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
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
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
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
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
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
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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