A few days later, in passing, I happened to mention on Facebook that I'm doing Beltane planning, and a friend said she'd love to see a Quaker Pagan ritual, thinking that's what said Beltane ritual would be. I told her that Beltane with Roses, Too! is not a Pagan Quaker ritual, but a Pagan ritual with Quaker and lots of other influences.
At first I suggested Full Moon Meeting for Worship/Worship-Sharing might be a better example of a Pagan Quaker ritual, but then I realized -- you can't actually tell the difference, by looking or even necessarily from within worship, between that and any other Meeting for Worship.
Okay, so what would be a quintessential Quaker Pagan ritual?
Well, what do I mean by quintessential? It occurred to me that this is another one of those words I use frequently and whose meaning I'm pretty sure I know from context, but I decided to look it up. I found the Merriam-Webster definition particularly interesting, because it talks about "the fifth and highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all nature." (Hmmm!) But in this case, I am using quintessential to mean "the most typical example or representative," or perhaps, a typical example or representative.
Let me also think and talk for a minute about what I mean by ritual.
I spent a lot of my time last spring thinking and writing about what ritual actually is, for a couple of reasons. One reason was that I was taking a graduate class called "Understanding the Ritual Experience." (It ended up being more of an introduction to ritual theory and ritual studies than the nice and concrete unpacking of the experience of ritual which I'd been hoping for; nonetheless, it was deeply fascinating, and I learned a lot. The prof has since re-vamped the course; I'm not sure what it would be like now.) Another reason was that I'd spent a lot of time -- too much time? -- the fall before, trying to be in dialogue with the clerk of the pastoral care/oversight/ministry-and-counsel-equivalent committee of one of my former Meetings, about the definitions of words like ritual, clergy, and Pagan... conversations which, sadly, ended up coming down to: what he thought, he considered to be truth, and was reporting to the Meeting as such; and any reality of experience -- mine, that of any other Pagan Quakers, of any other non-Christian Quakers, of any other Pagans, or of the large body of Pagans in the world -- was just not true as far as he was concerned. It was painful, to say the least.
Since I'm not going to re-hash my whole semester (or the fall before) here, for now, I will just say that people who study religion and religious practice would call Meeting for Worship the essential/quintessential religious ritual within unprogrammed Quakerism.
(Yes, yes, I know unprogrammed Quakers say we don't have ritual, and we like to think that's true. But that is a whole entire other conversation.)
So, thinking about it, and going back to what I said above, I take it back: I would say that any Meeting for Worship in which people with Pagan theaology participate is a quintessentially Pagan Quaker ritual.
I'd also say that any Meeting for Worship in which people with Christian theology participate is a quintessentially Christian Quaker ritual. Certainly any Meeting for Worship which focuses primarily or exclusively on Jesus or Christ would be a Christian Quaker ritual.
So any Meeting for Worship that focuses primarily on the Old Gods, the Goddess, nature as the Divine Itself (rather than as Divine creation), etc., would be a quintessential Pagan Quaker ritual.
Happily, most Meetings for Worship which I attend aren't explicitly Christian, or Pagan, or anything else: whatever Face of the Spirit you experience or seek, you are welcome. The people in most Meetings I've been part of worry a lot less about which particular aspect, facet, or name of the Divine people seek and experience -- or, to borrow a phrase from Cat Chapin-Bishop, which brand name of the Divine people tune into -- and are more concerned about our seeking together and collective experience. This is how I can be in worship with Friends who are Christian, Jewish, Non-Theist, Buddhist, and other theaologies, and still be in genuine spiritual community. And even have the profound experience of gathered or covered/held worship. (And what a blessing. What a deep, joyful blessing.)
In that earlier conversation, I went on to lay out what I thought a typical or quintessential Quaker Witchen or Witchy Quaker ritual would look like. And then I realized, I'm a Pagan Quaker; I'm an open and out Pagan Quaker who does education with Monthly Meetings and Quaker organizations, and with Pagan organizations; but somehow, I never end up doing this version of worship/ritual -- what's up with that, anyway? *laugh*
So here's an example of a Pagan Quaker ritual based in Roses, Too! tradition of eclectic, Feminist Witchcraft (therefore, small-group):
- Gather; talk through the ritual.
- Check-ins: what are three words that describe how you are right now?
- Ground and center/tree of life.
- Purify the space, cast the circle, invoke the directions and the Goddess.
- Silent worship. Vocal ministry as moved. Singing, dancing, drumming, chanting if moved?
- Ground and center.
- Goodbyes to the directions and the Goddess and to each other. Shaking of hands. Hugs.
- Settle into silent worship; "enter and center" (per Bill Taber) / ground and center in silent worship.
- If/as led: purify the circle.
- If/as led: cast circle.
- If/as led: invoke the directions.
- If/as led: invoke the Goddess.
- More silent worship.
- If/as led: raise power silently or noisily, with or without movement.
- Ground and center.
- If/as led, goodbyes to the directions and the Goddess.
- Shaking of hands/goodbyes to each other.
- Feasting/coffee and tea in the social hall after. ;-)