Seasons of Wicca: The Essential Guide to Rituals and Rites to Enhance Your Spiritual Journey - Ambrosia Hawthorn 2020
Rituals to Enhance your Spiritual Journey
Before we dive into the specifics of the rituals, let’s cover some basics that will take you one step closer to a rewarding spiritual journey. Bear in mind that evolving your spiritual journey is a lifelong process of give and take.
Everyone’s spiritual journey is different, and what makes your journey unique is the fact that you have your own goals, ideas, and convictions. For some, spirituality is about devotion and faith; for others, it’s about nurturing personal growth and fostering connections. Both of these—and nearly anything else—can be achieved through ritual.
When planning and preparing for your own rituals, it’s important to remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” way. Just by practicing, you enhance your spiritual journey. Far more important than the outcome is the journey and what you learn along the way.
Ritual basics provide a key foundation to a rewarding spiritual path. Without the basics, your rituals won’t have meaning or intentions. In this section, I’ll dive into the ritual basics of purification, setting up an altar, and casting a circle, and I’ll teach you about the tools you can use for transformation. By starting out with the basics, you’ll be equipped to perform the rituals contained in this book, and you might even be inspired to create your own. This chapter introduces many new terms, and for a quick reference, you can always consult the glossary.
ORDER OF RITUAL BASIC STEPS
1.Purification of self
2.Purification of space
3.Setting up your altar
4.Casting a circle of protection
5.Invoking a deity
7.Thanking the deity
8.Cake and ale (optional)
9.Opening the circle
The first step in performing a ritual is the purification process of yourself and the space. Within this process are the three C’s: cleanse, consecrate, and charge. These concepts can be applied to your tools, your altar or room, and even to yourself.
Cleansing refers to cleaning yourself, your objects, and your space physically and spiritually. The easiest way to cleanse yourself is by taking a bath or shower to wash away any stagnant or unwanted energies. Next, you can put on a ritual robe or fresh clothing. To cleanse objects, you can pass them through the smoke of incense, water, or sweep them with a besom. To cleanse a room, use a smudge stick or besom to burn away or banish unwanted energy. Many of the rituals in this book instruct you to cleanse your altar. You can do this with a smudge stick, sweeping with a besom, sprinkling salt, or asperging water. More information on how to cleanse your altar in these ways can be found here.
Consecration is the process of making a space or object sacred. To consecrate an object or space, you’ll need to set your intentions and offer a blessing or call upon the elements to assist you. To call upon the elements, you can use physical representations for them on your altar, such as salt for earth, smoke for air, a candle for fire, or a bowl of liquid for water. Pass objects through the elemental representations and ask each element for its assistance in consecration.
Charging is the process of empowering, raising, or building energy for an intended purpose. You can raise energy to charge an item by singing, chanting, or meditating. You can also charge an object by leaving it out under a full moon to absorb the moon’s energy. Crystals hold energy like batteries, so it’s a great idea to charge your crystals during the full moon to have them ready for use in rituals at any time of the month. Be sure to cleanse and consecrate your crystals before you charge them.
SETTING UP YOUR ALTAR
An altar is your ritual workspace. It can be a table, an entire room, or an outdoor space—but it should be separate from where you sleep or spend time in everyday life. If you don’t have a separate space, it will be necessary to set up, cleanse, consecrate, charge, and take down your altar each time you perform a ritual. Altars are meant to hold your magical tools and elemental and deity representations. Your altar is also a place to keep your Book of Shadows, cake and ale or other ritual offering, and any festive decorations.
Many Wiccans place their deity representation in the center of the altar and elemental representations in a layout according to their cardinal directions; others set up elemental representations according to their place in a pentacle configuration. The rituals in this book include instructions for either, but you can choose based on your preference. To set up elemental representations in a pentacle configuration, place spirit at the top, water at the upper right, fire at the lower right, earth at the bottom left, and air at the upper left. To set up elemental representations according to their cardinal directions, face the earth candle toward the north, the air candle toward the east, the fire candle toward the south, the water candle toward the west, and the spirit candle in the center.
