The Pagan Experience: What is your definition of the word “ritual”? What are your rituals- mundane and spiritual? How do they inform each other? Is ritual a necessary component to spiritual practice?
Ritual to me is a more conscious form of routine that you can give energy to, give focus to, and a way of altering perception before carrying out a task or performance, or give honour to. The beginning is a process we go through to get into the right frame of mind to accompany the rest of the act.
I say a “conscious form of routine” because for some of us, we have a set way of going about our spiritual rites and after practicing for as long as many of us have, it can become routine. Some of us like to begin in a certain direction (East), do a particular calling first (With the rising of the morning sun over the waters glistening deep…), do an inner calling (Deep within the still centre of my being may I find peace…) before calling in the Gods (Herne the Hunter, Lord of the Wild…). So in that sense, it becomes routine. I know what I want to say, and I have a certain way that I like to go about it.
On my own, my rituals are quite “simple” in that it’s me behind my altar, with a couple of candles lit and maybe something burning on the charcoal. I don’t cast a circle, I call for peace instead. I don’t feel the need for casting a circle because I know that I am protected, that this space is sacred, and that my house is guarded.
The type of ritual for me depends on the occasion. Sometimes it’s small and incredibly simple because I want to have a focused connection with Herne, or with my Grandparents on the other side of the veil. Going through the routine of ritual helps me find that focus. (That said, I can also have wonderful conversations with them while I’m driving to and from work, but the connection is never as strong because I’m paying attention to the road).
When it’s a special occasion like the Solstice or Equinox, or Samhain, then my rituals become a bit more elaborate or they change venue (ie. I’ll go outside somewhere). When I work with other people, ritual tends to become a lot more focused and elaborate (compared to what I do on my own) because there’s more energy to work with, there’s more involvement and as a participant you can really just go with the flow, not worry about what comes next, and just take it as it comes.
I love working with others because it gives me an opportunity to learn from those hosting the rite, gives me a glimpse into their practice, and I always come away with it with a better sense of self. If not, then a lot of questions as I ponder on the message given!
I think my favourite “after the rite” moment was after meeting my Nanna’s mother for the first time (she doesn’t like me referring to her as “great nan” because she’s in her 20s on the other side of the veil) at Samhain last year. Feeling her energy, feeling her excitement, hearing what my friend experienced during the rite regarding her, and then being able to pass on a message through the form of a letter. Easily my most favourite memory after a beautifully focused group rite.
Within rites on my own, any time I speak with Herne is my favourite. Last night is probably my most favourite as it reinstates within myself that I am so incredibly thankful for His presence in my life.
Is ritual a necessary component to spiritual practice? I think it helps. It helps to deepen your connection to the Divine, to Deity, to the Universal Energy, to the Land, to whatever it is you believe in. I think it’s a good way of practice as it helps you train your mind to focus, which can be used for the more mundane aspects of life. It allows you to take yourself out of the Muggle world, and transport into a world of the Craft, of giving honour, of celebration or mourning or whatever the occasion is.
Now that I’m no longer able to do my Morning Ritual as I no longer work in the city or walk through my forest every day, I’m finding myself itching for the moments I can have behind my altar, just me and the Divine (or me and my Ancestors) as it also shows that you’re willing to spend time outside of your normal world to spend time with them.