Honor the Sacred Feminine with a Goddess Ritual
When Margaret Murray wrote her ground-breaking God of the Witches, in 1931, scholars quickly dismissed her theory of a universal, pre-Christian cult of witches who worshiped a singular mother goddess. However, Murray wasn’t completely off-base; a number of individual cults existed in pre-Christian Europe which honored mother goddesses of their own. In Rome, the cult of Cybele was huge, and the mystery traditions of Isis in Egypt soon took on a mother-goddess status. Take advantage of the blooming of spring, and use this time to celebrate the archetype of the mother goddess, and honor your own female ancestors and friends.
This simple ritual can be performed by both men and women, and is designed to honor the feminine aspects of the universe as well as our female ancestors. If you have a particular deity you call upon, feel free to change names or attributes around where needed. Otherwise, you can use the all-encompassing name of “Goddess” in the rite.
Decorate your altar with symbols of femininity: cups, chalices, flowers, lunar objects, fish, and doves or swans. You’ll also need the following items for this ritual:
- A white candle
- An offering of something that is important to you
- A bowl of water
- A handful of small pebbles or stones
I am (your name), and I stand before you,
goddesses of the sky and earth and sea,
I honor you, for your blood runs through my veins,
one woman, standing on the edge of the universe.
Tonight, I make an offering in Your names,
As my thanks for all you have given me.
Light the candle, and place your offering before it on the altar. The offering may be something tangible, such as bread or wine or flowers. It can also be something symbolic, such as a gift of your time or dedication. Whatever it is, it should be something from your heart. You may want to read up on Offerings to the Gods for some ideas.
Once you have made your offering, it is time to call upon the goddesses by name. Say:
I am (your name), and I stand before you,
Isis, Ishtar, Tiamat, Inanna, Shakti, Cybele.
Mothers of the ancient people,
guardians of those who walked the earth thousands of years ago,
I offer you this as a way of showing my gratitude.
Your strength has flowed within me,
your wisdom has given me knowledge,
your inspiration has given birth to harmony in my soul.
Now it is time to honor the women who have touched your life. For each one, place a pebble into the bowl of water. As you do so, say her name and how she has impacted you. You might say something like this:
I am (your name), and I stand before you,
to honor the sacred feminine that has touched my heart.
I honor Susan, who gave birth to me and raised me to be strong;
I honor Maggie, my grandmother, whose strength took her to the hospitals of war-torn France;
I honor Cathleen, my aunt, who lost her courageous battle with cancer;
I honor Jennifer, my sister, who has raised three children alone…
Continue until you have placed a pebble in the water for each of these women. Reserve one pebble for yourself. Finish by saying:
I am (your name), and I honor myself,
for my strength, my creativity, my knowledge, my inspiration,
and for all the other remarkable things that make me a woman.
Take a few minutes and reflect on the sacred feminine. What is it about being a woman that gives you joy? If you’re a man performing this ritual, what is it about the women in your life that makes you love them? Meditate on the feminine energy of the universe for a while, and when you are ready, end the ritual.
- This ritual can be adapted for a group easily; with a little planning it can become a beautiful ceremony for a number of people. Consider doing it as part of a womens’ circle, in which each member honors the others as part of the rite.
Hold a Beltane Bonfire Rite (Group Ceremony)
The Beltane bonfire is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The fire was more than a big pile of logs and some flame. It was a place where the entire community gathered around — a place of music and magic and dancing and lovemaking. It wascustomary to light the fire on May Eve (the last night of April) and allow it to burn until the sun went down on May 1. The bonfire was lit with a bundle made from nine different types of wood and wrapped with colorful ribbons. Once the fire was blazing, a piece of smoldering wood was taken to each home in the village, to ensure fertility throughout the summer months.
This was typically the time of year when fairs and markets were held, and as most country villages had a common or a green of some sort, there was always room for merriment. Depending on where you live, you might not have enough space for a big bonfire or Maypole dancing — and that’s okay. Just make do with what you have. An alternative to a large bonfire might be a small fire bowl (they’re usually available at discount stores and home improvement chains) or even a tabletop brazier.
