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How do you like your rituals in a book?

This post was written by Elysia
on August 12, 2009 | Comments (5)

So, I’m reading Ann Moura’s amazing new manuscript. Yes, it’s been a while since this Green Witch author wrote a new book for us, but it’s turned out to have been well worth the wait. This is the most serious book on all types of Esbat magick that I’ve read since working here. (And sorry, you probably won’t see it on shelves until Fall 2010!)

However, it’s brought up a concern of mine, which we’ll talk about at the Vision meeting next week. Basically there are several lengthy rituals included in the first half of the bookĀ – one for the waxing crescent moon, one for the full moon, for the new moon, for the waning crescent, the Blue moon, the Sidhe moon, the lunar eclipse and the solar eclipse. Each ritual starts out with a list of correspondences for that particular esbat – candle colors, recommended incense, recommended cakes and wine, and so forth. But then you have the ritual itself, starting with casting the circle (4 pages), calling the quarters (1 page), calling the God and Goddess and chanting the Witch’s Rune (3 pages), before actually getting to the meat of the ritual. These formulaicĀ bitsĀ are almost identical for every ritual in the book, save for a few word changes.

Then we have several pages of the ritual itself, which includes invoking blessings, acknowledging the phase of the moon with its unique energies, calling on the appropriate goddess for the moon phase, chanting, and so forth. Then there is a space where your magic of choice, in synch with the energies of the moment, may be inserted.

After this, we return to the formulaic once again: cakes and wine (3 pages), the circle opening (2 pages), farewell to the elementals (1 page) and a final benediction (1 page).

So my question is this: do you appreciate such detailed instructions to ritual in a book, or are you going to use your own form of casting circle, calling quarters, cakes and wine, anyway? When reading a witchcraft book, do you prefer to see one complete full-length ritual template, with suggested variations listed separately, or would you like to see each such variation in its entirety so that you can more easily work directly from the book? In the case of Ann Moura’s book here, do you really need to see the ritual in full 8 separate times, or would one – plus lots of notes – suffice?

Following the rituals, the second half of the book deals with the specific energies of the moon, depending on what mansion it’s in. The mansion is even more specific than the moon’s current zodiacal sign, so you’ll need to consult an ephemeris or website to determine it. Then you take the moon mansion, look it up in either the waxing to full or waning to new phases, and plug that information into one of the rituals that I mentioned above, for your current moon phase.

To me, the information on moon mansions’ energies and what kinds of magic they lend themselves to is the really exciting part of the book, the part that hasn’t been done before. Would it be enough to present this information, without the rituals? Do you prefer to use your own rituals, or, in very specific workings like this, do you prefer to use ones that have already been lovingly and meticulously constructed?

Sure, if we cut the rituals out (or just gave one example ritual in full), the book’s size would decrease by half. However, it would still be a very deep, informative, and lengthy book without the rituals. And the price could be lower.

If you have input one way or another, please let me know! It really helps to know how people would ultimately like to read and use our books – in real life, not in the editor’s seat.

Reader Comments

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on August 24th, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

That’s a great question, Elysia! I guess I have to answer that it depends upon the book.

I’ve seen some short books with template rituals. I get the impression that they are padded. I’ve seen some longer books where template rituals actually save space and help to show the concepts behind the ritual. I know of one book that spells out each ritual in full. If it had used the template technique the book would have been half the size.

In the particular case you describe, I think using a template works well. That is, give one example and then, rather than repeat everything, show what is replace for each ritual with comments on the replacements. I would think this would both save space and show the linkages between the rituals and between the sections of the rituals that change each Moon.

Written By Melanie Harris
on September 9th, 2009 @ 3:31 am

I feel that a lot of the fun and power of magick lies in its customization. It’s a “craft” after all, and every handmade craft is distinctly unique even if cut from the same pattern. I think providing a general framework for rituals is best, inviting the reader to fill in the blanks with their own ideas and most personally effective methods. Detailed, full ritual examples and correspondences seem most handy in the back of a book. For instance, Scott Cunningham’s Complete Guide to Incense, Oils, and Brews, easily the most frequently consulted book on my shelf, has a very useful and convenient back section outlining different herb correspondences/attributes. If this information was dispersed throughout the book, it would be too difficult to find. Rituals are similar–we look them up at certain times, and they’re best organized all together in the back in chronological/seasonal order. With a book like Ann Moura’s, though, with a big part of its focus being on ritual, it seems appropriate to include detailed instructions at least for a few examples.

Written By Calantirniel
on September 9th, 2009 @ 11:26 am

Hi Elysia! Wow, another book by Ann Moura? I enjoyed her Grimoire so very much! I will tend to lean toward saving the paper, and not just for the environment or the economy. I believe most people will end up modifying the work for their respective situations anyway – and for those who would read it as is from the book, they could use different-numbered (or colored) bookmarks, and know what order to use, by just flipping back and forth.

Written By Gede Parma
on September 9th, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

Hi Elysia!
To be honest the majority of books I read that outline in depth rituals…I tend to skip over the openings and closings and get to the meat, as I always work in my own personal tradition (or my coven’s) instead.

I would think there are a majority of Witches who do this.

Wild Blessings~

Written By DD Walltree
on February 27th, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

My concern for the book you described would be, that if the new information is in the second half of the book and the first few chapters read as formulaic that many advanced witches may put the book back on the shelf before discovering the depth. I also, feel cheated if I think too many pages of a book are spent repeating itself. Books that are too formulaic, redundant, or rudimentary are not ones I purchase. So, unless it is clear as to why the first part of the book should be learned by rote prior to the presentation of the information in the second half… maybe the order should be reversed.

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