• 14 October, 1999Counting since:
  • 879968Total site visitors:
  • 99Visitors today:
  • 0Visitors currently online:
  • 14625Visitors to this post:

Current Moon Phase

La Lune

My Tweets

Subscribe to the Journal

Enter your email address to subscribe to Erin's Journal and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Member of The Pagan Webcrafter's Association. The RSS feed for this site!
HomeBeginning Wicca, Rituals CREATING RITUALS: SACRED ACTS IN SACRED SPACE


CREATING RITUALS: SACRED ACTS IN SACRED SPACE

Other Author

<– Continued from

STATING PURPOSE:

State your purpose. Have a clear, short speech ready for this. A purpose that is complex is rather like a complex wish made to a genie–you don’t know what you’ll get. So you want to make sure your purpose is simple and direct. State it aloud, and give it your entire concentration–this is what you *WANT*. It should be the only thing on your mind at that moment.

The statement of purpose is followed by the body of the ritual. This will vary wildly depending on the ritual. Perhaps you will do candle magic, or perhaps you will meditate, perhaps you will enact a “spell” where you burn something, perhaps you will sit and travel out of your body in search of advise from a spirit guide. You may take a bath, wander on a quest through your back yard, look through an old photo album, or sing songs. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

We will go into possibilities for the body of a ritual, in detail, later on.

CLOSING:

When you have finished doing whatever it is your ritual requires, you may choose to “end” by raising a cone of power. This involves envisioning something, be it light, butterflies, fire, flowerpetals, stars, sand, photographs, musical notes, feathers, soap bubbles or wild buffalo….well, maybe not the bison….something in tune with your ritual, something that contains your will, your wants, all the energy you’ve created within your circle, and you imagine it spinning clockwise. You may start to hum, or drum, or shake a rattle, or just imagine a sound or a song building (or imagine silence if that suits).

Make your magic spin faster and as it spins faster, raise it up. Lifting your hands helps here. UP and up and up and then, when you feel it can spin no faster, go no higher, throw up your hands and send it off!!

GROUND!

Ground immediately afterwards! Understand that even after you’ve used or sent off the magic/energy, you’re still sizzling with the residue. When you ground yourself after a spell or ritual, the excess goes back down into the earth. If you don’t do this, it continues to crackle around you; it can distract you, depress you, cause minor, klutzy accidents or, as with one person I talked, give you nasty headaches (etc. etc. etc.).

Grounding is simple–either touch the ground, or hold out your hands, palm down, toward the earth.

The centering at the beginning makes for better rituals, and the grounding at the end is *very* comforting, rather like taking a shower after working up a sweat. If, for any reason, you find that the grounding did not do the job, call a friend and have them talk you down–some people who are particularly powerful/magically or psychically sensitive sometimes have trouble with grounding and require assistance (they work up so much magic that they either get lost in it, or find that their efforts, alone, are not enough).

Some people like to follow their grounding with meditation in order to help “come down” from that rush of a cone of power.

DISMISSAL:

To conclude–Thank your guardian (and/or the Goddess/God), dismiss the quarters (the dismissal is usually simpler and shorter than the calling, something like: “Powers of the East we thank you for your help. Go or stay as you will; may there be peace between us always”.

With the dismissal of the east, the circle is “open”–in some traditions, you point your Atheme or wand and, going counter- clockwise, undo the circle you cast at the beginning–in other traditions it is not thought necessary. Up to you.

And you can ritualistically say: “The Circle is open, but not unbroken, Merry met, and Merry part and Merry meet again”–yes, you can say this even if you are a solitary.

CREATING A RITUAL:

***Any ritual requires imagination and visualization–don’t just go though steps, envision the energy that comes out of your hands, your wand, when you use it, see the ghostly veils that part as you use your Atheme, imagine fairy lights, magic fire, the glow at the center of your crystal, the Milky Way spiral of stars that fills your cauldron, the dragons you command, the elves who obey your wishes, the phantom owl who listens and flies off to relay your message to powers of another plane. Etc, etc, etc!–*see* what you create and do! (ex: Don’t just burn the incense, *envision* the power you release with that fragrance! If it’s sage, *see* it’s slivery green cleansing power.) This envisioning is what alters a ritual from choreographed steps into a dance!***

Assuming that you’re going to work a ritual out ahead of time (and not do it off the cuff), here’s what you need to do for almost any ritual:

1) Decide on a date and time. Meditate or sleep on it, following what inspiration tells you. You may wish to choose either the next new moon or full moon, or you may wish to consult your astrological calendars or a calendar which can tell you what special (but obscure/magical) days are ahead.

2) Decide on a tone for the ritual– again, follow your instincts here; do you want it celebratory or serious, quiet or filled with music, dark with a single candle, or brilliant with a dozen lights? What kind of ambiance and tone do you want? What’s right for you?

3) Start a “shopping list” of things you’ll need. Keep it on a separate sheet of paper so that you can add to it, subtract from it, change it as need and inspiration arises. List everything you’re going to need from towels to dry your hands, to what you plan to wear (jewelry included), to decorations, the color of the candles, the flavor of the incense, etc.

4) Make a “to do” list for what you need to do ahead of time for the ritual, including shopping (buying candles, matches, oil, incense, cookies, a new table cloth, etc.), cleaning, arranging to get your spouse out of the house or your children to visit a friend’s, the cats fed, etc. All the pre- ritual stuff.

5) On scrap paper or the computer, start writing out the ritual. Start with decorating/cleaning the space, and–with help from the shopping list–note what needs to go where for the ritual (towels by the bath, incense in the burner, matches and an ashtray ready, plate of cookies right outside the space, etc.); remind yourself to turn off the phone ringer, turn down the sound on the answering machine, lock the doors, shut off the lights, and prepare the music.

6) On a second sheet, work out how you plan to do the personal cleansing, grounding, how you plan to cast the circle, call the quarters– write up all words you’re going to speak.

7) On a third sheet, work out the body of the ritual–how you plan to perform the ritual, what steps you’ll go through, what you’ll say and, most importantly *WHAT YOU WILL ENVISION!*.

8) On a fourth sheet, write up how you plan to conclude the ritual–if you’ll raise a cone of power and/or meditate, remind yourself to ground, and decide on how you’ll dismiss the quarters and open the circle.

Go over these pages; change the ritual until it works for you. If you like, write up the final form in your Book of Shadows (if you’re a Wiccan, this is your personal book of rituals, recipes, magic and spells). Or just write it up on fresh sheets of paper.

Highlight, use sticky pad paper, or paperclips to make going over the ritual easy. Remember that rituals are open book open note– it’s great if you’re familiar with your ritual and don’t have to look, but don’t be afraid to look (this is why a book of shadows is so great–it makes looking up what comes next *part* of the ritual!). Also, don’t be afraid to change, alter or improvise–you created the ritual, and you can change it on the spot if you need to!

Half-an-hour before the ritual, go over your notes. Re-familiarize yourself with it. Don’t be nervous, you’re not going to be tested; if you make a mistake, it’s alright, it *will not* ruin the ritual!

Likely your first ritual (within your very own sacred space!) will be a ritual to dedicate/consecrate that space to your guardian “power”. You might care to pair this short ritual with a Dedication ritual (or rededication as the case may be).

