Ritual Form & Function for Your Book of Shadows
“I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
The Atmosphere for Magic
Your Book of Shadows should include basic instructions on all elements of magic including Ritual. You can save this information into your book in whole, or only the snippets you feel necessary. As with any type of magical method, these ideas are only guidelines. Creativity rules!
For those times when you want a more formal atmosphere in which to weave magick for “enrichment,” the ritual space is a perfect choice. But to do so, you must first have a grasp of the whys and how-tos of this process. For many of us, the word ritual engenders memories of long Sunday sermons and fidgeting in a pew. Magick need not be like that. In fact, +ritual as a life-affirming process has the potential of being anything but boring or tedious. The key to success here is threefold: an intimate understanding of ritual, sound planning, and meaningfulness.
Understanding Magic Ritual and its Purpose
Beginning with comprehension, a ritual is a way of expressing outwardly what’s happening in our inner life. It is also a way of acknowledging what’s happening all around us in various situations, in other people, and in the Earth as a whole. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a ritual is a vehicle for keeping us connected with Spirit and the ebb and flow of magickal energy in all things.
The Ritual of Daily Life
Did you know that you enact rituals every day without even knowing it? You have patterns that you follow in your routine that provide continuity and familiarity. When you don’t follow that pattern or miss part of it, something seems amiss all day. If you don’t believe me, watch what happens when someone forgets a power tie for a special meeting or can’t find a favorite coffee mug!
Magickal ritual is a lot like that. It’s a pattern of words and actions followed on a regular basis to keep the spiritual energy alive and well in your life. This, in turn, provides comfort, enables an awareness of cycles, increases joy, and improves overall harmony within and without.
What sets magickal ritual apart from our everyday rituals is 09intent. Each ritual has a focus or goal associated with it. That focus or goal may be honoring a season, commemorating a special occasion, understanding a spiritual lesson more fully, or simply celebrating fellowship. No matter the goal, it’s something around which the entire ritual revolves. From planning to completion, that intention is built in word and deed.
Magick Ritual Components
As with all other parts of magick, rituals have components and processes to follow. These might change slightly from tradition to tradition, and ritual to ritual, to illustrate that tradition’s or ritual’s uniqueness. Nonetheless, there are many commonalities that we can focus on and consider in our own ritual creation.
To give sensual form to a ritual, most include some type of components, each of which has symbolic value. Among these, we might find the traditional tools of many Wiccans, such as candles, a goblet, incense, and an athame (ritual dagger). We also might find wine, water, or milk as a libation; token offerings to the Divine; and various decorations that augment the theme (for example, a pumpkin at Hallows or flowers at Spring Equinox).
In addition to this, some of the things that might be included in a ritual are:
- Music: Sometimes played in the background or added as part of a meditation or circle dance.
- Robes or Costumes: To help put people in the right frame of mind (metaphysical instead of mundane).
- Symbolic Timing: Some rituals must, by their nature, take place on or near a set date (such as our seasonal and lunar observances). Others can be timed for propitious astrological moments if a practitioner so chooses. To accomplish this, it helps to have a good astrological calendar to which to refer for moon-signs and Astrological phases.
- Invocations: Welcoming guardian energy and help in creating the sacred space. Many invocations start in the East and end in the North if creating positive energy (vs. banishing).
- Prayers and Meditations: Connect us with the Sacred, settle one’s spirit, and improve spiritual awareness. Some rituals include one, the other, or all of these; it depends on the occasion.
- Spellcraft and Other Magickal Methods: Very frequently practitioners will take advantage of the protection and improved energies of a sacred space for spellcasting, periapt creation, and other techniques.
- Dance and Chanting: Two very effective ways to raise power, the first through physical movement, which generates energy. The second is through verbal expression, which puts sympathetic vibrations into the air. These two methods are very common among various mystical traditions to help people achieve altered states of awareness, too!
Now, although not all rituals include all of these components, you’ll find an assortment of each within most rituals you attend or observe. The most important part is finding a combination that works for you and makes sense considering the participant(s) and your goal.
Magic Ritual Processes
Once you have this list of components from which to fashion your own ritual, the next logical step is understanding what constitutes a dependable ritual construct. The material shared here uses basic Wiccan methodology. However, various traditions do have other ways of assembling successful ritual that is no less fulfilling or powerful.
Step one to devising a good ritual is setting the mood. This includes the way the room is set up, what sounds and sights people encounter, lighting, and aromatics. Bear in mind that magick takes place “out of space, out of time.” A well-thought-out ambiance puts everyone in the right frame of mind for all that’s to come.
