In certain rites of passage, in high energy, advanced magical work, and in rituals such as sweat lodge ceremonies that demand endurance and stamina to maximize the spiritual benefits gained, we expect to be tested up to or sometimes past our own limits. In most rituals, however, we seek out personal fulfillment that comes at an easier price. I have found that the enjoyment a person derives from ritual comes from the blending of the personal meaningfulness and relatability of the content with the overall comfort level, spiritually and physically, within the circle area. These sustain the interest and focus required for a strong, impacting ceremony. In this post, we explore some of the components that make a ritual enjoyable and worthwhile to the participants.
What You Hear
Inspirational, devotional words lend great power and focus to almost any ritual; however, the words spoken in ritual are only one part of the auditory ritual process. Music plays an important role in setting the mood and bringing a person to Higher Self, as can chanting, drumming, clapping, humming, and even silence. Two of the most moving rituals I ever experienced were one done in total silence from start to finish with gestures and symbolism providing the entire content of the ritual and another performed exclusively to a series of musical selections and Pagan chants to identify the casting, the invocations, the building of energy, the release, and the closing. The sounds we choose as a focus or background for ritual should infuse the participants with energy and heighten the mood; otherwise, there is no reason to have it there. Consider carefully your musical component to ritual as well as the use of effective silence and what purpose each one serves.
Equally important is the absence of disruptive sounds. Do your best to eliminate any irritating sounds that could distract you during your ritual time. Dogs barking, phones ringing, people shouting, and TV or music blaring from the next room over can distract participants and reduce the energy flow and focus significantly.
What You See
Our working environment is important in energy raising and should be visually appealing. Certain colors and symbols add a tremendous energy boost when used appropriately within the context of the ritual. A maypole is a powerful visual phallic symbol and God and Goddess representations on the altar enhance our focus on the Divine. Red evokes passion and innovation while green inspires grounding and healing. Use the senses, including vision, to enhance the energy flow and guide the thought processes that provide good magical focus.
Clutter and other visual distractions keep our eyes from focusing on what we are doing and instead draws our attention, even to a minor degree, toward the extraneous items around us. Items visible within the immediate working environment should contribute to energy flow rather than detract from it. In all cases, we should make it as easy as possible for our ritual guests to focus, feel comfortable, and raise good energy toward the goal of our ritual.
What You Feel
Of the five senses, we respond fastest to touch. When women labor, touch is often all that provides comfort. Holding stones, touching the ground, holding hands, feeling the earth under your feet or ocean waves moving against your legs all convey strong energy. We are tactile creatures and love pleasant touch sensations. Incorporate tactile experiences into your circle through the use of energy stones, feathers, interaction with dirt, and other elemental expressions.
What we feel can also break ritual focus. If we are freezing or standing in the hot sun for too long, we may begin to lose the focus of the ritual because our physical discomfort is overwhelming. Be mindful of how the elements are treating your guests and adjust the ritual accordingly. Provide chairs as needed for those who cannot stand for extended lengths of time.
What You Smell
The benefits of aromatherapy and the fact that smelling certain scents affects our moods and even physical health are now well known. The magical mood is amplified by the use of complimentary incenses, oils, scented candles, herbs, or other aromatic agents. I used to take a garden hose and sprinkle the dirt around my outside circle area just so I could smell the rich scent of the earth while I worked magic. The smell of a smudge stick, especially a sage, cedar or sweet-grass mix, immediately shoots me into energy working mode.
Make sure that your magical working environment is free of distracting odors, such as pet smells, garbage, body odor or other unpleasant scents that overpower the focus of the guests.
What You Taste
The Higher Self craves symbolism and responds to certain tastes. We can use this knowledge to create a pleasant ritual experience. To invite an influx of new energy, for instance, eat a stale piece of bread to symbolize the old life and drink a sweet drink or eat a piece of luscious fruit immediately afterward to represent new life.
Likewise, try to use benign foods for cakes and ale that are unlikely to trigger allergies or place recovering alcoholics or non-drinkers in a difficult situation.
What You Do
As much as the other five, this aspect of ritual is vital to what a guest takes away in terms of personal fulfillment. In the 1940s, educationist Edgar Dale conducted experiments to determine how people best learn and from his findings, psychologists in later years developed the Dale Cone of Experience:
As you can see, the common consensus is that talking your ritual participants to death will likely result in approximately 10% memory retention and offer a limited long-term impact. Getting your people busy actively participating in the ritual increases their retention and therefore, the ritual impact, up toward a whopping 90%. Rather than having them stand around and listen to a lecture, get those folks moving! Dancing, fire jumping or enchanting, visualization, chanting, web weaving, drumming… There are many ways you can engage the ritual participants in the progression of the ceremony and thereby, enhance what they will take away from it.
Self-care is vital to living the magical life, so make certain when you create ritual only for yourself, that you use premises such as these to treat yourself as a valued guest at your own ritual.