February’s moot topic drew a predictably large crowd, with the wonderfully huge topic and magic and ritual. We wanted to talk about its place within, or alongside, depending on your point of view, spirituality, and hopefully share tales of our own magical practices (or lack of) and why we had come to do the things we do, or what we were hoping to do.
Something we all recognised in the term ritual was an implication of structure. Whether this meant the casting of a circle or similar boundary (or at least the marking out of a working space), it seemed to us that ritual was something that happens in a different space to ordinary life, whether physically or mentally.
Cleansing the space or banishing from it first was a common theme, although whether or not this is done does seem to vary with circumstances, how much the person feels it needs doing.
Another most important component according the group was your own state of mind, if not somehow ‘altered’, then at least calm, cleared or focussed. ‘Clearing your mind’ and ‘trying to focus on something’ are not the most straightforward of activities! It was suggested that doing one could help achieve the other! (So can certain substances, it was also mentioned, but whether that was a good idea was all in the context ;-))
Helpful techniques suggested by attendees:
- counting, breathing, listening to a regular beat (drumbeat, heartbeat) – a rhythm can help focus the mind and drown out the irregular background noise of distractions
- an activity that focuses you – stirring, grinding, kneading (ties into if you are making something magical)
One of the most magical offerings made in ritual is speech – the power of words. Words have always carried power. A few of us were bilingual and we talked about choices of language. Sometimes a local language can make someone feel closer to a local spirit or deity… when writing our own words or using others’, we talked about knowing the meaning of what we were saying and focussing on the intent behind them. However alternatively we talked a lot about words in archaic languages, or words that we didn’t understand. On the one hand it takes extra concentration to learn or say them, but on the other hand is that just distracting more than devoted? Perhaps they hold more power from a history of magical usage? Does speaking them transport the speaker to a more transcendent frame of mind, from not being everyday words with mundane meanings?
Repetition, repetition, repetition. This was not so much a speculation as an observation, but from the combined experiences of our moot-goers, the more an intent was repeated the more successfully it seemed to fare. This brings us back to the word ritual – one of its meanings being “any practice or pattern of behaviour regularly performed in a set manner” – doing anything regularly gives it a life of its own, power and meaning of its own. To be the one performing it is to be the one shaping that meaning.