As the spiritual world and its many facets rapidly unfold before us there are lots of buzz words being thrown around (as it what happens on the internet!).
Rituals and Spells are amongst them, and I wanted to talk about the innate differences between these two things, when we can use them and when each are the most powerful.
Spells and Rituals have been around for millenniums. Women and witches would use bones, dirt, the elements and season cycles to harness the energy of the world to manipulate the amplification of their desires and the wishes of those they worked for. Along with barbers and prostitutes, witches are one of the oldest crafts in the world and their magic has made it through endless persecutions throughout history – hows that for power?
Rituals, in my humble opinion, are much more common than spells. A ritual is something done with reverence and presence to improve our lives. This can be how you make your cup of coffee in the morning. It can be your journalling practice, a special bath, the steps you take to get dressed in the morning.
Rituals replace routine in my life. They ask us to look at where we want to direct our energy, the quality of that energy, and the intention of the impact of that work.
Ritual vs Routine is psychologically based. Ritual asks us to assess every day what we need and how we need it. Routine asks us to fall into what is comfortable and expend less mental energy. Routine puts us into predictable patterns that create a predictable future. Ritual puts us into alignment with the currents, seasons, and needs of our lives to fully embrace and benefit from the different energies that are present at different times.
Ritual is particularly impactful because it doesn’t necessarily require us to ~do~ anything different, but to be different while doing things. That is to say, to be aware. To be present, awake, and involved. Ritual acknowledges that our needs aren’t always the same and that we are adaptable beings that need space to figure out the changing landscape of our internal and external lives.
Rituals can be done in group settings with people who share the same intentions – like an art circle, a place you gather to build community, or celebrating the seasons. Hallowe’en can be a ritual. Christmas can be a ritual.
Tradition isn’t necessary in ritual, but often ritual becomes a tradition as we observe recurring currents, themes, and needs in our lives that ask us to be present and move through the work of these cycles with reverence for the change they bring.
Spells on the other hand are a little more involved than rituals. A spell is something done with a specific intent – as well as presence and reverence. I think the main deciding factor between a Spell and a Ritual is that with a Spell, one is aiming for a specific outcome and curates the experience and tools used that designates the energy needed to carry out these intentions.
Spell work is work. It requires more knowledge, and can be many smaller rituals compacted into a bigger one. When working with spells one must understand that the forces of the world are powerful. Education isn’t necessarily required, I think that people create spells all the time without necessarily realizing it, but it is useful to understand the nature and quality of the things you’re working with.
In order to start making a spell, one must have an intention. What is your desired outcome? What are you willing to sacrifice?
The word Sacrifice and Sacred have in common the prefix “Sac” which means to hold, and what holds may also be emptied. How can we use sacrifice as a way to take the energy something important holds and pour it into the sacred? This is a part of spell work. It doesn’t have to be a physical object. It can be in the choices we make, the places we put our energy, the feelings and experiences we hold onto in a specific light. Maybe we sacrifice our comfort for our joy. Maybe we sacrifice our morning coffee for financial abundance.
Where a ritual is something that is contained to the moment – the making of the coffee, the tending to the plants, the writing in the journal – a spell can be carried out over hours, days, weeks… It is a building of energy, acknowledging that moving energy from the place of sacrifice into the place of the sacred can take time.
A ritual is self-contained, but a spell may contain rituals. For example, in many practices of the craft one must bathe before their work to cleanse off any residual energy. The act of that cleansing can be a ritual within the grander scheme of a spell. This is a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square energy.
Overall, spells are a manipulation of the forces in the world to achieve what we desire. A ritual is an honouring and reverence of what is already in our world. Many rituals may act as a spell over time to bring about changes.
When to Use A Spell or Ritual
Step One: What is your intention?
Determining your intention is the first step to clarifying if a spell or ritual is appropriate. Is your intention to get present to the energy available or manipulate the energy available?
A ritual will help you get present.
A spell will help you utilize the energy for a determined outcome.
Step Two: Inner or Outer?
When we want to change our inner world, we look to ritual. These practices are more based in psychology and change our bodies and mind over time. When we want to change our outer world, we use spells to manipulate the energy we offer and the energy available to us.
When we want to do the inner work, we recognize this will inevitably change the outer world. The goal is to enact personal changes in how we move through the world. This is ritual.
When we want to participate in the outer work, we recognize that our inner work has given us more perspective and space to take our internal energy into the external world. We can bring forward more opportunities, open ourselves to possibilities awaiting us, and start to ask the universe for what we need to grow in the world. This is spells.
Step Three: Time Frame
We all desire some level of change. Whether this shows up in a need to change the present moment or the longevity of change over time, everything we do now transmutes to change available in the future.
To get present in the moment is to use ritual. To come into the realization of the power we have right here, right now. This is mostly psychological, navigating ones ability to understand what is happening in the present moment and choose how to utilize that energy.
To change over time is to use spells. Bringing more energy into the present moment allows us to step further into the unknown of the future. This is where ritual and spell most closely intersect, for incremental changes in ritual perceptions everyday work as a spell over time.
When we bring energy into the present we are removing energy from what we believe to be true of the future and let go of needing to know how we get to where we are going. Instead we focus on who we need to be in order to hold space for what we desire in the future. By acting in the present moment with no expectation of how the future unfolds yet with a clear image of what we want, we give sacrifice our need to know to hold space for the sacred act of trusting the universe.
So when we are present with purpose it is both spell and ritual, simultaneously.
Universal power is available to everyone, but it comes with responsibility. Who we are at the end of the day is a compounded effect of our experiences and choices within those experiences. Life is not so much what happens to you, but how you respond to it.
We must believe ourselves worthy – not prove ourselves as worthy. We must understand ourselves as powerful vehicles for change within the world, not necessarily at the whim of the vehicles of change in the world.
Spell and ritual both ask us to take accountability for our intentions. This isn’t to say everything we experience is in our hands – in fact much of what we experience will be because of others. It is vitally important to be honest and clear about what we want as well as the impacts of it.
A small anecdote to end;
My partner is a powerful manifestor. Over time, he has a strong ability to create the exact life he wants. Sometimes, what we desire is in conflict.
Last week, we had plans to go out for dinner with one of my friends and her partners. Later, he got invited to a birthday dinner on the same evening. He wanted to do both, but felt the birthday was more important. Instead of clarifying that he didn’t want to go for dinner with my friend he harboured feelings of unsurety all week. The day it came for our plans, she had messed up the reservation and we ended up cancelling and picking a new date. He called his friend who still had seats available for his birthday and we ended up going there instead.
Although this is fairly harmless, his desires had an impact because I felt deeply disappointed in the change yet he was ecstatic. His sacrifice was the significance of my own wants and the emotional connection we had for the evening. So while we still had fun, he knew I wasn’t as excited and that I was disappointed he wasn’t honest from the beginning about what he wanted.
My own magick showed up in this situation as ritual, to be present in what was happening and acknowledge that we could make another plan for another day. I told him how I felt, and instead of letting that energy get dark and destructive for the night I allowed the change to happen and channeled the disappointment into presence. We ended up getting free drinks and dessert at the last place we went to and getting a better reservation for our cancelled plans.
All in all, life is what you make of it. Spells and rituals don’t need to be in a realm outside of our personal practices and understanding. Although we may be burying less chicken bones and spreading fewer ashes, we still hold immense power in the present moment to use our magic in benevolent ways to grow our lives and tune into who we need to be to hold space for these energies.