It’s not often discussed in Pagan Circles, but I believe Forgiveness is an important part of a spiritual life, no matter the tradition. There aren’t a lot of Pagan rituals for forgiveness and release, so I thought I’d share my multi-part process here. It comes from no actual tradition, and has been created by myself.
Notice that is doesn’t mention condoning or accepting the behavior of another, the other is so unimportant, it’s in parentheses. Forgiveness is for you, because feeling bitterness, anger and resentment harms you, not the person that offended you. Forgiveness has little to do with the other person, in fact we don’t even need to be in contact with the offenders to forgive them.
Here’s my process:
Over the nights of the waning moon, I read the Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness, because its kind, beautiful and pretty all-inclusive.I work forgiveness during the waning moon, because for me it feels like a time of clearance and purification.
Source; Warring for Wellness
Usually, in the night that follows, I will dream of a person with whom I have unsettled issues. You may receive a message from, overhear a name, or nothing may happen. No one may arise, because you’re at peace, and the blanket prayer of forgiveness could be all you’ll ever need to do.
If you’re me, that’s probably not the case.
The Case of G
G and I had two long distance relationships 4 years apart. Both times I abandoned him. A-Ban-Doned. Nothing pretty, graceful, or loving about it.
The first time, he asked me to move and be with him, but I didn’t feel I could leave my family alone to care for my autistic brother. Too freaked out to make a choice, explore options, or use any other adult like mechanism, I merely left him.
Later, I wasn’t feeling like a priority. The distance was hard, he wasn’t rising to the occasions, so I put up with it for as long as I can, and I left him again.
Today, I learned that both of my abrupt departures have left him scarred (I get that), but I also am told that he hasn’t so much as dated another woman because he just can’t bear the thought of rejection. I feel guilty, horrible, and excessively sad.
Teasing out what is my fault, I am guilty of not trusting him with the particulars of my life, making decisions about us without his input, and leaving gracelessly.
What isn’t my fault is how he has responded. Sure, I created a harmful situation. Yes, I caused him pain twice. I loved him intensely and inappropriately. But his failure to heal his wounds (even if I caused them) is not my responsibility.
Writing the Trite Letters
Like a journal entry, writing letters offering and asking for forgiveness is really helpful, if trite. You may send or not send them, per your best thinking. I don’t send mine. I don’t always have a way to contact the person, the letters can sound kind of whiny, and this isn’t about them, it’s about me.
When writing the letter requesting forgiveness, try not to make excuses for your behavior. Sincerely accept responsibility for the ways you erred and hurt the other party.
When writing the letter offering forgiveness, all bets are off. I thought I’d be full of rage and anger and pissy-ness. However, I find I have more empathy and understin these letters than I thought possible, though your mileage may vary.
An excerpt from my letters to G:
“I’m sorry I couldn’t make room in my life for you the first time we were together. I’m sorry I chose a closer, less suitable man, instead of taking the risk of having you. I loved you, adored you passionately. I loved you gracelessly, clumsily, incompletely. I apologize, and I ask your forgiveness.”
“Because no relationship is influenced by one person, I want to forgive you for the parts you played in our demise. The second time, possibly because I hurt you, you could never quite offer yourself to me, though you said otherwise. I forgive you, I wish you love, peace and beauty, and the loving relationship you and I couldn’t create together.”
Further Steps for Very Charged Situations
In sacred and protected space, call upon any supportive spirits you’re attached to, and call in the person you’re working on forgiveness about.
A Yoruba Priestess taught me to whisper the person’s name into a bowl of water, and their spirits are said to join the ritual, if that’s their wish. This is an invitation, not a coercion. (This was done in a public ceremony, it’s not a secret revealed.)
So I call them, and I read both letters to them. Then I wrap within the letters any herbs, flowers, or oils I feel will be useful. For G, I’d use heart’s ease, lavender, sugar, and sea salt. Then I’d burn the letters in my wood stove.
At the end of your ceremony, wish whoever you’ve called farewell, and pour the water out onto bare earth.
In some cases, we will still feel guilt. Offer what amends you can, that may be sending Reiki, if you’re a practitioner, good prayers, healing energy or anything else that strikes your fancy, for instance, you can give money to a charity or cause they championed.
For G, I’ll probably light a candle for him and send him love, peace and healing, for however long it takes for me to feel as if I’ve made amends.
Forgiveness practices are found in many traditions, use this and do some investigating, and create one that works for you.