A Ritual or rite always has more than one goal. There may be many goals, or perhaps only a few and will not affect how complex a ritual is. The goals of a ritual only affect what is said and done, but not the difficulty of the ritual.
The most common goal of most ritual ceremonies is to enter into a relationship with supernatural forces, whether positive or negative. The nature of these relationships depends entirely on the individual’s and/or group’s own beliefs.
In most traditional and Traditional Witchcraft and Wiccan ritual, (not unlike most of the magickal practices in the world today), a need is met by a clearly understood series of Magical skills and practices that have been passed on, usually from a teacher to a student.
The primary background skill of magic is the control of the mind and its multitudes of states of specific and non specific awareness. A great deal has been written about the basics of these skills – relaxation, concentration and visualization among others. The combined result of these skills is usually called ‘trance’ – as directed, self-willed, (sometimes assisted) states of consciousness.
The human mind is constantly entranced, shifting states, (whether we know it or not), between habitual types of awareness according to the random events and reactions of daily life. In ritual we use our skill to induce very special trances in which we feel a connection, awe, respect and love for the evoked/invoked Powers and which make us receptive to the blessing and power offered by the actual rite.
These various states of mind are required, whether inducing results through the magical power of mind alone, or whether through the access to ancient and mystical powers, of this world, and others, that have been called upon to help.
In traditional witchcraft – the calls to the Ancestors, Land-spirits and Deities in general – call a large group of Powers to the coven to join in worshipping the Patrons of the rite and thereby gaining tremendous power.
Otherworld Powers are thought of as personal allies, ancestors and/or patron Deities of the assembled worshippers, as well as any other beings who may wish the company well. So usually at the end of the rites and before the Key Offerings, the followers establish a vision of the Ancient Power, or this crowd of Spirits and cause a final physical effect to take place in the real world in which we normally live. They come to support their human allies and kin, and to join in the Blessing offered to the company.
The art of evocation (visualisation) is not an easy one to master for many people, but is absolutely fundamental to all successful magick. A true evocation will actually summon up a non-corporeal entity and therefore, is not to be trifled with. These are sometimes called telesmatic forms, which the advanced sorcerer can create or call at will to do his or her bidding. The difference between evocation and invocation is that in the latter, the entity is actually brought into oneself, (such as in many Taoist magick rituals), in a type of temporary possession.
Invocation is the skill of making the rite visible to the Inner Powers and invoking into oneself a possession; making words audible and the gifts tangible, which therefore, makes the Powers perceptible to the assembled company of worshippers. This requires a combination of strong visualization with ancient wording and heart-felt sacrifice, the combination of which attunes the worshippers’ souls with the essence of the invoked Power.
In Pagan worship invocation is not ‘summoning’ in the ceremonial Magic sense. We do not attempt to command the God/desses, but to come into loving relationship with them. By invocation we draw closer to the Spirits and Powers and they are drawn to us to receive our gifts and honour. In return we ask for their divine nature to be reflected in us to bless and empower our lives.
Mediation is the skill of actively transmitting the essence of a Power to other humans and to the world. In Wiccan rituals we sometimes use divination, after the main offerings, to determine the type and quality of blessing the Powers offer us and any other pertinent questions the coveners might have. The skills of divination with a symbol system such as runes, ogham or even tarot are thus vitally important to Wiccan work, and are to be pursued by every ritual leader. As we are based in Asia, the I-Ching is also delved into in depth and used in both traditional and non-traditional methods, remembering that learning the depths of such a system’s symbols can occupy a lifetime.
Water is the medium in which many connections are made with the Otherworld and in Europe thousands of Holy Wells were built and worshipped at. When the Christians came, they built their churches next to these Holy Wells, in an effort to keep the worshippers coming, but now praying to their deity instead of those of the Wells.
