A Pagan coming-out ritual

The other day, someone asked, why isn’t there a Pagan coming-out ritual? When do straight people come out as straight? Maybe one day in the future, when people don’t assume that you are straight by default, there will be either be coming-out rituals for everyone, or no need of a coming-out ritual. There ought to be a coming-of-age ritual, though.

There have been criticisms of the notion of coming-out, both in terms of the notion of “out” — perhaps we’re coming IN to being visible, instead of OUT of being hidden — and in terms of the notion of a closet, in that being closeted as a way to avoid stigma is becoming unnecessary in most social contexts.

Shine! by Roz Byshaka

Shine! by Roz Byshaka (courtesy of Shutterstock)

A coming-out ritual, by Yvonne Aburrow

The circle or sacred space is opened in the appropriate manner for the tradition celebrating. If quarters are called, then they are addressed in a non-gender-binary way, e.g. Mighty Ones of the [direction], Powers of the [element]. All those gathered to celebrate bring a scarf. Preferably red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. The one who has recently come out as LGBTQIA wears a cloak and a veil.

Celebrant 1: Today we have gathered to celebrate the coming out of [name] as [identity]. (1)
He/she/ze (2) has been hidden,
like a bulb hidden in the earth, waiting to put forth the first green shoots in Spring.
He/she/ze has been hidden,
like a bud waiting for the first rays of the Sun to open.
He/she/ze has been hidden,
Like a shy animal in their burrow,
Waiting for the dusk to emerge and explore.
He/she/ze has been hidden,
Like a butterfly in the chrysalis,
Waiting for the right time to emerge.

Celebrant 2: But now [name] has come out,
And emerges into the world like a bulb putting forth a green shoot,
Like a flower opening to the sun,
Like an animal emerging from the burrow,
Like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis!
Come out, [name], and be welcome in your full glory.

All: Come out! Come out! Come out!

(The outcomer now emerges from the cloak and the veil, and steps forward)

All: Hail and welcome!

(Each person now steps forward and places a coloured scarf around the outcomer’s neck, either offering their own personal blessing, or saying “I welcome you in your full glory as a [lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender] (3) person, and celebrate your unique beauty and strength”)

Celebrant 1: By coming out of the closet, you have come IN to the queer community.

All: Welcome in!

Celebrant 2: By coming out of the closet, you have come IN to the Pagan (4) community. Paganism encourages us to find our true and authentic self, and to be that to the best of our ability. By coming out as [identity], you have revealed more of your true self, both to yourself and to others.

[The outcomer now gets to encounter the ten queer spiritual roles]

Celebrant 1: There are as many ways to be queer as there are queer people, but we now present to you ten queer archetypes (5), who may help you and guide you on your way.

The Catalyst: I am the catalytic transformer. (Lights a flame)
I bring change.
I hunger and thirst for social justice.
I light the fire in the human heart,
The fire that rages against injustice,
The flame that burns bright to herald a new dawn.

The Mirror: I am a mirror, presenting an inverted image to society. (Holds up a mirror)
I am the Molly and the Drag Queen.
I am the one who queers everything.
I comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
I overthrow power structures with my parodies.

The Shaman: I am the queer shaman, (beats drum)
The consciousness scout.
I find the way between the worlds,
I travel the roads of the dead.
I am a child of the Moon,
A devotee of her mysteries.

The Trickster: I am the Trickster, (presents the outcomer with a flower)
The eternally playful one.
I am Peter Pan, always youthful.
My tricks expand your consciousness,
My dreams bring sparkle to the world.

The Beautiful One: I am the keeper and maker of beauty, (sprinkles glitter)
Making music, and art, and sacred drama.
I am the queer eye, discerning beauty wherever it roves.
I am the one who makes all things beautiful.

The Caregiver: I am the one who cares, (Caresses the outcomer)
For the suffering, the lost, and the outcast.
I bring joy to those who are on the edge,
Lost in the liminal spaces.

The Mystic: I am the mystic one, (holds wand/thyrsis/caduceus)
The in-between one,
The shaman, the traveller between the worlds.
I travel between the seen and the unseen,
I mediate between the worlds of flesh and spirit.

The Consecrated One: My sexuality is holy, (sprinkles blessed water or mead)
My being is holy, and I stand before the divine ones,
And lead the people towards the union of matter and spirit.

