Ritual, right?

Like what I did there? Ritual right, ritual/rite. Hilarious. Anyway, as previously mentioned, witchcraft has been a hot topic this week, and there has been a great deal of debate over its effectiveness and also its ultimate purpose. One of the key issues that came up was the purpose of ritual. Why, when performing spells/worship/seasonal festivities do witches (or other people of a vaguely Pagan persuasion) feel the need to gather and set up circles; to use tools and symbols; to call upon gods and goddesses? My friend asserted that if spell casting is just a form of positive thinking, why should we need all this embellishment?

Did I have an answer for him? Not immediately. It was a great question and I toddled off to sit in the corner and think about it. Before I started to cramp up I managed to come up with a few ideas.

Everything we do is a ritual. From the moment we stagger to the bathroom in the morning, to the cracking of the door to leave the house for the first time. Is there anything we do that doesn’t fall into patterns? How cluttered do we feel in our lives if our routine is upset? If we are used to doing something a certain way, how unsettling is it to be suddenly told to do something differently?

Of course some of us are more adaptable than others, and even thrive on change and spontaneity. But my point is thus; when as a species, we seek routine and familiarity in all things, why should magic or witchraft be any different? Let us use the analogy of a scientific experiment. To measure the outcome when one parameter is changed, you must ensure all other parameters remain the same. Witchcraft is exactly the same. If you want a particular result, and previous experience has shown that this result can be gained by x action + y environment with perhaps n people, why would we deviate from this? Like true scientists, we may see which is most effective and tweak our rites accordingly. We may add items, remove words, change tools and equipment. Ultimately as solo practitioners, we may refine the working of our will to the point where our only ritual is a quiet space; a well placed word. Perhaps then in this way, witchcraft can meet the definition of ‘simply positive thinking’. As a group though, the structure of ritual also helps us work together towards a common goal; to focus our energy in the same place.

How do you feel ritual is necessary in your spiritual life? Do you have any rituals that could never be changed? Or is ritual simply for showing off; for grandeur and exhibitionism?

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4 Comments on “Ritual, right?

  1. i think we are all different. I have done full on ritual with all that i required, many items used.. I have also done rituals only using what was around me, stones,leaves,feather ect . As well as my mind/thoughts …

    Have been part of many, some well over the top and others not. Have found good from them all… Its not what is used, but maybe the persons/peoples intent! Only once i changed my mind, about being involved, due to the fact, that it was more “show Off” than a genuine ritual …
    It’s good to be different and experience some things differently..

    good piece of writing.. 🙂

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    • Thank you! 🙂 I agree, I really enjoy experiencing different ways of doing things and finding out what’s best for you, as an individual. Intent is key isn’t it; a full blown, pull-out-all-the-stops ritual can carry a real clout if the intent is true and well meaning, but can be a washout if not! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  2. There’s a comfort in ritual; it’s life-affirming and reassuring, regardless of whether the circumstance is positive or negative. The scope can be as broad or as narrow as you like. Think of the family rituals we all experience as we grow up – simple things like always having beans on toast for Friday tea, or going to see your gran every Sunday afternoon. We don’t think of them particularly as rituals at the time, and chances are we hated the stricture of them, but they offered comfort and certainty, and I dare say are amongst the things we now fondly recount to younger generations as being pillars of our upbringing.

    Rituals give us permission to celebrate joy, and help us endure suffering (think weddings and funerals), and all points in between. But smaller rituals are equally important, whether they be those deliciously intimate rituals known only to couples, or those we observe alone – that we may or may not choose to share with others. Rituals offer structure, help focus our thoughts or intentions, and allow us to feel connected to the universe. Amen to that.

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    • Hear hear! You made me think of when I was a kid, and on Wednesdays we would have fish and chips and watch Star Trek on BBC 2. We can’t have done it forever, but it seemed like it at the time: such a fixed point in my week. Maybe that’s the magic of ritual, because of the subconscious way we return to a certain feeling brought on by the memories of former repetition.

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