Tag Archives: sabbats

Ritual/Circle Etiquette

Ritual/Circle Etiquette

If you are attending a publicly advertised ritual, you need to check to see if they have any special requirements (check the website or call if they provide a number). 

Individual covens or groups often have their own set of rules to adhere to in a ritual or circle setting.  If you have been invited to attend a private coven/group ritual, do not assume it’s okay to bring someone else with you (this includes a spouse or significant other) and certainly don’t assume children are allowed.  If there is someone you’d like to bring, you need to contact the High Priestess (HPS) and/or High Priest (HP) for permission.  Please be respectful of their choice.  Also note, that if a ritual/circle is not ‘advertised’ or for public consumption, do not make it public!  Respect the privacy of the members and do not mention their names, or the ritual to outsiders.  Keep in mind, some traditions/covens take an oath of secrecy and take those oaths very seriously.  Please be mindful of the requirements for private covens (i.e. dress, jewelry, electronics, etc..)


Having said this there are some general guidelines for attending ritual/circle:

·       Never attend a circle/ritual under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

·       Time:  Make sure you know the time you must be there by and allow for a few hours total (this of course can vary from circle to circle).  This will include prep time, ritual time & ‘down’ time.  If you are on a time constraint it may be best not to attend, whereas someone who’s obsessed with the time may disrupt the flow of the ritual.  BE ON TIME!!!

·       Clothing Requirements: Some groups prefer clothes that move freely to avoid constricting energy flow (like ritual robes), some prefer shoeless, some prefer specific colors, etc…  Please make sure whatever you wear is comfortable and avoid t-shirts with ‘sayings’ or ‘images’ so it’s not a distraction.  Some covens/groups work skyclad (clothed only by the sky), if you are not comfortable in this setting, please don’t accept the invitation.  Also, if it’s going to be an outdoor ritual, dress accordingly!  Also, remove hats!!

·       Jewelry:  Some covens/groups have special requirements for the types of jewelry within circle, be sure to ask.

·       Fees/Costs:  Some groups have a fee for attendance to help cover expended costs, be sure to inquire about this and how payment is to be made (is check okay, credit card, paypal or cash only)

·       Food:  Many rituals/circles are followed by a ‘feast’ of some kind or sometimes just a snack setting.  Be sure to ask if you need to bring a food item if so, are there any allergens or special requirements and how many should you ‘account’ for when preparing food.  If it’s a Sabbat, you may want to research what foods are typical for that Sabbat and incorporate it.

·       Drink:  Again, don’t assume alcohol is okay.  If you are bringing drink to share, inquire as to whether alcohol is allowed or what other drinks are acceptable (some don’t like high sugary drinks).

·       Electronics:  Never assume electronics are okay in circle (more often they are not).  Most covens/groups prefer electronic items not be in the ritual space.  So remove watches, cell phones/pagers (have them turned off so they don’t go off) and store them in a safe place.  Cameras/Video are also not typically allowed within circle. 

·       Bags/Purses/Backpacks:  The circle/ritual is a sacred space and often ‘mundane’ objects are a distraction and inconvenience if circle dancing is involved.  Please leave these items in a safe place and out of circle.


·       Make sure you have bathed/showered prior to a ritual (remember the old adage “cleanliness is next to godliness” ).  A ritual bath or shower helps you begin to get into a certain mindset.  It’s during this time you begin to focus on the upcoming ritual and to wash away any ‘negatives’ you may be carrying around during the day.

·       Make sure you have all the items you’ll need for ritual (special clothing, jewelry, ‘tools’, etc…)

·       Make sure you have any food/drink items ready to go

·       If it’s an outdoor ritual, be sure to bring and apply insect repellant ahead of time!

·       Be aware of smoking rules (do not smoke in a circle at all), but be aware of designated smoking areas and be sure not to leave cigarette butts on the ground.  Dispose in dispenser (if provided) otherwise pocket it until you find a trash!

·       Find out if shoes are allowed or where they are to be left outside of the circle.

·       Make sure to listen carefully to directions during prep time to fully understand what is expected of you.


