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Sacred Space (Excerpt)


It is more likely that you will not have the luxury of a permanent temple in which to worship. Any space, however, may be made sacred so that the rituals might be performed in it, and then desacralized afterward so that you might live your everyday lives in it again.

As much as possible, recreate the structure of the permanent temple in your temporary one. The size may have to vary because of available space, but if there is room to use the Priestess's cord as a measure then do so.

To create sacred space in a place which has been constructed by human beings it is necessary to enact the creation of the sacred universe. A place that has been humanly constructed is the expression of one species and is therefore unbalanced. It must be balanced before the ritual can proceed.

A temporary temple has the same design as a permanent one. Mark a circle on the floor with a gate to the east, and then, a convenient distance inside, another circle with gates at the four directions. Between these circles, abutting the external one, place your elemental altars. (The gate in the external circle will need to be large enough for the altar plus space on either side for people to pass.) These altars may be small tables or stands, or even circles or squares marked on the ground. On each of them place an unlit candle and a bowl, leaving space for other items to be added later in the ritual.

Put an altar in the center of the space. It can be a table or a circle drawn on the ground. Put an unlit candle in a holder in its center, with another unlit candle lying next to it. The second candle will be used to transfer flame, and need not be very large.

Between the two circles, to the west, put a shrine to Maghya and Kerntos. This may be a table or a space marked out on the ground. This is the place where the Goddess and the God are considered to be when the ritual is being performed. Put images of the Goddess and the God in it, with a candle and an offering bowl in front of each image. Put the Priestess's crown in front of the Goddess's image, and the Priest's crown in front of the God's.

The crowns can actually serve as the images in a temporary temple. This will serve to emphasize that the Priestess and the Priest are putting on the Two when they put on their crowns.

Make these preparations long enough before the ritual that there will not be a rush immediately before you begin. Let everything be done gracefully.

When the time has come, gather the ordhos together. Before coming to the meeting place the members must have purified them¬selves. For the beginning of the ritual, the Priestess is to be skyclad; the others as decided by the ordhos. If the Priestess will be robing later, one of the others may carry her robe to the circle. If all are skyclad, but will be robing later, put the robes in the circle when it is prepared. All who are skyclad must still be wearing their cords, however.

Form yourselves into a procession, with the Priest and Priestess at its front. The Priest carries his staff in his right hand and milk (if required) in his left. The Priestess carries her bowl in her left hand, and a pitcher of gold medhu in her right. The other members carry what else will be required for the ritu¬al. The minimum will be the elemental tools of the Priestess and a fire source. They each also carry two markers for the edges of the circles. These markers may be stones, flowers, or any other small objects.

If not enough people are present to carry everything, most of these can be put in the circle beforehand.

When the ordhos has arrived at the place where the circle is to be, they go once deosil around it. Then the Priestess and Priest enter the inner circle through its eastern gate. The members carrying the elemental tools and the fire source place them in the center, on the altar, and then leave the circle, again through the eastern gate. The members arrange themselves equally about the outside of the outer circle. The Priestess and Priest go to the center altar and stop. The Priestess sits down on the altar, placing her bowl between her legs. She faces east, and the Priest faces her.

The Priest pounds on the ground three times with his staff. When the last sound has died away, the Priestess lights the candle in the center and the Priest says:

In That Time, She brought forth the world.
Young and holy it was,
and known to be holy by all.
This is how it came to be:
In the center of all there was a Well,
a spring constantly flowing with life-giving Medhu.

The words that are assigned to the Priest in this ritual may be spoken by another member, preferably male. They may not be spoken by the Priestess; she has her own role to perform.

(Here the Priestess pours medhu into her bowl from the pitcher.)

It nourished all about it,
and as far as it reached, there things sprang forth.
Rising from this well was the Tree,
empowered by the Medhu, drawing His life from it,
returning Medhu, transformed, to the Well.
In strength it arose, to perform great deeds.

(Here the Priest places the bottom of his staff into the bowl.)

Directly in the center it was,
and from it all the universe came to be ordered,
spread out equally all around it.
He was the one who did it,
forming the Cosmos in which life might proceed.
Empowered by Her Medhu he did this,
forming all things according to Her Artus.
According to Her measure, He ordered the universe.
He measured the world, He set it up.
Thus was the world measured out, thus was the enclosure made.

