Props and costumes

How much gear do you need for ritual? What do you need to wear? Having kit that sets ritual time apart from regular life helps some people move from being in their mundane routines, into a more pagan space. Having dramatic, theatrical items to work with – swords, brooms, cauldrons etc helps bring the experience to life. Kit and costume create opportunities for bardic expression, for revelling in what we do and celebrating it. We should (as Druid author Kris Hughes once pointed out to me) be gorgeous before our gods.

It’s also very easy to become kit dependent and to end up having to haul a car-load of material with you in order to do anything. Kits and costumes can become crutches, and we can end up feeling like we aren’t ‘proper’ pagans without the cloak on. Where rituals are planned, then taking the kit isn’t always a problem (unless you want to walk or use public transport, and that should be a consideration). Sometimes life throws up experiences that need responding to, and ‘I can’t be a pagan right now because I do not have my shiny things’ is not a helpful place to find yourself.

Rituals in safe, predictable places lend themselves to swords, chalices, fire dishes, masks, cloaks and a thousand other elaborate elements. Try lugging that up a hill on a rainy night and they become a nuisance, detracting from ritual, not adding to it. There’s a lot to be said for being in woods, on hillsides or other wild places with little or no light sometimes. Being pagan is about connecting with the elements after all, it shouldn’t all happen in the comfort of your living room.

What are the bare essentials for ritual? If you are going to be outside, then first and foremost you have to be dressed for the climate and have appropriate footwear. Walking gear, decent boots and waterproof coats will be a lot more use than a velvet dress. Make sure you have what you need to be safe – walking sticks, a torch, some idea of where you are going… Food and drink are great things to carry for ritual. That doesn’t have to be alcohol, although a flask of mulled wine is always good. Sharing food and drink in a sacred way is easy to do in most conditions, is a good bonding experience, and also confers practical benefits. Other than that, you can improvise what you need from the surroundings and your own person, if needs be. You don’t actually need anything else. Using what is around you helps you engage with your ritual space, it forms relationship and demands innovation. It’s frequently a much more powerful way of doing things.

There’s a lot to be said for limiting your ritual kit to what you can comfortably carry about your person – perhaps a mead horn and a bottle, a musical instrument, or a picnic blanket – take what you need. Our distant ancestors were nomads and would only have owned what they could carry. When faced with ritual, this is a useful thing to bear in mind. That doesn’t mean we can’t be gorgeous and inventive with our paraphernalia, but it does mean that we can travel lightly, unfettered by what we bring, and able to get to the ritual on the bus if needs be.