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Leading an Effective Ritual: 5 Tips to Make Open Circles Successful

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Long gone are the days when magickal rituals were limited to closed doors, solitary circles, and small covens and groups. Today, we see increasing numbers of public rituals held in various spaces open to all who are interested in participating. Yet we have a problem; these rituals often miss their mark and many of us are left wanting. How can we avoid our open rituals from falling flat? Follow the tips below to improve your ritual leading skills and have your community asking you back for more.

1: Never Read Off the Paper

When asked or choosing to lead a public ritual, you are regarded as a respectable, competent priest or priestess of your faith. We expect you to be well-versed in ritual, altars, tools, the deities you work with, circle casting, and your community. Even if the ritual you lead is a first, we want to see you prove you can do it. The number one killer of your credibility when leading rituals is reading off a piece of paper or from a book throughout the whole ritual.

This is not say you should never have material to reference. If you have a fantastic quote or poem to share as part of the ritual, do it! Just make sure the entire ritual is not the same. Rituals are meant to be fluid and come from the heart. Memorizing a ritual word-for-word is not a requirement, but you should have at least memorized the core of the ritual, the message you want to get across, and perform it without appearing unprepared. We came to see you lead a ritual, not read off a piece of paper.

2: Get Others Involved

This one is tricky in a public ritual setting. If you can, always talk to people who will be at the ritual beforehand and ask them to participate. Whether you have helpers or not, make sure you give everyone present an opportunity to feel included. This could be as simple as incorporating a chant, allowing them to volunteer to evoke an entity or call a quarter, or pass out cakes and ale. All participants should leave the ritual feeling as though they were at least given a chance for involvement.

3: Avoid Waving Sharp Objects

Someone, somewhere must have decided that no matter what, we should wave the athame or sword around heads instead of marking the ritual circle during circle casting and closing. Do not repeat this common mistake!

When you are leading a ritual in a large space with many people involved, standing in the middle of the circle and pointing the athame or wand is okay. However, when you are in a tight area, anything you have to dodge is a mood killer.

Be creative and come up with new ways of resolving this issue. For example, when leading a ritual in a tight space with a decent sized group, I had the participants smudge each other outside of the ritual space while I cast the circle before opening a doorway for them to enter.

4: Give an Experience, Not a Show

As priestesses and priests of our faiths, we are not in the business to entertain. Do not overwhelm participants with an abundance of tools and decorations that take up too much space. Bring only what you need to set the mood and perform the ritual. Also avoid anything that would cause participants to see you as though you are up on stage putting on a performance. That is not what rituals are for.

Of course, we can certainly spice up a ritual by incorporating some fun elements. You could make the cauldron smoke, bubble, or sparkle at a key part of the ritual, for example. However, making a ritual fun is not central for an effective ritual.

If you want your participants to walk away feeling like they were part of a real ritual, give them an experience. What is the purpose of the ritual? Why are they here? Ask yourself these questions and design a spell, chant, play, song, dance, or meditation that will fulfill the needs of your participants.

5: Most Importantly, Be Confident!

Nothing kills the attitude of ritual participants more than a leader who is self-conscious, pessimistic, and flustered. Even if it's your first time leading ritual and you dread the spotlight, remember that the Gods have a sense of humor. Know you can lead a ritual; you were asked to do so for a reason. The spotlight will not harm you, and remember to laugh and avoid getting hung up on the details.

Incorporating these tips when designing and leading your ritual will make the experience effective for all participants. Use them to make your rituals successful and inspire you to create tips of your own.

Evylyn Rose

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