Rethinking the Great Rite

Rethinking the Great Rite

The symbolic Great Rite, used in many Wiccan traditions, is meant to symbolize the unifying of opposite polarities, represented by an athame dipping into a chalice.

The Great Rite is also meant to symbolize the “pure energy of creation.” It can be seen as a metaphor for penis-in-vagina sex (the quintessential IKEA-esque “insert Tab A into Slot B” routine), so it has a veneer of being about heteronormative fertility as well.

This type of imagery can be uncomfortable and alienating for people in magickal communities who identify outside the gender binary or whose sexuality isn’t heteronormative. (See previous post: “Masculine” vs. “Feminine” energy: Why is this still a thing?)

It can also be very uncomfortable for people who have been abused, as the “penis” is represented by a blade, which has the connotations of pain and violence.

So what do we do with the Great Rite? Thankfully, we have a lot of options. If your group uses the symbolic Great Rite in ritual and you’d like to make it more inclusive, here are some ways you can approach it:

  1. The Great Rite can actually be done with any two tools, even two of the same tool. There is energy to be built from resonance just as much as polarity.
  2. If your ritual practice involves one person holding the chalice and another person holding the athame, consider letting those people choose whichever tool they prefer instead.
  3. The Great Rite also doesn’t have to be limited to two tools. Wouldn’t it be amazing to do a Great Rite with all of your elemental tools together?
  4. The Great Rite also isn’t…required. You can do all kinds of magic without it! Step back and consider: Does this serve? What does it accomplish, and is there another way to accomplish that? Has the symbol set become more important than its underpinning purpose? (In the Wiccan tradition of which I’m a member, the Great Rite is only a required element for one specific, infrequently-performed ritual – it’s completely optional for all others.)

Have you got more ideas for making the symbolic Great Rite more inclusive? Share them in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Rethinking the Great Rite

    1. Thank you lovely Ryan, was just about to comment with the two chalices ritual. <3

      A group of LGBTQIA Wiccans from Europe came up with the idea of saying "As the athame is to the lover, so the cup is to the beloved". Some groups use a wand instead of an athame. I tend not to think of the athame as a literal penis. I like Lynna Landstreet's suggested imagery of the lightning striking the primordial waters to bring forth life, too.

      Someone left a comment on one of my posts about this with a description of their wine consecration ritual, which involves two people who hold both an athame and a chalice.

      1. Also I wrote about the cakes and wine ritual, and the Great Rite (two separate things in my world), in my book, Dark Mirror: the Inner Work of Witchcraft.

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