While both these rituals can be non- denominational, the dedication ritual is primarily Pagan/Wiccan. It is the Pagan/Wiccan equalivant of a Catholic’s first communion, a new Baptist’s baptismal, or a Jewish Bar Mitzvah–with less partying. This is where you make a commitment, where you dedicate yourself to God/Goddess, where you name/re-name yourself a Pagan/Wiccan. Wiccans rededicate themselves every year, which I think is good as it establishes a continuing commitment, and, each year, makes us pause to re-think the path we’ve chosen and, freely, to choose it once again.

The usual day for Dedicating/Re- dedicating yourself to the God/Goddess is Imbolc (Candlemas) which is on February 2, but you may Dedicate/Re-dedicate yourself on any day that seems right to you.

DEDICATING YOUR SPACE:

Alright, down to the nitty-gritty! What sort of ritual *should* you do to dedicate your space?

I’m going to toss out various ideas for you to use, discard, or modify–in the end, all rituals have to be yours–this is your space, your dedication to your guardian, only you know what is right, what needs to be there or not.

I believe that a ritual dedication of a space should be celebratory, rather like christening a ship or opening a road or cheering the New Year! It’s a new beginning when you create and dedicate a new space. So I would top my shopping list with a small, personal bottle of sparkling wine (or cider or water if you don’t drink!) with which to fill my goblet! (I’d go for a crystal flute to stand as my goblet! Make it special, as you usually only consecrate a space once!)–what a wonderful bit of ritual it is to pop a cork, watch the mist smoke off the bottle mouth, and then pour yourself a frothing, foamy glass! *Very positive*.

One nice idea might be to hang a ribbon across the doorway leading to the space after it has been cleaned and decorated. Part of the ritual would be to symbolically “open” the space with the cutting/untying of the ribbon. Or, use your imagination and create an invisible ribbon of power that your atheme can separate, thus symbolically “opening” the space to you!

Another way to consecrate a ritual space is to keep your guardian symbol outside of the space until it’s ready. Make setting the symbol in it’s place of honor part of the ritual so that you “crown” the space with it. This would likely occur after your have cast the circle and called the quarters.

Set the Guardian in its place of honor, light the candles and the incense, and then invite the Guardian to be with you always, and thank the Guardian for it’s presence in your new space.

One of the things you might want to do with this ritual is use incense or holy water to cleanse the space and/or your tools. Take the incense round the room counter-clockwise. Pass your tools, one by one through the smoke, or sprinkle the room with the water, and sprinkle your tools as well. You can also pass the tools through fire, or sprinkle some Earth upon them (or do all three, Earth, fire, water).

You might want to say something akin to: “I remove all negativity from this_______________(name the tool). For now and always, it will be used for positive ends” or something like that. Always envision *something* as you perform these acts– for example, imagine each item spotlighted, imagine the negative vanishing from it, the dullness replaced by the a positive, magical glow.

Now you want to consecrate the tools and the space–place the tools on the alter, in the center either in your cauldron or on your power symbol of choice (ankh, cross, pentagram….), call up energy between your hands, draw it up, from the earth, from the water, from the air, from the candleflames; envision this energy, it’s color, the color of your power–is it violet? Silver? Gold? Brighten it, and then infuse your tools with the light–just aim it at them with your hands–and say something like “By my will and thine,” (referring to your guardian and/or the Lord/Lady), “I consecrate these, now and forever. And it harm none, let my will be done.” Let the energy engulf the tools, and then dissipate.

Do the same for the space, only this time, let your power fill the room, and say instead “I consecrate this space, now and forever…etc.” And finally, place your hands on your alter and, sending energy into it, say: “I consecrate this alter, now and forever, by thy grace ________________ (name guardian), an it harm none, let our will be done.”

Don’t forget to GROUND!

End by popping the cork, filling your flute, and toasting the Guardian with a hearty drink of sparkling wine; then thank the guardian, and open the circle.

BURNING WORDS/SYMBOLS/PICTURES:

Burning or defacing written words, symbols or pictures poses a problem to most, law- abiding Westerners. This is because we associate such with negative images of fanatics burning books, attempts to censor and mob violence. We think of people burning those they despise in effigy, of flags burning in angry protest. And, from what we’ve seen, far from easing anger, the burning of such things usually incites people to burn down other things, like embassies.

So how can we go about burning/defacing written words, symbols or pictures in good conscience? More, burning/defacing them for our own personal good?

First, let’s establish that you should never burn/deface anything out of anger:

1) To burn/deface something in anger/out of hate will do you no good. It will not ease your anger. Like the ungovernable mobs, it could easily make you angrier–because you know that this is symbolic, not the real thing, and it’s the *real thing* you want to burn.

2) To burn/deface something in anger/out of hate is an act of vengeance—since you cannot harm your object of hate, you burn a symbol of it. But the intent is the same, to do it damage, to erase it. This is very like sending out a spell to do harm–and as all you Wiccans know, any magic you do with intent to harm will come back to you threefold.

3) Burning something in anger/out of hate is usually a spur of the moment act which, if you’d taken a moment to think it over, you probably would not have done. As said before, the act won’t make you feel better. On the contrary, it might leave you fearful (if you burn a Bible, you might end up fearing God’s retribution) or regretful (if you burn a favorite picture of someone you love, you might end up regretting later).

So, under what circumstances might you burn/deface written words, symbols or pictures?

In the East, it is a commonplace to write prayers on paper, then burn them. In Tibet, complex sand mandalas are created, fantastic works of art, that are then destroyed by pouring them into the sea–this to send the magic out, and also to remind the monks that nothing is permeate. There are also ceremonies where people burn symbolic objects to release themselves from whatever was holding them back.

There are, in short, two very good reasons for burning/defacing written words, symbols or pictures:

1) To send out their magic: in this case, you write down a wish or a prayer or a poem, bless it and empower it, then burn it at the end or the ritual, transforming it into air that it may spread its magic.

2) To release the power the words/symbols/pictures hold over you if their message (to you) is negative.

#1 being fairly obvious, we’re going to focus, primarily, on #2.

Here are the rules regarding burning words, symbols or pictures that represent a negative influence:

1) That you own the object you intend to burn (don’t burn a book someone else loaned you!) 2) That you burn it without anger. 3) That you are not burning it in an attempt to “hide/censor it” (like a fanatic burning a book so no one else can read it, or because they believe it is evil). 4) That the ashes be buried or dropped in running water, not in the garbage! 5) That you take care to burn it with *all* safety! watching that no burning ashes go floating away to start a fire. 6) That you burn it in a ritual for your own emotional, psychological, spiritual well being (or the emotional, psychological, spiritual well being of others).

Or, to put it another way, *INTENT* is what really matters when you burn/deface something.

I remember speaking to one former Christian who, though a long time practicing Wiccan, was still having paranoid anxiety attacks about the biblical Apolycolypse.

I recommended to her a ritual which included finding the passages that most disturbed her, tearing them out or Xeroxing them, and burning them. The aim here was to release her from the power these words had over her.

IT WAS *NOT* (and I emphasize this! NOT NOT NOT) to show contempt or hatred for another religion’s sacred book. There is no reason in the world that respect for another religion’s belief should interfere with a personal, private ritual wherein you release yourself, in whatever peaceful and harmless way necessary, from the dominating, destructive power of a written word, symbol or picture.

That said: In what other ways can you release yourself from the power that words, symbols or pictures have over you? Or people or things for that matter?

One way is to take the words, cut them up, and reform them into other sentences–in this ritual, you take a passage that has control over you and you take control over it, you remove it’s power, and empower yourself. You see the words for what they are: Words.

