Ritual is an important part of Wicca, and Seax-Wica is no exception, although our rituals are a little more ‘bare-bones’ than more elaborate traditions such as Gardnerian or Alexandrian. Of course, the rituals as written in “The Tree” (the core liturgical and organizational book of Seax-Wica) can be altered to fit your own practice and can be elaborated on or adapted as you wish (some examples are on seax-wica.org for adapting them to solitary practice, and “The Complete Book of Witchcraft” also has great advice).
When Should You Perform a Ritual?
Whenever you want! If you feel the need for magical work, or just need a safe place to feel the presence of the Gods, then it’s time to perform a ritual.
The Full Moon and Sabbats are also times for a ritual, often more structured than an as-needed one.
What Makes a Ritual?
Rituals, at their core, involve two parts: saying things, and doing things. Of course, that’s not all there is to it, and what is done and said tends to be specific to the ritual. In a lot of cases, you’ll be picking up a Tool and performing an action while speaking, chanting, or singing. For instance, you might pick up the Censer and walk around the Circle while speaking an invocation to welcome the Gods or Spirits.
Basically, any time you’re go through a prescribed action while vocalizing or actively thinking about your intentions, you are performing a ritual.
As an example, you can turn your morning coffee into a ritual simply by saying something along the lines of “Let this coffee grant me the energy and strength to start my day”, while you poor it into your cup.
That being said, when celebrating the Sabbats, worshipping the Gods, or performing magical works, the structure of the ritual is a bit more complicated.
Where Do You Start?
Before you ‘start’ the ritual, you should set-up the space for it. This means placing your tools on the Altar, filling up the Drinking-Horn with Ale (or whatever you prefer), making sure you have cakes (or whatever you prefer) ready, cleaning the space, starting music, putting on special ritual dress, and so on. After you’ve set everything up, then you’ll consecrate the area to be sacred and set up a protective, spiritual barrier. This will set the space apart and help place you into a ritual mindset. In Seax-Wica, this is called “Erecting the Temple” (other Traditions use this term, too, or Casting the Circle. The terms are interchangeable.) Proper etiquette is to remain in the Circle until the end of the ritual, and if you must leave it, it is done so respectfully and with its own ritual.
After You’ve Created Sacred Space
Now that your space has been set apart (physically, mentally, and spiritually), the next thing to do is to invite the Gods and spirits into your space, and this is called the Esbat Rite, and is often done at every ritual. In Seax-Wica, this is a simple matter, but in other traditions it can involve intricate, elaborate performances, such as Drawing Down the Moon.
The Esbat Rite is often replaced by the Sabbat Rites on the various festivals (as part of those rituals usually cover the same things as the Esbat Rite).
What Else Do You Do During a Ritual?
If the moon is full during your ritual, the Esbat Rite is followed by the Full Moon Rite. If it’s on a Sabbat and a Full Moon, the Full Moon Rite is usually done before the Sabbat Rite. When the Esbat, Full Moon, or Sabbat Rite is complete, the Cakes and Ale Ceremony marks the end of the worshipful part of the ritual. After that is when you would perform magical works (such as healing) or meditation. In a Coven, this is when ‘business’ matters or relevant conversation would take place, often while enjoying the food and drink.
How Do You End a Ritual?
After you’ve done everything you wish to do during your ritual, you’ll return (spiritually and mentally) to the world by Clearing the Temple (or Closing the Circle). Like other aspects, Seax-Wica has a very simple way of ending the ritual by thanking the Gods and announcing the end. In other traditions, there is a belief that the energy gathered during ritual must be carefully discharged, and Closing the Circle is very elaborate, strict affair.
That is a basic rundown of a ritual, and every step of the way can be modified and adapted to your own needs and desires.
You should also take note that there is more to discuss, such as consecrating the tools used in ritual, and how to set up an Altar. However, don’t let the intricacies of those things stop you from trying to perform your own ritual. Don’t worry about getting things ‘right’: as long as you go through the ritual reverently and with sincere (good) intentions, you are doing fine. I would suggest, however, that you avoid magical work until you’ve done a fair amount of studying and stick with the prayerful communication with the Gods and meditation until you are comfortable with the ritual format.