Like what I did there? Ritual right, ritual/rite. Hilarious. Anyway, as previously mentioned, witchcraft has been a hot topic this week, and there has been a great deal of debate over its effectiveness and also its ultimate purpose. One of the key issues that came up was the purpose of ritual. Why, when performing spells/worship/seasonal festivities do witches (or other people of a vaguely Pagan persuasion) feel the need to gather and set up circles; to use tools and symbols; to call upon gods and goddesses? My friend asserted that if spell casting is just a form of positive thinking, why should we need all this embellishment?

Did I have an answer for him? Not immediately. It was a great question and I toddled off to sit in the corner and think about it. Before I started to cramp up I managed to come up with a few ideas.

Everything we do is a ritual. From the moment we stagger to the bathroom in the morning, to the cracking of the door to leave the house for the first time. Is there anything we do that doesn’t fall into patterns? How cluttered do we feel in our lives if our routine is upset? If we are used to doing something a certain way, how unsettling is it to be suddenly told to do something differently?

Of course some of us are more adaptable than others, and even thrive on change and spontaneity. But my point is thus; when as a species, we seek routine and familiarity in all things, why should magic or witchraft be any different? Let us use the analogy of a scientific experiment. To measure the outcome when one parameter is changed, you must ensure all other parameters remain the same. Witchcraft is exactly the same. If you want a particular result, and previous experience has shown that this result can be gained by x action + y environment with perhaps n people, why would we deviate from this? Like true scientists, we may see which is most effective and tweak our rites accordingly. We may add items, remove words, change tools and equipment. Ultimately as solo practitioners, we may refine the working of our will to the point where our only ritual is a quiet space; a well placed word. Perhaps then in this way, witchcraft can meet the definition of ‘simply positive thinking’. As a group though, the structure of ritual also helps us work together towards a common goal; to focus our energy in the same place.

How do you feel ritual is necessary in your spiritual life? Do you have any rituals that could never be changed? Or is ritual simply for showing off; for grandeur and exhibitionism?