Is there any suitable common ritual format for a diverse gathering of Lilith devotees?

March 22, 2011

Lilith’s Tribe in New York City aims to be inclusive of the many different kinds of people who are drawn to Lilith. That’s tricky to accomplish, on many levels.

If such a group were to perform a public or semi-public ritual, what kind of ritual format would be appropriate?

One type of ritual that some people I know have done, and which might be fine for some people in some contexts but would clearly not be appropriate for a group like Lilith’s Tribe, is a standard Wiccan-style ritual with Lilith and Samael plugged into the standard Wiccan-style Goddess-and-God format.

Problem: Too many Lilith devotees are wary of Samael for one reason or another. Quite apart from the folks who are just freaked out by anything having anything to do with Satan or Satanism, there are other issues at stake here.

Even Anya Kless, who does work with Samael, gives a bunch of warnings about Samael in her blog post Samael: God of the Left Hand. Her warnings conclude with the advice that seekers work with Lilith first and then “Allow Lilith to introduce you” to Samael. “Go slow with Him,” Anya says. So I would guess that, even in Anya’s paradigm, a group ritual involving Samael would be appropriate only at a private gathering of people who know each other reasonably well, and who have all been introduced to Samael by Lilith already. (Anya, is that correct?)

Even some theistic Satanists are wary of Samael, due to the ambiguity over whether Samael is a servant or an opponent of Yahweh. I discussed my own thoughts about Samael in my blog post on Lilith and Samael, according to Anya Kless.

And, of course, a ritual featuring any male deity wouldn’t go over well with those people who are specifically Goddess-oriented.

So then, what kind of ritual format would be suitable for a group like Lilith’s Tribe?

Something like a “darker” version of the typical Dianic Wiccan Goddess-only ritual format might be suitable for many, if not all, Lilith devotees. If done by a group like Lilith’s Tribe, such a ritual would include participants of all genders but not any male deities. The Dianic Wiccan ritual format is in the family of ceremonial magick-based ritual formats that are used by the majority of people in the Pagan/occult scene, and by most theistic Satanists too, as far as I can tell.

But not all Pagans use a ceremonial magick-based ritual format. Reconstructionist and Reconstructionist-based Pagans generally don’t. Then again, I would not have expected a Reconstructionist-based Pagans to revere Lilith — given that, as far as I can tell, even Lilith’s Babylonian form Lilitu was NOT revered as a Goddess.

But it turns out that Anya Kless, author of Lilith, Queen of the Desert, is a Reconstructionist-derived Pagan — of a relatively eclectic kind, obviously. (Pagan Reconstructionissts aim to revive some particular extinct religion of some ancient pre-Christian culture, typically confining themselves to just one ancient culture and just one pantheon. Anya is an adherent of the Reconstructionist-derived (but not strictly Reconstructionist) Northern Tradition, in which, according to Raven Kaldera, “it is fine to work with non-Northern deities in one’s own private practice, or belong to non-Northern-Tradition religious groups, unlike some reconstructionist groups who encourage theological separatism.”)

Since Reconstructionists and Reconstructionist-derived Pagans typically have ritual formats very different from the ceremonial magick-based formats common among most of today’s Pagans and occultists, it will be very interesting to see what kind of ritual format is recommended in Lilith: Queen of the Desert.

It’s possible that there just isn’t any ritual format suitable for a group like Lilith’s Tribe, because Lilith devotees are just too diverse. Currently, Lilith’s Tribe does not do any rituals but just holds discussion meetings. It remains to be seen whether that’s how it will always be.

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6 Responses to “Is there any suitable common ritual format for a diverse gathering of Lilith devotees?”

  1. anyakless Says:

    Interesting question. I was curious as to whether the group has done rituals together or if there was an interest in doing one.

    Yes, I would recommend holding off on Samael, particularly if it’s an open ritual that might attract people with little or no exposure to Lilith and Her family (or even pagan practices). Just to be clear, I think He’s a richly complex figure and has a lot to teach, but working with Him requires a higher sense of what one’s doing. As I said in my blog, Lilith is a lot more approachable. And, as you note here, She has a lot more acceptance across various pagan groups than Samael, for a variety of reasons.