If a person has control/power over you (and here’s where we get to defacing!), like an old lover, dominating parents, or even a figure in the news, take a picture of them, and, with marker in hand, draw clown hats on their heads, silly mustaches, weird glasses, etc. Do this before you tear or burn the picture, as you need to reduce them from their position of Tyrant before you can, by tearing/burning, symbolically break their hold on you.

If it’s a thing or institution that has power over you, sketch a picture (or get a photo) of whatever might symbolize that thing or institution and do something likewise to it (deface, cut up, tear or burn).

Just make sure that you do this within the context of a ritual geared toward this purpose (to release you from this thing’s power!). This is a “freedom” ritual, and it’s intent is to transform *you*–you’re not going to change your parents, your old religious institution, your boss, or your old lover, but you can change yourself, how you deal with, react or view these things.

A ritual which involves burning, defacing, cutting or tearing words, symbols, pictures can do this, powerfully. Your recognition of it’s power is, in part, what makes you leery, hesitant or fearful of it–your caution is good. No such ritual should be done lightly. On the other hand, these methods should not be feared or rejected out of hand. Used wisely, well and *SPARINGLY*, they can really change your life–even save it!

SEX MAGIC:

WARNING: This section will be discussing some well, not exactly graphic but certainly frank and factual information regarding SEX! Be warned!

Rituals/spells involving SEX are among the most powerful that can be done, which is why you have to use GREAT CAUTION when using Sex in a ritual!

One of the best known uses of Sex in a ritual is the GREAT RITE where, through the union of the HP (High Priest) and HPS (High Priestess)- -(usually done away from the rest of the coveners in a secluded place)–the coven sends off it’s cone of power.

Here’s a more common type of ritual/sex spell that can be done by you and a loved one your very own home:

Decide on something you both want/need badly. Focus on a keyword for the need or want (I don’t think I need remind you that it should be a *positive* need/want–like healing magic or finding a much needed job). Cleanse and consecrate the bedroom (or wherever you’re going to do this), decorate according to purpose. Take a bath or shower together by way of self-cleansing. Together, cast the circle, call the quarters, and state your purpose.

Then…get to work!

Relax, use aromatic message oils, feathers, special music (whatever turns you on) and, well, do what comes naturally. As thing get heated, as agreed, you both need to focus and, as much as possible, think about the want/need. Visualize (again, as best as possible) the energy building around the two of you, pulsing, growing, sizzling. When you climax (and you need not, uh, come together), speak the keyword aloud or in your mind, over and over and over—send it off with the erupting energy.

Make sure you have both climaxed, then come down, *GROUND*–cuddle and snuggle awhile and then, before you go to sleep, open the circle.

Now, here’s what you have to remember before you race ahead to try this:

1) Be sure you *REALLY LOVE* your partner, and that you *really, really, really* want to be with them *forever*–’cause the more sex magic you do with someone, the more you bind them, Karmically, emotionally, spiritually to you (and you to them!). And *this* is not the *only* life in which you’re going to be with them! The more sex magic you engage in with them, the more likely you’re going to meet them again and again in your next life. You don’t want to be karmically bound to a jerk!

I told you this is *SERIOUS* stuff!

2) BOTH PARTNERS MUST FULLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE TO THIS! That doesn’t just mean that you say to your lover, “hey lover, tonight while we’re doing it, let’s think about a new house….”–No, no, no, no! Both of you have to be equally aware of what you plan to do, both of you have to agree and work out the ritual, both of you have to know what you are doing and believe in what you are doing!

3) DO NOT DO THIS RITUAL AT THE LAST MINUTE! This is not a ritual to do impromptu! The energy you’re calling up is too powerful! Choose the day/night with care and plan out your ritual IN ADVANCE! Obviously, the sex has to be “impromptu” (indeed, should be impromptu, creative, NEVER FORCED or stiff or mechanical!–you should, in all senses of the word *MAKE LOVE* or else you undermine the power of the sex) but everything else should be carefully choreographed. You want to feel confident about this.

4) If it turns out that, for all your planning, this just isn’t the night for one of you–stop, relax, laugh about it, and agree to do it another day.

5) Do not even *attempt* a sex ritual until and unless you feel yourself a competent ritual priest/priestess! This should not be one of the first rituals you try!

You’re probably wondering what will happen if you don’t listen to me–well, you can take it from me, the result will be a *DISASTER*! I messed up once (we won’t get into details on what I did wrong). The morning after, everything was completely out of balance- – things kept going wrong; negative dominated, positive was no where in sight. I had to restore the balance–which I did with a dismissal spell–*TWO of them!*

So heed this warning! Be very careful about using Sex in a ritual!

WHAT TO DO IF THINGS GO WRONG!

Sometimes rituals or spells can go wrong. Likely, when they do go wrong it’s from:

(1) Either forgetting to ground or shield (problems arising from these are very temporary unless you’re highly sensitive). (2) Because you used the ritual to deliberately harm someone. (3) You involved an unprepared partner (see the section on SEX MAGIC). (4) Your intent was not clear or befuddled by something else (usually a negative emotion like anger or hate).

The more rituals you do in a state of negative emotion, the more unbalanced/tangled your life can become.

So what do you do? Don’t panic! The effects usually do not last that long (30 days max). If they are not that bad, but really annoying and troublesome, try this little ritual from Silverwolf’s *TO RIDE A SILVER BROOMSTICK*:

*Decorate: Nothing more is needed here beyond a pen, paper and a pair of candles–a pair is good as it emphasizes balance. Pick two opposing colors, black/white, or rainbow candles. Use protective incense, wear protective symbols or gem stones.

Shield, and spend extra time centering.

*Cast the circle and call quarters. Your intent is to restore balance!

*Light candles, and by their light write something akin to the following:

On the day/eve of ________________ I cast a spell, The effect of which was ________________ May this spell be lifted and I be gifted with______________

If you write the spell, fold the paper three times and set it in the center of your alter or burn it. If you say the spell, say it three times while turning counterclockwise.

GROUND–and then spend a little time meditating, relaxing, feeling the balance restored inside you.

IF YOU HAVE A **MAJOR** IMBALANCE then try this ritual for restoring balance:

*In this case, go all out, cleansing, decorating–include a pair of scales in the ritual. Put something significant on the scales to unbalance them (coins, for example, if it involves money, I-ching coins if it involves divination, salt for almost anything else, sand for dreams gone wrong, or appropriate gem stones or herbs). Put all these to the right side if you feel that the imbalance favors the masculine while depriving the feminine. Put them to the left side if the opposite is true.

*Place the scale between the candles. Cleanse the area with smoke or saltwater.

*After self-cleansing, dressing protectively, casting the circle, calling the quarters- – invoke a god/goddess of balance to help you in this ritual along with your guardian deity.

*Light the candles and state purpose (to restore balance), and then with atheme or a wooden spoon (which you blessed) or your fingers, move objects (stones, coins, whatever) from one side of the scales to the other, little by little, until the balance is restored.

As you spoon or shift the objects, envision the objects glowing with your color or with a color appropriate to solving your problem (green or gold for money, for example). As each one is set upon the empty/opposite side of the scales, imagine the scales taking on a glow. The more they balance, the brighter they glow.

When the scales are balanced (make sure before hand, by the way, that they *will* be balanced–an odd number of coins won’t do it!), step back, and see the scales glowing with the radiance of balance.

*Infuse the scales with light, and then let the light dissipate/shoot out into the universe. Ground and meditate on being calm and balanced within.

*Thank the deities who helped you, dismiss the quarters and open the circle.

This ritual can also be done with a tangled bit of red string or a silver/gold necklace. As you untangle the string, imagine the tangle of your energy becoming untangled. When all knots are out, imagine the string radiating with energy, bright, brighter, until you can send it out.

