The Pagan Experience has asked about the importance of ritual in a spiritual path and it became the perfect time to post my musings on writing rituals at the same time.
Ritual is often perceived to be the corner stone of spiritual practice, and in a sense that is true for some. Not all spiritual paths are reliant upon ritual in their walking where as others are built around rituals of varying detail and complexity.
But what is a ritual? In a spiritual or religious context a ritual is a religious or solemn ceremony which contains actions which proceeds in a proscribed order. Not all rituals must have a religious, or even spiritual context. The key defining element is the following of a course of actions in a set order on various occasions. On the other hand a ritual would also be described as an action, or series of actions, arising from convention or habit. For example, always wearing your gym shorts back to front and hopping backwards on one foot because on that one occasion you did it accidentally your team made an epic win.
For me rituals are a nice, but not always necessary, element to spiritual practice. They help create a setting or mindset ahead of spiritual or magical work which helps the practitioner enter ‘the zone’ so to speak. There is a comfort in repeated words, phrases and actions which many people find supportive and beneficial in a number of ways. On the other hand ritual can become staid and static and can become a limiting element is someone’s spiritual growth. I personally find that it is not necessarily a good things to get too locked into a single way of working. Apart from getting bored it means that I can’t explore other methods of working or particular techniques. Swapping elements around, removing some and adding others, all adds to the experience and development of the path. Obviously if you are working within set and defined traditions this is less possible to even then you can always add to set ritualistic patterns should you tradition permit it.
Personally I work within a frame work, which I’ve mentioned before and this is a good time to share my thoughts and processes as i have often promised.
When I started down my pagan path the first book to fall into my sticky mitts was by Scott Cunningham so my approach is close to his however over the years it’s been tweaked and changed around so what is noted here are some things to be thinking about and consider if you are writing a ritual for the first time.
Things to Think About
Focus/Intent – What is the intent of the spell or ritual you wish to write? Do you want to seal this intent by using or designing a sigil?
Mundane Actions – Are there any mundane actions that could support your focus/intent? Is there a way of incorporating them into your work?
Deity – Do you want to work with names deities or archetypes. Consider if you have an existing relationship with a particular deity which could fit with what you are trying to achieve or should you perform a little preparation work to introduce yourself to the deity most suited to the main ritual in preparation. For example making a series of simple offerings to the deity in the time leading up to the main ritual or sating as part of the ritual that you will make a offerings or take actions in the name of the approached deity immediately after the ritual. Try to research your chosen deity in some depth to learn what offerings they like, if there are any times of the day that they should be approached etc.
Timing – Day of Week, Moon Phase, Astrological Hour – performing spells and rituals at certain times will help increase the focus and intent of your work. You might find it limiting to try and focus on all three timing methods at the same time so combine no more than two to give you some options.
Structure – Will you be including circle casting, calling of the quarters, cake and ale celebrations and the LBRP or are you looking for something a little simpler? Below is my “standard” ritual format that I use for seasonal rituals and rituals that do not involve my two patron deities.
Actions – as well as the structure you need to consider any “actions” you will take as part of the spell/ritual. Candle anointing/carving/lighting, meditation, ritual movement should be considered and fitted into the structure. Particularly with spell work you need to consider what actions you will take to reinforce the intent of the spell. For example are you performing a healing spell using a poppet; what actions do you need to perform to make and empower the poppet to represent the individual being healed? Thoughts about actions might further inform your decisions about Correspondences and Equipment.
Correspondence – Herbs/Flowers/Trees, Crystals, Colours etc what are appropriate to your focus? With spells you might want to concentrate on the essentials of what you need for the spell. For larger rituals you might want to create a larger altar display and look at items that are decorative rather than functional.
Equipment – Some people like to set up their altars in a certain way, regardless of whether or not they intend to use all the items on it. Others prefer to only include those items they intend to use on that occasion and have an uncluttered work space, especially when space is limited. If you have decided on a structure which involves calling of the quarters, for example, and you may want to have a physical representation of the elements present so you are going to need to remember to organise more equipment than someone who uses visualisation and intent in the same magical operation. Consider what you prefer, and importantly what you are going to need for the spell/ritual in particular.
Divination – is it appropriate within what you are doing? If you are casting a spell then probably not but does it have a place within a larger ritual?
Words – if you know your intended structure then you will know what invocations and statements are needed, and knowing your intent will help you write them. What you need to decide is if you wish to use standard invocations or historical references (like the Orphic and Homeric Hymns) or do you want to write your own? Do you want to use rhyming couples, something more complex or not bother with rhymes at all? It is sometimes easier to remember invocations where they have a distinct rhyming pattern, and reciting from memory can bring added benefit to the work you are doing. That said don’t make things harder on yourself. If you want to make these things statements without a rhyming structure follow your instinct and ability.
This is my all singing all dancing, I have friends coming over and we’re rocking the Pagan thing, ritual outline. More often than not my rituals and spells are not this elaborate. There are things that I will miss out to shorten the ritual, or because my normal working space is not large enough to accommodate the action. Rather than take what I write here as a given see it as a guide line and add and remove elements to suite you and your situation.
Where there are multiple options I suggest choosing just one, if any at all. They are just different options available to you and you need only choose one, if any at all.
Casting the Circle
Calling the Quarters /or Invoking the Elements/ or LBRP
Invoking the Goddess
Invoking the God
Statement of Intent/Prayer
Meditation /or Chanting
Cake and Ale
Thanking the God
Thanking the Goddess
Thanking The Quarters/or Elements/ orLBRP
Opening the Circle