The high point of Wiccan ritual is, without doubt, the Great Rite.
This is the moment when the athame is plunged into the chalice, a symbolic act, representing the coming together of God and Goddess.
It is an act that represents fertility and conception, fertilizing the wine with blessings and the seed of creativity.
It is, of course, and act heavily symbolic of sex.
A similar rite is performed when the Witch is working only with a solitary Deity, but is instead symbolic of the Deity blessing the wine, rather than a symbolic sexual act.
Being a solitary, I have the freedom to do things my own way.
The Great Rite is where I truly take advantage of this freedom.
In just about every book you read, every Witch you speak to, the consensus is that the Great Rite is performed at the end of ritual.
Many even seem to just tack this sacred act on at the end, using it as a prelude to the food and drink eaten at circle’s end, to help the Witch ground, return to the material world.
This approach has never seemed right to me.
I feel that the Great Rite should be the focal point of my ritual.
Having played around with the timing of the Rite, within my circles, I have found the place where I feel it fits.
After the circle has been cast, Quarters have been summoned and Deities invoked, it is time for the Great Rite.
I prefer to treat my Deities as honored guests.
When we entertain guests, the first thing we do is to ensure our guests are comfortable.
The best way of doing this is to offer them food and drink.
After my Deities have arrived, the first port of call is the Great Rite.
As our guests are divine beings, the food and drink we offer needs to be made sacred, which is achieved during the blessing of the Great Rite.
After the wine is blessed in this way, it is then used to bless the cakes, so we then have our offerings for our guests.
After Deity is given the first of both cake and wine, I take my own blessings, eating and drinking of the blessings of God and Goddess, or the particular Deity I am working with.
I then offer some drumming, or guitar playing, whichever suits the mood of the night, to my guests.
I then feel satisfied that my Deities are happy and having a good time in my circle, so then the business of the night can be attended to.
There is a slight problem in this, eating grounds the self, brings you back to earth.
This is not something you want in the height of ritual.
My way of getting around this, is to only eat a small portion, putting the remainder aside for later grounding.
I have no such problem with the wine, as I find alcohol only heightens the ritual mindset.
The other benefit of pleasure before business, so to speak, is that by taking the strength and blessings of deity before any spellwork, your magickal strength can only be enhanced.
Having been blessed by deity before, not after, magickal work, has to be a good thing.
I also figure, that making my guests happy before I ask anything of them, makes them more likely to want to assist me, their gracious host.
Performing the Great Rite in this way, has always just felt right to me, and that is my privilege as a solitary, to do things how and when I please.
I have never been one to do something in a certain way because a book says I must.
Being a Southern Witch (Australia), only adds to this, as my place down under also requires a lot of flipping and changing about.
So I was very happy when I recently read a book by Deborah Lipp, The Elements of Ritual.
This is an amazing book, and should be required reading for every Wiccan.
It pulls apart each and every step of ritual, organizing each part into elemental correspondences, and details the exact purpose, mythology and reasoning behind everything that is done in circle.
It was here I found a like mind.
Deborah Lipp detailed why she performs the Great Rite as a welcome to Deity.
To her, as well, the Great Rite is first and foremost in every ritual, not something to be tacked on at the end, almost as an after-thought.
It was nice to read that someone else has thought closely about this subject and came to the same conclusion.