Ritual Theory and Practice

Sunday, February 19
1:30 PM to 4:00 PM

If you’ve been to a few Pagan circles, you’ve probably seen some really good rituals… and you’ve probably seen some not-so-good ones too. Over the years, Denton CUUPS has learned a lot about what works well and what doesn’t, common problems and ways to work through them, and a process of planning, researching, composing, rehearsing, and presenting rituals that we’ve found to be very helpful.

This workshop will cover ritual theory, the elements of modern Pagan ritual, and our process for ritual planning and composition. It will be led by John Beckett, the Coordinating Officer of Denton CUUPS, a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, and the author of the upcoming Llewellyn book The Path of Paganism – An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice.

There is no charge for this class, but donations are requested. This class is family friendly and is appropriate for older children. We are unable to provide childcare for younger children at this event.

If you have any questions, please contact John Beckett at JohnFranc@aol.com

at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
1111 Cordell Street, Denton, TX 76201

Recommended Reading List

Here’s the recommended reading list from today’s Introduction to Modern Pagan Religion class. If you’re looking for something that’s not on this list, leave a question in the comments and we’ll see what we can dig up.

book shelvesBasics

Wicca, A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner – Scott Cunningham. Start here. This was recommended to me when I started 20 years ago and it’s still the best introduction there is. It’s written from a Wiccan perspective, but 98% of it is applicable to any Neopagan path. Easy to read, easy to understand, and most importantly, easy to put into practice.

The Spiral Dance – Starhawk. Another classic of contemporary Paganism. I found her approach to be too radically political for my center-left tastes, but I’ve been told the 20th Anniversary Edition has commentary that tones some of that down. Politics aside, the rituals in Spiral Dance are excellent and are great to use either as is or as a guide for writing your own.

Creative Visualization – Shakti Gawain. This is a “New Age” book rather than Pagan (old joke – Q: what’s the difference between New Age and Pagan? A: one decimal place in the price), but it does a very good job of teaching visualization skills, which are essential for performing magic. Short, to the point, and effective.

Witch Crafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic – Phyllis W. Currott.  An introductory book on Wicca that is also helpful for the intermediate practitioner.

Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies – Christine Kraemer.  A very good introduction to what Pagans believe, and also an explanation of common theological terms and schools of thought from a Pagan perspective.  John’s review of it is here.

Ritual

Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work – Isaac Bonewits. I have the first edition, titled Rites of Worship. Isaac writes from a Wiccan/Druid perspective, but the concepts and processes he describes will work in just about any religious setting. If you want to understand why some religious services leave you energized and others put you to sleep, read this book.

The Elements of Ritual – Deborah Lipp. This is written from a traditional Wiccan perspective, but Wicca has influenced most modern Pagan traditions (for good and for ill), so it’s applicable to most of us. Lipp does an excellent job of deconstructing Wiccan liturgy and explaining the symbolism in it – I particularly like her description of the traditional circle casting as a ritual re-enactment of the Creation of the Universe. Interestingly, Lipp is Isaac Bonewits’ ex-wife.

Personal Practice

The Circle Within – Dianne Sylvan. There are very few books on Pagan personal practice – this is the best of them. It covers relationships with deities, ethics, meditation, and personal rituals. Paganism is more than the eight sabbats and the full and new moons – this book helps you figure out what to do every day.

The Veil’s Edge – Willow Polson. This book nominally deals with the Veil Between the Worlds, but its real value is in presenting a magical worldview in a way that is easy to understand and easy to put into practice. If What the Bleep Do We Know? had been written by Pagans, this is what it would look like. I led a group study of this book a few years back – it was very helpful. I’ve still got my outline if anybody wants it.

The Way of the Shaman – Michael Harner. This is the classic text on “core shamanism,” the processes and techniques common to most shamanic traditions. Shamanism can be a practice all its own, but as with visualization, the techniques are very helpful in working magic and communing with deities.

Classics

The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell. The book is good, the 6-hour videos/DVDs are better. This began in 1988 as a PBS special, with Bill Moyers interviewing Campbell about his work and his views on mythology, which focus on universal themes found in myths around the world. PBS still shows this occasionally, especially at pledge drive time.

Witchcraft Today – Gerald Gardner. The Witchcraft Act wasn’t repealed in Britain until 1951. In 1954, Gardner wrote this book presenting Wicca – the religion of witchcraft – to the mundane world. Yes, some of Gardner’s stories about the roots and origins of Wicca were more fantasy than fact, but this book is a good look at the early years of Wicca. We’ve come a long way.

