If you have been working through the “Interest Phase” and the “Exploratory Phase”, you will probably now be familiar with the following concepts and have some rudimentary knowledge in…
- The basic history of Witchcraft and its cultural origins.
- Some of the different Traditions and Ways that Witchcraft is practiced today.
- The basic ethical guidelines, such as the Rede or Law of Three.
- A basic overview of karma and reincarnation (or transmigration).
- An understanding on how Magick works.
- Deity Names and Aspects.
- The Elements and correspondences.
- Basic Tools of the Craft and their use in ritual work.
- Some divination, visualization and meditation techniques.
- Folklore and Mythology.
Great! This is the foundation from which your continuing studies will build and grow. Along the Way, you will stop often to ponder about new materials and visions. Remember to go slowly and to reflect much on what these concepts personally may mean to you. Again, it is very important to allow these new ideas to become integrated into your spirit. This is the only way that they can become “real’ to you. They become a part of who you are and how you think and feel. One of the ways to help this process along is through “practice.”
THE BEGINNING PRACTICE PHASE:
Chances are pretty good that you have already “dabbled’ a bit with some of the techniques of ritual work. Even if you have only begun this in your mind, you are beginning to feel the stirrings of a desire to actually DO the workings that up until this point you have only been reading or hearing about. Where do you “begin”? Do you dig through your books and find a ritual that appeals to you? Do you have a specific need in your life right now? What have you put into your Journal or Book of Shadows that you have underlined as important or particularly relevant? What do YOU feel?
You will notice a lot of emphasis on “feelings” throughout these articles. What do “feelings” have to do with all of this? Well, Carl Jung said it much better than I ever could:
“Feeling informs you through its feeling-tones of the values of things. Feeling tells you for instance whether a thing is acceptable or agreeable or not. It tells you what a thing is WORTH to you….It is, like thinking, a rational function.”
BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING:
Look for SYMBOLISM-The subconscious mind works through pictures and symbols. This is why the “inner” work that you do is the starting point of all Magick. Look over your magickal tools and objects. Choose one or two at random. Touch them. Hold them in your hands. Close your eyes. What are they “saying” to your inner self? What images do they bring up and what memories do they unlock?
You are using your IMAGINATION-You are not “making things up” when you are using your imagination. At least not in the sense that most of us have been lead to believe. If you have ever been reprimanded for “day dreaming” in class or at the dinner table, you may have to re-learn and “give yourself permission” to unlock this powerful tool again. Allow yourself some “flights of fancy” time each day.
Imagination is the ability to use your mind creatively. The word “creative” is linked with “creation”. In a very real sense you are creating what you imagine. Just as a sculptor has an image of a work in his or her mind and then seeks to unlock the image from the physical materials at hand, so you create magick from the images that surface as a result of your meditations and desires. Have you used your imagination today?
Now put the symbolism and the imagination together. What symbols came into your mind and what did your imagination do with these images? Ask a question and see if the images change around or become more clear. Don’t be surprised where you may end up. Your subconscious mind is a very rich and fertile place. It is the ‘playground’ of your spirit where anything is possible. And if you “wake up” with a start and realize that you have just spent 20 minutes in reverie, you are really getting the hang of it!
The next exercise will be your first step from the mental/spiritual into the physical/spiritual realm. This is where you begin to actually DO THE WORK. You will start slowly and build on each previous step. Do not rush this process. This is very important. Let me explain a bit.
Do you remember as a child a favorite story that you never grew tired of hearing? You knew the entire book by heart. Part of its “magic” for you WAS knowing the entire story by heart. And remember how you would correct the reader of the story if they tried to skip a part or changed the words? The story for you was a ritual. The retelling of it the same way over and over was important to you. Because there were no surprises or changes, you could relax and really get”into” the entire tale in your…gasp!…imagination. (Don’t tell Grandma, but she was actually your first “Witchy” teacher!)
The gestures, tools and workings of your beginning ritual practice should be exactly the same each time that you do them during your Beginning Practice Phase. This repetition trains your subconscious mind to remember what is coming next. The subconscious is like the child who wants to hear that story the same way over and over. The “ritual”-repeated over and over- provides a safe and comforting setting for both your imagination and the symbolic elements to expand and grow. You’ll have plenty of time to “get fancy” later on.
The Practice Phase Do’s and Don’ts…
DO The BASIC RITUAL OUTLINE something like this:
- Cleansing the Area.
- Preparing the Altar.(nothing too elaborate, just a few of your favorite tools). Lighting the candles.
- Casting the circle.
- Welcoming the elements.
- Welcoming the Deities.
- Stating the Purpose of the ritual.
- Magickal workings or devotions.
- Raising the Energy. Releasing the Energy.
- Thanking the Deities.
- Thanking the elements.
- Closing(or sometimes called opening) the circle.
- Eating snacks!
There are many simpler or more elaborate ways to do a ritual. Many Traditions have their own formats as well. But if you know how to do this basic ritual, you will pretty much be comfortable in any open Circle that you may attend.
DO BEGIN! Start at the beginning of the above list. Make notes on each step in your journal as you begin to plan your ritual. How will you cleanse your working area? Salt and water? Besom (broom)? Incense? What will you place on your altar? (Making a list first insures that you will not forget something….”Matches, anyone?”, is the most classical “oops”!).
DO… Take time to sit quietly and center yourself before you begin. Be honest about your feelings. Are you excited…scared….nervous? That is normal. This is important stuff and not to be entered into lightly. O.K.? Now you can begin, but…
DO… Tell the Old Ones that you are “practicing’. Although They already know this (and They are ready to help you), it will be reassuring to YOU to state this in case you end up feeling that you may have “done something wrong”. You haven’t. You are “practicing” and practice involves a certain amount of trial and error. No one ‘upstairs’ is laughing at you.
DO… Perform each step slowly and carefully. Let the symbols speak to your inner self. Take time between each step to feel how the ritual has affected you and changed your surroundings. As you ground, listen for answers…listen for advice…listen to yourself…listen to the phone ringing because you forgot to take it off the hook….
DO… Listen. We ask for things and then we often do not take the time to listen for the answers. Write everything down. Doodle impressions in the margins. These symbols may be important later.
DO… this same basic ritual over and over and over again. Rather than becoming boring, you will probably find that it becomes MORE meaningful each time that you do it. And your inner child’s subconscious mind will be loving it! (Thanks, Grandma!)
DO… Continue to repeat the first Phases again. We are all constantly learning and going “back to basics” is always a good idea.
DON’T… worry about what you will say. Say what is in your heart. Use simple language-remember that “child” thing?-and DO remember to take deep breaths in between sentences. You want to ‘alter your consciousness”, not lose it!
DON’T… take any oaths or make lifelong dedications to the Old Ones. You have not made that decision yet. You are still trying to discover if Witchcraft is the right Path for you. This is one of the most important decisions that you will ever make in your life. Give it the respect and consideration that it deserves.
DON’T… be afraid. All those Hollywood movies may have made you a tad nervous about beginning actual ritual practice. Nothing like that will happen to you. You have done each step slowly and with much forethought. It is only when someone tries to go into places for which they are unprepared that the situation can get unpleasant. That is why teachers emphasize the NEED to go slowly. You HAVE taken the time to prepare yourself and done all the steps in order, haven’t you?
DON’T… do the ritual either too often or too little. Formulate a regular schedule-say once a week- and stick to that for a while. If you really desire to do something on a daily basis, a simple candle lighting ritual in the morning or evening will do just fine. Begin to think about Moon phases, Holidays and other times to do ritual Work. Witchcraft is based on the “rhythms’ of Nature and that will be the next step…