All I do as a community Priestess considered, ritual creation and facilitation is unequivocally my greatest delight. I remain thoroughly inspired and amazed by the transformation that occurs in these rites, both within myself and in others, even after leading hundreds of rituals over almost twenty years. I now recognize that the swift, hot spark leading to my understanding that I had a vocational call to priestess is directly linked to my enduring wonder and awe of the lasting change that comes—successfully, over and over and over again—from a gathering of less than two hours between doors opening and closing.
Along with all of the other skills necessary to running a healthy community, ritual creation and facilitation is the one I’ve honed the sharpest, and with the greatest joy. This is the skill I continue to lovingly practice, to study, to dig into deep, deeper, deepest. I am never bored with ritual, I never feel burned out by ritual, and I remain enchanted by ritual and a willing servant of it, even after all of these years.
I led my first open, public ritual somewhat by accident. Part of a tiny coven of witchy women aspiring to become Priestesses and Ritualists, we gathered together monthly to put our solitary studies into action, encouraging and supporting one another in forging our own unique, sovereign, traditionless Paths. Each woman in our circle was appreciated as a Priestess in her own right and so we rotated responsibilities, resulting in decidedly—and deliciously—experimental and eclectic group rites.
Initially meeting one another through a Pagan women’s social group then under the umbrella of the now defunct* community organization, New Moon New York, we chose to continue our relationships when the original, much larger group disbanded, renaming ourselves and narrowing our focus solely to ritual practice and study.
Throughout the Wheel of the Year, different groups and traditions volunteered in offering High Holyday ritual to the greater New Moon New York community at their gathering center. A few weeks before Winter Solstice, we found out that the leader of the now-disbanded social group had signed us up to facilitate the Yule ritual. Our past leader was nowhere to be found, not returning calls or emails, and our coven felt a responsibility to fulfill this obligation.
So, bravely into the breach we together jumped, with me functioning as the High Priestess as I had the most experience, which was quite negligible. Oh, when I look back at this rite I am so embarrassed! We were ever so young and ever so nervous, we had the barest of minimum of experience in group practice, and we wore…wait for it…feathered Mardi Gras masks to represent the Elements. I don’t remember much about the structure of the rite itself but I do know we led some sort of participatory dance and shared homemade cookies, each complete with an attached divinatory message.
But even now, looking back with such great chagrin at our fumbling, bumbling, awkward, novice attempt at open ritual, I remember that something astonishing and incredibly important happened:
We touched people. We facilitated change. People transformed before our very eyes, glittering like stars, faces shining, tears and laughter flowing. The air itself vibrated with magick and power and a jubilance of anticipating the returning light. I was changed forever. Almost twenty years later, I remain changed. I remain hooked. I remain rapt. I remain devoted.
And all of the other leadership skills I’ve spent years and years and years developing and strengthening are but a foundation mindfully built to support this undeniable calling.
Ritual facilitation is easily the most frightening thing I do as a Priestess. And, as Starhawk says, “Where there’s fear, there’s power.” There is vast power here, in ritual. Timeless, endless, formless power. We go deep, we go raw, and we do it in an open circle.
Elation, pride, and relief come at the end of guiding a group through ninety minutes of ritual. Often many women in attendance are not only strangers to one another, but to the Path in general. We begin never having met before; we frequently end as family, as Sisters who feel as if we’ve rediscovered one another after a lifetime—or lifetimes—of searching.
Like that long-ago Yule rite, even the rare ritual I feel is an energetic bust, never taking off from the ground, without fail, a woman will come up to me after or email the next day telling me how much her life changed as a result of it.
Ritual truly equals transformation. In this space we gather to challenge ourselves, to challenge each other, to challenge the dominant paradigm. To challenge, to change, to learn, to grow. To advance more profoundly, more thoroughly, into becoming all we are meant to be, all we want to be. Transforming the visions of ourselves into earthy reality. Weaving together our roots and branches with care and support. Reminding ourselves and one another that we matter. Soaring through infinity, remembering our eternity.
It brings me great joy to witness a woman accepting and embracing her power-within, fully owning who she is, Shadow and all, finally seeing all parts of herself as sacred, holy, and perfect. I am fulfilled when I see a woman’s life changing for the better because she was courageous enough to show up for herself and her Sisters. I am deeply honored by the trust placed in me as holy witness and midwife of women finding themselves and in themselves finding confidence, self-worth, and self-love.
Of course, I am willingly ensorcelled time after time as well. The power of the Goddess, the beauty of the altar, the glow of the Moon and the stars above our heads, the luminous and knowing eyes of my Sisters in the night, the flame of the candles, the scent of the incense, the taste of fine chocolate and blessed water. The pressure of my Sisters’ hands on either side of me, their gentle squeezes of love and reassurance that they are here, that we are here, that we are doing it, and we are doing it well.
These moments I return to again and again. These moments keep me going when the world feels harsh and uncaring and headed towards complete annihilation. These moments feed me—heart, soul, and spirit—keeping me strong and determined.
For this is the Sacred Offering I make with every breath. From this body, this life is the blessing I offer to the world.
With My Love, Lady Jesamyn
Art and Notes:
Altars by Sisterhood of the Moon Priestesses and community; Evening sky from CC0 Creative Commons
*I have been able to find no evidence that New Moon New York is still in existence. If it is, please let me know! I would love to find my Sisters from the past and those who may have attended that Yule rite, which took place in either 1998 or 1999.