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
Blog #10: Themes Of The Vernal Equinox