A seasonal ritual drama

Tired of the emphasis on the heterosexual relationship between The Goddess and the Gods in most ritual drama cycles which celebrate the seasonal Wheel of the Year, we have created a mythic cycle which focusses exclusively on different faces of the Goddess and, sometimes, the interplay between Her different aspects.

Over the course of one year we discussed which Goddesses and their myths we associate with each festival. From these we selected stories which lent themselves to ritual drama and created a “script” for that festival’s ritual, with one or more women being honoured to carry (literally, to be possessed by) the Goddess. We are also inspired by the wealth of ancient sites in West Cornwall in which to enact our sacred dramas.

Here we publish our YULE ritual, the first of an eight-part series, and one of the few able to be published at an appropriate time of year in a twice-yearly magazine. We offer these scripts as our contribution to the myriad creative ways to celebrate the Goddess at the seasonal festivals.

L’s living room was lit with (white) candles at the four Quarters and one on the mantlepiece.

We purified and blessed each other, then cast the (moveable) circle. We chanted:

Hecate, Cerridwen, Dark Mother, take us in / Hecate, Cerridwen, let us be reborn.
(by Patricia Witt).

We then sat to prepare our giveaways (objects or words to symbolise what we wanted to let go of). We focussed on our lettings-go with a talk-story (clapping/ tapping a background rhythm):

To die and be reborn/The Longest Night/The Wheel turns/What must be lost to the Night?
(by Reclaiming Community, amended).

Many things were named and released.

The women invoked the Hag Goddess into L, who wore a black cloak with the hood low over her face and held the sickle. She did a slow, deliberate dance, cutting with the sickle (bringing endings) and extinguishing the points candles (bringing maximum darkness). Just the mantlepiece candle was left burning, to provide enough light to see her by.

She stopped in front of each woman, holding out her hand, palm upwards, to receive the give-aways (one woman also gave her L’s). After receiving the give-away, the Hag offered the woman the sickle in exchange: to hold, to feel its energies, to identify with the
death-bringing Goddess. When the sickle was returned, the Hag put the woman’s offering on the (unlit) fire.

Putting the sickle back on the altar, the Hag opened her arms wide, revealing the starry night sky on the inside of her cloak. She waited for the women, one at a time, to step forward into her arms. Receiving each woman into death, she embraced her, kissed her tenderly, laid her down on a sofa and covered her with a black shroud.

Blowing out the remaining candle, L put down the Hag aspect, then lay down as herself to join the others in meditation in Dreamtime: the nothingness void in which we dream ahead to the future.

After a long time we all sat up. Putting on outdoor clothes, we made a pilgrimage to down the road under the light of the perigee Full Moon – amazingly enough, since we had started Dark Yule in overcast mizzle! In B’s garden, B changed into white clothes and the women invoked the Sun Goddess into her. Just as the Sun Goddess came into B, the moon emerged from behind a cloud and flooded her with brilliant white light – an extraordinary harbinger of the light to come. Truly it was now bright as day in the full moonlight.

The Sun Goddess went ahead of the women to Boscaswell fogou (an ancient ritual cave built into the earth by Celtic peoples), put on her yellow sun cloak and golden sun’s rays crown, and waited in the fogou. The women gathered outside in the field, calling and chanting with drums and rattles, asking her to return. Soon she did, emerging from the dark mouth of the fogou into strong moonlight in which her pale garments and crown shone spectacularly.

She spoke words of blessing and returning light, then invited her sisters to help her light her flaming torch (the wind had made it too difficult to light it by herself earlier as we originally planned). Once the torch was lit, the Sun Goddess held it aloft while the women celebrated, worshipped and danced. She then brought us a new chant:

Blessed be the sun in the longest night of winter,
Blessed be the light on the day the sun returns,
Blessed be the sun as we move our spirits onward,
As we merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.

The Goddess lit the women’s candle lanterns and night-lights with her flaming torch. We placed them around the fogou, then sat and drank in the magic, awe, beauty and joy of the lit fogou and the wonder of the return of light.

Leaving the night-lights burning (safely!) in the fogou, we processed home, swinging our lit candle lanterns, led by the Sun Goddess in full regalia and carrying her flaming torch, loudly chanting whichever pagan carols we could remember!

Arriving back at L’s, the women changed into white and yellow clothes, and the Sun Goddess lit the candles on the Wheel of the Year. Then we all turned the Wheel of the Year, chanting:

We are awake in the night
We turn the Wheel to bring the Light
We call the sun from the womb of night

(by Reclaiming Community).

We then lit all the white candles around the room and turned on all the fairy lights on the tree and in the window. Finally we chose candles for ourselves, lit them from the Wheel of the Year and made wishes, planting them in a cauldron of earth. We raised power around the cauldron to charge our wishes, then we feasted and shared small gifts.