If none of this works, contact friends and get some help–your energy is too tangled/unbalanced, you need others to help you untangle/balance it.

This ends Rituals: Sacred Acts in Sacred Space.

There are three other files regarding Rituals that were formed from the ritual study class. They are: CYBR.TXT an informal tutorial on how to create rituals in/for Cyberspace

LIFE.TXT discusses rituals for birth, adulthood, marriage, croning and death.

SABB.TXT covers holiday/Sabbath rituals: Yule (Winter Solstice), Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Midsummer, Lammas, Vernal Equinox and Samhain (Holloween).

Peace and light to you, Sister or Brother; may all your rituals bring you the blessings of the Goddess and the God. So Mote it be!

Originally posted 2014-01-08 08:46:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

HomeBeginning Wicca, Rituals CREATING RITUALS: SACRED ACTS IN SACRED SPACE


CREATING RITUALS: SACRED ACTS IN SACRED SPACE

Other Author

The following lessons first appeared as an online study class on the subject of rituals. This particular section covers, among other things, ritual space, cleansing rites, shielding, centering, tools, gestures, movements, words, the basic steps and what to do when something goes wrong. This section also covers how to create rituals.

LESSON 1: WHAT THE HECK *IS* A RITUAL????

Glad you asked! Bottom line: a ritual is a “routine” that puts you in certain frame of mind.

For example, the preparations you make prior to going to bed are a ritual! Brushing your teeth, removing your clothes, putting things away, adjusting lights, checking the locks or letting out the cats, etc. Some of you may, in fact, be so locked into this ritual that if you miss, forget, or do any of your routine actions wrong, you find yourself unable to go to sleep!

What makes this “ritual” rather than just “routine”? The purpose of a routine is to get a job/chores done. To get the kids off to school, the bills paid, the paperwork done. The purpose of a ritual is, as I’ve said, to put you in a frame of mind; the tasks you do prior to bed get a job done, but they also cue your brain and body for sleep. They ready you for something that most people look forward to–the safety of bed, the delight of sleep, a trip to the dream plane.

And this is what makes your pre-bed tasks “ritual” rather than routine, and this is why you are usually consistent about it. Not because (as with the bills) they won’t get done otherwise.

***

Ok! A ritual, at it’s most *basic* level, is a routine that puts you in a frame of mind. But beyond that basic level, rituals can help you focus energy, transform yourself, your situation, or merely assist you in getting what you want. It’s important for worship, for magic, for meditation.

To put it another way, a ritual, in the context of this class, is a ceremony or rite for the purpose of focusing psychic, magickal and spiritual energies. There are usually three, general reasons for performing a ritual (in this context):

(1) To dedicate or rededicate yourself to a higher power or purpose. (2) To transform or alter a situation, an thing, another person or yourself. (3) To discover an answer.

First basic step: Purpose.

The purpose of a ritual is what alters it from routine to ritual. I’ll offer here a personal example:

Not long after my husband and I married, we found ourselves in a holiday quandary: I had no desire to celebrate Hannukah, and his fond memories of Christmas with his mom (now dead), made him identify that holiday with her loss.

So, we decided to create our own tradition. Being pagans, we focused on Winter Solstice– and I decided that our holiday meal for the Solstice would be a High Tea.

This year, only our second celebrating Winter Solstice as a “family,” something strange happened when I went shopping for the Tea.

When I went to the store it *felt* different! The store had been filled with decorations and holiday music since November, so it wasn’t that. And, being that it wasn’t yet Christmas, no one else was purchasing goods for a holiday dinner–

But *I* was! That’s how it felt! As I walked the aisles, I knew I was purchasing things for a special evening–a *sacred* evening. As I baked and worked in the kitchen, I knew I wasn’t just making dinner–or even a special dinner–my dinner was going to be a part of the celebration.

In short, the *purpose* of the ritual made routine, mundane elements *special,* even *sacred*. Shopping, cleaning, cooking.

PURPOSE

Purpose is the single most important aspect of any ritual. You have to know exactly what that purpose is, and, if you can, you should be able to look forward to it–a ritual is *special* and must be seen as such, treated as such. Otherwise, it just becomes routine.

So, we’ll say this now and keep repeating as necessary: before you decide on any ritual, ask yourself, “what is this ritual for?” If your answer to that question is kinda fuzzy, then re-think it. Ask yourself “what do I *really* want?” You might get a friend to help you pare away the dead wood (ex: “I want my parents to change” “change how?” “They’re never satisfied with me” “In everything you do?” “Well, no, they’re not satisfied with my relationships” “Do you want them to be satisfied? “I don’t want to care about what they think—I don’t want to feel like I need their approval!” “So, you want to transform yourself so you don’t rely on their approval?” “Yes!”)–you want to be CLEAR and SPECIFIC.

Understand (example notwithstanding) that the purpose doesn’t need to be grand or earthshaking, nor the ritual that complex–you don’t have to spend the entire day preparing for a ritual. Rituals can be done simply, even off the cuff. But, however simple or small, you must remember to be very focused on the PURPOSE.

An example of a very small ritual is that of a Catholic crossing themselves (blessing themselves) before entering a church. This is a quick, simple ritual–touch the holy water, genuflect and a cross. And yet, it immediately gets our Catholic into a frame of mind for prayer and worship.

Note, however, that the simplicity of this ritual works, in part, because it has long been identified with its purpose. Our Catholic has been crossing himself for years just prior to prayer and worship. There is also another factor involved that is also important to a ritual, and that is the space!

SPACE!

SPACE! The final…. oh, wait…different space.

You can perform a ritual *ANYWHERE*. In the restroom stall of a 747, in your shower, in the back of your car, at your desk, and here, in cyberspace!

*ANYWHERE*

While it is altogether possible and viable that you could perform a ritual on a busy street corner you would (1) have to be sure you could tune out the noise or *use* the noise and (2) be sure you wouldn’t be arrested.

Thus, a good space for rituals is usually one that is isolated and quiet.

If possible, you want your ritual space to be “special”. If you are lucky enough to have a spare room (a meditation room or library) then this is where you want to have your rituals. The separateness of this room from the rest of the house (it’s not where you sleep or cook or work or entertain) makes it instantly special.

If you’re doubly lucky, then you have a backyard, and an area in that yard perfect for outdoor rituals! Perhaps it’s an area with a pond or a gazebo. You might even consider making a corner of your backyard into a ritual area—putting in special flowers, herbs, a small fountain or statue, etc.

Alas, most of us are not so lucky! So what’s a poor, one-bedroom urbanite to do? Designate a corner for your sacred space! Put up an oriental screen in front of it, or mark it off by the set up of the furniture. Just be sure *TO DESIGNATE IT!*

You want to designate an area a ritual space because when you do– (1) You instantly make it special; you give *it* a purpose; and so, when you step into that space, you more easily step into the mindset–rather like crossing a magic threshold into a magic space (and it *should* feel magical!). (2) The more ritual/meditation/magic you do in this space, the more attuned to you the space will become; the rituals will also become easier and more powerful, the space more sacred and magical.

When these lessons were posted, I received some really cool ideas for solving the space problem. Alexandra Sestak had this solution:

<<A friend of mine found a lovely solution to her sacred space which I’d like to share:

What she did was suspend a bar from the ceiling in front of a corner, forming a triangle with the walls (I guess a curtain rail would work just as nicely). She has curtains hanging from the bar which she ties back whenever she uses the space. It’s a bit of an eye-catcher and conversation piece, so maybe the screen is subtler… >>

Mary Barzee came up with the marvelous space solution by having a rug which she could roll out (rather like a prayer rug), and use as her sacred space. She could then roll it back up and put it away in a closet. What is terrific about this idea is that you can take the rug (your special space) with you wherever you go!

