River rituals

A Pagan ritual was due to take place along the river Thames in London at 18:00 GMT on the 20th of March 2020, the day of the spring equinox. This ritual has unfortunately now been cancelled due to the COVID19 epidemic. We are now inviting people to participate in mutual virtual ritual from their own homes. The ritual’s intention is to celebrate grief, regeneration and cleansing, all of which is symbolised by the element of water.

Click here to join the grief blessing ritual happening publicly on Facebook

The rituals and actions described here are for use at home or in small affinity groups. The spring equinox is a time of deep spiritual significance to pagans. It’s a time when both light and dark are equally balanced but the light is growing. However it would also be possible to use these rituals at a time other than the spring equinox, whenever you simply want or need to bless a river.

Suggested alter decorations

• Seashells, driftwood or any other things collected from the beach (avoid choral for ethical reasons)

• Model boats

• Candles

• Suggested colours: green and blue

Suggested deities

Suggestions are: Tamesis (London), Luna (Roman), Tiāloc (Aztec), Sulis, Yemaya (New York), Neptune, Poseidon, Nodens, Dylan, Lir, Mannanán, Llyr, Oceanus, Tethys, Artemis (for the moon rituals).

Calling in the four directions

Everyone has a different way of calling in the four directions and it’s likely you’ll already have devised your own way. However if this is new to you, to explain, the four directions correspond to the four elements as follows:

North: Earth

East: Air

South: Fire

West: Water

A simple way to invoke the four directions and thus the four elements also is to stand and turn to face each direction in turn, calling on each direction and its corresponding element as you do so. At the end of the ritual, repeat to close the circle, thanking each element for its role in your ritual as you do so.

Blessing ceremony (adapted from the main ceremony)

Fill a bowl (ceramic, wooden or glass is best for the purpose) with water. This could be water from a tap but excess water from running the shower, collected rain water or old bath/sink water would be even better. Water is a natural treasure, not finite, and should be used with awareness and care.

Place the bowl of water on your ritual space. Invoke the four directions and their corresponding elements, smudge if you feel inclined and then light the candle. Once the candle is lit, bless the water in the bowl by flicking it with a feather or just your fingers and say, in these words or similar words of your own,

“Dear …,

Guardian of the waters,

I ask for your blessings on this water and on all the waters of Mother Earth: the oceans, seas, coastlines, lagoons, lakes, rivers and streams. May they become clean, pure and life-sustaining again.

Blessed be!”

Next quiet your mind and bring your attention to your emotions. The element of water is closely associated with emotion in Pagan culture.

How is you’re emotional state? Contemplate for awhile.

Are you feeling grief for the planet?

Maybe you’re feeling grief for something in your own life?

Bear in mind that grief, although it might feel painful at the time, can be a source of regeneration and new growth. In our modern culture it can feel like we’re constantly inundated by the message “stress is bad for us”. In actual fact stress or any other negative emotion is just another human state of mind and perfectly acceptable and natural. It’s only a source of problems when it fails to be expressed and gets ‘stuck’ – rather like water, when it’s prevented from flowing, can become stagnant. If you’re feeling a sense a grief or loss you might want to speak the emotion or loss out loud and then drop a stone or pebble into the water to symbolise letting go.

There is an old Jewish proverb “When your hungry, sing; when your hurt, laugh”. Chanting can be a great way of releasing tension and sending up an spiritual offering to the Earth. There are many to choose from and obviously it’s important to choose one you’re comfortable with but here’s a link to one to start off with.

Finally end your ritual on a positive frame of mind by writing down or saying aloud any positives you can think of. This could be positives that have come about in the past, present or positive ‘seeds’ for the future.

Afterwards thank your chosen deity, snuff out the candle (never blow) and close the circle.

Use the water for watering your plants or simply pour it into the Earth as a blessing.

Moon blessed water cleansing ceremony

The moon is also closely related to water and the tides in Pagan philosophy. The different phases of the moon represent different things to witches. The new moon represents new beginnings and growth; the full moon represents clarity, completion and celebration; lastly the waxing moon represents banishing and casting away of old things.

It’s necessary to perform this ritual on a clear night. You’ll need a bowl of water as before. If you intend to drink the moon blessed water as a tea, which is supposed to improve your psychic abilities, it’s worth using water that’s drinkable. If not, used household water will once again do. Place the bowl somewhere it’ll catch the reflection of the moon in the water. Consider what you’d like to use the moon blessed water for beforehand so you can catch the phase of the moon that’d be most beneficial for your personal project.

One point to remember when catching the moon’s reflection, however, is it’ll appear the opposite to what it is in the sky. Thus a waxing moon will appear waning and a waning moon waxing. This might suit your needs and even add a magic of its own. However if you want to ‘reverse’ the reflection you can do so by using a mirror. Any mirror will do but if it’s an old one you might want to cleanse it to remove any negative energies beforehand. Cleansing with water is not recommended as it will cause the mirror to crack so it’s better to cleanse it using an incense such as white sage.

Once you’ve made your moon blessed water you can drink it in tea, take a sponge bath or use it for any other regenerative purposes you feel like.

River of consciousness

Leading on from the positives you wrote or spoke at the end of the main ritual, if you feel like it, consider positives you can do to help protect rivers and other waterways. Then share your ideas on social media or elsewhere to create individual ‘rivers of consciousness’ flowing into the ocean of the greater collective consciousness. See this link for simple ways you can support practical conservation of rivers.

Useful resources

London rivers press release

A 2019 press release explaining the threats to London rivers

XR flood trailer

Trailer highlighting Thames flood risk due to climate change

Native American folk chant

Link to the Native American folk chant used in the main blessing ritual

Wiki-how how to help save rivers

Practical tips on how to save rivers