Blog #13—On Ceremonial Circles
Here’s the scoop on Tefist Ceremonial Circles, as I understand them and use them. Ritual Circles are common among human cultures, so my use of them in Tefistry is not novel. Over the last 30 years, I have designed and used Circles that have borrowed liberally from the Circle traditions and festivals of Neodruidry (retaining traditional Gaelic names for four of the eight festivals). But I have also modified and transcended Neodruidry, so as to better reflect Tefistry.
Each Circle has a place where it occurs: perhaps a forest clearing, a green meadow, a plateau of smooth rock, a backyard lawn, a barn floor, a spacious living room—any place flat enough and large enough for the number of celebrants and guests who will be present. The Circle is sometimes enclosed by trees and shrubs, other times by four walls, other times by nothing at all. And of course, the place selected for the Circle needs to be private, quiet, accessible, safe, and legal.
Wherever it is located, the Circle requires a center point. When that point has been selected and ritually marked—say, with an altar or a flame or a stone or a vase of flowers—it becomes the Ceremonial Center to which all else relates. This is the “pivot point” of our Circle and of all the ritual that will occur there.
After the Ceremonial Center has been selected, the Circle’s circumference—the Circle itself—can be appointed. The Circle’s diameter will depend upon the space available, the number of celebrants and guests involved, and other factors. (A Circle needs at least four celebrants, though eight is better because there are eight ritual stations around the Circle. There may also be various helpers and guests as part of, or just outside, the Circle.) For example, a diameter of 16 feet creates a circumference of about 50 feet. This size separates each of the eight celebrants by about 6 feet (the “social distance” that was prescribed for participants in gatherings during the Covid pandemic). The 16-foot diameter is a nice size for many Circle rituals, but of course the diameter can be either larger or smaller. The appointed circumference can be outlined in various ways: just by the circle of celebrants themselves, by a line scratched into the soil, by strewn branches/flowers/vegetation, by ribbons and flags, and so on.
Once we have appointed the Ceremonial Center and the Circle, our next step is to mark the four Cardinal Directions: North, East, South, and West. Markers for these can be the celebrants themselves, or flags, stones, colorful objects, etc. Each Cardinal can also bear a sign, naming it as N, E, S, or W, though such signs are optional. Of course, the intermediate directions—NE, SE, SW, and NW—can also be labeled, but I do not usually do so. Nevertheless, there are eight directions in total, yielding eight stations that are evenly spaced around the Circle. If possible, a celebrant will stand at each station.
Ritual actions in the Circle follow a convention: Everyone moves sunwise. That is, our walking and other actions are performed in a clockwise direction (as viewed from above). We do this because (in our northern latitude) the sun rises each day in an Easterly direction, moves through the Southerly sky, and sets in a Westerly direction: clockwise motion. This sunwise rule of the road is a means of honoring the sun, but it also avoids collisions among celebrants and helps everyone to anticipate the flow of the ritual. Sometimes, however, according to pre-announced plan or by on-the-spot instructions, the sunwise direction is reversed to anti-sunwise (counter-clockwise), especially during the closing part of the ritual.
Once established, our Ceremonial Circle provides a “foundation” upon which we may then add, in the mind’s eye and ritually, many “rings” of topics or themes (aka Correspondences, or “Cors”). One of the first rings we have imaginatively layered upon the Circle contains the four Cardinal Directions (with or without their four intermediate directions). Additional rings of ritual Cors include: the Ritual Colors of the Eight Stations; the Names of the Eight Stations; the Hours of the Day; the Seasons of the Year; Notable Stars at each festival; Notable Signs of each Season; the major Stages of Human Life; the kinds of Gaian Matter; Ritual Animals and/or Plants; and the stages of the Agricultural Cycle.
Other Correspondence rings may include: the group’s choice of Gods/Goddesses; the Esoteric Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) ; the Basic Processes and Sectors of Perception according to Tef Theory; selected annual events and holidays of our culture; and so on. Any one festival or ritual event cannot dwell upon, and may not even mention, all of the possible Correspondences of all eight stations, for all possible rings. But, as you can see, we have an abundance of Correspondence rings available, if we wish to celebrate them. The following Cors have been meaningful for me over the years:
Cors for Winter Solstice: North, Indigo; “Winter Solstice”; Deep Winter; Deep Night and Least Light; the Winter Circle of Stars; Signs of the Season; Inception and Gestation; Lithos and Least Freedom; and the Bear, hibernating in the dark Earth.