If you go with this unique idea, make sure you pick out a special rug, and take special care of it, cleaning it with natural cleansers and tucking it away with lavender and other herbs to keep away the moths.

Ultimately, you want to be able to say: this area is *my* sacred space for rituals. A floating space (now in the bedroom, now in the kitchen) won’t work nearly so well.

“But,” you say, “I only have a little studio apartment!!! So Can my ritual space be the *entire* apartment?”

Absolutely! Your home *is* a sacred space already! Your mindset changes when you arrive there. It is set up to reflect you and your personality, and it’s purpose is to shelter and protect you. So, if necessary, then, of course, the apartment can serve as the ritual space.

A section of the apartment, dedicated to rituals, will still, however, work better– remember *PURPOSE*. Your mindset changes according to where you are–your mindset at home is different than when it is in the workplace or in a “church”. This ritual area must, when you step into it, give you the mindset to perform rituals.

If you absolutely cannot designate a space just for rituals (if you have to, say, share that space with your desk or dinner table), then try other things to make the transition special–one of the best ways to do this is to reserve a special outfit (or, if you’re Wiccan and comfortable with the idea, go Skyclad) for rituals–a favorite robe, for example. Separate stepping into that area in daily life, with stepping into it for a ritual.

Last point on finding an area: Make sure you *can* do rituals there! We don’t want anyone tossed in jail for trespassing, nor do we want anyone performing a ritual on some gang turf where you’re likely to get shot. Also, *DON’T* do rituals in an area already “sacred” without the assistance of a experienced Priest/Priestess. Mosques, Cathedrals, Burial Grounds and ancient Pyramids carry a history of very old, very powerful energy, not all of which may be good for you! Stomping out onto someone’s sacred Burial ground to perform a ritual is not only rude, but foolish. You don’t know what energies may interfere with you.

MAKING SPACE:

Ok, you’ve found your space–your corner, your room, your little area just for rituals. How do you make it a ritual area?

DECORATING: Two recommendations: (1) Decorate this space as your instincts tell you, whether bare or cluttered, lovely or strange. Look around your home–or, better yet, make a special shopping expedition for pictures, candles, statues, pillows, incense burners, flower vases, etc. And if something screams out at you, don’t try to analyze why it seems right, just find a place for it (During one ritual, I ended up with a glass jar filled with chunks of white chocolate on my alter–just because something told me to use it!).

(2) Try to give the area a “theme”–a feel, either in color or style or symbols (ex’s: red Russian votive candles, red pillows and a red screen to separate the area/a lava lamp, black light, psychedelic posters/ seashells, ocean posters, dolphin statues). A theme helps to create that “special” feel, helps make that area magic.

A GUARDIAN:

****The single most important thing a ritual space *MUST* have, no matter how spare, is a spiritual symbol. This can be a feather, a yin/yang symbol, a book, a crucifix, crystal, a Buddha or a statue of Kali. Whenever you hold as “DIVINE”, no matter how abstract, find a symbol to represent it, and put it in a prominent place in your ritual area (a shelf or alter). It’s best if it’s placed at or just above eye level.****

Let me pause here, for a moment, to remind you all that what I’m doing here is telling you about items useful for effective rituals (like a sacred space), but not yet the steps. There are steps to cleansing and dedicating the space; cleansing and dedicating a space will, in fact, usually be (should be!) your *FIRST* ritual in that space.

So go out and purchase decorations if you like, but hold off actually decorating the area (or setting the Guardian symbol in its place) until you’ve read about cleansing and dedicating your space.

BURNING THINGS:

I’m going to be discussing the various items that you might want to consider using in rituals. Understand that (1) you can do a ritual utterly and totally barehanded (and naked! As those of you who’ve read the W101.TXT lesson may recall, the ritual done in the shower) and (2) that, so far as I’m concerned, almost *any* item can be used in a ritual–whether it be a rubber fish or a lampshade.

But there are things that seem to be inherently ritualistic–meaning that (historically, culturally, symbolical and spiritually) they make a ritual “feel” like a ritual.

I want to discuss items that you can BURN first as they are the most common ritual items. They are also the most dangerous items in the ritual. You can burn yourself, or your home, you can accidentally breath in noxious fumes. I don’t want you to get rid of the candles or incense burners–I definitely want you to use them, just safely! As Trailstalker pointed out in her commentary on Charcoal burners (noted below) <<As with anything, take care with the small things… a half assed effort at bringing fire to earth within your ritual sets up your ritual to be half assed>>. The details here are not only for safety’s sake, but for the success of the ritual.

NOTE: if you do create a flame, do not blow it out. Snuff it out with fingers, the tip of your knife, or a snuffer.

What can you burn?

(1) Candles! Lovely and making an incredible resurgence! Candles are in fashion, and choice of candles and candle holders is really limitless. Just remember: Candle wax can be nasty, spilled on you or your furniture! Use a wet warm cloth to get it out of carpets or off things (for carpets, try the ice and iron method–chill the wax with ice, then place a paper bag over it and iron the bag–keep the heat low. The bag will absorb the melting wax. Make sure your carpet is of a material that *can* be ironed!).

Bees wax candles will burn without dripping wax (as will some others)–so you might want to consider them first.

(2) Candle holders: Lovely as free- standing holders are, they’re a danger, easily knocked over (especially in California, earthquake country!). Choose deep holders with a high walls and short, squat candles over tall thin ones. If you must have a tall candle, get a spiked holder. Or try floating candles that drift on water. Also viable are lanterns that surround the candle with glass, or holders, like the hanging sailor’s lantern (try *Pottery Barn*), that surround the candle in a metal cage.

(3) Oil: Usually used in lamps–lamps can be as dangerous as candles–if they fall, they’ll spill, and the spilled oil can catch fire (or just stain the carpet. Also, beware, lantern oil is toxic if swallowed!). Again, a lantern with glass walls is safer, or oil floated on water with a special floating wick–or an oil lamp that is hefty and not likely to fall over when you breathe on it!

(4) Incense burners: cones are a little safer than sticks, which are flimsy and have to be fitted into tiny holes. Sticks are more likely to fall and burn something. Cones have a little more stability and the advantage that they can be put *inside* a squat burner with a perforated lid. Less likely to fall over, more easily snuffed if the burner does fall. A cone *inside* a burner is safer than one outside. Just remember that the burner gets HOT!

(5) Charcoal burners: Information on these kindly provided by Trailstalker:

<<BASIC: Be SURE that you have sand or gravel or something in your container under your charcoal to absorb/shield/insulate the heat. I know this sounds like a “no brainer” but you would be amazed at the number of people who don’t do that and wind up with their grandmother’s favorite antique cherrywood sidetable ruined with scorch marks….or their new bazillion dollar wall to wall carpet deep pile with little brown spots (that are NOT the dog’s fault).

When using charcoals be sure that the entire charcoal is red-hot before applying herbs. As with anything, take care with the small things…a half assed effort at bringing fire to earth within your ritual sets up your ritual to be half assed.

Do not blow on your charcoal with you mouth…this is considered rude to Spirit. Use your hand or a feather or a fan dedicated to the purpose.>>

(6) Substances that burn to be inhaled: Don’t use if sleepy, keep an ashtray handy, and be careful! Grind them out thoroughly.

