Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Purpose of Ritual: 11 Ways to Focus your Practice

One of the most common components to pagan and witchcraft practice is the element of ritual. Some choose to celebrate the Wheel of the Year, others the phases of the moon, and still others develop their own personal rituals. Ritual can even be as simple as honoring an altar in the morning or repeating a mantra before falling asleep.  It certainly doesn't have to be elaborate.  But for the new and adept practitioner alike, the meaning of ritual can be confusing. It's easy to be thrown into a ritual without a sense of cause or to lose the purpose as your skills are honed. So what exactly is the purpose of ritual?

To press pause on the monotony of life.

All too often, we get caught up in the daily chaos: Wake, eat, work, school, children, family, friends, eat, sleep, repeat. It often feels as if life is a blur, whether we're too busy to catch a breath or whether the day-to-day repetitive schedule leaves us vacant and wanting. Enter ritual. Be it grand or small, ritual gives us a momentary break from the day-to-day bustle, to turn our attention from the outer world that nags at us every second to the inner restlessness of our soul. Ritual is our soul's best pause button.

To create rhythm and structure.

Sometimes life feels like a dance for which we didn't, or couldn't, prepare. We're stumbling into other people, trying to find our internal tempo and balance, hoping it will match the world around us. For those of us whose life is a chaotic blur of crazy, structured ritual creates a much needed rhythm in the mayhem. Ritual can be a fantastic life metronome.

To reinforce beliefs.

One of the benefits of performing a formal ritual is that it leads to a deeper understanding and “connection” to your belief system. Even before the actual ritual, you will be researching and planning out the details and finding new things you hadn’t thought about. Often, we just simply do something because “that’s what you are supposed to do” and we don’t think of the deeper meaning of why we are supposed to do it. Ritual helps us form our holy book, our personal inner collection of practices from which we will read time and time again.

To find focus and energy.

Ritual is a give you clear direction. By choosing to concentrate on only a single aspect, be it a moment in the year or a moment in your life, it allows you to become distinctly aware how said moment affect you and how you might affect it.  This laser focus helps us to direct our energy in a more precise way, drawing in the tendrils of chaos around us to a single important point.  Ritual can be the magnifying glass our soul can use to focus its energy in our life.

To find connection to the world around us.

As much as a ritual can direct you to one small microcosm of life, it can also allow you to relate to the larger world around you. A common phrase, "You can’t see the forest for the trees,” sums it up well: Sometimes you’re are so focused on the details that you don’t see the larger picture. Ritual allows you to take that step back, remove yourself from the world, and see the grand plan surrounding you. Ritual becomes our soul's map, allowing us to see  the many forests around us - the nature that allows us to exist as we are.

To find deity or spirit.

We hear people say they talk to their gods or their Ancestors but what does that actually mean? In ritual, when you call upon deity or spirit, it’s not just a random plea or whim. You are specifically calling them to help you with a task right there with you or to witness your veneration of them. This closeness is not something you will routinely find in the day to day grind. Being able to focus on them and what they do for you will provide you with a deeper link or appreciation that will carry you forward. Ritual creates our sacred space, our church or temple from which to pray.

To find guidance.

At some point, everyone has felt somehow lost in life.  The path between a closed door and an open one can seem long and arduous, dark and pathless.  How do we figure out where to go?  Ritual can give us the introspection, focus and entities we need to guide us to our destination.   The guidance we seek translates as a compass through ritual, a north star guiding our way towards that open door we may not have even known existed.

To find community.

In today's world, it's easy to feel isolated in a sea of people. Despite being connected more than ever, technology lacks the personal touch that comes with face-to-face communication. Cubicles separate us from one another despite being in a full room. Sidewalks fill with busy individuals rushing to their next destination, too busy to stop and say hello. When we feel most alone, ritual can help us connect with those around us. Be it with family, friends, a coven or a local community, ritual is like a group for our soul.

To celebrate and enrapture.

When the world seems dark and full of sadness, ritual can be uplifting and exciting. Simple rituals from blowing out the candle on a birthday cake to more complex rituals such as a sabbat or croning can give us hope and happiness amidst the concern and worry of the every day. When the world is dark, ritual is the spark of light from the match leading to the candle, the means by which to light our way.

To expand our consciousness and broaden our horizons.

If you feel you've hit a wall in your learning, a ceiling capping your ability to move forward in your craft, ritual can assist. Utilizing ritual to explore more complex work is a fantastic way to expand your practice and your soul. From shadow work to necromancy, from astral travel to trance, ritual is a way to dive deep into the unexplored and discover uncharted territory. In this, ritual is a key to the unknown realms of our soul.

To find ourselves.

Perhaps most of all, ritual is a way to learn who we truly are. Whether you're breaking into shadow work for the first time or simply learning your craft, you're discovering a piece of your soul and nurturing it to grow. Ritual dusts the dirt off of our timid inner selves and leads them to the light, giving us a chance to see ourselves - our true selves - as we were always meant to be. Ritual is the clearest, most reflective mirror we can use.

This is most certainly not an all-inclusive list of the multitude of purposes ritual can harbor.  However, let this be a catalyst.  As you build or participate in rituals, ask yourself why?  Why is this ritual important?  What does it do for you?  What can it do for others?  What is the purpose of this ritual?  The purpose is the heart ritual and the rest will grow from there!

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