Something To Wrap Your mind Around.

What Is Ritual?

This may seem over simplified, but ritual is anything you do frequently and almost always the same way each time. A perfect example of a ritual everyone does on a daily basis is your morning routine.

When you wake up you take a shower. After the shower you dry and comb or brush your hair. Satisfied (or not) with that, you brush your teeth, then shave if you’re male, or put on makeup if you’re female. You get dressed and may grab something to eat on your way to work.

Now the exact order of these events will vary from person to person, but most likely, you do these same events exactly the same way, in exactly the same order, every day. Some people will add events, or subtract them. I know one woman who after her shower moisturized her entire body with lotion, then lets it dry before getting dressed.

The point isn’t what you do each morning, it’s that you tend to do each of them every morning, and in the same order every morning, and the same way each morning. It is your morning ritual before going to work. If something is done out of order or skipped, it throws the rest of the ritual off.

The same thing happens in Witchcraft. The events may differ from group to group, but each group tends to do the same things in the same order, for every ritual. The reason you have your morning routine is for efficiency or comfort. It just seems right to do it that way. The reason we perform ritual the same way each time in Witchcraft, is to communicate with the subconscious.

The subconscious communicates in pictures and ideas, not words. By performing ritual the same way every time, we are teaching the subconscious that it is time for ritual. We are acclimatizing the subconscious to participate in ritual. After you have been working with ritual for a while, you begin to notice a shift in awareness that happens as you begin the ritual. Your subconscious takes notice of your ritual activity, and begins to listen.

Why do we want to communicate with the subconscious? The simple answer is that the subconscious is where Magick happens. If you want a highly detailed answer, I suggest that you begin reading psychology texts, especially those by Carl Jung.

When you are doing your morning ritual, getting ready for work, you don’t really think about what you are doing. You don’t worry about how many brush strokes it takes to get your hair dry, or how long you brush your teeth, everything just seems to happen as it should. In Witchcraft, your ritual happens the same way. After you’ve done so many rituals, the same way each time, you forget about what you are doing, and just do it.

You stop thinking about what you are saying as you cast the Circle, or the words you use to call the Quarters, you just do it. Once you get into the pattern of ritual, and are no longer thinking about each task, your mind is free to do the real work. When casting the Circle, you say the words automatically, but your mind is focusing on moving the energy into the Circle. When you call the Quarters, the words come as if they’ve always been there, and your mind concentrates on putting out the Call, and detecting when it has been answered.

Because each part of the ritual is done the same way each time, your mind doesn’t need to worry about the physical acts that you are doing, it can work on the Spiritual aspects. This is where the Magick happens. Because you always cast, and call, and dismiss the same way each time you do ritual, you don’t have to bother with remembering what to do, it just seems to happen.

You can tell who does ritual often, and who doesn’t. Those who are used to ritual just do it, those who are not, will have to think, and may even blow their lines. You see this in public rituals all the time. If the ritual is not performed by a group that is used to working together, the energy tends to be ‘off’ because they are all busy thinking about doing what the script calls for. It’s no longer second nature, and their concentration is on the physical plain, not the Spiritual.

That’s not to say that a public ritual performed by people not used to working together can’t be good. I have been to many such rituals that flowed magnificently, but the energy there was different. When you do ritual with the same people, the same way, every time, the energy is so much more vibrant, because that is what everyone is concentrating on, not following the script.

Different types of rituals are by necessity going to be done differently. You will do different things in an Esbat, than you will in a Sabbat.

An Imbolc ritual is going to be different than a Samhain ritual. Even so, each ritual will start the same, have the same basic elements to it, and end the same.

No matter what type of ritual you are performing, you will cast Circle, call Quarters, state the purpose of the ritual, and follow through on that purpose. After the work is done, you will enjoy cakes and ale, and then dismiss the Circle. I cannot think of a single ritual where these basic ritual elements do not all happen.

Again, these same ritual elements are always done, and always in the same order, and in the same basic way. The only thing that will tend to be different from ritual to ritual will be the purpose. Some rituals are for celebration, others are for working, but the basics will always remain the same. This is where most who come to the Craft make their biggest mistake.