The Androgyne: I am the Divine Androgyne, (holds wand and chalice in each hand)
Including and transcending all genders.
I am change, and I am growth.
I am space and time.
I am spirit and matter.
I am the inbreath and the outbreath.

The Gatekeeper: I am the gatekeeper, (makes gesture of opening doors)
Who stands at the door of the sacred realm,
Welcoming all who come to enter the portal,
The door to the unseen realms.
I welcome you to the place between the worlds.

All: Hail and welcome, [name of outcomer]

(The ritual is concluded with cakes & wine, mead, an eisteddfod, or whatever the closing appropriate to the tradition.)


CC-BY-SA 3.0. Yvonne Aburrow is the author of this ritual.

You may reuse it under the terms of the following Creative Commons licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/


(1) replace with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender as appropriate

(2) use the preferred pronoun of the outcomer here

(3) use lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender as appropriate

(4) use Heathen, Druid, Wiccan, polytheist, Feri, etc if preferred

(5) http://www.tommoon.net/articles/spiritmatters4.html

Ritual, liturgy, and worship

The structure of ritual in Paganism tends to be to create the sacred space as a microcosm representing the whole cosmos, then to raise power within it, then to wield the power, thank the divine powers and/or commune with them, and then to dismantle the whole structure. This format is essentially derived from the Western magical tradition. If you go to a church service, where the ritual mode is liturgical, there is no wielding of power; rather the approach is to wait for the power to manifest.

Ronald Grimes, theorist of ritual, identifies several different modes of ritual.

This diagram repays a lot of study and thinking. Most church services are liturgical; most Pagan rituals are magical or celebratory. If you go to a ritual expecting one mode, and it turns out to be in another mode, it can be very jarring, especially if you were expecting a magical or liturgical ritual and it turned out to be celebratory.

Examples of ritualisation include your morning routine (get up, have breakfast, have a shower, brush your teeth, go to work – or some variation on that set of actions); your evening routine (come home, kick off your shoes, maybe change your clothes, have a glass of wine); and so on. They are psychosomatic because you don’t even think about them; they are automatic. They are embodied because they are physical actions.

Examples of decorum include shaking hands, waving goodbye, asking someone how they are. These are polite gestures that smooth your passage through your social milieu.

Ritualisation and decorum are not full-blown rituals; they are mini-rituals. The other categories are performed at greater length.

Typical ceremonies would include the crowning of a new monarch, the inauguration of a new President, the state opening of Parliament, and so on. They honour the power that is vested in the status quo.

Liturgy, which means ‘the work of the people’ is a collective affirmation of what is of ultimate worth, also known as “worship”. If you have issues with the word “worship” because you think it means self-abasement, I highly recommend reading An Abraxan Essay on Worship, available from the CRES website. This essay reclaims the word to mean ‘honouring whatever we regard as being of ultimate worth’, and draws on the theology of Paul Tillich, including the idea of the ground of all being.

Liturgy may involve waiting for power to manifest, but there is a dignity and solemnity in liturgical ritual which can be very enjoyable, and if it is done well, it can bring power through just as much as a magical ritual does. I would like to see more of the liturgical mode in Pagan rituals. I would imagine that Reconstructionists would be well-placed to create liturgical ritual, because ancient polytheism was more about worshipping deities than invoking them for theurgical or magical purposes. I have only attended one Reconstructionist ritual — it was very liturgical in style.

Magical rituals are intended to cause change and transformation, either in the inner states of the participants, or in the external world. These include rites of passage, whose function is to bridge the divide between one psychological state and another (for example, to manage the transition between childhood and adulthood); and healing rituals, whose function is to transform an ill person into a well person. Even seasonal festival celebrations could be said to be magical rituals, because they manage the transition between one seasonal and the next.

Interestingly, when Unitarians switch to magical or symbolic mode, they refer to it as “ritual”. Examples include planting seeds to symbolise renewal, the water communion, and the flower communion.

Celebratory rituals can include birthday parties, but also parties to celebrate seasonal festivals. The aim of such a festivity is not to transform anything or manage a transition, but to let off steam. In the ancient world, carnivals inverted the normal social order and allowed everyone to let off steam, and then they returned to the normal social order when the festivities were over.

When writing rituals, you can deliberately make use of these different modes to create a different mood, depending on the purpose of your ritual. Sometimes a ritual can include more than one of these modes.