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