Cors for Imbolc: Northeast; Blue; “Imbolc”; the star Regulus; Signs of the Season; Preparing for Planting; Creativity; Emergence and Birth; and the Goddess Brighid.
Cors for Vernal Equinox: East; Green; “Vernal Equinox”; Springtime; the hours of Early Day; balanced Day and Night; Circumpolar Stars; Signs of the Season; Human Childhood and Growth; Exploration and Learning; Atmos and Greatest Freedom; and the Hawk, soaring in fresh morning Air.
Cors for Beltane: Southeast; Chartreuse; “Beltane”; Arcturus; Signs of the Season; Puberty and Adolescence; Sexuality; the Sensory Channels; Awakening and Individuation; and the Planting of Crops.
Cors for Summer Solstice: South; Yellow; “Summer Solstice”; High Summer and Greatest Light; the Summer Triangle of Stars; Signs of the Season; Adulthood and Parenting; Harvesting; Bios and Mixed Freedom; and the Elk, feeding in woods and meadows of Life.
Cors for Lughnasa: Southeast; Yellow-orange; “Lughnasa”; Antares; Signs of the Season; Harvesting; Optimacy and Midlife; Achievement and Excellence; Sport and Humor; Bonding and Community; the God Lugh.
Cors for Autumnal Equinox: West; Orange; “Autumnal Equinox”; Autumntime; the hours of Late Day; balanced Day and Night; The Great Square of Stars; Harvesting; Elderhood; Wisdom; Hydros and Moderate Freedom; and the Salmon, leaping from deep Waters.
Cors for Samhuinn: Northwest; Red; “Samhuinn”; the Pleiades and Capella; Signs of the Season; Final Harvest; Completion and Vanishing; Letting go and Sending Away; Dying and Death; our Ancestors; the Ritual New Year.
Thus, the Circle—with its Center, Circumference, Cardinals, and many rings of Cors—acknowledges and honors vast portions of Tef (aka Reality). The Circle is comprehensive. It also strives to be integrative and orchestrative, weaving together many, many aspects of Reality. The Circle thereby becomes an “engine” for honoring the whole of Reality.
The eight rituals are performed at intervals of every six to seven weeks, around the Great Wheel of the Year, the Great Wheel of Change. The rituals can thus become a grand cycle, repeated year after year throughout one’s life. Our rituals remind us of Tef’s fundamental continuity and wholeness, yet also of its diversity and of its constant change and transformation. Our Circle rituals encourage our Gladness, our Gratitude, our Good Will, and our Good Works. They help us to optimize the Harmony in our lives.
May Harmony Prevail, Throughout Tef! Love Thy Tef!
New eBook: Five Essays In Tefistry
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Blog #10: Themes Of The Vernal Equinox
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“I come ever to the crossroads of my life.
I am ever choosing and ever being chosen.
This is my journey: engaged and affirmed.
This is my life: mysterious, exhilarating, taxing, joyous….”
Try saying or thinking this Tefist statement about life. Does it truly reflect your own life? If not, choose some different adjectives, ones that really do match your own experience. This Crossroads Creed can be spoken at many places: at the crisscrossing of hiking paths, or where busy hallways cross, or at roadway intersections. Or use it at any time or place where you can pause to reflect on a choice made, a decision finalized, the initiation of a new path in life, or even the preparation for dying.
The Vernal Equinox arrives (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) in a few days. For this event (as for the Autumnal Equinox in September) the following joke may be shared.
Q. When is a cow more like a horse?
A. When it’s an equine ox!
(If you wish to celebrate the Equinoxes, my brief liturgies for these Festivals may be useful. These can be found on this website by simply going to the Tefistry page, downloading Tefist Paths to Nature, and scrolling down to page 138 and beyond. May you have a joyous Equinox!)
May Harmony Prevail: Love Thy Tef!
