5 Tips for Leading an Effective Ritual

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, including virtual, 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 five tips below to improve your ritual leading skills and have your community asking you back for more.

#1: Never Read Off the Paper

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.

When asked or choosing to lead a public ritual, you’re 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.

This isn’t to 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 isn’t the same.

Rituals are meant to be fluid and come from the heart. Memorizing a ritual word-for-word isn’t required, but you should at least memorize the core of the ritual, the message you want to get across, and perform it without appearing unprepared.

Bottom line: We came to see you lead a ritual, not read off a piece of paper.

#2: Get Others Involved

This one’s tricky in a public ritual setting. Time is not always available in abundance and it’s important to get down to ritual from beginning to end without hours ticking mercilessly by. Still, you can plan ahead ways to incorporate as many people as possible with the least negative impact.

If you can, always talk to people who you know will be at the ritual beforehand and ask them to participate. This could be something small, like being in charge of pushing play on preselected music at the right time. Or it may be something bigger like having them in charge of a core part of the ritual.

Whether you have helpers or not, make sure you give everyone present at the ritual 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. (Bonus points for singing and dancing!)

All participants should leave the ritual feeling as though they were at least given a chance for involvement. So plan multiple ways you can do so ahead of time and go with what works best.

#3: Avoid Waving Sharp Objects

Someone, somewhere must have decided that--no matter what--we should wave the athame or sword around people’s heads instead of marking the ritual circle during the circle casting and closing.

Do not repeat this common mistake!

When you’re 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. In the case of virtual rituals, as long as no one is standing right next to you, you’re probably good to go on such theatrics. (Just don’t hit the computer/camera!)

However, when you’re in a tight area or someone is within inches of you, anything the other participants have to dodge is a mood killer.

Even if some of the motions and theatrics you’re used to doing makes you feel like your best witchy self, when you’re leading a ritual for others, it’s about them, not you. Try to find the middle ground between what you like and are comfortable with and what the participants in your ritual need.

For example, when leading a ritual in a tight space with a decent sized group, I had the participants do a smoke cleansing on each other outside of the ritual space while I cast the circle. Once the circle was cast, I opened a doorway for them to enter. Not exactly the norm order of operations, but it was a perfectly suitable modification for what we were working with.

Be creative and come up with new ways of resolving this issue when applicable.

#4: Give an Experience, Not a Show

As priestesses and priests of our faiths, we aren’t in the business to entertain. That’s not to say participants don’t want to be entertained. Rather, there’s a distinct difference between being an entertainer versus a ritual leader.

Don’t overwhelm participants with an abundance of tools and decorations that take up way too much space. Instead, 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’re up on a stage putting on a performance. That’s not what rituals are for.

That said, 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 isn’t 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’s 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 ritual leader who’s self-conscious, pessimistic, and flustered. You don’t have to be this perfect being capable of making all and everyone happy to be an effective ritual leader.

Instead, you just need to be confident:

  • Do you know why you’re all there together? Yes? Good, then, you’ve already mastered more than half of what it takes to lead.

  • Did you prepare for how you want the ritual to go? Yes? Good, then, you’ve got most of the rest of what it takes to lead.

From there, it’s all about taking everything that happens in stride and make adjustments as necessary. Even if it's your first time leading ritual and you dread the spotlight, remember that the Gods have a sense of humor.

Maybe you stumble over your words at a central point in the ritual. Maybe someone’s sleeves catch fire and there’s a flurry of excitement trying to put it out.

When things such as these go wrong, it’s not a reflection on you. It’s how you proceed when they happen that others focus on. It’s the confidence that you can keep going despite when things go awry that projects the leadership that keeps ritual participants engaged.

Know you can lead a ritual; you were asked to do so for a reason. The spotlight won’t 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.

© 2014-2020 by Evylyn Rose