In contemporary Witchcraft, a powerful,
magical rite of sexual intercourse that pays homage to
the male/female polarity that exists in all things in the
universe. The Great Rite expresses the physical, mental,
spiritual and astral union between man and woman, and
the union of the Goddess and God.
The Great Rite is the hieros gamos, the Sacred Marriage
or Holy Matrimony, which is union with a deity or godhead.
It dates to the Neolithic era. Ancient kings required
the hieros gamos, a union with a priestess representing the
Goddess, in order to rule. The hieros gamos also was part
of ancient women’s mysteries, in which women sacrificed
control of their feminine power to the Goddess and were
renewed by her. It was part of the Mysteries of Isis and
reportedly was part of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The Great Rite represents the inner marriage of the
soul and spirit, Ego and Self. As an initiation, it represents
the gateway to individuation, or becoming whole.
It also releases great power, which may be directed for
magical purposes; it is one of the Eightfold Paths to magical
power in the Craft.
Depending on the tradition, the Great Rite is performed
within a magic circle at initiations (such as the
third-degree initiations in the Gardnerian and Alexandrian
traditions), seasonal festivals (see Wheel of the
Year) and handfastings. The high priest and high priestess
may perform the Great Rite together. As part of an
initiation, the rite is done between initiate and high priest
or high priestess. It is done either “in token,” that is, symbolically
with ritual tools (such as an athame inserted
into a chalice), or “in true,” as a sexual act. If done in true,
the participating couple usually are intimate partners. An
outer portion of the rite is done with the coven, and the
sexual portion is done privately.
Gerald B. Gardner had the Great Rite performed
with the coven watching. Gardner also favored ritual
scourging as part of the rite, a practice which has fallen
out of favor.
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Categories: Paganism and Witchcraft
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