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Creating Ritual
Lesson 6

The previous lesson discussed the process of casting the three levels of protective magick circles. It only contained the basic instruction, no frills. I did this because I wanted to emphasize that casting a circle and performing ritual are two different acts.

With that said, lets start talking about ritual.

Ritual is just a fancy name for a magickal working and can also mean an observation of a Sabbat or holiday. It may be strictly magickal, non-magickal, or a religious observation (either magickal or non-magickal).

I will be dealing with the creation of rituals for magickal workings in this lesson.

Also, I will be covering aspects of conducting ritual with a group of people. A group is NOT required for creating and performing a ritual but on the other hand it is not required that a ritual have only one participant.

All rituals have a series of steps that are followed. Below are listed some of the various steps that are usually included:

  • Preparing the ritual area
  • Cleansing of participant(s)
  • Entry into the circle area
  • Cleansing of the Circle
  • Casting of Level 1, 2 and 3 circle
  • Review of purpose
  • Discussion of the purpose of the working (if in a group)
  • Or
  • Review of the purpose of the ritual (if solitary)
  • Performing of workings (any combination)
  • Magickal working(s)
  • Religious Observation(s)
  • Play Production(s)
  • Meditation
  • Instruction
  • Divination
  • Etc.
  • Cakes & Ale
  • Closing Ritual
  • Clean up

After discussing the various parts of ritual some of the other ritual considerations will be covered.

Preparing the ritual area

Before any ritual is performed there is usually some preparatory work that must be undertaken. For the first several rituals I suggest that you make a list of all items that you will be using. The following are some examples of “pre-ritual” setup events that may take place. The list is NOT all inclusive and NOT all items listed may be required … these are only examples of what may take place.

  • Clearing clutter/debris from the ritual area. If you are working outside this could include mowing the grass, removing sticks and twigs, yard clutter, etc.
  • Setting up altars or stands if used
  • Putting out candles, matches and/or lighters
  • Selecting music, getting a music player, extension cords, etc.
  • Gathering musical instruments (often used in personal empowerment) including percussion
  • Making of Holy Water or salt and water for production in circle. (Holy Water is just a general term, if you prefer you can call it Sacred Water, Blessed Water, Goddess Water, God Water, or by any other name.)
  • Gathering herbs/incense/oils/charcoal and all related items
  • Getting copies made of the ritual. (I rarely memorize pre-written material.)
  • Paper/Pens/Pencils if you will be making lists or writing/drawing

Cleansing of participant(s)

Before entering the circle it is not uncommon to go through some type of cleansing to remove any negativity. I am not referring to the ritual bath/shower which is done before getting to the ritual area. There are many different forms of cleansings that can be used. Listed below are only a few options available;

  • Cleansing by anointing with essential oil (pure or blend)
  • There are several essential oils which are great for purification such as Frankincense, Myrrh and Sandalwood. There are special blends that can be created for purification as well. The participant is usually anointed on the third eye, perhaps the palms and feet.
  • Cleansing by blessing of High Priest/Priestess
  • The High Priest or High Priestess will direct the energy of the Lord and/or Lady through you to remove negative energy
  • Cleansing by crystals (such as citrine which dispels negativity)
  • The crystal is passed all over and around the body to dispel any negative energy.
  • Cleansing by exposure (participant removes all clothing and then is cleansed by elements … in a group setting this type of cleansing must be agreed upon by all participants or a private area should be set aside for those wish to utilize this form of cleansing.)
  • Cleansing by fire (such as with a candle)
  • Cleansing by holy water (some type of sprinkling or anointing)
  • This type of cleansing often takes place by sprinkling or misting. Being a modern witch allows you to use all types of implements. One of my favorite ways of dispensing holy water is through using either a misting bottle or a bug/garden sprayer. The bottle or bug/garden sprayer should be purchased new and must NEVER be used for chemicals/insecticides or other such material. A garden sprayer is very useful when you want to cleanse a large physical area with holy water such as when protecting a property. It can also be used to create a holy water spray … just aim the nozzle set to mist into the air and walk through.
  • Cleansing by light (white or gold)
  • The participant visualizes themselves being filled with gold or white light. Another person can also project this energy onto the participant.
  • Cleansing by meditation
  • Cleansing by ritual such as the Pillar of Light
    • Relax
    • Enter an alpha state
    • SEE yourself growing larger and large. Grow bigger than your house, your neighborhood, your city, your state. Keep growing until the entire planet is a small dot within you.
    • From your crown chakra (top of your head) SEE a beam of white light shoot upwards heading to the center of the universe.
    • Wait for a moment until the Light of the Universe comes down around you in a pillar of perfect and brilliant white light.
    • Let the Light fill ever aspect of your being dispelling all negativity within your body.
    • Continue to allow the Light to fill you until you are Light
    • When ready, SEE the column of light returning to the center of the Universe.
    • Send a packet of energy back along the link from the top of your head thanking the Universe
    • SEE the link you created from your crown chakra return from the center of the universe and be reabsorbed into your body
  • Cleansing by ritual such as the LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram)
  • Cleansing by sound (ex. Rattle, gong, sacred tones, etc.)
  • The use of rattles, noise, gongs and similar methods have been used to dispel negativity. Also, sacred tones such as OM or mantras can be used to cleanse the participant of negativity. If a tone is used it should be vibrated.
  • Cleansing by smoke (smudge sticks or incense)
  • Native Americans and other cultures will use smudge sticks – bundles of sacred herbs such as sage, cedar and rosemary. When lit and extinguished the smudge still will smoke heavily. The participant is “bathed” in the smoke.