Some Wiccans choose to work intuitively and create an entirely new altar arrangement depending on the ritual or event. For instance, if you’re outdoors, you might place larger elemental representations in a circle around you. Take these suggestions and adapt them to fit your own practice.
CASTING A CIRCLE
Once you purify and set up your altar, you’ll cast a circle. It’s important to do this prior to beginning a ritual because casting a circle represents the space becoming sacred, thereby erecting a boundary around your space. Casting a circle will also protect you from unwanted attention or outside influences during your rituals.
You can use physical objects or visualize energy or light to create a boundary. Common physical boundary markers include salt, rope, candles, and crystals. You can also create a physical boundary with objects representing the elements. More information on tools to represent the elements can be found in the section “Tools for Magical Transformations”.
Casting a circle involves calling upon the quarters, cardinal directions, or elements to bless and protect your ritual space. To cast a circle, you will hold a wand or athame as an extension of your hand to assist with directing energy to create the boundary around the ritual space. Then, you’ll call upon the elements.
First, turn to face the east and say something along the lines of: “Element of air, I call on you; lend me your mental clarity.”
Next, you’ll turn to the south and say: “Element of fire, I call on you; lend me your power.”
Then, you’ll turn to the west and say: “Element of water, I call on you; lend me your fluidity.”
Finally, you’ll return to the north and say: “Element of earth, I call on you; lend me your stability.”
Once you have cast the physical elements, you can finish casting your circle with: “With these physical elements, I cast a circle of protection.”
To include the fifth element, spirit, in your circle, you can replace the final statement with something along the lines of: “With these elements, together with spirit, I cast a circle of protection above, below, within.”
A note: Some practices instruct you to begin casting a circle facing east, although others tell you to begin facing north. This is because some practitioners believe you should start with the element of earth, whereas others think you should end with earth. The decision is entirely up to the tradition you follow or your own intuition.
Once your circle is cast, you can move on to ritual observance.
When you have finished with the main part of your ritual, it’s important to always open the circle to release the energy you called upon back to the elements. You’ll release them in the opposite order that you called upon them.
Begin facing north. Say something like: “Earth, I bid you farewell.”
Next, turn to the west: “Water, I bid you farewell.”
Then, turn to the south: “Fire, I bid you farewell.”
After that, turn to the east: “Air, I bid you farewell.”
Finally, return to the north and open the circle by saying something like: “Spirit, I bid you farewell. I open this circle and release the energy back into the earth.”
The general sequence stays the same, but what you say or invoke can be changed to fit your practice. Do you love to rhyme? Perhaps creating a couple of rhyming stanzas will work for you. Do you prefer chanting? If you do, creating a few lines to include repetition for chanting will be ideal. What’s important is that you speak from the heart and are sincere when calling upon the elements or directions.
INVOKING AND THANKING A DEITY
After casting a circle of protection, you can invoke a deity for their assistance and blessings in your ritual. Many of the rituals in this book instruct you to have a representation or symbol of a deity on your altar so that you can call upon it. To represent a deity, you can use statues, visual references, or candles for the God and/or Goddess. More information on tools to represent deities can be found in the section “Tools for Magical Transformations”.
To invoke a deity, you can say something along the lines of: “Lord and Lady, I invite you to join this circle tonight. Lend me your strength and grant your blessings.” If you want to invoke a specific deity, you can customize your invocation. For example, you could say: “Brigid, Goddess of Fire and the Forge, I call and invite you here today.” Alter these invocations to fit your practice.
After you’ve called upon a deity, you can proceed with your ritual observance.
When you’re finished, thank the deity for their assistance. Never dismiss a deity—only thank them. For example, to thank the Goddess Brigid for her presence, you can say something along the lines of: “Brigid, Goddess of Fire and the Forge, I thank you for your presence here today. Accept my offering for lending me your strength and wisdom.”
