Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rituals and Robe-Rage.

When I conduct ritual for myself, I know the meaning of everything I'm doing and saying. I know that when I cry out to The Horned Master that I'm not speaking of Satan-the-boogeyman. I know that when I put my knee down at the altar it's more because my altar is short, and my gimpy leg* can't take standing crouched, than because I'm kneeling in pious prayer or humility. But for public ritual, these are not a given.

In private ritual I might take time to prepare offerings, slicing up fruit, carefully pouring wine. I might specifically evoke the spirits (Deva/l, Genius Locii) of the materials in the ritual... but in public ritual I just don't have the time. And then, too... if I offer up something wet and red, no one will likely smile and nod at that.

I'm writing a ritual for an upcoming open circle, and I find myself reeling. So much information to present. Everything from the cosmology to the ritual actions - each must be described and explained in it's own way. How much time do I devote to explaining the Stang and it's role? How much to the broom or cauldron? Do I reveal subtle little-m-mysteries, that some might consider bound by oath? Do I keep to the process I use, or alter it to fit the expectations of neo-wiccans?

And that leads me to.... Robe Rage.

I've been scouring the internet for instructions on how to make decent ritual robes. What I've found is that apparently there is not a single goddamned pagan out there who drafts patterns, and that Star Wars fans have better fashion sense.

I also discovered that the sewing/craft stores have cloaks, not robes, or if they have robe patterns they cost $15, require thirty yards of fabric, and look like shit.

So, I'm drafting a pattern for a hooded robe that's simple enough for just about anyone to slam together in a few hours. Embellishing it will take a lot longer. Depending on the size of the person the robe should only take about 7 yards of 45" fabric, or about half that in 60". A shrewd operator could pick up all the needed materials at Wallyworld for $30-ish.


  1. I had the same issues a few years back when I made my first robes. I've made a few since all based on this pattern

    Scroll down to tailored robes. (Thankfully I have a good memory and remembered what order I took the designs from)

    I've also had the same problem with public ritual. I often cut back on symbolism and explanation for ease of use. Depending on the open-mindedness of the group I've introduced a few to the Kheprian style of a ritual, which being stripped of symbolism is real easy to engage in a mixed group. Otherwise though, there is a fine balance between including/excluding symbols/acts and explaining them.

  2. That's basically where I'm headed with this design. Thank you very much for the link!.

    Added sleeves rather than "one solid t-shaped-thing", and a bit more tailoring. The hood is going to be nice and roomy, so that I can either have it "over the head" or "Covering the face" for meditative work.

    I picked up a Butterick priest's cassock pattern as well, just in case (but honestly, it'll probably make "Club wear" before it makes "ritual wear").

    Re Ritual: This fall I participated in an open circle where we used a Kheprian-style ritual (specifically, the "Samhain" one from the Vampire Ritual book) and while I felt it was very effective, the "white lighters" were not pleased.

    If that, as nicely constructed as it was, raised hackles, I can't imagine what more 'TW' style efforts will evoke. Part of me can't be arsed to care, but I still find myself struggling with whether or not to truncate certain things.

    For example: Normally I would offer thanks and invitation, by Name, to certain Plant Allies, usually those who's flesh and blood have gone into the incense for the night.

    But, I'm not sure I want to share those names, or be made to explain it. I'm not sure it's appropriate for "outer court" consumption. On the other hand I wonder whether I -should- go into it, as it might inspire people to give a bit more consideration to those sorts of spirits.

  3. I would name some of the plant spirits on the basis that it might inspire people to work with plants more seriously. I think that would be a good work to do.

    If you are going to do the ritual with other magic workers, I do not think you need to explain much. A pagan group I attended some rituals with was composed of a number of other groups, and they'd have a meeting before the ritual to discuss what everyone was supposed to do and perhaps a little about the meaning, but not a lot. I would say, though, that since it's a ritual that is supposed to include everyone, it is not so much the explaining but tailoring a ritual that people can recognize parts of and feel they are participating in. That might mean you have to remove aspects you would have in your own private ritual. When I was active in synagogue life, we would often have get togethers with other denominations with very different practices. The rule was to cater as much as possible to others with different views without offending against one's own integrity. So for instance if one group would only eat a certain kind of kosher food, okay, then everyone would eat it, even if they thought kashrut was a silly superstition. But if they did not like the custom of women singing and your cantor was a woman and your synagogue was the location of the get-together, then they were not within their rights to demand she not sing. Everyone knows (or should know) when they go to a public ritual that they will have to compromise. It just shouldn't be everything that is compromised, IMO.

    Re robes, I use a dishdasha, sometimes called a thobe. This is a Muslim garment fairly widely available online. They are pretty good in terms of price, although mostly they are made of cotton/polyester, and they are well made and comfortable. I have a white one and black one. It's hard to find ones that are all natural.

  4. Do you have a chance for a formal 'pre-ritual briefing'? Our public Grove works in the ADF style, which is quite different from the quartered-circle ritual forms of the various witchcrafts. We always take 10 or 15 minutes before the rite to introduce newcomers to our cosmology, ritual forms and to explain what they'll be seeing and hearing, including material offerings to the spirits.
    As to robes, various medievalism sites may be of use, and I like for commercial stuff.

  5. IanC - Double posts are not needed. I moderate all comments here, hence the lack of showing up.

    I have actually written a bit of pre-ritual "banter", but I wonder if that'll do any good. It's not so much that the content will be beyond their grasp, it's that it won't be Neo-Wiccan. Some of the folks within this group are very, very, fundimentalist, Neo-Wiccans.

  6. Simplicity doesn't have robes? They put out a fairly large "costume" catalog every year with some beautiful halloween costumes. If I had to sew something, I'd look there.

  7. @ Harold - Re: Plants. I think I may include a bit about the Herbal Allies now. One in particular made it known "she" wished to "attend".

    Re: "Other Magic workers" That's the rub. This is a open circle, and I don't know the degree of involvement the people have with Power in their lives. I'm pert-damned PLUGGED IN. Some people are probably what I would call "True Magicians" (someone who's not going to wigg at the Red Offering), others? Shrugging abounds.

    "Including everyone" - That's something I'm still hammering at. I think that when it gets to the evocations I will have each person contribute one, from their own viewpoint, of Auld Hornie.

    Re Robes: I picked up the fabric I need to draft my own. Those are just about right, but I do need a hood.

    By the by, Harold - your website refuses to let me register. It says I already have, and when I ask it to send my password to me, it never shows up. :(

    @Skybrighte - "Halloween Costumes" being the key word/s. I'd sooner wear a t-shirt and jeans (it's worked before!) than halloween garb.
    Beyond that, not a single commercially available "costume" pattern even slightly matched my needs. They all looked like LOTR gear or Renfaire garb, and one of my personal bits of grumbly malcontent is pagans looking like they're at Renfaire while in circle.

    Butterick's Priest vestments pattern is the closest thus far.

  8. @Harry: I'd never heard of a dishdasha being used as ritual garb before, but now that I look at them, especially some of the "modernized" versions, they look like they'd work extremely well. I'll have to look into getting one.