I suppose this is a very sad confession, but in the 15 or so years I’ve been a practicing pagan, the only times I’ve ever partaken in a formal ritual out-of-doors were a handful of Sabbats with my college group, REDE, and at a couple of Pagan Pride events. At all of these, the ritual organizers had the great idea of lighting candles when calling the cross quarters. As we all know, a tiny little candle flame doesn’t stay lit outside unless there isn’t even a ghost of a breeze, and all these rituals soon devolved into a futile comedy of continually running around the circle with a pack of matches. Needless to say, this left me with the impression that outdoor rituals required something a bit heartier in the way of flames, like tiki torches and bonfires.
At yesterday’s well blessing with OlyCUUPs, though, the ritual leader surprised me by unpacking a box that had five tea tea light lanterns in it and positioning them at the quarters and circle center. The weather today wasn’t blustry, but there was enough air movement that an unprotected candle wouldn’t stand a chance. And, wouldn’t you know it, those little lanterns did the trick!
When I got home, I did a little bit of retail research and discovered that her lanterns were IKEA’s incredibly affordable Rotera tea light lanterns, which retail at $3.99 each and usually go on a 2-for-1 sale about once a year. A plain, galvanized tin one is always available, but black and white finishes are also common. Additionally, IKEA has taken to offering other colors at different times in the year. The CUUPs ritual leader had purchased a bunch of galvanized ones, carefully removed the glass panes, then spray painted them blue, red, green, and yellow to correspond with the different elements before replacing the glass. She kept one unpainted and used that in the circle center. She keeps these lanterns (along with a stash of tea lights, lighters, a sealed bottle of water and a box of salt) in a large plastic tote box which she can easily grab and transport to all CUUPs events. Now that’s a smart lady!
On the participant end, I wasn’t fond of the different colors aesthetically, but I must allow that they did wonders for making sure that everyone in the circle could instantly identify which direction was North, South, East, and West. You just can’t put a price on that sort of clarity.