NeoPagan Rites
A Guide to Creating Public Rituals That Work
Isaac Bonewits

Review by Sorita d’Este for Avalonia
February 2008

Isaac Bonewits is one of the “elders” of the Pagan spiritual movement in the United States, and rightly so. His work has played an important role in the development of that community since the 1970’s – as a priest, speaker, author, scholar and speaker.

In writing this book, Bonewits drew from his extensive experience of leading public ceremonies over the years, as well as his own knowledge and experience of ritual and symbolism. As I have, like Bonewits, myself lead ceremonies for anything from a dozen to several thousand people, and having watched others perform such ceremonies with varying levels of success, I related to much of the advice he gave. (and with many of the gripes he have with the awful ceremonies which are sometimes performed by people who try their best, but who puts the rest of us through our own version of hell in the process – … “we alllll come from the Gawd-ess”….” in his preface full encapsulates this experience. (Though I have to admit to being partial to it at least once a year, as a form of therapy – you better not ask!)

Anyway, back to the book! It is aimed at people who may be in a position where they are asked, or decide, to take on the job of leading ceremonies for others. Often through lack of experienced Priests and Priestesses who are willing or able to perform such public celebrations, the job of organising and facilitating public ceremonies often fall on inexperienced people whose hearts are in the right place, but who haven’t got the knowledge or know-how to lead such ceremonies. Doing a ceremony as a solitary or for a small group of people, is very different from doing ceremonies for ten people, which in turn is hugely different from doing ceremonies for a hundred or a thousand people. Each has its own benefits, and its own pitfalls tool. Neo Pagan Rites is an excellent book to help plan such ceremonies, but it is more than just that – in my opinion it would benefit anyone who is considering writing their own ceremonies or starting even the smallest celebration circle.

Bonewits covers the definitions and terminology (often a huge pitfall for beginners who use terminology incorrectly and end up with a lot of confusion as a result); the nature of deity (including both invocation and evocation); worship patterns – ie. ritual and liturgical structures, as well as such issues as dealing with people with special needs, deciding when, where and what will be done and what will be included. Additionally he provides a great section on ritual preparation and many other tips.