Those who are new to Witchcraft want to try everything. Experimentation is good, it allows you to see what works and what doesn’t. The problem I’ve seen is that even after finding something that works, people still want to experiment. If you perform each and every ritual differently from the last, you are too busy thinking about what you are doing, to concentrate on the subtleties of the ritual.

It isn’t until after you’ve become comfortable with performing the ritual elements, to the point where you don’t need to think about them, that you’ll have your first really satisfying ritual. Once you’ve had this truly religious experience, nothing less will do. While doing ritual is a lot of hard work, you’ll find that by doing everything the same way every time, the act of doing ritual becomes much easier.

Because you begin concentrating on working with the energies of the ritual, and not on actually trying to do things right, you find that ritual becomes much easier. Because the work part of ritual becomes second nature, it is no longer work. Now the work becomes manipulating the energies of the ritual to your Will. Because you only have to think about manipulating the energies, you can focus on that for the entire ritual.

This is the true goal of ritual. To put your mind into an altered state where you can work with and control the supernatural. By supernatural, I mean those forces that are above and beyond the normal. Just as the term superscript means a character such as an exponent that is written above another, supernatural simply refers to something above the natural.

Manipulating the energies takes concentration above the acts you perform in ritual. Because of this, concentrating on what you are physically doing, and on manipulation of the energies at the same time is difficult at best, impossible at worst. By releasing your mind to concentrate on the unseen aspect of ritual, you are allowing yourself to put your full attention on the purpose of the ritual.

Christians in church have an easier time of this because the Priest is the only one concentrating on performing the ritual. The Congregation sits back and follows instructions. The only thing they have to concentrate on is the Spiritual aspect of the ritual. If you’ve been going to Mass your entire life, you don’t need to wait for the Priest to tell you when to kneel, stand, or sit, you already know. You’ve been doing it your entire life at the same times during every Mass.

It doesn’t take long to develop this ability to perform ritual without thinking about it. The more rituals you do, the easier it becomes. You get to a point where you feel the need for a ritual, even if it’s just to give thanks to the Gods. As you practice ritual, you become better at it. You stop worrying if you are doing it right, and start concentrating on the purpose. That is ritual.

Ritual pulls your subconscious out and allows it to take part in the ritual. All the props within the ritual are symbolic. They all have a symbolic purpose as well as a practical one. After using the props of ritual for a length of time, you realize that you no longer need the props. The candles, the Athame, all the other physical elements of ritual are nothing more than props to tell the subconscious that it is time to do ritual.

Once your subconscious recognizes the act of ritual, and not the physical props, you no longer need them. This is when a Witch really comes into their power. If you no longer need to have an altar, and candles, and blade to perform a ritual, you can do a ritual anywhere, any time. If it’s snowing, and you are driving on the road, you can do a quick protection spell while you drive. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or clever, you simply apply the energy to your purpose, and you are protected.

As with everything else, ritual is all a matter of practice. The more you practice, the better you get. Typically you don’t just jump in to running a ritual. In a Coven environment, you are taught how to work within ritual, and then as you progress, you are given more responsibility. You take on small parts and are allowed to become comfortable with each before progressing on to the next level.

Eventually, you find that you are running the ritual yourself. Because you were never given more than small parts of the whole, you were never overloaded with more than you could handle easily. You were given time to become comfortable with each part of the ritual, and so by the time you end up writing and running your own rituals, they seem easy.

The Solitaire on the other hand, has to take responsibility for the entire ritual from the start. The only advantage is that you don’t have to worry about others seeing you mess up. Because you and only you are responsible for everything within the ritual, the idea of doing a ritual can be overwhelming. The only advice I can give is to relax. A bolt of lightning will not zap you from the blue, if you make a mistake. The Christian God may be perfect and expect perfection, but ours do not.

Relax and enjoy yourself. Ritual can be solemn, but doesn’t have to be. The entire purpose for some rituals is humor. Have fun with ritual. Enjoy the time with your Gods. Ritual is a gift you give to yourself. If you enjoy ritual, you are more likely to do ritual. It ceases to be a chore and becomes a pleasure.

If you enjoy what you believe in, it becomes part of your life, and living your Craft is the goal. As you become more ritual oriented, you begin to see ritual everywhere. Each of these rituals you notice, reminds you of your Path, and this too helps you to live your Craft.

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