I led this ritual for my Pagan group on the June 2020 Full Moon last Friday. Current events have brought institutionalized racism to the front and center in the United States, while the COVID-19 pandemic still wreaks havoc on our ill-prepared country. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are but some of the most recent in a long history of injustice toward black Americans. BLACK LIVES MATTER.
I encourage you to stand for justice. For the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. I encourage you to stand for love. For the fierce love that does not tolerate actions against love, but knows no bounds. Whatever emotions these current events have incited within you – be that fury or depression or fear, I invite you to sit with these feelings.
You will need a candle for this ritual. You may wish to cast a circle prior to this ritual to create a safe container, if that is a part of your practice. This ritual was written for a group to be performed remotely, but can easily be adapted for solitary practice or an in-person ritual, if it is safe to gather with others in your area right now.
Call the Quarters
Element of Earth, Guardian of the North, please bless us with your strength on this night. May we remain grounded and centered in our truest selves. Hail and Welcome!
Element of Air, Guardian of the East, please bless us with your inspiration on this night. May we speak our truth with wisdom. Hail and Welcome!
Element of Fire, Guardian of the South, please bless us with your passion on this night. May we lead our lives with love. Hail and Welcome!
Element of Water, Guardian of the West, please bless us with your healing on this night. May we heal our own wounds as we heal the wounds of the world. Hail and Welcome!
Invocation of Aphrodite
O Glorious Aphrodite,
Goddess of Light and Dark,
You who are tenderness and compassion,
You who are fury and strength,
You who walk the line between the sacred and the profane,
We call to you.
Goddess of Love and Emotion,
Please help us to find our truest selves.
Bless us with courage to face our fears,
With bravery to stand for what is right,
With perseverance to overcome any trial,
With hope to dream of a brighter future,
And with love to share with all beings.
O Far Shining Goddess,
Hold us tightly in your loving embrace.
Hail and welcome, Aphrodite!
Right now, it feels like the world is on fire. Bigotry, prejudice, explicit and institutionalized racism, abuses of authority, governments behaving badly, and a lack of respect for the inherent worth and dignity of fellow human beings. AND, on top of all of this, there is still a literal plague going on. We’ve been in quarantine for months, and even with restrictions lifting, there’s no telling when it will actually be safe to go about normal life.
How do we live in a world like this?
Not easily. If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just want to stick your head in the sand and ignore it all. But we can’t do that – at least not for long.
No matter how awful things are, no matter how much it seems like what’s going on right now isn’t even occurring in this reality, we have to face it. We have to accept that these terrible things are happening. I’m not talking about condoning despicable behavior. No. I’m talking about acknowledging exactly how horrible things are so that we may move forward to a brighter future.
This is not easy. It’s hard to take a look at the world and not gloss over the ugly or inconvenient bits. It is even more difficult to acknowledge the conscious or unconscious roles that we have played in contributing to the current state of the world. This is also not the time to feel sorry for ourselves about regrets from our past. Maybe we didn’t speak up at that inappropriate joke when we should have. Maybe we’ve told some of those jokes ourselves. This is not a pity party. The world needs you.
In order to move forward, we must practice radical acceptance. This is the state of the world right now, for better or for worse.
We must also practice radical acceptance with ourselves. You may have privilege because of the color of your skin, your gender, your sexual orientation, or your socio-economic background. You may have a job that has allowed you to work from home during the pandemic, reducing your risk. Or you might not have those luxuries.
We must also acknowledge what our limits are and honor them. This is an act of self-love. This self-love also applies to the exercise later in this ritual. If you don’t feel like you are ready to do the exercise, I invite you to use that time to explore why that is, and to hold yourself in loving kindness as you do so.
We must accept that the world is an unjust and unsafe place. With that acceptance, we get to choose what animates us and propels us forward. Love, fierce and all-encompassing, has to be what drives us onward.
Now this is not the shiny beautiful “light and love” that you hear a lot of New Agey people talk about. If becoming a priestess of Aphrodite has taught me one thing, it is that real love is messy. It’s dirty and emotional and complicated. It may tear you to shreds before building you back up.
Not everything is rosy-tinted working with Aphrodite. She makes you take a long, hard look at your shit, and sometimes drags you through the mud to do it. Why would a Goddess of Love do this? Because loving how Aphrodite loves requires great strength and courage – more than you can even imagine.
This love is the unity of tenderness and fortitude, of darkness and light, of pleasure and pain, of humility and confidence, of ferocity and compassion. This fierce love knows no bounds, but does not tolerate actions against love. It is protective. It is righteous. It is about honor and respect. It upholds the dignity of all beings. It is connection. It is that sense of wholeness when you look at another person. It is the unconditional love you feel for your pet or your child. It’s collapsing into tears because you care SO MUCH. It is trying, day after day, to make things better in spite of all odds.
This fierce love comes from within. It’s that voice inside you screaming “NO!” when you read another awful news headline. It can feel like anger. It can feel like despair. It can make you feel like nothing else in the world matters except this love.
Let this love fuel your soul and nourish your spirit. Let it drive your actions and your advocacy. Let it give you hope. Let it show you that the world is not such a terrible place after all. Be a lover and a fighter.
And when you have done all that you can reasonably do, Fierce Love must give way to Divine Surrender.
Let me be clear: The type of surrender I am talking about is not the surrender of defeat (though sometimes it may feel like it). It is not giving up. It is not ceding victory. It is not yielding to the authority of others. It is not relinquishing your power. It is not sacrificing your values or morals. It is not martyrdom.
