A Brief Outline On Ritual Structure

By fiat_lux_777

A ritual is defined as “the prescribed order of a religious ceremony” and “a detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed”. This implies that ritual magick (at least from a Golden Dawn/Thelema/Western Mystery Tradition) follows a basic rubric that has proven effective in the past. For the purposes of this essay I will use the term “ritual” to denote a series of actions which, when combined, create the actual ceremony.

Some may view such a defined method of working as limiting to the individual, but fail to take into account the great scope for innovation and experimentation available within a ritual framework. In this brief text, I hope to demonstrate the basics of ritual and ceremonial structure within the systems previously mentioned, and highlight the application of individual ideas to an established, fundamental base.

For the ceremonial magician, structure and foundation are paramount. Basic structuring of a ceremony allows implementation of magickal formulae, essential for that “push” which transforms beseeching platitudes into a magickal force.

A ceremony generally follows a set layout, comprising a series of rituals which flow together to create a cohesive whole.

The basic steps of a ceremony are:

  • Banishing ritual

  • Purification

  • Consecration

  • Opening of the temple

  • Statement of intent

  • Preliminary Invocation

  • Main work

  • Charge to the spirit

  • License to depart

  • Closing of the temple

  • Final banishing (if required)

I hope to demonstrate how the above skeletonic outline can be applied to virtually any magickal operation by going into a little detail on each point.

Point #1: Banishing

The opening banishing ritual is a tool that accomplishes a few different goals. Perhaps first and foremost (from the overall Ceremony point-of-view) it equilibrates the energies of the working area, defining the extremes of the sacred space and removing extraneous influences, creating a vacuum or void into which can be poured the energies of the Ceremony. This applies equally to the magician – the banishing ritual helps to calm the mind and focus the Will, removing all thoughts but those pertaining to the matter at hand. This “protective” aspect is reinforced by the setting of wards or guardians at the cardinal points of the circle. It is important to note that these guardians (be they the archangels of the LBRP, or any permutation you can conceive) should be facing outwards, away from the circle. The means of banishing the sphere of operation are unlimited, but care should be taken to ensure that the formulae of the Banishing ritual are in accord with the general tone of the full ceremony.

Point #2: Purification

Once we have set aside our space of working, we need to purify it, make it a suitable vessel for the indwelling of whatever deity we will be invoking. This is a simple matter of circumambulating (clockwise – starting at the East and ending in the East) and sprinkling holy water along the perimeter, paying particular attention to the cardinal points. Generally a statement is issued at each point, along the lines of “I purify this circle with Water and Earth” (you can use the paragraphs from the Opening by Watchtower or similar, or come up with your own interpretation). The Holy Water is made in the following manner –

A cup of pure water and dish of salt. Bless each – I use an adaptation of Agrippa – “I exorcise thee, creature of Water/Earth, in the name of *insert preferred deity*, that thou mayest be purified of all evil influences”. Any statement can be used, as long as the magician’s focus is on purification of the elements before you. Combine the water and salt and voila! – Holy Water.

It is also advisable to purify the altar after circumambulating the circle.

Point #3: Consecration

This step is similar to #2, except that we will be using incense (Fire/Air) to cense the circle. General incense is used at this stage – my preference being Frankincense, following the same format as that listed above – start in the East, circumambulating clockwise, censing each of the cardinal points whilst stating “I purify this circle with Fire and Air” or similar.

Often at this point the magician will ritually consecrate themselves with a holy oil, such as the Oil of Abramelin.

Point #4: Opening of the Temple

By this point, our working area has been defined, cleared of influences, and purified/consecrated to create a sacred area. The Opening of the Temple is a formal recognition of the work to be done, a means of raising the level of consciousness of the participant/s, and a means of accessing the egregore of the lodge. Often the purification and consecration items are categorised within the Opening of the Temple. I have separated them here for the purposes of clarity.

The means of Opening the Temple can be as ornate or simple as you wish. You may enjoy the pomp of the Opening By Watchtower or Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram, or you may be happy with an improvised rite which symbolically opens the lodge on the mundane level, and, more importantly, on the inner levels. Often the opening will be concluded with a statement such as “I, Frater S.S.S. declare this temple to be open in the name of *Insert Deity Name*, by the sign of *give pass sign* and word of *give pass word*. Note that you can make up your own pass signs and words to act as NLP triggers to access higher levels of consciousness, or you can use traditional signs (such as the Golden Dawn grade signs). Also note that tradition has it that the pass word is changed seasonally (equinox).

Point #5: Statement of Intent

The statement of intent is a simple, yet crucial aspect of a magickal ceremony. It is the point where we state our intentions in a direct and simple manner. The statement of intent should be worked out prior to the ceremony, taking advantage of the opportunity to clarify the goal of the working in as few words as possible. The statement acts to focus the will and allows us to examine our motivations prior to starting work (as we know, sometimes our motivation to achieve a certain aim can stem from a subconscious source which is quite different from the conscious reasons we choose).

Point #6: Preliminary Invocation

Preliminary invocation can take many forms – a prayer to a tutelary deity to oversee the working, the Middle Pillar Ritual, planetary hexagram or elemental pentagram rituals, the Bornless Ritual and so on. Its purpose is twofold – first, it “amps” the magician, generating a great deal of energy which can then be directed to the ceremony proper. It also allows the magician to introduce specifically “flavoured” energies conducive the rite’s statement of intent. An example of this would be a planetary talismanic ritual, wherein we would use an invocatory planetary hexagram ritual to introduce the cosmic energies into the temple.

Point #7: Main Work

This is the crux of the ceremony. This is the section that achieves the statement of intent

Point #8: Charge to the Spirit

The charge to the spirit is the means by which we bind or bond the energy invoked by the main work to the object to be worked on – regardless of whether this be a talisman or the magician themselves (who, after all, can also be viewed as a talisman). An example of the charge to the Spirit, taken from the Goetia, may be for the spirit to “swear obedience and faith to Him that liveth and triumpheth, that reigneth above him in His palaces as the Balance of Righteousness and Truth”. It is the complement to the statement of intent, whereby we affirm that the ritual’s intent has been achieved, and charge the spirit to accomplish that which has been requested.

Point #9: License to Depart

A matter of courtesy. The licence to depart allows spirits or entities entrapped by the ritual to leave in peace. It would be quite ignominious for the spirit to be trapped and summarily banished at the ceremony’s conclusion (assuming that there is a final banishing!). Generally a spirit will leave when given license to depart, with only the most recalcitrant hanging around until they are formally banished. There are many methods of the License to depart – a simple one would be “I give license to depart to any spirits which may have been trapped by this ceremony. Return to thine own habitations in peace, and be thou ever ready to come when called by the Art of Magick.”

Point #10: Closing the Temple

The reverse of the temple opening. The closing of the temple, via circumambulations etc, winds down the energy of the temple, and slowly brings the magician from a higher state of consciousness to a more mundane level. It formally ends the ceremony, defining a terminus for the energies.

Point #11: Final banishing

In most cases, a final banishing ritual is performed to erase the energies of the ritual concluded. In some cases, such as invocation of the HGA, a final banishing is not used.


Within each of these eleven points is ample opportunity for improvisation and experimentation. Of course, one can always stick with the “basics” if they so choose. The important thing to realise is that ceremonial structure does not restrict the means of practice, but provides a sturdy foundation from which the magician can be assured of a smooth, flowing ritual with the greatest opportunity of accessing those energies s/he is looking to contact. Ritual structure need not be synonymous with ritual stricture.


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