(8) Fires: If inside, use a fire screen (make sure chimney is clear!), if outside, bank them well, and put them out thoroughly! Don’t wear flowing clothing (and braid, wet down or pin up long hair!) if you plan on leaping over or through the flames.

(7) If using matches, keep an ashtray on hand for them. If burning *anything,* have water or sand, a wet towel or an extinguisher on hand as well as your snuffer.

(8) ****NEVER leave a burning substance untended!!!!!****

PREPARATION:

The steps: As mentioned before, a ritual can be impromptu or off the cuff. It can also be as complex as you care to make it. Barring these two “extremes” the middle ground *usually* looks something like this:

1) Preparation (includes creating the ritual, preparing for it) 2) Self-cleansing 3) Shielding/Centering/Casting the circle/Calling powers 4) Statement of purpose 5) Body of ritual: Focusing/Raising the Energy/Meditation 6) Sending off the energy 7) Grounding/Meditation 8) Releasing powers 9) Open Circle/Conclude

Remember that this is a *VERY GENERAL* outline of steps for a very *generic* ritual. It will grow, shrink, change depending on what your ritual is trying to do.

First step: Preparing. Once you’ve decided on the purpose for the ritual, once you’ve decided what will happen in the ritual, and write it up in detail, then you need to prepare for it.

1) GET YOUR SPACE READY!

First, *clean it*: Trailstalker offered some great cleansing ideas for a ritual space, especially for that first dedication ritual:

<< We washed it down *THOROUGHLY* with salt water…starting in the east corner and working clockwise….>>

Brief reminder note here: clockwise (deosil) *creates* and counterclockwise (widdershins) “undos”–so if you want to create something, go clockwise, undo go counterclockwise.

<<The carpet gets treated with baking soda, sea salt and other herbs (rather than use chemical storebought carpetfresh)….whenever possible use all natural cleaning products. (personally I also look for cruelty free products as well…. plus I use nothing from Procter & Gamble because of their environmental policies of abuse and disinformation).>>

You can find natural cleaning products (products that use no chemicals) at most health food stores. Sweep, polish, vaccume, and straighten things up. A messy space will interfere with your movements (if any). And cleaning reminds you that you’re going to be doing something special–you’re making things nice (as well as spiritually clear) for what’s to come.

2) DECORATE THE SPACE!

Your space is *not* (nor should it be unless it’s important to you!) immutable. If keeping the space looking one particular way is not essential to you, than you should think of changing it depending on the ritual.

Change the color of the table cloth on the alter, change the candles or candle holders, choose new objects for the four quarters (like your chalice–the fine pewter goblet you used for Lammas may be right for that time of year, but why not crystal for Winter? Or one with a celestial sun on it for Midsummer?)

Consider putting out new potpourris (seasonal smells are wonderful for emphasizing the feel of a ritual–a fragrance can get you into a mindset quicker than anything your eyes see. For example, I recently saw a sunflower potpourri that I thought would be perfect for Lammas, as well as an apple potpourri perfect for Autumnal Equinox. Every Yule, I make sure to get a special potpourri, all red, green and snowy white, that smells like White- Chocolate mint. Once it’s out, *then* I know it’s Yule).

If you have a doorway into your space (or a closet there) why not hang seasonal wreaths above it (or on a nearby wall)?

Change the flowers in the vase! Go out into nature and bring in what you find out there, what the season *itself* hands you to use as decoration.

3) HAVE NECESSARY ITEMS READY FOR RITUAL.

Here is a list of some of the things you might want to have in your home/space for use in rituals and or creating your space (remember, you can do a ritual bare-handed and naked, which is to say that none of these items are essential to a ritual, so don’t feel that you need them all. Pick whatever seems right for you):

Alter cloths,Candles, incense burner, incense, Atheme, Broom, Cauldron (a little copper pot will do just fine), herbs, (dried and bottled), Essential oils, Potpourri, flowers (vase for flowers), goblets, Small bowls (for salt, salt water, etc), Feather(s), Sea shells, crystals, Colored ribbons, Bells, Compass (for finding North), Mirrors, Postcards/framed pictures, Pentacle/pentagram (or other religious symbol), Statues, Tarot cards (or other divination tools), Drums, Rattles, Stereo, Walkman, music (best for playing while your prepare although some people like to have music during a ritual)

SPECIAL PREPARATION NOTE: You can get your space ready (cleaned and decorated) ahead of time. But it is essential that right *BEFORE* you get ready to start the ritual, before you cleanse yourself, you *PREPARE YOUR HOME* meaning that you shut off lights (this has the added advantage of discouraging people from knocking on your door thinking you’re home), adjust curtains or blinds, inform your spouse not to bother you for 2 hours (if he/she is *not* part of the ritual–get him/her out of the house if you can), put the children to bed or get them out of the house (unless they’re part of the ritual), make sure the dog is taken care of (don’t worry about cats, they’re *always* part of a ritual–whether you want them there or no), lock the doors, turn off the phone ringers, turn down the sound on the answering machine and prepare the CD/tape player with the music you want.

Also, if you haven’t already, have *EVERYTHING* needed for the ritual to hand! You don’t want to have to stop and leave the circle to get something once you’ve started.

****A point here that we shall reiterate once we get into creating the actual rituals– at the top of the page on which you write up your ritual, create a “shopping list”. List everything required for the ritual. That way, when it comes to doing it, you can just scan the list and have everything there in the space.

You might also want to think about having either a closet, shelves or locked chest in your space (or right next to it), where you can keep all ritual items.****

SELF-CLEANSING:

Cleansing *yourself*, physically and psychically, is often overlooked– neglecting it can put a dent in the ritual, while doing it can really enhance the ritual–it can clear your mind, put you in the right mood, and re- energize you.

In short, it feels good to be clean, and when you clean yourself up for an occasion, you recognize and do homage to it’s being special.

Nevertheless, you don’t have to take a shower before every ritual. Here are the simpler options:

(1) One easy self-cleansing method is to sprinkle a little SALTWATER on yourself. Get a small bowl, fill with purified water, and put in 3 small spoonfuls (if you have an Atheme, use it as the scoop; stir with it 3 times counterclockwise). Hold a hand over it and bless it. Dip in your fingers and sprinkle yourself with it.

This salt water can also be use to cleanse tools, alter and ritual space.

(2) AROMATIC OIL can also be used to self- cleanse/purify–anoint yourself with sage oil or other cleansing oils. Just touch a drop to the five points–feet, knees, pubis, heart, lips or to the seven Chakra points–base of crown, third eye, hollow of the throat, heart, above the navel, below the navel and pubis.

(3) SMUDGING is a very potent and magical cleansing method–here you use smoke from burning sage or cedar to cleanse yourself. Once again, this info was provided by Trailstalker: <<Start with your left side/feminine side (always take care of the feminine first). Pass the smoke over your arms…underneath…down the left leg…pay attention to the feet. Repeat the procedure on your right/masculine side.

Place the smoke at groin level and move up the chakra points…pass the smoke down your spine. Place the bowl at your heels and let the smoke drift up over you. Touch up any places that still feel a little “off”.

While you are doing all of this smudging visualize the smoke lifting all the black, dirty, negative little particles off of you and carrying them away of the body of the smoke.>>

(4) Another easy cleansing method is AURA cleansing–take a wand, feather, or the branch of either an herb, flower or tree (again, a cleansing herb like sage), and brush it around yourself, up one side and down the other, to cleanse your aura.

