I love rituals. I'm especially fond of small, quiet, personal rituals, which have a way of being profound and meaningful precisely because they aren't overly complicated. In my years of practice, I've discovered simplicity nearly always works best for my personal rituals. Don't get me wrong, I do love me some bonfires and drumming and hundreds of gyrating witches making magick deep in the woods, but those rituals aren't always practical on a Tuesday afternoon!
I recently moved into a new home, and I wanted to celebrate the move with a ritual. In different times, I imagine there would have been a big housewarming party. There would have been guests, lots of food, plenty of wine, a fire pit blazing away, well wishes, and a collective house blessing ritual. Of course, with the pandemic, none of that could happen safely. But moving into a new home is an important rite of passage, and I felt compelled to mark the transition with a ritual.
In fact, I did three rituals over the course of a few weeks. Each ritual took less than fifteen minutes and used materials I had on hand. There was no elaborate set up, although if you wanted to recreate these you could certainly add all sorts of pomp and circumstance, fancy circle castings, wear your best ritual outfits, and use liturgy from any magickal tradition of which you are a part. I didn't do any of that but I certainly encourage you to.</p
New Beginnings: A Ritual In An Empty House
The day I got the keys I went over to the house. It was empty. Silent. None of my belongings were there. No pictures on the wall, no favourite pots and pans in the kitchen. Just bare walls and empty rooms.
I'd brought a few basic magickal supplies with me:
I stood just inside the front door and gathered my magickal bits and pieces. The candle was securely placed in the candle holder. I lit the candle with the lighter and placed it on the floor. Next I grabbed the herb bundle. I'd made this myself earlier in the day out of herbs I regularly use in spell work and that I love to cook with. These herbs are my favourites, and I have personal associations with each herb.There are traditional magickal correspondences, too:
I lit the bundle of herbs, put them on the little plate so they could smoke safely, picked up the candle holder and walked about my new home. I went from room to room, letting the smoke waft in closets and cupboards and window and doorways. It's well documented that memories are more likely to be triggered by familiar smells than by any other sense. The house began to smell familiar and that was the point.
While smoke filled the house, I spoke out loud to my new home and let it know I was moving in. I told my new home how I would bring love and laughter and joy and compassion and abundance and love and the occasional argument and misunderstandings and great food and beloved friends and witches and magick to this place. I invited the house to share with me the magick it knew and to lend me protection. I asked the house to keep me and my family safe and warm.
After spending time in each room and wandering through the front and back gardens, the candle melted down to virtually nothing and the herbs had given up their smoke. I left the herb bundle remnants in the kitchen, thanked the house, told it I'd be back the next day with boxes, and locked the door behind me.
Making A Home For The Gods
After the hard work of unpacking boxes and finding spots for books and clothes and kitchen stuff, I started to think about setting altars. The ancestor altar came first, then the kitchen altar. Soon it was time to set up altars for the house gods. I think it's worthwhile to introduce the gods to their new surroundings. At the very least, I needed to reset their altars, so I might as well make a ritual of it.
I work with several gods who are important to my practice. Once such god is Cernunnos. I have an amazing statue that puts me in mind of Cernunnos, sculpted by Christopher Orapello. I tuned into the god and asked what sort of ritual he'd like. I listened for a few days, had a dream or two and came up with this simple ritual to honour his wishes. It's a ritual you can repeat easily or adapt to fit your needs. It's one of those, "you can't really do it wrong" rituals. Again, it's not based in any particular tradition, but rather it's a mash-up borne of a couple of decades of practice. It goes something like this:
I placed the statue of Cernunnos on a redwood table in the back garden. I faced the statue towards the back fence, which is covered with grapes and jasmine and other vining plants I haven't yet identified. There are agapanthus and calla lilies and clover and mosses and all manner of plants growing just below the vines. The whole area was verdant and thriving with bees and birds and buzzing things and crawling things—just the sort of place Cernunnos would like.
I grabbed my mortar and pestle, herbs, oils, and essences I thought Cernunnos would like and headed out to the table. Here's what I said next.
"Cernunnos, close friend, trusted advisor, welcome to your new home. I've spoken with you in my dreams, remembered what you love, and prepared a spot in this garden for you."
Then I poured olive oil, scented with lemons into my mortar. To that I added dried patchouli, and fresh basil, and lavender gathered from a favourite plant. I added vanilla extract. I poured in red wine. I mixed these ingredients and a few others I'll keep secret, and pounded them with the pestle until they made a thick paste. I smeared the mixture all over the statue. Then I found a spot on the earth, at the roots of several vines that called out to me. I spread the remainder of the herb and oil mixture around the base of the statue.
"Here is your home among the creatures of this place. Among the vines and plants. You are covered with the herbs and oils sacred to my practice. I offer them as gifts to you. As devotion to you. Stay here as long as you like. There is a spot inside the house if you ever wish to come inside, but for now, please watch over this 'forest' and those who inhabit it."
With that, I washed my hands, went back into the house, and set up his "inside" altar, which is nothing more than a green cloth on a flat surface in my office.
I've checked in with Cernunnos a few times since then. He still wants to be outside. He's requested meat, boar meat to be exact, and some red wine. And a fire. Those wishes have yet to be fulfilled, but I'm working on it.
Why Are These Rituals Important?
From a very non-magickal perspective, what I did was burn some herbs and cover a statue with pesto.
From a magickal perspective, what I did was introduce myself and my gods to the neighborhood. I asked permission to work magick here. I entreated my gods and the house to meet up wherever it is that houses and gods meet up and get to know each other, so we could form (or deepen) mutually beneficial relationships.
Much like casting a circle or setting sacred space, the rituals I performed were about making a container and asking allies to participate in the magick to follow.
The rituals created space to mark the rite of passage of leaving one place and finding myself in another. The rituals used familiar ingredients and symbols and words. The result of these simple, quick rituals was comfort. I feel more comfortable in this house. I feel like a house has become a home. And that's a good thing.