Entry into the circle area

There are many different ways that one can enter the circle area. One of the most common methods is for all participants to gather at the edge of the circle (usually the East) and then proceed into the circle clockwise making at least one circuit.

Another way to enter the circle is a procession. I am partial to a procession of Light.

Procession of Light (can be done by one or many)

  • Participant leading the ritual may perform Pillar of Light ritual listed above to call for the Light of the Universe.
  • A white or purple candle is lit with the High Priest/Priestess/Participant asking that the Light of Truth, the Light of the Universe manifest through the candle to illuminate the path and dispel any negative forces.
  • This candle represents the Light of the Universe, the Light of Purity, the Light of Truth. May its radiance fill us, illuminate our path and dispel any negativity in our way.
  • If multiple people are taking part then the person who lights the candle will light the candle of each participant and may say,
  • From the ONE Light grows many. I share the Light of the Universe with you. May it guide and protect you.
  • Partipant(s) proceed to the circle area and then enter (usually through the east) and make a circuit.
  • The candle can be extinguished or placed on the ground.

If you are partial to chanting then you may wish to chant a sacred sound or a mantra while walking to the circle.

Other forms of procession might include chiming of triangles or bells, cymbals, or other types of instruments.

Cleansing of the Circle

If you haven’t figured out by now, there are many different ways to cleanse an area of negativity. Another form of cleansing not already discussed is cleansing with the elements (but different from the cleansing by exposure).

Elemental cleansing involves using one or more of the elements to dispel negativity. This process can take place in one or more circuits of the circle area. These are only possible suggestions of how to clean with each element.

Cleansing by Earth

One common form of cleansing by Earth is the sprinkling of salt.

  • Take a dish and bless it
  • Add some salt (preferably sea salt)
  • Bless the salt
  • Proceed around the circle clockwise spreading salt. Make one or more complete circuits around the circle area.

Cleansing by Air

Often, incense will be used to represent the element Air.

  • Light a stick of incense or start a a charcoal and use powdered/ground incense.
  • Proceed around the circle clockwise waving the burning incense. Make one or more complete circuits of the circle area.

Cleansing by Fire

A candle or torch is often used to represent the element Fire.

  • Light a candle or torch (a flame thrower is not recommended) or flame is not allowed then a flashlight can be used.
  • Proceed around the circle clockwise waving the candle or torch. Make one or more complete circuits of the circle area.

Cleansing by Water

This cleansing is usually done using holy water.

  • Take your holy water (instructions on preparation can be found earlier in this less) and begin to sprinkle it around the circle clockwise.
  • There are many different methods for sprinkling holy water. As mentioned earlier a misting bottle or garden sprayer could be used. You can also flick the water with your fingers. Another option is to get a small cedar or pine branch, dip the needles in water and flick it around. Mistletoe, hyssop, rosemary or fragrant herb sprig can also be used to spreading holy water. If you have an asperger that works very well. If none of these methods tickles your fancy then come up with one of your own.
  • Proceed around the circle clockwise sprinkling the holy water. Make one or more complete circuits of the circle area.

