1. What is ritual?
A ritual is something we do in a set way time after time. Not every aspect of a ritual needs to be identical, but unless there are at least some actions, words, tools or meanings which are consistent from one ritual to the next then the ritual will not have the impact that a ritual is meant to have.
A ritual does not begin with the casting of a Circle and end with the snuffing of the candles. Not all rituals are formal or designed for magical work. Going to work or school every day is a ritual. Raising children or working on a hobby involves ritual.
"...ritual is intentional bodily engagement in the paradigmatic forms and relationships of reality. As such, ritual brings not only the body but also that body's social and cultural identity to the encounter with the transcendental realm." - (Zuesse, Evan M. 1987. "Ritual." In The Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade. Vol. 12. 405-422. New York: MacMillan.) [ paradigmatic: of or having the nature of, a paradigm; exemplary. paradigm: a pattern, example, or model. transcendent: 1. transcending; surpassing; excelling; extraordinary. 2. in philosophy, beyond the limits of possible experience and, hence, beyond human knowledge. 3. in theology, that exists apart from the material universe.]
2. Why we do ritual:
Ritual is a way to connect: with the Earth, the Moon, the gods, the Elements, other Wiccans, and our ancestors. Rituals can be for meditation, honoring the gods, celebration, divination, or any combination of these purposes.
While our whole day may consist of rituals, we do a formal, magical ritual to deliberately set aside a time and space where we can focus on issues which are important to us without distractions from the outside world.
We do rituals to ensure that we do not forget those things which are important to us, our families, and our future.
3. Honoring the Gods with magical places.
a. Shrines, sacred groves, and sanctuaries
A shrine is a space created for a specific deity or element (usually represented by a statue or object) at which daily, monthly, seasonal or annual devotions are made. A shrine can be located indoors or out, and can be as small as a shelf or as large as a building. A house and yard could contain several shrines do the same deity or a variety of deities.
A natural outdoor space where some seasonal or annual rite is held which is surrounded by trees may be referred to as a grove. A grove can also consist of a stand of sacred trees themselves. Also, some magical groups or sub-groups within covens are known as "Groves".
An indoor or outdoor space that contains one or more shrines or altars and which serves as a quiet haven from the outside world is known as a sanctuary. Planting flowers or trees or using potted plants indoors helps increase the feeling of peace and connection with nature.
The object upon which ritual tools are placed during a ritual. An altar may be a permanent fixture, or set up only when needed for ritual. Some Wiccans have a portable altar instead of or in addition to their permanent and/or temporary altar. A portable altar can consist of a box or basket containing the necessary tools.
Altars are traditionally made from wood or stone but other materials can be used. Some people try to avoid using any ferrous (magnetic) metals in the construction of their altar. Since Wiccans tend to be sensitive to, or have an awareness of vibrations and energy, and the idea is to do magical work in as "pure" an environment as possible. By avoiding unnecessary electrical or magnetic energy in the ritual area we are better able to feel and focus on the energies we wish to work with, including that present in crystals and/or wands or athames.
The working space in which rituals are performed is known as a "Circle". The ritual itself is also sometimes referred to as a "Circle". Thus you may be invited to attend a "Circle" which will be held within a circular space called a Circle.
The Circle (working space) is set apart from the rest of the world using energy. It can also be defined by some physical means such as a rope, a sprinkling of cornmeal or flower petals, candles, potted plants, or anything else that feels right.
If you can set up your Circle in the same place every time you will begin to feel an accumulation of energy. A space is made sacred and magical by holding Circles in it repeatedly.
d. How do we begin to honor the gods?
Traditional Wiccans strive to show honor to their gods and goddesses every day, all day, not merely during ritual. One way this can be done is to set up one or more shrines, groves or sanctuaries where you can visit with the gods and meditate at least once each day. If setting up a permanent meditation spot is not practical find some quiet space and time to devote a few moments acknowledging the gods, re-dedicating yourself to them and thanking them for what you have learned and gained through Wicca.
We honor the gods through "walking the walk" not merely "talking the talk" of Wicca. We strive to set a good example by always remember the Three-Fold Law, by recycling (and reminding others to), and being aware and appreciative of all we have.
Understand that the gods are as individual as humans and that it is not possible to get to know them on a personal level without respecting their individuality.
4. Guided Meditation (or pathworking):
A guided meditation can be on an audio tape or read to you.
A voice leads you through various scenes allowing plenty of room
for you to visualize the details of what you are seeing and experience
the emotions they invoke. Guided meditation can help in developing
or expanding your astral temple and bring you in touch with the
God and Goddess. Use your favorite guided meditation to start
out on an astral journey, then explore in a different direction.
We use in our classes, and highly recommend, "The Way to
the Well" by Starhawk as a good guided meditation tape to
start with. Many people who were unable to meditate prior to using
this tape find they no longer have any difficulties.