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What Is A Wiccan Ritual And Why Are They Performed?

picture of a wiccan woman in a hat

Recently, whilst meeting a friend for lunch I casually mentioned that I had been researching Wiccan rituals for a blog article. “Ooh” was the response, “so you’re going to sit around naked and throw potions into a cauldron in the name of ‘research’”? I giggled and replied that so far, said research had been strictly limited to Wikipedia. However, the comment got me thinking, does everyone assume Wiccan rituals involve smouldering cauldrons, varying states of undress and a colourful assortment of potions and lotions?

What precisely is a Wiccan ritual and why would anyone partake in one?

According to traditional British Wicca, a Wiccan ritual involves carrying out a predetermined set of actions according to a defined order. Generally, the set of actions required for a Wiccan ritual follow a sequence of steps similar to those outlined below:

  1. Purify the space and the ritual participants
  2. Cast the circle
  3. Call the elemental quarters
  4. Create the cone of power
  5. Draw down the Gods
  6. Engage in Spellcasting
  7. Create the Great Rite
  8. Partake in Wine, cakes, chanting, dancing, games (heck yes)
  9. Farewell  the quarters and participants

This sequence of steps outlines a core group of universal elements often present during Wiccan rituals. According to my research, the rituals themselves can be highly personalised and may even be kept a secret, the sequence of actions being shared only amongst initiated ritual participants. Wiccan rituals may be highly elaborate, requiring careful planning, specific tools and special wording. On the other hand, they may be spontaneous and extremely simple requiring nothing more than a quiet space. The rituals may be carried out as part of a group (sometimes called a coven) or they may be carried out solo by individual practitioners.

When Do Wiccan Rituals Take Place?

Image of a broomstick

According to various online sites and forums a ritual can take place at any time with no specific date or place being required. However, rituals are commonly held to celebrate certain set rites and events. For example, it seems common for rituals to be held on a Sabbat (a holy day) or for significant life events such as weddings, births and deaths. A ritual may also be used to celebrate certain natural cycles such as mid-summer, the passing of winter or the beginning of spring. A Wiccan ritual may also celebrate specific phases of the moon or other celestial bodies.

Again, there seem to be no ‘set rules’ regarding when and where Wiccan rituals are to be practised. It appears that the process is extremely open to individual or collective personalisation and choice with implicit freedom to choose when, where and how a ritual is to be performed and celebrated.

What’s The Purpose Of A Wiccan Ritual?

Image showing cauldrons hanging over a log fire

Wiccan rituals form a core part of Wiccan spirituality and may be celebrated or initiated for a wide range of purposes and events.  A Wiccan ritual may be performed to celebrate or commemorate a significant life event such as a birth or a death. A ritual may be used to seek spiritual help and guidance or to enhance the sense of community and connectivity between ritual participants.  A ritual may be initiated to address specific concerns or questions, it may be performed to celebrate the passing of time or to welcome new members to a group or Coven.

Again, the purpose of Wiccan rituals seems highly open to individual or group interpretation. A core component of Wicca appears to be an underlying assumption that each practitioner is encouraged and enabled to find the path or paths best suited to them through self-inquiry and exploration rather than submitting to a set of ‘dogma’. In fact, the Wiccan code of morality or rede clearly states  ‘as long as you aren’t harming anyone, do as you wish’.

What Are Some Of The Tools Used During A Ritual?

Woman using an Athame knife during a Wiccan ritual

A Wiccan ritual may be an entirely minimal affair with the only requirement being a quiet space, alternatively, a ritual may involve an elaborate set of supplies and tools. Some of the tools which may be used during a Wiccan ritual are listed below:

  • A Boline knife 
  • An Athame knife
  • A bowl of salt
  • Candles
  • Herbs for purification and cleansing
  • An altar
  • Food and drinks
  • Leaves, flowers or foliage
  • Stones 
  • A long cord
  • Special Jewelry
  • Cingulum (a type of belt worn around the waist)
  • Incense
  • A chalice
  • A pentacle or paten
  • A cauldron
  • A spear
  • A stang
  • Besom or broom

How these tools and supplies are used seems to be open to individual interpretation and preference. However, some overall generalisations suggest that the salt might be used for purification purposes, the boline knife for the cutting of herbs and ribbons. The athame knife appears to be an entirely symbolic object, its blade never being used to physically cut any material substance.