Offerings are a popular way to show a deity appreciation for their support in your ritual. Examples of offerings include foraged items from nature, such as flowers and herbs that you can bundle together, handcrafted items, or a food and drink offering called cake and ale. More information on offerings and cake and ale can be found in “Tools for Magical Transformations”.
After the ritual, the offering left for the deity should be covered. The following day, any offerings that were cooked or foraged can be returned to the earth or burned. Any offerings that contain inorganic matter should be taken to a landfill or recycled appropriately.
TOOLS FOR MAGICAL TRANSFORMATIONS
I mentioned some basic tools for rituals here—chalice, wand, athame, and pentacle—but there are many other methods to invoke magical manifestations. These include but are not limited to crystals, herbs, oils, candles, divination systems, a boline, bells, a besom, incense, a cauldron, songs, chants, and visual representations of a deity and elements. You can combine these tools or use them individually during rituals to support your intentions.
CANDLES are very popular in magical practice and are useful representations of elements and deities because they are easy to find and come in many colors, shapes, sizes, and materials (for example, beeswax, paraffin wax, gel, and plant waxes such as carnauba, palm, soybean, and bayberry). Tea lights have a burn time of 45 to 60 minutes, and votives have a burn time of three to four hours, though this may vary based on the material.
I recommend starting out with plain white tea light or votive candles because white candles can substitute for any other color. If you’re ready to branch out, I recommend you get candles in colors to represent each of the elements (yellow for air, blue for water, green for earth, red for fire, and white for spirit) as well as a black candle. A black candle can represent the all-encompassing God, and a white candle can also represent the all-encompassing Goddess. The all-encompassing God is sometimes represented by a gold candle or a plain white candle with a God charm on it. As always, you can be as creative as you like when choosing your candles. As long as you set your intentions, you can adapt the colors to fit your preferences. When working with candles, always use fire-safe plates or candle holders.
INCENSE helps set the atmosphere during ritual practice. It can also represent the element of air. Incense assists with banishing negative energy, and when bundled into a smudge stick, it can be carried around a room to expel unwanted or stagnant energy. You can purchase premade incense or create your own. When working with incense, always use a fire-safe plate or incense holder.
CRYSTALS have a wide variety of uses and properties in magic. In rituals, they can be charged (see here) and used as a source of energy. They can also be used for healing, manifestation, and as representations of the elements. You can use crystals to mark a physical boundary when casting a circle (see here). Crystals can also be incorporated into athame handles, wands, and pentacles, or used for divination and crystal grids.
I recommend starting with clear quartz, which you can use as an all-purpose crystal. As you expand your crystal collection, you can use crystals in colors associated with the elements. Yellow stones (e.g., citrine, tiger’s eye, and topaz) are associated with air, and their properties generally assist with the mind, communication, and logic. Blue stones (e.g., aquamarine, azurite, and lapis lazuli) are associated with water, and their properties generally assist with emotions, intuition, and healing. Green stones (e.g., peridot, agate, and jasper) are associated with earth, and their properties generally assist with wealth, success, and peace. Red stones (e.g., amber, carnelian, and garnet) are associated with fire, and their properties generally assist with vitality, energy, and passion. There is no designated physical representation for the element of spirit, but it can be represented by clear quartz crystals.
HERBS are some of the most popular tools in any magical practice. There exists an entire field of study dedicated to using herbs medicinally, but you don’t need to be an expert to use herbs in your rituals; for instance, you can make a simple herbal tea. You can use the magical properties associated with different herbs to complement your rituals. For example, if you perform a ritual for creativity, you can incorporate the herb vervain into your ritual by sprinkling it over a candle or other object or brewing a tea with it for the cake and ale ceremony.