The Holy Wells connect us to the Ancient Powers below, to the currents flowing under the ground that are the blood of the Earth. These are cool, dark and silvery and rise up through our feet. The bones of our ancestors are the stones that wall the sides of the Well, creating a tunnel into the great pools of forgotten knowledge and memories, guiding us as we remember all that we were; all that we are; and all that we will be. This is where the “World Tree” is rooted, with each of its three main roots fed by a well. Here is the source of the primal waters of life and death.
Ancient serpents dwell here, feasting on the root, but the Tree is strong. Here is kept the store of all knowledge, wisdom and power. Everything it contains is available, for those willing to pay the price. Many are the Goddesses and Gods who made sacrifice here to attain their powers and attributes. They gave of themselves and were made sacred by their offering. It is the well of all possibilities! Here we can become anything we desire, and the price to us, is action. We must give up what we were, sacrifice our life, (as in ritual death) and then continue living as a different person, with different duties and abilities. The Well of Wishes then becomes the Well of Memory.
If you want to have a close magical/spiritual connection with an already existing tradition, then you’re going to have to be initiated. And to be initiated, you have to find representatives of such who would be willing to grant you that contact, in whatever sorts of rituals are traditional for that group.
For those seeking authenticity, however, I should point out that there are very few covens that have an “unbroken tradition” that goes back many years and generations, such as the Coven of Cythrawl. For those who are truly interested, the hard work and dedication will pay off, by being accepted into a legitimate coven that can trace a long history and official ancient linage and initiation structure; and then the choice of coven(s) and their respective linage will be fully explained in the teachings.
It is important to be initiated properly, as handed down over many generations, along with its mysteries, secrets and of course, power. In reality, “Only an initiated person can initiate another properly!”
Initiation is a method for transferring spiritual knowledge and power from the initiator(s) to the initiate. The initiator(s) MUST be someone who has already been initiated, from a legitimate coven that can trace a history and official ancient linage and initiation structure from a previous succession. In the Western mainstream occult traditions, this is often called the “transmission of the Gnosis” or the “Apostolic Succession,” but it has been used by quite a few different traditions and organizations throughout human history. This purpose of this initiation approach is to open you up to a source of an existing external power that has been used by your predecessors.
A properly done initiation of this sort will have the following results: That you are better connected to the Ancient Powers that is the group’s magical/spiritual focus, and that you are better connected to the spirits and powers of your predecessors. You are also given the ability and right to speak and act as a representative of the coven and of those predecessors from before, and thus to fulfill certain spiritual and/or magical responsibilities.
Any magical ritual has as a primary intention of the re-weaving of the links and forces between human-kind, the natural world, and the God/desses and Ancient Powers who support both. For many thousands of years human culture lived in more or less intimate communion with both the seen and the unseen worlds. Over the centuries of European and specifically Christian culture, these ties have been weakened, until our modern materialism is endangering the very air and water that sustains our life. We work to reconnect with the powers of Land, Sea and Sky, honouring the Spirit and Power that is in them, as well as their physical realities.
In ancient days pagans & witches gathered in places hallowed by tradition. Sometimes these were deep caves, or mounds of earth. More often they were stone circles, groves and glens in the deep forest, or high places. In our times, living in Singapore, we must usually find the Power Places and recreate the holy atmosphere of the Sacred Groves by ritual and meditation.
The Realms: The universal pattern of the four ‘elements’ is understood by the ancient Celtic and Pagans differ from the broader magical movements. The classical system of the four arranged as a cross is replaced by the three realms of Land, Sea and Sky, with the Sacred Fire in the center. These are not abstract principles, but interacting homes of all the world’s teeming life, whether human, beast, plant, stone or spirit. The worlds, otherworlds, hells and dimensions we cannot and probably never will fully conceive, exist independently, but have special doorways and psychic and many times, physical links that can be accessed by the knowledgeable. In carrying out our rites and rituals, we access many of the tremendous unseen powers and otherworlds and strive to unlock the doors to yet more powers and realms in our life’s quest of magick.
