I use the term ‘ritual’ in two ways: to describe things I do often, in a set way (the ritual of cleaning my teeth), and as a name for a kind of religious practice – something close to ‘ceremony’, but with slightly different connotations. It’s the latter I want to talk about here.
To me, a ritual can be a lot of things. Here are some things it’s not: I don’t call Meeting for Worship a ritual in this sense, although I do practise it often and it has an agreed form or a liturgy; it doesn’t have to be the same every time, even though the first meaning discussed above suggests that; and it isn’t just meditation, although meditation or silent worship might form part of the ritual.
Here are some things it can be: solitary or for a group of any size, short or long, planned in detail or only in outline, scripted or improvised, appropriate for people of many theo/alogies or only one, indoors or outside, simple or complex, sad or joyful, playful and thoughtful and beautiful and more.
At some times, I have done ritual every day. (It usually needs to be short to be manageable in this way; fifteen minutes is about my maximum.) At other times, every six weeks for seasonal celebrations has seemed like a lot.
I like my rituals like I like my essays: with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Usually I cast a circle somehow (with a knife or a wand if I feel Wiccan, with a finger, water and smoke if I feel Druidic), and acknowledge the directions (forms of words vary, or I improvise). Usually I pray to Deity – to many named Deities or one called Goddess. Sometimes I pray for specific things, perhaps using some object to symbolise this (you might call this magic), or practice a visualisation, or bless and share food and/or drink, or simply sit.
To end, I normally thank all the beings who have participated in the ritual. If I lit a candle (which is very often the case!), I blow it out and send the light with that action to – who or wherever I think is in need of it that day. I close any circle I opened, and get on with my day.