There is no better group of people for making things more complicated than they have to be than a bunch of Pagans. I include myself in that, by the way. When I first started along this path all those years ago before there was the internet and borrowing Pagan books from the library got you the same sort of of looks at the counter as purchasing duct tape, condoms and Rediwhip got you at the pharmacy counter. (Ah bless Amazon.com for simplifying both scenerios!)
There came a point after I had read three or four books that I began to despair. There was no way I could be a witch (I don't think I knew the word Pagan yet) because I simply didn't have the time and money it required. I had no private outdoor area in which to perform rituals and it was too cold for that nonsense for half the year anyway. I gave up the quest for awhile but was soon set right by Hermes and Eos who both visited me in dreams and smacked me upside the head a few times (by then I knew what a Pagan was).
After I came to the realization that I didn't need a bunch of fancy tools and that not only would my magick work just as well indoors as out, but that the Gods were perfectly happy to hear from me from the kitchen table as from a circle of carefully arranged stones in the woods. Now, about 20 years later I still have never owned an athame… but I do have a really cool scythe knife for cutting my herbs. A girl has to splurge once in awhile, after all.
I have found in my own practice that long elaborate rituals are rather annoying. When I'm with a group of people and the High Priestess chooses to spend 30 minutes closing the Circle before we even get started, by the time we get to the nitty gritty I am completely distracted by the temperature, my stomach, my bladder, the mosquitoes & etc. I know, I know, I suck and should get over it but if a ritual isn't doing anything for me spiritually, why should I bother? Let's face it, rituals are for you. You can throw an offering into any fire, or just put it down on the ground and say "Hey Zeus, this is for you!" and walk away and Zeus will get it. The rest is just theater to get you in the mood to commune with Him.
I find that rituals are much more spiritually satisfying if they are heavier on the meditation and dance and lighter on the talk. I like to use movement and sound to direct energy and focus attention. I find scripts distracting and find making it up as you go along to be rather less so. After all, the word Ritual implies you're doing it the same way or at least similarly each time. After the first couple years, why would you need a script anymore?
A magic spell is just as effective (if not more so) if it is performed entirely in the Astral or through visualization as if you perform an elaborate ceremony with a dozen tools and expensive ingredients shipped from exotic places.
Once I worked up the courage to invite my family and friends to a truly Pagan wedding, officiated by my friendly neighborhood ADF Arch Druid, I am no longer shy about hiding my faith, so I keep my altar out on public display in my living room. No more taking everything out and putting it all away, though I do take it apart and clean it once a week. Or at least it's on my List to do every Thursday…
What's on my altar? Well, I keep that simple too. The statues of Zeus and Hera I searched and saved for for months and months, each with an offering dish next to them, a peahen feather I found on the ground at the zoo (at least I think it's a peahen feather), some pretty rocks I've collected in various places, my handfasting cord (created as a wedding gift by a dear friend) and a candle. My besom (created as a wedding gift by another dear friend) leans against the altar. When I do my devotions, I make myself presentable in the bathroom and then light the candle and stand before the altar. My offerings tend to be portions of meals I've created for myself and family. I used to make things more complicated, but when I did, my spirituality suffered due to my short attention span.
When I do something more elaborate, such as a spell or a ritual for a special occasion, I might pull out my incense dish (I only ever burn whole herbs, actually), "cauldron" (a ceramic bowl I got at the Salvation Army), mortar and pestle, a few more candles… all of which live in a drawer underneath my altar. Most of my "spell ingredients" live in my kitchen cupboards or the Big Box of Crafting Supplies. Some live outside in the garden. The beauty of being a Kitchen Witch is that things are simple. Thank the Gods.
I will now wind down to my point.
If you are struggling with your Pagan practice or witchcraft; if you can't afford an elaborate collection of tools; if traditional rituals with all of their poetry leave you spiritually unfulfilled - simplify.
A single candle is all you need and that's just because it's nice to have something to symbolize the start and end of your ritual, if that's not feasible, skip it. Who cares? The Gods don't. They do like you to be clean and presentable and the space you're in to be clean and presentable (clutter is distracting) and they do like an offering (which you may share with them). The rest is frosting.
If you are having trouble getting it together to cast a spell, get yourself in a meditative position and visualize yourself doing the spell instead. I bet you'll find it just as effective. Or better yet, visualize yourself leaving your body and travelling out into the world and actually bringing your goal into being by manipulating the energy of the universe with your own energetic hands. Well, that might be a bit advanced, but it's extremely effective and oh so simple once you get the hang of it. It is the basis of Astral magic. And no visualization isn't actually Astral projection, but have you heard the term "fake it till you make it"?
And you know, just because we're not Christian, doesn't mean we can't just pray.
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