Tools and Components at the Ready
Building on this foundation, it’s very important to have all the tools and components for your ritual gathered and placed correctly in the sacred space, so you don’t have to stop mid-ritual to hunt for something. Similarly, remember that forewarned is forearmed. If you’re working outdoors, don’t forget to check the safety of the region, such as watching for roots and stones that could trip participants. Although this sounds rather mundane, the rule of safety first doesn’t stop when magick starts.
Magic Ritual Processes
Make sure that you and/or your participants are all properly prepared for this ritual. For example, do you want to have a ritual bath or meditate beforehand? Do you have a way of clearing people’s negativity when they enter the site? Have you asked people to be well rested and to know their parts for the ritual there’s little worse than poorly recited ritual working from a piece of paper)?
Accentuate your Goal/Theme
If there is a theme to the ritual that you want people to accentuate with decorations for the altar or their clothing, let them know well ahead of time! Also, bring some backups for those who, inevitably, forget. Children in particular love to pick out items to help deck the sacred space; it’s important to include our future generations in our magick when the ritual’s theme allows.
[wisew_rectangle_large align=”left”]Once everyone gathers, take a moment or two to get in sync with each other. Unified breathing is one way to accomplish this task, as is a brief meditation. Try inhaling on the count of three, holding it for a three count, and exhaling on a three count. Repeat this five to 10 times until you sense a settling of mind and spirit. If everyone present isn’t aware and “in tune” with each other’s energy, the ritual will not go as well as it might.
Lastly comes the creation of sacred space. Now, every group has different invocations for calling the guardians and Spirit, and every person has an opinion as to how formal or informal a sacred space should be. For 3-an informal ritual, a short invocation activates the sacred energies, like this tidy little one:
“Earth, Air, Fire, and sea, I call you all, come dance with me!
The more formal sacred space begins with calling the Quarters. Typically, the calling of the Quarters addressed and welcomes an Element or direction (Earth, Air, Fire, Water or North, East, South, and West, respectively). A minor variation would be calling on four Gods or Goddesses (or a mixture) to watch over the sacred space. The only problem here becomes making sure all these powers will work effectively together; Divine beings can become rather jealous.
As each quarter is invoked, something usually takes place in that region of the circle to honor the energy. When invoking Air, incense might be ignited, for example, or when invoking Water, some liquid might be sprinkled or poured out.
Other Potential Symbols for the Elements
- Earth: Soil, potted plant, seeds, globe, brown or green colored items.
- Air: Fan, open window, wind chimes, bird imagery, yellow and other pastel colors.
- Fire: Brazier, light source, representation of the sun, red−or orange−colored items.
- Water: Seashells, driftwood, bowl, silver−or blue−colored items.
“I stand at dawn
here, a strand of purple light
kisses the horizon with hope,
all of nature stirs,
and creation’s breath whispers’ cross
a world filled with potential
Come! Winds from the four corners
Guides and Guardians
heed our call
Wrap your blessed breezes round us gently
awaken our minds, inspire our spirits.”
[wisew_rectangle_large align=”right”]“I stand at noon
here, a sphere of golden glory
blazes high in the sky with power,
embracing the vista in warmth,
all of nature sings
and creation’s pulse beats loud and long ’cross
a world filled with life
Come! Fires from the four corners
Guides and Guardians
heed our call
Burn brightly in this sacred space
to banish the darkness, unite our heartbeat, and
rekindle our souls.”
“I stand at dusk
here, the sun withdraws to the Ancestor’s sea
glowing orange, pink and blue with acceptance
resting its light in the cradle of an ancient wave, all of nature chants
calling the night, reclaiming the night ’cross
a world filled with wonder
Come! Waters from the four comers
Guides and Guardians
heed our call
Wash gently through this sacred space
quench our thirst, cleanse us, and make us
[wisew_rectangle_large align=”left”]“I stand at midnight
here, the earth waits silent and expectant
in between breaths and moments, sounds and silences
in the moonlight and the shadow of a star
all of nature pauses
between the worlds, all time and none ’cross
a world filled with magick
Come! Earth from the four comers
Guides and Guardians
heed our call
Sprinkle your rich soils beneath our feet
plant us firmly on our path
make us ONE.”
This invocation could be presented by up to four people. If you decide to use four individuals, the people involved should be keyed into the Element they invoke; ask them which Element they relate to most strongly. Afterward, a prayer or invocation to Spirit often follows. Which face of the God or Goddess is called upon depends on the Path involved. Or, go generic addressing the Divine as the Sacred Parent, Source, or Spirit.
Sample Prayer to Spirit
Great Spirit, you who have always been and shall always be, I bid you welcome. Please join us in this sacred space as we celebrate ______ (fill in with occasion) and focus our energy on _____ (fill in with your overall goal that is, where you’re sending the energy you raise). Let your blessings flow from hand to hand and heart to heart as we meet in perfect trust and love. Help us honor our magick, and our place in the Circle of life. Help us honor each other, and the specialness that is in each human being. And help us honor this moment between the worlds, where we weave our spells and come to understand our part as co-creators. So be it!
