Personal Ritual

I’ve had a lot of conversations with different people about rituals. I knew a woman who was on her way to initiating as a Wiccan priestess, a faith tradition that’s full of rites and rituals. She walked away from the faith one day just to see if she’d miss it, and she didn’t. She decided that it’s our intent, our own focus and the meaning we place on whatever we’re doing that gives the ritual power and significance.

A lot of people have bathing rituals, which they don’t even classify as a ritual – it’s as simple as setting the stage, a clean bathroom, special salts and oils, the intention to let go of stress. Anything can be sacred, if you choose to make it so. The book "Everyday sacred" comes to mind:

This topic has me thinking back to where I learned to do some of these protection and boundary rituals… and I’m actually having trouble remembering where I learned it first. Sylvia Browne talks about creating circles of protection and tents of light over your bed when you sleep, calling in angels to watch over you and patrol your house at night. I did start doing that when I read it, but it was a slight alteration to the routine I’d already been doing, imagining a protective bubble around me as I slept.

Some of it I picked up from the Wiccan ritual of “casting the circle” when you’re about to work. When the sacred work is over, you can either leave the circle to continue to work for you, or you can clear it. I always cleared it. I certainly picked up the action of lighting candles when I begin to work, and extinguishing candles when I am done.

I think my first exposure to the idea of clearing a space came from Sylvia Browne too – she talks about using salt and holy water to clear energy imprints from old houses. My mother and I used this technique while my parents were living in the House of Woe (long, sad history on that property.) I remember that at that point, I was also using candles, and in lieu of incense, I would strike a match and let the smell of the sulfur and the rising smoke from the extinguished match flow into corners, drawing the stagnant energy upwards.

I can’t remember where I learned about candles and incense, but I probably read about it somewhere. It’s one of those things where I pick up the things that resonate with me and I leave the rest.

In Ontario, when I could get it, I used sweet grass as I much preferred it to incense. I’d just get it at a local health food store. The first time I saw it used in ceremony was at the Indian Friendship Centre, so I recognized it and knew its purpose. I space-cleared my apartments in Toronto maybe once every few months, usually in an attempt to control the cockroach invasions. By this time I was using animal communication techniques as well. Penelope Smith talked about asking the roaches to inhabit her house in spirit, rather than in body, and all her insects obliged and marched into a bowl of diatomaceous earth.

In Toronto, the whole downtown core is one massive roach hole, and they bred so quickly that there were always new bugs coming in. I started using the same energy shielding techniques for the whole apartment that I used to protect my bed as I slept, and this had a great impact on keeping my house roach-free, but I needed to do it once a week, and if I lapsed the roaches would come back in again. Insects are extremely sensitive to energy, and if anything, this pest-control routine proved to me that what I was doing when I would space clear a room was having a real, tangible effect… and all I was doing was ringing bells, lighting candles, burning incense, casting circles with intention and humbly asking for help.

When I read “Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston: I incorporated the use of a bell or a series of bells in lieu of incense and candles. The resonance of clear, high tones seems to do the same thing for the energy in a room as rising incense. There are faith traditions which use bells and incense together. There’s something about how the air changes when a tuned, clear, high bell is rung in the darker corners of a space.

Out here in BC, a lot of people use smudging, space clearing and energy-working techniques. The smudge-sticks available to me out here are mostly white sage, bundles of cedar (which grows freely out here anyway) buffalo sage from the mainland, and braided sweetgrass imported from Ontario. (Funny, eh?)

I’ve started using white sage almost exclusively, and I think I would go through great lengths to maintain a supply of it now that I’ve started to use it. I don’t know why I like it so much, it just seems to resonate well with me and I love the smell. It feels right and it feels stronger than anything else I’ve used.

In the past couple of years, I found some eagle feathers which I now use in conjunction with the white sage. Different feathers have different energy, and I select what I want to use intuitively, by what feels right. I’ve used eagle, raven and crow feathers, mainly. I’ve seen Theresa Caputo use a large turkey tail feather – turkeys are amazing birds too, with associations to the dream world and the afterlife. I’ll have to do an entry about them sometime.

I found a few abalone shells, and I use one in the traditional way of holding burning white sage as I use a feather to sweep the energy upwards. Between the visualizing “energy bubble” of protection, the use of sulfur, incense or sage, candles, bells, feathers and shells, this smudging / space clearing / protection ritual for me has evolved over the years.

I’d never encountered the use of abalone shell to hold burning incense before I moved out to the coast. The first time I saw it, I thought “Wow, what a waste of a beautiful shell.” Later, a friend smudged my aura using a candle, a small eagle feather and white sage burning in an abalone shell, and it was amazing to feel the heaviness lift from my body. I’ve since learned that the holographic, translucent, rainbow colouring of the abalone shell is associated with the spirit world, and that abalone shells have been used as uplifting, spiritual elements in special jewelry for centuries.

I’ve heard other psychics talk about smudging their house on a daily basis, and I can see the wisdom in that, especially if you’re doing readings out of your house. Whatever you do, I think the most important thing is that you *feel* that it works.

So in that way, I agree that ritual is personal, and the power is what you give it with your own spirit, as each of us is connected to the Great Spirit, and so our own “powers” are limitless.

That said, I also believe that when many individuals come together over many years doing the same thing, there’s this undeniable power to that too.