Witchcraft For Tomorrow – Doreen Valiente. Valiente was one of Gardner’s high priestesses and a superb writer. She’s largely responsible for reworking The Charge of the Goddess into the beautiful poetry we have today. Lots of interesting historical information, and the spells, rituals, and poetry are classics.

The Mabinogion. This is the classic collection of Welsh myths. They weren’t written down until well into the medieval period, meaning they’ve been thoroughly Christianized. But the original Celtic heroes, deities, stories and concepts are still easy to follow. The version I have is translated by Patrick K. Ford.

The Norse Myths – Kevin Crossley-Holland. This is a translation of the Prose Edda, the collection of Norse myths written down in the 13th century by Icelander Snorri Sturluson. These stories are as much a part of our Anglo-Saxon cultural heritage as the Celtic myths of The Mabinogion. JRR Tolkien drew heavily on them in writing his Middle Earth novels.

History

The Book of English Magic – Philip Carr-Gomm.  A magical travelogue – a guidebook describing the important places to go, history to investigate, people to get to know, and sights to see. It doesn’t give you an in-depth look at any of them, but it does tell you enough for you to figure out what you want to do first and what can wait for later.  John’s review of it is here.

The Triumph of the Moon – Ronald Hutton. Every Wiccan, Druid, Heathen, and other modern Pagan needs to read this book. Hutton is Professor of History at the University of Bristol in England – this is a serious look at the origins and development of Wicca, and through it (directly or indirectly), most other modern Pagan traditions. The book is literally hard to read – it’s printed in 8-point type. But if you want to separate the truth of the origins of modern Paganism from the fantasy, misinformation, and outright lies, you need to read this book.

The Great Transformation – Karen Armstrong. This book has very little to do with ancient paganism and nothing to do with modern Paganism. It’s Armstrong’s history of the Axial Age, the relatively short period about 2600 years ago when several major religions were founded/developed, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Judaism. For those coming to Paganism from the monotheistic religions, The Great Transformationdoes a good job of explaining the religious history nobody taught in Sunday School. And it reminds us that all religions – old or new – need a strong this-world ethical component. If you want something that focuses solely on the three Western monotheistic religions, try Armstrong’s A History of God.

 

Communicating With Your Neighbors

  • Communicating With Your Neighbors – Land Spirits and UU Pagans
  • at the Denton UU Fellowship
  • three class meetings:
    • Saturday, January 10
    • Saturday, January 24
    • Sunday February 15
  • 2:00 to 5:00 PM

Before Europeans came to Texas and before the First Nations arrived, they were here.  Some call them fae, some call them vaettir, some call them land spirits or just the spirits of this place.  Some see them mythically and some see them mystically, but in our age of hypermaterialism most don’t see them at all.

Whatever you call them, they are our neighbors and it is polite to be neighborly towards them.  It’s also wise – we share the land with them and we have a common interest in honoring and protecting the land.  This will be a three-session experience-oriented class in communicating with the land spirits.

There is no charge for this class, but donations are requested.  This class is “family friendly” and is appropriate for older children.  We are unable to provide childcare for younger children at this event.

04.19.14 04 darker

An Introduction to Modern Pagan Religion

  • Introduction to Modern Pagan Religion
  • Saturday, January 17, 1:00 to 5:00
  • at the Denton UU Fellowship

Are you curious about modern Pagan religion?  Would you like to hear about it from people who’ve been practicing it for years?  Are you on a Wiccan, Druid, or another Pagan spiritual path and would like some live instruction to complement your reading and other solitary practice?  Have you outgrown the many Wicca 101 books but are unsure how to move on?

This will be our 5th time holding this popular class.  We’ll cover the beliefs and practices of our ancient ancestors, the origins of Wicca and other modern Pagan religions, basic spiritual concepts and how different Pagans understand them, the role of Nature in our beliefs and practices, and the essentials of personal spiritual practice.

flyer for Paganism class 2014

Meeting Your Neighbors

04.19.14 04 darker

Before the first Europeans came to Texas and before the First Nations arrived, they were here. Some call them fae, some call them vaettir, some call them land spirits or just the spirits of this place. Some see them mythically and some see them mystically, but in our age of hypermaterialism most don’t see them at all.

Whatever you call them and however you conceive of them, they are our neighbors and it is polite to be neighborly towards them. It’s also wise – we share the land with them and we have a common interest in honoring and protecting the land.

