On June 18th I went to my very first group ritual to celebrate the turning of the year. I have been, and continue to be, a very solitary practitioner; there isn’t a group I ‘belong to’ or worship with, on the basis that Kemetic orthodoxy isn’t for me and there is a lack of any sort of Shinto practice in America outside of the west coast. (One of these days I’ll get to you, Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America. One of these days.) So suffice to say that anything approaching a physical ‘community’ was very new to me.
I’ve been around the online community, though, especially on Tumblr. So it’s not a surprise I’ve learned a lot about what is and is not good practice with regards to deities, and it’s left me with a sour feeling in my stomach to the type of folk who call on deities as aspects in a ritual to use those aspects without prior working or communication, as well as taking an aspect of a closed tradition to use in a ritual that is not in the style of said tradition.
So, when I learned that this midsummer ritual was going to be dedicated to the Lwa and Orisha, I kind of had an automatic feeling of stepping somewhere I didn’t belong. I’d never worked with the Lwa and never planned to, and I felt like I was intruding in territory that wasn’t mine to intrude into.
The leader of the group I was going to had been educated in Wicca, and that made me nervous as well. (Side note: It really didn’t help when I saw a copy of Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch on the table as an auction item.) But despite my bad feelings, I went anyway, and hoped for the best.
I’ll say it wasn’t a disaster. When I was in the ritual, along with about 20 others, I didn’t get a bad or sour feeling in my stomach. The problem was, I didn’t get much of any feeling in my stomach at all. For almost the entire ritual, one portion excluded, the most I felt was a dull sensation of invitation, followed by mostly nothing. I felt Papa Legba’s presence, but none of the other deities we had invited.
That isn’t to say I didn’t appreciate the ritual. I think, no matter what you’re doing, if you’re doing it in a ritual context like that there’s bound to be something otherworldly about. And I did feel that; a feeling of being ‘in between worlds’ was explicitly a part of the ritual script, and to say I felt nothing of a group of magical people gathered together to focus on one thing would be giving the group too little credit.
And despite my nervousness about calling on the Lwa and Orisha, it was made apparent that the ritual leader did have experience in communication with these deities and had a personal relationship with them. So, whether or not it was just my own hesitancy and newness to group ritual that made me experience far less than I wanted to, or that was just how this particular ritual went, or whether I was just having an ‘off day’, I don’t know. I genuinely liked the energy the group had, I genuinely liked the leader of the group and how she did things even though I wasn’t totally familiar with them, and I met some good people that night to boot, and because of that, I’m not giving up on this group. I think it was a good experience for me to finally get out of my lonely little broom closet for a night.