Cleansing by Spirit

There are several possibilities for cleansing by spirit Chanting of a prayer, sacred sound or mantra Use of a purple or white candle to represent spirit A blessed holy symbol around the circle such as a pentagram or ankh could be carried around the circle. As with the other cleansing methods, make one or more complete circuits of the circle area.

It is permissible to combine elemental cleansings. For example, holy water is really a combination of earth and water and incense is air and fire. Actually, incense can represent all elements because you are using some type of base bonding material and herb (Earth), the smoke represents Air, the burning tip represents Fire, and Water is also represented by the physical items used to make the incense.(Water is in all living carbon based life forms.)

Also, if you have a group of people each person can carry one or more elemental representations while cleansing the circle. If there are a large number of people you can have two people with each element … one to hold/fill and the other to spread. There are no hard and fast rules about how you do the cleansing or the number of people that may take part.

Casting of Level 1, 2 and 3 circle

Review the lesson on Casting Circle if you are not familiar with the process.

When working with a group of people you may choose for one person to do everything or you can divide up the work.

Level 1 Circle

You may choose for only one participant to cast the base circle.

If this option is chosen then the other participants may either stand outside the circle area within a protection sphere or they may stand at the heart of the circle while the caster walks around them. You can also have the caster stand at the center of the circle and project the circle energy outward while rotating.

You can also have every participant follow the caster of the circle until the base circle has been cast but make sure everyone finished the complete circuit.

Another option is to have all participants follow the first caster while they themselves cast base circles as well. This method allows for a nice mixing of energy.

Level 2 Circle

Again, there are many possibilities. One person can call all the quarters or a different individual may call each quarter. You can also have a person call multiple elements. It is perfectly allowable to have multiple people perform the calling of a single quarter.

Level 3 Circle

Either a single person may call both the God and Goddess or multiple people can perform the call. If in a group you are calling on multiple aspects of both you could have a different person for each aspect (Prince, Young King Old King, Maiden, Mother and Chrone).
Be creative, use your imagination.

Review of purpose

If you are working within a group it is customary to go over what will be taking place in circle. The activities can be predetermined OR the workings may be decided upon in the circle or both. Often in a group there will be one or more items that have been determined before the ritual and then during the circle the floor can be opened up for suggestions. You should keep in mind that you have a limited time period for performing ritual and a limited amount of energy so you may wish to restrict the number of items worked for at each ritual. As an example, the ritual may have been put together primarily for the working of protecting animals but when the time for ritual occurs it is discovered that one of the family members of a participant is very ill and desperately needed energy.

If you are working alone then you may use this time to go over in your mind exactly what you will be doing during the ritual. If you do not have something pre-planned then you can decide what type of working you will do.

Performing of workings

Wow! We are finally reaching the heart of ritual … the work taking place. A ritual can be performed for a purely magickal task, it can be used as a vehicle for a worship ceremony and even a holiday celebration. You may also choose to do meditation within a ritual, instruction/learning, divination or any other related activity. You can choose to perform only one action during a ritual or more than one.

One thing to remember about this section of the lesson is that ANYTHING you can do magickally, within ethical boundaries, you can do within circle and a ritual. Healing, protection, item creation and consecration, divination, past life regression are only a few examples.

Also, you are not limited to magickal workings only. You can choose to create some form of worship or express thanks to the higher powers. In addition you can do plays depicting events or themes of holidays, religious observations, give thanks to the powers that be – anything that moves you or you are inspired to do.

For example, on Winter Solstice, a high holiday, you may choose to perform some type of seasonal reenactment such as St. George slaying the dragon, or some type of play that celebrates the death of the Old Sun King and the quest for the birth of the new Sun King. Yes, I know, they sound Christian but just where do you think they got the ideas? On Beltane you might do a reenactment of the Holly King myth or some type of play celebrating the spirit of the day … fertility of people.

If you choose to perform multiple workings make sure to pace yourself. All magickal workings require energy. I would suggest limiting yourself to no more than three magickal workings during a ritual. When working in a group that meets once or twice a month to perform magick it is very possible that multiple things will need to be worked upon. And yes, at times, a working may need to be put off until the next gathering because of the amount of energy needed. I remember one full moon gathering five of us all had items that needed magickal assistance. One of them was a healing to help jump start a child’s growth at the request of his mother. Since this type of work requires a lot of energy it was decided to postpone it until the next monthly gathering and make it the only work done.

As long as you work within basic ethical guidelines for magick and Wicca then there is no limitation to what can be done during the “working” portion of a ritual.

