RAISING POWER IN GROUP RITUALS
"Raising energy" is a common phrase within Wicca. Often discussed is how to raise energy, but not when. Currently there is a preponderance of websites describing how to raise energy without any real idea of when it is effective to use and when it should be used. Thus, in this article I will provide some suggestions on when to raise energy in ritual, particularly in group rituals.
First, an explanation of "raising energy" is required. Raising energy was originally called "raising power" by Gerald B. Gardner, who wrote Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft. Raising power is the means by which to make magic. According to Gardner in Witchcraft Today, "The essence of magic is usually to raise power, then to use or control it" (page 101). Therefore, power is raised when you intend to use or control it for magical purposes. Where does this power come from? It comes from us, or rather, the witch. "Witches are taught and believe that the power resides within their bodies which they can release in various ways, the simplest being dancing round in a circle, singing or shouting, to induce a frenzy; this power they believe exudes from their bodies, clothes impending their release." (page 20 of Witchcraft Today) Thus, "raising energy" or "raising power" can be defined simply as the act of releasing the power inside the body where the power is to be used for a specific magical purpose. Additionally, the most common method of raising power is to dance and sing or chant, and this is the method of raising power to which I am referring to in this article. I will note when I am writing about other methods of raising power.
When should power be raised in a group ritual? Generally, you can raise power in a group ritual whenever you intend to do magic. That should be fairly straightforward, however, in practice it is not. In the past seven years of studying and practicing Wicca, I've attended too many group rituals to count. In that time, I have seen energy being raised, yes, more times than I can count. On some occasions this has worked well and on other occasions not. Why?
Note that use was mentioned in relation to raising power. Raising power for the sake of raising power is pointless and frivolous use of it. Does one have something to prove by just raising power? "See, I can do it!" The problem with doing this is that the power is not channeled into something and is left to dissipate on its own traveling to who knows where or is just hanging around for someone or something else to use (think of a mean fairy, and there are some, or spirits). Thus, if you have no specific use for the power or energy being raised, don't raise it.
Next, I mentioned "specific" use. This is very important. "Specific use" is your goal, your objective for doing magic. This must be clear to the whole group. The goal should be stated for the group to work magic for. The goal also provides a focus point for the whole group. When raising power in a group, it works well when the group is focused on the same goal or objective. This is how a "group mind" occurs. When there is a group mind, everyone releases the energy towards the goal at the same time. Each person "knows" exactly when the energy has reached its climax and must be released. In one of the better power raising rituals I've been to, the goal was specific and stated clearly. Everyone knew what the goal was. It didn't matter that this was a public ritual and not a private one. We were all given the same thing to focus on. Eventually the power raised reached its climax, and everyone released the power at the same time. This is the power of the group mind, and it is accomplished by having a clearly stated goal and purpose for the energy.
What happens then if each member of the group has a different purpose, goal, or use for the power. What if you are doing magic for different reasons? How can a group raise power together for many different goals? A good example of how to do this is given in Stewart Farrar's book, What Witches Do. In that book, he describes a coven meeting where magic was needed for different purposes. Different coven members required magic for different goals. In that case, power was raised before each coven member stated their magical goal or use. This way, the power raised in each person could then be used for their specific goal. It was up to that person to focus their power into their specified goal. If instead, they had raised energy after each member stated their goal, the group while raising power would not have a clearly stated goal on which to focus on - they'd have too many to focus on. Without that, the group will not be able to get a "group mind" as each person will be thinking of a different thing. Without a group mind, the climax and releasing of the power will not occur at the same time. Raising the power beforehand in this case is much more effective as the group could simply focus on raising energy, which is still focusing on one thing and not many. Thus, if a group ritual allows for each person to have an individual goal or purpose, it would be best that raising power occurs before each person decides on a goal.
I'll illustrate this with an example.
