In this short article I want to talk about certain procedures in Ceremonial Magic. Before getting to the subject, I want to explain on short what magic is, so that any reader can understand the meanings of these practices.
Sometimes spelled with a “K” (Magick) so it won’t be mistaken with illusionism, magic has been defined as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will” (A. Crowley). A magical act is any act that takes place with the individual’s will, be it a mundane act or a paranormal act. When referring to the paranormal/spiritual act, a ritual is sometimes necessary so that the action can be prepared and put to work.
Usually in these rituals there are certain practices that hold a somehow advantageous role for the practitioner. These practices, called by some “procedures of ceremonial magick” have the role to maintain the psychic and spiritual condition but also the concentration of the practitioner by stimulating senses such as smell (the perfumes, incence), hearing (the invocations, the bells) and sight (robes, candles, accessories etc). All of these create the ceremonial atmosphere which can be used and organized by the practitioner in conformity with his will.
For the traditional adepts, these practices and tools have a major importance, being considered sacred and magical. To them, these practices and tools are part of strict rituals, like a sort of code which the ritual cannot work without.
For others however, these practices had a different interpretation. Aleister Crowley wrote in his essay “The Initiated Interpretation of Ceremonial Magick” (appeared in the Crowley & Mathers edition of the “Goetia” year 1904) that these practices and their results are just illusions, like the spirits used in ceremonial magick which are nothing more than results of the mind.
He has been vehemently criticized by other magicians, saying that he did not have the necessary knowledge in psychology or psychological sciences to make such declarations.
One thing is clear. Like any other image or action in our lives is interpreted by our brains in the way that they (the brains) are prepared, the same can these practices be interpreted by each individual through his own mental possibilities.
Magic(k), and here I am referring to ceremonial magic, represents a modality through which the individual creates his rituals, so that the procedures which he uses may have an effect over him. Each practitioner intercepts and interprets these effects differently, and so, some people give them a great importance while others don’t, preferring to renounce these practices (i.e. not many people can concentrate with music, while others are able to create a pleasant atmosphere with it. Some consider perfumes unimportant, while others can relax with the help of fragrances).
From my point of view, magick is an art. And for those who are attracted by it, it can be of great help.
Let us take music for example. Music in ritual is a very pleasant and efficient way to create atmosphere. With the help of music we can maintain our concentration and spiritual condition and more important, it has been recommended by some in the contact with spirits. Some people affirm that spirits have musical taste. While I don’t agree with this idea, I did however use ambient music in certain simple rituals, for a good spiritual mood.
In covens the musical preferences vary and they usually are hymns and chants. Music, like any other procedure is of a personal preference. They all have an importance in ritual, and if the practitioner wishes to personalize his rituals he must not hesitate to use any procedure that can be of good use and help.
Symbolism, atmosphere, tradition.. all of these can create superb rituals and can offer the chance to express emotions easier and better.
However, there are some practices which, in my own humble opinion, estrange us from the ritual’s purpose/signification/intention. For example, if you prepare a ritual, its traditional form is based on the day that it is taking place, the Moon Phase, the location and sometimes even the pronunciation and intonation/vibration of the words must be exact. The truth is that in any ritual, the most important thing is its purpose and not the arrangement, otherwise it would become only a theatrical play.
Important is what you feel. You can do a superb ritual, extremely well arranged and prepared and still, it won’t work. What matters is its signification to you. I believe that if you feel that you don’t need all these preparations, than you can renounce them. Prepare the ritual as you wish, as you feel to be adequate, but never forget its purpose and signification.
I remember someone asking me what to do to make the ritual work. He was asking me if he arranged the altar well, if there is something missing, what he needs to say, etc. I told him he can do and say whatever he feels and be creative but never forget the purpose of the ritual. If there is something missing, it means you did not consider it necessary and so, it was not. If there is something you want to say, say it from the heart for it has greater power and meaning. In the end, he took my advice and the ritual had success.
Even I prepare my rituals. It is beautiful and it’s like giving life to the ritual when organizing it. You put passion into its creation. It only depends on you and the ritual. A good example that I can give is in the case of necromancy or rituals for Death Demons (i.e. Eurynomous) where you can decorate the altar and the room with accessories representing Death (i.e. skulls). Not only does it have a great impact on your mind, but if the tools and accessories are real (i.e. real skulls, real cemetery soil) the energy given by them is just perfectly proper. Also, if you wish to make a love spell or invoke demons for love (i.e. Rosier, Sitri, Zepar, Sallos, etc) you can use roses or any other thing that could represent that which we call love and passion. Same goes for other gods or archangels such as archangel Haniel or goddess Venus and Afrodite.
I was also speaking of tradition. For example, there are some traditions in rituals (i.e. Black Mass) that ask for blood spilling, sexual intercourse, screaming, swearing, spitting, laughing etc. These rituals are based a lot on symbolism and have their significations well thought-out. Through carnal pleasure we can gain strong spiritual energy and emotions/sensations very proper for the purpose of the ritual.
To make a good ceremonial ritual you must be emotional. For this you need atmosphere. It stimulates the brain in such a way that it can direct energies easier. It is needed a great effort to do magic without the stimulation of the subconscious. It is needed a strong and well trained mind and for this it is needed a lot of meditation, mental exercise and mind control. Some use psychedelic drugs and hallucinogens to stimulate the mind. Any method used, it is needed in order to strengthen the energy of the ritual and ultimately its result.
In closing, I wish to make one more personal suggestion. Anything you use in your rituals must have a meaning to you, because if you are practicing something that makes you feel like an idiot, it will not produce any desired change. It has happened to many people, and it is wrong.
Beginners might think ritual preparations and organization are complicated. They are not. After doing and following basic rituals you learn how things work, and more importantly, what things work for you. Choose whatever you think is right for your rituals, slowly change things here and there and construct your own rituals. I too have been worried about this at the beginning, we all have. But after a while, you learn and ‘it gets in your blood’ and eventually it comes to great fun constructing your rituals. I say, be creative in your rituals and enjoy them!