The Great Rite

Assist me to erect the ancient altar

At which in days past all worshipped

The great altar of all things

For in times of old, woman was the altar

Thus was the altar made and placed

And the sacred place was the point within the center of the circle

As we have of old been taught

That the point within the center is the origin of all things

Therefore should we adore it

Therefore whom we adore we also invoke

O circle of stars

Whereof our Father is but the younger brother

Marvel beyond imagination, soul of infinite space

Before whom time is ashamed

The mind bewildered, and the understanding dark

Not unto thee may we attain unless thine image be love

Therefore by seed and root, and stem and bud

And leaf and flower and fruit, do we invoke thee

O Queen of Space, O Jewel of Light

Continuous One of the Heavens

Let it be ever thus

That man speak not of thee as One, but as None

And let them not speak of thee at all

Since thou art continuous

For thou art the point within the Circle, which we adore

The point of life without which we would not be

And in this way truly are erected the holy pillars

In beauty and in strength were they erected

To the wonder and glory of all men

Altar of mysteries manifold, the sacred circle’s secret point

Thus do I sign thee as old, with kisses of my lips anoint

Open for me the secret way, the pathway of intelligence

Beyond the gates of night and day, beyond the bounds of time and sense

Beyond the mysteries aright, the five true points of fellowship

Here where the Lance and Grail unite

And feet, and knees, and breast, and lip

~  The Witches Way by Stewart and Janet Farrar, 1984 ~

Traditional Great Rite

When performed in a more formal or traditional way, which is also a long version of the rite, the Priestess lays down and a veil is placed over her. The Priest kneels at her feet and a female circle member brings the athamé from the altar and stands by the Priestess and a male member brings the chalice and stands on the opposite side of the Priestess.  This symbolizes woman as the altar, as the place where all magick and creation springs from.  The Priest then recites an invocation which begins with several lines which express this:

“Assist me to erect the ancient altar, at which in days past all worshipped; The altar of all things. For in old time, Woman was the altar. Thus was the altar made and placed, And the sacred place was the point within the center of the Circle.  As we have of old been taught that the point within the centre is the origin of all things, Therefore should we adore it; Therefore whom we adore we also invoke.”

After the full invocation (as written above), the Priest then removes the veil, handing it to the female who then hands him the athamé.  The Priestess then rises to her knees so she is kneeling before the High Priest and she is given the chalice.  The Priest then continues the invocation:

“Altar of mysteries manifold, The sacred Circle’s secret point Thus do I sign thee as of old, With kisses of my lips anoint.”

The Priest kisses the Priestess on the lips and continues:

“Open for me the secret way, The pathway of intelligence, Beyond the gates of night and day, Beyond the bounds of time and sense. Behold the mystery aright The five true points of fellowship.”

The Priestess then holds up the chalice and the Priest lowers the point of the athamé into the chalice which is commonly filled with red wine (different groups will use different liquids such as mead, while some will use water as it is considered to be one of the most sacred liquids of all).

The Priestess says:

“Here where Lance and Grail unite, And feet, and knees, and breast, and lip.”

The Priest gives the athamé to the female covener and then places both his hands around the hands of the Priestess as she holds the chalice and then kisses her and she sips from the cup.  In turn she kisses him and he then sips, all the while both keep their hands together holding the chalice.  The Priest then takes the chalice and they both stand.  Then the Priest will begin the passing of the chalice.  In a traditional coven, where all acts are done male to female and female to male, the Priest will start this by passing the chalice to the a female in circle with a kiss and then she to a male with a kiss and so on until the chalice comes back to the Priest.

Next the cakes or bread are consecrated, which is done by the male and female members who assisted in the wine blessing.  The woman takes the athamé, the man the dish, and he kneels before her holding the dish up to her.  She then draw an earth invoking pentagram over the dish while the man says:

“O Queen most secret, bless this food into our bodies; bestowing health, wealth, strength, joy and peace, and that fulfillment of love that is perfect happiness.”

The Athamé is placed on the altar and the woman takes the dish and, with a kiss passes it to the man, then he passes it back with a kiss, and then the woman begins the passing of the cakes, by giving the dish to another male in the circle with a kiss.

Traditional Great Rite in Truth

The above is the rite in token.  The rite in truth changes at the point where the Priestess  to her knees.  After the invocation is said by the Priest, all other members will either leave the room, in some cases they simply turn their backs to give some privacy to the Priest and Priestess in the center of the circle and they face outward and the Priestess remains laying down.  The Priest recites another piece of the invocation and then kisses the Priestess in the sign of the Third Degree (according to the public Gardnerian version of the rite).  The next portion of invocation includes the following verse:

“Foot to foot.  Knee to knee.  Lance to grail.  Breast to breast.  Lips to lips.”

At the point where the Priest says “Lance to grail”, if this section is used in the rite in token, the Athamé would be placed in the chalice.  If the rite is being done in truth, this would be the point of physical union.

Now, this is very much a traditional Wiccan method of doing this and is the publicly know version that is often said to be Gardnerian in nature.  This  version specifically comes from Janet and Stewart Farrar’s, The Witches’ Bible Complete.

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