I’ve been interested in ritual and the ideas of magic since attending Roman Catholic school as a small child. Each festival, I watched our classroom transform into a place of ritual worship. Immaculate white tablecloths covered the teacher’s desk, adorned with polished gold chalice and magical paraphernalia, crucifixes and candelabra. As we sat, hushed and waiting, our senses filled with Frankincense, the gentle priest would enter. Familiar in his white robes and jewel coloured stole, he’d stand before us at our newly created altar.
This was my introduction to ritual and I soaked it up, giddy with incense and absolute recognition that higher forces were being invoked.
When the opportunity arose, I recreated this enchantment for myself at home. Having managed to dodge church on a Sunday morning due to sickness, I assured my dad that I’d watch a televised service. When he’d driven off, I asked my mother for the folding table and her best tablecloth then keenly searched our home for the correct utensils.
I held my very own ritual that day with the TV mass muted. I was in my element. A biscuit and goblet of Ribena before me and surrounded by carefully chosen symbols, I uttered my own incantation. It was instinctive and meaningful. I was around nine or ten years old and I felt wholly accomplished.
When my father returned and berated me for blasphemy, I was shocked. His reaction didn’t make sense to me. At my core, I knew that ritual is an innately human compulsion. I remained sure of this and would continue to meddle privately in my own ways.
Over the years, the most powerful rituals I have taken part in are the ones I’ve conducted alone. I adore joining with others in mutual intention, sharing of occasion and the wonderment of experiencing ritual translated through others’ perspectives. Yet, when I’m presented with undisturbed time and space to explore ritual using familiar objects in my own home, the effect is exceptionally potent.
People often avoid creating their own ritual for fear of getting something wrong. I say resist your mind and listen to your heart. What do you feel impelled to say thank you for, release from your life, protect, or honour? Go with that. Which gods and goddesses, Lords and Ladies, angels or elementals are you drawn to? Don’t depend on A-Zs or Google. If a sacred name occurs to you then use it. There are no mistakes, simply trust your own truth.
Let choosing your implements be a playful and revealing process in itself. By using your imagination you can create anything you need. You don’t need to be an artist to roughly sketch a representation of anything you wish to draw upon. Everyday objects contain a particular potency because they directly resonate with your life – employ them! Trust yourself to instinctively use what you have to hand and avoid the distraction of restrictive dogma.
Within your home you will most certainly find practical objects: string, ribbon, paper, figurines, candles, incense and cooking utensils. Whether you live in a bustling city or a secluded valley, you only need to step outside your door to find leaves, flowers, herbs, stones, wood and feathers. Add a pinch of playing cards in lieu of tarot, a sprinkling of photos, snippets of words and pictures from newspapers and magazines, and a personal trinket or two.
Or use none of those things…as you wish. Choose what you will, because it makes sense to you and for no other reason.
A focused intention is the most important ingredient. So it’s useful to make a few notes in the hours or days leading up to your ritual. You’ll have been weaving ideas naturally as you go about your daily business, but the simple act of writing them down can be their first real invitation into existence.
Once you’ve set up with clear intent and applied protection in a style that feels right to you (circle casting, white light or your own means) give yourself time to enjoy each moment. You may find you’re stirred to sing, dance or move. There’s no performance, just an exploration, so let the occasion unfurl and allow yourself to be guided by it.
Knowing that you will not be disturbed is paramount. There’s nothing worse than having to clock watch if you’ve only one toe in the earthly realm. Equally, you will eventually feel the ritual flowing towards its natural end. Be grateful for your time and accept that your workings will continue to reverberate in the hours, days and weeks after the ritual.
Five years ago, I applied the DIY ritual concept on a most important occasion. My husband and I were hand-fasted on a beach just after the turn of the tide. The symbolism and words were created just for us. Witnessed by a small group of loved ones, the person that most remarked on its beauty and real sense of meaning was my dad. He’d felt it, that same awareness I’d experienced as a child. I think we both knew that he always had.
Interested in developing your own toolkit for effective ritual?
Upcoming workshop: Ritual and Magic with Marian Green
Saturday 8th July 2017, Southville Centre, Bristol.
Limited spaces. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Thanks to Peter Hall Studio