·       Be mindful if there is a special ‘order’ in which to enter a circle.  Some covens/groups prefer a balance and therefore ask that people alternate (female, male, female, male).

·       Once people have begun to ‘line up’, it’s time to stop talking.  Now is the time to begin to center yourself and focusing on leaving your ‘mundane’ self behind as you enter circle/ritual as your magic(k)al self.

·       There may be a special spot for smudging or self consecration prior to entering, be aware of this and follow directions (these are for spiritual cleansing).

·       Never touch someone elses tools or altar items without explicit permission.

·       Move Deosil (clockwise) at all times in circle (unless directed otherwise for specific purpose).  When you enter circle, turn left, you’ll always be going in the right direction then.

·       You may be asked for a special name and/or password when entering a circle (others may ask once inside circle at specific times).  If you don’t have a craft/magic(k) name, don’t worry, just use your regular name

·       Make sure you’ve used the restroom!!!!



·       Again, remember to move Deosil and never touch tools without explicit permission.

·       If you are asked to touch something on the altar, it’s often requested that you use the right hand to either pick up or put down (The right hand is considered the active hand and the left is considered the passive hand).

·       Be aware of the circle boundaries.  Do not step over them, move your arms over them, etc.  Remember a ritual circle is a space between space and a time between time.  The circles are cast as a protective place and breaking that may allow undesirables to enter.  IF you break a circle, please notify the high priestess and/or high priest or coven member so it may be properly closed again.

·       When the quarters are being called, turn (deosil) to face those quarters.  If you’re unfamiliar as to what to do during this time, just quietly ‘follow along’.  (Due to some space restrictions, be sure to ask if personal athames are allowed ahead of time), a couple pointed fingers are the typical substitute for ‘saluting’ the quarters.

·       NO TALKING.  Unless you are specifically invited to do so.  Conversations within circle are meant to stay craft related.  Remember whatever you hear in circle stays confidential (kind of like what happens in vegas stays in vegas).  If you find value in info. or stories shared within circle, ask permission before sharing it outside. 

·       During some rituals, the HPS or HP may invoke the Goddess or God during ritual.  During this time, there is absolute quiet among the coven with the exception of the HPS or HP during the invocation.  During this time you should be directing your energies to the one doing the invocation (to lend them a hand in bringing down the Goddess or God).  Once invoked into the body of the HPS or HP, they (the Goddess or God) speak through the HPS or HP, so if asked a question at that time you do need to answer, or you may be given a message that is meant just for you (if you don’t understand it, just keep it in your mind to discuss later with the HPS or HP).

·       During most rituals there is a time called cakes and ale (or cakes and wine).  If you are passed something to eat or drink, do NOT immediately consume them.  Many covens/groups have a libation cup that is also passed around to give to the Gods.  After ritual, this cup is usually ‘returned’ to the earth.  During cakes and ale, is often a time for small ritual discussion or questions.

·       If you must leave circle during ritual (illness or absolutely can’t wait for the bathroom), ask a coven member to properly ‘cut you out’ so they can properly ‘re-seal’ or close the circle again.

·       If circle dancing is planned and you are not physically able to join, make sure the HPS or HP are aware of this ahead of time, so they can plan to ‘cut you out’ prior to the dancing (you may stand outside to continue to raise energy to send forth).


·       Now is the time for hugs, discussion, etc…

·       Ask if there is anything you can do to assist in clean up or for feast preparations.

Lammas/Lughnasadh Correspondences


Lammas/ Lughnasadh (August 1): Lammas is associated with the color gold and
all harvest colors, the harvest and bounty of the land, the sacred king, and
the Disseminating Moon lunar phase.

Lammas Herbs

acacia flowers, blackberries, corn ears, cornstalks, crab apples, frankincense, grapes, heather, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, pear, sloe, wheat, all grains

The Sacred Herbs of Lugnasad
from “A Druid’s Herbal’ by Ellen Evert Hopman.