The Divine Surrender I speak of is faith. It’s trusting in something greater, whether that be your Gods, the Divine, the Universe, or the Goodness of Humanity. You cannot save the world all by yourself. Recognizing your limits is a good and healthy thing. It is part of self-care. It is how you prevent burnout. It is how you live to fight another day.
We must also surrender our emotions. You are designed for emotions to flow through you, to be expressed, and then dissipate. Emotions cause problems when they get stuck somewhere along this process. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed the consequences of keeping emotions bottled up, either with ourselves or someone else. It never ends well.
Emotions activate all the parts of the self – mind, body, and spirit. We must feel our emotions fully in order to let them go. We must experience them with our whole being for them to become the power that fuels us.
In our culture of smalltalk and perfectly manicured appearances, sitting in your messy emotions is a radical act. It may seem overwhelming, and it is. Standing as a witness to yourself is hard. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions without labeling them, without judging them, without trying to categorize or minimize them is not an easy task. It can be painful. But it is also freeing.
Here, in this sacred space, together though we may be physically apart, let us bear witness to each other. In this unprecedented time, full of chaos, grief, and anger, I invite you into your darkest feelings. Whatever emotions these current events have incited within you – be that fury or depression or fear, I invite you to sit with these feelings, and do whatever you need to express them. All of your feelings are valid.
Scream. Cry. Beat on the ground. Hug yourself. Unleash an inventive stream of expletives. Curl up in the fetal position. Whatever you need to acknowledge and embody those feelings. I’m going to mute everyone, and you can turn off your video if you like. In this safe space, confront that which you feel you cannot confront alone.
And when you are ready, but not a moment before, surrender your feelings to the fire. You can light your candle at that moment, or before we start so it will be ready. If you don’t have a candle, you can visualize one, or use the one on the altar on your screen. The intention will be the same.
You can surrender your emotions to your Gods as an offering, to the Divine in general, to the Universe to fuel change, to the Earth to be recycled, or simply to the flame to be consumed and born anew. Pick whatever is most powerful for you.
Let our community stand witness for the next eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the length of time that George Floyd lay on the ground with a police officer’s knee on his neck while others stood by and watched his murder. Let us stand together, for each other and for the world.
(Eight minutes and forty-six seconds of silence)
If you have not already, I invite you to surrender your emotions into the fire.
(Pause for people to collect themselves)
From the ashes of your emotions, let a fierce love be born. A love that is all-encompassing and never-ending. A love that is equal parts strength and tenderness. A love that radiates from the center of your being to the whole world.
Take a deep breath. Envision yourself in a forest clearing. You walk slowly from the edge of the trees into the open. You look up at the cloudy night sky, taking in the sweet scent of the forest. You feel the soft grass beneath your bare feet as you approach the center of the clearing. It gently starts to rain. It is a warm summer night, and the rain feels cool on your skin. You hear the soft pitter patter of raindrops on the tree leaves.
You close your eyes and let the water wash over you. The water is cleansing and nourishing. You feel its energy sink into your skin, each drop gently restoring your world-weary soul.
You stay in the rain for a while, and after a time, you feel the rain slowly stop. You take a deep breath and open your eyes. You see a figure before you. She is beautiful – tall and elegant. You see a dancer’s grace in Her movements as She slowly walks toward you, Her robe gently swirling behind Her. Her eyes radiate with the most brilliant light you have ever seen, overflowing with the purest love and compassion.
Neither of you speak. She reaches out to embrace you, and enfolds you into Her arms. You collapse into Her, letting yourself be held. Her embrace is warm and tender, though you feel a quiet strength behind the softness. You stay wrapped in Her love for what feels like hours, though it is only minutes.
As She releases you, She tilts your head up to meet Her gaze. Her eyes, while still compassionate, are filled with a fire you did not see before. The power of this love is overwhelming, but you do not want to look away. Silently, She places Her hand on your heart, and you feel a fierce love pour into you. She withdraws Her hand but holds your gaze.
You feel this love swell in your chest, a brilliant light at your heart’s center. Its heat radiates from you, spreading out down your limbs and up to the crown of your head, filling your entire body. You feel this fierce love crack open the facade you present to the world. You feel it flood out your judgements and doubts. You feel it seep into your bones, nourishing you and lighting a fire within you. You fill with light, and it bursts forth from you into the universe.
In that brilliant flash of light, you are nothing but pure love.
As the brightness fades, you can no longer see the Goddess, though you can still feel Her presence with you. You know that She is there, and will always be there, whenever you need Her.
Let’s take a few deep breaths together, to come back to ourselves and the present moment.
(Three deep breaths)
How are you going to embody this fierce love in your life? How will it fuel your actions and your advocacy? How does it feel to live from this place of fierce love?
I encourage you to meditate on these questions. As we conclude this circle, go and do your wonderful work in this world.
Gratitude to Aphrodite
O Glorious Aphrodite,
Goddess of Dawn and Dusk,
Goddess of Love and Emotion,
We thank you for your blessings.
O Far Shining Goddess,
May we carry your fierce love with us
Every day of our lives.
Release the Quarters
Element of Water, Guardian of the West, thank you for your blessings of healing. Hail and Farewell!
Element of Fire, Guardian of the South, thank you for your blessings of passion. Hail and Farewell!
Element of Air, Guardian of the East, thank you for your blessings of inspiration. Hail and Farewell!
Element of Earth, Guardian of the North, thank you for your blessings of strength. Hail and Farewell!