Here the Priestess removes her cord and hands it to the Priest. He doubles it and hands the folded end to the Priestess. They touch, and the Priestess establishes the flow of esmen. He goes to the west, stands a moment, and then crosses the circle to the east. There he begins a deosil circuit around the outer circle, drawing it with his staff, measuring it with the cord. When he reaches the gate, he must lift his staff, not putting it down again until he has reached the other side of the gate, where he traces the edge a short time again, about the length of his wand. As the Priest passes each member, she places one marker on the border. When the Priest returns to the east, the Priest¬ess shortens the cord sufficiently to mark the inner circle. As this is done, the other members enter through the eastern gate (going deosil about the circle), and arrange themselves deosil about the space between the circles. The Priest then goes about the inner circle, measuring and tracing it. Before each of the four directions he lifts his staff for the space of a step so as to form gateways. When he lifts the staff up to make the gap, he pauses a moment, faces the direc¬tion, and holds the staff up as the pillar that holds up that corner of the world. The Priestess ensures that the doubling of the cord stays in the center of the circle. As the Priest passes each member of the ordhos, the member places her second marker on the ground in front of her, marking the circle's edge where the Priest measures it.

If there is insufficient space to use the doubled cord as the measurement, it may be shortened. The Priestess's cord should still be used, however, even if it must be shortened. It should be shortened by a unit that corresponds to one of her body measurements – a palm, a span, a cubit, etc. This will keep the circle in a relationship with her.

After the circle has been marked out, the members enter it through the gateway to the east and rearrange themselves inside the inner circle. In the meantime, the Priest returns the cord to the Priestess, touching her to return the esmen. The Priestess puts the cord on the ground in front of her, coiling it into a spiral. The Priest then continues:

She brought forth the Air
and He placed it in the East
where all who saw it might learn its secrets.
She brought forth the Fire
and He placed it in the South
where all who saw it might learn its secrets.
She brought forth the Water
and He placed it in the West
where all who saw it might learn its secrets.
She brought forth the Earth
and He placed it in the North
where all who saw it might learn its secrets.

As each element is named, one of the members of the ordhos comes forward to receive its tool. Who it will be is to be decided by who is standing at the appropriate quarter. If there are particular people who are to perform this act, decide that when the procession is prepared. As each comes forth, the Priestess picks up that element's tool from the central circle and gives it to the Priest, who then gives it to the mem¬ber. The Priest lights the second candle from the lit one and hands that to the member as well. The member then carries them to the altar in the appropriate direction. She carries them clockwise around the circle, blessing the others with the tool as she goes. She may touch it to them, or they may reach out to it themselves, or bow before it. When she comes back again to the altar from which she started, she places the element on it, lights the candle there, bows before it, and says:

We establish the element of [Air], in its proper place, honoring its spirit.
We honor the spirits of the place to which we have come,
inviting them to join us in the worship of the Holy Ones.

She returns the candle to the center and then goes back to her place. After a pause, the Priestess goes on to the next element. When all the elements are placed, the Priestess holds up her cord and the Priest says:

All of these elements were spun from esmen,
the differentiated from the undifferentiated.
From the nature of existence was each element made,
placed in its proper place.

The Priestess puts her cord down again, and the Priest says:

Through the medium of the Tree, Her blessings were sent out to all,
stretching out to the ends of the Cosmos.
She is open-handed with her blessings;
She continues to pour them forth.
The Tree is continually fed with them,
and continually He sends them forth to all those who dwell in the world.
To all the directions Her blessings flow,
and by them the world is made holy.

As these words are being said, the Priest dips his staff into the bowl. He then lifts it out, wet with medhu, and shakes it to each of the directions. In between each shak¬ing, he dips it again. Each time he does so, the Priestess pours medhu onto it.

The Priest then says:

Thus was the Universe established

All: In That Time.

Priest: Thus was the Universe established

All: In That Time.

Priest: Thus are those who are gathered here in this moment

All: In That Time.

The Priestess then says:

We are here to follow the ways of the People
as we have been taught since the time of old.
To worship the gods as is only proper
to strengthen our resolve to follow the Artus.

Everyone then sits down, and if there is room they lie flat, with their faces touching the ground. If not, they put their palms flat on the ground and look down. The Priestess says:

We perform these deeds on the body of the Mother.

Everyone then stands up. They hold their hands up to the sky, turning their heads back to look up. The Priest says:

We perform these deeds under the gaze of the Father.

Then everyone says:

May what we do be done well.
May what we do be done rightly.
May what we do be according to the way of the Gods.
May what we do be guided by the Artus.

The Priest says:

We stand here in the center of the world:
May our lives be equally centered.
We seek the balance of the world:
May our lives be equally balanced.
We wish the blessing of the world:
May our lives be a blessing to the world.

This may also be said as a litany, with the Priest saying the lines that begin with "We" and the others saying the lines beginning with "May."

