Repetition and Refrain

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The more the words, rhythm, and melody of one part of your ritual relate to similar aspects of other parts, the easier it is to create, maintain, and direct the group-mind of the participants. Wiccan ritual is ideally suited to take advantage of this principle.

Wiccan cosmology sees the "Four Elements" of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water as basic to all existence (a "Fifth Element" of Spirit links them together). The Four Elements are symmetrical, being four possible combinations of hot and cold, dry and wet. So repeated symmetrical references to them can easily be used reinforce that cosmology in the magical space being created/recognized.

Here's a song/chant to bless (in Step 2) the four elemental tools that will be used to bless and exorcise the circle (in Step 4):

Elemental Tool Blessing

[HPS blesses incense] HPS: We bless thee oh creature of air, That thou mayest purify all; Freeing us here from all care, As on your bright wisdom we call. All: So mote it be!

[HPS blesses charcoal/flame] HPS: We bless thee oh creature of fire, That thou mayest purify all; Igniting our holy desire, As on your fierce courage we call. All: So mote it be!

[HP blesses water]

HP: We bless thee oh creature of water, That thou mayest purify all; Cleansing each son and each daughter, As on your deep feelings we call. All: So mote it be!

[HP blesses salt/soil]

HP: We bless thee oh creature of earth, That thou mayest purify all; Renewing all that of true worth, As on your strong power we call. All: So mote it be!

Notice how each verse repeats the form and many of the words of the preceding ones, with modifications appropriate to the element concerned. This helps make the words easier to memorize for the speakers, reinforces what they have learned in religious classes, and connects later in the rite with the elemental attributions of the spirits associated with the Four Quarters.

The refrain at the end of each verse, "So mote it be," is a phrase borrowed from Freemasonry, where it essentially means "Amen" or "So be it." There used to be an organized movement within Wicca to insist on saying the more modern version, but the so-be-it union fell apart in 1991...

The use of a refrain that all can join also helps the members of the group avoid slipping into an experience of themselves as "audience" and "performers." While this is a minor problem in the average Wiccan coven, it becomes a major issue in doing larger group rituals at holidays and festivals.

When creating the magical circle, Spirit can be seen to be present in the center of two crossing lines (North-South and East-West) that link opposite Elements associated with the cardinal directions. Using that idea, here's another example of how repeating patterns can reinforce earlier ones, in a Quarter Calling (Step 8):

Quarter Calling

(© 1990, 2001 words by IB, music by unknown S.C.A. bard.)

Winged One, Spirit of Air, your children invite you here.

Come on the winds of the sunrise, give us your vision so clear.

You are the gentle spring breezes, you are the glory of flight.

Winged One, Spirit of Air, keep us wise through our rite.

[South]

Fierce One, Spirit of Fire, your children invite you here.

Come with your blazing noon passion, banish all sorrow and fear.

You are the flickering candle, you are the bonfire bright.

Fierce One, Spirit of Fire, keep us brave through our rite.

Swift One, Spirit of Water, your children invite you here.

Come on the waves of the sunset, bring to us joy and good cheer.

You are the well of deep comfort, you are the crashing waves height.

Swift One, Spirit of Water, keep us sure through our rite.

[North]

Hoofed One, Spirit of Earth, your children invite you here.

Come from the mountains of midnight, with new strength and vigor appear. You are the field of our pleasure, you are the source of our might. Hoofed One, Spirit of Earth, keep us strong through our rite.

[Center] Winged One... Fierce One... Swift One... Hoofed One...

Keep us pure through our rite.

These words can be sung or chanted by the HPS, the HP, four volunteers, or whoever else wishes. Also, in any circle larger than nine feet across, have the callers stand at the opposite sides from the directions to which they are calling. That way, everyone in the circle will be likely to actually hear them! The pattern here is a little more complex than that in the Elemental Tool Blessing:

{Animal adjective} One, Spirit of {Element}

your children invite you here. Come {elemental metaphor} {time of day},

{With elemental gift/resource}. You are the {gentle aspect }, you are the {frightening aspect} {Animal adjective} One, Spirit of {Element}

keep us {elemental virtue} through our rite.

Matching the Quarter Calling near the beginning of the rite is naturally a Quarter Farewell near the end (Step 26):

Quarter Farewell

© 1991, 2001 words by Deborah Lipp, music by IB.)

[Center] We bid you now hail and farewell.

Go by the powers that brought you, Go by the unweaving spell. As thy bright pentagrams fade, Depart, 'ere the circle is gone. [East] Winged One... [South] Fierce One... [West] Swift One... [North] Hoofed One... [Center] As we say, be it done!

As is usually the case with songs and chants near the end of a ritual, this matching bit is shorter and less ornate. Notice how the elemental virtues are mentioned first and the animal adjectives are used last, thus reversing the original order of terms.

Notice also that this Quarter Farewell doesn't use the all-too-common phrase, "Go if you must, stay if you will," that (far too) many Wiccans have added to their liturgies in recent years. At the Celtic feast of Sam-hain (known to moderns as Halloween), the

Gates Between the Worlds may usually be left open safely until dawn. On all other occasions, it's best to assume that the spirits of the Quarters (especially if They are deities!) have other things to do than hang around and party, and that a ritual's artistic, psychic, and spiritual closure requires their departure.

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