Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Our First Ritual

by John M Morris, Ph.D.

We held our first Pagan ritual in the basement of the old Unitarian Church in Ann Arbor in 1950. This was before Starhawk, and the other founders of American Witchcraft were even born, so we were pretty much on our own. The only useful reference book that I could find was a battered copy of an older text, now discredited, by Margaret Murray, Witchcraft in Western Europe, which attempted to reconstruct the ancient witchcraft rituals in England. It was out of these obsolete rituals that I devised our own ritual.

One of the first obstacles was finding a Priestess, who would be lying naked on the altar, definitely a requirement for reconstructing an authentic Pagan ritual. The most likely candidate flatly refused to appear before the congregation without any clothes on, and after a good deal of debate, one of our friends reluctantly agreed to make her a robe, out of an old pillowcase. He painted a few obscene symbols on it, and it worked out very well.

For myself, I volunteered to preach the sermon. Now, as far as we know, there were no sermons at the classical witchcraft gatherings, but we didn't know that, so I devised rather a noisy address to deliver during our Pagan ritual. I've forgotten most of it, but it seems to have been a diatribe against our non-Pagan neighbors, who, as we imagined it, were persecuting us, and forcing us to hold our rituals in the basement, "our masses in the cold, cold ground."

Our little proto-coven went on to hold other rituals, but none seem to have been as impressive as this one. Other leaders have appeared, and hundreds of books have been written, but contemporary witches have never produced anything more dramatic than our first ritual, in the dark, candle-lit basement of that little church.

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