Modern Rituals

I have been having some difficulty in relating to the Sabbats as they are usually put forth in the various texts I have read and as practiced by the (few) Wiccan groups and covens I have had contact with. The reason for my difficulty is the basis on medieval European agricultural reality of most of the Sabbat rituals, and also the heterocentrism that is involved. As a modern Gay male urban American, I have not related well to established Sabbat ritual ideas.

As to the first point, I think it does those of us living in major cities good to try to reconnect with the rhythms of nature. Yes, it's quite possible for us to pass through the seasons while taking little notice of the changes they bring in nature, but that doesn't mean it's a good thing to do so. The sabbats can be a useful way of breaking out of our urban isolation, even if only temporarily. Try to get out of the city at least once in a while, or even go to a large park or nature trail if you have them where you are, and begin paying attention to the nature, and the changes in it wrought by the seasons. Plant a garden, if you can, even if it's just in window boxes. You may find the sabbats, especially the solstices and equinoxes, become more meaningful to you.

Your second point is well taken. Many of the customs and rituals of traditional Wicca are very heterocentric, and as a lesbian, I can definitely relate to the difficulty you're having. But I've found that the basic ideas behind most sabbats can be translated readily enough. There are several different myth cycles relating to the turning of the year, and not all of them are that het. In fact, the Oak King/Holly King or Bright Lord/Dark Lord traditions are based on a form of male-male polarity and could fairly easily be interpreted in a homoerotic fashion.

Be creative. Look at the various types of traditional symbolism and decide what applies to your life, what doesn't, and what could be adapted to do so. For example, Beltane, with its focus on Maying, courtship, fertility rites, etc. often comes across as the straightest sabbat of them all, but there's no reason that it has to. It's a festival of life, in contrast to Samhain, the festival of death. And one of life's strongest expressions is through sexuality, in all its forms. Use this sabbat to celebrate your own sexuality, and through that to feel one with all the burgeoning life that surrounds you at that time.

To nip through the list quickly, you've got Samhain and Yule worked out already. Imbolc is traditionally a time of preparation for the planting season, and one of the things customarily done was to inspect, take stock of and clean the farming tools. Celebrate this time by cleaning, polishing and re-consecrating your altar and magickal tools, and by taking stock of your own life, both spiritual and mundane. What's still useful? What isn't, and should be gotten rid of. What could be improved?

The Spring Equinox, Lady Day or Eostre, is a time of beginnings. Take a walk through a natural area, and try to find the signs of new life returning. This may be easier or harder, depending on what part of the world you live in — your origin line doesn't say. But even in Northern Ontario, where Spring doesn't really kick in until considerably later, there are always a few signs. It may also be a good time for planting, again depending on your area. Try to plant a few seeds, even if they're just for indoor houseplants. You can use this planting to work magick, by the way. Charge the seeds with the intent of something you want to "plant" or begin in your own life.

Beltane we've covered. The Summer Solstice does in some myth cycles have the heterosexual symbolism of the marriage of the God & Goddess, but it could also be used to celebrate committed relationships in general. If you're in a relationship, this could be a good time to exchange or reaffirm vows, do love/sex magick, and just generally celebrate your commitment to each other. If not, then you can focus on the solar aspect. We often keep a dark vigil the night before, that is stay up all night with no "fire" whatsoever, no electric lights or anything. Then at dawn we go to the lake shore or somewhere else with good visibility to the East, and greet the rising Sun. It's traditional to start a bonfire by focusing the rays of the sun through a magnifying glass, and some people like to light a candle or oil lamp form that fire and use it to keep an eternal flame throughout the year, only extinguishing it for the next year's vigil.

Lammas is in some cycles the changeover of power from the Bright Lord to the Dark Lord, and is often marked by a mystery play dealing with the sacrifice of the Corn King. It can be a good time to think about the concept of sacrifice in general as it applies to your life, and about the violence inherent in the food chain. Its death-aspect is also a foreshadowing of Samhain.

The Fall Equinox, also called Mabon or Harvesttide is strongly associated with the harvest, and there isn't much getting away from that. You could do as I mentioned for Spring, though, and visit a natural area to take notice of the changes in nature that come with fall. If you planted things in the Spring as I suggested, then you might really have something to harvest. Otherwise, you could look at that topic more metaphorically as you did with planting, and celebrate reaping the results of projects or goals you've completed.

Anyway, those are a few ideas.

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