I've often seen this done in public ritual. We open ritual as usual, then after calling the deities we reach the main part of the ritual. After everyone is told the theme of the ritual that night, people are given candles or some token (I'll use candles throughout this example). Then everyone is told that in keeping with the theme of that night's ritual they may choose an individual goal or purpose for their candle. For example, let's say the ritual is about healing. As a group we are all working towards healing in some form - general healing for everyone. However, each person has different forms of healing required. Normally because public rituals are very large, we don't have people stating their purposes, and therefore, we can't work on one person at a time. Next, everyone stands up holding a candle in the right hand, and all join hands in the circle while chanting a power-raising chant. What could be wrong with this? We have a specific use for the power. The power is going into the candles. There is no problem with that, the power raised is being used. But will we get a group mind? Is there one specific thing that the group can focus on while raising energy? Well, there is general healing for everyone. That would be fine, except for the fact that at this point every person has his/her own candle along with his/her own very specific healing required. Thus, not everyone is focused on the same thing because they are now distracted by their own specific purpose for their candle. The result is that there is no uniformity in the power raised, some of it is for someone's bad knee, some of it is for someone's heart problem, some of it is for someone's unhealthy emotional state, and so on. After the power is raised, the power has tons of different places to go - there is no one focus point for the power to go to. Although there may have been a specific purpose, that is, general healing, for the ritual, the power raised will just dissipate in a way similar to if there was no clearly stated purpose.
There are some solutions to this.
First, if we must use dancing and/or chanting to raise power for the above example of general healing, we should do it before the candles are handed out to each person. This prevents people from thinking of their own individual requirements and allows them to focus only on general healing for now. Additionally, the candles can be placed in the center of the circle within view of all providing everyone a focal point. When the power is raised and finally released, everyone sends the power into the candles in the center. Contrast this with everyone holding a candle in their hand. The power once raised is released and then has to find its own way back to the candles. You could also say that the appropriate power must find its way to the appropriate candle. (If you are as visual as me, you are probably imagining energy rays bouncing back and forth in a room looking for the candle associated with that power.) Having to send the power for general healing into the center where the candles are prevents the power from dissipating into all directions. Then, the candles may be handed out to each person, and they may be told that they can use the candle for their individual purpose when they decide to burn it down.
Another method of raising power for the example above would be to hand out the candles and then have everyone sit with their candle holding it in their hands for a while until they felt they were done putting power into the candle. Often, anointing a candle is useful. Some people may choose to sing or chant or hum, others may choose to sit quietly. When each person feels ready, they could then light the candle (or not). After a certain amount of time (for a public ritual, I would give up to 10 minutes for everyone to feel they were done), then the ritual could be closed down.
Another solution for the above example is to simply bless the candles before handing them out. Some may feel that it is not as powerful as dancing and chanting, but it is. Recall that the wine in the chalice is blessed during ritual. The wine has power because it was blessed with power raised by the Priest and Priestess. When you drink from the chalice, you are drinking in the blessings. This is exactly the same as burning down a candle that has been blessed.
Does group power raising need to be done during every group ritual? No. It is unfortunate that there is this consistently growing need to do magic for our own wants/needs every ritual (and often for things that we can solve using "mundane", non-witch methods). Wicca and witchcraft is not only about the magic, although magic is a major part of it. Part of the wonder and appeal of Wicca and witchcraft is the connection between us and the natural world around us, the connection with the sun, the moon, the seasons, the trees, the animals, the gods and goddesses and so forth. This was the primary reason I became involved with witchcraft and Wicca - feeling connected. How many Wiccans out there now can say this? Have we come so far in trying to rediscover our "roots" that we have completely forgotten what we were looking for in the beginning of our journey? Have we come so far that raising power must be done in every group ritual because it's fun (and we are energy junkies)? The real magic is in connecting with nature, not in getting what we desire. Through connecting with nature, we will then learn more about ourselves.
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed on this site regarding Wicca, witchcraft, and paganism are strictly those of myself, unless otherwise indicated, and do NOT represent ALL Wiccans, witches, or pagans.
Copyright C.J. Chow December 2006