It may be that you have the opportunity to worship outside, without the freedom to build a temple. Because the world about us is the result of many years of acting by many different spe¬cies of life, each in its own appropriate way, it is balanced according to the Artus, and you need not enact the creation of the universe. (If the place in which you find yourself seems in some way unbalanced, perhaps due to the depredations of one species, then by all means enact the creation of the universe, exactly as if you were inside.) The actual area in which your ritual takes place, however, must be set apart, made sacred.

Form the double circle, marking it either with items you either have brought with you and will be taking away at the end, or with ones found within sight of the place where the ritual will take place. If the ritual is on dirt or sand the circle may be drawn with a stick, and erased after the ritual is over.

Between the circles, at each of the four directions, either put a rock or log on which things can be placed, or mark a small¬er circle. In the center of the circle mark a circular area or put a rock or log to serve as an altar, or prepare your fire. Place your images between the circles, to the west.

As well as whatever items you will need for the rest of the ritual and the items with which you will be marking the circle, you will need a loaf of four-lobed bread and a bottle of medhu (and the milk, if necessary).

After the spot has been prepared, those who have done the preparation return to where the remainder of the ordhos is waiting. The ordhos forms a procession, with the Priest and Priestess at its front, carrying their staff and bowl.

When the circle is reached, the ordhos walks first around the outer circle deosil, and then enters through the eastern gate and walks between the circles. Entering through the inner circle's eastern gate, they walk once more about the circle deosil. The Priestess goes to the west of the center, facing east, and the Priest faces her. Then the Priest says:

Set apart is our sacred space
with borders of our making.
Here within them we will perform our rites
in beauty and in peace, as the Artus directs.

When the others are arranged equally about the edge of the circle, the Priest says:

We have not come empty handed,
but with offerings to the spirits of this place,
that there might be peace between them and us always.

After a pause, the Priest hits the ground with his staff three times and say:

Here we are.

All: Here we are.

Priestess: Here in this place.

All: Here in this place.

Priest: We are gathered to worship the Old Ones
in ways that will please them.
But it pleases them most if we live our lives
with beauty and balance.
And to live our lives with beauty and balance
it is necessary to honor those with whom we share this world.

The member with the bread brings it to the Priestess, who holds it up to the east. She lowers it, turns towards the south and holds it up again. Again she lowers it, then turns towards the west and holds it up. She lowers it, turns towards the north and holds it up, and then turns again towards the east and place the bread on the ground in the exact center of the circle.

The Priest kneels and breaks the bread into its four parts, putting one on each side of the altar. One of the members comes to the center. Which members are to perform this role will be decided before the ritual. The member stops in front of the Priest and Priestess. The Priestess takes the piece of bread that is to the east and gives it to the member, who takes it to the east and lays it on the elemental altar, saying:

We give these gifts to all the spirits that dwell in the East
We honor their presence,
We honor their power,
We honor their kinship
as children of our Mother
as children of our Father.
Accept these gifts, we ask,
and may there be peace between yours and ours.

She then returns to her place. Another member comes to the center and does the same thing, this time to the south. This is also done to the west and the north, each time with a pause before continuing.

The elements are not specifically mentioned. Since the ritual is being performed in Nature, it may be assumed that the elements are in their proper places. By honoring the spirits of the directions, the elemental spirits are also honored.

Everyone then sits down, and if there is room they lie flat, with their face touching the ground. If not, they put their palms flat on the ground and look down. The Priestess says:

We perform these deeds on the body of the Mother.

Everyone then stands up. They hold their hands up to the sky, turning their heads back to look up. The Priest says:

We perform these deeds under the gaze of the Father.

Then everyone says:

May what we do be done well.
May what we do be done rightly.
May what we do be according to the way of the Gods.
May what we do be guided by the Artus.

The Priest says:

We stand here in the center of the world:
May our lives be equally centered.
We seek the balance of the world:
May our lives be equally centered.
We wish the blessing of the world:
May our lives be a blessing to the world.

This may also be said as a litany, with the Priest saying the lines that begin with "We" and the others saying the lines beginning with "May."

The creation of sacred space is not simply a preliminary, it is a ritual in itself. In fact, if you do nothing but create sacred space, call the gods and offer to them, and then end your rite, you have accomplished much. If the ordhos meets often, and on days when no other rites are prescribed, they may wish to do just that, with perhaps feasting or divination as well.

It is the goal of every Pagan to put herself into alignment with the sacred and with the world. Creating sacred space does not act only on the land on which it is performed, but also on the people who perform it.