Many of the other objects and tools appear to be primarily of symbolic significance.  For example, the spear may symbolise the Norse god Odin, the cauldron may represent the womb and the besom or broom may symbolise an aspect of fertility as a representation of the phallus. A pentacle or paten may be used to symbolise the element of earth and a stang may function as a portable altar.

What Is A Wiccan Full Moon Ritual?

Image showing the phases of the moon

A Wiccan full moon ritual is called an ‘Esbat’ and is celebrated each month on the full moon. As the full moon symbolises the completion of a cycle, a full moon ceremony may celebrate a symbolic ending, a change in circumstances or the death of something no longer wanted. Because the full moon is envisioned as shining a light on and illuminating the things that are no longer wanted in our lives, a full moon ceremony may celebrate a purging of addictive behaviours, toxic relationships or worries and trauma.

A full moon ceremony may also be performed with the intention of symbolically tying up loose ends and/or removing limiting beliefs or thought patterns which may be blocking or obstructing certain aspects of our current lives.

As with all Wiccan rituals, there appears to be no governing ‘dogma’ about how the ritual should be performed. As such, it’s up to the individuals or the group participating in the ceremony to design the ritual as they see fit.

A simple full moon ceremony might entail the use of an outdoor brazier within which would burn a small fire. Participants would then simply burn pieces of paper onto which they had written names of the things they would like to purge or release from their lives. As the paper turns to ash, the participants may like to speak the words ‘be gone’ whilst visualising all ties to the undesired aspects being removed or released. The ceremony might end by giving thanks to the moon for allowing one cycle to end and another to begin.

What Is A Wiccan Ritual For Health?

Image showing supplies for a healing ritual including a crystal and a candle

Wiccan healing rituals might be performed with the intention of healing yourself or someone in need.

Please note that a healing ritual should never substitute professional medical advice. Please also note, if a healing ritual is being carried out for someone, not present, it might be necessary to ask that person for permission to carry out the ritual before proceeding.

A Wiccan healing ritual often makes use of candles, specific herbs, crystals and incantations. The ritual may petition a God or Goddess for assistance with the healing process or symbolically break the bonds of illness. 
Some Gods and Goddesses associated with health include: 

  • Brigid – Irish goddess associated with healing Brigid
  • Dian Cecht – Irish god of healing Dian Cecht
  • Ianuaria – a goddess associated with healing Ianuaria
  • Hooded Spirits – hooded deities associated with health and fertility
  • Airmed – Irish goddess associated with healing and resurrection

A Wiccan healing ritual or spell might follow similar steps to those outlined below:

  1. Purify your ritual space and focus your mind. 
  2. Set your intention and write the name of the person you wish to heal on a piece of paper    or cloth 
  3. Cast you circle
  4. Place a white cloth in your circle
  5. Place earth, water, incense and one candle around the white cloth- This objects represent the elements
  6. Speak or chant an invocation
  7. As you chant place the earth, water, incense and the candle onto the white cloth
  8. Fold the white cloth holding all of the ingredients to make a neat package
  9. Visualise charging the package with healing energy
  10. Keep the package close to you and continue to bless it with healing energy and        positive intentions until the person has been healed
  11. Once the person has been healed bury the package and give thanks to the universe for help and healing

An incantation might be something like:

“It is with love in my heart,

That I call upon every force I’ve come to know,

Water, fire, Earth, and air,

The God and Goddess,

The powers within myself,

And the powers within (name of person)

Help him/her to fight his/her obstacle,

Make him/her healthy as he/she ever was,

This is my will,

So might it be.”

Blessed Be,