Rituals- Indoors or Outdoors

Posted on May 31, 2017 at 3:15 PM

Whether Witches work their rituals indoors or outdoors has got to be a matter of practicality and preference. Working rituals outdoors can be a wonderful experience if the weather is amenable as it leads to the possibility of serendipity. For example, a few years ago I attended the funeral of a Witch at Wrabness Green Burial site near Harwich in Essex. As the coffin was being lowered into the earth a skylark rose up from a nearby meadow into the sky and began to sing creating a poignant serendipitous moment full of meaning and magic.

There is something magical about being in the countryside at night surrounded by wild nature. You can feel the breeze on your face, smell the wild flowers and leaves. You can hear the night time sounds of owls and the barking foxes. In my experience and opinion rituals done outside require less words and tools than those performed indoors. Just being in the woods at night surrounded by the season puts you automatically into a ritual frame of mind. It is unusual to be in the countryside after dark and so our minds are full of the expectation that something special is about to occur. There is a certain feel to being out in the woods, or next to a corn field swaying in the breeze on a calm warm summer evening that can’t be matched.

However wondrous the experience, there are also some drawbacks to outdoor work. The first drawback is the problem of privacy. The last thing you want during an intense and meaningful ritual is to be happened upon by strangers; an alarming experience for the stranger as well as for the Witches. Just imagine how they must feel to chance across robed (or skyclad) figures in the woods bearing swords, knives, and cauldrons; possibly chanting as well! Not a good look to explain to a policeman. Even in remote areas it is possible to be disturbed, for example, some friends and I went to Comb’s Woods one evening to listen for nightjars. As we gathered on a woodland ride full of ornithological expectation, a police helicopter descended upon us and shadowed our progress through the woods, even following us on our journey home. And that was just for bird watching! While it is true, that when the circle is cast unwanted eyes seem to be kept at bay, it is still a struggle to relax into rituals when there exists a fear of discovery.

The second drawback is the problem of weather. It is very difficult to enter an into an altered state of consciousness and focus on the purpose of the rite when it is freezing cold or it is lashing it down with rain. Another distraction is biting insects and trip hazards; all of which can very easily take you out of trance.

The third drawback is that there may be people in the coven who are very old and not very mobile. For them traversing the countryside by night is not very practical or safe. Rituals are for people, not people for rituals and so the rites need to be accessible to all the coven’s members.

An advantage of working outside is that the place in which you are working may be special to you in some way. You may have a personal relationship with the character of the place or it may have cultural associations and meanings to witchcraft, such as a crossroad or corpse-ways.

In my experience the same ‘feel’ of an outdoor ritual can be achieved at an indoor one. When the covenstead is set up, with seasonal foliage on the altar, candlelight playing off the naked bodies of the coveners and seasonal incense rising form the censer, the expectations are raised and we slip effortlessly into trance. If we have experienced wild nature, if we have been in woodland at night or the cornfields on a Lammas evening, or heard the roar of stags in the rut we bring the characters and meanings of those experiences into the circle with us.

The advantages of working indoors are that we are assured of privacy. Unless you live with non-Crafters and are foolish enough not to make sure they are out of the house and not likely to be back any time soon, you are not going to be stumbled upon and if you are, then you deserve it. There is the advantage that the weather is not going to be a problem. A warm temperature and lack of rain will help our concentration and focus on any work that needs to be done. Magic and the Craft are difficult enough and there is little point in making them any harder. An indoor ritual is accessible for all coven members including those who are old or immobile. A chair can be set out for the elders of the Craft who may find it difficult to stand through the whole ritual, allowing them to participate. Being inside makes it easier for the coven to practice any pathworkings, meditations, divinations, and practices like herb preparation, training or any other activities the coven works. Finally, being inside is more conducive and amenable to the after ritual feast. I know that Craft is a celebration of life, but we draw the limit of having extra life, in the form of ants and other insects invading our food.

At the end of the day there are pros and cons to both. Arguments about which is best on internet forums are a waste of time and a symptom of glamour. After all as a friend of mine once said, if you can’t work magic in a bare concrete room, then you can’t work magic at all.

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