Ritual space is sacred space. Leading group ritual requires responsibility. The leader’s job is to make sure that everyone who participates knows what is going on, is healthy enough to participate, and is appropriate for the group. Additionally, the leader needs to know what each person may bring into the group setting so that he or she can assess whether or not she’s qualified to deal with the worst case scenario. So let’s look at these qualities to help you see if you are ready to lead group rituals and/or help you determine whether you want to be in a group under someone else’s leadership.
When people are new to ritual, they may not know the protocols about what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Are they supposed to enter and leave in a certain way? Are they allowed to come and go? Can they speak? When? Is it okay to leave an offering? How? What is an appropriate offering? What’s the dress code? Is there some preparation that needs to happen beforehand? There are many things that can make things run more smoothly. If there is a way to continue communication after the ritual, this can also make it more meaningful for participants who need to debrief.
What might come out during the ritual? Will someone have a break down? Might someone say or do something that could trigger others? Is it better to have people with the same issues in the same ceremony? Or should they be in a different one?
When people come together, their energy influences what the whole experience becomes. Sometimes it’s good to trust and let things unfold organically. Sometimes it’s really irresponsible to not pre-screen. It really just depends on how powerful the ritual is. The greater the potential for healing, the more pre-screening that is required. You don’t want to unleash chaos without the ability to contain it.
Containing the Space
One of the primary responsibilities of the group facilitator is the ability to hold space. Without this, magic can’t happen. Participants have to feel free enough to let their guard down. If some people are out of control or don’t feel safe, it can be too scary to be fully present. If the facilitator calls in an energy that he can’t contain, that’s also unsafe. When the space is well contained, everyone can relax, be present, and receive what they are meant to get.
Group ritual is powerful! When it’s done in service for others, it’s for others. This is NOT the time for the facilitator to focus on his own needs or healing. If the facilitator isn’t healthy enough to lead, he should be a participant. The strongest energy in the circle has to come from the leader. Our first responsibility is to ourselves and our own healing. Group ritual is not the place for the Wounded Healer to lead.
As more and more people embrace paganism, animism, and Earth based religions, group ritual is becoming more common. Lots of people want to lead. Those are great things! So that we grow in a healthy direction, we all have to police ourselves and make sure that we are choosing healthy opportunities for ourselves and others.