If you’re in an apartment and space is at a premium, consider building your fire in a small cauldron or other heat resistant bowl.
Beltane is the spring counterpart to Samhain. While in the autumn, everything is dying, in spring it comes alive, glorious and bursting free from the earth. Beltane is about fertility and sex and passion and life. This ceremony is designed for a group, and includes a symbolic union of the May Queen and the King of the Forest. Depending on the relationship between the people playing these roles, you can get as lusty as you like. If you’re doing a family-oriented Beltane celebration, you may choose instead to keep things fairly tame.
For this ritual you’ll need the following:
- A bonfire — set it up ahead of time, and designate someone to be in charge of lighting and tending it
- A May Queen — if possible, select a woman to play this part who is still within her childbearing years
- A King of the Forest — any adult man can play this role, but it’s even better if he’s someone who is actually partnered with the woman playing the May Queen
- Drums and other noisemakers
- Optional: a crown of flowers for each of the females present
- Optional: a headdress of antlers for each of the males present
First, have the group circle around the fire, with the May Queen and the King of the Forest on opposite sides. The High Priest (HP) or High Priestess (HPs) should welcome everyone with something like this:
Beltane is here! It is a time when the earth is fertile and full.
Long ago, our ancestors planted their fields at Beltane.
The fields that lay fallow for months are now warm and waiting.
The soil that was dormant for the winter now begs us to plant our seeds.
The earth is awakening and ripe, and this is a season of love and passion.
It is a season of fire.
At this point, the fire starter should begin lighting the bonfire. The HP or HPS continues:
As our fires grow, lighting up the night sky, the fire within us grows stronger.
It is the fire of lust and passion, knowing that like the earth, we too are fertile.
Tonight, the God emerges from the forest. He is known by many names —
he is Pan, Herne, Cernunnos, the Green Man. He is the God of the Forest.
Tonight is the night he will chase and capture the maiden.
She is the Queen of the May, Aphrodite, Venus, Cerridwen.
She is the Goddess of fields and flowers, she is Mother Earth herself.
As the HP introduces the God of the Forest and the May Queen, they should each step forward into the circle. The HP says:
Bring fertility to the land! Let the hunt begin!
At this point, the May Queen and the God of the Forest begin the chase, traveling sunwise around the circle, weaving in and out of the other participants. Remember, the May Queen wants to make love to the God of the Forest. This is a fun chase, a joyful courtship, not a mock rape; make sure both parties understand this and prepare accordingly. She can even allow him to get close to her, pretending she’s ready to join him… and then slipping away at the last second. They should travel the circle three times in the chase, and finally stop at a point in front of the bonfire — hopefully, it will be burning well by now.
While the God of the Forest is pursuing his lady love, everyone else in the circle starts drumming. Start of slowly — after all, a courtship can take some time to get started. As the couple begins to speed up, increase the tempo of the music. If you’d like to chant instead of or in addition to drumming, go ahead. There are many popular traditional chants in Wicca and Paganism, and nearly all sound good when you sing them with a group. When the May Queen and the God of the Forest finally complete their three-times journey of the circle, the drums should stop abruptly.
The HP says:
Fire and passion, love and life, brought together as one.
At this point, the May Queen says to the God of the Forest:
I am the earth, the womb of all creation.
Within me, new life grows each year.
Water is my blood, air my breath, and fire is my spirit.
I give you honor, and shall create new life with you.
The God of the Forest replies to her, saying:
I am the rutting stag, the seed, the energy of life.
I am the mighty oak that grows in the forest.
I give you honor, and shall create new life with you.
The couple kisses, long and passionate. If they’re feeling really lusty, they can fall to the ground and roll around for a while — feel free to cover them with a blanket if you like. This kiss (or more) is the symbolic union of the male and female spirit, the great rite between man and woman. Once the embrace is broken, the HP calls out:
The earth is once more growing new life within! We shall be blessed with abundance this year!
