Circle of Power
This is an extract from the introduction to a soon to be released Ebook
How to do Rituals for Daily Life and Special Moments
Every tradition has its own images, Goddesses, Gods, spirits and cosmology for its practices. Ritual is both an internal and external practice. It is a way of structured actions to bring mind, emotions, body and spirit together with other dimensions of being in order to achieve something for yourself, your loved ones and to affect your world. Ritual is neither good nor evil but can be used for both. It seems to be a natural part of human communication and organisation, whether you are talking to other humans or the spirit world. It can be unpredictable because the universe has a sense humour (some say), but mostly it’s because of collisions between our conscious, unconscious and subconscious and limits on our knowledge and perceptions leading to impulses and thoughts that derail our ritual.
Ritual has many purposes ranging from the very ordinary to the profound. Celebrating birthdays, naming ceremonies, weddings, initiations and empowerments are profound life changing moments. Whilst your routine to prepare yourself for your day, brushing teeth, cleansing, dressing and entering your workplace or home building using a key or security pass are ordinary things that we do in habitual ways that have the effect of ritual and could benefit from the conscious awareness and empowerment that ritual brings to them.
This article presents one version of the essential ingredients of ritual with an application of them. It seeks to analyse what is taught in various traditions so you can apply them to any tradition and help understand why ritual can be a powerful part of your approach to life. These ingredients are very practical you could write a business plan using them, or plan a holiday or any event, because as the old magical saying goes “as above, so below” meaning that which applies to the highest most powerful knowledge should work in the simplest most ordinary situations.
These ingredients divide the indivisible. Ingredient five’ doing it’ includes the whole process from start to finish. Ingredient two the goal you want to achieve and the feelings that are motivating you need also to be kept in mind throughout. Ingredient six is the product of the whole process but is also centrally influential on the shape of your ritual as your plan it. This is also true of ingredients seven and one. Even though this mix up is true the order here is a logical procedure to follow.
The seven principles of ritual:
- Background, space, history, boundaries
- Desire, goal, motivation
- Resources, form, structure, plan
- Action, doing it, passion, expression, doing it
- Receptiveness, listening, responsiveness in the moment
- Meanings, Broader effects, consequences to your story of yourself and your context/culture, myth
- Unexpected, limitations, humility, spirit
- Background, space, history, boundaries. In the immediate physical level this refers to the room, the space or the temple you are going to conduct your ritual in. “Setting the Space” is to make the place sacred by arranging it to suit the ritual. Setting the space is also the internal process of getting your body/mind into the right state so as to set the physical place into a place of power. It is concentrating the spirit in that place. You also draw a boundary around it to make it special. You even conduct a ritual to enter it when it is being used for ritual. This sets your inner space, state of mind for the work you are about to do. It becomes a place of power so that even before you have done anything your psychic and group resources are all focussed and ready for the work you are about to do. In NLP they would say you are anchoring your emotions and energy so that you will immediately be “in state” or in a power state when you enter the space with the ritual of entry. The space should bring all your senses into play – colours (vision), objects for texture (touch) and symbolism (emotionally powerful for you), music or sounds (hearing), smells, the feel and shape of the space (proprioception) and of course food for taste. It is also the personal background you bring to the work, your emotional and cultural history, which will define your interests, roles, and the traditions you will use/participate with for the ritual.
- Desire, goal, motivation. Why are you doing the ritual? What are your motivations? What do want from it, your goals? Some of these are obvious up in front of your consciousness, like money, love, rain, celebration, worship, contacting the other side, invocation or evocation. You could just want to consolidate a group for a non-esoteric purpose, like doing a fitness work out together or a work meeting to improve performance or make a plan to make something happen. But the more important motivations (especially when doing esoteric or magick rituals) are those hidden from you, subconscious desires, attitudes which drive the surface ones. For example, why would you want to use magick ritual to do something that you can do in more practical ways? For example – Why do you want to use a short cut to manifesting wealth using esoteric ritual rather getting money by participating in value-exchange relationships like working and saving or going into business after doing business courses? You could use these principles of ritual for non-magical goals as a ground for communication and doing business, designing a dance party or birthday gathering all worthy goals. This doesn’t mean you can’t use magic(k) ritual for all kinds of practical goals (like money) it’s just that you need to be clear about your motivations and get your conscious and subconscious desires and motivations aligned so all your power is behind them. It’s also important to realise that if something is a goal then to your unconscious being it is not here and now. It is over there away from you and out of your reach. This needs to be addressed in the construction and actions, the mental disciplines of your ritual. You’ve got to experience your goal in all your senses as if it has already been achieved. One of the powerful forms of ritual is to use it to overcome any feeling or realities that might block you from achieving your goals. So those blockages are made conscious. One such form is the ritual journey based on the hero of a myth.
