Ideally, you want to create your own rituals. Rituals are more meaningful and effective if you make them especially for you, for your time of year, with elements in your environment, using things that are local and important to you. So, here is where you will learn the basics of how to do that.
As with all things animist, there are no hard and fast rules. These are guidelines. Feel free to use them as given, intentionally deviate, or go off in a completely different direction altogether. However, I do suggest at least starting with this outline as it will inform you as to why things are done the way that they are so that you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater should you choose to go freestyle.
Start With An Intention
Your ritual starts as soon as a spark hits your mind. This may be conscious or unconscious. If it’s unconscious, you want to spend some time giving it some boundaries so that your vision is clear. The clearer the vision, the easier it will be to manifest your desire in the material world.
Examples of intentions are things like, I want to:
- give thanks.
- observe where we are in the wheel of life
- listen to the voices of my ancestors
- ask for help with X
- appreciate the abundance that I’ve been given
- remind myself that I am not alone
- speak to Spirit
Setting Up Your Altar
The altar is the focal point of your work. You can decorate it with things that mirror your intentions. If you are using any tools, they may also go here. Any offerings or sacrifices can also go here.
We always want to come to Spirit “clean.” You can do this to your space with smoke (burning aromatic herbs or incense), water, fire, or your imagination. If you are cleansing the body as well, a bath and fresh clothing (perhaps ritual clothing) works very well.
Create Sacred Space
Once you and the space are prepared, it’s time to create sacred space. You are carving a space and time that is out of time. It’s a separate reality from secular space where you can meet Spirit.
We mentally check your baggage at the door and move to a different headspace, mental space, and spirit space. This is a very important part. I would not proceed until you (and the group, if you are working with others) have done this part. If this is not done well, the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the group suffers.
Some facilitators and group are very particular about this part and do not allow others to come and go once the ritual has started. It “tears a hole” in the fabric of the space and removes the container. If you are unsure about the guidelines, ask. Always follow the norms of your group.
Calling to the Spirits
Who are the Spirits? It’s whoever you say they are. You can call to the elements, ancestors, directions, a god or goddess, or whomever you like. Be careful that whatever you call in is benevolent and will work for the highest good of all in the circle. Do not call in someone that you don’t know, like a god that you don’t have a working relationship with. Don’t call in an ancestor that you are not sure is well in spirt. The dead are no wiser than they were in life until they complete their transition to the Otherworld. The number of years gone is no indication that someone is well in Spirit. It’s best to call to “the benevolent ancestors” or some such term than just asking for your ancestors to come in.
Open the Ritual
This can be done with the lighting of a candle, ringing a bell, or simply stating something like, “Our circle is now open.” If you’re with a group, you may also talk about the purpose of the gathering. This should be short and sweet. It’s not a lecture, just an announcement to get everyone on the same page.
Grounding and Centering
We deepen the connection to the space, ourselves, Spirit, and others in the circle by meditating, singing, dancing, drumming, chanting, or something like that.
Doing Your Work
This part of the ritual helps to bring the intention to life. This could be simple or very complex.
Grounding and Centering
We are now preparing to leave the realm of time out of time and go back to the Apparent world. The best way to do this is with food or drink as it grounds the body. A little feast is also a great way to share with others. Sharing experiences is another way to bring us back to the Apparent world.
You can also do another mini meditation or journaling here if you want to capture the essence of the session. It can be easy to forget what goes on in time between time.
Say Goodbye to Who You Called In
You always want to acknowledge the Spirits that you called in and thank them for their help and for witnessing. It’s only polite.
Close the Sacred Space
We created a bubble of sacred, safe space. We now need to open it. This can be done by “unwinding” or reversing what you did to open it. You can also do this in your mind. Words like “And now this space is open” or touching the ground also works. You can also do some combination of these things.
Some ask, “What happens if I forget?” If you forget, don’t worry. The energy will dissipate on its own. Some feel that walking through the barrier “pops” it. Others feel that it disintegrates when there is activity or energy to hold it together.
You can close the ritual with a bell, words (like “and now our ritual has ended”, or blowing the candle out.
If this seems complicated, it’s really not. Some of these can take seconds to do. Once you get the hang of it, you will see that it flows pretty seamlessly.
You might change the order of some of the items. For example, in moon circles, I generally talk about the energy of the moon and what we are going to do before creating sacred space. I am one of these people who do not like late comers interrupting the flow. Changing the order gives people a little grace period. Once I open sacred space, the door closes for late participants to come in. So, it’s a way for me to respect everyone’s time and also be a little flexible.