    One thing I want to add to the Reconstructionist vs. Reconstructionist-derived distinction is the role of UPG. Those of us who are Reconstructionist-derived rely on UPG (unverified personal gnosis) and PVPG (peer verified personal gnosis) in addition to lore. Thus, my knowledge of Lilith, Samael, Odin, Loki, etc is not limited to what I’ve researched about Them. Added to that is what I’ve experienced of Them in ritual, meditation, divination, and other communication with Them. When possible, I check that against other devotees or get outside divination of what I’ve been shown. Many (though not all) strict Reconstructionist groups don’t accept information learned through UPG.

    Being able to do this often relies on the quality of your line of communication (or what some people call your “god phone”). At least with my primary deities, my god phone is usually pretty serviceable.

    I add that not only for clarity, but because it gives me a bit of a unique perspective on questions like this. My first response would be to ask Lilith Herself what She wanted.

    -Anya

  2. Diane Vera Says:

    Lilith’s Tribe does indeed intend to do group rituals eventually, once we have enough regularly-attending members from a variety of traditions — if there is a ritual format we can all agree on.

    It was assumed from the beginning that if/when we start doing group rituals, we would use something like a Dianic Wiccan-style ritual format (except that the participants would include people of all genders).

    What I’m wondering now is whether those Lilith devotees (such as yourself) who are primarily Reconstructionist-derived Pagans would feel okay with such a ritual format, perhaps with some minor modifications, even though it’s different from the kinds of ritual formats that reconstructionists would typically use.

    Do you feel that Lilith would approve of a Dianic Wicca-derived ritual format of some kind, or something very similar to that? (I would be inclined to suspect so, given that the first people to revere Lilith as a Goddess were Wiccans and feminists.)

    As for UPG and PVPG, that’s a separate topic I’ll discuss some other time. For now I’ll just say I do accept the potential validity of UPG/PVPG, but I believe in taking a very cautious approach with it. I’ve run into way too many people who were overconfident in their channeling abilities and went off the deep end. At the same time, I do have beliefs of my own that are based on personal gnosis which I have sought to verify in assorted ways. I do like the tentativeness implied by the term UPG.

    Anyhow, if/when Lilith’s Tribe does get around to doing rituals as a group, they would mostly be at least semi-public and at least semi-open. I think this is necessary given that Lilith’s Tribe aims to bring together people of many different traditions.

    Ideally, if Lilith’s Tribe ever gets fully off the ground in the form that I would eventually like to see it become, it would consist of numerous small subgroups, each representing a particular tradition or category of traditions. These individual subgroups would each practice more privately while also getting together now and then with the other subgroups for public rituals and discussions to help develop and maintain a sense of the larger picture.

    • Anya Says:

      I wouldn’t assume that Lilith would want a Dianic Wiccan ritual just because that group may have honored Her first. Just because something has been done in the past doesn’t mean it’s the best ritual for the present. Of the devotees I know who work with Lilith, none of them use that format.

      All of this would also depend on the purpose of the ritual. If it’s simply to honor Her, there are a number of things She likes in ritual, particularly dancing, music, and offerings of alcohol. The work I’ve done with Her has tended to be less ceremonial once the ritual actually begins, although the prep tends to be involved (ritual bathing, preparing the space, etc).

      I’d really have to see an outline for a ritual before I commented on it. People use different vocabularies in different ways and come from different practices.

      • Diane Vera Says:

        Point taken that something done in the past might not be the best thing for the present.

        When you speak of the devotees you know who work with Lilith, what traditions do they practice?

        Are all of them Reconstructionist-based Pagans? Or are any of them Dianic Wiccans, or other Wicca-based Pagans, who use a different-from-their-usual ritual format when working with Lilith?

        If you know a bunch of people who habitually use Wiccan or other ceremonial-magick-based ritual formats for most of their other work, but who make an exception when working with Lilith, or if you know a bunch of people who (independently of each other) were led to abandon Dianic Wiccan-style rituals as the result of an encounter with Lilith, I would take that as a signal that Lilith indeed prefers non-Wiccan/non-CM ritual formats.

        Otherwise, we may be dealing with just a trad-based variation, it seems to me.

        • Anya Says:

          Most of the people I know who work with Lilith (including most of those included in the book) are neither Dianic nor Wiccan in their identification. Some of them may have had Wiccan backgrounds, but from what I know, Lilith came to them after that.

          Most of them identify as more loosely pagan, often dual-trad or multi-trad.

        • Anya Says:

          Just to add on:

          thus, from where I’m coming from and the devotees I know, you can see why having Dianic Wicca stressed so heavily in relation to Lilith is a bit foreign to me. She has a very eclectic group of followers.


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