(5) One of the simplest (and my favorite) methods is ritualistic WASHING OF HANDS. When you’re finished preparing your space, set a small table with a towel, bowl and pitcher just outside the sacred area. Fill the pitcher with purified water–maybe rose water, salt water, or water fragrance with a drop of essential oils, lemon juice or the petals of a flower or herbs. Just before entering the space, pour the water over your hands, one then the other and dry them. It’s simple, but incredibly effective!

If you are outside (and you can) wash hands in a rushing stream, lake or the ocean.

Washing hands under the faucet will also work, but it won’t have as much power as a stream of water from a pitcher.

If your ritual is important–a deep self- transformation, for example, one of the eight Sabbats, a full moon or re-dedication, if you’ve put a lot of time and effort into it, then go all out with the cleansing!

(6) SHOWERS! Make sure it is a candlelit shower! If a shower, get a special soap for the occasion–make sure it’s a vegetable soap, perhaps sandalwood, sage, lavender, rosemary (a *wonderful* soap if you can find it!) or citrus (citrus is *very* cleansing). You may want to use one of those special sponges/scrubs that gently scrubs away dead skin. Give your hair a wash with an herbal shampoo–imagine the water washing away all negative energy, imagine it rinsing all clutter away, leaving only you and your purpose behind.

(7) A BATH is equally if not more potent than a shower; you step in one person, you step out reborn, cleansed–try bath salts (citrus, lavender), or bath oils. Light a candle, shut off the lights, and sink into the hot, soothing, fragrant waters. Imagine the power of the water drawing out negative energy and impurities from you, soothing out the tangles, drifting through you, erasing clutter, fear, worry and all unrelated thoughts. As you step out, you are left pure, reborn, renewed and ready for your ritual.

Don’t forget to have big, fluffy towels waiting–there’s nothing that can throw you off faster than, just after a wonderful shower or bath, finding yourself without towels (and having to stomp out, all damp and drippy and cold looking for them!).

(8) One of the last, and the MOST potent of all cleansings is to take a dip, preferably a skinny dip, into a lake, stream, under a waterfall or, best of all, into the Ocean. This is truly like entering as one person, and stepping out purified, reborn. In this case, as you enter you want to feel the natural power of the water–it’s holistic connection to life on earth, and your connection to same though it. Feel the natural movements of waves and running water, feel where the water came from and all it’s brought with it. Absorb some of that magic even as you let it wash and cleanse you.

***Understand, by the way, that these cleansing rituals are a *part* of the ritual itself. Preparing the space gets your mind focused on what’s to come. The ritual of cleansing is where you clear your mind (as well as your energy). It allows you to do to your mind and spirit what you did to your sacred space, clear it out, put it in order, make it clean and fresh and ready. Don’t ever neglect this part! Indulge in it, make the most of it!***

A final note: A light cleansing can be used to start the ritual, and then a deeper cleansing can be used as the Body of the ritual. If, for example, you feel that your ritual requires, in the middle, a deep meditation involving power of water, you may save the bath for the middle of the ritual instead of the beginning. Such a ritual might start with an aura brush, involve perhaps a ritualistic removal of clothing, most certainly a candle-lit bath, specially fragrance, perhaps words said, wine drunk while in the bath, and towels most definitely waiting at the end.

A ritual could also be done entirely in the shower, bath, stream, lake, ocean (or a group ritual in a hot tub or at a lake or at the ocean). So keep this option in mind!

SHIELDING:

Alright! You’re prepared, cleansed, ready to go.

WAIT! DON’T STEP INTO THAT SPACE! Have you shielded recently?

You definitely want to shield before a ritual. It’s a good idea to think of shielding yourself anyway, once a week or when things seem overwhelming (ever have those days when every little sound, every little distraction effected you like a firecracker going off? Whenever you feel that way, Shield immediately! It’ll help enormously!).

You want to do this ahead of time because you’re going to have your ritual on your mind, and you don’t want to be standing, just about to enter your space and think, “Darn! Forgot to shield!”

Shielding involves envisioning and creating a protective, permeable (you want the right energy to be let in, the wrong energy kept out) force around you. The most common shields are:

*Ring Pass Not*–with finger, wand or atheme, create around you a hula-hoop of silver (that will allow in the positive but keep out the negative); envision it spinning, faster and faster till it vanishes.

*Rainbow Spiral*–Sit crosslegged on the floor, hands resting on knees, relaxed, and from the earth draw up a rainbow spiral (that will allow in the positive but keep out the negative)–make your spiral wide and red at the bottom, tapering and spiraling up too a violet point over the crown of your head- -red, orange, yellow, green blue, indigo, violet, according to Chakra points (base of spine, genitals, solar plexus, heart, throat, third- eye and crown). Spin it around you until it vanishes into invisibility.

*Bubble*–Call up an iridescent, protective bubble before you, one as large as you are, and step into it. Imagine it allowing you to enter, but closing up behind you. Watch the colors of the bubble move faster and faster around you until it becomes invisible.

After you’ve shielded, you won’t feel as sensitive or as overwhelmed as you did before; the noise and static, the pins and needles of the world will be shut out, and there you are, protected and serene in the eye of the storm.

Do this early in the day or the day before a ritual, you don’t want to have to worry about it at the last minute.

centerING:

Alright. The Space is ready. You’re shielded. You’ve just toweled off from a deliciously hot and soothing bath; you’ve put on your special robe/clothing/jewelry (or you’re skyclad), and now you stop the music you’ve had playing in the background.

In that moment of silence, you step into the space.

Light your candles. Most traditions have the lighting of the candles as a signal that the ritual has begun (don’t light any special candles, those there for candle magic, just the candle(s) that you have upon your alter, there to illuminate the space and give it the power of light). The lighting of the candles to signal that the ritual has begun is optional, but it is a nice and powerful beginning.

And now you center yourself.

Centering is the position a ballerina takes on stage just before the curtain goes up; it’s the on-guard position of a fencer just before the bout begins, the “On Your Mark/Get Set” position of a racer before the race. Centering is the slow lift and drop of arms in Tai Chi just before the moving meditation actually begins.

Centering is where you finally focus on *YOURSELF*. After attending to the purpose, the ritual, the space, the tools, now you, at last, take a minute to look at the center and power of the ritual, to remind yourself what this is all about, namely: YOU!

Centering is where you take command.

Here’s what you do: Stand with feet *comfortably* shoulder width apart (or seat yourself comfortably on the ground), relax the shoulders, straighten the spine. You should have a relaxed but straight posture, as if there were an invisible string running through you, up through the crown of your head.

Take in a gentle but filling breath, through the nose, released slowly out the mouth. As you draw in this air and release it, imagine the connection between you and the Earth- – there are two ways to do this, either imagine the Earth power being draw up through the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, or imagine the connection going down from head to feet, like water or roots into the Earth.

This anchors you. You should feel relaxed but alert, clear minded, calm.

You can see right away how this important this is for the ritual–*any ritual*. You’re going to be calling up powers here, from without and within yourself. You don’t want to be flustered or angry, sleepy or grumpy, foggy or uncomfortable. Energy you call up in that state can’t do you any good–it’ll only aggravate the muddled emotions you’re feeling, and radiate them outward. Not good. Centering brings you back into yourself, into that calm eye of the storm.

Centering also keeps the magic focused– imagine the magic as electricity–you’re the lightening rod, and it’s best if you’re grounded in the earth. Centering makes sure that you don’t “overload” during a ritual—the Earth is anchor, it helps you control the magic, and direct it.

