Making Ritual Real
A lot of pagans and witches, especially those new to their path can become frustrated when they feel that the rituals they are preforming are simply not "real" or have any deep meaning or feeling to them. We all want that special spiritual experience. But how can we set ourselves up for the mysteries?
Here's a few tips:
Decorate your altar, shrine and ritual space with items that relate (in your mind) to the ritual purpose. Use colors, scent, images, and tools to their best effect. If you are doing a very masculine working, do not put pink flowers on your altar. Put images and items that have a masculine feel and meaning to you. If you are doing a hearth and home related ritual, put a dollhouse in the room, cut out images of fireplaces from a magazine and tack them on the wall.
Do not bother with placing items that will not be used or useful during the ritual, only use what is going to be really helpful. If there is a print on the wall that does not relate to your ritual, take it down, or hang a piece of fabric over it. Cut out the distractions as much as possible.
Do not worry about the proper correspondences as written in a book; think about what gives you the right impressions, thoughts and feelings. It is all about your mind connecting your surroundings with the ritual purpose.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Do not allow yourself to become distracted by silly little things, like almost tripping, almost spilling, slipping up a few words, and the clock ticking in the next room. Do not worry about making a fool of yourself, if your makeup is getting smeared, if your
deodorant is holding up. These are all distractions. They do not matter.
Don’t rush! Slow down and take your time. Rushing through a ritual will not give it that deep meaning; you will gain nothing from it. If your rituals are too long, cut the fat. Trim it down to only what is really important, so that you can spend the proper amount of time focusing on
Move! Dance, clap, stomp, sway, and wave your arms around. Just standing there shuffling your feet does not help to build energy, it also does not help you to feel the ritual. It may seem a tad silly, but if you are finding a lack of emotion, a lack of meaning in your ritual, try doing an interpretive dance, act out your ritual. Tap your foot in time to the words you are speaking.
Do your own personal sign language. If you are saying something about the moon, draw a circle or crescent in the air with your hand or ritual tool. If you are trying to connect with the feminine divine, touch your breasts (if you are a woman), draw the shape of a woman in the air, hold you arms as if stroking a pregnant belly or as if you are holding a baby. When contacting a god, touch your crouch (if you are a man), or draw a hammer, a phallus or horns or oak leaf in the air in front of you.
Stand up straight, lie down, sit up, lean to one side and then the other, hop on one foot, and use those hand signs and body postures found in Paganism 101 books.
Say it like you mean it. One of my best teachers was into drama and acting. She used to shout at us during ritual “Emote dammit! Say it like you mean it!” don’t just read off of some page in a monotone, say it with feeling, drama, and meaning.
When you are inviting entities into your ritual, speak with welcome in your voice, say it as if you were inviting a friend in to your home. Do not rush through a prayer, chant or poem as quickly as possible. Take the time to carefully speak each line, with feeling. Repeat if necessary. Pretend you are an actor on a stage where your audience is hard of hearing and far away. Emote and project. Speak from the heart and use your belly voice, as acting and singing instructors would say.
Singing and chanting rather than speaking can also help you to inject emotion into your words. So try it, even if you do not have a great voice.
Use your imagination. That’s what visualizing is all about. Using your imagination will help you to connect with your creative side, the right side of your brain, the part of you that does not worry about logic, but that relies on feelings and intuition.
Practice, practice, practice. Do not give up if things just don’t feel like they are working the first time. Try it again; try everything at least three times before moving on to something else. The first couple of times you perform a new ritual, you will feel rather awkward, that’s perfectly natural. You cannot truly find that spiritual connection until you have become somewhat comfortable with what you are doing. Do not expect results right away, the very first time. This rarely happens for people.
Also it can be a good idea to practice at home, alone a couple of times before you go and join in a group ritual.
Feel it, really feel it. Don’t just go through the motions. If you feel that you are, stop! Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself what you are doing and why. Find your motivation. Say it out loud, think it, picture it in your mind, and really feel it. Draw it, paint it, and write poetry about it.
Do whatever you need to do before a ritual to make sure the purpose of the ritual is fresh in your mind and filling your heart. At each step along they way during a ritual, stop for a second and reaffirm what you are doing and why.
Keep the ritual purpose in the forefront of your mind and heart. A good ritual, a really truly good ritual should bring you to the brink of tears, happy or sad. People have often made fun of me for getting choked up or actually crying during ritual. They don’t get it, not at all. If you really want results, you need to bring your heart fully into it. If you want a ritual to have meaning, you must give it meaning. You must really feel it, you must put that feeling into it.
Laugh, cry, shout, sing, dance, smile, and do it like you mean it! If you do not mean it, you shouldn’t be doing it. If you do not mean it deep in your mind, heart and soul, you will never have that special spiritual experience you seek.
by Juniper of Walking the Hedge 2009
(feel free to share, just add this disclaimer)