Preparing for the Mystery of Ritual

Some of the most important turning points in my life have occurred in rituals. I have also been at many rituals where I merely attended, present in body but not much more. Certainly there were times when I could fault the design of the ritual or its enactment for a lack of impact, but just as often I was unprepared to step into the mystery. Over the years, I have developed ways of increasing my openness and appreciation of group and solo rituals. Here is a short list of actions and perspectives that reliably open the way to getting the most out of rituals.

Preparing for the Mystery of Ritual

The work begins long before the rituals.

The regular practice of meditation, contemplation, devotional acts, chakra work, and similar activities clarify and strengthen your psyche and your psychism. Developing your capacity to perceive and experience rituals more fully is the most important step.

In many systems there is some form of purification before entering into a ritual.

These purifications are not absolute nor an absolution. Make a promise to yourself to be aware of who you are in that moment and what you are bringing into the ritual. Honor your limitations and also remember how much larger you are than the troubles and distractions of the moment.

Actively call upon your Higher Self, your God/dess Self, Divine Spark, etc. before during, and after the ritual.

Make this an overt, volitional act whether it is silent or aloud. Although this part of you may be always present, its capacity to act is sometimes hampered unless invited. This also helps to remind us that we are worthy of the mysteries.

Commit to the full experience of the ritual.

Guard against distancing yourself for the ritual to protect yourself from the potential of emotional discomfort. If you find that you are a spectator in a ritual, work to become a participant. You do not need a role in a ritual to engage in the inner alchemy of participation. True change often requires discomfort. Sacred vulnerability is one of the keys to open the mysteries. Take care of yourself by finding your proper balance between control and surrender.

Make peace with your perceptions of yourself and of others.

When we focus on the petty details, on the minor mistakes, on how we are seen, and on ephemeral drama we are distancing ourselves from the mysteries.  This is true whether we are by ourselves or in a group ritual.

Take time to process and make sense of the experience of ritual; there is no need to rush.

Be mindful that the effects of the ritual often start before the ritual, and continue afterwards for hours, days, weeks, or more. Don’t forget to watch your dreams, daydreams, and the thoughts and feelings that bubble up as a part of this process. It takes time for seeds to germinate in the dark of the soul, be patient and the mysteries will emerge on their own if you allow it.

I hope that you find these helpful, and at the very least I hope that they encourage you to create your own stepping-stones into the mysteries of ritual. Lastly, I’d like to reassure you that we all cycle through times of greater or lesser openness to experience regardless of our efforts. Perseverance is one of the great powers to be invoked as you walk your path

Ivo Domínguez, Jr. has been active in the Wiccan and the pagan community since 1978 and has been teaching since 1982. He was a founding member, and past High Priest, of Keepers of the Holly Chalice, the first coven of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel a Wiccan Tradition. Ivo is also one of the organizers for the New Alexandrian Library. You can find him at

Ivo’s books

Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans | Casting Sacred Space

New Year Celebrations

It’s hard to believe that 2014 is right around the corner. Literally. In less than 24 hours, 2013 will officially be behind us and we will be in a new year. Of course, we’re only talking in terms of the Western calendar.  This calendar, which is widely used in North America and Canada, is based on the 365-day year; the one many of us know so well!

But not every culture uses the Western calendar. While we traditionally ring in our New Year on December 31 and January 1, many other cultures have already rung in their New Year, while some won’t ring theirs in until later in 2014 (based on our calendar, of course).

Which got us thinking – how many different  ‘New Years’ are there throughout the world?

The answer: A lot. But here are a few that we found interesting!

Pagan New Year: Many Pagans celebrate the ‘New Year’ on Samhain. On the traditional Western Calendar, this would be known as Halloween. Samhain is not the ‘universal’ New Year in Paganism; others celebrate it at Beltane, which is April 30th.

Chinese New Year: The Chinese New Year occurs between January 21 and February 21, depending on when the new moon of the first lunar month falls, and last 15 days. The 2014 Chinese New Year will be on January 31 and will be the year of the Horse.

Jewish New Year: Rosh Hashanah is celebrated the first two days of the seventh month of the Hebrew Calendar – typically in September (in 2013 it was September 4th – September 6th). For the Jewish, it is a time of introspection and a chance to look back over the past year at the mistakes that have been made. The day is spent in a synagogue as it is one of the holiest days of the year.