Cakes & Ale

Cakes and Ale is a ceremony honoring the higher powers, the Lord and Lady that thanks them for the life we get from the Earth. It is also a symbolic representation of the union of the male and female creative aspects when they come together to form life. Another aspect of this ceremony is the replenishment of the energy that has been used during the magickal working. In a group working, the ceremony is also the “social” part of the ritual where food is shared among friends and friendships are renewed and strengthened.

In times past, before the advent of modern transportation and communication, it was often a major ordeal for people to get together. A five mile ride into town on a horse drawn wagon and back could take the better part of a day. You didn’t “pop” over a friend’s house on a whim unless they lived very close. The cakes and ale ceremony was an integral part of group workings.

Traditionally, cakes and ale consists of some type of homemade bread and some type of homemade brewed alcoholic beverage. Keep in mind that until the latter half of the 20th century, water supplies were not widely purified. To reduce the possibility of infection, vinegar or another agent was added to water to kill any bacteria and organisms. Also, alcoholic beverages were a common alternative to water. Authenticity Nazis, to borrow a term used by some members of the Society for Creative Anachronism to describe those anal retentive types that insist on absolute period costume and materials, will maintain that you must make the bread yourself and really you should grow your own grain, grind it yourself into flour and then bake the bread … you also must raise your own chickens and milk your own cow. The same applies to the ale. (Sounds like Martha Stewart on steroids.)

In truth, anything can be used for cakes and ale. Back in one group I belonged to we did some really wonderful spreads for the ceremony. For a while everyone was trying to “out do” the others so we had some really amazing dishes. We had a bunch of really great cooks in that group. One of the most elaborate cakes and ale spreads we had consisted of three meat dishes, several vegetable dishes and about five different bakes goods including homemade bread. There were only nine of us there that night. But not all of the cakes and ale ceremonies in that group were that elaborate. I do not wish to sound like a redneck country bumpkin witch but one of the most meaningful cakes and ale I ever took part in consisted of a three week old half empty bottle of wine found in the back of a refrigerator and some Twinkies. It happened that no one brought anything for cakes and ale, the stores were closed, no one had any money and so we scrapped together what we had available. It did not matter how poor the fare was because we shared openly with everyone. In addition to the Twinkies, I think we managed in a few cookies, a couple of Little Debby cakes, some M&Ms and some other bits of junk food. We laughed, talked and made jokes about being “bubba witches”.

When deciding on what to use for cakes and ale some will use whatever natural items are available at that time in their local area. In modern society, with world wide shipping of products we can use nearly anything at any time of the year. Staunch traditionalists will maintain that you can only use what is naturally available in your area. Others believe that anything is fair game. Each individual practitioner and group will have to make the decision on what should be used.

If you have not guessed already I am not a traditionalist in many ways - I believe of using whatever is available. I make dishes from many different cultures and time periods for cakes and ale or sometimes go out on a limb and make a completely new dish. For me, it does not matter if I used “bread” and “wine” … actually; I do not like using wine because it gives me headaches although I do love a good and chilled bottle of Asti Spumanti. In addition, I have no problem using a soft drink or Kool-Aid for the ale component. Everything consumed is made from materials that were part of nature even if they were enhanced by modern science.

In the event that you decide not to use bread and ale for your ceremony then one made dish is designated as the “cakes” or “bread” and one of the drinks is designated as the “ale”.

In a group setting, the ceremony is normally performed by a male and a female where the male acts as the god force and the female as the goddess force. However, there is nothing wrong with two men or two women in these roles either. We are all comprised of male and female aspects, we have both higher creative forces within us and we spend the first several weeks of development in the womb as females. I know that this may disturb some men who are wrapped up in their masculine identity but you do have a feminine side AND can manifest the goddess by tapping into that part of yourself. The same goes for women as well.

The cakes and ale ceremony traditionally uses the following items;

  • Chalice or cup – represents the womb, feminine aspect of creation
  • Athame – represents the phallus, masculine aspect of creation
  • Wine/Ale – Water of life, seed, essence of life, fruits of creation
  • Cake/Bread – Fruits of creation

It is very similar in nature to communion. You are endowing the cakes and ale with the energy of the God and Goddess and consuming them.

The following Cakes and Ale ceremony outlines are an example of the process.

For a solitary practitioner the cakes and ale ceremony is fairly simple and is very much like a blessing said at a meal.

