Holding Center: Centering Others in the Ritual Container

How do we meet our own needs while also meeting the needs of those we serve?  How do we make sure our own wells are filled while simultaneously caring for others? Can our personal needs even truly be met while we are leading?

I think we can meet many of our overall personal needs as leaders…but not during the times when we are in physical service to others.  A ritual or ceremony is not a good time to expect our personal needs to be met. Some may be met, of course, but not all.


I’ve had past acquaintance with leaders who seemed to believe that their every personal longing should be met at all times by the group they served.  They centered themselves in every situation, much to the detriment of their community.

Of course, it’s natural—and quite human—to strive to get our needs met.  I have no issue with this!  In fact, it is necessary for our joyful service that some of our needs be met while we are leading.  The issue comes when our own needs are centered ahead and above of those of the community.

When leading, we should be holding center without being the center.

Holding Center

Let’s briefly discuss what holding center means (and what it doesn’t). Holding center is not a “power over” position; it simply means “led from the center.”  This is rooted, taking a page from Starhawk, in our “power-from-within.” 

In example: our Sisterhood of the Moon Tradition is High Priestess-led.  At first glance, this appears to be a hierarchical structure, and yet it is far more nuanced than that.  Our community is held from the center and led from this place. 


Visualize our community as a circle and picture me as High Priestess sitting in the center of it—on the same level as everyone else—not on some platform looking down.  Then comes the next layer of our innermost circle, the Priestess Council—all of the Priestesses who take turns holding center for ritual and other events.

I’m sitting in the center, and I’m sitting in the center with the Priestesses, and our community members are all spokes that touch this center.  We all revolve together as the wheel spins.

There are of course many other ways to lead: through consensus, democracy, rotating High Priest/essship, and other models.

Additionally, holding center can also be in reference to a person who is responsible for the successful completion of a task.  If someone in charge of building the group altar, for example, they are holding center for that project.  If someone is facilitating an event, they are holding center for that particular happening. 

The Ritual Container

The ritual container is the circle-sphere that we create each time in which to perform our magick, ritual, ceremony, and/or sacred work.  It is also sometimes called “spiritual space,” “liminal space,” “ritual space,” “circle of art,” or “sacred space.” 

In our Tradition, this is most often constructed through coming into resonance with one another, casting the circle, and invoking the Elements/Directions. 

In the ritual container, the rules of our regular dimension, space, and time are suspended.  Within this in-between—this liminal space—transformation, change, and growth happen. 

When we use our breath, our sounds, and our words to cast the circle, we are creating the container for our ritual.  This container is what holds our energies as we go Between the Worlds.  The container exists because we say it does…It is so, it is so, it is so.

Our objective in building this sacred space is that our circle-sphere contain only the energies that we wish to work with, and that it keep out those that we do not.  This is a space that is meant to be completely safe and protected in our Time Out of Time.

You can’t cook a soup without a pot and it’s difficult-to-impossible to do good and successful magick without a sturdy, well-constructed ritual container.  Containment amplifies the energies and our intentions.


In Sisterhood of the Moon group ritual, all participants (called Celebrants) contribute to the creation and holding of the container for the group and for themselves, and yet the Celebrants are also the ones undergoing the transformational process. This is a Sacred Paradox.

Although the ritual container is collectively created and held by all, on a different level, the First Priestess of the rite—the one who is holding center—is ultimately responsible for the circle-sphere: that it be created and maintained properly throughout the duration of the ritual.  The buck stops with her.

This Priestess must be the channel, the chalice; she must be in morphic resonance with the ritual container, holding it, dancing with it, guiding and directing the flow of it. She must maintain a vision of all participants as whole and empowered, trusting that each person has the answers needed within them.

A ritual container may be disrupted by lack of focus, disorientation, a lack of a feeling of safety, distractions, or lack of trust. We tend to drop out, leave our bodies, and/or not be engaged fully when the container is not held well.

Creating true transformational space requires that the Priest/ess sustain deeply-held intention and exquisite attention.  When a leader is instead motivated by getting her own needs met ahead of those she is serving, the result is most often a shaky, unfocused, and unsafe ritual space.

Part of leadership is a responsibility to the highest good of all involved.  Just like one person should not be the constant, every time focus of what the group is doing, nor should the leader.  An integral part of service is to first and foremost shape the process in ways that are best and beneficial for the group.  Often, this means that we as leaders need to go elsewhere to get our own needs met.

If there is “no time” to get our own needs met outside of the community we are in service to, then this is a problem.  It is unhealthy to be so completely enmeshed in our service that there is nothing else in our lives. 

What else makes us happy?  If we don’t know, it’s up to us to figure that out.  Let’s always be willing to explore what brings us joy, and to treat our Sweet Selves with absolute care and compassion.

With Love,

Lady Jesamyn

It takes a village to keep our community running, and to reach our vision of sustainable priestessing in this modern world.  Should you wish to contribute to this cause by offering support, your Tribute is graciously and gratefully accepted here.

Categories holding center, leadership, magick, priestessing

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