Hi, I’ve been studying paganism for about 3 years now gathering as much information I can on the subject. I would say I identify as being very eclectic, interested in witchcraft and very nature based, but what next? I feel like I’m stuck in a beginners rut, most of the information I find is aimed at beginners and I’m not progressing. I’m also having trouble putting what I’ve learnt into practice, I want to try ritual but I don’t know where to start, plus moneys an issue for supplies (although I would try where possible to use materials I find out and about) any advice would be greatly appreciated, love and light.
It can be hard taking that next step, but everyone has to start somewhere. We’ve touched previously on some Beyond the 101 tips, which cover the basics. Other than that, and more specifically to your question, I would suggest the book “The Elements of Ritual” by Deborah Lipp. It is very detailed, not only on the “how to” in relation to ritual, but more importantly the “why do we do that” which so many other books leave out. It had several sample rituals as well, that you can try out, so really just start small and go for it.
Another great resource for planning your own ritual is the Ritual Planning Worksheet. Once you have decided on a particular goal/theme for your ritual, you can use the worksheet to plan out the details. You don’t have to include everything that is mentioned, but when you are just starting out, it’s a good way to make sure that you are prepared and have everything you need to make your ritual go smoothly. Keep in mind though that rituals can be as formal or informal as you like. So while the above worksheet is nice, your own ritual does not have to be some sort of lengthy ceremony, full of flowery speech, and particular actions – I mean it can be (and that’s fine), but simple can be just as effective. That’s the beauty of it – if you aren’t in a particular tradition, you can do what works best for you (though if you are working with a specific deity, it’s good to know what sort of things are appropriate for that deity).
I would also suggest the following, if at all possible – find out if there are any groups in your local area that have rituals that are open to the public, and attend at least one. Even if you don’t end up joining the group on a long-term basis, it can really help one’s practice to participate in a ritual with others. If nothing else you can get a general idea of how things flow, and what components you might want to add. Though again, just because they do something one way, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it that way.
As to tools and supplies – while the “bells and whistles” are really nice to have, they are primarily just ways of helping one focus, so in a pinch you can do without if necessary. For tools (such as a ritual blade, or other items for one’s altar), definitely look to what you might already have, or can get relatively inexpensively. You can always save up for something fancier later if you want, but in most cases it’s not about “how cool” something looks, but whether or not it serves the purpose it’s intended for. For ritual or crafting supplies, while there may be some generally accepted correspondences, in many cases (if you are unable to obtain those particular items) you can substitute for what you might already have on hand, or are more easily able to obtain. If you examine the properties of the item that you are in need of, and consider the purpose for which it is being used – it’s a matter of finding another item that will serve a similar capacity.
On the surface being Eclectic seems easy, but in truth it is one of the hardest paths to do properly. Where someone who is working with a Coven or within a specific Tradition has direct one-on-one guidance, those who are solitary have to rely on their own interpretation of the materials they are given, and are basically left to “figure it out” on their own. But it can be done, and in most cases it’s a matter of just going ahead and jumping in. Start small, and take baby-steps, but as with anything… the more often you practice, the easier it will get. If there is a sample ritual in one of your books that you’ve been interested in trying – go for it. If it’s relative to your path the Fall Equinox is about a week away, you could try putting together a ritual for that, and the Full Moon on the 29th if that is something you are interested in holding a ritual for – or really whatever else you may feel called to. The key is to just go ahead and do it!
Being eclectic can really free you up from the dogma of any one particular tradition. In some cases dogma and tradition are great, but being eclectic allows you the freedom to take a little of this, leave out a little of that and design a ritual that fits you perfectly.
Then just do it. Write out the ritual, study it, memorize it, and do it. You’ll know when it feels right. In the beginning you will probably change things around a number of times. Like the old saying goes practice really does make perfect. Sometimes it will feel slightly off, other times you’ll know you hit the nail on the head.
Great indicators for this will be a certain indescribable feeling, maybe the wind or air stirring up at just the right moment, a premonition or even vision. You will know when things are working the way they should.
When you get that just right feeling, write up what you did in either a magickal journal, or your B.O.S. Eventually, you will be smoothly breezing through your rituals and once you get your basics down, you can adopt it to most of your ritual needs.
As far as supplies are concerned make due with what you have. You can make your own wand, just go on a nature walk, find a branch that feels right, ask permission, and make a wand. An athame can be a kitchen knife. I’ve found that magickal supplies seem to find the user. As you need things , and as you practice, ritual tools will start turning up in strangest places. Start actively practicing and you’ll see what I mean.
I feel strongly about making your own ritual candles, it’s not hard to do, and much cheaper than buying them retail. Plus as you make them you’re imbuing them with your magickal intent or will. Look on the internet and see what herbs grow wild in your area, and then go out and reap the abundance of the great God / Goddess.
Anyway, being a solitary, eclectic myself, that’s how I do.
The biggest thing when you are taking bits from various places though, is to make sure that it’s done with understanding and respect for the religions/cultures that one is pulling from. As well as making sure that one has the right to actually pull from those religions/cultures – as not all of them are open for the taking. Not to mention some things just aren’t compatible with each other (especially if one is trying to mix cultures/pantheons). Which generally means that one has to do a lot more research into multiple paths, in order to know enough about them to that sort of mixing and matching. It’s a lot of work, but well worth the effort in the end if one can pull it off.