In Blog #5: We Humans, I offered a “trick” to help us confront our anthropocentrism. I suggested, when you see or hear the words “we” and “us”, mentally tack on the word “humans”. If you do this, it becomes starkly clear that most of our attention, most of the time, is locked onto us–us humans–not onto the multitude of other Gaian species or onto the sustaining universe at large. I expressed my hope that this trick could help us expand our circle of love and lessen our anthropocentrism.
I did not mention in that Blog a similar trick, one that also involves the word “humans”. So, here let me suggest that, from time to time, when you hear or see a social group name, mentally tack onto it the word “human”, or “of humans”, or the like. For example:
“…our local human volunteer firefighters.”
“…my human Representative in Congress.”
“…their favorite human baseball team.”
“The Joneses are a wonderful family of humans.”
“He is a member of a violent neighborhood gang of humans.”
“She is stuck in that awful camp for human refugees.”
The effect of this trick is two-fold. First, we (humans!) see that we are utterly preoccupied with ourselves (our anthropocentrism). And, second, we see that our social group names, in the absence of “human”, can dehumanize us. Human beings become treated rather like things. Thus our groups become, for example, mere firefighters, Congressional Representatives, and baseball players. We become mere families, gang members, and refugees. Our choice of words does not reminded us that all groups are humans first, named groups second.
Granted, this tacking-on of “human” can be awkward. But consider the benefit of it: We (humans) may less often treat one another as things, and more often as human beings. Wouldn’t this benefit be worth the trouble now and then?
If you are new to Tefistry, the following Q&A’s may offer a few insights into it.
Q. Why do artists often either decline to talk about their art or launch into unitelligibly abstruse descriptions of it?
A. Tef Theory explains this as the result of Art’s being a product of L.2, the Intuition Sector of our Perception. Art exists to express emotion through L.2, but emotion does not use words (poetry only seems to be an exception here). L.2 is mute. Moreover, its “point” is the Value of its expression, not the Form of it. Science, by contrast, is (by design) nearly free of emotion. It arises from L.3, the Intellection Sector of our Perception. And the “point” of L.3 Perception is not Value, but instead Form. Thus, the Sector you use determines a lot about what you say and do. Art neither needs, nor wants, nor succeeds at verbal explanations–it processes through L.2, not through L.3.
Q. Where did the expression, “Love Thy Tef”, come from?
A. I invented it. I used it as the title of my 1986 book (now out of print) on Tef Theory. It sums up much of Tef Theory:
Love is the noblest (but not the only) path to Harmony. Here, Love means our Good Will, our sincere desire that Harmony should prevail;
Thy is an archaic English word meaning “your”, but with connotations of sacredness (and, here, giving just a touch of hokeyness?);
Tef is, of course, my acronym for the Total Experiential Field: my model of All, It, Everything, reality.
So, “Love Thy Tef” is my call for everyone to use love to increase Harmoniousness throughout life.
Q. Each of the four megascale Sectors yields a somewhat different World of experience. Which of these four Worlds is the “real” one?
A. They are all real! Why? Because there is no unreality. Take the most basic one, the Material World (not the best of terms, but the best I could think of). Here the Sensation Sector (L.1) gives us authentic, Actual, firsthand, nonrepresentational experience, such as matter, energy, emotion, repstocks. We often call it This World, residing in the Herenow.
The Story World results from use of the Intuition Sector (L.2). Here Fantasy is generated and injected into This World to yield an enchanted, spirit-filled, dreamy World. Children naturally inhabit this World. It is one of the Other Worlds. Art and Spirituality are at home here.
The Idea World results from use of the Intellection Sector (L.3). Here Imagination is generated and overlaid as Representations upon This World. These Reps include words, thoughts, and inferences. The Idea World models This World, emphasizing Form. Like the Story World, it is an Other World. Science and Philosophy are at home here.
The fourth World is the Optimal World, resulting from use of the Orchestration Sector (L.4). Its task is the managing of all of Tef, such that Harmoniousness is optimized (which is the goal of Tefistry, the Goal of Life).
Finally, the Archives, though not called L.5, are yet another World. Here, Memory creates and stores a record–a mirror/mimic Representation–of all experience, spanning all perceptual scales and Sectors. The Archives, in a sense, double Tef, just as a mirror doubles whatever its image mimics.