Earth is the home of our human kindreds and of our closest allies. The Kindreds are the beings and the Children of the Mother, descended through the lines of countless Mothers and Fathers. As well as the many mortal kindreds, there are the countless tribes of Otherworld beings and entities. The Sorcerer and Witch will deal with, and make offering to many kinds of Ancient Powers, Forces and Spirits. The Earth is our common world, where most of us live out our lives, (even if our dimensions may be different). When we look for our part in the great weaving of things, it is the very patterns of the Earth that are our first teachers.
Fresh water that wells up in the earth can also be part of the realm of the land and also from the World and Otherworlds, and/or Hells. (Incidentally, the word “Hell” is far older than Christianity, which has totally distorted its meaning. It was originally named after a Goddess, perhaps Hellenia, who is the guardian of the Traditional Witche’s fifth Hell. The term Hell has nothing to do with evil, or Satan, who is merely the alter ego and henchman of Jehovah in the Judeo-Christian Bible – nothing more.) Earth mounds and giant stone circles also helped our ancestors connect with vast subtle powers and beings from the Sidhe, (pronounced shee). The acupuncture and power points of the Earth are marked by megalithic stones dating back thousands of years and the Chinese have always known about such power places and developed feng shui to work with these powers.
The Otherworlds lie within and behind our common realms, as near as the far side of a tree, and as far as the misty deeps, wherein lie the Otherworlds. The Otherworld lands are the home of the Ancient Powers, forces of light & dark, the Spirits, the Tribes of the Noble Ones and the Shining God/desses themselves.
The Otherworld is reached by strange pathways. It may appear as trackless, misty pathways through forested glades, or as vast waters with Isles of Wonder in them, or perhaps as many wild places. It is always a place of challenges, of connection and of learning, for the true Seeker of the Way.
Within the misted borders of the Otherworlds are many places of wonder. The Seven Hells; the Land of the Dead, where the blessed Ancestors have their rest and comfort; the Land Under the Hill, where the Noble Ones have their court. All of these and more, can be reached with the skills of Magick.
The Otherworld is both cause and reflection of our common realms. Thus the Wise seek to know its ways, to better understand the flow of events in this world and others, to exert the subtle influences on life that are so much apart of Magick Art.
Sea is the wild waste that lies outside our common land. The sea is the home of a vast and teeming life, different from our own, yet apart of the Earth. It is also the place of Otherworld Isles, the home of the Sidhe – heroes and the Land of the young. Thus, the sea is connected with the Otherworld as a place of concealed potential.
The Sky is the source of Light and Shadow, the place of the Shining Ones. The Sky overarches the Land and Sea, as the sight of the Gods and Goddesses watches over all. The turning and waxing and waning of the Three Lights of Sun and Moon and Stars, and the wheeling of the stars around the Pole display the Order of the Deities and Their blessing to us.
Among these Realms, all common life is sustained between the Chaos of Potential and the Universe’s Order of space, time and timelessness. The ancient Celts made their oaths by saying: “May the Sky not fall, may the Sea not burst its bounds, may the Land not open beneath me, so long as I keep my oath.”
In the midst of these Realms is found the Sacred Grove, the place of flowing together. There the Sacred Fire burns, by the Well of Wisdom, beneath the World Tree.
The Noble Ones are the Spirits of non-human evolutions, both mortal and never-born. They are of a multitude of kinds, from small spirits of stone and herb and beast to the very Queen Under the Hill and Her Consort. Each has their own unique power and should be approached with respect, whether a simple herb-spirit or a mighty mountain.
It is well to remember that these are not hard and fast categories. The greatest powers may be reckoned God/desses, even though they come from other kins, realms of power, while one folk’s Deity can be the Ancestor of another. Yet other might forces defy our very logic and can never be so described, yet encompass our very being, so let the Wise do honour to all the Spirits and Ancient Powers. So Mote it Be.