Everyone else in the circle claps and cheers — after all, you’ve just guaranteed that your village will have hearty crops and strong livestock this year! Celebrate by dancing around the bonfire, drumming and singing. When you are ready, end the ritual.
If you have a woman in your group who is trying to conceive, she is absolutely the best choice for the role of May Queen. Her partner or lover may act the part of the God of the Forest, or another man may stand in as a symbolic consort.
How To Hold a Family Abundance Rite for Beltane
Beltane is a celebration of fertility, and despite that it’s a perfectly natural aspect of the human existence, let’s face it — some parents may not always be comfortable discussing the erect phallus of the god or the open womb of the goddess with their young children. However, in addition to sexual fertility, the Beltane sabbat is also about abundance, in many forms. Don’t just focus on material gains — it’s about the growth of the earth and its bounty, and it’s about increasing your own spiritual and emotional wealth.
This family ritual is one that you can easily include children in. Hold it at night, if possible. Before beginning, prepare your family’s evening meal. Include spring foods, such as a light salad, fresh fruit, or breads. Set the table as you normally would, and go outside. For this ritual, you’ll need the following:
- A small flower pot for each person in the family
- A bowl of dirt or potting soil
- Seeds for your favorite herbs or flowers
- A cup of water
- A small fire
- A piece of paper for each person in the family
Go out in your yard with the entire family — be sure you have a small table or other flat surface you can use as an altar. For the fire, you can either build a large one in your yard, or if space is an issue, use a table-top brazier. A small cast iron pot is perfect for this purpose. You may want to decorate your altar space beforehand with symbols of the season. If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now.
The oldest person in the family should lead the ritual. Begin by saying:
The light has returned, and life has come back to the earth.
The soil is dark and full of energy,
so this evening we plant our seeds.
They will lie in the soil, taking root and growing,
until the time has come for them to meet the sun.
As we plant these seeds, we give thanks to the earth
for its strength and life-bringing gifts.
Each person fills their pot with soil. You can either pass the bowl of dirt around, or if you have small children, just let each approach the altar or table. If there are a number of people participating, you may want to sing a chant as everyone fills their pot. A good chant for this is:
Earth my body, water my blood,
air my breath and fire my spirit;
repeated multiple times, or sung as a round-robin. Remember, you can sing whatever works best for you and your family! Once everyone has filled their pot with soil, pass out the seeds. Say:
Tiny seeds, containing life!
They travel upon the wind and bring to us abundance.
Flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit…
all the bounty of the earth.
We give thanks to the seeds,
for the gifts that are to come in the harvest season.
Each person should push their seeds down into the soil. Older participants can help smaller children with this. Finally, pass around the cup of water. Say:
Water, cool and life-giving!
Bringing power to these seeds,
and moistening this fertile soil.
We give thanks to the water,
for allowing life to bloom once more.
When each person has finished potting their seeds, set the flower pots on the altar or table. Give each participant a small piece of paper and something to write with. Say:
Tonight we plant seeds in the earth,
but Beltane is a time in which many things can grow.
Tonight we plant seeds in our hearts and souls,
for other things we wish to see blossom.
We plant the seeds of love, of wisdom, of happiness.
We dig deep, and begin a crop of harmony, balance, and joy.
We add water to bring life and abundance of all kinds into our homes.
We offer our wishes into the fire, to carry them out to the Universe.
Each person should write on their paper something they wish to see blooming in their own life — harmony, happiness, financial security, strong relationships, healing, etc. For small children, it may be something very simple — even if your first-grader writes down that he wants a pony, don’t discourage anyone’s wishes. After each person has written their wish down, they approach the fire one at a time and cast the paper into the flames (help little ones with this part, just in the interest of safety).
When everyone has placed their wishes into the fire, take a few moments and think about the meaning of Beltane. Think about the things you want to see bloom and grow in your own life, in both the material and the non-physical realm. When everyone is ready, end the ritual. You may wish to follow the ceremony with another Beltane festivity, such as a Maypole Dance, or the traditional cakes and ale.
