As an overly scripted Witch, most of my rituals begin with a Statement of Intent. I’m not the first person to suggest a thesis statement at the beginning of every ritual, nor am I the first person to use the term Statement of Intent. It’s not the most common turn of phrase, but it turns up often enough (and if Google is any indication, it’s used mostly for grad school admissions.) The SoI has been a part of my ritual operating procedure for the last 15 years and even when it’s not verbalized in ritual it’s been at least internalized.
Ritual should have meaning, and figuring out your intent before it starts is a way to make sure it does. Intent can be a small thing, we are here to celebrate Ostara, or it can a very big thing. Ritual often has several moving parts, and there are nights we might gather together to: honor the full moon, work magick, and celebrate our chosen family. Those last three things don’t sound particularly related, but they are of course, they are all things Witches do. Sometimes that’s all you need.
The point of articulating a ritual’s intent is to keep the ritual on track and let everyone know at the start of the ritual exactly what will be going on. If we verbalize “healing spell for our friend” before the quarters are even cast then our spell begins at that moment. We can start gathering our energy and begin to focus on that night’s work.
At open rituals (rites beyond the coven) I will often sum up what we will all be doing that night in order to give people a chance to get out (that’s never happened, but one never knows), and to let them know what our focus will be. You never know when someone will want to try and take over your Samhain ritual and make it about them or about something unrelated to the ritual you are about to do. A good Statement of Intent is a gentle reminder of what the evening’s intent will be.
“We gather here tonight to celebrate the passing of the Old Year and to welcome in the new. We are here to celebrate Samhain, the final harvest, that time when the veil between the world’s is at its thinnest and those that have departed this world may return to it once more. So mote it be.”
When writing large rituals the Statement of Intent gives me a focus. When my mind starts to wander I can revisit my opening statement and get back on track. If something doesn’t relate to my SoI then it doesn’t need to be in the ritual, it’s superfluous, because it’s not supporting the ritual’s true intent.
Intent is also something we have to remember as Witches. What is it that we hope to get out of the Craft? If someone comes to Witchcraft simply looking for power they may find it, but they also won’t find anything else. They won’t grow as spiritual beings, develop their magickal skills beyond that one blunt force, or cultivate a meaningful relationship with deity.
In the initiation ritual I wrote for The Witch’s Athame one of the things I have people do is “write a letter about what they hope to gain from the Craft” and this is related directly to intent. What is it that we are trying to get out of Witchcraft? If we can’t articulate our goals we will probably never succeed in making them a reality. Our intent defines our purpose as Witches and gives us a direction.
My earliest adult experiences with magick were often complete disasters, and much of that was because I didn’t understand my own intentions. In college I spent a ridiculous year working on love spells (and ridiculous only begins to illustrate my stupidity). Most of those spells were focused on “I want to fall in love” which was really dumb for a variety of reasons:
1. I didn’t really know what romantic love was back then.
2. I didn’t love myself all that much, and before we can receive love we have to have love ourselves.
3. I never asked for my feelings to be reciprocated in any way by the person I would fall in love with.
Over looking that last bit had very real consequences. I ended up pining for a lovely Mormon girl, even watched her teach Sunday school one morning, but my feelings weren’t in any returned. Amanda (her name was Amanda, it’s been 20 years I think we are OK here) was really great and we spent a lot of time together, but it never became what I wanted it to be, and that was because the intent of my spell was all wrong. I needed to feel love and be loved, instead I suffered from the delusion that it was simply enough to be captivated by someone. Trust me, it’s not.
Magick, more than anything is, about our intent. We get what we put into it, and the specifics matter. And if we can’t specify exactly why we are doing something the results are going to be messy. A good job spell should probably include where you want to live, especially if you want to avoid that “perfect job” in Nome Alaska. Magick, especially the more personal kind, is a scalpel and not a hammer.
Much like spelling out a ritual before it starts, every component of a spell should have something to do with the spell’s intent. Like attracts like after all, and if we use something in a spell that has us questioning why it’s there, that doubt will creep into the spell we are about to cast. If an object doesn’t add to what’s about to be done it doesn’t need to be done. “Keep it simple stupid” is an overused turn of phrase, but I think it’s an apt one in most magickal operations.
It pays to be precise, and the only way to be precise is to truly know what you want. If your intentions are murky, your results will be murky. Our intent (much like our will) needs to be sharp and focused.
All of our activities as Witches benefit from specifics. Knowing just why we are doing something will make it that much more effective. It’s easy to just recklessly charge ahead, but the results often won’t be what we want.