For me, there’s something really special about mantra. It’s like magic, to me. I’m saying these words, over and over, joining millions of people through thousands of years who have said the same words with similar intention. Maybe it gives me extra confidence in the ritual, which gives the ritual itself more power… but that feels dismissive to me. That’s an intellectual explanation for an intuitive experience, what *feels* right.

I wouldn’t have gotten into mantra by myself; I started researching mantras after Sweetie ran a 40 day trial with her first mantra. She really enjoyed it, and I thought it’d try it too… and it stuck. I really like whispering a mantra to myself as I go about my day, it helps me to keep focus on how I want to be, how I want to live, and where I am going. It’s comforting to me, to feel that I’m tapping into a transformative energy that has served so many other people.

So there it is, some thoughts on ritual. Happy New Year, beautiful people. J

9 thoughts on “Personal Ritual

  1. Thanks for this post. I was going to comment and then decided that I really didnt have anything to add. Well, I went to read my horoscope and saw this 🙂

    I didnt know you shouldnt use a match to light a candle, hmmm. Anyway, I too have rituals, mostly prayers and mantras. But it has become such a part of my day that I feel “off” if I skip them.

    I love Theresa Caputo and thanks to your posts about her, my husband and I now watch the show. He is hooked! That is so wild to me, as after we lost our son, I jumped on board with all things spiritual and often have visits etc. I have always shared my experiences with my husband and he seems to believe me, but there is nothing more validating than Theresa.

    Regarding the turkey feather. I had been asking my guardian angel for a feather for months. To the point that I bet I appeared annoying and whining lol. Anyway, walking in to work one morning, chanting the “Guardian Angel” prayer I learned as a kid, there on the ground was a fabulous huge bright blue turkey feather. Clearly it was dyed, but it was meant for me and was a moment that sent sheer joy thru me. Maybe I should look into using it for clearing or something.

    have a great new year!


    • Hi Nikki,

      I can’t seem to view the article you linked – why does s/he say it’s not advisable to light a candle with a match? What does s/he recommend – a burning stick?

      Does s/he actually say “you shouldn’t” or did s/he say “I prefer”?

      I’m more of a fan of those who say “I prefer” rather than “you should” because it acknowledges that what works for her / me might not resonate with someone else.

      It would be utterly ironic of me to say “You shouldn’t say you should” at this juncture. 🙂

      To think that I’ve been lighting candles incorrectly all these years! The horror!!!!

      I try not to worry about getting wrapped up in the little details of other people’s rituals. It’s your thing, do what you want. If lighting a candle with a burning coffee stir stick feels better than lighting it with a match or lighter, do that.

      Besides, you know that we really don’t need ANY of that stuff, right? These are just tools that help us to focus. Instead of lighting a candle before you talk to your son, you could make him a cup of tea instead. Sweetie and I offer tea, coffee and (on special occasions) alcohol to our spirit friends – offering libations is another ancient ritual of offering and honouring those in the spirit world.

      It’s all about whatever gets you there.


      • She wrote “Light your candle with lighting stick/candle. (Do not use matches or a lighter as this will erase the energies of the candle.)” (Presumably it’s OK to use the lighter/matches to light the stick or candle that you’re using to light your own candle or it’s hopeless. LOL)

        This, I think, is the kind of thing that gets me all rebellious about ritual in general, the assertion some people make that you *have” to do this and *must* do that, without any consideration that what works for you might not work for someone else. (For me, it started with tarot cards, which frequently come with a lot of what I would consider to be bullshit old wives tales, like you could only use a deck that had been gifted to you or that your deck should only be wrapped in silk.)


      • Yeah, I hear you on all that – tarot cards too. I think that when people really need to tell you what you SHOULD do, it’s more about them than you.

        I had a reiki master correct me on my method of GIVING HER A HUG!!! Can you believe it!? I HUGGED HER WRONG!

        I was supposed to hug over her left shoulder, so we could be heart-to-heart.

        Oh. My. God.

        It is a HUG. Relax and just take it!

        I’ve actually been thinking about this lady a lot because she’s teaching a few of my friends reiki, she’s second or maybe third generation reiki master, she has a lot to offer. On paper we should be friends. In reality, she corrected my hug, and later that week my dog bit her.

        Not really sure how to come back from that.

        I also think the rigid sense of ritual she has surrounding reiki may be the thing that puts me off. I use reiki intuitively, utilizing basic principals like grounding, understanding the energy flow. It’s a sacred, personal practice for me, and maybe I’m trying to protect that from well intentioned correction.

        Huh. Maybe that’s what’s going on.

        So yeah. Ritual: flexible, personal, intuitive. Does not need to be a religion!


  2. I totally agree with you. There is no right or wrong, only what we perceive to be right for us.

    Here is what was in the article.
    Angel Ritual: Healing with a Candle and the Archangels

    Requirements for the Angel Ritual:

    blue or white candle (Always use caution when using candles. Be sure that the holder is stable and holds the candle securely, and never leave the candle unattended, especially in the company of children.)
    black permanent marker
    small saucer
    lighting stick, beeswax lighting candle, or lighter. (Do not use matches, as the properties of the match will erase your intentions.)


  3. Love this post! I recently wrote a post about this on my new project, which I’ve been meaning to tell you about. I recently bought an abalone shell and use it twice daily, morning and night, to clear my home. I’m on a quest for local growers of Sweet Grass–my personal favorite for clearing.

    Oh, and ahem:

    Happy New Year!


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