There are lots of resources out there that talk about planning a ritual in greater length, but I wanted to include at least an example here. (For those wanting more, Amber K and Azrael K’s RitualCraft is a great starting place.)
So, for an example, let’s take the new moon closest to when I’m writing this (on January 4th, 2011, to be precise.) I’m using it as an example both because I want a little more planning of what I’m going to do, but also because it happens to have some interesting aspects to it. (This ritual is going to be solitary, but I’ll talk a little more at the end about planning group ritual.) I’m writing on Saturday, (January 1st), so I only have a couple of days to put everything into action.
This is actually a pretty short planning time, though it’s about average for me right now for personal work. (For group work, I plan a bit more ahead, because I need to share what we’re doing with other people, and there’s also often a bit more preparation involved.) When you’re getting started, you might want to at least get a few ideas a week or 10 days ahead of time, and then come back to do more detailed planning 3-5 days in advance. This gives you time to contemplate shopping, etc. more easily.
I’ll be using the quote feature to offset my actual reasoning for this ritual, to make it easier to see the process.
When I begin planning ritual, I start with some basic questions:
- When am I going to be doing this?
- What are the astrological or other considerations?
- What do I want to focus on? Is there any work I want to do that is best done at this point?
- What am I going to do in this ritual, then? (Specific details).
- What materials do I need to do that? (And can I get them by the ritual?)
- Do I need to prepare anything else in advance?
- How will I know if it’s successful (if that matters?)
Let’s take these one at a time.
When am I going to be doing this?
There are two parts to this question. One is very pragmatic (when am I free?). The other is much more complex (what astrological considerations and other timing aspects should I keep in mind?)
Many people feel that the full moon lasts three days (the day of the actual full moon, plus a day on either side), and the same with the new moon. This gives some options for those with busy schedules, and other commitments (as so many of us have.) Groups often celebrate both Esbats and Sabbats on the nearest convenient weekend, so that people can be there and spend more time than a worknight really allows.
But at the same time, there are times when looking at what’s going on when might make a difference. Sometimes there’s a specific astronomical or astrological event. Some people avoid times when the moon is void of course (passing from one astrological sign to another) for magical workings.
The new moon is on January 4th, 2011. It’s in the sign of Capricorn (associated with ambition, determination, discipline, but somewhat conservative/slow to change.) And right now, Capricorn is in the 10th house (which relates to professional pursuits, long-term goals, and public reputation.)
However, it immediately follows a solar eclipse. (Isn’t that cool? The December full moon was a lunar eclipse, so there’s been a lot of unusual energy going on.) Solar eclipses are generally considered a great push to whatever working you do, so even though we won’t be able to see this one in the US, those energies will be more available than usual.
Right now, I don’t have any particular schedule restrictions – I’m free both Monday and Tuesday evening. I think I want to do my ritual on Tuesday, though, to take advantage of the building energy from the eclipse, and the (very slightly) waxing moon.
(I am not a skilled astrologer: I find these things out by checking out astrology sites – check out my links at Pinboard for ideas.)
What do I want to focus on?
Astrological timing isn’t everything. As I talk about in the correspondences essay, I believe that what’s going on in the heavens, and what we use in our other correspondences help make certain kinds of work much easier, but that they don’t necessarily have to limit our focus. (Though it may make sense to reframe a particular focus – banishing illness rather than increasing health, for example.)
Sometimes, there’s work I want to do in a ritual that I’d do pretty much regardless of other considerations (if someone needs healing, we probably do not want to wait until the perfect timing). But at other times, looking at the astrology and other considerations can make one go “Oh, this is a great time for that thing I’ve been sort of meaning to get to.”
In this case, it’s actually pretty easy. I’m still job hunting. The astrological stuff is all about new beginnings with powerful energy moving behind them, and especially concentrating on things that are very related to professional life.
Right then. Job related focus it is.
However, it is a new moon (and not a full moon) so we want to keep in mind how that’s going to affect things.
What am I specifically going to do in this ritual?
Ritual can include a huge range of things – meditation, spellwork, creating a magical item (talisman, statue, figure, whatever) for later use, divination, all sorts of other things. So, given my focus, I want to pick specific actions that suit the timing and the focus of the ritual.
It’s a new moon, so it’s a good time for divination and introspection. I’ve already done a lot of reflection on what I really want and care about in a job, but I haven’t done divination about it in a few months. This would probably be a really good time to do some.
It’s a new moon, which is also about increasing. This might be a good time to create a spell or magical working that will increase as as symbol of my other work.
