The word ‘ritual’ when linked to magic tends to create completely the wrong impression.  So what is a ritual?  In simple terms it is a rite or ceremony particularly in a religious context.  Things like weddings, funerals, and so on are all rituals so are birthday parties and suchlike as they follow a general form.

In terms of magic the ritual can be viewed as the routine you go through to perform your magical working.  This can also be a spell so you can see that a spell is really simply a ritual and nothing spooky!  The way in which you conduct the ritual can also vary.  Part of this depends on you, how stylistic you want to be and also on the discipline you are following.  For a lot of people there is very little involved in the regular day to day type workings but more ceremony for special things such as marking the Sabbats, Handfastings and so on.  Bringing together all of the tools and anything else you need for the ritual helps you to focus your mind on what you want to do and starts to get the energy flowing even before you actually start.  In fact, as soon as you bring the thought into being that you intend to perform a ritual the energy begins to flow.

There are certain aspects of the working that are fairly universal.  After gathering together all the items you need and consecrating them if necessary, and preparing yourself (this can include a ritual bath if you wish to cleanse yourself physically and energetically before you start enabling you to begin the ritual without encumbrance) a circle is cast.  Now although this is called a circle it is actually a sphere of energy surrounding you and your altar/other bits and pieces.  Within this circle you have created a sacred place that is protected from outside influence.  The God and Goddess (Lord and Lady) are invited to join you together with any other guides/deities that are appropriate to the task you wish to perform.  This calling in is called an Invocation.  Often these invocations are very poet and can be in old style English but you can use whichever words you are comfortable with.  You also call on the different energies from the four directions, called calling the quarters.  Each direction has a different set of properties.  Beginning with East and air then move to South and fire, East and water and finally to North and earth asking for the circle and your working to be guided and protected.  Each direction has appropriate invocations.

At this point you raise the energy this can be done in a variety of ways including chanting, dancing or simply by drawing up the energy when you are bit more experienced.  You then carry out your working.  Not all workings are spells for instance you can create your circle and use it to meditate within or to study.

When you have finished you partake of what is called cake and ale. This is a small amount of cake or biscuit to eat and something to drink.  This is first offered to the God and Goddess and those who have helped you asking their blessing on the bounty that has been provided. Then you partake (sharing if you are working in a group).  The last crumbs and liquid and put back into the soil as a libation returning to be renewed.  You can see how this is incorporating the concept of respect and gratitude in all that is done.

To close the ritual thanks are given to all involved and the quarters are thanked and released in the reverse order and finally the energy and circled are closed down.

There are variations in the above process but this is simply by way of a general overview of the type of ritual that is performed.  The better your focus on the ritual generally the better the results.

You do need to consider very carefully what you are doing in your workings.  There is something called the Wiccan Rede which in a short form is ‘Provided it hurt none do as you will’.  This does, on the face of it, sound like you are free to do pretty much anything you want.  But think about it a bit more deeply.  It includes hurting yourself too and when you start to consider more carefully the possible implications of your actions the Rede is rather more restrictive than you might at first think.  You should also never do anything that can be manipulative of someone else so really mostly you work on things for yourself.  Consider a love spell.  If you are looking for a partner your spell would be to bring to you the right person for you at this time rather than trying to bring a particular person to you.  If you try to bring that particular person in the spell will very likely work but it equally unlikely to have a good ending.  So once you have decided what it is you are trying to achieve find the best way to ask for that thing.

Spells/rituals can be for all sorts of things; to bring in money, bring in new people, resolve difficult situations, healing and so on in addition to the special rituals for the Sabbats, Esbats, Handfastings, Wiccaning (baby naming) passing into the Summerland (funeral) or other special occasions.