AAaaaahhhhhhh!!! Ritual! So many things I could write!! A book, in fact!! Aaaahhhhhhhh!!!! But I won’t. I will write the most important things to me in ritual. Hhhmm…. well, that shifts by ritual. OK, got it. ETA: It looks like my idea of ritual is 2b. *
Public ritual: Keep it fairly recognizable to things pagan friendly folks have seen so they can join in. Ideally all roles are volunteered for at the beginning. So one person leads a grounding and centering, someone else casts the circle, somebodies – 5-6 of them, depending – call Elements; shout out for inviting Gods where everyone can call; settle in, do tofu of rite, dismiss.
Private ritual: same as above, but faster, often less formal. Ha!
All by myself ritual: Eh, 2 or 3 or none of the above.
Yeah. Having an outline in your head for public ritual is great. Form a clear intention, a “what type of magic would we like to have happen”, create a strong container, aaaaaannnndddd GO! In my tradition we have ideas and a few set things we may wish to say, but the big thing is providing the container and allowing the magic to happen. “You are your own spiritual authority” is one of our mantras and we mean it. So, trance is used a lot. Trance is different from guided meditation because the former allows lots of space for the individual to have their experience and the latter like to fill almost all of the details for you. I greatly prefer the former. So it looks on the outside like a familiar construct, but ours are loose and follow the energy of the participants rather than directing everyone’s energy a particular way. Yes, intention, outline, and trance words direct things, but we don’t tightly manage it because it isn’t the leaders’ experience to be had by everyone, but everyone to have their own. Spontaneity is valued. There are no scripts, no standard callings, it is create as you go.
Small private (think coven) ritual are close to the above, but the bulk of the ritual could be a blessing, a craft (as in yay! crafts! let’s make a mojo bag!), an act of banishing, -fill in just about anything here-. Shoot-from-the-hip is valued here, same as in public ritual.
If it’s a ritual with a purpose like a handfasting, we generally cast and call, but the meat of the ritual is tailored to the couple so that varies widely, though chanting and blessing I always find appropriate. Oh yeah – we like chanting in our tradition. We like it a lot.
Personal rituals: Usually I do not cast a circle yet again because I have permanent safe sacred space in my house. My house is warded, cleansed, and charged periodically to keep it so. Some of my personal rituals involve oils, herbs, and candles. In those it is the prep that matters most, second is the execution. What goes before or after varies. Daily rites shift as my needs shift. Right now I am doing a personal power chant and an anointing chant that connects me to my ancestors and gratitude. Neither require casting, calling, or any of those things often thought of as necessary to ritual.
Why so different from one type of ritual to the next? Sometimes I like all the formal thing. I just don’t require them. Casting a circle doesn’t make a space any more sacred than it already was and that is not its purpose. (Some traditions that is the purpose.) It is a reminder that when we enter into a magical rite we are stepping between the worlds and so we carve a place of safety in which to do our work. We invite elements and Guards to assist us and then we proceed. When I opt to do deep trance on my own I may call for a Watcher. There is no set-in-stone way to do ritual and flexibility is absolutely key whether a large public or only me rite is happening.
I stop at my altars and have conversations, and those are rituals, but you’d not see an trappings of ritual to identify it as such. I guess I have many definitions of ritual, and many looks to how I do them.
*Let’s see what Merriam-Webster says to define ritual:
1 : the established form for a ceremony; specifically : the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony
a : ritual observance; specifically : a system of rites
b : a ceremonial act or action
c : an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner
Aaaahhhh. Well. It looks like the only one that applies is 2 b, a ceremonial act or action. I can live with that.