Rituals provide a great deal of comfort in our lives. Think about how calming it is to go through a familiar series of steps before climbing into bed at night or how hectic your morning seems if you didn’t have time prepare your coffee and breakfast the way you normally like to. These small things are self created rituals, even if we don’t think of them that way. By making your own rituals, you can get the same soothing soothing and affirming experiences in your magical life.
There are many books and websites that give instructions for performing different rituals but making your own ensures that whatever the ritual is, it fits neatly into your life as well as supports your personal needs. Rituals created by others are a fine place to start and for some may be perfect for their practice, or what is required and expected of you. That’s fine, and this is an excellent place to start, but creating your own rituals can help to enliven your practice, and provide change and ease where needed.
Making your own rituals may make you nervous. Questions of whether or not you have enough knowledge or if you are doing things correctly may plague you, but push them aside. If you what you already know isn’t working, and can’t find what you are looking for through study then you are ready to take this step.
As such, this guide will assume some familiarity with your own path and may not be suitable for people just starting their journey. If you have never done any sort of ritual then the information in this piece may not make sense. Still, I encourage people who are new to magick, Paganism, or spirituality to read this as the questions it raises for them may help guide them.
What is ritual?
Ritual is one of the key components of magical work and life. But what is ritual, and what makes it unique from other magical practices – like divination, spell-work, or other “workings”? Simply put, ritual is “is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.”1 For magical practitioners, the point of doing ritual — or this sequence of activities involving gestures, words et cetera…. — is the act of focusing one’s energy or gathering more energy to themselves. Sometimes this act is done to enact a specific outcome. When we focus and draw energy to make something happen this is called spell-work, or “casting a spell.” Ritual is a major part of much spell-work but it exists independently of that. Which is to say, you do not have to be casting any sort of spell in order to be involved in a ritual.
The act of ritual is part of our everyday lives. The act of getting up, using the bathroom, and brushing your teeth in the morning is a ritual that signals you are starting your day. It arises from a practical foundation, the need to use the facilities and dental hygiene, but if ever you can’t do that, your morning will probably not be so great.
Similarly, we can use ritual to harness and enhance our magical selves without having to do any actual spell-work and just like the familiar paths you take a you wake up each day or lay down at night, you can use your own rituals to wake up, energize, or focus your spirit and draw more energy or rest as you need it.
What do you need?
The very first step for creating your own ritual is really identifying what you need or want from it. Not everyone has the same needs or lifestyle, and when it comes to access to time, supplies, or privacy, this can be major hurdle for many people finding their path. That said, that said, plan within your needs.
The second set of needs are more spiritual. The question that you must answer before getting started is, what are you hoping this ritual will help you with? Do you want it to bring more calm into your life? Are you looking for a way to worship and honour your deities better and more often? Or do you just want to add more structure to your spiritual practice?
Depending on your needs, the shape of your ritual will differ. For someone who has their own spot and a really open schedule, honouring their deities may include an hour of prayer and meditation at their altar with a special offering once a week, or more. For someone who must practice in secret, or might not have as much flexibility as far as time and space, this may not be possible or a reasonable way to get started.
Before you even begin to write down ritual steps, identify what you want and need from this process. List the obstacles that are standing in your way so that you may take them into consideration when constructing your own ritual.
Some things to consider when you are working through this part. How often do you want this ritual to occur? Just once or as needed for specific spell-work? Or will this be part of your daily, weekly or monthly life going forward? Does this ritual need to happen during the day or can it be done at night? Do you need to be home or can this ritual be worked in the wild, whether that’s metropolitan or something a little more quaint.
Make yourself a list of spiritual and practical needs. Take a moment to really hash these details out because they are going to provide the backbone of your ritual. Do not ignore your practical needs in favour of your spiritual ones or vice versa! You are a whole person and your ritual should reflect that.
What’s your focus?
Your focus is the energy that you will be tapping into or drawing towards yourself during your ritual. Every ritual is different and identifying the focus of the ritual is the next step after sorting out what you need. If your need is to worship your deities more, then your focus would be which deity. If your need is to improve your positive energy, then you need to identify where your focus should be. What is positive energy, and what will bring it? A crystal? A trip to a natural space? The clarity of your inner self? You get the idea.
One important matter to keep in mind is that intent and focus are not interchangeable. Intent has a very specific meaning in the frame of magick and that is as the the “thing” that you hope to use your power to change. Some ritual work has clear intent, even outside of spell-work. Your intent may be, for example, to increase your psychic powers. Your focus is your psychic powers.
Your focus should be something that meets your personal needs. You do not need to add elements that will not serve what you need. If you don’t feel any special affinity with crystals, there’s no need to add them. If you are allergic to flowers, don’t include them in your altar dressing! Do not feel constrained by what others have said or done before you. This is your focus and your ritual.
Once you have identified your focus, jot down the things that you need to incorporate it into the ritual. If it’s something in yourself, you may only need some private space and quiet, if it is a deity or spirit this may be some sort of altar space. If you are working ritual into your cleaning then it may be you need special herbs or sprays.
All the trimmings: magical supplies and prayers
If your ritual doesn’t involve any sorts of supplies or prayers, then feel free to move on to the next section. Rituals do not have to involve either of these things, they can simple be actions done with intent. For example, many people want to work daily meditation into their lives. If you have decided that your ritual is something more like that, then this next section will not apply to you. However, if you want to add a prayer or supply to your ritual, read on.
