Planning a Ritual

The first obstacle many of us face when designing a ritual is finding inspiration. We know we want to plan a ritual, but we have no idea what to do. Inspiration for rituals can come from any number of places, such as myth found in literature and art, meditation and dream work, rituals and rites of other religions and other communities, the elements (especially for esbats and Sabbats, elemental inspiration can be particularly appropriate), or the movement and change of the natural world and the Wheel of the Year.

Of course, gaining insight from any of these requires us to reconnect with the creative force. Therefore, when seeking inspiration for ritual, it's a good idea to allow yourself time and space to be "moved by the spirit", as it were. It can be very difficult to get inspired to plan a Beltane ritual, for example, while sitting in front of the television watching The Simpsons. (Believe me; I speak from experience!)

Sometimes it is easier to find inspiration for a ritual once you have established a clear purpose, which is the next step of planning a ritual. (Everyone works differently—some folks have better luck with brainstorming ritual ideas and then divining a purpose for the ritual, while others start out with a concrete purpose and then move from there. It varies from person to person and ritual to ritual.)

One of the first things you'll want to do is decide on what kind of ritual you want to plan. Do you want to be whimsical, serious, theatrical? Will you be celebrating, marking an initiation? Knowing what kind of ritual you want will help you determine what kind of tone you wish to set. It probably isn't altogether appropriate for your initiation ritual to be particularly funny or lighthearted. Rites of passage are generally a little bit more serious, because they mark a serious change of life. Of course, that isn't to say that the ritual must be overly dramatic or serious; part of the fun of planning ritual is letting your personality shine through. But keeping serious rituals fairly reverent is generally a good idea.

Once you decide what kind of ritual you wish to plan, you'll want to decide on two important things: what the participants should feel and/or experience throughout the ritual, and what the general goal of the ritual is to be. For example, in planning a celebratory Sabbat ritual, you might want your participants to feel joyous, to experience the transformation of the God and Goddess from one stage to another, and you might want the goal of the ritual to be the awakening of the senses to the changing seasons. Sometimes the goal and the experience of the ritual will be one and the same, but they don't have to be. Sometimes in order to produce a goal that is positive and life changing we have to force ourselves to do some dirty work—to confront personal demons or old fears. The main experience in the ritual should directly lead to a certain goal, though the means to the end might seem inappropriate. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to plan exactly what your ritual will do to yourself and to the others participating, but that doesn't mean that you should forego this step. It is an important part of the ritual planning process.

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