Taking the Next Step – Planning Rituals


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!

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TIP: Beyond the 101


So, these are meant to go out on Fridays but we sort of slacked off and then forgot about it. So. It’s late. *cough* Seeing as it’s only the third one that’s a bit sad, haha.

This week’s tip is about the point where you’ve read a bunch of “Neo-Paganism 101” books and you’re ready to move on to the next level of information. But when you get to the library or bookstore, you can’t find anything except more entry-level books. The more you read, the more you feel like something is missing; these books are grazing the surface of something but you can’t manage to get any deeper. What happens now, and how do you move beyond this basic information to a deeper level of practice if you don’t have a teacher?

The reason many of these books are so limited is that they’re based on Wicca. Wicca, as you may know, is an initiatory religion; there’s only so much that can be written about it, first because much is secret and second because much is experiential and can’t be accurately taught in words. Books about Wicca will necessarily be limited to a bare outline, and to get the full experience of Wicca, one must seek initiation. Many basic books on Paganism are based very much on this model and will have a lack of depth that may only become apparent once you start reaching out into other areas and realising how much information there is.

When you reach this point, therefore, there are several actions you can take. These aren’t exclusive:

The first is to branch out. Most 101 books on Paganism will be focused on a very narrow subset, usually related to witchcraft in some way or another and with a strong Wicca flavour. They will talk about circle-casting and two deities and eight Sabbats and so on. But of course, there are dozens of Pagan religions, many that have totally different holidays, different ritual forms, and far more than two deities. Some religions will have more introductory books than others, and some won’t have any, and they may not be in the same section as the books you have been reading so far. You may end up going to the myths, the history, the archaeology for your information.

The second is to find a teacher. Some Pagan religions, often religious witchcrafts, can only be properly taught in person, or in a coven, or via ritual. Not everyone is able to, or even wants to, find a teacher, but there are particular Pagan religions where this is a necessity. If this isn’t your thing or it’s not possible at the moment, it will put certain religions out of your reach.

The third is introspection and personal practice. Sometimes depth and understanding come from regular practice, particularly if you start incorporating daily or weekly exercises. Get up to watch the sun rise every day for a week, dig into the lore for prayers you can recite daily or write your own, spend time in meditation, write down all your thoughts and ideas.

The fourth is community. Discussing things with people – even if they are of a different Pagan religion to yourself, or you disagree on major issues – can give you new ideas and unlock new understandings. People can recommend websites, books, exercises, meditations; introduce you to groups and teachers; help you with difficulties you’ve been having. If there are no Pagans nearby, or you happen to dislike all the Pagans in your area, the internet is a great help.

Keep searching! There’s always more to be learned.