As it happens, fiber arts are a lovely way to do this – in this case, I’d like to use spinning rather than knitting. I have some suitable fiber on hand, but I may stop by the fiber store before Tuesday to see if there’s anything else that catches my eye (what I have isn’t enough for a project later on). I’ll then continue working on the project a little bit every day (even if it’s just a minute or two) to keep the energy going. I like spells of this kind, because they’re pragmatic, but also remind me that I am making progress (there’s more proto-yarn on the spindle, and I can see that.)
(If I’d planned ahead a bit better, I could have ordered exactly what I wanted. This is why thinking about what you want for ritual more than a few days ahead of time can be a really good idea, especially when you’re getting started. Incidentally, I’m on a relatively tight budget, but I do plan money into my budget for incidentals like this: fiber and mint aren’t going to devastate that.)
It would probably also be good to do a bit of meditation. I might use one of the recorded meditations I have on my computer, or I might just lie quietly and let my mind go where it needs. I’ll play that one by ear.
I’ll finish by charging a cup of liquid (maybe wine, maybe one of the tisanes I have that happens to be mint and clove and licorice which happen to be particularly appropriate) to hold prosperity and abundance and new opportunity, and then drink it.
What materials do I need?
And what do I need to prepare in advance? This is where I look at what I need to do ritual, and what I’d like, and how realistic that is. I also include any other necessary preparations.I also look at what I happen to have on hand that might be relevant, even if it wasn’t necessarily part of my initial plan. (Because I might as well use it.)
I start by basically thinking out loud, and then work my way down to a list.
I need fiber, but I have a plan for that. (Though it might make sense for me to go out on Monday, or even tomorrow, rather than wait for Tuesday, as I’ve got two other things scheduled then, and one more might be too much to juggle.)
I’d like to have a simple ritual meal. I have wine (and beer, and lambic, for that matter) in the house, but I don’t have any homemade bread. I’d want to make that whichever day I’m home of Sunday or Monday.
I have a couple of regular bread recipes I could use that would fit, but a little googling suggests that mint is associated with Capricorn, and while that’s not something you often see in bread, it makes me wonder about the possibilities.
This recipe makes me curious – the orange is a great fit with the returning sun, and the mint is good for prosperity (and healing, which is not a bad thing either for me right now.) It’s a technique I haven’t tried before, but it looks intriguing. Guess I know what I’m doing Monday between working on cover letters. (And that means I do have to stop at the co-op for fresh mint after the yarn store.)
I have Tarot cards, other divination tools, and so on. I also have some candles, even, with Road Opener oil wrapped into them.
I do need to put together a playlist on my computer for the ritual work – possibly for the meditation, but definitely for 20 minutes of spinning as part of getting the ritual work going.
Ok, then, here’s my plan:
- Go to the fiber store, see if they have fiber in suitable colors (reds, oranges, yellows, or alternately greens) for spinning.
- Stop by the co-op and get some fresh mint.
- Make the bread. (have all the other needed ingredients except mint)
- Put together the playlist.
- Do any final tidying/cleaning that would be helpful, so it doesn’t need to happen on Tuesday.
- If the bread fails, remember you will be near a perfectly lovely bakery on Tuesday.
- Before going out to do the other things scheduled on the day, put the butter out to warm to room temp.
- Go do stuff (a visit somewhere, and coffee with someone who wants to pick my brain about something.)
- It’d be also good to think about which jewelry and ritual clothing would be the best fit for this ritual. I’ve got lots of choices, but some of them fit better than others.
- Come home, decompress a little, have ritual bath, do ritual.
I’ll note something here – don’t panic about the fact I’m making my own bread and doing all this other stuff. I like doing that, and I’ve found that spreading the prep work of the ritual over a couple of days helps me gear up for ritual in a very meaningful way. But if I hated making bread, I’d do something else. (Though I’d still ideally try to get good quality bread – artisan bread from the store, whatever.)
I might make incense, or design a blend of herbs to drink while I’m preparing for ritual, or even pick a book to read in the days leading up to the ritual that fit my goals. There are all sorts of options, and I pick different ones depending on my mood, my level of energy, and my focus. In this case, trying a different bread recipe sounds fun (and I have a backup plan.)
If I were doing a ritual with this focus when I was just getting started (and didn’t have a lot of random stuff around that could be used), I might do any of the following:
- Divination (if I had a divination tool – a pendulum is easy to make.)
- Meditation (doesn’t take any tools other than some practice).
- Charging a cup/chalice of water,
- Drawing an image that I could use to reinforce my goals throughout the month using markers, paper, colored pencils, whatever I had easy access to.
- Creating a simple talisman out of air-hardening clay, polymer clay, or another similar substance.
