The power of ritual comes from working with the spirits, the ancestors, the elements and the powers. Experience comes over time but one of the biggest and most important part of ritual is realising that ritual of any kind has power to greater or lesser degrees. For instance, marriage is a ritual. It is an exchange of vows and depending on the nature of the wedding ritual, may have other factors involved both on a spiritual level and on the physical level. Vows are not just binding on this plane! Nor necessarily, just in this lifetime. All of ritual carries with it not just power but that power doesn’t just exist in the physical, it exists on the spiritual plane as well. The importance of realising this, is not to scare you, but help you understand its power and the responsibility you take on when conducting ritual.
In my opinion, considered ritual, as in a ritual of intention, is something that we do not use enough in the West. It is a powerful catalyst for grief as mentioned in previous posts and for clearing “stuck” emotions. It is powerful for celebration, for magic, for cursing, for healing, for changing the course of situations that a person might feel powerless in, like having a situation at work or to halt fracking or to move house, or to help the earth or to call on rain when there is a drought. The list is endless really.
A word on cursing – why did I even put this word in? Well because with all workings with the spirits and the different worlds, you have a responsibility. Many of us habitually curse without realising it. I am sure you have used unsavoury terms or seemingly harmless comments at points in your life e.g. I wish that stupid old man would have his driving license taken off him because he is so slow he is a danger to society. I have known people pray for people to break up because they don’t like their son or daughter’s partner. There is power in this, even if the person doesn’t actually intend specific harm to the partner. This is unintentional cursing. When cursing is done in ritual, there is potentially, great power in this. It is important to know that this will likely boomerang back to you in some way. Hence why I deliberately put the word curse in the above paragraph. This is to do with being responsible for the intent of your ritual and being clear on your intention for the ritual.
When setting up a ritual, you need to know what its for, this is your intention for the ritual. You need to be clear about the intention. If it is for healing, what healing? Who or what for? Do you have the person/person’s permission to send them healing? Don’t do healing, magic or any type of ritual involving a person unless they have given permission for you to do so. It will bounce back. This takes you back to responsibility again. There are a lot of people that routinely send healing without permission to do so. This has to do with free will. Every person has the right to say no! For instance, religious beliefs may restrict what and who sends healing to a given person. I would not thank you for sending me healing, if this healing came with the intent that I should become a certain religion and step away from the beliefs that I hold, to do so. In other words, certain religions may suggest that another religion/belief is a sin or evil or the result of unclean spirits. In this sense the sending of healing may be to “heal” or “deliver” someone of the evil spirits that are causing their current belief. This is arrogance at best, but sadly happens where the person may sincerely believe what another person is doing is wrong and feels that they should “help” them to see this.
Be clear about your intention, gain permission when the ritual involves other people. You might say to me, yes but I want to send someone healing because they have cancer and I’m not asking them to change their beliefs, I just want to help them. Surely sending healing in this way can’t hurt. Ask yourself a question, if this were you, would you be happy for anyone to send you healing, regardless of their belief system or lifestyle? I’ll put this another way. You have a belief that witches are dangerous people, if a witch said she/he would send you healing would you be happy for them to do so without your consent? Your father is a deeply religious man, would he be happy for you to send him healing when your beliefs and lifestyle conflicts with his. Would your father be happier if his priest/minister/rabbi prayed for his healing? These are very important questions.
There are many ways of conducting ritual, they might be done by one person or as a group. It might be a little ritual of burial regarding a pet that has died or might be ritual for letting go of an old relationship or a pattern of behaviour. Although, there are many prescribed rituals, as in set ways of conducting these, it is important that the ritual is something you are comfortable with. Making connections with the spirits and ancestors is very important and is a personal connection built over time. Prior to working in ritual, it is important to journey to or meditate on the elements and work with these over time. In Native Shamanism/Celtic Shamanism there are usually four elements although some consider a fifth one as being spirit. To begin with, I will talk about the four. These are Earth, Air, Fire and Water. There are spirits of each element. There are also four directions, (some people use more than four, but we will be working with four), these are the North, South, West and East.
There are various beliefs about which directions these elements belong to. My wish for you is for you to discover what feels right for you. However for the purpose of teaching I will be using the North with the element of earth, East with the element of air, South with the element of fire and West with the element of water. There are various ways of calling in the spirits of the elements and various spirits associated with them. However, again, my wish for you is to seek your own meaningful ways of doing this. We will also be working with the powers of the Earth, Sea and Sky.
If ritual is new to you it is useful to have a framework and as part of Native shamanism, we will be working with the elements and directions as well as the powers of the Earth, Sea and Sky. These will be discussed in the next blog.
The pictures above show different types of rituals from around the world and of different beliefs.