RitualCraft: Creating Rites for Transformation and Celebration

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Llewellyn Worldwide, 2006 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 552 pages
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You can change yourself and your world with effective, focused rituals. This book by renowned Witches Amber K and Azrael Arynn K shows you how to craft powerful and meaningful rituals for your life, your family, and your spiritual community.

The authors share their vast knowledge of ritual planning and performance, providing a framework for creating your own successful rituals. They illustrate the principles of ritual crafting with stories from their own experiences as they explore a variety of topics including rites of passage, esbats and sabbats, seasonal celebrations, rites for personal transformation, and rituals done simply for the fun of it.

You'll find information on all aspects of ritual including correspondences, timing, environment, attitude, music, meditation, altars, tools, costumes, and safety. This comprehensive book also offers worksheets, outlines, suggested themes, sample rituals, and a guide to teaching others.

Whether you're a beginner or seasoned practitioner, this comprehensive guide will help you take your own Witchcraft to new levels of significance, celebration, and personal transformation.

“This is a wonderful book, and is highly recommended to anyone doing ritual.”
—Lisa McSherry, FacingNorth.net

Winner of the 2007 COVR Book of the Year award


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Common terms and phrases

About the author (2006)


times square, new york, December 31
at 11:59 pm: a huge, glittering ball moves downward as
thousands of people chant.

A nameless location in Central America, near midnight:
a man is torn to shreds by a demon jaguar, as
one step in his initiation as a shaman.

Sussex, England, late in the morning: a circle of
women chant softly as their coven sister''s baby emerges
from the womb.

Katmandu, Nepal, early one evening: an old man
pounds a nail into a wooden shrine next to a tiny golden
goddess-to cure his toothache.

Ardantane in New Mexico, on solstice evening: as
lightning cracks overhead, a double circle of Witches
chants power into a stone egg to create a dragon.

In Mexico, a curandera places an egg over a sick woman''s
head to draw out the negative vibrations causing
the illness.

It''s ritual.

Ritual has been part of the human experience for
more millennia than we know, and it may have been
practiced by our pre-human ancestors. It is omnipresent,
powerful, as human as anything we do, and yet it
is curiously elusive in meaning. The word can be used
for something as ordinary and dull as brushing your
teeth, or as comfortable and rote as Thanksgiving dinner;
but it can also be linked to life, death, and cataclysmic

Definition is in order.

What Is Ritual?

The Random House Dictionary calls ritual "an established form of conducting a religious
or other rite," or even less thrillingly, "any practice or behavior repeated in a prescribed
manner." Putting snow tires on your car. Tying your shoes.

In his book The Spell of Making, Blacksun describes it as "a carefully outlined program
of mental and physical activities . . . [that] aligns our conscious and unconscious in harmony with one another in an environment which is separate from the mundane universe to facilitate the accomplishment of an intended goal."1

Isaac Bonewits, founder of the Ar nDraiocht Fein Druid Fellowship, calls it "any ordered
sequence of events, actions, and/or directed thoughts, especially one that is repeated in the ''same'' manner each time, that is designed to produce a predictable altered state of consciousness within which certain magical or religious (or artistic or scientific?) results may be obtained."2

Tom Chetwynd has another view: "The dramatic enactment of myth, designed to make
a sufficiently deep impression on the individual to reach his subconscious."3
Vivianne Crowley keeps it simple: "A ceremony designed to produce certain spiritual
and magical effects."4

Popular Pagan author Scott Cunningham looked at it another way: "Ceremony. A specific form of movement, a manipulation of objects or inner processes designed to produce desired effects. In religion ritual is geared toward union with the Divine. In Magick it produces a specific state of consciousness that allows the magician to move energy toward needed goals. A Spell is a magical ritual."5

Timothy Leary saw a parallel with science: "Ritual is to the internal sciences what experiment is to the external sciences."6

James R. Lewis, editor, Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft, collected personal defi-
nitions from several readers: It''s a sacred drama in which you are the audience as well as the participant, and the purpose of it is to activate parts of the mind that are not activated by everyday activity . . . It''s art, it''s theater, it''s sacrament . . . Anything can be a ritual.

