A Further Note on Ritual and Power

As we jumpstart the discussion of Heathenry and ritual, I’m seeing a lot of folks mistaking powerful rituals for those rituals that are elaborate, complicated, and “high church.” I want to note that a ritual can be very, very simple. The power comes from the focus and skill of the facilitator. The way I was trained, both in esoteric arts and in ritual, is this: if you can’t do it naked at two am in an empty room, then you can’t do it. What that means is that a good ritual worker develops a sensitivity to the presence of Other: Gods, spirits, ancestors. A ritual worker, if he or she is competent, develops a facility for demarcating and slipping into liminal space and back again succinctly and ultimately for leading others through that process as well. One becomes efficient at navigating the spaces and sense of the sacred. That need not include complicated praxis (though for many, such structure assists in the necessary cognitive transitions).

While there are deities that are far more protocol heavy than others, in most cases, I’ve always thought that the complicated ritual structures were more for our benefit, to allow us to navigate the pathways of the sacred more safely, to assist in transitioning into and out of ritual headspace. There’s a point where you don’t need them. Unless the Deity in question has indicated (through tradition, divination or direct engagement) a preference for complex liturgy, I actually prefer hard, fast, and to the point. But I can slip into ritual headspace very fast — it’s one of the skills i’ve picked up per Odin over the years. For all that, the simplest of ritual should still involve a palpable shift from mundane headspace to liminal, ritual headspace, should involve a palpable sense of Presence, should effect a shift in the participants, should require transition back to mundane space. There’s a process inherent in a good ritual, no matter how simple. The most important thing is that the Gods are at the center of it, engaging with Them the purpose, and the collective intent focused on just that aim.

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About ganglerisgrove

Free-range tribalist Heathen, Galina Krasskova, has been a priest of Odin and Loki since the early nineties. Originally ordained in the Fellowship of Isis in 1995, Ms. Krasskova also attended the oldest interfaith seminary in the U.S.- the New Seminary where she was ordained in 2000 and where she later worked as Dean of Second Year Students for the Academic year of 2011-2012. She has even given the opening prayer at the United Nations Conference “Women and Indigeny”. Beyond this, she took vows as a Heathen gythia in 1996 and again in 2004, She is the head of Comitatus pilae cruentae and a member of the Starry Bull tradition. She has been a member of numerous groups through the years including the American Academy of Religion. She has also served previously as a state government contracted expert on the Asatru faith, and been a regular contributor to various print and online publications geared towards modern pagans and polytheists, and for a time had her own radio program: Wyrd Ways Radio Live. Ms. Krasskova holds diplomas from The New Seminary (2000), a B.A. in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Religious Studies from Empire State College (2007), and an M.A. in Religious Studies from New York University (2009). She has completed extensive graduate coursework in Classics (2010-2016) and is pursuing a Masters in Medieval Studies at Fordham University (expected graduation 2019) with the intention of eventually doing a PhD in theology. She has also been teaching University classes in Greek and Latin. As part of her academic career Ms. Krasskova has written a number of academic articles, and also presented at various academic conferences including Harvard University, Claremont University, Fordham University, Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, Villanova University, and the City University of New York. An experienced diviner and ordeal master, her primary interest is in devotional work and the reconstruction of Northern Tradition shamanism. Her very first book, The Whisperings of Woden was the landmark first devotional text to be written in modern Heathenry. Ms. Krasskova has a variety of published books available running the gamut from introductory texts on the Northern Tradition, as well as books on shamanism, runes, prayer, and devotional practices. She is also the managing editor of “Walking the Worlds,” a peer-reviewed academic style journal focusing on contemporary polytheism and spirit work and the first journal of polytheology. While very busy with teaching and school, she does also occasionally lecture around the country on topics of interest to contemporary Heathenry and polytheisms. A passionate supporter of the arts Ms. Krasskova enjoys going to the opera, theater, and ballet. Her affection for the arts began early as she discovered dance, which she pursued professionally becoming a ballet dancer: first with a regional company in Maryland, then in New York City. After suffering career ending injuries, she would find new forms of expression in the visual arts. For a few years Ms. Krasskova co-owned an art gallery in the Hudson River Valley of New York, and over a course of numerous years she has studied a multitude of art mediums: glassblowing, watercolor, acrylic, photography and more! She is now an avid collage artist, acrylic painter and watercolorist and has even enjoyed placement in international artist-in-residencies programs in New York, New Mexico, and Poland. Her work has been exhibited globally from New York to Paris. She has taken her passion for the arts and polytheistic devotion, to create the Prayer Card Project. Since so much religious iconography has been destroyed, or defaced in the course of human history, she is actively making new religious prayers and iconography available to the various modern polytheistic communities to support those who are building their religious communities, building their devotional practices, and hungering for art that represents their religious faith. All while also supporting the artists within these burgeoning communities.

Posted on May 24, 2015, in Heathenry, Polytheism, Ritual Work and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I find folks can tend to frame this understanding of Presence in ways we are used to, i.e. by some analogy of sensation or a ‘feeling’ of some kind. For those who aren’t wired like this, I think there is sometimes a challenge on my part because ‘How do I translate this into a language they can understand?’ or ‘This language is how I understand/parse/distill this information’.
    Do you have recommendations on how we can get this sense of Presence across to folks who don’t process as we msy, or for whom such a thing is not ‘there’ for them yet?

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    • ganglerisgrove

      well, there’s really a limit to how much hand-holding I approve of doing and this is one of those areas where you can lead a horse to water…etc. etc. What i have found helpful is two fold: expose them to powerful, competent ritual, and encourage daily devotional practice as well as grounding, centering, regular cleansing work, etc. I don’t think being able to feel the presence of the Powers is a matter of wiring. I think that is a thing so overwhelming it fires through all the senses. I do however, think that many people have a vested interested in remaining closed to it. Your job is to expose them to it, not translate it…translation is watering down. every translator, as the saying goes, is a traitor. Your job as a ritual worker is to create a space where they can go to experience that sacred presence, and perhaps to debrief afterwards. period.

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  2. I agree; it is a big mistake to confuse ‘elaborate’ to mean ‘powerful’. Some of the most powerful rituals and ceremonies have been simple. That said, have been to some elaborate rituals and ceremonies, and these were quite powerful in their own right. I especially like more drawn out, elaborate ceremonies for Gods and spirits I do not know. It is a kind of ‘getting to know Them’ time and a way for me to settle in to Their Presence rather than “Bam, here They are!” kind of experience.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      lol i used to like the longer rituals but now i’m more for the BAM! here they are, type. but I cycle back and forth. i find that with longer rituals, if you have a group unschooled in piety, or an inexperienced ritual leader, it’s too easy for the rites to turn into fucking therapy sessions, or for focus to wander. it takes a very skilled ritual leader to manage a group of untrained devotees for a long period of time. I still do the elaborate rites—some Deities really prefer that–but my own personal preference is for simple and to the point, where there’s not time for anything to insert itself between me and the Gods.

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  3. Coming from an Episcopalian background and years of church choirs, I have been involved in a lot of ritual. I think too people who aren’t familiar with ritual, the word itself implies something elaborate. But as long as it’s organized, focused activity, it’s ritual. I think a group or an individual needs a spectrum of ritual, from very simple (but organized and focused) to occasionally very elaborate. It doesn’t need to be a pagan equivalent of Solemn High Mass at the Vatican all the time. I’ve lived through the High Church Episcopal version of Solemn High Mass at the Vatican every single Sunday, and it’s no fun and no good spiritually, either.

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