Understanding Ritual Magick
From a Western Mystery Tradition Perspective
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The purpose of this article is to explain how ritual magick works, and how it can be applied in ones life to bring about change in any desired direction. Using a question and answer format, lets start with this:
How does ritual differ from spell craft, and why is it so complex compared to the same?
Ritual differs from spell craft in that there are fairly rigid
“steps” that should be applied during its performance. It is
generally less freeform, and follows a prearranged design from
beginning to end. The operator will generally begin and end with a
banishing ritual, work within a circle, use an altar with the
necessary elemental “weapons” (cup, wand, pentacle, athame) which
respectively represent water, fire, earth and air, plus whatever
other correspondences he deems pertinent to the rite. Spell craft
does not generally require many or any of these to be present. The
purpose of ritual invocation, when in the circle, is the raising
of consciousness to the most appropriate level (using some ritual
framework, such as the Caballah) followed by a suitable heartfelt
invocation to the deity/agent of that realm, on the subject of
your wish/desire. Often at this time, the operator will merge
consciousness with the elemental force that has gathered there
behind the operator, and can be felt just prior to possession as
an ominous, powerful presence, often seeming to be electrical in
nature. When possession occurs, total displacement seems to take
place in the magicians mind, as momentarily one has the perception
of being everything. But the will must remain firm and directed at
this time, and focussed on its intention. And then the mind is
clear again, as the elemental has moved on toward your goal. An
exchange has taken place. You have allowed the being to sample
your humanity, and free will. In return it will carry your wish
forward, into manifestation. This is due to the circle, which
separates the operator from the “real” material world, to the area
inside the circle, which can be thought of as being “of” the
mystical area that the magician has reached through visualisation,
and other techniques. The two are distinct and separate. The
circle protects the operator from harm, and enables him to do his
work by separating him from normality. He will never leave the
circle, until he has finished the course of his workings, returned
to normal consciousness and perfomed banishing rituals, in that
order. He will not think or dwell on the working he has just
In short, yes it can be. There are good ways to minimise this risk, however. A serious magickal practitioner will usually have begun his career by being initiated, or initiating himself into the mystery tradition. This will usually involve him in a longish period of self-analysis, an element of fasting, prayer (usually to the higher self, the Holy Guardian Angel) and finally, a test or trial of some kind. Mental balance is the key, and the objective. If one lacks this balance, disaster is likely at some stage. Mental illness is a very real possibility for one who has not thoroughly initiated, and cut corners to get to the “good” stuff. All relevant and commonly used techniques are learned at this stage too (Lesser banishing rituals of the pentagram, hexagram, drawing of pentagrams and hexagrams, tarot or I-ching, familiarisation with pantheons, correspondences, meditation, visualisation). All of these things are an essential preliminary to the great work.
What is the great work?
This can be stated simply as finding ones true purpose in life.
What will I get out of ritual magick?
Anything you sincerely want, and are prepared to go through the above to obtain. Money, sex, luck, love, jobs. All is possible. Others have their share of these things, so why not you also?
What books would you recommend me to read in order that I can learn?
Any non-fictional work by Dion Fortune, such as Psychic Self
Defence and The Mystical Qaballah, would be a good start. Follow
this with Techniques of High Magick by Francis King and Stephen
Skinner, and perhaps one of Will Parfitt`s books on Caballah. Also
read 777, by Aleister Crowley, for its amazing list of
correspondences. Also, have a good look around the web for
magickal organisations that can help you grow and aid your
understanding. There is a lot to learn, but with perseverance,
will power, and dedication, it can be attained.
It is normal to study one or the other when beginning ritual work. The usage of an oracle such as this helps increase perception and sensitivity, and is a valuable tool for charting the possibilities of your ritual actions, and other matters in your life. You should choose your own set, and keep them wrapped in silk when not in use. Geomancy is a possible, though rarely used alternative to tarot and I-Ching work.
Where do I get the Elemental weapons, as you call them, from?
The best thing to do would be to make your own. For the athame,
buy a brand new knife. You can personalise this yourself if you
wish, by engraving suitable sigils, such as the one used for air,
on the handle or blade.
The wand. Ideally a straightish piece of witch hazel (about 16
inches, or the length between your elbow and the tips of your
fingers), if you want it made to measure. Failing this, a piece of
circular dowelling, with a point whittled on one end, using your
athame, will suffice for the present. The wand is representative
of the will, and once it has been carved to its owner’s complete
satisfaction, it should be rubbed with belladonna (for the wiccan)
or oil of abramelin (for the occultist) to properly activate it.
Carve a suitable fire sigil on it too.
Finally, a cup. This is for the element of water, so feel free to use whatever you wish in the way of cups, goblets etc. Ideally something new and elegant.. Now you have your ritual implements, you need only consecrate them, which can be done by a suitable invocation over each. Keep these wrapped in silk also when not in use. Note they should only ever be touched by yourself, once consecrated, and kept securely out of sight.
Now, obtain a suitable altar (in a pinch, a coffee table), and
your magic circle (soft curtain cord, about half an inch thick
will be ideal). You need enough to make a circle of 9-foot
diameter, so ideally about a 25-foot length. And you are ready,
with the addition of a few candles, and suitable incense, to begin
the work. Select a room that is rarely used if possible (but if
you live for instance, in a bed sit, this must be made to
suffice). And keep it scrupulously clean. Always remember, the
main thing is in doing the work. Don’t be an armchair occultist.
Get up and do some ritual!
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