OILS are excellent mixed for a specific intention and can be used on your skin, to anoint magical tools, and to dress candles. Many rituals in this book ask you to use a combination of a carrier oil and essential oils. Carrier oils are skin-safe oils that can be used to dilute concentrated essential oils. Examples of popular carrier oils are olive, coconut, almond, jojoba, apricot kernel, and avocado. There are many essential oils, but the ones in this book are lavender, sage, lemon, orange, peppermint, frankincense, eucalyptus, and rosemary. You can purchase the oils or mix your own. To make your own mixtures, simply decide on a carrier oil, essential oil, and if you like, dried herbs.
These are just suggestions—you can get creative in using herbs and oils in your rituals. I recommend doing research online or getting a magical herbal reference book. The following books on herbs and oils are excellent resources:
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews by Scott Cunningham
The Illustrated Herbiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Bewitching Botanicals by Maia Toll
A CAULDRON is similar to a chalice or bowl and relates to the Goddess and femininity. Cauldrons are often made out of cast iron and can be used as a fire-safe bowl. Cauldrons are also used decoratively. Some practitioners keep two cauldrons, one for burning herbs or paper and another for mixing liquids and oils.
A BELL is another popular altar tool to use during ritual to invoke a deity, banish negative energy, create harmony, and generate power through vibration. Bells are very versatile and can be used outside of rituals to banish unwanted spirits or energy throughout a home.
A BESOM, or ritual broom, can sweep away old or stagnant energy before a ritual. A besom can also be used with a smudge stick or incense to help waft the smoke around a room. Besoms are ideal for quick cleansing before any magical work.
A BOLINE is a crescent-shaped blade that, unlike an athame, is used for physical cutting of herbs, ribbons, knots, and wood. Not many Wiccans use bolines, but cutting items come in handy for rituals, so some practitioners substitute bolines with other knives or scissors.
RITUAL ROBES are often worn to help separate the ritual from the everyday in a similar manner to a sacred space or altar that’s created for any magical working. Members of covens often wear robes, and different colors can represent a practitioner’s level or position. Ritual robes or clothing are often put on after a purification bath or shower.
ORACLE cards are a divination tool that can often be used directly out of the box, which makes them ideal for beginner readers. The Oracle system is less structured than other forms of divination such as Tarot or runes and can be used as you please; some practitioners build their own deck. Oracle decks can vary widely in style but usually come with 20 to 100 cards.
TAROT is a more advanced and structured divination tool of 78 cards divided into the major arcana (significant life events) and minor arcana (lesser, day-to-day life events). Tarot takes time and effort to learn, but if your intuition is strong, sometimes you can jump right in. One common misconception about Tarot is that you have to inherit or be gifted a deck. Some practitioners follow this rule, but it’s not necessary. Learning about Tarot is about empowering yourself and listening to your own intuition. Find a deck that calls to you.
CASTING refers to tossing or throwing stones marked with symbols during divination. The most popular method of casting is rune casting. Runestones or runes are a set of stones marked with symbols of a Germanic alphabet called Futhark. Most runestones contain the 24-letter alphabet of the Elder or Older Futhark. Each letter or rune symbol has a corresponding meaning that can be read during ritual to seek answers, receive messages, or gain insights. It’s also popular to cast using Ogham staves, a set of wooden pieces marked with the symbols of the 20-letter Celtic alphabet that also correspond to different trees. Both of these methods of casting incorporate the element of earth, supporting a connection with nature.
SCRYING is the practice of gazing into a surface to receive messages. Surfaces that can be used to scry are crystals, water, smoke, flame, or mirrors. A classic example of scrying is the age-old image of a fortune-teller gazing into a crystal ball. By focusing on a reflective surface, you can receive messages, visions, or images to interpret using your intuition. Scrying takes practice, but scrying during ritual is a great way to harness ritual energy.