Berries, Fenugreek, Frankincense, Heather, Hollyhock, Mistletoe, Oak, Oat, and Sunflower

Berries: Pies can be made of berries to commemorate the death of the God, the “Green Man”, who is sacrificed each year at the harvest so that the greater life may prosper.

Fenugreek: Use Fenugreek seed to attract money.

Frankincense: Use for purification, protection and exorcism. Use it to accelerate spiritual growth.

Heather: This is a herb of luck and protection, and can be used in rain-making rituals.

Hollyhock: Attracts money, success, and material wealth. favored by the fey!

Mistletoe: Use this herb to strengthen all magickal workings. Use also for healing, protection and beautiful dreams.

Oak: Use for strength, perseverance and protection. Brings fertility to ideas, projects and harvest magick.

Oat: Use in money and gather wealth spells.

Sunflower: These are sun symbols and symbolize wisdom and the healthy ego.

Lughnasadh/Lammas Incense, Oil & Soap Recipes

Incense, Oil and Soap Recipes

Lughnassadh Incense 1
2 parts Frankincense
1 part Heather
1 part Apple blossoms
1 pinch Blackberry leaves
a few drops Ambergris oil

Lughnassadh Incense 2
1 tsp. Bay Leaves
1 tsp. Thyme
1 tsp. Cinnamon Powder
1 tsp. Allspice Powder
1 tsp. Gardenia Flowers
1 tsp. Rose Petals

Lughnassadh Incense 3
2 tsp. Copal
2 tsp. Benzoin
1 tsp. Oak
3 tsp. Chamomile
20 drops Lavender

Lughnassadh Incense 4
2 tsp. Benzoin
1 tsp. oak wood
½ tsp. gorse flowers
½ tsp. basil
½ tsp. borage
2 tsp. frankincense
A few drops of pine oil

Blend together and burn on charcoal.

Lughnassadh Incense 5
2 tsp. Frankincense
1 tsp. hops (or sandalwood with a few drops of beer)
1 tsp. apple blossom
1 tsp. blackberry leaves

Lughnassadh Oil
2 parts lime oil
2 parts cinnamon oil
2 parts sandalwood oil
1 part clove oil
1 part frankincense oil

Mix well and bottle. Use in Lughnasadh/Lammas rituals.

Lughnassadh Oil 2
2 tsp. wheat germ oil
6 drops frankincense oil
2 drops clary sage oil
1 drop rose oil
sunflower oil to make 2 TB.

Mix well and bottle. Use in Lughnasadh/Lammas rituals

Lammas Soap
1 cup grated unscented soap
1/4 cup hot water
1 tbsp. apricot oil
1 tbsp. sunflower petals
1/2 tbsp. blackberry leaves
6 drops rosemary oil
3 drops sandalwood oil

Place grated soap in a heat-proof non-metallic container and add the hot water and apricot oil. Leave until it is cool enough to handle, and then mix together
with your hands. If the soap is floating on the water, add more soap. Leave to sit for 10 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the soap is soft and mushy. Once
the soap, water, and oil are blended completely, add the dry ingredients. Once the mixture is cool, then add the essential oils (essential oils evaporate
quickly in heat). Enough essential oils should be added to overcome the original scent of the soap. Blend thoroughly and then divide the soap mixture
into four to six pieces. Squeeze the soaps, removing as much excess water as possible into the shape you desire, and tie in a cheesecloth. Hang in a warm,
dry place until the soap is completely hard and dry.

Lammas: The First Harvest by Mike Nichols

The First Harvest
by Mike Nichols

“It was upon a Lammas Night
When corn rigs are bonny,
Beneath the Moon’s unclouded light,
I held awhile to Annie….

