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Liturgy Practicum 2, Requirement 1.3

Explain how you can incorporate words, motion, dance, posture, music, and gesture in a public, small group ritual. How is including each one in small group ritual different from how they are included in individual or domestic ritual? (Minimum 50 words per item, and minimum 150 additional words for comparison)


Words become the most common method of praying in small-group ritual. Once you have left the world of solitary ritual, you can no longer keep prayers entirely within your own head; they must be communicated to others. Words are primarily how accomplish this communication. In a small-group ritual, you can speak the words of a prayer and ask others to speak it along with you, you can speak it alone for others, or you can speak them in special ways (such as in rhyme, song, or poetic meter) that separates the speech from other types of "profane" speech.


Having the Folk move in unison is a good place to start, either with the congregation moving around the center in one direction while the Priest spins another direction to open the Gates, or having them enter the ritual space in a certain direction. The offering of praises can also be an opportunity for motion, as folk "come up" to the altar to make their offerings. In small groups, this works well: larger groups, though, will find that the motion of getting to the altar is complicated in some spaces.


Dancing in a small-group ritual can often be done in easy form (circle dances, spiral dances, and other simple dances) or more complicated forms (English country dances at Beltaine come to mind). Having more people allows for partnering and greater participation, and it also allows for drumming or singing during those dances (instead of the use of tapes, because additional people means that not everyone needs to dance).


Small groups may often find it useful to use the same postures while praying, so encouraging the use of the orans position, bending and kneeling to touch the earth during the Earth Mother invocation, and standing or sitting at certain times will be useful. Small groups also bring a particular issue with posture, though: it is not easy for everyone to achieve all postures, so the liturgist must be prepared to adjust postures based on attendees. This gets more complicated as the size of the group increases.


Having a small group allows a strong singer to take up the duty of singing praise from others, who may not feel as comfortable lifting their voices. It also provides opportunity for harmonizing parts and songs (such as "Power of the Spirits") which cannot be done alone. Having several drums, shakers, and bells going on can make for a wonderful accompaniment to various ritual parts as well.


The gesture of holding aloft the waters and shouting, "Behold, the Waters of Life," is a very powerful one that can be done in a small group ritual. Additionally, the Folk can be directed to stretch their hands toward the heavens during a Two Powers meditation, or to reach out and grasp the hands of those next to them. Non-relevant gestures need to be minimized, because they distract others from the ritual.


  • Words: As mentioned, your words must be loud enough to be understood by your fellow attendees. Directing your words also becomes an issue, because it is no longer about the individual and the deity, but also about the Folk in ritual with them.
  • Motion: It is possible to bring choreographed motion into ritual. The old Standard Liturgy called for one such motion, where the Druids would "complete the sigil." This involved having the folk enter the space in a circle while "Druid 1" and "Druid 2" would each walk across the space in a parallel course (going in opposite directions) to form a Druid Sigil with their paths, something that could not be done with fewer than three people.
  • Dance: Dance generally becomes less "free-form" and more controlled, primarily to prevent people from bumping into one another. You can perform paired dances or English country dances when you leave the solitary realm and enter a small-group environment.
  • Posture: Posture tends to remain a solitary action among Pagans, even in group ritual, but changing posture in unison can be done (similar to the kneeling/sitting/standing of Catholic services) in a way that creates shared experience, since we know that the body and religion are closely tied.
  • Music: Here, having a group opens up a great deal of praise opportunities, allowing a single strong voice to carry the musical needs of the group, or allowing for group singing in unison, rounds, or in harmony. It is, after all, hard to form a barbershop quartet to honour Brigid with just 1-3 people.
  • Gesture: In personal ritual, gestures primarily have meaning to the person doing the rite and "wasted" or non-intentional gestures go entirely unnoticed. In small-group ritual, gestures with no intent behind them are noticed and they distract the Folk attending. They may also have different meanings to the others in attendance, especially if the "small group" consists of people from other parts of the world. The primary difference in including gestures in small-group ritual, then, is that you must be aware of all of them, and you cannot waste gestures that are not needed.


  • Serith, Ceisiwr. A Book of Pagan Prayer. Red Wheel/Weiser : York Beach, ME. 2002. Print.


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