A ritual is "a focused mental/physical ceremony to either honor or thank one''s chosen
pantheon, or to perform a specific magical working or act."7

Ritual involves "creating a space in which to feel better, feel more, to feel the past as well as the future . . . ritual upholds and celebrates the validity of feeling as a mode of revelation, communication and transvaluation."8

. . . and Starhawk reminds us of the occult nature of ritual: "Magical rites that stimulate
an awareness of the hidden side of reality, and awaken long forgotten powers of the human mind."9

1 Eschaton Productions, Inc., 1995.
2 Real Magic, 264.
3 A Dictionary of Symbols, 342.
4 Wicca: The Old Religion in a New Age, 260.
5 The Truth About Witchcraft Today, 167.
6 As quoted in "Neurologic, Immortality & All That," by Robert A. Wilson in Green Egg, Vol. VIII, No. 72 (August 1, 1975), 9.
7 Silver RavenWolf, To Ride a Silver Broomstick.
8 Kay Turner, Heresies, 23.
9 The Spiral Dance, 13.

All clear now? We thought not. Let''s group and summarize the pieces that these experts
have mentioned:

"Established," "prescribed," or "repeated," or in contrast, "experiment"
"Practices," "behaviors," "events"
"Outlined," "ordered," "designed," "focused"
"Intended goal," "results," "desired effects," "needed goals"
"Mental," "directed thoughts," "inner processes"
"Physical," "actions," "movements"
"Aligns conscious and unconscious," "specific state of consciousness," "reach his subconscious"
"Produce a predictable altered state of consciousness," "awaken . . . powers of the human
mind," "awareness of the hidden side of reality"
"Environment separate from the mundane universe," "Creating a space"
"Union with the Divine," "sacrament," "honor or thank one''s chosen pantheon"
"Dramatic enactment of myth," "sacred drama," "theater," "art"
"Move energy"
"Feel better, feel more . . . celebrates the validity of feeling"

So. Ritual is an organized process that is sometimes prescribed or repeated, but can be experimental and-dare we hope-creative. It takes place outside of ordinary reality. It is physical, mental, and emotional. It involves at least two levels of mind, changes consciousness, and moves energy. It is focused on achieving a goal, which may be spiritual, as in honoring Deity or connecting with it; but it could be some other unspecified, nonreligious goal.

You could also call it Theater for Younger Self, ephemeral multimedia art on two planes
of reality, a cooperative exercise in survival by the three selves that live inside you, a celebration of incarnation and its attendant joys, or a sometimes expensive addiction that actually improves your life.

And that may be as specific as it gets until we narrow it down to a certain kind of ritual for a specific purpose.

The Purpose of Ritual

Rituals can be used for personal change and growth, following the U.S. Army''s inspiring motto, "Be all that you can be." It can help us celebrate the changing year-a seasonal party with religious overtones. It can facilitate the original purpose of religion-religio-to reconnect us with God/dess/Providence/Nature/Divinity. It can be a social mechanism that enables people to change roles and allows communities to bond (rites of passage) or spurs the change of whole societies as a magico-political act. And it can accomplish very practical things: helping our airplane fly safely to Chicago, healing the sniffles, protecting our homes, or attracting a new and better job.

As a mental exercise, we have asked ourselves what the ten most popular Pagan rituals are and what they do for us. Here is our best estimate:

1. Daily spiritual practice: This varies widely from person to person, but often includes
meditation, a quick divination, a devotional act, and is often blended with physical exercise. It calms, centers, connects, and helps us find our place in the scheme of things.

2. Sabbat celebrations: These help us find the purpose and joy in the season, orient us
on the Wheel of the Year, reconnect us to fun, and allow us to socialize and feast. Deities are usually involved, but often the focus is really on the season.

3. Full moon esbat: These are the most purely devotional rituals for many Pagans,
especially when Drawing Down the Moon is performed and the Goddess becomes
incarnate in the circle. The "moons" satisfy our need for connection to the divine.

4. Healing: The need for healing of all kinds is huge and possibly growing, as we abuse
ourselves with toxins, poor nutrition, and stress. Gather any group of five or more people
together and one of them wants healing for an illness, injury, or chronic condition.

5. Rites of passage: Handfastings, house blessings, Wiccanings . . . they are occasional
events, but no one wants to miss them. Pagans are rediscovering how important it is to
mark the great turning points of our lives and are reclaiming the rites with inexorable

6. Prosperity: It is interesting that the people of the most prosperous nation on earth
are always short of money and wanting to do spells for more. Perhaps this reflects the
unequal distribution of wealth, or maybe it''s related to poverty consciousness, a mindset
that is a perennial problem with Pagans.

7. Festival main ritual: There is always a main ritual at Pagan gatherings and it''s always
well attended, even though many big rituals could be done better. Still, there is no substitute for standing in a circle with hundreds of "our own" and for a little while feeling
community instead of isolation.

8. Protection: Though we rarely have to worry about the Black Death or attacks by
saber-tooth tigers, we have a whole new host of dangers, ranging from terrorism to
traffic accidents to merc

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