How Witchcraft Works

Performing and Ending the Ritual

There are many ceremonies and rituals performed by Wiccan witches. The Great Rite is a central one, so we will describe that ritual here.

Performing the Ritual

The Great Rite ritual represents the sexual union of the God and Goddess, from which new life comes. This union is not only to bring good harvest, but is also to continue the circle of life so that the new God can be born at Yule (see the next section to learn about Yule). When this rite is performed, it can either be symbolic -- using the athame and cauldron to represent the sexual union -- or else the sexual act can be performed by the High Priest and Priestess. If the sexual act is to be performed, the entire coven must be in agreement that that is how they want the Great Rite carried out, and the actual union is performed in private, not with the rest of the coven present. Often, the High Priest and Priestess are married.


More common is the symbolic version of the Great Rite. In this version, the cauldron or chalice represents the womb and is held by the High Priestess. The athame is the phallic representation and is held by the High Priest. This rite may vary, but in some covens it follows that the High Priestess kneels at the altar with the cauldron in her hands facing the High Priest. The High Priest faces her with his athame. Each recites lines to bring the Sun King to dance with the Maiden of Spring. Then, the High Priest lowers the athame into the cauldron as they both recite words of the Land of Youth, the Wine of Life and the Cauldron of Cerridwen. The High Priest then takes the cauldron, holds it up in the air and proclaims that this rite symbolizes the union of the God and Goddess.

Once the ritual is complete, the circle must be closed.

Closing the Circle

The steps of casting the circle are reworked, only backward. The invoked deities are thanked for their help, the quarters are released and the High Priest or Priestess "takes down" the circle by walking around the perimeter (in an opposite direction from before) with his or her athame pointed outward.