Before we begin, I want to define what is meant by prayer. Prayer is a term I am using to mean any grouping of words you put together to perform during a ritual. They do not have to invoke any spirit or deity, it doesn’t need to rhyme, or have any special structure. Your prayer can be “I will glow like this highlighter I brush upon my cheeks,” as you apply your make-up. A prayer can be a promise you make to yourself.
If you are choosing to strengthen your ritual with some sort of prayer you can either write your own, use someone else’s, or use a pre-existing one as a template. If you are using a pre-existing one as inspiration, first identify why it doesn’t work for you in its current form. Is the language of it not comfortable for you to use? Some issues you might encounter are gendered language, an overly flowery delivery, or dated phrases and terms. If these sorts of things are the issue, then a simple change of wording can solve the problem. Translate it into something that works for you.
If the language references something you don’t follow in your practice, for example a deity that you do not worship, removing those names and phrases that are specific to that deity, spirit, or belief that you do not follow may make the prayer suitable. If it is anything beyond this, you would do better in writing your own prayer
If you are writing your own here are the key elements to take into consideration when choosing a prayer:
- How does it strengthen your ritual?
- Will the words accompany actions?
- Will this be best as an opener, closer, or both?
- Does it need to be said out loud or can you just think it?
- Must it be memorized or can it be read?
Identifying these needs can help you shape your prayer in way that works best for your ritual. You may even find that you don’t need it at all.
In many ways, magical supplies are a lot like prayers: they can be as extravagant or as simple, as traditional or inventive, as expensive or affordable as the practitioner chooses. Anything from a magick wand, to a mascara wand, can be used in a magical ritual.
When it comes to supplies, here are a few simple questions you can ask yourself:
- Do I need this item or have I been told I need this?
- Can this item be represented in another form that makes it more manageable for my ritual needs?
- What purpose does this item serve?
- Does this item serve it’s intended purpose or have my needs moved past this?
When making your own rituals, each element must be thought about and chosen by you. If it serves no purpose, there is no reason to include it in your ritual. With that being said, sometimes the act of or presence of something does serve a purpose, even if it is not used directly. For example, uttering a small prayer may or ringing a bell may signal that you are entering into a ritual. Or, lighting candles, burning incense, and keeping a small deity statue or crystal near by may act as sensorial symbols to kick you into that ritual space.
What actions will you perform?
The last part of making your ritual is actually coming up with what actions you are going to perform. For some people, this part is their entire ritual but it is not just one step. A ritual is not “meditate.” That is an action. The ritual is using that in combination with all the parts that we previously spoke on with that action (and possibly others).
Ritual steps are performed in a certain order for a reason. Let’s look at our morning steps. Get up, use the bathroom, brush teeth. You can’t brush your teeth before you get out of bed. You may be able to brush your teeth before using the bathroom, but your bladder may not want to wait that long. So, you see, the steps we take in the morning follow a certain necessity. So should your rituals.
Ideally, regardless of what your ritual is, it should start with a defined opening. This can be a prayer or some other defined action. It should follow through with at least one action before having a closing to end the ritual. This creates a container for the working.
How many steps you have and what they are really depend on your needs and what type of practitioner you are. Your actions should be determined by your ritual. As an example, let’s look back to the small makeup ritual I spoke of in the last section.
This ritual is meant to add the energy of confidence to the act of making one’s self up and is being used as a daily way to incorporate magick into someone’s life. It would be performed as follows.
Step 1: Dust highlighter applicator three times to signal beginning of the ritual.
Step 2: Repeat to yourself “I will glow like this highlighter I brush upon my cheeks” as you apply your highlighter to both cheeks.
Step 3: Close container to signal the end of the ritual.
As you can see that is a very simple ritual but each act serves a purpose in both a practical manner and a ritual manner. This is the goal for your own ritual.
If you are looking for something more formal such as the worship of a deity or spirit, each act must serve a purpose. Each thing you do is a part of the ritual you are performing. If you find there is something you need to do that is not included in your original concept, then that must be added.
At this point, it’s a good idea to sit down and write down the steps you wish to perform during your ritual. Run through it in your head, are you accounting for everything you need to do? For example, if you are turning your meditation practice into a ritual does it start when you sit down or does it start at your first breath? What are the steps between your meditative state and when it is broken or ended? Do you need a special pillow (for comfort) and is placing this pillow part of your ritual? Is putting it away part of it?
This is the point where you begin to answer these questions.
Putting it all together
Once you’ve worked your way through this process, you’ll have the beginnings of your ritual. I say beginnings because chances are, you’ve forgotten something or misjudged a need. That’s fine! The only way to perfect it is to practice it.
Your first attempts will likely need to be improved upon but this is fine and I encourage you to continue to work with your ritual until it is exactly what you need in your life. To that end, it would be helpful to keep the information on what you’re learning in some sort of journal or document. Write down what you plan to do, what worked and what didn’t and why. In this way you can improve your rituals. It’s also a great way to keep track of how performing this ritual is impacting your life. How many days of applying that highlighter did you need until the winter blues slipped away and your life was a-glow again? Did applying it a certain way have a greater impact on the ritual? This is one way of strengthening your ritual.2
Some of your rituals will be used for spells and therefore not used as often but the work of rituals does not have to be contained only when we mean to “do” magick. We are magick. It is in us, it is part of us. Ritual helps us cultivate that part of ourselves in our everyday lives so feel free to make a ritual out of cleaning your altar space or brushing your hair. Ritual should fit where you need it in your life, in order to enhance it. It’s not something that should feel like a chore.