Cakes and Ale for a solitary practitioner

  • Inscribe a pentagram over the food and drink and say
  • I consecrate this food in the name of the God and Goddess, Lord and Lady. May it replenish my energy and bring my closer to the divine.
  • Take the cup or chalice; SEE it fill with pure light. Bless the cup in the name of the God and Goddess.
  • Take the drink and pour it into the cup. Bless the drink in the name of the God and Goddess
  • Take your athame, inscribe a pentagram over the cup and dip the tip into the drink saying,
  • I symbolically represent the union of the male and creative forces of the universe joining in unison to create life.
  • Take a sip of the drink
  • Take your athame, inscribe a pentagram over the bread and bless it in the name of the God and Goddess and say
  • This represents the fruits of the union of the male and female forces in the act of creation.
  • Take a piece of the bread and eat it.
  • Take a portion of the bread and be sure to save a portion of the drink to leave as an offering outside for the God and Goddess.
  • Eat the food and drink the beverage.
  • When finished, take the portions you set aside. If inside then go outside and say
  • I offer this token to the Lord and Lady in honor of all they provide.
  • Scatter the bread outside for the creatures of nature and sprinkle the beverage on the ground to return it to the Earth.

For two people conducting the Cakes and Ale ceremony the procedure is slightly more involved. For simplicity, I will call them the HP (High Priest) and HPS (High Priestess) but these people do not have to have earned that title yet. In many groups this ceremony is performed by the HP and HPS but it can be performed by any pair. Also, it is usually a required part of instruction for a new witch within a group that they perform the ritual either as the male or female part (or both).

Cakes and Ale for a group

  • The HP & HPS will inscribe a pentagram over the food and drink and then in unison say
  • We consecrate this food in the name of the God ad Goddess, Lord and Lady. May it replenish our energy and bring us closer to the divine.
  • The HPS will take the cup or chalice; SEE it fill with pure light. With their athame they will inscribe a pentagram over the cup and bless it in the name of the Goddess saying,
  • This vessel represents the womb. In the name of the Goddess I bless and consecrate this item.
  • The HP will take the drink and SEE it fill with pure light. With their athame the will inscribe a pentagram over the drink and bless it in the name of the God saying,
  • This liquid represents the seed of creation. In the name of the God I bless and consecrate this drink.
  • The HP will take the drink and pour it into the cup. Next they dip their athame into the cup and say
  • With this athame I symbolically represent the combination of the male and female in the act of creation.
  • Remove the tip of the athame.
  • The HPS will take the cup and give the male aspect a sip of the drink saying
  • I give to you the fruits of our union
  • The HP will take the cup and give the HPS a sip of the drink saying
  • I give to you the fruits of our union
  • The cup is set aside for a moment.
  • The HPS takes the cake and inscribes a pentagram over it saying,
  • This represents the union of Mother Earth and Father Sky. Let us rejoice in her bounty.
  • The HP takes the cake and inscribes a pentagram over it saying,
  • This represents the union of Father Sky and Mother Earth. Let us rejoice in his gifts.
  • The HP gives a bite of the cake to the HPS
  • The HPS gives a bite of the cake to the HP
  • The HP takes the cup. The HPS takes the cake.
  • The HP and HPS then give each participant a bit of the ale and a bite of the cake.
  • After all have partaken a portion of each is set aside in honor of the God and Goddess to be scattered outside after the ritual is over.

Don’t fret if the Cakes and Ale ceremony sounds very much like communion. This type of ceremony has existed in some form as long as there have been worship ceremonies honoring the God and Goddess for the fruits of the Earth. The last supper of Christian belief (and basis for communion) is taken from a ceremony honoring Dumuzi, the Babylonian Sheppard King. During this ceremony he took and distributed bread saying that it represented his body and that the wine represented his blood ... this ritual predates the last supper by at least 1000 years.

The Cakes & Ale ceremony does not have any set time limit. However, you should keep in mind how much time is taken and how much time you have set aside for your ritual. When in a group setting, remember that everyone must return home at some point and that many of them will have to work the next morning.

In addition to commemorating the fertility of the Earth and representing the union of the male and creative forces of the universe the ceremony also provides a time for people to strengthen bonds and replenish energy used in the ceremony. One more item to keep in mind, the consumption of food also helps to ground the individual and assists them in moving back toward the everyday world.

Closing Ritual

The last step of any ritual is to close the circle that was cast. The steps for closing a circle are covered in the previous lesson and will not be repeated in this lesson.

