The Great Rite is a fertility ritual in Wicca wherein the presiding Priest and Priestess enact the sacred marriage of the Goddess and God. In some traditions, this is a literal sexual joining; in others, the sexual partnership is represented by dipping the wand or athame into the chalice to signify the sacred union of male and female. The Great Rite symbolizes the act of divine creation through the union of the Virgin Goddess with the Horned God.
The tradition of the Great Rite stems from the Hieros Gamos, or sacred marriage. This is an ancient ritual in which participants sought religious illumination through sexual intercourse. Participants in the Hieros Gamos took on the roles and characteristics of deities, and these sexual unions were meant to bring both literal and symbolic fertility to the community.
A variety of ritual occasions may call for the Great Rite to be performed, but it is most commonly enacted at handfastings and during the festival of Beltane. There are a variety of ritual texts that can be used in the Great Rite. Many variants include the Five-Fold Kiss as a recognition of the sacredness of sexuality and the body.