Thai New Year: Songkran 2014 will be held from Sunday April 13th to Tuesday April 15th. A traditional Thai New Year had the people of Thailand sprinkle water, out of respect and to pay Buddha respect, on the elders. Now, they have the Thailand Water Fight Festival, one of the most important to the people of Thailand.

Ethiopian New Year:  In 2013 and for 2014, it will fall on September 11.  Their new year is called Enkutatash, which means “gift of jewels”.  During this festival, there will be dancing, singing and a lot of celebrations.

Whether your New Year has come and gone, is happening tonight, or coming up – Happy New Year to all and I hope it is filled with all good things!




Tune in TONIGHT to Coast to Coast AM!

Werewolves, banshees, and vampires (oh my)!

Author and connoisseur of the bizarre and the paranormal, Varla Ventura, will be chatting with George Noory on Coast to Coast AM on Friday, September 21st, 10pm-12pm PST. You can tune in live on the web or your local AM radio station, or subscribe (for a small fee) to listen to it later.

Click this link and find out what local station the show will be on.


She’ll be discussing the Magical Creatures e-book collection and other spooky, ookie, freaky fun! Can’t wait until 10? Check out her blog of the bizarre.

Meet your city totem animal

From Christopher Penczak’s City Magick:


1. Start with an intention to meet your city totem animal. Do not think about what it could be, or what you hope it will be. Just affirm out loud or to yourself that you intend to know your city totem.

2. Start Exercise 5. Before you feel yourself enter a tunnel or step on a long and winding road, ask and intend that your city totem be at the end of the pathway.

3. When you reach the end, your totem will appear in your inner vision. Let it come easily. The animal may speak to you, or may be silent, communicating through actions, intuition, or by leading you to something you need to see. The meeting is often simple and brief, or it may lead to a journey. Follow the spirit vision quest and let your unconscious mind take over. You will go from a point of visualizing your creature to letting go of preconceived notions. Go with the flow. Let the adventure lead you where it may.

4. When the journey feels complete, ask your totem to guide you back through the path or tunnel and return your perceptions to the physical. If you feel light-headed upon return, make sure to ground yourself.


Exercise 2.2. Checksums

“In computer engineering, checksums are information computed from digital data and used to compare results and identify accidental errors or corruptions that might have crept in during transmission or storage of the data. We use the term for an internal checklist that you can use to make sure when you leave the seat of the seer, you’re the same person as the one on your driver’s license. Reverse the pro­cedure you used to go into trance, breathing more quickly, moving fingers and toes, lowering psychic shields, withdrawing awareness to the boundaries of your body once more. As you develop your skills as an oracle, pay attention to your health and feelings. Not feeling like your “usual self” after trance work may indicate a prob­lem. If you develop disturbed sleep, fatigue, emotional instability or illness you may need to step back or slow down.”

—From Diana L. Paxson’s The Way of the Oracle

I’ll take VANILLA!

According to Christopher Penczak’s City Magick, vanilla can be used as an ingredient in making magical charms:

“The vanilla bean is a powerful bean ruled by the planet Pluto. It is an innocent flavor, loved in ice cream and cookies, but the actual properties of the bean bring transformations and change reality. Pluto is the planet of life, death, and the underworld. Vanilla beans can be found in gourmet shops, but often their properties, in diluted form, are transferred to vanilla extract and vanilla oil. Add a few drops to an herbal charm when you need these strong transformative powers.”

According to Elise Marie Collins’ An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods, vanilla is good for you too:

“Vanilla is the edible fruit of a tropical orchid. Mexican royalty used vanilla as an aphrodisiac, and one study showed that men responded to the aroma of vanilla. Vanilla was used by indigenous people to calm an upset stomach. The less processed the vanilla, the better, so purchase whole pods or pure vanilla in the form of raw powder or extract for your recipes.”

According to Kris Bradley Mrs. B’s Guide to Household Witchery, vanilla can be used to cast a spell to ward away your tongue-tied tendencies:

Communication Blend

Whether you need to give a speech, make a convincing argument, or produce a written work, this blend can help you find the right words.

  • 1 part caraway seeds
  • 1 part thyme
  • 1/4 part cinnamon
  • Beans from one vanilla pod