I attended my Tradition’s Festival of Hecaté ritual last night at Seelie Court in Southern Delaware. It is the 23rd time, not counting times we have performed this rite at gatherings and festivals, that we have called upon Her in Her form of Three Faces; Maiden, Mother, Crone. It was not open this year, though it in past it has been, but was for members of our Tradition and our invited guests. Life being what it is, there were about 60 people who were able to attend last night (it has been as high as 150). And yet, as in the past, the number of people who attend is unimportant. Those that were there were those that should be there, no more, no less.
I was struck this year about how little I had to work to get things ready. One thing that contributes to that is the ritual is the same each year. The setup of the ritual space remains the same with only small variations each year. My husband wrote a beautiful set of Elemental invocations used to create sacred space 20+ years ago especially for this ritual and we always use them. There are far more helping hands for toting, laying out candles in jars, setting up the central altar and the thrones for the priestesses who will be embodying the faces of the Goddess, and the general running back and forth that occurs between the houses of Seelie Court to get the Great Circle ready.
So that left me a little more time this year to prepare myself for the ritual. Over the years I have trained myself to be able to switch from the practical aspects of getting things set up to ritual headspace with a very deep breath and a moment of internal stillness. Anyone who has been a part of big public and semi-public rituals knows what I am talking about. One does not bring that frenetic energy into the space with the Divine. As my southern grandmother would say, it just ain’t done.
And in many ways I was very glad of extra time this year. I am one of the ritual leaders, along with several other people. I am one of the three priests who cast the circle and call the quarters to create sacred space. I am one of the heralds whose words guide people through the ritual, helping to invoke within them the purpose of the rite and focus their minds upon the work. I am one of the people who, along with others, help switch chants as needed on the fly and help to hold the energy of the space. And I love every second of it. And not just because I get a wicked sense of satisfaction in using the oratory and public speaking skills I was taught as an evangelical Christian (I have now been Wiccan longer than I was a Jehovah’s Witness. My poor parents). I love the work for the work’s sake. I love being part of providing people magickal, spiritual and religious experiences. I love being part of people’s processes of growth and evolution, of expanding consciousness and self-awareness. I love being in ritual and being in the presence of the Divine. And I look great in black robes.
This year, though, is different. I am angry. I am angry about a lot of things happening in the world though that is the anger that comes from impotency. I cannot stop terrorist attacks, natural disasters, political lunacy, and all of the things that should not be and which I have no power to simply stop. Certainly I do what I can do and that never seems enough. There is always more and more terrible things that need addressing. That anger is always there, a part of me that is known and manageable. A deep breath and a moment of inner stillness and it is laid aside for the moment.
This year, though, is especially different. I am angry at my magickal, pagan, whatever-you-wish-to-label-it community. The anti-transgendered sentiment has once more reared it’s ugly head to spread itself like wildfire across the pagan social media bubble. And I find myself angry with everyone. I am angry with the behavior of those with whom I agree; I am angry with the behavior of those with whom I disagree. I am angry with those outside of my community who would use this moment to damage that community; I am angry with those inside of my community who use this moment to damage their fellows. I am angry in the way that only someone with Moon in Scorpio can be. Yesterday morning, while everyone was out of the house, I put on my microphone and ranted into the computer. I called everybody names, I used profanity in abundance. I felt a little better, at least I could focus on the day and not pace around the house like a madman. And then, of course (Mercury in Capricorn) I edited the document for punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc. Dragon Dictate doesn’t understand profanity very well.
And yet that angry itch is still there, that little bit of poison at the end of the scorpion’s tail. It is not the well-known, manageable anger with which I have learned to live, which can be set aside with breath and stillness. It is a cancer that even now is sitting in my mind and heart.
At the Festival of Hecaté ritual we invoke the Goddess in Her three faces; Maiden, Mother, Crone. Once She is present, embodied in three priestess, each Face speaks to the entire group. The messages are different. Some years She is angry with people and the messages are demanding and harsh. Some years Her messages are of encouragement and hope. Once the Three have spoken then each person in the ritual has an opportunity to seek an audience with one of Her Faces, to ask a boon, blessings, or for council. The chanting that holds the energy of the space is also designed to give people privacy, their audience with Her between that person and Herself alone. People return to the circle after their audience changed. It doesn’t matter whether they are laughing or crying, somber or joyful, they are different. And that, to me, is the mark of a successful ritual.
I usually do not seek an audience with Herself at this ritual. This rite is a service to the community, an opportunity my Tradition has created for others to have this experience. And the ritual can be very long (4 hours is the current record holder) and the work is very draining on the priestesses who are anchoring Her presence and draining on the people holding the space. So, I usually do not seek that audience, letting others have the experience. This year, towards the end of the ritual, I saw the Maiden sat alone while people were still speaking with the Mother and the Crone. And because I had said, while going over the ritual beforehand with people, ‘allow yourself to be moved in the moment’ I went before the Maiden and asked for her council in this matter. And I became angry with myself for my behavior.
I am a religious person, always have been, and though I am worshipful I am not subservient. The few times I have gone to seek audience with one of Her Faces I have had a clear vision of what I want and need. I have had no problem looking directly into the Goddess’s eyes and meeting Her challenge unflinchingly. This time, however, I stumbled and fumbled. I could not meet Her eyes. I did not know what I wanted or needed and yet could not help asking for something. I had a hard time answering Her questions about what I had done and what I have tried. I was ashamed of myself in Her presence and angry that I was ashamed.
I don’t know if Hecaté decided to take pity on me in that moment or simply ran out of patience. She asked me, ‘what do you want?’ And I found that I did not have a good answer within myself. And then She said to me, ‘you lead by example and you know this. Do your work, live as best you can and set as good an example to others as you can. That is what you are called to do, nothing more yet nothing less.’ And that lightened my heart a bit and took some of the sting out of my mind and emotions.
And so ended this year’s Festival of Hecaté ritual. And even though I have a million and one things to do today I had to sit down and write this out. This is a record of my experience in Her presence when I am in a not-so-nice place. And if nothing else it increases the empathy I have for people who are in much worse places than I am, who are faced with struggles and challenges that I do not face. And it is a good reminder to me that everyone, no matter how evolved or advanced or self-aware or whatever-you-will (and I am not that evolved or advanced or self-aware), have their hard moments when they really do not know their own mind and heart. So I will do as She has said, and try to be the best example of what I would like to see in my own community. Not of what to believe or feel or think, but how to be; how to be with oneself, with one’s community large and small, and how to be in the presence of the Great Ones.