Senses in Ritual- engaging your whole self

After an absolutely out-of-this-world Midsummer and plenty of time to recover, it’s time to tackle some of the topics that have been requested. I didn’t forget, see?

I’d like to start with an idea that is near and dear to my own witchy heart and that is engaging ALL of your senses in a ritual. Not only seeing your ritual tools but smelling your ritual incense, hearing your ritual words, feeling your ritual movements and more. The whole body becomes engaged in the ritual and the mind is freed of mundane anchors. There is a reason why the Catholic Mass works as well as it does- every sense is ritualistically engaged. So how can we take advantage of this?

We start by realizing that engaging a sense, using sensation in ritual, and ritualistically engaging all senses are slightly different things. Words mean things and I have broken these out separately for a reason. We can engage a sense by deciding to include some ambient music this time or by deciding to use a different garment that feels different than our usual clothing against our skin. These are great starts! I strongly encourage you to experiment with different senses in your rituals as well: find an incense that is somehow special for your purpose or select different lighting for your ritual to alter your visual perception completely. The changes in sensation will carry over into the ritual- now you’re engaging more of yourself and taking more of yourself with you into your ritual space.

What about ritualistically engaging all senses? This is different. Magic is not our only ritual- many of us have morning rituals of coffee, skin care, dog walking, etc. If we miss or mess up these rituals it can affect our whole day. Ritual is hugely important to our mental process. The first claim that the Catholic Mass works so well is because it is a strictly scripted, unique and predictable ritual that engages all the senses from the sound of the bells to the call and response of prayers even to the taste of their communion- it’s all ritualized and it’s engaging all of the senses. I think many of us- myself included!- do not use our senses ritualistically as well as we could. Falling into the familiar rhythm of a ritual puts your mind into a slightly different state- quite literally, if you’re at all familiar with the alpha brainwave phenomenon. What if we could practice doing the same thing? You don’t have to follow any sort of familiar format if you don’t want to- make something up from scratch if you’re crafty like that! But find things that engage all of you- not just spoken words.

My ritual starts when I change from street clothes to garb. I feel physically different sensations. It continues with cleansing smoke- I strongly favor mugwort over white sage for a variety of reasons. I smell and taste (yeah mugwort is pretty strong. You’re going to taste that one as much as smell it.) something that is unique to and a predictable, ritualistic part of my practice. My mind begins to shift gears. As I continue through ritualized words and gestures that are unique to and a predictable part of my practice I find myself fully engaged in the magic that I am working. My ritual doesn’t look like yours. It doesn’t have to. It is ritualistic, as in predictable, practiced, and readily identifiable by my conscious and subconscious minds. It engages my whole mind and body. And it works.