Ritual Writing 101

So you’ve been practicing for a few years and are getting sick of using rituals from books or other resources.  Great!  This is a good sign that your practice is progressing in a positive way.  It can be a little difficult at first, so be patient.

The most important thing about ritual writing is to think about it for more than a second.  Ask yourself, what is the purpose of this ritual?  Is it celebrating a sabat?  Or an esbat?  Or something personal?  Even spontaneous rituals need a little forethought and preparation.  If you are completely new to ritual writing, Continue reading

Writing Rituals

There are numerous causes for performing a ritual.  It can be in observance of the Wheel of the Year or the monthly lunar cycles.  Women can create blood rituals to mark their courses; and other important rites of passage–birthing, coming of age, handfasting/divorcing, saging/croning, death, etc–can be ritualized as well.  Some Pagans, Wiccans, and witches also like to do rituals for the deities they work with and for other practices, such as for blessing objects.  Rituals can last from five minutes of thanking a deity to several workings over a long period of time, such as for a women creating, carrying, birthing, and carrying for a child.

For whatever reason you desire to perform a ritual, planning is essential to its success.  Depending on personal practice, convenience, and importance, the amount of prep work varies from five minutes to weeks of gathering materials.  Some can even take longer, especially for organizing a handfasting.  Despite the length of time, all prep work should go through a few steps:

  • Identify the Purpose: Why are you doing this ritual?  What are your motivations?
  • Consider the Elements:  Do you need to do a ritual cleansing first? Will you need to cast a circle?  What tools will you need?  What deities can you call on for aid? How much time do you have to dedicate to this practice
  • Check Your Supplies: Do you need a particular incense, herb, oil, or other tool?  Do you have it on hand, or do you need to buy it?  Just as importantly, can you afford it?
  • Documenting:  Do you need to write out a liturgy or can you free form it?
  • Research: If you need to, do you need to ask advice or do some readings before creating this ritual?

Once you have finished the ritual, sit quietly and reflect on the experience.  I like to journal about the ritual, which I can go back and read in preparation for future rituals.

© Ariadne Woods

Types of Rituals

Rituals are a set of rites or actions marking a specific purpose.  These can cross to the mundane world (think bedtime) to highly choreographed religious rites.  In the Pagan world, there are several common ones witches come across in their studies:

  • Published: You can buy books full of rituals, examples of personal or a specific craft tradition (see below).  The value of these types of rituals is in their example.  They can be modified as seen fit, to be made more personal.  For example, there’s a ritual in Z Budapest’s The Grandmother of Time that I am modifying called the Self Blessing for Health, Wealth, Love, or Wisdom (p. 137) because I love the intention behind it but cannot obtain mountain ash, which is a key ‘ingredient.’  They can encompass a wide variety of needs and occasions.
  • Craft Tradition:  These rituals, published or learned, are associated with a specific religious community.  An example of these are published in the work of Gerald Gardner (Gardnerian Wicca).
  • Spontaneous: Basically, these are rituals you make up on the spot.  I consider these the most powerful as they channel ideas and energy from a personal place. They cane become part of personal tradition as they are repeated.
  • Lunar:  Associated with the moon cycles, these rituals mark specific points in its energy cycles. These are most commonly done at the new and full moons.  The most famous lunar ritual is Drawing Down the Moon.
  • Solar: Otherwise known as the sabats, the Equinoxes, Solstices, and Cross-Quarters.
  • Magical: Rites performed before, during, or after magical workings or spells.  They vary depending on the activity.  For example, some witches like to cast a circle for every spell while other do that only for specific workings such as divination or calling spirits.

Each of these types of rituals mark different points of reflection with differing emphasis based on traditional or personal preference.  For example, I am much more apt to mark the lunar cycle than the solar.  Each moon, holiday, or season have their own lessons which a witch uses to better themselves through ritual.

In developing personal practice, study a wide variety of rituals (lunar, solar, magical, etc) from a wide variety of traditions (Wiccan, Reconstructionalist, Dianic, Hindu, even Judeo-Christian).  That way you can find a tradition or piece of a tradition that works for you or your group.

© Ariadne Woods

Ritual and Greek Life

Although I never thought it would be my thing, last year I joined a Greek organization on my campus.  For people who aren’t familiar with these groups, they are fraternities and sororities designated to form an intensely close group of people around a specific interest.  Most often, they come together over social life i.e. partying.  My fraternity (it’s co-ed.  Hence why I am a girl in a frat) is a service group.  Looking back, I don’t think it was the best decision I’ve made because I really am not a Greek life kind of girl, but I have gotten an interesting education out if it.  When I decided t join, I really didn’t know much about it other than it was a really good public service opportunity.  I went into its beginnings blindly, thinking my initiation would just be saying a pledge and maybe a little time getting to know my brothers.

Funny enough, I often think back to that experience when I am creating Pagan ritual.

I have been doing a lot of research lately into the origins of ritual and what I have found is that groups like the Masons and Greek organizations kept a lot of old Pagan ritual practices going.  They invoke deity in their oaths, light symbolic candles, and use a top-down structure.  Sororities and fraternities also use the four principles of to know, to dare, to act, and to keep silent.  Many initiates have to have some sort of knowledge of the organization and about Greek life in general.  They also need to take the step and live their college lives according to a specific set of principles.  Last, members of Greek life do not like to share certain aspects of their ritual with other.  While obviously less of a commitment than becoming an initiate in a coven, the mirroring effect is uncanny.

© Ariadne Woods