This Summer, the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans will hold a short-term class titled “Meeting Your Neighbors – Interacting With the Spirits of the Land.” We’ll cover ways to introduce yourself to the land spirits, ways to listen to them, and ways to put your experiences of them into action to care for the Land, the Sky, and the Sea.

These classes will be held at Cynthia’s house in Denton. We’ll meet from 2:00 PM till 5:00 PM on three Sunday afternoons:

June 8
June 29
July 13

All are welcome who will approach our neighbors with honor and respect.

Magical Theory and Practice

Magic: the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.

The classic definition of magic has stood for a hundred years because it accurately describes what magic does.  But how does magic work?  Some say it works through the intercession of gods and spirits.  Some say it works through the manipulation of unseen forces.  And others say it works through psychological programming.

In 2014, the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans will explore the nature of magic in a series of classes.  We’ll cover the theory of magic, the laws that describe how it works, and the structure of magical workings.  We’ll cover both high magic (the refinement of the soul) and low magic (spells that get stuff done).

Our primary text will be Real Magic by Isaac Bonewits.

Classes will meet in the RE Wing on Wednesday evenings from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  Meeting dates are:

January 15
January 29
February 12
February 26
March 12
April 2

For more information, contact John Beckett at JohnFranc@aol.com.

spell altar 01

Shielding and Warding Class

pentaclefour Wednesdays, 10/9 through 10/30
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
1111 Cordell Street, Denton, TX 76201

Shielding and Warding are basic magical operations helpful to anyone following a Pagan, Wiccan or other magical path.  The theories and techniques are not complicated, but putting them into practice is best learned in a person to person setting.

The Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans is offering a four week course in Shielding and Warding.  We’ll cover basic energy work, the nature of psychic attacks and how to distinguish them from ordinary stress, basic and advanced defensive magic, and maintaining a healthy spiritual life.

The classes begin Wednesday, October 9 and run for four weeks.  Classes begin at 7:00 PM and will end by 9:00 PM.

There is no charge for these classes but donations will be gratefully accepted.  Older children who can participate maturely and respectfully are welcome to attend with parent / guardian.  We are unable to provide childcare for younger children.

For more information contact John Beckett at JohnFranc@aol.com or 972-948-9211.

DIRECTIONS:  From I-35, exit US-380 (University Drive) eastbound.  Go approximately 1.8 miles east on University, then turn right (south) onto Fulton Street.  Go three blocks, turn right (west) on Cordell. DUUF is on the left, on the southwest corner of Fulton and Cordell – our illuminated sign is on the corner.

Recommended Reading List

Here’s the recommended reading list from today’s Introduction to Modern Pagan Religion class.

Basics

Wicca, A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner – Scott Cunningham. Start here. This was recommended to me when I started 20 years ago and it’s still the best introduction there is. It’s written from a Wiccan perspective, but 98% of it is applicable to any Neopagan path. Easy to read, easy to understand, and most importantly, easy to put into practice.

The Spiral Dance – Starhawk. Another classic of contemporary Paganism. I found her approach to be too radically political for my center-left tastes, but I’ve been told the 20th Anniversary Edition has commentary that tones some of that down. Politics aside, the rituals in Spiral Dance are excellent and are great to use either as is or as a guide for writing your own.

Creative Visualization – Shakti Gawain. This is a “New Age” book rather than Pagan (old joke – Q: what’s the difference between New Age and Pagan? A: one decimal place in the price), but it does a very good job of teaching visualization skills, which are essential for performing magic. Short, to the point, and effective.

Witch Crafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic – Phyllis W. Currott.  An introductory book on Wicca that is also helpful for the intermediate practitioner.

Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies – Christine Kraemer.  A very good introduction to what Pagans believe, and also an explanation of common theological terms and schools of thought from a Pagan perspective.  John’s review of it is here.

Ritual

Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work – Isaac Bonewits. I have the first edition, titled Rites of Worship. Isaac writes from a Wiccan/Druid perspective, but the concepts and processes he describes will work in just about any religious setting. If you want to understand why some religious services leave you energized and others put you to sleep, read this book.

The Elements of Ritual – Deborah Lipp. This is written from a traditional Wiccan perspective, but Wicca has influenced most modern Pagan traditions (for good and for ill), so it’s applicable to most of us. Lipp does an excellent job of deconstructing Wiccan liturgy and explaining the symbolism in it – I particularly like her description of the traditional circle casting as a ritual re-enactment of the Creation of the Universe. Interestingly, Lipp is Isaac Bonewits’ ex-wife.

