waters. The Litany of the Waters is performed most often by the Celebrant in our rites. Generally speaking, this is the person who ensures the rite is performed properly, that the Kindred are properly honoured, that due sacrifice has been made. Most often, this person pronounces the Prayer of Sacrifice on behalf of the group, and, with the Seer’s guidance, facilitates the transference of the blessing of the Kindreds to the folk.
This doesn’t mean that this person is the centre of attention; rather, I see a good Celebrant’s job as to avoid that, instead effectively placing the focus on the Gods and spirits themselves. As an intermediary, it is my job to speak clearly to the Gods on behalf of the folk, and provide an unimpeded means of reception for the blessing.
A Grovemate said last Imbolc that, having performed the Litany for the first time, she can see how the experience is different on the other side of the cup! So, here is a general overview of my experiences when performing the Litany for a group:
– I practice in advance, with my coffee mug. Seriously. After that long period of forgetting the words repeatedly… practice.
– I really do feel that when speaking the words to the Gods to ask for their blessing, that I am speaking on behalf of everyone present. I feel that all the eyes are on me — both the folk, and the gods. I have to go through all of the appropriate motions, as is correct — and I don’t always do it right.
– Because our liturgy is rich with imagery as to where the waters come from, I have been blessed with visuals of the well and hazel trees, of the well under the sea, of the cavernous Earth.
– When I ask the Gods to hallow the waters with the specific blessings granted in the omen, I visualise the card’s imagery.
– I always pass the cup to my left, without drinking from it first. I feel it would be unfair if I were to have the first drink, since I speak on behalf of the group. My role is service.
– When we sing as the blessing cup is passed, I try to sustain the imagery of the qualities of the blessing in the waters, the image of the animal card, until the cup returns to me.
There are some practical considerations when working a blessing for a large rite. Our Grove only uses pure water for the blessing, because we feel that it is more important to have everyone share in the same blessing cup, rather than having alcoholic and nonalcoholic options. This avoids any awkwardness when folk have to choose between them; nobody should feel like they need to explain themselves. For very large rites, we asperse the folk rather than having a communal cup. In private rites at home, I use whiskey for the waters.
Knowing if one has worked a “good” blessing may not be initially apparent. We can tell if folk enjoyed the ritual both by their feedback and the energy in the hall after the rite, but the magic of the blessing can emerge in the days after. If we receive a blessing from the gods that is for cooperation and confidence, for example, we may not realize the manifestations of that blessing until we are in situations that require it. This is why tracking ones rituals and omens is a good practice, so that we can look back on our work and review.