There’s this illusion that rituals, and all types of spiritual growth, are free from anything dirty or unattractive. It’s time we talk about what really happens when the ritual ends, when things can get really messy. After the candles have been extinguished, the offerings are looking a bit sad, and we’ve cried all the tears possible. There’s dripped wax on the carpet, tissues everywhere and holes in the altar cloth from who knows what. Internally, we often feel the same way. True spiritual growth is a very messy process that really begins after the ritual is over.
The Spiritual Messiness
After the ritual ends, we may feel energized or exhausted, experience blinding clarity or the numbness symptomatic of deep change. During the ritual we may have been intimately connected with our spirits, so much so that we feel sad upon returning to our normal state of being. Or we can emerge drenched in the love of the goddess. Our task is to lean into these states of being so we can consume that magickal medicine we sought.
Rituals have a life of their own.
Sometimes during the performance of the ritual, we may even feel disconnected or things can go in an entirely different direction than what we had planned. While we are the most important part of any ritual, when we seek transformation through Hekate and spirits, they will impart their medicine upon us in ways that may seem completely unsensible or they may not have even seemed to have shown up. Hekate was there. Perhaps not how you expected her to be. She’s like that.
Plan. Prepare. Then let it happen how it will.
I dropped the aster bath bombs I’d made into the steaming tub, lit the bundle of juniper, rosemary and wormwood, then carefully arranged the candles I made. I’d been feeling jittery all day, so I was excited about the sweet relief in Hekate’s warm, wet womb. Nope. Instead my hyper awareness ramped up even more. It was as though I could feel everyone who was doing the Death Walking Ritual of Release. I fiercely worked my body with the black salt scrub, but still no calmness.
Mugwort oil was my next attempt. Drenched in charcoal, salt and mugwort, I was still receiving all this input from what felt like thousands of witches. I needed to bury myself outside, but it was freezing and raining. Undaunted, I submerged my head several times. The only message that came through that I was to stop trying to hold onto all the energy coming at me. Hekate said that I was merely the conduit between her and all of them.
But all I wanted was to be with her. Alone.
It wasn’t until my early morning journey to release my offering the next day that the teaching that Hekate had bestowed on me during my ritual was potent medicine. She had showed me how I am inspiring thousands to seek her mysteries and their own deeper selves. What more could any witch ask for? During the ritual I had recommitted to her, saying that I will do her bidding. It had been like trying to talk to someone at a rock concert. But in the stillness of the morning, I could finally listen to her. That’s when I was nourished by her medicine. Magick is medicine, and it works at its own pace.
Remember the magick isn’t over when the ritual finishes.
In my experience, the amplified energy during ritual can block us from receiving the medicine offered. More like we take the medicine, but the effects are not felt until later on, when our emotions simmer down. When we get quiet.
What is medicine to the soul, is poison to the shadow.
When we open ourselves up to the medicine of a ritual, our shadow often roars against the treatment. What is nourishment to the soul is poison to the shadow. Resistance is the symptom of the ritual’s power. The medicine is strong. Don’t spit it out, but rather allow it to work its magick. Resistance shows up as doubt. Was it merely my imagination? Why didn’t I feel more magick? These are two questions that typically arise. The answer to the first is that no it wasn’t, and to the second; medicine magick doesn’t need to be felt to work.
Taking time for yourself is the best magickal medicine.
I used to not schedule enough time for rituals, but now I plan for the entire day before, the day of, and the day after. Make the ritual your vacation, send the kids for a sleepover, and put the pets in the spare bedroom. This is YOUR time.
Let the magickal medicine work.
Patience is one of my greatest teachers. Allow the medicine to weave the magick in you, let it sink into your body, mind and soul.
Pay attention. Its working and you don’t even realize it.
There’s a risk when we do ritual that we hyperfocus on getting attention and forget to pay attention. In the days following the ritual, look for signs. Stay aware. Get into your place of stillness, whether by walking, yoga or sitting. Turn inward to where the truth waits for you to listen.
Help your body and mind adjust to the magickal medicine.
When we experience true spiritual death walking – the separation of the eternal, etheric self from our corporeal beings – we come back changed. As we unite back into wholeness, the medicine our spiritual self holds interacts with the corporeal self. This is why we may feel hyperaware or need to sleep for 14 hours. An adjustment process has to occur. Trust in the process.
Nourish yourself through good food, rest and self compassion. Hekate’s Feast is not just for her. Make enough of the delicious treats for both of you to share afterwards. Sweet and protein are what I need after a deep ritual. Your needs will vary depending on your medicine.
Recording the magick.
Recording the ritual experience is vital. Basic record keeping should include the date/time, moon phase, other astrological considerations, the details of your altar, magickal formulary (e.g., incense and oil recipes), your attire, methods used, and your petition or incantation. A brief description of the experience with key features should also be included. I place that information in my Book of Shadows, but the processing of the experience goes in my Book of Life.
Disposing Of Ritual Leftovers
While adjusting to our spiritual medicine, we also have to clean up the physical remains from the ritual. Here are a few tips for cleaning up your offerings and materia magicka.
Unless you feel that you shouldn’t do so, feel free to eat them, reuse them or otherwise repurpose. The exception is offerings left at the crossroads for Hekate, in which case what is offered may be left for consuming by the local wildlife. Hekate doesn’t need you to give her a bunch of food or fancy trinkets, but if you want to, that’s fine. In ancient times, the debris from rituals would be offered to Hekate. In this spirit, when you take out the ritual trash, release it to her. She is the Sacred Filth Eater who is nourished by our garbage, transforming it anew. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should make a pile of debris.
When we dine with the goddess, we are celebrating the sacred within us as well as honoring her. Eat the cheesecake, cook with that garlic, and drink the wine. Unless you feel you shouldn’t.
The candles, incense and other things (like flowers) that often are part of our altars may be spiritually spent (like us) after the ritual. Beeswax candles can be composted, and all candles can be melted down for use in new ones or for other forms of witchery, for sealing spells and making poppets. Incense and flowers, if spent, can be composted. Consider the way you’ll dispose of all the items on your altar as you plan it. Most objects that don’t decompose can be cleansed with salt or oil for reuse.
Keeping Her Keys Rituals