Closing Things Up
Once this sacred space is invoked, it remains in place until the end of the ritual. At this juncture, the “body” of the ritual begins-dances, activities, ritual plays, spells, whatever is on the proverbial magickal menu for the event. Each of the activities that take place now is designed to build energy toward the goal or theme of the ritual, and at some point, the person or group will release the power and send it on its way, often just before dismissing the sacred space.
Finally, the circle is closed, usually working counterclockwise for dismissal and thanks to the guardians. Many rituals are followed by a small feast or munchies, along with hearty amounts of fellowship for all who attended. The food helps people to ground after the magick so they’re not driving home with their heads in the clouds! It also helps people internalize what has just occurred on a personal level.
Using and Adapting Pre-Written Rituals
Do not simply enact a ritual because someone, somewhere said, “Hey, try this!” Read them over carefully. Look at the wording. Check all the components and methods presented, then ask yourself:
- Are these words I can say comfortably and honestly?
- Is the ritual construct meaningful to me, or to everyone who plans to participate in the ritual?
- Is there anything here that goes against my ethical code or personal taboos?
- Do the timing and suggested components make sense considering the theme of the ritual?
- Is there enough material here so that those who would like to participate can?
If you find yourself answering no to any of the aforementioned questions, there are two solutions: Write a ritual from scratch yourself or adapt the one you have. If you chose the latter, adjust the words, maintaining the meaning, with phrases more common to you or your group. Add little touches throughout the ritual that personalizes it and adds significance. Remove anything that goes against your moral fiber, adding something else more suitable. Adjust the timing and components as desired. Finally, if need be, add in a few extra activities so everyone who so chooses can be involved.
Why go through all this fuss? Well, you might like the idea behind a ritual and even a lot of the components but discover, as a whole, something lacks. By taking this time, you’ll end up with a ritual that flows more smoothly. It will also be more meaningful, and therefore more effective.
Sample Ritual for Money Magic
Money rituals can have any number of focal points. This example should have some universal appeal or a minimally good base of material with which to work.
Abundance and Blessings
At least once a year, it’s good to enact a ritual such as this one which encourages an ongoing flow of bounty and blessings in your life. For timing, how about your birthday or an anniversary?
What you’ll need:
A white candle, a cup of apple juice placed on your altar or another central location in the ritual room, and a bit of anointing oil (almond oil with cinnamon and ginger is one good choice). Note that this ritual is designed for one person but could be adapted to more simply by having people take turns blessing each other rather than doing it yourself.
Calling the Quarters:
Begin in the East and move clockwise to the South, West, and North, saying:
[wisew_rectangle_large align=”right”]“The Air is my breath−alive and pure. The wind is my source and encouragement. Guardians of the East be welcome here! Protect this space and bless me with your motivation.
“The Fire is my blood−warm and vital. The light is my guide and vision. Guardians of the South be welcome here. Protect this space and bless me with your power.
“The Water is my tears−cleansing and healing. The wave is my momentum and refreshment. Guardians of the West be welcome here. Protect this space and bless me with your inspiration.
“The Earth is my body−nourishing and supportive. The soil is my heritage and grounding. Guardians of the North be welcome here and bless me with your maturity. “
The Body of the Ritual
Next, move to the area where the candle, cup, and oils are situated. Light the candle to welcome Spirit. Take the cup in both hands and hold it up toward the sky, saying:
“Great Spirit, your light shines in this sacred space, and in my spirit. Bless this cup that it may provide me with wisdom in the year ahead, and grant me the fruitfulness of Earth’s abundance.”
Drink the cup completely to accept the blessing. Next, take the oil and put a little on your index finger. Dab this on the top of your head, the space on your forehead between your eyes, your heart, your hands, and your feet (in sequence) saying:
[wisew_rectangle_large align=”left”]“Bless my mind that I might think clearly about my resources.
Bless my intuition that I might know when to act and when to wait.
Bless my heart that I might always be ready to give and receive the richness of love.
Bless my hands that they might work diligently and with skill.
Bless my feet that I might walk the Path of Beauty balancing spiritual matters with mundane life always.
So be it.”
When you’re done, you might want to take some time meditating or writing in a journal. Then, blow out the candle and say:
“The magick blessings, once spoken, shall never be broken. Spirit and Guardians thank you for your presence here and your blessings. As I leave this place keep watch over me, and continue as my guides in life, in spirit, in truth. So be it.”
As you find more rituals you like or write those of your own, remember to put them in Your Book of Shadows for future use. You can organize them under “rituals” perhaps followed by theme or goal.
Based on “Money Magic,” by Patricia Telesco. All rights reserved.