For those who do ritual and would like a new one, those who do not but would like to start or those who would like a different way to celebrate an occasion, I offer my Appreciation Circle.
Years ago, I created this gathering to celebrate the birthday of one of my covenmates. It was simple and yet very touching. It was so successful, we continued holding it for everyone in the group on their birthdays. I later introduced it into other groups that came into my life. Here is the gist of what it’s all about:
We gathered together on Kellie’s birthday. After the usual beginning (casting the Circle, calling of the quarters, etc.), the core of our ritual centered on Kellie as each individual read a list he or she had prepared of what he/she appreciated about her. A gift from the appreciator was given and opened, then the next person in Circle would do the same.
This list could be pretty basic: “You are so kind.” “You’ve always been there for me.” “I love how you love animals.” Or it could be more involved with stories of first meetings, significant moments or events, or things that had been learned from the person being celebrated.
While this sounds simple, it is actually quite profound. Rarely do we tell someone to their faces how much we think of them, how much we love them, how much we have learned from them. Equally rarely do others tell us how much we mean to them. When it happens, it can be overwhelming.
When we first did this, the effect was so intense, everyone in Circle was crying. Kellie was so surprised how others truly thought of her, she didn’t quite know how to handle it. Even when we knew the power of appreciation from doing it repeatedly throughout the years, it still brought surprise every single time.
Lastly we would ground the energy, deconstruct the Circle and have pot-luck with birthday cake. Even though we knew each other very well by the time we held this Circle the first time, it brought us even closer.
This doesn’t have to be used only for a birthday. It can be done to celebrate any kind of anniversary, someone moving away, or two someones becoming engaged or pregnant. It can be done inside or out, in a living room or back yard, in the mountains or at the beach: any place where people can sit comfortably in a circle.
It is important, however, to sit in a circle shape as that adds energy to what happens within it. The energy continually flows from one person to another, raising the vibrations. There is power sitting in a circle as opposed to just sitting around haphazardly in a room or on a patio. It doesn’t matter if people are seated on chairs or on the floor as long as it’s in a circle.
We always held Circle around a fire – either outside in my backyard around the fire pit or inside around a grouping of candles. While this is not required, it adds a lot to the event even if it is more party than ritual.
A couple of tips:
Gathering on the actual birth day is important but sometimes that isn’t convenient and celebrations have to wait for a weekend so everyone can attend. But know there is a special power when this Circle is done on the actual day of birth. Whenever possible, try to do it on that special day.
Whether this is done with three people or a group of 12, whether it’s a ritual or not, it’s usually best to have someone play leader or host/ess to pull everyone together and direct what happens next.
Make sure everything needed is brought into Circle before people sit down: the list of appreciation, a gift, a bottle of water for themselves, food and drink if that’s to be available throughout. Once the Circle is established, it’s best to stay together in it until the celebration is complete. If this is being done in a non-ritual party atmosphere with copious drinking, staying in Circle when Nature calls isn’t always going to work. In that case, still try to respect the structure of the Circle when going and coming back – it brings depth to the appreciation.
Once everyone is seated, take a moment to get out of the day-to-day energy by doing some centering exercise like deep breathing in silence for a few minutes or singing or chanting together. While this is not necessary, especially if it’s more of a party than a ritual, it adds a connection between participants.
While the gathering doesn’t have to be done with a group of people who always hang around together, like those who practice ritual regularly, it works so much better when everyone invited takes this seriously. When everyone else speaks with heart-felt honesty and one individual adds sarcasm or tries to be funny to cover their own embarrassment in being that honest, it destroys the flow. It defeats the purpose and throws the energy off. This can easily happen when friends know the birthday person but not each other.
It is also important that everyone invited participates. If someone brings a boyfriend to an Appreciation Circle Party and he doesn’t really know the birthday girl, he still needs to say something, even if it’s just appreciation for being invited, or that the birthday girl’s outfit is nice, or that the quality of friends who have gathered are exceptional. If we look, we can always find something to appreciate. Someone attending and not participating brings a feeling of being observed to others and changes the energy.
For those of the Wiccan or Pagan persuasion: sometimes in the offering of appreciation, we would add herbs, tinctures, ground crystals – that which represented a trait of, or good wishes for, the individual – to a central pot or cauldron to create a potion specific to the birthday person. We would drum to empower the potion and raise the energy. After the Circle ended, the potion would be distributed to everyone in special bottles each had brought so the essence of the person and the event was shared.
Because our group had so many birthdays in one month, we sometimes chose to give re-gifts. The Circle was more about appreciation than gift-giving so presents were secondary.
Please let me know if you try this and how it goes. I believe you’ll be very satisfied with the results.
With love and gratitude…