Wednesday, 21 November 2012 15:56

For the love of ritual

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I'm a big fan of good ritual. It pleases me every time I conduct a ritual that transports me and those who share in the ritual with me into another time, another place, somewhere fantastic and awe-inspiring.  The product of good ritual is transformed consciousness of all who share the ritual space.

I love masks. I love costumes. I love make up and props. I love music - both on the mp3 player and made by ourselves. I love good things to eat and good things to smell.  Though minimalism has its place, I'm definitely appreciative of the maximalist ideal when it comes to ritual.  Engage the senses.  Speak to the inner child, and invite her to come out and play.  Cultivate the land of make-believe, of wonder and wide-eyes.  

I love words and motions that inspire the heart, rouse the spirit, and awaken the mind. Along with the surface trappings, though, must come depth.  Just as the inner child must be satisfied, so must the higher self.  The externals should reflect a powerful story, an important message, a moment of awakening, something that will touch the core of all who are there.  When the hairs on the backs of the necks of everyone there have stood up, then you have done your job.  An understanding of myth and psychology and how they overlap can be a powerful aid in this area.

The Craft is to be experienced to be truly known. Reading a ritual can never satisfy the soul as actually doing a ritual can, in much the same way that reading recipes but never cooking will never satisfy the stomach. Through the vehicle of ritual, we can set a beautiful stage on which the Divine forces can converse with us.  We can set a magnificent whirling vortex of power upon the altar.  We can speak to gods and spirits, ancestors and elementals.  We can explore the inner and outer worlds.

In my tradition, we have a handful of rituals that we repeat, with no variation except for certain circumstances. I consider this approach to be very useful because it carves a neural pathway, and thereby creates the ritual as a structure within the brain.  The ritual is memorized and repeated until it can be done thoroughly in your head at ay time.  It becomes a powerful tool for creating a magical space because of its familiarity.  My rituals feel like home to me.

In addition to my tried and true rituals, I do often explore other rituals so as to broaden my horizons.  In doing so, I bring a breadth of understanding to all of the work that I do that compounds upon the depth of my understanding of my own tradition.  Tradition is meant to be a foundation, not a cage.  I consider exploring and experimentation to be essential. Because magic is the essence of change, I consider it vital to never allow my magical practice to fall into a rut.

Whether the ritual is old or new, familiar or freshly-learned, doing the ritual with heart is what's most important to me.  In many of the non-standard rituals I write and use, I write in words for the participants to say.  Rather, I use stage directions to outline the flow of the ritual, and bullet points to outline what the speaker is going to be expounded upon.  In doing so, I have the structure in place and the points I want to make in the ritual ironed out, but the details of the words themselves are left up to the spontenaity of the moment.  It's a nice balance of ceremonial and organic practice.