Beltane Planting Ritual for Solitaries
This ritual is designed for the solitary practitioner, but it can easily be adapted for a small group to perform together. It’s a simple rite that celebrates the fertility of the planting season, and so it’s one that should be performed outside. If you don’t have a yard of your own, you can use pots of soil in place of a garden plot. Don’t worry if the weather is a bit inclement – rain shouldn’t be a deterrent to gardening. Just be sure you’re past the safe planting date for your region.
- Packets of seeds, or seedlings if you have them started already
- Pots of dirt, if you don’t have a garden
- Gardening tools, such as a shovel
There is no need to cast a circle to perform this ritual, although if you prefer to do so, you certainly can. Plan on taking some time with this rite, though, and not rushing through it.
To begin, you’ll prepare the soil for planting. If you’ve already gotten your garden tilled or mulched, great – you’ll have a bit less work.
If not, now’s the time to do so. Use your shovel or tiller to loosen the soil as much as possible. As you’re turning the earth over, and mixing it all up, take time to connect with the elements. Feel the earth, soft and moist beneath your feet. Take in the breeze, exhaling and inhaling calmly as you work. Feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and listen to the birds chattering in the trees above you. Connect with nature, and with the planet itself
If your tradition includes a deity of agriculture or land, now is a good time to call upon them. For instance, if your tradition honors Cernunnos*, a fertility god, you might choose to use the following:
Hail, Cernunnos! God of the forest, master of fertility!
Today, we honor you by planting the seeds of life,
Deep within the womb of earth.
Hail, Cernunnos! We ask you to bless this garden,
Watch over it, and grant it abundance,
We ask that these plants grow strong and fertile
Under your watchful eye.
Hail, Cernunnos! God of the greenwood!
When you have finished turning the soil and preparing it, it is time to plant the seeds (or seedlings, if you started them earlier in the spring). While you can do this easily with a shovel, sometimes it is better to get down on your hands and knees and really connect with the soil. If you’re not limited by mobility issues, get as close to the ground as you can, and use your hands to part the soil as you put the seeds in place. Yes, you’ll get dirty, but that’s what gardening is about. As you place each seed into the ground, offer a simple blessing, such as:
May the soil be blessed as the womb of the land
Becomes full and fruitful to bring forth the garden anew.
Cernunnos*, bless this seed.
After you’ve gotten the seeds in the ground, cover them all up with the loose dirt. Remember, this could take a while if you’ve got a large garden, so it’s okay if you want to do this ritual over the course of a few days.
As you’re performing all the different actions of gardening – touching the earth, feeling the plants – remember to focus on the energy and power of the elements. Get dirt under your fingernails, squash it between your toes if you don’t mind being barefoot outside. Say hello to that worm you just dug up by accident, and place him back in the ground. Do you compost? If so, be sure to add the compost to your plantings.
Finally, you’ll water your freshly planted seeds. You can either use a garden hose for this, or you can water by hand with a can. If you have a rain barrel, use the water from the barrel to start your garden.
As you’re watering your seeds or seedlings, call upon the deities of your tradition one last time.
Hail, Cernunnos*! God of fertility!
We honor you by planting these seeds.
We ask your blessing upon our fertile soil.
We will tend this garden, and keep it healthy,
Watching over it in your name.
We honor you by planting, and pay you tribute with this garden.
Hail, Cernunnos, master of the land!
You may also wish to include a general Garden Blessing.
Once you have completed watering, take a look through your freshly planted garden one last time. Did you miss any spots? Are there any weeds you forgot to pull? Tidy up any loose ends, and then take a moment to savor the knowledge that you have planted something new and wonderful. Feel the sunlight, the breeze, the soil beneath your feet, and know you have connected once more to the Divine.
*Cernunnos is used as an example in this rite. Use the name of the appropriate deity for your tradition.