Although in the heat of a midwestern summer it might be difficult to discern, the festival of Lammas (August 1) marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. The days now grow visibly shorter and by the time we’ve reached autumn’s end (October 31), we will have run the gamut of temperature from the heat of August to the cold and (sometimes) snow of November. And in the midst of it, a perfect midwestern autumn.
The history of Lammas is as convoluted as all the rest of the old folk holidays. It is, of course, a cross-quarter day, one of the four High Holidays or Greater Sabbats of Witchcraft, occurring one quarter of a year after Beltane. Its true astrological point is fifteen degrees Leo, but tradition has set August 1 as the day Lammas is typically celebrated. The celebration proper would begin on sundown of the previous evening, our July 31, since the Celts reckon their days from sundown to sundown.
However, British Witches often refer to the astrological date of August 6 as Old Lammas, and folklorists call it Lammas O.S. (Old Style). This date has long been considered a “power point” of the zodiac, and is symbolized by the Lion, one of the tetramorph figures found on the tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune (the other three figures being the Bull, the Eagle, and the Spirit). Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four “fixed” signs of the zodiac, and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft. Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four Gospel writers.
“Lammas” was the medieval Christian name for the holiday, and it means “loaf-mass”, for this was the day on which loaves of bread were baked from the first grain harvest and laid on the church altars as offerings. It was a day representative of “first fruits” and early harvest.
In Irish Gaelic, the feast was referred to as “Lughnasadh”, a feast to commemorate the funeral games of the Irish Sun God Lugh. However, there is some confusion on this point. Although at first glance, it may seem that we are celebrating the death of Lugh, the God of Light does not really die (mythically) until the autumnal equinox. And indeed, if we read the Irish myths closer, we discover that it is not Lugh’s death that is being celebrated, but the funeral games that Lugh hosted to commemorate the death of his foster mother, Taillte. That is why the Lughnasadh celebrations in Ireland are often called the “Tailltean games”.
The time went by with careless heed
Between the late and early,
With small persuasion she agreed
To see me through the barley….

One common feature of the games was the “Tailltean marriages”, a rather informal marriage that lasted for only a year-and-a-day or until next Lammas. At that time, the couple could decide to continue the arrangement if it pleased them, or to stand back to back and walk away from one another, thus bringing the Tailltean marriage to a formal close. Such trial marriages (obviously related to the Wiccan handfasting) were quite common even into the 1500s, although it was something one “didn’t bother the parish priest about”. Indeed, such ceremonies were usually solemnized by a poet, bard, or shanachie (or, it may be guessed, by a priest or priestess of the Old Religion).
Lammastide was also the traditional time of year for craft festivals. The medieval guilds would create elaborate displays of their wares, decorating their shops and themselves in bright colors and ribbons, marching in parades, and performing strange, ceremonial plays and dances for the entranced onlookers. The atmosphere must have been quite similar to our modern-day Renaissance festivals.
A ceremonial highlight of such festivals was the Catherine wheel. Although the Roman Church moved St. Catherine’s feast day all around the calendar with bewildering frequency, its most popular date was Lammas. (They also kept trying to expel this much-loved saint from the ranks of the blessed because she was mythical rather than historical, and because her worship gave rise to the heretical sect known as the Cathari.) At any rate, a large wagon wheel was taken to the top of a nearby hill, covered with tar, set aflame, and ceremoniously rolled down the hill. Some mythologists see in this ritual the remnants of a Pagan rite symbolizing the end of summer, the flaming disk representing the Sun God in his decline. And just as the Sun King has now reached the autumn of his years, his rival or dark self has just reached puberty.
Many commentators have bewailed the fact that traditional Gardnerian and Alexandrian Books of Shadows say very little about the holiday of Lammas, stating only that poles should be ridden and a circle dance performed. This seems strange, for Lammas is a holiday of rich mythic and cultural associations, providing endless resources for liturgical celebration.
Corn rigs and barley rigs,
Corn rigs are bonny!
I’ll not forget that happy night
Among the rigs with Annie!

[Verse quotations by Robert Burns, as handed down through several Books of Shadows.]
Document Copyright © 1983 – 2009 by Mike Nichols.
Text editing courtesy of Acorn Guild Press.
Website redesign by Bengalhome Internet Services, © 2009

Permission is given to re-publish this document only as long as no information is lost or changed, credit is given to the author, and it is provided or used without cost to others.
This notice represents an exception to the copyright notice found in the Acorn Guild Press edition of The Witches’ Sabbats and applies only to the text as given above.
Other uses of this document must be approved in writing by Mike Nichols.