“Starlight, Star bright. The first Star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”
Such a simple little rhyme. I don’t even remember where I learned it, but as a small child during the summer months I would eagerly wait for that first glimmer of a star to show before I had to hustle inside for the bedtime routine. All my concentration gathered to “push” my wish towards the star. I didn’t know it then, but I was working magic, casting a spell!
Often in the spring I would collect small twigs, bits of string, shards of broken glass, anything really, that was small and easy to carry. Sometimes the other kids would give me pebbles. I would take them into the woods and leave them on a large flat rock. It was always done in silence. From the moment I entered the trees to the time I left it seemed vitally important that I be as quiet as I could…
So what’s the deal here you may be ask? Above, I just illustrated two large components of Witchcraft: a spell, and a ritual. The terms are often used interchangeably, and that’s okay, but for me the devil is in the details… For me, a ritual is much more formal, and meant to have a long impact (think weddings, or funerals. Major events), and often involve the invitation of Deities or spirits into our lives, and the offerings that usually entails. Rituals also tend to be much more communal in nature, even when done in a Solitary capacity. Rituals enrich our lives, help form ties between families, and help us connect with our Universe and nature in deeper ways. They are more of a pooling and redistribution of energy than a focused burst. Spells, on the other hand, tend to be intense explosions of personal energy aimed at a specific goal. They are far more intimate and informal (as in “I need some good luck right now!”)
Thanks to the internet it’s now super easy to find a spell or ritual to suit your needs whenever you want. However, I feel that everyone should at least TRY to write their own at least once, so I’m going to share the outlines that I use. We’ll do spells first because they tend to be much simpler.
HOW TO WRITE/CAST A SPELL
Spells typically consist of 3 parts.
- Gather your energy. In this step you gather any supplies or tools if needed. This can include jars, herbs, tools, or any other materials and/or actions you wish to use to help you focus and release your energy.
- Statement of Intent. This is the ‘meat’ of the spell. This is when you perform any actions, or speak your words. You are telling the Universe WHAT to do with the energy, essentially programming it to work for you.
- Release. This is when you let the energy go. You could use a phrase, or motion, or whatever you feel will ‘set’ the energy on it’s path.
For example Kara and her partner really want a baby. They’ve both made the effort to start eating better and saving money. They talk about it and decide to cast a fertility spell… (Step 1) On the night of a full moon they go out to their garden (which is thriving) and collect some dirt in a small jar. (Step 2) To this they add powdered egg shells, dried raspberry leaves, honey, and mint (all items that traditionally have to do with healthy pregnancies). They take a shower together, then make love and add their combined fluids. Kara then seals the jar and shakes it thoroughly, holding a mental image of herself with a full belly, ready to give birth. (Step 3) She then hands her partner the jar and he places it under their bed.
How to write a Ritual
Rituals tend to be much longer and a good deal more formal. They also tend to have far more religious tones and for many stand as basic format for worship. I’ve broken it down into 6-7 steps (step 6 is entirely optional), and I’m only going to give the general outline as they can be suited to any need or number of participants.
Step One: Welcoming. This is when all the participants gather. It can be as informal as everyone meeting near the altar or as formal as the person leading the ritual calling individuals my name. If working solitary it can be as simple as preparing your altar.
Step 2: Definition of Space. This is exactly what it sounds like. Methods for this vary greatly. Many people like to cast a Circle or call Quarters. Some people purify the area with incense and/or sage. Whatever method you prefer.
Step 3: Meditation/Centering. Take a few moments to shift your mind from the everyday and mundane to that of the spiritual or holy. Take as much time as you feel you need. If working with a group, guided meditations work well and ideally should be lead by whomever is leading the ritual.
Step 4: Calling of the Deities and/or spirits/ancestors, and offerings. Now is when you call on your Deities or any others that you want to honor. Remember, it’s very bad form to call on said beings without offering something in return for their time and energy. It doesn’t have to be much and what’s appropriate varies on whom you call.
Step 5: Rite of Celebration. This is when you perform the point of it all whether it be wedding, funeral, Esbat, or Sabbat. Again this will vary wildly on the occasion and your path.
Step 6: *optional* Any additional energy work. This is when you would do any Healing or spell work.
Step 7: Dismissal of Space. At this point you want to thank what ever powers you have have called on, release any Circle or Warding and disburse. Many people like to share food and drink at this point, especially if working with a group.
I hope this helps clarify the differences and helps you write your own work. Always remember that your work is YOURS and no one can tell you it’s right or wrong as long as it works for you.