Rituals FAQ




Organization Info



Ritual FAQ

Welcome! Many folks who join ASP have never been to a group ritual before, or done one on their own, and even for those people who have, you may be wondering how ASP differs from other groups that you've been involved in or the work you've done on your own. We'd like to let you know how rituals are generally structured and what you'll be asked to do if you come to one, so that coming to an ASP ritual is exciting rather than worrying.

  1. I've NEVER been to a ritual before and I've just starting learning about paganism, am I going to be allowed into the ritual?
    Of course, you will. People join ASP with all sorts of beliefs and experience related to paganism and many ASP members are just beginning when they join the group.

  2. Are some specific beliefs that all ASP members have to hold? Will mine fit in?
    Don't worry, we're a very diverse group of people, and that's a good thing. Some people may follow specific traditions and others are very eclectic. Many are figuring out what they believe and what works for them. There are no specific things that ASP members are expected to ascribe to, we simply hope that everyone comes with an open mind and heart so that we can learn from each other and have productive discussions.

  3. What do ASP rituals celebrate?
    Our rituals celebrate the sun holidays that happen while we are at school, which includes Mabon/ Autumn Equinox, Hallowe'en/ Samhain, Yule, Imbolg, Ostara/ Spring Equinox, and Beltaine as well as occasional full moon or new moon rituals. Our rituals don't focus heavily on any set theology and are generally more focused on the themes, such as new growth, awakening, or reflection, associated with specific holidays or events.

  4. Who or what do you invoke during the ritual?
    Members of the group hold very different beliefs about deities, pantheons, energies, spirits, etc. and, for this reason, we often keep our invocations fairly broad. A different ASP member will do an invocation for each element/ directions (Water/West, Air/East, Fire/ South, Earth/ North) according to what s/he believes. There is a deity invocation to God, Goddess, and Spirit (ungendered deity), but not to more specific deities, by 1-3 people. Someone will also cast a circle.

  5. Where do you have your rituals? How is the circle set up?
    We usually hold rituals in the Campus Center (not in the rooms with glass walls), the Bodman Lounge of the Helen Hills Hills Chapel, or the Field House. When the weather is warm and good, we hold them outside. We set up a small altar for each direction/ element, which is often done by the person invoking those elemental energies, and a central altar on which anyone can place items that represent deity to them. You can see some examples of altars on the photos page. A member of the group will cast a circle that encompasses everything and everyone in the circle.

  6. What's a circle? How does it work?
    Many people define sacred space differently, and thus may or not may not cast circles or other protective boundaries. We use casting circles to symbolically separate ourselves from many of the problems and worries that prevent us from being focused and relaxed during ritual, to create a space specifically focused on the spiritual growth of all those within it, and/ or to contain the energies that we raise and invoke within our space. A circle will usually be actively cast and opened by one person, but everyone can help to maintain it. Once a circle is cast during ritual, we strongly request that people don't leave it without first asking someone to cut a door for you. If you need to go to the bathroom or leave early, it's not at all a problem; we only ask that you ask the person who cast the circle to open a door for you. During rituals where there is a larger group of people, often a couple of others will be pointed out as additional people that you can ask.

  7. Okay, I'm planning to come to an ASP ritual, what will happen during the ritual?
    We generally keep ritual fairly simple and try to involve everyone as much as possible. Members will set up the space that we're in for ritual and we'll often do some sort grounding exercise or short meditation to put ourselves in a clear mindset for ritual. Then, there'll be element/direction and deity invocations and the circle will be cast (see above). Next, we often raise energy through chanting. The "working" of the ritual tries to incorporate some theme of the holiday or event being celebrated. For example, at a new moon ritual, we each wrote down and talked about goals that we hoped to accomplish over the course of the semester, either academically or within ourselves. After that, we have a feast that can include bread, fruit, nuts, chocolate, fruit juice/ apple cider, cheese, etc. Please send an e-mail or mention if you have any specific dietary concerns or allergies and we'll try to make sure there's plenty that fits within what you can eat. We close the ritual by thanking the deities and elements/ directions that have been invoked for their attendance/ participation and opening the circle.

  8. I'm not sure how I feel about going to a ritual. I'd kind of like to just watch - how much will I be expected to participate?
    As mentioned above, we ask that once the ritual starts that you remain within the circle unless you ask someone to cut a door for you. Who is doing what invocation or leading what activity is figured out in the meeting or two before the ritual. If someone who had planned on doing an invocation can't come, then you will have the opportunity to step in, but you will not be pressured to take part in any aspect of the ritual with which you aren't comfortable. You can participate in the chanting if you'd like; the chants are often easy to pick up if you don't know the words. You can participate in the working of the ritual to whatever degree is comfortable or not at all. We hope that you'll help us eat the feast!

  9. Do you do magic in your rituals?
    Well, that's hard to say, because people define and understand magic so differently. A pagan is someone who doesn't necessarily practice magic, but people within the group label, understand their spiritual / religious beliefs, and practice them differently, so what individuals do may vary from what we do as a group. Often during ritual, the energy raised is focused on a specific intention, such as remembering and honoring those who have passed on or asking for success in the goals that we're each working towards, which can count as magic. However, many people focus energy on a goal in their everyday lives and don't consider it magic. We don't tend to do spells in the formulaic sense of using candles, stones, herbs, etc. What we do during ritual, and the very act of having a ritual itself, may or may not fall within what you consider magick, and either way that's fine.

  10. I'm a bit worried about other people finding out about I'm interested in paganism, are there going to be lots of people at the ritual?
    ASP is a fairly small group and we usually have 6 - 12 people at each ritual. We currently have one ritual a year that we advertise and open to the Smith campus to invite other Smithies to learn more about paganism and our org, but the rest of our rituals are usually kept closed to the group. Smith campus is a very diverse and welcoming environment and you don't usually have to be worried that others will react negatively to your religious or spiritual beliefs. If you tell people that you're involved in ASP or interested in paganism, then they may ask you what you believe and genuinely want to learn.

  11. Why are most rituals kept closed to ASP members?
    Rituals aren't exactly closed - they just aren't advertised to the Smith campus. You're an ASP member if you've been to a couple meetings or events throughout the semester. You're welcome to join at any time, not just at the beginning of the semester. E-mail to join the e-mail list to find out about events and watch the website and then come to a meeting or event and introduce yourself, we love new people!

  12. Can I bring my friend/ significant other/ student who I know from another campus to an ASP ritual or event?
    Sure! Anyone who wants to attend is welcome as long as they understand that our rituals are religious ceremonies and behaves respectfully. Smith students and students from the other colleges of the Five College Consortium (Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Hampshire, and U-Mass Amherst) are automatically welcome at all events. Other folks are also welcome, but they need to be accompanied by a Smithie or other Five College student. ASP rituals are not "women-only" spaces, so men and/ or people of any gender identity are welcome.

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