Structured teaching techniques provide a standard format for sharing information. Properly structured, the format itself is useful in teaching and reinforcing lessons even without instructor involvement. This workshop presents two methods of standardized teaching, the Ritual Creation Worksheet (RCW) and The Living Rede.
The Ritual Creation Worksheet
Creating a ritual from scratch, starting with a blank sheet of paper and an idea might not sound very difficult, but it often results in forgetting or omitting some “little things” that you just didn’t think of at the time.
Did you close anything you opened? Did you banish or release anything that you summoned or invited? Who will light the candles? Who is bringing the food? Do we have enough parking?
Enter the Ritual Creation Worksheet (RCW). The RCW was designed to help guide people through each step of ritual creation, from “why are we having a ritual” to “who is helping clean up afterwards?” It is designed to be usable across religions and traditions, and can be used to both create new rituals and serve as a journal to rituals already completed.
Teaching with the RCW
The simplest way to use the RCW as a teaching tool is to create a ritual with it.
Simply start at the beginning of the worksheet and move through each section. For each part, provide an introduction to what that part of the ritual is used for, provide a few examples of things that could be done, and then have each person fill out their own form either with a ritual designed by you, the class, or themselves.
As you move through each section, relate back to the parts of previous sections that provided the foundation for what you are working on, and explain how the various aspects flow through the ritual from start to finish.
Upon completion, have them each review what they have written for consistency and see if, now that they have the whole thing down, if there is anything they want to change to improve it. Depending on your class size and structure, you can have people exchange RCWs with each other and discuss ways of refining their rituals or review them personally yourself and make suggestions on ways to improve or enhance them.
Journaling with the RCW
Many times the effects of a ritual are not felt for weeks, months or years later. Journaling your rituals is a powerful way of preserving what happened and your impressions at the time for later review. By keeping a ritual journal you can go back later and find connections and patterns that were not detectable at the time of the ritual.
The RCW also serves as a quick and easy way to document the rituals you attend, guiding through each key part of the ritual. You can document in as little or as much detail as you like, but you won’t have to worry about forgetting a part inadvertently.
Once you know what you are going to do in ritual, it is important to know how to do it.
One of the most important parts of ritual is Authenticity. This means that you can’t just say it, you have to mean it. You can’t just pretend it, you have to do it. In other words, you have to make ritual real.
For the best results, make people part of the ritual, not just spectators. Here is a simple formula for doing this:
• Have them bring something: a thought, an idea, a fear, a gift, a feeling.
• Do something with what they bring: take it away, trade it, give it, offer it, transform it.
• Give them something to leave with: a memory, a token, a new idea, a transformed feeling, a new relationship with Self, Man, Nature or Spirit.
This works even in a ritual purely of worship: have them bring a gift of love, adoration or devotion, give them a way to offer it, have them understand and feel how it has been transformed into something new and valued, and leave them knowing it has been accepted.
Here are some of key elements for making rituals effective and powerful for those attending:
Being vs. Doing – Don’t just do something, be what you are doing. If you are in the Priest/ess role, don’t just ‘do the Priest/ess stuff’, but Be the Priest/ess. It is a subtle, but vital difference that will be picked up unconsciously by the people at your ritual. It is not only about being in the moment, but being what you are at that moment.
Becoming vs. Pretending – Don’t just say “I am the symbol of the God/dess Whomever”. Actually become them for the purposes of your ritual. Speak in the first person as their voice, walk as they would walk, act as they would act, think as they would think. Become them. Speak confidently, “I am the God/dess Whomever” and it will carry far more impact with those present.
Modeling vs. Telling – Don’t just tell people what they should do, show them. If you want people to walk with confidence to the altar and pick up a stone, you do it first and show them what you want. People are social creatures and inherently good at doing what others have already done. By showing people what to do, they see exactly how to do it. It removes their apprehension and worries of doing something wrong, because they’ve already seen how to do it. It also removes peoples’ fear of ‘going first’ at something, because you have already done it.
Experiencing vs. Witnessing – Involve the people at your ritual in your ritual. Don’t just have them watch it, have them be a part of it. At the end of it you want them to say “That felt powerful” not “That looked good”. Effective ritual is about involvement, not just watching it happen to other people.
Experiential vs. Intellectual – Teaching is an intellectual exercise. Ritual is an experiential exercise. It is important to keep this in mind and not spend lots of time in ritual teaching things. Ritual is the time for people to experience things, either that you have taught about before or will teach about later. Do not occupy the rational mind too deeply in ritual. Engage the creative mind and allow it to experience new things in new ways, or old things in comfortable ways, depending on your focus. But make it something to be experienced, not learned.
Sharing vs. Teaching – Teaching what you do in a class. Sharing is where you open yourself up to others and allow them to look inside and see how you work. Effective ritual happens when you allow your true self to be seen by those present, and share of yourself. Don’t tell them about you, let them see it. Let them join you, somehow, in whatever you are doing. They will feel a part of it, and a part of you.
The Living Rede
Effective Ritual is a microcosm of our world and our lives. It is a small, condensed, focused way of looking at a particular aspect of ourselves and the world of form and spirit around us.
The Living Rede addresses the broader sense of life, providing a systematic way of exploring and teaching many of the concepts integral to a fulfilling spiritual existence.
It provides a convenient way for teaching many of the concepts important to developing and maintaining a spiritual awareness in an (at least mostly) religion-neutral approach.
The Living Rede includes lessons on awareness, balance, duality, plurality, symbols, magic, energy, focus, change, death, divination among other things.
Teaching with The Living Rede
While the poem itself is simple, it offers lessons at a variety of levels of depth, depending on the level of the student.
The most basic lessons can be taken directly from the words of the rede, simply explaining what they mean and how they are meant. Once these lessons have been learned you can delve below the surface with more advanced concepts, again using it as a guide for where to explore, moving through it from start to finish or jumping around as your lessons dictate.
There is a Living Rede online coursework on www.PaganWisdom.com that you can use directly or base your own lessons off of. Each stanza is broken down and explored individually with discussion of the topics involved. Following each discussion are a series of questions and exercises designed to provide experiences to complement the information just presented.
It can also be used as a meditation tool, picking a particular stanza to focus on in meditation and see what arises from that focal point.
As you discuss various topics in similar and even unrelated subjects, many times a point can be related back to The Living Rede as an example of the point that the stanza is making, which allows it to serve as a common reference point for a variety of lessons in different contexts, but sharing the same mechanism or goal.
Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom
Though using the resources here you can provide yourself and your students with a combination of acquired knowledge and guided experiences which, when integrated, lead to personal wisdom.
Knowledge is the intellectual understanding of how things work, why they are the way they are, and how things can be used together. However, without practical application of this knowledge (experience), it is just a collection of facts and ideas in your head.
Experience is your own conscious participation in something. It provides you with the visceral understanding of what it is like to have gone through it. However, without a rational understanding of what happened, how and why, it is simply something that happened, an experience without context or relationship.
The key to achieving the greatest understanding of something is to both experience it and know it. This is Wisdom: the ability to know what something is, what to do with it, how, when and why.