If at all possible, the people that took major parts in casting (base circle, quarters, and deity) should be present for the closing. Now sometimes that is not possible for various reasons such as a participant must leave early to go to work or they become ill or they have a family emergency. In this event, someone that knows the individual should take their place OR the High Priest/Priestess should stand in for them.

Cleaning Up

After a ritual is finished all materials used must be put away and all remains/trash from the Cakes and Ale ceremony must be disposed of. Please keep in mind that setup for ritual takes time and that after ritual the cleanup takes time. If at all possible, when in a group setting, please make a point of helping everyone to clean up – do not expect someone to clean up for you. Ideally you wish to leave the ritual area in as good or better shape than when you arrived.

If the ritual process sounds confusing or lengthy don’t worry, many people have this reaction. If it sounds a lot like a church service you are right … again, where do you think the Christians got the stuff they use? Honestly, the process sounds very involved but it is really fairly simple. The first few times you perform ritual allow yourself extra time.

Some people like to write out their rituals in complete detail before performing them. Other people prefer only to have a rough outline and general idea of what will be taking place. And still other people prefer to use rituals that have been written and used by other people or to take a pre-written ritual and adapt it for their own use. Each individual must make up their own mind as to which method should be used. I prefer the second possibility as I feel it allows for more creativity and spontaneity. I really do not like being told that I must perform action W at time X with motion Y while chanting words Z even if I have written the ritual in detail. Also, I detest memorizing stuff … I learn things and apply them. But then I am biased because I have a hard time memorizing and regurgitating. Also, perhaps my view on ritual goes back to my views on making a speech … the topics and points are written out but you do not read a speech from paper. When I went to school speeches were not read – they were given … note cards were allowed but you could not have the entire speech written down. Sometime between middle school and my last year of college the general view must have changed because my public speaking class was nothing but reading the entire thing from paper. Or it may have been that the class was a freshman class … it was not a requirement when I started in my degree program but when I decided to go for a second degree it was required. I was really ticked off when Suzie Sorority, Biff Fraternity or Jack Jock stood in front of class and read something word for word off of a sheet of paper and got an “A”. I am also not a major fan of memorizing a ritual word for word … ritual is not an exercise in stage performance. While stage performance and ritual may share things in common one is not the other! But note that this is personal opinion only and each person reading this must make their own decision.

When you are first starting out I would suggest that you do make more detailed notes about what you will be doing during ritual. As you become more experienced and know the general process then you may decide that less detail is required. I do not believe in setting a fixed number of rituals that must completed if you choose to use less detail … everyone develops at their own rate. If you wish to set a specific number of detailed rituals that must be completed before moving to another form then go ahead. If you want to do detailed rituals until you “feel ready” to change then that is fine as well. If you have read the instructions and never wish to do detailed rituals then that is fine as well.

I feel it is important to mention again that there is no set time of day, night, moon phase or planetary alignment during which a ritual must be performed unless of course a ritual is specifically designed to work during that period. In later lessons I will discuss how to increase effectiveness of ritual by timing it coincide with various events but the use of such timing is not required. One consideration in the timing of the ritual is your schedule. Some people have fewer interruptions during the day such as mothers whose children are in school. Other people have fewer interruptions after 8:00 pm. In older times, before electricity, most people (especially country folk) were asleep not too long after dark. With this in mind you can see why many covens operated late at night – prying eyes were usually asleep.

Before doing a ritual you may wish to make sure that you are not interrupted. You might want to put a sign on the door, turn the ringer off the phones and the sound level on the answering machine down. You may let everyone in your house know that when you put a certain sign on the door to your room (or special room) that no one is to knock except in the direst of emergencies. There is no need to tell others what you are doing if you do not wish to do so … just tell them it is “your special time”.

Many of the following items pertain to group settings. If you are a solitary practitioner you may find some of the topics a bit strange. If you are working in a group you may find some of the topics surprising or may have experienced the items being discussed.

Another aspect of ritual is deciding who may participate. If you are allowing other people to join your ritual you may wish to put an age restriction in place, you may wish all participants to be of a certain level of experience, or you may wish to have an equal number of male and female participants (or those that can take roles as needed).

