A ritual is a specific set of actions, performed for their symbolic value. The words “ritual” and “tradition” are tied tightly together and are often deeply embedded in culture and family life. The usual purpose of ritual is to focus our intent and to connect to our Higher Self and Deity, as well as one another. In ritual, every act is deliberate and meaningful, always leaving room for The Divine to move through the ritual spaces and bring Its own influence. In this two-part series, we explore fundamental structure of ritual and considerations that help create a ritual that is moving and effective.
There is no specific set of rules for how you conduct your rituals and the guidelines offered here are suggestions rather than mandates. These guidelines are adaptable to solitary or group rituals. Your own spiritual path may have certain actions that are required or discouraged within ritual.
Secure the Area
When in congress with The Divine, you do not want to be interrupted or distracted. This is a sacred and protected time. Phones off. “Do not disturb” sign on the door. Pets and children secured as needed. Anticipate distractions or interruptions in advance and take measure to minimize them.
Prepare the Area
Inside or outside, make certain that the area is free of hazards. Check for glass or sticks that could hurt bare feet. Collect ritual items and bring them within easy access. Accentuate your visual energy level by using colors and decorative accents appropriate to the purpose of the ritual.
Include a Welcome and Statement of Purpose
A ritual should have a known and stated purpose, even if that purpose is merely to share sacred energy with others and/or with your own Deities. Other purposes include:
- To celebrate the cycles of the year
- To pay homage to a specific Deity
- To ask for and manifest something you need
- To give thanks for something you received
- To ask for guidance
- To honor a rite of passage
Welcome the people who join you. State the purpose of the ritual to specify how their energy will be used and direct their focus toward the task at hand. A clear statement of purpose gets everyone’s focus moving in the same direction and lets them know the objective of the ritual. Do this before any unification or containment activity (such as circle casting) so that if anyone involved is uncomfortable with what you plan to do with their energy, they have an opportunity to leave.
Create Your Sacred Space If Desired
Some people draw a defining circle around the ritual area, speaking aloud or identifying through visualization that this is a safe and protected sacred space. Another practice is to have guests join hands to unify them at the beginning and end of the ritual. Decide what, if anything, you would like to do to delineate your working space.
Welcome Divine Energies
You may wish to officially ask God and/or Goddess, energies of the four elements, and other sacred expressions to bless your magical endeavors. Establish a firm connection to whatever you consider to be holy. Feel your energy reach upward to the Divine and connect, then let that sacred energy move through you and blend with your own divinity and join with others in the ritual who are doing the same.
Expound Upon Your Goal
Your Statement of Purpose in the beginning should be very brief and specific. At this point, explain with greater detail where the energy of the ritual will be directed and what you intend to achieve.
Build Energy Toward That Goal
It is customary to include an activity to build group energy to direct toward the goal of the ritual. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You can use visualization, chanting, dancing, web-weaving, petition writing, or any other focusing activity to direct attention and personal energy toward any goal the ritual includes.
Direct and Release the Energy
One of the most common and frustrating omissions I see in rituals is failure to include a release of the energy built. I see beautiful examples of energy building without culmination or release. When you build a mass of ritual energy, it is important to provide a release of that energy to return participants to a grounded state and send the energy out toward its intended goal. My group and I have witnessed many “cones of nothing” where a cone of power is raised and then left hanging there. “Build the energy, build it, build it, and OK, now it’s time for cakes and ale!” Release of energy can involve “shooting” the energy out into the ether through hand gestures, a count down, words, a group shout, burning of an item charged by the energy, instilling the energy into an item for later use, or a chant that builds and then releases with a whoop. Regardless, establish a way to discharge that energy!
Eat and Drink Together
Sharing food with someone is an intimacy. In ritual, “cakes and ale” unites the group and helps ground excess energy after the active part of the ritual. It also typically signals the wind up of the ritual. When you share your cake (cake, bread, cookie, etc), you can say something like, “May you never hunger” or “We eat this to celebrate the bounty that is provided to us by The Universe.” When you drink, you can say, “May you never thirst” or “We drink to celebrate the flow of life through all things.”
Check with ritual participants in advance to make certain no allergies or other issues come into play. Some may be private about allergies or being recovering alcoholics who never drink wine or ale. For everyone to fully engage in all aspects of the ritual, your ritual food and drink should be safe for all participant.
Say, “Thank you”
It is courteous to thank Divine powers and any other energies you invited, as well as the humans who attended your ritual.
As you bring your ritual to a close, slow the current of any remaining energy and have each person pull their own energy back into themselves. If you are alone, normalize your own energy to a good stasis place. Release any protective boundaries established.
This basic framework provides considerations for the overall ritual structure. Thursday’s post will provide other basic considerations for creating a solid, effective spiritual ritual. Meanwhile, talk to me! What do YOU find to be the most meaningful components of rituals you attend and what leaves you wanting?