Featured art by Paola Vilas
A ritual by definition is “a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order,” but in the occult community this is distinguished from a rite, which is a specific ritual that has been passed down from tradition. This distinction emphasizes a routine ceremony (such as an adoration to the sun, moon, solstice, or equinox) from a ceremony that you are creating for a particular reason (like bringing love or money into the upcoming months).
Here is a ritual structure that can act as a handy reference for any ritual you want to perform. This particular form has been adapted throughout the ages, made popular by various 16th century grimoires of Renaissance magic. Because this form leaves the specifics up to the practitioner, it can be modified and suited to the needs of the individual. The general format consists of seven steps that can be as elaborate or simple (and similarly, each step can be elongated or shortened) as you want it to.
Once you have a purpose, or “why” for your ritual it’s time to set up the technicalities. This is that “what” stage in the process. Consider what type of ritual best suits your intent. Some examples are: worship and dedication (devotional), protection, healing, attraction or repulsion, a guided meditation or journey, divination, celebration, self-development, karmic release or acceleration, summoning, channeling, astral projection, path-working, and dream-working.
When? What time of the year, month, day, and time best suits the theme of the ritual? Usually, a bit of research helps gather ideas as well as acquiring the necessary materials for your ritual. As your ritual day gets closer, begin solidifying the plans – this means physically cleaning the space in which you will work. Put together your tools, plan your altar(s) setup, take note of the participants.
The pre-ritual cleansing phase may be as thorough as required. On the week of the coming ritual, you may decide to adhere to a specific diet or other preparation of the body.
Opening your temple typically consists of purifying and consecrating the defined temple space, performing circumambulations, a brief meditation on the intent, and declaring the temple open vocally and with knocks upon the altar, or striking a bell. In pagan rituals, a guided meditation is sometimes used to shift the members’ consciousness from the mundane into the spiritual in a unified astral space.
The General Invocation
Once the participants and tools are assembled and ready, it is time to cast the circle. This creates a sacred space that keeps beneficent energies inside and acts as a barrier to keep out unwanted energies. Using a cooking analogy, this would be the turning on of the oven which is necessary to “bake” or manifest the intent of the ritual. Another key component of this step is the invocation of witnesses; i.e. ancestors, the Watchtowers, “calling quarters,” the essence of the four directions and elements to be present. The General Invocation is concluded by a “So mote it be!” by all members.
If you are performing a ritual for dedication or initiation, an Oath is now spoken in the presence of your witnesses. Similarly, a proclamation of your intent for the ritual is stated for all to hear. Although this step may be as short as a sentence, it is the most important part in your ritual. It goes without saying that you should take some time to “really mean it” without lingering too long on its effects since they will last long after the closing of the ritual.
The Specific Invocation
Depending on the purpose of your ritual, specific spirits, angels, demons, and other entities should be called in to aid you in your will. Keep in mind to remind them (and yourself/the participants) that these beings are subject to the higher forces invoked in the General Invocation.
Completion of the Magical Link
When you are sure of the presence of the specific entities you have summoned, it is time to integrate these specific forces with your will. This can be accomplished by a variety of ways: giving offerings or feasting with the spirits, pouring libations, burning incenses, reciting prayers, singing, drumming, dancing, sex, ritual drama, and so on.
Closing/License to Depart
The last step in your ritual consists of allowing the spirits to depart in peace, thanking them, performing a reverse circumambulation, or a brief meditation to reverse the energy that was grounded, centered, and merged in the beginning of the ritual. Once the circle is formally closed, you should re-purify and re-consecrate the space and declare the temple closed with a knock or strike the bell.