You may also decide to have certain rituals that are closed and others that are open. In the first coven to which I belonged we started out having open rituals but soon realized that with the different level of abilities of some participants allowing anyone to join in would retard the working. On the other hand we felt an obligation to help newer witches to learn the craft. We decided to have two different ritual settings. One group met on the full moon and was comprised solely of advanced practitioners. Membership to the full moon group was by invitation only and only if agreed upon by everyone. The other group met on the new moon. This group was open to anyone that wished to participate and the workings were strictly limited to less advanced magickal workings. The new moon group was also a way for the full moon people to evaluate prospective new members.

Hopefully you have already read the Protection 101 paper. Everyone develops magickally at different rates and each individual has different maximum magick potentials. Magick is not only an art it is a skill that must be developed. Anyone who sews knows that you do not start out making a wedding dress or an evening gown … the skills needed to produce such garments takes time to develop. This is true with any sport … you don’t start competing with the most experienced person. The same restrictions are present in magick. The more experience you have and the greater your magickal potential the more energy you will be able to work with and the greater the workings you can perform. To attempt a working to far above your ability can be very dangerous and even deadly.

One sticky area of ritual work in groups is the minimum age requirement. Depending on where you live, the time and political atmosphere there may be concerns about allowing minors (those under 18) to take part in ritual. Technically, the parents of the minor could press charges on some grounds regardless of basis and in some courts it might stick. Even requiring parental consent forms may not offer full protection. Even knowing the parents and having explicit permission may not be enough though I think that some type of contract could be created. Now of course there are exceptions. For example, having a younger practitioner who is the son/daughter of a participant would not have the legal issues but then some people do not wish to deal with having to exclude some younger practitioners while allowing others to participate.

Another troublesome area of ritual work in a group regards the presence of children. Personally, I am not an advocate of children in ritual settings. They tend to be disruptive and often distract from the working at hand. Single parents or those going through divorce may wish to consider that exposing a child to a non-mainstream religion can be used against them by the department of child services of that state. This is especially true when the other parent is a staunch believer in a mainstream religion. I know that this may sound strange in modern society but I have personally known five different pagans who had trouble in the courts during divorce cases or later because of their beliefs and do not expect freedom of religion to help you. While this is supposedly guaranteed by the first amendment many court officials frown upon or outright do not condone non-Christian religions. In one case of a person I know someone made allegations against them to the department of child resources saying they were a witch. Of course, as I write this I live in Alabama, one of the most backward states in the USA. And as of 2005 with the extreme religious right going mad with power since el shrubbo (George W. Bush) became president things are not looking very good.

Personally, I do not feel that ritual is a place for children and that anyone between about the ages of 13 and 17 should only be allowed on an individual case basis with an occasional special exemption to that age range. Everyone matures at a different rate and comes into their power at different times. The exception to this is when a ritual is created specifically that is “child” friendly. However, if your group does this then any member not wishing to take part in the ritual because of the children should not be ostracized or talked negatively about because of their decision. If parents wish to expose their children to ritual work at an early age it is their decision as a parent to make but they must also keep in mind that others may not wish to be subjected to their children no matter how well behaved or advanced they may be. While restaurants and other “public” venues may allow children of all ages (even though others strongly object) ritual does not have to be an open venue.

On the other hand, if you knowingly join or work with a group that is child friendly then you have no room to complain. Also, know that every group is NOT right for every individual. Also every ritual is not right for every person.

When performing ritual, some people prefer to go “sky clad” … in other words without clothes. Whether this is or is not allowed in a ritual setting with a group is something the group must decide. Some traditions require that some work be sky clad. Some people believe that being sky clad in a group is an expression of deep trust and openness with one another and that you are being completely open with the higher powers. Other people are not comfortable in a sky clad environment. Those who are raised in the USA, for the most part, are rather prudish about the human body. Our entire society is structured in such a way that even the dolls/toys that children play with have no gender. (This is not true in many other countries where dolls/toys are gender specific.) I say this not as an endorsement of working sky clad but rather as an issue that you may wish to explore about yourself and question the reasons behind the way you feel. Personally, I am not comfortable working sky clad even when I am alone. I am not sure that I would ever work without clothes in a group with the possible exception of being in a group of other gay pagan bearish guys. There is particular clothing optional camp frequented by other heavy hairy guys that I am not so reserved about running around without clothes. However, that does not mean that I do not think that others should be clothed if they desire otherwise.

By this point I hope that you have a good idea of how rituals are performed. If you are new to magick you may be very eager to perform your first ritual. If this is the case then I suggest that you use a basic exercise such as chakra opening and balancing or meditate within the Tower of Light.

Good luck

Blessed Be