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About Ritual

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Ritual plays an important part in many forms of worship and of magical work,some of which are used in the Craft. All forms of worship and magic require a mental state on the part of the practitioner(s) which may be described as concentrated exaltation. Concentrated because the mind must be held on one subject over a considerable period of time, exaltation because a degree of emotion is required which is beyond that found in all but the most exceptional experiences of everyday life. For most people, such a state is not easily achieved and special aids are therefore necessary. These aids may be broadly divided into two classes, though admittedly the borderline is a bit fuzzy. First, there are techniques which are purely mental and therefore act directly on the mind, these being known collectively as meditation. Secondly, there is ritual, which seeks to effect the mind indirectly by manipulating the environment. For instance, when one is in a bad mood it is quite common practice to put on a bit of music to cheer oneself up: this is a simple example of the use of external stimuli to cause an inner change of state and the same principle is basic to all forms of ritual. This leads to our first question:

Which of these two methods, meditation or ritual, would you think was more suited to

(a) worship
(b) magical work

Give reasons for your choice.

It is quite common practice to use ritual and meditation in conjunction with each other.

Ritual may be looked on both as a psychological tool and as an art form which uses all the senses simultaneously to create a cumulative effect on the experiencer. It follows that though there have been master artists/psychologists who have developed remarkably effective rituals which have endured down the ages, most people can construct their own rituals, given a reasonable amount of knowledge of the basic principles involved and a certain amount of practice. It is important to ______ that rituals have no effect of themselves but act through the minds and spirits of those who work them - in other words, there is nothing magical about magic. The only advice that can be offered to those disappointed people who have used all the correct, sonorous invocations and sent heavy clouds of incense rolling out in all directions without succeeding in invoking anything more spiritual than the local policeman or sundry dogs, amazed at the antics of man, is, "Once more - with feeling."

The methods used in ritual may act in one or both of two ways. First they may give rise to an inner response which is inborn: rhythm and colour, for example, both act in this way. Of these two, the psychological effect of colour is less well known so we would like you to try a small experiment. Get hold of some large sheets of differently coloured cellophane or trasparent polythene. Choose one colour and completely cover the window(s) of a room with it, holding the sheet in position with celotape. As you may have to use multiple thicknesses to get a deep enough colour it may help if the room is south-facing. Make a note of your feelings after you have been in the room for four or five minutes and also when you come out again into white light. Repeat this experiment using different colours and let us know the result.

The second way in which ritual may act is through conditioned response. Thus a crucifix may have considerable emotional effect on a devout Christian while being devoid of inner meaning for others. Part of the training of one who works ritual is the building up of conditioned response, so that every word or gesture has meaning and effect. The art of developing such a system of conditioning lies in arranging that the conditioned responses are always in harmony with the inborn responses and various systems of correspondences may be used to ensure this. A word of warning must be given here: the acquisition of these techniques must always be accompanied by a corresponding increase in control - everyday life would become quite impossible for the aspiring ritualist if every time somebody twiddled their thumbs in the area he found himself deposited willi-nilli on the Seventh Mystical Plane of something-or-other. In practice, this means that ritual life must be something set apart from ordinary life.

The best book on the subject that the writer has come across is "Magical Ritual Methods", by W.G. Gray. Although the methods described are rather too complex for a simple religion like the Craft, the basic principles which are very well described, are common to all traditions.

To conclude, here is a short ritual of worship for the waxing moon which you can try as near as practicable to the full moon and let us know how it goes:

Find a secluded place in the open. Standing in it, face the moon and place a cup or bowl of water in front of you. With the first two fingers of your right hand extended together and your right arm at full stretch in front of you, turn a full circle clockwise. As you do so, visualise a circle being drawn in the air, dividing off the place where you stand from the rest of the world. Move both your arms upward and outward and say, "Lady, bless this place that it may be fit for your worship." Bring your hands together in front of your chest and hold silence for a few moments. Then say, "Mother of all living, Thy children call, for they walk in darkness." Feel your arms being drawn up and out again and let the moonlight pour into you. Now lift the cup or bowl in your cupped hands and hold it in front of you at chest level, saying, "Lady of the Waters, Thine is the Cauldron. Thine is the cup of the wine of life and Thy love is poured out upon the earth." Now pour out the water on to the earth at each of the compass points saying, "To the east - to the south - to the west - to the north." Returning the now empty cup to chest level, finish with, " For mighty and wondrous are Thy works. So mote it be."

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