- If I had another craft (beading, sewing, etc.) I might make something using that craft and existing supplies.
You get the idea – there’s a number of possibilities that may not require anything special for you. In my case, I either have things, or don’t mind picking them up, so I’d like to use them to give that little bit of extra oomph.
No script? You might notice one other thing – nowhere in here do I either plan or schedule time to plan a script. While I might have an index card with a reminder of what I want to do (and in what order), I don’t generally script out my rituals anymore, unless there’s a very specific piece that it’s important to do word for word.
After 10 years or so, I do know my tradition’s general ritual outline. (Backwards, forwards, upside down, and standing on my head), and I usually do my invocation calls from the heart in the moment. (I think in advance about what I want to so, but that’s not always what comes out.) So there’s also not a lot of scripting involved right now.
When you’re getting started, you may feel a lot more comfortable having more written out, and that’s just fine. Some people like a printed sheet. Some people find index cards are a good reminder, but less distracting. I know a few people experimenting with using an iPhone or something similar with their notes.
Finally, how do I know it’s successful?
This is a hard one to tell – magic doesn’t happen just with a snap of the fingers, and that’s especially true of something like job hunting, where I can put out all the resumes possible (and have, and will continue to), but where the decisions aren’t just mine (other people need to read them, want to talk to me, set up an interview, and so on – and all of that takes time!)
Some people put time limits on their magic (“Let me have a job offer by the next full moon”) but my field doesn’t quite work like that in the first place, and I also want a job that’s going to be a longer-term good fit for me. (I may yet get to the “Job, now!” place, but I’m not there yet.)
In this case, I’ll consider the ritual successful if it helps move me forward in my own approach to the job hunt: if I find it easier to sit down and write those cover letters (or am more inspired doing them), if I see an increase in the number of jobs in my field, and things like that – though of course, I’d love for a job offer to happen, or at least a few more interviews.
After the ritual, I’ll write up notes in my journal, and see what happens from there. I’ll also see what the divination work suggests – maybe there’s an area I haven’t been focusing on that could stand some more attention.
A note about planning for group work:
Planning for group work adds more complexity. While it’s beyond the scope of this essay, here are some additional things I’d be thining about if I were planning this as a small group ritual.
Focus: I happen to be job-hunting, but chances are that most people in a given group won’t be.
Job-hunting would actually be a bad choice for my two prospective students right now (one of whom is not planning to return to work for a year or so, the other of whom just started a new job.) So, for group work, I’d need to pick something more general – new opportunities, for example, or discipline to reach a goal, perhaps, if I wanted to rely heavily on the astrological effects.
Flexibility: We might not be able to do ritual on the Tuesday, if we were doing group work, so I might need to adjust the framing of the ritual depending on when ritual occurred.
Advance planning: If I’m planning for myself, I can get away with a 4-day lead time. But if I’m planning for other people, I probably need to take more time. (This is, I suspect, part of why many groups only do the Full Moon or the New Moon as group rituals, not both – you can then start planning the next one as soon as the previous one’s done, and have plenty of time.)
Other people will need time to pick up any specific items or things they need, they need time to read and think about the focus if it’s shared in advance, and of course, they need to know when it’s happening, so they can arrange their schedule to be there. (Obviously, you can schedule in advance, and decide what you’re doing closer to the ritual, which is what a lot of groups do.)
Specific needs: It’d be silly to build in a ritual around spinning if the other people don’t spin. Crafts or other spell-creating projects should be designed so that everyone would be able to do something with them. (It doesn’t need to be the best art ever. Just satisfying for and meaningful to them.) I’d obviously also want to take any food allergies, strong dislikes, and any accessibility issues into consideration.
Getting stuff out of my head and where other people can use it: While I don’t script my own rituals, I would need to do at least some scripting if other people were taking on ritual roles. This wouldn’t need to be incredibly formal (though it could be), but I would need to share the specifics with other people taking on ritual roles, in a form they could refer to later.
And of course, other people might also want/need to be involved in the planning. Some groups plan the rituals together all the time. Sometimes it’s a combination – people get together to plan the Sabbats, but different people volunteer for the Esbats. Sometimes it’s everyone, sometimes it’s only the people who are interested in planning that particular ritual. Depends on the group. Whatever the choice, you need to factor in other people’s planning time with group work.
You get the idea, anyway – there’d be a lot more things I’d consider too.
Probably for group ritual, I’d be looking at something like a mediation and divination around the ideas of new opportunities (especially in the realm of profession or ‘public’ interactions), perhaps with some kind of herbal tea blending, incense making, or something else that people could take home with them to carry that energy into the following months.
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