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Artifacts Books Interview

A Book of Simple Rituals: Ready to Use Pagan Rituals by Wendy Wilson, 2017, New Jersey, USA

Donated by Wendy Wilson of Magic in Your Living Room, August 2021.

Interview

How did you get involved with witchcraft?

A college girlfriend, Anita, (who, by the way, visited last week from Maryland) was a Wiccan and was studying with a priestess named Jackie. She invited me to a Beltane ritual and I realized that this was what I was looking for. Margot Adler describes it as a feeling you had “come home”, which exactly described my experience. This was in the 1980s.

When did you start writing rituals?

After Anita moved to Maryland, another friend approached me to create a Dianic circle with her. This group traded the role of priestess around and the priestess of the month usually got one or two people to help her create the rituals ahead of time. Because I had more experience that the others, I was often involved in creating the ritual and I was the person who created the programs for the rituals. Eventually, I found Dianic Wicca was not aligned with my ideas (my male cats were not welcome in the rituals…ridiculous). 

I practiced as a solitary (still using my own written rituals) until a former work colleague asked me to form a circle and lead it. I create and lead all the rituals for this group… and create the programs. This was how the altar cloths came about. The programs all had covers with graphics. I was encouraged to make them available to a larger group, so I had them printed on fabric and sold them as altar cloths.

How has your ritual creation evolved over time?

I have always minimalized the role of humanized deity, preferring rituals that honor nature, celebrate the season, or further the spiritual development of the participants. I even tried to change the wording of the final invocation from “the peace of the Goddess” to the “peace of our love”, but it didn’t take… people are too used to the wording, so I left it. 

I have moved from the idea of a dichotomy between male and female to the idea that each of us is both and that should be celebrated. In my version of the wand and chalice ritual, the chalice and the wand are passed around the circle and each person in turn holds the chalice while the person next to them places the wand in the chalice. Each of us takes the active role and each of us takes the receiving role.

Of course, in the last 18 months, we moved from in-person rituals to remote rituals over Zoom. I made little “ritual boxes” and sent out any “props” needed for the rituals. It worked pretty well. I may decide to sell the ritual boxes for people who want to do my more complicated rituals.

What, to you, makes a ritual a success?

Ritual should be designed to make non-mundane ideas accessible. I create rituals around one or two of those ideas… which might be scientific or mystical or self-exploratory. To do this, the ritual should show, not describe, the concept. It should be experiential to the extent possible. The ritual should also be participatory, Nothing is worse than having the priest or priestess standing around yammering on and on. Everyone should have a role. I have also come to understand the importance of singing. It raises consciousness in very palpable ways. (It helps that I have 3 former members of Sweet Adelines in my group and my husband is a musician.)

I’d love to hear more about your current circle, if you’re comfortable with that.

It’s a small group, about 8, all women, except for my husband. There are a couple of lesbians and a couple of straight women. A couple of them are more dedicated to the Goddess than I am, but it’s not a problem. It didn’t occur to me that I was creating a new form of Wicca until someone mentioned it and I realized that I had moved from a Goddess center practice to a more scientific/natural practice. She pointed it out because it was special to her.

How long has your circle been practicing together now?

Wow, it looks like it’s been since 2003! My mother used to come to the rituals (she’s passed now) and we lost a wonderful woman to cancer a few years ago. Her partner still participates.

Would you say your circle has roughly the same beliefs, or do beliefs within the group vary?

They’re pretty similar, although some are more Goddess-oriented and some are more atheistic. The political views are about the same.

I’d also love to hear more about your experiences with witchcraft in the US in the 80s and 90s, if you have anything to add.

Besides the “living room” circles I have been involved with, I have had some experience with CUUPS and found them delightfully eclectic and inclusive. Their rituals unfortunately often coincided with mine. A couple of them worked for a now-defunct center at Princeton studying non-conventional physics.