This ceremony was crafted in response to a vision from the Ophelene. From a journal entry by Aine:
She showed to me the Black Gate. The abuser stood outside it. the Ophelene strung them up with black wire that severed their body into pieces. She slammed the Gate on them and I knew it would not open again. We then came to the other person, their enabler. They were hurting and in need of the gods. I did not want to close the Gate on them. the Ophelene took my hand and helped me push the Gate closed, softly and permanently.
This write-up is posted for informative purposes but omits a fair amount of details; it is intended to be used sparingly and only in cases where a violation of the Gods and People has occurred. It is not, for example, a ceremony to be used if one leaves the faith for another religion or simply ceases to practice. It severs the connection between a Person and the Gods, after all, and as so is not taken lightly. A number of symbols in the faith are inverted or destroyed in this ceremony to represent the cutting or closing off of those connections.
The ceremony opened with prayers to the Four Gods, asking for their help and guidance. the Clarene, Dierne, and Ophelene were especially extolled. The closing was performed before the Main Shrine, as is required for activities such as these, and apart from prayers was conducted in silence to convey the severity of what was occurring. All the necessary materials were gathered beforehand, which included alcohol, paper, pens, and offering bowls.
The first part of the ceremony is governed and dedicated to the Ophelene, who is the god of justice and retribution in the Otherfaith. The second is dedicated to the Laetha, the god who burns the Gate to ash.
Two ‘paper gates’, representing the Black Gate of the West, were made. These were folded so that they would enclose the center, as the Black Gate closes upon those being shut out of the West. In the center was drawn a figure to represent the person being cut out. These figures differed according to the vision received – the abuser’s figure was severed at various points while the other figure was left in tact. On the internal flap was drawn a separated compass rose.
The compass rose is a sacred symbol to the Other People, and each Person is said to carry the compass inside them as guidance from the Clarene. This compass also allows the People to find their way to the West and Gods no matter the circumstance. The severing of this compass splits those connections and affirms that one has truly stepped outside the arms of the Gods.
The paper gates were also closed in different directions for the abuser and the other individual. This is because there were differences to what has been done toward the People and the Four Gods. The abuser’s gate includes far more cutting and separation imagery. The other gate, in contrast, contains more sorrowful and longing imagery. The latter is being closed because that is the unfortunate result of what has happened. The former gate is slammed shut out of rage and betrayal.
More symbols were added onto the paper before they were closed. To complete the closing and seal them, they were adorned with black strips of paper threaded through the front flap. They were then sealed to ensure they did not open again. After this, the second part of the ceremony took place. Both gates were doused with alcohol, a drug connected to all of the Four Gods but in this sense especially the Laetha.
After this soaking, in a specific offering bowl, they were tossed into a fire. Every last piece of them was burned. Though the Ophelene presides over the closing of the Gate, the Laetha burns it and the last connections away. Her connections to the destruction of fate play into this – what has been made can be unmade. The ash also has ties to the Clarene whisking away those that don’t belong in the West, taking them back to the world where mortals live and ‘faeries have never touched’. (A phrase mentioned in one of the myths between the Laetha and Clarene.)
This burning was done on the same day that the closing of the gate was done.
Immediately after, a cleansing shower was taken, dedicated to the Laethelia and Ophelia. This was vital, as it cleared away the smoke that had clung and ended the ceremony completely. The closing was completed. Cleansing showers are an important part of the Otherfaith, as water cleansing are in many faiths. In this case, physical cleaning was just as important as spiritual, so that the smell of the burned gates would be gone as well. Scrubbing away of connections and memories was also part of the shower.
As much as I was appreciative of the Gods to have conveyed and blessed such a ceremony, it was carried out with a heavy heart. After it was completed, that heaviness lessened, but the destruction of a community is never truly light. There is betrayal there, and where threads have been cut there are scars. But those scars are necessary, even if they leave deep doubts. (How do we go from the sort of betrayal that caused this ceremony to a place where we can trust again?) They are far better than ignoring what happened.
The closing of the gate became a point of contemplation as well. The Gate of the West, and of the Other People and their faith, is largely permeable. It allows many in, and the otherworld where our myths originate from is a hub of activity. It is full of gods and spirits and ghosts and mortals and more. But the Gate can close, and when it does, those effects reverberate. (Which is another reason why a ceremony such as this is rarely performed.) The closing off is why the Laetha’s closing and destruction of the Black Gate is so horrific in the myths. the Firebird literally cuts off the West from the world around it, and the world around it from the West. It is as if they are enclosed in a glass box.
Closing people off, shutting them out of our lives, isn’t an easy thing. Even when we know it is the right thing to do, whether for us or for our community, it hurts. Especially when we invested in someone. But at the end of the day, closing off serves us better than letting our boundaries get trampled on. And sometimes you need to slam those boundaries into place for them to stick.
This ceremony wasn’t easy, but it was necessary, and with the gods guiding me, I was able to do it.
All ceremonies and rituals include this when being formed and reviewed, so that they may take interest in what is occurring. This also helps focus our actions in a way that pleases the gods rather than shooting off in our own direction.
Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.