Personal Practice

The Circle Within – Dianne Sylvan. There are very few books on Pagan personal practice – this is the best of them. It covers relationships with deities, ethics, meditation, and personal rituals. Paganism is more than the eight sabbats and the full and new moons – this book helps you figure out what to do every day.

The Veil’s Edge – Willow Polson. This book nominally deals with the Veil Between the Worlds, but its real value is in presenting a magical worldview in a way that is easy to understand and easy to put into practice. If What the Bleep Do We Know? had been written by Pagans, this is what it would look like. I led a group study of this book a few years back – it was very helpful. I’ve still got my outline if anybody wants it.

The Way of the Shaman – Michael Harner. This is the classic text on “core shamanism,” the processes and techniques common to most shamanic traditions. Shamanism can be a practice all its own, but as with visualization, the techniques are very helpful in working magic and communing with deities.

Classics

The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell. The book is good, the 6-hour videos/DVDs are better. This began in 1988 as a PBS special, with Bill Moyers interviewing Campbell about his work and his views on mythology, which focus on universal themes found in myths around the world. PBS still shows this occasionally, especially at pledge drive time.

Witchcraft Today – Gerald Gardner. The Witchcraft Act wasn’t repealed in Britain until 1951. In 1954, Gardner wrote this book presenting Wicca – the religion of witchcraft – to the mundane world. Yes, some of Gardner’s stories about the roots and origins of Wicca were more fantasy than fact, but this book is a good look at the early years of Wicca. We’ve come a long way.

Witchcraft For Tomorrow – Doreen Valiente. Valiente was one of Gardner’s high priestesses and a superb writer. She’s largely responsible for reworking The Charge of the Goddess into the beautiful poetry we have today. Lots of interesting historical information, and the spells, rituals, and poetry are classics.

The Mabinogion. This is the classic collection of Welsh myths. They weren’t written down until well into the medieval period, meaning they’ve been thoroughly Christianized. But the original Celtic heroes, deities, stories and concepts are still easy to follow. The version I have is translated by Patrick K. Ford.

The Norse Myths – Kevin Crossley-Holland. This is a translation of the Prose Edda, the collection of Norse myths written down in the 13th century by Icelander Snorri Sturluson. These stories are as much a part of our Anglo-Saxon cultural heritage as the Celtic myths of The Mabinogion. JRR Tolkien drew heavily on them in writing his Middle Earth novels.

History

The Book of English Magic – Philip Carr-Gomm.  A magical travelogue – a guidebook describing the important places to go, history to investigate, people to get to know, and sights to see. It doesn’t give you an in-depth look at any of them, but it does tell you enough for you to figure out what you want to do first and what can wait for later.  John’s review of it is here.

The Triumph of the Moon – Ronald Hutton. Every Wiccan, Druid, Heathen, and other modern Pagan needs to read this book. Hutton is Professor of History at the University of Bristol in England – this is a serious look at the origins and development of Wicca, and through it (directly or indirectly), most other modern Pagan traditions. The book is literally hard to read – it’s printed in 8-point type. But if you want to separate the truth of the origins of modern Paganism from the fantasy, misinformation, and outright lies, you need to read this book.

The Great Transformation – Karen Armstrong. This book has very little to do with ancient paganism and nothing to do with modern Paganism. It’s Armstrong’s history of the Axial Age, the relatively short period about 2600 years ago when several major religions were founded/developed, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Judaism. For those coming to Paganism from the monotheistic religions, The Great Transformation does a good job of explaining the religious history nobody taught in Sunday School. And it reminds us that all religions – old or new – need a strong this-world ethical component. If you want something that focuses solely on the three Western monotheistic religions, try Armstrong’s A History of God.

Pagan Reading List

Cynthia and I put this together for our Introduction to Modern Pagan Religion class. It’s a list of the books we found helpful when we were starting out. Some books I liked when I first read them, but as I learned more (through both study and practice) I realized they were off-base. These books have held up.

So, if you’re just starting out, or if you missed one of these your first time through, or if you found this site through UU links and you’re curious about Paganism, here’s our recommended reading list.

Basics

Wicca, A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner – Scott Cunningham. Start here. This was recommended to me when I started 17 years ago, and it’s still the best introduction there is. It’s written from a Wiccan perspective, but 98% of it is applicable to any Neopagan path. Easy to read, easy to understand, and most importantly, easy to put into practice.

The Spiral Dance – Starhawk. Another classic of contemporary Paganism. I found her approach to be too radically political for my center-left tastes, but I’ve been told the 20th Anniversary Edition has commentary that tones some of that down. Politics aside, the rituals in Spiral Dance are excellent and are great to use either as is or as a guide for writing your own.

