Most people start magick groups as a means to gain instant authority within a segment of the community without having to earn this through acts and accomplishments. That isn’t everyone though. Some start groups because they feel they are bringing something that is either needed or will be appreciate into the community. Some are just lonely and want friends. And some are morally bankrupt and have questionable ulterior motives. Regardless of the motivation for group creation, that isn’t what this article deals with.
Most of the time these groups are at least partially created for some selfish motive, and even when they aren’t the group leaders rarely try to offer what their members want.
Most people don’t want social gatherings and meet-ups that go nowhere. They already have outlets for friends and loved ones to come into their lives. Groups that offer nothing but meet-ups tend to fall apart quickly, or they develop into a small but dedicated group of friends. Initially these meet-ups were meant as a means to get to know potential members before allowing them to be initiated, and to get to know outer circle members before allowing them into inner circle activities.
Although a lot of people may show some interest in classes, in practice this doesn’t usually work out too well. To begin with, most groups don’t have teachers qualified in the subject matter, and without qualified teachers classes won’t work. Even if a group does have good teachers, most of the students probably won’t be compatible with the teacher. And most students won’t have the dedication to attend classes even under the best circumstances.
Talking to various people at these groups it’s clear that what most people want are rituals. When a new member enters a group one of their first questions is usually if the group offers rituals. When new groups form the first members usually want to know if the group leader plans on having group rituals.
A ritual is something that everyone can benefit from if it’s done correctly. Generally unless a group has strict and discriminating entrance requirements, at least 90% of its membership is going to be unable to achieve results through magick on their own. It’s important to members of this segment of the group to find an outlet for rituals so that they can fully experience their spirituality. Some neophytes may be able to achieve results on their own, but they’re also interested in exploring their spirituality and group work can be a unique experience. Initiates meanwhile can learn from rituals while at the same time having access to more power than is normally available. Even adepts, who should be well versed and able to produce results through solitary work, come out ahead getting an entire group at their disposal to utilize.
But many groups do offer rituals, and usually this isn’t enough to make the group attractive to new members. This is because most groups don’t do rituals correctly, and if a ritual isn’t being performed correctly than it has little value to most people. What follows are guidelines to performing a working group ritual. Sadly most of these should be common sense to an experienced practitioner, yet most groups will not employ these methods.
1. A ritual needs purpose – This should be a cardinal rule of any ritual, ever. A ritual is an extension of spellwork, and like spellwork it should have a purpose and work towards some end result. Most of the rituals being done by various groups have no actual purpose. Observance of a holy day is not justification for a ritual, although it would be justification for a party. Looking back at pre-Christian religions, rituals performed on holy days did have a purpose, usually something tied to that day. Likewise raising energy is not a good justification for a ritual. In a good ritual raising energy is a means to achieving some greater end, not the end itself.
With spellwork, which is typically done in solitary practice or with, at most, a handful of close practitioners, the ends are usually targeted towards the individual. With ritual work however the ends, with some few exceptions, need to benefit the entire group. When determining what purpose a ritual should work towards think about things that would generally be considered positive to most people. Examples include prosperity, good luck, fertility, and group glamors to make all members more attractive. Another good example of a ritual is to try to bring specific members or the entire group into another state of consciousness. This can mean trying to contact a divine being, channeling, mediumship, or astral projecting. There are also initiation type rituals which are meant to bring members of the group closer together through ritual, but these should be reserved for member only rituals within closed groups.
Do stay away from grandiose world accomplishments. Even a ritual composed of several hundred members isn’t going to be enough to end world hunger or war.
2. Find a private place – Rituals need to be held in private. Participants need to feel that they are safe and that they can be open with what they do. If a person feels nervous or worse humiliated it will be reflected in the results of the ritual. Meanwhile certain ritual practices, like performing skyclad and drug use (even alcohol) are forbidden in many places. Indoor rituals should be held in someone’s home, in a temple, in a private area of a magick store (ideally after closing), or in a rented space. Outdoor rituals should be held in a private backyard, secluded private property, or if on a campground far away from other campers. Public places really aren’t appropriate for holding rituals.
3. Pay attention to the day and time – Certain days hold more power to do certain things, and sometimes rituals are written to take advantage of these days. Unfortunately these days are specific and related to certain astrological phenomena, and in order to utilize them correctly the ritual needs to be performed on that day. You can’t move it to next Saturday because more people will show that day.
If your ritual begins by praising Luna or the moon, you shouldn’t be performing that ritual prior to sunset.
Planetary days and hours meanwhile are a bit iffy. It’s not a necessity that they be followed, but it helps, and not following them can result in a major hindrance. Planetary days and hours are however a whole subject unto themselves and something that needs to be looked at more in depth in a later post.
4. Know your ritual – As a ritual leader you should both know and understand the ritual completely before attempting to do it. All of your principle participants should know the ritual completely. All participants should at least know their part and what is expected of them long before performing the ritual. Everyone needs to know what they’re doing and what their intent is, and everyone needs to be on the same page. No one should be reading lines or following directions during the actual ritual.