- Resources, form, structure, plan. What will be the structure of your ritual? What will you use as tools, instruments, weapons for it? Who will participate? What actions, symbols, thought-forms will be involved? There are material representations of the symbols and there are the astral or spiritual or magical meanings of them. On a material level you’ll need to buy candles and special paper if they are what you are going to use. You may need a partner if it is going to be a sex magick ritual (though that’s not necessary). Will you be sky-clad (naked)? Will you evoke the spirits you are going to invoke by using costumes? Will you need to make them, better than buying them? Buying anything you are going to use in ritual CAN (meaning they don’t have to) be a problem. This is where the Astral/Spiritual/Magical meaning and existence of the symbols you are using comes in.
A “thought-form” is an Astral or spiritual existence (depending on who you listen to). It is a thought that is given form and life through action, emotion (trust/faith/belief but others as well) collective imagination, energy and attachment. Thought-forms are affected by the emotions and thoughts of those participating in them. It is the reason some traditions use secrecy so they can control the quality of the energy, emotions, spirit input to their thought-forms. Thought-forms can become attached to objects which are used as symbols. An everyday example of a thought-form is a corporation. The symbols and name of the corporation and the group of people they represent are given a life of their own beyond any individual or that group. In the ritual system that is the law of the land the symbols are given person-hood with many of the same rights as we have as embodied people. Most people in the west, in fact around world, treat these symbols and names as if they are real entities. They pay our wages and take responsibility for our lives. They move mountains if they mining companies and build bridges if they are engineering companies, though they only exist as symbols in the collectives minds of our society. When you buy symbols for ritual you won’t know who has touched them and what they were feeling and what energy they put into it with their emotions and how these will affect your ritual. There are a few ways of deal with the unpredictability of other people touching, thinking about, feeling attached to the objects and thought-forms you are going to use in your rituals. You can use a ritual of cleansing to make bought costumes and objects useable. You can accept energy is energy and it’s all good and helpful because their involvement makes the thought-form all the more real. It depends on your cosmology as to what works for you.
- Action, doing it, passion, power/love expressed. Carrying out the ritual, the working, whatever form it takes with all the intense focussed passion you can pull from you or push you to. It is said that intensity of experience comes when there are high stakes, when your life and love are on the line. Ritual is most powerful and effective if this is the case. It can mean that your body is at stake because you are in real danger as in many tribal initiations. Alternatively, it can mean that your identity is at stake like doing something that redefines how you will experience yourself. You can symbolically act out an intense situation where through the suspension-of-disbelief (which is where movies get their power) you can feel the danger as an emotional rather than as a physical reality. Having your identity endangered on the other hand can come from all sorts of more gentle situations like changing habits, like falling in love and having to rethink reorganise your life around a new person, like changing your job or changing spiritual traditions. Ritual can be used to transmute these situations by empowering you to feel choice and some sort of control of the change process.
- Receptiveness, listening, responsiveness in the moment. As you do anything you need to have focussed awareness in the moment of the sensual and emotions experiences you are having. In ritual this is heightened and intensified. For example, during the process of a simple ritual with a limited time frame and clearly prescribed set of actions and goals, your awareness is for the emotional and physical effects and the aftermath/consequence of the ritual in the moments you are doing it. In the case of a longer term working of ritual where you may need to adjust and adapt the ritual as you go to respond to the changing circumstances created by it then sensual in-the-moment mindfulness will be important to the achievement of your goals. Some rituals, such as invocations and channelling, are communication processes that need to be flexible and responsive to the events of the ritual. Focussed awareness is extremely important in order to succeed.
- Meanings, Broader effects. Consequences to your story of yourself and your context/culture, Myth. Meaning comes from the larger context and consequences of the ritual, of any activity and thought, feeling. On one level this is the mythic archetypes that evoke and invoke power for you as the symbols that will empower you. On another level it is the meaning in your life and culture of the ritual. How will it change your life, your sense of yourself, your relationships – personal, political and professional? How will it affect your environment – psychic, material, intimate, cultural?
- Unexpected, limitations, humility, Spirit. You always have to allow for the unexpected, the improbable, worst case and best case as opposed to the wished for and/or most likely scenarios. You need to allow for your limitations which are where the unpredictable and unexpected come from: limitations in knowledge, limitations in talent, limitations in strength, just the simple fact that you are in a skin means you have limitations on your point of view. Most call on spirit and other higher powers when they are faced with these limitations, when they feel overwhelmed, when faced with death and loss (even small losses like the car keys). This involves keeping a reserve of energy, of resources, being balanced and moderate in your approach to things. This is where the cycle of life comes in because when you are faced with these aspects of your life and ritual it usual inspires further ritual and so you go back to the beginning.