SONG AND CHANTS are used in conjunction with a ritual to build up energy to support spells and rituals. There is power within words, so adding them to rituals or spells is popular. You can use words to invoke or call upon a deity or the elements. Songs and chants also come in the form of prayers and incantations. The words don’t have to rhyme; how you structure or speak words in your ritual practice is up to you.
REPRESENTATIONS AND OFFERINGS
Many of the rituals in this book list tools such as elemental representations, deity representation, offering of choice, and cake and ale. Unlike many of the other specific tools used in rituals, these items give you an opportunity to be creative and use what feels right to you. Here, I’ll provide some examples of items you can use in rituals that call for these more symbolic components.
You have a great deal of choice when it comes to elemental representations for your altar. To represent the element of water, you can use a blue candle or water crystal, a bowl or chalice of water, a seashell, or pearls. To represent the element of earth, you can use a green candle or earth crystal, a bowl of salt, a pentacle, or a piece of wood. To represent fire, you can use any candle or crystal representing fire, lighter, or athame. To represent air, you can use a yellow candle or air crystal, incense, a besom, a feather, or a wand. Elemental triangle symbols (symbols that represent the elements) can also be inscribed on stones or candles. Some of the rituals in this book will ask you to use candles in elemental colors. This refers to candles in colors to represent the elements—yellow for air, blue for water, green for earth, red for fire, and white for spirit.
Deity representations are physical representations of the God or Goddess you would like to invoke in your ritual. A deity can be represented by candles, statues, or images of the deity. Many practitioners have representations of the God and Goddess to invoke the masculine and feminine forces in nature during a ritual. Depending on your practice, you might decide to work with the God and Goddess or choose an individual deity. Many Wiccans start with a black (God) candle and a white (Goddess) candle and accumulate statues or other symbols over time.
Offerings, sacrifices, or traditional cake and ale are opportunities to exercise creativity in your practice. Frequently, offerings are foraged items, flowers, herbs, food and drink (cake and ale), or crafts made during the ritual. The term cake and ale refers to an offering of food and drink for the deity that is shared with anyone else partaking in the ritual. The “cake” is often a baked bread, biscuit, cookie, or cake, and the “ale” is a drink of your choosing. A cake and ale offering should be prepared ahead of time and portioned out to all participants, including the deity, during the process of thanking the deity. Many rituals in this book instruct you to leave an “offering of choice.” Sometimes, the ritual includes suggestions for an offering, but if it doesn’t, you can leave an offering of your preference.
Festive decorations are included in the instructions for many of the sabbat rituals in this book. Sabbats (sun celebrations) are more festive than esbats (moon celebrations) and other rites, so it’s more common for festive decorations to be included in sabbats. Because sabbats are holidays that mark the changing of the seasons, the celebrations often include festive decorations that correspond to the season or month. Here are some common decorations for each sabbat.
YULE: holly, mistletoe, pine, wreaths, ornaments, Yule-specific decorations, or red, green, and white colors
IMBOLC: anything related to fire; red candles; Imbolc-specific decorations, such as a statue of the Goddess Brigid; Brigid’s cross; and corn dolls
OSTARA: spring-themed decorations, such as flowers, eggs, and pastel colors
BELTANE: decorations related to fire or Beltane-specific decorations, such as the maypole, flower crowns, or fertility symbols
LITHA: decorations representing summer or the sun, orange or yellow items, or sunflowers
LUGHNASADH: harvest or August-related decorations, corn dolls, wheat, grain, corn, or autumn-hued items
MABON: decorations related to the harvest, autumn colors, root vegetables, apples, grapes, or even baskets
SAMHAIN: Halloween-inspired decorations, ancestor items, black and orange objects or candles, or items related to October
BOOK OF SHADOWS
A Book of Shadows is one of the most important components of every Wiccan’s practice. The Book of Shadows is a unique record of rites, spells, rituals, meditations, recipes, and notes. Your Book of Shadows is what you make it—there is no right or wrong way to create or organize your magical journal. Many practitioners end up making one Book of Shadows for spells, one for rituals, and another for recipes. Some Wiccans even create volumes for different years. You can have many books or just one. It can be handbound, in a binder, or even digital. There are myriad options, and you can be as creative as you like. Doodles and pictures are helpful but not essential. If you need inspiration for decorating your Book of Shadows, you can search online for keywords relating to Book of Shadows to see what others have created and shared. It’s important to note that your Book of Shadows is a record of your journey as a Wiccan or witch and therefore your book should be taken care of and cherished. Some Wiccans keep a Book of Shadows as well as journals. In such cases, the journals act as somewhere to jot down ideas. Once a ritual or spell is complete, it’s carefully transferred to the Book of Shadows. This method is a great way to begin if you are concerned about messing up an expensive journal that you’d like to be your Book of Shadows. Who knows, maybe in the end you’ll be happy with your messy journals just as they are. When creating your own Book of Shadows, have fun!