5. Know your players and utilize them accordingly – You need to know who will be attending your ritual and what they’re capable of. The majority of the group will be their mainly to raise energy. A good ritual may be able to manipulate the energy raised or direct it to some degree. For most this is all they will be able to do, and they shouldn’t be given any greater task.
It’s the role of the stronger members to manipulate the energy, direct it, and utilize it towards the end goals of the group. They will also be responsible for evocations, protections, channeling, using themselves as conduits, and whatever other greater magical needs are necessary.
To this end you need to know what everyone is capable of. Ideally the ritual should be designed to fit the members you have and their individual strengths. You don’t want to give someone a task that they can’t possibly fulfill. If the ritual is to work with an ill-placed member then one of the other members of the ritual will have to perform that job along with their own, which will split their resources and, depending on the strength of that practitioner, may lessen the impact of the spell.
6. Keep it short – Every effort should be made to keep the actual ritual (not the prep time) as short as possible. Fifteen minutes or less is always best, although with certain types of rituals this isn’t always possible. Longer rituals tend to result in participants becoming bored and losing focus, lessening the over all impact of the ritual. At the same time raising energy and manipulating it (in other words performing magick) can be exhausting and may be difficult to sustain for extended periods of time. The ritual should seek to reach its objective as quickly as possible while all participants are still in their prime.
7. The event can be longer however – Just because the ritual is short doesn’t mean everyone has to go home right after. In fact this is probably a bad idea. People will most likely be charged and in somewhat altered states after a ritual. They should be allowed some time to cool down and also allowed access to other participants who can understand how they feel. Plan time for a general meetup post-ritual, or even a party with food and drinks.
8. Make the ritual available ahead of time – This goes along with number four. Your participants need to know the ritual and what is expected of them before hand, and they should be given all the prep time they need to get ready, which means giving them a copy of the ritual and an explanation of what’s intended to happen well in advance. At the same time participants are lending their energy and ability to the ritual, and they need to be sure that the ritual is ethically sound according to their moral and spiritual beliefs and that their deities or entities they work with aren’t being profaned by the ritual itself.
9. Disclose any objectionable material – If the ritual involves nudity, sexual contact, blood magick, drug use, evocation of deities, evocation of other entities, or anything else that may be considered objectionable or is illegal this needs to be disclosed to those planning on attending prior to arriving at the ritual.
10. Speak normally – Words have a lot of power to direct intent. However it’s the intent that matters, not what’s actually said. It doesn’t matter if you speak in old English, Latin, Egyptian, or Hebrew. And even if it did hold power, most pagans can’t speak old English or middle English anyways. They sound like a cross between Yoda and a renfair knight, and it hurts my literary senses to see the language mangled so. It is important that you know what you’re saying in ritual, and that the words flow naturally from you. You don’t want to be reading script of memorized words, you want the ideas to naturally flow from your mind into the symbolism of language as you understand it. You should feel the idea behind the words flow through you, and hopefully the other participants should understand and feel the idea too. The best way to do this is to speak in your normal dialect.
11. Don’t just say it, do it – When you say, for instance, that you want to bring forth the element of air in a ritual, it isn’t enough to just say you want to do this. You have to actually pull that element through you, and then direct it towards something. Some things can be done symbolically, but a lot of stuff you have to have some psionic ability in order to do it. Some ritual leaders don’t seem to understand this.
12. No one should break ritual – To attend the ritual is to agree to perform the ritual as it should be performed. Some minor improvisations may occur, such as a person adlibbing certain lines while keeping with the meaning and intent of the original lines, or one member covering for another member who for whatever reason, in the midst of the ritual, could not complete their given task. But for the most part the ritual should not be altered by any participant in any major way (including changing the deities or entities utilized). The offending member is attacking all participants and attempting to manipulate them beyond their will. If any major alteration occurs during the ritual the ritual should be ended as soon as possible (with all proper respects given to anything summoned forth and all raised energy properly dealt with) and the offending member should be dealt with accordingly. A ritual should never be allowed to continue after it has been altered.
13. Observers are a nuisance – This is kind of a touchy subject. For many responsible practitioners, they’d like to see a ritual performed by a group before they participate themselves. But at the same time, you don’t want people who are just watching and not participating. They add nothing, and they tend to distract participants from the ritual itself. By giving out detailed information about the ritual to all participants beforehand there is less of a need for a potential participant to watch a ritual first. If you still have some who are adamant about first observing a ritual you should plan easier specifically designed rituals for observance.
14. Protect your group – Rituals are easy prey for a lot of nasty things. People show up to rituals with the intention of vampirically draining participants, stealing the energy raised by the group, and silently manipulating the ritual to their own ends. These people need to be immediately identified, dealt with, and removed from the current ritual and banned from all future functions. This job falls mainly on the ritual leader, but stronger participants should also do their best to identify and remove these people, and the ritual leader should encourage members to report whatever they have been able to identify. This is essential to both effectively performing rituals and to protecting your participants.