RITUALS: From Ancient to Present Day Pagan.
When early man began to settle and clear the landscape – he began to show respect for his fellow beings and pay homage to his surroundings. Early history has been illuminated through archaeological excavations providing us with an array of evidence. The remains of physical evidence remains such as Stonehenge and Avebury along with more intricate evidence such as cave paintings and carved stone. The most endearing archaeological evidence of all is where ‘man’ demonstrates the ability to pay homage to the deceased – placing food and precious items from ‘this world’ to assist in the ‘after life’.
Neolithic ‘Tool Makers’ mining for flints and making tools for hunting and cutting down trees. One archaeological excavation for example revealed evidence of large flints each covering a small hole that had been created to secure an individual artefact, such as a piece of pottery or a piece of bone - we can but surmise the reasons for this ritual. Evidence of water ‘worship’ can be found back to prehistoric times. Stone Circles were often located near to a water source. In the Neolithic period and the Bronze age ritual shafts or wells were dug and these have been found to contain a variety of objects – offerings made to the ‘deity’ of the well or ‘under world’ – the ‘well’ being considered an entrance. This custom continued with the Romans and Celts – water being of great importance to both religions. For example in Coventina’s Well in Northumberland finds included: stone and bronze heads and a human skull, models of a horse and dog, jewellery, pottery, coins and alters.
We know that many present day rituals have their origins in the past – such as leaving an offering outside presenting it to the earth to show appreciation to the great mother. Elderly trees and ancient stone monuments are a basis to contact the energies of past ancestors. There are spells for healing, traditionally the province of the village wise woman or shaman – once the spell for healing has been prepared it can be taken and buried near the base of a tree. Spells to empower – in this ritual a fossil is buried in the same manner. A positive spell that uses land and water is writing a need or desire in the sand and waiting for the sea’s positive energy to ‘wash away’ the writing – to bring something into your life. Many of us at some point have ‘tossed a coin in a well and made a wish. This is a ritual that has survived through the ages. Springs have been used in rituals longer than wells. Being a valuable source of ‘bubbling’ life energy from within the Goddess and a natural place to perform rituals – such as ‘A spring spell’: collect a small stone near to the spring and draw your ‘need’ in symbols or picture on the stone. Perform the spell ending with the stone being dropped into the spring. Over the course of time many wells have derived specific usage depending on the folklore attached to them, but the majority of rituals performed were for ‘cures’ and this practice continues today. The ritual usually ends with an offering such as a coin or pebble being placed in the well or for example the documented St Boniface’s ‘rag well’ where a ‘rag ’ is tied to a tree near the well.
The present lies in the past and the past leads to the present. Rituals are an essential and necessary part of our heritage and well being.
Heidi von Zilpke