FREQUENT INSTRUCTIONS FOR RITUALS
Now it’s time to dive into the heart of this book. You’ve learned how and why Wiccans cleanse and purify themselves and their spaces, and you’ve learned how to set up altars, cast circles, invoke a deity, and use various tools. You might have areas and items in your home that are already equipped and acceptable for ritual use. If so, all you’ll need to do is purify them by performing the three C’s (cleansing, consecrating, and charging) before use. Do you have to use every step and tool mentioned in this book? Absolutely not. Start simple, and after you have performed a few rituals, reflect and make any alterations accordingly. At the end of each ritual, clear the altar but leave the offering, if there is one.
Many of the rituals in this book include the same basic instructions. To familiarize yourself with them, here are some frequent references you’ll come across.
1.Cleanse the altar/ritual area/space: Cleanse your surrounding area by smudging, sweeping, sprinkling salt, or asperging water.
ETo purify with a smudge stick (a bundle of dried herbs bound with a string), light the smudge stick and pass it over the altar.
ETo purify with a besom (a ritual broom), use the besom to sweep the altar.
ETo purify with salt, sprinkle regular table salt over the altar (salt has associations with clearing, protection, and purification).
ETo purify with asperging water, boil tap water to remove impurities or leave a bowl of water under a full moon to charge it and bless it with energy. This creates asperging water, which you can place in a bowl on, or sprinkle over, the altar.
2.Open the circle: Opening the circle is the process of releasing the called-on energy back to the elements, thereby returning the space to its pre-ritual state. Whenever you cast a circle and harness energy, you must reopen the circle to restore the balance of energy to equilibrium.
3.Release the elements: When casting a circle, you call upon each of the Guardians of the elements (or the elements themselves) to protect you for the duration of the ritual. Releasing the elements is the process of thanking and dismissing the Guardians of the elements one by one.
4.Reading Tarot, reading Oracle, casting rune stones, or reading Ogham staves: This is the process of using divination tools to interpret messages.
ETo read Tarot or Oracle, shuffle the deck, fan it out, and pull one card for each question you would like to ask. Use the meaning of the Tarot or Oracle cards to interpret an answer.
ETo cast rune stones (or runes), shake the bag of runes, focusing on your intentions, and pull out one rune for each question you have. Use the esoteric meaning of the rune to interpret an answer to your question.
ETo read Ogham staves, shake the bag of staves and pull out one stave for each question you have. Use the esoteric meaning of the Ogham character to interpret an answer to your question.
You’re almost ready to begin ritual practice, but I’d like to remind you of one last safety issue. When preparing for any ritual involving open flames, always keep a fire extinguisher ready or a fire safety system in place. Always work in a well-ventilated space and use fire-safe plates or candle holders to hold candles and incense sticks or cones. If using loose incense, burn it on a charcoal disc on top of a fire-safe plate. Never leave flames unattended, and do not allow fire near any fabric, curtains, or blinds. In the unlikely event that fire or smoke starts to get out of control, always prioritize your own safety.