Rituals for Beginners: Simple Ways to Connect to Your Spiritual Side, by Richard Webster
Llewellyn Worldwide, 978-0738747651, 312 pp., 2016
Rituals for Beginners: Simple Ways to Connect to Your Spiritual Side is a great guide to ritual work that would be useful for not only beginners, but anyone designing their own rituals. The tone of the work is refreshingly pragmatic, and Richard Webster clearly wants readers to gain skills and confidence to create their own ritual. How does he accomplish that? He makes the process of ritual design simple and accessible.
Webster has written over 100 books about magical arts. This was my first introduction to his work and I really enjoyed it. He incorporates 35 rituals in the text, indexed at the start of the book. These are notable for their simplicity, and include familiar entries like a purification ritual in the bath; and activities like journalling, night time ritual of reviewing the day to reexperience joys and release negativity; or rituals to send love and healing where it is needed. It becomes apparent through his writing that he is teaching the reader to focus their intention, and this is the meaning and purpose of ritual — which is wonderfully easy to understand!
Webster begins by demystifying ritual and helping readers to identify existing daily routines as a basis for ritual practice and accessing spiritual development: from daily meditation to a person’s daily life rhythm that is grounding or promotes well-being. Thus, stopping for coffee with a friend can be a ritual. So too can drinking alcohol to excess, indulging in “retail therapy” or other common behaviours that may be less benign in their effects.
After helping the reader see that ritual can be simple and reflexive or complex and mindful, the introduction continues to define ritual work more specifically. Webster specifies that for efficacy, a good ritual needs to incorporate four elements — importance, intention, mindfulness and sacred space. This fourfold definition is elegant and easily applied to both simple and complex rituals. He goes on to discuss the benefits of ritual, from the mundane (ritual can assist with efficiency and in getting tasks done) to the divine (ritual can affect emotions, relationships and help people access spirituality).
He classifies rituals of life (to mark births, deaths, marriage, graduations for examples), and daily rituals that might be of interest to readers — walking ritual, bringing mindfulness to daily activities. At this point he brings in some core concepts of magick, to help expand the concept of ritual and demonstrate its connection to the divine. He encourages readers to keep silent about their ritual practice, and draws awareness to the threefold law; discouraging magick ritual that is meant to influence the behaviours of other people. The book also discusses specifics of traditional ritual magick including tools and elemental associations that might be useful for practitioners. This information is standard and includes basic tools that one might want for an altar, with descriptions of cleansing and consecrating tools.
Chapters 7, 8, and 9 concern timing of rituals, goal setting and visualization, and preparing for ritual. The timing information covers seasons, plus hours and planetary influences, goal setting discusses visualization and describes its importance to setting intention for ritual practice, and preparation information includes an overview of mental, emotional and physical preparations that are necessary — from a ritual bath to centering and meditation.
The next section comprises the most concentration of information, and is where Webster discusses the elements and associations relevant to ritual. Air, earth, fire, water, and spirit are all described according to associated temperament, attribute, physical sense, colour, direction, season, archangel, tarot suit, keyword, and astrological signs. Once the elements are understood there is no end to the ways a reader can combine and incorporate elements in ritual practice. In that sense the book is simple and yet comprehensive. It doesn’t overwhelm the reader with information but has sufficient complexity to stimulate interest and confidence in ritual practice.
Chapter 11 presents the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP). I was initially surprised to see it here, as it is so associated with the work of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, in a book that was otherwise free of discernible affiliation with any particular spiritual practice. In the context of this book, the LBRP seems appropriate, since it is such an essential and basic technique for beginning practitioners, and also has the benefit of banishing unwanted spiritual energies. It’s really the only part of the book that is specific to any particular magical tradition. Since I hadn’t seen it included in similar volumes regarding Wiccan traditions, it did add a new perspective in this volume, and is of course a very useful ritual to practice.
In the latter half of the book there is information about how to write ritual, which is wonderful and helpful. Webster encourages readers to pick up a pen and script out a ritual that is relevant to their intentions, and then describes the usual steps of ritual practice form opening and casting a circle, through the ritual to the closing of the circle and ritual meal after.
Finally, the appendix has many more useful correspondences for practitioners to include end incorporate. Colours, days of the week, gemstones, herbs and astrology are all covered in brief, with enough detail to encourage a new practitioner to experiment but not to overwhelm with detail. To demonstrate the use of the correspondences, there is a short section to connect correspondences to intention; such as describing the intent of “healing” with the relevant elements, colours, gems, herbs, and gods and goddesses that might be employed.
Rituals for Beginners presented information I had seen in many other places in a new way that felt fresh and concise. I have been able to make good use of it to devise some rituals to assist with goal setting and developing my own intention; helpful as I start a PhD program this fall! I’m inspired to create a ritual to help manifest intention and focus on getting projects done. Using Webster’s book (he includes 10 pages in chapter 12 just on how to write a ritual) will be extremely helpful. This written ritual “script” can then be plugged into the basic steps of ritual that he describes.
I would absolutely recommend Rituals for Beginners to anyone who would enjoy a concise guide that demystifies ritual creation and supports practitioners’ learning and confidence.