CIRCLING:

Alright, now it’s time to draw the circle. The circle is the cauldron in which you work the magic. By drawing a circle, you contain the energy within; you create a place to mix and transform and build the energy until it’s ready to be released.

Note that once you’ve cast the circle, you should not leave and no one should enter. If an emergency arises, draw an imaginary door in the air, step out, take care of the emergency, step back in, and close up the door by “undrawing it”. Kids and animals are “exempt” from the “cannot enter” rule (cats most especially). They can enter and leave a circle without disturbing the magic.

You can draw a circle in countless ways: You can draw a physical circle, actually draw it with chalk, or colored sand or, if outside, scratch it into the dirt with a long stick.

Most magicians, however, simply point, with finger, wand, atheme, staff or broom and, turning, draw an imaginary circle in the air or on the ground. Some traditions ask that you imagine, as you draw the circle, that a fire follows in its wake, so that, for a moment, you are surrounded by flickering, supernatural flames, a ring of protective, magical fire.

Others traditions just say, point your fingers and turn. It’s up to you whether to draw the circle the same way each time, or change your method according to the mood/tone/theme/demand of the ritual. I, myself, like the change it. At Yule I used a broom to reinforce the “home” theme; I’ve also used driftwood, wand and atheme.

Nothing needs to be said as you cast the circle, but you might want to have some ritual phrase. I like to say an appropriate quote or a line of poetry as I cast my circle, so that I feel that I’m creating the right sort of “pot” for this special recipe.

You can also use unique items to focus your energy through as you turn and draw the circle–for example, you could use tarot cards. Choose an appropriate card (say, the High Priestess for a dark moon ritual, or the Empress for a harvest ritual or Death for Samhain), hold it face outward, and, aiming your energy through the card, draw the circle with it (just imagine your energy going through the card as light through a lens, to burn a circle around you).

You can also go out and get different “wands” to use for drawing the circle. A sprig of holly for drawing it a Yule, a flowering branch for Spring, applewood for Fall. You can use a rough bit of stone to etch a circle into the dirt, or a feather to create it, like a brush, upon the air. You can spill water or wine in a circle around you (champagne, powdered chocolate and rose petals were used for one memorable Valentine’s day circle), or spin with a lit stick of incense to create a circle of smoke.

The important thing is to envision and focus on creating an enclosed area, a “container” in which to work your magic.

THE ALTER:

After you’ve cast the circle, it’s time to call the quarters. The Quarters are a call for assistance. In calling/invoking the quarters, you make sure that all aspects of the Earth (and/or universe) are invited to assist you; the four variant “powers” or energies cover all the bases, sic (directions, elements). Whatever energies your ritual might require to succeed, they are there to help you.

Depending on your tradition, there are four/five quarters. They are usually called in the following order: East/Air, South/Fire, West/Water, North/Earth and, if you like, Center/Aether (spiritual element).

Each of these quarters, traditionally, also has a symbol upon the alter to represent it. Since we haven’t yet, let’s take a moment to chat about ALTERS!

Any table can serve as an alter including a patch of floor, shelves, dressing table, vanity, coffee table or folding t.v. tray. Some traditions place the alter to the north (so that when you face it, you face north) some to the East. If you have no choice in the matter (thanks to doors, heaters, shelving, etc.) and the only place for the alter is West or South), don’t worry about it. Put it where you can.

Upon your alter you can have any, all or none of the following as you choose: Your “guardian” symbol (that symbol of a power you feel is watching over you), candles/oil lamp, incense burner, Atheme, goblet, pentagram, cauldron, a small bowl of salt/salt water, essential oil, wand, bell, cakes/wine.

These items are the most commonly used items in spells, which is why they’re listed. The Atheme, Wand, Goblet, Pentagram and Cauldron can (and traditionally do!) stand for the five quarters (East-Atheme, South-Wand, West- Goblet, North-Pentagram and Cauldron at the Center).

But you have plenty of other options in regards to such symbols–a pen or feather for the East, a candle or an item made of metal to the South, seashells for the West, flowers or a bowl of earth for North, a crystal ball for the Center.

To show you how flexible these symbols can be: I once recommended to “Jewish” Pagan, that she place a spice box (a silver saltshaker- like box filled with spices, used in the havdalah ceremony) to the East, a Monorah to the South, a Wine goblet to the West, a Jewish star to the North and a miniature Torah at the Center.

You can, in short, use whatever seems right to you and your ritual to stand for these quarters (or you can use nothing, if you like). I mentioned before that I once had a jar filled with chunks of white chocolate upon my alter–it stood for North, and it seemed to fit just right! Tarot cards, postcards, pictures or runes are another option, as are four/five separate candles, statues or different essential oils.

And, once again, at Holiday time, you might consider heading out into the wilderness to see what nature can offer you as symbols.

CALLING QUARTERS:

The quarters (East/South/West/North– Air/Fire/Water/Earth) are common to almost every religion, modern or ancient. You can find them in Chinese Taoism, in Jewish Kabbalah, in Christian mysticism and in several Native American, African and South American tribal religions. It isn’t, therefore, too difficult to translate calling the quarters into almost any religion you might choose—you just have to have suitable God/Goddesses or Angels stand for the quarters. If you’re leaning towards a more Christian ritual, for example, than you call on the Angels: Michael (east), Raphael (south), Gabriel (West) and Uriel (North).

Your choice of God/Goddess, Angel or Saint is up to you, but you ought to choose either according to direction (as with the Angels) or Elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth).

You may also use mythological creatures (dragons, sprites, etc.), animals, or historical figures that you feel are potent enough to bring the power of a quarter into your circle.

The calling itself can be very simple and/or direct: “Powers of Air be with me Now!”

Or it can be highly detailed and/or very poetic. Traditionally, the Powers are “described” as you invoke them, that description matching the purpose of the ritual. This, for example, was Grace’s calling for East, for the *YULE* ritual:

Over mountain, from sea of evergreen,

Through a blanket of snow,

I call the Guardians of the East.

Wake and join us now,

On crested wing of snowbird,

With the gentle scent of pine.

Lift us, raise us, our voices blend,

Bring us too your breath to lend.

Together we join

On this Yule we gather

To reclaim our New Born Sun.

Note the emphasis on Yuletide symbols and the gentleness of the calling—this was in sync with our Yule ritual which was very gentle and very, very *wintery*. Compare this to Starhawk’s invocation of the East which I used for Lammas:

Hail Guardians of the East! Powers of Air! We invoke you and call you Golden Eagle of the Dawn Star-seeker Whirlwind! Rising sun! Come! By the Air that is our breath, Send forth your knowledge Be with us now!

Much more dynamic, far less lyrical. The sentences are short, the images sharp, this to match a ritual that needed to start strong, stay strong and build to a very powerful climax.

You can have the same callings each time, or you can change them depending. Just remember that you will be needing a dismissal as well as a calling, so be sure you’ve thought up both.

CALLING THE GUARDIAN:

After you’ve called the quarters, it’s time to invoke (choose one or a combination):

(a) The Goddess (b) The God (c) Your Guardian “Power”.

Most certainly the Guardian power should be invoked even if you don’t choose to invoke either Goddess or God. It’s up to you. As with the Quarters, invite your Guardian (et al), to come be with you, and help you in your ritual.

Once you have done this you may now ritualistically say (as so beautifully phrased by Starhawk):

“The circle is cast, We are between worlds, Beyond the bounds of time, Birth and Death, Joy and Sorrow, Meet as one, Blessed be.”

Continued –>

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>