Wednesday 7 August 2013

Review: Rituals of Celebration by Jane Meredith

Most books about the pagan Wheel of the Year are aimed at beginners. They teach the basics about the eight seasonal festivals from Yule at midwinter to Imbolc in February, then the Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas at the start of the harvest, Autumn Equinox and Samhain then back to the Midwinter Solstice.

Such books generally explain what each festival means and suggest ways to celebrate them, but rarely do they explore the subject matter deeply. Rituals of Celebration: Honoring the Seasons of Life Through the Wheel of the Year is different.

It is written by Jane Meredith, a pagan author and teacher who has inspired me a lot in the past few years. Her previous books, Aphrodite's Magic and Journey to the Dark Goddess, look at love and death through the myths of the goddesses Aphrodite, Persephone and Inanna. They describe rituals for soul-searching, transformation and empowerment through embracing our fears, grief and tragedies as well as our capacity to recover and learn from adversity to be stronger and wiser in the future - the dark as well as the light.

Exactly the same could be said for Rituals of Celebration, but whereas Jane's earlier books are probably not for complete beginners, her new one could read by anyone. It is pitched at the right level to be accessible for someone just setting out on an earth-based spiritual path as much as by someone who has been running a pagan group for years.

It includes moving personal stories as well as describing rituals that could be run for small or large groups, including families with children, for each festival. The rituals are structurally simple, yet powerful in the way they require people to explore their own thoughts and feelings about the cycles of life from birth through to death. If you have never run a ritual before, there are clear instructions on how to go about it. There are also non-ritual seasonal activities that can be done if you don't feel like putting on a full ceremony. Everything within the book is versatile and adaptable.

Publisher Llewellyn says on its website: "In Rituals of Celebration, author Jane Meredith provides lyrical accounts of the most memorable rituals she’s organized, as well as how-to instructions for creating them. Inspired by Pagan, Druid, and Goddess traditions, the rituals are crafted to help us honor the changing seasons and to mark the important milestones of our personal journeys in a way that is relevant to contemporary life. Along with the rituals, you will discover craft projects that go hand-in-hand with each festival—perfect ideas for artistic expression whether you are practicing alone, with a group, or celebrating with children."

As a Wiccan, I am mainly used to quite formalised rituals, often following a structured template of casting a circle, invoking the God and Goddess, performing spell work and finishing with cakes and wine. There's nothing wrong with following tradition, but Rituals of Celebration shows that sometimes it can be good to strip away formal ceremony - the bells and smells - to concentrate on what each season can teach us to help us move onwards in our journey through life.

Links and previous related posts
Rituals of Celebration: Honoring the Seasons of Life Through the Wheel of the Year

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