As a practicing Wiccan, the word ritual for me may have a different connotation from say, the understanding of a hopeful agnostic or a “red-letter” Christian (“red-letter” alluding to the words actually spoken by the Christ). So, I ‘m going to level the playing field with the dearly held assumption that my readership is made up of magickal people of all faiths and creeds who are similarly filled with wonder about our trip on this blue-green globe we call home.
Ritual is any collection of activities that memorializes or catalyzes a rite of passage. This rite of passage could be the turn of a season, a remembered event, or a new phase of life. Ritual, at its core, takes our consciousness from one mode of awareness to another (hopefully) more enlightened and/or reflective mode of awareness. This definition could describe a birthday, Thanksgiving dinner, a fraternity induction, a presidential election, a wedding, and a host of other events that we take for granted because they’ve always been a part of our lives.
Ritual in Magickal Living
Magickal living is about cultivating awareness. Whatever happens, you choose to participate with the totality of who you are. Even observing, or witnessing, is an act of intention if done with full awareness.
Magickal people perform ritual with focused intention. They are sensitive to the fluctuations of energy all around them: the emotions of other participants, the weather, and even the ebb and flow of the moon’s tides to name a few. An act of blowing out birthday candles becomes a transformative affirmation that influences decisions made over the next year to bring the wish into being.
This focused intention cultivates deep feelings and awe-inspiring synchronicity. The world responds with a sentience that many would attribute to a Divine Intelligence. Whether this is the actuality or a perception is something you will have to determine for yourself.
How To Know When Ritual Is HAPPENING
Even if you’ve decided that the Divine Intelligence angle is only perception, the feelings evoked by ritual are sensory actualities. Goose-flesh, the raising of the fine hairs along the skin, and other tingling sensations, especially along the nape of the neck, are often indications that something powerful is happening (in the absence of a cold draught of course). If this occurs in a ritual event then you know that energy is moving. You may also experience various degrees of euphoria as well as cathartic emotions expressed in tears (joy as well as sadness).
Conversely, the presence of overwhelming amounts of energy, or power surges, can cause the following symptoms: nausea, hot flashes, sweating, dizziness, headaches and even a sense of displacement. Grounding, a form of drawing your awareness into the center of your body and affirming the “here and now” will dissipate the excess energy. The only time this would be a cause for concern is if you are ill or if you are experiencing unpleasant emotions like anger, dread or fear. Trust your gut.
It is unlikely that you will experience power surges during a birthday party or a wedding. Power surges indicate the opening of new paths (perhaps neural?) and since the aforementioned rituals are part of a collective societal experience, very few people will feel disoriented during these kinds of events.
Often I find that I experience a power surge during a ritual of worship (i.e. Candlemas) when my subconscious is “online.” This means that everything in the ritual has aligned so perfectly that I have opened up an infrequently- or un- used channel that permits energy to flow unhindered through me. These surges cause sudden nausea, sweating, and mild disorientation but only briefly as the body adjusts to the load.
What To Do If You Don’t Feel Anything In Ritual
Don’t sweat it. Literally.
Unless you are a cloned version of someone else, you are a completely unique individual “wired” like no other, even an “identical” twin. This means that in the same ritual, different individuals will experience different sensations. Also, there may be common reactions but they may occur at different intervals or in response to disparate inputs. Participant A may experience tingling during the calling of the Divine while Participant B experiences heat. Conversely, Participant A may experience euphoria during the raising of energy while Participant B experiences euphoria during the Great Rite.
Some individuals feel nothing at all.
In fact, many first-time ritual participants are horrified to discover that they experienced nothing out of the ordinary. After all the hype you’ve heard from the seasoned participants, you are faced with a null. You’re left to wonder if you’re broken or inadequate in some way.
Relax. You’re fine.
I want you to read the next two statements over and over until you feel comfortable with them.
Ritual invokes emotion.
Emotion is energy.
Emotion is created through the meanings assigned by each of the participants. Meaning is built through repetition and exposure not only to the ritual but to the individual participants. These meanings, or connections, create the engine through which energy flows. If you aren’t part of the engine, you won’t feel the flow. All it takes is a bit of patience and persistence; since everyone is “wired” differently, the rate of absorption into the ritual engine will vary from person to person.
Consider how you feel when you attend a birthday party for yourself as opposed to how you feel when you attend the birthday party of another family member. Even weddings are different though they celebrate the same rite of passage. You may cry at each one, but the timbre of your joy is unique for each union because your relationship to the participants is unique in each instance.
If you’d like to look into the mechanics yourself, just swap my term “engine” with the psychological term of “group mind.” That should make for some fun reading and even more interesting comments.
If you have a ritual experience or horror story you would like to share or a question you’d like to ask, please comment below.