By: Keitha (FireWind)
Okay… let’s talk about rituals. First, the basic question: what is the point of doing a ritual? Well, first of all, the point is not for spells. True, spells can be a part of ritual, but it’s not the main point. A ritual is done to converse with the Deities, deep meditation, celebration, or other personal reasons. Celebrating the return of the Full Moon, the coming of Spring, the turning of the leaves: these are reasons for ritual.
By it’s very nature, a ritual is done in a specific way, in a specific order, repeatedly. That doesn’t mean that every ritual will be the same as every other ritual. Your full moon rituals will probably not be at all like your Samhain rituals. But your Samhain ritual this year will probably at least resemble your Samhain ritual next year. Your full moon rituals will be very similar to last full moon, and next full moon. There is a certain satisfaction in doing the same movements every time, in the same way, with the same words in the same order. That’s not to say that ritual should be boring, by any means. It is the spiritual meaning behind the words and the actions that speak to us.
This is the basic outline for most personal rituals.
1. Decide why you are doing the ritual, what your point is, and what you hope to accomplish.
2. Get your tools, space, and everything you need for ritual together.
3. Ensure you will not be disturbed for the duration of the ritual.
4. Have a ritual bath.
5. Take some time to gather and focus and prepare yourself.
6. Cleanse and bless the space.
7. Cast the circle.
8. Call the elements.
9. Call the Deities.
10. Do whatever you have planned.
11. Thank the Deities.
12. Thank the elements.
13. Take down the circle.
15. Clean up.
1. Decide why you are doing the ritual, what your point is, and what you hope to accomplish. It’s important to know why you are dong the ritual. If you are celebrating the full moon, which mythology are you basing the celebration on? Is this the return of the Mother Goddess, or is this Sky Father smiling down? Are you trying to contact and speak with a particular Deity? Will you be petitioning for something, and why are you choosing this particular time? How will you accomplish this? Is what you are attempting completely ethical? These are questions you will have to ask before you begin the ritual. Understand also, that from the moment you begin to plan the ritual, you are actually beginning to do it. As you think about what you will do, and how, you are communicating your intent to the spirit world; you are participating in spirituality.
2. Get your tools, space, and everything you need for ritual togetherI don’t think this needs much explanation. Needless to say, it is distracting to have forgotten something in another room after you begin ritual (matches tend to be the #1 culprit).
3. Ensure you will not be disturbed for the duration of the ritual It is
extremely distracting to be disturbed halfway through ritual. But that’s nothing compared to being nervous the entire time. If you feel too nervous to speak out loud, make a noise, or really enter meditation because someone may hear you, then perhaps it is time to find another time and place for ritual. Try to come to an agreement with family, roommates, etc, where they will understand that this really is sacred time, and unless the house is burning down, you are not to be disturbed. Also, unplug the phone, turn off the TV and radio, shut down the computer, cover the clocks, take off your watch, get rid of your beeper. Some people will say that this is to prevent EM energy from interfering with your ritual, and this may or may not be true. In a practical sense, these are potential distractions, and should be avoided.
4. Have a ritual bath
A ritual bath serves many purposes. It will clean your body so you feel refreshed, it will clean your mind as you allow daily distractions to slip away, it will clean your emotional state as you become relaxed and begin to enter a ritual frame of mind. Yes, a ritual shower will serve the same effect. The important thing is to imagine all your problems, worries, distractions and fears washing down the drain while you wash. See your troubles as dust on your skin, and wash them away. This is purification in it’s most basic, and useful, form.
5. Take some time to gather and focus and prepare yourself Alright… you are relaxed, you are alone, you have everything gathered, you know what you are going to do. Take a moment to breathe deeply, bringing yourself to focus on the moment: there is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow.. there is only now. You are the center of the universe, and the universe is as powerful as it is beautiful. You are strong, you are unashamed, you are independent, you are connected, you are in love with the force of creation. And you are ready.
6. Cleanse and bless the space
You wouldn’t invite guests into your home if it was piled high with pizza boxes and unwashed dishes, would you? It is equally so with the Gods. The first step to encountering divinity, apart from self-purification, is to clear out all the ‘ickies’ that are normally present in a room. All the leftover thoughts that we regularly leave lying around behind us. There are many ways of doing this, but the standard one is to sweep with a broom. Head around the circle in the direction that makes most sense to you, and sweep from the inside of the circle out. Any store-bought broom is fine, but will be better if you consecrate it for that purpose. Chanting while you sweep may help, but remember that you are sweeping as much in your mind as you are with the broom. Telling jokes and laughing hard at this time is especially useful; laughter is cleansing by its very nature, and adds positive energy to the mix. While you are sweeping, imagine negative energy as clouds of black gooey dust, and sweep it away from the space to be cleansed.
7. Cast the circle
Casting the circle creates a space that is neither of this world, or of the spirit world. It is a place that exists between the worlds, but in which both you and the spirits can interact. It keeps the space clean, and will hold in energy until you release it; it is a focused manifestation of your desire to communicate with the Gods.
8. Call the elements
There are different reasons to call the elements, and the reason may define how you call them. If you are calling for their attention, to attend your ritual, then calling the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water themselves is fine. If you are looking for protection for any reason, then calling the elementals: Gnomes, Sylphs, Salamanders and Undines may be best. (For more information on the elementals try our page on the Elementals). You may also have your own totems for each of the directions. The Elements can bless you, the space, and your ritual with their respective qualities, can lend power and mystery to your rituals, and can guard against energy that may conflict with your plans. It is a personal choice as to what order to call the elements in; the popular choice seems to be to start in the East and work around to the North, although personally I prefer starting in the North and ending in the West. It’s a personal choice that’s up to you.
9. Call the Deities
Calling the Deities is something like calling the Elements. It increases the power and mystery of the ritual, but much more. You can converse with the Deities and get to know them, you can find out their personality quirks, and let them get to know about you. If you would like to know more about Calling the Deities, try here.
10. Do whatever you have planned
I don’t think this needs much explanation, either. Think of it as an ‘insert here’ tag.
11. Thank the Deities
It would be extremely rude to say to a guest, ‘okay, that was fun, get out’. The Deities were good enough to come to your ritual when you asked, so treat them with the same respect. Thank them for coming, and be polite.
12. Thank the elements
13. Take down the circle
If you leave the circle up, you will have all this energy just hanging around for Goddess knows how long, doing nothing but get in the way. When you are finished ritual, send the circle back to where it came from, preferably as something useful like healing energy.
Grounding means to return yourself to a ‘normal’, everyday state of mind. Doing ritual increases your perceptions, and it’s unpractical to go about everyday activities in this state. You can ground by using a grounding meditation, where you can imagine all the excess energy returning to the Earth. If you opened your chakras during the preparation step, this would be the time to close them. But by far the most popular way of grounding is to eat and drink. Because hey, what can be a more enjoyable way of relaxing?
15. Clean up
This is a purely practical step. If you leave your stuff around it could get damaged. Not to mention that you’ll get sick of seeing it lying around all the time. Finally, ritual is a time you take away from the regular world. If you leave your tools lying around it becomes less special.