Creative Visualization – Shakti Gawain. This is a “New Age” book rather than Pagan (old joke – Q: what’s the difference between New Age and Pagan? A: one decimal place in the price), but it does a very good job of teaching visualization skills, which are essential for performing magic. Short, to the point, and effective.

Ritual

Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work – Isaac Bonewits. I have the first edition, titled Rites of Worship. Isaac writes from a Wiccan/Druid perspective, but the concepts and processes he describes will work in just about any religious setting. If you want to understand why some religious services leave you energized and others put you to sleep, read this book.

The Elements of Ritual – Deborah Lipp. This is written from a traditional Wiccan perspective, but Wicca has influenced most modern Pagan traditions (for good and for ill), so it’s applicable to most of us. Lipp does an excellent job of deconstructing Wiccan liturgy and explaining the symbolism in it – I particularly like her description of the traditional circle casting as a ritual re-enactment of the Creation of the Universe. Interestingly, Lipp is Isaac Bonewits’ ex-wife.

Personal Practice

The Circle Within – Dianne Sylvan. There are very few books on Pagan personal practice – this is the best of them. It covers relationships with deities, ethics, meditation, and personal rituals. Paganism is more than the eight sabbats and the full and new moons – this book helps you figure out what to do every day.

The Veil’s Edge – Willow Polson. This book nominally deals with the Veil Between the Worlds, but its real value is in presenting a magical worldview in a way that is easy to understand and easy to put into practice. If What the Bleep Do We Know? had been written by Pagans, this is what it would look like. I led a group study of this book a few years back – it was very helpful. I’ve still got my outline if anybody wants it.

The Way of the Shaman – Michael Harner. This is the classic text on “core shamanism,” the processes and techniques common to most shamanic traditions. Shamanism can be a practice all its own, but as with visualization, the techniques are very helpful in working magic and communing with deities.

Classics

The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell. The book is good, the 6-hour videos/DVDs are better. This began in 1988 as a PBS special, with Bill Moyers interviewing Campbell about his work and his views on mythology, which focus on universal themes found in myths around the world. PBS still shows this occasionally, especially at pledge drive time.

Witchcraft Today – Gerald Gardner. The Witchcraft Act wasn’t repealed in Britain until 1951. In 1954, Gardner wrote this book presenting Wicca – the religion of witchcraft – to the mundane world. Yes, some of Gardner’s stories about the roots and origins of Wicca were more fantasy than fact, but this book is a good look at the early years of Wicca. We’ve come a long way.

Witchcraft For Tomorrow – Doreen Valiente. Valiente was one of Gardner’s high priestesses and a superb writer. She’s largely responsible for reworking The Charge of the Goddess into the beautiful poetry we have today. Lots of interesting historical information, and the spells, rituals, and poetry are classics.

The Mabinogion. This is the classic collection of Welsh myths. They weren’t written down until well into the medieval period, meaning they’ve been thoroughly Christianized. But the original Celtic heroes, deities, stories and concepts are still easy to follow. The version I have is translated by Patrick K. Ford.

The Norse Myths – Kevin Crossley-Holland. This is a translation of the Prose Edda, the collection of Norse myths written down in the 13th century by Icelander Snorri Sturluson. These stories are as much a part of our Anglo-Saxon cultural heritage as the Celtic myths of The Mabinogion. JRR Tolkien drew heavily on them in writing his Middle Earth novels.

History

The Triumph of the Moon – Ronald Hutton. Every Wiccan, Druid, Heathen, and other modern Pagan needs to read this book. Hutton is Professor of History at the University of Bristol in England – this is a serious look at the origins and development of Wicca, and through it (directly or indirectly), most other modern Pagan traditions. The book is literally hard to read – it’s printed in 8-point type. But if you want to separate the truth of the origins of modern Paganism from the fantasy, misinformation, and outright lies, you need to read this book.

The Great Transformation – Karen Armstrong. This book has very little to do with ancient paganism and nothing to do with modern Paganism. It’s Armstrong’s history of the Axial Age, the relatively short period about 2600 years ago when several major religions were founded/developed, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Judaism. For those coming to Paganism from the monotheistic religions, The Great Transformation does a good job of explaining the religious history nobody taught in Sunday School. And it reminds us that all religions – old or new – need a strong this-world ethical component. If you want something that focuses solely on the three Western monotheistic religions, try Armstrong’s A History of God.