Ritual and Spell Structure

In addition to the beginning energy work class I created, I also made advanced lessons. Here is one of them.

Ritual and Spell Structure

When it comes to the underlying structure of rituals and spells, there are some similarities and common themes that you will find useful when designing and creating your own rituals and spells. In the Energy Work 101 lessons, you learned about the stages of energy work: that you must find a calm moment to center and ground, connect to energy in some form, raise and imbue energy with your intent, and then send it forth to do the work you need done, followed by the return to that centered and grounded state. It should come as not very much of a shock at all that Ritual and Spellwork both follow the same basic outline.

Humans love a good ritual, because every ritual does a few important things for us. A well known ritual gives us a convenient structure and format that we can relax into without having to think about it too much. Ritual lets the noisy conscious parts of our minds have the freedom to wander while the unconscious mental processes are busy with the actions and observances of the ritual itself. And ritual allows us to turn the most mundane of actions into spiritual and arcane acts. A ritual in this course is understood to be a prescribed series of actions with a concrete end point that is repeated in the same order multiple times.

Spells can be thought of as a type of ritual: you’ve got a set of concrete discrete actions to take, in a specific order, and you can even repeat those actions for greater effect. Commonly, however, in esoteric circles the word ‘ritual’ is used for a work that is large in scope, may have religious elements, and may be involving more than one participant.

What is your goal?

If you’re looking to dissect existing rituals or spells, or to create your own, you’re in luck because both enterprises start with the same first step (and a favorite of mine): Research. Before you can begin to build a ritual or spell you need to know exactly what you want your work to accomplish, and in roughly what manner. Rituals and spells can be used to great effect by occultists and practitioners of the esoteric arts, for all manner of purposes. Remember that most energy work can be drawn into two major categories: building up energy imbued with intent in an object to do work, or using energy to return a person, place, or thing to a balanced neutral state. Ritual can do all that, and then some. So, what is your goal for your ritual?

Start from the end, when it comes to energy work. The goal you wish to achieve dictates the form your energy work will take.

For long term, lasting, or group workings, ritual will fit better than a simple spell. Imagine in this case that the ritual structure allows all the participants to be on the same page, so to speak. Everyone knows what comes next, and where and how to focus their energies within the ritual, thus allowing them to work together efficiently. Rituals are also built to be repeated multiple times.

Many occultists wind up creating a ritual for their spell work, either on purpose or by accident. If you always settle down to do your energy work in the same way, in the same place, with the same tools, and do the same sort of steps in the same order, you’re well on your way to having an ad hoc ritual right there! In fact, in occult work, rituals often feature a spell or two in the middle.

Creating a Ritual or Spell

Research first, with your goal in mind. Sometimes you don’t have a concrete goal in mind, just a vague notion of what you think you might sorta like to have happen. The process of researching can help you get clarity on the exact goal.

Try to get clear and concise with your goal. What do you want, how do you want your goal to happen, who will be affected by your goal, and when do you expect it to come to fruition? From your goal, move to research in depth.

Your research at this phase is a broad net, pulling up as much information as possible. You will cull down to what’s important for this particular goal and work later, but in the early phase, everything is fair game. Go broad and wide with your researching, with as many sources as you can lay your hands on. You may not use it all, and in fact, you probably won’t. But every bit of research helps to center the idea and your goal in your mind, and helps to ground that goal into reality.

As you research, your goal and intent crystalizes. Consider the shape your spell or ritual will take at this point.

Do you need this work to be long lasting? Rechargeable? Do you want the option to build upon it later, to make it more complex, or add layers? Is this better as a quick effect spell or a one-off? The answers to the questions about when you want your goal to come to fruit, and how, are key here. Repeatable large works across months or years will benefit from a more ritualistic approach, where short term minor works would work as a spell.

In ritual work, often a spiritual or religious component is included. Calling on elemental powers, gods and goddesses, or other spirit allies is common in neo-pagan rituals. Whether this is ritual as worship, or ritual as magick, calling forth spiritual allies and invoking the energies of allies is a very common element of ritual. If you attend a public ritual, you may hear things couched in non-denominational terms, calling ‘the spirit of love’ or ‘the Divine in all its forms’ to witness and/or participate. A private ritual will likely be more explicit in exactly what being(s) and entities are being called forth, and you may hear them called by name.

The purpose of calling on allies and entities for ritual and spell work is the same as why we connect energetically to a source to draw and raise energy from. In fact, in neo-pagan rituals, the persons leading the ritual will energetically connect with the beings called into the ritual, and raise power/energy from them, which is then shared with all the participants or put into the working.

In ritual, at this point, if there is a specific spell or work to be done, the energy has been raised, everyone has the intent in mind, and this is when the energy would be directed and moved to complete the work. If you’ve built the ritual and spell, this is the bit where you put together the jar, sachet, poppet, imbue the sigil or talisman, cleanse the thing needing cleansed, lay hands to energetically heal, or otherwise do what you came here to do. It can seem anti-climactic, but this is the part where the real work is done. It can go past very quickly, if the working is well built ahead of time.

After you’ve done the thing you set out to do, the ritual moves on, sometimes to a second work, if both are fairly minor and not energetically taxing, to the religious worship if that’s part of the ritual structure you’re using, or to thanking the allies, either dismissing them back to the planes they inhabit or inviting them to remain if they wish. Wiccan ceremonies often skip the dismissal and ask the beings to remain if they’d like, where ceremonial rituals, and Thelema, dismiss the beings and close the door behind them.

In neo-pagan rituals, there’s often tea and cakes, a light snack and drink that may have been blessed as part of the ‘work’ phase of the ritual, may be part of the spell as well, if you made a spell to be imbibed or eaten… This can coincide with the beginning of disconnecting from the energetic structures of the ritual, prior to bringing the ritual or spell to an end.

Do you see all the ways in which ritual structure mirrors basic energetic work structures?

I referenced a number of texts on ceremonies, rituals, and spellwork, from a fairly wide set of points of view. You will very likely find it extremely useful to read at least a couple of these books! Start with The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies, and Magic by Migene Gonzalvaz-Wippler, then the Kraig text on Modern Magick would be useful to you. If you understand how ceremonial and ritual magick works, even your kitchen magick will benefit! You don’t have to use ceremonial magick per se, but as a modern occultist, knowing the structure and forms will help you understand where and when a spell fails, how to tweak a spell to make it stronger, and even help you build your own workings and make your magic stronger.

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